HC Deb 05 February 1930 vol 234 cc2002-23

Order for Second Reading read.

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


It was my intention to move, "That the Bill be read a Second time this day six months," but I am pleased to say that it will be unnecessary to proceed with this Motion. I put it down owing to a Clause in the Bill which would have a very serious effect on a portion of the county which I represent. Clause 43 says: The Company may abandon the maintenance and use of all or any part or parts of their docks, wharves and quays at Connahs Quay and thereupon all powers and obligations conferred or imposed upon the Company with respect to or in connection with the said docks, wharves and quays shall cease. When this Clause came to the knowledge of local authorities and those specially interested in the trade of the district there was general alarm. It was felt that if the docks at Connahs Quay were closed it would deal a severe blow at industry in this area. For some years the navigation of the river Dee has not been so good as it formerly was, and steps have been taken by local authorities with a view to seeing whether something could be done to improve the navigation, and the closing of Connahs Quay dock would have been a very serious blow to trade and would have hampered the local authorities in their proposals for developing the navigation. The industrial life of the county depends largely upon the river Dec. At the moment there is a vast amount of unemployment in the district, and if this Bill were passed with this clause in it in its present form there is no doubt the unemployment would be increased.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT WARD

May I interrupt the hon. Member for a moment?


I am just coming to another point. The matter was taken up by the local authorities, including the Flintshire County Council. So great was the interest in the Bill, and so keen were the objectors, that practically every local authority in the area took action with a view to seeing whether something could not be done to prevent this Clause being included in the Bill. The County Council met under the presidency of Sir John Eldon Bankes the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee. They regarded the matter as one of very serious concern to the county, and a large deputation was sent to London yesterday to see the representatives of the London and North Eastern Railway Company. It was the largest and most influential deputation that ever came up from Flintshire on a matter concerning the county. As a result of the considerations placed before the railway company by the deputation we have to-day, I am pleased to say, received an assurance from the company that steps will be taken which, I think will meet the views of the local authorities as represented by that deputation. By last night's post the solicitor to the Company communicated with Sir John Eldon Bankes, who led the deputation, and gave an undertaking that if the clause was not further objected to the Company would be prepared to agree to retain a portion of the wharf regarded by the local authority as essential if the dock was to continue in existence, and to put it in a reasonable state of repair. Upon the receipt of this letter the Flintshire County Council, who met to-day, decided not to proceed further with their objection, and relying upon the assurance that has been given, and which we all know will be honourably carried out by the railway company, I am now in a position to withdraw my opposition to the Bill.


I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."

I rise to oppose this Bill not on account of anything that it contains, but following a time-honoured custom that the Second Reading of a Railway Bill provides an occasion when general matters concerning the railway company can be raised. I was very much interested in the remark of the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. Llewellyn-Jones) that he had received an assurance from the London and North Eastern Railway Company about a certain matter, and was perfectly certain the company would honour that assurance. I wish him well in his assurance, I wish him every success. I hope his assurance will be better honoured than some assurances which we have received from the same railway company in the past. Like other hon. Members I have in the past blocked various Railway Bills, and there have been subsequent negotiations with the railway company with regard to the objections we have raised. Sometimes they have been able to give way to us, and as other times they have said they were not able to give way, but there was always this about the other companies, that they showed what I should term common honesty and common decency. I had a different experience with this particular railway company, and it is the first and only occasion in connection with this House in which I have known a person or a group of people deliberately—as I think—not to keep their word. We had a special grievance in Scotland which we thought was irksome, although some hon. Members may not think it amounted to very much. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company were promoting a Bill and we approached them on this matter and there were negotiations. On the first occasion when we asked them they could not give way to us, but later they did.

The point against the railway company is briefly this In Glasgow and Edinburgh the London and North Eastern Railway Company own two very large stations, the Edinburgh station being one of the biggest, I believe, in the country. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company also own stations there. The common practice of the two companies in the past was to charge persons who wished to go on to the platforms a platform fee of 3d. each. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company gave way to us after an appeal was made to them to reduce that charge. There was a special human point about that appeal. We have at times bursts of migration from Glasgow, parties of young men and young women are going abroad. On such occasions poor people, very often terribly poor people, march in from the surrounding districts to see their relatives off. Maybe half a dozen people, or maybe three, may come to see a relative off. Possibly it is the last occasion on which they will see their relatives. They felt this charge to be too high. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company realised the human aide of this matter, and in negotiations before their Bill came on they gave us a guarantee that they would revise the platform fees. That company carried out their word, and in their big stations in Glasgow and Edinburgh the platform fee has been reduced to the general charge of a penny.

