HC Deb 22 July 1926 vol 198 cc1515-22

Order for Third Reading read.

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


There are one or two points in this Bill to which I take exception, and in my opinion they are matters which ought to have been put right before this Bill was brought down to this House for its Third Reading. The parts of this Bill to which I take exception are Clauses 26 and 27 relating to the powers given to the railways. Certain powers are given to the Dean of Guild Court, and I want to call attention to the point where the Clause exempts railway companies from having to place before the Dean of Guild Court plans and specifications for any new building they seek to erect that is not abutting upon a main street. So far as I can understand the powers of the Dean of Guild Court and the rights to protect those employed and who live within certain buildings, I consider the latitude which is being given to the railway companies is far greater than ought to be given. The portion to which I am taking exception is Clause 26, which contains the following words: Provided that it shall not be necessary for any railway company to obtain a war- rant of the Dean of Guild Court for any building used or to be used for the purposes of their railway or canal unless:

  1. (1) such building fronts or abuts upon any street;
  2. (2) such building is a dwelling-house hotel or restaurant; or
  3. (3) such building has been erected or is proposed to be erected at the Waverley Station of the London and North Eastern Railway Company or on the railway lines or property adjoining Princes Street Gardens."
These are the exceptions, but so far as this Bill is concerned the London and North Eastern Railway Company have very large sidings at Portobello, and. engineering works at St. Margarets, within the boundaries of the Edinburgh Corporation. The freedom that is given to the railway companies in this section would mean that at either St. Margarets or Portobello, or both places, the London and North Eastern Company could erect any building they chose without having to present to the Dean of Guild Court the plans and specifications of the buildings they are going to erect. They could erect them any height they like, although any other company would have restrictions placed upon the height of the buildings which they might erect in the City of Edinburgh with regard to warehouses.

It is also laid down in another Clause of this Bill that the material to be used in the erection of any building must have the approval of the Dean of Guild Court, but here in this particular section a railway company is to be released from any of these obligations, and may erect any kind of building they choose without submitting the plan, and erect it of any class of material without having to place the nature of that material before the Dean of Guild Court for their sanction. I submit that that is a power which ought not to be given to anybody whether it is a corporation, an individual, or a railway company running through Edinburgh. To bring this point down to its comparative bearing—I am not considering the point of any building speculator or anyone who wants to erect new premises in Edinburgh—supposing an individual resides in a house that has some ground around it, and he wants to erect a small motor garage of wood or concrete, before he could do that, which would not jeopardise the safety of anyone passing his house or interfere with the comfort or convenience or the æsthetic taste of any of his neigh- bours, he would have to place his plans before the Dean of Guild Court for their sanction, and they would have to approve of the materials used. I think it is going a great deal too far to allow railway companies such wide powers as are provided for in Clause 26 of this Bill.

There is another point I want to make and it is with regard to the railway companies. I am now referring to Clause 125 on page 81. It deals with the building lines at corners of streets. There again the railway companies are being exempted from any of the conditions laid down in this Bill, which are imposed upon any other individual or any other company. The railway companies are to be exempted from the conditions that operate, and from the power given to the Edinburgh Corporation which they can impose upon every other individual with regard to building lines at corners of streets. The railway companies are again exempt, and the Corporation of Edinburgh seems to have no power, or else they have bartered away the power which they might otherwise possess in order to secure the passage of this Bill to enforce upon railway companies satisfactory building lines at corners of streets which are imposed upon other people.

