§ Read a Second time, and committed.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
I beg to move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to insert a provision in the Bill making the erection of trolley vehicle equipment on, over, under, along, or across any street or road subject to the provisions of Section 23 of the London County Tramways (Electrical Power) Act, 1900.I am not in any way an opponent of municipal tramways as they have been run in London for the last 20 or 25 years. In fact, so far from being an opponent of municipal tramways, when a member of the London County Council I served 1647 for a number of years on the Highways Committee, and was for a time its Vice-Chairman. Furthermore, it cannot be said that as Member for East Lewisham, I represent a reactionary borough. We in Lewisham are not opposed to tramways as such, as is proved by the fact that we have in actual operation at the present time, 8½ miles of electrical tramways, and the borough has contributed no less than £62,000 towards the cost of the necessary street widenings. The reason why we put down these instructions is because this Bill of the London County Council raises a Very important question of general principle affecting, in this instance, Lewisham mainly, but one which will also affect other borough councils if it is allowed to go through. Section 23 of the London County Tramways (Electrical Power) Act, 1900, which it is proposed to add to the Bill, authorises borough councils to veto a system of overhead traction, and one has to remember that the borough councils are the road authorities in London, and, obviously, have the best knowledge in regard to local traffic conditions.
The London County Council has made repeated efforts to get round this veto of the borough councils. In 1912 a Bill, on lines somewhat similar to the present Bill, was introduced, and was rejected by an overwhelming majority. In 1913 the same proposal, as is now put forward, was made, which would have authorised trackless trams to be run over the same road as now suggested by the county council. The proposal was exhaustively debated, and an instruction, similar to the one I have just moved, was carried by 119 votes to 40 votes in the then House of Commons. It seems a little unfortunate, when this House has on two occasions in 10 years refused to abrogate the veto which it gave to the borough councils, that a body of such importance as the London County Council should for the third time bring forward a Bill of this nature. They must know that it is bound to be opposed, and that it will lead to a considerable waste of Parliamentary time. A rather interesting point arises in the Bill itself. Clause 7 states:Provided that the Council shall not adopt such system in any metropolitan borough until after consultation with the council of that borough.1648 Yet no steps whatever were taken to consult the borough council in Lewisham. The first knowledge which the Lewisham Borough Council had of this proposal, which so intimately affects the interests of the borough, was when they saw it on the agenda of the London County Council's Highways Committee, just before Christmas. Thus the County Council did not even comply with the provisions of their own Bill. The borough, of which I have the honour to represent the eastern portion, is vitally interested in this question, because two-thirds of the 7¾ miles, which it is suggested these trams should run over, is in the borough of Lewisham. I may say, in passing, that it is not a conduit system, such as more favoured parts of London have been given, but a trackless trolley tram. I do not propose to go into the merits or demerits of that particular form of tram, beyond saying that I understand that it has been tried elsewhere and has been by no means an unqualified success.
As two-thirds of this suggested line is to run in the borough of Lewisham, it is a matter of some interest to see the views of the local inhabitants as far as they can be ascertained. The borough council, by a majority of 28 votes to 8, decided against the introduction of the trams. Local meetings have been held in regard to it and, I understand, have been practically unanimous against the introduction of this form of tramway. What is most significant of all, is that there was a London County Council election some four weeks ago in which this was one of the main issues. In East and West Lewisham candidates pledged to oppose to the utmost of their power this particular tramway scheme were returned, in one instance by a majority of 7,500 and in the other by a majority of 4,000. It is not unfair to say that the local inhabitants, in the proportion of three to one as regards one half of the borough, and of two to one as regards the other, are opposed to the Bill. There is a strong local feeling that it is not right of the London County Council, for the sake of economy, to try to force this system on a borough having given the conduit system to other boroughs elsewhere. It is not fair that Lewisham should be singled out for an experiment on these lines, and there are also very strong local objections to it, because of the route which is being suggested.
1649 This is a cross-country route—and those who know South-east London will appreciate what I mean—from the Crystal Palace across to Lee Green. Traffic in these outlying parts of London tends to go towards the offices and factories nearer Central London, and the demand for traffic facilities from Catford to Norwood is very small, and it is already being served by two omnibuses, which run at intervals of six or eight minutes over the very roads on which it is suggested this very expensive system of trams should be laid down. Furthermore, in many parts of the borough property is of considerable value, and the mere fact of having four wires—two will not be sufficient—immediately outside the houses, will depreciate the better class of houses in the constituency.
I have been favoured with the Memorandum which the London County Council have issued in support of their Bill. Among other points which they attempt to make is one with regard to two of their housing estates which are being built at the present time, Bellingham and Grove Park. As they have the candour to admit, the Grove Park Estate is fully a mile from the nearest point on the tramway, and people in these days will not take the trouble of walking a mile to a tramway when these is a railway station within a hundred yards, as is the case at Grove Park. With regard to the Bellingham Estate, there are, it is true, several thousand houses now in process of being built, but the whole tendency of the inhabitants of Bellingham in the future will be to go towards town. There are ample facilities by the South Eastern Railway and the London Council tram and the omnibuses to take them up to their work in Bermondsey or Rotherhithe or the City or wherever it may be. There are no factories whatever on the Lee Green side or on the northern side which would cause a considerable number of people to want to go, not north towards their work, but east or west by this cross-country line. I submit that it is not only a question of general principle that is involved, but a question where the local authority, with all the knowledge it has of local conditions, is strongly opposed. Further, in these days when money is very hard to get, to spend £120,000 or £130,000 on a measure of this sort would, to my mind, be uneconomical from the point of view of the County Council tramways themselves. I 1650 therefore ask the House to confirm the verdict which they have given already in 1912 and 1913, and to add this Instruction to the Bill, and I hope it may be a lesson to the London County Council not, three times in 10 years, to bring forward schemes to which this House will not agree.
§ Sir PHILIP DAWSON
I beg to second the Motion.
In rising to do so, I would crave the indulgence of the House if, through inexperience, I should either say anything that I should not have said, or leave unsaid anything that I should have said. I feel, in seconding this Motion, that I am following a very good precedent which was set by my immediate predecessor, the late lamented Member for West Lewisham (Sir E. Coates), who, as I know, was loved and respected by all hon. Members of this House, as well as by all those who had the privilege of his friendship, as I had. On the 27th May, 1913, he spoke in support of a similar Motion, moved for similar reasons, objecting to the London County Council building trackless trolleys, which they then proposed to do, and I feel that I am following a very good precedent in following his example, because he always had the interests of his Division at heart, and also the interests of the country. I cannot be called unfriendly either to tramways or to any method of transport, or anything that would help to solve those very great difficulties with which we are faced to-day in dealing with the vast population in and around the City of London, or in improving the conditions of housing, which can only be done by very greatly improved means of transport. Therefore, it is not in a spirit of unfriendly criticism that I rise to support the Motion moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Lewisham (Lieut.-Colonel Pownall). For the last 30 years I have been connected with enterprises of this kind, and I think I may be allowed, therefore, to speak with a certain amount of experience of the proposal now before the House.
