§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Sir WALTER ESSEX
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 sincerely hope that it will not be thought, in the action I am now takings, that I have any other motive than that which will appear from what I have to say in regard to the Bill now before the House. I claim to state that I have no interest in this company, and that I simply want to show the facts, so far as I know them to be the facts, which make it seem to me to be undesirable that the company should be allowed to proceed with this work. In the first place, I would like to remark that this Bill must be taken, for all practical purposes, to be the Bill of one railway company. I know it will be said by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Hallam Division (Mr. Stuart-Wortley), who, I understand, is to speak in support of this Bill, that the measure declares, as to one portion of it, that it relates to the South-Eastern Railway Company, and that, as to another, it relates to the Chatham and Dover Railway Company; but the Bill itself shows clearly that the burden of support is laid upon both these companies, and I would suggest to those who care to do so to read Clause 19 of the Bill, and, inasmuch as the managing committee, which is mentioned, controls practically the whole operations of these two companies, I think the public will be found to consider that, for all practical purposes, they are one company. The Bill itself, within its provisions, asks for financial powers and powers to construct. With regard to the financial proposals, which merely seek to empower the companies to raise the rate of interest to be paid hereafter upon money raised on debentures, I do not say anything to-night. The other portion of the Bill to which I more especially wish to direct my remarks has reference to some alterations which the company propose to make that will very seriously affect the convenience of London, and also go very far to add to the ugliness of the structure which is now 1285 under consideration. Those powers are asked for on the plea that they are urgently necessary, and yet it is agreed by the promoters that nothing shall be done for one year after the termination of the present War.
I would like to remind the House that this, also, must be borne in mind with regard to the terms of the Bill, that they empower the railway company to take four years over this work from the time they commence it, or seven years from the date of the passing of the Act, if they obtain it, and that the lesser of these two terms will be the term which will have to be added to the year after the War, whenever that may be, and necessarily during that period there will be the nuisance of an obstruction of the river and roadways. If I were compelled to confine my remarks to a single quotation—much as I know the House objects to quotations—I would take one from a speech delivered in May, 1892, by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was then a Minister holding office under Lord Salisbury's Premiership. He was replying to the toast of "His Majesty's Ministers," at the Royal Academy annual banquet. He made one of those fascinating speeches which we all associate with his efforts in public, and, in the course of it, he made these very significant, and, for my purpose to-night, pertinent remarks. He said:There is, however, one department of our activities in which I have often thought, and in which I am still disposed to think, Parliament might do something towards preserving us from the outrages on the public taste of which we are now the helpless and powerless victims. It is in the knowledge of every Member of Parliament here present, probably of every one now listening to me, that before compulsory powers are taken for any great public purpose the opinion of Committees of both Houses of Parliament have to be taken, and that before these Committees the particular projects and designs are most carefully thrashed out and are judicially decided upon. It seems almost incredible, but it is nevertheless the fact, that while before such Committees any individual who thinks himself aggrieved by the project has the right to appear, and has the right to have his case heard and have justice done to him, the public, who are as much interested as any private individual in the beauty of our great cities, are not represented and cannot be represented with regard to matters which interest them most closely.I never walk along the Thames Embankment and study the proportions of Charing Cross Railway Station, and the bridge which is appended thereto, without feeling how monstrous it is that such things should be allowed, and that there should be no power of dealing with them, that no one should have the power to come before the Committee which sanctions them, or have any locus standi in the matter at all. Careful as we are, and rightly careful, to safeguard the interests of every individual whose commercial position or whose personal convenience may even in the slightest degree be imperilled by these great works of public convenience, the great public, whose property such a site as the Thames Embankment undoubtedly 1286 is, has no locus standi before such a Committee, and cannot make its voice heard, and cannot have that decision modified in conformity with the dictates of sound reason and aesthetic taste.These words which I have read are the key to the objection which I bring against the proposal now before the House. Will it be believed that in a Committee dealing with this Bill in another place the only public authority which was represented there by legal right was the authority which has to deal with the unemotional and unimaginative barge and tug traffic! I am not going to turn aside from my path, except to say that I think that authority is doing work of very real importance and that there was justification for its presence. I only wish to point to the fact that the Government of our Imperial City is so split up and the responsible authorities have such limits put to their functions, which are so clearly separated, that nothing can be actually done or proposed to be done to the property of any other body, and, except what is controlled and looked after by the Port of London Authority, none of these other bodies, whatever they may be, and who as a whole are concerned in the amenities of London and with transport over the whole of its great area, could be called by right before the Committee. Let me here say that there was an Instruction passed by the Upper House that some interview should be given and some evidence taken on the part of certain public bodies, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Academy, and there was a representative from the London County Council, and all these bodies, as far as evidence was given by them and were permitted to be present, were adverse to this scheme, and they suggested for the consideration of the people of London a higher and a nobler idea. I might say in passing that they were of opinion that the time has come for doing away with this great excrescence by which this railway is hopelessly cramped and hindered in the full discharge of its duties to the public and by the limitations of the site on which the station is placed—limitations which might be avoided by a transference over the river at this particular point. I am sure there is no desire on the part of anybody whatever to lay upon this railway company or railway committee any unnecessary burdens, but we feel thoroughly confident that a very much larger and a wholly adequate site can be found on the other side of the Thames for this railway station, 1287 and the town or the city would be liberated from the presence of it any longer. May I remind the House, and I doubt if most of us Members are aware of it, that in Charing Cross Station and Bridge there is one unique character, and that is that the bridge and station in a sense are one. Perhaps the ironical remark of the First Lord of the Admiralty had that in mind when he spoke of the appending of the station to the bridge. The bridge is part of the station. Trains use it as a lay by, and as you go up or down Northumberland Avenue you may see that this is so, and the necessary crossovers for the terminus are also a large part of the bridge.
I should like briefly to set before the House, for it is not within the memory of everybody here probably, what is the history of this undertaking. In the year 1859 one of the railways now merged in this joint railway company obtained powers to build across the river, and purchased the site of the Hungerford Market and the bridge leading thereto, which still remains in the memory of some of us older residents as Hungerford Bridge. Part of that bridge was removed, and now stands on the Avon, near Bristol. The chains, piers and a number of other things were taken away; but in the case of the great brick piers which supported the superstructure of the bridge, and carried chains therefrom —with an economy wholly unrelated to artistic considerations—the engineer of the railway company retained. One of them stands on the southern side in the river and the other upon the Embankment; and it is this mongrel contraption of partly old work and partly work not more than sixty years old that it is proposed to tinker with under the inadequate proposals of this Bill. The alterations proposed are to take this older portion of the bridge and to place between a number of the older vertical columns which support the transverse girders of the bridge, great blocks of masonry or brickwork, I am not quite sure which. In the evidence it was spoken of as "masonry," but whether it be masonry, brickwork or concrete these blocks are to jut out some fourteen feet. It was given in evidence that this would seriously curtail the fair way under the bridge for the purpose of navigation, more especially as the bridge spans the Thames in a bend of the river, and barges and craft find themselves approaching it making its passage at an angle which goes far to 1288 destroy all the width that might remain. Then, for some reason, which I have no doubt will be eloquently set forth later on, there is to be added to the superstructure and all those piers and blocks of masonry or concrete what are called cantilevers which were not to be linked up. That really became too much for the Port of London Authority, and they said, "Really you must link those up and make them like arches." Therefore, there is an agreement entered into that they are to be made to look like arches, although structurally they are not to be actually arches, but cantilevers. I do not canvass the adequacy of these provisions to carry any loads that it is desired they should carry.
I notice that one counsel in the House of Lords against the Bill (Mr. Talbot) said that, owing to the fact of these arches or mock arches or cantilevers, or whatever we call them, springing outward from the piers, they necessarily at certain levels of the tide, more nearly approaching high tide, curtailed the fairway, because vessels passing could not get so near to those blocks of masonry. Therefore, he reckoned, and it was not denied, that the width of the openings would be by that means reduced from 154 feet, as at present, to 98 ft. 6 in. The House will remember I pointed out that the bridge stands upon a bend of the river, and is, therefore, approached very frequently obliquely at present, and the navigator can see between the columns, so if these are blocked up, then by so much is the view obstructed. I do not lay undue stress upon it, but, at any rate, his facilities of navigation are hampered. Powers were obtained in 1859, and the bridge came into complete being in 1862. In 1882 powers were obtained, and this bridge was widened, and they kept as carefully as they could to the then existing plans. In the year 1900 they obtained powers from Parliament for building a new and larger station, to include the present site of Charing Cross, and to build a new bridge. That Act has never been operative. Its term expired, but has been renewed by favour of this House for some unaccountable reason. Am I uncharitable in suggesting that we should possibly not have heard anything of this proposal to-night were it not for the fact that that Act expires again next month.
In 1905 the roof of the station building fell in, and then we are told by advocates of the railway company that they thought it was time to look at the bridge. They 1289 had this Act, of which I have just spoken, for five years and had done nothing; but when this ugly barrel-topped railway station roof collapsed, owing to faulty construction, they then thought that possibly there might be trouble elsewhere, and they went over the bridge. They came to the conclusion that the bridge ought to be strengthened. They did not come to the conclusion that there was any danger in the bridge. They do not seem to have that opinion now, and I do not suggest it either. What they did say was, that it would be better strengthened. They had power five years old; they had no expense to incur in coming to this House; and they could have gone on with the work, and given us something respectable. They did nothing of the kind. They did nothing in spite of looking at this bridge, and possibly looking at the bridge was a disturbing thing for them. At any rate, it took them another eleven years—that is to the present year to wit—before anything was done, and then this Bill comes under consideration to-night. The companies think, or urge, that if the passage of this Bill is refused by the House there will be very considerable damage and hardship laid upon them. Is that so? There are many of us who are looking forward to the building of the Channel Tunnel and to an enormous increase of traffic between our splendid Allies and ourselves.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
That is our opinion now, whatever some of us may have thought in past years, and public opinion, I believe, is veering round rapidly to the desirability of that proposal.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
There is, at any rate, one man fond of the sea; and good sailors like my right hon. Friend and myself would rather always go by sea.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
Then the right hon. Baronet will not go either by tunnel or by sea. Be that as it may—and I am sorry to have introduced a note of difference in the matter—it will probably come to pass, and we say that nothing, not even the exercise of the 1900 powers, will in all probability allow adequate accommodation at Charing Cross Station for the 1290 traffic that will then flow in. One of the great claims or appeals made by the railway company in asking for this Bill is that they must consider the position of their passengers. That has already been done for them. I propose to quote some figures from the Traffic Commission Report of some years ago, and if those figures have increased, I think it will be found rather more in favour of my contention than, against. I quote from the Traffic Commission Report, Volume XXX., of 26th June, 1905, which states that at that time, these railways carried no fewer than, roughly. 53,750,000 people, including ordinary and season ticket holders, in the course of the year, but not all over this bridge. Does the House not remember that this singularly favoured railway has no fewer than six important stations in the London area north of the Thames, and if this House wished to do a strong disservice to some railway operating or bringing its terminus into London, there is no railway on which a disadvantage could be laid with less damage than this particular railway? They have six stations, and in five of them they carry of the 53,000,000 of passengers over 43,500,000, and they carry 10,000,000 at this station in question. The railway companies say that they wish still to take that one-fifth of their London traffic to Charing Cross. Our answer is that if it is clearly to the interests of the public that you should give them a more suitable station for the south side of London, surely it would not be a worse advantage to you for your Continental traffic than the London and South-Western have; for instance, they carry 31,000,000 at Waterloo only, and that traffic is carried on without hurt or trouble. No approach to disturbance or anything of that kind has accompanied any movement of that railway on the south side. It has, indeed, been an enormous advantage to have the whole of its London operations practically upon one area, and it is so manageable and economical a position for a station that the company have expended an immense amount of money in enlarging it. In regard to that enterprising line, it draws its customers not merely from London and the Continent, but from the ends of the earth. The South-Eastern and Chatham terminus might be made more acceptable to the public and to London if it were near Waterloo Station, and an enormous advantage would then be given to the whole of our foreign visitors. Again, it is known that in the course of a year or two one of the two stations 1291 belonging to the appellant company has been enormously enlarged—Victoria Station—
§ Sir W. ESSEX
I am not speaking of the Brighton Railway, but of the Chatham and Dover Railway. If it is in dispute I would let that pass and you may consider as not said whatever has been said. You can see what has been done at the Chatham and Dover Station at Victoria, and you can satisfy yourself whether that station was adequate so far as any uproar or outcry came from the public. During the operation the whole of the South-Eastern and the Chatham Railways traffic was carried on through other stations than Charing Cross. After the roof fell in for two and a half months the station was closed to all kinds of trains, and for six months no foreign passengers entered the station. Another point is this: We have noticed of late that there is a steady closing, many persons think a needless closing I have no doubt, of suburban and South London Stations. The South-Eastern Railway has been closing its stations. It was given in evidence that the aggregations of trams and motor' buses had enormously affected the carrying of numbers of London people, and arguments were used that the working classes should have more means of conveyance in London, and mere easy access to London, and that some of these important railways were forgetting the enormous increase in the surburban traffic of South London within a radius of Charing Cross. We have here the Charing Cross Station, and the stations of the Tube Railway, which all radiate from that point, so that if only on that account alone, and apart from the question of the bridge, it would really give a decided advantage to this company. I have got another point, which is, that the proposals are to worsen the bridge from an artistic standpoint, though that may seem difficult. It may give rise to a stare of incredulity when I express that view, but I can only say that this curious conglomerate contraption does deserve what Mr. Aston Webb said when he described it as a monstrosity.
