§ As amended, considered.
§ Sir EDWIN CORNWALL
I beg to move to leave out Clauses 30 and 31. I am reluctant to ask the House to intervene between a Committee upstairs and its decision, but I am bound to move to leave out the Clauses. This is a General Powers Bill, though it is called a Tramways and Improvements Bill, in winch power is taken to construct new tramways at Wandsworth and Hampstead, to make further improvements in connection therewith, to widen the Strand, to carry additional passengers in tramcars on special occasions, to erect street refuges where tramways are situated, and to enable the council to work any tramways they may purchase. It will be seen that this Bill is a very usual Bill, and contains provisions to enable the London County Council to carry out urgent and necessary public work. It provides for £33,930 for new tramways, and £229,000 for street improvement. I do not think that anyone would wish that a Bill of so much public importance should be sacrificed even for a year. All these Clauses, I believe, met with the full approval of the Committee upstairs. Only on one Clause did any trouble arise. That is one which is now known as Clause 30. It is a very simple Clause, and no man who has any experience of the procedure of this House would suggest that the London County Council would promote a separate Bill for the purpose of acquiring the powers which it seeks under Clause 30, to enable the council to work certain lines in the London county area, which, under the County Council Act of 1896, they have got power to work. It was practically as a drafting Amendment to the Act of 1896, or to correct a Parliamentary inadvertence, that this Clause appeared in the Bill. The London County Council has power to work in the county 148 miles of tramway, but because of a Parliamentary inadvertence it has not the power to work two 994 or three small pieces of line which have been constructed in the county since 1896. The reason is because in the Bill of 1896 the council only took power to work existing lines, and never thought that any tramway would be constructed in London other than tramways constructed by itself, and no really effective tramway has been constructed in London other than that constructed by the county council. But with the consent of the county council two lines have been made linking up the system inside the county. Without the consent of the county council they could not have been constructed. Then, after the council had purchased those small pieces of line which had been constructed since 1896 with their consent, it was found that the Act of 1896 only gave them power to work existing tramways; therefore, although they bought these small pieces in connection with the larger section, they had not the power to work them. They were purchasing under the Act of 1870, and, as they had not the power to work them, what could be more reasonable than that the county council should put a small Clause in the General Powers Bill to give them that power. When this Clause came before the Committee, the London United Tramways Company appeared on the scene. They were given a locus by the authorities of the House, or they obtained a locus on this Clause. I want to submit to the House that they had no locus on any other Clause; they had nothing whatever to do with any of the other Clauses of the Bill. If hon. Members look through the evidence given before the Committee they will see that is so. What is the position of the United Tramways Company in the county? They have four miles of tram line system, and by agreement with the county council these four lines were purchasable in 1909, and they are in process of being purchased. They are not actually paid for because there is some litigation, and legal proceedings are still going on as to the price of the purchase.
But there is no dispute that they are being purchased by the council and they are workable by the council with this exception. A few years ago a small link line of about a mile was made between these two systems going into the county. That mile of tramway was constructed with the consent of the county council, and was to be purchasable at the same time as the four miles being purchased under the Tramways Act. Through an inadvertence the county 995 council has not power to work the tramways constructed since 1896, and it was asked by the Company that the Committee upstairs should give statutory running powers over the whole four miles and the one new mile, making five miles in respect of which statutory running powers were asked for. On this Clause, the London United Tramways Company are thereby reopening the whole question of running powers inside the county. I think the House will agree that it opens up a very serious position, a more serious position than that relating to the particular one mile of new tramway. It is asking the local authority under the Tramway's Act of 1870 to buy out and purchase the tramway undertaking, while this decision of the Committee upstairs gives the company perpetual statutory running powers of these lines. It seems to me that is an impossible position; it is an extraordinary position in which to put a public body like the London County Council. There is nothing new in making these arrangements, and the county council have, in six other instances, made arrangements with outside undertakers to come inside the county. The London County Council are pledged to give facilities to this company, but they must be mutual facilities; they must be facilities on conditions and terms for a limited time, and to be renewed from time to time, as the case may be. But here is given to this company a statutory and perpetual right after the ratepayers' money has been used to buy out their undertaking. There is all the difference in the world between going to arbitration for ordinary facilities and arbitration under these conditions. The Committee asked, "Why do you object to arbitration?" Arbitration for mutual concession and agreement is one thing, but to go into arbitration with perpetual statutory running powers for all time over these particular lines would make it impossible for any local authority in the country to enter upon the purchase of these tramway undertakings at all. We ought not to allow the measure to pass in this form. The London County Council, after all, are a public authority representing four and a half millions of people; they are not a profit-sharing company working for profit alone. As I have already pointed out, they are willing and anxious to give facilities, and they have made agreements with six other undertakers under similar conditions. I expect that 996 every local authority would be very much concerned and disturbed if this Bill were to pass with this Clause which the Committee has put in. It has been pointed out to me that it very likely will encourage other speculative tramway companies in different parts of the country to go to small villages outside large centres with tramway undertakings, and then, under the policy of this Clause, claim the right to come into the centres, with recognition by the central authority of their statutory running powers. I would remind the House that the traffic problem in London is a very difficult and complicated one at the present time, and to introduce this new complication must add still more to the difficulties. The Committee upstairs took the view of the company, and inserted Clause 31 in the Bill, giving them statutory running powers subject to arbitration.
I desire to come to the action of the county council before the Committee. The county council gave the matter anxious consideration, and they decided that they could not accept the decision of the Committee. They announced to the Committee after an adjournment from one day to the next, their intention of withdrawing Clause 30 from the Bill altogether, leaving all that other part of the Bill which, as they understood, had been already passed by the Committee, and which dealt with large improvements, street improvements, and other matters, one amounting to £229,000 and another to £33,000. Thus they proposed to withdraw Clause 30 which had been the bone of contention and on which the London United Tramways Company had persuaded the Committee to give a decision in their favour. The usual course is to allow the promoters of an Omnibus or General Powers Bill to withdraw a Clause of this nature if the Committee are not satisfied with it, or if they put on conditions which the promoters are unable to accept. I venture to say that the London County Council as a public authority could not and ought not to have accepted the decision on public grounds. It was not a question of pique or disappointment because they had not carried their point, but in the interests of the public and of the tramway undertaking, they could not in their responsible position accept the decision. However much we may differ, I do not question the right of the Committee to come to a decision on the evidence, but I do say the Committee, having come to that decision, the county council had no other course open as a 997 public body but to decline to accept it, and they asked the Committee to allow them to withdraw Clause 30. But the decision of the Committee was, if the county council withdrew Clause 30 from the Bill, that the Committee would reject the whole Bill. I think that that is not according to precedent, and not according to the usual procedure of the Committees of this House, and that it is not a course which we, now that the Bill is before us for consideration, ought to agree to. It seems to me an unnecessary course for the Committee to have taken. First of all it is an Omnibus Bill, and being a Bill containing other provisions, surely it could not have been in the public interest for the Committee to have threatened the London County Council that if they withdrew the small Clause, and if they did not accept its decision, that then the whole Bill, with all the public interests concerned was to be rejected, although the Committee as understood by the county council had already passed the other parts of the Bill!
