HC Deb 24 February 1927 vol 202 cc2018-39

Order for Second Reading read.

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


On a point of Order, Mr. Hope. I wish to paint out that the objections as far as my friends and myself are concerned to this Bill are identically on the same ground as to the general omnibus Bill which follows, and, if it meet the convenience of the House, instead of having two Debates, I suggest that the general Debate might take place on the first Bill, and we will accept the result of that Debate in relation to the other Bills. I think that will be the best method of procedure.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

If that meet the general wish of the House, I have no objection. But it must be understood that the Division on the first Bill will take place in time for the second Bill to be proceeded with.


Being in charge of the second Bill, I have no objection to that course.


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."

My object in moving this Amendment is to get some assurance in regard to certain railway employés. We have heard a good deal about pleading for peace in industry, and a few days ago I remarked on that point that if the employers would set about the matter, and agree to have some machinery for dealing with affairs in their various departments, they would find the trade union officials had been long upon their doorstep, in fact we are now knocking at their door and axe asking that something should be done as far as representation is concerned for a group of persons who work on the railways. At the present time the National Union of Railwaymen are allowed to negotiate in regard to such employés as sea captains, sailors, dredgermen, lighthouse keepers and divers who are in the employ of the railway companies. Yet we are not allowed to negotiate on behalf of the hotel staff, neither have we got machinery similar to that enjoyed by the travelling grades for the dining car staff. One would want a rather elastic imagination to assume that the dining car staff are not as closely allied to railway workers as sea captains, lighthouse keepers or divers. I see the Minister of Transport sitting opposite, and I dare say he is often in trouble when making a railway journey about consulting a time table, but if he gees on to a railway station even the common or garden porter can tell him at once what he wants to know. It is the same in the hotels where you find capable people who are quite encyclopœdias, and Yet they are not allowed to have the machinery that we want for these men. The people for whom we are pleading want a union like the National Union of Railwaymen to put their case for them.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I think there will not be any challenge from supporters of this Bill asserting that we are not exercising a perfectly legitimate right in taking this Parliamentary opportunity to ventilate a situation which really is not contained in the Bill. I know in the early stages of the blocking of Railway Bills there were folks who argued that it was unfair to raise in the House of Commons matters which are not specifically dealt with in the particular Bill before the House. Parliament has always held that, when any corporation is seeking extended powers from this House, the House is entitled to express its views as to whether they think that particular body is doing the right thing, and I think that particular general principle has been accepted all round. So far as the merits of the Bill are concerned—my observations apply to both Bills—I not only think that they are good Bills, but I go further and I say they are necessary Bills, in fact, both railway companies are entitled to say to the House that, so fir as the merits of these particular Bills are concerned, they are not only necessary and requisite, but that they serve a useful public purpose. My hon. Friend who preceded me has already pointed out that there never was a time when conciliation in industrial disputes could more appropriately take the place of strikes and lock-outs. Whatever may be said generally about recent events or the broad principle of peace in industry, I believe that too little has been made of the real spirit of conciliation in a large number of industrial disputes.

I believe that the machinery existing in the railway service which is now applied to a large section of railway workers, is not only the best machinery in the country, but I believe it is machinery which embodies a principle that could be usefully copied by many other industries in this country, because the primary function of that machinery is to exhaust every possible means of conciliation and negotiation, and thus render it almost impossible to resort to a strike if it is humanly possible. But, over and above that, my experience of trade negotiations is that often the two parties themselves are so intimately connected or wrapped up with the individual side of their particular case, that a new mind, an independent person who can bring an independent and clear mind to bear on fie situation, will contribute to a solution of the problem. In the National Wages Board, my experience proves conclusively that representatives of Capital and Labour who are independent of the railway industry themselves, can often contribute, and have on many occasions contributed, to a solution of these problems. Therefore, on the question of the machinery, I have no hesitation in saying that I believe it is good, and I want to see it extended and developed.

