§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Mr. ROBERT MORRISON
I beg to move to leave out the word "now", and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."
It is always an unpleasant task to interrupt the ordinary business of Parliament, particularly at this congested period of the Session, by initiating a discussion on a private Bill, but I am perfectly sure that the House, and particularly hon. Members opposite, will give me credit for the fact that I am not doing it merely with the motive of obstruction. I initiated a similar discussion last year when the party to which I belong was in office; I did so in the previous year, and it is only because I feel that this House will have to take some sharp action with the London and North Eastern Railway Company, and that it is only by defeating one of their Bills that we are likely to get much further in the improvements which we are endeavouring to obtain from the company, that I take this step. At the same time, while regretting the necessity for interrupting the ordinary business in this manner, it seems a good thing that railway companies should periodically have their services or lack of services reviewed and criticised in this House. In a statement sent out by the promoters of the Bill—it was not sent to me, but I accidentally became possessed of a copy—they make the complaint that a discussion such as I propose to initiate should not take place on this Bill. Our point is that this is the only way in which Parliament can get an opportunity of discussing matters of this sort.
We are anxious to obtain an efficient railway service in this country. The Prime Minister in a recent speech addressed a few words to the employers of this country and made an appeal to them for a 10 per cent. increase of efficiency. That appeal of the Prime Minister may 393 have a good effect on employers of labour. I hope it will, but I am perfectly sure that even the Prime Minister is not optimistic enough to believe that his appeal will have any effect on a railway company. All appeals to railway companies fall upon deaf ears. Deputations come and go and still nothing appears to done. Questions are asked from all parts of the House to the Minister of Transport. In some way the average private Member gets the idea into his head that the Minister of Transport, by waving a magic wand, can make the railway companies do whatever he wishes. These questions are sometimes put to the Minister with great persistence, and I have often sat here when the right hon. Gentleman was hard pressed and watched him look reproachfully at his questioners while he said in pathetic terms, "I have no power to compel railway companies to do anything." Business people and the public generally continue to grumble, but we get no improvement. May I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Minister that he has some power over railway companies to-night. Actions speak louder than words, and the defeat of this Bill will have more effect upon the efficiency of the railway companies of this country than a dozen speeches from the Prime Minister. The defeat of this Bill would warn them that this House is not prepared to continue granting fresh powers to private railway companies while the trade of the country is being hampered by the inefficiency of those companies.
I desire to give one definite example of the procrastination of the London and North Eastern Railway Company, and I will ask the House if a company which behaves as this company has behaved in regard to this particular matter is fit to have further powers conferred upon it If, during this evening, we are to have a reply on behalf of the company, I would ask for a definite statement from one of the company's spokesmen on this matter. I do not know who the spokesman for the company will be. Usually it is an hon. Member for one of the divisions of Birmingham, but evidently he is on holiday or is too busy with other companies. On occasion Lieut.-Colonel Arthur Murray, now no longer with us, acted in that capacity, and during the last Session I think the hon. Member for the Bassetlaw Division (Sir E. Hume 394 Williams), along with the hon. Member for the Richmond Division of Yorkshire (Mr. Murrough Wilson), undertook the duty. Two years ago I initiated a discussion in this House in regard to inadequate travelling facilities in North London, and I alleged then, as I do now, that the London and North Eastern Railway Company were pursuing a dog-in-the-manger policy in North London, doing nothing themselves and preventing anybody else from doing anything. Members of all parties appealed to the company, first, to electrify the northern suburban line and, second, to withdraw the embargo which they have placed upon the power of anybody to construct a tube railway north of Finsbury Park. I do not propose to discuss the desirability of the tube railway because the Minister of Transport has recently set up a committee to go into that question, and I believe it has already started work. Neither do I propose to spend any time in endeavouring to describe the travelling facilities in North London. They are so bad that I hesitate to describe them in my own language. The Minister two years ago well described them in one word as "deplorable," and he also indicated a remedy. I quote from his speech made in this House on 14th June, 1923:I admit again that you can only mitigate the unfortunate circumstances there and you want either electrification or new railways or both in that locality to put things on a proper footing and serve the teeming scores of thousands who live there and have old and young, weak and strong, to go in every day to their work under these unfortunate conditions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1923; cols. 848–9, Vol. 165.]Up to that time the attitude of the London and North Eastern Railway Company was one of contempt. One of their distinguished representatives in the House of Commons, who at that time represented the City of London and who has now gone to another place, sneered at the idea that this House had any business to interfere with the doings of the railway company. When that Debate took place the company's representatives in this House were, however, visibly alarmed by the serious turn which matters took because there were indications that the Bill was likely to be defeated. Accordingly the representatives of the company in this House had to say 395 something. May I quote, first, from the statement made by Lieut.-Colonel Arthur Murray, who at that time spoke as a representative of the company? He said:This subject of the electrification of London suburban traffic, as far as the London and North Eastern Railway Company are concerned, has been the subject-matter of very earnest consideration for some considerable time past …. The Company …. are giving immediate attention to the whole problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1923; col. 825; Vol. 165.]He was followed by the hon. Member for the Richmond Division of Yorkshire, who announced that he was a director of the London and North-Eastern Railway Company, and who said:We are absolutely at this moment going into the whole question of electrification of the suburban traffic."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1923; col. 836, Vol. 165.]
§ Mr. MORRISON
I am glad the hon. Member approves of the quotation, but I would just remind him that it is from a speech made two years ago. The Minister of Transport, defining his attitude on that occasion, said:I have been in fairly constant touch with the London and North Eastern Company and, candidly, they are not unsympathetic."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1923; col. 849, Vol. 165.]In other words, the right hon. Gentleman appealed to the House not to be too hard upon the company, as they had practically promised electrification, and I think he would admit that, without this appeal, the Bill would have been lost that night. The Second Reading of the Bill was carried, therefore, two years ago, and, following that, there immediately appeared a series of statements in the Press, inspired statements, I think, to the effect that the company were taking immediate steps to bring about the electrification of their London suburban lines. The company did not deny this statement, and the result was that the vast population of North London, of over half a million people, believed until very recently that something was going to be done at last to meet their difficulties. A whole year passed, and we had another discussion in this House, on the 5th March, 1924, or 15 months ago, and the company on that occasion was defended by the hon. and 396 learned Member for Bassetlaw and by the hon. Member for the Richmond Division, the latter of whom said:As the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw Division pointed out, we hope to electrify the line."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1924; col. 1543, Vol. 170.]I am wondering what they will say to-night, after we have waited another year. This is not a party question at all. During the last two Debates that have taken place on this subject I have been supported by Lord Ednam, who is no longer a Member of this House, but who would otherwise have taken up the same attitude to-night. Those of us who are keenly interested in this subject waited after that Debate in March of last year for a full year, and we then went on a deputation to see the Divisional General Manager of the London and North-Eastern Railway Company on 12th February last. The deputation consisted of several Members of Parliament, from all parties in the House, and a number of public officials. We had two hours with the Divisional General Manager at Liverpool Street Station, and, at the end of the proceedings, he said he would give his reply in writing. It took him seven weeks to give his reply in writing, and while I will not read the reply, this was the last sentence of what we succeeded in wringing from the Divisional General Manager after seven weeks:I am not in a position to give you any definite answer, but I can assure you that everything possible is being done to hasten the preparation of the necessary technical and other information to enable a conclusion to be reached at as early a date as possible.The net result, then, as far as the public is concerned, is that all of us are two years older, and the company is still considering the matter. Perhaps in the circumstances I may be forgiven, for repeating the words of the Prime Minister: "How long, oh Lord, how long?" I find to-day that a statement has been issued by the promoters of this Bill to some of the Members of the House, in which they say:The promoters still have the question of electrical traction under consideration, and have made material advances in the preparation of a scheme for the use of electrical traction on certain of their lines. The recent announcement that a Committee appointed by the Government intend to inquire closely into the question of constructing new tube railways north and north-east of London has a most important 397 bearing upon the construction by the promoters of any scheme for the electrification of surface railways in the same area.I think that last sentence is most impertinent, to suggest to Members of this House, many of whom are not so intimately acquainted with this subject as are those of us who are on the spot, that the reason why they have not come to a decision is because the Government has set up a Committee to inquire into the question of constructing tube railways. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Transport would be the first to state in this House that it is less than a month ago since he made that decision to set up that inquiry, and now we are told that the reason why they have not come to a decision is because of that inquiry.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I do not read anything into it but what it says. Is not that an explanation of the delay and of why they have not come to a decision? If it is not intended for that, why is it put in? I want to ask the Minister of Transport what is his position in regard to this Bill. I think it must be a very uncomfortable one. Recently, the House of Commons devoted a day to discussing his Vote, and during his statement he went out of his way to give certain figures as to money that was going to be expended on works by railway companies in this country. I ventured to interrupt him, and to ask whether any of that money that the railway companies had informed him they were prepared to spend, would be spent on electrification, and he replied that, as far as he knew, he regretted to say none of it was going to be spent on electrification. I do not know whether or not he will argue, according to the suggestion of this statement to-night, that, because we are going to have a public inquiry, this Bill ought to be allowed to go through and that we ought to give the company a little longer time in which to make up their mind, not necessarily to electrify the lines, but to say whether they will electrify them or not, instead of keeping everybody in doubt as to what they are going to do.
