HC Deb 21 May 1912 vol 38 cc1829-53

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

I am very sorry to have to intervene in the most important discussion going on, but I tried to persuade the authorities to put this Bill down at a time when it would not interfere with any important business. It was put down for to-night, and I have nothing to do but to take up my duty in regard to it. I should like, in the first place, to say the question involved is a far more important one than the welfare of any particular community. The principle for which I am appealing to the House is that this House is the ultimate protector of the public. When capitalists and well-organised and wealthy people have discussions before Committees it is for this House to see that the public interests are properly guarded. It has been said to-day by some of the local papers, "Why should Members from Southern counties and from Ireland intervene in local matters?" That is a very narrow view of the duties of a Member of Parliament. Every Member of Parliament, no matter from where he comes and no matter what constituency he represents, is bound to take his part in maintaining the supreme duty of the House, which is to guard the welfare of the public. I do not blame the Committee, far from it, but surely Members who know anything about the proceedings in Committee must know how very partial is the presentation of most of the cases. You cannot go before a Committee unless you have a locus standi, and, not only must you have that, but you must have money and organisation, and that is just what the public very often do not possess. The public moves slowly; the public has no money, and the consequence is that the public is in danger of being wrung between the upper and nether millstones of capitalism. We can, therefore, only come to this House to ask it to perform its primary duty of caring for the interests of the public as distinct from the interests of any particular set of people who had gone before the Committee.

This Committee of the Lords which sat upon this Bill naturally decided upon the evidence before it, and I am not questioning the decision at which they arrived, but I do say, first of all, that the question was not in a position in which it should have been brought before a Committee either of the Lords or the Commons. I say, secondly, that the people most concerned, and that is the public, were never heard at all, and the consequence is we have to come back to this House as the refuge for helpless causes, and all hon. Members are bound to take their part in vindicating that primary duty of the House. It may be said, "You are delaying the community of Manchester by asking this House not to send this Bill to a Committee of the House of Commons." I do not think the business of Manchester is suffering anything material, but I am quite certain it is for the welfare of that business in the long run that the most important matter should be wisely settled. There have been some years of delay, and it will be worth putting up with the inconvenience of a little more delay in order that a wise conclusion may be arrived at. Personally, I have no interest in this matter beyond the fact that I was brought up in Manchester and was a student in its university. I was a citizen there for some years, and, if I shall not be considered to be using extravagant Iangauge in connection with a place like Manchester, I may say I have every reason to love the city, and to serve it to the best of my ability. I am convinced that what little I have ever done for Manchester is nothing in comparison with the service I shall do it to-night if I can persuade the House to take my view of the matter.

The House, perhaps, does not know altogether the importance of the Exchange to the commercial life not only of the city of Manchester, but of the whole of Lancashire. Manchester is the metropolis of Lancashire. Two days a week, at any rate, and on most other days too, the Exchange of Manchester is frequented by persons engaged in business from all parts of the county. I believe it is the largest gathering of business men in the world, and Members of this House who happen to be in Manchester on a Tuesday or a Friday would do well to go on the Exchange and see one of the most impressive sights of its kind that can be seen in the world. Therefore, one of the most valuable assets the city of Manchester possesses is this fact of it being the metropolis of Lancashire. Trade of all kinds is drawn towards Manchester as to a centre, and the very heart of that trade is the Exchange. The present Exchange has become much too small, and it is necessary that enlarged accommodation should be found somewhere. I maintain, and I am speaking, I know, the conviction of the bulk of the general public of Manchester, that the present Exchange is not in the right place, and that to enlarge it, as has been passed by the Committee, would be exceedingly unwise and inadequate. There is another factor in the problem which the House should bear in mind. The situation of the present Exchange is in the most congested part of the city. It is not, as was stated before the Committee, in the centre of the business portion of Manchester. It is on the very outskirts of it, and such business as comes to the Exchange has been spreading enormously round the Piccadilly site. I wish hon. Members to realise what a peculiar and striking piece of Providence, if I may say so, there is in this matter. The Manchester Infirmary stood on the finest open space in Manchester. The infirmary has been removed out of the town, and the corporation have bought what may fairly be described as one of the finest sites in the world—a site which requires to have upon it an adequate building of the most modern kind.

The public of Manchester are rapidly coming to the conclusion that it would be a wise thing, instead of patching up the Exchange, as proposed, by a plan which does not give one large hall, but two halls separated by lines of pillars—the public is coming to the conclusion that the best thing for Manchester and for its trade would be to build a new Exchange on the Piccadilly site and to buy out the other Exchange and use that for a public library, at any rate for the time being. Such is the progress of Manchester, and such will be its progress, that I believe, in a few years, it will be necessary to pull down the present Exchange in order to find room for the now overcrowded and congested tram and other traffic. It would, therefore, be an extremely unwise thing to enlarge the present Exchange at a cost of £1,000,000 on a site which will, I am quite certain, in ten years' time be required for other purposes. The Piccadilly site is an open space with broad pavements all round. It is in a central and most accessible part from a business point of view. This is a matter of great importance for the future of Manchester. I can give another reason in support of the arguments I am laying before the House. Five million pounds of the ratepayers' money has been invested in the Ship Canal, and it has been, I think, a most wise venture. Before the construction of the canal Manchester was going down; since then it has prospered and gone forward by leaps and bounds. There is one drawback from which it is suffering, and that is that the canal will never pay back that £5,000,000, and the people will never get the money back unless Manchester can find accommodation for a proper market for cotton. Cotton is the staple industry of Lancashire, and the Manchester Ship Canal must depend on its carriage in order to secure a proper return for the people's money. There is no possibility of finding such a market in the present Exchange, and it is only by building a new Exchange, on an open site, with plenty of light, air and space all round, that it will be possible for Manchester to get such a market as is needed. I repeat that without such a market the millions which have been put into the canal will never be recovered.

