§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, with a view to enabling effect to be given to an agreement made on the twentieth day of June nineteen hundred and thirty-five, between the Treasury, the London Passenger Transport Board, the Great Western Railway Company, and the London and North Eastern Railway Company, a copy of the terms whereof was laid before this House on the eigthteenth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, it is expedient—
§ 11.14 a.m.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
A fortnight ago I was able to disclose to the House the fact that, after a prolonged period of negotiation, the Government had been able to make arrangements with the Standing Joint Committee of the London Passenger Transport Board and the main line railways for a very considerable extension and improvement of transport in London. That announcement was received, I think, with widespread satisfaction, and since then the arrangements to which we had come have been given formal shape in an agreement which was entered into between the Treasury, on the one hand, and the Transport Board, the Great Western Railway and the London and North Eastern Railway, on the other hand. That Agreement was initialled by the parties on the 712 18th of this month and it was signed yesterday. Notice of the Financial Resolution referring to the initialled Agreement was given on the 19th June, and this morning the Resolution which refers to the signed Agreement appears on the Order Paper. The terms of the Agreement were laid before the House in the shape of a White Paper, Command Paper 4929, on the 18th June. There will also be a copy of the Agreement scheduled to the Bill.
The Financial Resolution which I have to move authorises the introduction of the necessary Bill. The Bill itself is a short one. It will only contain two operative Clauses, the first of which will authorise the Treasury to guarantee the payment of the principal and interest on securities to be issued by the company to be formed by the Treasury which company is to issue securities to raise an amount not exceeding £40,000,000. The same Clause gives authority for the authorisation of payment out of the Consolidated Fund of any sums required for fulfilling the Treasury guarantees and also for the receipt by the Exchequer of any money received by the Treasury by way of repayment. That Clause will be in accordance with precedents in the shape of previous legislation.
The second Clause will be one to exempt from Stamp Duty the Agreement and certain of the subsidiary agreements which will be entered into in accordance with paragraph 2 (b) of the Agreement. The reason for that is that we are introducing a special form of machinery in the formation of this company, which will borrow the money which is to be guaranteed by the Treasury and will in turn lend to the transport undertakers. There will, therefore, be two transactions, first, the issue of the securities by the Company and, secondly, the issue of securities by the undertakers as collateral security for the money which they borrow from the Company. That is simply for convenience and it would be unreasonable to ask the transport undertakings to pay stamp duty twice over. Accordingly, the second Clause of the Bill will exempt them from the payment of duty upon the Agreement itself and upon the subsidiary agreements. But that does not mean that the securities to be issued by the new Company will not pay the ordinary loan capital duty amounting to 2s. 6d. per £100. At the 713 end of the guaranteed term capital duty at the rate of 6d. per £100 will also be payable by the transport undertakings on the issue of stock in conversion of the original securities. So much for the Bill to be introduced by the Government.
The transport undertakings themselves will also require to introduce legislation. They will want additional statutory powers in order to enable them to give effect to the scheme. The London Passenger Transport Board already has a Private Bill before Parliament which covers extensive schemes of work, but that is not sufficient. They have statutory power to do sundry work and they are seeking to obtain from Parliament further powers to do more, but they have not the necessary financial powers. The new Bill which they will promote will deal with financial matters and will enable the Board to utilise under the provision of the agreement outlined in the White Paper other work which Parliament has already authorised or which it will shortly authorise.
If that Private Bill of the London Passenger Transport Board were to follow the procedure which is laid down in the Standing Orders for late Private Bills it would be impossible to get it through all its stages before Parliament rises. The Committee will probably agree that it is exceedingly desirable that this work should be expedited as much as possible, and that it should be begun at the earliest possible date, and that the benefits which are expected to flow from it should be made available as soon as possible. For that purpose we are proposing that the Standing Orders should be modified in such a way as to allow some of those formalities to be dispensed with and some of the stages of procedure on this late Private Bill to be shortened. A Motion therefore has been put down on the Order Paper for Monday next which will have that object. Although the effect of the Motion will be to shorten some of the intervals between the stages of the Bill, there is one important matter with which we are not going to interfere, and that is the time within which petitions against the Bill may be presented. As in the case of all Bills, petitioners will have ten clear days after the First Reading of the Bill within which to deposit 714 their petitions against the Bill. That will be in accordance with Standing Order 129.
The Procedure Motion which is already on the Order Paper follows very strictly previous precedents. There are altogther eight paragraphs in it. The first four paragraphs are very close to the provisions of the Standing Order which regulates the annual Money Bill of the London County Council, Standing Order, 206. The remaining paragraphs, the last four, correspond to the provisions in the Sessional Order of 1929, moved by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, who was at that time Lord Privy Seal, which were designed to expedite the proceedings on Private Bills of that Session which contained provisions regarding works the execution of which were expected to contribute substantially to the relief of unemployment. Therefore, in this Procedure Motion we shall be following very closely precedents which have already been approved by the House.
The programme of works under the Agreement comprises three major schemes of development on the underground and suburban railway systems in the London Passenger Transport area, dealing particularly with the North East and the North London sectors. It also provides for the substitution of trolley buses for trams in various parts of London, a much needed improvement, the reconstruction of tube stations at King's Cross, the Post Office and certain other stations in the central area, the enlargement and improvement of the power stations of the London Passenger Transport Board and other ancillary works. If hon. Members will look at the First Schedule of the agreement in the White Paper they will see there a detailed description of the works, which have been estimated to cost somewhere about £235,000,000. The Second Schedule gives the proportions into which it is estimated the borrowing should be divided between the London Passenger Transport Board, 70 per cent., the Great Western Railway, 5 per cent. and the London and North Eastern Railway Company the remaining 25 per cent.
Now I come to the Agreement itself. It is a long, complicated and rather technical document, containing 21 Clauses. It is in print and hon. Members have had an opportunity of reading it. They will perhaps feel that it would not 715 be necessary or desirable that I should go through every detail of every Clause in a description of them, because that would be not only tedious but unnecessary, as some of the Clauses are clear enough. At the same time I feel that I ought not to omit to make some comment on the more important provision of the Agreement and, therefore, I propose, at no great length, to give the Committee a summary of the provisions of the Agreement. Clause 1 provides that the transport undertakers shall apply to Parliament as soon as possible for the necessary additional statutory powers, and when they have got these powers they are to execute the works as soon as possible. In any case they are bound to complete them within a period of five years from September, 1935, or within such a period as a Minister of Transport may allow. In Clause 2 the Treasury undertake to submit to Parliament a Bill to which I have already alluded, and it will be seen that the Bill is to guarantee the payment of the principle of a loan not exceeding £40,000,000. Possibly some hon. Members may wonder why £40,000,000 is mentioned in the agreement whereas the estimated cost of the works is only £35,000,000.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
There is something more in it than that. In a later Clause there is power to charge to capital all interest upon borrowings during the years of construction. When there is no return coming in from the money expended the interest cannot be found from the works themselves and, therefore, we have to allow the interest during these years to be added to the capital sum. That will require something over £35,000,000, and there are incidental expenses which can only be charged to capital account. But £40,000,000 is an outside sum and is intended to allow a margin which I do not think will be exceeded. Then we come to Clause 3 which deals with the machinery by which this transaction is to be carried through. As I have said, a company is to be formed by the Treasury with a nominal share capital and it is this company which will raise and lend to the transport undertakers a sum not exceeding £40,000,000. The determination of the 716 time when the money is to be raised by the company is to be in the hands of the Treasury. The guaranteed loans are to mature for repayment at par at a date to be fixed by the Treasury, and that date is to be not less than 15 years and not more than 25 years from the date of the issue thereof. The loan, therefore, will be a comparatively short term loan. The prospectus will contain a provision which gives the company the option to redeem the whole or any part of the securities at a date prior to final maturity if they think fit, and, of course, before doing that they must give notice to the holders of the securities. Clause 4 provides for the borrowing of the sums by the respective transport undertakers in the agreed proportions given in the Second Schedule, which, however, may be varied with the approval of the Treasury and by agreement among the transport undertakers themselves.
