HC Deb 01 August 1924 vol 176 cc2426-35

Lords Amendment:

In page 13, line 25, after the word "omnibus," insert the words "trolley, vehicle or tramway car."


I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment. This and the following Amendments on this Clause give power to restrict the running in the streets of trolley vehicles and tramway cars as well as of omnibuses. The Amendments, after discussion in the other place, were agreed to without a Division after the Noble Lord in charge of the Bill had resisted their insertion. Amendments were proposed at various stages in the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons with the object of bringing tramway cars within the purview of this Clause, but on each occasion they were rejected. The reason for excluding tramway cars from the Clause is that tramway cars differ essentially from omnibuses, in that they can run only upon a special, fixed permanent way, which has been made at great expense, and which represents a very large amount of sunk capital.

If the number of omnibuses in a particular street be restricted, they can move at once to another street in which the restrictions do not operate, but this does not apply in the case of tramway cars, which are absolutely tied to the streets in which the permanent way has been made. The same considerations apply to trolley vehicles, which, though they have no permanent way, are, in this respect, on the same footing as tramway cars, because they are tied to their overhead trolley wires and equipment, and cannot be transferred to another route, if prevented from using a particular route. Although the fact that statutory rights have been conferred on tramway companies is not conclusive, because naturally it is open to Parliament to change the rights it itself has given, still tramway cars and trolley vehicles do differ from omnibuses in this respect. The London County Council, I think, have asked Members generally to support them, and, speaking as a member of that Council, I do feel that the claim they make to the House is one which should be supported, and, in these circumstances, I beg to move to disagree with the Lords in these Amendments.


We are now on a subject which always excites tremendous controversy, that of omnibuses against trams, and, as I have said before in this House, we should never have this particular controversy at all if local authorities were allowed to run omnibuses as well as trams. It is because they only look at the traffic problem from one point of view that they are for the trams and against the omnibuses. It is really absurd to make a party question of trams versus omnibuses. Frankly, I hold no brief for one more than for the other. But do not let it be thought, because you are not in favour of trams and are in favour of omnibuses, that you are not democratic. The number of passengers carried by omnibuses and trams during the year in London is practically equal. It is rather curious that the Labour party and the Liberal party are undoubtedly supporting vested interests when they support the trams. They do so because of the undoubted advantages given to the trams in the past—advantages which it is desired to continue to hold. Although trams may he run by municipalities, they are run primarily with the idea of making a profit. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At any rate, they have to be run on commercial lines and we have to look to the fact that in running them on a commercial basis you may find yourself directly up against the public interest in London. You may deliberately crowd your congested areas by giving powers to the tramway company which are not really to the advantage of London as a whole. It is quite useless to pretend that you get control of the traffic in London when you leave out control over one particular vehicle which is notoriously at times one which obstructs traffic. I quite agree with the point of view advanced by the other side as to the statutory right of trams. For myself, taking neither one side nor the other, I should like to see the trams included, although I should feel doubtful whether it were wise for any Minister to take action with regard to the tram unless they deliberately crowd particular areas in London, which they do not do. That is the case I wanted to put to the House.


I do not wish to go into the controversy of omnibus versus tramways, or of municipal trading versus private enterprise. Those points do not really arise on this particular Amendment because it applies nut only to municipal tramways but also to other tramways, and there are still in and around London very large companies owning a very great number of tramways which are likely to be involved. Here is where the tramways come under exactly the same category as omnibuses; they are in an entirely different position because before a tramway line can be laid not only has the consent of this House to be obtained, but that also of the local authorities in whose area the lines are proposed to be laid. These local authorities have an absolute veto at present to hold up any proposed tramlines which they think likely to interfere with the amenities of the neighbourhood or the general traffic. Before a tramway line is laid a Bill has to be passed through Parliament. A very strong case has to be made out showing the streets are suitable and wide enough, that the tramways are necessary and required, and that they are an economic proposal. When that is done, then the company or the local authority has to spend very large sums of money in putting the trams down. If the lines are not a success, the capital is absolutely wasted. When the line is made it is necessary that so many feet of roadway should be maintained out of the profits of the tramway, and, in addition, the undertaking is rated just in the same way as railway lines. Therefore I submit they are in an entirely different position, and it would be a very serious proposition once this House has authorised and encourage a company public authority to put down tramway lines to limit their user and perhaps permit a fresh kind of opposition to come in and interfere with the tram company's running rights. If you stop an omnibus running along a particular road because it is too narrow, another road can be found for it both in London and in any other part of the country. That is where the omnibus has a very great advantage over the tramway. It is always possible to divert it to a new route of traffic if the Minister finds the existing route unsuitable, but with tramway lines it is quite different. The tram is there for all time. It has to be paid for, and therefore it is not a sound thing to interfere with its general use.

