HC Deb 22 July 1914 vol 65 cc591-9

Order for Third Reading read.

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


This Bill raises a question of very great public importance. Although it may, in some ways, be a convenience to the Oxford Corporation, it is in other ways so much to the disadvantage of the public that the House, I feel, would be justified in refusing it a Third Reading. This is a Bill to ratify an agreement between the Oxford Electric Tramways and the Oxford Corporation. My point of objection is that this confers an entirely novel monopoly upon the Tramway Company—that of running an omnibus service for thirty-seven years. It is a very serious matter that the House should ratify an agreement of the kind, and I think we should hear from the Chairman of Ways and Means, who has examined the Bill very carefully, the reasons that he thinks would justify the House in passing such a Bill. I hope that he will give those reasons, and that he will show that this is not to be made in any way a precedent for other Bills. This Bill is objected to by a number of the citizens of Oxford, who would have lodged petitions against it had it not been that the Corporation had themselves lodged a petition against the Bill in its original form, which subsequently they withdrew, and at that date it was too late for any other party to lodge a petition against the Bill.

In that way the Bill became an unopposed Bill. Although technically unopposed, it has aroused very considerable opposition in Oxford, for there are those there who consider that their interests have been handed over to a company for what is perhaps an inadequate consideration, and in any case for too long a period. The company already, by agreement, maintain the surface of the roads over which the tramways pass, the tram surface, and in addition pay £800 yearly to the rates. Under this present agreement they will continue to pay the £800, and they give the Corporation certain control in fixing the time-table and the routes. But they are relieved of a very serious obligation of reconstructing the tramways under conditions which have been made very difficult by changes since the Act of a few years ago. The company, therefore, are getting a very good bargain under this Bill, while the public are being bound for 37 years. I think the House ought to take the position that the Corporation has no right to bind posterity to that extent. It may be said that the citizens of Oxford are responsible for this, because they have elected their Corporation. When they did so, they had no idea that this Bill was going to be brought forward. It has never been before the citizens of Oxford. It has been brought forward as a Company's Bill, not as a Corporation Bill; and therefore there was no opportunity for a poll of the citizens. I feel we shall be acting in the public interest if we refuse to pass the Bill because of the exceptional monopoly that it confers which is to the disadvantage of Oxford, and because it may be a very dangerous precedent for other cities.


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

I shall occupy the time of the House for only a few moments whilst I put a point or two with reference to this Bill. I should myself feel very reluctant indeed to support any movement or Motion that interfered with the freedom of local authorities or their rights to govern themselves. But there are some very exceptional features in connection with this Bill which justify the interference of this House even at this late stage in the history of this Bill. We are asked to read, for the third time tonight, a Bill which is vitally different to that which was read a second time in this House without any opposition, because on the Second Reading of this Bill there was then no reference in it to the agreement which now appears in it. The Bill which we read a second time did not confer upon the Oxford Tramway Company a monopoly of running motor omnibuses for a period of thirty-seven years. That agreement appears for the first time in the Bill on this occasion, when we are asked to read it the third time. I desire very respectfully to submit to the House that this is a question which does not effect the city of Oxford alone, but raises a principle of public policy of the first importance. I desire to remind the House that this provision is contrary to the spirit of similar legislation so passed. I think we should search in vain for any parallel to this Bill, and it is entirely contrary to the spirit of the Police Clauses Act of 1847 and the Public Health Act of 1875, which secured freedom to municipalities from those monopolies by providing that licences should be issued for one year only.