The next two clauses, Clauses 5 and 6, provide for the payment of interest by the transport undertakers at the same rate as that of the guaranteed loan and also the date when the loans become repayable. I need not trouble the Committee with any comments on Clause 7, but Clause 8 requires the transport undertakers to pay to the company such sums as will enable the company to discharge the interest payable by the company to the holders of the guaranteed securities. The company is to be at liberty to deduct any sum payable under this clause from the unborrowed proceeds of its securities and may either recover it from the transport undertaker by whom it is payable or treat such sum as money borrowed by the transport undertaker.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I cannot say; that will have to be fixed by consultation between the Treasury and the undertakers. But the rate of interest will be the lowest which will secure the raising of the money.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
It is impossible to say what the terms will be, but as it is stated in the Clause the loan:shall be issued at such price and carry interest at such rate as may be approved by 717 the Treasury and the transport, undertakers and shall otherwise be issued upon such terms as the company and the Treasury may agree after consultation with the transport undertakers.It is not laid down the agreement, that has to be settled.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
What I want to know is whether it is contemplated that the whole £40,000,000 shall be repaid in the 15 years or the 25 years. If it is, of course, the sinking fund will be fairly heavy.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The £40,000,000 will have to be repaid in 15 or 25 years, but it does not follow that there will be a sinking fund. That is not mentioned. Clause 9 is not important. Clause 10 provides that the undertakers are to pay all the costs of the formation, administration and winding-up of the company, and of the issue or underwriting, if any, and management of the securities. Clause 11 deals with the arrangements for repayment of the loan at maturity. Clause 12 is an important provision. It sets out at some length the various powers which are to be obtained by the Board in the Bill which will be presented to Parliament. These powers include borrowing powers, a provision that interest payable to the Board and to the companies on each borrowing shall be charged upon and payable out of the revenues of the Board as to one-third thereof pari, passu with the interest on all London Transport A stock and one-third on the B stock and one-third in priority on the C Stock. It will also enable interest during the construction period to be charged to capital account.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The works must be completed within a period of five years from the 30th September, 1935.
§ Mr. WILMOT
The work will be commenced straightaway and will be completed from time to time as it develops. Is the interest on the whole sum to be capitalised until the last work has been finished?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
On each work. Money would be borrowed for the works as it is wanted, for specific work, and when these works are completed the interest will be added to capital in respect of those works. Paragraph (d) provides that, the sum payable by the Board under Clause 8 of the Agreement may be treated as interest on advances made by the Board. Paragraph (e) is an interesting proposal to enable the Board to charge to an interest reserve or suspense account during the 10 years that the powers are used, not exceeding one-half of the interest payable on borrowing. The sum so charged is to be amortized during the currency of the loan—meantime to be paid out of the loan, or otherwise as the Board may think fit. It is just necessary to explain that this last provision is not inconsistent with provision (c), which is the one dealing with the interest added to capital during the years of construction. Of course these are merely enabling provisions, both of them. I may put it in this way: The Board may, but need not, borrow all the capital required to defray the interest during the construction. It may, but need not, borrow half the capital required to pay interest from the period to the end of construction, to a date 10 years from the date of obtaining powers, but the borrowings for this loan purpose are not to be added to capital after the years of amortization. Any borrowing during the subsequent period must be repaid out of revenue. It is not very easy to follow I admit.
§ Mr. THORNE
Is the repayment of interest and capital ranging between 15 and 25 years, fundamental? Will it be possible to extend the period when the principal and capital must be repaid?
§ Mr. DUNCAN
Is it not a fact, in the case of these works, such as the conversion of trams to trolley buses, that trolley buses have a very short life, and that this 15 to 25 years is an average period which in the main is fair and reasonable?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
It is a period which commends itself to the undertakers, and I do not think there is any reason why I should object if it seems satisfactory to them. Clause 13 deals with the additional work powers that are required by the Transport Board, and Clause 14 deals with the statutory powers 719 which will be required by the railway companies. There again we have a series of paragraphs setting out the various items in the Bill which the railways will have to promote. Then there is the creation of 4 per cent. debenture stock for the nominal amount of the sums which the railways will borrow from the company. Paragraph (c) relates to the ordinary borrowing powers; (d) provides for the redemption of the stock issued as collateral security; (e) is power to acquire lands; (f) to charge interest on capital during construction as in the case of the London Passenger Transport Board; (g) applies to stamp duty on the Debenture Stock issued as collateral security; (h) is the power of the London and North Eastern Railway during the period of five years from the date on which certain works are brought into operation to charge to suspense account the cost of rolling stock displaced and not utilized and providing that the sums so charged to suspense are to be met in full during that period of five years by an equal annual charge against revenue, and in the meantime also to be met by borrowing as may otherwise be determined.
The next three clauses, 15, 16 and 17, provide for the contingency that Parliament may refuse some of the fundamental statutory provisions which are necessary to enable the companies to carry out the scheme. Of course if that were to take place the undertakings must be released from their obligation to borrow the corresponding sums of money from the company. If hon. Members will look again at the first Schedule, Part 1, they will see there that there are two groups of schemes, each group containing three items, and the reason why they are grouped is that these items are interdependent. It would be no use to construct an extension of the Central London Railway mentioned in the Second paragraph unless the corresponding electrification mentioned in the first paragraph were carried through. It means, therefore, that this Clause provides that the Board shall not be called upon to carry out one part of the group if it is refused permission by Parliament to carry out the whole of the work comprised in that group. I think it will be agreed that that is not an unreasonable provision.
720 Clause 18 deals with the collateral security which is to be created by the Board as required by the company with the consent of the Treasury, and that is to consist of London Transport A., B. and C. stock in equal proportions of the nominal amount of borrowings outstanding. A. stock is to carry 5 per cent. or 4½ per cent. interest, and B. stock 5 per cent. interest; but both these rates of interest may be varied prior to the creation of the stock. Provision is being made to enable the Board to keep unexercised borrowing powers so that this Clause may be implemented. In paragraph (2) of the same Clause of the agreement similar provision is made with regard to the collateral security for advances, in the form of 4 per cent. stock to be created by the Great Western and North Eastern companies.
Clause 19 is one which, I am sure, will be studied with interest by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. It begins by saying that all plant, etc., is to be of United Kingdom origin and manufacture, and that, other things being equal, special consideration is to be given to firms in the special areas. (B) provides for the fair wages Clause. (C) provides that in cases where the work carried out by the transport undertaking is done by direct labour the wages are to be the same as those in force in their service. (D) provides that all additional labour required for the works is to be selected from workpeople submitted by the employment exchange, with, of course, the provision that transport undertakers are to be entitled to make their own arrangements if the exchange is unable to submit suitable people, and the undertakers may employ certain specialised workers for tunnelling and other works of that character. I hope that it will be possible for the employment exchanges to submit the names of persons who are now in the special areas, and that it will be possible to find employment for some of these people on this work.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
No obviously there cannot be. It would be impossible to make such an obligation but there is an obligation to select from suitable people submitted by the employment 721 exchanges and I have no reason to suppose that the undertakers will make any objection to taking suitable people from the special areas. Of course we must have regard to all the conditions.
§ Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
I understand that from the areas in which the construction is going on, there will be taken men to do this work if possible.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I did not say "if possible." Regard, of course, will be had by the employment exchanges to the number of people available to do the work in the area where the work is being carried out, and I should hope that in a great series of works like this it will be possible to employ people from other areas as well, and that the special areas will have consideration.
§ Mr. GEORGE GRIFFITHS
I am interested in a semi-special area where there has been starvation as far as some of our miners are concerned. Will the semi-special areas get their quota as well as the special areas?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I think that may safely be entrusted to the employment exchanges. The Ministry of Labour is very well acquainted with the conditions of labour all over the country. Of course the case of a man who has been unemployed for a long time and has no chance of getting work is just as hard, whether he happens to be in a special area or in what the hon. Member has described as a semi-special area. On the other hand, there is a particular concentration of such people in the special areas, and that is why I always desire to give them particular care and attention. Clause 21, the last Clause, is that under which the undertakers enter into the necessary arrangements with the company as specified in the agreement.
I have, briefly, but I hope with a certain amount of clarity, gone through a number of these Clauses. When it is considered what a complex subject this is, and that it was necessary to make agreements with a number of parties, whose interests are not all by any means identical, I think agreement has been reached with speed and smoothness. I should like to pay a tribute to Lord Ashfield and his colleagues for the spirit of co-operation in which they have approached these negotiations. It was 722 perfectly clear to us throughout that they were not merely actuated by a desire to consider the interests of their stockholders and shareholders, although, of course, they had their responsibilities there, but that they did feel that they had a duty to the whole public whom they serve, and, indeed, to all the country in this matter, and that they were extremely anxious to make an agreement as soon as possible which would be fair to all.
As far as the Government are concerned, we have attached a great deal of importance to the scheme. We felt that it was one which would bring a great deal of relief, which would put a stop to the great inconvenience now felt by many people who have to travel in these parts of London. We felt that it was likely, if carried through, to lead to the rapid development of the districts which it would serve. Lastly, we could not, of course, but be aware that this huge programme must mean the placing of very large orders, not merely in London but with firms all over the country and in the provisions which we have made for special preference to be given to firms in the special areas, other things being equal, we hope it may afford some relief to these very hardly pressed and sorely distressed districts. The fact that we have been able to bring to a satisfactory conclusion the arrangements for this great enterprise, affords another illustration of the benefits of the Government's policy of cheap money. It could not have been done without that. It also may be taken as a further illustration of what is our idea of the right policy to persue in regard to public works.
