§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. T. B. NAPIER moved to leave out the word "now," and at the cad or the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ This Bill has three principal objects. With two of these I have no concern. I do not know that they are of any great public importance. Certainly they raise no point of principle. But with the third object, which occupies the greater portion of the Bill, and which may be said to 1099 be its main object, I have some concern. It relates to a bridge over the River Swale, on which tolls are charged. The South-Eastern and London, Chatham and Dover Railway have the right at present of charging for carriages, carts, and other vehicles crossing that bridge, and also for foot passengers. The River Swale is not a river at all. It is an arm of the sea towards the mouth of the River Thames. The companies show no inclination at all to compromise, so that there is no course open to me but to ask the House to reject the Bill. The Swale bridge is the sole bridge which connects the island of Sheppey with the mainland. Sheppey is a little island seven or eight miles long and about three miles wide, and to a very great extent it consists of marsh land. The whole of this island, which has a population of about 22,000 people, has two main roads. One is the main road running from the main land to the town of Sheerness, and about two or three miles in length. The other, running the length of the island, is a road, which, after leaving the principal town of Sheerness, loses itself in the marsh land some seven or eight miles away. The 22,000 people living on the island of Sheppey have no communication with the rest of the United Kingdom, except that which they are able to derive from this particular bridge in order to cross which they have to pay heavy tolls. The clauses in the Bill to which I object are undoubtedly supported by the Kent County Council, and by the rural district council of Sheppey, which contains about 4,000 inhabitants. They are strongly objected to by the Sheerness Urban District Council, which contains 18,000 out of the 22,000 inhabitants of the island, and they are, I venture to say, objected to by everyone in Sheppey who desires to stir more than six miles from his home on Saturday afternoon or any other holiday in the year.
§ The bridge is now subject to heavy tolls. If you want to take a cart across with bricks in it you have got to pay 1s. 6d. If you want to take the empty cart back you have got to pay another 1s. 6d. If you want to take something bigger than a cart, say a wagon of bricks, you have got to pay 2s. For a horse or an ass the toll is 3d., and for a single person a penny, and a penny if he wishes to come back again. The effect of this heavy toll is seen in the cost of a great deal of produce, which, I am told, is dearer in the town of Sheerness than in the neighbouring town of Sitting- 1100 bourne, seven or eight miles away. The development of the town of Sheerness has been stopped to a very considerable extent by the existence of these tolls. As regards the bridge the Bill proposes to perpetuate and extend these tolls. The tolls were first established in the year 1856, and now, after the lapse of 50 years, Parliament is asked not only to sanction a continuance of these tolls but to render them rather more burdensome. I do not lay much stress on the additional burden, but what I complain of is the continuance of the original burden and the absence of any effort to free the place from it. The additional burden is comparatively a small matter. In the second place, the Bill proposes, as regards the cost of repairing this bridge, which under the original Acts of Parliament under which the bridge was made was thrown on the railway company, that the greater portion of that cost in the next ten years should be thrown on the ratepayers of the county. As part of the concession which was granted to the railway company in 1856 to run a line from Sittingbourne, eight or nine miles away, to the island of Sheppey, the then company was put under an obligation to make the bridge and keep it in repair. A question no doubt arises as to what repair meant. The company say that the obligations then put upon their predecessors in title—because this little company merged in the much large undertaking of the South-Eastern and London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company—was to repair the bridge, having regard to the type of vehicle which was then going over the bridge. They say that during recent years the vehicles have become very much heavier and the strain on the bridge is very much greater, and therefore it requires a very much larger sum to be spent on repairs; and they say that they are not bound in law or in equity to incur that expense. I do not think it is advisable for lawyers to give a gratuitous opinion on the law, and therefore I do not want myself to lay any stress on this, but I can hardly imagine anyone who reads the clause in the original Act of Parliament not distinctly coming to the conclusion that the obligation placed on the company was that they should repair the bridge whatever the traffic of the day might be which went over the bridge.
