§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I object to a couple of Clauses in this Bill, Clauses 11 and 17, and I have another matter against the company affecting another part of my Constituency some distance removed from Enfield, where they are withholding train facilities that they ought to give. My first point may seem a small one, but it is one of some importance to the populous and growing district which lies to the north-west corner of the town of Enfield. This particular point was before the company, both in 1898 and in 1911, and on both occasions they deliberately omitted to meet the local authorities. The company want to divert and stop up 849 feet of an old footpath at King's Oak Plain, Enfield, and substitute for it a footpath of 1,773 feet. It is one of the old rights of way across the old Enfield Chase. I know it myself. It has been in existence for several hundreds of years, and it is a source of 306 convenience to people in the district to the north-west of Enfield. It is one way of getting to St. John's Church, and it is used extensively by a great number of people. It has a good foundation, it is 7 feet 6 inches wide, and it does not cost much to keep it up. The Great Northern Railway Company propose to give in exchange a longer footpath. It is not really a footpath at all, it is a farm road with a width of 20 feet, and it is liable to be cut up, because it has to be used for the traffic of a farm lower down. It will throw an expense on the local authorities to keep in order this wider and longer passage as compared with the present narrow passage. When the company in 1898 obtained power to construct the existing branch line, which will, I understand, in a few years be in the nature of a main line, they did not apply, as they might have done, for power to close or divert this particular footpath. They did ask for that power in 1911, but the local authorities objected, and they withdrew. Why should they not leave the path as it is at present and simply throw a footbridge across the railway. It would not be a case of the bridge rising one end and going down the other, because, as a matter of fact, there is a cutting, and I am given to understand the cost would only be something like £200. Why cannot the company meet the local authorities on this point? It is not fair to ask them to expend the ratepayers' money in making and keeping in order this longer footpath.
The present proposal will necessitate a level crossing, and I submit there is a great danger in that. If the extension is made to Stevenage, I understand there will be a great deal of traffic, and in that case a level crossing at this point would be a real danger. There ought to be a bridge, and one can be made perfectly easily because there is a cutting already. Surely the company ought to be able to meet the local authorities and spend this small sum. The district authorities ought not to have to appear before a Committee of this House and employ counsel at great expense to the ratepayers of Enfield, whose rates are already over 10s. in the £, in order to get their point met. There is a second point connected with a locality some distance from Enfield, the New Southgate district in my Division. The Great Northern Railway Company, of course, are monopolists. There is no other line there at all, and they can do what seems good to them. It ought surely, 307 however, to be to their interests to be as careful as they can to meet the wants of the community and to try and help to develop the district. In this particular district, which is being very rapidly developed and where we seek to have a station, there are already literally hundreds of houses, and their rateable value is no less than £8,000. There are over 600 houses there, and, only a short time ago, the Hertfordshire County Council had to enlarge their school, because the population of the district had absolutely outgrown the accommodation provided. It is a locality where people like to build houses. The company themselves advertise it as the "Northern Heights of London," and invite people to come and live out there. Yet they will not provide a station! There is no great difficulty about it. Curiously enough, a certain number of years ago, there used to be a station where we want it now. It was used mainly for burial purposes. There was a big cemetery there, but it was done away with owing to local agitation. We ask now for a station which may be used by live people instead of by corpses. I quite admit that this is a comparatively trifling matter to a great trunk line, but we Enfield people think we have a right for consideration in this matter. If, instead of a trunk line, we had something like the District Railway or a Tube Railway, how gladly would they avail themselves of getting traffic from these 600 houses, which, in a few years, will increase to 1,000. They would not like to see the traffic diverted to tramways or omnibuses. We are, however, in the hands of monopoly. It is open to the Great Northern Railway to develop this part of Barnet. They can get the land easily, and every facility will be afforded them by the local authority of Friern Barnet and East Barnet. There is also an official demand for this, because the local authorities have supported it in a Memorandum which they have forwarded to the Great Northern Railway Company. I submit our case should be considered, at any rate we ought to be granted the footbridge I have mentioned.
