HC Deb 01 March 1920 vol 126 cc149-61

Order for Second Reading read.

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

Colonel NEWMAN

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

With the exception of, perhaps, a couple of Clauses, this Bill is parochial and in no sense Parliamentary. Clause 43 of the Bill asks us to give authority to the Company to acquire three chains of land in the parish of Pinchbeck, in the rural district of Spalding, Lincolnshire, and to say that that is not a matter for local authority, but for Parliament, is absurd and is certainly a strong argument for hon. Gentlemen who are in favour of devolution. That being the case, I want, first of all, to deal quite briefly with one or two Clauses which, to a certain extent, raise matters which are not parochial. I have been asked to oppose Clause 47 by the Association of Urban District Councils. This Clause, as I understand it, seems to be entirely without precedent. It enables the Company to purchase gas, water, or electricity from any local authority or company supplying gas, water, or electricity in any area through which the Great Northern system runs and convey such gas, water, or electricity along the railway and use the same at any portion of this railway or property, although the place is beyond the limits of supply of the undertakers from whom the Company purchased the gas, water, or electricity. It may be, of course, that the Company rely on the Clause in the model Bill of the House of Lords, which Clause enables gas undertakers to supply gas outside their limits. But, then, I do not think the Company quite observe this. So far as water goes, there is in this model Bill a somewhat similar indication. Then we will go to electricity. The electricity authorities cannot supply energy in bulk outside their limits unless they get special powers. That is what is set out in this model Bill, and, of course, what the Great Northern Company wish to do in Clause 47 goes quite outside the scope of the model Bill.

It is a patent fact, and known to all, that a large number of urban district councils are at the moment supplying gas and water in their localities, and some of these urban district authorities, as I understand, are also supplying electricity throughout their own districts. It is perfectly obvious that this particular Clause, if it is allowed in this Bill, might deal a severe blow at the undertakings of these local authorities. After all, these local authorities have erected at considerable expense their gas, water and electricity undertakings, and "considerable expense" means at the expense and risk of the ratepayers, and if the company is allowed to take water, gas and electricity in bulk along its system to a far distant point, it might, of course, inflict grievous injury on some local authority through whose district this water, gas, or electricity in bulk might be carried. Then you have got to remember, if the company get this Clause 47, it will be a precedent for all other railway companies. Therefore, I do suggest to those right hon. and hon. Members who may be supporting the Second Reading of this Bill that it ought to be an instruction to the Committee to omit Clause 47. In that case, the Bill might pass more easily, and I might suggest to the company, as fair-minded people, that to put in this very important Clause at the end of this parochial Bill is not playing cricket. It was only the keen-sightedness of a member of the urban district council which detected this Clause a day or two ago.

I want also to oppose this Bill, because it leaves out something which, to my mind, and the minds of a good many people, ought to be in. I want a clause added which will confer a benefit which has been asked for many years past in a district, partly in Middlesex and partly in Hertfordshire, in which the Great Northern Railway Co. have a monopoly. Therefore, the inhabitants must come to this company to get whatever they want. This particular district—the new Brunswick Park district in Middlesex and Hertfordshire —is one of those rapidly growing residential districts between New South-gate and Barnet. It is one of the great dormitories of London, people going away to business and coming back to rest. It is a district peculiar in that it is not touched by any omnibus service or any tramway service. It has not even got anything in the nature of a good class road to it. There is no road in the district which would support an omnibus, and it is not possible for the tramway authorities to put down a line of trams. Therefore, the district is absolutely dependent on the Great Northern Railway for its inhabitants to get to and from their work. There are in this particular district something like 500 houses at the present moment. As soon as the Government housing scheme gets going, the Friern Barnet Urban District Council have actually plans in hand to erect another 500 houses in that district.