I have read the evidence and I know that the hon. Chairman did not quite take that view, but the county council understood that all the other parts of the Bill had been passed. I do not challenge the right of the Committee to come to its own conclusions upstairs. That is what Committees upstairs are for, to hear the evidence and give their decision, but I think in this case they made a mistake. I do not think they realised the far-reaching effect of their decision, and I think if the Committee had realised what it meant and how far it carried, they could not have given that decision. From the evidence, it seems to me that they were surprised that the London County Council did not accept the decision, and that seems to be the reason of the Committee's decision to reject the whole Bill. Anyone with experience of these large public matters in the government of London would not have felt surprised, while the Committee seemed really surprised. The action of the Committee in refusing to allow the county council to withdraw the Clause is not, I submit, in the public interest, and is not in the interests of this House as far as private Bills are concerned, but is destructive of all the usual practice on General Powers Bills, because if you are going to hang on one Clause the whole future possibilities of the other Clauses of a General Powers Bill you would have to have a Bill for every small purpose for which a public authority has to come to Parliament.
998 There is then the question of the procedure of the House, which, after all, I think, is the most serious side. There may be differences of opinion with regard to running powers and arbitration. As to those, the Committee may have its own opinion and we may have ours, but I think, with regard to the procedure, the House is bound in this matter to take a serious view of the decision of the Committee, and that is why I put down a Motion to leave out Clauses 30 and 31. Originally, I had put down, at the request of the county council, a Motion to leave out Clause 31, that was to give the county council its Bill, as it promoted it in spite of the Committee. I sometimes act as Chairman of Committees upstairs, and am desirous, as I am sure every Member is desirous, of supporting those Committees as far as possible. We are jealous of our Committees upstairs. What I have said does not lessen my respect for the hon. Chairman and those who take part in Committee work upstairs. Because of my regard for Committees upstairs I put down a Motion to leave out Clauses 30 and 31, so as not to override the Committee altogether, but to have the matter over, and take out the Clause on which the Committee came to a decision and also Clause 31 which the Committee put in the Bill. I think that would be the fairest way of doing it, leaving the county council another year to come up for the remedying of the small defect in the Act of 1896.
On the question of procedure, I think it is in the interests of the House to have again on record, so as to help matters in the future, what has taken place on previous occasions. On the 3rd of July 1902, a similar circumstance arose in the House. It was in connection with the South-Eastern and Chatham Companies Bill, about a swing bridge on the River Swale. There the Committee wanted to put upon the promoters of that Bill a condition which they refused to accept, and that Committee threw out all the other parts of the Bill, because the promoters refused to accept the decision of the Committee on the small points. The matter came to the House, and it was moved to recommit the Bill back to the Committee, and it was recommitted back to the Committee by a large majority. With your permission, Sir, I would like to read to the House what the Chairman of Committees of that date said. I think you, Sir, were the 999 Chairman of Committees at the time, and this is what you said:—He ventured to say that the Committee in that matter had fallen into an error. The proper course would have been to have said that the Preamble, as far as it related to the Swale Bridge, was not proved. It seemed to him it was impossible to say that the Preamble relating to other matters was not proved, because it was proved, and clearly proved, and the Chairman of the Committee stopped counsel from proceeding with it, because he said he was satisfied. He was concerned on behalf of Omnibus Bills generally. It was perfectly obvious if railway companies and corporations had to introduce every one of their proposals as a separate Bill, the cost would be gigantic, the mass of documents which the House would have to struggle through would be piled mountains high, and the whole system which had worked effectively and well would be destroyed. He was sure the House would not desire to do that. As far as he hail been able to search the records of the House there was no precedent for the action of the Committee. For those reasons he thought it desirable that the House should accept the Instruction, and he thought the Committee on consideration would see that a proper course to take would be to report to the House as proved the portions of the Bill that really were proved and to reject that portion of the Bill which in their opinion should not be passed.On the same occasion, Mr. Parker Smith said:—The issue was as to whether or not the system of Omnibus Bills was to be continued. It had been argued that if the Committee differed from the promoters and sought to impose a condition which the promoters were unwilling to accept, the Committee were entitled to use the threat that unless the condition were accepted they would throw out, riot merely the part of the scheme to which the condition related, but the whole of the Bill. That, he contended, was not the function of the Committee. The Committee was a judicial body, and was bound to go into the various points and give a judicial decision upon them. The House was in an entirely different position, and was fully entitled to look into all the circumstances of the case, and, if it thought the company were not fit to be entrusted with further privileges, to reject the scheme. But the only excuse which would justify a Committee in taking that course would be some gross breach of faith on the part of the promoters, and there was no such suggestion in the present case. If the decision of the Committee were upheld, a railway company would be bound to break up its Omnibus Bills into a dozen pieces, and submit each one separately. The present system was most convenient, not only to the promoters, but also to the House, and should be maintained. He believed the additional power claimed by the Committee, and for which no precedent whatever could be found, would lead to mischievous and far reaching consequences, and therefore he hoped the Instruction would be accepted.The Instruction was accepted by 169 votes to 93. I think that puts the case as far as this particular Bill is concerned. On the merits of running powers, I think the Committee has made a mistake. On the question of procedure, I think it is the bounden duty of the House to reverse the decision of the Committee upstairs. Supported by the views of the then Chairman of Committees and of Mr. Parker Smith and by what we all know and feel in regard to Private Bill Committees, I think I have made out a case for asking the House to omit these two Clauses from the Bill. Therefore, I beg to move.
§ Mr. CASSEL
I rise to second the Amendment.
From the fact that I do so, the House will recognise that on this question there is no difference between the two parties in the House or between the two parties on the London County Council. Both parties on the council are absolutely agreed that the retention of Clause 31 would be a most dangerous precedent, and I think their view is shared by all other local authorities throughout the United Kingdom. I should like briefly to emphasise the two points made by the hon. Member opposite. With regard to procedure, I think that all Members, in whatever quarter of the House they sit, will recognise the importance of doing nothing to render the procedure in connection with Omnibus Bills more difficult. It is of the greatest importance, not only to local authorities, but to the public and ratepayers generally, that that power of proceeding by Omnibus Bills should be preserved intact. It saves money and time, and it is often a means of procuring powers of great importance to the public which otherwise could not be obtained. The House should bear in mind that we are not really asking it to-day to reverse the decision of the Committee on this particular Clause. All that we are asking is that the London County Council, objecting very strongly as it does to the particular Clause which has been made a condition of this particular power, should be entitled to withdraw its application for this particular power, and to take the other powers of value to the public which are contained in different portions of the Bill, to which I think the Committee themselves saw no objection, and which were not in any way opposed by the company at whose instance Clause 31 was inserted. In regard to that Clause we have to bear in mind that the council were merely seeking to remedy a drafting defect in the Act of 1896. That Act for the first time authorised the London County Council to work the tramways which it purchased. I think that if the real intention of Parliament had been carried out, it would have authorised the county council to work any tramways which it might purchase at any time, but as a matter of fact the power conferred by the Act is limited to tramways, the construction of which had already been authorised at the date of that Act. The particular mile of tramways in question was not authorised until a later date, namely, 1902, when the county council, as a condition to giving its consent to the 1001 line, stipulated that it should have a right to purchase that mile of tramway in 1909.