Coming to the final part of the plea which I wish to make to the House, I would like to say that there is no part of a city wherein more work could be done for the improvement of its beauty, or the 1292 destruction of it, than upon the noble river which serves it. Our city has not merely a river whose hi story is great and striking, but it is a river which, in its proportion, is truly noble, and we have had a perception of that in our blundering, inartistic way, I believe, for many, many years. Of late years we have become still more rapidly conscious of it, and as I look back over what remains to me of my memory of sixty years I have found an increasing and still more rapidly increasing source of satisfaction and pleasure in the increasing beauty of my native town, which is fast becoming one of the most glorious of European capitals. If we could only get small things of this kind brushed aside and give our capital a chance to move, not merely along the lines of utility but also of beauty, which are two things which, rightly interpreted, should always run together, we should still be more proud of it. This question is not a question to be settled solely by the word of the tugmasters or barge pilots who go through this bridge. These good sailors, like all men who earn their living upon the water, are never going to say they cannot do anything or perform any task they are asked. I do not make too much of the question of navigation of the river. I think some people may be inclined to overstate that difficulty, but I may point out that an inquiry by a Committee was gone into as to how the traffic of London was to be carried on more conveniently. There were Traffic Committee and Police Reports. These Reports showed that from the Strand to Parliament Street the traffic was blocked, choked and congested, and a gentleman who was lately a Member of this House (Sir William Lever), gave figures to show that the difficulties of carrying goods through London made it the most expensive traffic area which he had known, not only at home but abroad. You have added to that congestion. You have made Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road to bring the traffic nearer to the scene and so added to the congestion. Supposing anyone wants to go from the high-level bridge at Waterloo to the low-level bridge at Westminster, he has to go some seven furlongs in order to get to Parliament Street, and if you want to foot it along the Embankment you have to walk five and a half furlongs. There is no equal distance between the bridges in the whole of the rest of London, and this is the very eye and 1293 centre and focus of the City, and the place which our visitors see first and I think most. We have spent millions upon this part of London within the last few years. Let us start from where this bridge is now standing. We are spending a large amount on the great London County Hall. What would the man in Paris think of the County Hall being where ours now is? We are putting ourselves to enormous cost in the erection of this building, which will house 2,700 officials of one sort and another, so gigantic is the place to be. All that involves crowds of people on the Surrey side.
You go over this bridge and you come to the place not far away where we have this splendid Millbank improvement. There we have spent over a million and the work is not yet completed. Then there is the Broad Sanctuary, with the Middlesex County Hall, and other buildings. As we go along Whitehall and Parliament Street we see, with the exception of one office which I will not specify, that we have put up some of the finest buildings in London which will be a credit to any city and of which Englishmen may be proud in the face of the competition of other cities. We have built Shaftesbury Avenue and we have built and have nearly completed the Mall improvement. Start at Buckingham Palace and go along the Mall and through King Edward's Arch and you come into Northumberland Avenue, and you pass along this procession of London enterprise, and then you come up against this particular structure, which even its owners declare to be an ugly cripple, on which, to provide splints and bandages, £167,000 is to be spent. If these improvements are needed and urgent, let them be rushed; but, if they cannot be completed for six years, why should we pass this scheme? I do say, and I hope I am not uncharitable, that this Bill is due to' the determination of the expiring powers of the 1900 Act. Even if they are to be carried out, while I feel that must be the reason, I say this is not the way we should do these repairs. I point to the reasons which were brought forward by experts like Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, the late chief engineer of the London County Council, and other witnesses equally eminent who were versed in bridge building. They stated that these repairs, ugly as they are and however dexterously they were done, might be carried out at less than half of the cost for the railway company, and that they might have been done better. That was the irresistible case 1294 of these gentlemen. It might have been done at half the cost to the company if they had been content to wait for a longer period than they did when the roof fell, and had been content to shut up and do without the station for ten or twelve months. The whole thing might have been done on a proper foundation.
I think we ought on these occasions to take the opportunity of rearranging the traffic boundaries and arteries in London, and any addition now made to the bridge will be made an excuse for further expenditure when that has to be done. I believe also an application is to be made to renew the powers of the Act of 1900 and to retain the station. If that is so, we are up against another difficulty. Bit by bit this eyesore has been riveted upon London, and it has been an eyesore for many years. The other day one of the very handsome Members of this House came here in uniform, and we respectfully heard him declare that he had a Message from the King. He came to tell us that the Prayer or Resolution, moved by the Prime Minister at that box, that the House desired His Majesty to sanction the erection of a Memorial to the late Lord Kitchener, had been granted, and that His Majesty looked to this House to find the ways and means. Sir, these are epoch-making days, and history, is being written in great pages. I wonder whether we shall fitly mark our appreciation of what is being done by us and for us in these vivid stirring hours? I cannot tell, but I carry my mind back to what our fathers did in a period not less fraught with peril to the State, and I look to the grey, dignified lines of old Waterloo Bridge, and. just above it, beyond this abomination at Charing Cross i carry my eye forward to Trafalgar Square and Nelson's deathless story comes up, and I am wondering whether our people nowhere upon this spot, so eminently and obviously suited to a memorial of this great period, will rise to the occasion and will understand what an Empire in arms means, and will erect here an Empire Bridge, a bridge that will be not merely a convenience, not merely a thing of utility, but a thing which will add gloriously to the beauty and dignity of our Empire City— something that might be a memorial of Lord Kitchener and his millions of men to our children who will come afterwards, and be to them a tribute to the Empire's victorious legions, and also a memorial of our heroic and sainted dead.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I have been asked—though I am not either a director or a shareholder of this company, for, as the. House will remember, there is no director of the company in this House— to state the needs which lead to the Second Heading of this Bill and the case in favour of the promoters. I do not myself find much to disagree from in the speech of the hon. Gentleman, and I find much to sympathise with in his speech. He says that the bridge is very ugly. He says that he does not quite see that it is possible to make it much uglier. [An Hox. MBMBEB: "Yes!"] Therefore, perhaps the main statement in his speech, that this is going to make the bridge uglier, is perhaps the only statement I am concerned to deny, or need to deny, on the ground of its impossibility. Let the House reflect as to the sort of question to which it usually addresses itself on the Second Reading of a private Bill. The hon. Member forgets that it has been sworn to that this bridge is dangerous. The case, of course, here is to deny that assertion. If so, it is going to be sworn to again. How can the House then choose between such asseveration and such contradiction except by applying the usual tests by which such statements, such asseverations, are usually measured and weighed?
This is a Bill which is made necessary by the weakness and insufficiency of the bridge. It finds its occasion in the traffic needs and the passengers' safety. In a passage of the hon. Gentleman's speech, which I did not notice was supported by any great proof, he committed himself to the statement that the bridge was not dangerous. How is the House to choose between an affirmation of that kind and the witnesses who are the only people who can speak for the company? I submit that this House would enter upon the most dangerous ground if it were to attempt, in the extremely limited time we have now, and in the extremely unsatisfactory conditions under which we can consider such a question, to go into highly technical and private matters which alone can decide whether that most important statement is or is not true. It can be proved, and will if necessary be proved, by competent authorities that the present state of this bridge has had the effect of 1296 placing its user under restrictions which deprives it of over 50 per cent, of its traffic value. When I speak of its traffic value, I mean its power of carrying the passengers over it. Although no doubt I shall be told that this particular value of 50 per cent, is a loss of gain only to the company's shareholders, I may remind the House it is also a loss of the facilities and the conveniences of which the working population and the large population of what are familiarly "daily breaders" go backwards and forwards to and from the Surrey side during the-course of the year. The hon. Member has spoken as if all these passengers went over this bridge and used the station to-suit the convenience of the railway company. The House must remember that they go there of their own choice, and that they are there in tremendous numbers is itself standing proof of the necessity for the present station, that is to say, the bridge by which it can alone be approached.
Figures were quoted by the hon. Member from the report of the Traffic-Commission of 1905. My information is that since that date, and up to the time of the War, the number of passengers carried in the course of that year rose from 10,000,000 to 13,000,000, and just before the War, I am told, that of those 13,000,000 no less than 6,000,000 were those who used workmen's tickets. The hon. Member says this is a Bill which makes impossible the execution of a better scheme. There is no doubt that this Bill is connected with the question of the-possible making of a new station on the South side in substitution for this present railway bridge, and something much better in the way of a road bridge, with convenient side walks for passengers. The alternative proposals have been, made, occupy the public mind, and have great attractions for the public. Will it surprise the hon. Member to hear that this scheme has great attractions for me? He is not the only depository of our artistic tastes in this House. For myself, many years ago when I was a young man, I considered myself quite an aesthetic, almost a decadent; and may I perhaps hint at the faculties in connection with this matter which it has always been my joy to cultivate? I do not see that this-Bill interferes at all with that scheme. The case of the South Eastern Company-is that this Bill makes the minimum of 1297 interference with the possibility, if not that the alternative scheme in the fullness of time may become possible, that, at all events, it shall not be impossible. Although the company has unexpired powers to spend £750,000 upon widening the bridge, it is, in its moderation, going to limit itself to the much more modest proposal before the House, and to spend only £170,000 upon the necessary strengthening, which, it is advised, is the least that will suffice for the carrying of the traffic I have mentioned, and which the people who use this bridge and station show they prefer to make their means of going to and from their work.