§ Whatever the law may be, I am perfectly clear that no Parliament ever dreamt that such an argument would be advanced in the future on the part of the railway company. So that the position is this: The company 1101 say they are not bound to repair the bridge, having regard to the increase of traffic, and they have agreed with the county council and the rural district council, who in my opinion ought to have enforced the liability of the company at law, to spend £2,200, and in return for spending that amount the county council agree to let the railway company spending this money—proaches to the bridge for a period of ten years. That is the main part of the repair to the bridge. The evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords as to the cost of repairing the bridge itself was comparatively slight, and that the cost of repairing the approaches was about £180 a year. They also, in consideration of the railway company spending this money—which they are bound to spend—confirm and extend their system of toll. The complaint which I think I may justly make in this matter is that they have entered into this improvident agreement with the railway company without having in any way consulted the persons most nearly concerned in the matter, namely, the Urban District Council of Sheerness. I have copies of letters in which the urban district council asked to be consulted. They never were consulted. This agreement, which has the effect of keeping 22,000 people to their island home, was entered into without one word of communication to the Sheerness Council. I oppose the Bill, because I think the time has arrived when an arrangement ought to be made to diminish, and presently to abolish, all the tolls which are referred to in this Bill.
§ I agree that the railway company have power to charge tolls, and I also agree that it would be inequitable to ask that those tolls should be straightway abolished. But I do say that their existence is an anomaly, and is a kind of thing which this House would certainly not allow now to be set up. The House has now an opportunity of declaring in point of principle that this is a kind of thing which ought not to be tolerated in this country, and the way to do that is by rejecting this Bill. Under the original Act of Parliament of 1856 the railway company were bound to keep separate accounts in separate books. They say they have kept separate accounts, but they admit that they have not kept separate books. I do not know that much importance need be attached to that, but of course there is the argument that if the railway company mix these accounts with its general accounts it would be very easy to make more profit than they admit they have actually made. At all events what 1102 they were bound to do under the original Act, after having paid the expense of repairs to the bridge, was to carry the surplus to the general objects of the company. That company was practically a company to supply to the Island of Sheppey communication with the mainland. It was a line nine miles long, and the original intention was that any surplus remaining after the repairs to the bridge should be carried to the maintenance and improvement of this short railway. The little line has been bought up by the big company, and the surplus is being applied not to the benefit of the line serving the island, but to the benefit of people in places many miles away from Sheppey. Taking the accounts of the company I find that the toll derived from the bridge for eight years amounts to £6,000. During the same eight years the company have spent on the bridge £3,035. In that amount is included 10 per cent. for cost of superintendence. So we see the railway company has made a yearly profit. That profit is increasing by leaps and bounds. Last year the amount of the tolls was £991, and the cost of repairs £415, so that the railway company put into its pocket the sum of £576, derived from the industry and the growth of the population of Sheerness.
§ The company state that they are going to spend £2,200 under an agreement with the county council to put the bridge in repair, and they are going to go back during ten years the sum of £180 a year, the estimated cost of repairing the approaches. Practically, therefore, under this agreement they are only going to spend the sum of £400 in doing what, according to my contention, they are bound to do—i.e., to spend the sum of £2,200. We may be told in the course of the Debate that the railway company has recently spent the sum of £48,000 on the bridge. The bridge carries the main Continental line, and also the road. The company are bound to spend that sum in order to make the bridge fit to carry the new and heavy engines they are using. They admit that it will require an additional £2,200 in order to put the road into a state of repair, so that it may be brought into compliance with the statutory obligations of the company. They could not help spending this large sum of money in order to fit the railway bridge for the heavy Continental traffic. If the sum of £48,000 is brought forward in the House as showing what the railway company has done, I beg the House to remember that it is a figure in the air, and 1103 has nothing whatever to do with the performance of the railway company's obligations in relation to this road. I think the House will agree to one of two propositions—first, that the isolation of a little place like this from the rest of the country is anomalous, and ought quickly to be brought to an end. Secondly, I think that the House will agree that we cannot expect the railway company—it would not be fair—to give up all the tolls at once. To that I quite assent. I hold the opinion myself that railway companies in these days are a great deal too hard pressed; the country has a great deal too little consideration for the circumstances in which railways were born. I am quite certain that I approach this matter entirely without prejudice. What I think ought to happen is this. I think the county council and the railway-company and the Urban District Council of Sheerness ought quickly to come to an arrangement under which the tolls which are charged for crossing this bridge should immediately be somewhat lessened, and finally, and in a reasonable time, be entirely abolished. I think the Government ought in their own interests to interfere in this matter. Sheerness is entirely a naval and military place. The Government very wisely have entered into an arrangement under which they are able to take Government material over this bridge without any charge at all. I think it was rather hard on the part of the Government entering into that arrangement without extending their beneficent action to the people of Sheerness. I am certain of this, that the town has a very good claim on the county to come to some arrangement in this matter. The town already contributes to the 200 bridges or more which are being repaired by the county council, and it has not itself a single bridge.