§ Mr. ALDEN
I think the hon. Member has made out a good case for the reconsideration of this matter by the railway authorities. As representing a neighbouring and friendly authority, I wish to say a word or two in reference to the question of the footpath. It seems to me it is a 308 dangerous custom to interfere with old-established footpaths. But if the exigencies of the case require that a footpath should be interfered with, it is essential that the railway company should give an adequate quid pro quo. I do not think it is too much to ask that, instead of a level crossing, which is really what it amounts to, there shall be a footbridge thrown across the cutting, thereby making it perfectly practicable for people to get from one side of the line to the other without danger to life or limb. The other alternative is a level crossing, and I think the House will agree with me that the Board of Trade ought to set its face against all level crossings. It may not be possible to lay down a hard and fast rule, but public opinion has grown in this direction, and there is no doubt that this Department of the State should be extremely careful before it allows the old practice of level crossing to be perpetuated. I suggest that the railway company take this Bill back, and reconsider this point. The local authorities are not asking a great deal. At the outside, the expenditure would not exceed £400, and surely it would be worth the while of the company to concede that. On the question of the railway station also, I think a good case has been made out. It is true that there are not more than 600 houses at this place, but I know from personal experience it is a rapidly growing district. Within a very measureable distance of time, the Great Northern Company should favourably consider the question of putting a small station there.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I know something of this district, and I support the hon. Members in their desire for a footbridge instead of a level crossing. Level crossings should certainly be avoided wherever possible. Anyone at all acquainted with the statistics of railway accidents, whether it be from suicide or from accident, must know how largely level crossings contribute to the enormous total of fatalities which occur upon our railways. Every opportunity for decreasing those fatalities should be taken advantage of. I cannot see why there should be the slightest objection to putting up a footbridge, and keeping this footpath in its present position, rather than that there should be a level crossing. I very much dislike the idea of doing away with these old footpaths. There are many reasons why they should be preserved. They are preferable to new roads, whether it be the old cart road, described by the 309 hon. Member, or a newly-made road properly macadamed. The preservation of old footpaths is in the interests of the amenities of the neighbourhood. With regard to the suggestion that the station is to be between Oakley Park and New Southgate, I do not quite follow that part of the argument. There is no great difference between those two stations, except for the tunnel, but that is a point which must be settled with the railway company.
I rose to speak on another question, of which I have given a short notice to the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who, I take it, will speak for the railway company. In the year 1906 the members of the clerical staff of the Great Northern Railway Company presented a petition to the company, asking that they might have representation upon the committee which governs the superannuation fund. They pay their quota to that fund, but have no direct representation on the committee of management. This petition was numerously signed, but it did not receive the attention which it should have received at the hands of the company. I believe the superannuation fund is not absolutely confined to the clerical staff, but it is mainly on behalf of that staff. It will be remembered, also, that a Departmental Committee of this House was appointed to inquire into the whole question of the administration of railway superannuation funds. They did me the honour to elect me a Member of that Departmental Committee. One of the recommendations of the Committee was that in all cases where railway superannuation funds were in existence the staff should have the opportunity of electing an equal number of representatives upon it with the company—that is to say, that the committee should be composed as to half of the contributors themselves and as to half of the representatives of the company, either directors or managers, as the directors might think fit. The Board of Trade said at the time that they would bring to the notice of the various railway companies the representations of this Departmental Committee, and would seek to get those recommendations carried out; and they promised that if the railway companies did not carry out the recommendations they would consider whether further legislation was necessary in reference thereto. I do not want to suggest in a matter of this kind that legislation is necessary. Representations have continued to 310 be made by the clerical staff, to myself, and to others outside, that they are still without representation on the committee of the Great Northern Superannuation Fund. In March of last year, in response to a question I put, the Board of Trade assured me that in correspondence they had had with the company the company had informed them that they were making arrangements for an election of committee men from the clerks. Nothing further has been done, so far as I can gather, front that day to this. Therefore I take this opportunity of entering my protest against this Bill being allowed to go through unless the company fulfil the promise which they definitely made through the Board of Trade to this House that they would see that the clerks had an opportunity of electing their representatives. I believe the hon. Baronet himself chairman of the superannuation committee, and is in a special position to give effect to this promise. I therefore appeal to him to do so.