It is true, it is possible, that this proposal might be connected with the Surrey side scheme in two ways: it might raise the main question by blocking that scheme in such a way as to make it impossible to go forward; on the other hand, it might raise the only questions we say it does by proposing to do no more than providing the minimum safety and accommodation required—to make the smallest possible interference with its safety compatible with the status quo. The Bill does not raise that main question of the Surrey side station. Anyone who looks at this Bill with a view to supporting it will have an interest in, or rather be much attracted by the possibilities which the Surrey station scheme presents. What this Bill does, and the issue this Bill raises, is—its main allegation is—that it leaves feeling entirely free to the alternative. In other words, its object and intention is to preserve as far as possible the status quo. The hon. Member and his supporters may say that that is the intention of the Bill: "We do not believe in the intention." They may continue that, even if it is the intention, it is not going to be given effect to. What is the effect of this Bill I This Bill proposes no widening of the bridge, although the company has powers to widen it; it only proposes to strengthen it. It gives a pledge against any widening; or rather, in some shape or form, such a pledge has been given that there shall be no widening of the bridge for twenty years. It proposes to spend only the modest sum which I mentioned. The questions thus raised are two: Are these things required in the interests either of the safety or of the public convenience of the traffic? The second question is: Do these measures sufficiently save the alternative scheme and 1298 do they sufficiently preserve the status quo? The proof of that is, and can only be, a matter of complicated and largely technical detail. It is a matter of bending and tensile strains which, fond of art as we are, we cannot get rid of, and we must face. It is a matter of weights and locomotives, as modern as the traffic requires they should be. It is a matter of axle-loads and things called line-loads, the meaning of which I confess I do not understand. There is the question of the present restrictions on traffic, and the necessity for them. There is the question of the further probability of restrictions upon traffic—that is, upon the traffic required by these 15,000,000 to which I have referred if the bridge be not strengthened. It is a question of the traffic needs-of the whole of that population, of the population of London, as it was before the War, which finds itself living on the south side and finds its occupation upon the other side of the bridge. There is the-probable increase, too, after the War. All matters of this sort are not exactly those to be settled by Debates upon Second Beading. It is a matter of engineering stresses and bridge structures, and last but not least it is a matter for the adequacy and the estimates p resented of the probable cost of these alterations.
I respectfully submit to this House that these are matters which must be proved or disproved, and can be proved or disproved only, and not by asseverations-and contradictions in Debates which may be honestly believed in, but nevertheless-may be perfectly well disproved. My own allegations may be based upon wrong information. How are these differences in matters of fact to be possibly settled I We say, rather on the other hand we state, that they should be, as they always are, settled according to the best precedents and action of this House; that they should be tested and should be founded upon statements of first-hand knowledge by skilled observers, made upon oath, and tested by cross-examination. I will not detain the House longer. Really there is nothing more to be said, except that I am concerned to deny the statement of the hon. Member that this work must inevitably take six years. That is not my information. That is another fact which cannot be settled by debate.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
Surely the hon. Member knows that a Bill of this kind has to take some maximum limit of powers in order that those concerned may not find themselves in the middle of their work with expired powers. There the Bill is. It is an ordinary Second Reading case. I submit it is not an extraordinary case, different from other Second Reading cases, and I respectfully ask the House to say that our intention is, and if you give us a chance to prove it we will, that the effect of this Bill will be to leave entirely unprejudiced the case for the alternative and better scheme of beautifying London, to give that better position both to the railway station and the bridge. The Bill pays due respect to the London, and Port, and County Authorities, and preserves unhindered freedom for the proper and natural aspirations of Londoners, and the ever-increasing importance of beautifying this great City which is their present abode. Even the eloquence of the hon. Member has not succeeded in showing that this is going to be in the slightest degree permanently-impaired by this Bill.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BURNS
In any other city but London, and in any other country but England, if a project similar to that which is embodied in this Bill had been submitted to Parliament, we should have had the guidance of some simple department, whose duty and responsibility it would have been to guide the House of Commons in a decision upon this important matter. Notwithstanding the admirable speech made by the hon. Member for Stafford (Sir W. Essex), as a London Member I ask permission of the House to supplement what he has so ably and pertinently said by one or two observations that I intend to make directed against this Bill. If we had had, as in Germany, Prance, Austria, or Belgium, a Minister of Arts or an Office of Works in whom was vested the power of guiding Parliament in these matters, I venture to say that this Bill would never have passed the Examiners to a First or a Second Reading. The reason I say this is that we have no such central department, I am sorry to say, that can take a hilltop view of these matters, and adjust any difference there may be between, say, the county council on the one side and the railway on the other. But what bodies we have who have spoken upon this subject agree with 1300 the hon. Member for Stafford that this Bill ought to be opposed and rejected, because in the absence of a central department we find that practically all the architectural professions, the Royal Academy, the London County Council, and other bodies are against this Bill. Public opinion, as expressed by both daily and weekly newspapers, has found no argument in support of this particular measure, and I am glad to say that the Office of Works, who, like myself, regret there is not a central department with the powers that would destroy a Bill like this, very sensibly and kindly allowed its chief permanent official to give evidence within the House of Lords, reference enabling such a person to give evidence, and the Office of Works through its permanent official was against this Bill. One of the members of the Committee of the House of Lords itself, Lord Grimthorpe, said, "I think we would all like to abolish the bridge if we could."
When we have those expressions of opinion, endorsed as they have been by a railway director, not of this company, who has just spoken, in the way he has spoken, not for, but, in my judgment, against this Bill, when we have a railway director who admits frankly that the bridge is very ugly, and it is not possible to make it uglier, with that view I go seven-eighths of the way. It is possible to make it uglier, and that is by erecting the bogus spandrel which this Bill suggests as the medium of temporary repair. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last said the bridge has been sworn to be dangerous, and he urged that as a reason for supporting the Bill, but in the opinion of the engineer of the company and of the directors of this particular railway, the bridge is not so dangerous as to be so urgently in need of repair, and what repair this Bill proposes to give it is to be undertaken a year after the termination of this War. So it is pretty evident that this bridge is not going to fall down next week, next month, or next year, and the hon Member for Stafford was well within his rights when he said that if this bridge is not to be touched until a year after the War, and they work up, as they most probably will, in my judgment, to the six years that are asked for in this Bill, the reason for urgency, on the railway company's own showing, is in no sense proved by the last speech, which 1301 we are supposed to believe was sympathetic towards this particular project. The right hon. Gentleman said that he himself was in favour of a better scheme.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
No, no! I said I am favour of an ultimate substitution—at least, I am attracted by the idea of an ultimate substitution—of what is known as the Surrey-side scheme.
§ Mr. BURNS
The right hon. Gentleman said that the ultimate substitution of the Surrey-side scheme has great attraction for him. He said once he himself was aesthetic. I am sorry to say we have but a remnant of his former æstheticism to-night. Perhaps railway connection has chilled the marrow of his artistic soul. He has an opportunity of getting back to his early ideals, his early æstheticism, in taking part in killing this Bill, because I can assure him that if this Bill is passed, and the £167,000 is to be spent in repairing in an uglier way than the present bridge itself, to the detriment of the navigation of the River Thames, the railway company, strengthened in their intention to maintain their present station and their present bridge, will come up, as inevitably they will be compelled, for another similar proposal to repair the other half, and, having spent in all £350,000, as they will have done, they will say, "We are anchored here by virtue of the money we have spent, and we therefore ask the public to allow us to remain." If this Bill is carried, great injustice will be done to London, and, what is more, I believe the company, by having this Bill carried, and the conditions imposed upon them, will themselves be in a position in -which some day they will regret that they did not take the bigger, the wiser, and the permanently economical view, and use this as an opportunity of transferring their station to the Surrey side, which the right hon. Gentleman himself is in favour of seeing carried out. The interval from now until the War terminates, and a year after the War terminates, should be used in a more excellent way than this Bill proposes.
I suggest that if this Bill is suspended or killed to-day, the London County Council, with the architects, with the 1302 Office of Works, who are the body nearest in sentiment and in action with subjects like this—the Home Office ought to deal with the traffic aspect of this problem, particularly on the Strand side—the City Corporation and the Westminster and Lambeth Borough Councils should call a conference to be attended by the railway company, and the subject of the repair, the extension, the removal, or the transfer, or the abolition of Charing Cross Railway Station, should be discussed by that joint conference. The railway company should get not only fair and just, but, in my opinion, most generous treatment when the. transfer to the Surrey side takes place. The reason I suggest this is, first, on æsthetic grounds, and I mean in a broad and a general way, for the æsthetic view, pushed too far, untempered by reasons of utility and reasonable economy, would be, in my judgment, not the only reason that should induce you to throw out this Bill. But I do say this, on the æsthetic side, slowly but surely, London has displaced Paris as the cynosure of all European eyes. It certainly is a superior city from many points of view to Berlin, and is nearly abreast of Vienna. And I would like to point this out to those who consider trade and commercial interests in connection with projects of this kind. What is it that has made London increasingly a place to which tourists from all over the world, particularly the Continent, are coming increasingly? First, it is its cleanliness, its sanitation, its comfort, and, in recent years, the attractiveness that has been brought about by the enormous expenditure by public bodies, which for the last twenty-five years have certainly improved London from every point of view. And I respectfully suggest that beauty in a city is not a thing that materialists and cynics can lightly brush on one side. Beauty is not only pleasing to the eye and consoling to the mind in a great city. It pays in solid cash by the people who value natural beauty in a city such as this river affords us, blended with architectural adornments such as we are increasingly having, and the harmonious and symmetrical unity of commerce with civic pride, public taste, and fine public amenities. Let me express that in a cash way, and this is a surprising figure. Before the War it was estimated by hotel proprietors that 80,000 people came to London every day—I do not mean people who live at Tring, Harrow, Richmond, and 1303 Windsor, who come up to town every day —I am excluding all the home counties people—but 80,000 people from America, Canada, Africa, and in fact all parts of the world, came to London, and are increasingly coming, mainly because sanitation at great cost has kept pace with the large sums of money that the county council and other bodies have spent in the last twenty or thirty years on their forty or fifty new parks and gardens, all of which have attracted those 80,000 people a day, who come from all parts of the earth to stay in our hotels, look at our libraries, see our museums, and enjoy the increasing delights, comforts, and amenities of this great city.
