HC Deb 27 May 1913 vol 53 cc114-41

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


I rise for the purpose of eliciting from some representative of the London County Council who may have strayed in by chance some explanation of the large number of Bills the London County Council are bringing before the House. This is one of three County Council Bills on the Order Paper for to-day. There may be some explanation of that, and I think the House is entitled to know, when they come forward practically every year with an Omnibus Bill which occupies the time of this House on these parochial matters, why they need to bring in special Bills as well as a general Omnibus Bill. In the First Schedule of this Bill I find references to the London County Council (Electrical Power) Act of 1900, the Tramways and Improvements Act of 1901, the Subways and Tramways Act of 1902, the Tramways and Improvements Acts of 1906, 1907, 1909, 1911, and 1912. Their idea seems to be that they must get one or more Acts passed every year, and then they come forward subsequently with proposals for dovetailing them or for tinkering up previous enactments. I am perfectly certain that if the London County Council would set their minds to it in a businesslike way they would not need to come a quarter of the times that they appear here. They seem to have little or no regard for the time of this House. It we attempt to discuss a County Council Bill, we find that the Treasury Bench is almost vacant, and that the Front Bench opposite is vacant. Any Member who thinks the measure important enough to go into it is regarded as one who is keeping back Government business. There is possibly some business on the Paper which the Government wish to get through, and therefore it is thought that private business should be got through as speedily as possible. I ask whether it is not out of all reason for the London County Council to come, as they do to-day, with three Bills for the sanction of this House? I hope the hon. Member for Dulwich, whom we all respect both as a Member of the London County Council and of this House, will explain why these continual Bills are necessary.

Mr. F. HALL (Dulwich)

I quite appreciate the question asked by my hon. Friend, and I say at once that I am sorry it is necessary to come as often as we do to this House seeking fresh powers, but unfortunately it is impossible for us to have all our schemes put in one Bill. It is impossible to get in 1913 a Bill providing for the requirements we may have in 1914. Supposing, for instance, the London County Council during this year have various schemes brought before them with regard to extensions or new lines, it is impossible to have the lines constructed unless the necessary powers are obtained from Parliament. We may get the local authorities to agree to certain lines, but it is necessary to bring a Bill before this House in order to obtain powers authorising their construction. Under these circumstances I hope my hon. Friend will be satisfied that the county council do not wish to waste the time of the House. They wish to make their measures as short, concise, and businesslike as possible. I appeal to the House to have some sympathy with the county council. I trust the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.


I beg to move, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to insert a provision in the Bill making the erection of trolley vehicle equipment on, over, under, along, or across any street or road in the county of London subject to the provisions of Section 23 of the London County Tramways (Electrical Power) Act, 1900."

I am really loth to trouble the House with this question, which was virtually settled on the Second Reading of the London County Council (General Powers) Bill of last Session. The question is whether this House, without any cause shown, should practically repeal the provision which was passed for ensuring that overhead wires should not be erected in London without the consent of the local authority of the borough concerned. The proposal to which I take exception in this Bill, and in regard to which I move this Instruction, is that which gives the London County Council power in certain districts to erect overhead wires for the purpose of running what are known as trackless trolleys. There was a general Bill on this subject considered upstairs by a Grand Committee, but in the county of London the measure now before the House would free the county council from the necessity in establishing these trackless trolleys of acting in co-operation with the road authorities, which are the borough councils in the areas concerned. I should have much preferred if the London County Council had been content to accept the decision arrived at last year in this House on a similar proposal. It appears to me that it would only have been seemly if a great local authority like the London County Council had taken the advice and admonition of Parliament to heart. In a matter of this sort there is no question of party politics. The only matter is the public advantage, and so recently as last year a decision was solemnly affirmed by a large majority, and I am bound to say I am surprised that the county council in a Bill of this sort should attempt to reverse the verdict then come to. The whole point of this measure, so far as it concerns the establishment of trackless trolleys in London, is that it reverses the Act of 1900, Section 23 of which provides:—

"This Act shall not authorise the council to place in any parish or district any posts or wires on or over any street for working tramways by electrical power unless the vestry of such parish or the board of works for such district shall by a resolution have consented to the adoption therein of a system of traction conducted by means of posts and wires placed overhead. Such consent may be subject to any limitations or conditions which may be expressed in the resolution, and may apply to any particular streets or roads or for any limited period defined by such resolution. A copy of such resolution under the seal of the vestry or district board shall be delivered to the council and shall be evidence of the due passing of such resolution."

The Metropolitan borough councils are the successors of the Metropolitan vestries and district boards, and are the road authorities in the county of London. The object of Parliament in inserting that provision was that their power as road authorities should not be overridden by the London County Council. Under this Bill it is proposed to do away with the power of the local authorities in regard to their own roads. I submit that, if we were justified last year in refusing to alter the general law in that respect, there is far greater necessity to do so when it is proposed, instead of overhead tramways, to have trackless trolleys. The overhead tramways might have constituted, as the Board of Trade said they would very likely in London, a public danger, because I would remind the hon. Gentleman representing the Board of Trade that his own officers, when giving evidence before the Royal Commission on London traffic, said that to have a network of wires such as might follow in London from the establishment of overhead tramways would be more dangerous here than anywhere else. Nobody wants the streets of London to be covered by a network of overhead wires, and in the case of trackless trolleys you have to have twice as much wire as you would where there are lines along which the tram would proceed, because you have to take the return current as well. As the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Trade knows, the whole general question of giving local authorities legal power to set up trackless trolleys was considered by a Grand Committee of this House last year. No doubt the principle was admitted, but, of course, it differs according to the circumstances of the case. I submit that the county of London is no place for trackless trolleys. They may very well be established in country districts or to link up the suburbs of industrial towns with villages where a great part of the industrial population may want to live with great advantage to themselves, but that is not the case in London.