At the time it seems to have escaped everybody's attention, but although the county council would have power to purchase that particular line, it would not have power to work it, because of the shortcoming of the Act of 1896. It could not have been the intention of Parliament to give the county council the power of purchasing that line without also intending that it should have the power of working it. As far as concerns the other four and a third miles of tramways which the same company has within the boundaries of the London County Council, the council actually has the power both to purchase and to work them, and there is no such condition imposed as that which is now proposed in connection with this one mile. Is there any reason why with regard to the four and a third miles there should not be such a condition, while with regard to the one mile, there should be such a condition? The four and a third miles run through the important centres of Shepherd's Bush and Uxbridge Road, and if this condition were necessary at all it would be equally necessary there. It was only by utilising the opportunity afforded by the necessity of remedying this defect in the earlier Act that the company proposed to obtain compulsory running powers, not only over the one mile, but over the four and a third miles as well. I agree with the Committee that there should be running facilities over these lines. The council, through a former chairman of the highways committee, and a past chairman of the council, expressed their full intention of granting running powers over these lines, but what they say is that they cannot accept having it put upon them as a matter of compulsion. They recognise, as I think everyone who studied the situation must recognise, that it is in the public interest that there should be continuous running up to the great railway termini at Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith, and the council will no doubt be prepared on reasonable terms to grant running powers to the company in question. But if Parliament trust the London County Council to be the tramway authority at all, surely they can trust it to be reasonable in this matter. I submit that once the county council has been trusted to manage this large system of tramways in London, Parliament ought to trust it to be reasonable in this matter of granting facilities. To have a compulsory Clause of this descrip- 1002 tion put into an Act of Parliament is a precedent which under no circumstances they cart accept, and I submit that, taking that view, they ought at least to be able to withdraw that portion of the Omnibus Bill to which this particular condition is attached.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
I think it will be to the convenience of the House if at the earliest possible moment in this Debate I endeavour to state, in as few words as possible, what were the considerations which influenced the Committee of which I was Chairman in their decision upon the Bill now under consideration. Before entering upon this matter I would acknowledge the graceful compliment which the mover of the Motion made both to my Committee, and to the various Committees upstairs, to the effect that he believed they always did their best in the public interest and for the credit of this House. I may add that in connection with the Committee over which I presided, several Members, myself included, have already served on bodies similar to the county council. We all have great sympathy with Municipal undertakings, and there was certainly not in the minds of any one of us the smallest prepossession against the exercise of such powers as the county council has, or any desire to make in any way the task to be carried out any more difficult than it is. I cannot put the determining consideration more concisely I think than in the words which I used upstairs, and which, by the leave of the House, I will read:—We are here as a Committee of the House of Commons exercising the functions of the House of Commons, and to watch the interests of the public. We cannot divorce ourselves from that duty to the House of Commons because we are sitting up here. We are charged by the House to carry out functions which belong to the House as a whole, and, therefore, we have to consider the interests of the public. That is the view that we take upon this question that we are deciding. If this Bill has to go through, the public must be protected in the direction that w e consider necessary.Therefore, we acted entirely upon the evidence which came before us as to what was in the public interest. We had to consider the interests of a large section of the public that uses the tramways, and a still larger section of the public which has a right to the roads over which the tramways run. We came to the conclusion that the interests both of those who use the tramways, and of the general traffic facilities of the metropolis, could not be properly and adequately protected unless we inserted Clause 31, which gives 1003 running powers and ensures through communication over these lines. The question which we had to determine arose, as has been pointed out, out of the purchase of the compulsory powers under the Tramways Act of 1870 of a certain portion of the line of the London United Tramways Company. Under that Act the London County Council is enabled to compulsorily acquire the tramways within its area. Under the Act of 1896 it acquired, in addition, the power to work those trams, and this power was applicable to all the tramways which were included in the schedule of that Act. That schedule included all the tramways within the area of the administrative county of London which were then constructed. Of the portion which is now under purchase, one section, I might say two-thirds, were included in the schedule. The remaining portion was constructed subsequently to 1896. Therefore, the county council have not the power to work it, and so were obliged to come to Parliament to get special powers for that purpose.
The London county boundary lies at a distance of about one mile westward from those great centres of traffic, Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith Broadway, on which the whole system of the London United system converges. When the purchase has been completed, if the powers now asked for are granted, the whole of that section which lies between the county boundary and Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush will be cut off from the system of the London United Tramways Company, and will only be able to be worked by the London County Council. In the last few years there has been an immense development in Middlesex and in Surrey out westward. Any traveller by the Great Western Railway will see what has happened in the last few years. In the development of Ealing, Acton, Hanwell, Hayes, and so on, lying along the Uxbridge Road and as far as Uxbridge. Southward, at Hounslow, Chiswick, Richmond, Hampton, and other places there is the same development going on. All these newly developed districts are linked up by the system of the London United Tramways Company, which now extends to upwards of fifty-five miles of tramways, including that five miles or thereabouts which have been referred to. For the convenience of the large population which has grown up the system of through traffic has been carried into effect, 1004 and I would ask the House for a moment to consider the movement which is taking place every day. The traffic, which is carried over these fifty-five miles of line of the London United Tramways Company is all drawn into two centres. We had it in evidence that there were 20,000,000 of passengers in the course of the year, distributed from the two places I have named, by the other means of conveyance—the tubes, the omnibuses, the District Railway, and so forth. In order to facilitate this operation for people in the distant parts of surburban London, there have been set up a system of through booking at cheap rates from the system of the London United, and by means of an agreement between that company and the railway companies coming into the principal centre of London. Now at this point we come upon the difference between this case and any other that has arisen in the working of the London tramways up to the present time. Parliament laid down certain conditions when it authorised the making of this tramway now in the possession of the London United Tramways Company. Parliament required as a condition of granting the Bill to the London United Tramways Company, empowering the construction of these tramways, the insertion of a Clause compelling the company to carry passengers from Acton, Ealing, and other places to Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith, a distance of five miles, for one penny. Parliament, therefore, has this obligation to see that the benefits which are given to the public are secured, and to see that the companies that have to fulfil that obligation are placed now in the position to continue it, and that the powers sought shall not interfere with the rights given to the company. The company have given over the key of its whole system. It is vital to know what its position is going to be in respect of the obligation which is to be imposed upon it by Parliament, and the manner in which that obligation will be accepted by the authority taking over a part of the line. The public has a right to know how its convenience is to be assured. On this question the London County Council, through their counsel, have declined to indicate what the position is, and they have declined to reply.