We can therefore see how important this matter is for Manchester in every way. I do not wish to throw any doubt on the Committee. We all know how Committees work. One cannot go before a Committee unless he has a locus standi, or unless he has plenty of money in his pocket in order to fee barristers and to pay costs. The public never heard of what was taking place in this matter; it has been in fact another instance of the dumb and helpless public which is so often crushed by our method of legislating. It is said that the corporation appeared before the Committee and were content with its findings. Let me remind the House that the Manchester Corporation is in a very delicate position in this matter—a position in which its own opinion has not been defined. In the year 1906 the proprietors of the Exchange recommended the very course which I am recommending to-day, but the council could not see its way to take the matter up, because there was no public opinion behind it. But in recent times public opinion has been forming rapidly, and I believe that not one man in ten in Manchester who has given any consideration to the matter, but believes that the position of the Exchange ought to be altered. The corporation called witnesses on this particular point, and those witnesses, including the late Lord Mayor, favoured the removal of the Exchange to the Piccadilly site. I do not want to say anything at all unpleasant on this point. But since the corporation, in 1906, made this proposal, the property owners around the present Exchange have got frightened, because they think their property is going to be deteriorated. They are the people who are now pressing this matter forward, and are urging this House to consent to a settlement in order that they may be saved the impending loss. The people who are behind this Motion are those who are frightened for their own property. They are not advocating it because they believe it is the wiser plan, but they are doing so because they think it will be the best means of attaining their private ends.

Anyone who descended from another planet upon Manchester, if one could imagine such a thing, could not help seeing at once the advisability of adopting this site for a new Exchange. It has been suggested that it is too far from the railway station. But that is a small matter, and I believe that if the site were adopted new streets would quickly be formed which would bring it within practically the same distance of Victoria station as the present Exchange. That is not the point. The point is the broad general point that the Exchange ought to be on that site which is now empty. To show how the Corporation has been moving in this matter, let me say that when I first took up this question the Corporation had resolved to build a library and art gallery on that site, and they said they could not go back upon their decision. What has happened? They have gone back upon their decision. They have found the rising tide of public opinion so strong that they have rescinded the resolution to build a library and art gallery on the site, and have left the matter open, in order that the community may be consulted, and may declare its mind, which it is rapidly doing. Not only do I say that the Exchange ought to be on the infirmary site, but I say that that Exchange ought to be the property of the public. In these Socialistic days, if I may call them so, we have moved very rapidly in the direction of public proprietorship of enterprises of this kind. All the enterprises of the city of Manchester are practically in the hands of the public. What is the case of the present Exchange? I joined that Exchange as a member shortly after it was built, and I remember even in those days, when people had not got so far in their conceptions of public proprietorship as happily they have now, saying, "Why is not this Exchange built by the community?" Had it been so twenty years ago, that Exchange would have belonged to the people. Now I suppose £750,000 will have to be paid for it by the public.

Unless Manchester has a really proper Exchange, its trade will be throttled and its progress retarded. If Manchester is to have a proper Exchange, that Exchange must fulfil certain conditions. In the first place, it must be put in the right place. In the second place, it must be the right kind of Exchange. Here I would call the attention of the House to the enormous difference it would make if you built a new Exchange, fitted for the trade requirements it has to fulfil, instead of a botched bit of one ugly lump being appended to the side of another ugly lump. That is what it would amount to. The present Manchester Exchange is an eyesore, and you are going to increase that eyesore by adding to it another piece, I suppose equally ugly, and in order to do that you are going to pull down some of the most valuable property in the city, in the very centre of St. Ann's Square. On the other hand you have the site now vacant, a site which belong to the Corporation, a site for which there is no necessity fo rany other building to be put upon it, and a site which can alone be made worthy of its possibilities by having put upon it a fine building. You can do that, and do it well, for the money that will be required to do this patched job. Financially, the community will be an enormous gainer. According to calculations, which have been gone into very carefully, by municipalising the Exchange and putting it upon this site, you would have an income at once for the ratepayers of from £8,000 to £20,000 a year. In fifty-five years the Exchange would belong to the community, free of cost, as also would be the site, consequently you could then, as is done in some cities, throw the Exchange open at a small charge, or even at no charge at all. What has been done now by this Committee? They have put no restriction on the subscription to the Exchange. For years and years while I was a member the subscription was three guineas a year. It has been raised, and the Chairman of the proprietors said they might manage to make it pay by having a subscription of six guineas. That is very important to the trade of Lancashire. A great many of its members, whom I know very well, are poor men struggling to make a living, and only making a very spare living. To make them pay three guineas more a year will be a very serious impediment to their progress, and consequently a serious drawback to the prosperity of Lancashire.