The County of London represents only part of the Greater London. There are no country villages around London to link up by means of trackless trolleys. London ex- tends in long chains of streets of houses far beyond its legal borders. The whole object of establishing trackless trolleys in London is to save the cost of laying down tramways and tram lines. That is admitted by the London County Council, because in the Memorandum in support of this Bill they point out that the difference would be very large; that it would be £18,350 for the trolley system, while it would amount to more than twice as much if it were a question of laying down tram lines. I hope that the House will not agree to reverse the principle which has been established in a case where there is so little to be said for it as there is here. These particular lines are to be in the boroughs of Hackney and Lewisham. The borough of Hackney is really a congested part, and even Lewisham has very little vacant ground which can be filled up with houses in the near future. I hope that the Secretary to the Board of Trade will support the Instruction which I move now, because from his own point of view, even if he does not wish to interfere with the possibility of establishing trolleys, this at least will not be a final bar. All it does is to preserve the control of the road authorities. In every other part of the country that authority is, of course, and must be, the local authority for carrying out any such scheme under the Act if passed, but in London we have the dual system. The London County Council are the tramway authorities and the borough council are the road authorities. The present safeguard ensures the appeal to the local authority as a guarantee of the interests of the people, whose wants and necessities they must know, in their closer association with them, far better than a central authority. That is part of the general law. For that reason I ask the House to confirm the verdict which it gave last year. The case is far stronger when you have to deal with these wandering lines of trackless trolleys than in the case of the fixed route of the tramways, whether you have underground conduits or overhead wires, and I beg to move the Amendment that stands in my name, not with any wish to prevent the county council from proposing their scheme, but to ensure that the public, through the mouth of the local authorities, shall be able to say aye or no to it in the particular locality in which they are concerned.


In rising to second the Instruction which has been moved by the hon. Gentleman I venture to claim the indulgence of the House which is given to a Member on the first occasion on which he addresses it. It may not be a very inspiring occasion, and it does not appeal to any party feeling, but the Instruction is a very practical one, and one which I should have thought had been sufficiently and emphatically dealt with in the Debate which took place about a year ago in regard to proposals of a somewhat similar nature. But in this particular case the proposition is to deal not with tramways, but with a system of trackless omnibuses, which is a totally different thing, and a thing absolutely unknown through London or the neighbourhood of London. It is true that the system has been adopted in some provincial towns to a small extent, but it has not been adopted in any shape or form in the London areas, and it seems to me that, under the conditions in which at the moment the traffic of London has increased, to introduce an absolutely new method of traction would be, to say the least of it, an exceedingly dangerous procedure, especially as the attempt has been made to introduce it in districts which are very congested, where the traffic already is exceedingly heavy and the difficulty of dealing with it is exceedingly great. Take the case of Hackney, with which I am more intimately connected, and in which I am more personally interested. The road over which it is proposed that this trackless system should be adopted is one over which there is very large traffic at the present moment conducted by the motor buses. In one of these streets over which it is proposed that this system should be adopted the omnibuses emerge on to the main thoroughfare at a very dangerous point, and to introduce a system of this kind, which is liable at a moment's notice to be absolutely stopped through any breakdown in the electric supply, would in my humble opinion be exceedingly dangerous in the circumstances which exist in that particular neighbourhood. In addition to that, very large power is taken under Clause 16 of the Bill. Power is taken by the London County Council not only to adopt this system along a specified route, but also over a non-specified route as between the terminus either at one end or the other and an unstated destination, namely, the depôt, wherever it may happen to be that is to be provided for the trackless vehicles. That seems to me to give a very large and very unwarranted power to the London County Council in a matter of this kind. In addition, in the Bill the London County Council seem to realise that they are departing from a well-known principle that has been adopted and emphasised by this House, because under Clause 7, which deals purely and simply with tramways, they reiterate practically Section 23 of the Act of 1909. They say:—

"Nothing in this Act shall authorise the council to place in any Metropolitan borough any posts or wires in, on, or over any street for working the tramways authorised by this Act by electrical power unless the council of such Metropolitan borough shall by resolution have consented to the adoption therein of a system of traction conducted by means of posts and wires placed overhead."

They realise themselves that the power should be retained by these Metropolitan boroughs, yet when they come to deal with a new system, absolutely untried in any very large area in which the traffic conditions are exceedingly grave, they propose that they should be given a free hand, and that the local authorities should be put on one side. I do not speak in any shape or form in antagonism to the work of the London County Council: far from it; I should be the last to seek to interfere, without very strong reasons, with anything that seemed to be for the benefit of the people of London as a whole. I feel that this is a step in the wrong direction, and that they are proposing to take these powers at a time when a change of this kind is absolutely uncalled for. I hope the House will not go back on the decision it came to in 1912, but will adhere in no uncertain way to the decision they then arrived at.