I should like the Minister to be good enough to tell me whether, in the public inquiry that will take place, there is power under the London Traffic Act to 398 call upon the railway company to give evidence on this matter. If there is no power under that Act to order the railway company to come and give evidence at this inquiry, I suggest that there is a very real likelihood that this public inquiry may be practically abortive, because of the fact that those holding it will be unable to know what the London and North Eastern Railway Company intend to do, and, unless they know that, it will be very difficult for them to bring in any reasonable report on the matter. What I say again is, that all we are asking for to-night is a plain answer to a plain question, as to whether the London and North Eastern Railway Company are going to electrify or modernise the northern line from Finsbury Park northward.
In regard to the Government position, two years ago when unemployment was serious—not more serious than to-day, as some of us think—a Cabinet Committee on Unemployment it was understood appealed to the railway companies of this country to carry out schemes of electrification in order to provide employment. The London and North-Eastern Railway Company has made no reply to that appeal, though this particular scheme now before us was expected to be one of the first. The last Conservative Government was flouted by this company. They appealed to the company to carry out the electrification proposals, not only from the point of view of the convenience of the public, but from the point of view of providing work for unemployed skilled men. The company flouted the Conservative Government. They flouted the Labour Government. I should like now to ask the present Government what they are going to do about it?
Electrification, it is almost unnecessary to point out, would provide useful work for a great many skilled men in London, particularly engineers; and not only so, but I would suggest to this House that an inefficient railway system is a considerable factor in unemployment, and hinders the revival of industry. Unemployment at the present time is increasing. Two years ago the Government appealed to the railway companies to carry out schemes of electrification. Are they going to appeal again at the present time? I would suggest to them that the best appeal that they could make would 399 be to ask their supporters to go into the Lobby against this Bill. That would have a better effect than all the other appeals —a better effect than deputations to the Government, than the representations of local bodies of various kinds. At present, as things are, the companies pay no attention to what is said, and still go on their own sweet way doing what they like. The present is an opportunity for the Government to force at least one railway company to make its contribution to providing work for some of the unemployed. I hope the Minister of Transport will speak out to-night, and say what everybody knows 'must be in his mind, that it is high time that the company should get a move on in this matter. For two years they have led the Government to suppose that this matter was under consideration. I do not suggest that it has reached the stage when they can get to work, but I do put it to this House that we have arrived at a time when the companies ought to be able to say that they are going to electrify the line, or they are not. We do not want to be humbugged about it any longer. Perhaps it is too much to hope that the Minister of Transport will get up now, and instead of appealing to the companies—although I have no objection to that—and although I voted against the Bill on a former occasion—advise his supporters to go into the Lobby to defeat this Bill. I am convinced that unless a private Bill of a railway company is defeated in this House we are not likely to get much further towards a more efficient railway system in this country. I hope the result of this Debate and Division will be to teach a lesson to this railway company, the London and North Eastern, and for the various reasons I have stated, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
I beg to second the Amendment.
According to this Bill the railway company concerned are asking for powers to carry out a great many changes which will affect the travelling public and the people of the country. I think we would all of us feel more convinced of the good that is going to follow from the passing of the present Bill if we were satisfied that the companies carried out a little better their obligations to the travelling public 400 at the present time. Under that general head I only want to make one observation and one criticism, and that is in regard to the railway station at Penistone as it exists now. Penistone has the reputation, outside Scotland, of being the coldest station in England. I hope hon. Members will not think I am guilty of an act of merely local patriotism in raising the question of this station. I am thinking in national terms. I can imagine few ways in which a railway company could impress the country more than by improving the facilities available in that bleak and most uncomfortable railway station in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
But the real object I have in rising to oppose this Bill concerns a particular matter in my own constituency, and involves a matter of principle in so far as a railway, still under private control, does infringe upon the welfare of the community at that particular point. Part of Clause 17 deals with this matter. Hon. Members will see that the company is proposing under that Clause the removal or modification of footpaths in the vicinity of Thurgoland. I do not want to weary the House by going into details, but I should like to draw attention to the necessity there is for safeguarding the right of the community in the immediate neighbourhood. Clause 17 and cognate Clauses appear to contain, if carried into law, what will mean a real hardship upon people living thereabout. It is proposed to do away with the footpath that goes over the existing railway tunnel and to deflect a new road in a north-westerly direction. The effect of that will be to cause people using the new road to go half a mile out of their way to get to the south-eastern part of the village, and there will be quite a considerable number of workmen and workwomen, not to speak of other persons, who now use the existing road, who will be inconvenienced by the change. It will mean that at the return from the day's work they will have to go a mile out of their way—this in order to earn their livelihood. That is not the whole of the difficulty, for the new road simply compensates for the existing footpath which may be taken away when the alterations are completed.
What I am taking exception to on behalf of the local authority is that there is no proposal to provide an alternative 401 road for the one over the existing tunnel which will be lost. The local authority have approached the railway company and dicussed the idea of putting a railway bridge over the cutting which will be left when the tunnel has been removed, but the railway company have objected to this on the ground that it would be much too costly; and I think that in advancing that point the company were aware that they have not provided adequate compensation for the people in the neighbourhood. The local authority proposed a footpath, not a wide path, but a footpath, running in a south-easterly direction, which would have cut across the railway at a point where no very great expenditure would be involved in making a small bridge. On this proposition the railway company has as yet not seen its way to make any definite offer. I think Members will realise that what the local authority are asking for is only reasonable compensation for the loss of two pathways. I do not want to suggest that the railways are going to exist for all time, but if the railway company get this proposal they will be compelling all people using that road, so long as the facilities to be provided in this Bill are maintained, to walk one mile out of their way each time they do a return journey. That is one side of the matter; and the other is that the railway company do not offer any compensation for the second road which they propose to remove.
In concluding this matter, I would like to put the point of view of a little community. It is not only a matter of economic inconvenience or physical hardship, not only a question of the failure to provide adequate compensation for the second road, but if they fail to get the footpath it will mean that a considerable number of the inhabitants at one end of the village will be thrown back upon the use of the main road if they want to get into the country. Everybody knows that the primary roads and the secondary roads are becoming every day more and more disagreeable for purposes of recreation, and on the grounds of health and recreation, and from the aesthetic point of view, there is a great claim to this footpath for the community. Although this is quite a small incident, there is here, I think, a real conflict of interests between the claims of a private body and the claims of the 402 community. We do not expect the present Minister of Transport to legislate from the Socialist point of view, but if he weighs up the claims of this mighty Goliath of a private company, and this small agricultural community, many of them hard-working men and women, I think he may feel it worth his while to put behind this little community the whole force of his mighty Government in order to see that an adequate measure of community justice is embodied in this Bill.
§ Mr. RHYS
This Bill deals mainly with a number of points which are of great importance in the North of England, but the London and North Eastern Railway also serves a large area of Essex, which is rapidly becoming a suburb of London. The whole County of Essex is rapidly being built over, and is rapidly developing, and nothing whatever is being done to facilitate the carrying backwards and forwards of the inhabitants of that area. Before the War the situation was very bad indeed—so I am informed, for I had nothing to do with it then—and various local councils were pressing upon the railway company to do something to increase the travelling facilities Ilford, Romford, and Brentwood are all growing parts. Between Ilford and Romford the London County Council are building their new estate at Becontree, and the station at Becontree is on the London and North Eastern Railway. I would ask the directors to go to Liverpool Street Station any night about five o'clock and see the crowding and struggling there is to get into the trains. I believe the railway company are doing the best they can under the present circumstances, and I do not think they can put on another train, for they are running head to tail as it is, but that is no reason why they should not endeavour to improve the traffic capacity of their line. In the case of Romford, however, there is a 45 minutes' interval between the trains at that hour. There is a fast train at 5 o'clock and one at 5.45, whereas the other end of London has underground railways with trains every few minutes.
Another hon. Member and I have done what we can to get the railway company to move, and the people of that district are tired of continual promises that something will be done. I have seen the 403 general manager of the company, who informs me that plans are under consideration for widening at Romford Station. Whether that is so I do not know. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I apologise. That is an unhappy way of phrasing it. What I meant to say was that I should be delighted to hear that progress is being made with those plans. Last year a Bill of the London and North Eastern Railway Company was before this House, and I was given to understand that we were giving them powers to construct a fly-over at Stratford. I should be interested to learn that that fly-over is being commenced. I am making no insinuations or allegations, but I should like an assurance from the railway company that they are beginning to put those powers into operation. As these structural alterations must take a long time, even if they were begun to-morrow, I suggest that, meanwhile, more consideration might be given to the district lying between London and Southend. Between London and Southend we have the services of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the North Eastern Railway, and Southend has a very adequate service, and I would like to ask whether it would not be possible to stop one or two of the fast trains at some of these bigger points in between? It could not make a difference of more than five or ten minutes to people travelling to Southend. They are very well served at the present time, and I think it is only right that this consideration should be given. I am speaking for the people in my own constituency, but I feel sure that I shall be backed up by those representing the districts on either side of me, because you have only got to read the local Press and you will see any amount of protests being made from all parts of the county. For these reasons I hope that this time we shall get some sort of definite satisfaction, because we cannot go on being fobbed off with these promises which have been going on much too long. I urge the railway company to give us a definite assurance that within a short space of time something will be put in hand.