In carrying out an improvement of this kind, or what is suggested to be an improvement of this kind, the House will agree that the interests of the population which is going to be served and of the boroughs which are going to be traversed by this means 1651 of transport should be carefully ascertained, and that we should not go against the expressed wish of those who are most deeply concerned in improved methods of transport, and I suggest furthermore that no improved methods of this kind are justifiable unless they are based on a sound financial grounding. I submit that in this case neither of these two requirements has been carried out. The London County Tramways (Electrical Power) Act of 1900 especially requires that whatever overhead wires are necessary in connection with tramways they shall only be erected if the consent of the local authorities interested has been obtained, and Standing Order No. 22 requires that no tramways shall be proceeded with without the approval of the local authorities concerned having first been obtained. In this London County Council Bill itself, Clause 7 states that the authorities shall be consulted—whatever that consultation may mean—before any particular system is adopted. I suggest that in the present case neither of these requirements has been fulfilled.
I have not risen to object to the Second Heading of this Bill, because it contains other Clauses which may be for the benefit of Greater London, but I do very strongly support this Motion, because I consider it is only right that the local authorities concerned should be consulted and that their agreement should be obtained before a Measure of this kind is allowed to be proceeded with, and all the more when you come to consider that out of the 7¾ miles of route proposed to be equipped in this manner, 5½ miles are in the borough of Lewisham and another portion of it is in the borough of Croydon, and that both Croydon and Lewisham are strongly against the equipment of these lines. Not only are the borough councils both of Croydon and Lewisham opposed to the equipment of these lines, but public opinion is very strongly opposed to it—public opinion which has been thoroughly well founded, not only by the many public meetings which have been held throughout the whole of the borough of Lewisham, but also in connection with the London County Council election which has just been held and which, as my hon. and gallant Friend stated, has resulted in an overwhelming majority for the four candidates, one of whose main planks was that they would object to the construction 1652 of these trolley lines. I suggest that an expression of opinion such as this deserves the attention of this House and that this House should not allow such an opinion to go by the board or permit the County Council to construct those lines in the face of that opposition. As my hon. and gallant Friend has already stated, it cannot be suggested that the borough of Lewisham is antagonistic to tramways generally, or has been obstructive in connection with the construction of tramways which are justified by the public demand. It has something like 17 or 18 miles of single track running through the borough, and it has contributed a very large sum towards the necessary widening.
It has been suggested by the London County Council, in the memorandum which I have received, as most other hon. Members probably have done, that one of the reasons why this line should be constructed is to serve the new populations which are going to arise in connection with the development, rapidly Hearing completion, of the Bellingham Estate and Grove Park. The Bellingham Estate and Grove Park are already fairly well served by the existing tramway system of the London County Council, and they are also served by the stations of the South Eastern Railway. I know it may be objected that the South Eastern Railway does not at present give a very good service, but we are all aware, I think, of the fact that it is the intention of the South Eastern Railway Company very shortly to proceed with the electrification of the whole of its suburban system, which, I suggest, will give that service to those two great estates which they require. I would point out that the route which would be followed by this trackless tram, and which goes from Norwood, via the Crystal Palace, over hills and down dales, and finally ends at Lee, is not the shortest route, and that it is hardly to be imagined that people living in Grove Park or the other estate will go that roundabout way in order to get to their destination either in the City or in the west end of London.
As regards the system itself, I do not propose to say very much, although there is a great deal I could say about it, and a great many points on which I could criticise it, but I do not think it is necessary to do so now. Suffice it to say that this is a system which has been known, 1653 to my knowledge, for over 20 years, which was originally developed in Germany, and which has never been very extensively adopted in any part of the world. I suggest that this House should not depart from the custom which has been established, that no means of communication involving the construction either of tracks or of overhead lines, should be permitted unless the consent of those local authorities who are mostly interested has first been obtained, and I suggest, in this particular instance, the case is overwhelming, because out of a total length of seven and a half miles, or thereabouts, five and a half are in Lewisham, for which the hon. Member for East Lewisham and I speak, and the other part is in Croydon, which also objects to the construction of these routes.
§ Sir A. SHIRLEY BENN
The Motion, which has been so ably moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Lewisham (Lieut.-Colonel Pownall), and seconded by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson), will, I hope, not meet with approval from this House, and I will give the reasons in very few words. Section 23 of the Act of 1900 was, I believe, passed solely to enable borough councils to decide whether they were to have the conduit system or the overhead system. It was at the time when the London County Council were electrifying the tramways. The conduit system was known to be the best, but was very expensive, and in many boroughs it was felt that if the line was to be electrified, the cheaper method had to be adopted. Borough councils claimed that if the conduit system were put up in one borough, it ought to be put up in theirs, with the result that this provision was passed, and borough councils were able to tell the London County Council that if the overhead system was going to be adopted, they had to have certain widenings and improvements costing the London County Council tramways hundreds of thousands of pounds. I am not saying it was not extremely good that these improvements should be made. In some cases it was necessary, but it was extremely expensive.
To-day, we are suffering from an entirely different condition of affairs from that which existed before the War. We have no money to spend. We have 1654 got to put down the cheapest and most satisfactory system that can be adopted. The experts of the London County Council tell us that if this line is to be extended to the Crystal Palace and into Penge, it will be necessary to adopt the trackless trolley system. Those of us who were connected with the Highways Committee of the London County Council for some years knew it was the great desire of numbers of people living in South London to be able to go to the Crystal Palace by tramcar, but we found that the expense was too enormous; the widenings, the improvements that were necessary made it prohibitive. To-day, if the Conduit system were to be constructed on the line now projected, it would mean the expenditure of some £600,000, while on this trackless trolley system it means £148,000—a very great difference—and enables the trams to run at less money. It has been stated that this system is not likely to be satisfactory. There are, of course, different opinions. I am not an expert, and I can only say what I myself have been told. I am told that in Rotherham, where the corporation are running not only buses, but this trackless trolley system, they have found that they can run the trackless trolley system for 1.9d. a mile less than they can the petrol buses. I have also been told—and I believe I may state it without hesitation—that these cars cause less vibration, damage the roads less, there is no smell from them, there is no change of gear creating noise, and they are a much better system than the motor buses that are going on the route, and, I believe, they are much cheaper than the trams.
I do not intend to labour this subject, because I think that it is for this House to decide whether or not they ought to allow this Bill to go through without the Instruction, and enable the Committee upstairs to hear evidence on both sides, and to make up their minds there whether it is better for the County of London as a whole that the London County Council should be allowed to construct the trackless trolley line than that one of the borough councils—perhaps there are two, but one in particular—should say, "You cannot go through this borough, even to get to the Crystal Palace." Lewisham, a borough of which I am very fond, and for which I have 1655 great respect, has never had much respect for the overhead system. I do not think it has got 200 yards of it, although some of the boroughs have got over five miles. If it be for the benefit of London as a whole, I think the House ought to exercise its authority, and allow this Bill to go upstairs to the Committee to hear the evidence on all sides, and then they can decide whether it is better to allow the Bill to go through or not. I feel that this is not the time when it is necessary to do more than put the point before the House as to whether or not they are going to let a borough, council decide that this improvement for the whole of London shall not be allowed, or whether the House itself shall decide the point.