Sometimes, because I have said that it was extremely difficult to find public work which would conform to what I thought were the necessary conditions of assistance by the Government, it has been suggested that I was against all kinds of public works. That is a very unfair construction to put upon anything I may have said. I have indeed repeatedly stated that there were public works of a certain character and that there were conditions in which I thought the stimulation of such works by the Government could properly and usefully be undertaken and that it was part of the policy of His Majesty's Government to take such opportunities when they could find them. But I say again that it will not be 723 possible to find opportunities of this kind every week. There are not schemes of this sort growing on gooseberry bushes. One can find them from time to time and generally they take a long while to mature, to study and to bring to a conclusion. But here is an example which shows that the Government have not been blind to the possibilities of utilising the high level at which Government credit now stands. I believe that the present scheme will go far to justify the policy which we have pursued and indicate the kind of schemes which, in the opinion of the Government, are proper subjects for Government assistance, and I hope, herald from time to time the initiation of other schemes of the same character and equally valuable for industry and for employment.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I should like, first of all, to say that on the question of expediting procedure on any private Bill legislation connected with these schemes, so far as we are concerned, we may want to offer some observations on the proposal when it comes up on Monday, but we shall most certainly support it, so far as we understand it at the present moment. I think one of these days the House of Commons will consider private Bill legislation reform. I remember that when the late Labour Government were in office we had to do something of the same character when we were wishing to deal with similar schemes for public works. I should like to say, with regard to the last part of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that I am not so sure that he is on very safe ground, as I think I can show later, when he defends this proposal from the point of view of the Government having secured an abundance of cheap money. We used to be told that, when there was cheap money and when there were profitable investments, the best thing for the Government to do was to leave everything alone, because if there were such investments, private enterprise would take them up. In this case private enterprise has not been able to do the job.
I would like to congratulate the Chancellor on his statement. It was a difficult subject for anyone to deal with, and I think that of all the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, in a case of 724 this kind the Chancellor is usually the clearest. I have said that before, and I repeat it now. I think he has done the best that could be done, and, speaking as a novice, quite inexperienced in these matters, I think I understand little better than when I read the memorandum what it really amounts to. I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman from another point of view. His name is Chamberlain, and I think it is in the natural order of things that, on the failure of private enterprise to provide good transport for the citizens of London, a Chamberlain should bring in a Measure of this kind. I remember that his father, when he could not get a decent supply of gas and water and good housing conditions for the citizens of Birmingham, threw all theories to the wind and embarked on municipal Socialism, an example that has been followed all over the country. It is also in the natural order of things that his son, who founded or was instrumental in founding the first municipal bank in this country, in Birmingham, and who, I am sure, is proud of it, should be bringing forward a Measure of this kind.
I think too that he was a little ungracious, when he was paying his tribute to Lord Ashfield, in not remembering that the man most responsible for the initiation of the London Passenger Transport Board was Mr. Herbert Morrison. Without that Transport Board this scheme would be absolutely impossible, and I would remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are cheerfully going into the Lobby—though they will not be needed to do that., because we are going to support this, but if we did divide, they would cheerfully go into the Lobby—with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in support of these schemes, which are only possible because of the London Passenger Transport Board. It is true that this Parliament finally passed it, after amending the proposal in ways of which we disapproved, but it was the Morrison scheme that has made this possible.
I was thinking to-day that we learn very little in the art of Parliamentary Government, any of us. Years ago there was a picture in "Punch" of Disraeli stealing the clothes of the Whigs when he brought in household suffrage in the towns. I think the right hon. Gentleman and his Government are stealing a little 725 of the thunder or of the various schemes of the late Labour Government, and defending them as right and proper. I hope one day they will have the courage, or that the right hon. Gentleman who is now Lord President of the Council, if he still remains with them, will have the courage to come out solidly as a real, good, straightforward Socialist and give us some real, good, straightforward Socialist legislation, because after all this is only the sort of legislation that the Labour Government, dependent on the support of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was here just now, brought in. But the present Government have a first-class majority, and that brings me to this point.
The right hon. Gentleman said that you could not find schemes like these on gooseberry bushes. Certainly you cannot but there are plenty of similar schemes needed all over the country, and many more needed in London, and I should like to say in that connection that this Bill is necessary. I am not claiming this as pure and simple Socialism, but as a form of municipal and national effort to deal with situations where private enterprise entirely fails to give the nation or the locality the services it needs. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen argue with us on that principle, and I want to point out that the railway companies, granted a great monopoly many years ago, have utterly failed to carry out the implications and the obligations imposed upon them by Parliament when those monopolies were granted. In the result the Government are obliged to come to Parliament and ask us to guarantee a huge sum of money, £40,000,000, to deal with the situation not entirely but only partially.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman or whoever replies whether he will tell us a little more about the company that is to be formed, who are to be the directors of the company, how it is to be manned, in fact. I am not sure—I have inquired from my friends—that we have had a company under the control of the Treasury in this particular manner. I think it is a novel procedure. I am not saying that I think it ought not to be done. I understand that if you raise the money in this way, you must have somebody or some corporation to raise it. I should like to ask frankly 726 why it is necessary to have this company. Why is it not possible for the Treasury in its ordinary day by day work to do what the Goschen Committee did when it advanced money to local authorities on the mortgage of the rates? Why is it necessary to have what seems to me rather cumbersome machinery for dealing with the matter? I should like further to ask about the length of time for repayment. It would seem that the shorter the period the less will be payable in interest on the loan, and fares will depend very largely on the sort of overhead charges that will be imposed. The hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) will agree that the question of fares is very important to the district he represents, and also to the Loughton line represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill).
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Yes, of course, the hon. Member's district is affected too. It is important that we should not pile up a big loan with yearly repayments which will necessitate big fares.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
As I undestand the scheme, the companies and the Transport Board will raise other stock in order to repay this £40,000,000.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN indicated assent.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
But that may not happen if people do not put the money up when the guarantee is withdrawn. When the railway companies cannot get the money at this moment without the Government's guarantee, we are not at all sure that they will be able to get it from the public without the guarantee at the end of 25 years. The stock will either be taken up year by year by the transport concerns, or it will be raised in a lump sum at the end. All that is very uncertain. If it were certain, I think that the money could be raised now without the Government guarantee. It is because of the uncertainty that it is not raised.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
These works cannot, of course, earn any money as long as they are being constructed. They will not begin to earn money until they 727 are completed. Although it might not be possible to raise the money in present circumstances, a different complexion will be put on the matter when they are actually at work and earning income.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am aware of that fact. An extra £5,000,000 is being raised to pay the interest over the period of construction of the works. It will, however, depend upon the fares charged and the number of passengers carried whether the results will be such as to entice people to put up the money which they are not willing to put up now. It is here that the question of fares comes in, and it makes me ask whether it would not be possible to consider the extension of the period rather than to fix it now in the way proposed.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to consider the question of fares. When I travelled as a workman on the old Great Eastern Railway I could go 20 miles a day by travelling before 8 o'clock and after 5 on five days a week, and after 12 on Saturdays, for 2d. a day. We thought that the improvements that have been made would cheapen travel, but travel has not cheapened at all for the workmen. Whereas I used to travel for 2d. a day it now costs 6d., 9d. and so on. I am trying to safeguard the possibility, at least during the workmen's hours, of obtaining cheaper fares than are possible under present conditions. This is the opportunity for going back to where the Great Eastern Railway was before the War. When they opened out to Waltham-stow, Chingford, Enfield and Ilford there was a stipulation in the Bill giving them power that the fares should be so and so. During the War these were wiped out, and we have never got back to them. An extraordinary variation of fares exists. For instance if I rode home from here, on the District Railway going through to Plaistow and East Ham, it would cost me 10d. a day. If I rode on the workman's train it would cost me 6d. From Liverpool Street to Enfield it was 2d. a day before the War. It is an amazing difference in cost.