§ Sir ELLIS HUME-WILLIAMS
Very able speeches on this question have been made by the Mover of this Amendment 404 and the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Reference has been made to the closing of a certain footpath.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
Mine will not be the only reply on behalf of the company. I want to say a few words about the question of the footpath. It appears to me that this is a matter which ought to have been dealt with in Committee. I would like to point out that this Bill has already passed the House of Lords and a Committee of the House of Lords, and if we pass the Second Reading here to-night this Measure will go to a Committee of this House. Such questions as the diversion of a footpath are matters which ought not to be dealt with during the Second Reading Debate. As a matter of fact, there have been considerable negotiations with the local authorities in the neighbourhood to provide a footpath along the side of the railway cutting to take the place of the part of the footpath which has been taken away, and I hope soon that difficulty will be adjusted. I do not think, however, that that is a point which need be dealt with in any great detail, although I admit that the hon. Member who moved this Amendment spoke with considerable feeling about the necessity of that particular footpath.
I am more concerned, however, with the remarks of the hon. Member opposite upon the question of the electrification of the line. That is a very serious question, and one which deserves the anxious consideration of this House on the Second Reading of this Bill. I want to remind the House what happened last year when the Second Reading of the Bill promoted by this company was before the House, and when the hon. Member who moved this Amendment spoke with his usual force upon the same points which he has raised to-day. This question has been the subject of dispute because in 1902 this railway company had been granted, as the result of a bargain, the power to go on with the construction of the line beyond Finsbury 405 Park. That was a contract entered into and the Great Northern Railway had been called upon to provide funds for the reconstruction of a derelict tube, and part of the understanding was that it should not compete with them unless they gave their consent. Last year the Debate turned upon whether that veto should stand or be done away with. Last year on behalf of the company I gave an undertaking that one of two things should happen, that either this railway company would keep the veto or give it up. That undertaking was that they would either keep the veto and electrify the line or they would abandon the veto and leave other competing companies to come in and complete the work.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
No. What I said was, that something will be prepared within a certain space of time, either to take immediate steps for the electrification of the line or to abrogate Section 36 of the Act, which gives this power of veto, in order that the Metropolitan Company might come in and construct the tube. On the last occasion a promise was made that if the Bill received its Second Reading and the Instruction was not pressed the company were ready to undertake that they would proceed with all due expedition with the proposal to electrically equip the northern section of the line up to Finsbury Park, and if they were unable to proceed to carry out such work, or failed to do so by October next, before the time for the introduction of Private Bills next Session, then they promised to waive any provisions, statutory or otherwise, under which their consent is required for the reconstruction of the northern section of the line. It is quite clear that the position taken up by this company was not to electrify the line, and they safeguarded themselves by promising that they would either electrify the line or withdraw their veto and give way to any company that might choose to construct the line.
What happened? Viscount Ednam, whose absence we all regret because he took a vital part in this Debate, pointed out the difficulties of third-class travelling in North London. On the last occasion when this matter was discussed, 406 Viscount Ednam asked the Minister of Transport whether he had any further information to give to the House in regard to the electrification of the northern suburban lines, and the Minister of Transport said he was glad to be able to inform the House that the directors were taking a broadminded view of the situation, and were prepared to waive at once any right they had to veto this scheme for the reconstruction of the railway.
It is quite clear that the position of the railway company is now that they have abandoned their veto, and, because that does not seem to have produced any practical effect, complaints are very quickly made and pressed by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. Morrison) that we have not proceeded with electrification, although it is quite clear that the only undertaking come to was that the railway company would abandon the veto or electrify, and they have abandoned the veto. I am sure that the company take a broad view of the matter, because, after all, a railway company is the servant of the public, and its duty is to cater as far as it can for the comfort of the travelling public, upon such terms as may be possible on the assumption that the undertaking is to be carried out upon ordinary business lines.
Does the House realise what electrification really means? Electrification is spoken of sometimes as though it were like putting a window into your house, or rebuilding a workshop, or something of that kind; but the electrification of the suburban parts of this line means an expenditure of anything from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000, and the difficulties which stand in the way are enormous. It would occur at once, I am sure, to any Member of this House that it is a great deal harder and more expensive to electrify an existing railway system than it is to build a new system altogether. Let me give an example. First of all, there are the terminal difficulties that occur. If the result of electrification is to enable more lines to be run, say into King's Cross, what is going to happen to the trains? There is no means of enlarging the station, and the trains have to be stowed somewhere during the day. As hon. Members know, the surburban traffic has to run during a few hours of the day. It used to begin about 7 o'clock in the morning, but now, owing to the shorter 407 hours that are worked, it begins between 8 and 9 o'clock, and it goes on for about an hour, and then, again, there is the pressure in the evening. In the meantime, all these trains which have served the morning traffic, and are going to serve the evening traffic when the time comes, have to be stowed somewhere; they have to be housed. In the United States of America, and in other new countries, they have stations with one or two floors. Trains come in on one level and descend downstairs, where they are kept until they are required again in the evening. In London that is impossible, and garage accommodation, as it is called, has to be found for them. If hon. Members will look at this as a business proposition, as if they were railwaymen themselves, engaged in trying to carry out a proposal of this kind, they will realise the practical difficulties of that kind that are sure to arise.
Then you are going to electrify the line, and you want a power station. Where are you to put it? What system are you to adopt? It will cost £1,000,000; where is the money coming from? The rolling stock that you are using for your ordinary steam lines will have to be altered almost entirely. In order to empty a train quickly you must have doors to each compartment. A corridor train will not do, because you cannot get the people out of it in a short time. A service of trains running every two or three minutes during these few hours—not during the day— requires that the trains should be almost instantly emptied, and, therefore, you have to reconstruct the greater part of your rolling stock. Then, in the case of this particular line, there is, on the approach to London, a place called Hadley Wood, where there is a tunnel in which there are only two lines. The immense coal traffic coming into London blocks those two lines. If you are going to electrify them, and make four lines instead of two, you have to pull down the whole of the tunnel, for you cannot get more than two lines into it; or you would have to acquire land outside.
The House will have some idea of the magnitude of this Undertaking when I inform them that this last year the Great Northern section of the London and North Eastern Railway carried, in their suburban traffic alone, 32,274,000 people, and the Great Eastern section of the 408 railway carried, in one year alone, 107,580,000. That is an enormous traffic with which to have to deal, and it is complicated, as I have pointed out to the House, by the fact that it has all to be carried day by day in a few hours only. I am sure the House will realise that the scheme is vast, that it is extremely expensive, and that it is most difficult because of the existing metropolitan conditions. It is not, as I have pointed out, like making a new line in a new country, where you can get land easily, and have all the modern, up-to-date scientific arrangements of which you can take advantage. It is a much more expensive and difficult thing to adapt electric traction to your existing steam rolling stock.
Having said that, let me assure the House that this company has not been oblivious of the various statements that have been made in this House, which have been accurately and properly quoted by the hon. Member, as to what they hope to do in connection with the electrification of this line. They have spent during this year—that is to say, since the last Bill was before the House —on new capital engineering work, a sum of £1,193,000. Mindful, after the Debates that have taken place, of the fact that electrification, in their own interests as well as in the interests of the public, ought to come, and ought to come as soon as might be, they appointed, at the beginning of the year, a special electrical engineer, with a special staff. He is reporting from time to time, and is considering this phase of the subject in all its aspects—the provision of the capital, the voltage, the power station, and everything that it entails; and I am quite sure that every hon. Member will realise that for an engineer to study a question of that kind, with all the plans of this vast ramification of lines before him, and the extensive alterations which it involves, is a task which cannot be carried out in a day, or even in a year.
The difficulty, again, is rendered more severe by the financial crisis of the country at the present time. The House may realise that it is not an easy thing for a trader—and, after all, a railway company is a trader just like any individual—to contemplate an expenditure of £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 in the hope that they may gain more. In order to pay a 409 very modest return to the shareholders of the company, they have had, for the last two years, to trench upon their reserves very largely. The House is doubtless aware that this company, in order to pay its 5 per cent. preference dividend and a very small dividend upon its deferred shares, has had to take very large sums out of its reserves. No business man would choose a time of that kind to go into any new heavy expenditure unless he was compelled, and above all things, unless he was convinced that the new expenditure was likely to be remunerative, to be a good proposition, and to lead ultimately to a substantial return. That is the difficulty that dogs not only every undertaking in the country but the railway companies as well. This is a very modest Bill. It only contemplates the creation of about 14 miles of railway. It involves the expenditure by the railway company of £1,200,000. I ask the House to say it would be really a very foolish thing to refuse a Second Reading to a Bill the provisions of which are undoubtedly useful and necessary, and which involves what in this time is a substantial expenditure, simply because they have not in these times, under the conditions and difficulties which I have detailed, been able to carry out what is undoubtedly their hope and their ultimate intention, to electrify the line if it can be done.