§ I think it has an equitable claim on the county council in this matter. It would not require very much, as the tolls amount to about £700 per year, but they form a very, very heavy burden upon this poor little town. For the most part the tolls fall heavily on young men who want to take some exercise on Saturday and Sunday morning. Sixty thousand cyclists paid tolls on crossing the bridge last year. In fact, you cannot stir out of the town or go anywhere, except for a short cycle ride of five or six miles in the island, without going over the bridge. Last year the railway company made £240 out of the artisans of Sheerness, few of whom are probably 1104 earning more than 35s. per week. I may be told this ought to go to a Committee. I venture to say, in the first place, this is a point on which all the facts are absolutely clear. There is no need for any investigation, we are practically agreed as to what the facts are. In the second place there is really here a great point of principle, although it affects a little, humble place, and it is a question for the determination of this House and not for the determination of a Committee. The real question is whether the time has not arrived when no single place in the United Kingdom should be cut off, and isolated from the rest of the kingdom by a bridge of this kind, to cross which you have to pay very heavy tolls. If the clause is withdrawn our opposition to the Bill is withdrawn. If the clauses are not withdrawn this is really more than what an opposition to a Railway Bill usually is. I do not believe you ought to oppose a railway company's Bill because you have some dissatisfaction with the way in which it carries out its business, but I do think, when the Bill asks, as this does, to perpetuate a state of things which no man in this House will defend, then that is the moment for the House to say this is an important principle, and we will not have this Bill. I beg to move.
§ Mr. A. PAGET HEDGES
I desire to second the Motion of my hon. Friend and colleague, and I should like to disassociate myself from having any personal interest in the matter except in so far as I am one who pays county rates. That is such a small matter, it could hardly enter into one's consideration. I recognise the serious responsibility which rests upon anyone who tries to stop the progressive action of a railway company in extending its facilities to the public. When I first came across the situation which is disclosed by the Bill now before the House, it seemed to me, on broad grounds of public policy, that this House ought to take cognisance of such a condition as has been disclosed by my hon. Friend in his speech. It is all very well to say that these matters are threshed out by the Committee upstairs. As having sat on one of those Committees. I should be the last to suggest that they were not competent to deal with the various interests which come before them for discussion and for decision. I do think this particular case is one of such exceptional interest—not only because of the specific details but also because it is a typical case—that it 1105 is one which ought to be decided on lines such as my hon. Friend has suggested. It is not right, in the twentieth century, for a populous, crowded neighbourhood like Sheerness to be practically ostracised from the rest of the world in consequence of a bridge in the hands of a railway company. It would hardly be believed, unless it could be shown, as it has been shown to-night, that a town about an hour and a-half's journey from London was in this position in a country of such advanced civilisation as is this country of ours. To say that that is anomalous and archaic is only to use the most moderate language.
I think we are perfectly justified by any means we can use on an occasion like this to bring before the notice of the public such a condition of things. I myself, in company with my hon. Friend, am very much surprised that the county council of Kent and of the rural districts have been so easily persuaded into withdrawing their opposition, or not putting forward any opposition, when the interests of the county and the borough are at stake. I think they should have taken notice, and have appeared before the Committee, and urged the claims of the county as a whole. Far be it from me to suggest any sinister influences, but it does strike me as an actual outsider that a Bill of this character should have been so feebly opposed by those whose interests were most seriously affected. I notice the South-Eastern Railway Company, against whom I have no grudge whatever, magnanimously refrained from opposing an application for a locus by the Urban District Council of Sheerness. I think their magnanimity might have been shown in a very much more extended direction by taking this opportunity of approaching those who were opposing this Bill in order, as my hon. Friend has suggested, to free this island from the incubus under which it has been so long labouring. I think that the opposition to private Bills of this character, and desiring to stop them from going to a Committee upstairs, is a serious one, and I myself have never adopted that attitude upon any of the various Bills which have been brought before this House, on matters which are not at all germane to the Bill itself. Without any disrespect to my hon. Friend the Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. A. C. Morton), I think it is absurd to oppose a Bill which deals with general matters because he cannot get third-class sleepers to the North of England. Here 1106 we have an opposition on the grounds of the Bill itself, and therefore I appeal to my hon. Friends on both sides that they should take particular notice of the question, which is one of broad public interest. I have pleasure in seconding the Motion of my hon. Friend.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Mr. JAMES ROWLANDS
I thought that somebody representing the company would have had the courage to say a word in reply to the speeches which have been delivered, as it is only right that we should have an opportunity in Debate of expressing our views on the case of the railway company; but as the representatives of the company do not seem prepared to state their case, preferring for some reason that it should remain uncontested, it rests with us who oppose this Bill to reinforce the statements which have already been made. I take a much wider view with regard to the opposition of Bills on Second Reading. When an authority comes here and asks for Parliamentary powers, I believe we have a perfect right on Second Reading to criticise the whole of the position in connection with the authority promoting the Bill. So far as the present Bill is concerned, my hon. Friend (Mr. Napier) has made out a case which ought to have been immediately answered by the representatives of the company. He has treated them throughout in a very just manner. All he wanted them to do was to take steps with other authorities to get rid of this great difficulty which hampers the people in the Isle of Sheppey. I should have thought that the company, from its own point of view, would have been only too glad to get this difficulty out of the way, because it must be a benefit both to the company and to the whole of the locality that that which prevents the locality from developing should be removed.
