HC Deb 20 June 1934 vol 291 cc484-97

(1) Notwithstanding the repeal by this Act of section eighty-nine of the Metropolitan and District Railways (City Lines and Extensions) Act, 1879, the Board shall continue to provide a continuous service of trains throughout the railways known as "the Inner Circle," not less frequent than the service provided immediately before the passing of this Act until the South Kensington Station has been reconstructed so that passengers arriving from either direction at a platform at that station can continue their journey along the Inner Circle by entering a train from the same platform.

(2) At all times after the reconstruction of the South Kensington Station the Board shall provide a service of trains each way between that station and Edgware Road Station not less frequent than the service of trains between those stations immediately before the passing of this Act.—[Sir W. Davison.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

9.10 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Clause will be an addendum to Clause 102 of the Bill, which repeals the provisions for the continuous working of the Inner Circle. It says: Section 89 (For securing continuous working of Inner Circle) of the Metropolitan and District Railways (City Lines and Extensions) Act, 1879, is hereby repealed. Ever since 1879 the citizens of Kensington, Paddington and the surrounding districts have had the statutory privilege of continuous journeyings in Inner Circle trains to and from the city, either on the north side by Edgware Road and Baker Street, or on the south side by South Kensington and Gloucester Road. It is now proposed by Clause 102 of the Bill to take away those privileges which have been enjoyed by Statute for upwards of 50 years. I need not say what a great convenience those privileges have been to the people of Kensington and the surrounding districts. It is strongly felt and commonly expressed in the west of London that one of the first actions taken by this new transport monopoly should be the curtailment of facilities which a large number of citizens have possessed for some 50 years. In fact, some of us rather feared that when we had a monopoliy of this kind that might be the result, and it is curious that the first action of the board so far as my constituents and the constituents of some of my hon. Friends are concerned is seriously to curtail privileges given to them by this House.

The borough council of Kensington petitioned against this Bill, but finally decided by a majority vote not to proceed with their petition mainly on the grounds set out in the memorandum which has been circulated by the London Passenger Transport Board, that in the interests of London as a whole it was desirable that the Circle trains should be discontinued. The town clerk also received a letter assuring the borough council that the service would not be less than it had been before. Notwithstanding the serious inconvenience which this proposal will occasion to the people of Kensington and the surrounding districts, they are prepared to agree to the release of the statutory privileges provided the train service which they now have is not less good after the Bill is uassed than it is to-day, and provided also that the Circle trains are continued until such time as they can change into a train on the same platform at South Kensington without going up the bridge and down the other side. I hope the House will realise how inconvenient it is for passengers to change trains at all. They will very likely have to get out at South Kensington or Edgware Road and find a full train waiting, and have to strap-hang for the rest of the journey. It will be intolerable if in addition they have to cross a bridge in order to find another train.

The Town Clerk of Kensington has had a letter from the Transport Board stating that they propose to continue a not less good service than previously, and I desire to say at once that there is nothing in what I am submitting now which in any way affects the validity or the desirability of the acceptance of assurances given in the conduct of Bills in a committee room. I do think this case is slightly different; but that is not the point which I am raising. Our main point is that if Parliament is taking away from a body of citizens a privilege which was given to them by Statute more than 50 years ago it is not too much to ask that Parliament should secure for them not all that they had before but at any rate a service of trains equally as good as that which they at present enjoy. The new service will be a shuttle service, and instead of getting into the train at Kensington High Street or Notting Hill Gate or Praed Street and going right through to their destination in the City passengers will have to change; but at any rate we ask that we should have an equally good service. There is no intention, as suggested in the memorandum of subverting—I think that is the phrase that is used—the established practice of accepting undertakings given by promoters of Bills.

This case can be quite well differentiated from that in which undertakings are ordinarily given in Committee when Bills are before Parliament, although I recognise their validity. We are not suggesting that it may not be in the public interest that these Inner Circle trains should be discontinued, but if the House discontinues a privilege which a large district of London has had, by the authority of this House, for upwards of half-a-century, we say that it is not unreasonable to request that the same Measure which takes away those privileges should contain a Clause saying that the future service shall not be less complete than that which the inhabitants of the district have previously had.

9.18 p.m.


I beg to second the Motion.