There is one other matter of which I have not given the hon. Baronet notice; but, while the hon. Member for Enfield was speaking about this particular footway, it occurred to me that there is in his contstituency and in the neighbourhood where I live a much more acute problem than the footway at Enfield. If he lived, as I do, at Bowes Park he would know that the facilities for passengers getting off the platform and away to their homes after leaving the train are very meagre indeed, and that something ought to be done. I believe that at this station when I went to live there first, now fifteen years ago, there were probably about 2,000 season ticket holders. I shall not be speaking beyond the mark if I say that to-day there are 5,000. Yet practically the same facilities have to suffice for the passenger traffic to-day. I am reminded by an hon. Friend of mine who lives there that, in addition, the company have increased their season-ticket fares. It would not in the least surprise me if some day there were an accident of a very serious nature there. The crushing to get up and down the steps of the station, and the flimsy nature of the structure, are such that I hope an inquiry will be made into the circumstances of Bowes Park Station and that an attempt will be made to improve the conditions there.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I have a point to put before the Great Northern Company, and probably the hon. Baronet when he speaks will find it convenient to reply. I say at 311 once that I do not appear in any hostile spirit to the Great Northern Railway, for my experience as a trader leads me to say that I would rather the large transactions to which I am a party should take place with that company than any other company, and that the way they conduct their business and treat their customers is a matter I gladly acknowledge to be entirely satisfactory. At the same time, I want to ask specifically a question with regard to the treatment which the Great Northern Railway accords to its stationmasters, particularly with regard to their Sunday labour. The stationmasters have no union; they are not given to agitation, and try as loyally to serve the company and the public as any body of men. The courtesy and behaviour of the stationmasters in England will bear favourable comparison with those of any other country.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Member is now entering upon a topic which affects the question of the general policy of railway companies of this country. I must ask him not to pursue that topic in connection with this Bill.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I suggest, Sir, that I am entitled to make one general observation in a sentence before I apply my remarks specifically to this company, because it is only by comparison that one can form an accurate judgment as to whether the Great Northern Railway ought not to treat their employés on Sunday in a better fashion. I have no intention of pursuing that topic.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I would not have again interrupted the hon. Member were it not a matter of some considerable importance on the Second Reading of a Railway Bill. He has already dealt with the same topic on the previous Railway Bill. It is obvious from that and from the tenour of his various remarks that he is dealing with the question of general policy, and I must ask him not to pursue it in a general way.
§ Mr. BOOTH
If I may address you, Sir, on that point of Order, the fact that I challenged the Hull and Barnsley Bill on a specific point is no reason why I should not challenge the Great Northern Railway upon that point when their Bill comes before the House. I frankly admit it is my intention to raise this point on each Railway Bill, but only for the purpose of 312 dealing with the specific railway and the particular Bill which is before the House.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
It is a matter of some importance. The hon. Member has made it perfectly clear that he is raising a question of general policy. I must ask him to be kind enough to observe the ruling I have already given.