I will ask the House to consider what would be the effect upon this system of through traffic if the London County Council is given this Bill minus the safeguards we thought fit to insert for the 1005 benefit of the public. The stream of traffic may be broken at a point a mile or thereabouts to the westward of the central termini—at a point which has no distinction other than that it happens to be the geographical boundary of the London administrative area. That is a point where there can be no facility for the congregation of cars on a road which is covered at every time of the day by vast masses of traffic of all kinds. I ask the House to consider what would be the effect of requiring a break in the through traffic to take place at what I may call a casually selected point upon that road. We had evidence in the Committee—police evidence—as to the urgent necessity for having through running on these tramway lines. We had photographs put before us snowing the congestion of the areas at certain points and the rush there is to get on the traffic, and we were able to form a very clear idea of what would occur in that road, which I know through having passed over it, but the name of which I do not remember at the moment. The only clear answer we have to the many questions put to witnesses was this. Here is the statement of counsel on behalf of the promoters:—We know that they have a system of through tickets, that is quite true, and we have exactly the same powers under a recent Act of Parliament, and if the worst comes to the worst and they decline to work this, we shall be able to grant through tickets so far as our system extends—that is, to the boundary.What is the use of issuing through tickets to the boundary when you have to carry people many miles beyond the boundary and when there is a statutory obligation to bring those people in from Acton, Hanwell, to the centres for the cars? The only hope held out was that if the worst comes to the worst these tickets will be issued, giving people a right to travel one mile westward of Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith. I cannot conceive how practical men who show much ability in doing the work of the county council could contemplate a proposal which is wholly Chinese in its grotesque exclusiveness, and which would be much more worthy of a Pekin local authority than of the great London County Council. Hon. Members have spoken to me in the Lobby and I have here the views of counsel upstairs as to the policy of the London County Council. We on the Committee upstairs have no concern whatever with questions of policy. We had to deal with the simple administrative problem. That problem is this: Here are 60,000 people who 1006 have been conveyed every day of the year—that is the average—backwards and forwards in districts which are miles away from the county boundary on to the central lines. They have to travel over two lines of tramway, and one of the essential limits in that line of tramway for which there is this Parliamentary obligation is to carry its through traffic from Acton, Hammersmith, and the route now marked by the red line on the paper that has been circulated by the county council showing the line through which they wish to acquire power. Surely, before we could give that power we had a right on behalf of the public to know what are going to be the arrangements by which the public are to be guaranteed the privileges which they hitherto enjoy. The question was answered by the chairman of the Tramway Committee of the London County Council to a certain extent. He, under cross-examination, admitted the desirability of through running, and disclaimed any intention to turn the people out compulsorily at the county boundaries. But he could not give any guarantee or any indication that they would not be so turned out. He admitted the existence of a stated bitter litigation between the company and the council. We all know that individually—and I think co-operate bodies are the same—when they are in that condition they live in an atmosphere which is not always conducive to sound judgment and calm consideration. I see that the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) has on the Paper a Motion to delete Clause 31. The hon. Member knows a great deal about the question of housing in which he takes a deep interest and he is eloquent on the evils of overcrowding and slum areas, but if the housing problem is ever to be settled, and if the working classes are ever to be given the means of finding homes in a healthy atmosphere you must have free, cheap, and easy communication. That is a truth which has been recognised by some people for a long time, but I can assure the House that it has been driven home to my mind, and to the mind of every Member of the Committee, by what we have heard in the course of our inquiry. That inquiry was a long one extending over six weeks and went into matters cognate to this question, and we could not eliminate from our minds all we heard on the question of tramway traction and other mechanical traction which is now coming so much to the front. 1007 Another fact which was impressed upon us very strongly was that at the present time there is an immense development of mechanical traction of various kinds, and one of the effects which must result from the application of science to mechanical traction is to create an entirely new set of problems in regard to the crowded industrial areas of this country, and we were not prepared to accept the narrow policy of the London County Council which might block the way to the solution of this question through the ever varying condition of mechanical traction of which we have had considerable experience.
We look upon it that in this question of mechanical traction there lies one of the means to a solution of the great difficulty of the housing of the working classes of this country, and therefore we could not accept the view that the county council must be placed in that proud position that it was not to make terms, and to submit its terms if necessary to arbitration in order to facilitate the ingress and egress of this vast crowd of workers who come into London every day from these outlying districts. It has been represented in a circular, of which I have a copy, and from which my hon. Friend who moved this Motion quoted, that the Committee of which I was Chairman created a new precedent in procedure. I utterly repudiate any such suggestion. It has been represented that the Committee created this precedent by not permitting the Clause to be withdrawn after argument, and this was supported by a dictum of yours, Mr. Speaker, given when you were Chairman of Ways and Means. If I may say so, with the greatest respect, the Committee would gladly be guided, Mr. Speaker, by your great experience, but I may also say that we acted entirely in the very spirit which you advocated. What we did was this: We considered that it would be most unjustifiable, in the interest of all parties, that the matters dealt with in the Bill which was before us in Clauses 30 and 31 should be put back and should have to stand over again and form the subject matter of a fresh application to Parliament, and thereby cause fresh expenditure. We considered that there should be a guarantee of through traffic in the running powers given to this company which we were assured the council was willing to consider.
The principal witness on behalf of the promoters admitted that he accepted to 1008 the full the Report of the Commission on London Traffic, and when challenged with the fact that in that report there is a recommendation that there should be arbitration on matters of difficulty between the various parties, he said with some reluctance that he accepted that When I put it to him that we were only proposing that that should be done, with which he fully agreed, and had expressed his agreement, he said the only answer he could give was that the London County Council had never submitted to arbitration and did not wish to begin it now as a precedent. I do not think that is any reason The London County Council, like any other body, exists for the good of the public, and it is the duty of that body to come to such agreement as will ensure that the public has secured to it those benefits which Parliament has demanded. Parliament has required that the statutory rate should be given throughout these lines, and that it should be possible for the people in the outlying districts to come in as a chief rate to the great centres of industry and traffic. We considered that it was in the interests of the public that we should know how that was going to be carried out. We, therefore, gave our decision, which I will read because I feel that my hon. Friend did not give it in the actual terms.
Our decision was that:—The Committee is unanimously of opinion first that the working powers asked for should be given to the London County Council; secondly, it is also of opinion that the public must be protected from such an interruption in the through traffic as might arise under the conditions shown to exist at the present. It will, therefore require the concession of such running powers for the London County Council from the London United Tramway's Campanies as will ensure the continuance of the through traffic by the companies, and that terms be arranged between the authorities by a reference to arbitration.It is altogether a travesty to say that we have arbitrarily thrust upon the county council perpetual running powers. We left it absolutely open for these two authorities to discuss, and to arrive at any decision which they thought fit. That might include perpetual powers, and it might include a limitation at to the period. There was nothing excluded from their purview, but the London County Council refused to do this because they refused ever to go to arbitration. They say, "We are reasonable people; we will only do what is reasonable." Surely, if men are so reasonable they ought to have no fear of going before an arbitrator. We have based ourselves in our decision and 1009 in our action on Sir Erskine May on private Bill proceedings where he says:—If Parliament apprehends that it (the private Bill) will be hurtful to the community, it is rejected as if it were a public measure, or qualified by restrictive enactments not solicited by the parties.We have qualified that which we considered to be right to give to the London County Council by a Clause which is not solicited by them, but in our opinion that Clause is demanded in the public interest, and I ask the House to support the Committee, and to confirm its decision.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
I am sure that the House will feel the difficulty of its position this evening after the speech to which we have just listened. The hon. Baronet, in the last words of his speech, stated that the Committee's decision was not so far-reaching as we had hitherto understood it to be. Whatever that decision may have been we have only to deal with the Clause, and, as the Clause has not been read to the House, perhaps I may be allowed to read it now. Clause 31 is as follows:—
"From and after the completion of the purchase by the council of the tramways in the county of London belonging to the London United Tramways, Limited (hereinafter referred to as 'the company') the company may run cars over and use such tramways and take thereon the tolls and fares prescribed by the London United Tramways Acts, 1873–1912, in respect thereto upon such terms and conditions as to payment and otherwise and with such facilities including a supply of electrical energy as may be agreed upon or in default of agreement may be determined by an Arbitrator to be appointed on the application of either party by the Board of Trade."