The demand which Brunswick Park is making for a halt or station to be constructed for their benefit by the Great Northern Company is not a new demand. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) will remember that on another Bill I got a promise or an understanding from him that if the district did grow the company would favourably consider a demand or a request from Brunswick Park to have a halt or station erected. I say that even in these few years the locality has developed, and it will develop further, as I have indicated. Apart from the residential development, there is now a large factory which was established there as a war factory, and now has been set to purposes of peace. A large factory has been established, which will eventually cover 27 acres of land, and gives employment to some 500 hands, and, if the business prospers as the owners hope, they look forward in a short while to employ over 1,000 hands What is the net result? Here we have these 500 houses already erected, and 500 about to be erected, and this large factory, most of the people employed in which, of course, live outside the district and have to walk to New Southgate Station, a mile and a half each way. I may be told by the right hon. Baronet that this is really something they cannot do, that the configuration of the ground is such that it would be perfectly impossible to erect a halt or station, that to erect it in a deep cutting would be dangerous to life, and access to it would be impossible. As a matter of fact, some 15 or 20 years ago there actually was a station in this very, place—a station for the dead, and not for the living. The Great Northern Cemetery is adjacent. At the time I refer to the company actually put up a halt or station—call it what you will—with a signal box, all complete and properly equipped in order to facilitate the burial of people brought from other parts of the county, or from London. I do not believe that this place was ever used, because these particular gentlemen who look after our last journey on earth—the undertakers—for some reason or another objected to this halt or station being used, apparently preferring to use the road to save expense to the relatives. At any rate, the station was not used and eventually it was pulled down by the company. But the signal box remains, and is still labelled with the word "Cemetery."

Therefore, if it was possible in 1900 to construct a station suitable for corpses to be taken out, surely in 1920, with a much larger population, not of the dead but of the living, the company might construct a station, not for the purpose of corpses, but for living men to step in and out of the train, and get on to the road outside. I put this demand forward for the second time. On the last occasion we were not successful. We hope this time for something better. It may be urged by the right hon. Baronet that there has been no public demand for this halt or station, that there has been no petition signed by thousands of people, and presented either to this House or to the Great Northern Railway Company. I admit that. I am entirely to blame for it. I objected to it just before the war because I thought the matter would go through merely on request. But the county council representative for that district, the urban district council of Friern Barnet, through their chairman, the Vicar of Whetstone, and other local people, have, in one way or another, approached the company and asked for this concession. Therefore, unless the company are prepared to give us this small thing, and so meet the wishes of a large portion of the constituents of the company, I shall have to carry forward this objection, and, if need be, go to a division.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

I beg to second the Amendment. My hon. and gallant Friend and I have visited this site together. We know how absolutely essential it is for any development of this site that there should be proper railway facilities. You have there, within fifteen miles of London, a distance of over two miles on the railway without a station. Imagine the absurdity of that. Within so short a distance from London you have half an hour's walk in a journey that ought to be taken by train. The site it waiting for suburban development That development will advance the housing question—not only for the district, but for London—by making the place available for those in London, and so relieving the situation.


There are several Members in the House representing the Urban District Councils. These bodies are anxiously watching this Bill, and particularly Clause 47. If this Bill is carried in its present form it lays down an exceedingly novel proposition. As a matter of fact, I am informed there is no precedent that we can turn to for any enlightenment in that direction. The Bill brings out a very important feature, so far as the undertakers are concerned. The Urban District Councils have very limited powers, and if the company can call upon them or request then to supply gas or electricity in bulk, or the like, it may bring upon them a great responsibility which at the present time they are not in a position to contract.


That is exactly what we do not want to do. That is why we brought this Bill in.


I hope, at any rate, the interpretation of the Bill is just what the hon. Baronet will wish me to believe. So far as I am concerned, the Bill gives me a different impression. If this Clause 47 were allowed to become law, it would certainly enable many companies and authorities to supply gas, electricity, or water, as may be demanded by the company, which the company can easily convey on their system into another district, which district has not the powers to do, and the company will be able at the same time to convey their own supply into a district belonging to another local authority, although at the same time large sums have been invested by this local authority on its own undertaking for the purpose of fulfilling its own statutory obligations to supply its own customers. Will this Bill, if carried, make it impossible, for, say, the Piccadilly Tube, to be extended? I am told that the extension of that tube would have taken place some time ago had it not been for the continued obstruction of the Great Northern Railway Company.