§ Mr. WARDLE
Is it your ruling, Sir, that the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) is not entitled to raise the question of the conduct of the Great Northern Railway Company with regard to certain classes of employés on this Bill?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
No. I think the hon. Member for Pontefract sees my point quite clearly. It was not that point. It is quite easy, of course, to raise such a general question as that of eight hours a day or £1 per week, and apply it to every particular railway as it comes before this House. That is undoubtedly a question of general policy. The hon. Member for Pontefract is perfectly frank, as I am quite sure he always is, and he admits that it is a question of general policy that he is raising, and which I have ruled out.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I did not mean to admit that I am raising any question of general policy, and I hope while keeping a sharp eye you will allow me to develop my case. What I want to ask the representatives of the Great Northern Railway is for some specific information as to how, on their railway, they treat their stationmasters with regard to Sunday labour. I invite the hon. Baronet to tell the House frankly whether there are, at any of their stations, masters who are requested by the company to serve the whole of Sunday all through the year. I am not raising this in any Sabbatarian spirit, though I freely admit that strengthens my plea.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is endeavouring to raise a general policy by inquiries addressed to the hon. Baronet. I do not think I should be justified in allowing that question to be put in view of the ruling I have already given.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am quite willing to bow to your ruling, because it will relieve me of a responsibility but I appeal to you whether I ought to be ruled out, with regard to the Great Northern Railway Bill, from dealing with questions of the way they treat a large body of their servants.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am giving my view on this particular Bill and the hon. Member is in my view raising a general policy. The hon. Member does not formulate any specific and definite charge against the Railway, so far as I have been able to observe, with regard to any special class. He is only asking a general question of a Member of the House if a certain state of affairs exists.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Do I understand your ruling to mean that if the hon. Member or any other hon. Member can show that the conditions governing the stationmasters or any other class of workmen on the Great Northern Railway are different from those of any other railway company, that matter is not legitimate to be raised on a Bill seeking further powers for that railway company?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
If the hon. Member raises this specific charge against a railway company on a Bill before the House with regard to railway servants it differentiates it from the general condition of railway service. That is an entirely different matter.
§ Mr. BOOTH
That is exactly my mission here this evening, and I will make that clear, because as far as I understand the position they do not treat their stationmasters on Sundays in the same way that the Hull and Barnsley Railway treat theirs. And, therefore, I am raising the position and asking why the Great Northern Railway Company cannot be as considerate to their stationmasters with regard to Sunday labour as other railways are. If you wish me to make a specific point I have great pleasure in doing it. It was only because of my appreciation of the Great Northern Railway that I hesitated about making a specific charge. In response to your appeal I feel it my duty to do so, and the hon. Baronet will see it is drawn from me somewhat reluctantly. I therefore say my information is that some of the stationmasters upon the Great Northern Railway have given practically the whole of Sunday, and every Sunday throughout the year, and I claim that there is no necessity for that.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is very evident that there is nothing whatever about stationmasters in this Bill. It is merely an omnibus Bill, dealing with very small points, and further, if there is any grievance felt by the stationmasters, their proper course is to go to the Conciliation 314 Board which was set up by the Board of Trade at the end of 1911. I did not interrupt before because I did not wish to waste time, but there is really nothing whatever in this Bill which deals with stationmasters, and my reply, of course, will be that on this Bill I cannot enter into any question whether there is any personal grievance on the part of the stationmasters or anyone else.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I should like to ask you, Sir, whether on any Railway Bill seeking powers from this House it is not within the province of any Member to raise any question affecting the employés or the interests of anyone concerned with the railway company, and furthermore, on the further point raised by the hon. Baronet, seeing that the stationmasters are expressly excluded by the Great Northern Railway Company from the provision of the Conciliation scheme and have no power of redress under that scheme, whether this is not the only opportunity to raise it?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