The Inner Circle service serves a considerable number of people, because the population of Kensington at the last census was somewhere in the region of 180,000 and the population of Padding-ton in the region of 144,000, and, in addition, there are considerable numbers of people—as can be seen on the platform of High Street Kensington Station at any rush hour—who though they do not live in either Kensington or Paddington use the Inner Circle. Therefore, this facility is of considerable importance not only to those in the locality but to all those who live elsewhere in London and work in the locality in the daytime. I feel that this privilege, which has existed for so long, ought to go on in the future uninterruptedly. This is an old statutory right. It may interest the House to know that the intention when the Act of 1879 was passed, Section 89 of which it is now proposed to repeal, was to link up the gap between Aldgate and the Mansion House and the eastern end of the Inner Circle by joining up the Metropolitan Railway with what was then called the Metropolitan District Railway. It was clearly stated that the intention was to secure to the public the advantages of "continuous working" of the Inner Circle service—those were the actual words of the Act.

Therefore, Parliament in those days decided that the Inner Circle was to be worked continuously. Times have changed since then, and the suburbs have grown, as the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) will no doubt agree; and as I understand it the London Passenger Transport Board now wishes to increase its suburban services, which it cannot do at the moment, as every fourth train must be an Inner Circle train running round this railway. The people of Kensington and the Kensington Borough Council realise the position, and have no wish to interfere with the plans of the Transport Board to increase their suburban services, provided they can get an adequate service on the Inner Circle between South Kensington and Edgware Road. This is an old statutory right to an adequate service, which is still very badly needed not only by local residents but by those who work in the district. This Clause has really been agreed to in effect, because the Town Clerk of Kensington received a letter, dated the 27th April, from the Vice-Chairman of the London Passenger Transport Board, which, as can be seen from the document which has been circulated by the board, embodies in effect what is proposed in this Clause. But that statement only says it is the intention of the board, according to paragraph 6, to provide a shuttle service. By paragraph 7 it is also indicated that the platform interchange will be provided. In our opinion that is not sufficiently definite, although we naturally take no exception to the honesty or integrity of the board in making that promise. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) has already said, this is an old statutory right, and this undertaking is something rather different from the ordinary undertaking given to a Select Committee upstairs. This undertaking was not given to the Select Committee but only to the Town Clerk and the Borough Council, and in view of the fact that this is an old statutory right we feel the House ought to insert this new Clause in the Bill to make the matter more definite.

9.23 p.m.


It seems to me that the chief argument put forward by the two hon. Members for Kensington who have spoken has been the fact that the Act was passed in 1879, 55 years ago. From a transport point of view that would be, to my mind, a jolly good argument in favour of changing the law. Their argument is on the lines of saying that because old horse omnibuses were given rights in 1790 we ought to continue them in 1934. As the last speaker said, times have changed since 1879, and in no respect more than in transport conditions. Kensington and Paddington ought not to look upon this matter from so parochial a point of view. It is bigger than a Kensington or Paddington problem; it is a London problem. Let us look at some of the changes that have occurred. The traffic in the West End of London from North to South of the division has diminished a great deal. Let any hon. Member stand in the Westminster Station of the Underground Railway and take a check for himself of the trains going through—the District Railway and the Inner Circle Railway. I have travelled on those lines for the last 12 years, and am beginning to think that I am at least an expert on the Inner Circle Railway. Stand on the platform, especially in the rush hours between 5 and 7 p.m., and you will see two or three trains packed to capacity; they are the east to west trains, the District trains. Then there comes a half-empty train, and without looking at the sign you can see that it is an Inner Circle train. The Inner Circle trains are half-full at this period, and they constitute, roughly, 20 per cent. of the traffic. One in every five of the trains going between Westminster and Victoria Stations is an Inner Circle train; in other words one-fifth of the traffic at that important time is running half-full, and four-fifths is running packed beyond all bearing.

Not only has the traffic in the West End of London diminished from north to south, but it has been given increased facilities in the last five years. There is a new shuttle service between Edgware Road and Earl's Court, and an omnibus service, 49, between High Street, Kensington, and Gloucester Road. As every hon. Member knows, there bas been a tremendous movement of population in London. The population inside London has diminished by many hundreds of thousands; the population outside, in the Western suburbs, has grown by nearly 1,000,000 in the last 10 years. As long as the Inner Circle trains occupy such an enormous part of the time, it is quite impossible to increase the number of trains to take a tremendously-increased traffic from west to east or east to west.