I myself, not only when the present Railways Act—th amalgamating Act—was passing through this House, but in the negotiations chat preceded the passing of the Act, made strenuous efforts to make the machinery I have already described sufficiently elastic to include everybody. And I have said publicly outside, and I say in this House, that I know of nothing that would go further to contribute to industrial peace on the railways than the passibility of bringing every grade in the service within the purview of that machinery. I am not unmindful of the fact that, while it is easy to say that, there are many difficulties in the way; but, notwithstanding that, I still look upon that as an ideal and something worth accomplishing. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, a large section of railwaymen to-day are not only excluded from the conciliation machinery, but are deprived of the necessary trade union machinery for conducting their negotiations. The argument of the railway companies can be shortly summarised in this way, that the dining-car staff is so interwoven with the hotel staff, and is so different in its character, its work, and so on, that it is difficult to connect them with the railwaymen, and to make them in the broad sense railwaymen.

We do not think that there are insuperable difficulties. We believe that there ought to be machinery, we believe that all employés to-day in the service of any body or any corporation should not only have the right to have, but should actually have, some trade union body, if they so desire, to conduct their negotiations. This has been felt so keenly by the Executive Committee of our Union that they decided that this matter should be ventilated. It would be easy to force a Division on a matter of this kind, but, whatever the result of the Division might be, even if it went in our favour, that would not solve the problem. It might have the effect of killing the Bill, of killing a good Bill and preventing the doing of necessary things; but it still would not solve the problem with which I am dealing, namely, the spirit of negotiation and conciliation, and the right of negotiation for all employés. That, as I have said, can only be done, not by rejecting a Bill of this kind, but by a spirit of good will on both sides. I see in front of me a number of hon. Gentlemen who are as closely connected with the railways on the one side as I am on the other, and I am quite sure that, having listened to the eloquence of my hon. Friend and to the plea that I am myself making, they will not only take due note of it, but will convey to that body which never does any work except draw their fees, the arguments that we have put forward.


I think it will not be improper, even in view of the very amiable speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), if I offer a few words of explanation to the House on this Bill. I understand that the matter of it is not really the subject of any dispute on the part of either the Mover or the Seconder of the Amendment, and I think, therefore, that just a brief word is all that is required. The Bill is a perfectly ordinary Bill, seeking general powers for railway works, and I think that perhaps the only thing that might be said about it in that regard is to draw a comparison between the extraordinarily elaborate harness which Parliament, in its wisdom, has fitted upon the railway companies when they are trying to carry out their work in the service of the public, and the unwillingness of the other half of the industry, namely, the trade union side, to welcome any similar harness. We are certainly gravely restricted in the maintenance of our duties to the public by the necessity of coming to this House for powers, but that is a necessity which has been enforced upon the railways by Parliament and we must put up with it. Perhaps the only other word that need be said about the Bill is this, and it is a mere matter of sentimental consideration to those of us who are engineers and are interested in the great engineering works of this country. It is that, among the lesser powers which are sought in this Bill, are powers for a certain diversion of the railway lines in Cornwall, which is really concerned with the elimination from the railway system of the fine old timber viaducts which were monuments of the great engineering capability of that early railway engineer Brunel. That, I am sure, is a, matter of regret to all of us who are interested in the engineering profession, and it is, perhaps, worth while to draw the attention of the House to it.

I understand that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment are concerned, not with the subject-matter of the Bill, but with the desire—a perfectly proper desire—to draw the attention of the House to certain features of railway organisation to which they take exception. That exception is taken par- ticularly to the fact that there are certain men engaged in the railway service who do not at present come within the compass of the great organisation of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is the leader. I do not think that that is a matter on which the House will itself desire to pass judgment; and I would go further, and say that we on these Benches would probably ourselves have more faith in the wisdom and the ability for negotiation, and all the machinery for the settlement of such disputes by conciliation, which are represented by the right hon. Gentleman, than in any decision of the House on such subjects. These are intimate matters of railway policy which are best decided by those most expert and most informed on the matter, and are certainly not easily understood by Members who have so many other matters to occupy their mind. It is, perhaps, rather easy to demonstrate the difficulty of the subject even to the lay mind. The Mover said, quite rightly, that many people in the service of the railway companies remote from the immediate rail service are mines of knowledge about railway working, and with that I cordially agree. But this class of people engaged on the railways does include men not only actively employed on the running plant but also men engaged in refreshment rooms and hotels, and I suppose I should also include women in that class. I have no doubt there are women engaged in the railway service who are equally competent to give information about train services and so on. I am not clear whether the right hon. Gentleman's union is open to women, but I imagine there are limits in that direction which might even prove a difficulty to him.