I rise to oppose the Instruction moved by the hon. Member for Mile End. I do not propose to enter into the question whether the trackless trolley system is suited either to Hackney or to Lewisham. I consider that is entirely a question to be decided by the Committee upstairs. I would remind the House that London is in an exceptional position. In London the tramway authority is not the road authority, the tramway authority is the London County Council, and the borough councils are the local road authorities. Under Standing Order 22 of this House the promoters of a tramway scheme have to obtain the sanction of the road authorities before they can bring their scheme into this House. Therefore in every case the London County Council, before they can bring in a tramway scheme, have to obtain the consent of the borough councils, and the borough councils, as far as the tramway is concerned, have an absolute veto with regard to tramways in London. In addition to that, under Section 23 of the Tramways Act of 1900, the borough council has an additional power. They can say, "We do not want any posts or overhead wires in our streets." Therefore they can stop the overhead system of tramways in their particular districts. Under this Standing Order 22 trackless trolleys are not included. When the Standing Orders were revised in 1911 trackless trolleys were dealt with, but were not brought within the Standing Order No. 32. In the case of trackless trolleys, the promoters have not got to obtain the authority or the sanction of the road authorities before they come to Parliament. The hon. Member has told us that this question was really decided last year. It was decided last year, I agree, as far as the tramways on the overhead system were concerned. It has not been decided with regard to trackless trolleys, which clearly are not tramways.

Trackless trolleys, in the first place, do not run on rails; you have not got to pull up the road; they take up a very large extent of the road, it is true, but they are not fixed; they are movable; they do not interfere with the surface of the road as much as do tramways. But if this House to-day decides that the particular Section of the Act of 1900 should be inserted, it means that the trackless trolley system will never be adopted in any part of the county of London. We know perfectly well that each borough council wants to have the best and most expensive system. The conduit system is the best and most satisfactory, but it can only be used in the central parts of the town—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no"]—where the traffic is such that it will pay the council for the very large capital outlay. In outlying districts the overhead system ought to be adopted. It has been adopted in all other towns. It would have been adopted in London to a much larger extent than it has been adopted if it had not been for the opposition of the borough councils. Of course, the borough council, as I say, wishes to have the best system. Shoreditch has got tramways on the conduit system, and Hackney wants to have the same. I entirely agree with Hackney, but from the point of view of the central tramway authority, who have to run the tramways on commercial lines, it is quite clear that this expensive system should only be adopted where there is considerable traffic.

But now you have the entirely new system of trackless trolleys which has been adopted successfully in other large towns, such as Leeds and Bradford, and it has been sanctioned at Chiswick. The hon. Member opposite shakes his head. I can assure him that I was on the Local Legislation Committee when we had the Bill before us, and trackless trolleys were sanctioned at Chiswick. They have not been put down yet, but there is authority to lay them down at Chiswick, which is on the border of the county of London. Therefore the system has been tried successfully in other towns, and there is no reason why it should not meet with equal success, if not in the central, in the other parts of London. If we decided today that the borough councils should have the power of stopping any system which is run on the overhead principle, then trackless trolleys will never be introduced into London. I am sure that is not the wish of the House, and those hon. Members who say there is no desire for the trackless system in London hold a view which is contrary to that of most Members of the House. This is a question which ought to be decided by the Committee upstairs where both parties will be heard. Two borough councils most closely concerned, Lewisham and Hackney, have petitioned against the Bill, and if the Committee upstairs consider that Section 23 of the Act of 1900 should be inserted, that Section can be inserted. The hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Morison) referred to the scheme proposed for Hackney, and told us that in one particular part of the road in which it is proposed to have these trackless trolleys that there were certain difficulties. Those are all points which can be decided by the Committee, and if the Committee considers that trackless trolleys are not suitable for Hackney or Lewisham, then they will reject the scheme brought before them. I do think the House ought not to decide the question without hearing all the evidence both of the county council and of the borough council, and that it will agree to the Instruction which has been moved.


As one of the Members for Hackney and as a Londoner, I desire to say a few words in opposition to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, because, after all, he has spoken from the point of view of someone who does not understand London. We are not prepared that the one part of London with regard to its tramways should be treated in a different way from other parts. My constituents, though they live in Hackney, ought not to have a second-rate system put upon them. I think the London County Council are making a great mistake in trying in a matter of this kind to get past the wishes of the borough authorities. If they want to make an experiment in some part of London, let them go to the borough authorities and try to make an arrangement with them. With regard to the present case, I am opposed to the action of the London County Council in trying to get the matter through without consulting the borough council. Apart from that, I have been to see this road of about a mile and a half, and it seems to me that it is an utterly unsuitable road to test any system. It is a narrow road, uneven and winding, and I think it will be a most dangerous road for a system like this to be tested on. The motor-'buses at the present time run along that road. Under this trolley system every passenger will have to change from the car at Mare Street, whereas the motor-'bus comes from other parts and goes up the narrow road and traverses three streets. The trolley has to stop at a narrow bridge which goes over the Hackney Cut, while the other side there is a good wide road to the Essex boundary. I need not refer to that, which has been mentioned already by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. Morison), but I hope this matter will not go up to the Committee Room unless this Instruction is passed, because, after all, London is constantly changing, and that which, so to speak, may be a second-rate district to-day may in the course of a few years become a very good district. We are trying to beautify and improve London every year. I am thankful for what has been done by the London County Council in this matter, but I do feel that in a matter of this kind they are taking a backward step. Reference has been made to this system as suitable for some of the provincial towns. I have made a few inquiries, and with regard to that running in Leeds, I am told that some of the people there do not care for it at all. They think it is uncomfortable and a very second-rate system. For those different reasons I hope the House will pass this Instruction.


