§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Mr. BARNES
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I desire to take this opportunity, the only opportunity that we have, to raise complaints on railway adminitration whilst this Bill is before the House. Hon. Members will be somewhat confused owing to the fact that other hon. Members and myself have our names down on the Paper for a Motion to reject the London Electric and Metropolitan District Railway Company's Bill. We have now transferred our attack to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Bill. We find that the fares affecting the population in this East London area are concerned with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, because the District Railway has running rights over that portion of the line. Therefore, we propose to make our statements on this Bill, and we do not propose to repeat them on the Second Bill. We take this course with the object of saving the time of the House, and we think that that will meet its convenience.
The Metropolitan District Railway are concerned with that section of traffic from Barking to Bow Road over the line of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and serve the very thickly-populated area of West Ham, East Ham, Barking and East London generally. If you take the population living in that part of London, their wages and incomes, on the average, are smaller than the wages which prevail throughout other parts of London. Because more or less a standard of poverty exists there, the people live more thickly together, and the volume of traffic over this section of the line is heavier than we find in other suburban areas in and around London. Therefore, we consider that the population in the East End of London is less able to meet higher fares, and that, so far as any cutting of fares are concerned, they should have consideration, because of the general level of income and wages in that area. Where a railway company gets a larger volume of 1726 traffic over a small area because of the density of population, we claim that the railway rates should be arranged on a competitive basis.
The statement issued by the Metropolitan District Railway Company shows one of the causes of anomoly in the East End of London. In that statement they admit that from Charing Cross to Upton Park or East Ham and Barking there are five separate sections of railway line and four distinct and separate administrative controls over that short line of railway. If private enterprise thinks it legitimate to organise its business on these inefficient and out-of-date methods, and that it is desirable to have anomalies and complexities in railway organisation, they have the power to continue it, but we are entitled to claim on behalf of the travelling public that the public should not suffer from this duplication of control and duplication of railway administration.
I should like to direct the attention of the House to the fact that from the Mansion House the District Railway ceases. From the Mansion House to White-chapel the Metropolitan Railway comes into existence, and from St. Mary's to Whitechapel the District Railway again assumes control. From White chapel to Bow Road the London, Midland and Scottish and the District Railway are jointly in control, and from Bow Road to Barking the London, Midland and Scottish takes supreme control. The trains that run over the whole of the service are District Railway trains, and the users who get into the trains at any of the stations are, so far as they are concerned, travelling on one railway and under the one administration.
I will give a few particulars of the anomalies that exist in regard to railway flares. I frankly admit that our case is not based on the percentages generally which Parliament has given to the railway company. We do not contend that the railway companies are exceeding these percentage rates, but we do claim that London traffic should be co-ordinated and that generally the same principle should prevail over a line of this description. I do not want to worry the House with fares from the East End of London to the multitude of railway stations that exist in the West End and in the City, but I will give several local examples. In 1917, a 50 per cent. increase of railway rates over the pre- 1727 War figures prevailed. In 1920, a further increase of 25 per cent. was put on. In 1923 the 25 per cent. was taken off, and, generally speaking, the railway rates should now be the same as they were in 1917. I want to say, in fairness to the District Railway, that west of Bow Road the fares are competitive, and compare very favourably with the fares on Omnibuses and trams and other transport in the City of London and other parts of London.
The anomalies in the railway rates from the East End of London to the centre arise because of the principle upon which the London, Midland and Scottish Railway base their fares. From East Ham to Whitechapel, in 1917, the single fare was 6d. and the return fare 9d., so that there was a reduction of 3d. on the return fare. In 1923, although the single fare reverted to the 1917 figure, namely 6d., the return fare was 10½d., or 1½d. more than it was in 1917, on the 50 per cent. increase basis. I am not concerned with the wages of the men, but with the anomalies of, the position. So far as wages are concerned, the greater the volume of traffic we can get on to the railways the better, I assume, it will be for the railway staffs. From East Ham to Aldgate East the single fare was 6½d. in 1917; to-day it is 7d.; the return fare was 10½d. in 1917, it is now 1s. 0½d. To the Mansion House the single fare, in 1917, was 8d.; it is now 8½d. The return fare was 1s. 1½d. in 1917, now it is 1s. 4d. To Charing Cross the single fare was 9d. in 1917, it is the same to-day; but the return fare was 1s. 4½d. in 1917; to-day it is 1s. 6d.
§ Mr. HANNON
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, There is nothing in this Bill relating to fares, and the hon. Member knows that fares are under the control of the Railway Rates Tribunal. Is the hon. Member in order in discussing railway fares on the Second Reading of a Bill which has nothing to do with fares?
I am sorry that issue has been raised. I am a supporter of the Bill, but it is the duty of Parliament, before it gives further authority to any railway, to deal with any matter that may arise.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
On that point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—on the ques- 1728 tion of fares. Does a railway company run its business for fun or for fares?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
That is not a point of Order. With regard to the question put me by the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon), it has often been held in debates of this kind on Bills of this sort that the inclusion of fares is in order.
§ Mr. BARNES
I want to deal with the cost of travel from the East End of London to the City by omnibus and train. If a user takes an omnibus from East Ham Town Hall, the centre of the borough, to Aldgate, the fare is 5d. If he then takes the train from Aldgate to Westminster, or Charing Cross, the fare is 3d.; a total fare of 8d. for omnibus and train combined. If the same user takes the train at East Ham Station and goes right through to Charing Cross or Westminster the fare is 10d., or 2d. more than the fare for omnibus and train combined. If you come from the outskirts of East Ham and Plaistow, the fare to Aldgate by omnibus is 4d., and from there to Wesminster, 3d., a total charge of 7d. The train fare from Upton Park to Westminster is 10d., a difference of 3d. over the same journey.
Let me deal briefly with the question of workmen's fares. Generally, from that part of London to the City, with few exceptions, they are 100 per cent. more than they were in 1914, and I think we have a legitimate case against the railway companies on that ground, because the volume of traffic, both workmen's traffic and the ordinary day traffic, has considerably increased, and increased out of all proportion to working expenses. Therefore, that part of London should have some concession in regard to fares in view of the increased volume of traffic. I appreciate the fact that railway companies have great difficulty in grappling with the big traffic problems which arise in London owing to the fact that London business is confined to within two or three hours. A tremendous population comes from the suburbs into the centre, and has to go back again. I do not really expect the railway companies to organise their business on a two-hour basis. I realise the difficulty. But nevertheless, the conditions of travel from that part of London are supremely uncomfortable, and I submit that it strengthens our demand for cheaper travelling facili- 1729 ties and also our contention that we should not be penalised for other sections of traffic in and around London.
There are anomalies in the East End of London, and the fact that our travelling rates per mile are higher in that part than those which prevail generally on the electrified transport system in London is due to this, that from East Ham and Barking to Bow the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company fixes the charges, or its proportion of the charges, on the principle of main line traffic. The underground railways, starting from Bow, fix their railway rates and travelling rates on the principle that in London you have competitive forms of traffic, and a large body of traffic going for short distances. Therefore, the principle of main line rates does not apply to London, and generally their rates are lower per mile than main line traffic. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway have, unfortunately, refused all concessions to this general principle upon which traffic rates have been built up in London, and therefore, we in East London think it is time the London, Midland, and Scottish Railway endeavoured in their section of the line to fall into the general scheme of things which prevail around London.
I know it is argued that if the London, Midland, and Scottish Railway Company gives a concession on the section of the line over which the District Railway trains operate, it will affect their traffic receipts and their mileage charges to Fenchurch Street Station, but I submit that there is practically no short journey traffic to this station on the London, Midland, and Scottish line. Anyone from Plaistow, East Ham, or Barking, going to the City uses the District Railway section, and the population which travels over the London, Midland, and Scottish line to Fenchurch Street Station comes from points beyond Barking. We think we have a very sound case in this connection. Our opposition is not factious, and it is not to try and get the London, Midland, and Scottish Railway to depart from their railway rates over areas beyond what is called the special London problem, but we submit that the railway company, if it means to impose its control over a section of London traffic, should realise that that section involves a vast number of the poorest people in the community and should at 1730 least modify their administration in order to meet the legitimate needs and pockets of the people it serves.