One word more. When this electrification scheme was being considered by the company, and the reports were being considered, a bombshell fell upon their deliberations because the hon. Member for Wandsworth (Sir Henry Jackson), who is a member of the Advisory Committee appointed by the Minister of Transport, said:We believe that the problem which lies ahead of us is to try to do something to reduce unnecessary traffic operators in the slack hours of the day, and something to facilitate the traffic facilities at the peak hours of the day.The peak is the highest point reached in traffic, when most people are moving.For that purpose it will be necessary, in our opinion, to form other kinds of traffic. Further, I think the Minister will allow me to say it is our intention to inquire very closely into new tubes for North and North East, East and South East of London. The Minister has recently set up a Sub Committee of the Advisory Committee which will meet almost immediately to con- 410 sider these three new great tubes. We shall hold a public inquiry and take evidence, and so, I hope at the peak hours of the day we shall be able to supplement the buses and trams by this new method of traffic."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1925: col. 824. Vol. 184.]So that hon. Members can realise that it is a little startling for the directorate of this company, who are contemplating this enormous expenditure upon electrification in order that they may deal themselves with the suburban traffic which they have to serve, to be suddenly told, with the authority of the Government behind it, and perhaps the financial backing, that three or four tubes are to be constructed to serve the very district in respect of which they are contemplating this great expenditure.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I should have thought a tube might easily, when it gets into the country, cease to be a tube and become a surface railway.
§ The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Colonel Ashley)
The terms of reference to the London Traffic Advisory Committee are not as stated in the case put forward by the London and North Eastern Company in paragraph 7 on page 2, nor as stated by my hon. Friend. These were the terms of reference:To consider what steps shall be taken to provide adequate travelling facilities in North and North East London, also what steps should be taken to relieve the congestion in the neighbourhood of Finsbury Park, and they shall report to the Minister thereon at the earliest practicable date.There is, therefore, no question of tubes. It is all traffic facilities available in that. area.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I can only accept what my right hon. Friend says, but the statement I have read is taken from the OFFICIAL REPORT. All the railway company know is that the Government are contemplating promises of assistance, whether by subvention or otherwise we do not know, of what would be four different tubes to compete with this railway.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
My hon. and learned Friend is still under a misapprehension. 411 All the Government wanted to be informed upon, and to have inquired into, was that steps could be taken to provide adequate travelling facilities in North and North East London. That would include tubes and any other form of railway.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. I am pointing out that the reference to the Committee was not the question that was before the railway company. They may have known of it or they may not. What the railway company are concerned with is the statement, made apparently in the hearing of the Minister of Transport himself, by a member of the Advisory Committee, who stated that they are contemplating making competing tubes with the railway company. I am not saying the result of that would be that they would abandon that proposal. All I am saying is that it gives to think, as the French say, and it certainly is not an extra spur to the railway company to continue its development when they are told a Government Department intends to help some people who propose to compete with them in the very ground in which they are serving. I hope I have at any rate shown one thing. This question of electrification is one of serious difficulty. I beg the House to remember that this company, like every other trader, is only too anxious to do anything which would lead to a profit, and if they come to the conclusion that they can spend those large sums of money under conditions which make it commercially possible, which give them some reasonable hope, which every trader ought to have, of carrying it on with success, there is no reason why it should not progress, and why it should not be done in the shortest possible time. On the other hand, we must be reasonable with the railway company, although we know it has no body to be killed or soul to be damned. They may be criticised very effectively, but we must be reasonable, and we must recognise that if they are really probing the problem they are doing what they can to find how best it can be done, and whether it can be done economically, and how soon it ought to be given, even if it takes two years, which seems to shock hon. Members as an unreasonably long time, to investigate such a vast 412 problem before it is put in active operation, that is none too long, and it is certainly no reason why they should vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, which has nothing to do with the arguments which have been impressed upon the House, which does not touch the question at all, which only seeks to carry out some alterations which are required for the successful carrying out of the undertaking, and which involves a badly needed expenditure, nine-tenths of which will go in wages to the working classes.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I wish to offer most strenuous opposition to the Bill. I sincerely hope that the House, as the guardian of the public interest, will refuse to give a Second Reading to this Bill until such time as the London and North Eastern Railway Company have a greater regard for their duties and obligations to the public convenience. The Bill confers upon a private company wide powers of interference with the rights of individuals, with the rights of councils, and with the right of access of many of the public to certain roads and footpaths, and I think that the House ought to be very careful before it assents to a Second Reading to any Bill, even from the London and North Eastern Railway Company, to secure that in return for that right of interference it shall be a condition of the bargain that the railway company shall fulfil the obligations it undertakes with regard to the public. I want to lay before the House one or two cases which happen to be peculiar to my own constituency, but which nevertheless raise a principle which is far wider than any mere parochial interest. Clause 19 of this Bill provides for the period in which the work shall be carried out. I think the total mileage of railway embodied in this Bill is something like 14 or 15 miles, mainly in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. The Bill provides that this work shall be completed by the 1st October, 1930, and in the event of it not being completed, there is a provision made in Clause 20 that certain penalties are to be applied under certain conditions. I ask the House whether they think that at the present time, with a million and a quarter unemployed in this country, it is reasonable that a railway company should ask for five years as the period of the utilisation of its powers for the construction of 14 or 15 miles of railway in two or three 413 different counties? I am perfectly aware of the fact that this is a usual provision in Bills of this kind. We are not living in times or circumstances when precedent can govern our actions too much. Therefore, I think we might very well insist, before this Bill goes through, that the railway companies should do something more than they have done to honour the undertaking that they gave to the late Mr. Bonar Law in November, 1922, to hurry forward works involving capital expenditure, and generally to hurry up the reconditioning of the rolling stock in order to make their contributions towards the abnormal unemployment.
I do not think that the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) need have any fear that the London and North Eastern Railway Company will not be able to find the necessary capital for the schemes of electrification and development which have been suggested by some of my friends on this side of the House. I believe I am correct in saying that on 1st January this year the London and North Eastern Railway Company had about £20,000,000 of liquid assets, about £30,000,000 of Government securities, and nearly £7,000,000 in cash. If I am wrong, I shall be pleased to be corrected. From that point of view I would like to raise the issue whether this length of time ought to be assented to by the House, especially in view of the fact that the penalties under this Bill are not operative at all if unforeseen circumstances arise, or if the failure to complete the works is due to circumstances which the Committee could not foresee. The penalties imposed by the Bill can never exceed more than 5 per cent. of the estimated capital expenditure of the railway. Therefore those penalties are a mere flea-bite to a wealthy corporation like the London and North Eastern Company. The point I want to make, and the reason why I have raised the principle involved in these two Clauses, is that the London and North Eastern Railway Company have not carried out the obligations laid upon them in other Acts of Parliament, and particularly in an Act of Parliament passed last year which relates to the construction of three-quarters of a mile of new railway and 414 the widening of three-quarters of a mile of existing railway near to the City of Lincoln.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
Does the hon. Member say that there was an undertaking? Is it not to be a provision in the Act giving power?
§ Mr. TAYLOR
If the hon. and learned Member will allow me to complete what I had in my mind, I think I shall be able to show him there was an implied obligation on the part of the company, due to the circumstances which preceded the actual passing of the Bill. For more than 20 years there has been great public agitation in the City of Lincoln with regard to level crossings. In Lincoln, as in many other places, the railways were constructed at a time when we were witnessing a change over from an old market town, merely the centre of an agricultural community, into a developing industrial community, and it is quite within reason to assume that even the wisest men could not foresee at that time the kind of problems which would be developed under the conditions as we know them to-day—the great development of motor transport and trams in the streets, municipal omnibuses conveying numbers of passengers to the outlying districts, all of which has led to a totally different set of conditions to those which existed when the railways were built. For 20 years there has been a great agitation over this question of level crossings. That agitation has not been confined to Bolshevists. The Chamber of Commerce, our great industrialists in the City of Lincoln, the Lincoln City Council, the Trades Council, indeed all sections of the people, without exception, have during the last 20 years been engaged in trying to find a solution and an easement of this problem of the crossings. I do not think I exaggerate when I say that they are probably the worst level crossings in England. They are right in the heart of the town. At one of them five railways converge. Thousands of workmen cross over those backwards and forwards from their work to their homes. There have been numerous fatalities to railway-men and private residents at that particular crossing. The point is, that the bulk of that traffic from the centre of the city is caused by the trains conveying coal and minerals to the ports of Grimsby 415 and Immingham, which mainly come from Nottingham and the Sheffield and Retford area. Simply by the construction of three-quarters of a mile of new line and the widening of three-quarters of a mile of the old line, the railway company could take that traffic round the city to the high level avoiding line which is already in existence and which formerly belonged to another company before the amalgamation. The company could, by making that short railway, take the whole volume of that heavy traffic round the city instead of through it, and they could also take the whole of their excursion traffic to the sea. My hon. and learned Friend, when he interrupted me, suggested that there was no obligation upon the railway company to construct this particular part of the railway.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I should like on that point to quote a statement by Mr. Tyldesley Jones, K. C., who appeared for the railway company before a Select Committee of the House of Commons. He said:Dealing with the proposal to construct a railway line, six furlongs in length, commencing by a junction with the company's Lincoln and Sleaford Railway, and terminating by a junction with the company's Market Rasen branch, that on the railway that passed through Lincoln there were two very important level crossings, over which a large number of trains passed daily. To open up the Notts coalfields meant that more trains would have to pass over these level crossings on their way to Grimsby and Immingham for the purposes of the export trade, and it was most desirable that they should relieve in every way these level crossings of the burden of that additional traffic. The construction of this short line, to which there was no opposition, would have that effect.For years prior to 1924, the Corporation of Lincoln made repeated representations to the London and North Eastern Railway Company to deal with this problem. I have been there on more than one deputation. The Chamber of Commerce have sent deputations, and I have correspondence in the House which would show my hon. and learned Friend that it was in response to public agitation and public pressure that the railway company sought these powers.