Some Members will be satisfied with what the Government are proposing in regard to the London and North Eastern Railway and the District Railway to the East End, but those who represent the 728 East End and the surrounding districts that I represent cannot be satisfied. I want the right hon. Gentleman when he says that these schemes do not grow on bushes to remember that they do grow out of people's necessities. Now and then I risk my life and limb on the District Railway to Bow. If I go up fairly early in the morning I have to stand, unless people are kind and let me sit down. When I go home fairly early in the evening or late at night, I can also stand unless someone gives me a seat. That is not good enough. My hon. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne) and I raised this question in the House years ago. The hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Sir. R. Glyn) will recollect that he, in the name of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, promised to go into the question of what should be done. I think that that was somewhere round about 1924, but nothing has been done. The pressure in the trains on the District line through to East Ham is really disgusting, disgraceful, and dangerous. It is disgusting to see boys and girls and men and women squashed up just like a bundle of faggots in those carriages. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not pursue his investigations. We have the cheap money available—any amount of it—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Certainly, just now, and it will not disappear unless you use it. The right hon. Gentleman's argument is that, if you use it, it sets trade going, that if only you use it in a profitable way it is fine. He told us so this morning. I am pointing out that in my part of London—not only the district which I represent, but the whole of East London—this business of overcrowding needs to be dealt with, and we also want the question of fares dealt with. We do not consider it right that people should pay these very big sums in fares, plus very heavy rents, to live just outside London. I believe it was one of the leading men of the Transport Board who said publicly—he was not a Socialist, he said, but a good strong capitalist, one who has made lots of money, one of the really clever men at this business—that he could not understand why we should charge people for travelling when we did not charge them for walking on the roads. 729 In the old days we did do that, but when we are wiser we shall deal with this problem of transport on altogether different principles.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman, if he would, to take the Minister of Transport with him one night between six and eight on the District line from Westminster to East Ham, and enjoy the pleasure of a trip packed tightly together with the rest of the people. Then he will understand the problem. In Part III of the Schedule there are proposals for improvements of junctions at Aldgate and the reconstruction of Aldgate East station. We shall be very glad to have an elegant station there, and the sort of amenities that you get at Piccadilly. That is all right. But it will not solve the problem of transport. There is one huge district in the East End that is untouched. If anyone will get a map of Bow and Bromley, they will see that it is bisected, dissected, twisted and turned by canals, rivers, backwaters and railways, and yet we have not a convenient railway in the district. There is not one of them that is worth anything at all. They are an absolute disgrace to these days.
The hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon made a delightful speech one night in answer to myself and my hon. Friend. He did not defend the old North London Railway, which runs through a kind of sewer from Poplar to Broad Street. He said that they were going to go into it. They have electrified it out to the new parts of London, but the old part of London on which their prosperity was founded they have left with the same old cattle-trucks that we had years and years ago. I travelled in them as a boy to my first job at Hackney, and there they are. The right hon. Gentleman says he is willing to consider a really sound scheme. There is one for him—improve the North London Railway off the face of the earth, and put down a decent line. It will pay. Then there is the whole of the South Poplar area. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for South Poplar (Mr. D. Adams) is not able to be here at the moment. From Commercial Road right down to Canning Town there is no blessed old railway, or cursed old railway, at all. South Poplar has one station, and that is on this wretched North London line.
730 We can laugh about this, and it is good that we should laugh occasionally; life is serious enough; but I would like the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of Transport to take a journey by the Metropolitan Railway, say from Paddington to Aldgate on the way to Poplar, and then, on a wet night, stand outside Aldgate West waiting for an omnibus, and see the people there, with the rain coming down and in the bitter cold, waiting, after a long day's work, to get on a wretched omnibus and travel slowly home. You cannot go quickly, because of the Belisha beacons and so on. I agree with them, but it takes them a long time to get home, and their lives are nothing but work, travel, sleep, and then travel, work and sleep. Really, it is a disgrace to us all, and it is a particular disgrace now that the right hon. Gentleman has the money. The Labour Government talked about all these things, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, but we were "chucked out" because we tried to do them. The great charge against us was that we brought forward schemes and were pledging the nation's credit in order to dig holes and fill them up again and so on. Now that the right hon. Gentleman is clothed in a Socialistic mantle, I want him to carry this still further, and give us a really good railway under the Commercial Road down into Canning Town, to link up with Barking, or somewhere near Barking. That is not an impossible proposition, and indeed there is nothing impracticable about it. You have an enormous population there practically unserved—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I should also like to say that I proposed to one of the Conservative Ministers of Labour, I forget who it was, that, when we were building the arterial road down to Southend—there are really two, the one the old road, and the other the new one crossing the Chelmsford Road—I suggested that we should run alongside that road a good light railway, as would have been done in Belgium. We could then have taken our dockers in and out as they do from Antwerp and other towns in Belgium. But that was too sane a proposition at that day. We had not become educated as much as we have at the present moment. The point I am putting is that 731 there is there an enormous population crowded together without any means of proper transport. I should like the Minister of Transport to put in the Library a drawing showing the East End of London and the sort of travelling facilities for the people there. Then I am sure the House would say to him "Look here, get down to this job right away. It is not on a rose tree or a bush of any kind, but it is something that concerns the lives of the people."
We shall have something more to say in reference to the financial and other provisions of this scheme when the Bill comes before us, but there is one point I would mention now. I would express the appreciation of myself and my friends to the right hon. Gentleman for having taken care to provide that the conditions of the Fair Wages Clause are to apply. I hope that in the transference of labour from other districts we shall have regard to the conditions at the particular place where the people are to be employed. We do not want to do good in one place by creating evil in another, though at the same time we want as far as possible to help the people in the distressed areas. It may be said that this is a scheme which will expand employment. In some respects it ought to give increased employment on the railways, but it may still be true that certain officials and workmen will become redundant in a particular place, and there is not always a desire to take them on elsewhere or to make other provision for them. We made provision for such contingencies, when certain undertakings were to be closed down, in connection with the work of the Central Electricity Board and the Transport Board, and I should like to secure a similar provision in this case. As this agreement is signed, it could not be put in there, but paragraph (d) of the Resolution—To make certain provisions ancillary to the matters aforesaid"—might provide the opportunity for securing that compensation shall be paid to displaced officers or workmen. That is all I have to say on the subject at this juncture, but I repeat that I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not cease in his Socialistic well-doing, and that if, as I expect will be the case, he, personally is not able to give attention to the 732 provision of further travelling facilities for East London, the Minister of Transport will take it in hand. I should like to see the question of passenger transport in the Metropolitan area considered as a whole and not, as now, in this patchwork fashion. It will be a great help to have the relief on the Loughton line and on the line to Shenfield, but in all parts of East London and South-East London there is a growing need for a great development of the existing transport facilities.
§ 12.30 p.m.
Mr. JOHN RUTHERFORD
I should like to welcome the great scheme which is now before the Committee, which at any rate makes a start upon the great problems of transport in the London area, problems which are of comparatively recent growth and the solution of which will do something to assist the housing problem. But I must say that my joy on first reading about this scheme was somewhat damped when I looked at the first Schedule to the Agreement, setting out the scheme of works. I saw no mention whatever of one very large district in the North of London; no mention is made of the line from Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, a line which serves literally hundreds of thousands of people most of whom—that is, of those engaged in work—travel daily to London. It is the line serving the great and crowded districts of Hackney, Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield, already to a great extent built-up areas and comparatively densely populated by people who have to come up to London to work. For a long time it was urged that the extension of the tube beyond Finsbury Park ought to go through Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield, but for some entirely unknown reason it was taken to Cockfosters instead. I understand, and I am very glad to hear it if it is so, that it is making a great loss at the present time. It certainly serves the constructors of the tube right, because there were practically no houses at Cockfosters and at several other places in the district when they built the tube, and had they taken it where it was suggested it should be taken, through Tottenham and Edmonton and Enfield, it would be a very paying proposition by now. But the competition of the London and North Eastern Railway line from Liverpool Street to Enfield Town had, I suppose, something to do 733 with the decision not to take the tube that way. Now, when there is the possibility of borrowing large sums under Government guarantee, the districts I have named surely ought to have been among the very first to be included in this Scheme.
I join with the Leader of the Opposition in inviting the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Transport to go to Liverpool Street in the morning when the people are coming up to work. Let them go to Liverpool Street at 9 in the morning and again at 6 in the evening, and I believe they will see far worse sights than anything which the right hon. Gentleman could show them on the Bow and Bromley line; at any rate, such seats as are in the underground are comparatively comfortable. Anybody who has travelled in what are the more or less cattle trucks which still go by the name of third-class carriages on the London and North Eastern Railway from Liverpool Street to Enfield will agree that the hardship is considerable.
I admit that the line to Romford, which I believe is being served by a new tube, has difficulties which may be greater than our own. When I look at the schedules in the agreement and see such things as the construction and electrification of two additional tracks to the Great Western Railway from North Acton to Ruislip, I feel that first things should come first, and not such things as the lengthening of platforms, which cannot yet be very vital, improvements of junctions at Aldgate, rebuilding of Baker Street Station and improvements on the Bakerloo Railway, including resignalling. All such matters could well be done after the electrification and improvement of the line to which I have referred, and which is serving vast centres of population.