When we approached the London and North Eastern Railway Company they showed some contempt for Members of Parliament. They said, "You bullied the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company, you blackmailed them, but you will not blackmail us." We held up their Bill, and on the night the Bill came on, while the present Financial Secretary to the War Office was in the process of making a speech on this very subject, we were engaged in negotiations in the central hall. I am not going to say we had anything in writing, because in past negotiations with railway companies I have always found that we could take their word without requiring statements to be set down in black and white. On that occasion, in the central hall, we met various people connected with the London and North Eastern Railway Company, and if ever an assurance was given to Members of Parliament—the hon. Member for South East Ham (Mr. Barnes) was there at the time of these negotiations. We had no desire then to block this Bill if only we could get what we wanted by a friendly conversation. We met the promoters, and they gave us every assurance that this railway company would fall into line with what has been done on this question by every other railway company in the country in regard to their station platforms, and what has also been done in the case of Edinburgh and Glasgow. After this company had got their Bill, after we had accepted their assurances, and after we had given them that decent treatment which railway companies ask for, they treated us with contempt.

I never knew a case in which a company so deliberately broke their word as in this case. I anticipated that this company would have immediately, through its agents, made some approach to meet us in order to discuss the points which we wished to raise, but they knew that they had done the wrong thing, and we knew that they would not carry out their word because they never came near us. This company issued a statement of their case, and they mentioned Queen Street Station. How did they know that we were going to raise that question, because they never came to ascertain our views? We knew that on a previous occasion the company had deliberately broken their word. Hon. Members know that it is a settled principle in this House, after negotiations, to take people's word.

I know that some people think that the point I am raising is a very small one, but it is to me an important matter when four or five members of a family wish to see their brother off to Canada, and to them it is something of considerable importance. I feel that we have been dealt with in a contemptuous fashion by this railway company. What is the case for not granting our concession? They say that we have blocked this Bill on account of what has happened in regard to Queen Street Station, but what is their objection in the case of Waverley Station? I am not at all anxious to hold up this Bill, and I confess that I feel very uncomfortable in blocking this Measure, because I know there are a good many desirable elements in it. None of us wish to block Bills just for the sake of doing so. Let us take one of the objections which has been raised by this company? A constituent of mine was convicted for creating a disturbance on one of their platforms, and this has been put forward as a reason for refusing our request. On this question, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway gave way, and everyone knows that the Central Station is four times greater than the Queen Street Station. May I also point out that the City of Glasgow is becoming more sober each year, and I think that does away with the argument that some of those who would go on the platform might be the worse for liquor.

The people who frequent the Central Station conduct themselves decently when they go to see their friends off, and they pay their pennies to go on the platform where they shake hands probably for the last time with their friends who are going abroad. This comparatively powerful company has broken its word, and it has treated us with absolute contempt. I know that any Member of this House who gives an undertaking looks upon his word as his bond. For these reasons, I hope the House will take the only step it can do to show its contempt for conduct of the kind which I have described. If the company do not concede the point which we have asked them to concede, I hope the House will show its contempt for conduct of that kind by rejecting this Measure.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I have never had experience of negotiating with any of the railway companies, and I have never been able to appreciate the sylvan beauties of Queen Street Station. My reason for objecting to this Bill is not that I desire to hold up work that is going to be provided for the unemployed. I arrived at this House in June last, and, until then, I was a victim of the railway company's travelling facilities for workmen. Queen Street Station is a landmark in the City of Glasgow. It is a positive disgrace, not only to the London and North Eastern Railway, but to the second City of the British Empire. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may dispute Glasgow's claim in that respect, but there is perfect unanimity among the Glasgow Members in regard to it. My chief reason for opposing this Bill lies in the horrible conditions at Queen Street Station. No person would desire to pay 3d. to go on to the platform at Queen Street in order to admire the station, and it is sheer humbug to suggest that the object of this charge is the prevention of accidents. I should be glad if the representatives of the railway company would let me have, for my own information, exactly the census of accidents prior to and after this imposition, for imposition it is.