416 I want to appeal to the House to look at the principle involved in this Bill. We do not wish to stop the expenditure of £1,250,000, or whatever the sum is that is provided for in this Bill, but what we do ask Parliament is to insist that when the rights of private individuals are interfered with, compulsorily, when powers of compulsory interference are granted to a railway company, they should very carefully examine the attitude of that railway company in the past with regard to its pledges and promises, and if serious public inconvenience in different parts of the country has arisen because of the railway company failing to carry out works for which they have obtained Parliamentary powers, and for which there is a public demand, the House ought to hesitate before it allows a Bill like this to slip through.
I will give my hon. and learned Friend another example. Over 20 years ago, the old Great Central Railway Company, which has now been amalgamated in the London and North Eastern group, sought Parliamentary powers to construct a short loop line of 500 or 600 yards of railway from what was then the Midland Railway system, now the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, to a line of sheds and warehouses of the old Great Northern Company, connecting up with their own line. Although Parliamentary powers for the construction of that short loop line were granted over 20 years ago, they have never been exercised. What is the consequence to the people of Lincoln? It is this, that the whole of the goods traffic which comes into Lincoln for transfer from the London, Midland and Scottish system to the London and North Eastern Railway lines radiating out of Lincoln, comes into the city over, first, level crossing No. 1, right into the centre of the main street. It then goes on for 200 yards and is shunted across level crossing No. 2 where, as I previously mentioned, five lines converge. Then it is shunted back over level crossing No. 2, back through the station, over the main street, right in the heart of the city and over another level crossing, in order to get to the goods yard, which is within 400 or 500 yards of the other system, and for which 20 years ago the railway company secured Parliamentary powers to construct their loop line. I hope the House 417 will refuse to pass this Bill until all these complaints with regard to the attitude of the railway companies in various parts of the country can be collected, and we can get the grievances remedied before we give the railway company any new rights.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
Among the many privileges of this House there is none more jealously guarded, and none which hon. Members in all parts of the House more readily exercise, than the right given by the introduction of a private Bill for the granting of further powers to examine and scrutinise very carefully the conduct of the railway companies or other body promoting the Bill in regard to the powers they have already exercised. Although I have heard from time to time a number of complaints from the other side that the grievances raised have no reference whatever to the Bill, it must never be forgotten that there is the right to raise any issue on a Bill of this kind affecting the railway company, and that that right is not only well within Parliamentary procedure but it must always be jealously safeguarded.
I have listened very attentively to the whole of the speeches to-night, and they can be summarised in this way. The Mover of the rejection of this Bill does not oppose the Bill on its merits, and not because he has any objection to the expenditure of further money, but because he objects to the inadequate facilities for the travelling public from Finsbury Park to the North of London. I know what those grievance are, because I happen to have lived there. Anyone going from the centre of London to Finsbury Park at any period between five and seven and 10.30 and 12 will find that there is no part of London so badly served. It must not be forgotten that the London and North Eastern Railway Company gave a promise last year that they would either exercise their right to construct a railway or give up their right to block the other people. I heard my right hon. Friend put up his defence for the company, and I do not think he can get over this fact, that the travelling public of North London suffer to-day because the old Great Northern Railway Company exercised their veto over the other companies. That is the truth which cannot be disputed, and there is no good in attempting to evade it.
418 What happened was—I know something about it—that because they found the money they exercised their right to exclude a competitor. That was the exact situation, and so the people of North London suffer to-day because of the block which the Great Northern Railway put on, but which the present London and North Eastern Railway Company has now removed. That is the exact fact so far as the case presented by my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. Morrison) is concerned. Whenever any other company sought power this right was always exercised. The proof is that when Members of this House of Commons through a deputation of Members of Parliament themselves tried to have something done they were met by this power which had. already been given That has now been removed. In reference to the statement of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) who presented the views of the railway company, I wish to make it clear that if he indicated the views of the railway company it means, if it means anything, that they have definitely excluded the question of electrification.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I never said anything of the kind. I was only explaining why the powers had not been exercised up till now.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I am within the recollection of the House. I thought that my hon. Friend went much too far, but I do not understand that it is excluded.
§ Mr. THOMAS
But I agree with him, and I ask the House to observe this. Whatever our views may be—and I am clearly and definitely of the opinion that in view of the tremendous gravity of the traffic problem in the north of London something has to be done—a mistake would be made by rejecting this Bill, and assuming that you were going to force another railway company to attempt to deal with this problem piecemeal. That would be the worse possible solution, and all I hope is that as a result of the Debate on this aspect of the question with regard to the traffic in the north of London, the Committee which my right hon. Friend set up will be speeded up, so that we shall be able to say not whether the London and North Eastern, or one particular company or another is to blame, but that the 419 Government will say that, whatever has been the position between these particular companies, the people of North London must no longer suffer as a. result of that difficulty. Therefore my hon. Friend on this particular point is justified in raising the issue, and I hope that the Debate will have the desired effect.
The next question was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. R. Smith) who very carefully pointed out that this Bill was an infringement of a right of way. I am not going to deal with Penistone station, though my hon. Friend said it was the coldest station in England, so that it would be a most desirable place at this time of year, but I do submit that he has put a very strong point. Parliament always tries to safeguard public rights of way, but I put it to him that that is a legitimate matter to raise on a Second Reading, and that it can be dealt with in the Committee stage of the Bill, and if it is not dealt with properly in the Committee stage then this House as a whole would have the opportunity of reviewing the situation. I certainly share his view on that aspect of the question, but I feel that I must join issue with this general condemnation of the inefficiency of the railways. I observe it is made by everybody except by those who know anything about their administration.
It is a mistake to assume that the railways are run by any particular individual. The railways are run by large numbers of men in all branches, and from top to bottom they all contribute their bit, and I am not going to admit, as one who is proud of railwaymen, that they are inefficient. I am going to say that they are the best people, and that the railways are the best-managed railways in the world to-day, notwithstanding all the things that I could say about them, which would be much more damning than the things that have been already said by others. Notwithstanding that, I think, on the broad grounds, that this Bill is necessary. Not a word has been said which would prove that it is not necessary. No one for a moment suggests that the powers sought in this Bill are not necessary. But apart from that I want the railways to do as much extension and repairs at this stage as I can get them to do. This is the time when 420 there are large numbers of people unemployed and when we want everybody to spend money. Although this is only £1,500,000, it is £1,500,000 in the right direction. It is because I believe that if this Bill is given a Second Reading the Committee upstairs will be able to consider it and every legitimate point of detail with regard to Penistone and Lincoln, and because the Minister of Transport ought to feel that this Bill has given him an opportunity to say something to hurry up the committee who are delaying the matter—
§ Colonel ASHLEY
The Committee are proceeding with all possible despatch. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that you cannot hurry up a public inquiry. You must give it time to make full investigations and prepare its case. That is what they are doing.
§ Mr. THOMAS
That being so, I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham, whose objection I was trying to champion, did not hear that they were doing all they could. Now we have been told they are doing all they could; I am sure that he will be satisfied to withdraw his objection to the Second Reading.
§ Captain WALLACE
I do not want to take up the time of the House by merely reiterating the case, but the name of my predecessor, Lord Ednam, has been mentioned more than once in this Debate, and the hon. Member who moved the rejection of this Bill commented—and commented, I think, very fairly—upon the fact that upon the last two occasions when he has moved the rejection of the London and North Eastern Railway Bill, he has been supported by my predecessor, and I think it is only fair to myself, and courteous to the House, to make clear the one reason which has prevented me from accepting his very kind invitation to join in the rejection of this Bill. Upon the last two occasions when we fought the London and North Eastern Railway Company, we fought it for a perfectly definite reason, which has been explained thoroughly, and has been replied to by my hon. and learned Friend below the Gangway. We objected to the passage of the London and North Eastern Railway Bill in order to secure the abrogation of that particular veto which, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, has done a great 421 deal of harm in the past, and, owing to the efforts of Lord Ednam and my hon. Friend opposite, whose work in this particular direction is recognised by people of all parties and all classes, we did secure last year, in the last Debate on this subject, either a promise that the company would get on with the work or would abandon the veto. It has been pointed out that they have decided to abandon the veto, and I feel, in these circumstances, the efforts made in the last two Debates have been successful, and that one is no longer justified in voting for the rejection of the Bill, which may do some good in other parts of the country, without much more valid ground than, in my opinion, exists to-day.