§ Mr. GROVES
I beg to second the Amendment
I do so, not because I wish to make rash charges, but because I wish to put one or two points which I hope will be received favourably by the promoters of the Bill. We want the Company to consider in its narrowest aspect the question of fares on this side of London. I should be failing in my duty if I did not plead here on behalf of the great number of my constituents who use this railway and come to town from Plaistow and Bromley and West Ham. My claim is that they ought to be able to travel in decent comfort and cheaply. Here are some figures which I have extracted from official documents: From Plaistow to Aldgate East the pre-War fare was 3½d.; in 1917 it was 5d. Apart from precise percentages the fare to-day should be on a par with that of 1917. But the fare from Plaistow to Aldgate East to-day is 5½d. From Plaistow to the Monument, Cannon Street, Mansion House and Blackfriars, the pre-War fare was 4½d., the fare in 1917 was 6½d.; to-day it is 7d. From Plaistow to Westminster the fare in 1917 was 8d.; to-day it is 8½d. The fact is that the Company is drawing from many thousands of travellers about one halfpenny more than it is morally entitled to.
Then as to return fares the position is extremely strange. Between Plaistow, West Ham, Bromley and Westminster, I think it is true to say that to-day there remain only three stations to which and from which we can get return tickets. The Minister of Transport might be able to tell us why this railway has holus bolus done away with return tickets. You cannot get a first-class return ticket from Westminster to Bow Road. You are asked to take two single tickets, and that means that the public do not get the pre-War advantage of a reduction on the return fare. If the Minister cares, he can go and try to take a first-class return ticket from Westminster while I am speaking. He will find that he cannot get the ticket. I took that matter up with the representative here at the Fees Office. He was amazed. I had correspondence with the Transport Department. I was amazed, too. I was informed by the company that the 1731 demand for first-class return tickets had been so slack that they had abolished them altogether. The law of supply and demand may apply to groceries and other things, but I do not know why it should apply to first-class return tickets.
Then, on third-class return tickets we do not to-day get the rebate that was customary in pre-War days. If we are compelled to take two separate tickets, or a return ticket at double the single fare, an unfair advantage is being taken of the travelling public. The fare from West Ham to Aldgate East was 3½d. pre-War; in 1917 it was 5d.; and to-day it is 5½d. From West Ham to the Monument, Cannon Street, Mansion House and Blackfriars the pre-War fare was 4½d.; in 1917 it was 6½d.; and to-day it is 7d. From West Ham to Westminster the fare was 5½d. pre-War; in 1917 it was 8d.; and to-day it is 8½d. From West Ham to Liverpool Street the pre-War fare was 4½d.; in 1917 it was 6½d.; and to-day it is 7d. From West Ham to King's Cross the fare was 5½d. pre-War; in 1917 it was 8d.; and to-day it is 8½d. These differences are matters of interest. In each case an extra ½d. is taken from the travelling public. From Bromley to Aldgate East the fare in 1917 was 3½d., and to-day it is 4d. From Bromley to Blackfriars the fare in 1917 was 5d., and to-day it is 5½d. From Bromley to Westminster the fare in 1917 was 6½d., and to-day it is 7d. From Bromley to King's Cross the fare in 1917 was 6½d., and to-day it is 7d.
There must be some method of adjusting these things. It is our duty to come here when we know of these—I will not say abuses, but instances of misunderstanding, and to appeal for fair consideration. Before we give a railway company or any other company fresh powers this House ought to make up its mind how the corporation concerned has used the powers it already possesses. I think I have heard the right hon. Gentleman for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) deliver some good speeches in this House from that point of view—that if a man was given a good job and did not do it satisfactorily he should not be given another job. If it be proved that this particular railway is not doing its duty or its best to cater for the travelling public, the Minister of Transport has said that he would bring 1732 his influence to bear on the company to remedy grievances. There is a very serious state of affairs on this particular railway to-day. This House should jealously guard its powers with regard to the defence of the travelling public, however humble they may be.
On this railway there is not only strap hanging under pre-War conditions, but a sort of warehousing of the travelling public. Passengers are not so much packed in like sardines as hustled in, and the men who used to close the carriage doors are not now there. I believe for reasons of economy. It is not economy; it is folly, to take away men who otherwise would be assisting people in and out of the trains; it is not catering for the general safety of the public but is doing all to hinder them. I put this point to the Minister of Transport the day before the system was introduced. His reply was that we must allow sufficient time to see if the thing worked out as intended. The working out of that system has been inimical to the general interests of the public. Two-thirds of the doors on this railway are not closed by the platform staff, for the good reason that there is not sufficient plat form staff to do it. I am not going to say anything against the courtesy and general efficiency of railway servants. I have a genuine respect for all people connected with the railways. But if directors or anyone agrees to abolish the services of workers who were doing useful work, it is our duty to protest and to appeal for amendment in the common interests of the travelling public.
Therefore I trust the Minister of Transport will deal with this matter, and will state to the House his view on the withdrawal of these men. Does he think it safe that tired, overworked and jaded girls returning from work should be compelled to stand in the corridors of these trains with the doors open. It may be said why do they not close the doors? But any hon. Member who puts that question, should himself travel on these trains at any time between five o'clock and half-past six, and he will find that there is not room on the trains to move much less to close or open doors. I do not say that the railway company has a light task, but I feel that a little more attention should be paid to the travelling public, and that they should not be 1733 hustled along the platform, and into the trains, and then left without any assistance whatever, I also suggest that during the mid-day change over, the trains should be cleaned. I travel on this line nearly every day. I do not travel first-class, and I know the inconveniences. A large number of the trains on reaching Bow Road, turn round instead of proceeding to Barking. Why do they not take advantage of the opportunity of the stop at Bow Road to clean and ventilate the trains after the morning traffic in readiness for the evening traffic? Tens of thousands of people use these carriages in the morning, but the trains are put into service again in the evening without having been cleaned or ventilated.
That point should be impressed on the Minister in the interests of public health. We are endeavouring in a peaceful manner, across the Floor of the House to urge the necessity for a reduction of the overcrowding and a general attention to the needs of the travelling public. These matters may appear trivial to hon. Members, but they are not trivial in the eyes of the people concerned, to whom the matter of 6d. a week in fares is of some importance. If the company and the Ministry will take up these matters with a serious desire to remedy the grievances I have mentioned they will have done a great deal in the view of the travelling public, and their efforts in that direction will be respected and appreciated.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The first Bill on the Order Paper—the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Bill.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I make no complaint whatever of the tone of the discussion up to now. Undoubtedly those who have moved the rejection of the Bill are justified from their own point of view in doing so, but anyone unaccustomed to the discussions of such Bills in this House would be surprised to know that we are dealing with a Bill which proposes to give additional branch lines to important collieries in Nottinghamshire. I rise, naturally, to support' the Bill because I have first-hand knowledge that these branches are very much needed. Those who have knowledge of modern collieries and their equipment will agree that the more railways you can get to a colliery, the better for the col- 1734 liery. The modern colliery requires 300 or 400 trucks per day. If there is an insufficient service it is found that at periods of extreme activity a colliery which might be able to work a full day is only working half-a-day because of the shortage of trucks. Miners are accustomed in the summer months to work short time, especially in the soft-coal collieries. The hard-coal collieries are sometimes more fortunate, but the soft-coal collieries usually work only three or four days a week in the summer time. When winter comes the collieries expect to work the fullest time, but sometimes the colliery companies are unable to work the full day, even in winter, owing to insufficient railway service.
I support the Bill on three grounds. I do so first, in the interests of the workmen themselves. Anyone acquainted with the subject knows that if you have an inadequate service, the workmen can only work half or three-quarters of the time which they might work with an adequate service. I know cases where with only one line the colliery may perhaps get an adequate service for part of the year, but for the rest of the time the service is not adequate, and if there is the least disturbance on the single line which supply the trucks, then the service breaks down and the men have to go home. If men have limited incomes for a great part of the year, they look to the winter months to make up for the lost working time, and the colliery companies look to that period to make the pits pay. If the colliery companies are unable to work full time in the winter owing to lack of service, it is very irritating to the men. In a mining district when it comes near to Christmas a greater trade is being done, but while there are greater services in other respects on the railways at that time, the last people to whom they attend are the colliery companies, and just at the moment when the men want to work full time to supplement their wages, we find sometimes that a week before Christmas pits which could work five and a-half days are working but two or three days because they cannot get the trucks. A Bill of this character designed to ensure a better service in this respect ought to have our fullest support.