Another point I might raise is that among these various classes come all the cooking staff, not only in the hotels but on the railways—cooks and assistant cooks. A cook is a poet, an artist, a person not subject to ordinary rules at all, and the right hon. Gentleman's endeavour to bring such a person under the ordinary routine regulations of a union may be a far greater undertaking than he himself realises. I do not want to labour that point—it is, after all, a matter for him—but no one recognises more than those "lilies of the field," I think he would call them, the railway directors, people who "toil not neither do they spin,' the enormous value, not only in the public service but in the ordinary commercial working of a great undertaking like the railway, of the great conciliation machinery which has grown so much in usefulness under the able support and encouragement of the right hon. Gentleman. None of us would wish to do anything that would put any difficulties in the way of that machinery, and I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for South Leeds (Mr. Charleton) will be willing to show their faith in conciliation by withdrawing their opposition to what I think they both agree is a perfectly good Bill and by leaving this question to be worked out among the experts who are capable of dealing with it. In that hope I am sure those on these benches who are connected with railway companies are only too anxious to convey to the responsible authorities of those railways, and particularly in this connection to the responsible authorities of the Great Western Railway, the very encouraging views of the Mover and Seconder, and particularly of the right hon. Gentleman, and I should like to assure him that they will do so.


I am reluctant to break in upon this very pleasant discussion with an element of criticism, but I welcome the opportunity because I think it is about time a few words were said with regard to the Southern Railway in the House as well as in the newspaper Press. I rejoice to see that the hon. Baronet the Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) is present, and I hope he will be as vigorous in his condemnation of the Southern Railway to-night as he is periodically in the columns of the "Times," and seeing that the two companies are bracketed on this occasion suggest to the spokesmen for the Southern Railway that they might quite well take the Great Western Railway as their model in very many respects. I believe a very strong indictment could be made out with regard to the Southern Railway Company if an attempt were made to survey it as a railway system. One right refer to their Continental services and to the practice which they follow alone amongst English railways of charging higher fares to persons who have occasion to use boat trains. One might refer to the way it has broken out into a huge development in respect of Pulman cars while leaving the third-class passengers to travel in pre-historic carriages. One might almost ask why it is that the directors of the Southern Railway Company are so interested in developing the Pulman car side of their service. One is almost prompted to ask whether the directors are interested in the company which manufactures and runs Pulman cars on British roads. If it is a fact that they are so interested I think that item of information would be of very great interest to the many hundreds of thousands of persons who use the railway regularly throughout the year.

I want to confine myself to-night to two very small points in the hope that this discussion may lead to an improvement. The first is with regard to the time table of the Southern Railway. I congratulate the person who first thought of the idea. It is certainly remarkably ingenious to arrange with Bradshaw that a section of Bradshaw should be sold as the Southern Railway time table at a cost to the passenger of 6d., but speaking for myself, I find that the modern so-called Southern Railway time table is far from being suitable to my purposes as a traveller. Take one illustration, about which I wrote to the company. It runs an electric train service: between Victoria and Coulsdon, but if you wish to find a reference to the trains, despite the fact that it is a regular and a valuable service, you can only obtain that information by making two separate references, and if you want the information in an easy form I know of no other way in which it can be obtained than by writing to a local station, say Purley or Coulsdon, and purchasing a local time table at a cost, including postage, of about 5d. I think the company might very well give this matter their attention and endeavour to place the information which is required in the public's hand in the easiest and simplest possible form.

The second point is with regard to the railway service between Streatham Hill, Streatham and the main line of the old Brighton railway, to places like Purley and Coulsdon. I hope this matter will he within the knowledge of the spokesman of the railway company, because I have had correspondence with the Minister of Transport on the subject and I under- stand that he was good enough to bring the matter to the notice of the Southern Railway Company. Both Streatham Hill and Streatham are on the main Brighton Road, and one would imagine that the railway service would be anxious to compete with the large number of road vehicles which pass along that thoroughfare. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. it is possible to go by omnibus, or partly by omnibus and partly by tram, from Streatham Hill to Coulsdon at a cost of a few coppers; it may be 4d., certainly it will not be much more. I understand that at any time of the clay it is possible to go from Streatham Hill to Coulsdon at a total cost of 8d. for the single journey. When we turn to the railway company's means of transport, I understand that the return fare is in the neighbourhood of 2s. 9d. If the railway company offer cheap facilities, and quite possibly they do, they are very careful not to advertise them too widely. In addition, it is with the utmost difficulty that you can make the journey by rail from the stations in question.