Those words undoubtedly give to this company a right over the tramways within the county of London, which, as far as one is able to see, is perpetual and cannot be contested by the London County Council or by anybody else, and which must be allowed by the arbitrator. The only questions to be settled by arbitration are the terms and conditions of payment. This, as my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment stated very clearly, brings into operation a new principle of very great importance. The House is well aware that in 1870 the original Tramways Act was passed and the whole principle of it was that a tramway company should henceforth only have a concession for a limited term of years, and that when that term expired 1010 the local authority should have the right to put an end altogether to the concession. There was no question then as to the intention of Parliament that the local authority should be the authority to say whether the concession should come to an end or not. The local authority was absolutely autonomous in its own area. The London County Council has, up to the present moment, been autonomous within the county and it has used its authority in no selfish way. My hon. Friend seemed to be of the opinion that the opposition of the London County Council at the present time arose from some feeling of pride or exclusiveness. It is not for me to defend the present county council, but my hon. Friend is quite mistaken. I read the evidence, and I know pretty well what the feelings of my Friends on that council are, and there is no question of pride concerned at all. It is merely this great general principle: that the London County Council, being the one authority which, on the expiration of the concession, has the right to settle who shall have trams in the county, and having purchased that right, should have a free hand to make its own terms with the company as to running powers and should not have to submit to any arbitration. It seems to me that is a reasonable position and the only right position for a public authority to take up. If it had been shown in evidence, or if it could be shown now that the London County Council had abused its position, or had unreasonably refused to allow other authorities to run their trams within this area, it would have been a different matter, but that cannot be said. There are, as a matter of fact, several lines over which companies' cars do run—one, indeed, a company associated with this campany—and there has been no difficulty between the two authorities in making a proper bargain for the benefit of the public with the free hand which Parliament intended they should have. Therefore, there is really no case made out for bringing in such an important alteration as this would be. There is a still stronger reason from a Parliamentary point of view why this should not be done. Our private Bill procedure is based more upon our judicial procedure than upon the ordinary procedure of Committees. Promoters bring their scheme before Parliament and a perfectly independent Committee considers it, and accepts or rejects it, or puts conditions upon the scheme, but it has the scheme before it, and at any moment I submit the 1011 promoters have the right to withdraw it, or, in an Omnibus Bill, a part of the scheme. It would be a very disastrous thing if in these general Omnibus Bills the promoters were given to understand that they could not withdraw a particular portion if they thought it necessary without running the risk of losing the whole Bill.
That has been argued already, and I will say no more about it. But I submit that when a Committee puts a condition upon a promoter, that condition must be something within the four corners of the Bill. The proposal made in this Bill was, as has been pointed out, a proposal to allow the London County Council to work a single mile of tramways across a line which has very little to do with the main lines over which the Committee have now given running powers. This was argued before the Referees who gave a locus standi to the company, and strictly limited it to Clause 44 as it then was, or Clause 30 as it now is. At that moment the Council might have withdrawn Clause 30. They presented it to the Committee, and it was assumed that they were entitled to withdraw the Clause at any moment during the passage of the Bill. At the moment the decision was given by the Committee, counsel for the London County Council said, "Very well, we withdraw the Clause." But they were not allowed to do it. The Clause was put in by the company, and the condition put in that Clause gave the running powers. If a condition such as that, which is one going far beyond the question of merely working this one mile of traffic, if such a condition is put by a Committee on promoters, it is depriving this House of its right to settle the main principle. I submit that a proposal allowing the company to have running powers over tramways in London ought not to be given except in a definite Bill brought in either by the company or somebody else for the purpose of giving these running powers, otherwise the House has no proper opportunity of discussing the matter. It comes up now as a new proposal at a stage when it is very difficult for us to differ from the findings of the Committee.
As a matter of fact this company did bring in a Bill for this particular proposal in 1909. The purpose of that Bill was to give running powers over lines in the county of London. The Bill went to the 1012 House of Lords first, and a Committee of that House rejected it. They failed to get the running powers when they proposed them definitely and openly before Parliament. Now they are getting them by a side wind in a Bill which has next to nothing to do with the question. I venture to submit that that is not what was intended by our reference to the Private Bills Committee, and that we should be justified—as I hope the House will agree—in doing what I venture with great respect to say the Committee should have done, namely, allow the withdrawal of both these clauses by the county council. That will not be a reflection on the Committee in any way. I feel certain from the speeches we have listened to that there is a great deal to be said for the Clause. We must remember the question of the compensation payable to this tramway company is still before the Court of Appeal, and therefore the proper moment for bargaining has not arrived. When it does come, and when the council is in possession of this tramway, I feel certain they will be bound, by the exigencies of the case, to come to some fair, reasonable arrangement with the company to enable these running powers to be given. But as part and parcel of that agreement there must be some mutual concession on the other side. If running powers are given the company over the lines in London, running powers must be given to the London County Council over the lines in Middlesex. This Clause does not do that. If the Committee had thoroughly gone into the whole question, as they would have done if there had been a definite proposal before them, they would have realised there are a large number of considerations to be borne in mind before arriving at the stage that one party alone should have this particular right. I have no doubt as to what will happen. The London County Council will agree to the company running their cars and the company will agree to the London County Council running their cars.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
That may be so, but it is not embodied in this Bill. If an offer such as that is made, it is absolutely essential that we should strike this Clause out of the Bill in order that we may know definitely the terms of the concession. I trust, therefore, the House will agree to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green, and strike out this Clause.
§ Sir W. BULL
As the Member for Hammersmith I stand aloof from both parties. We have been saddled with this dispute since 1909. Since that year litigation has been going on between the London County Council and the London United Tramways Company, and my Constituency has been suffering through it. Hon. Members who travel by motor car through the district must be well acquainted with the condition of affairs brought about by this dispute. I want the House to understand it, and I wish we had in this Chamber a large screen on which a map could be exhibited, so as to place before Members the realities of the situation. Hammersmith is in shape what has been called a "soldier's jacket." It is four miles long and about a mile wide all the way down, while Uxbridge Road is practically the soldier's belt. We have on the extreme borders of London a large tramway belonging to the London United Tramways Company, fifty-five miles of which is outside the county of London, and the whole dispute is with regard to one mile of line inside the county of London—from King Street on the south, to Uxbridge Road on the north. It is idle for the county council to contend that they cannot come to terms in this matter. Tramways have been in existence for forty or fifty years. The cost per mile and the daily number of passengers carried per car are matters within the knowledge of Mr. Fell and other officials of the London County Council, and why they have not proposed terms from the United Tramways Company without troubling the House I cannot understand.