There is no mention in the Bill of the stationmasters on this line, but the practice of the House does not shut out considerations of the general administration of that particular railway. But, of course, the result is that if the Second Readings of such Bills as these are simply taken as an occasion for a survey of the general policy of railways, it is obviously making use of this occasion for a purpose which the rules of the House do not contemplate, and it is for that reason that I have interrupted the hon. Member (Mr. Booth) so often so as to emphasise the general rule, which is a most valuable one to preserve intact. The general discussion of Railway Bills must be limited to the particular railways concerned, although I quite agree the specific point which is raised is not included in the Bill which happens to be before the House.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I thank you for making it clear, and I also thank my hon. Friend for pointing out that the answer which the hon. Baronet thinks he is going to give me does not meet the case at all, so perhaps he will give me a more direct answer. The reason I do not mention a particular station upon the Great Northern line must be obvious. I, of course, could be very specific, but I appeal to hon. Members whether I ought to be expected to give the name when there is no necessity for it. I want the Great Northern Railway not to treat it with regard to the personality of 315 the stationmasters now holding office, but with regard to the hours of the stationmasters themselves, particularly at wayside stations. I was asking whether it is reasonable for a loyal servant of the company and of the public to be expected to work practically the whole of Sunday, and every Sunday, through the year. He gets no chance to take a walk with any of his family; he gets no opportunity whatever to take his children to a place of worship, or for a drive in the country, as he may be disposed. They have a large amount of ability at the head office, and with a little rearrangement of business and with a supply of relief masters they could easily, without any great cost, make a better arrangement and give their stationmasters a chance from time to time to have a few hours off more frequently on a Sunday, or occasionally to have the entire day off. If the Great Northern Railway is as wise as I think it is, it will meet these points; but unless they and other companies do something in this matter, my opposition will become a little stronger.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
The hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Newman) has objected to the Bill on the ground that it is going to block up or divert a certain footpath at Enfield. I venture to submit that that is entirely a Committee point. I myself believe that the diversion of this particular footpath will not injure anybody. After all, that is only an ex-parte statement on my part, in the same way as the statement of the hon. Gentleman is an ex-parte statement on his part. Neither of us can bring forward in this House evidence to show whether he is right or I am right. But this House has set up a tribunal before which the point can be brought and before which evidence can be adduced. The Enfield District Council have petitioned against the Bill on that ground, and can therefore present their case to the Committee. I do not think anybody in this House, on whichever side he sits, will deny that there is a probability that the Committee will give a fair and impartial hearing to the Enfield District Council, and I do not think anybody will assert that the tendency of a Committee of this House will be in favour of the railway company as against the local body. Therefore I think the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend, so far as regards the footpath, is not one that should have been moved. The objection should have been brought before the 316 Select Committee. The hon. Member has raised another point, namely, that he desires a station to be built between Oakleigh Park and Southgate.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am informed that, supposing a station were to be built there, it would have to be put in a cutting which leads to a tunnel. I have here a letter written to the hon. Member, in which all these particulars have been given. Therefore it would be practically impossible for the company, except at great expense, to erect this particular station. The hon. Member talked about "monopoly." If my information is correct, there is considerable competition with trams in that direction. [HON. MEMBERS "No."]