There is also the interest of the public. Not so long ago, just before Christmas, there was almost a famine for coal in London, and at the same time men were 1735 working only three days a week because of the scarcity of trucks. Therefore, in the interests of the British public, we ought to have as good a service as we possibly can, and if you destroy these Bills you are doing the greatest possible disservice to the men who are working, and who will work, at these collieries. I know the Welbeck Colliery very well. It is my duty as a mining leader to look after the men's grievances at that particular pit, and I know that just before Christmas they were losing time because they could not get empty wagons, or the full ones taken away. If they can get this extra line, the possibility is that before next Christmas, if the line be constructed, the men will find that the short time which they have had in the past will be remedied, and, as a miners' leader, I put in for the moment a plea for the colliery companies, who often lose money in summer, and ought to be able to recoup themselves in winter. But if trade is curtailed through lack of service, even colliery companies cannot make up for the loss sustained in the summer months. Therefore, I submit to the House, on three grounds—on behalf of the workers, the directors, and the community who want the coal—we ought to give the Bill a Second Reading.
With a view of showing what a completely united party we are, I want to say at once that anyone who objects either to criticism or to points being raised on this matter is taking a wrong course. I myself have opposed Bills, not on the merits of the Bills, but because I refuse to give additional powers to someone who, in my judgment, has already abused the powers conferred. Therefore, I not only do not complain, but I congratulate both the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment in taking up a proper constitutional and Parliamentary position in the interests of their constituents, and I do hope that that principle will be recognised all round. At the same time, I want to draw the attention of the House to the difference between the situation to-night and that of last night. Last night opposition was raised on a Bill, and the effect of the opposition and of the criticism must result in the particular matter in dispute being recon- 1736 sidered. In other words, we objected to a Railway Superannuation Bill because it was a bad Superannuation Bill. I am not arguing the merits, except to say that that was the ground of the objection. The railway company very foolishly refused to take my advice. I always advise them rightly, but they would not take it.
The short case for this Bill can be stated in a sentence. No one in this House objects to the merits of the Bill. The miners would be the first to say to the railwaymen, "You with a guaranteed week have no right to do something that will prevent us from having a full week's wages." That summarises the case for the Bill, so that there can be no doubt that the defeat of the Bill would not only be bad, would not only prevent employment, but would seriously injure the already difficult and delicate mining situation. With regard to the rates, I want to make it perfectly clear, if it were possible to determine the rates here, which I am sure it is not, I should be the first to object. I object because I have a moral obligation and a duty to the railwaymen of this country. I often see newspapers come out with a tirade about railway rates. They never think that every newspaper is 100 per cent. above pre-War. The same people who denounce railway rates, if they go to their own commodities, will find they show much above 100 per cent. increase. There is too much humbug talked about this. A large number of people who talk about railway rates to-day have to keep in mind that the money has got to come from somewhere, and the railwaymen are not going to be sweated merely to provide cheap railway rates. I want to make that perfectly clear on their behalf.
There are, of course, a lot of amateur railway managers. It is an extraordinary thing to hear the experts on railways. You have only to listen to debates in this House to know what experts they are. If they had only been railwaymen for two months they would not have delivered the speeches they have. For instance, I heard to-night that we want to increase travel on the railway. Let me give two actual experiences of how that worked out. Last year Wembley was going somewhat badly I wanted it to go well, and I was told 1737 that if we could get a reduction both in the railway rate and the entrance fee for Wembley, everything would be well. I met the railway companies, and, after a long argument, I persuaded them to extend the London zone about six miles out. They reduced their fare 3d., and we reduced the exhibition fee 3d., and the result was we got 6d. knocked off. The first fortnight there was an increase of something like 100,000, and, when the figures were shown, people said, "Here is a magnificent result. This is the result of reducing railway travel by 3d. and the exhibition charge by 3d.! Here is a brilliant success!" A month went on. There was a further increase, and I was just congratulating myself on a magnificent stroke of business, when the returns for Wembley came in, and showed a decrease. Then I said, "Where is all this 100,000?" We discovered that the people found that our reduced inclusive charge to Wembley from the wider zone was 4d. less than a return ticket to London, and they were taking Wembley tickets to London instead of the ordinary. That only shows how you can be had.
§ Mr. BARNES
I rather suggest that that indicates how unreliable is the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman.
I rather put it, if I made a bull, what would happen to you? Of course, I want a cheap transport system, but I do not want it at the expense of sweated conditions of labour. Neither does anyone else. I believe the cheapest and most efficient transport system will be unified nationalisation. But we have not got that. Whilst we have not got it, I put it to the Minister of Transport, who is not responsible for fares—which is a matter for the Railway Rates Tribunal—what are the factors which most influence the Railway Rates Tribunal? To put it quite seriously, they have to consider, not what were the fares in 1917, but that they are more now. [An HON. MEMBER: "That does not matter!"] It does matter. They have to consider that railwaymen's wages are 100 per cent. up since 1917.
These things have to be considered by some tribunal. It has got to be a tribunal that will consider all the factors. It has got to be a tribunal that will consider railwaymen's wages as well. Therefore it is because this is a good Bill, because it will provide employment for the people who are now unemployed, because it will help the miners who are now suffering, because it will facilitate trade, and because, above all, the objections raised cannot be remedied in this House, I would ask the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill. I am quite sure that my hon. Friends have ventilated their grievances. They have shown their constituents what zealous, interested and deserving representatives they have. They have given me the opportunity of showing to the railwaymen what an excellent representative I am in supporting the Second Reading.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I want to say a word or two on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company's Bill on behalf of the West of Scotland. I do not want to oppose this Bill. I do not want to be misunderstood in any way; but there are certain grievances which we have in the West of Scotland regarding this company. We have brought these to the notice of the House on several occasions. I am pleased to see in his place the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). I hope he will give us his support on behalf of the West of Scotland, because this is going to affect the West of Scotland very materially. We have a great amount of unemployment in the West of Scotland. Here is a glorious opportunity for the railway companies in the West of Scotland, and particularly the London, Midland and Scottish to employ thousands of engineers who are unemployed. I put forward this matter to the Minister of Transport when Labour was in office. I got the manager of the tramways department in Glasgow to make out a drawing of the whole underground railway system in Glasgow to prove to the officials in the Transport Department that we had in Glasgow a tube system, only the motive power was steam. In that respect it was different to the tubes in London. In the 1739 underground railway in Glasgow there is nothing but soot, and everything that goes to make a journey uncongenial for the traveller.
Here is an opportunity for the Government, in conjunction with the railways, to convert this system into an electric system for 30 miles in and around Glasgow. This would employ the unemployed engineers at the work they are best qualified to do, so that when the wheels of industry are set going again—as we hope they will be some day—the men will be qualified to take up their proper work. If you put them on to road schemes, or any other scheme, they are bound to lose the cunning of their right arm. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead can have no objection to supporting me in that, and he will thus render the West of Scotland a great service.
There are one or two points I want to raise, and I shall not detain the House long. The first point is that you would think that when the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company come before this House to ask us to pass this Bill that they were the most agreeable individuals with which to deal. The fact of the matter is that they are most difficult to deal with when we go and ask them to carry out the obligations which they agreed to years ago. Before Labour was so powerful as it is in the country to-day, they were allowed to strike bargains, and never needed to keep them, because this House always, up till now, looked well after the interests of railway directors and shareholders. It has been left to us to come along and get what we can here on the Floor of the House of Commons in order to keep these nice, fine men, that you had heard complimented even on the Floor of the House of Commons, up to the scratch, and see that they kept the bargains and pledges made years ago which they have never kept.