I have no interests on either side. All I wish to do is to secure a settlement as quickly as possible. The Chairman of the Committee has told us that the best way to do that is to insist upon arbitration. He suggests that these two bodies should come together and try and arrange terms, and that if they do not do that, the matter should go to arbitration. The last speaker said that no doubt, if the Clause was struck out, the exigencies of the situation would be such that after a short time they would come to terms. But it is now four years since this quarrel commenced, and they have not yet come to terms. The whole matter is still hung up, the roads are destroyed, and the shopkeepers of King Street, Hammersmith, are being ruined because the street cannot be properly widened. The same thing is occurring in the Uxbridge Road, and it is 1014 all with regard to this little piece of line. The last speaker spoke of it as a small and unimportant piece of line, but, in fact, it is a very important junction, between the Broadway Station south and Uxbridge Road north. It is one of the most important pieces of line which the company possesses, and it is idle to pretend that women and children in the winter time are to be turned out of their trams half a mile from their destination in King Street, Hammersmith, or in Uxbridge Road, and have to change from a red car into a blue one and pay another fare. In these days of inter-communication it is impossible to suppose that such a condition of things should be allowed to arise.
I understand that the London United Tramways Company have all along stated to the county council that they are perfectly willing to allow them running powers over all their lines. There is no reason why the London United Tramways Company's cars, which for the last ten or twenty years have run over these lines, should not continue to run over the lines down to the termini at Uxbridge Road and the Broadway. There can be no question as to the cost, or of knowing what the expense is. Everybody knows the number of passengers, for the accounts are properly kept. Only a curious pride on the part of the London County Council prevented them from saying what their terms were before this Bill went through. Both sides could have met together in the Lobby for half an hour before this Bill came on to-night and could have arranged terms. I understand that the company, up to the time the Debate started at 8.15, were willing to come to terms if the county council or any responsible officer on their behalf would say, "If we cannot come to terms, we will give you a letter agreeing to arbitration by an entirely independent person, and in the meantime let both cars run." Then there would have been no trouble. The county council said, "No. Let the old litigation in regard to cost be settled. Then we will consider the matter, but we will not allow any arbitration whatever." Why should not the London County Council allow arbitration just the same as any other public body? I am not speaking for the municipal council of Hammersmith, but on behalf of myself and my Constituents, who are suffering very greatly indeed through this continual delay. I do not think there is any question in dispute, and 1015 I believe the whole matter could be settled in half an hour by any levelheaded business man. The last speaker suggested that the Clause should be cut out, so that the matter might be brought up again next year if the parties do not come to any decision. Are we to wait another year while King Street is left in its present horrible state? There is danger because of the traffic. Children are being killed owing to the horrible state of the street. We are tired of the delay, and we say—A plague on both your HousesWe are sick and tired of the whole matter. I would suggest that the situation is entirely unique. It can never happen again while London and the world lasts. This happens to be a small piece of line, and owing to the carelessness of the lawyers on one side the Clauses with regard to it were not inserted. I earnestly urge the House to adopt the suggestion of the Chairman of the Committee, who, after six weeks of very careful consideration of the matter, deliberately came to the conclusion that the best way to settle this unhappy dispute was to make the two bodies knock their heads together, and, if they cannot come to terms by arrangement, submit it to arbitration. That is the most reasonable and proper course they can pursue. This unhappy litigation has been going on since 1909, and I, as representing the people of Hammersmith, implore the House to put an end to it once and for all, and to allow us to have the two great main western roads out of London clear of all the troubles we have had for the last four years.
§ Mr. MOONEY
The point of view I take is not at all the point of view put forward by the hon. Baronet (Sir Ivor Herbert) or by the hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Bull). In my opinion if this House passes the two Clauses which we are asked to omit they will be creating a precedent of a novel character. What is the history of this case? There is one Clause in the Bill dealing with vehicular traffic. A petitioner appears against the Bill. He has no locus to appear against the widening of the Strand or against the borrowing of money and other work, but only against this particular Clause. He comes before the Court of Referees of this House, which has the right to decide whether he shall be heard on petition or not, and that Court 1016 gives a limited locus to appear against a particular Clause, and it is because I was a member of the Court of Referees that I rise to intervene in the Debate, and also because I take a certain amount of interest in Private Bill procedure. I have no fault to find with the hon. Baronet in the motive which urged him and the Committee to come to their decision, but what I object to is the method by which that decision was arrived at. There is no precedent for a Private Bill Committee of the House which said to a promoter promoting an Omnibus Bill that if he does not give a petitioner who is petitioning against a particular Clause what he wants and what he thinks he ought to get, it will throw out the whole Bill being supported by the House. The House has never agreed for a moment to accede to that condition. What it might have done, and what has been done over and over again, is for the Committee to say, "Unless you give the petitioner the protection which we think he ought to have we will find the Preamble of the Bill not proved as regards that particular Clause." But to say this petitioner, who has no right to be heard on 29 Clauses, is to have a right to have them rejected because he cannot have his way on the thirtieth is ridiculous. This a very large question from the point of view of Private Bill procedure. Omnibus Bills are a method by which municipalities and companies are able to get their legislation with a minimum amount of cost. It would be a great pity, especially to municipal authorities in the three Kingdoms, if the power of Omnibus Bills were to be taken away and if this decision of the Committee is allowed to stand, then Omnibus Bills are done for once and all, because every authority will have to come with a separate Bill for everything it wants to have done, otherwise they will find themselves in this position, that because a Committee cannot get a decision on one important matter of the large and enormous works which were contemplated under the Bill it will have to be thrown into the melting pot and brought up by a series of separate Bills. I want to ask the Chairman of Ways and Means has he ever in his experience known a case where the House of Commons has supported a Committee in threatening to throw out an Omnibus Bill unless a petitioner was given the right he sought under a particular Clause, and whether it has not been the invariable practice of the 1017 House to say, "We will find the whole of the Preamble proved, except that portion which is opposed," and the Committee has never exercised the right to throw out the unopposed part of the Bill, because a particular part was opposed, and whether it was a fair method to use the powers of this Committee after telling the promoters that the only part of the Bill they wanted to consider was Clause 44 (now 30) to say, "If you do not give the petitioners what we think they ought to have, we will go back on our previous decision, and will not give you any part of the Bill at all unless you do what we ask." In my opinion the promoter of an omnibus Bill has a perfect right to withdraw at any time any portion of this Bill, and either to ask the Committee to treat the remainder of the Bill as unopposed, and send it to the Unopposed Bill Committee, or to consider the unopposed portion of it and pass it, but to obtain the Clause by the method which has been adopted in this case is entirely contrary to the practice of the House, and I should be very glad to hear the Chairman of Ways and Means give the House some guidance in a matter on which I think the House ought to have guidance.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS (Mr. Whitley)
I have been appealed to by one or two speakers on the matter affecting the procedure of Private Bill Committees in the House, and I am in the very fortunate position of not needing to give an opinion of my own on this occasion, because you, Sir, when you held the office of Chairman of Ways and Means on 3rd July, 1902, spoke in an almost exactly similar case, and I, after having examined that most carefully, do not think that I can add usefully a word to what was said by you on that occasion. There is no doubt that, as the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Mooney) has said, it is usual for the Committee on a Bill, which is opposed on a particular Clause, or a particular part, to pass the Preamble of the remainder of the Bill, and to deal with the opposition on the Clause or Clauses to which that opposition is directed; and it is quite correct, as the hon. Member has said, that the Court of Referees granted a locus to the petitioner against the Bill, limited to that particular part of the Bill, namely, the Clause which was 44 in the original Bill, and which appears now as 30 in the amended edition. I would just, perhaps, put in this caution, that I am a great believer in trusting our 1018 Committees upstairs with very large powers. I go as far as to say, for instance, that a Committee might be justified in throwing out an unopposed Bill on its Preamble. There might be a Bill which it was nobody's interest, financially, to opose, or, perhaps, nobody could afford to oppose it, and yet it might be the duty of a Committee, after examining the Bill, to reject it on the Preamble.