I ask the House in this matter to help us to put this Exchange upon modern lines—modern in the arrangement of the Exchange itself, modern in its situation, and above all things, modern in its finance. What has happened with the present Exchange? The proprietors of the present Exchange have always paid 8 per cent, dividend, besides forming some reserve. It is monstrous that the trade of Lancashire should be bled in order to find 8 per cent, stated dividend for a number of private persons who do nothing at all for the community. When the Corporation can borrow money at 3½ per cent, it is bad business to allow a great undertaking of this kind to be carried on under private enterprise which requires an 8 per cent, dividend. I have pointed out that while getting a profit from the beginning, you could also form a sinking fund, so that in the lifetime of people now living the Exchange would belong to the whole community. That will be an advantage of untold value to the whole trade of Lancashire. I speak as a person who knows a good deal of the trade of Lancashire. I have been more or less connected with this present Exchange for forty years, and I claim that I know the feeling of Manchester as well as if I were a Member for it. You may say that the Corporation agreed to this Bill going forward. Did they? The Corporation were in a very awkward position. Before the public had awakened to the idea of a municipal Exchange on the Piccadilly site, the Corporation had been negotiating with the proprietors about an extension of the present Exchange, which was the only thing they then thought of. The proprietors proposed a small extension, but the Corporation asked for a larger extension, and it was only when they came to the Committee that they found that the proprietors had agreed to that larger extension. The consequence was, seeing that that larger extension was what they had always been asking for, they could not in decency in a certain sense absolutely refuse it, because they had not yet got authority from the community. The Corporation appointed some time ago a committee to consider the whole matter, and to enter into negotiations on the lines that I have been suggesting, but that committee has never met because this Bill has been rushed forward without giving them and without giving the community time to consider it in order to prevent this removal of what they think an injury to the property holders of the neighbourhood.

When the Corporation accepted this Bill Mr. Balfour Browne, who represented the Corporation, said, "Do not give the proprietors of the exchange a free hand to do what they like with it or to let it or not. We ask you to suspend it for six months, till the 1st December, 1912, in order to allow a scheme to be brought before the Corporation. The Corporation will consider it, and I think they will be able to agree to a scheme. If the scheme is agreed to the Bill can go forward; if not it ought not to go forward." That is quite clear; he agrees with this important reservation. The Committee has taken no notice of its complaint; it has taken no notice of anyone's complaint; it simply passed the Bill and handed over the destinies of the trade of Manchester and Lancashire, so far as the Exchange is concerned, to these private proprietors. They can charge what they like, they are under no limitations as to the subscription, and, as far as I understand, no plan of this extension has yet been seen. They sprung it upon the Corporation and the Corporation did not know of it until they went to the Committee. Their representatives all favour the idea of taking the exchange to the Picadilly site. Anyone who knows the problem knows that it is still in solution. It is moving forward rapidly, but it has not yet moved with sufficient rapidity to define exactly the requirements of the time. I find, for example, it has been stated that the subscribers to the Exchange are not in favour of this movement because some of them will have further to walk. Last August these subscribers were asked to vote on the question. There are 5,300 firms, many of whom have two or three representatives, and of them 3,200 voted for removing the Exchange to the Picadilly site, and only 400 against it. Even subscribers favour this transfer to the Picadilly site, but when you come to consider the welfare of the community there can be no question. What right has any Committee of either House to deprive the citizens of Manchester of a very large immediate income? [An HON. MEMBER: "They acquiesce."] I say they do not acquiesce. I have read the acquiescence of the Corporation of Manchester, and it was after saying that we have asked the proprietors, before we thought of this other thing, to extend in this way, we cannot now turn round and say we will not have it, but what we say is that we will not have it unless under certain conditions, and one condition is that this thing shall be arrested until they have had time to consult and have agreed upon a scheme. How can hon. Members call that acquiescence when the committee pay not the slightest attention to it? If the Committee had agreed to this reservation, and had shown any care for the welfare and the opinion of the community as a whole that would have been different, but in the most bald manner they have simply passed the Bill. They have put a rope round the neck of the trade of Manchester. They have allowed it to be handled by these proprietors, who have no interest in its welfare. They are mostly trustees of money and bloodless people of that kind. I therefore say that the public comes to us to-night and says, "Until we have had time to make up our mind, do not put it into the power of any committee to anticipate our decision or to take this very vital element in the prosperity of Manchester and do with it that which ought not to be done, if the welfare of Manchester is to be considered." I am quite certain that the public of Manchester will be bitterly disappointed if this House consents to let the Bill go to a committee, because they can only hear the people who come before them. They can only hear the people who have money and who can bear their share, and a large share, of the expense. But the great public of Manchester has no committee and no money and no organisation, and it is for this House to take care that the public of Manchester is not dealt unjustly with and prematurely put in an improper position merely because it has no locus standi before the committee.


That is not the case.


I am stating what I believe to be the facts of the case. I say that the course which I recommend would be the best for the proprietors. They will get paid the full value of their property, as now, without running the risk of spending another £1,000,000 with a very doubtful prospect of getting an adequate return. They get 8 per cent, on their ordinary capital, and always have done.