This Bill has nothing whatever to do with the Piccadilly Tube, and will not affect it one way or the other.


I thank the hon. Baronet for that admission, which everyone has been trying to get for some considerable time. It will certainly dispose of the rumour which has been so prevalent for some time that the Great Northern Railway Company are against the extension of that particular tube. I am glad of an opportunity to get that statement from a representative of the Company. Perhaps, on another matter, we may get some information from him. There is a train which loaves King's Cross early on a Sunday morning—6.30. I have seen as many as 40 or 50 passengers waiting to travel North to suburban stations, such as Barnet, and so on, and they have had to hang about till 8.30 because this particular train is not allowed to take ordinary passengers. I shall be glad if the right hon. Baronet can see his way clear to offer facilities on that train to ordinary passengers instead of these people having to wait about. I hope we shall be able to hear something about Clause 47 and its effect. It is significant that the right hon. Baronet has been extremely silent. Unless we hear from him something satisfactory I am afraid there will have to be some obstruction towards the passage of this Bill


I did not rise before because I wanted to know what hon. Gentlemen had to say against the Bill. It was more courteous to listen before I attempted to reply. If I had got up earlier I should not have been able to reply to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. In regard to Clause 47, it permits the railway company to extend their pipes or cables for water and electricity outside the area of any given municipality or company which is supplying them with that electricity or water. The reason we put this Clause in is that there are cases where it is not possible to obtain a supply through another authority, or where the other authority have pipes or cables only for a very considerable distance away. It might be that we desired to extend electricity at Doncaster or Leeds for about twenty yards outside the area, and yet we could not do it, and we might have to lay cables or pipes for two or three miles in consequence. I think Clause 47 is a fair proposal. It has to be considered in Committee, and the details of it have nothing to do with the Second Beading. In Committee the urban district county, or municipality, or any other public body concerned can employ counsel and bring forth their grievance, and if the Committee think it is wrong the Clause can be taken out of the Bill. This point, however, has nothing to do with the Second Heading, and it is impossible for the House to debate a Clause of that sort on the Second Reading.


Would the hon. Baronet be prepared to confer the same powers on municipalities as he is asking for the railway company?


I have not power to confer such powers on anybody. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Newman) desires a station put up.

Colonel NEWMAN

A halt.


Yes, and the moment a halt is put up everybody would say it is inconvenient, and that the unfortunate stationmaster or porter has no protection from the weather, and they would say that the railway company has no sympathy for anybody, and were preventing these people earning an honest livelihood. If one of them caught a cold and had to be in bed for a week, it would be said that it was because we had not put a proper station there. This is a very old claim by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Eight miles from London on this particular line there are two stations; one is over six miles and the other over eight miles, and they are less than two miles apart. I ask is it reasonable on the main line to require a station to be placed between two other stations which are less than two miles apart, because there would then be three stations within three miles? The cost of a station at the present time is almost prohibitive. Before the War a station used to cost about £16,000, and it is now estimated to cost at least £40,000, and there would be no return upon this money, and the only consequence would be a further charge, and the Government would have to provide an additional sum to make up the deficiency. The hon. and gallant Member said I made a promise, but I made no promise to put up a station at that particular place. I did not even promise that we would put up a station even if the locality had increased in number, but it has not.

Colonel NEWMAN

Is the right hon. Baronet throwing over his general manager?


I do not know anything about the general manager. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said I made this promise, and that statement is inaccurate. With regard to the statement as to the distance people have to walk, I would point out that, as far as my information goes, the only alteration that has taken place is that a factory has been set up in that district, but I do not know how many of their workpeople would use such a station. I have had a letter from a firm there, in which they say that the nearest station is a matter of fifteen minutes' walk, which is a little different from the statement that has been made that the nearest station is a very long way off. The Great Northern Railway Company are only too anxious to give proper facilities to all the people and all the inhabitants on their lines, but it would be impossible to put up a station there because the population does not justify it.