I agree with the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) that this change-over will certainly inconvenience, to a small extent, all the passengers who come from Kensington and have to change at South Kensington. On the average it means between one and two minutes inconvenience in the changing of trains. The trains are every two minutes, so that it only averages a minute's inconvenience. It will inconvenience for one minute 10 per cent. of the passenger traffic, but it will greatly convenience 90 per cent. of the passengers moving from east to west. You have to consider the convenience of the vast majority of the people who use these railways. I cannot claim to be a traffic expert, but I have no doubt whatever that the experts of the London Passenger Transport Board have weighed and considered, with a wealth of statistics that we do not possess, the pros and cons of this problem. I believe that they have considered it, not from the point of view of Paddington and of Kensington, but from the point of view of the whole traffic problem of London. I have confidence that in the repeal of this Section they are doing something which will be beneficial to 95 per cent. of the railway passengers of London and the suburbs.

9.29 p.m.


As I was chairman of the Committee which considered this Bill upstairs, it might be as well for me to say a word or two about the position. The Royal Borough of Kensington presented a petition against the Bill, but that petition was withdrawn on the understanding that an undertaking was given by the London Passenger Transport Board that a sufficient service would be instituted instead of the statutory service which at present exists. Consequently, the Committee did not go into the details of the matter. If the borough had then proceeded in opposition to the extent of endeavouring to secure the insertion of this Clause, then the whole matter could have been exhaustively discussed by means of counsel for and against, as the rest of the Bill was treated upstairs. That was the position. It is not for me to say whether the board's proposal ought to be accepted or rejected, but I feel bound to say that any such undertaking given by a great public board such as the London Passenger Transport Board is at least as good as a statutory Clause. I can scarcely imagine such a body not fulfilling their undertaking. Moreover, they have the strongest reasons for fulfilling it, for if they did not, they would prejudice all their future dealings with this House. I think it was right that I should put before the House the position as it exists.

9.31 p.m.


I cannot but feel that my hon. Friend the Member for North Kensington (Mr. Duncan) has been rather led into this matter by his colleague, the energetic and enthusiastic Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison). The hon. Member for South Kensington has obviously not read the letter addressed to his own council by the board. Nevertheless, he asked one most important question, as to whether it would be necessary to change platforms and go over a bridge at South Kensington Station. The letter addressed to the council is perfectly clear; it says: Passengers shall be able to continue their journey in the trains proceeding east and west respectively by merely crossing over the platform. That, obviously, means that they have not to go over a bridge. Then the question was raised by one of the hon. Members for Kensington whether the service would be equal to what it now is if the Inner Circle trains were knocked out. This letter, which is a definite undertaking and one which I am glad to hear from the Chairman of the Committee which considered the Bill upstairs is regarded as equally binding upon the board as if it were put in under this new Clause which the hon. Member for South Kensington has so ably moved, definitely says that the service at present 1s 7½ minutes, on Sundays 10 minutes, and that the board would contemplate trying out a service of trains—what are called shuttle trains—at 4½minute intervals; but that, of course, the continuance of such a service at 4½minute intervals would depend on whether the traffic entitled the board to run such a service. Surely that answers the whole of the questions raised by the two hon. Members for Kensington. My hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington is an alderman of the council, and here is the official answer of the council to the board. They say: I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 27th April last. In consideration of the undertaking given by the board to reconstruct South Kensington Station and to maintain a service of trains at least as good as that of the present Inner Circle, this Council has instructed me to withdraw their opposition to Clause 90 (Repeal of provisions as to the continuous working of the Inner Circle) of your Bill.

9.33 p.m.


I said in my speech that the Kensington Borough Council decided by a majority to withdraw their petition prior to the Committee stage of the Bill, the reasons being to a large extent those set out in the memorandum of the board. As my hon. Friend says, I am an alderman of the council, but I had no reason to know that, because, as the hon. Member will see, this report, which was brought up to the council suggesting that the petition should be withdrawn, was a manuscript report brought up immediately before the council meeting and not circulated, as is the practice with our reports. Many members of the council did not know, about it and had no notice of it until the actual meeting of the council.