There is another sharp practice, not confined to the London and North Eastern Railway, but also carried on by the London, Midland and Scottish Bail-way within the City area. I refer to the practice of issuing tickets at Queen Street Station, charging the same fare which is charged at all the other stations within the City, and then, if you arrive at your destination in the reverse direction, making you pay excess fare. It costs, I think, 9d. return from Queen Street to Milngavie, but, if you break your journey at Partick, which is two miles nearer to Milngavie than Queen Street, they will charge you another 3d. I have been a victim of this sharp practice, for Partick Station is in my Division. I want to know from the London and North Eastern Railway what they are going to do about this, and what they are going to do about the workmen's tariff; and also what they are going to do with regard to Queen Street Tunnel. One needs a fortnight's fresh air treatment after passing through Queen Street Tunnel, and I would suggest to the Lord Privy Seal, were he here, that suitable employment for unemployed people in the West of Scotland might be provided by filling up the tunnel and closing Queen Street Station.

The directors of the London and North Eastern Railway give absolutely no consideration to the travelling public in Glasgow. This may be, I say quite frankly, a form of blackmail, but the Scottish Labour Members of Parliament put into the coffers of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway every week £ 120 that might possibly find its way into the coffers of the London and North Eastern Railway were they to cater for the people who travel South from Glasgow. I hope that the objection to this Bill will not be withdrawn until we have a definite assurance that the complaints made by Members on this side of the House, and I believe also by Members on the other side, as to the grievances of the travelling public, will be given proper attention. The travelling public at present are compelled to use Queen Street Station—no person would do so of his own volition—and we desire to be protected; and, until we get that protection, so long as I am a Member of this House the London and North Eastern Railway will receive no change from me on any Bill that they promote.


I desire to take advantage of the time-honoured custom and to bring before the House a small grievance before assenting to the Second Reading of this Bill. I desire to deprecate the word "blackmail" which was used by the Seconder of the Amendment Surely the principle of "grievances before Supply" is a time-honoured custom of this House, and has been its guiding principle for centuries. Having started in this vein, I purpose descending from the sublime to the ridiculous, and bringing my grievance, which is a very small one, to the attention of those representing the railway companies and of this House. It concerns only a Lincolnshire village and the people who dwell in the surrounding parts. It has not the same magnitude as the grievance of which we heard from the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. Llewellyn-Jones). It has not the dignity of being supported by such a body as a county council, or even a district council, but I am empowered to represent, and I do represent on this occasion a parish council, and I feel that, although this is but a small matter and concerns only these rural people, it will receive exactly the same attention from this House and from the railway company as if it were a matter of greater magnitude.

The grievance is simply this, that in this village there is a station, which has a level crossing, and over that level crossing the railway company have provided a footbridge, so that intending passengers approaching the railway station from the side opposite to the platform from which their train starts are able safely to cross over the railway lines by the footbridge. This footbridge, however, has been closed for over a year, and the custom is that, five minutes before the trains come in, the roadway gates over the level crossing are closed, and, therefore, if an intending passenger arrives five-minutes before the train comes in, he is confronted with this obstacle to his progress, and there is no footbridge over which he can cross the line. Sometimes, I am informed, these roadway gates are closed even 10 minutes before the arrival of the train. In these circumstances, it has been the custom of the people of this village and of the surrounding districts to climb over the obstacle in question and to cross the line. I would submit, however, that that is a very undesirable custom, which might very well lead to serious accidents and even loss of life. That has been going on now for over a year, and apparently there is no prospect whatever of anything being done to put the footbridge in repair, which is what I want to ask the company to do. I am sure that this custom of the village will be looked upon with indulgence by the House. It may be that it offends against the bylaws of the company, but I suggest that a human being who has come, perhaps, two or three miles to catch a train, when that train is not in for five minutes, is not going to stand on the opposite side to the platform, wait five minutes until the train comes in, and then perhaps wait another two or three hours for the next train. This particular custom is an exceedingly unpleasant one for ladies. It is, indeed, from ladies that I have received this complaint, because they have to climb over these very high gates, and I really think that it is a grievance which should be remedied. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the name of the village?"] Wainfleet. In centuries gone by, Wainfleet was an important port, and in the eleventh century it made a most important contribution to the British Navy.