Charing Cross Bridge never attracted anybody. In my judgment it violates all the canons of public taste, and it outrages all the amenities of a fine riverside view that would be enormously improved by the course I am suggesting. From the point of view of railway convenience, if this station was moved from the north to the south side and linked up with the London and South-Western Railway it would benefit that railway, and it would considerably more benefit the South-Eastern Railway, because it would get rid of that stopping at Waterloo Junction which you only get in one train out of two, and it would get rid of that absurd running round to Cannon Street and back to Waterloo Junction again. It would give you on the river a handsome station with a fine facade linked up with the South-Western Railway, using the deteriorating property in that area for a cheaper, larger, better, and more convenient station than you can possibly get even if this Bill were passed. I appeal to hon. Members of this House. It is just over 100 years ago that, standing on old Westminster Bridge, Wordsworth, looking in the direction of Waterloo Bridge, without any monstrosity like Charing Cross Bridge to obstruct his view, wrote:Earth has not anything to show more fairDull would he be of soul who could pass byA sight so touching in its majesty.Wordsworth would not write that to-day. Constable, one of our greatest artists, painted one of his finest pictures from. Westminster, when he gave us, without Charing Cross Bridge, a splendid picture of that magnificent sweep from Westminster Bridge to Waterloo, and that picture is now in the possession of Lord Glenconner. And last, but not least. 1304 Canova, one of the greatest Italian artists and sculptors, said that to see a single arch of Waterloo Bridge was worth coming from the remotest corners of the earth. I might mention that Sir Edward Watkin Wynn was very much opposed to the original Charing Cross Station. Because we had too many railway directors in this House who do not know their business and do not take a long-sighted view, Wordsworth even has been flouted, Constable's picture has been effaced, and Canova's dream of Waterloo Bridge is not visible from where all those three witnessed that wonderful structure. Since this bridge was built, see what has happened. Million upon million of public money has been spent on the making of the Embankment, Aldwych, Kingsway, the widening of the Strand. Constitution Hill and the Mall, all of which have given increased facilities by roads; and thoroughfares all leading to that bottle-neck in the Strand known as Charing Cross Bridge. Beyond the expenditure of all this public money, look what the banks, newspaper offices, insurance and other corporations have spent in erecting fine buildings in and around a mile of Charing Cross Bridge.
What do we propose? We propose that public money should be expended to provide for the growth of traffic and to overcome the incapacity of Charing Cross station to stand on its own legs. The only decent thing that Charing Cross station has ever done was to fall down in 1905, and in 1906 the railway company came here and asked for a pair of crutches to prop it up again. We ask that this bridge should not be repaired, because urgency is not pleaded on its behalf. We suggest that now is the time and now is the hour when a discussion of this problem suggests that all the local authorities concerned and the railway companies should substitute for Charing Cross station, which is "cabined, cribbed and confined" on the north, a fine station on the south. What is my proposal with regard to that? I suggest that there is a long distance between Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge, much too great a distance for so large a city, and this is accentuated in its difficulty and distance by the fact that that most beautiful bridge, Waterloo Bridge, was made two-thirds too narrow between the curbs when it was put up. Here you have between Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Bridge no other 1305 medium for conveying from the west the traffic to the Surrey side. Now we have an opportunity of getting rid of Charing Cross Railway Bridge and putting the station on the Surrey side. Where Charing Cross Railway Bridge now stands I suggest that we should have a bridge rather on the lines of Westminster Bridge: in steel if you can make it, because that is a beautiful bridge. Instead of being 85 ft. between the parapets we should have a bridge on the site of the present Charing Cross Railway Bridge 120 ft. in width, that the centre 60 ft. of that bridge should be practically reserved for all the traffic from the West End of London going straight into the South-Western, South-Eastern and Chatham Railways, and the remaining distances on either side should enable the traffic from the north to the south to go down a gradient road into Stamford Street on the left and Westminster Bridge on the right. Do not say this cannot be done, because there is something like it being done, and has been in use for a number of years, by the South-Western Railway. I am not averse to the railway company in thi3 matter, and I know how heavily burdened this railway is, with its needless bridges across the river, its ugly Cannon Street Bridge, Holborn Viaduct Bridge, St. Paul's Bridge, and Victoria Bridge, which is on the southeast of my own Constituency.
I do not wish to burden this company in any way by the proposal which I make. On the contrary, I believe that the London County Council itself, in co-operation with the other public bodies, should spend £1,000,000 on a 120-feet magnificent bridge, that the company should be allowed to sell the surplus land on the north side, and the money derived from the sale after the bridge is made should go towards building a better station, with a river facade such as I have indicated. If the railway company were reasonable they would accept a proposal like this, and I should do everything in my power to influence those public bodies, and they want little influencing, after the evidence of Mr. Taylor, the chairman of the Improvements Committee of the County Council, after the expressed opinion of the Office of Works, after the splendidly public-spirited way in which Sir Aston Webb and the architects have helped in this matter. I am convinced, from the point of view of artistic appearance, public convenience, public view, and railway economy, it would 1306 be an advantage for the railway company to take our suggestion and not proceed further with this Bill.
I leave the general question and come for a moment to one or two of the practical proposals in this Bill. I attended every meeting of this Committee upstairs. I am sorry that a project of this kind did not originate in the House of Commons, where a Second Reading Debate would have been more easy, and would certainly have had better results for the public than the Second Reading Debate in the other place. First of all, the railway company prove that the repairs asked for in this Bill are not urgent. It does not mean the substitution of strong girders for weak girders in the present design. It means putting in spandrels that spring from strengthened buttresses, the strengthening of which will take about 140 feet from the total navigable channel of the river. The effect of it from the point of view of appearance will be that it will make this ugly bridge uglier. Owing to the peculiar set of the tide and the river taking a sharp turn at Charing Cross—it is called Charing Cross not after Queen Eleanor's memorial, a substitute for which is now outside Charing Cross, but from the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon term of Cérran, which means to take a sharp turn —large steamers like the "Wandle" and the "Vauxhall," to say nothing of the "Battersea," carrying 1,200 and 1,500 tons of coal up and down the river, even now with 100 feet space between the uprights, have the greatest difficulty in safely navigating the river. Between Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge the steamers can go straight down the river parallel with the embankment, but immediately one of these large vessels gets beyond Westminster Bridge she has to make for the Surrey side, and then cant over to the northern side, and to get through Waterloo Bridge she has to take an entirely different course. It is very difficult owing to the set of the tide for these steamers to avoid a collision. I am satisfied, if these spandrels are put in, that, as the captain of the "Wandle" truthfully says, we shall find that navigation will be considerably hampered. On the grounds of beauty, on the grounds of public taste, on the grounds of restoring Waterloo Bridge and the embankment, and on the grounds of improving the amenities in and around Charing Cross, this bridge should not be allowed to be repaired, because if it is repaired it will 1307 be used as an argument for doing the other part, and ultimately we shall find the railway company asking to be allowed to stay where they are.
When Members from the West End of London go to and from Charing Cross and drive by the National Gallery they always witness one thing. The omnibuses, the taxi-cabs, the motor cars, and the people on the pavement are to be seen all obstructed. There is perfect congestion at that particular spot. Why I It is because the turntable in the quadrangle of Charing Cross Station is not of sufficient size to enable them to go in and come out with accessibility and convenience and without harm to the crossing public up and down the Strand. It is due to the narrowness and smallness of the space of that particular quadrangle. Another objection to the present station is that people on the south side of London —there are 2,250,000 of them who want to go to Kent just as much as the people on the north side—the man who lives at Rotherhithe, Clapham, Tooting, or Bermondsey, instead of being able to get into a Kent train at a new joint station on the south side, as he ought to be able to do, has to congest the already congested bridges of Waterloo and Westminster with his cab, motor, or omnibus, and go down either the Embankment or Whitehall. A tremendous amount of traffic over Waterloo Bridge, Westminster Bridge, and along Whitehall would not be there at all if a joint station was on the Surrey side and was accessible, as I have suggested.
It is no good depending upon the railway company considering the public taste in this particular matter. Look at Charing Cross Bridge since they had power originally to erect it. We were told that it was to be a simple box-girder bridge, enabling locomotives and trains to go in and out. See what they have done with it. The first station has been extended, hiding still more the Embankment and Waterloo Bridge. Signal boxes have been put up, and there are now advertisement hoardings. If this Bill is allowed to pass—and appetite grows by what it is fed upon—then the railway company, notwithstanding all the æsthetic and general claims that are made upon them, will consider the interests of the company and say that the House of Commons decided that they should have this privilege. If tie South-Western Railway can carry 1308 112,000 people every day as against 54,000 passengers at Charing Cross, then Charing Cross could easily be transferred to-the Surrey side and linked up with the South-Western without any inconvenience at all. It has not been hinted at here, but upstairs I heard a South-Western witness say, "What about the working-class traffic?" Do not let us hear too much of consideration for the working classes by the railway companies in this connection. Without consulting the working classes scores of railway stations have been shut up, giving the workmen of London greater trouble and inconvenience than the transfer of this station from Charing Cross to the Surrey side of the river would give to them.
My own view is that this Bill ought not to get a Second Reading for the reasons that have been given. It offends public taste. It is contrary to the railway company's own interest. If the Bill is thrown out, and I appeal to the House to throw it out, I shall do my very best with this-project, as I did, and perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, may recall it, when there was a proposal by a syndicate to overwhelm the House of Commons and the House of Lords by building a second Hankey's Mansions in the New Garden west of the House of Lords, Victoria Tower. That Bill was given its Second Reading, and it got. through the Committee. On that occasion I appealed to the House of Commons to accept my guarantee that if they threw it out I would persuade the London County Council to get rid of the walls and the unsightly premises between Lambeth Bridge and the House of Lords. If they would throw out the proposal for this sybaritic lodging house, eighty-six feet high, to be erected 100 feet from Victoria Tower I said that we would give Parliament an infinitely better neighbour than a second Hankey's Mansions to overshadow and overwhelm it with its colossal ugliness. On that occasion the House of Commons accepted my advice. They threw out that Bill, although it had had its Second Reading, and had gone through Committee. And see how the county council kept its word. They have spent a million of money between the Victoria Tower and Lambeth Bridge on a fine garden, a vast embankment, a new road, and they have attracted by that wise expenditure large private corporations to put up some of the handsomest buildings in keeping with the dignity of this House that have been erected in the last twenty years in London 1309 If we can do that for a garden, what ought we not to do in order to relieve that noble sweep of the River Thames from Westminster to Waterloo Bridge from this monstrosity that you cannot get even a railway company to defend, of which no architect will guarantee the safety, and in nothing connected with which can you get any engineer to take a pride? I appeal to the House to give Sir Aston Webb, the architects, the county council, the two borough councils, the Office of Works, the Home Office, and the Board of Trade, in conjunction with the railway company, a chance to come together and to confer in a sane, practical way, without any prejudice to the railway company, in the consideration of this particular problem. If the House do that—suspend this Bill, 01 what is better, vote against it having its Second Reading to-day—I guarantee, on behalf of the public authorities with whom I have consulted on the subject, that we shall find a more excellent way for a better station on the Surrey side without damnifying the company in the least, and adding to the amenity and the beauty of one of the noblest sweeps of embankment on one of the noblest rivers in the world, peopled by the freest, and, in my judgment, the greatest community the earth has ever yet seen.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Pretyman)
I certainly do not think that any Government Department, certainly not the Board of Trade, would come here to oppose the public suggestion that has been made, and regarding which, I think, it is a great advantage that we should have been given the opportunity of discussing it, of removing Charing Cross Station and bridge to the south side of the river; and if that question really arose out of this Bill, then I think we should have to debate it from a very different standpoint from that which I propose to put before the House. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Burns) suggested that there was no public department which could take a hill-top view. I do not know whether I can take a hilltop view, but I can certainly take a direct view, because my window looks out on Charing Cross Bridge. I certainly should not come here to defend that structure, because I hardly suppose that an uglier structure could be found anywhere. Certainly it is a most attractive proposal that that Bridge should be replaced by such a structure as my right hon. Friend has suggested, and that the enormous advantages 1310 that would be derived from it, and which have been so very eloquently described by the hon. Member for Stafford (Sir W. Essex), and by my right hon. Friend, should be available for the country. But where I differ from the right hon. Gentleman is that he says this is an opportunity, I think I understood him to say, for commencing to put into operation this great proposal. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] For considering it. I think he suggested that conferences might take place, in any case, which, if they were to have any ultimate effect, would have to result in some actual beginnings of some undertaking. It is quite obvious to anybody that, however desirable this great scheme may be—and I can say exactly the same as the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stuart-Wortley)—that I am very much attracted by it myself, and that so far as I am concerned, and I think so far as the Board of Trade are concerned, we should not only not oppose such a scheme, but obviously it would be considered with every desire, if it were found to be feasible, to carry it out. Nobody can deny the advantages that have been so eloquently set forth by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Burns).