I therefore submit that this proposal in the Bill is contrary to public policy, and I desire to supplement the questions that have been addressed to the Chairman of Ways and Means by asking him if he would be good enough to explain why this provision, granting a monopoly for thirty-seven years, now appears in the Bill for the first time. I think I am also right in saying there has been no opportunity of testing the feelings of the citizens of Oxford in this matter, because the Bill is not the Corporation's Bill and therefore there was no opportunity for a poll being taken. In view of the provision that now appears in the Bill there is a very strong movement of protest at Oxford, led, in part, by some of the most distinguished members of the University, and, in part, by some of the leading citizens in the city of Oxford. I desire, further, the remind the House that when this agreement was being discussed in the Town Council of Oxford a very serious division manifested itself with regard to the wisdom of granting this monopoly. In the division in the council as to whether this monopoly for thirty-seven years should be conferred or whether the monopoly should be granted from year to year only twenty-four members, out of a council numbering sixty, voted for the monopoly and nineteen members voted against the monopoly for thirty-seven years. It is well for us therefore to take note of the fact that this Bill comes to us with the most determined opposition from the city of Oxford, and I feel, in view of the principle of public policy which is raised, that I am justified in moving the rejection of the Bill.


I beg to second the Amendment.


This Bill seems of such a domestic character that it is almost unnecessary that it should occupy very much discussion. The question of tramways in Oxford has been before the Corporation of the city for the last ten years. Various systems have been suggested, but all of them have failed, and at last it is clearly the wish not only of the Corporation but also of the citizens of Oxford that they should have a new form of transit, and that form should be motor omnibuses. The hon. Member for Mid Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse) spoke of the opposition there was to the agreement in this Bill from the city of Oxford. I have the honour of representing the city of Oxford and I am constantly there, and I must say that I have not discovered that there is any very serious opposition to this Bill. Within the last three weeks an expression of opposition has come from Professor Geldart, a distinguished member of the University who is about the only person who has expressed any strong opposition, but even he has no sympathy for the tramway system, and he has signed the petition in favour of the motor omnibuses.

The agreement, so far from being against the interests of Oxford and too much in favour of the Tramways Company, I should say is favourable to the city of Oxford and gives no advantages to the Tramways Company. The agreement in the schedule was drawn up by counsel employed by the City Corporation of Oxford and it was presented to the Tramways Company with a notice that no alteration would be accepted in it. It is favourable to the city which secures adequate payment on the part of the Tramways Company who hand over the tramways free of cost to the Corporation, who will restore the roads. There axe conditions as to routes, fares and stopping places and half rates for labourers going to and from their work. It is true that the agreement is a long one, but considering the obligations and the liabilities of the Tramways Company and the amount of money spent on their part some consideration is due to them in making an agreement such as this, and we are giving them a sufficiently long term to recoup themselves for their large outlay for starting motor omnibuses in the present form. They are paying an adequate price to the city. The scheme was carried by a large majority in the council and it has the consent of a large majority of the ratepayers of Oxford. Professor Geldart, in a report on the agreement between the City Corporation and the Tramways Company, says that the company will not be under any obligation to pay rent or rates in respect of the tramways for the maintenance of the surface of the roads. That certainly is not the case, as the company have undertaken to pay £800 a year, the same payment that they now make.

The agreement provides for a most adequate service of omnibuses along routes in Oxford, many of which do not pay and are not likely to pay to any extent. The agreement prescribes a time-table, settles fares, allows workmen to travel at ½d. per mile, and generally exercises a control over the whole service set up by the promoters. Both the citizens and members of the University are desirous of being rid of the tramways question and of the tramways themselves, and are to-day almost unanimously in favour of a service of motor omnibuses. The rejection of this Bill on Third Heading to-night would mean a considerable loss of money, not only to the company but also to the city of Oxford, and would lead to the introduction of a new Bill next year and put both parties to the agreement to perfectly unnecessary expense. It has been examined by a Committee of this House and it has passed with only a very slight Amendment. It is usual for this House to support its Committees when a Bill comes up for Third Heading, and I hope the practice will be adhered to on this occasion.