With regard to the construction of buildings, it is laid down in this Bill that any new building must contain, for safety, a certain class of window that can be cleaned from the inside, without the necessity for any individual having to go outside and sit upon the window-sill or stand outside in order to clean it. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and the further power asked for by the corporation is equally reasonable, namely, that any building that is reconstructed should have the same class of window, and that any window that does not conform with this Regulation must be altered to conform to it. I consider that that is perfectly legitimate, but if that is the case in regard to new or reconstructed buildings, it is equally right and proper that that class of window should be placed in the houses at present standing, and that the Corporation of Edinburgh, when coming to Parliament with a Bill of this nature, should have asked leave to place in it a Section under which, after a certain time had been given to the proprietors of houses and buildings in Edinburgh in which to alter the present windows, every building, and particularly dwelling houses, would have to be fitted with this particular class of window, thereby ensuring greater safety for the women-folk who have to live there, and who in many cases sit out on the window-sills to clean the windows. The Corporation of Glasgow have already a by-law to that effect, although, unfortunately, they have not put it into operation. I suggest that, this power having already been granted to Glasgow by Act of Parliament, the Edinburgh Corporation would not, and could not, have been prevented from seeking powers of a similar character and having them embodied in this Bill. On account, particularly, of the great amount of freedom which is given to the railway companies in this Bill, and the fact that certain powers which are to be given to the Edinburgh Corporation, and which they in turn will require to exercise upon people resident or companies operating in the City of Edinburgh, are not to be applied to the railway companies, who ought to be brought within these Sections just as much as private companies or individuals, I feel emboldened to object to the passage of this Bill to-night.


I hope my hon. Friend will not persevere in his opposition to the Third Reading of this Bill. The two points that he made are, firstly, what he alleges to be the exceptional treatment that is given to the railway companies under the terms of the Bill, and, secondly, that the Edinburgh Corporation should have sought power to do certain things, as regards safety in connection with windows and so on, which they have not sought. This, however, is the Third Reading, and we are mainly concerned with what is in the Bill itself. What should have been in the Bill would have been more properly raised on the Second Reading. As regards the railway companies, I would point out that the Corporation itself have thrashed this matter out, and no doubt would have taken the initiative had they thought it wise or right in the interests of their citizens to alter their position vis-à-vis the railway companies; but this is their own proposal, and is not a proposal which has been rushed or which comes hurriedly before the House. In the first place, this Bill is largely a consolidating, and only partly an amending, Bill. The draft Order was originally lodged as long ago as December last, petitions were deposited, and an inquiry held locally. The Bill was then introduced, and it has passed, not only all its stages in the other House but every stage but the last in this House, and I think that in these circumstances I may plead with my hon. Friend not to persist in his opposition to the Bill receiving its Third Reading.


The speech which has just been delivered by my hon. and gallant Friend has anticipated in part the few words that I should like to address to the House on this Bill. This is a large Measure, running to more than 200 Clauses, promoted by the Corporation of Edinburgh, and I think it ought to be made clear at once from these benches that there is not one iota of privately run interest of any description in the Bill from one end to the other; it is a purely public Measure promoted by the Corporation of Edinburgh. Fourteen petitions were originally lodged in the latter part of last year, and they came before an appropriate tribunal of inquiry in Edinburgh, consisting of two Members of the other House and two Members of this House, one of whom was my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr W. M. Watson). Before that tribunal all the petitions save two disappeared, and agreement was reached on the last two petitions, so that the Measure is now for all practical purposes an agreed proposal, and it is one of vital importance to the citizens of the capital of Scotland. Up to this stage no objection, apparently, has been taken in this House, but, in any event, all objections to the Measure should have been taken before the inquiry, or at some earlier stage in the proceedings. I desire to say from this Box that, while I have no desire to impose upon the freedom of any of my hon. Friends in opposing a Measure, and certainly I have no desire to take away any right or any objection that an hon. Member desires to lodge, the only effect of this opposition at the present time has been to put the electors of Edinburgh to a great deal of expense in connection with this proposal, without, I am bound to say, any valid reason whatever. There is no reason in the world why this Bill should have been delayed, and I believe I speak for the everwhelming majority of my colleagues on this side of the House when I say that we dissociate ourselves from the objection which has now been taken.