The scale of charges in the Bill is really monstrous when we consider that it applies to working people. It may be urged that a penny is nothing for a young man to pay when he crosses the bridge on a bicycle. But how often do working men have to pay that penny during the year? In some households where there are two or three machines the penalty is a most excessive one. The whole amount derived from these fines must necessarily be paid by the small population inhabiting the island, as it is not a place to which people go for amusement or recreation. Con- 1107 sequently a large proportion of the money is represented by penalties imposed upon working people who desire to enjoy the same recreation that other people can get. I hope the company will consider the case put forward by my hon. Friend, and see if there is not some way by which this bridge after a moderate period of time can be freed. Everyone knows what the difficulty of a toll bridge is. I remember the time when Waterloo Bridge was a toll bridge. It was then a desert. But what a difference was made the moment it was freed. I know that that bridge links up two parts of London, and I do not suggest that the freeing of the bridge with which we are now concerned would lead to the same amount of traffic across it; but certainly it would help to develop the locality, which would be a benefit to the company itself.
I have a notice of Motion upon the Paper, because I hold that it is right when you have a grievance to seize the opportunity which Parliament in its wisdom has given you. Parliament has always adopted the policy that railway companies must periodically come before the House for extra powers, to raise extra capital, and so forth. That is done on purpose that difficulties which exist may be dealt with. I desire to bring forward a grievance in connection with my own Constituency. I would first refer to the inconsistencies of the company in regard to fares. This may seem a simple thing to some people, but it is not to a working-class Constituency like mine. From Gravesend, which is 24 miles from London, you can get three trains a day and a return ticket for 1s. 6d. But those trains are not allowed to stop at Greenhithe, 19¾ miles from London; there they have only one train once a week by which cheap fares are available. Why cannot the company stop these cheap trains at some of the other places, and give to people nearer London similar advantages to those enjoyed by the people of Gravesend? I shall be told that these charges were fixed many years ago. I would point out, however, that during the last few years there has been an enormous development of population in places nearer London than Gravesend. Besides Greenhithe, there is Dartford, with a population of 23,000. and Erith, with a population of 25,000, at which these trains do not stop. In the statement which has been circulated by the promoters of the Bill, it is stated that certain stocks have not paid a dividend for a number of years, and that 1108 ordinary stockholders have never received a dividend. If my memory serves me rightly, that stock was issued by the contractors at £22 10s. per £100 stock. What amount of capital did they expend on the line when they were offering a nominal £100 stock for £22 10s.? I suppose about £18. We all know that that stock has never paid any dividend. If you give advantages in any direction to the users of the railway, or if matters remain in the same position as to-day, it will never pay any dividend. What is the value of that stock at the present time. I do not think it has a very large market.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This is not a shareholders' meeting. The hon. Member is going a long way outside the limits of the Bill.