With regard to the second point raised by the hon. Member as to whether promoters ought always to be allowed to withdraw a Clause, or part of a Bill, rather than submit to conditions imposed upon them, I would not lay down that as a universal rule, although I am quite with the hon. Member that I know of no case where the use of such power has yet arisen—that is to say, I know of no precedent—and I observe that you, Sir, on the occasion referred to in 1902, stated that you knew of no precedent for a refusal to allow promoters to withdraw rather than to take what they asked under a condition that they could not see their way to agree to. I can conceive that such cases might arise, and I, therefore, wish to protect myself in the way I have done. I do not propose to advise the House with regard to the merits of the question at issue. The merits have been so clearly put before the House by one side and the other that I think the House is competent to form its own conclusion on this matter. I think my only function is to say what I have said on the point of procedure. I think the action of the Committee has had exception taken to it on the point of procedure merely. It is true that there was some talk in the Committee of throwing out the Bill on the Preamble if the promoters did not agree to certain conditions, but that does not appear, so far as I can see, to be insisted upon, and if it had been it would have brought it within the ruling of the Chairman of Ways and Means on the occasion referred to. I think that is all I need say. I hope the House will now take a vote on the question before it.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
The Chairman has said that the Bill was not threatened to be withdrawn if the Clause was not accepted. I understood that that was the definite statement on the part of the Chairman of the Committee. I understood that the county council withdrew altogether from this Bill because the chairman stated definitely that unless the Clause was accepted this Bill would be rejected.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
I do not think that my hon. Friend wishes to misrepresent, but I do not think that that is what occurred. I do not think that a threat was ever made in that way. We insisted upon a Clause being introduced. We pointed out clearly to the promoters that if they were going to refuse to take the Bill as amended, they would themselves be sacrificing the whole Bill.
§ Sir EDWIN CORNWALL
May I read the following:—The Chairman: If you will allow me to say one thing, it may shorten matters, I think. If you do not accept the conditions upon which we allow the Preamble to be proved the Bill is lost.Mr. Erskine Pollock: Not the Bill. This is in the Omnibus Bill.The Chairman: Yes, excuse me, the Bill.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
I have read that Report and, judging rather by the event than by the actual words used on the one side or the other, the Chairman, I think, will agree, that to have perhaps rejected the whole Bill in such a case was not a proceeding which the Committee really intended; and I am satisfied not to go any further into the matter. The question at issue now is really the merits of the question on which the House has the power, if it chooses to do so, of revising the decision of the Committee. I do not wish that any words of mine should prevent the House exercising its judgment on the matter.
§ Mr. ERNEST CRAIG
As I was a member of the Committee I wish to endorse everything which our Chairman has said with regard to this matter. The Committee were placed in a very difficult position. We relied upon the evidence which was given to us and the chief witness took up a position which to us was incomprehensible. Sir Edward White was asked if he would, in case of disagreements between his council and the tramways company, agree to the matter being submitted to arbitration. He refused to accept that as a possibility. He was pressed by several questions. On each occasion he refused to accept the possibility that there should be any disagreement between his council and the tramways company in coming to an understanding upon the question of running powers, and this seemed so extraordinary to us, especially to me as a business man, that the Clause which was agreed to by the Committee, seemed to be the only way not to impede the tramways company or the council, but to assist them to carry out their work 1020 and to do it in accordance with the requirements of the public.
Mr. FREDERICK HALL
I have listened with very great care to the whole of the speeches made this evening, and I cannot help thinking that the House must be under a misapprehension as to what really happened in Committee upstairs. The evidence has been read by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green to the effect, which was perfectly plain, that it was a question of taking these Clauses or not having the Bill at all. It was only a short time ago that the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) said that the London County Council was continually coming to the House with these Bills. The county council want to save the time of the House as far as they possibly can, and in regard to many of their measures they feel it incumbent upon them to place these matters in an Omnibus Bill. What position will the county council be in if, because of one item with which the Committee did not agree, it is to be said, as has been said in this case, that the Preamble is not proved? I hope, after the remarks which have fallen from the Chairman of Ways and Means, that the Chairman of the Committee will, as far as he is concerned, at all events agree that the Preamble of the Bill was proved, with the exception of Clauses 30 and 31. What is the whole question? There was a mile of tramway constructed connecting two main arteries from Goldhawk Road on the North to Uxbridge Road on the South. If the County Council had been hostile to the Bill they could have come here to oppose it; they did not do anything of the sort. They made the suggestion to the London United Tramways Company, that, as they had power with regard to four and one-third miles in 1909, they would not oppose the construction of this piece of line by the London United Tramways Company. What happened? The London United Tramways Company brought a Bill into the House of Lords, which was rejected immediately, asking that the purchase of their line should be left over for another fifteen years. The Company would have had no means of constructing the cross-line, and apparently their one idea was to impose some onerous conditions upon the London County Council. We have had many of these questions before the London County Council with regard to running powers, and 1021 although we may have had differences with regard to some of them, all I can say is, that in every case up to the present time we have been able to arrange with the whole of the various authorities with regard to running powers. Naturally, we are desirous of arranging running powers with the London United Tramways Company. But the London County Council have never up to the present time had a Clause imposed upon them by which it was made obligatory that they should either arrange terms, or if they could not arrange terms satisfactory to the County Council, that they should be forced to arbitration. It has not been necessary heretofore, and why should it be necessary at the present time?