As my name is on the Bill, and being a director of the company, I should like to be allowed to make some remarks on the statements that have been made. I have had no notice about the footbridge mentioned by my hon. Friend, but if he will write to me, or to the company, we will see that the ladies in his constituency who use the footbridge are looked after, and we will try to make an improvement. The Bill is a very large and comprehensive one, and has the approval of the Lord Privy Seal. It deals with works in all parts of the country, and the company will spend considerably over £1,250,000, which must necessarily relieve unemployment. I should like to thank the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. Llewellyn-Jones) for withdrawing his Amendment, although I know it was moved by the hon. Member opposite. The company will stand up to what it has said. The matter of Connahs Quay can be discussed in Committee. The railway officials met a deputation from Flintshire, and I am certain that terms will be arranged and all parties, especially trading parties and the local authorities in the neighbourhood, will be satisfied. We have had a very harrowing story from the other side., The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has told us about his grievances and those of his constituents, who have to pay 3d. to obtain platform tickets. I had always understood that the coin of controversy in Scotland was not 3d. but 6d. I should like to explain why 3d. is charged. Queen Street Station, Glasgow, has a very narrow platform indeed. On each side there are main line trains, and it is a source of danger if the platforms are crowded. It is entirely in the interests of the public that this charge is kept on. It is very necessary that passengers, and porters wheeling luggage barrows, should have a clear way as, if the platform is crowded, it is a danger to the public. If the company were to reduce the price to 1d., they would make a great deal more money, but they are out for the public safety and for facilities for the travelling public. Accidents have taken place there, and we want to be very careful that they do not take place again.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us when the accidents took place? His argument may have some bearing on Queen Street, but it is ridiculous when it comes to Waverley.

9.0 p.m.


I have particulars of the accident, and of other accidents which have been avoided owing to the action of the officials. As to Waverley, there is no better managed station in the world. The Midland is a terminal station. The North Eastern is a through station as well as a terminal station. There are during the day a great many carriages that come from the North and from Glasgow, which have to be shunted on to trains going South. The automatic coupling system is used, and it is very necessary that the platforms should be clear and that the shunting engine driver should be able to see the hand signals on the platform as he moves his carriage down on to the train that is going South. If he goes too fast, the passengers are jolted, and if he goes too slowly, the couplings are not properly effective. It is necessary for the platform to be clear so that the driver can see what he is doing and where he is going and the right pace to go. There have been times when the company have been obliged to stop the issue of passenger tickets altogether. The charge is not put on in any aggressive sense whatever. We are studying the public convenience and safety and, in the interests of the travelling public, we consider that this charge should be made so as to act as a deterrent. I, therefore, ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading and send it to Committee.


My hon. Friend the Member for Partick (Mr. McKinlay) alluded to his constituency as being the second City of the Empire which caused some interruption on these benches. We were not, however, disputing the claim of his constituency to be the second City of the Empire. We were disputing which was the first. I desire, therefore, to speak now on behalf of the most important part of the Empire served by the North Eastern Railway, namely, the Tyneside. In the summer I asked the Minister of Transport if he would use his influence to secure the electrification of the lines to South Shields and Sunderland, and he replied that he was sending the suggestion along to the company for their consideration. I asked him in the autumn what had happened to it and he said they had come to the conclusion that they could electrify none of the lines in that part of the country, nor in Durham. Since then my hon. Friend has been to South Shields and he desired to get to Newcastle in order to return to London. He was warned by everyone there that if he wanted to get to Newcastle quickly the one way by which he must not travel was by the North Eastern Railway. He would even get quicker from the terminus station by a fast travelling horse vehicle than by the train.

This railway serves a very populous part of the country. On the other bank of the Tyne the early electrification of the line to Tynemouth was one of the first examples of electrification. It has been an outstanding success. If a similar system were provided on the southern bank of the Tyne, uniting the great industrial centres there, it would be of very great convenience to the public, and, judging by the effect of the electrification of the north bank of the Tyne and the electrification of the suburban system of the Southern Railway, it would be of very great advantage to the railway company as well. There is a very strong feeling that the time has come when, in conjunction with the work which is being urged by the Lord Privy Seal, the electrification of this railway should be undertaken. The London and North Eastern Railway Company have drawn, and continue to draw in spite of trade depression, vast revenues from that section of the community, and the population probably are as badly served by rail as any part of England. There is a very strong feeling in the district among the local governing bodies and the general population that it is high time that the London and North Eastern Railway Company proceeded on the south bank of the Tyne to extend the system which has proved so successful to them and so valuable to the inhabitants on the north bank of the Tyne.