§ Major GRAY
There is a strange resemblance between this Debate and that which we heard in 1913. The Instruction was then seconded by an hon. Member who was speaking for the first time, and I think that is the ease tonight. I am sure the House will desire me to congratulate the hon. Member on the manner in which he executed his first effort, by making a valuable contribution to our Debate. I hope the precedent will cease there, because the result, on that occasion, was not the result which I desire this evening. Then the Instruction was carried; to-night I hope it will be defeated. There are two questions which are separable, and which I wish the House to keep quite distinct this evening. The one is the merits or demerits of the trackless trolley system. The other is the question of Parliamentary procedure. I hope that that will be carefully noted. Parliamentary procedure is one matter, and the merits of this system are another matter. I take it that the Mover and Seconder agree.
What is their attitude in the matter? They have rather largely discussed the merits of the system, but they have very wisely avoided much reference to Parliamentary procedure. It has been the custom here when the London County Council proposed to run tramways through borough council areas to evoke the aid of the Standing Order and to prevent the Bill going to Committee at all. To-night if this Instruction is carried it will not prevent the Bill going to Committee, but it will have this very peculiar effect, that if the Committee on 1656 consideration of the proposal agree that it is right and wise that this system should be established over this area, if on a survey of the whole, question they are of opinion that it will be to the general advantage of the public that this line should be established, then notwithstanding that decision in Committee upstairs the Lewisham Borough Council would be in a position to say: It shall not be. I will go to a higher authority than myself for that dictum. It was stated so from the Front Treasury Bench in 1913. It was pointed out by Mr. Robertson, then representing the Board of Trade, that that was the exact position, and it would enable the borough council to veto our proposal even after the Committee upstairs had consented to it because this system may not be established, if the Instruction be inserted, without the sanction of the borough council concerned.
If that attitude is to be adopted, first by one borough council and then another in the London area, this trackless trolley system will never get a fair trial in London. People in this Debate talk, as in 1913, as though there were no streets in London with wires overhead, except, perhaps, a few hundred yards here and there. As a matter of fact, there are 33 miles of London streets which have now the overhead system, and it has been established because of the opinion of practically all concerned that it was essential, if the tramway undertakings were to prove successful, that the heavy expense of the conduit system should be avoided. My hon. Friend, in moving this Instruction, drew attention to the fact that we had come here three times in 10 years. Yes, but the last occasion was nine years ago—I wish to stress that date—and there have been many changes since then. I recollect it was said then in Debate, by the then hon. Member for Lewisham, that our main justification in coming to the House was the heavier charge of the conduit system. That was true then, and it is tenfold more true to-day. I had an estimate given to me this afternoon of the cost of the conduit system over this route as against the trackless trolley system—because it must not be forgotten that you cannot run a conduit system with fixed tramlines without widening the streets in many cases. The cost of the tramlines does not stand alone. Improvements have to 1657 be added. You could not run this eight miles on the conduit system under a less charge than £200,000 per mile. That is prohibitive. The County Council would not attempt it. This system could be established at one-tenth of the amount.
It is a question, therefore, of £200,000 or of £20,000, and the council have felt, in their keen desire to carry out their duties as economically as possible, that they are not justified in asking the House to sanction a higher figure, but that they are justified in asking the House to sanction a lower expenditure in order that they may fulfil what, in their opinion, is a great public service. No one regrets more than I do these perennial disputes between the county council and the borough councils. I am afraid they are inevitable, owing to the fact that the borough council is the road authority and the county council the traffic authority. Therefore a conflict of opinion must from time to time occur. I can only hope that nothing may be said to-night which would tend to embitter the relations between the London County Council and the borough councils, because I am quite sure it is to the advantage of London to have the closest possible cooperation between the various municipal councils. Therefore we are acting in no spirit of unfriendliness in taking the view it would not be in the interests of Lewisham to insert this instruction. We take a different view. We believe it would be in the interests, not merely of Lewisham, but the larger area of which Lewisham would form a part, to establish this line.
It is said this line would lead nowhere. As a matter of fact it is a cross-country line. It would bring a large population in very close touch with a large number of railway stations, and touch existing tramlines at three or four points. It is in the nature of a connecting link. The area over which the line would travel is one which is said to be eminently suitable for the purpose. It is a very hilly district. Everyone who knows the Crystal Palace area will recognise immediately the kind of roadway this line would traverse. I speak with all deference in the presence of the Seconder of the instruction, one, I believe, with practical knowledge of the subject, but I am advised by experts that the omnibus companies have themselves admitted that if they are to serve that road they must have more powerful 1658 motors than they now possess. The district is one of steep gradients and is not suitable for ordinary motorbus traffic. The last time I spoke on the tramway question here I was met by the retort that fixed traffic will never endure: it will give way to flexible traffic. I largely agree; but the trackless trolley is flexible traffic. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Does my hon. Friend doubt me! If so, does he know what has happened in the provinces? In many of the Northern towns it is in existence. I do not say that photographs are always absolutely reliable. But I can show a picture of a trackless trolley vehicle running up to the kerbstone to take up a passenger. Other photographs show fixed rails and trackless trolleys working in the same roadway and the trackless trolley passing the fixed traffic. I am afraid as a matter of fact the word "trackless trolley" does not convey a very definite meaning to a very large number of people who have not seen it in operation.
It can move about the roadway. It has conduit wires, it is perfectly true, but a mechanical device very simple which enables it to work on every roadway without any difficulty whatever. Those who have spoken on the Instruction have been good enough to quote from a memorandum issued by the London County Council. May I return the compliment by quoting from a statement issued by the supporters of the Instruction? There really ought not to be any difference between us after that, because, speaking as I do as Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the London County Council, I am prepared to join with them on paragraph 8 of their own statement, which I will read:The borough council are fully prepared, should the Bill be referred to a Committee, to justify their objections to its proposal on the merits, and to show if necessary that the trolley vehicles are not required, that they are highly speculative, and likely to prove a failure in any case, and that with the greater improvement of the omnibuses now in use any further transport facilities could be better provided by additional omnibuses which would not be open to the same objection.Why not let the Committee determine whether all these things can be proved or not? [An HON. MEMBER: "It would be a waste of expense!"] May I point out that in these matters you incur the expense first and bring your veto into operation afterwards? A large part of 1659 our time is spent year after year in discussing in a full House questions which ought to be discussed in Committee upstairs. I believe if the Committee went fully into this question, discussed it upon its merits, and came to the conclusion that it was not well for London that this system should be established, that decision would be accepted by the London County Council. Instead of that, instead of acting on the lines of their own memorandum, in which they say they are willing to accept the decision of a Committee of this House, they feel that they cannot trust us because the decision might go against them on merits, and they want to have a veto here. If the Instruction is carried to-night it is tantamount to the rejection of this part of the Bill, because the council will not proceed with it, with the result that an economical and a very useful and profitable form of transport will be excluded from the London area. This trolley system is working in Leeds, Bradford, and in York, and in the latter place it is working at 6d. per car mile cheaper than the omnibuses.