The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS (Mr. J. H. Whitley)

I have been appealed to by one or two Members who have spoken, and I do not like the House to proceed to a Division without answering the points, if I may be permitted to do so, which have been put to me. This Bill came before me as Chairman of the Unopposed Bills Committee after a petition had been withdrawn and the City Corporation and the company had come to terms. When the Bill first came before the Committee, we did not like the agreement as it stood, and we made suggestions for an improvement in it in the interests of the Oxford Corporation and the city of Oxford. Both sides agreed that those alterations should be made, and, after the proposals had been carefully examined, the Committee was unanimous in passing the Bill and reporting it to the House for Third Heading. The hon. Member asked me the opinion of the Committee as to the period of thirty-seven years, which I understand is the point to which most objection is taken. That naturally was a point to which the Committee directed its chief attention, and the Committee passed it, for this reason. It is hardly correct to say that anything in the nature of a thirty-seven years' monopoly is imposed by the Bill, for the City Corporation gets a control over the motor omnibus service in their city through this Bill which no other town in the country has at present.

I should like to see a good many other towns in as favourable a position. They have secured powers as to prescribing routes and stopping places, the nature of the cars, time-tables, the times at which cars shall run, and very favourable conditions indeed as regards workmen's cars at half fares. They can also insist on the company covering routes which may not in themselves pay, but which may pay when merged in the system as a whole. Further, the Corporation can terminate this agreement at any time if these conditions are not fulfilled. To those who are in favour of municipalisation I can only say that this is the next best thing to municipalisation that I have ever come across. I may add that when the Oxford Corporation had before it a scheme of municipalisation it was unfortunately thrown out on a poll of the ratepayers by a huge majority. The Committee of this House which examined this Bill was unanimous in its favourable decision upon it, and I think the House will now do well to give it a Third Reading. Reference has been made to the numbers voting in a certain division in the city council itself. On that point I would say it is not for this House to revise an act of local government unless we are convinced that the local governing body has done something flagrantly wrong. We have given them duties to carry out and ought to respect their decisions even if

they are come to by only small majorities, because it is for the people in the minority to convert the majority. I may say further that I think the division the hon. Member referred to was taken on the agreement in its unrevised form and not in the favourable form in which it is now presented to the House.


I should like to ask whether the Oxford Corporation will be entitled to license other motor buses, if application is made, to run within the city boundaries during the term of thirty-seven years?


Not unless these people fail with some of the conditions that have been laid down. When that happens of course the Corporation can.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 233; Noes, 85.