I do not wish to stand in the way of the Motion which is to be moved later on this evening, but I wish to submit that no really sufficient reason has yet been advanced for taking a step which practically means the rejection of this Bill, especially in view of the fact that it has been certified by the Lord Privy Seal as a Bill likely to give employment. That is the reason, and the sole reason, why I stand here in support of this Bill. All through the districts and all down the coast served by the London and North Eastern Railway unemployment is at its worst. This is the side of the country which is suffering more than any other, and the principal aim and object of this Bill—and this is the reason it has received preferential treatment from the Lord Privy Seal—is to do something at any rate towards reducing that unemployment.

In the city which I represent unemployment has been grievous for many years, and at the present moment it is worse than it has ever been in the memory of man. I recognise that this Bill, if it is allowed to pass into law, will provide work for 300 or 400 men in a city where the unemployment figures are approximately 15,000. Hon. Members may say that 300 or 400 is not a very large number out of such an appalling total. It may not be a very large number, but it is something, and 300 or 400 men put back to good work will mean a great deal for the prosperity of the city. Hull has not had a good time during the past 20 years. All through the War, it was on what one might call the danger side of the country, and consequently, as a port, it had not that access to trade as had the ports on the other side of the country, such as Liverpool and Bristol. The result of all this is, that the accumulative savings in the city, particularly of the workers, were dissipated earlier than the savings of the people in other parts of the country, and consequently the distress has been greater. I appeal to the House to allow this Bill to go through for that reason if for no other. The work which is going to be done at Queen's Dock will do something towards mitigating unemployment.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) made an attack on the company on the subject of charging 3d. for platform tickets at Queen Street Station, Glasgow, and at Waverley Station, Edinburgh. I must admit that I know nothing about Queen Street Station at Glasgow, but I remember not many years ago a scene at Waverley Station, Edinburgh, which, in my opinion, has fully justified the company in charging 3d. for platform tickets. It was on a Saturday night. I was coming back from an international football match at Edinburgh. The scene on the platform almost baffled description. I am prepared to take the hon. Gentleman's word to the effect that drinking has diminished in Scotland to an enormous extent, but on that occasion I did not notice it.


It was England versus Scotland.


Exactly. Even spectators of a football match in Scotland have a right to expect that they shall not be squeezed off the platform when they want to get their train back to the South. That was in danger of happening. It seemed to me that the crowd was so bulging over the edge of the platform that there was scarcely room for the train to come in at all. Therefore, I can understand why the railway company charge 3d. for platform tickets. It is not because they want to make additional money out of platform tickets, but merely in order to keep the platforms clear for people who wish to travel, and because, under certain circumstances, they consider it necessary to put a charge on platform tickets which they rightly and intentionally consider prohibitive. But that is not what I rose to speak about tonight. I submit that the mere fact that the London and North Eastern Railway Company are charging 3d. for a platform ticket in Scotland is not a valid reason for depriving 300 m 400 men of employment in Hull.


I do not -want to take up the time of the Mover of the Motion which is to be discussed later, but I think that the hon. Member himself will recognise that the reply given on behalf of the railway company in connection with this Bill is very disappointing. I would like to ask the hon. and gallant Member for Howdenshire (Major Carver), who spoke on behalf of the railway company, why he did not deal with the specific charge of a breach of faith on the part of the railway company in connection with the platform tickets.


My answer is that there has been no breach of faith whatever on the part of the railway company, and that no promise was made.