§ Major GRAY
You will not give us a chance of trying it in London. I am asking the House to give us the opportunity. If it be bad, the Committee will reject it, and if at is found to be good then the veto of one borough council ought not to stand perpetually in the way of the general public interest.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I rise now because I have been requested by the Wandsworth Borough Council to oppose this Bill. Lewisham and Wandsworth—the latter of course is a much more important place—do not join one another, and this fact ought to influence some of those hon. Members who are not influenced by the whips on the London County Council side or by the speeches of the distinguished representatives of Lewisham, Before I proceed to make my points I should like as an old Member to take this opportunity of expressing my humble appreciation of the maiden speech we have heard from my hon. Friend who represents West Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson). Some of us who have known him for many years are fully aware that he 1660 has had great experience in these matters and his technical advice should be at all times not only welcome, but a good guide to many hon. Members who, although possessing much ability in other directions, have not had the great technical experience which my hon. Friend has had. In supporting the opposition to this Bill I do so because the Borough Council of Wandsworth Central has asked me to do so, and this body is one which possesses a great deal of downright solid business common sense, and whatever party they may belong to they have, as far as I have come into contact with them, generally been right in the view they have taken. They not only try to serve the public faithfully and well, but I support them because I know in this case they happen to be right. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down quoted a figure of £200,000 per mile. I have some idea of the cost in these matters, and I say that £200,000 per mile would not be near it.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
Then I understand that is the estimate to cover the whole expenditure in connection with the introduction of this system, but I disagree with it, and I say that it will probably be nearer double that amount.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
This is the last kick of a dying system, it is trying to save a system which recently many of our leading experts have admitted is on its last legs, and if it had not been for the large amount of capital sunk in the tramways, I do not think they could go on with the development of this system. I think the previous speaker stated that Lewisham would require more powerful motors to run a system of omnibuses in this area, but I am told they are already running omnibuses there. I have not been on one of them myself, but I am informed by an hon. Member who represents Lewisham that omnibuses can take you there on the ordinary motor power which they use on their roads, and therefore we ought not to be influenced very much by the suggestion that they would have to put on more powerful motors. On the grounds I have mentioned and others that I could 1661 put forward, I oppose this Bill, and I shall vote against it. I know that the members of the London County Council are very wise people, but they are not up to the standard of Central Wandsworth.
What I am against more particularly is this. The Bill can go through as it is with one exception: it must be governed by the local veto. In London we have a number of different borough councils, and, as far as the Metropolis is concerned, I venture to suggest it is a wonderfully good working system. With the exception of Poplar, where they want to spend too much money, it is a very sound system of local government. If the London County Council wants to ride the high horse, and put down any particular system let them first go into conference with the councils concerned. I shall oppose the Bill tooth and nail unless the local veto is retained. If this Bill is to go into Committee let it be on the distinct understanding, before it is passed, that the local veto shall remain, and, unless it does, I shall not only oppose it myself but shall try and influence all my friends to go into the Lobby against it.
§ Mr. AMMON
The fact I am now in agreement with the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington opposite (Major Gray) is an indication that this is not a party matter, but that it is a question in which those who have the well-being of the in habitants of London at heart are deeply interested, irrespective of party differences. The hon. and gallant Gentleman represents the majority party on the London County Council. I am a member of the minority party, yet on this we can join together, and it is well that this House should know that the County Council was unanimous in its decision on this matter, and that even the London County Council members for Wandsworth supported it when it was passed by the London County Council. I took the trouble to-day to look up the Division lists, and I notice that all parties supported the proposal, the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson) not being in his place. The hon. Gentleman who spoke before me (Sir J. Norton-Griffiths) gave away the whole case. I admit that he does know something about the cost of contracts. He intimated that my hon. and gallant Friend opposite had underestimated the cost of the conduit system. That is our 1662 case. It is because it is so tremendously expensive that the London County Council are asking this House to support it in its endeavour to supply the inhabitants of this particular district with a cheap and easy means of locomotion.
The position I ask the House to consider is this. If this Instruction be carried, the borough council will actually be in a position to veto the decision of this House. The original Act, as it passed, gave the borough councils a chance to delay or hold up or prevent the introduction of certain methods of transit into their area, but this, if carried, and if the Bill goes to the Committee, will give the borough council power to veto the decision of this House. I suggest that that is a power which no legislative assembly can afford to hand over to a comparatively small body like that. An hon. Member said that all that is being asked for here is that paragraph 8 of the petition against the Bill shall be given effect to. I hope the House will realise that we are asking that the Bill shall go to the Committee, where there will be an opportunity of discussing in all their merits, details and defects, the rival systems of transit. If then the Bill goes down, it will, at any rate have had fair and adequate consideration.
In passing, I may say Wandsworth has nothing to do with this Bill. The local bodies that are concerned are the Borough Councils of Lambeth, Camberwell and Lewisham, the County Borough of Croydon, and the Urban District Councils of Penge and Beckenham, and, with the single exception of Lewisham and in a lesser degree of Croydon, all have agreed to it. The main object of this Bill is to complete the tramway system of London, to round it off in fact, to create connections between dead ends, and to provide for the rapidly growing housing estates with the planning of which the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has had something to do, and to ensure means to convey the residents on these estates to their work. If the Bill be turned down they will be left without any adequate means of transit to the City or West End. It is true, as someone said, that an omnibus service is running, but it would be well for the House to know that this omnibus service has only been in operation since this Bill was presented to this House, I happen to 1663 live in the district and know something about it. There was an omnibus system previously and it was taken off, but since this Bill has been drafted and presented it has again been put on. There is no certainty if this Instruction is carried out that it will continue; in fact, judging by what has gone before, it will come off again, and people living in that area will be left high and dry and without the necessary means of locomotion and transit. There is another point of view I desire to suggest. At a particular moment, when everyone is crying out for economy, surely it is the duty of this House and of any other responsible body to do all they can to promote and support the most economical means of locomotion and to put it into operation. Having regard to the existing congestion and the cry about our housing schemes, this Bill is going to help us very considerably by spreading the population. By taking them out to the new housing sites, it can help greatly in that direction. It will also find a certain amount of useful employment for workmen, without the tremendous cost entailed by the conduit system.