The substance of my request to-night is that the railway company will see whether it is not within their power to run their present electric service beyond the Crystal Palace so that passengers in the area to which I have referred may have the means of connecting up with the main line at East Croydon or, alternatively, that they will see whether it is not possible to run some sort of service from Streatham via Streatham Common on to the main line to Purley and Coulsdon. I have no knowledge as to the position regarding the railway track between Streatham and Streatham Common but, judging by a plan which appears in the railway time table, it would appear that an actual track is in existence. I hope that the railway company will give their careful consideration to these complaints, and that it may be possible not only greatly to improve the railway facilities in the districts referred to, but also that it may be possible for the railway company to put on something like a competing service with the road servives of which they complain.


On the last occasion on which I addressed myself to railway Bills before this House, I had the strenuous oppo- sition of the two right hon. Gentlemen now on the Front Opposition Bench, with results which are to be found in the third Bill before the House this evening—the Southern Railway (Superannuation Fund) Bill. Like the last speaker, I want to take this, the only, opportunity which the procedure of the House offers, to make a few criticisms and, I hope, to offer a few suggestions about the Continental service of the Southern Railway Company. I would like to point out, first, that this Continental service of the Southern Railway Company practically represents a monopoly. It is true that there are other ser vices to the Continent, but the service from Dover to Calais and the service from Folkestone to Boulogne are the only services which connect with the large through Continental trains, and, therefore, for all practical purposes, they create a monopoly. How does the Southern Railway utilise the monopoly, and what is its effect upon the traffic? It is quite obvious that if people wish to travel abroad they must cross the sea somehow. They cannot swim across, although I am quite sure that many distressed passengers have recognised the fact that such a crossing would be much more comfortable than by the ordinary passenger boats, but, unfortunately, that would take too long. Therefore they are obliged to travel in the boat which the railway company provide.

I am not concerned with what may be called the first-class 11 o'clock service from Victoria. That is an extremely good service. Partly as a result of the criticism, in the Press, in this House and elsewhere, that service is now admirable, and it only shows what a railway company can do if they try. The new boats that they provide are commodious, and in every way first class. The railway accommodation on the other side, largely owing to the enterprise of the sleeping car company, the Pullman Dar Company, is also first rate. The service which I criticise is the one which ought to be the best, that is, the service which provides for the poorer classes of excursionists, whose comfort, apparently, is totally disregarded at the present time. What is called the 10 o'clock service from Paris, makes a connection with trains from Switzerland, for instance, where a great number of excursionists go by the Polytechnic, Cook's, and other tourist services. They connect with the 10 o'clock service from Paris, which takes on to Calais passengers who have paid comparatively inexpensively for the journey and voyage from all parts of Europe.

That service, I do not hesitate to say, is nothing less than a scandal. The boat is small, old and antiquated, and at certain times of the year is crowded beyond the limits of safety. The boat on which I travelled recently by that service contained about 757 passengers, in addition to the crew. Of the boats, which accommodate 30 passengers each, I think, at the outside, there may have been 10, so that if any accident had happened in fog or otherwise to that ship on the way over, there would have been accommodation for only 300 passengers at the outside in the boats, and the rest would have been left to drown or swim, or get over as best they could. Therefore, these ships are not only uncomfortable, but, in my submission, they are unsafe.

The scene that we witnessed on that boat was degrading to the enterprise and the commercial reputation of this company. What the foreigners think of it when they cross for the first time. I cannot imagine, but what the people from the United States think of it I can imagine, because they expressed their opinion very loudly and frankly to me several times on board the ship on the way over. There is not seating accommodation for half the people. The cabins are crowded downstairs—the ones where the restaurant is—and the ordinary cabins for the public are so crowded that you are fortunate enough if you can find standing room in them. I have seen 10 or 15 women lying on the floor of the ladies' cabin, because there was no room for them to sit and, incidentally, the crossing was rough, and they were extremely sick. The discomfort of that voyage across is beyond all description, and the only excuse we get is that the railway company says it is a French boat. That is no excuse whatever. I pay my fare to the English railway company in London who, presumably, are partners with the French company, and having taken my railway fare and carried me across the sea, they are bound to provide me reasonable accommodation on the way home. It is no answer to say that the boat flies the French flag, or the flag of any other nationality you like to think of. It is part of the service of the railway company, and they should arrange with their partners to see that the service is decent—and decent it is not at the present time. The boats which they provide for the more opulent service show what they can do, but they are disgracefully neglecting in this service the very people who should be provided for.