I want to say to my fellow Members in the House that when I met the representatives of this railway company in the inner Lobby, a definite assurance was given that they would go into this matter, and that they would reduce the charge to a penny, the same charge as was imposed by other railway companies. I want to point out that when the big Bill dealing with the competition of the omnibuses was before the House, and the present Parliamentary Secretary to the War Office was raising opposition, the assurance was given that he need not press his opposition because this matter was going to be dealt with and a charge of a penny was going to be made for platform tickets. That was a definite statement. I, the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) heard the assurance given, and I think our word is as good as the word of any representative of this railway company. I want the hon. and gallant Member, who, I take it, is a director of the company, to realise the position into which his advisers in this matter are putting his company. I possibly know more about Queen Street-Station than any other Member of the House, because it so happens that I live, when in Glasgow, in a house which is owned by the London and North Eastern Railway Company, and from which one looks down into Queen Street Station. Every time I go there I have that ugly view in front of me, and I am disturbed at all hours of the night by trains going out of the station The hon. and gallant Member says that this charge was put on because of the crowded platform, and as a protection for the public. Formerly, there was no charge. People had free access to the platform, and there were not the dreadful accidents that have been suggested. The charge is a comparatively recent thing. It seems to me that the person who supplied the information to the hon. and gallant Member was insulting him, seeing that he had to speak for the railway company. I do not want anyone to be thrown out of employment, but I would suggest to the hon. and gallant Member that he should give the sack to the official who gave him his information.

Take the second point, in regard to Waverley Station. Let the hon. and gallant Member look into the conditions at similar stations in England, which are not termini, such as Newcastle, where there is the platform ticket system operating. I say that the official who advised the hon. and gallant Member in the way that he has done to-night was certainly a most insulting and contemptible person to advise his representative in this House to talk in the way that he did. Trade in this country is bad, and if the railway companies are to be conducted by people who take a view like that, no wonder that trade is bad. The hon. and gallant Member was speaking for the railway company, but he represents in this House a constituency, and he conferred upon the railway company, of which he is a director, a privilege by speaking on its behalf.

I submit that there has been a breach of faith by the representatives of the railway company. If there was any doubt about it, the railway company should have consulted us. In your own statement, a copy of which I have here, is the statement with reference to Queen Street Station. Can the hon. and gallant Member tell us which Member of this House stated to him that he was making objection in respect of this charge at Queen Street Station, on this occasion? Not one. The statement is put down there because of the guilty conscience of a representative of the railway company who lied to his director in this House on this occasion. It is a very serious matter for the hon. and gallant Member who has been put up to give this 3efenoe, but I suggest to him that he is going to make atonement. In regard to the crowded platform, I can tell him that his arguments do not hold at all. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway tried the system at the Central Station. There were difficulties, it was said, over the crowded platforms. They said that the platforms were not crowded by people who went there to see their folks off to the different parts of the Empire, but that it was the young men and the young women who went there to do their courting in comfort. They provided the platform as a courting place at 3d. a time. Finally, they gave way on the matter, and the arrangements have been working very satisfactorily. It would be the same in the case of Edinburgh. Surely, the hon. Member must realise that the excuse given to him in regard to Waverley is a trumped up excuse.


Nothing of the kind.


If the hon. and gallant Member does not think that it is a trumped up excuse, then it is a matter for his intelligence, and I think that it is a bad job for the London and North Eastern Railway Company and, possibly, a worse job for the people of this country who are dependent upon that railway company to the extent that they are. I do not want to be hard on the hon. and gallant Member in this matter, because I feel sure that he will go into it again. I can assure him that so far as the London and North Eastern Railway Company are concerned, until they deal honourably in this connection, they will have no peace. I would like to know how many other stations in Scotland there are where the London and North Eastern Railway Company charge 3d. for admission to the platform. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will tell me?


No, I cannot.


I would like the hon. and gallant Member to make inquiries as to the number of stations in Scotland and England where a charge of 3d. is made for a platform ticket. There is one complaint which I wish to make in regard to my constituency. I refer to the railway bridge in Bellfield Street. When the engines are passing there, and firing, sparks are thrown out. A child of one of my constituents was burned by sparks while she was crossing the bridge, which is an ordinary footbridge. The mother asked the railway company for some reparation for the injury that was done to her child, but the company would not admit any responsibility. That is not good business for the railway company. I hope that in connection with Bellfield bridge, in the Camlachie Parliamentary Division, the hon. and gallant Member will ask the officials of the company to see that proper care is exercised when engines are passing that bridge. I trust that we shall get a much more satisfactory answer when the next Bill comes forward for discussion. It is down for next Friday. I daresay we shall have an opportunity of raising our grievances on that Bill.