Division No. 198.] AYES. [11.40 p.m.
Acland, Francis Dyke Dalrymple, Viscount Helmsley, Viscount
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy) Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)
Agnew, Sir George William Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Higham, John Sharp
Ainsworth, John Stirling Davies, Timothy (Lincs, Louth) Hill-Wood, Samuel
Amery, L. C. M. S. Davies, Sir W. Hewell (Bristol, S.) Hinds, John
Armitage, Robert Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Holt, Richard Durning
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Devlin, Joseph Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)
Baird, John Lawrence Dowar, Sir J. A. Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)
Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.) Dillon, John Horner, Andrew Long
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Dixon, C. H. Hughes, Spencer Leigh
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Doris, William Hunt, Rowland
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Duke, Henry Edward Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.
Barnston, Harry Du Pre, W. Baring Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs) Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)
Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.) Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)
Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Kellaway, Frederick George
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George) Esslemont, George Birnie Kelly, Edward
Bigland, Alfred Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Kerry, Earl of
Bird, Alfred Field, William Kilbride, Denis
Black, Arthur W. Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)
Booth, Frederick Handel Fitzgibbon, John Lane-Fox, G. R.
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith- Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)
Bowden, G R. Harland Foster, Philip Staveley Levy, Sir Maurice
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) France, Gerald Ashburner Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert
Boyton, James Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)
Brady, Patrick Joseph Gibbs, G. A. Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)
Bridgeman, William Clive Gilmour, Captain John Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)
Brocklehurst, William B. Gladstone, W. G. C. Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)
Brunner, John F. L. Glazebrook, Captain Philip K. Lundon, Thomas
Burn, Colonel C. R. Goldsmith, Frank Lyttelton, Hon. J. C.
Butcher, John George Gretton, John Mackinder, Halford J.
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) Maclean, Donald
Cave, George Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.) Macmaster, Donald
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds) M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)
Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin) Gulland, John William Malcolm, Ian
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Manfield, Harry
Clancy, John Joseph Hackett, John Markham, Sir Arthur Basil
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham) Marks, Sir George Croydon
Clough, William Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Marshall, Arthur Harold
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Mason, James F. (Windsor)
Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth) Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Meagher, Michael
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Meysey-Thompson, E. C.
Courthope, George Loyd Harris, Leverton (Worcester, East) Molloy, Michael
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)
Craik, Sir Henry Healy, Maurice (Cork) Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Crean, Eugene Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.) Mount, William Arthur
Crumley, Patrick Helme, Sir Norval Watson Muldoon, John
Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Tobin, Alfred Aspinall
Murphy, Martin J. Redmond, William (Clare, E.) Touche, George Alexander
Needham, Christopher T. Rendall, Athelstan Tryon, George Clement
Neville, Reginald J. N. Richardson, Albion (Peckham) Tullibardine, Marquess of
Newdegate, F. A. Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs) Verney, Sir Harry
Newton, Harry Kottingham Robertson, John M. (Tyneside) Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)
Nield, Herbert Robinson, Sidney Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Nolan, Joseph Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Roe, Sir Thomas Watson, Hon. W.
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Ronaldshay, Earl of Webb, H.
O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Royds, Edmund White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)
O'Malley, William Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Whitley, Rt. Hon. J. H.
O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid) Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W. Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)
Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A. Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen) Wiles, Thomas
O'Sullivan, Timothy Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N. W.)
Paget, Almeric Hugh Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth) Williams, Penry (Middlesborough)
Palmer, Godfrey Mark Sanders, Robert Arthur Wills, Sir Gilbert
Parry, Thomas H. Sherwell, Arthur James Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E. R.)
Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) Shortt, Edward Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Perkins, Walter F. Smith, Harold (Warrington) Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)
Peto, Basil Edward Spear, Sir John Ward Winfrey, Sir Richard
Pirie, Duncan V. Stanier, Beville Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Pollock, Ernest Murray Stanley, Major Hon. G. F. (Preston) Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Pratt, J. W. Starkey, John R. Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Pretyman, Ernest George Staveley-Hill, Henry Worthington Evans, L.
Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Stewart, Gershom Yate, Colonel Charles Edward
Primrose, Hon. Neil James Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West) Yeo, Alfred William
Pryce-James, Colonel E. Talbot, Lord Edmund
Raffan, Peter Wilson Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Viscount
Ratcliff, R. F. Thomas-Stanford, Charles Valentia and Mr. Fiennes.
Reddy, Michael
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Hayden, John Patrick Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)
Adamson, William Hayward, Evan Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Hodge, John Rowlands, James
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Hogge, James Myles Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Barnes, George N. Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Beck, Arthur Cecil Hudson, Walter Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.
Boland, John Pius Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Sheehy, David
Bowerman, Charles W. Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook
Bryce, J. Annan Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe) Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Jowett, Frederick William Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Joyce, Michael Sutton, John E.
Chancellor, Henry George Kenyon, Barnet Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Chapple, Dr. William Alien King, Joseph Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Clynes, John R. Lynch, Arthur Alfred Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Crooks, William Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Toulmin, Sir George
Cullinan, John MacVeagh, Jeremiah Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
Dawes, James Arthur Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Delany, William Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix) Watt, Henry A.
Duffy, William J. Millar, James Duncan Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley) Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Elverston, Sir Harold Nuttall, Harry White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Ffrench, Peter O'Doherty, Philip Wilkie, Alexander
Flavin, Michael Joseph O'Donnell, Thomas Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Gelder, Sir W. A. O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Wing, Thomas Edward
Glanville, Harold James O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Goldstone, Frank Parker, James (Halifax)
Hancock, John George Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.
Hardie, J. Keir Radford, G. H. Whitehouse and Mr. C. Duncan.
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)

Question put, and agreed to.