§ Order for second reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. SUMMERBELL
Although I have an Amendment in my name, that the Bill be read a second time this day three months, it is not my intention to press it to a Division, but, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, I desire to say a few words in justification of our opposition to the Bill. It seeks power to extend the tramways in the Borough of Gateshead, and in order to enable that to be done the tramways company is to get an extension of its lease for eight years. Our objection in regard to this Bill, is that the people of Gateshead have had no opportunity to express any opinion on the action of the Gateshead Corporation in voting away their rights, in extending the lease of the tramways. A statement has been issued on behalf of the company in which it is suggested that the opposition to the second reading of the Bill is at the instance of a body representing a small minority of the working classes in Gateshead, but I have here a large number of letters containing adverse resolutions passed at public meetings with unanimity and enthusiasm, supported by representatives of large societies, who feel that they ought to have had an opportunity of expressing their opinions before this arrangement was come to. The statement goes on to say that the Newcastle and Gateshead Labour Council is not opposing this Bill, but they do not state that they are not supporting the Bill, and I think, therefore, that particular paragraph is calculated to lead to a wrong inference. It is said that the Corporation of Gateshead are in favour of the Bill. It is true it has been carried by a large majority, but surely it is the duty of this House to see that the people whose interests are concerned should have an opportunity of expressing their opinion in regard to matters of this nature. I am an ex-chairman of the Tramways Committee, and I know perfectly well that when a municipality deals with a matter of this kind it is compelled to call a town meeting, so as to get the opinion of the ratepayers, but nothing of the kind was done in this case, and the working men of Gateshead had no opportunity of stating their views. This is our justification for the opposition 1120 we have offered to this Bill. We object to handing over the rights of the people for another eight years to this company. I hope that in regard to Bills of this character great precautions will be taken to see that the same principle applies to a company as applies to a municipality. A municipality has no right to take over matters of this kind according to law without convening a meeting of the ratepayers, in order to have an expression of their opinion, and the same ought to apply to a company. If that had been done the Labour Party would not have taken the course they have in endeavouring to prevent this Bill being rushed through, but we have no desire to prevent it being read a second time, or going to a Committee. We do, however, protest against its being passed without our having an opportunity of expressing an opinion.