So long as the company pursued, what may fairly be described as a dog-in-the-manger policy of not developing facilities themselves, and not allowing anybody else to do it, I believe the situation was sufficiently serious to justify people in taking a back-handed form of revenge. The fact that I intend to vote in favour of the Bill to-night will, I hope, not be taken by my two hon. Friends representing the railway company as any indication that the people of my constituency or of the adjoining ones are particularly satisfied with the efforts of the London and North Eastern Railway Company. We are not, and I feel that there is, perhaps, one more reason which has induced me to stay my hand, and that is the one mentioned in the statement by the promoters, which refers to the setting up of this Committee to inquire into the facilities of the London and North Eastern Railway generally. Personally, I cannot believe that there is very much substance in the objection of the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) to proceeding with the electrification so long as the other scheme is under discussion, because, from what I have seen of congestion in that part of London, there will be ample passengers, in my opinion, willing to travel on an electrified line, even supposing we are able to achieve what almost seems impossible, and get those three or four tubes in North-East and East London which have been discussed for so long. For that reason I intervened, simply to explain why I have not followed in my predecessor's footsteps.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
I rise to object to this Bill being given a Second Reading, not because of the inefficiency of the railway men, but because of the inefficiency of the organisation of the companies who are running the railways in this country. Hon. Members have pointed out some of the difficulties they have had in regard to crossings in their area, and I rise to point out a similar situation in regard to the town of Blaydon. Some time ago—in June, 1923—the Urban District Council of Blaydon intimated to the London and North Eastern Railway Company that it was intended, in conjunction with the county council, to spend a large sum of money in reconstructing the Scotswood Road, and they asked the London and North Eastern Railway Company to improve at the same time the railway crossing entering the town of Blaydon. This correspondence went on for some time, and it took the urban district council four months to get an acknowledgment of their letters. Since that time, the railway company have intimated to the urban council that the matter will be rather too difficult, and that it will cost the urban district council a considerable amount of money to put into operation the request that the urban district council are making. They point out that much street improvement will need to be made on the south side of the railway. That has already been attended to, and the main road on the south side and the west side of the railway gates has been made sufficiently good for the heavy vehicular traffic we have at the present time on our roads. Still this railway company has not made any advance towards widening this crossing, which has been a great danger to the town of Blaydon for many years, and a greater danger to-day because of the very large amount of traffic that is going on. We protest against any railway company coming to this House to seek additional powers when they refuse to put the powers into operation of which they are already in possession.
There are one or two other matters to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. There is at Blaydon to-day considerable difficulty to get into the station. As a matter of fact, at some portions of the platform they have to take small 423 steps in order to assist passengers into carriages, and we think those are matters which ought to be dealt with by this particular company, because it does not need any additional powers from this House to enable them to overcome defects of that kind. Then I want to call attention to the station we have in Durham. Durham City station is a real cross-word puzzle. No stranger has any idea where to go. It is really the most difficult station I have ever been in in my life, and I think the London and North Eastern Railway Company ought to give some attention to the station of Durham City, because it is an important centre on the main line between King's Cross and Newcastle. Another matter is that there is only one train between King's Cross and the North that stops at Durham, and that is the 5.30 from King's Cross at night. We feel that it is of sufficient importance that one other train if not two of the other main trains ought to stop at such a centre as Durham City, in order to give passengers travelling north much! better facilities, and I hope, as a result of this discussion, this company will take note that we intend to oppose any additional powers until they themselves commence to use the powers which this House from time to time has given to them, in order to bring these improvements into operation to the general benefit of the public.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
I wish to intervene for a, few moments, in order to call attention to the condition of the railway stations in the city of Leeds. I believe that for some time there has been under consideration a scheme for the building of a finer station or stations in Leeds. There is probably no large town in England which is worse served than Leeds in the way of railway stations. Leeds is a railway terminus for all purposes, both from the south and north, and there is a great opportunity to erect there a fine railway station immediately outside the large square in which the railway station is now built. It is not too much to say that the present stations, both the Great Northern station and the old North Eastern station, are two of the greatest disfigurements in the city. I believe that something has already been done or is about to be done to improve matters. I am not suggesting that 424 nothing has been done, for I believe that plans have already been considered. I intervene to express the hope that the work will be pushed on, and that that great city, which is the Metropolis of Yorkshire, will within a few years have a railway station which, both for travelling facilities and for architecture, will be worthy of so important a place. I hope that one way in which the company will use its increased powers in the future will be to see that Leeds receives a station suited to the needs of the city.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I want to say a few words from the point of view of an area which is a little more remote from London than those districts already mentioned. Year after year, I have had the privilege of representing the users of this railway, in the time of our Noble Friend Lord Banbury, who used to entertain us on this particular occasion, and since. I wish to repeat what I have said before, despite the fact that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) has tried again to excuse the railway for inefficiency in regard to an electrification scheme. I want to take one point of my hon. Friend's defence of the railway. He said, "You do not realise how difficult it is to electrify when you have to go through these tunnels." He mentioned what is known as Hadley Tunnel, where there are only two lines of railway. Perhaps my hon. Friend forgets or does not know the history of the railway line that was made by the company just before the War. Then, because of these tunnels—seven before you get to Hatfield, then the Welwyn Tunnel and then the Welwyn Viaduct—the North-Eastern got powers to duplicate their line, but instead of duplicating it along the main line they took a relief line which goes out from Wood Green through Cuffley, through the beautiful part of Hertfordshire, and joins the main line again at Stevenage. So that it is entirely out of the picture to suggest that the railway cannot electrify because of the tunnel at Hadley.
That line through Hertfordshire was opened only this year. That is a minor point, but it leads us to consideration of the use made of this relief line. We who use this part of the Hertfordshire main line have been looking forward year after year with great hope to the opening of 425 this relief line, remembering the magnificent promises made by the Great Northern Railway Company when they were promoting their Bill. The War came after the line had been completed, and in a moment of patriotic ardour the company tore up the rails and sent them to France for the use of the Army. That was quite right. But after the War a long time passed before the rails were put in service again. Then we hoped that the line would give us a frequent main line service down to Hertford, and so open this new bit of railway. Not at all. Instead of that we got the most inefficient, the most ineffective and the most useless service that was ever put on any main line in the United Kingdom. It is a service which the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw has made no attempt to defend. Therefore, I come forward and make use of my privileges to say on behalf of the users of the railway that the railway should put an efficient service on that line. That really is the answer to a large number of the complaints against the company.
The complaint is not that the company deal with such a lot of traffic, but that they do not take an ordinary businesslike way of being able to deal with it by adopting a forward policy. All round the north side of London the different lines, now incorporated in the London and North Eastern Railway Company have failed to give facilities for development. As a private resident in Hertfordshire, I should be in favour of the reactionary attitude adopted by this company, for the less the company promotes facilities the more rural Hertfordshire remains, and the better it is for the private resident. But I am bound to take a different attitude on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of London, for the relief of the congestion of London. I am bound to say that unless the company adopts a more forward policy, it will not be contributing to the relief of the London housing and traffic problem. For that reason, the company ought to be condemned, again and again, until it makes a move and electrifies the line in order to improve facilities.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
Whether or not this Debate has been useful from the railway point of view I know not, but it certainly has been a most excellent sounding-board for hon. Members to address their con- 426 stituents. I am sure that next week the local newspapers will be filled with the eloquent speeches of hon. Members in defence of the interests of those whom they represent. If we followed the precedent of so many of the railway companies which have a box in the dining car labelled "Complaints," and if we had here a box in which hon. Members could put their complaints, a great deal of Parliamentary time would be saved. Let me come back to the points which have been very seriously raised in this Debate. Most hon. Members will agree that many of the points are Committee points. The serious question that has been raised related to the electrification of this railway. Let us come down for one moment to hard facts. As long as you have railways run by private enterprise you must, broadly speaking, allow the companies to run their lines in their own way. Hon. Members opposite consider it best to nationalise the railways. In that case, of course, it is possible to experiment with the nation's money, in electrification or any other innovation, remembering that the loss, if any, will fall upon the nation and not upon private enterprise.
Though personally I speak with diffidence about it, I think that the North Eastern Company are probably unwise in not venturing on electrification. But as long as you allow them to continue as a private enterprise and to bear the loss, if the innovation is not commercially successful, I do not think you can legitimately do more than express an opinion upon the matter and you certainly ought not to reject a Bill such as this on those grounds. After all, this Bill will lead to employment. No one in this Debate has questioned the excellence or the necessity of the works proposed in the Bill. If we are to have a bad winter of unemployment we should remember that £1,250,000 will be spent if the Bill is passed. Therefore hon. Members, having ventilated their very legitimate grievances, and having taker the opportunity which Parliament affords of putting forward their views, and putting them fairly strongly, I think the House would not be well advised from the point of view of employment, and railway development, in refusing a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ Mr. PALING
I wish that we had not only complaint boxes in the dining compartments of our trains, but also an 427 assurance that attention would be paid to the complaints put into them. That, unfortunately, is not the case. As a matter of fact, our local authorities write to the railway companies, and if I may say so with modesty, we go even further than that, and approach our local Members of Parliament to bring influence to bear on the railway companies. But in very few cases do we get any redress of our grievances. It is because no notice is taken of the complaints which are made in the ordinary manner that we take advantage of this opportunity, when the railway company wants something, and we are in a position to say, "You cannot have it unless you meet us halfway." In that way we may get something, but there is no other method of inducing a railway company to give away anything. My own local council have been engaged for almost 18 months communicating backwards and forwards with the railway company and the Ministry of Transport, and sending deputations, but nothing has resulted, and we are compelled to take the only alternative left to us by ventilating our grievances on the present occasion.