The real question before the House, however, is not the question whether a transfer of the station to the south side is desirable or not. That really is not the question before the House. The question before the House, the only Second Reading point before the House, in my opinion, is this. Will the giving of a Second Beading to this Bill prejudice the greater scheme? That really is the point, and I do not think that anything that has been said has made that point good. I cannot see how this scheme can prejudice the greater scheme. The present position is that the railway company has the power to widen the bridge at a cost of three-quarters of a million of money. They have had that power for a very long time, and that power can be extended. It expires in August, I think, but it can be extended again. [An HON. MEMBER: "HOW?"] I believe it can be extended by authority of the Board of Trade. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] In any case, as I understand the view of the railway company it is this: That this widening in no way commits them to any opposition to the greater scheme, and it is a purely temporary matter to enable the bridge to carry the traffic which it now has to carry, and which it will have to carry in the immediate future. Of course, as the right hon. 1311 Gentleman said, it is a matter which must mainly be argued in Committee. But it is an urgent matter. My hon. Friends suggest that it is not an urgent matter, because under this Bill seven years are given within which the work can be completed. That is a maximum period, as has been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The other point that is taken to indicate that it is not an urgent matter is that under Sub-section (2) of Section 16 of the Bill it is provided
"that the powers conferred by this Section shall not be exercised by the company during the continuance of the present War and twelve months thereafter unless the consent of the Treasury has previously been obtained."
It is quite obvious that why that Clause is inserted is that all engineering enterprises which are not directly necessitated by the requirements of the War have to be postponed until the Treasury sanction can be obtained for the spending of the money, and that is all that that Clause means. The desire of the company is to carry out this work at the earliest possible moment, and I am bound to say that when the matter was being first considered at the Board of Trade we were rather of the opinion that it might have been deferred, perhaps, until the end of the War, and then come before Parliament.
We have now come definitely to the conclusion, however, that this work is really urgent. So far as the information placed before us goes, it is urgent, and there are a great many preliminary matters which must be carried through before the work can be begun. Many engineering matters will have to be considered, contracts will have to be entered into, and arrangements will have to be made with the Port of London Authority. There must be a long preliminary period before the work can be actually undertaken, even if the Bill is authorised. What the company proposes is to do all that can be done without the labour and material which is required for war purposes, and as soon as that labour and material are available, if they have authority, they will then ask the Treasury to sanction the putting of this work in hand. The sole object of the work is to obtain the full value of the left or down-stream side of the bridge, which will not involve and obviously will not require similar action to the up-stream part of the bridge, the 1312 reason being simply that the down-stream part of the bridge was constructed in 1859, when the weight of locomotives was about half what it is now, while the up-stream half of the bridge was constructed in 1852 and is sufficient to bear the traffic. It has three lines and can bear the ordinary traffic of the present day. The lower part of the bridge has four lines and at present the structure is so weak that it cannot carry the heavy traffic of to-day, except as to some 50 per cent, of the full traffic which it ought to bear. Further, it is now reported that even that amount of traffic will have to be restricted. It is pretty obvious that when the War ends, quite apart from the very heavy suburban traffic which this bridge has to carry, there will be a very great increase of traffic to the Continent.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Cannon Street is not a very large station, and my hon. Friend can hardly suggest that it will take the whole of the traffic from the West of London as well as from the City.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
We really must consider public convenience and take a practical view. None of these stations are really large central stations. They are all fully utilised at the present time, and after the War, when we hope there will be a great revival of travel and of traffic, all these stations will be fully required until replacement has been provided.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
It all counts. Both local and Continental traffic will grow and will have to be provided for. One, of course, naturaly dovetails into the other. What the railway company and this House have to consider is the total traffic that has to be carried. It certainly does appear that we cannot and shall not be able to afford to forego this temporary strengthening, which will only be required to enable the bridge to be used until effect can be given to the greater scheme. It is quite obvious that after the War it must take a very considerable number of years before any new station constructed oh the Surrey side, with all its approaches, can be brought into actual use. Hon. Members must realise that to wish a thing is very different from carrying it out. When a considerable number of millions of money will be required for constructing 1313 a new station and all the approaches to it, it is pretty clear that this House will be taking a very great responsibility if they say they will not allow this dangerous structure to be strengthened at a comparatively small cost in order that the existing and future traffic may be carried with safety because they are afraid that it may prejudice the greater scheme.
The point of view of the Board of Trade is that this Bill is not introduced with any idea or suggestion of prejudicing the greater scheme at all, and that it is merely meant to provide for the temporary traffic which now exists and to provide safety for that traffic Therefore it amounts to a Committee point. It can be fully argued in Committee whether or not this bridge is dangerous, and particularly as to its construction. There have been criticisms of the matter of construction and the engineering methods by which the strengthening of the bridge is to be carried out. Those are clearly not matters which we can argue here on the Second Reading; they are matters for Committee. This is not a Government matter. It is not a Government Bill, and every Member is, of course, absolutely free to express his own opinion, but it is the duty of the Board of Trade to examine the case from the public point of view and to advise the House what, in their opinion, is the course it should take. In the opinion of the Board of Trade no case exists for refusing permission to send this Bill to a Committee on the ground that the greater scheme will be jeopardised. We do not believe that the greater scheme will be jeopardised. There is certainly no intention on the part of the Board of Trade to support any present scheme which would jeopardise the greater one. We do suggest that the House might allow this Bill to go to Committee, where the question of construction, which is a question more or less of expert evidence upon which the Port of London Authority will have a locus before the Committee—the matter has already been before a Committee of the House of Lords—can be argued. Taking all these matters into account, we think it would be wise to allow the Bill to go to a Committee upstairs, where all its points can be considered. That will in no way prejudice the greater scheme. Therefore, although the arguments in favour of the greater scheme may be of great value, and may have a very desirable effect in ventilating that greater scheme, in calling public 1314 attention to it, and thereby furthering the scheme, which, I believe, everybody in the House would be glad to see carried out, I hope that hon. Members will be content to allow the Bill to be read a second time, and will not prevent the repair of the present structure being carried out if a Committee of the House approves of it.
§ Mr. HORNE
I believe that if this Bill is allowed to go through it may prejudice the greater scheme in the future. If the greater scheme is to be carried out there will have to be a very big arbitration. The question of the land that will have to be bought will have to be settled, and an arrangement will have to be made as to the value of the goodwill of the trade this company is able to do and the amount it will lose by giving up this length of railway. At the present time the railway has to sell the old bridge in a damaged condition. It is not in a dangerous condition. It is perfectly safe if you restrict the number of trains going over it, but if you are going to allow this to take place you are going to allow a much larger trade to be done by the railway company; they will ask for so many more years' purchase of the profits they make, and it is quite possible that the extra sum may be just sufficient to turn the scale against the greater project ever being carried out Imagine if London wanted to make a new street, and the whole plan was scheduled but no Bill had been brought in, and powers had not been obtained, and that then the possessors of old property, obsolete and out of date, were allowed to spend money to renovate it in order to be able to get a larger price because it was new. This is exactly what is being done at present, and I hope the House will object to allow money to be spent which will be returned to them many times in future if they should ever, be able to sell their undertaking under a compensation Bill.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Whatever the result of this proposal may be, I think the House will agree that it has produced a number of very interesting and able speeches. The hon Member (Sir W. Essex) excelled himself in the eloquence with which he proposed the Amendment to the Second Reading. We have also had the pleasure of the re-entrance into our Debates of my right hon. Friend whom I might call the member for London. If we are sorry not to have him so often on Imperial affairs, we are glad to know that he has his old vigour and power when he takes part in purely domestic concerns. I am with my 1315 hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill, and I am with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Burns) in so far as they are against the continuance of the present structure of Charing Cross Bridge, and against doing anything whatever as an obstruction to the carrying out of their idea. We have heard to-night in regard to the bridge what an eyesore it is. Everyone, so far as I know, is against it. No word has been said for the bridge to-night, and if that was the issue, should the Charing Cross Bridge be removed, there would not be the slightest opposition to that proposal. My right hon. Friend rightly described its objectionable character. It is noly fair to say, however, that it was as dirty and as objectionable twenty years ago as it is at present, and I regret that my right hon. Friend's enormous influence in the London County Council has not been able to influence that body during all these years of its existence to move a single finger in order to remove the bridge.
§ Mr. BURNS
My right hon. Friend is not correct in saying that no steps have been taken. He said this thing has been before the public for twenty years. On more than one occasion I have interviewed the directors and I am very glad to say that at last public opinion, as expressed through its local bodies, is unanimously against this Bill. We have had a great battle to fight in getting public opinion this far, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that for the last twenty-five years a small body of men who have a regard for London have done everything in their power to influence public opinion, but we were not able to influence the directors as we should have liked.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I accept entirely what my right hon. Friend says, but the London County Council, after all, is the trustee of the people, and I think they ought to have been more alive and to have brought a measure before the House and taken action to express what I believe to be public opinion in regard to this particular bridge. It has not taken that action up to the present. That is the only point I will make so far as that is concerned. I come back again, and say the House is united in its opinion as to the bridge, but that is not the question before the House to-night. If I thought any vote given to-night against this Bill would remove Charing Cross Bridge I would willingly and 1316 gladly give it, and, if I thought the course which my right hon. Friend advises, of killing this Bill, was going to help the accomplishment of his ideal, I should certainly support him. I want to go to the same object as my right hon. Friend, but I want to take a long view of it and not a short view. What is the position if this Bill were destroyed? It has been stated that the company has the power to build a bridge.
§ 9.0 P.M.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I understand they have consent, so that they could go on. I see in some of the literature which has been sent to me—and we have had plenty of it—that the reason why these powers have not been exercised up to the present is in order to try and meet, if possible, the public demand for an entirely new public improvement, and I see in one document the manager of the railway says in an interview which has been circulated:Our attitude has been entirely misrepresented. So far as we are concerned, we are entirely against the continuance of the present bridge, and in favour of its removal to the Surrey side.If that is the case it seems to me that we have to devote our attention to seeing whether we can take the responsibility which has been stated to us to-night, first of all by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and by the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Board of Trade. They have told us that this bridge is dangerous. He says the matter is urgent. Can the House of Commons, the Bill having been examined by a Committee of the House of Lords and having been endorsed by that Chamber, take the responsibility of saying we will not even allow it to go to a Committee? I think that is a very great responsibility to take on what is purely a technical point. Imagine what a responsibility you will take. My right hon. Friend alluded to Charing Cross Station falling down some years ago, and says that was the best thing that could have happened, but he forgets that many people lost their lives by that accident.
Sir H. DALZIEL
No, more than two. I was in the neighbourhood at the time. Is this House to take the responsibility for many years to come?
