HC Deb 03 February 1930 vol 234 cc1585-8

Order for Third Reading read.

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


My object in desiring to speak on this Bill which comes before the House as one of the Provisional Orders is that I think that from time to time the House should endeavour as far as possible to find out actually how the money is being raised. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health when this Bill came up for Second Reading on the 17th December said: This is a Bill for the purpose of providing more employment by widening the streets of Exeter and Romford. The local authorities desire it urgently in order to provide work for the unemployed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1929; col. 1169, Vol. 233.] I should be the last person in this House to do anything that might hurt or hinder those who are out of work, but we have been reminded this afternoon, in no uncertain voice, by the Lord Privy Seal that the solution of the question of unemployment is not merely the spending of money. His words were: "The mere spending of money is not a solution of the unemployment question." I accept that statement and, applying it to this Bill, I would like to ask a few questions. I have no desire to prevent the passage of the Bill, but I think it is wise on occasions such as this that we should have a very clear understanding of what the House is asked to pass. It would be no answer to say that the Bill has gone through another place, after careful consideration. I am well aware of that, and it will be no answer, after the Lord Privy Seal's speech, to say, in general terms, that it is a question of helping the unemployed. I want to know how and where the unemployed will be helped.

It will be noticed that in connection with both schemes use is being made of the Act of 1919 for the acquisition of land, certainly so far as Exeter is con- cerned, and I think it is the same with regard to Romford, for the purpose of widening certain streets. That is very necessary, very useful, and very helpful work, particularly in the case of Exeter. Has the Parliamentary Secretary any definite information regarding the amount of work that will be given to the unemployed, and is she satisfied that the Act of 1919, in the passing of which I rendered assistance, is working freely. I should like to draw her attention to the fact that in both cases the proposed street widening will mean the closing of a number of establishments. So far as Exeter is concerned, it will close house property, workshops, store and garages. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say how many people are liable to be temporarily put out of work because their places of business are to be closed? Before we decide this matter we have a right to that information.

I should also like to know—perhaps she may be able to tell me the approximate number—how many people will find work as a result of these schemes. I am certain that since she made her speech before Christmas she will have obtained some definite information on this point. So far as Exeter is concerned, I should like to know whether the labour to be employed will be local or whether there will be any labour brought in from outside. It will probably be local labour. This, of course, is a matter of vital importance, where you have a large city going in for street widening, and it is desirable that definite information should be given on the point which I have raised. Assuming that there is local labour, then I have no particular quarrel with the proposal. There is a further important point so far as these two schemes are concerned, and that is the amount of Government contribution, if any, and the amount of the local contribution. I should not have brought this matter forward had not the Parliamentary Secretary stated before Christmas that the value of the schemes was that they would help the unemployed. I hone she will be able to give the information for which I have asked.


I had no idea that my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. Williams) was going to oppose this Bill.


I have not done so.


Or that he was going to raise certain questions, I imagine that he is not going to oppose the Bill. We are old friends, and if he had intended to oppose the Bill I feel sure that he would have given me more than fifteen minutes' notice. Had he given me longer notice I might have supplemented some of the information for which he has asked. I am strongly in favour of the Third Reading of the Bill. It is not altogether a question of unemployment so far as Exeter is concerned. Anybody who has any knowledge of the City of Exeter—I have no doubt that my hon. Friend knows Exeter very well—must realise that the question of traffic there is most serious, and it is becoming most dangerous. I have known cases in which people in the summer time have taken nearly three-quarters of an hour to go down the High Street. Casualties are increasing, and the City Council are proposing this scheme to meet the situation. No council is anxious to spend money unnecessarily, but in this case the expenditure has been forced upon the City Council. They are trying to do their best, in very difficult circumstances, to get rid of the congested state of the city streets. Of course, the scheme will help the unemployed, but I do not pretend to say how many will be helped.

I had not the pleasure of hearing what the Parliamentary Secretary said on the previous occasion, but I imagine that she could not have based the whole of her argument on the statement that the scheme was for the benefit of the unemployed. I imagine that what she had in her mind was that, in addition to trying to get over a great difficulty in regard to traffic, the scheme will certainly help the unemployed. It does not require any great intelligence to know that if you are going to widen a large number of streets and to do this, that and the other and spend thousands of pounds, it must obviously mean that a great deal of employment will be necessary. I would remind the House that the Bill has been very carefully considered in another place, that it has come down here for our general approval, and I hope that my hon. Friend will stand no longer between the passage of the Bill and the great advantage which will be derived by Exeter.


I have little to add to what has been said by the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir R. Newman). The traffic difficulty in Exeter is a very real one. In 1928, there were 453 accidents in Exeter, and the Exeter City Council is extremely anxious to do considerable street widening. As to the number of shops that will be temporarily closed, they are set out in the Schedule in considerable detail, and the hon. Member for Torquay can count them as well as I can.


I want to know the number of people who will be temporarily displaced, and the number who will be employed.


I cannot give the number of people employed in the shops, but I can give the amount of money that Exeter proposes to spend in the street widening. It proposes to spend £35,870 on the widening and, although that includes material and so forth, it will give employment to a very considerable number of persons. That sum is not inconsiderable, having regard to the size of Exeter.

With regard to Romford, the proposed scheme relates to a bottle-neck in the town, in the main thoroughiare between the Docks, Barking and Tilbury. The road is terribly congested, and is estimated to carry 11,000 tons a day. It is used by 15 services of omnibuses. This street widening will perhaps do more to expedite traffic than many bigger schemes. I have not an exact estimate of the cost, but it will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £10,000. The localities are bearing the cost out of their own funds, so that almost certainly they will employ local labour.


No Government contribution.

Question put, and agreed to.

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