There was one outstanding pledge of the London, Midland and Scottish Company whose railway went through from Glasgow to Craigendoran on the Clyde. The main line went through Dumbarton. They promised they would put up a bridge over the level crossing. They never kept their word. Dumbarton Town 1740 is putting down a housing scheme. The level crossing did not so much matter before, but now the housing scheme is in operation you have children going to school and crossing this level crossing on the main line at the peril of their lives. The railway company promised to put a bridge across. They have never done it. I do not wish to harrow up the feelings of the House to-night. I am only asking for common justice, and for the House to remember that you have a main line, with a level crossing, and children requiring to cross every hour of the day. The only reason why the bridge is not put up is that it would cost money, proving conclusively that profits are of more interest than human life to railway directors and shareholders. I do not wish to say anything more on that. I leave it with hon. Members, and they can sleep on it. The next thing to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is a serious matter concerning workers in the shipyards. This is not out in India, or Russia, or Egypt, no, nor in the Ruhr Valley, nor in Kenya, either: this is in the Clyde Valley.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Well, if the hon. Member does not know where that is, he has no right to be here. Anyone with an elementary knowledge of the geography of the British Empire—anyone with an elementary knowledge of the activities of the Clyde group on the Floor of the House of Commons—knows perfectly well where the Clyde is.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
If the hon. Member will forgive me, I knew myself, but I wanted to know if he could tell the House.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
And if the hon. Member is not satisfied with that explanation, he can go out and make a hole in the Thames. Coming to the point where I was interrupted by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Herbert), I wish to say a word or two on workmen's fares. It is something affecting very seriously the people whom I represent. I can remember when I worked at John Brown's on Clydebank, and how I had to rise at half-past four in the morning—[Interruption]—that is something you never did in your life—to get down to Clydebank. Then, and until the War, we travelled from Park- 1741 head, which is at the extreme east of Glasgow, to Clydebank, a distance of 13 miles, for 1s. a week. That was the return fare. I think all here, even those who are interjecting, who have just come in with their boiled shirts on and their black suits, will be anxious to support me in my appeal on behalf of the shipyard workers of the Clyde. They are highly skilled men, there are no higher skilled men in the world, and they are working for £2 15s. a week—some of them less; but I am not exaggerating the conditions—that is the highest pay. Others are working for 38s. 7d. per week. I leave it to the House to say whether that is an adequate wage for a man who has a wife and family to support. It would not be pocket money for a day for some hon. Members opposite; but these men have to maintain a wife and family on that sum. What do the railway companies charge these men for travelling? Before the War it was 1s. a week return, and now the charge is 3s. per week. Fancy 3s. being taken off £2 a week.
That is what the railway companies do and then they have got the brass face to come to this House and lobby us and ask, "What complaints have you? Is there anything we can do to mitigate your complaints or get over the difficulties?" When I put these cases to them they say, "Oh, that requires a Trade Board.' It requires something else. It requires only that the railway companies should be willing. It requires only that Members of this House should be in earnest in the statements they make. At Election times it is not only Labour Members who plead with the workers to send them to the House of Commons. Even the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R, Horne) makes appeals to the working class in Glasgow.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
And they even send the hon. Member who has been interjecting and interrupting me to the very best of his ability, though he is making a very poor job of it. One and all who come here have appealed to the working classes. They have assured my class of what they would do if they were on the Floor of the House of Commons.Now's the day, and now's the hour.1742 I am giving them, one and all, an opportunity to make good their pledges; to stand by the working class, and see that these extortionate charges for railway fares are done away with.
§ Mr. MARCH
It is very peculiar, under the Procedure of this House, that when a Bill is submitted and a Member wants to say anything, he has either to move an amendment or move a resolution to reject it, and then when we follow that procedure we are found fault with for doing so. I want to submit a few points in connection with grievances we ourselves suffer while travelling on railways, and also to submit the grievances of those whom we represent. Not a day or a week goes by without complaints from some one or other of our constituents about the conditions on the Underground Railway. The hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) has given various details of fares which, in the opinion of those who use those railways, are an anomaly, and has also complained of overcrowding on those railways and of the uncleanliness of them.
There is another point I want to raise. I have had a number of people complaining who have to get in at Aldgate East to go round to King's Cross and on to Hammersmith. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer) complained about the railways not being able to pro vide trucks owing to these crossings. I am not objecting to these crossings being made. I am not objecting to the Metropolitan District Railway Company get ting the Bill to have these alterations of these stations, which I know are urgently needed, but I am raising the question in connection with this Railway Bill because of the complaints of people in connection with their travelling. When the Metropolitan District trains are run from New Cross to Aldgate East—
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Are we not discussing the London, Midland and Scottish Bill; not the London Underground, which is coming on later?
§ Mr. NAYLOR
Arising out of your statement, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, are we to understand that there is to be no Debate upon the London Bill at the conclusion 1743 of this first Debate on the London, Midland and Scottish Bill? That was not the understanding with which we started.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On a point of Order. My understanding—I may be wrong—was that the reason why we were discussing this Bill, and the line as referred to by the hon. Member, was that it so happened that the London, Midland, and Scottish control this part of the line. We were not discussing the Metropolitan Bill. This part of Aldgate to King's Cross while it was part of the Metropolitan line the control of it was in the hands of the London, Midland, and Scottish Company. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I understood it also applied here. I certainly did not understand that we were taking the two Bills together.
Did not the Mover of the Amendment make it perfectly clear that he was in error in the original objection?
§ Mr. NAYLOR
There are some Members who want to raise points on the London District Bill. Are we to understand on your ruling that, if we wish to raise these points, we must do so in this first discussion before the Vote is taken?
§ Mr. BARNES
The discussion effecting both the District and the London, Midland and Scottish arrangement was confined to the East London difficulties alone. There was not an understanding that Members who have points to raise on these railway systems other than applied to East London, should be governed by that arrangement, which applied to East London only.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I am prepared to support the London, Midland and Scottish Bill, but I have grave doubts about the other Bill. I object to any discussion on a blend of Railway Bills.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
We were dealing with the two Bills as if they were one. They are separate questions, and the Question will be put separately from the Chair.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
May I put one other point? If a Member wishes to raise a point about the London District Bill, should we be in order in doing that in the first discussion?
§ Mr. MARCH
I understand that is so. I want to take my discussion of the Bills which are before the House as from Aldgate eastwards, because, unfortunately or fortunately, the Underground Railway Companies have not come down to my constituency round Poplar yet. The complaints that many of my constituents have are that they get into the train at Aldgate East or come from Whitechapel and have to go round from Aldgate East to Aldgate, King's Cross and Hammersmith, and they are hung up in that branch sometimes as long as a quarter of an hour.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
May I point out that the length of line to which the hon. Member refers is not in either Bill.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I do not think that the question of the grievances on the particular lines would be in order.
§ Mr. MARCH
We want to air our grievances, and I understand that this is the time to do so when the railway companies are bringing in Bills. The grievance that my constituents have is that they are not able to get through, as they consider they have a right to, from Aldgate to King's Cross and Hammersmith. Frequently their trains are hung up from that branch to Aldgate East and Aldgate at least a quarter of an hour in the morning. That means losing time when they get to their destination.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am rather in a difficult position, having to rely on the Member speaking to confine his remarks to the question under discussion. The question of fares generally of the railway company would be in order, but not the grievances on the particular lines.
§ Mr. MARCH
These people have paid their fares. The difficulty is that you have to get from one railway to another. Sometimes you are on the London, Midland and Scottish or the District, and another time on the Metro- 1745 politan. I understand that there is a Metropoltan and District Railway Bill coming before the House to-night, and we are to debate those two Bills in this one discussion. That is what I am trying to do, and I hope I am succeeding. I do want to ventilate the grievances my constituents have, and I want the Metropolitan and District Railways to see whether they cannot alter them. I believe that when they have heard the discussion that is going on to-night in connection with their system they will see that something is done to remedy it. If we do not ventilate the grievances when those Bills are before the House, the railway companies would think that everything was in apple-pie order, everything was flourishing and that there were no complaints from anybody. They have only to ride down from Aldgate on the District Railway. Scarcely a week goes through without someone complaining. Very rarely is there anybody on the platforms to shut the door and if you want to save yourself from being blown out you have to shut the door yourself. That is not the right thing to do. Having paid your fare, I think you have a right to a seat. Some do not have the opportunity of getting their seat going to their work. It used to be straphanging at one time, but now they are packed more like sardines. We want that remedied, and I hope this discussion will help towards that end.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I wish to state one or two grievances from Glasgow and district. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) is well aware, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway have assumed a larger responsibility for Glasgow, and I want to raise two or three grievances relating to Scottish travellers. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway have issued figures showing that there has been a decrease in third-class passengers, and an increase in the first-class passengers, but the most striking decrease of all is in regard to workmen's tickets, and the amount of the decrease runs up to something like 4,000,000 passengers.