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not think there can be any ground for saying that there is a monopoly. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle) very kindly gave me notice three hours ago that he would raise some objection with regard to the superannuation committee, of which I happen to be chairman. His objection, as far as I understand it, is that the clerical staff do not elect a certain number of members to sit upon that body.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Of course, they cannot elect members if they have no opportunity. A certain number of that body sit upon the committee of the superannuation fund. Of course, as the hon. Member knows, there are—I forget the exact number—six or seven, I think, of the clerical staff, higher officials, who sit upon that body and who are supposed to represent the clerical staff. With regard to this I would point out that it hardly arises on a small omnibus Bill of this sort which is merely to give powers to widen the railway in one or two places and to do small work of that description. I did not expect that this question would be raised, and although I happen to be chairman of the superannuation board, I should not only have to ask the other members before I pledged them to any course, but I should also have to ask the board of the company who are the ultimate tribunal before whom these matters come. All I can say is that I will represent to the superannuation committee the 317 statements which have been made by the hon. Member for Stockport. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) says there is a particular stationmaster who has to work very long hours. He does not give the name.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
He does not give any names. I am not objecting to that, although I have read in the newspapers that the hon. Member has been very desirous when charges are made to have them formulated. He does not formulate any charge, but, speaking generally, he says that there are certain stationmasters who work long hours and who, he thinks, have a claim for getting their conditions bettered. All I can say upon that point is that it does not arise under this Bill. I agree with the hon. Member that stationmasters as a class, not only on the Great Northern Railway, but, so far as I know, on all the railways of the United Kingdom, are a deserving body of men. It is not the desire of railway companies, and certainly it is not my desire, to do anything to prejudice their livelihood. But it is evident that there are in working a railway all sorts of conditions which must apply. At a great station where there are a variety of men under the stationmaster, the conditions cannot be the same as at a small station where there are only the stationmaster and one porter. Different conditions must arise. It would be impossible to enter here into the details of the duties of stationmasters, and all I can do is to ask the House to read the Bill a second time, inasmuch as it will neither make nor mar the conditions of stationmasters. I do not see that it is is in my power to do anything more.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), with the ingenuity he usually displays, undoubtedly succeeded in side tracking what is the real object of the opposition to this Bill. There has never been, and there is never likely to be, a Bill introduced into this House dealing with stationmasters, or any of the other questions that have been raised to-night. Therefore, if Members of this House are not allowed to raise their general objections when railway companies are seeking additional powers, what opportunity have they of raising the question at all? I submit that when a railway company or any other body come to this House for new or additional powers 318 it certainly should be within the competence of this House to say whether the power already possessed by that body is rightly used or not, and unless that position is maintained then the whole power of a Member of Parliament to influence legislation or protect the interests of the people who cannot protect themselves is absolutely destroyed. The hon. Baronet said, dealing with the first point, that this undoubtedly is a Committee point. He said that the Enfield Council applied for a locus to be heard upon the particular point in dispute. The hon. Baronet is the very first to grumble about the increase in rates and taxes. He is always pointing out how they are going up, and surely when a local authority have a real grievance of this description they ought not to be put to the expense of appearing with counsel before the Committee in a matter of this kind, and, when a case is made out, the Great Northern Railway Company should satisfy the point before they come to the Committee.
With regard to the position of the superannuation committee, it is true, as stated, that the higher officials have representation. That is not the point at all. All that the hon. Member for Stockport asks is this, that the great majority of the men who subscribe to this fund shall at least have an opportunity of administering the fund. They simply say, "We contribute our money to a fund which is ostensibly for our benefit. We are the people directly involved." Surely upon the principles of democratic government it is not too much to ask the Great Northern or any other company, and not only to ask, but to insist absolutely, that if there is an institution of this kind with 90 per cent. of the men involved contributing their money from week to week, they ought to have the power of naming their own representatives to share in the management of that particular fund; and it is absolutely absurd to ask this House to countenance any other situation. I would have no hesitation in saying that if a test was to be made on this Bill or any other, and the Great Northern Company were to suggest for a moment that in a fund of this description, where all the men ask for is representation, that they should not have the opportunity of electing their own representatives, the majority of the Members of this House, regardless of the side on which they sat, would have no hesitation in supporting the demand of the men. I would urge the hon. Baronet to go a step further than the mere 319 suggestion that this should be considered, because the fact remains that now nearly four years have elapsed since the Departmental Committee of this House, after hearing the Great Northern Company and the railway companies themselves, and having sifted the whole of the evidence, said that, in their opinion, this ought to be done.