I am not asked by the promoters of the Bill to say anything about it, but I happened to read this in the leaflet which has been circulated. The hon. Member says he and others have no locus standi. That is technically true, but the promoters in this paper say they are quite willing and have offered to the hon. Member and those whom he represents permission to appear before the Committee, and though the period at which opposition can be offered under the terms of the Standing Order has expired, they are willing to facilitate in any way an application to the Standing Orders Committee for leave to appear. When an application of that kind is accepted by the promoters, the Chairman of Committees offers no opposition to an alteration in the Standing Order.


I am quite aware of that, but the House must consider my position. In the first place, I have no right to put myself forward as the representative of the public feeling of Manchester. I am speaking to-night as a general Member of Parliament who knows something of this question. I am not speaking as one having any right to intervene in the local affairs of Manchester more than anywhere else, but I do say that this is a case that comes under the general principle that any Member of Parliament is bound to do what he can for the welfare of the public. I quite appreciate the courtesy of being offered the opportunity of going before the Committee, but I am very modest in that matter, not having a commission from anybody to do so. In the second place, I find it would cost me a good deal of money. I would have to pay a considerable sum in fees of one kind and another, and I do not know that I am called upon to do that. I am inclined to do my duty within the sphere open to me as a Member of Parliament, but I neither have the right to put myself forward as a representative nor have I the duty of incurring the expense and anxiety of doing so. Therefore I think I shall be following the true traditions of this House by putting the case where it ought to be put in this House. I prefer to put it here rather than before the Committee, where the issues are narrowed and liberty of speech is not so wide as here.

I am satisfied on the whole that those who vote for my proposal will earn the gratitude in the long run of everybody concerned. They will earn the gratitude of the proprietors, who will make an excellent bargain and be free from a great responsibility for the future. They will earn the gratitude of Lancashire, because that county will have provided as a centre for its trade a fitting meeting place, and they will earn the gratitude of the community of Manchester, because that community will have got possession of a property which will bring in immediately a large income and which ultimately will fall into its own possession without any charge whatever. I ask the House not to send the Bill upstairs to a Committee at present. I believe if the House decides to defer the matter to next Session, an arrangement will have been come to between the proprietors of the Exchange, the corporation, and the public. I feel quite certain from what I know of the feeling in Manchester, that an amicable arrangement will have been arrived at. I believe that arrangement will be best for everybody—best for the proprietors, the subscribers of the Exchange, the trade of Lancashire, and, above all, best for the community of Manchester.


I beg to Second the Amendment.

9.0 P.M.

I may justify my appearance in the position of Seconder by saying that I am a Lancashire man, that I owe everything, or, at any rate, more than I care to say, to Lancashire, its business and people, and that I have lived a great part of my life in that county. I am sure all those who are acquainted with the circumstances, whether from old experience or from having looked into the question, as I have thoroughly from the papers sent by both sides, will feel that the Manchester Exchange ought not to be in the hands of a company. It ought to be under a public body, and if possible, I should say, under the Corporation of Manachester. Secondly, I oppose the scheme because it is a patching up business, when we want a new concern. It patches up an inadequate building with an inadequate plan, and it neglects a great opportunity for having a grand and beautiful building in the very centre of Manchester. I feel it is with me a decisive point of view that an undertaking like this ought not to be in the hands of a company, however honourable, and however able the men at the head of it, but that it ought to be in the hands of a public authority.

The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS (Mr. Whitley)

The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood) has favoured us with an eloquent and rather refreshing speech on so humble a subject as a private Bill. He has appealed to me to perform the most unpleasant duty of asking the House to vote for the rejection of the Bill. By a curious coincidence the Chairman of Ways and Means, whose duty it is to advise the House on matters of this kind, has also been a member of the Royal Exchange in Manchester for a great number of years, not so many as forty, named by the hon. Member, but, at any rate, for more than half of that period, so that apart from official duty I can speak with perhaps equal knowledge. During the last twenty years perhaps I have attended more frequently than the hon. Member for Bolton, and I have had more personal knowledge of the inadequacy of the present Exchange. I have had the advantage also in more recent years of hearing the opinions expressed by members who do business daily and weekly upon that Exchange. However, I do not think it will be necessary for me to combat all the arguments the hon. Member has so eloquently put before the House. I think his whole case is answered in his own words. I have in my hand a series of letters which the hon. Member has written to the leading paper of Manchester over a period of the last four years. They began on 2nd March, 1908, and they go on in June, July, August, September and October, 1910, and September and October. 1911—all of them advocating the very thing that he has been advocating on the floor of the House tonight. In these letters which are full of the picturesque eloquence with which the hon. Member delights the House, on two occasions he appeals to Diana of the Ephesians I notice, and he further gives some point about building a temple for business of which I am sure he would make a very fitting high priest himself. But the point is this. In the middle of this marvellous series of letters which I am sure would have moved, if his cause had appealed to the business men of Manchester, any community much less a community he knows so well as that of Manchester, he himself called a public meeting in Manchester, and in the terms of the report of the meeting which was held on the 13th August, 1910; though the meeting had been advertised and invitations had been issued to various people to come there yet all his eloquence and all his letters and the personal invitation from the hon. Member for Bolton only succeeded in bringing less than 100 of the citizens of Manchester to hear him. And when with an eloquence which I have no doubt was at least equal to that which we have heard in this House, he had put his scheme in full to the citizens of Manchester, out of the bare 100 citizens who came to hear him only forty held up their hands in support of this scheme. Now the hon. Member says that the floor of the House is the place to decide it. I do not deny the right of any single Member to come to the floor of this House, but of course it is my duty to put the facts of the case as I know them before the House in a plea that this Bill should go to a Committee where, in my opinion, it can only properly be examined. The hon. Member has said that, in his opinion, it is only on the floor of this House that questions of this kind can properly be examined. The Noble Lord opposite asked him a question about the question of locus standi before the Committee. When I heard of the hon. Member's opposition to this Bill I made it my business to see the promoters of the Bill and to put to them the question were they willing that the hon. Member, whether he spoke for himself or for a great body of people, should have a locus standi before the Committee, and the promoters immediately said that they would take no objection to his locus standi. Then there came the question that the date for presenting the petition had already expired, and I came to the hon. Member's relief, and offered to use the forms of the House—to move here a Motion, quite apart from the Standing Orders of the Committee—that ha and his petition should have the right to be heard. The hon. Member had said that it would involve great expense and the retaining of counsel. On the matter of expense, I believe that the fee for the deposit of a petition is £2 2s., and I do not think that that would ruin the hon. Member.