I am sorry that the hon. Member should criticise the council in this matter. I thought that the Kensington Council conducted their business with a little better respect for public policy than the alderman would give me to understand. Surely when the council replies officially by their town clerk, accepting an undertaking, it is improper for an alderman to come here and say that the town clerk was not authorised to write that official letter.


indicated dissent.


The hon. Member insinuated it.


I said that the resolution was carried by a majority, and the town clerk had to act upon the decision of that majority.


I heard what the hon. Member said, but I do not want to have any dispute or argument. I cannot accept one alderman against the official opinion of the Kensington Council and against an official letter which I hold in my hand. I know that the hon. Member is what we would describe in this House as a great Tory. He believes that the principles which governed the traffic of London in 1879 are good enough for that traffic to-day. Unfortunately, we who live in London and have had to experience that traffic, both in the strike as well as in other times, realise that the traffic in London is impeded by some of those old Acts of Parliament. Some of us who travel on the District Railway realise that to have a service on the Inner Circle travelling over lines where you can get only 40 trains in the hour, is blocking those lines, because other trains cannot get along, for the reason that that service has to be kept up. Surely it is wrong for hon. Members to get up and obstruct a Bill—




Well, to try to get a Clause put in the Bill—let us put it that way—when that Bill has been approved by a Committee of this House. Every undertaking which the Board can give to Kensington has been given. By an old practice of this House an undertaking has been given by the Chairman of the Committee, and that is just as sacred to this House as though it were in a Clause in a Bill. If a definite undertaking is given and is reported to this House, it is just as good as any Clause in a Bill, and to throw an aspersion on an undertaking by suggesting that you cannot accept it is most improper and would throw very grave doubts upon a past procedure of this House which has been so successful. It is a matter of vital importance. The Bill should be passed and passed at once. It is unfortunate that this proposal for an additional Clause has been put down, because I understand that 99 per cent. of the people concerned with the Bill consider that the undertakings given meet fully and completely the desires of the two hon. Members for Kensington. I hope that those hon. Members will not press their demand to have this Clause inserted, but will allow the Bill to go through as reported by the Committee.

9.39 p.m.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR

I support the inclusion of the new Clause proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison). I would say quite clearly that neither I nor my friends who speak in support of its inclusion in any way doubt the good faith of the board's intention to carry out the undertaking which has been given; neither do we suggest that it is not necessary to alter the service which is being given on the Inner Circle Railway. We realise that the traffic in 1879 does not compare with the traffic of to-day, and that it is essential there should be an alteration. There has been an enormous increase in the number of inhabitants and in the development of the Underground, tube and omnibus transport systems, and a large transfer of population to the outer areas of London, and all those factors naturally and rightly necessitate an alteration in the service which was given in 1879. We agree with all that, but that is not the point. The point is that in 1879 there was statutory power that this service should run for the benefit of the public, and that statutory power is now to be taken away. A new service is to be introduced, and an undertaking has been given that it will be at least as good as that which is given at the present time. The board have also said that they hope to be able to improve it. I very much hope that they will. Our point is that the service which is running to-day was run under statutory power and that, as that is being taken away, it is only right and fair that the new service should also be given under statutory power. I cannot see any logical reason for objecting to giving statutory power to this new service.

Speaking as the Member for South Paddington, and especially in the interests of the very important shopping interests in that constituency, I realise that this is a very important matter and that the service rendered by transport, whether on the Inner Circle, the Tube or the omnibuses, should be as easy and as efficient as it is possible to make it. Shops depend to a very great extent for their patronage on the ease and convenience of the transport of the area in which they are placed, and, whenever any alteration is brought about in the ease and convenience of that transport, it directly affects the shopping interests in the locality. We have had a continuous Inner Circle service up to the present time, but now that is to be taken away, and people who have been in the habit of going from the south of the Park to the north and vice versa for shopping purposes, will now have to change trains at South Kensington. That is a definite inconvenience; it is true that it is mitigated by their only having to walk across the platform, but it is nevertheless a real inconvenience. I very much hope that the board will be able to give a better service—that is, a greater number of trains—in the shuttle service that they are to introduce, because that will do away with the possiblity of overcrowding and of straphanging in the trains when people change at South Kensington. Incidentally, it will diminish, by the greater number of trains which will be running, the inconvenience of having to change at South Kensington. In the interests of the very important shopping centre of South Paddington, I hope that the House will accept this new Clause and that the opposition to it will be withdrawn.