In an article in a newspaper the other day it was said that these people were holidaymakers hurrying home. If they were hurrying home they would not go by the Southern—it would be singularly ineffective. But if it were true, why should passengers hurrying home not be provided with comfort as well as anybody else? You get on board. You push your way along and you are very fortunate if you can stand. You fall over luggage at every corner. In the restaurant you cannot find a seat. If you do and you are fortunate enough to get food, you are overcharged for it, and, ultimately, when you get into the harbour at Dover you are flooded by an inrush of porters, all squabbling, everyone covering their backs with luggage like the White Knight in "Alice in Wonderland." When you have fought your way up the narrow gangway, half the size it ought to be, on to the quay and get to the Customs House, you are fortunate if you get to your destination three-quarters of an hour after the advertised time. And when you get to London the greatest scandal of the whole journey takes place. You have to wait, very often, half or three quarters of an hour on a greasy platform for your luggage to be examined, not in a properly warmed shed, but on the platform where you have arrived. It is not the case of people who have had a comfortable sleeping car on the journey, who are met by servants at the station and who have their luggage fetched the next day. How about the people who cannot afford this, who have had to sit up all night, who are rather cross, but who have been fortunate enough to catch the first train to Victoria. On a cold December night they have to walk up and down the platform for three quarters of an hour until all the other trains come in, generally from half an hour to two hours late, at the end of which the Custom House officers examine their luggage on the platform. A nice occupation for Christmas! It makes men men, but it is peculiarly distressing for an over-tired old gentleman to have to walk up and down a platform—you cannot sit and wait—for three quarters of an hour. Could anything be more inhuman?

9.0 p.m.

Surely this company, which has been spending a good deal of money at Southampton, could provide some sort of shed where people could wait, or they might even provide camp stools and let them out at 6d. an hour. It might help them to pay a dividend on their common stock. When there is a crush on the train services at holiday times the Southern Railway find no difficulty in providing extra trains; when excursions are running on Whitsuntide, August Bank Holiday, or Christmas. They know how many passengers they have to carry on the boats going from Dover to Calais and on the return journey. They know exactly how many, and if they can provide relief trains at the stations at holiday times, why cannot they provide a relief steamer at the port? It is perfectly easy to do. The old-fashioned, archaic boats that are run on this service are interesting survivals of a bygone age, and might serve as examples in the British Museum. They would be interesting as relics, but as boats of travel they are deplorable. These old tubs: surely they can run two of them, as they know in ample time the number of passengers. What is to prevent them? The expense! After all, if the company are catering for the public, and carry them as part of your Continental service and charge reasonable fares, they ought, to make reasonable provision and provide for an excessive number of passengers on the sea, just as they provide for an excessive number at the station.

The Southern Railway, instead of saying, "There is a sea voyage intervening, and we will make it as little disagreeable as we can," apparently take exactly the opposite view, and say, "There is a sea voyage intervening; we cannot help a little discomfort; it will not matter very much, and you are sure to be sick." That is their attitude. I hope something will be done in this particular service. Do not let it be supposed that I am criticising the whole of the services. I am criticising this particular one. Either they should arrange that no excessive number of passengers is concentrated on these old boats, or else arrange with the French Government or the French railway to provide, at any rate, decent and reasonable accommodation. I hope the Debate this evening will lead to something being done.