There are many other expenses.


I am coming to the others. There is the fee for counsel. I do not think that need alarm the hon. Member for Bolton. If I am not mistaken, he was, trained in the law himself, and I put that point to the promoters, and they agreed that they would hear him in person. Therefore I think that the matter is fairly clear. The hon. Member had his chance. He might have gone upstairs to the Committee with everything done for him, and he would have been able there, with maps on the walls, to have shown the Committee what, he thinks ought to be done in a way in which he cannot possibly do it before Members who come from all parts of the country, and who have not the same knowledge of Manchester as he and I are proud of having. One other question to which I may refer is his plea about the Corporation of Manchester. The Corporation of Manchester petitioned against this Bill in. the other House. They were heard at great length. They have also petitioned in this House, any they will be heard before the Committee of this House which considers the matter. I do not quite know how to put its requisite value on the hon. Member's plea that he knows public opinion in Manchester better than its corporation or better than any association of citizens. There is an association of the subscribers, and they, too, appeared on petition before the Committee of the other House, but I suppose the hon. Member knows that in their petition they did not allege any desire for the transfer of this institution to the site in Piccadilly. Surely that is sufficient for the House of Commons to decide that in spite of the eloquence and the interest in the public welfare shown by the hon. Member it would be far better to follow the usual course of this House in these matters and send a Bill of this kind up to a Committee where it can be investigated, with maps and witnesses who can be examined and cross-examined.

With reference to what the hon. Member said as to finance, I notice that he proposes to disestablish and disendow the existing institution; but he makes, it seems to me, a little mistake in the matter of business finance. He proposes against the will of the Manchester Corporation, as expressed, to build a municipal exchange on a site that the Corporation have bought for another purpose, and it would be necessary, to carry out his plans, to carry on the new Exchange in competition with the old one. The hon. Member for the City will understand how the finances of a proposal of that kind will work out. You could not possibly have two Exchanges of that kind in a single city. There have been attempts at having two telephone exchanges in a single city, and they have not been a success. You would have compulsorily to buy out the private exchange at a very high rate and to put the whole of the cost plus the cost of the new site and building on the municipality, which I think the evidence shows is not likely to be a very profitable undertaking for the citizens, and you would have to devote a site which has been bought for public purposes for the whole city of Manchester to something which only interests a portion of the citizens, and perhaps is of more interest to traders who live outside Manchester than to those who live in the city itself. I think that the hon. Member, after having disburdened his soul of his scheme on the floor of the House, in addition to his ten or eleven times doing it in the city of Manchester itself may be well content to allow this Bill to go to a Committee which would deal with it, I have no doubt, carefully and promptly.


I support the course proposed by the hon. Chairman of Committees. In connection with this question of the extension of the exchange in Manchester, it is common ground among all parties that it is necessary, and I wish to say, of my own personal knowledge of the exchange, that the overcrowding of it has become a very serious matter, and that everyone agrees that the exchange ought to be enlarged. At first there was a certain amount of opposition by the Manchester Corporation to the proposal, but at the present time it is seen that the 9,800 members of the Royal Exchange of Manchester very much need this additional accommodation, and it is very pressing that steps should be taken to accommodate them. The hon. Member for Bolton has referred to the infirmary site, and I should like to submit one or two points to which the hon. Gentleman has not referred. The present Royal Exchange covers 5,500 square yards, and by the proposed extension the new building would cover an area of 11,032 square yards, more than double the present space, for the accommodation of all the members of the exchange, including a cotton market. With regard to the infirmary site, it is perfectly true that the corporation, when they purchased that site, did so under what I believe was a very general understanding that no area should be covered on that site larger than the area covered by the existing Royal Infirmary. I would like to quote what the Lord Mayor of Manchester (Mr. Alderman Royle) said in the year of the negotiations:— When the bargain was completed it was he believed, with a distinct understanding that no greater area than was occupied at the time should be utilised for building purposes in the future, and, with that fact in mind, he for one would not deviate from that honourable understanding.