Colonel NEWMAN

Why was a station put there twenty years ago?


I really cannot say, because I was not a director then. I presume it was to see if people would use it, and as nobody used it they took it away.


Is the right hon. Baronet prepared to consider the advisability of adopting the suggestion of allowing passengers to travel by the 6.30 train on Sunday morning?


That is a matter which has to do with the working of the railway. I shall be very pleased to consider that suggestion.


It appears to me a very extraordinary thing that a private railway company can promote a Bill, and the Chairman of that company can use his place in Parliament for the purpose of assisting that measure through the House, more particularly when our attention has been drawn to the fact that one of the chief Clauses of this Bill contains provisions for which no precedent can be found. Clause 47, we understand, provides for the railway company purchasing the supply of gas, electricity, or water from a private company, and conveying it on to its own railway line or on its own premises into the area of another local authority who would be willing to provide the company with such water, gas, or electricity, and have made provision for it. That does seem to me to be an extraordinary thing even for a railway company to demand from this House. Every municipality in the country, if it desires to supply gas, electricity, or water outside its own area has to come to Parliament and get special powers to do so, often at tremendous expense and considerable trouble. When a private railway company incorporates in a Bill a provision of that sort it ought not to be conceded when municipalities cannot put it into operation, even though it gets the powerful backing of its Chairman in this House.


The hon. Member for Finchley has told us he was voicing the opinion of the Urban District Councils Association in opposing Clause 47. I rise to voice the position of the Metropolitan Water Board. I have the honour to represent the Middlesex County Council on that Board and they are very much concerned with the provisions of Clause 47 of this Bill. I do not propose to say anything with regard to the clauses in the Model Bill of the House of Lords which have been very adequately and effectively dealt with by the hon. Member for Finchley. But I desire to draw the attention of the House to the manner in which the Metropolitan Water Board will be affected. I understand that that Board are authorised to supply water in this district and their charges are defined and regulated by the Act of 1907. Under Section 16 of that Act the charges which the Board may make for the supply of water by measure of metre, vary between 11d. per thousand gallons when the quantity consumed does not exceed 50,000 gallons, and 6d. and one-eighth of a penny per gallon when it exceeds 5 million gallons. Now the railway company will be able to take the Water Board's water from their own premises in the Water Board's area and convey it to districts far removed from that area, and to take such a quantity as will enable them to have it at 6 and one-eighth of a penny per thousand gallons, and so defeat the limit contained in the section dealing with the aggregation of supply. The only point I wish to advance is that it is not a right thing to confer power in a Railway Company's Act to the injury of a great public authority like the Metropolitan Water Board. I shall have no alternative but to oppose the second reading of this Bill.


The main object of the Bill under discussion is the construction of a small railway 7 miles in length between Waltham and Colsterworth. There are other powers sought by the railway company for the widening and improvement of their system. The Bill has already received some consideration from the Ministry of Transport and with its main object the Ministry finds itself in sympathy. Clause 47, however, has received criticisms in this House which, I think, are useful because they focus attention on powers which I believe are quite novel in a Bill of this description. It will be the duty of the Ministry of Transport to make a report to the Committee of this House which may be entrusted with consideration of the details of the Bill, and in framing that Report we shall bear in mind what has been said by hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate, Clause 47, as I read it, provides that the undertakers having the right of supply of gas or water or electricity in the district, may supply it to the railway company outside that district. If it were so proposed it would be open to greater objection than has been stated. But, as I gather, the intention of the Clause, although I am not quite sure for it is not aptly worded, is not to extend the right to undertakers to supply outside their district, but what I take to be intended is that having obtained a supply within the district the railway company may use it outside the district. The right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) accepts that as the intention of the promoters of the Bill. That is a more limited extension of powers than has appeared, I think, from the speeches which have been made. But even so, as I am advised, it is the first time that this principle has been embodied in a private Bill of this nature, and under these circumstances it follows that the Ministry of Transport must give to it the most close and careful consideration, and deal with it in the report which it will have to present to any Committee that considers the Bill. The present Motion before the House is to defeat the Bill altogether, and the grounds advanced by the hon. and gallant Member who moved it are twofold. The first is that he does not like Clause 47, and the second that he wants a station or halt somewhere in the district of London. The second point is irrelevant to a Second Reading Debate. The first ground is a matter of great

public importance and shall receive due attention. I trust that these points having been sufficiently ventilated, the House will see its way to give a Second Reading to the Bill which, in the opinion of the Minister of Transport, is calculated in its main object to improve the transport facilities of the country.