I have been asked by my own borough council to support the Instruction proposed, because they feel very strongly that this is an invasion of their rights as a borough council, and that this is not the time that those rights should be abrogated. We feel strongly in Hammersmith that this is not a matter for the county council at all. We hoped that a Road Board would deal with the whole of this question with regard to the main arteries of London, and that that should be done under a proper system. Whether the authority to do that should be the county council or not is a question, but it is perfectly clear that the whole subject is one which ought to be considered on totally different lines from those on which it is being considered at present. I think it is a patchwork piece of business to propose that a mile or a mile and a half in a borough should be the occasion for the London County Council to try to do away with the provision deliberately put in the Act of 1900 to protect the borough councils, which are as much interested in the roads and in the system of traction as the London County Council. I believe that it is almost unanimously felt by the borough councils that this matter ought not to be allowed to proceed further in this way. Some of them do not, I think, object so strongly as others, but they all feel that this is not quite the method in which it should be done, and they think that the whole question should be considered by a general authority and not as a side issue. Personally, I believe that in twenty years there will not be a tramway in London. I think the tramway system is practically dead. I think we shall find that motor traction will gradually improve, with the result that the inhabitants generally will find either the immovable system on the tramway, which cannot be diverted and can only stop at certain spots on the one hand, and also this newfangled system of immovable trackless trolleys, are both hopelessly out of date. We never stand still. Motor-'buses may be old fashioned in the course of a few years, but at any rate it seems to me that the time is not the present when we should seek to extend what I believe will be absolutely obsolete in a few years.


As Member for Lewisham I desire to say a few words in support of the Instruction, which I consider should be passed, because I agree with some of the speakers who have mentioned the fact that so far as the various boroughs in London are concerned they should be all equally treated. There should be no favouritism. The inner boroughs in London have got the conduit system. It is outside London, to which the county council is looking as portion of its kingdom, which is being tackled on this matter. So far as Lewisham is concerned, we decline, as far as we can, to be the object of experiment. We know that the roads which are put in this Bill are narrow and steep, and that the gradients are bad in many places, and there are bad turns. So far as the road is concerned, Lewisham should surely know best what is good for it. They object strongly to the road and also to the taking away of the powers from the borough councils so far as their highway authority is concerned. The hon. Member for Stowmarket mentioned that the tramways were run on commercial lines. I am very glad to hear it.


That they ought to be.


I think the whole of this question, as submitted by the London County Council authorities in this Bill, is really a question of finance. They have been running trams for some years. We know that in the early part of the running the competition which they had to go against was simply the old horse - bus and the railway. We know that the railways and the horse buses suffered from the trams. The trams are now up against a strong combination of motor buses and tubes, co-ordinated and working together, and it is only right that the county council should see whether or not they can compete successfully with their opponents. If they are to do so, I suggest that they should not endeavour to sacrifice some of the borough councils, who are their own friends in the matter of London government, but should, as far as they are able to do so, alter their management. I cannot speak definitely, but I suggest that there are ways in their management whereby they might reduce expenses and increase their revenue. Every business man has ups and downs in his business. When the business is up the wise man realises that bad times will follow, and he endeavours so to guide his business that when the bad times come he is able to meet them. Bad times appear to have come to the London County Council tramways. I believe that the tramways are an admirable institution in London; they are wanted by Londoners; they are required by the people, not only in the interior, but on the outskirts of London; and they will be wanted more and more. The fact that they will probably be wanted more and more is all the greater reason why the system should be the same in all parts, rich and poor. You ought not to pick out one part for the purposes of experiment as against another. If the county council have arguments showing that the trackless trolley system is a good, convenient, and paying system, and one which people would desire to have in their neighbourhood, let them, instead of coming to the House of Commons to coerce the borough authorities, use their arguments with them. The borough councils consist of hard-headed men of business, commercial men who work in the City of London, men who recognise and realise the requirements of London, and know something about finance. Why not consult with them? Why try to override them? Are the county council afraid of them? They must be afraid of the borough councils if they are trying to force the matter through the House of Commons instead of submitting their propositions to the borough authorities. There are many other matters in the Bill which require attention, and will no doubt be fought out in Committee. As far as this Instruction is concerned, I hope it will be supported by the House.

9.0 P.M.


I have listened with keen attention to the remarks of all the speakers, and particularly to those of the hon. Member far Lewisham (Sir Edward Coates). He suggested that by some subterfuge we want to get round the veto of the borough councils. We have no desire to do anything of the sort. The hon. Baronet has suggested that we are not prepared to inform the borough councils what we desire to do. With all due deference, he is not aware of the whole facts connected with the scheme. It is necessary perhaps, to say that whenever the county council has any scheme to bring before the House, one very busy borough council seems to do all in its power to circularise the other borough councils, to see whether they cannot coerce the London County Council. Why is that? We have worked harmoniously on the London County Council with all the borough councils with, unfortunately, one exception. I am not going into that question to-night, because it was very fully discussed a twelvemonth ago on the question of reconstructing on the overhead system the tramways of Burdett Road and Grove Road. That is the Alpha and Omega of the trouble. We do not intend to be coerced by the borough council of Stepney. At the same time, the House should clearly understand that we have never had any intention of overriding the veto of the borough councils. We have respected that veto. I have stated in this House and in the county council and elsewhere that I would always do my best to uphold the veto of the borough council. I repeat that to-night. Hon Members are probably not aware of what the position really is. Reference has been made to the Tramways Act, 1900. But we live in hurrying, enterprising days. The point to which the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Lawson) referred was only the question of the veto of the tramways in 1900. It was not a question of trackless trolleys at all. Rightly or wrongly—some Members will perhaps say wrongly now, although they were parties to it—Parliament has decided that trackless trolley vehicles and tramways are totally different in the matter of locomotion. Trackless trolleys are, to all intents and purposes, electrical motor 'buses. Unfortunately in the county council we have had to suffer from the competition of motor 'buses. We are business men, and we have prepared ourselves for competition. Hence our opposition to the Instruction proposed so admirably by the hon. Member for Mile End.