Like the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), I have worked most of my life on the Clyde. When I had to travel from Glasgow to Renfrew before the War, the fare used to be 1s. per week; now it is 3s. Therefore you are asking the workmen to pay 200 per 1746 cent. more in fares, although his wages have only been increased by 50 per cent. On the other hand, the first-class traveller has only been asked to pay 75 per cent. more, while the workman has to pay 200 per cent more. No one desires to have a cheap transport system at the expense of sweated workmen, but there is plenty of room without taking a penny off the railwaymen's wages to equalise the fares between the first-class passengers and the workmen. It is not fair to ask the workmen to pay 200 per cent. more while the manufacturer who may be charging 100 per cent. more for his goods is only asked to pay 50 per cent. more.
Another grievance is that on our Glasgow stations if a passenger brings his wife on the platform to see him off she has to pay 3d. for the privilege, and I think Glasgow is the only city in the country where such a charge is made. I travel from a Glasgow station almost every week, and sometimes my wife sees me off on the train, and she has to pay 3d. to come on the platform. With regard to people going abroad, there is no place like Glasgow which is contributing, unfortunately, so largely to the number of people who are leaving Scotland, and a good many go from St. Enoch's Station, in Glasgow, to Greenock to join the boat, although I know a good many travel via London to Australia. Only last Friday a man living in the constituency represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead was going off to Australia, and he had no less than 12 people to see him off. It was probably the last time they would see him, and yet everyone of those poor people, coming from a very poor district, had to pay 3d. each to go on the platform. I think it is a shocking state of things when you have a Government in office which is professing to try and get cheap passages for these people that you should penalise a man in this way, because if that man was leaving a station in any other town in the country but Glasgow his friends could get on the platform for 1d. Can anyone tell me why this is so?
I am told that the figures show that more people emigrate from Glasgow than from any other town in the Kingdom in proportion to its population, and yet the railway companies are allowed to penalise them in this way. I think all 1747 hon. Members are agreed that if possible the relatives of such men ought to get on the platform free, but even if this cannot be done in Glasgow surely the charge should be the same as in every other town in the country. I went to see a man off to Canada the other day at Princess Dock in Glasgow and no charge was made to me to get on to the dock, although they limit the number to so many per day. Surely on a passenger train in the case of people going abroad, the railway company ought to allow them to go on to the platform at a cheap rate.
There is another matter I wish to mention. I am a teetotaller and I am told I am rather bigoted. I often require a drink of water when travelling for nine hours in a train during the night and yet I cannot get a drink of cold water on the train, and even if I wanted something stronger I could not get it. To provide drinking water on a train during a long journey does not place any hardship on the railway employés, and I think we should see to it that passengers are provided with a supply of decent drinking water. In these things the railway companies are going back. I remember that the first time I ever came to London, in 1920, there was a supply of drinking water on the train by which I travelled, but now the trains that carry a supply of drinking water are getting fewer and fewer. Surely these grievances can be remedied without sweating people?
May I just, in conclusion, put two more grievances? The first is as to the booking of seats. I have no great objection to the booking of seats, but I do object to porters in the railway hotels being given the right to book seats without any arrangement being come to. The other day, I went up to Glasgow by the 1.30 train from Euston, and, when I went to get a seat, I found that every one was taken. I do not grudge the booking, because, in that case, at least, the man has made an effort, but on other seats all I could see were empty bandboxes, and I saw people come up half an hour after I had arrived, and think they had a right, because an empty bandbox was on the seat, to take it before myself, who had been there half an hour. If people want seats in that way, they ought to pay their shilling and book them 1748 properly, but to give a hotel porter at Euston Station the right to take up all the seats because he is a hotel porter, and because someone can tip him, is not the way in which the railway company ought to conduct its business.
Only last Friday, when I went up and claimed a seat on which there was an empty bandbox, the porter came along and was most abusive that I should dare to claim that seat. As a matter of fact, I complained, but the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Birmingham, when he comes to this House to speak on a railway Bill, gets far less abuse than I got on that occasion. [An HON. MEMBER: "What did they say to you?"] I was told that this seat had been booked because he had come and put an empty bandbox on it. I told him I was there, and, until the station master or someone in authority told me to shift, I was not shifting. The point is this, and here I am quite serious. I remember that, when I was travelling with my tools from job to job, I found that poor people very often give in to that kind of thing, because they never get a chance, and the railway company ought to put a stop to it.
In regard to the other grievance, I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton. It is with regard to our service of underground railways. The Minister of Transport says he has no control over the railways, but he has the same control as the sanitary authorities have over housing conditions, and, so far as sanitary arrangements are concerned, surely he has sufficient control to see that a train which is moving about is at least kept in a sanitary condition. The trains on our underground system are very dirty indeed. I do not blame the railway company, because it is like a slum house, and, no matter how much attention a woman gives a slum house, she can never keep it properly clean. This is a slum railway, and, no matter how diligent the railway servants are, the conditions under which they work do not allow them to keep it clean. Manchester and Liverpool, which are smaller towns than Glasgow, have suburban electric services. Why has not a great city like Glasgow a suburban electric service? It is almost a slight on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead, who has been here all these years. With all the influence 1749 that he has—and he has been Chancellor of the Exchequer—Glasgow remains the only big town that cannot have a suburban electric service. Why should we have this dirty service? Why should it not be swept away, and a good and efficient service substituted, which can give good travelling and at the same time please the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby by giving his members conditions of decency in which to work?
§ Mr. FIELDEN
We have heard a good many reasons against passing the Second Reading of this Bill. The hon. Member for East Ham., South (Mr. Barnes), who moved the rejection, based his objection to the Bill on the question of the fares that were charged. He thought the fares ought to be reduced. I would remind the House that in 1921, when the Railways Act was passed, a tribunal was set up called the Railway Rates Tribunal, to settle the rates and fares that the railway companies were to charge. That tribunal has not finally reported as to what the rates and fares are to be, but it is sitting and is constantly reviewing the question of rates and fares, and it will review it at any time a complaint is brought by any person with regard to the question of rates and fares. I submit to the House that that tribunal, which was set up by this House, and which is now sitting, is the proper tribunal to go into the question whether these particular fares ought or ought not to be reduced, and I do not think that anything more can be usefully said to-night on that question.
The other points that have been raised come, I think, mostly from the North. The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) referred to the question of electrifying the underground railway in Glasgow. That is a matter which has had, and is still having, the attention of the railway company. It would undoubtedly help employment, but I cannot make any promise as to whether we shall see that change-over from steam to electricity within the immediate future. I think there is no doubt whatever that we shall see it at some time, but the matter, I can assure the House, is receiving the constant attention of the railway company.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
I shall certainly support the change-over when I am convinced that the time for it has come. It will, undoubtedly, come some day, but I cannot say when it will be. It is, however, receiving the constant consideration of the railway company. With regard to the question of the level crossing at Dumbarton, that is a matter I know nothing about, but I shall be very pleased to make inquiries into it. I cannot express any opinion at the moment on the question of workmen s fares, pre-War and post-War. It seems to me a very large increase, but there, again, I take it, the Rates Tribunal will be the proper authority.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
As far as my information goes, the Bates Tribunal has never considered this question.
§ Mr. SPENCER
Can the hon. Member say that the usual facilities for workmen's trains will be given on these branch lines?
§ Mr. FIELDEN
The two new branch lines, I understand, are for mineral traffic only. With regard to the complaint made by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), I can only say that the General Manager wrote him on 18th February, when he put down his objection to the Bill, and asked if he would kindly let him know the nature of his complaints.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I have seen your representative outside, and I had negotiations with the company previously. My reason for not replying was that I raised every one of the points 12 months ago. There was no use writing again.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
I only pointed this out because I wanted the House to know that the railway companies are very anxious to meet all complaints and give explanations as far as they have power. We do not in any way resent discussion on an occasion like this. We very often find that these complaints have some foundation, and when we know of them we can make arrangements which will do away with them. With regard to the complaints as to drinking water which were made last year, I made inquiries and examination was made on many of the trains, and they could not find that drinking water was absent. That is the reply we received. Of course it does not follow that there were not other trains 1751 where lack of these facilities still continued. The question in regard to the decrease in workmen's fares is very easily answered. It is due to the depression of trade. As to other questions raised by the hon. Member last year and this year. I am sorry that what has been done has not satisfied him. We inquired carefully 12 months ago into the question of platform tickets, and the reply we received from Glasgow was that they thought they should continue to be charged at 3d., but I will gladly undertake that the question shall be again looked into to see whether an alteration can be made.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
Personally I would do anything I could in the matter, but possibly it would be better to have the deputation in Glasgow than in London.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
The matter I wish to raise is on the London Electric Bill. My excuse for raising it is that part of that Bill affects certain rights of the people in the borough of Southwark, which I represent. I gather from Clauses 6 and 14 that it is proposed to build an underground station at a point where six roads converge at the Elephant and Castle. I want some assurance from those who are backing the Bill that certain rights of passage through the subways already in existence are not to be interfered with through the passing of the Bill. At present these subways are very largely used by a great number of people, who find it more convenient and safer to cross underground than to cross the very heavy traffic roads. The station is to be built where the subways intersect beneath the surface of the road.