Sir H. DALZIEL
How can it be hastened? It is made a complaint to-night 1317 that the company are taking more time. What would hon. Members say if they asked that the improvement should take place at the present time—the strengthening of the bridge? It is impossible to get labour to carry out the scheme. Are we going to take the responsibility in face of -very strong engineering evidence, in face of the right hon. Gentleman speaking for the company, and in face of the representative of the Board of Trade, of saying, "We will not allow it to go to a Committee," with the possibility, and it may be a great possibility, of an accident taking place on the railway bridge within the next year or two? That is too great a responsibility. For hon. Members to deny the right of a Committee to examine witnesses and hear the strength of their case is a very strong order indeed. I speak feelingly with regard to this matter. Any hon. Member who happens to live in the country or has been on the Continent has experienced the great annoyance of getting to the end of that bridge after a long journey, and waiting for half an hour before being allowed to move into the station. That is an argument for removing it to the other side, I know, but that is the case at present. It annoys us and annoys our foreign visitors and makes many working and business men late for their appointments in the morning because they are uexpectedly detained there for half an hour. In face of the statement of the company that they will have to reduce facilities by still one more line of traffic unless this power is given for the strengthening of the bridge, we ought to pause before we refuse to allow the Bill going to a Committee. I think the responsibilty is too great, but at the same time I think that if the Bill tomes before the Committee there ought to be an Instruction given so that the Committee should clearly understand that nothing in this Bill is to be inserted, or can be inserted, which would interfere with the removal of the bridge and the placing of the station on the other side of the river. I would go further and say that a Clause ought to be inserted expressing that clearly in definite terms.
I think the Committee ought to be fully and absolutely satisfied as to the case that is put forward. With regard to the question of expense, a point has been made that the company would be creating a greater vested interest by the expenditure of this money. That is obviously a point which ought to come before the Com 1318 mittee, and, so far as I am concerned, if it was not put in by the Committee I would move it myself, that no expense that is to be incurred in connection with this bridge is to count for greater value when the whole question comes to be dealt with later on in regard to compensation. It ought to be clearly stated that advantage to the company is not to be the object in view, but security in the public interest. I think these points ought to be fully established before we allow this Bill to pass into law. Have hon. Members thought of the length of time it would take before the ideal of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Burns) and our own ideal of a new bridge across the River Thames and a new station is carried out? You have, first of all, to buy your property, get your powers from Parliament, establish your station, and then build your bridge. Should I be overstating it if I say ten or twelve years would be necessary to carry out such an undertaking? Certainly not. Therefore, we are dealing to-night not only for the immediate future, but with the future for years to come. That is a case that we should leave to the responsibility of the Committee, and then we can review the situation when the Bill comes back to this House for Third Reading.
§ Mr. BOYTON
I think the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Dalziel) condemned the county council quite unnecessarily. Within my own recollection, when I was a member of that body, there was a very well-known member, Captain Swinton, who went to very great lengths in preparing drawings and showing how well this great improvement could be made. I do not think that, so far, those who are in favour of this bridge are having the best of the argument. The speeches which have been delivered show what a very desirable and great national improvement the provision of a new bridge and station would be. There is one point I wish particularly to impress upon the Government, because it will come within the range of the scheme when, as I hope, it will ultimately be carried out. The right hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Burns) referred to the congested approaches to the Charing Cross station as it now exists. When the time comes for the approaches to be made to the new bridge—and I think the time is ripe now to refer to the matter—I want the Government to bear in mind that the Crown are the owners of the eastern side of Trafalgar Square, and the leases of the property, I 1319 believe, bounded by the West Strand and I by Duncannon Street will shortly be falling in. It would be a thousand pities— in fact, it would be a calamity—if the Crown were during the next few years to grant building leases on that site. It will be quite easy, and probably to the profit of the Crown, that they should consider in regard to granting any building leases for that side of the Square, the possibility, indeed, the successful possibility, of the great improvement in question being carried out. I am very anxious that the Crown should not commit themselves by accepting what would be the very tempting bait of very great accretion of land value compared with what they at present enjoy there. In such times as these, and with the pressing necessity for income they might be tempted. Therefore, I have ventured to make my point, and I particularly desire to emphasise my remarks, and to impress upon the Government that they will be committing really a very great crime if they grant building leases for their valuable island site on the eastern side of Trafalgar Square. I am sure that the hon. Member (Mr. Prety-man) who is in charge of the Bill will, after accepting his defeat with good grace, convey to the Government my suggestion that, although they have there a great nest-egg, a great accretion of income which would come to the Crown, they could, by discreet and judicious methods of replanning, and by conferring with those gentlemen who have already got out plans to show what a magnificent improvement this would be to the Metropolis, take advantage of the opportunity not only to enrich themselves but to very greatly and permanently improve Trafalgar Square, and produce what, I hope, will before long be one of the greatest improvements in London.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
I agree that the Debate this evening has been extremely useful, and I think the fact that this evening has been given up to the ventilation of this question of getting rid of this ugly monstrosity is all to the good. We have never had so much public opinion behind us as we are getting to-night. It seems rather strange that, in the middle of the War, we can get the House of Commons to devote itself so enthusiastically to this matter, which many of us devoted ourselves to years ago without getting that support and backing that we ought to have had at the time. I happened to be the 1320 chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the London County Council in 1900, when the Bill was passed giving powers to the railway company for making the new bridge. I was grieved at the time, as we all were, that we had to see that Bill pass into law, because it looked almost hopeless to look forward to the future and to think of this station south of the Thames, after the Bill had been passed, enabling the company to construct practically a new bridge. That is what it meant; it meant widening the bridge and reconstructing Charing Cross Station. I was chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the London County Council, when the London and South-Western Railway carried their Bill for altering their station on the south side of the Thames. It always seemed to us, on the London County Council in those days, that there should be one general station for the London and South-Western-Railway and the South-Eastern Railway on the south side of the Thames. It all seemed so obvious to us that it did not really want any argument. But we were called wastrels. I see hon. Gentlemen' sitting opposite who enjoyed themselves, in those days, in opposing our schemes, and they were the same people who prevented the London County Council carrying out their schemes. It was impossible to get forward with this matter then.
Two things have, however, occurred' since then. We all know that the London County Council has put its county hall on the south of the Thames. That tends to make the south side of the Thames a more attractive place for a great station than it was years ago. Another change that has come about is that, I understand, the railway company are not hostile now to some scheme for putting their station on the south side of the Thames. Therefore, there are many circumstances today which make the greater scheme more possible than it was years ago. As an old advocate of this great improvement I welcome the Debate to-night. We all realise what a great improvement it will be when we have the South-Western station, the South-Eastern station, and the county hall on the south side of the Thames, and we feel what a great opportunity the right hon. Member for Battersea lost when he was President of the Local Government Board and was putting forward his town planning scheme for the rest of the country, that he did not use his great authority and position then to get he finest town planning scheme carried out in London 1321 right under the very windows of the Local Government Board. There was an opportunity for a town-planning scheme to take the whole of the land. The Government might have assisted and the county council might have taken the whole of the land between Charing Cross Bridge, Westminster Bridge, and the London and South-Western Railway, and put the County Hall in the centre of a reclaimed district, and then the value of the land all round the County Hall in the centre would have been so great that practically the land might have been acquired by the county council for its County Hall without any cost. That was the finest opportunity for a town-planning scheme that any town ever had, but my right hon. Friend did not move a finger then, as President of the Local Government Board, to promote that.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
Now he and others come all supporting this proposal for this great improvement of London, which we all endorse. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Board of Trade (Mr. Pretyman) and others who have spoken that we are all in favour of getting rid of this monstrosity in London, but where I join issue with the right hon. Member for Battersea and the hon. Member for Stafford, who moved that this Bill be not given a Second Beading, is when they say that this Bill touches this point at all. The right hon. Member for Batter-sea said that this gives us an opportunity of getting rid of Charing Cross Bridge and of putting the station on the other side of the Thames. I dispute that absolutely. I do not think that it is fair in this House to say that anybody who votes for the Second Reading of this Bill is voting against getting rid of this monstrosity, or against putting the South-Eastern station on the other side of the bridge. To my mind, with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, it is pure nonsense to make such a statement. This Bill proposes to spend £170,000 to repair a bridge which the company say is dangerous for their traffic, and which Sir Alex Binnie told me twenty years ago was dangerous. [Laughter.] I may be very dense, but I do not see the reason for laughter. Sir Alex Binnie told me, and I dare say he told other members of the county council—it was his business to report on these matters—that the bridge 1322 was dangerous then. They have tinkered at the bridge ever since. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] If we can get them to put a station on the other side I say "Hear, hear!" also. Now, when we are told that the bridge is dangerous for traffic, is this House going to refuse the railway company £170,000 to make this bridge safe for traffic? What is £170,000 on a project of this kind? The money must be spent over a series of years, at least five or six years. The idea that giving a company power to spend £170,000 to make this bridge safe for its traffic is interfering with a great scheme of a great Metropolitan improvement which must cost millions of money is ridiculous. Why, it is not the insurance money connected with the cost of the scheme, and if you want safeguards I thought that the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Home) made a point when he said that they might claim compensation for extra traffic. That, I agree, is a point, but that is no reason for rejecting the Second Reading of the Bill on the plea that if you do not vote against the Bill you are voting against this great improvement. You can put Clauses in the Bill to meet these points. You could have a Clause that the company should not have any claim under this Bill for increased compensation, either for traffic or for expenditure of the money. They could put a Clause in the Bill that it should not be used as an argument against this scheme if it is brought forward by the London County Council. You can put a sterilisation Clause in the Bill, which is often done. It was done in regard to the water undertakings of London before they were purchased. You could put Clauses in the Bill that you should only spend money with the consent of the Board of Trade. These are things which are reasonable and a safeguard. But to say that you are voting for or against this great improvement, when it simply means that £170,000 may be spent in the course of six or seven years, and to deny the company power to spend that money, seems to me to be asking the House to take a step which would be extremely unwise. Suppose some accident happens in London and that a train falls into the River Thames, who will be to blame? Evidence is given that this bridge is not safe for traffic. The railway company ask for a reasonable sum of money.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
They are not asking money from us; the Bill only asks for authority for the company to spend its own money. Railway companies are not in the position they were years ago; they are much more linked up with the Government than they were; they are practically Government concerns now during the War. I do not suppose that they are ever going back to their old position; I do not suppose for a moment, control once having been taken over by the Government, and the railway companies having made the pooling arrangements which they are now making with regard, to their traffic, that we are going back to the old order of things. It is, after all, the public that we are dealing with, so I hope that the House will not be led away by the enthusiasm of some of our Friends for a scheme which we all favour into misinterpreting what the proposal before the House really is and perhaps endangering the lives of large numbers of the travelling public. I hope to live to see the great improvement referred to by the right hon. Member for Battersea and other speakers carried out in London. Nothing would delight me more than to see it, and if there is anything which I can do in this House to further that improvement I shall do it with the greatest pleasure and the greatest enthusiasm, but I am perfectly convinced in my own mind that voting against this Bill would do nothing of the kind.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
It is by pure accident that I find myself an auditor of the arguments which have been advanced against and to this Bill. I knew nothing of the contents of this Bill until I listened to the very eloquent speech made by the hon. Member for Stafford and the arguments, which were reinforced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea. For a great number of years I have always found myself in the same Division Lobby as my right hon. Friend, and I anticipated that that would be the case as the result of his arguments to-night, but I confess that I found in those arguments a considerable flaw. It seems to me that this Bill is being debated from the point of view that the London County Council were proposing a great scheme for the improvement of London, and that this scheme would be prevented from coming into operation if this Bill were passed. A picture was drawn of the London County Council, the Office of Works, the Royal Academy, and various other authorities of municipal power and artistic influence meeting to- 1324 gether and producing a scheme which would add to the beauty of this London, which the right hon. Gentleman justly describes as not merely one of the most famous, but one of the most splendid cities in the world. That is not really the position of things as they stand. As I understand it, there is no proposal before the London County Council at this moment to lift a finger towards the removal of Charing Cross Railway Station, to provide any money for the evacuation of that site and its occupation by a memorial, either to that great figure who has passed away from our midst or to commemorate any other national institution or person. No such proposal is before the public or the county council, or this House. What is before the House is this: A railway company comes down to the House and says, "We have a bridge which we are bound to maintain by our Act, we. have got a station which may be on the wrong side of the river"—I think it is—" we have got to join up, even if the station is on the wrong side of the river, with our traffic on the other side of the river, and the connecting link between the traffic and the station is not safe." Is this House in a position to say that the link is safe? I have not heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Sir W. Essex) that the bridge is safe and needs no repair, nor do I know what the rights and wrongs of the case are, but I do know that the question would be much better threshed out before a Committee of this House or a Joint Committee of both Houses, as the ease may be, than before the House in its corporate capacity, when it is perfectly unable to judge of the engineering or mechanical argument one way or the other. I think we will be taking a most heavy responsibility on our part if we reject this Bill without any expert knowledge of any sort or kind, and simply on engineers' statements which may be advanced in support of this Bill or in opposition to it.