I cannot propose that more money should be spent, but were the Chancellor to add up what it is proposed to spend upon things which are not immediately necessary he would find that the cost of electrification and improvement of the Enfield Town line would be very much less. My own constituents are particularly the sufferers under the scheme, because they live at the end of 734 this beastly line to Enfield Town. The terminus is Enfield Town, and there are three stations, Bush Hill Park, Lower Edmonton and Silver Street. My constituents who have to come to London—I am glad to say that there are a great many more than there were before this Government came into office—have a particularly miserable time. I have received many letters complaining in strong language, which I shall not repeat, that the journey of 11 miles takes anything from 36 minutes, as compared with the journey of 24½ miles from Billericay in 42 minutes, from Wimbledon in 16 minutes and 30 or 40 miles from Luton in 37 minutes. I do not complain only of the time taken on the journey, but of the disgraceful conditions and the out-of-date roads, as well as the overcrowding of the trains during rush hours.
There should be a reorganisation of this line to make it speedier. There is no doubt that electrification would make travelling more pleasant and would reduce the time of the journey, since steam trains require longer time in which to start up after each of the many stops on the way. There should be an improvement in the rolling stock, and that also would help the travellers on this line. Although I stress the necessity of something being done, I welcome the proposal of the Government. I hope it is only a start and that the Government and the new company which is to be formed will pay attention to the proviso to Clause 1 of the Agreement, which states:Provided that if the Transport Undertakers shall hereafter satisfy the Minister of Transport that it is desirable that any of the works comprised in the said scheme should be varied or that additional works should be added to the said scheme the First Schedule hereto shall be deemed to be amended to the extent to which the said Minister shall certify that he is so satisfied and shall have effect accordingly.I hope that the Minister of Transport will use his influence with those concerned and will see that something is done at long last about the line to which I have devoted my remarks and which is, with one or two exceptions, the worst served line in outer London. Improvement of it is long overdue. The districts which it serves are rapidly growing up, and their problem of transport is rapidly becoming worse. It would be a remunerative as well as a desirable undertaking if the 735 Government provided that Enfield Town line were improved by electrification and reorganisation.
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I emphasise what has just been said in regard to the Enfield Town line, but I would differ in regard to the statement that it is the worst line in outer London. There is a line from Liverpool Street Station to Walthamstow and Chingford, and, if the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Rutherford) knew it as well as I do, and if he had travelled on it day by day for as long as I have had to do, he would agree that that line is at least as bad as the line to Enfield Town. I am glad that the Horne Secretary is here, and I hope that he will advise the Minister of Transport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the necessity for improving the line to Walthamstow and Chingford. I have travelled to Walthamstow on that line for about 36 years, on almost every scheduled train during the 24 hours. I have seen the people going to work, and I am well aware of the conditions. I would like the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Minister of Transport to travel with me on that line, if they want an experience. They would agree with me when they came back that the conditions on it are a disgrace to civilisation.
I am not using words that are too strong, I have seen girls faint in the train because of the congestion and the overcrowding, and men having to be taken out at the station because of the conditions in which they were compelled to travel. I have travelled myself in the early morning hours, when the workmen were on their way, and I hope that I never again have to submit to such experiences. Other people are now travelling as I have travelled, and I think those living in Walthamstow particularly will view this new suggestion with profound disappointment and indignation. The Chancellor may smile, but he does not have to travel under conditions under which some of us have to travel on that line. I am sure if he had to suffer what those people suffer, he would not think that I am in any way exaggerating the feeling which exists in the town at the present time when I say that the people 736 view the suggestion with profound disappointment and indignation. People do not work themselves into a state of mind unless there are really serious reasons for it.
I, personally, congratulate very heartily those areas which have succeeded in getting improvements. The hon. Gentleman who represents Ilford knows perfectly well, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Minister of Transport know, that the committee which considered the problem of East London generally were all impressed, not only with the difficulties in the area met by this Bill, but equally with the difficulties existing in places like Walthamstow, Enfield and Edmonton. I am not asking that anything should be taken out of the existing agreement with the Board. I am not even suggesting that the existing agreement is not a good one in its broad principles, but I am suggesting that it is definitely incomplete, and that it is essential something should be done to meet the existing difficulties, particularly in the Walthamstow area in which I am specially interested, because I know it every hour of the day. Nothing at all is done. Not only is the line not to be electrified, but, apparently, no improvement whatever is contemplated in regard to the existing stations, in regard to the rolling stock or any of those amenities which people have a right to expect.
I think that I am correct in saying that many of the stations on the London & North Eastern Railway to-day between Liverpool Street and Chingford, and between Liverpool Street and Enfield, are in such a state that if they were premises owned by private employers, and came under some of the Factory Acts, sanitary and other inspectors going through them would condemn them immediately. It is amazing to me that they have been allowed to continue in the state one finds them. The stations are disgracefully dirty, and much of the rolling stock is hopelessly out-of-date, and really ought to have been taken off the rails years ago. Are we going to get anything done? I ask the Minister of Transport this specific question, to which the people in Waltham-stow will expect an answer, as will the people in Enfield—whether it is contemplated by the Government, the Minister of Transport or the Board that anything shall be done for those areas which are 737 left out to which reference has been made by the last speaker and myself?
We have had experience of the Transport Board taking over not only the railway company but the tramways owned by the Walthamstow Corporation. The tramways, as the Home Secretary will remember, were perhaps as bad as anything in the United Kingdom, but I can tell him, if he does not know it, that the tramways when taken over by the Board were at least as good as any in the United Kingdom. They had been improved to that extent. We were served by these tramways, the London and North Eastern Railway, and the Midland Railway to some extent, as well as by a series of omnibus companies which used to operate over a part of the line. Nineteen omnibus companies once operated along the main street in the town. The Transport Board took them over. They took over a service that used to be numbered 511, and which they numbered 34a. They took over the services, and took off what used to be service 511, on which there were workmen's fares and halfpenny fares, and they put on instead a partial service, or at least in part of the area, which used to be covered by 34a, and which they now call 34b. They have withdrawn workmen's and halfpenny fares, and, as a consequence, discharged many of the people operating the other services, while our people are denied the opportunity of those halfpenny fares and the workmen's fares on that service also.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must ask hon. Members in their enthusiasm to remember that we are not now discussing the salary of the Minister of Transport.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I expected that, Sir Dennis. I was really only trying to illustrate to the Minister that we are not only suffering in consequence of nothing having been done in this direction, but we have also had to suffer a worsening of our conditions by the other matter which you, Sir Dennis—I think rightly—have ruled out of Order. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition mentioned fares. May I tell the Minister that in Walthamstow we travelled from Liverpool Street to Wood Street in the old days for 2d. return. Was that because the railway company desired to give us a cheap fare? We know that it did not, and could not pay, 738 but it was fixed at 2d. because of the concession given under the original Bill by which they run the railway. They said, in effect, to Parliament, "You give us the opportunity to run a railway along that route, and, as something in return to Parliament and the public, we will guarantee to give cheap fares to the workmen living in that area which is rapidly being built up." During the war all kinds of things were done which hit the public very hard, and the fares which were 2d. before were, by some magic, raised by 300 to 400 per cent.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We are surely entitled to argue the question of the fares which may be charged under this legislation, and to give examples?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is so, and therefore I did not interrupt the right hon. Gentleman when he did that. But I interrupted the hon. Gentleman now speaking because he was not speaking of present or future fares but of past fares.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I accept your ruling, but I was speaking of existing fares, and was going on to say that we were hoping—it was really an illustration—that under the new Bill, not having our railway line electrified, we would be able to get back to something like the conditions which prevailed prior to the war. Nothing at all has been done. I appeal to the Minister of Transport to give some consideration to this matter. Certainly, I do not want to use anything in the nature of a threat. I want to see conveniences provided for people because they need them and for no other reason. If nothing is done, it is bound to give rise to an agitation which may make it exceedingly difficult for even the powerful London Passenger Transport Board to carry on. They can only carry on satisfactorily with the good will of the people, and they can only get that good will if they provide for the people a reasonably good service. I cannot understand why the large amount of money guaranteed by the Government should be allowed to be expended in the area between the existing densely populated area in East London and Shenfield, miles of which have scarcely a house in them and which 739 cannot be developed for many years, while nothing whatever is to be done for places which are now very densely populated. It seems to me an extraordinary policy that they should ignore those places which are so densely populated and so badly served, and at the same time expend huge sums of money on running railways in areas where there is practically no population at all. I can understand the desire to take people out from Central London, and I approve of it, but, as the last speaker said, first things first, and surely it ought to be a first thing that the people who have suffered under these infamous conditions for many years past should be considered and that reasonable facilities should be provided to enable them to get to their ordinary daily duties under ordinary decent conditions. I hope that the Minister will give some assurance that that matter is receiving serious consideration and that we may hope that at some time in the near future something reasonable will be done for those people who need it.