After the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), I feel sure there is no necessity to enforce our great desire, and the great desire of all the Members for the City of Edinburgh, that this Bill should receive its Third Reading to-night. It is a most important matter for the City of Edinburgh. It receives the unanimous assent of the Corporation, and it is not, if I may presume to say so, a very friendly act for a representative from the City of Glasgow to raise this objection to one of the greatest Bills the Corporation of Edinburgh has brought forward. The City of Glasgow and the City of Edinburgh have always lived on terms of the greatest possible friendship, and I trust that no action of any hon. Member from the City of Glasgow, on an occasion which for our City is so great a one as this, will break the friendship that has lasted for so many years.


I rise to say that I do not wish to oppose this Bill, but nevertheless I think my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) has exercised his right in bringing what he thought was a perfectly valid point before the House. Although it may involve expense to the corporation of Edinburgh, nevertheless, when a Member has to choose between the question of cost and the question of public duty, that Member is justly entitled to exercise his public duty. I think the Bill as a whole is an exceedingly good Bill, although there are certain things that I should have liked to see in it. I see that it deals with back courts and turnings, and I should have liked to see the abolition of the spiked railings in these courts, which have been the cause not only in Edinburgh but in Glasgow, of a large number of children meeting injury and death. I agree, however, that that is a Second Reading point, and I only rose to enter a slight protest against what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) on one point. As I have said, I think the Bill as a whole is an exceedingly good one, and the one point upon which, if I may, I desire to differ from the right hon. Gentleman in quite a friendly way, is in regard to his statement that those who were objecting should have taken their objections much earlier. I want to put this to the right hon. Gentleman, that, while it is all very well to say that, and it is elementary and accepted, he ought to know, as we all know, the course of procedure through which these Bills go. For instance, along with this Bill was a Greenock Bill which is going to come forward. It would not be in order to discuss it, but the analogy holds good. In that Greenock Bill was a principle of the greatest importance to the whole of the Labour movement in Scotland. It was not objected to before the Committee, largely because the people in the locality have never taken notice of it and did not think the Corporation of Greenock would go on with a thing of that importance in a Provisional Order. There are very many points which, owing to lack of knowledge and for various reasons, miss the scrutiny of the public and private citizens, and thus get to this stage when the Member of Parliament has to intervene. It it for that reason only that I rise, because, while there has been a committee of inquiry and all that procedure has been taken, it does not take away from the exercise of the legitimate rights of a Member of the House to raise points which may have escaped the scrutiny of other people. I join with other Members in asking the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) to withdraw. There are some valuable things in the Bill, things which might almost be said to be municipal Socialism, and for that reason I think my hon. Friend might allow it to go through as a legitimate development of public life.


There is one point I should like to make clear to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham). This is a Bill to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act. Under this form of examination of the Bill in Scotland all objections are there heard and decided. I allowed this to go through on the Second Reading knowing that all objections to it would be heard there, and that it would have to come back here, and that I could legitimately raise any objections which had not been removed. It is not a question whether it costs money. I do not desire to make Edinburgh or Glasgow or any other city incur expenditure, but if I consider there is something in a Private Bill which it is perfectly legitimate to raise. I am surely, within my rights in objecting to it and having it discussed on the Floor of the House so that the grievance or objection can be ventilated in a proper manner. I could not do that while the Bill was going through the ordinary course of procedure for Private Bills under this form of legislation. The railway companies were among the objectors to the Bill. They appeared before the Procedure Committee in Edinburgh, and, having had their objections removed by the inclusion of the things I have been taking exception to, now withdraw their objection and allow this to go, having got what they wanted. I think I am within my rights in ventilating those objections, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has any right to talk about the bulk of his colleagues dissociating themselves from my action. All my colleagues, and the House, may dissociate themselves from my action with regard to this or any other Bill, but their dissociation does not deprive me of my right to raise the matter on the Floor of the House, which I shall continue to do where I think it necessary to do so. I withdraw my objection.

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

Bill read the Third time, and passed, without Amendment.