§ Colonel GRETTON
On a point of Order. May I ask which Bill we are discussing? It has been ruled previously that matters concerning fares can be discussed on both Bills at once, but there are other matters concerning the station at the Elephant and Castle with which the London, Midland and Scottish have nothing whatever to do. The matter is local entirely to the District Railway. Those who are responsible for the railway companies would have very great difficulty if all these different subjects 1752 concerning quite different Bills are not treated separately, as we have to have separate Divisions.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
The Deputy-Speaker has already given his ruling on the matter, and he has made it clear that the discussion of the two Bills is proceeding together.
On that point of Order. It was agreed that the connection between the two Bills on the question of fares was such that, taking the general opinion of the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker interpreted the matter by suggesting that it would save time if we took the two discussions together, although obviously there must be two Votes.
I understand that that was what was said by Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I did think myself, with the hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), that a general discussion covering both Bills should be limited to the question of fares, but as the matter has proceeded, I think we had better go on as we are doing.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
I was pointing out that the erection of this Underground station at this particular spot would interfere with the right of passage through the subway. I want some assurance from the hon. Members who are backing this Bill that the roads will not be interfered with. At the moment there are six heavy traffic roads completed at the very spot where this station is to be built, and if these subways are interfered with in any way it means that the passage right through from one side of the circus to the other will no longer be free. We may suppose that the railway companies will preserve the centre and confine it entirely to the purposes of the railway station. What are the companies going to do in this matter? Are they going to block the passageway to this particular spot or not? I understand that, according to both Section 6 and 14, they are asking for the right to build this station on that spot, and as you cannot build a station without blocking the way I want to know what becomes of the right of the people in the neighbourhood of Southwark to pass underground through the passageway—a right' which they possess at the moment, but that this Bill may conceivably take away.
1753 I have looked through the Bill carefully to see whether this right is safeguarded in any way. According to Subsection (3) of Clause 14, the Postmaster-General's interest in certain cables is protected by that Clause, and the company has no right whatever to interfere with the cables. I think the Postmaster-General is entitled to that protection, but what I am more anxious about is as to whether there is going to be a protecting Clause in this Bill safeguarding the rights of the people of Southwark and the surrounding districts in order that they may have a free passageway underneath the ground and avoid crossing these dangerous roads. In the interest of the women and children of that thickly-populated neighbourhood, it would be a serious matter if they were unable to make their way through the passages as they already exist. If the hon. Members who are backing this Bill are able to give me an assurance that those rights are not to be interfered with in any way and that some provision will be made in order that the passages may be preserved, nothwithstanding the fact that they are building a station on that spot, then I shall be more satisfied and, possibly, will find myself able to support the Bill.
§ Mr. PENNY
I should be very adverse to opposing a Bill of this nature. I am referring to the London Electric Bill. But I do wish to call attention to an important matter of principle arising in connection with the operations of the two companies promoting this Bill. The promoters are technically known to us as the London Electric Railway Company and the Metropolitan District Railway Company, and the Bill confers upon them the right of constructing works and raising additional capital. We may be told by the promoters of this Bill that this House has nothing to do with any company other than the two companies promoting the Bill, but I want the House to consider who are the real promoters, what they propose to do, and what they are doing at present. The real promoters of this Bill are the underground combine—a combination of companies the object of which is to control the London traffic They have already succeeded by combination and by agreement in turning themselves into one separate company for dealing with 1754 London traffic, whilst representing to Parliament when they come, that they are separate and distinct bodies.
At a general meeting of these companies a week ago they met as one body; they were comprised of five different companies—the London Electric, the Metropolitan District, the Central and South London, the Central London and the General Omnibus Company. They met under one Chairman who addressed them as one body. In 1915, by a private Bill, they obtained sanction for pooling the revenue receipts so that if one company made a profit it should be set off against a loss of another one or other of the companies. Possibly that was justified at the time by the fall in traffic receipts and the desire to have a co-ordinated service of traffic. I also think that in this connection the public benefited and they will still further benefit by the promotion of this Bill, but I do think that Parliament is entitled to consider, and in fact Is. bound to consider, what are the activities of the combine as a whole when two of the partners come to this House for further powers.
We must be very careful in supporting a policy where it means the pooling of revenues for the specific purpose of supporting traffic if these revenues are going to be devoted to purposes absolutely unconnected with that public service. The Bill will empower one company to raise capital to the extent of £1,000,000, and will also give facilities to the other for raising almost £2,000,000. It will undoubtedly enable the combine to increase its revenue, and we really must consider the different activities of the subsidiary companies. I would suggest to the House in the interests of the travelling public, apart from all other considerations, that they should take care that only such powers and privileges be granted to these companies as would be given to other public service companies such as the railways, and that the monopoly or special facilities which will be given them for carrying on business shall not be used for any other purpose, so that they will not in any way be going behind the powers which Parliament has given them. By Clause 47 of the Bill, they are empowered to purchase large areas of land and to let land off for houses, offices, etc. Is it the intention of the company to start as an estate company or to go into land speculation?
1755 There is another very important point, in connection with one of the subsidiary companies, namely, the London General Omnibus Company, who form one of the combine and work with another company formed by the combine, the Associated Equipment Company. This company was brought into being for the specific purpose of building omnibuses for the London traffic, but it has not confined its activities to that object. For several years past it has gone outside that area of activity and has entered into competition with ordinary private motor vehicle manufacturers. These powers were not given to these companies for that purpose. This company has half a dozen branches in this country and a dozen overseas. Parliament did not give powers to this company to enter into competition with private enterprise in this way. They have a monopoly and special facilities, and I want Parliament to consider that point of view. I should like the promoters to give some assurance or undertaking that they will cease these activities, whereby they have an unfair advantage. That could easily be done. I think the promoters have been approached in this respect, but so far they are not willing to give ground. I hope they will consider this point of view. This is a good Bill and it is going to do good general public service, and I should be very averse to opposing it, but I do put forward this question of principle for the House to consider, because it is of a very important and far-reaching character.
Does the hon. Member expect this House, or would he ask Parliament, to say to any business concern, "You must only invest your money in a given concern in a district?"
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I do not think there is any hon. Member on this side or in any part of the House who will vote against either of these Bills. I do not intend to vote against them, but I think this is the time when we have an opportunity, and we ought to take advantage of it to offer what criticisms we may have of the railway companies that serve us. I have a complaint 1756 against the London Midland and Scottish Railway. I put this complaint to a kind gentleman, at any rate he looked a kind gentleman, who sat under the gallery two years ago, and this gentleman with the kind face promised me that he would have the grievance put right. It is not a big grievance, but it is a very important one. I refer to the travelling facilities between Manchester and Leeds, York and Bradford. On Sunday there are only slow or semi-slow trains, and the journey between Bradford and Manchester on Sunday occupies 2½ hours and there is not a single lavatory compartment on the line.
When one goes along the train and sees first-class compartments with lavatory accommodation and one finds that the third-class compartments have no such accommodation, I suggest to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, who have the finest rolling stock in this country, that they ought to transfer some of that rolling stock to the line between Yorkshire and Lancashire, and give some of the poor people an opportunity of travelling in decency, if they cannot travel in comfort. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite below the Gangway, who looks almost as kind as the gentleman who promised to look into the matter two years ago, should go into this matter and give us that little bit of decency and comfort in travelling that we people in Lancashire and Yorkshire ask for.
§ Sir HERBERT NIELD
I am glad to have an opportunity of raising a voice on behalf of the London Electric Metropolitan and District Railway, whose Bill I back. The objection with regard to the fares I appreciate, and I have not the least doubt that the company will carefully look into the objection raised as to overcrowding. I am not at all sure that they can help themselves in this matter. My own experience on leaving this House late, and having to change at Charing Cross, is that I sometimes meet one of the most turbulent crowds possible coming from a football match, who want to get into the carriage when I want to get out, and it is difficult for the company to deal with those who come from theatres and music halls and make definite arrangements to prevent overcrowding. That disposes of those two objections.