It may be that the Committee, when they get this Bill before them, will throw it out, not on its artistic merits, or as a scheme for beautifying London, but on the ground that the bridge is so secure that it needs no money spent upon it, or that it will impede traffic on the Thames, that nothing ought to be done, and that it ought to be removed. I confess for my own part that if the London County Council came here and said, "We have got a 1325 scheme which will beautify the north and south of London, which will create a fresh access from north to south, and such a scheme is approved by every authority to whom it has been submitted, your Bill will block the realisation of that scheme, it will delay the improvement of London, it will impede the improvement of the communication between north and south," then I should unhesitatingly oppose this Bill. I do not understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. John Burns), who, as everybody knows, is more interested in the improvement of London than any other Member of this House—with great respect to my fellow Members, is here, or that anybody is here, on the part of the London County Council, to say that such a scheme is ready to be put before that body or before this House. If this matter goes to a Division I shall support the recommendation of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
I am sure we are very much indebted to the right hon. Member for Battersea for having brought forward so clearly the grounds of opposition to this Bill. He shows, as he has always shown, great foresight in dealing with these big questions concerning London. He, like myself, has had a great deal of experience with regard to these projects of London improvement. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green (Sir E. Cornwall) referred to his own action—it was praiseworthy action— nearly twenty years ago, when dealing with precisely the same question; and I remember myself being in communication with the directors of this company on this subject as to whether or not it would be possible and advisable for them to carry out the powers of that Act of Parliament which they had got at that time by means of a proposal to transfer the station from Charing Cross to the other side of the river. Nothing has been done. We are twenty years older, and exactly where we were, and I think if the House votes with my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green we shall have to wait another twenty years before we realise this great improvement, which I honestly believe is desired by not only everybody in this House, 'but everybody in London, namely, that the Charing Cross Bridge should be abolished, and that we should start a process of embellishing and improving London south of the river in the same way as Paris has done with her river to such an enormous extent.
1326 But the one difficulty in the minds of Members of this House is the assertion that this bridge at the present moment is unsafe. I can only quote the words of Sir Francis Dent with reference to this point, and, to my mind, it is important. In an interview which is reported on 25th June he said:Whilst there is no danger of a train falling into the river, the bridge is overstrained. So far we have got over any risk by limiting the number of trains that pass over it at any one time. There must be no train on adjoining ways at the same time—that is to say, two up trains may run at the same time, but no down train may pass them on the bridge. This means that we cannot get as many trains in and out of the station as are required in the busiest hours.Is it not perfectly clear that the company "wants to carry out this improvement of the bridge in order to facilitate its traffic? There is no question of danger. The bridge is perfectly safe, and will be safe for many years to come, but in order to enable them to get over certain difficulties in regard to traffic they ask Parliament to give them this power. We are justified in saying that if the only urgency is the urgency of traffic they should wait another year or two till we see whether it is possible to bring forward this great improvement which has been in the minds of the people of London for many years—a scheme when in its original form before the London County Council was looked at by that body with great favour, and I believe that the present county council, or at least the Improvements Committee are willing to look upon it with favour. In these circumstances in a Debate like this, with the evidence that the management of the railway does not wish for the project of the removal of the station to the south side of the river, with the knowledge that the London County Council, and probably many other authorities, have the conviction that, after the War, there will undoubtedly arise a great question as to whether or not a vast improvement should be made somewhere in commemoration of the War, and in view of the fact that, against that, the company only want to get a few more trains over the bridge in certain hours of the day, I think we are entitled to ask them to wait another year. It is far wiser to wait a year or two, if necessary, than to commit ourselves to a position in which the company will be able to say, "Our bridge and our station are perfectly good for all our requirements for the next twenty or thirty years." It is of far more importance, from the public point of view, that the company should be brought face to face with this fact, that 1327 unless they make some such change as is proposed, unless they show themelves willing to enter into negotiation with the various public authorities to carry it through, this House will not stand any tinkering with this Bill, and I hope the House will reject it in the interests of beautifying and embellishing London.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
It is really time that one who is not distinctly and directly concerned in the company should say a word on this subject, and I confess that I was rather surprised at the argument used by the speaker who has just sat down, and also, I think, by an hon. Friend of mine a little earlier. They say that there is nothing in this question but a few trains more running over Charing Cross Bridge. It is not a question of a few trains more, but a few trains less, and there are already restrictions of a very severe character put upon the traffic. A great many hon. Members may be tempted to vote against the Bill because they have been in trains that have had to stand for a considerable time on the bridge because of these restrictions, and anybody who has been on the bridge in the circumstances I have stated knows what happens and knows the vibrations, which take place. Surely it is rather an extraordinary argument to put forward in this House that the company should run lighter trains. The one thing that has been pressed on the South-Eastern Railway is that they should take in hand the question of running heavier engines up the larger gradients, in order that we may have the journey between the coast and London conducted on terms more similar to those of other railways. It is really putting the clock back to an extraordinary extent if you are going to ask the South-Eastern Company to run lighter trains and lighter engines because you do not wish any money to be spent on this bridge. We are suffering from restriction of traffic already. We have large additional traffic thrown upon us in connection with military matters in a way which may tie more permanent than perhaps some people think, and there is the Continental traffic, which is certain to increase as soon as the War is over.
Surely, then, this is not the moment for restricting in any sense whatever facilities we have of railway accommodation in London, even if there is a very great project looming in the distance. 1328 There is not one of us who is not familiar with the arguments advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Batter-sea and other speakers. We should all rejoice to see Charing Cross Station and bridge removed, but such a step could not possibly be taken until after the War, and if the railway company now attempted such a gigantic step the Treasury would prevent them. Even when they did start anybody who followed the difficulties which they had in connection with the enlargements of their line a few years ago through a crowded district would realise what a long time it would take in order to provide space for a sufficient terminus on the south side of the river. It is really impossible at the present moment to dispense with Charing Cross and the facilities for traffic connected with Charing Cross Station. Therefore it seems to me that we must, if we are wise, accede to such an expenditure of money as will make the bridge safe for the traffic. That, as has been put forward by the Board of Trade and other speakers, is a question for the Committee. The Committee would have to decide whether £170,000 was really necessary, and it might be found that a smaller sum would be required, and that it was not necessary to interfere so much with the navigation on the river. Those are technical points which we are absolutely unable here to decide in the House on Second Reading. The right hon. Member for Battersea said that he was able to prevent another scheme on Third Reading. That is the opportunity, for the Committee will then have considered the technical question and will have been able to give an opinion. If the House thinks that this is going to interfere in any way with the larger project which is favoured in their minds, of course it has power to reject the Bill on the Third Reading. In a case of this sort, which really affects the safety of the people and facilities of transit to a large district and for Continental purposes, do not let us merely, because of artistic sympathies or because of a latent dislike to a particular railway company, put a stop to expenditure which in my opinion is necessary and at this moment should be settled by a Committee. I hope the House is not going to take the very great responsibility of refusing to allow the matter to go to a Committee.
§ Mr. ROWLANDS
I think that in a Debate of this character there should be some consideration for the general public 1329 who have to use these lines in getting to their destination. My right hon. Friend "who has just spoken intended to make a strong point by reading a quotation, I believe from the engineer, that the bridge was not absolutely unsafe. It is not unsafe, but for what reason? It is because they curtail the amount of weight they put upon it. In other words, it is absolutely unsafe if they attempted to use the whole of the lines and the carrying power they possess I say that that is one of the strongest arguments for something being done. "Oh, but," says the right hon. Gentleman, "they only want to facilitate their traffic." Of course they do, and if my right hon. Friend had, like many of our constituents, to come from Kent twice a day, and knew what it was on a foggy morning to be held up because this bridge will not allow the railway company to take the proper number of trains over it, then I think he would very speedily become a convert to the desire for facilities for that traffic. I should not have taken any part in the Debate were it not that some of the speeches entirely ignored the welfare of the travelling public. Over and over again from the other side it has been said, "What matters about Charing Cross, let the public go to Victoria or to Cannon Street." My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Sir W. Essex) pointed out, in 1905, at the time of the accident, for six months they had to do so. I know that that was the case, and they had to put up with it, but if those gentlemen had to try and get certain trains at Victoria and Cannon Street, and had to consult the official railway guide of the South-Eastern Railway, they would find that they would have very great difficulty in getting out at Victoria to some of the lines, and that they would have to go a very roundabout journey.
I therefore put in a plea for the travelling public who have to get into London by this railway. I do not care how strong the protection afforded in the Bill for the other scheme. I endorse everything my right hon. Friend has said, and I say let the House put into this Bill safeguards against using this at any time as a lever against the greater scheme, but I do beseech the House to let the Bill go before the Committee. The company will have to prove its case before the Committee, and if they fail to do so we can have all the eloquence of the hon. Member for Stafford, and the rest, on the Third Reading to prove that the company have not made out their case upstairs, and that the Bill ought to 1330 be thrown out. We are told that there is going to be a grand new scheme, and we are all in favour of it. Surely, as a Londoner, I am in favour of the improvement of London. I have been advocating the improvement of London before the London County Council came into existence. I sat here in this House before that event, and was one of the creators of the council. While I give great credit to the county council for their improvement, I also give great credit to the Metropolitan Board of Works for the great improvements they carried out in the shape of main arteries, parks and other matters. Therefore I am as deeply concerned as anyone else in the improvement of London. Get your great scheme by all means; but the moment that scheme is foreshadowed, as it has been so eloquently tonight, other difficulties arise before it can be carried out. You have to make new arteries to begin with. I welcome the observations of the hon. Member for Marylebone, in which he pointed out the difficulties you would have to overcome before the great scheme could be carried out. It shows at once the magnitude of that scheme. We want it, and we will welcome it. We will welcome it, if you like, as a great monument to the heroes who have fallen in the War. But while we are getting that scheme ready do not let us fail in another direction by refusing to allow the directors of the South-Eastern Railway Company to spend this paltry sum of money in order to make the bridge secure, and to afford the great facilities which the travelling public require.