The hon. Member for Lewisham stated that the county council would probably have to pass through a bad time. We have not come here to cry, but we are endeavouring, if possible, to mitigate the evil of having to spend such very large sums on very small lines of tramway. The hon. Member for Central Hackney (Sir A. Spicer) stated that he had been through the thoroughfare where it is proposed to have the trackless trolley. I endeavoured to go through it to-day, and if the hon. Baronet succeeded in getting through he has beaten me into a cocked hat. I went down there particularly to refresh my memory as to what exactly the road was, but I found there was a drop of about two feet in consequence of the road being in a state of reconstruction. I have endeavoured, as I always do in these matters, to make myself thoroughly conversant with the whole of the facts. I am not going to say that it is a hundred-feet road. If it had been we should have been able to construct the tramway, and probably should have done, although I do not say that we should. It would not have been necessary to spend £267,000 on a mile and a quarter of tramway, which is, practically sneaking, the cost of the mile and a quarter in the Hackney Division. We should probably have gone into the pros and cons of the matter, and seen whether it was likely to be a reasonably remunerative undertaking. After all, the county council is not entirely a philanthropic body. It has had £12,160,000 placed under its care, and all members of the council, irrespective of party, have endeavoured to protect that money. If we are going to spend £267,000 on a mile and a quarter of tramway, I do not know that even in these enterprising days whether we could manage to see a return for our money. We have on the one hand the people of Hackney who want a certain means of locomotion, and we have on the other hand the London County Council desirous of having a method of linking up our tramways. My hon. Friend spoke this evening about the linking up. We proposed to Hackney a scheme of linking up. That is the proposition. The hon. Member for Central Hackney rather sneered at the idea of linking up. The whole question is that we have got to link up our system in order to be in a position to carry people from one point in London to another, and if we cannot do it in one way we must endeavour to do it in another. I said that the cost of that would be a very large amount, £267,000. A trackless trolley system would cost £18,350—a very different proposition. The working expenses would practically be the same as running the tramways—


May I ask my hon. Friend whether this is not for a widening of the road which ought to be done in any case?


My hon. Friend thinks that the road ought to be widened under any circumstances. If that be so, surely that cannot be a question for the tramways authority. In this matter the borough councils will see to it that they get their pound of flesh out of the London County Council. Whenever we have any of these schemes they do not come to the county council and say, "We are delighted to see you; we want your trams and you need not trouble to widen the street." What they say to the county council is, "The county council is going to put a tramway down, and we are going to get all we can out of the county council." That is what we have experienced up till now. Perhaps it would not be out of place for me to tell my hon. Friend that during the past few years we have spent over £600,000 in widening and improving the roads. What happened? After we have widened and improved the roads along came a fleet of motor omnibuses and got the whole of the benefit which we had created. We are now only asking to get a little of our own back. We have plenty of motor omnibuses. I have no feeling against the motor omnibus companies, but it must not be forgotten that the motor omnibus companies are allowed to put on as many 'buses as they like, provided that they notify Scotland Yard, and that they can go up and down any street or road, either residential or business, without question. My hon. Friend referred to the question of widening. The tramways are widened for the benefit of other people. We have rendered unto Cæsar the things which were Cæsar's. We have debited the tramway accounts with a fair and equitable proportion of the widening of these roads. Perhaps it would not be out of place if I mentioned—the hon. Member for Lewisham referred to the question of finance—to the House what is the position. The total borrowed on the tramways undertaking was £12,162,000. There has been repaid about £2,250,000, or, roughly, two and a quarter millions, leaving outstanding just under £10,000,000. The debt has been reduced by £2,250,000 by repayment out of revenue. The Committee had met the whole of the charges and the interest, and they have, in addition, set aside two-thirds of a penny per car mile, amounting to £650,000, and the surplus, after that, amounting to about £250,000, they have carried to their General Reserve Fund. I hope, therefore, I have satisfied the House that the County Council, though they have often been called over the coals, have, at all events, shown business capability in the way they have managed that £12,000,000 of the ratepayers' money which has been entrusted to them.