§ Sir H. NIELD
It disposes of them from the point of view of argument. I am authorised to assure the hon. Member for South East Southwark (Mr. Naylor) that the subways at the Elephant and Castle will not be interfered with in any way at all. The surface may be slightly interfered with, but the public use of the footpath will continue as at present, and the hon. Member can rest assured that his constituents are protected in that respect. There is one objection to the Bill at which I positively am aghast. The hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Penny) should be a member of my own profession after the ingenuity he has shown in making a case. He professed himself in favour of the Bill three times during the process of his argument, but at the same time I could see that he desired to raise prejudices on the other side of the House with regard to this company when he referred to the Clause which deals with the buying of land.
I look at Clause 77, to which he referred, and find that it enables them to deal with land which is already theirs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] If hon. Members opposite are not disposed to treat that argument seriously, then I do not propose to refer to it any more. He seemed to me to represent that two or three firms of lorry constructors in the Thames area think they have been unfairly treated by reason of the London General Omnibus Company contractors, a totally separate company, registered not under this combination at all but under the Company's Act, a private company called the Associated Equipment Company, a Company which we all know from their advertisement of lorries going over a slope with a sunset behind—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, we know all about it!"]—I do not think there is very much you do not know; but there is positively no connection between the Associated Equipment Company, and the company that is promoting this Bill, none whatever.
The London General Omnibus Company is certainly one of a combine, but, except that they make contracts for the delivery of lorries, they have absolutely nothing to do with the Associated Equipment Company, save that the capital is 1758 largely held by the Underground Electric Railway. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Is it a crime to hold capital in a manufacturing and industrial company? I am frank with hon. Members opposite when I tell them that it has a large interest financially. When I hear those cheers I am tempted to ask, is it a crime for a financial company to finance an industrial company, and thereby give employment? That is really the only objection which is urged against the Bill. The Bill seeks not only to give employment but to improve the Charing Cross and Piccadilly Stations, and to improve certain centres where the population has great difficulty in moving about. Who that remembers the old Westminster Station as it was in years gone by can be other than pleased with the perfect transformation of that station into another building? So it is all the way along with the improvements projected in this Bill. I am interested in the Bill because this is the line that approaches my constituency. It is a line which helps to lessen the difficulties of transit. It gives considerable advantage to residents around London, and I hope there will be no Division against the Bill, because everyone who has hitherto spoken, including even the hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Penny), has desired to see it passed.
§ Mr. EVAN DAVIES
I do not intend to take up very much time, but this is the only opportunity that a Member of the House has to call attention to a particular grievance in his own constituency with regard to a railway company. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway has one or two branches in South Wales. Looking at it from the general point of view, that may be an anomaly, and the company may not be so keenly interested in these South Wales branches as in the great main lines of the Midlands and the North. I wish to draw attention to certain grievances, so that the company may pay some attention to them. The company has a branch from Abergavenny to Merthyr. From that branch there is another branch running right down to Newport. I want to call special attention to one of the towns in South Wales which is affected. Tredegar is a town with a population of 37,000. It is a large industrial centre, and the people have a pride in their town. If there is one eyesore in that particular community it is 1759 the station of the London, Midland and Scottish Company. The station is a wooden structure which has been there for about 60 years. The population through representative bodies has sent to the general manager and to the directors of the company time after time a request that some consideration be given to this eyesore in the town.
I have no personal complaint to make against the general manager of the company. I think that from the standpoint of personality he is an amiable gentleman and very eminent in his work. But when I had an interview with him he told me that boards of directors are made up of cold-blooded Englishmen, that when it was necessary to spend large sums of money for the improvement of a station, in any part of the country, if those directors could not see that a bigger revenue would come for the expenditure incurred, they neglected those parts of their area which did not bring in as big dividends as other parts of the area which they controlled. I want to urge the necessity for paying some attention to places like Tredegar, where a better station is absolutely necessary if the town is to have the appearance as it should have. I ask the promoters of the Bill to get into touch with the directors of the company, in order that some attention may be given to these points. Otherwise, the only opportunity we shall have of emphasising these matters will be to block any future Bill.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I have listened with great interest to this Debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) on having been able to travel 26 miles a day on six days a week for 1s. a week.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I know that the hon. and learned Member's reputation as a King's Counsel depends on his accuracy. I said from Glasgow to Edinburgh. As one who has resided in Glasgow his knowledge of the distance might be a great deal better.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I understood the hon. Member to say that the distance he travelled was 13 miles each way.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Perhaps I have confused the two hon. Members. They resemble each other so much in their sentiments as well as their utterance, that it is difficult to disentangle them. However, I congratulate the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs on the fact that he travels 13 miles in one direction and returns home again—which is another 13 miles, making 26 in all—and that he is able to do so for 1s. a week. All I can say is that he owes the constituents of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) a considerable sum of money. I agree it is a great hardship that shipyard workers getting a small wage of 55s. per week should have to pay 3s. a week for travelling the same distance. The trouble is that the shipyard workers are in an industry which is exposed to competition—like the miners—and are not in the sheltered position of the railwaymen, who have a monopoly and in regard to whom the directors and the trade union leaders meet together and carve up the public to suit themselves. In places where there are about as many trains a day as there would be on a moor, you find different sets of men being put on for eight hours a day, when they are really more gardeners and crofters than they are railwaymen.
On a point of Order. This matter affects 600,000 railway men and they ought not to have false statements made about them and I am not going to allow it. It is not true that in small stations and remote districts, as frequently alleged, the eight hours' day is operated. We have come to an agreement and there is a spread-over of 12 hours and not eight, and if my hon. and learned Friend dares to go to a Scottish constituency and say what he has said here—well, they will correct him.
What I have to say is that the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) is out of order in pursuing this question. We cannot discuss, on a particular railway Bill, a matter which is general to all railways.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I am dealing with the particular grievances of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs in the matter of fares. I am delighted, however to hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, 1761 and I think he ought to thank me for giving him the opportunity of explaining away a misconception which is very widespread, and I am glad to hear that the railway unions have at last seen reason on this point. I do not think they did so at the beginning when these arrangements were made. As I say, there is a great hardship in regard to these fares, but, after all, people have to pay for the value they get, and I do not believe that even under the present fares there is an overcharge. I come to the point that was raised by the hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Penny) in connection with this Bill of the London traffic combine.
It is no use their sending out circulars that they have no connection with their neighbours next door. They have got an extraordinary monopoly of the whole traffic, and it is extremely well worked. I have not seen anything so clever as the way the London combine have got together. Everyone remembers what happened when the independent omnibuses came along. The streets were then choked with omnibuses, and the chairman of the combine wept tears. It reminds me of the story of the cannibals who pleaded for leniency on the ground that they were orphans, having eaten their parents. Even then they could not beat the independent omnibuses off the streets. A strike took place, and we saw the chairman of the London traffic combine coming out of the inquiry and objecting to all independent omnibuses.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
They have got the control of the omnibuses and they are getting a monopoly of private business. I am not interested in the motor manufacturers, but I would like to see fair-play, and I do not think it is fair that a company who have the monopoly of a huge system of transport, and are quite entitled to build their own omnibuses, like the railway companies build their engines, should dump and engage in the general market. It is not fair to others. The Associated Equipment Company can charge what it likes to the traffic combine. None of these combines interested in transport ever show large profits; they are much too astute. But by aid of this monopoly, they are able to come into the 1762 market for the manufacture of motor omnibuses and other heavy transport, and I say that, having given this monopoly, it is up to us to protect the ordinary private citizen from its grip. They ought to give the Government an assurance that they will confine the building of omnibuses to their own market and not invade the markets of other manufacturers who have no such protection. Otherwise, I welcome the Bill. I think it is going to improve the working of that great monopoly, but there should be an undertaking in order to protect other, companies.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I shall not detain the House more than a few moments in my reply to the speech which has just been made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten). His facts in regard to the matter with which he has been dealing are about as accurate as those in regard to the employment of the railway porters. I am at a loss to understand what he means by what he regards as the monopoly combination that has been able, as he says, to strangle the public. In a few moments I wish to point out that the Associated Equipment Company to which my hon. and learned Friend referred is not a statutory company any more than many other companies which carry on business. And I would further inform him that the London Omnibus Company is in exactly the same position. It has not come before this House for any privilege whatsoever.