The Mover of the Instruction referred to what happened in 1912, and since he spoke I have taken the trouble to look the matter up. It is true that, under the instructions of the Stepney Borough Council, opposition was raised in this House in 1912 to the carrying into effect of an overhead tramway system, but some years after that same system, which they then opposed, was put into operation with the consent of the council which had formerly opposed it, because a larger experience had convinced them of the necessity for it; and, to judge by the return upon it, it has proved to be a good paying business, which supplies a great need on the part of the community. All that this does is to cause delay, as in the past, for a number of years, and to put to very great inconvenience large numbers of people for whom an adequate tramway system is an almost vital necessity. Surely at a time like this, when there are so many other difficulties, they are not going to put themselves in the false position of seeming to be moved by certain interests against the common interests of the people, and if that be so, there can be no objection to sending the Bill into 1664 Committee, and at least having it properly examined and judged on its merits.
The Mover of the Instruction said that this had not been successful anywhere, but that is not according to fact. In no less than 14 towns and cities in this country this overhead trolley system is in operation, and is abundantly successful. Eighteen other cities are applying for powers to put it into operation, having been convinced by the experience of other cities; while at least a dozen foreign cities have this system in operation. There is yet another point which is worthy of consideration. This particular system supplies a lighter vehicle than the ordinary petrol-driven omnibus. The vehicles will be made according to the Regulations laid down by the Ministry of Transport, and they are cheaper in running, will cause less damage to property, and are more mobile. Anyone serving on the London County Council at the present time will know that one of the greatest difficulties we have to face is the congestion of traffic and the difficulty of dealing with the traffic problem in our streets and roads. This system supplies a mobile form of traction which can get in and out among the traffic. It will obviate the necessity for tremendous capital expenditure for widening and for laying down a conduit system, and it will help us to meet the needs of the people. I do ask the House to support the Council by sending this Bill to a Committee, because, after all the expense and trouble that has been incurred, it will be useless to proceed if this Instruction is carried. The House ought to be fully seised of the fact that, if this Instruction is carried, no matter what may be the decision of this House, the borough council will have power to veto it, and I am sure that that is not to be desired by any legislative assembly. I would again impress upon the House that I belong to a party on the London County Council which has only 20 members. The majority of that Council are Conservative members, and they are unanimous in sending forward this request, because, as the custodians of London, they know the crying needs of the people of London. Therefore, I submit that it is nothing less than the duty of this House to accelerate the progress of this Bill towards Committee, 1665 in order that we may be able as soon as possible to put it into operation and give practical effect to its provisions.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
There has been a good deal of correspondence in the "Times" as to the appearance in this country of the cuckoo. It is stated that the cuckoo never appears in England before the month of April. I submit that the Measure which we have now before us is a legislative cuckoo's egg, which none of the parent birds, whether they be in West Lewisham, East Lewisham, Croydon, or Bromley, desire to have. On these grounds, the Motion moved by my hon. Friends the Members for East Lewisham and West Lewisham should receive consideration and support from this House. My hon. Friend the Member for Drake (Sir A. Shirley Benn) endeavoured to point out that this is merely a question of cost. I submit that it is not a question of cost but a question of principle, and that it is not fair to compel these districts to have something which they do not want, or upon which they have not been invited to express an opinion, or which, when invited, have stated that they certainly do not want. In my own constituency I have received a considerable volume of evidence in support of the Motion moved by my two hon. Friends. In Sydenham a petition has been signed by over 800 people objecting to the scheme. It is not only a question of cost; it is a question whether the County Council can impose its autocratic will—it is nothing more or less—on the subordinate borough councils outside the ambit of its operations. I do not believe that the system of coercion, whether applied to Borough Councils or to other parts of the Empire, is sound. Again, we have been told that the motor omnibus companies are quite prepared to supply all the transport that is demanded. That being so, why should the ratepayers, who are already overburdened, be asked to contribute further? It is not the prime cost of the track or of the rolling stock and trolleys, but every years there must inevitably be a bill for the bureaucracy which has got to be set up under this municipal scheme. This proposal should be, first of all, presented to the local authorities to see whether they want it, and, in the second place, every encouragement should be given to the promotion of private rather than municipal enterprise.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of TRANSPORT (Mr. Neal)
This Debate has demonstrated the extreme inconvenience which arises in the metropolis of having two authorities, the one responsible for traffic and the other responsible for roads. One of the great difficulties which the Ministry of Transport has experienced in connection with any attempt to improve traffic conditions in London has arisen from this very fact. The position of the county council, for which I hold no brief, is an extremely difficult one. If they propose tramway extensions, they are met by a Standing Order. If they propose something which is not strictly a tramway at all, they are met by an Instruction such as the one which has now been moved. I should like, in passing, to join my tribute to the hon. Member who seconded this Motion for the very excellent, clear, and lucid way in which he made his maiden speech to the House. I suggest that really the question that is under consideration at the moment is not the relative merits of a tramway or a trackless system or an omnibus system, but that it is as to whether the House is going to limit the discretion of one of its Committees in dealing with the matter, or to put it in an even worse position, that a decision which was arrived at by the Committee and approved on Third reading might be vetoed by a borough council. I respectfully suggest that that is not something which should be encouraged. Looking at this matter from the point of view of the Ministry of Transport, anything which makes for improved transport facilities in this great metropolis is, I suggest, worthy of consideration by a Committee of this House. The councils say, through their spokesman here to-night, that a fixed tramway system through this district is impossible because of the cost. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir J. Norton-Griffiths) says that he agrees, but that the case has been under-stated and that this would cost far more than is said. So we can rule out of consideration any question of a fixed tramway system. It is said, then, by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bromley (Lieut.-Colonel James) that private enterprise is prepared to fill this gap by omnibuses. When I turn to the other side of the House the hon. Member who is able to say upon this 1667 matter that there is a united county council declares that private enterprise has failed, that it commenced a service, that it discontinued the service, and has recommenced it on the introduction of this Bill.
Therefore it seems to me that there is a question for consideration as to whether or not the London General Omnibus Company, who have petitioned against this Bill, is prepared to give to a Committee of this House evidence to show that they are willing and able to supply the needs of the district. If it should turn out that the London General Omnibus Company could satisfy a Committee of this House to that effect, then it seems to me that the case of the opponents of this would be very much strengthened, and there would be a good deal to be said from the point of view of avoiding the expenditure and putting the ratepayers' money at risk on this extension. Again, that seems a matter quite fit and proper for investigation by a Committee of this House. The Instruction which is moved is to bring into operation, with reference to trolley vehicles, a principle which was settled in 1900 with reference to tramways, but I suggest to the House that the cases are not parallel. The 1900 Act had not within its purview a trackless trolley system. I doubt very much whether there was one in existence in Great Britain at that time. I think I am right in saying that the first Act which authorised trackless trolleys was passed about 1910. What was it that the 1900 Act provided? Not that a borough council should have the right to veto a tramway system through a district, but that the borough council should have the right to say, when Parliament had approved of a tramway system, whether it should be operated by overhead wires or by the conduit system. That is not the alternative before the House to-night.