What is the meaning of this Instruction? It is simply this, that if you pass the Bill with this Instruction to-night, you are going to place the Houses of Parliament in a derogatory position to the borough councils. Suppose we bring forward our Bill and get a Second Reading in the ordinary course We go upstairs with the Instruction which is proposed by my hon. Friend. We come before the Committee of the House. There is counsel on both sides. This House subsequently decides to give us powers to construct certain trackless trolleys or to arrange other equipment. The borough councils come along and in consequence of this Instruction say, "We do not mind what Parliament has done." So the local authorities are going to override Parliament. That is the position, and I challenge my hon. Friend or any hon. Member in this House to say that I have overrated the position. I do not want to take away any credit from the borough councils, but I do want to say that Parliament should have this matter placed carefully before it, so that having it so placed the House should be able to consider the whole question and decide, for the trackless trolleys and the tramways stand in a totally different position. A trackless trolley, as the House has been told, does not run on any road. The House has been told that it will stop because there is no current. I have seen broken-down motor omnibuses. I have seen tramcars that have been stopped. We get accidents in all these sort of matters. We need not overrate the difficulties. We ought to look at the matter in a reasonable manner. Even if you pass this without the Instruction the borough councils will be still able to come to this place and state the whole of their case before the House of Commons Committee. If that Committee decides that they have made out their case, then we do not get our powers. But do not check us in this way. Do not let the House of Commons say that the county council shall not come and ask for powers to run certain systems. Hear our case. That is all we ask. We shall be quite prepared, after you have heard our case upstairs, to abide by the decision. We are told on both sides of the House that we want to take away the veto. That is not so. I have endeavoured to place the matter fairly and concisely before the House. I have had something to do with the tramways of the county council. I am not going to sing their praises—or that of other systems! I hope I have made it perfectly plain that I do think it is an unfair position in which to place the county council, that after Parliament has decided that it is not necessary that a veto should be given to the borough councils to prohibit the county council from coming here and asking for certain powers. I would be the last to stand up and vindicate the position that the borough councils ought not to have the same right as other bodies to come here and defend their position in the Committee Room of the House of Commons, where they can be represented by counsel, and where they can—as they do—put their case so fully, clearly, and concisely that we have always had a difficulty to succeed in getting through our County Council Bills. I should like to read one extract from a document circulated by the proprietors of the Associated Omnibuses. It says:— Your petitioning Federation is a body formed for the protection of the rights and the privileges of the owners of the omnibuses running through the Metropolis, and represents practically the whole of the omnibuses working in the Metropolis which at the present time are carrying nearly 1,000,000,000 passengers annually, and which has a large capital and interest at stake paying large sums of money annually in rates. They strongly object to the wide and injurious interference with the roads and streets which the Bill seeks to authorise, and especially to the Clauses and provisions hereinbefore cited; to the proposed tramways and trackless vehicles running along the streets upon which your petitioners have for years supplied an ample system of omnibuses, and your petitioners respectfully submit that these tramways and trolley vehicles will establish an entirely unnecessary and unfair competition with them in carrying on their trade and business. We might say exactly the same. We do not seek to stop ordinary competition. The motor omnibus companies have not had to contribute large amounts towards the maintenance of the roads and towards the improvement of the roads the same as the London County Council has.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)

These rather general questions do not arise upon this Instruction, which deals with the application of the Act of 1900, and not with the general purposes of the Bill.


I do not wish to go outside your ruling, Sir, but I do think it is necessary to show when we have a document placed in our hands by those who are the opponents of our Bill that that is not the position the county council has taken up. We have contributed £500,000 for roads, added to the £650,000 which we paid for the improvement of roads. We do not ask for any favour, we only ask the House of Commons to confirm what it has previously done. The House of Commons has given this matter careful consideration, and it has decided that it was not necessary for the borough councils to have a veto with regard to stopping the county council in asking for powers, and I trust therefore that the Instruction moved by my hon. Friend will be rejected by the House.


I venture to make a suggestion to the House in connection with the private business which still remains upon the Paper to be dealt with. As hon. Members are aware if this discussion goes on until 9.30 the remaining business cannot be taken if opposed. I suppose some hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate have some interest in the other Bill of the London County Council, and I am very much afraid that the private business of the London County Council will be very seriously hampered indeed if these proceedings are carried on at any very great length when there is a great amount of business in a very crowded Session.


The House will have noticed with some interest that among the speakers upon this question tonight only one London Member, the hon. Member who has just sat down, has defended the proposals of the London County Council. He represents a district well served by conduit tramways.


And overhead tramways.


But no trackless vehicles.


I represent a district also well served by the conduit tramway system which has provided most successfully for the people, and which has always given satisfaction. The House will be interested to note that the hon. Member who has just sat down has proved by the figures he placed before the House that the conduit system can be made to pay if fairly treated, and that it would have paid very well if it had not been overburdened with charges for road widening which makes it appear not to be paying anything like as well as it has paid. I on behalf of a borough council support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Mile End. It is desirable, so far as possible that the tramway system of London should be uniform, and that the routes should be linked up. The most effective way of linking up the routes is to have a uniform system. You do not want to carry a passenger half his way and then compel him to alight from one vehicle and to enter another. If that system were satisfactory why do not the county council come for powers to run 'buses, when there would be no need for all this miserable disfigurement and noise just for the purpose of saving the necessary expenditure which would be involved in putting down a proper uniform system. I understand why the London County Council are so very anxious to get powers to carry out this system in spite of the wishes of the local people. They will be enabled thereby to run this service at a comparatively cheap rate through congested streets which need to be widened whether tramways are put down or not. They would be enabled to avoid the immediate widening necessary in order to accommodate the immediate traffic, and they would be enabled to make profits they otherwise would not be able to secure.

Although one of the duties of the tramway authorities is to avoid loss it is not their primary duty to make profits. Their primary duty is to provide such a system as will conveniently and quickly convey passengers from one part of London to another, but not necessarily at a profit. Private companies, of course, run their 'buses for profit and profit only. Their conveniences for the public are such as will attract profit into their own coffers. But the function of the London County Council is quite different. It is to provide a system whereby the people of London can get from one place to another. Their first consideration should be the public service. We have it proved that in spite of all the burdens under which the county council tramway system is labouring it has made very large profits indeed. If you adopt a different system on the new routes you would make them less profitable from the point of view of revenue earning than if you had through routes. It is perfectly certain if passengers have to change from one vehicle to another, they will often change from the county council vehicle to the private vehicle, and the county council tramway will feed the coffers of the private companies running along these routes. I think it is extremely desirable that if this thing is done, it should at least be done with the assent of the people through whose district it runs. I do not agree that the local authorities should override the wishes of the county council. But at the same time there are questions in which the general interest should override the local interest, still I object to this alteration being made upon a side issue. If a change is to be brought about in the relations between the two authorities then it should be done by a general Bill to reorganise the whole administration of London. Believing that not only the local administrators, but the local people living along the routes to be served by the proposed 'buses object to this proposal; believing that I express their views in regard to the disfigurement of their streets and the noise in connection with the overhead system; believing that they will be the sufferers, and that the convenience to be placed at their disposal will not be commensurate with the disabilities under which they will suffer; believing that the conduit system which the Metropolitan authority has laid down will best serve their purposes and that it can in the near future actually be made to pay, although the capital outlay will be greater in the first place, I support strongly the Instruction which has been moved by the hon. Member for Mile End.