Is that in the deed?


No, it is not in the deed, but there was an honourable understanding between the president of the Royal Infirmary and the Manchester Corporation that a larger area than that already covered by the existing infirmary was not to be built upon. A good deal of interest was taken in the point by myself, as a member of the infirmary trustees, and I am entirely at one with what the Lord Mayor said in regard to the honourable understanding which existed. It would be impossible to build an adequate Royal Exchange on the infirmary land. It is common ground that we require double the present area, and if we are not to put a larger building on the infirmary site than the existing infirmary building, you are going to limit the area to 6,588 yards. The promoters of the Bill propose to erect a building on a site of over 11,000 square yards, and it is impossible for the hon. Member for Bolton to say that the infirmary site would be adequate for a Royal Exchange to accommodate 9,800 members, including a large cotton market. It would be utterly impossible, on his own showing, to build a Royal Exchange on the present infirmary site, in view, of course, of the honourable understanding which exists with regard to covering that site. The question of the Royal Infirmary site was fully gone into by the Committee of the House of Lords, and the subject was referred to, in addition, by the Manchester Corporation, who, in the course of their petition in the House of Lords, used the following words:— Suggestions have been made to your petitioners for the transfer of the Exchange to a site now belonging to your petitioners, situate in Piccadilly, in the city of Manchester, and for the erection upon such site of a building which would be adequate to meet the growing requirements of the city. Consequently it will be seen that this matter was before the Committee of the House of Lords, and I do not think it is wholly satisfactory to suggest that the House of Lords Committee did not examine into that question. In regard to the present position of the corporation in respect of the Bill, Alderman Holt, of the Corporation of Manchester, was examined by counsel before the Committee in regard to the provisions of the scheme, and these questions were put to him:— From the time the Board of Directors brought forward their scheme in 1908—the smaller scheme—has not your corporation throughout taken up this attitude with them: 'We will not support you unless you bring in a larger scheme'?—We have said nothing about support, but they would not agree to the small scheme. They did not think it a suitable scheme. Did you not indicate clearly that we should have your support, if we brought in the larger scheme?—We indicated that we would support the large scheme. It does not necessarily follow that we should support you in all particulars. Quite so. I do not quarrel with that answer. So it would appear that the corporation have practically supported the larger scheme put forward by the promoters. I believe I am absolutely correct in saying that their opposition is limited to the question of proper pavement for streets and matters of that kind—proper compensation for any street, area that is taken over. My last point is that the Bill has passed the House of Lords Committee after a lengthy examination of five days, and I think that the proper course is for this measure to be founght out upstairs. With that expression of opinion I heartily support the Second Reading of the Bill, which I trust will be passed.


I shall intervene only for the purpose of stating the point of view which I know is entertained in Manchester by a considerable number of working people. I sympathise very much with the strenuous labours of the hon. Member for Bolton. I believe firmly that his motives are not merely admirable, but that they are in every sense of the term dictated by the very best wishes for the interests with which he has been long associated. I think he inclined to a scheme for establishing in the central part of Manchester a magnificent structure for commercial purposes, but I thought that, in some ten minutes after he had finished his speech, the whole foundation of his argument had been taken away, and that really it was necessary to say little to justify the transference of this Bill to the Committee upstairs. The great citizen view that he has expressed is one that I would like to support, but I feel compelled to take the view that first needs must have first attention, and while I will go as far as he will go, and further in the matter of municipalising a great undertaking, I must have regard to times and circumstances and to more pressing needs. If we are to municipalise a property because of the percentage that it makes, there are many enormous properties which should claim attention before the Manchester Royal Exchange. The only argument that is still left I think from his speech is the argument that the business people, the traders and shop keepers now doing business in the immediate vicinity of the present Exchange, are chiefly influenced by the usual traders and commercial man's idea, namely, to retain the highest degree of value in their business and their present property. That is quite a natural view for them to take, and quite a proper position for them to support. That is answered, I think, by the fact that it is a long, long time since we found any people in this country who were all for the State and never for themselves. Since the days when modern commerce began, I think it has generally been the case with traders and commercial people for themselves first, and the State as a secondary consideration. It is reasonable, I think, to conclude that a good many business people in the neighbourhood of Piccadilly and the suggested new site, are not altogether uninfluenced by the attractions and greater rewards that would follow from the transference of this great Exchange business to the suggested new site. That, indeed, is fully expressed in the circular already referred to in this Debate, and which says:— The disruption of business and the inconvenience and loss which would he involved by the transfer from its present position to a new site some distance away of such a business as the Exchange in Manchester is enormous, and no benefit would accrue to anyone except the owners of property in the immediate neighbourhood of the new site. Suppose the immediate duty were imposed on the Manchester Corporation of establishing a great municipal Exchange on the Piccadilly site, that would involve enormous municipal cost, and would mean the sinking of an immense sum of money. I find that there are more pressing needs in Manchester that require to be met. We have undoubtedly thousands of poor people wretchedly housed in the congested parts of that city, and much as the corporation has tried to do in recent years to accommodate the growing population of that industrial centre, the efforts of the corporation have fallen far short of the needs of the case. If I had to choose between erecting a greater and more convenient home in which a comparatively small number do business for a comparatively small number of hours for a few days per week and finding, say, a million or three-quarters of a million of money to provide a few thousand homes for working-class families, I certainly would choose for giving that urgent accommodation to the poorer people of the city. I am very doubtful of the early return of which the hon. Member for Bolton spoke. It would take many years to complete any Exchange worthy of the city on that site in Manchester, and, as has been pointed out, the site was intended or designed, and I hope ultimately may be, for more glorious ends than would be met by the erection of a great business structure of that kind upon it. There is scarcely a case or argument in respect to the matter of the convenience to railway stations. The existing Exchange is within four or five minutes' walk, at even the ordinary business man's pace, of three out of the four principal stations in Manchester, and I know of no spot in the city where you could locate an Exchange more accommodating from that standpoint than the existing Exchange. I have been told that the speculation outlined in the speech of the hon. Member for Bolton is really too much of a speculation, and that a return from it is too remote and too problematical, and from the standpoint of immediate working-class needs. I would urge the spending of both public effort and municipal money upon the more immediate provision of working-class dwellings for the poor.