It is not a question of an alternative. This raises a Parliamentary question of deeper importance than that, in fact, the question which has been mentioned by one or two previous speakers, namely, that if Parliament was minded to give legislative effect to Part IV of this Bill Parliamentary action might be qualified or vetoed, not in favour of an alternative, but finally to dispose of any trolley system along this route. We hear from 1668 another hon. Member that the passing of this Instruction would involve the abandonment by the county council of Part IV of the Bill, in other words, that this particular district would be deprived of the service which it is proposed to give it, and would be left to the possibility—which might or might not be realised—of an adequate service being provided in other ways. I suggest that it is not necessary for the House to take that step on Second reading. If Part IV of the Bill were a Bill to itself a much more proper Motion would have been that it be read three months hence, because the effect of carrying this Instruction would be to negative altogether Part IV of the Bill. Although the matter is one about which the Government would not desire to influence unduly the judgment of Members of this House I think it right to say on behalf of the Ministry which is charged with and desires to fulfil the duty of encouraging and promoting additional traffic facilities that I myself shall go into the Lobby against the Instruction.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
I do not address the House to-night either as a representative of the majority or of the minority of the London County Council, or as representing any Metropolitan borough council, or as having been instructed by anybody in this matter, because none of the parties to this matter have manifested any disposition to touch me with the end of a barge-pole. I think, however, I do represent, or aspire to represent, common sense. I have been somewhat amused at the spectacle of a solid phalanx of Tory Members of this House standing up for self-determination, and that does raise a question of principle. I want to speak quite seriously on this matter. It has been the glory of the Tory party, to which I belong, that it has represented local freedom of self-government. It has been the danger of all Tory parties in the whole world that they have carried that doctrine to such an absurdly illogical conclusion that, as, for instance, in Poland before its partition, they have come to a system of liberum veto over every possible measure of improvement. In this Instruction we have come to just that point. The Metropolitan borough councils of London have had the power for 20 years to veto any tramway scheme. They now seek to extend that veto to something that is not a tramway scheme, and they therefore 1669 attempt to induce this House to give them, against the ruling of this House, a veto as to all forms of traffic through their area. There is plently of this Sovietism already in the country. Our local government system shows plenty of instances of this Soviet system. Anyone who has had to deal with a housing scheme knows what kind of obstruction one local authority can put in the way of another, in the way of completion of any public work, and this Amendment is an attempt to extend that area.
Those who have moved and seconded the Instruction are business men. They know perfectly well that in their own businesses to put obstacles like this to the free movement of goods or the free determination of traffic lines would be absolutely fatal. But they are not prepared, for historical reasons, to recognise that that is the case with the metropolis of London, that any logical organisation of the traffic system of London is impossible so long as these vetoes exist. I am not asking the House to disregard the opinion of metropolitan borough councils in this matter. I think the House, and Committees of the House, should give the fullest weight to the opinions of such councils, but I cannot see how it is consistent with anything that has been regarded as civilised government that a particular local authority should say, "We have a right to prevent a certain proposal being considered. We have the right to prevent the House of Commons, through its Committees, going into detailed consideration of a particular proposal. We have a right to interpose an absolute veto to the consideration by a House of Commons Committee of a certain proposal. The House of Commons has no right to ask us for our reasons for opposing it. We cannot be called before a Committee of the House to state our reasons for opposing a certain proposal. All we have to do is to state that we oppose it, and then the House of Commons is precluded from considering the matter at all." That is the claim. Let there be no mistake about it. It is not a claim that the London County Council, which is universally unpopular—nothing one can ever do will make it popular—should override the opinion of the metropolitan borough councils. The question is whether the metropolitan borough councils should be absolved by this House from stating before a Committee of this 1670 House the reason for which they oppose a certain Measure. I cannot conceive how anyone who calls himself a Conservative can identify himself with a proposition for the Balkanisation of this country.
I do not think there would be this opposition to this proposal if it were not for the idea that, to use the brilliant mixed metaphor of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir J. Norton-Griffiths) this was the dying kick of a dead constituency. I think tramways are not—even supposing it was a tramway which it is not—the most modern and the most up to date means of local traffic, but would any business man, putting himself in the position of the people of London, say that having a property which was gradually being superseded by another property, better developed, better suited to the needs of the moment, better adapted to new scientific discovery, having the two properties he would scrap the old property—not make it into a decent paying proposition but scrap it—and go on to the new method? Of course he would not. The only feasible method of bringing the traffic problem of London up to date is to develop your tramway system sufficiently to keep it as a good business property, as a fair paying proposition, and gradually let it be superseded by newer forms of locomotion. But I ask that those who speak on this subject should speak with knowledge, and I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend spoke with complete knowledge on this subject. He has given the House to understand that the tramway system of London is an absolutely non-paying proposition, which is supported out of the rates. I do not know whether he really believes that, but that was the impression that he conveyed. For one year there has been a tramways' deficiency rate. I wonder what business in this country during that same year could confidently predict that it was going to pay a dividend. The tramway system of London, I say unhesitatingly, with such small qualifications as I have as a business man, has been a good business proposition. It has never been supported out of the rates except during this one year of abnormal conditions. It has paid oft, I think, £5,000,000 or more of its debt, a record which, if expressed in terms of dividend paying, is very much better than shareholders in the traffic I combine will admit. It is a good business 1671 property at present, and therefore, if there is any Member of the House who is influenced not by the absurd self-determination principle, but by business considerations, in opposing the Bill, they may rest perfectly content that the attacks which are made on the financial stability of the tramways are absolutely without foundation.
§ Mr. LORDEN
The question on this Instruction is whether the road authority is going to be master in its own house. That is the sole matter of the Instruction. The road authority has certainly some rights in this matter, and, as I understand from the Mover that they have not been consulted in any way a red herring is endeavoured to be drawn across the Debate by saying this is not a tramway. What is it? It is not an omnibus. It is fixed to its trolley and cannot get away from it. It stops if it does. Therefore, it must be a tramway. The Bill refers to "trolley vehicles to form part of the tramway undertaking"; therefore, they are part of the tramway undertaking. Omnibuses are not part of the tramway undertaking, and the London County Council has not been allowed to run omnibuses for that very reason. I strongly advocate that we should uphold the local authorities in their veto. They know the requirements of a neighbourhood. I know this neighbourhood extremely well, and I know that you will be in endless trouble if you have this trolley system there.
I doubt very much whether the county council will make a paying proposition of this line. When the omnibuses were taken off, there were not sufficient omnibuses to supply the rest of London. Many of our suburban routes were denuded of omnibuses because there were not sufficient to carry on the work in Central London. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has been dealing with this as a trackless proposition. His speech, I think, was trackless from start to finish. There is a Royal Commission sitting to decide what shall be the chief authority in London. That is an additional reason why this veto should be retained. The veto has been used often in the past and has never prevented tramways being established in places for which they were suitable. The veto may have prevented 1672 trams in Central London, where they would be a great nuisance, for they would retard traffic rather than help it. The Royal Commission is taking the whole problem into consideration, and I do not think the House would be justified in sending the Bill forward. It has been suggested that this is an improved form of traction. In my opinion, it is not an improved form. The omnibuses of to-day can do a great deal more and carry many more passengers than those of 12 months ago, and they do less injury to the roads than was done by the omnibuses a short time ago.