I do not propose in the few remarks I am going to make to go into the question of the difference between the London County Council and the borough councils which apparently has been the chief subject of discussion to-night. It seems to me that a wider and a very much more important point had been raised. I gather that if this Instruction is accepted it will, in all human probability, prevent the county council from carrying out a very important experiment which may have a very wide and far-reaching effect upon the problem of transportation. That problem is one of the most important questions which this House will have to consider within the next few years. One of the greatest difficulties which our industries have to contend with at the present time is the whole question of transportation and the means of communication. I understand that the particular system which the county council are now endeavouring to make an experiment with for the carrying of passengers in the London area is one which may develop very greatly in the near future, and which may have a very great effect in relieving congestion. It may also at the same time be an important factor in solving the problem of transportation. I brush aside what has been said about the trackless trolley system, and I suggest to the House that it really is from the broader national point of view better to resist this Instruction and give the county council an opportunity of trying this very important experiment.


The hon. Member who has just spoken does not represent a division in the county of London, and therefore he runs no danger of being called upon to justify to his constituency the fact that he has allowed this Bill to have its Second Reading without passing such an Instruction as that which has been moved by the hon. Member opposite. I think any hon. Member representing a London constituency must feel that this is a very serious matter. The London County Council has inaugurated an admirable system of tramway traction throughout the county of London. The people of London are thoroughly familiar with the conduit system, and they know that their neighbours also have this system of traction in use, which is much to the advantage of all. The inhabitants of every Parliamentary division which has this system appreciate it very much, and those who represent other constituencies which have not this system naturally feel that they ought not to be put off with any other system which is not as good. In this case the London County Council has selected Hackney and Lewisham as the places to make an experiment in a new system which, by common consent, is inferior and perhaps more dangerous than the system which is generally prevalent throughout London. As the representative of a London constituency, I feel that I could not justify myself in the eyes of my Constituents if I allowed this Bill to be passed without supporting the Instruction of my hon. Friend opposite, otherwise it would be possible for this experimental system to be brought into the constituency of Islington to the dismay and consternation of the inhabitants there. May I remind the House of the words of Section 23 of the London County Council Tramways Act of 1900:— This Act shall not authorise the council to place in any parish or district—


That Section has already been quoted several times to the House. No doubt the hon. Member is aware of the fact that we have a Standing Order against repetition, and I ought not to allow that Section to be quoted too often to the House.


As it has been read to the House more than once, I have no wish to repeat it. My suggestion is that the proposed Bill is an infraction of the spirit, if not the letter, of that Section which is already the law of the land. I think the proper method upon which to proceed is to bring in a Bill dealing with the relations between the London County Council and the Metropolitan Borough Council in the matter of tramways, and if such a Bill is brought in I can promise it my impartial consideration. I do not think that the present system of the government of London under which, as in this case, the London County Council promote a Bill and two Metropolitan boroughs oppose it, and under which the ratepayer has to pay for the promotion and the opposition, is one which can be justified at all. I think some scheme for the better government of London might be introduced which would relieve us from such a painful position as we find ourselves in at this moment. I think that any representative of a London constituency, in view of these facts, will find himself bound to vote in favour of this Instruction. If this Bill is passed this year and another year two other constituencies are chosen, it will be impossible after a few years to resist a similar attempt on the part of the London County Council, and the whole of London will suffer from this evil. For these reasons I shall heartily support this Instruction.


I shall be in the fortunate position this evening of voting with hon. Members opposite in support of the Instruction of my hon. Friend. The London Members as a body have always supported the principle that the borough councils should have a voice in the management of their own affairs, and that they should have an opportunity of saying whether they will have the trackless trolley or the underground or the overhead system. The notes that have been sent out by the London County Council seem to me to be rather of a prevaricating character. They say that the question here is not the same as that on the last occasion when a similar Instruction was proposed. The House then, by a large majority, objected to the overhead system because they thought it was unsightly and dangerous. There was a case where a wire or a conductor fell and a horse and, I think, a man were killed. They objected to it on that ground, and it does not in the slightest degree remove the objection because the overhead system is to be applied not to a vehicle running upon lines, but to one running upon the road loose. I say it is a prevarication on the part of the London County Council to say this is not a similar case. It is in effect, because if the Instruction is not passed the overhead system will be allowed. I venture, with all humility, to say that the London County Council are not well advised in continually endeavouring to flout the decision of the House. It is the practice of the London County Council, when they have been defeated in this House, to come again in the following Session and propose the same thing. They ought not to be encouraged, and I shall therefore vote for the Instruction.


The question is really rather one of procedure than of public policy. The hon. Baronet, in accusing the London County Council of prevarication, has alleged that if this Instruction is not carried the trackless trolley system will be carried, but that is not so.


The overhead system. I understand that if I vote for the Instruction the Committee will not have power to sanction the overhead system without the consent of the borough councils, and that is what I want to support. I think the borough councils ought to have the last word.


The Committee upstairs will have perfect power to veto the whole thing.


Yes, but my point is that this House should have the deciding voice and should say to the Committee, "You are not to take into consideration that particular system."