As a member of the Manchester Corporation I was one of the Committee which received the first intimation from the proprietors of the Royal Exchange when they brought forward the suggestion as to the enlargement of the building. I must say I heard with the greatest surprise the statement of the Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood) that this scheme has been rushed forward at such a tremendous pace. It was in the beginning of 1906 that I, as one of the committee, met the proprietors of the Royal Exchange; they then came before us with what we considered a small scheme, and we said it must be altered. Then we changed the building line of the street, and they modified their scheme, so that it fell in with our requirements in that respect. Later on they came forward with a further scheme, which we said must be enlarged so as to embrace what they are now putting forward. It seems to me they have met the corporation all along the line, and have done all they could to avoid any friction. The hon. Member for Bolton brought forward his opposition to-night on the ground that the public have not been sufficiently heard in this particular matter. He appears to have overlooked the fact that the people of Manchester were invited to attend a towns meeting so recently as November, 1911, and at that towns meeting a resolution was carried, I think almost unanimously, that there should be no municipal Exchange, and certainly not an Exchange on the infirmary site. It seems to me this question is really not a big question, of public importance, but that it is more a little local question, and that the only question of public policy which this Bill involves is the question of the stopping up of two streets in the centre of the city of Manchester. For ten years I have had my own office in one of those two streets which are to be stopped up, and I can say, from a return which has been issued by the city surveyor of Manchester, that the traffic along those two streets is practically insignificant, and that it would be no public inconvenience if they are stopped up. So far as regards foot passengers, the Royal Exchange, when the new building is erected, are prepared to make a footway which will be open during business hours. So that it is merely a question of 600 or 700 vehicles daily going round about 150 yards. In view of these facts I think it cannot be questioned that the House ought to allow this Bill to go forward. The Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood) said that if the scheme he suggested were adopted Manchester would have a big building for a public library. That would be an adapted building, and Manchester would have to put up with an adapted building for its chief library for forty years. Those of us who take an interest in books and art as well as commerce want to see on the infirmary site a large public library and an art gallery. In order that those buildings may be quite up to date deputations have been sent to America to get the latest ideas for libraries and to the Continent for the latest ideas for art galleries, and at present architects are producing plans for the proposed buildings on the infirmary site. I think, after the House has spent so long a time in dealing with a little local affair like this, most Members will agree that some of its duties ought to be delegated to local assemblies.


I desire to support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Bolton. I make no apology for intervening in a Manchester matter, because this is the Imperial Parliament, and no matter what part of the country we represent, we are at present entitled to give our views on any subject that comes before this House. At the same time, I am quite willing to make a bargain with the Manchester Members. If they will promise not to interfere in Scottish matters during the currency of this Parliament, I will gladly pledge myself, and I think I can get five other Members from Scotland to pledge themselves, not to interfere in Manchester local affairs. I oppose this Bill because of the principle involved. It is the affair of a private company, which, formed about 1810, has met with considerable success. The hon. Member for Bolton stated that the company has paid 8 per cent, steadily, and has passed large figures to its reserves. Altogether it has been a most successful commercial affair. This most successful commercial enterprise wants to expand its business, to grow more succesful, and to have a larger return. The principle which I object to is contained in Clause 6, where we find that the expansion of this commercial enterprise is to block up two public streets. I know these two streets, and I do not agree with the hon. Member who has just stated that they are of no importance whatever. They are quite the reverse. They are in the centre of the busy part of Manchester, and the traffic is very large indeed. The inconvenience suffered by the Manchester public by the shutting up of these streets will be very considerable. I object on principle to a private company, when it wants to expand its premises, taking up public streets for such expansion. Such a Bill as this would never have been permitted if it had not been that the shareholders and proprietors of the Royal Exchange Corporation had been able to wirepull the Manchester Corporation, and, by exercising their great influence, to cause the representatives of the people in Manchester to keep quiet while this thing was rushed through the House of Commons. The expansion takes place under the extraordinary circumstances already referred to, namely, that there lies at hand the infirmary site, which everyone who visits Manchester with an unbiassed view and who has not been "wirepulled" by the Manchester Corporation or the Royal Exchange Corporation, will say at once is the proper site for this proposed expansion. Reference has been made to the purchase of the infirmary site by the corporation, and it has been indicated by one of the Manchester Members that there exists between the seller and the buyer an understanding that the site would not be utilised for anything demanding a larger floor space than the infirmary occupied. If that is so, it is only an understanding, and is not in any way in the purchase deed. Therefore, it ought to have no effect on the action taken by the Corporation of Manchester. Further, the passing of this measure will give the Exchange Company power to increase their subscription from three guineas to six guineas. In that respect the traders will be worsened, and by the worsening of the financial condition of the traders the success of the company will be correspondingly increased. The dividends will, no doubt, be increased from 8 per cent, to 16 per cent., and the reserves which have been very substantial in the past will doubtless be increased in the future. I therefore hope the House will reject this measure and not allow it to go upstairs.