Captain Viscount CURZON

As I anticipated, we have had the usual speech from the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris). He has already delivered it in this House to my knowledge on two or three occasions, although I admit it is always pleasant to listen to him, The question is that, by this Amendment, omnibuses and trams are brought within the same category. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green says that that is not so. I should be glad if that were the case, but when you pass this Bill you are going to fix the routes of omnibuses just as much as you are going to fix the tramway routes, and no one will be able to change the omnibus route unless the approval of the Minister is first obtained. The moment you pass this Bill the omnibuses will be tied down to particular routes in the same way as the trains now are. If you take the trains out of the Bill, you will be dealing piecemeal with the traffic question. After all the trams are as much responsible for the congestion of public traffic as any other vehicle on the streets, indeed some people think they are more responsible. What excuse can you have when bringing in a Bill dealing with congestion of traffic for leaving out of consideration one vehicle which causes it as much as any other vehicle. The Minister is to have the power to deal with these things if he thinks fit, and you are going to set up to assist him a very able advisory committee fully representative of all the interests involved. Surely that Committee will be very able watch dogs on the Ministry and will act as a check on him, even though he may share the views which hon. Members attribute to me. In any case, we have an assurance from the Minister that whatever he does will come before Parliament, and we shall always, no doubt, for many years, have the same speech from the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green, or, if he is not here, no doubt some other representative of the London County Council will make it. The interest will always be represented in this House.

Some people think that those who wish to see trams included in this Bill are anxious to see trams uprooted from the streets altogether, but that is not a practical suggestion, and no man in his senses would make it. The traffic in this great city could not be carried on without trams, as things are at present. It may be that in the course of years, as the loss on the trams becomes cumulative, and it becomes impossible for the London County Council to carry on any further, they will themselves take a different view, and we shall have them endeavouring to get statutory powers to run omnibuses or something of that sort. I venture to think that the day when that happens will be a great day for the ratepayers of London. At the same time, as things are at present, we could not do without trams, but it is, surely, only reasonable to include them in the Bill. Hon. Members should not forget that, where trams are run in quick succession, ordinary wheeled traffic of all classes is concentrated on the other parts of the highway, between the outer rails and the kerb. They must remember, also, the obstruction to traffic that is caused by trams, the effect that they have upon houses and so on, and the effect that their rails have upon other classes of traffic.

Hon. Members opposite are always anxious to tell us that they are, like ourselves, trying to represent the underdog, and the underdog of modern traffic is, surely, the bicycle. I am sure that the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) does not want to mislead the House, and that he is just as anxious as any other Member to look after the interests of cyclists. Does he not realise the effect that tramlines have upon cyclists, and how difficult they make it for them under modern traffic conditions? The Chief Commissioner the other day drew attention to the very grave danger caused to cyclists, and to other traffic generally, by the presence of cyclists in London traffic. This danger is very largely added to where there are greasy tramlines, which make it very difficult for cyclists to ride. Therefore, I think there is a great deal more in this question than has been represented by the Minister. What we want to know is a really good reason why trams should not be included in the Bill. If the Minister could give me a better reason than he has given yet, possibly I should be ready to withdraw my opposition, but in the absence of a better reason and a little more argument for not having trams in the Bill—that is to say, for not dealing with the other half of London traffic—I, for one, shall certainly endeavour to get a Division on this Motion. I am very sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-

Brabazon) has run away, but at any rate I am not going to retire from the position which I have taken up, and I do think we have a right to some better answer from the Minister than we have yet had with respect to the non-inclusion of trams.

Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes. 171; Noes, 30.