This recommendation having been made three years ago, we ought to be in a position at least to-night to say to the hon. Baronet, "Do what the Departmental Committee recommended, what we think is just and honourable, and, although this has not been done in the past, give a guarantee from to-night that it shall be done," and I hope that we will insist that at least the guarantee shall be given. Now take the next point of the stationmasters. The hon. Member, in my opinion, decided rightly not to name any station or stationmaster for this reason, that while, if a Member of Parliament by innuendo makes a suggestion that he can prove, he is at least in a position of being able to protect and defend himself, and therefore in that case we should be fully justified in asking him to have the courage of his convictions and mention names; but the hon. Baronet knows perfectly well that when the names of men who are humble railway servants were mentioned, either in this House or outside, the first opportunity was taken to shunt those men. I therefore hope that no names will be mentioned, but that the broad general question will be considered that here is a class of men who, while there is a trade union open to them, are in such a position that they are discouraged, to put it no higher; and so far from their being an organised body, the officials do not countenance it, and they will certainly give no preference to the men who join the trade unions. That being so, they must have some opportunity if they can get no redress for their grievances, or have their grievances heard, and on this occasion all that the hon. Member asks is that you shall recognise as an employer of labour that seven days per week should not be expected from any man, whether stationmaster or anything else.
The simple proposition laid down is that you to-day employ as stationmasters on different parts of the Great Northern system men with small salaries, men with large responsibilities who are doing faithful service to the company, and who are rated for seven days' work in the week. That is not human, it is not just, and it ought not 320 to be tolerated. Therefore the simple proposition is that you should at least recognise what some of the railway companies are recognising, that no man should be asked to work seven days a week, but that every man should be entitled to at least one day in seven. These may appear to be trifling points, but again I submit that the privileged position of a railway company is such as to render it absolutely essential that before further power or authority is given to these bodies a free opportunity must always be given to the House of Commons to raise any legitimate point; never mind whether it is included in the Bill or not. While none of the points raised are included in the Bill this evening, I do submit that the answer of the hon. Baronet is not a satisfactory answer, and that unless a more satisfactory answer is given, then the House ought not to give further powers to a body that have not shown themselves capable of giving justice to the men on the points which have been raised.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
There is one point in connection with this Great Northern Railway Bill which I should like to mention. I am very sorry that I was not able to raise it before the representative of the railway company spoke in this House. It is with regard to the nuisances that are created by the Great Northern Railway along the route of their line. I see that mention is made in Clause 12 of the diversion of footpaths within the borough of Peterborough. If the hon. Baronet will travel up and down that line, as I do, once or twice a week, he will notice that there is an embankment on the Great Northern running for a very long distance which is made up of straw and refuse, and other waste material, which in summer time is really a very serious nuisance to the passengers. I do not think anyone can complain of the permanent way of the Great Northern; I think everyone who travels on that line can congratulate the railway company on the manner in which they maintain their permanent way. I do say, however, with regard to these embankments along the line, that they constitute a very serious nuisance. Last year attention was called to an embankment between Knebworth and Welwyn. Knebworth is a garden city—in fact, one of the prettiest spots on the line. A great nuisance was created there last year by placing tons upon tons of refuse, forming a very large tip. The attention of the Local Government Board 321 was called to it, and I believe it has been discontinued. But this long embankment, of which I have spoken, is still continued, and there is being put underneath the embankment refuse, upon which rails are placed. During summer time myriads of insects of all descriptions fly about, and follow and enter the railway carriages. I call the attention of the hon. Baronet to the fact, for we know that he is a very active director of the Great Northern Railway Company.