The speech to which we have just listened is one of the most heart-breaking it has ever been my lot to listen to. It is the sort of speech which we might have expected from the Labour benches. The argument put forward in the speech of the hon. and learned Member is, that if we want something we cannot afford, great injustice is being done. From my own experience, I would say that there is a very simple remedy for all the complaints of the hon. and learned Member. Before the War, when I was comparatively well-to-do, I used to go by this route to the Continent; but, since the War, not being able to afford the faxes on that service, I just did not go, because I knew considerable discomfort would be involved if I did. There is no compulsion on anyone to go to Switzerland by the Polytechnic or any other tour for winter sports or anything else, and those who go to France go for the purpose for which the vast bulk do go to France. The hon. and learned Member should certainly cheer up and consider whether he could not avoid all the discomforts and injustices which he has enumerated by the simple process of not going.


I must congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Basset-law (Sir E. Hume-Williams) on having been able to get letters ventilating his views published in the journal he mentioned. I am sorry to say that my language has been so unrestrained in the various letters that I have written from year to year that that journal has not I ublished them. I wish to associate myself in every way with what the hon. and learned Member has said to-night. Unfortunately, I have had to go very often on business across the Channel, and I am bound to say that I can bear out everything about which the hon. and learned Member complains. The good services are very good; there is no doubt about it. The boats are good and so on. But the services, other than the 11 o'clock from London and the 12 o'clock from Paris, are really dreadful. The hon. and learned Member has dealt with all the points that call for discussion except one, and that I would like to mention. In returning from the Continent you come back, say, from Vienna, Zurich or some distant place, and that involves a night journey. You arrive at Boulogne, and there you find the boats entirely full. There is no sitting room for anyone after the long night journey. You ask the reason. What is it?

The railway people, in order to add to their enormous profits on this monopoly route, have had the audacity to allow 7s. 6d. day trippers to go over from Folkestone, and on the return journey to crowd out the long-distance travellers front whom they have extracted exorbitant charges. It is scandalous. If a company runs excursions it ought to run excursion steamers. What would be said if one of the great railway companies which runs great expresses to Scotland were to allow day trippers and Saturday afternoon trippers to crowd into the Scottish express? It is not at all reasonable. I hope that this Debate will bring some sense into the minds of the directors of the Southern Railway, sc that this sort of thing will not be allowed.


I would like to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Basset-law (Sir E. Hume-Williams) who, it seems to me, has constituted himself the watch dog in this matter. There must be many Members of the House who, like myself, if and when they undertake a Channel crossing, will have the initials "E.H.W." painted in large white letters on their bags. There was one point, both in his speech and in that of the last speaker, with which I wish to quarrel. They have both spoken of this as a monopolist route. That it is not. It shows a certain lack of imagination that they have omitted to mention the simplest and easiest and safest and pleasantest method of travelling, which is that of Imperial Airways. The Imperial Airways route is a route that might in some respects be called a monopoly, because it has great privileges granted to it by the State, but if anyone is familiar with the difficulties put in the way of civil flying by the Government—


We are now discussing omnibus Bills of the Great Western and Southern Railways.


I was hoping to return to that subject very quickly by saying that for these companies to accept the privileges they have without recognising a corresponding duty to the public whom they convey, is to misunderstand the whole situation and the privileges which they enjoy. I hope that as a matter of conscience, if nothing else, the directors of the Southern and Great Western Railways will take to heart some of the remarks that have been made to-night.


I want to say a few words which do not raise a problem so distressing as that mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams), but one which seriously affects many of the constituents whom I have the honour to represent. In my constituency is situated the important and growing district known as Purley. For some considerable time past we have been complaining of the railway facilities to Purley, and have been pressing upon the Southern Railway Company the desirability of improving them. A deputation of many of us waited upon the Company a year or so ago. We were told, "Oh, we admit that at present the railway facilities are not as they should be, but only wait until a certain portion of the line is electrified!" We have waited, and now that portion of the Southern Railway which runs to Purley is electrified. Unfortunately for the people who desire to travel upon that line, the railway company has by some mishap or another forgotten to warm the trains, and for steam trains we have had substituted electric trains which there is no means of heating. I have here a letter from the Clerk of the Urban District Council of Coulsdon and Purley, who mentions that a considerable number of people travel from Purley as far as East Croydon, and then get out of the cold electric trains for the purpose of entering steam trains, by which they can travel in reasonable comfort to London Bridge.

A few days ago, outside Cannon Street Station, I observed a poster which in large letters said, "Go to Surrey and be free from worry." I could not help thinking that that was an extremely daring thing for the Southern Railway to display in a prominent position.