Division No. 187.] AYES. [11.50 a.m.
Ackroyd, T. R. Guest, J, (York, Hermsworth) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hacking, Captain Douglas H. O'Connor, Thomas P.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Oliver, George Harold
Alstead, R. Harbison, Thomas James S. Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Hardle, George D. Paling, W.
Aske, Sir Robert William Harris, John (Hackney, North) Pease, William Edwin
Baker, Walter Harris, Percy A. Perry, S. F.
Banton, G. Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury) Phillipps, Vivian
Barnes, A. Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Pilkington, R. R.
Barnett, Major Richard W. Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Potts, John S.
Batey, Joseph Henn, Sir Sydney H. Raffan, P. W.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Raffety, F. W.
Berkeley, Captain Reginald Hillary, A. E. Raynes, W. R.
Bondfield, Margaret Hobhouse, A. L. Rea, W. Russell
Bonwick, A. Hoffman, P. C. Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby) Hogga, James Myles Romeril, H. G.
Buchanan, G. Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton) Rose, Frank H,
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Hudson, J. H. Royle, C.
Chapman, Sir S. Isaacs, G. A. Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.
Charleton, H. C. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Scrymgeour, E.
Church, Major A. G. Jewson, Dorothea Scurr, John
Climie, R. John, William (Rhondda, West) Sexton, James
Cluse, W. S. Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne) Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, T. (Pontefract)
Comyns-Carr, A. S. Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.) Snell, Harry
Cope, Major William Kay, Sir R. Newbald Spence, R.
Cove, W. G. Keens, T. Stamford, T. W.
Crittall, V. G. King, Captain Henry Douglas Stephen, Campbell
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Lansbury, George Sturrock, J. Leng
Dickie, Captain J. P. Law, A. Sutton, J. E.
Dickson, T. Lawson, John James Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Dukes, C. Leach, W. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Lee, F. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern) Lindley, F. W. Thomson, Sir W.Mitchell-(Croydon,S.)
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Linfield, F. C. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Egan, W. H. Loverseed, J. F. Thornton, Maxwell R.
Elliot, Walter E. Lowth, T. Thurtle, E.
Falconer, J. Lumley, L. R. Turner-Samuels, M.
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Lunn, William Warne, G. H.
Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H. McCrae, Sir George Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Foot, Isaac MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon) Wells, S. R.
Franklin, L. B. Mackinder, W. White, H G. (Birkenhead, E.)
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. McLean, Major A. Whiteley, W.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Maden, H. Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kennington)
Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North) March, S. Williams, Maj. A. S.(Kent.Sevenoaks)
Gates, Percy Marley, James Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Gavan-Duffy, Thomas Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd Maxton, James Windsor, Walter
George, Major G. L. (Pembroke) Mills, J. E. Wintringham, Margaret
Gibbins, Joseph Mitchell, R. M.(Perth & Kinross,Perth) Wise, Sir Fredric
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Gosling, Harry Montague, Frederick Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.
Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome) Morel, E. D. Wright, W.
Greenall, T. Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South) Young, Andrew (Glatgow, Partick)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Murray, Robert
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Groves, T. Naylor, T. E. Mr. Frederick Hall and Mr. Allen Parkinson.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Bowyer,Capt. G. E. W. Craig, Capt. C. C.(Antrim, South)
Berry, Sir George Bullock,Captain M. Dudgeon, Major C. R.
Blundell, F. N. Clarry,Reginald George Edmondson, Major A. J.
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Ferguson, H. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh Wheler, Lieut.-Col Granville C. H.
FitzRoy, Captain Rt. Hon. Edward A. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Hartington, Marquess of Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough) Sandeman, A. Stewart
Huntingfield, Lord Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools) Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down) Captain Viscount Curzon and Captain Briscoe.
Lorimer, H. D. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendments:

In page 13, line 30, after "omnibuses" insert "trolley vehicles or tramway cars."

Line 39, after "omnibuses" insert " trolley vehicles or tramway cars."

Line 43, after "omnibuses" insert "trolley vehicles or tramway cars."

In page 14, line 33, at end insert "trolley vehicles or tramway cars."

Disagreed with.

Lords Amendment:

In page 14, line 43, at end insert as a new Sub-section— (6) Any regulation made under this Section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament forthwith; and if an address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty-eight days on which that House has sat after any such regulation is laid before it praying that the regulation may be annulled, it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder or the making of a new regulation.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.—[Mr. Gosling.]


I am interested to see that the Minister accepts this Amendment, because it is rather different from his original Bill. As he introduced it, any regulations of this kind were in his own hands, and although they had to be subjected to the scrutiny of the Advisory Council they were powers which he was able to control without any Order in Council. I do not say that is a bad thing to have this Parliamentary control but I very much doubt whether the Orders which he will issue are subjects which it would be very proper to discuss in this House. I know the actual prescribing of routes will come under this Amendment but any regulations he issues and such regulations as to what omnibuses should go down that particular route are very intricate subjects upon which the Minister would have both sides of the case supplied to him, because he has to give notice before making such a regulation, and he would be able to see exactly the whys and wherefores, whereas Parliament would not have both sides of the case put before it. It is not really such a serious matter to grant these regulations because, as put in the Bill in another place, they are only for one year, when they can be revoked. Probably therefore the Minister is wise to accept it.

12 N.


This wording is merely a form and is not going to give this House any serious power of interference with any particular Regulations. Everyone who has any experience of the House knows that the mere formal laying on the Table is a mere nominal power to Members to criticise or ventilate any opinions on particular Regulations. For many years it has been found almost impossible to get a House for a proper full discussion. These words are harmless but they do not satisfy us when we come to Clause 10, when we think it is important that Parliament should have real control over the very important Regulations that appear in Schedule 3. When we come to that I shall raise the point.

Colonel ASHLEY

I thought the hon. Member's speech was going to be a sort of preliminary attack upon the Regulations which we shall discuss under Clause 10, and I was not wrong in thinking so. I will deal with the control later on when we come to that Clause. The hon. Member at the beginning of our Debate praised another place for its democratic Amendments, which gave more popular control. In this case also another place has given, I think, a considerable measure of control to the House over regulations made under Clause 7. When the Bill was originally introduced there was no control over the regulations in either House. The Minister was absolutely uncontrolled in any orders he might make, but another place has put in this proviso, which is a considerable advance over the original proposal. It gives very considerable control to Par- liament. There may be occasions on which a private Member can intervene in this House in the 28 days and there is another place, which the hon. Member says is a democratic place, which is not so congested in business and where they have very little to do. If they consider a regulation interferes with the liberty of the subject a Motion can be made in the 28 days and the regulation automatically becomes void. Therefore I submit that in this we have a very substantial advance in Parliamentary control over the Act.