§ 12.8 p.m.
§ Sir RALPH GLYN
I feel that I ought to ask for the indulgence of the Committee, as new Members do, as for four years I have been denied the opportunity of addressing it. The occasion comes and I only take it because the Leader of the Opposition referred to me directly and made some reference to the North London Railway. I rather thought he assumed that, because one great railway company is not mentioned in the scheme, they had been idle. As a matter of fact the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company have done a good deal without this assistance, but we have taken note of what the Leader of the Opposition has said that when we put forward another scheme, as may be done before long, we may be able to say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Opposition will offer no obstruction to a sound measure of that kind.
§ Sir R. GLYN
The right hon. Gentleman said the North London had not changed since he was a boy. We rejoice to know how very young he is in every- 740 thing. Since the amalgamation the North London Railway has been electrified.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
No, the hon. Baronet's geography is all out. The North London runs through my division, and I see it every day. He must not tell me that it does not belong to the London Midland and Scottish.
§ Sir R. GLYN
It does. The steam and electric trains that operate on that service have to run on the same section. All the trains that pass from the North London on to the old North Western are electrified because the London Midland and Scottish is electrified as far as Watford. If the right hon. Gentleman lives at a station which can only be served by steam trains, it is for his own convenience that he should travel in a steam train rather than have to change. Large sums of money have been spent on signalling and on the extension of the lines to Tilbury and Enfield, and a great deal has been done in the way of improving the cross-over line at Barking, and the moment that is tackled these communications will be made much more simple, I fully recognise that this is not the occasion to deal with matters of detail, but I wanted to assure the right hon. Gentleman that we have not gone back on any promises given, but we have to wait for our partner in the other enterprises. I entirely endorse everything that he said about Mr. Herbert Morrison and Lord Ashfield and the way they have worked at this matter, and I should like to say that the Lord President when Prime Minister was most anxious to see schemes of this sort promoted. I know that because I had the opportunity of seeing him working on them. The difficulty has been to try to bring different interests together, and I believe that through the London Passenger Transport Board and the Joint Committee this may be a model for a great many other other schemes of a similar kind. The matter of fares is entirely out of the hands of any company or body mentioned in this scheme. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is entirely under the Railway Rates Tribunal and, therefore, it is outside the province 741 of any company to alter fares unless it has the consent of the Tribunal.
It ought to be realised that the great transportation concerns feel that in these days the whole problem of the conveyance of workers and the need for the mobility of workers is one of very great importance. There are many who talk somewhat loosely about the electrification of railways. Some of us who have had a chance of discussing it with officers of the British railways, who are far superior to the officers of railways in any other country, agree that, if you are to make electrification profitable you want a density of traffic which means that you have to attain a speed of 30 miles an hour in 30 seconds in order to clear your platforms and enable the volume of traffic to pass. Experience in America proves that for every skyscraper that you erect it means 20 minutes solid travel on a subway. We are not afflicted with these enormously high buildings. We are growing in a horizontal and not a vertical plane. It is essential, therefore, that we should break down these blocks which prevent the interchange of workers from one part of the town to another. I believe, and have always held that there should be a joint committee of the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Health, and perhaps the Home Office, to see that in any schemes promoted by local authorities there should be some consideration given to the means by which the people who are going to live there can get to and from their work. This scheme will break down what has been a barrier preventing through communication between the East, the North East and the West. No one wants a terminus. Owing to the work of the London Passenger Transport Board and the Treasury, and the great assistance given by the present Minister of Transport, schemes have been involved which will go a long way, I believe, to solve these difficulties, and I am sure that if, when they have been carried through, my right hon. Friend is still not satisfied with the sections at Walthamstow and Barking, the London Midland and Scottish and other companies will not be backward in putting up schemes relying upon his strong support and that of his Department.
§ 1.6 p.m.
§ Mr. WEST
I should like to join in the general congratulations to the Govern- 742 ment for having brought forward this scheme. I feel as others do that all that could be done has not been done, but I am sufficiently philosophical to be pleased with half a loaf rather than have no bread at all. I am especially glad that Part III of the scheme of works in the Memorandum includes the reconstruction of the stations of King's Cross and Aldgate East. I do not know what is meant by King's Cross. I suppose that it means all the underground stations that meet there. If King's Cross Metropolitan Railway station were to be reconstructed scores of thousands of London travellers would be very glad indeed to escape from the present smoky, begrimed station where they have to endure daily misery. I wish that reconstruction could go a little further, and include Latimer Road station, situated in my Division a little further to the west. I believe that some railways used to give prizes in days gone by for the best and most pleasant stations. If a prize were given in London for the worst, the most ugly and dirtiest station in the whole of London, Latimer Road would be an easy prize-winner, whether from the internal or external point of view. It gives one the horrors to approach it, let alone to get on to the platform. I hope that in looking round for schemes the Minister will go to West London and spend a minute or two at Latimer Road station. I think that when he has seen it he will be in favour of its total abolition and rebuilding at once.
I wish to offer one or two suggestions about schemes. I am well aware that the London Passenger Transport Board has command of all the experts on this question and know enormously more about the traffic problem from every point of view than any private Member of this House can hope to know. Certain factors of which I may be ignorant come before them from day to day in the normal scope of their business, but as one who can claim to be an interested traveller on London railways I venture to put forward one or two suggestions. Under that appellation I should like to discuss one or two points which I think ought to be looked into. Take the case of the journey from Shepherds Bush to Westminster. Every day I come from my Division of North Hammersmith to Westminster, a distance of about three and a half, or at the most 743 four miles. A normally vigorous Member could walk the distance easily in an hour, and yet it takes some 40 minutes to travel from Shepherds Bush to Westminster. Four miles in 40 minutes, in the year 1935, is rather slow travelling. It does not matter how you try to get here. If you go to Shepherds Bush station on the Central London Railway, change at Notting Hill Gate, go up the lift, walk a few yards in order to get on to the Metropolitan Railway, then wait a few minutes for a train, and at South Kensington stop for five or six minutes, you could not do the journey under 40 minutes. If you go from Shepherds Bush by way of the Piccadilly line to Charing Cross and change there, and then go on to Westminster it takes you 40 minutes. If you could go from Shepherds Bush to Hammersmith and under Hammersmith Broadway for 100 yards, you would be able to get on the direct route from Hammersmith to Westminster, and the journey could be done in 20 minutes or half-an-hour. There are only 100 yards between the terminus of the Hammersmith Metropolitan Railway and the Hammersmith District Railway. I am not an engineer and have no qualifications to judge the problem from that point of view, but it would seem to be a comparatively easy task to continue the tube railway under the Broadway for 100 yards to link up with the District Railway. Such a linking up of two important railways would halve the time of the journey of thousands upon thousands of London travellers who at present have to spend 40 minutes doing the journey from North Hammersmith to Westminster.
The Central London Railway to Shepherds Bush and West London generally serves an enormous area, perhaps the most rapidly growing area in the whole of England. What are really great towns have sprung up in West London since the War. Anyone who motors or cycles through West London to Hammersmith, Ruislip, Uxbridge and so on cannot help but be struck, if they remember what used to be open country, by the shopping centres, schools, etc. which have been built. Millions of people have been transferred to or have arrived in West London since 1918 without any great transformation of traffic facilities. The Central London Railway in a sense ends 744 at Shepherds Bush, although there is a line that goes north to Ealing Common and Uxbridge. An extension of two or three from Shepherds Bush to the Askew Arms, Acton Vale, joining the main District railway at Acton Town, would be of enormous value to hundreds of thousands of West London travellers. There may be great engineering difficulties which I do not understand, and I have no doubt that the Transport Board will have considered this question and it may be that schemes are really in course of preparation. If they are, I wish that there could be some early announcement. It would bring great pleasure to all those weary travellers who have at present to change from tram to omnibus, and omnibus to tube in West London.