The Chairman of the Committee has stated that 60,000 passengers were being conveyed over it. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull) drew a dismal picture of passengers being cast out from the cars of the London United Tramways Company, there being no power to carry them on to the terminus. That is not the intention. We desire hereafter td make reasonable terms not only with the London United Tramways Company, but with any of the authorities who come forward and ask us to do so. But when we purchase those lines, and know full well the cost of working them, it is most reasonable that we should say that, having paid for them, at all events we should have something to say as to the amount to be charged. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammer smith, stated it would have been perfectly easy as far as we were concerned, to have gone into the Lobby and to have arranged how much was to be paid by the London United for having powers to run over those lines. He did not tell the House one important point, and that is that up to the present time the London County Council do not know how much it has to pay for the lines that it has recently acquired. There are over five miles, and it has been a question of arbitration. There was £250,000 or £260,000, I think, asked for the purchase of those five miles. It is not a question for me to go into here as to whether that is equitable or not, but at all events the London County Council have in their wisdom stated that there are various facts that were not brought before the arbitrator at the time, and therefore they are not satisfied that they are in a position to pay the amount of money decided by the 1022 arbitrator until the whole facts have been decided. I cannot help thinking that is a reasonable answer to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hammersmith that it was perfectly easy to actually decide what the cost of running should be. If the purchase price had been decided it might have been possible to have said to the House, "We shall be prepared to accept such and such terms." There was a remark which emanated from the Chairman of the Committee to the effect that the London County Council ought to be able to take up the matter at the present time and that they ought not to have placed in their hands the power to decide what they should charge. I should like to ask the House if the council are not to be masters of their own decision what are they to do with regard to running the whole of the tramways undertaking. Surely that undertaking has been placed in the hands of the London County Council, and having that power placed in their hands by the ratepayers of London are they to prejudice the interests of the ratepayers by saying to outside authorities, you can come in here and run on the line on terms which are to be decided, in many cases perhaps by those who are not thoroughly conversant with the whole position. The House has heard many arguments with regard to these running powers to-night, though I cannot think that either the Chairman of the Committee or my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. E. Craig) have put forward any statements to justify the Committee in arriving at their decision. Therefore, I personally am strongly in hopes and firmly convinced that the Amendment that has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green (Sir E. Cornwall) will, if there is a Division, be carried by a very large majority, thereby proving at all events that this House is satisfied with the way in which the Council has carried out its tramway programme. The hon. Member for Hammersmith stated that this line was only a question of half a mile. That may be, but for the county council it is an important consideration in regard to the whole of their line. The London United Company had one mind and one mind only with regard to the opposition to this Bill—they were desirous of keeping off the county council as far as they possibly could from purchasing this line, hoping by so doing to force the county council to come to the terms which the 1023 company considered advisable. The past policy of the county council in the matter of administration will near the strictest investigation; they have looked after the tramway system in the interests of the public at large. Therefore, I trust that this Motion will be carried with general accord.
§ Mr. NIELD
As one who represents 163,000 people interested in this question, I hope the House will give some consideration to the position taken up by the public body for whom I speak. It is not often that you get a public body coming forward with evidence in support of a private company's proposal, but that is what occurred on this occasion. The three authorities concerned sent evidence in favour of the proposal, and why? Because they knew the necessity when dealing with the county council of getting in black and white this condition for the protection of persons using these trams. No speaker has referred to the legislation of 1902, whereby this company was compelled to charge statutory penny fares for long distances—for instane, from Shepherd's Bush to the county boundary, seven-eighths of a mile, and two miles beyond that. That penny fare cannot be cut any lower, and all that is asked is that failing agreement upon terms, the question shall be decided by an arbitrator appointed by the Board of Trade. What can be fairer than that? It is the usual clause in Bills of a similar character, and I think it is the minimum which the House ought to give to the travelling public in a congested district of this description. The Chairman of the Committee has pointed out that he was satisfied as a person unacquainted with the district, and the hon. Member for Hammersmith has emphasised the impossibility, in view of the condition of the road, of an exchange of trams. There is no place where a tram can draw up and another take its passengers. Through running is absolutely necessary.
If in 1870 Parliament could have foreseen the cutting up of Middlesex, I do not think they would have given sole control of the tramways to the local authority, which was subsequently to be the county council. If there ever was a case which there was a justification for a Traffic Board to regulate the whole traffic of the Metropolis, apart from the question of the local authority, it is this particuar case which we have been discussing to-night. There are two long main arteries, the one from Shepherds Bush tapping the Metropolitan 1024 Railway in two places, and the other at Shepherds Bush proper and the western extension as it crosses Uxbridge Road. Apart from that the line runs for seven-eighths of a mile, and then enters the county of Middlesex, crossing the Broadway, Hammersmith, where it taps the Great Northern and Piccadilly tube in the Hammersmith district, and carries passengers along the Bull Road. The position which this House has to appreciate is this, that London only deals with about a mile of the road, which leaves fifty-five miles of track in the counties of Middlesex and Surrey. If the county council is enabled to impose any terms it likes upon travellers for Ealing, Hanwell, Chiswick and neighbouring districts that is what it will do. The hon. Member for Dulwich referred to the existing arrangement which London has made. London has always made these arrangements at the point of the bayonet, because she was supreme. I speak feelingly as a member of the Middlesex County Council, and as a member of its tramways committee. I have a recollection of an arrangement over half a mile between the Highgate Archway Tavern and the boundary of the county. I wonder if this House credits the fact that the sum charged by the county council for the privilege of the Middlesex trams running over that distance was so high that it paid for the outlay in three years?
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
Time is short and I ask leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, to say that we might come to a satisfactory decision on the question, if it is the feeling of the House that we should do so. We do not wish to deal with this matter in a contentious spirit. The suggestion that has been made by the hon. Member who moved this Amendment certainly takes away from the county council any advantage that may be given, and the county council will have time to consider matters before they bring in another Bill, and some satisfactory conclusion may be arrived at. Therefore I shall be quite disposed, and I think my colleagues on the Committee will be quite disposed, to allow this Motion to pass in order that this extra chance may be given to arrive at a satisfactory and peaceful conclusion.
§ Mr. NIELD
The only answer I can make to that appeal is the answer my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Hammersmith has made already, that we have to consider not only a danger but the danger 1025 that has been caused by the delay in the last four years, and to ask that this question should be settled to-night. It is perfectly true if these Clauses are carried it will enable the county council to raise the question afresh next year, but that fact ought not to deprive the House of coming to a decision upon the merits—those merits which caused the Chairman of the Committee and his colleagues to refuse, as they did, to pass the Bill rather than to have this Clause 31 as a condition for passing the Bill. I was giving an instance of the unreasonableness of the county council with regard to the Middlesex tramways. These are unfortunate conditions, and I submit there is no better tribunal for settling them than a Board of Trade arbitration. I do say, speaking for these large numbers of people whom I represent, that this House should be chary of leaving them at the mercy of the London County Council. Of course, they have got to make their tramways pay somehow. They have made arrangements with Middlesex for tramways running from Tottenham Court Road to Finsbury, but they were obliged, owing to the action of the motor omnibus, to meet the Middlesex Council for once in their lives. In view of these facts, I ask the House to view this matter on its merits, and to secure the protection of a Board of Trade arbitrator in fixing these fares.
Question, "That Clauses 30 and 31 stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.
Ordered, "That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the third time."—[The Deputy-chairman.]
Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.