May I inform the hon. Baronet that the House has already decided that matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]


I am not going into the merits of the issue between the county council and the local authorities, and still less between the overhead and the conduit systems. The question is really one of House of Commons procedure. It is a Committee point. The Bill is so framed that the London County Council do not ask for a general power to set up a trolley system anywhere. If they did, there would be some point in the Instruction. It is for routes which are specified in every detail that power to set up the trolley system is asked, and for those routes only.


It establishes the precedent


It will be for the Committee upstairs to settle whether any precedent in the matter is to be set up. There are four routes specified, and the Committee will be free to veto any one or all four of them. Under those circumstances, the Instruction that the local authority shall have power to object seems to me quite inappropriate for dealing with the issue. I am not speaking on behalf of the trolley system as against any other. I merely suggest that the proper course would be to let the Bill go to the Committee and let them veto or approve any one or all four of the routes. The hon. Member would be taking the proper course if this were a Bill giving general power to construct trolley routes, but it gives the county council no such right. The hon. Baronet did not do the London County Council justice in regard to the question which was before the House last year. It is obvious that there are three or four ways of running a tramway, and it was claimed that the local authorities should have the right to say which system should be adopted. But there is only one trackless trolley system. The point here is whether with regard to specified routes the trackless trolley system shall be permitted and to raise the question of overhead wires is a circuitous way of dealing with it. We have had too many cases in which we have threshed out Committee points in this House. I suggest that the House should allow this Bill to go to the Committee before which every one of the local authorities concerned can appear, and ask for the absolute deletion of any part of any Clause or the veto of any one or of all four of the routes. All that is desired by those who object to the trackless trolley system can be achieved in that regular way as opposed to that which I think is the irregular course of passing the Instruction proposed.


I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the remarks to which we have just listened. The argument used by the hon. Gentleman amounts to the old one, that this is a matter which ought to go upstairs, and ought not to be decided by this House. That is a position which I strongly contest in such a matter as setting up a precedent which would tend to destroy the very great boon London has obtained in connection with its tramways—the conduit system. It was open to London to have the overhead system for its tramways, and there were many advocates of that course. The question was carefully considered over and over again, and the system was ultimately rejected by this House. It was always felt that this was a matter on which this House had a perfect right to decide, as every Member has a sufficient knowledge of the facts regarding the two systems to enable him to come to a decision. I have never heard any argument used in support of the county council proposal, which goes to show that a Committee upstairs is better qualified to form an opinion on this subject than any ordinary Member of this House. That opinion

Ordered, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to insert a provision in the Bill making the erection of

has already been declared within the short space of a year, when a proposal similar to this was rejected by a very large majority, and I really cannot help thinking it shows considerable hardihood on the part of the London County Council to come forward, after so short an interval, with exactly the same proposal. I heartily support the Instruction of my hon. Friend.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 119; Noes, 40.

Division No. 89.] AYES. [9.48 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Forster, Henry William O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)
Adamson, William Gilmour, Captain John O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Addison, Dr. C. Glanville, H. J. Parker, James (Halifax)
Agnew, Sir George William Goldstone, Frank Parry, Thomas H.
Arnold, Sydney Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland) Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) Phillips, J. (Longford, S.)
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Barnes, George N. Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Radford, G. H.
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Raffan, Peter Wilson
Black, Arthur W. Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Booth, Frederick Handel Harris, Henry Percy Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Bowerman, Charles W. Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Reddy, M.
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Hayden, John Patrick Redmond, William (Clare, E.)
Boyton, James Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Richardson, Albion (Peckham)
Brady, Patrick Joseph Higham, John Sharp Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Bull, Sir William James Hodge, John Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Burdett-Coutts, W. Holmes, Daniel Turner Robinson, Sidney
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Hudson, Walter Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred John, Edward Thomas Royds, Edmund
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil) Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.
Cautley, Henry Strother Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood) Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Scanlan, Thomas
Chancellor, Henry George Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney) Scott, A. MacCallum, (Glas., Bridgeton)
Clancy, John Joseph Joyce, Michael Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert
Clough, William King, J. Sutton, John E.
Clynes, John R. Levy, Sir Maurice Talbot, Lord Edmund
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Lewis, John Herbert Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Lynch, A. A. Thomas, J. H.
Cotton, William Francis Macpherson, James Ian Verney, Sir Harry
Craik, Sir Henry MacVeagh, Jeremiah Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
Crooks, William M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding) Watt, Henry Anderson
Crumley, Patrick Markham, Sir Arthur Basil White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Marshall, Arthur Harold Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Martin, Joseph Williams, Liewelyn (Carmarthen)
Doris, William Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton) Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley) Newton, Harry Kottingham Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Essex, Sir Walter Richard Norton, Captain Cecil William Wing, Thomas
Falconer, James O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Fell, Arthur O'Doherty, Philip TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Flavin, Michael Joseph O'Grady, James Harry Lawson and Mr. Morison.
Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead) O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)
Acland, Francis Dyke Griffith, Ellis J. Nuttall, Harry
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds) Pringle, William M. R.
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Gulland, John William Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Baird, John Lawrence Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Bridgeman, W. Clive Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Sanders, Robert Arthur
Brunner, John F. L. Hayward, Evan Sanderson, Lancelot
Bryce, J. Annan Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus Shortt, Edward
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Dawes, J. A. Jowett, F. W. Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Kelly, Edward Toulmin, Sir George
Denison-Pender, J. Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Dickinson, W. H. Magnus, Sir Philip
Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Morton, Alpheus Cleophas TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.
Furness, Stephen Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) F. Hall (Dulwich) and Mr. Goldsmith.
Gelder, Sir W. A.

trolley vehicle equipment on, over, under, along, or across any street or road in the county of London subject to the provisions of Section 23 of the London County Tramways (Electrical Power) Act, 1900."