I hope the House will pass this Instruction, which is a reasonable Instruction. It does not matter what kind of traction it is proposed to use. The question is whether the borough council is to be master in its own house. The London County Council has always been in the habit of coming down to a district and saying: "We want to put up a tramway for this, that, and the other, through these streets." When the county council has found it is against a veto, it has gone into consultation with the borough council. As one who has taken a great deal of interest in muncipal work, and has been a member of a borough council for over 20 years, I have found that it was to the advantage both of the county council and of the borough council when both bodies have met and agreed around a table. We are all inclined to agree to conferences in these days. I have always found it to the interest of the borough I represent to meet the London County Council in conference. The result has been satisfactory to both parties. They have not both had their way, but it has been to the interests of the community generally when a conference was held. Members of the borough councils know the requirements of their districts. I doubt very much whether members of the London County Council know those districts nearly as much.
§ Captain Viscount CURZON
I am very glad to be able to take part in this debate. The Noble Lord who represents Hastings says that no one should speak in this debate without knowledge. Of course, I cannot pretend to compete with him in his knowledge of the London County Council and all its works. He knows all about it, and all that sort of thing. I can say, however, that I am here representing the borough council of my own constituency. 1673 I would like to draw the attention of my hon. Friends of the Labour party to the fact that my borough council is a Labour borough council, in which the proportion of Labour members to Municipal Reformers is about the same as the proportion of Municipal Reformers to the Labour party on the London County Council.
§ Viscount CURZON
There is only one more enlightened borough council than Wandsworth, and that is Battersea. The hon. Member who spoke for the Labour party said he would support this scheme because it was expensive.
§ Viscount CURZON
For greater accuracy, I took down the hon. Member's words, and that is what he said.
§ Viscount CURZON
We shall read to-morrow what the OFFICIAL REPORT has to say about it. On the question of trolley vehicles, I was more than surprised to hear what was said by the representative of the Ministry of Transport. Whatever you may say, this scheme is going to lead to increased traffic and congestion. I regret I was not present to hear the speech of the hon. Member who represents the London County Council in this House so ably, but I gathered that he said that part of the expense debited to the trolley vehicles under this scheme would be for road improvements. Does not that imply increased congestion of traffic? If there is one thing above another with which we have to deal in London, it is congestion of traffic. If, in addition to the present system of transport along this route, you are to put a trolley vehicle system, it is really a case to be inquired into, not by the London County Council, but by the Ministry of Transport. The Ministry has been altogether too lax in administering the traffic problem of London; it has not paid nearly sufficient attention to the problem. Congestion is growing day by day by leaps and bounds, and nothing is being done by the Ministry to cope with it. They have set up an inquiry, but they have not adopted all its recommendations. Irritating delays to city workers take 1674 place every day. Here is a route to serve a suburban area. The idea is that city dwellers will make use of the system of transport in going to their places of business. Yet the Ministry of Transport is ready to support a scheme which can only lead to increased congestion in London traffic. The scheme involves the erection of overhead wires. Is there anything to prevent the erection of central standards? A system of central standards set up in the Metropolis is against all the idea of the Ministry of Transport, and will not be supported by Sir Henry Maybury. The trolley system involves standards and wires. The wires are an out-of-date system, and have sometimes been carried away. In a heavy snowstorm you may get them carried away by the weight of snow, and people may be electrocuted. [Interruption.] The Noble Lord who represents Hastings (Lord E. Percy) represents a borough which has the most archaic system in the whole of the country. It has been superseded by overhead wires, but the people do not like them any better.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Does the Noble Lord suggest that in snowfalls at Hastings a large number of people have been electrocuted?
§ Viscount CURZON
This is a Debate to consider an extended system of municipal trading not of meteorological statistics. You are going to extend the tramway system of London by a very large expenditure on overhead wires and poles. Why do that when you have got already a far better system much more adaptable to the needs of the traffic. The omnibus when it comes up against the tramway or trolley omnibus can make rings round them. It is not limited in its route by wires or underground currents. Supposing the population shifts from along this route. What can the County Council do? The system will not serve the locality at all, and will have to be shifted or scrapped. To set up such a system at a time when you have already improved methods of transport, is wrong. Probably the motor omnibus will be vastly improved, and made lighter, swifter and doing less wear to the roads. Setting up a system like this is taking a step back. The Noble Lord said we must not oppose 1675 progress, but I regard the motor omnibus as the symbol of progress compared with the tram. I could not understand the sequence of the argument of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Amnion). He said he was supporting it because it was expensive, and then he said it was a most economical scheme.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Viscount CURZON
He also said the borough of Croydon was partially against this scheme. Does not that show the Ministry there is a traffic objection to it? Croydon was in such a bad state of traffic congestion that the Ministry had to initiate a by-pass scheme. The motor 'bus can be adapted to the changing needs of the time, the road, or anything else. I ask the House before they vote upon the scheme to consider whether the local authority is not the best judge of a scheme which will add to the congestion. They know the local conditions, and we take a very grave responsibility if we go in face of the local authority, which is far more concerned than the County Council, which is mostly concerned with making its trams pay, though they mostly cannot. The House ought to support the motion.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I happen to be one of the few Members in this Debate who, like the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), has got no axe to grind. I do not mean that in any irrelevant sense. We learned lately to have great respect for the super-axe, and I think the axe of the hon. Members who represent boroughs is to take extreme views of those boroughs, a point of view represented on the part of some Members with some knowledge and by others with considerable ignorance. It is entirely a different principle. I ask the House not to go into the question of deciding whether railless trolleys are a decadent system, for you may be perfectly certain that the County Council, its officers and departments have had all the considerations carefully in mind. They have been thrashed out month after month. If the Noble Lord who has just spoken had been present at our Debates he would have seen the same view he has taken thrashed out and shown to be out of date. There is no clear preference between the trackless 1676 trolley system and the motor 'bus system. That is a matter entirely for the Committee of the House of Commons. If you take the line which he has just put, that the local authority is the one who ought to determine traffic conditions in its own area, then, supposing the central boroughs south of the Thames had only one exit from London, and that happens to be through his borough, is he prepared to say that borough alone has the right to lock up traffic from the other boroughs and prevent it coming through? That is the only logical conclusion. Self-determination carried as far as he and other Members would like means that they have a perfect right to lock up all through traffic from going through it. Other Members made another little mistake when they referred to the borough councils having a right to self-determination because they are local authorities.
I have as great respect as anyone who has spoken this evening for self-determination, but hon. Members must take into account that in every square inch of London there are two super-imposed local authorities, the borough council and the London County Council. Each represents its area just as much as any other, and, whether speaking of the Noble Lord's borough of South Battersea or the two parts of Lewisham or North St. Pancras, the London County Council is the local authority equally as much as the borough council. The London County Council is local as regards London, but as regards the actual boroughs it overlaps to the extent of all boroughs. The fact is that, where you have an absolutely abnormal body like London, you have to divide your authorities and your responsibilities. For that reason it has been laid down which powers should belong to the London County Council and which, to the borough council. In this particular instance we have the supreme test of the absurdity of that division. There has been a mistake in dividing the highway authority from the traffic authority. That has given rise to confusion, but the traffic authority has every bit as much right to speak for themselves as the borough authorities. The London County Council is the traffic authority for these boroughs.
