HC Deb 01 July 1924 vol 175 cc1256-9

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The purpose of this Bill is to extend the time allowed by the Post Office (London) Railway Act, 1913, for the completion of the railway authorised there-under. That Act authorised the Post Office to construct a rube railway in London extending from Paddington to Whitechapel, a distance of between six and seven miles. It provided that five years should be allowed for the completion of the work. However, the interruption of work caused by the War rendered the completion of the work within the time impracticable. The time for the completion of the work has been, from time to time extended by Orders made under the Special Acts (Extension of Time) Act, 1915, as extended by the War Emergency Laws (Continuance) Act, 1920. The last of these Orders extended the time for the completion of the work to 15th August, 1924. It is necessary, therefore, if the work is to be completed that the principal Act should be amended. This Bill proposes to delete the five years extension, and to insert instead thereof 14 years. That is to say, to give till 1927 for the completion of the work. It is thought that work will be completed within the next two years, or at any rate soon after, but it is felt, in order to give ample time for completing the work, we ought to ask for an extension of time for three years.

I suppose the House would wish that I should say a few words about the present position of this railway. Hon. Members will be aware that the railway connects the great station at Liverpool Street with Paddington, and links up all the great sorting stations of London between these two railway stations. The delay in completing the work has been due to two causes. First of all, there was the War which prevented operations proceeding then after the War the Government went on and completed the tunnel. Then the question arose of equipping it electrically. We had an estimate for this electrical equipment of £156,000. The lowest tender obtainable in 1921–2 was £650,000. The Govern- ment of the day felt it had better wait until prices fell rather than give out a contract when prices were at that point. The wisdom of the Government of that day is proved by the fact that we have now tenders in for this equipment which will involve a saving of between £200,000 and £300,000. What I have stated shows, I think, ample reason for asking that more time should be allowed in order to complete this work. When the railway is completed 60 per cent. of the total postal traffic of London it is estimated will go along the railway, and will be—


This Bill, might I remind the right hon. Gentleman, is merely for an extension of time. It is not in order to go into the original merits of the proposal.


I do not know that it is necessary to say much more than I have said. The sole purpose of the introduction of the Bill is to seek an extension of time, and hope, Mr. Speaker, that the House will give a Second Reading to this Bill.


So far as I am concerned I have no objection at all to this Bill, and I think there is none in any quarter of the House; and you, Mr. Speaker, have pointed out that it only involves extending the time provided by the original Bill. I rise to ask one question, that is, why does the right hon. Gentleman propose to refer the Bill to a Select Committee? As I understand it, in 1913 the original proposal was considered by a Select Committee. I am at a loss to understand why it is felt necessary in this Bill, which merely extends the time, to refer it to a Select Committee instead of to an ordinary Standing Committee upstairs.


I have been advised that it is necessary, in order to comply with the Standing Orders of the House, to refer this Bill to a Select Committee. The matter is being dealt with by counsel who have to determine these matters, and that is the position which has been reached.


Like the last speaker, I am anxious to know what is the cost of this scheme. I quite appreciate what the Postmaster-General has said as to the saving of £200,000 or £300,000, but I think we should know what the cost of this tube is going to be. Is it a suction tube; and who are the contractors? If the Postmaster-General can give me an answer about the cost I should appreciate it.


I believe the right hon. Gentleman said this Bill would affect 60 per cent. of the postal traffic of London. Will he say how many vans will be wiped off the roads on account of this new railway. The Post Office vans form a considerable part of the traffic problem, and the more it is relieved—


The hon. and gallant Member is now going into the merits of the original Bill.


If it is in order to reply on the question put to me about the cost, I would like to say that the original estimate was £1,100,000. The present estimate is for £1,650,000, and already £1,178,000 has been spent, in addition to considerable commitments which have been entered into. The total required for completion is £1,650,000. Tenders have been invited and received, and they are now under consideration.


I hope the House will give the right hon. Gentleman the extension of time for which he has asked. I am very glad to notice that he is so keen about speeding up the matter of dealing with letters in the London district, because there is considerable delay at the present time. I can understand why he is so keen about this, because a message sent on Saturday afternoon is considered to be delivered in good time if it gets there on Monday morning. I would ask him to consider the speeding up of letters in that direction.


In view of the necessity for clearing the streets of the mail vans and other Post Office traffic, is not the time which the right hon. Gentleman is asking for, namely, three years, a little excessive In view of the fact that all the right hon. Gentleman says is necessary now is to instal electric equipment, would it not be better for him to ask for one year, and then apply for an extension at the end of that period if it is required.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Select Committee of Five Members, Three to be nominated by the House and Two by the Committee of Selection.

Ordered, That all Petitions against the Bill presented Five clear days before the meeting of the Committee he referred to the Committee; that the Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents, be heard against the Bill, and Counsel or Agents heard in support of the Bill.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.

Ordered, That Three be the quorum.—[Mr. Hartshorn.]