There is another matter which we have long been pressing upon the Southern Railway Company and in regard to which we have got no satisfaction. About a year or so ago, a large number of the trains from Purley and district ran directly into Cannon Street and Charing Cross stations. It is within my own knowledge that a considerable number of people went to live in the Purley district because they were able to get this direct communication with Charing Cross and Cannon Street, which was extremely important for the purpose of the businesses and professions in which they were engaged. Some time this year a large number of these trains ceased to run into Cannon Street and Charing Cross, and ran instead into the detestable and melancholy district called "London Bridge Low Level." From there you have to go up to other parts of London Bridge platforms for the purpose of getting along to Cannon Street or Charing Cross. The difficulty is that there are eight or 10 platforms at London Bridge, and when you emerge from a train at the Low Level, you have not the slightest idea from which of the other platforms the connecting trains are to run. We have suggested to the company that it would be desirable and convenient to arrange for indicators to inform passengers where these connecting trains are to be found. These are two matters which we have been long pressing upon the Southern Railway Company. I am taking this opportunity of calling public attention to them.


I think it will be convenient if, at this stage, I say a few words on behalf of the Southern Railway Company in regard to some of the points which have been raised. The original discussion was initiated upon a matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Lloyd) has very suitably and excellently replied, and I do not think I need allude to that particular question further than to endorse his remarks. Two or three other points, however, of a minor character have been raised. The hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) held up to us the Great Western Railway as a model. We shall be glad to carry out to the best of our power many of the excellent things which the Great Western Railway Company has so well conceived and carried into execution. As to the smaller matters mentioned, I must apologise to the House if I make a rather detailed speech, but I shall try to answer these points. Reference has been made to the Pullman cars, and it is suggested that third-class passengers are left out in the cold. I would point out that there is an extra charge for using Pullman cars, and I do not see that there is any grievance if the Pullman cars are a little more comfortable. I think it was also asked whether the railway company had any interest in the Pullman company. They have none at all except in so far as they are concerned in making things comfortable for the public. An arrangement has been come to with the Pullman Company in order to give greater comfort and convenience to the public. There was also a question about time tables, and I suggest to the hon. Member that he will probably get all the information he wanted from the A.B.C. Bradshaw if the other Bradshaw does not suit him. I think it was the hon. Member for East Bristol also who made some reference to the electric train service, and I think he mentioned chiefly Coulsdon, which is, I suppose, for him the centre of the world. The electric service has recently been opened to Coulsdon, and the Southern Bailway consider that electrification is, on the whole, working so well throughout the suburbs of London that they are anxious to extend it.


I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has misapprehended my point. I have no criticism to make with regard to the electric service between Victoria and Coulsdon. My complaint is with regard to the electric service between Victoria and the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace is nowhere in regard to railway transit, whereas if this line to the Crystal Palace were taken to a point which would enable passengers to connect with the main line, the Southern Railway would do itself and its passengers a great deal of service.


then I come to the hon. and learned Member for Basset- law (Sir E. Hume-Williams), who has imparted to the House some of his well-known prejudices against the Southern Railway Company. I sometimes wish I could persuade him to put on a different pair of spectacles and to see some of the good points of the Southern Railway Company, but I wonder whether he will ever see any good points in the Southern Railway Company.


I strained myself in admiration of the Southern Railway Company. I could not say enough.


I an, sorry if I did not hear that, part of the hon. and learned Member's speech, but he was very cynical in regard to the boats on the cross-channel services. I can assure him that everything is being done to try to improve matters on the steamers. Sometimes you will get a rush of Polytechnic and other parties at a moment's notice, and it is difficult to provide for them. The company are trying to make better arrangements as regards gangways, and are enlarging Dover Marine Station. They are making further arrangements for the Customs. This is a serious and difficult matter, especially now that the Customs are more exacting. Another suggestion made is that the Customs arrangements at Victoria were very ill-managed. May I tell the hon. and learned Member that his suggestion for an alteration in this respect has been anticipated, and that the railway company have arranged for a different Customs room or hall on the lower level which will give a great deal more space and will, I hope, more convenient. The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Galbraith) complained about a part of the line which has been electrified. I should say that the overhead system is going to be scrapped by the company, in order that they may have one homogeneous system. I hope that change will be carried out within a comparatively short time. If there is a difficulty about the warming of the trains on that particular line, I hope tie hon. Member does not expect us to spend a great deal of money upon that.