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

Mr. J. JONES (seated and covered)

May I ask if people who are interested in the Bill financially are allowed to vote?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)

Any Member of the House can vote.

The House divided: Ayes, 145; Noes, 39.

Division No. 23.] AYES. [8.58 p.m.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S. Forrest, Walter Moreing, Captain Algernon H.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C. Fraser, Major Sir Keith Morison, Thomas Brash
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Gange, E. Stanley Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)
Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)
Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W. Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Neal, Arthur
Baird, John Lawrence Goff, Sir R. Park Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Baldwin, Stanley Gould, James C. Newton, Major Harry Kottingham
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington) Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.
Balfour, Sir R. (Glasgow, Particle) Grayson, Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W
Barlow, Sir Montague Gregory, Holman Parker, James
Barnett, Major R. W. Griggs, Sir Peter Perkins, Walter Frank
Barrie, Charles Coupar Gritten, W. G. Howard Perring, William George
Barrie, Hugh Thorn (Lon'derry, N.) Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E. Pollock, Sir Ernest M.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Raeburn, Sir William H.
Bigland, Alfred Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar Ramsden, G. T.
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Hamilton, Major C. G. C. Rankin, Captain James S.
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Harris, Sir Henry Percy Raper, A. Baldwin
Blane, T. A. Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.
Berwick, Major G. O. Herbert, Denis (Hertford, Watford) Remer, J. R.
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith- Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Higham, Charles Frederick Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Brassey, Major H. L. C. Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank Rodger, A. K.
Bridgeman, William Clive Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.
Broad, Thomas Tucker Hood, Joseph Shaw, William T. (Forfar)
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central) Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Hopkins, John W. W. Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)
Campbell, J. D. G. Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Carr, W. Theodore Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.
Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington) Inskip, Thomas Walker H. Stevens, Marshall
Casey, T. W. James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Strauss, Edward Anthony
Chadwick, R. Burton Jephcott, A. R. Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.
Cheyne, Sir William Watson Jellett, William Morgan Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chich'ter)
Clough, Robert Jesson, C. Taylor, J.
Coats, Sir Stuart Johnson, L. S. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Johnstone, Joseph Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Tickler, Thomas George
Courthope, Major George L. Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr Waddington, R.
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) King, Commander Henry Douglas Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)
Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid) Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.) Waring, Major Walter
Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton) Lister, Sir R. Ashton Wheler, Major Granville C. H.
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Lorden, John William Whitla, Sir William
Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham) Lort-Williams, J. Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)
Donald, Thompson Loseby, Captain C. E. Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)
Doyle, N. Grattan McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern) Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark) M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W. Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)
Eyres-Monsell. Commander B. M. Maddocks, Henry Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)
Farquharson, Major A. C. Magnus, Sir Philip Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Flannery, Sir James Fortescue Mason, Robert
Foreman, Henry Molson, Major John Elsdale TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Sir F. Banbury and Lieut.-Colonel Jackson.
Adamson, Bt. Hon. William Hirst, G. H. Rose, Frank H.
Atkey, A. R. Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Royce, William Stapleton
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hogge, James Myles Sexton, James
Cairns, John Irving, Dan Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield) Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Kenyon, Barnet Tootill, Robert
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Lawson, John J. Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Galbraith, Samuel Lunn, William Wignall, James
Glanville, Harold James Lyle, C. E. Leonard Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) M'Lean, Neil (Glasgow, Goven) Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Myers, Thomas Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Grundy, T. W. O'Grady, Captain James
Hayday, Arthur Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hayward, Major Evan Prescott, Major W. H. Major Newman and Mr. Waterson.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.