§ Sir R. HORNE
What my hon. and learned Friend calls the combine, is the Underground Electric Railway Company of London. That also is a company that enjoys no statutory power from this House, and has not to make any more returns in connection with its duties or obligations than any other company which is operating under the Companies-Acts. Anything in regard to the Underground Railway Company, which is the centre of what is described as the monopoly, must be complained of in the ordinary way.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The right hon. Gentleman has completely forgotten that they have a Parliamentary power of pooling which they got in 1915.
§ Sir R. HORNE
In any complaint my hon. and learned Friend has on that score, he should not forget that the pooling was allowed so that the traffic arrangements of this City should be properly dealt with. What Parliament has done the hon. and learned Gentleman can take means to make Parliament annul if he can convince Parliament that it should be done. But that is not the kind of Bill that we are here discussing.
Now let me say in the few moments I desire to speak how this Associated Equipment Company came into being. It began as an equipment company for the purpose of providing the London General Omnibus Company with the omnibuses which they required for their business. I repeat again it is not under the jurisdiction of this House except as a company which is obliged to observe the Companies' Acts. The London General Omnibus Company was perfectly entitled, if it liked, to allow the Equipment Company to sell omnibuses to other people. If my hon. and learned Friend is going 10 say that any company should be restricted, and should not be allowed to put its surplus cash where it likes, and so exercise its legitimate powers—
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that the shares in the Associated Equipment Company are held by the combine companies or that the combine is the company? That is the crux of the matter.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The shares of the Associated Equipment Company are held by another company under the Companies Acts. But, as I have said before, if my hon. and learned Friend wishes to invade the rights of any company acting under the company's statutes to invest its money as it likes, he will have to reorganise the Companies Acts under which we carry on business in this country. Let me say how it came to be that the Associated Equipment Company really developed to the extent it has done. A great demand was made upon it in the War to furnish omnibuses for the Government. I am sure everybody who was in France must know that, because he will have seen the enormous number of omnibuses which the company had to supply in order to meet the country's need. At the end of the War it was left with a very much bigger organisation than was required for the 1764 purpose of supplying the London Omnibus Company with its omnibuses. Is it to be said that under these circumstances it is bound to turn off its workmen and restrict its operations because of some fanciful idea my hon. Friend has that it is in some way dumping omnibuses at cheap prices on the British market? If it is dumping omnibuses at cheap prices, the British market is getting the advantage.
§ Sir R. HORNE
My hon. Friend says "Through the monopoly." I wish to assure the House that in saying so he is talking with complete inaccuracy. The Associated Equipment Company has received no advantages at all from any association with what he calls a monopoly.
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). One of our colleagues to-day was treated very drastically for an infringement of the rules of the House, very drastically indeed. We are going to ask you if the rules of the House are going to be applied as stringently to all Members, whatever their standing may be in the House, as they are to Members of the Clyde group?
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is it in order for a right hon. Member and an hon. Member to continue this wrangle about the General Omnibus Company when we are discussing two railway Bills.
I am anxious to find out what is the connection between this Equipment Company and the company promoting this Bill. I am unable at present to see it.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I am very sorry that this controversy, which has been quite appropriately named a wrangle by the hon. Member opposite, should have occurred, and I am sorry that my hon. Friend should be so impatient of any reply to his remarks. When an attack of this kind is made, in very general language, some reply ought to be made. It is impossible to make a complete reply. I entirely sympathise, Mr. Speaker, with the point you just put to the House as to the connection of this particular controversy with the Bill before the House. Frankly, I can find none myself, but there was a series of speeches culminating in the vicious attack, the vicious and inaccurate attack, which has been made by my hon. Friend, to which I felt bound to reply.
I may say that the right hon. Gentleman has convinced me that all that part of the Debate really is out of Order, and in future I shall know that there is no connection between these different companies.
§ Mr. J. HUDSON
On a point of Order which arises out of the decision you have just given. Is it not clear that under this Bill money may be raised and used, as Clause 43 says, for purposes to which it may be properly applied? Is it not clear also from this Bill that all sorts of arrangements are made for consolidating the capital holdings of these two companies, and out of those capital holdings money may be provided for the particular company which has been the subject of discussion? Indeed, would it be possible for the capital of the company under discussion to come from any other quarter, except from such companies as we are dealing with in connection with the Bill now before the House? I hope you will make it possible for further reference to be made to this matter. I have had very strong representations, curiously enough, from my constituency in Huddersfield to raise this issue in connection with this Bill. I hope it may be in order to do so.
I am afraid I have been convinced that that really is quite outside the scope of the Debate. On these Second Readings we can deal only 1766 with grievances which it is within the power of the company concerned to remedy. It is quite clear to me that it is not within the power of either of these companies to remedy the grievances which have been alleged.
§ Mr. HUDSON
Is it not possible, under Clause 43, for the capital which will be obtained in connection with this Bill, or some of it at least, to be invested in the work of the company under discussion. If that be so, is it not possible to discuss the work that the company would carry on?
I do not think that any money which is raised under this Bill could be used in that way.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I wish to know if it is not a fact that in the course of the traffic inquiry that the capital—
I cannot deal with matters that were raised at the Traffic Inquiry. I can deal only with the Bill before us. It is quite clear to me that there is nothing in Clause 43 which can give power to this company to deal with the Associated Equipment Company, nor has it any existing power. It is quite clear to me, and I cannot argue that question with the hon. Member any further.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
No one has replied yet for the companies. I want to know what answer is going to be given in reference to the fares on the other side of Bow Road, and what answer is going to be given as to the speeding up of the trains also on the other side of Bow Road. The whole of that section of the line from the City down to Barking is perfectly disgustingly run by the companies concerned, and we are informed when we have complained that it is due to the mismanagement and the refusal of the London, Midland and Scottish Company to deal with the signal arrangements the other side of Bow Road.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley entitled to speak twice?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It so happens that I have only spoken once on this Measure. The question before the House is the Second Reading of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Bill, and I am opposing it because of its control over a section of the line which, if properly worked and managed, would relieve the congestion on the other part of the line over which it has running powers. As happened last week in the case of another private Bill, no one has attempted to answer the case put forward against this Measure. I want to know why electric signalling has not been put into operation between Bow Road and Barking, and I also wish to know why the fares are so heavy on the other side of Bow Road. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Macquisten) talks about the fares in Scotland, but I would like to remind him that the fares on the Underground are very heavy indeed between Barking and Bow Road, and it has already been shown in this Debate how iniquitous are those fares, and they press very heavily on people who are paid much less wages than the miners and workers in Scotland. There is much overcrowding of the trains at night time and during the rush hours.
Nobody seems to bother whether this is due to monopoly or not, but the fact remains that nobody in this House in authority troubles to say anything about it. When questions are put we are told that representations will be made to the company, but nevertheless the inconvenience continues, and I hope those of us who are opposed to these Measures will take a division on the London Midland and Scottish Bill in order that we shall know which hon. Members are satisfied with the condition of things now prevailing on this railway. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Margesson) knows that his late constituency made representations about this company, and yet after all these grievances have been put forward nobody interested has had the decency to stand up and assist us in compelling the company to do justice in regard to these matters. For these reasons I hope a Division will be taken, and then we shall see who are on the side 1768 of monopolies and who are on the side of the common people.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Major GLYN
May I be allowed to say, on behalf of my hon. Friend who has already spoken as representing the railway company, that all these matters have been taken into consideration, and that the matter referred to by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), as regards signalling, has been approved, but sufficient time has not elapsed for it to be put into operation? I suggest that the Committee stage will afford the proper opportunity for that question to be raised.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I only rise to raise one small point. For a number of years there has been submitted, by questions on the Floor of this House, to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, the wisdom or desirability of opening a closed entrance at Nottingham Station. This is an old grievance. The entrance in question was closed during the War, and it ought really to have been opened immediately after, in order to restore facilities to a large number of the travelling public. If there is anyone in the House who is in charge of this matter, I would put it to them that they might now well recognise the patience that has been displayed in connection with this matter, and take it into consideration, and, I hope, favourably consider the re-opening of this entrance.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.