§ Mr. ROWLANDS
I should not have dealt with the point if a statement had not been circulated to Members of the House, putting forward these reasons. They are not my reasons; I was only replying to them. I thought, of course, that having been circulated among the Members of the House in opposition to the position which I was taking up, that it would be easier and necessary for me to say a word or two in reply to that statement which might have influenced the Vote. There is one other point I should like to draw attention to, so that it may be seriously considered. That is the issue of workmen's tickets down that industrial portion that I have mentioned from Gravesend to London. I do not think they will chide me for bringing this under their attention. Indeed, they should be pleased to have it brought under their notice. In the main I stand by my hon. Friend in his opposition to the principal portion of the Bill—that portion that deals with his constituency and for which I think he has a just case.
§ Mr. AKERS-DOUGLAS
I shall endeavour at once to reply to the questions of the Mover and Seconder in the fewest words I can. The proposals contained in the Bill are of a limited character, and I think we ought to direct our attention chiefly and entirely to the questions involved and not to questions outside. The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. T. B. Napier), I am bound to say, has made his statement in the most fair spirit, although I do not agree with him with regard to his championship of the interests of his Constituency. I had the privilege of representing that district for some years in 1109 Parliament, and therefore I know that bridge well. But the question which is particularly put by the Mover and Seconder is as to whether this Bill is to be rejected or not on the second reading. The hon. Member who has moved the Amendment started his speech by saying that this Bill raised no question of principle. I have been for many years in this House, and I have always thought that what we voted for on a second reading was a question of principle.
That renders my task very much easier, because I need only deal with what he has said regarding the Swale Bridge. That bridge, as my hon. Friend stated, was constructed under the Act of 1856. It has since been maintained first of all by the Sheerness Railway, then by the Chatham and Dover Company, and then by the present company, as they acquired powers from this House. It has always been a combined road and railway bridge. It has been maintained by the company for the actual traffic for which it was originally constructed. I think that is the chief difference between us. The hon. Member thinks that the bridge ought to have been maintained not only to meet the requirements of the traffic for which it was originally constructd, but to meet the requirements of the traffic as that traffic might grow. That is not my view, nor do I think it is the view of the Kent County Council, who have been in negotiations with the railway company with regard to this matter. I am not going to differ with the hon. Members with regard to their desire to see some day a free bridge constructed, but I do not see why the building of that bridge should be thrown upon the railway company. The hon. Member opposite assents to that proposal of mine, but yet he asks the House to reject this Bill because, apparently, we are not prepared at once to say that we will free the bridge at our own expense.
§ Mr. AKERS-DOUGLAS
What the hon. Member wishes—that is the only case for the opposition to this Bill—is to drive the county council and us to come to some 1110 agreement whereby one or other of us may free this bridge at our own expense, and for the benefit of those who happen to live in Sheerness at the present time. The hon. Member has most fairly said that the opposition to this Bill comes entirely from the Urban District Council of Sheerness. The rest of the county, as represented by the Kent County Council, and the various district councils, and especially by the district council of the Isle of Sheppey immediately adjoining Sheerness, think that the compromise which has been come to between the county council and the railway companies is a fair one, and they are supporting this Bill in consequence. Further than that, I have no doubt they have no desire to be placed in the position they would be placed in, supposing this Bill were rejected and that matters remain as they are at present. Heavy traffic would be unable to get into the island except over the railway bridge, or they would have to go over the bridge at their own risk. Therefore I think the House must see that the case put by the hon. Member opposite cannot be considered to be very strong.
There are two or three statements which I think it is right that I should answer. Two suggestions or proposals have been made by the speakers. One seems to imply that the company hold the bridge as in trust for the public. That is certainly not so. We are no more trustees for the public with respect to this road bridge than we are with respect to any other part of the railway system. The bridge was never the property of the public. It takes the place of a private ferry, and the only obligation imposed upon the company with regard to the road bridge was that in the first place the tolls which were taken should be used for managing, maintaining, repairing, lighting, and working the bridge.
It was specifically provided by the Act of 1856 and by an amending Act of 1866 that the balance should be applied to the general objects and purposes of the company. The hon. Member has said that we have made many hundreds a year, and he has suggested that the amount the company has received has been more than enough to maintain the bridge, and further that it has been suggested—I do not think it was by the hon. Member himself—but in the statement of the case which the Sheerness Urban District Council circulated—that the money has been improperly demanded and improperly applied. That certainly is not so. Let me 1111 take the two points. First, with regard to how the balance has been expended; and next, whether it would have been expended in any other way. We have heard statements of the kind for the past eight years. In two of these eight years there has been a debit balance, and in the other six years the profit has varied from £190 to £385. In no year has there been enough to provide the interest, or even 4 per cent., upon the cost of the bridge itself, which was £19,700. Then the hon. Member said that we were not answerable to any duly constituted authority; the only duly constituted authority that we were responsible to were the shareholders of our company, and the accounts were presented and audited by auditors appointed for the purpose; and I do not think that there can be any object in any one raising an objection that the money has been improperly accounted for.