Mr. MONTAGUE BARLOW
We have had a long and interesting discussion, from which two things emerge clearly. One is a very general support for the bigger scheme. I believe that in principle that scheme would be carried unanimously. The second thing that emerges is the great adroitness with which the supporters of the Bill carefully confine themselves to the very narrow issue of the danger of the bridge and the urgency of the proposal. It was not the inconvenience; it was the danger. The evidence is perfectly clear that the bridge was not dangerous. Take the words of the engineer called be the promoters of the Bill—I do not go so far as to say it is dangerous, but it is in such a condition that you cannot have the full use of it.If the supporters of the Bill are going to change their ground, which I understood 1331 was that of danger, and to substitute the ground of inconvenience, surely we may take that as supporting our case. We say that you will never get a satisfactory arrangement while you have the station on this side of the river. All the traffic arguments, the cost of cartage, the provision for passengers in the future, and the dispersal of your passengers when they arrive —all these things are arguments not for this paltry proposal, but for a sound scheme of putting your station on the other side of the river at once. We are told that-it is so urgent that it must be set about at once. If that is so, a Clause in the Bill negatives that, because it is provided that nothing can be done until a year after the War.
I am dealing with the proviso. I am not going to minimise what they suggested. It is true there is a proviso that, unless the consent of the Treasury has been previously obtained, they cannot do anything until a year after the War. It is not a question of the Board of Trade; it is not a question of traffic; it is purely a financial question—whether the Treasury think that the financial condition of the company is so satisfactory that they can be allowed to appeal for the money. Suppose the Treasury decide that the condition of the company's finances is not such as to allow the money to be appealed for: what then Is this awfully dangerous bridge to go on! Is this awful inconvenience to go on? Surely the company would do much better if, instead' of making two bites at the cherry, they set about putting their house in order at once. If they did so, they would without doubt receive the wholehearted support of the County Council. I had at one time the privilege of being a member of that body, and I can remember this improvement being mentioned. I can also remember that our advisers gave us this advice—that there were certain other improvements, such as the Kings-way improvement, which were more immediately necessary. They were more immediately necessary because they concerned the road traffic of London and the tramway facilities for which the County Council were more directly responsible. Those great improvements have now been carried out. The main bottle-necks for the road traffic of London have been 1332 dealt with, and I think that this improvement comes next on the list of those which the County Council would have to undertake. The County Council passed nem. con. a resolution against this Bill. The chairman of the Improvements Committee gave evidence against the Bill, and he gave an undertaking as far as he could that the County Council would readily support some such scheme as that which has been sketched for us to-night. We have been told that it will be easy to-provide that whatever is done now shall not prejudice the greater scheme. I have had the privilege of being in at the birth of some of these schemes, and I always-view that sort of vague suggestion with considerable suspicion. If we can get a Clause to that effect put in the Bill, well and good, but personally I am rather doubtful. What I am afraid will happen is that if the Bill passes in its present-state, years hence the company will say,. "On the authority of Parliament this money has been expended, and you must give us greater compensation," and so the scheme for the beautification of London will be damnified. I hope the Bill will not pass, but if it is read a second time, I hope an Instruction will be moved on the lines of the Instruction passed by the House of Lords.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I have no right to make a second speech, but I wish to answer, if I may, the serious point put by the hon. Member for the Guildford Division (Mr. Barlow), namely, that the amount expended upon this bridge might be added to any future compensation which the company might claim should the bridge, under a larger scheme in future, disappear. I do not know whether an Instruction is necessary to enable the Committee to deal with that point, but I am authorised to say that no such Instruction will be opposed by the railway company. It is not their intention to claim for this expenditure in the event of the larger scheme going forward within a reasonable time which it should be in the power of the Committee to fix.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I desire to say a few words upon this Bill from the point of view of a Member of one of the Constituencies of Kent. I have listened to the Debate, and have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, who has introduced quite a different proposal to that which this Bill asks Parliament to sanction. With a grandiose scheme of 1333 the sort suggested by the right hon. Gentleman before Committee every Member of the Parliamentary Bar ought to make his fortune in a very short time. Very, very little has been said during the whole of this Debate, either by the right hon. Gentleman or by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, which has any bearing upon the merits of this Bill. What does this Bill ask? It asks simply that Parliament shall sanction the expenditure of a certain sum of money in the strengthening of a bridge in order that it may do the duty for which it was constructed. Then other hon. Friends of mine have read to the House one single passage from the evidence, and have asked us to form a judgment upon it. If I am asked to form a judgment upon that which was read to us I should unhesitatingly say that the bridge requires strengthening because it is in a dangerous condition. Anybody, even if he were addressing a common jury, who read such a passage from evidence would suggest that a bridge which will only bear one train at a time when it is intended to bear three or four, was safe. I confess I cannot think that such a contention would commend itself to me or any man. Really, as to whether the bridge is safe or not, surely this House is not the proper forum before which to try that question. We can only decide in this matter upon the evidence of experts and engineers which can be put forward and tested by cross-examination. Surely that would be a much better way to deal with this matter than by this House. I want just to say a few words on the question on which I venture to think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea does show his want of knowledge. I am sure the hon. Member for Stafford is in error; and I speak, I confess, as having travelled as much on the South-Eastern, Chatham, and Dover as any Member of this House. It is quite incorrect to suggest that the old Chatham Victoria Station is being enlarged.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HOHLER
The hon. Member for Stafford said it was, and that is the answer. He refused to accept the correction. It is quite incorrect to say so. There has been no enlargement of the station accommodation there for the last thirty or forty years. In regard to the Holborn and the Victoria Stations to 1334 which the right hon. Gentleman referred, they are stations which have no real facility and afford no useful purpose in connection with the old South-Eastern and Chatham Railway. Indeed, the only connection between those lines, the nearest connection to London, is about Bromley. These railways are of no possible use to the South-Eastern Railway in dealing with their traffic. Some hon. Gentlemen suggested that we should close to all traffic the Charing Cross Bridge for twelve months. Has that hon. Member ever considered the inconvenience if such a proposal were carried into effect? The whole of the south-eastern traffic would have to go to Cannon Street; it could not be got elsewhere, except some of the Continental trains were sent to Victoria,, which are where the traffic is already at a great disadvantage, and where there is a great want of facilities for travelling purposes. I do submit that in the consideration of this question those who talk ought to have some regard to the people who are habitually travelling on that line. It would be the greatest inconvenience to the great towns all round the north of Kent, which are solely dependent upon that or Cannon Street. Consider also the whole of the traffic of the South-Eastern, especially coming from the coast! At the present time many forget that, owing to the ravages of the sea, the communication between Folkestone and Dover has gone. It is essential that each line should be kept a living entity, with such through communication as they have got, and that the whole thing may be kept working. The advantage of the trains and the convenience of the passengers, more particularly when the atmosphere is foggy, at Charing Cross is enormously intensified by the question of the repair of the bridge. It is suggested by some, "Oh, the railway company would benefit more than anyone by getting the further use of the bridge." How would the company benefit? The bridge will still simply be a bridge capable of carrying the traffic which it was originally constructed to carry. It really would? seem as if hon. Members sought to postpone that which is absolutely necessary in the interests of the public. Assuming that the Committee were of that opinion before whom this Bill was ultimately heard, until some day the bridge falls into the river, and perhaps a train with it—because there is nothing to compel the 1335 railway company to carry out this proposal! Now we are to put on the back of the Bill the scheme foreshadowed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea. What does it mean? It could not be introduced by the railway company. I do not know who are the local authorities who would have the power to carry it out, or how they could agree amongst themselves as to the proportion of the expense they would incur. In other words, the scheme that is proposed must emanate from the Government. It is a scheme which, to my mind, is not to he thought of for a moment. The millions it would cost is no object! Everyone seems to think that this nation is as rich and will be as rich at the end of the War as it has been in times of peace. I submit that to try to postpone and hang up this Bill for the reasons given is to try and prevent a useful user of this railway for the benefit of the public.
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
I do hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading. To my mind it is a most extraordinary thing that at a time like this, when the country is in the middle of a great War, when its resources are strained to the uttermost, that some should contemplate a scheme such as this foreshadowed in the speeches which have been made in opposition to the Bill—and a scheme which is going to cost anything up to £20,000,000! We are holding up the repair of what is really a dangerous structure for a scheme in connection with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea talked about £1,000,000. I am told that the scheme will cost £20,000,000, and that it will take many, many years to carry out. Really, it is a scandal that this Bill should be refused a Second Reading, or that opposition should be offered to it by reason of the scheme to which I have referred. We have to consider what is the responsibility of this House. We are told that, in the opinion of experts, this
§ bridge is more or less dangerous. We know that accidents do happen on the railways, and that collisions do occur. We have to realise what might happen if a collision occurred on this bridge. It would enormously increase the strain, and the disaster might be followed by a second disaster, that is, the collapse of the bridge. I myself have a very strong feeling that we are not acting rightly unless we give a Second Reading to this Bill. Goodness only knows where the money is to come from for this scheme for the beautification of London. Why, no money may be available for years. It will probably be twenty or thirty years before we shall be able to go on with any of the schemes which the county council have dealt with in the past. In the meantime, we have got to tinker up the bridges and all the old buildings as best we can. What will our Allies think of us when they see the time of this House occupied for the greater part of the sitting debating a question of this kind? Surely this is a time when we ought to study economy in every possible direction. The hoardings are covered with placards telling us that it is unpatriotic to wear new clothes, and advice to that effect, and we shall have to do with the old bridge as long as we are able to put up with it. I do beg that the House will accept the scheme, coupled as it is with the offer which the right hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) has suggested, that it should be without prejudice to the greater scheme being carried on at a later date, and also without any additional compensation. That I venture to think, covers the whole ground, and disposes of all the questions that have been raised by the opponents of the Bill. Therefore, I beg and hope that the House will pass the Second Reading.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 25; Noes, 67.1337
|Division No. 30.]||AYES.||[10.7 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Stewart, Gershom|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Sykes, Col. Alan John (Ches., Knutsf'd)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Moltene, Percy Alport||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Bathurst, Capt. C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Parker, Rt. Hon. Sir G. (Gravesend)||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Pretyman, Ernest George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Hardy Rt. Hon. Laurence||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Stuart-Wortley and Mr. J. Rowlands.|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Alden, Percy||Goldstone, Frank||Morgan, George Hay|
|Barnes, Rt Hon. George N.||Grant, J. A.||Nield, Herbert|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Radford, Sir. George Heynes|
|Bird, Alfred||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Raftan, Peter Wilson|
|Bliss, Joseph||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Pees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Hinds, John||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Boyton, James||Hogge, James Myles||Shortt, Edward|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Bytes, Sir William Pollard||Horne, E.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Houston, Robert Paterson||Watt, Henry A.|
|Cowan, W. H.||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||John, Edward Thomas||Wiles, Thomas|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||King, Joseph||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hen. Willoughby H.||Larmor, Sir J.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Percy Harris (Leicester, Har-|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Magnus, Sir Philip||borough) and Mr. Montague Barlow.|
|Glanville, Harold James||Millar, James Duncan|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Second Reading put off for three months.
§ Adjourned accordingly at a Quarter past Ten o'clock.