I rise to support the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. Having been a member of the Manchester Corporation when the infirmary site was purchased, and having sat in that council for sixteen years, I know something of this matter. With reference to the two streets to which reference has been made, I contend that it would be much better for those two streets to be taken up than for the infirmary site to be utilised. It is perfectly true that there was an honourable understanding between the corporation and the infirmary trustees that only the same area as the old infirmary occupied should be covered whenever any new building was put upon the site. If the new Royal Exchange was put on that site, it would practically cover the whole of the site, and as this is the principal open space in the City of Manchester I certainly object to the Exchange being put there. Manchester have a large population, and Piccadilly is the principal place there where you find a majority of the people congregating. It has always been considered the best site with an open space. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton said, I understood, that the community had decided that the municipal Exchange should be placed on this site. I want to say, in regard to that matter that the community, by their representatives, have decided that an art gallery and library should be put on the Piccadilly site. That resolution has not been rescinded. A special committee has been appointed to make certain inquiries; the committee has put a temporary art gallery or a temporary library on that site, and it is expected in a very short time that a permanent library and art gallery will be erected there. This matter has now been discussed for some years. The hon. Member for Bolton said that the matter has been rushed. I deny that statement, because, year after year, the matter has been discussed by the city council, and what should be done with the site has been settled. Again, at every municipal election, when certain people have decided that they would try to put a municipal Exchange en that site, they have generally been defeated, and the electors have sent people to the city council who were in favour of an art gallery and a library being placed on the site. I object to an Exchange being put there, because it would cover practically the whole area; but, if an art gallery and library is put there, there will still be left some open space. I contend that open spaces are wanted very much in Manchester, and I support the Second Reading of this Bill.


My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton made a very interesting speech at the beginning of this Debate. I frankly admit that he has a greater right than I have to speak upon the subject. He has a more intimate acquaintance with both Manchester Exchange and Manchester community. At the same time I do represent part of the borough of Salford—an even more ancient borough than Manchester, I believe—though it practically forms part of the community of Manchester, and that is my only excuse for intervening on this local subject—for it is that. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton laid very great stress on the point, repeating it over and over again, that the people of Manchester were against the proposals of this Bill. He sad that he spoke for the public and the people of Manchester. He said that the public had never been heard at all; that the decision of the City Council had no public behind it, and that the public of Manchester would be bitterly disappointed if the Bill were passed. I have found no support whatever for those views. If I thought they were true I should earnestly and strenuously support the arguments of my hon. Friend. I take my stand upon this that the Bill before us is supported by the Corporation of the City of Manchester. Is it so or not?




If so, I for my part will go no further. What is our system of Local Government for? I mantain that a huge municipality, that a vast enlightened community like Manchester is perfectly capable of managing and controlling its own affairs; and in view of the broad democratic franchise upon which it is elected it must be admitted that it represents the people of Manchester. You cannot say that the bulk of the people of Manchester are against the Bill when they themselves returned to the City Council members who voted in favour of it. That is to me an absolutely convincing and paramount argument. I am always more and more maintaining that the large municipalities should have the power of managing their own affairs; that they ought to have more and more and not less autonomy than they have had in the past. If the citizens of Manchester have decided through their own properly elected representatives to support this measure I really do not think that it would be fair for this House to interfere with their decision.

They are quite entitled to, and they are quite capable of, spending their own money in their own way, and I protest against the House of Commons interfering with a local matter of this kind. The reference that was made to the Manchester Exchange did not seem to me to enter into the argument. That is a private company. They can raise their subscription from £3 3s. to £6 6s. if they like, but whether they make 8 per cent, or 16 per cent, does not seem to me germane to the argument. There is nothing to prevent my hon. Friend behind from establishing a new exchange. It would be a private company, and if the traders of Manchester consider the subscription of the other is too high they can go to the shop opposite I would not like it to be thought that I differ altogether from the aesthetic views of my hon. Friend. There is no doubt that that Piccadilly site from which the infirmary has been removed is a magnificent site. I am not sure, but I am inclined to think that if I had the honour of being a member of the Manchester Corporation, I should probably have voted in favour of the removal of the Exchange to that site. I might or might not have done so—I have not heard all the arguments. But although my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton and myself might have thought that the best place, I still think that the citizens and the ratepayers of Manchester, through their accredited representatives, are the proper people to decide this matter. On that ground I do not feel that I have any alternative whatever, but of supporting the Bill which is now before us, and by so doing to support the Corporation of Manchester.

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.

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