The hon. Gentleman said, quite truly, that the Act of 1856 stated that the accounts ought to be kept in separate books. That is perfectly accurate. They were kept in separate books, but in recent years, since the undertaking has been taken over specially, they are not kept in separate books, though all the accounts have been kept separately. They have been presented to a Committee of the House of Lords, and they will be presented again to a Committee upstairs. If the House, as I hope it will, sends this Bill to a Committee, the promoters of the Bill are perfectly willing and able to satisfy anyone that the account of tolls which have been levied are not excessive and that they have all been utilised for the purposes of maintaining the bridge and for paying interest upon its cost of construction. The hon. Member for Dart-ford (Mr. Rowlands) has raised a point in regard to cheap trains. He pointed out that there are certain trains which run daily between Gravesend and London, but do not call at certain stations in this constituency, and that on these trains cheap fares have been instituted. These cheap fares have been in existence for a very long period under special arrangements, and have been available for certain trains for certain passengers travelling between Gravesend and London. He says that the passengers using the intermediate stations should have these cheap fares also. There is nothing in this Bill which deals at all, or asks for any powers in connection with, 1112 capital expenditure, except one point, namely, the question of tolls upon the bridge, and, therefore, I venture to think that this is not the proper occasion on which to ask us to go into the question of reorganisation of the fares of our railway. I must certainly say it would be impossible for us to favourably consider the hon. Member's wishes in regard to the three or four stations which he mentions. If you are going to extend these particular fares which were granted to particular stations you would have nearly every other station on the railway asking for similar facilities, and it would be quite impossible for the promoters of the Bill to grant these facilities I do not make any suggestion that the hon. Member wishes to take advantage of the Bill for the purpose—I do not use the word in anything like an offen size sense—of blackmail. I do not think a Bill of this sort, dealing, as the hon. Member pointed out, with only one question of principle, should be made use of for the purposes which the hon. Member suggests. He may take it from me that now that he has made this complaint I will undertake, not for a moment that the fares shall be reduced, or that special facilities shall be given to the people for whom he desires them, but at all events that the facts he has mentioned and the points he has brought out shall be inquired into.
§ Mr. AKERS-DOUGLAS
Yes, I quite understand. Cheap fares for certain trains, and cheap workmen's tickets. My impression is that we as a railway company have more workmen's trains and more workmen's tickets than other companies. I do not, therefore, for a moment say that we shall be able to increase these facilities; but I do certainly say that as a matter of courtesy they will receive our close attention. I only want to further appeal to the House, that after all this Bill is a Bill to which no objection in principle is taken, and that there is no reason why it should not go to a Committee upstairs to be carefully considered by them. I trust the House will agree to that proposal and allow the Bill to be read a second time. The hon. Member would then be in no worse position, because we have purposely refrained from objecting to his locus standi with regard to this question of the bridge.
§ Mr. J. D. REES
As has already been stated, this is not a shareholders' meeting, but I trust there is no impropriety in an hon. Member making a few remarks from the point of view of that friendless creature the railway shareholder. The proceedings to-night illustrate the great difficulty railway companies experience in putting any Bill through the House of Commons. It has been suggested that some harm will be done by this measure to the island of Sheppey, but I really cannot see that much injury is done except the one alluded to in regard to cyclists. It is said that bicyclists cannot get out of the town without paying tolls. I do not see why bicyclists should have these privileges free any more than any other class of people. I maintain that the bicycle is the most dangerous conveyance on the roads, and even if bicyclists are kept at home to a certain extent it does not seem such a serious matter as to call for the rejection of a Bill like this. It seems to me that a railway company represents practically an individual interest, and it should not be called upon in this communal aspect when it wishes to acquire additional powers. The hon. Member for Tonbridge complains that the island of Sheppey is ostracised by this Bill, but there is no obligation thrown upon a railway company to provide any particular section of inhabitants with a bridge to cross the intervening water at the expense of the company. It has been suggested that there is some sinister influence at work in regard to this measure. As one who spends his days in the city, I should like to ask what is the sinister influence which the South-Eastern Railway Company desire to exercise? It is the nature of an island to be surrounded by water, but surely this railway company is not responsible for that, nor is it bound to convey people across the water free of expense and in any manner they desire. The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. J. Rowlands) very truly said that railway companies have to come periodically to the House of Commons for extra powers, but it seems to me when they have to do this they are very much to be pitied. The hon. Member also said that the fact that they have to come to this House for those extra powers affords an appropriate occasion for squeezing them as regards workmen's trains and stopping trains.