When approximately is this likely to be done?


I cannot give a date. The hon. Member also referred to the number of platforms at London Bridge, and desired that there should be some indicators as to where the trains were to start. We will gladly look into that point and see if these cannot be provided. To return to the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw, may I say that there are two new steamers to be built. There will be another steamer shortly.


For which service?


I cannot say for which service.


That is the whole point.


You cannot earmark a particular steamer for a particular service. As regards these steamers, I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to remember that we are limited as to the amount of water which these steamers can draw, because of the shallow nature of the harbours, particularly Calais Harbour. You cannot build steamers for this service which draw a great deal of water, and we must necessarily content ourselves with steamers which, if they are not what the hon. and learned Gentleman calls "tubs," are at any rate steamers which draw very little water. That is a permanent handicap, and it is as well that the public should realise it. The Southern Railway has big problems before it in consequence, partly, of its history. It is an amalgamation of three or four competing companies, especially in the South Eastern direction. At one time these separate companies were competing against each other and building parallel lines, all of which are still in existence, and on these lines the company has to run trains with perhaps very little traffic for them. Thus you have not only lines which are unremunerative, but you have a network of lines which involves a number of junctions, and makes it more difficult to provide connections. These are special circumstances, and unless the House is prepared to authorise the abolition of a certain number of these lines, which is unlikely, they must be content to make allowance for those circumstances. The management of the railway is fully alive to these failings, but continued efforts will be made as energetically as possible to remedy them so far as circumstances make it practicable to do so.


May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared to hand over the Southern Railway to the management of the Great Western Railway? In view of all the statements we have heard to-day about the Southern Railway, that is the most desirable thing which could happen. I travel on the Southern Railway frequently, and can bear out all the complaints I have heard this evening. Among other things I have discovered is that the Southern Railway employs a large number of men as porters. Passengers have been bothered for tips for the handling of their luggage. We understand that none of these men is paid any wages by the company. They claim that they are outside the service. They want to be inside the service. If the National Union of Railwaymen is anxious to get inside their union men who are skippers of ships, they should do something to get these men inside the service. Every man should claim in return for his labour a recognised legal wage, and should not depend on the system of tips.


The hon. Gentleman has been misinformed, or has run up against someone who has been pulling his leg. I can assure him that the suggestion he has just made is entirely incorrect as far as the Southern Railway is concerned, and I believe the whole railway system is the same.


I am prepared to produce the names of men who have made that statement, and who have been employed on the railway from 20 to 30 years.


The directors and managers of the Southern Railway will be very glad to receive such information, and I shall be very grateful if the hon. Gentleman will send it as soon as he conveniently can. I would like to add one word of congratulation to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams). Re has added to the brilliancy of his reputation by a brilliant argument to-night. He has lodged a very grievous attack against the Southern Railway. On examination it boils down to this: While he is delighted with the service supplied to him by the Southern Railway when he travels on the Southern Railway's boats, he is gravely dissatisfied with the Southern Railway when he returns from Paris or from Switzerland as a Polytechnic traveller on a, foreign railway and a foreign boat. The only complaint that he really has against the Southern Railway is that the Southern Railway issue him a through ticket to save him the trouble of having to book a Swiss ticket or whatever it might be. It is quite possible that we might oblige him by issuing a through ticket to Madagascar or the Antipodes, but surely he would not suggest it is a failure on the part of the Southern Railway if he finds himself inconvenienced by the attentions of native porters or something of that kind. I hope that in future he will be as particular in the soundness of his arguments before this House on railway matters as his reputation has proved him to be in other places. With regard to the complaint he has made about Victoria Station, he has already been told that a large capital sum was being spent at Victoria upon providing a thoroughly up-to-date and commodious service for the Customs examination, and it will not be long before that service is in force. I think he will find himself, before many weeks or months are past when he returns from the Continent, in bewildered pleasure and amazement at the arrangements at Victoria. I hope that, in his pleasure, he will not be as bewildered with his new surroundings as he is when he ventures into the realms of Alice in, Wonderland and confuses the white rabbit with Tweedledum.

SOUTHERN RAILWAY BILL (by Order)—Read a Second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.