9.45 p.m.


In rising to say a word in this Debate, I do not wish in any way to influence the votes of Members of the House one way or the other. It seems to me that the case has been very well put on both sides, but that the real point at issue is not a very great one. It is only whether an agreement should be accepted which has been made upstairs in the ordinary course of Parliamentary business in Committee, or whether a definite Clause, which does not exactly reproduce that agreement, should be put into the Bill by the House at this stage.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR

Has this undertaking, which has been given in Committee upstairs, the force of law?

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

It is perfectly obvious that what the Chairman of the Committee says should be accepted by the House, and an engagement of this kind entered into by the parties upstairs has more, if I may say so, than the force of law, because no great public authority, or, indeed, any party to a Parliamentary discussion upstairs, could make such an agreement and break it without risking for ever their chances of getting anything out of Parliament. I can tell my hon. and gallant Friend from my own experience, which is a very long one, in Committees of both Houses of Parliament, that these engagements are continually made and are invariably accepted in good faith by both parties. I have no suggestion to offer to the House except that it seems to me that the letters which have passed between the vice-chairman of the Transport Board and the town clerk of Kensington are ample proof that the people of Kensington, through their elected representatives, have accepted this agreement.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 40; Noes, 120.

Division No. 297.] AYES. [9.48 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Elmley, Viscount Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Pickering, Ernest H.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Rickards, George William
Aske, Sir Robert William Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Robinson, John Roland
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.) Gritten, W. G. Howard Ross, Ronald D.
Bernays, Robert Harbord, Arthur Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Boulton, W. W. Harris, Sir Percy Strickland, Captain W. F.
Bracken, Brendan Hellgers, Captain F F. A. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Broadbent, Colonel John Jamieson, Douglas White, Henry Graham
Buchanan, George Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard McKeag, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Curry, A. C. Magnay, Thomas Mr. James Duncan and Vice-
Davison, Sir William Henry Maxton, James Admiral Taylor.
Dickle, John P. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Conant, R. J. E. Elliston, Captain George Sampson
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Craven-Ellis, William Emmott, Charles E. G. C.
Batey, Joseph Croom-Johnson, R. P. Essenhigh, Reginald Clare
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Crossley, A. C. Foot, Dingle (Dundee)
Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn) Daggar, George Fremantle, Sir Francis
Blindell, James Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Gardner, Benjamin Walter
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Gillett, Sir George Masterman
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Graves, Marjorie
Burnett, John George Davies, Stephen Owen Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur
Castlereagh, Viscount Dobbie, William Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Duckworth, George A. V. Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)
Clarry, Reginald George Edmondson, Major Sir James Grimston, R. V.
Clayton, Sir Christopher Edwards, Charles Guy, J. C. Morrison
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Hanbury, Cecil
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Munro, Patrick Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Nation, Brigadler-General J. J. H. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Holdsworth, Herbert Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid Stevenson, James
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) O'Donovan, Dr. William James Stones, James
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Owen, Major Goronwy Storey, Samuel
Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Pearson, William G. Strauss, Edward A.
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Procter, Major Henry Adam Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
John, William Radford, E. A. Tinker, John Joseph
Ker, J. Campbell Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Kirkwood, David Rankin, Robert Wallace, John (Dunfermilne)
Lawson, John James Ray, Sir William Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Leech, Dr. J. W. Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Liddall, Walter S. Reid, William Allan (Derby) Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Lindsay, Noel Ker Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Llewellin, Major John J. Runge, Norah Cecil West, F. R.
Logan, David Gilbert Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Whyte, Jardine Bell
MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
McEntee, Valentine L. Salt, Edward W. Wills, Wilfrid D.
McLean, Major Sir Alan Selley, Harry R. Womersley, Sir Walter
Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Mainwaring, William Henry Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Worthington, Dr. John V.
Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Shute, Colonel J. J.
Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam) Mr. Edward Grenfell and Sir George
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor) Hamilton.
Milne, Charles Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)

Question put, and agreed to.