§ Mr. REES
No, I was summarising him, and I hope I was doing so with absolute fairness. I understood the sense of the hon. Member's speech to be that when a railway company came up for extra powers that was a proper occasion upon which to demand concessions. In any case, I do not think it is right, if a railway company makes out a good case for extra powers, that it should be penalised with regard to the smallest matter before it can obtain the second reading of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the St. Augustine's division (Mr. Akers-Douglas) who spoke on behalf of the promoters of this Bill, was absolutely driven to make something like a "deal" with the hon. Member for Dartford on account of his opposition to this measure. I am speaking here as a shareholder, and I have no desire whatever to conceal my position in the matter. I submit as a shareholder that the attitude taken up which compelled the right hon. Gentleman opposite to treat in this manner is not a proper position to take up. When there is a good case for a Bill I think it is wrong that this attitude should be taken up on some trivial matter, and promises of this kind exacted in order to buy off opposition.
§ Mr. J. G. TALBOT
I desire to support the second reading of this Bill. It is quite a harmless measure, and it happens to contain a number of proposals which have taken some time to arrange, but which have been arranged satisfactorily between the county council affected and the South-Eastern and Chatham Railway Company. I cannot understand why hon. Members wish to prevent what is really a public benefit to the whole of the neighbouring community. This is a bonâ fide attempt on the part of this railway company and the county council to provide further access to the Island of Sheppey, and make provision for conveying heavy traffic to that island, such as agricultural machinery. I cannot help thinking, in view of these facts, that the hon. Member opposite has been wrongly instructed in this matter, and I am afraid the facts have not been put before him as they really exist. I am not concerned to discuss these details now, but what I am concerned about is that this Bill should receive a second reading, and that the matters which have been raised in opposition should be fully considered by the Committee. The provisions contained in the Bill have been fairly and frankly considered by the county council. If the hon. and learned Gentleman says 1115 the county council ought to free the bridge, he knows it means an additional burden on the county. Why should they be called upon all over the county to contribute towards the expense of freeing this bridge? If there is a case for that, and if he thinks that is reasonable, it would be fully considered by the Committee when the Bill goes upstairs. It has been considered by a Committee of the other House which heard the evidence—amongst others, of one of the members of the county council, and which, after very careful consideration, passed the Bill. I hope the House will give a second reading to this Bill. If its provisions are not satisfactory, of course hon. Members can oppose it if they like, but I am afraid if they do there is little chance that the Bill will pass its final stages. It is a matter of detail, and I venture to assure the hon. Gentleman that the interests of his constituents have not been neglected. On the contrary, it is the object of the county council to provide as much accommodation for inter-communication between the Isle of Sheppey and the main land as possible.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. H. J. Tennant)
I am not sure I can add much to what has been said on this subject, but it may be right that the Board of Trade's view should be known to the House before it comes to a decision. I was glad my hon. Friend who moved the rejection (Mr. Napier) stated that there was no point of principle involved in his objection, though he afterwards stated his objection to the Bill was a point of principle. I should have thought it was more a matter of detail than principle. I dare say many of us feel that tolls are objectionable things and we should like to get rid of them in
§ every case, but I notice my hon. Friend in his objection to this Bill said he would not go so far as to ask the railway company to give up all their tolls at once. He merely wanted them to give up this particular toll. My hon. Friend felt very strongly against this, and very likely it is as he says, an objectionable toll, but you have to consider what is the alternative, and the alternative, I venture to say, is very likely to have no bridge capable of carrying this heavy traffic at all; it is not bicycle traffic so much as heavy traffic, traffic of agricultural machinery, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Talbot) referred. Although tolls may be objectionable, I should not have thought that this toll would involve, as the hon. Member asserted, so drastic a thing as the ostracising of the island. I should not have thought that all the disabilities to which he alluded were involved in the toll. Objectionable in character as tolls may be, I do not think you ought to take the very drastic measure of asking the House of Commons to decline to send the Bill to a Committee upstairs for so small a point. I feel this is not a Bill which ought to be debarred a second reading on the ground of that objection. Dealing with the point raised by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Rowlands), I might point out that the companies are under an obligation to issue workmen's tickets within 20 miles of London. My hon. Friend is, no doubt, aware of that. If there is a need for such trains beyond 20 miles, the Board of Trade inquire into it if they receive any applications, but up to now no application has been received.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 183; Noes, 97.1117
|Division No. 249.]||AYES.||[9.33 p.m.|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.)||Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Carlile, E. Hildred|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Bignold, Sir Arthur||Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Boland, John||Chance, Frederick William|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Bowles, G. Stewart||Cheetham, John Frederick|