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

Hon. Members have taken advantage of their Parliamentary right by raising on this Bill certain grievances on which they feel strongly. As I have done the same thing myself in an earlier House, I cannot complain. It is a misfortune that the hon. and gallant Member who spoke for the railway company did not meet the specific charge which was made against the railway company by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). The hon. Member for Gorbals said specifically—I am not saying whether he was accurate or inaccurate—that the railway company did make a definite arrangement with objectors to a previous Bill, and I did expect the hon. and gallant Member would have met that charge in his speech. It would have been better had he done so. The Ministry of Transport has no record of those negotiations, and I cannot speak about them, nor have I any official jurisdiction as to what is or is not the proper charge for platform admission. Therefore, the Ministry of Transport cannot take any action in the matter. I have, however—and again I am not judging the merits of the dispute—been inquiring in the Department whether any avenue is open to Glasgow people and to hon. Members who represent Glasgow whereby they can secure an inquiry and adjudication upon the point which they have brought to the attention of the House to-night. The position is that a railway company's station is private property to which they are free to admit or to refuse to admit any persons who are not engaged upon business, or travelling upon or using the railway. Therefore, the railway company is legally within its rights in refusing to admit people entirely if they wish, or, if they admit them, to make what charge they like. Neither the Ministry nor anyone else has a legal right to interfere in this matter.

There is, however, a possible avenue of approach which the Glasgow Corporation might take if they so wish, though I cannot say what the result would be. Section 28 of the Railways Act of 1921 provides among other things that the tribunal has power to determine any question brought before them regarding the reasonableness, or otherwise, of any charge made by a railway company for any service or accommodation for which no authorised charge is applicable. Up to the present, no application as to the reasonableness of the charges made for platform tickets has been made before the Railway Rates Tribunal and its jurisdiction to deal with the matter has therefore not been tested. As a hint, and not as advice to my hon. Friends, perhaps they might get the Glasgow Corporation to go into that question and get legal advice as to whether they could raise the matter through that avenue. I only make that suggestion without in any way judging the merits of the dispute—for that is not my official business—but because I feel it my duty, if there is another avenue through which my hon. Friends can raise the matter, that they should be informed of the legal position. I cannot say definitely whether that avenue is entirely legal or may be contested.

Various other points have been raised as is customary on such Bills. The difficulty the House is in is that this Bill, as has been pointed out, will authorise the expenditure of over £1,200,000. It is a Bill which is certified by the Lord Privy Seal as dealing with unemployment and hon. Members going into the Lobby will be called upon to cast their votes on the one side for authorising works to the extent of over £1,200,000 at a time when every million pounds worth of work is earnestly to be desired in the interests of unemployment, or on the other side they must measure the strength of feeling of hon. Members from Glasgow who maintain that the railway companies are making an excessive charge in charging 3d. for platform admission, as against what is understood to be the more usual charge of one penny. That is the difficulty which the House is in. Hon. Members have raised this point and have pushed it for all they are worth, but, having done that, I am bound to say I think the House would take a considerable responsibility in rejecting a Bill which will authorise works in excess of £1,200,000. Therefore, I personally shall feel bound to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, particularly as it is certified by the Lord Privy Seal in connection with unemployment, while in no way deprecating the fact that hon. Members who feel strongly about the point have used the opportunity as they have. I think hon. Members will agree that I have given them what advice I can as to the possible alternative avenue of raising this point.


On behalf of my hon. Friends, may I say that we have no intention of doing anything that would be so completely out of proportion as to vote against this Bill on this secondary point, so far as the substance is concerned, to the disadvantage of the unemployed, but there is a very serious matter which I hope the hon. Member who is speaking for the railway companies will not lose sight of. It is a shocking thing in this House if hon. Members come to an honourable understanding with a railway Company or its representative and get a solemn undertaking and on that undertaking withdraw their objections to a Bill and allow it to go through, and then, when this House has been duped into giving the Bill without discussion, the promise given becomes a mere matter of contempt. It would not do if the House of Commons were treated in that way.

This business of certification that we have introduced for the sake of expediting the Lord Privy Seal's work adds another difficulty. I can see what a powerful instrument it is so far as companies who want special privileges are concerned when they come to the House and say we must give them those privileges or else we shall be depriving the unemployed of work. I can see a lot of danger in it, and I would like the railway representative in this House to understand very plainly that by withdrawing any difficulties at this stage we are not going to make this House merely a happy hunting ground for railway concessionaires or any other body. I would like to say that that story of the hon. and gallant Member's about the Scottish-English international was just a little trivial. There are exceptional occasions when the transport system in any district is completely inadequate to meet the situation, but the explanations given by the hon. Member and by the hon. Member who sits behind him are quite trivial and frivolous, and could easily have been met, but that is not the important point. The important point is that, when an hon. Member of this House receives an undertaking from a company that is asking a concession, that undertaking ought to be carried out.