I think none of the travellers on that company's line can complain either about the rolling stock or the permanent way; still, I think they have a right to be protected against this nuisance, and if it is to be continued, I think the attention of the Local Government Board must be called to it, in order that the directors of the company may discontinue, and in fact abolish, this very serious nuisance. I do not myself altogether agree with objecting to Railway Bills unless something is within the Bill itself to which objection is taken. I thought there was something in Clause 12 with regard to the diversion of roads within the borough of Peterborough, and, as to this embankment, which is outside the borough, I trust that we shall get a pledge from the hon. Baronet that he will undertake to get it dispensed with. The hon. Baronet takes an interest in dogs, and he is promoting a Bill for their protection. I wish to appeal to him to protect human beings. I appeal to him to consider the point, which is really a very important one, for I have heard many complaints from those who travel up and down the line, and I trust he will give an undertaking to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I wish to say a word in reference to the suggestion contained in the speech of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees. I have been in the House for seven Sessions, and I have frequently heard Railway Bills discussed. I remember, during the first Session I was here, that the Labour men were returned in such large numbers that they made I should say nearly the whole business of railway administration the subject of debate in this House. It seems to me that not only to-night, but for some time past, there has been a tightening up of this business. I recollect that last Session a discussion relating to the wages on a particular railway was ruled out of order. In regard to the tightening up of this 322 business, someone seems to be suspicious that Labour men are going to use private Bill legislation for the purpose of bringing grievances on to the floor of the House, instead of, as some people would apparently prefer, endeavouring to obtain a settlement by a strike and a struggle outside.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
What I am protesting against is the statement of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees that he did not think there ought to be these debates on Railway Bills unless there was something in the Bill itself to which objection could be taken.
§ Mr. J. WARD
And I am simply expressing mine, which is in complete contradistinction from that of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London must know that the greater part of the subjects in this Bill are subjects which could by no stretch of the imagination come before the House for discussion. They are points for Committee. But the regulations for a superannuation scheme could not come before the Committee, and the charge made by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle) is that those regulations have not been carried out, and the present appears to be a good opportunity for discussing the matter. It is not a subject general to all railways, because some companies have carried them out. But the hon. Baronet suggests that it is a subject which ought to be discussed in Committee. Everybody knows that it is a subject which could not be discussed in Committee; the question of superannuation is rarely considered in Committee. It is one for this House to consider, and I hope that instead of the conditions being tightened they will be broadened.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Robertson)
Very little need be said on this Bill from the point of view of the Board of Trade. The discussions on Railway Bills are often very useful in bringing railway companies into touch with the feelings and opinions of their customers as represented in this House. I have no doubt that in the present instance the representations 323 which have been made will in a number of cases prove effectual. I have no doubt that the Great Northern Railway Company will give earnest consideration to the representations which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, especially as my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Burns) may be invoked in that direction if attention is not given to the matter. As regards the point raised by the hon. Member for Enfield, it will be admitted that it is really a Committee point—the question, I mean, of the diversion of footpaths. It is not a question on which this House, on the Second Reading, can give an opinion; it could not possibly do so, not having heard the evidence. With regard to the building of another station, my information agrees with that of the hon. Baronet. The station proposed by the local district authority was to be at the mouth of a tunnel, where there is a cutting, and where the erection of a station would be extremely costly. I understand further that at either end of the tunnel there is a station within a little more or a little under a half a mile, so that I think the hon. Member will admit that the case is not an overwhelmingly strong one. The very suggestion that competition will come in the shape of 'buses and trams will no doubt have its due effect on the company when that state of affairs arises. With regard to the point put by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle) I think he is perfectly correct in saying that the railway company did promise, and I think the hon. Baronet has forgotten it, that the staff should have representation on that Superannuation Management Committee, and, as my recollection goes, we received from the company last year an assurance that the matter had been referred to their solicitor, who was to prepare a scheme.
I trust that is the case. The promise having been given, I have no reason to doubt that the company will fail to fulfil it.
I admit the lapse of time seems to have been considerable, but if the hon. Member will put himself in communication with me I have no doubt he will get an explanation from the rail- 324 way company and that the matter can be satisfactorily arranged. The larger question of the treatment of stationmasters is as you, Sir, ruled, substantially a matter of general policy, and it could only be regarded in this Bill as portion of a particular policy. I think the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) will admit that it could hardly be settled by a declaration on the discussion of the Second Reading of the Bill such as this. Considerations being what they are, I submit there is no case for refusing the Bill a Second Reading, and I hope the House will give it that Second Reading without a division.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.