The question of self-determination is not involved. It wants a higher authority than either. I have no ulterior object, except in saying that the borough 1677 councils cannot be the ultimate arbiter of the destinies that Parliament has committed to the higher authority, the London County Council. The House has decided that certain things cannot be even within the arbitration of the London County Council. You must come to this House for a decision. This is a case where you have the expanding needs of traffic. That is one case where it seems to be quite wrong, and against the interests of the metropolis, that you should allow any one borough to state its case finally against all the rest of the metropolis. In the case of this particular route, where you have only three borough councils concerned, two are in favour and one against. The two in favour are chiefly inhabited by the poorer population that would use the trams, and the one against is the borough that would least use the trams. Hon. Members should recognise the fact that Lewisham would use the trams much less than the poorer areas. If it were a case simply of these three councils being against it I should still say that the weight of logic is for the Committee of the House to decide, but where it is only one, I certainly think it should be left to the Committee upstairs to decide, and I hope the House will decide against the consideration.
I have no particular interest either in the Central London authorities or in any of the remoter London districts, or boroughs, or villages, or whatever they may be called. At the same time, I look at this matter from the practical point of view of the general taxpayer. I am entitled, as an ordinary country Member, to take some part in the proceedings. If we are to be of any use as a House of Commons in dealing with this, we want to hear something more than the ordinary partisan view of this or that side. The first point I should like to deal with is the question of raising money at the present time. Rumour has it that there has been considerable financial stringency in this country. We know that borrowing, in many ways, has gone on to a much larger extent than is necessary, and can any one say that it was any great part of the last country council election, for instance, that the county council should go on a further great borrowing scheme? Surely it is a time for the greatest economy, not 1678 merely in the State, but also in the local authorities—particularly as there seems to be a very grave division of opinion in the House as to whether we are going back to a rather out-of-date system, or an entirely pre-historic system. One or two hon. Members are inclined to believe that it is entirely out of date.
May I go on from that point and ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport a question regarding Clause 15—though it is only a minor point—"Saving of excise duties." Does this mean that the local authority is going to escape a certain amount of taxation which otherwise it will have to pay by means of its buses? Looking at it from a wider point of view—that of one who is very proud of London as the capital of the country—I see, as far as Clause 18 is concerned, that it gives rather wide, powers for the destruction of trees and things of that kind. I would like to know clearly if there is anything particular in this Bill which will prevent any local authority from carrying out the wholesale destruction of the trees—which, after all, in many of the suburban parts of London, add considerably to the beauty of the town—or whether there is anything further in the Bill which will really be of use to us in that particular respect. I do not think, in these days, they can cut down indiscriminately all round simply because some minor local authority says the trees are in the way of their tramways. One point I would like to emphasise very strongly is as to whether or not there is any real prospect of this system paying a dividend and helping the ratepayers in London. That is the main subject which we ought to consider, and I do not see that up to the present it has been very clearly put before us.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
The hon. Member for Tavistock (Lieut.-Commander Williams) asked whether the London County Council is justified in going to this amount of expenditure. As a London Member representing a densely populated division I say that any scheme promoted by the London County Council, having for its object the transfer of men, women and children from the centre to the outer parts of London, is in itself a justification of expenditure. There are two interests behind the Motion now under discussion. One interest is that of the people of 1679 Lewisham, whose ultra respectability shudders at the thought of the London County Council tramway passing through their district. The other interest is that of the omnibus company, who, having failed in their enterprise years ago, have an idea of reinstituting the omnibus service, thereby hoping to prevent the London County Council from making the fullest possible use of its powers and to further the interests of the company, as against that of the municipality. While I am not an advocate of competition, I am opposed to any attempt at monopoly by any omnibus company. If they consider they can make a profit by running their omnibuses on that route, they certainly have no right to object to the London County Council running these trams. I would like to impress on the House that the people of London want rapid transit from the centre to the borders. The whole of London should be served with the cheapest possible form of transit that the municipalities can provide. This is what the London County Council proposes to do, and the opposition comes, as I say, from ultra respectable Lewisham, backed by ultra respectable Wandsworth, who are not prepared to allow this form of enterprise on the part of the London County Council. Again I would say to the hon. Member for Tavistock, that a body like the London County Council is not likely to engage in expenditure to this amount unless it thinks it can make the system pay. You may be quite sure of that, and
§ if the omnibus company think they can make it pay, the London County Council have the same right.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
One mistake the movers of this Motion have made is that they are not asking that the boroughs shall have the option of considering whether or not they would have the tramways pass through the boroughs, but each hon. Member who has spoken against the scheme has disclosed the fact that what he wants is not the option of giving fair and impartial consideration, but the opportunity to veto the proposal of the London County Council, as if the interests of London as a whole are of less consequence to them than the interests of their own particular boroughs. I hope, therefore, that the House will reject the Motion.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to insert a provision in the Bill making the erection of trolley vehicle equipment on, over, under, along, or across any street or road subject to the provisions of Section 23 of the London County Tramways (Electrical Power) Act, 1900.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 86; Noes, 72.1681
|Division No. 70.]||AYES.||[10.23 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Ganzoni, Sir John||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mitchell, Sir William Lane|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Glyn, Major Ralph||Morris, Richard|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Grant, James Augustus||Murchison, C. K.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Herbert Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Hills, Major John Waller||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Hogge, James Myles||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Prescott, Major Sir W. H.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Randies, Sir John Scurrah|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hudson, R. M.||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Hurd, Percy A.||Remer, J. R.|
|Bruton, Sir James||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Renwick, Sir George|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Kiley, James Daniel||Seddon, J. A.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lorden, John William||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Lort-Williams, J.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Thorpe, Captain John Henry||Williams, C. (Tavistock)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)||Lieut.- Colonel Pownall and Sir|
|Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.||Wise, Frederick||Philip Dawson.|
|Warren, Sir Alfred H.||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayday, Arthur||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayward, Evan||Purchase, H. G.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Barrand, A. R.||Hirst, G. H.||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kennedy, Thomas||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kenyon, Barnet||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Lawson, John James||Spencer, George A.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lunn, William||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Swan, J. E.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smithwick)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Finney, Samuel||Myers, Thomas||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Gillis, William||Neal, Arthur||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbrdge)|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Parker, James|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Sir A. Shirley Benn and Lt.-Colonel Fremantle.|
Question put, and agreed to.
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to insert a provision in the Bill making the erection of trolley vehicle equipment on, over, under, along, or across any street or road subject to the provisions of Section 23 of the London County Tramways (Electrical Power) Act. 1900.