May I have the indulgence of the House to answer that statement? I have made definite inquiry and no undertaking whatever was given by the railway company to anybody in this House. They did say that the matter would receive consideration from the directors, and it did receive consideration, but the hon. Members for the Clydeside have made a definite allegation against the company, and I want to say that it is not true and that no statement was made by the company—


It is true.


No statement was made by the company that the charge of 3d. would be taken off.


They told you something else. They are lying.


Some very hard things have been said and violent diatribes have been uttered by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) which I deprecate very much indeed.


I have been asked in the course of this discussion to bring before the companies concerned a point in the Bill. The Minister of Transport began to draw a somewhat strange analogy between the charge of 3d. and what the Bill was going to do for unemployment. I think he might have left that to other people. This is the only opportunity that Members have to raise any points concerning the welfare of those engaged by the company.

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

It is the only opportunity we have in the whole year of discussing the question.


The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) says he knows more about Queen Street station than any hon. Member. I beg to differ. I have travelled on the line for 12 years between Springburn and Queen Street and know every inch of it. It is a veritable deathtrap and a bottle-neck. If the railway company is seriously perturbed with regard to the safety of passengers, I submit that that is not secured by charging 3d. to go on to the platform. The danger to the public is the bottle-neck tunnel which has existed for 40 or 50 years. The argument with regard to 3d. for a platform ticket will not hold water.

In the old days one could get on to almost any platform for nothing, and people did not fall on to the line. If there is anything in the argument that they are looking after the welfare of the passengers, why not put the charge up to 1s. I know the platform to which the hon. Member refers. It has rather a serious bend in it, and there is no doubt that when you have a long train the man on the shunting engine cannot see the tail lights. That is true; but that is the result of faulty design. To-day you are charging the public for the fault of your architect in the first instance. There is one question I have been asked to put—it does not touch the question of employment which these great schemes are going to give—one of the farces of modern civilisation.

I have been asked by the employés in a workshop in Cowlairs to put their case before those, the responsible authorities. Did I hear a whisper, "Taxation of land values" on the Front Bench. When they understand it I shall begin to think that there is hope for some of them. The employés in this workshop ask that the railway company should do something to bring about peaceable relations in the locomotive shop at Cowlairs. It has recently been established, and I have been assured that the man in charge is ruling with the iron hand of a Kaiser There used to be peaceful relations between the head office and the meanest employé, but the gentleman who is now chief manager is making the lives of the employés simply unbearable. I am drawing public attention to this and I hope some inquiry will be made and that Mr. Hayward will be advised to act in a more humane way towards the employés. I know the spot; I served my time as apprentice there, and know all about it.

It is futile to argue that this 3d. is going to save the lives of passengers, and I will throw out this hint to the railway company. They are constantly talking of the serious competition of the omnibuses. This charge is not helping the railway companies. The omnibuses have an easy line of competition, and when the railway company begins to raise its fees they are only helping the omnibuses to be a little more overcharged between Queen Street Station and Edinburgh. If they want to facilitate travel they should try to come to an agreement tonight. I know nothing about any previous arrangement but, assuming that a definite undertaking was given to hon. Members, cannot there be a little more come and go on the matter. They need not be so arrogant. People should not be held up by this high tariff. I know that the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) is anxious to put a financial impediment on the easy flow of trade, but I am sure the railway company will see, after what has happened to-night, that it is all in their interests, and in the interests of any future Bills, that matters of this kind should be amicably settled.

Ordered, That Clauses 3 to 34, inclusive, 36, 37, 39, 47, 48, and 49, and in so far as they apply for the purposes of the said Clauses 3 to 34, inclusive, 36, 37, 39, 47, 48, and 49, the Preamble, and Clauses 1, 2, 50, 53, 54, and 55 of that Bill, be committed to the Committee of Selection."—[Mr. Hayes.] (London and North Eastern Railway (No. 1) Bill.)

Remaining Provisions committed (London and North Eastern Railway (No. 2) Bill).