|Ambrose, Robert||Bramsdon, Sir T. A.||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Armitage, R.||Branch, James||Clive, Percy Archer|
|Astbury, John Meir||Bridgeman, W. Clive||Clough, William|
|Balcarres, Lord||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Coates, Major E. F. (Lewisham)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Brooke, Stopford||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Brotherton, Edward Allen||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.|
|Barnard, E. B.||Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire)||Courthope, G. Loyd|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Bryce, J. Annan||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)|
|Beale, W. P.||turns, Rt. Hon. John||Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Crossley, William J.|
|Bell, Richard||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Cameron, Robert||Davies, Sir W. Hawall (Bristal, S.)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-shire)||Joynson-Hicks, William||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Rees, J. D.|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Kimber, Sir Henry||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Evans, Sir S. T.||King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)||Renwick, George|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Laidlaw, Robert||Robinson, S.|
|Faber, George Denison (York)||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Fletcher, J. S.||Lamont, Norman||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||Layland-Barrett, Sir Francis||Runclman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Gardner, Ernest||Lewis, John Herbert||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Glen-Coats, Sir T. (Renfrew, W.)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Lundon, T.||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Gordon, J.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Gulland, John W.||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Haddock, George B.||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Stanier, Seville|
|Hamilton, Marquess of||Magnus, Sir Philip||Stanley, Hon. A. Lyulph (Cheshire)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Marnham, F. J.||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)||Massie, J.||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Harris, Frederick Leverton||Meagher, Michael||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Hart-Davies, T.||Middlebrook, William||Talbot, Rt. Hon. J. G. (Oxford Univ.)|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Morpeth, Viscount||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.).||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||Nolan, Joseph||Toulmin, George|
|Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert||Norman, Sir Henry||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Hill, Sir Clement||Nuttall, Harry||Valentia, Viscount|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)||Vivian, Henry|
|Hooper, A. G.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Hope, W. H. B. (Somerset, N.)||Oddy, John James||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Horridge, Thomas Gardner||O'Malley, William||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Salt, Wald.)||Williams, W. Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Hunt, Rowland||Peel, Hon. W. R. W.||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Hyde, Clarendon G.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Idris, T. H. W.||Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Ratcliff, Major R. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Colonel|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Warde and Viscount Castlereagh.|
|Barker, Sir John||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Radford, G. H.|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Higham, John Sharp||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Hodge, John||Richardson, A.|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Hogan, Michael||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Black, Arthur W.||Hudson, Walter||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Jenkins, J.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Bowerman, c. W.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Rowlands, J.|
|Brodie, H. C.||Jowett, F. W.||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Joyce, Michael||Seddon, J.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Lehmann, R. C.||Shackleton, David James|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Snowden, P.|
|Clynes, J. R.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Straus, B. S. (Mlle End)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Maclean, Donald||Summerbell, T.|
|Cowan, W. H.||Macpherson, J. T.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Crooks, William||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E.)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E)||Tomkinson, James|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Micklem, Nathaniel||Walsh, Stephen|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||Mond, A.||Walters, John Tudor|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Walton, Joseph|
|Edwards, A. Clement (Denbigh)||Nicholls, George||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)||Wardle, George J.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Doherty, Philip||Watt, Henry A.|
|Gill, A. H.||O'Grady, J.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Glendinning, R. G.||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Glover, Thomas||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Greenwood, Hamar (York)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Hall, Frederick||Philips, John (Longford, S.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Pointer, J.|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Power, Patrick Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Napier and Mr. Hedges.|
|Hazel, Dr. A. E. W.||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
Bill read a second time, and committed.