I am very glad to see that stipulations are laid down in paragraphs 19 and 20 of the Memorandum that British goods shall be bought and the work carried out under fair wage conditions. That is something that all Members on this side of the House must welcome, and I wonder if hon. Members on the opposite side of the House notice, as I always do, that all these semi-public or public schemes necessitating the expenditure of public money stipulate, and quite rightly, that British goods should be used and fair wage conditions observed. That is a first-class argument on the side of more public works. It is one of the great differences between work carried out under public auspices and work carried out by private enterprise. There is no such stipulation about private enterprises. They may buy goods from Germany, China, Japan or from where-ever they desire, and they may pay shocking wages and cause their employés to work long hours under bad conditions. We have in all these public works the great value of good wages, the use of British goods, and the observance of fair conditions. I, therefore, hope that when hon. Members come to consider the pros and cons of public versus private work they will see that very great argument in favour of supporting public rather than private enterprise in future.
It has been suggested that this scheme has only been made possible because the Government's policy has produced cheap money. I remember that during the debates of 1930 the present President of the Board of Education was rather sar- 745 castic about the claim of the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Philip Snowden, that cheap money was an achievement of the Labour Government. The present President of the Board of Education scouted that idea and said that cheap money was due to the fact that there was no demand for money, and that it had nothing to do with the ability of the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, however, we are given to understand that cheap money has been brought about by the ability of the National Government's Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, I congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this scheme and I only wish that it were a bigger scheme. I hope that the Government will go further and extend the scheme and that the work will be carried out as rapidly as possible, because I am sure that the result will be a boon to hundreds of thousands of weary London travellers.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Sir WALTER REA
I do not rise to offer any criticism of the scheme, which all my friends welcome not only in itself as a good scheme but as an evidence that the Government have now come to the conclusion that money can suitably be expended on developing schemes of this nature. I hope that we may take it that this is only the first fruits and that we may look to an extension of this policy not only in London but throughout the country. If I might be permitted to say a word on behalf of my own constituents, I would say that perhaps when my right hon. Friend is considering future schemes he will not lose sight of the West Riding of Yorkshire, which presents an opportunity for developments almost similar to that of London.
I did not, however, rise to continue the discussion on the merits of the scheme, but, as an old Parliamentary hand, I wish to take this, which is perhaps the only occasion afforded to us, to say a word on the suspension of the Standing Orders. I gather that it would not be in order to discuss the matter when it comes forward as private business on Monday, but as the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned it to-day perhaps I may be forgiven for uttering a word of protest against the growing practice of setting aside the Standing Orders. We all freely admit that this is so important a case that it justifies exceptional 746 measures. I hope that it will be regarded as an exceptional measure, although precedents are quoted. I am anxious that this should not become a further precedent to make it easier to rush these schemes through without adequate discussion by all the interests concerned. We have to consider that we are sitting as a judicial body in regard to a great many of these matters which are the subject of Private Bill legislation, and I am a little concerned to see that it is intended to take into consideration the proceedings of a Private Bill Committee upstairs the very day after it may have reported, and that the Third Reading—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now entering into details which can only be discussed on the particular Motion to which he has referred. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is true, made some reference to the matter, but the hon. Member must not discuss it further now.
§ Sir W. REA
I recognise that I cannot go into details. I had no intention of doing more than entering a caveat and of expressing the hope that this is a precedent which will be followed only on the most exceptional occasions.
§ 1.20 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS FREMANTLE
I want to speak briefly on the scheme as it affects North London, and especially my own county of Hertfordshire. For many years we have had in successive Parliaments a North London Travelling Facilities Committee, which has approached the different Ministers of Transport on the subject of those facilities, in the hope of getting some improvement. My noble Friend the present Lord Dudley, and my hon. and gallant Friend who is now Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department took a prominent part in the matter with regard to their constituencies. It is important that we should have in our minds the geography of the proposals that are made. Hon. Members who have spoken up to now have dealt with the matter from the point of view of their own areas, expecting that those of us who represent other areas will understand the geography of the line with which they are concerned. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see his way to put up in the tea-room before Monday a map which will show us something of the many details contained in 747 the First Schedule, so that if the matter comes up for consideration we may be able to know what is being referred to.
I should like to suggest further—I hope that it is not out of order, and certainly it would be a novel procedure—that there should be included in Parliamentary papers such as this White Paper, a small sketch map. I know that such a thing has never been done hitherto; but newspapers for a long time have used sketch maps to illustrate their articles, and I understand that those maps can be prepared at a few hours notice. It would have helped us very materially if we could have had such a sketch map illustrating the first Schedule of this scheme. I should like to take exception to what the hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. West) said about the local authorities, as if that were the only way in which you can preserve the rates of wages and the hours of labour. He said that this arrangement about the fair wages clause, etc. was a good reason against private enterprise.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I nearly stopped the hon. Member for North Hammersmith when he was referring to that subject, and, although I cannot prevent the hon. Member from now making passing reference to it, he must not enlarge on the subject.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
I will observe your ruling. That brings me to one point germane to the subject, and that is that Dagenham was entirely produced by private contractors. That great extension of the population of London, now numbering 820,000 persons, was instituted when I was Chairman of the London County Council Housing Committee in the year 1919.
Sir GEORGE HAMILTON
The hon. Member refers to the increased population of London. Dagenham is not in London but in the County of Essex.
§ Sir F FREMANTLE
It was a terminological inexactitude, but it was used in virtue of what we are considering now, namely, the extension of London. That scheme permeated into the neighbouring county of Essex. That is happening every year. It is not fully understood, but I hope that it will be realised by hon. Members that London is excluding from its own area 100,000 persons per annum, 748 and provision has to be made for that extra 100,000 not only in regard to houses but transport. That is what has been done in Hertfordshire and at Dagenham. I would emphasise the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) that these things should be planned for in advance, taking into account the movement of population and transport facilities. I have often been twitted about the action of the London County Council in starting the enormous scheme at Becontree without having regard to transport, but we did have great regard to transport. On that occasion, my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary met me definitely to ascertain whether when we were planning Becontree we were arranging transport facilities. He was appearing in his legal capacity for the Railway Rates Tribunal, and I had to give evidence on behalf of the London County Council. Great difficulties ensued, and it has taken 20 years to get the transport facilities there even on a partially successful basis. This scheme will relieve some of the traffic problems in that area. It will relieve a good deal of the congestion at Liverpool Street.
It is extremely difficult to decide beforehand where the population is going and what transport facilities should be provided. Some hon. Members have spoken as though the only thing to do is to relieve the existing pressure of traffic. It is true that the pressure comes from the present needs of those who are bound to travel under conditions which are almost insufferable. We must relieve that pressure. The facilities provided by the railways hitherto and those which will be provided even under this scheme, only partially meet present-day needs. These movements of 100,000 persons out of London go ahead while transport facilities do not go ahead equally fast. London is growing bit by bit, and transport goes after the population.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is most difficult to settle the exact limits of the Debate, and I want to allow as much latitude as I reasonably can, but I think the hon. Member is getting further and further away from the Resolution. I hope that hon. Members who are intending to speak will bring their minds back a little more exactly and definitely to the Resolution on the Order Paper. We cannot discuss 749 the general question of transport and movement of population and how they should be dealt with.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
I had in my mind the particular proposal to spend this sum of money, and I feel that the money would be better used if you could facilitate traffic going further afield and the movement of population further out in units under the Garden City movement. Have the Government in considering this scheme borne in mind new movements of the population like that down Watling Street, where you have a migration of factories as well as of population. It is not merely passenger population which has to be considered but the movements of factories as well; otherwise, the money will not be laid out to the best possible public service. We have recently had presented to us the result of a long and laborious discussion on the subject of the decentralisation of industry in garden, cities. Is anything going to be done about that? I should have thought that this would be considered in an expenditure of £40,000,000. An enormous expenditure such as this should have been considered in the relation to the future disposition of the population and of factories. I do not think this question has been tackled by the Government. It is, of course, very difficult; you must not interfere with industry, but these larger questions of the transport facilities for population and industry cannot be satisfactorily settled unless you have a combination of the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Health, the Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade. You want a combined committee which will plan in advance for the interests of the population and of industry. It is only in that way that you will be able to envisage the transport facilities required in the future, not by simply adding to the growth of London outwards, gradually eating up the countryside on rather deplorable lines.
§ 1.32 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. STRAUSS
If I do not follow the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) it will not be because I do not consider his speech and views extremely interesting and important, but simply because that if I did so I should be ruled out of order. I want to say a few words on the proposals generally. No one with any knowledge of the pre- 750 sent transport facilities of London can help but welcome the improvements which are likely to be carried out under this scheme, but at the same time I have considerable sympathy with those hon. Members who feel that it is not going to solve a large part of the transport problem of London to-day. That is true not only in the areas which have been mentioned but in South London, where there is a similar problem. The scheme for an extension from the Elephant and Castle to Camberwell Green is not touched by the proposals. If we were told that this was a first step, that it is the intention as soon as these new schemes have been launched to get down to business and launch other schemes which are necessary to make up the arrears in London transport, I should be satisfied, but, if this scheme is put forward, as it has been so far, as a complete scheme, without any thought of carrying out further necessary schemes, then I think it is most unsatisfactory indeed.