There is a portion of the urban district of Bentley, which is cut off from the rest of the district by the Doncaster and York main line upon which a tremendous amount of traffic runs. There are no means of communication between the two portions of the district, except three level crossings. The part which is cut off from the main Bentley district is growing, and workmen have to use a footway across the line, where there is nobody in attendance, no gates, nothing but the usual warning, "Beware of the trains." There have been several accidents at this point in which children were concerned. The school accommodation is not sufficient for the growing numbers in this part of the distract, and the children have to cross the line to school, and unfortunately it is in regard to children that many of these accidents have occurred. We approached the railway company, and asked them to build a footbridge. The representatives of the company had ways and means of ascertaining that we were willing to compromise on the question of supplying this footbridge, but that has not been sufficient to bring the company to heel, or induce them to meet us. We have heard 428 nothing about the proposal since. All we get is an answer similar to that contained in the circular sent to us to-day.Other questions which it is understood will arise have reference to the provision of a footbridge over a level crossing at which there was a fatal accident last year. The promoters are always willing to give any facilities that may be desired for the provisions by local authorities of footbridges over their railways.How generous of the railway company to say: "We will give you every facility for building it, if you will pay for it yourselves!" I suggest that that is not quite a fair attitude, and that the company, although they may be within their strict legal rights in refusing to talk about helping the local authority, when it is a matter of a railway crossing that has become positively dangerous like this has in the last two years, should endeavour to arrive at some compromise with the local authority and, between them, to get the footbridge built, so that it might be possible to arrest or to pre-vent altogether the accidents taking place there. The situation might have been obviated a lot had the railway company carried out a scheme that they had in their minds some years ago for a main level crossing that runs to this particular moor, Arksey. It has been contemplated for years now to build a bridge over there, but that has been held up for some reason or another, and there is no likelihood, I understand, of it being built at present. If there is no other means of crossing except by these level crossings, I suggest to the railway company that they might meet the local authority and see if they cannot arrive at something between them to arrest these accidents.
The hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) devoted the best part of his speech to trying to prove that a number of the complaints raised here last year, and, I think, the year before, had been partly met. I suggest that there is an element of truth in that, for on both occasions, I believe, we have taken advantage of the opportunity offered to bring complaints, Taut out of about four definite complaints offered, one has been partially dealt with, a very small proportion. If the hon. and learned Member could prove that they will deal with these complaints, the company would have much less difficulty in getting through its Bills. As the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) 429 has said, we do not want to hold up the Bill, but we want the company to attend to the work it ought to do, and to give these local authorities fair play. We approached the company last year in regard to the provision of railway facilities between Doncaster and Sheffield. The request has been met to a slight extent, but there is still room for great improvement in that direction. The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) brought to the notice of the company last year the question of the provision of railway facilities for the people living in the country round about Sykehouse, a district outside Doncaster which is very difficult to get at. The roads are very narrow and ill-made. It is a low-lying district, and in winter and rough weather it is liable to be flooded. Some years ago the company constructed a line through this district, and it was completed, I believe, just previous to the War commencing. It has been used for mineral traffic, and it was intended to give facilities for travelling to people in these remote districts. I believe that they went to the extent of building a skeleton station at Sykehouse. We have approached them time after time about this, but nothing more has been done, and in the circular they say, about this question:Another question that may arise is as regards the institution of a passenger service upon a railway at present used only for mineral traffic. The possibility of giving such a service has been closely examined by the company, and the amount of passenger traffic likely to arise would not render any such service remunerative. The possible traffic is so small that even those urging the provision of a passenger service admit that there could be no necessity for it except upon two days in any week.Supposing we agree. If memory serves me rightly there was a discussion in this House about omnibus services a few weeks ago in which the Minister of Transport took part. It was said that some of the omnibuses were trying to get the routes upon which was the profitable traffic. Evidently the railway companies want to follow the same example. I suggest that if the railway companies get the profitable routes that they should build the branch railways through the less profitable routes. At least they ought to offer some small services, even if not remunerative, to the people in the remote districts. In that way and in regard to these complaints, the hon. Gentleman 430 opposite who represents the railway companies here may have the advantage, when next a Bill comes before the House, of being able to prove that every complaint that has been made has been met to the fullest extent by the company that he represents.
§ Mr. M. J. WILSON
There have been so many complaints made against the railway companies that it would seem desirable that I should reply, at any rate, to some of these complaints. If I may say so, however, the hon. Member who spoke last gave a very good example of the general trend of the remarks that have been made throughout this Debate. He said that he had found it very difficult to get the railway companies to give anything away. Practically all the speeches which have been made this evening have been in regard to points in which the railway company has been asked to give something away. If I do not answer all these individual requests, I hope hon. Members will understand it is not from want of courtesy, but only because it is perfectly impossible for me to get a full statement of all the cases individually; therefore, I shall endeavour to reply from a general point of view. If I so reply, I shall begin by saying this: How can a company, or any railway company, at the present time afford to give anything away? Anybody who has studied the accounts of the railway companies during the last year or two years must realise that this is not the time for any railway company to start to give anything away. In order to pay the dividends, as has already been pointed out, they have had to draw upon reserves. Directors and everybody connected with the management of railways have studied every proposition put forward, not only from the point of view of the public and the shareholders, but from various other standpoints, to see whether the proposition was sound. To-night we are asked, in case after case, to do something for the benefit of somebody. The hon. and learned Gentleman who represents South East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) talks about a new station for Leeds. I agree with him that the old station at Leeds is not the sort of architecture that ought to be perpetuated. But I cannot agree that this is the moment in which to spend a million or three-quarters of a million in order to build something 431 which would be more pleasing to the eye than the building we have already. One hon. Member opposite complained with respect to Blaydon-on-Tyne station, and also in respect to Durham station, which, he said, reminded him of a cross-word puzzle. He will have to explain that a little more fully to make it clear. Then the question of the trains at Bentley has been mentioned. The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Paling) and myself, as a matter of fact, have had some conversation and correspondence about this matter, and what it amounts to in point of fact is that the Bentley Urban Council wish to have a bridge built across the line. There, again, the hon. Member is asking for something different from what is the usual custom. I think I may say that in practically every other instance the local authority has in the end built the bridge at its own expense, and it is difficult for the railway company to see why a special exception should be made in the case of Bentley, and why the railway company should be given the privilege of paying towards the erection of this bridge. In regard to the passenger facilities, the railway company cannot see that there is any revenue to be obtained by running that passenger service, and under the circumstances I think I may say it is almost unreasonable to ask the railway company to start a new series of passenger services which will not bring in revenue but cause considerable loss.
There was another complaint, brought forward by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taylor), as to the construction of an avoiding line round Lincoln. I think he suggested to the House there was an undertaking on the part of the railway company to complete that line in a reasonable time. May I deny flatly that there was any undertaking on the part of the railway company to complete that line? The railway company certainly intended, if traffic had remained as it was in the days when there was a considerable coal traffic to Immingham and Grimsby, to build that particular line. Since then, unfortunately, the export coal traffic has gone away practically to nothing, and as traffic at present stands there is no sort of case for building that line, though, I grant it would be of enormous convenience to Lincoln City.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
May I say that it was not conveyed to us as a deputation when 432 we interviewed the railway management less than three months ago that there was no case for it? They admitted that the case for it still stands. It is a question of relieving the congestion at the level crossings. Whilst it is perfectly true that the coal traffic is more limited than in normal times, the case for that avoiding line is still as great as ever it was.
§ Mr. WILSON
I hope I have not in any way misconstrued what was the view of the railway company. As I understand the case, the position was that there were serious delays at these level crossings. In order to avoid those delays this line was proposed, and it was hoped that when it was completed the delays would disappear, or practically disappear. What I am suggesting to the House is that, owing to the enormous reduction of traffic along that line those delays have been very much reduced at the present time, and I suggest that if this line were in fact built, the effect would only be to reduce delays in the future to something about what they are at the present time—that is if the traffic should then regain anything like its ordinary volume.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but I would like to point out that it was only last summer that Parliamentary powers were taken to build it.
§ Mr. WILSON
If I may continue, I would like to point out that the fact that powers were taken last summer shows that the matter has been under discussion for some considerable time; and, as he himself told us, during those years the coal traffic was considerably heavier than it is at the present time, and delays were much more serious than now. Therefore, what I am saying is, in fact, an absolutely correct statement of the position of affaire. The point was that this railway company was breaking a pledge by not constructing that line. That is not correct. There is no definite obligation upon the company to make that line, and it is incorrect to say that there was With regard to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), he hoped that the electrification of the London area would not be excluded. It has been pointed out that the railway companies have not 433 sought to do anything further, and it has been said that they are still going into the matter, and are having regular meetings of the committee. If I may say so from an entirely personal point of view, I hope to see the day when we shall electrify this railway.
Of course I cannot commit the railway companies, but I should not like the House to think that this railway company has abandoned altogether the idea of electrification. I am afraid that I cannot reply in this Debate to all the smaller complaints which have been made by various hon. Members, but I hope those who have listened to the Debate will not get the impression that this railway is not properly managed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was careful to state that in his opinion the railway companies of this country were better managed than in any other country, and I assert that, notwithstanding the remarks made by various hon. Members, this railway company is well managed, and complaints are listened to and gone into thoroughly, and they are not treated with any want of respect as might be supposed from some of the remarks which have been made.
§ Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
We have listened with very great interest to the speeches of those hon. Members who have spoken in respect of the responsibilities of the London and North Eastern Railway Company, first in respect of their shareholders; secondly in respect of their commercial interests; and thirdly in regard to the duty of the railway company towards the public. I quite recognise the responsibility which a railway company has to its shareholders, but I would like to remind the House that the railway companies of this country were the only industry which during the War were guaranteed dividends to their shareholders when the rest of the traders were taking equal responsibilities without any guarantee at all.
With that preliminary word I would like to introduce to the consideration of this House a few points in respect to the trade of the north-east coast and its bearing on this railway company. Much has been said about the electrification scheme in some part of Essex and a certain section of London. I pay great respect to what has been said in regard 434 to that matter. Something has been said about the provision of a bridge, and I think that is a most important matter to be considered, but I want to say a word or two about trade and industry, and whether it has been helped or hindered by a standstill policy.
I do not say that there is a stand-still policy on the part of the London and North Eastern Railway Company, but I am prepared to say, and shall presently adduce evidence to prove, that, while this little Bill, and in particular Clauses 5 and 7—the one dealing with detailed improvements for which power is desired from this House, and the other dealing to a certain extent with the levying of rates—may be helpful commercially and financially in respect of some of the detailed work under Clause 5, yet, if we take a broader policy, it is a question of killing a trade, on the one hand, or giving greater facilities for haulage, crane work, and the adaptation of lines in regard to our ports of Newcastle, Sunderland and the Hartlepools. I suggest that if the London and North Eastern Railway Company would take the advice proffered to them by the Ports Facilities Committee appointed by the Committee of Shipping of the United Kingdom, the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, and the Federation of British Industries, supplemented and supported by the re presentatives of the trade unions of this country, they would have a greater profit, and would help to relieve the vast unemployment which is resulting from the congested state of the ports and the impossibility of dealing with the traffic that is coming in. In that way they would help in a greater fashion than by some of these fiddling—I use the word deliberately—improvements which are suggested in some of the territorial provisions in Clause 5.
I am not going to say a single word in disparagement of the directors of the London and North Eastern Railway Company. They have great responsibilities. But I want again to remind them that they had certain definite, agreeable compensations at the close of the War which no other trade had, and that entails upon them responsibilities to the traders of this country. I ask them, therefore, before they finally decide on the separate territorial sections and improvements de- 435 tailed in Clause 5, to consider their responsibilities in regard to correct and adequate haulage facilities for Newcastle, Sunderland and the Hartlepools, and also certain helpful considerations for Grimsby, although Grimsby has done very well at the hands of the railway companies. My hon. Friend (Mr. Womersley) can, however, speak more adequately in regard to details in relation to Grimsby itself.
The second point that I want to present to the House is the question of rates. Clause 7 of the Bill states thatThe railways shall, for the purposes of tolls, rates and charges, and for all other purposes whatever, form part of the undertaking of the company.That is a very broad power, which even the Railway Charges Association could not very adequately protect. I want to remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that with respect to fish, iron ore and coal, the railway charges which obtain are causing unemployment, or, at any rate, are making it extremely difficult for others to continue, from a commercial point of view, their responsibilities to their shareholders and to the great working classes as well. I am sorry that no other Member is going to speak to-night on behalf of the railway company. I shall support the Bill, but I shall hope for such opportunities as may be permitted with respect to Amendments to the Clauses I have mentioned, and I would ask the railway company to consider the North-East Coast and its responsibilities, to consider also the opportunities which could obtain in respect to finding employment for the alterations which are required, and, secondly, the elimination of unemployment as the result of this greater efficiency of railway enterprise and conductorship, and in the result give a more economic and equitable position in respect to the trading community. If the Scottish railways and the North Eastern Railway Company in Scotland can give better facilities to fishermen than they can in certain sections of the North East coast, it is wrong and inequitable, and requires refutation and reorganisation. Therefore, I shall again reserve for myself the right to deal with that point if the North Eastern Railway 436 Company has not the good sense itself to do it without pressure. I support the Bill.
§ Mr. BATEY
There are 14 minutes left, and I want to join the chorus of complaints against the North Eastern Railway Company. We have to seize this occasion in order to ventilate local grievances. I have to-night two grievances against the company. One is the bad local train service in my own part of Durham, and the other is the bad condition of the railway stations in that part of the county. I represent a mining division. I have in my mind's eye one large division which serves several large mining districts. If I go to that district the last train leaves at 10 minutes to 8 at night. If I go to another decently large mining district, the last train leaves at a quarter to seven. Not only that, but during the whole of the day there is only a train perhaps once every two or three hours. It seems as if the managers of the company have left the local train services to be organised by some of the office boys. As a matter of fact the omnibus service between the mining villages is simply running the local train service off the rails. What one would have expected from a body of intelligent men like the North Eastern Railway directors, when the local omnibus service came into existence and was linking up village with village, is that the managers and directors would try to reorganise the local train services so as to get the traffic. As a. matter of fact they have made no move whatever. The local train service is organised to-day as it was organised 20 years ago. The time has come when someone ought to take a hand in reorganising that service and not leave it, as they are doing, to the omnibus companies.
The second complaint is with regard to the bad condition of the railway stations. I have lived nearly all my life in Durham. Before I came into this House I was a miners' agent, and I covered the county pretty widely. I do not remember a single penny of capital expenditure spent upon any of those stations I have in my mind's eye. The London and North Eastern Railway Company after the War got £15,000,000 in order to bring the plant up to date. So far they have not spent a single penny of that 437 in the county of Durham. We want to ventilate those grievances. A director of the North Eastern Railway Company who spoke last on the other side. referred to the speech made by my Friend with regard to Durham Railway Station. I agree with everything that the hon. Member said with regard to that station. The management of the North Eastern Railway Company have not spent a penny on it for the last 25 years. It is not a safe station. Yet the London and North Eastern Railway Company have simply left it as is was in the time of Noah. They have made no attempt to improve it, and they will not spend a penny upon it. We believe we are entitled to take this opportunity of ventilating those local grievances.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
I have been unable to attend a large part of this Debate to-night, and therefore I shall not be justified in addressing the House at length. I had the pleasure of hearing the Minister of Transport addressing the House very briefly. If I may say so without disrespect, I think it is very unbecoming on him to charge those who make honest complaints with speaking for the benefit of their constituents. If we are not here to speak about the grievances of our constituents, why are we here? The Member who promoted this Bill and the Minister of Transport said that all the points raised were Committee points. When there are Committee points to be raised on every point in the Bill, I think it becomes a Second Reading point to be dealt with as a whole. I want to ask the Minister of Transport one specific question. I have asked him before, but he did not favour me with an answer. It has reference to Clause 7 of this Bill, which empowers the London and North Eastern Railway Company to charge the same rates as they are charging on their existing undertakings. The only protection the public have against excessive rates is the Railway Rates Tribunal, under the Act of 1921. The public have not got full protection under that Act, because the appointed day has not been declared, and the Minister of Transport and his predecessor have repeatedly allowed the company and the tribunal, which comes under his jurisdiction, to postpone this appointed day.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is quite out of order on the present occasion. It is a matter of general railway law. The hon. Member can deal only with matters relating to this company.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
I understood that, seeing that this Bill empowered the company to charge existing railway rates, we might be justified in dealing with how those rates can be kept down. On every occasion on which we make complaints about the administration of the railways, a representative of the railway company gets up and overwhelms us with sympathy. He generally says, "We agree with all that has been said, but we have no money." The hon. Member who represents the Richmond Division of Yorkshire (Mr. Murrough Wilson) has already discounted and refused in advance the making of any active plans. He practically says, "We have no money to put up for making any of the improvements which have been suggested." This happens every time that a private railway Bill comes before the House, and I think it would be a very good thing if the House on one or two occasions refused to pass these Bills. That is the only way in which we can impress the railway companies that we are determined to get some concessions, and I hope that hon. Members who think with us on that matter will vote against the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. GROVES
I wish to refer to one or two points on behalf of the area I represent. I shall not vote against the Bill with any degree of pleasure, because the Bill will provide work. I would ask the railway directors to see what they can do in order to put an end to short time. I speak on behalf of my constituents in the Great Eastern Railway area, which is now part of the London and North Eastern system. I have put several proposals to the Minister of Transport. I put a question a few weeks ago with respect to excursions on the Great Eastern section, where 10 or 12 people are found standing in one carriage. There is also a scarcity of lavatory accommodation. My constituents have written to me on the matter, and many of them were unknown to me. That proves that the grievance which I had to bring forward was legitimate. The grievance has not been remedied. I 439 am entitled to stand up and, as courteously as I can, to ask the railway directors to do something, to realise that this is a public service and, being a public service, the public should be served as well as possible.
With regard to the suburban trains in our Great Eastern area, we find people standing 10 and 12 in a compartment going to and from their work. I hope the representatives of the railway company will consider this to be a genuine grievance, and I hope they will do all they possibly can to put an end to it. It has been going on for years. With all the powers the railway companies have,
§ they should apply themselves to these problems, and do their best to settle them. Take the question of carriages. They are badly in need of repair. The company needs new rolling stock, but the answer to our suggestions has been that the workmen have been put on short time. I ask the railway directors to recognise the claim we are putting forward, to reorganise the system and to give the men in my area who are employed by the company a chance to live.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 274; Noes, 127.