Why are London transport facilities as bad as they are to-day? How is it that these people who have had to travel on these antiquated railways in overcrowded conditions have been suffering so terribly? Why is it that railway facilities have not been improved long ago? It is true that if the grumbles of the sufferers could have had any effect or could have made themselves strongly felt, the change would have taken place long ago, but it is undeniable that people who have suffered something long enough get used to it and their indignation gets blunted. The present position in London is that although hundreds of thousands who travel daily are very angry and disturbed at the unsatisfactory conditions, they have up to now not allowed their voices to be heard as strongly as they should have been heard, and consequently conditions have been allowed to continue.
But why do those conditions exist at all? Merely because up to recently the various transport undertakings have been separate units looking naturally only after their own interests, and everyone of them has been frightened that if it improved its own service a competitor in the transport field might come along a year later and take all its traffic away. It is only as a result of the amalgamation brought about by the London Passenger Transport Act that these vast improve- 751 ments are now possible. I agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said, that the Chancellor was very ungenerous in his statement regarding the help he received from the Bill which was put forward by the late Labour Government, which brought about the unification of the transport services of London and set up a Joint Committee between the transport services and the main line railways. If that Bill had not been introduced these improvements would have been quite impossible.
The proposals now before the Committee are not new ones. Nearly all of them have been urged time and time again. What has happened? When in the past various quarters have urged that the Liverpool Street service to the East and North-East could be very much Improved and that the lines could be doubled or electrified the railway company has answered, "We dare not risk the expenditure. There are the bus services and the Green Line and other services. It may be that if we doubled or electrified our line and introduced new traffic, with the result that new houses would be built, the buses of the Green Line would come along and take all that traffic away from us. It would simply not pay us. We have no ground for believing that any improvement which we make will not in the end benefit our competitors and not ourselves". So in the past these proposals have had to be dropped, one after the other, and it is only because there is now one unity of interest that the competition between the various undertakings has disappeared, and that it is now a public service acting in the public interest. It is only because of that, that we can envisage these improvements. I think the Chancellor was very ungenerous in not acknowledging much more definitely and frankly the help he received from the Bill produced by the Labour Government, without which the improvements could never have been brought about.
The speech of the Chancellor was very interesting and very clear, but I must confess that on one particular matter, an important financial matter, he left me quite unable to understand what was intended, and I think other members of the Committee are in the same dilemma. How exactly is the company which is to 752 be formed by the Treasury and which is to raise the money guaranteed by the Treasury, to be repaid? When I first read the Memorandum I gathered that in between 15 and 25 years the transport companies, the undertakers, would repay to the Treasury company, under some sinking fund arrangement, the money which had been raised. If that were so, I wanted to ask why the period of 25 years had been fixed as the limit, because most of these improvements that are to be carried out are improvements which will last a very long time indeed—such as the electrification of the system and new railway lines altogether—and I should have thought a repayment over a much longer period would have been desirable, particularly because the period of repayment is going to affect the fares to be charged on these lines. The fares ultimately are fixed by the Railway Rates Tribunal. That Tribunal has to see that the fares are sufficient to repay the capital charges of the company. Consequently, if the interest charges and the repayment telescope into a shorter period, the capital charges will be heavier and the fares will be fixed at a higher figure than is necessary. That was my first reading of the Memorandum. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that that was the period which the companies had put forward. I think we should have some further view from the Chancellor, and the Ministry of Transport particularly on that matter.
But then the Chancellor said, or I thought he said, "That is not really what is going to happen at all. Some time between 15 and 25 years the transport companies themselves will be raising new money and repaying the Treasury company" Of course, that is quite different; that is a new situation. But I cannot understand one thing at all. If the companies can raise fresh capital themselves in 15 to 25 years, why cannot they do it now? Is it calculated that in 15 or 25 years money will be cheaper than it is now? If so, of course the outlook is appalling, because it means that we shall be in a period of industrial depression during all that time. But if I am right in understanding that the Chancellor said that the companies themselves would be raising new money in that period, it appears to me to be a very doubtful and incomprehensible position, and I hope that if the Financial 753 Secretary to the Treasury is to answer later he will clarify the matter.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
It may be convenient if I interrupted the hon. Member in order to make clearer what is intended. The arrangement of the company raising money which is to be lent to the undertakings and repaid within this comparatively short time is a temporary arrangement. It is to enable the undertakings to raise money and carry out these works now, at a time when they could not raise that money for themselves, at any rate, at such rates as are possible under this arrangement. The hon. Member will appreciate that the shorter the term the lower the rate at which money can be raised. That is a definite advantage to the companies, in having a comparatively short term, while money is cheap too, and they ought to get the money at very low terms now. The hon. Member asked, why cannot the companies themselves raise the money? I would not like to speak on behalf of the companies, especially as I am not carrying in my mind the exact situation, but I think the hon. Member can take it that this London Passenger Transport Board, which is a comparatively recent creation, is not yet in a position to earn the fullest return which it might reasonably be expected to derive from the work which is already in hand. It is not, therefore, easy for it yet to find money to pay the interest on its existing stocks and on further stocks as well, but it expects to be in that position in the course of 15 to 25 years. Therefore, it has to get over this intermediate period and it expects at the termination of that period to be in a position easily to raise the money for itself.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
I am obliged to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I understand the position better now than I did previously. What it comes to is that at the moment the companies, particularly the London Passenger Transport Board, are unable to raise the money or at any rate it would be difficult for them to do so. There is, consequently, a gamble that in some time to come they will be in a position to raise the money themselves cheaply and that, when they do that, they are going to repay the loans now being made by the Treasury company. That is a gamble and naturally I hope it 754 will come off. I do not know what is in the Chancellor's mind about the future course of money rates. One hopes that there is going to be some industrial recovery before 15 years which is likely to raise money rates and if the companies are going to borrow in 15 years time to repay the Government they will, I imagine, have to raise the money at a considerably higher rate of interest than they would pay to-day. I should have thought it would have been more satisfactory for the companies with the Government's help to have raised the money, once and for all, now when the interest rates are low. However, I leave that rather difficult technical point which we shall probably be able to understand more clearly when we have read the right hon. Gentleman's speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
There is one other point of some importance which has not been brought out in the debate so far. These proposals envisage an immense extension of the electrification of railways and a greatly increased consumption of electricity as a consequence. I am told that when these proposals are carried out there will be an additional consumption of something like 200,000,000 units of electricity per annum. I think the Committee will require to be satisfied that those concerned have considered this matter not only from the local but also from the national point of view. The Committee will also want to know how these proposals affect the great schemes of the Central Electricity Board. In the first place there is the very important question of the voltage of the new electrified lines. The voltage in London at the moment is not that laid down by the Pringle Committee which investigated carefully the question of the most desirable voltage for electrified railways. I understand that the voltage in London is 660 and the proposal of the Pringle Committee was that there should be a voltage for all electrified systems of either 1,500 with overhead rails or 750 with conductor rails. In connection with this extension of the electrification of railways around London I imagine that the proposal will be for a voltage of 660.
Is this extension of electrification round London going to interfere with the much bigger national scheme of railway electrification I Has this subject been considered in its entirety by the 755 Electricity Commissioners? Unless it has been so considered, if this proposal is rushed through rather quickly on the ground of urgency—and I agree that there is urgency—there may be, in the long run, an enormous national charge involved in unifying the voltage on all lines. We shall want to be satisfied that the wider national point of view has been taken into consideration in connection with the proposals now before the Committee. Again, one of the proposals is the enlargement and improvement of the power supply of the Board and other ancillary works. The London Passenger Transport Board now gets power from some of its own stations such as Lotts Road and Neasden. I do not know what improvements or enlargements are proposed but I would ask whether it is desirable, from the national point of view, that there should be any enlargements of private undertakings. Would it not be better that the new current required should be taken from the national grid system 7 We have a right to ask whether that point has been considered by the Electricity Commissioners and whether the Central Board have been asked for their advice.
Looking at the matter without any inside knowledge and not as a technician or an expert, it appears to me to be contrary to the public interest at the moment to enlarge any electricity supply works outside the grid system. With all the improvements that have been made, the grid system can supply an immense amount of current and it is desirable that every opportunity should be taken of extending that system by increasing the consumption of the current which it produces. It seems, to say the least of it, a highly questionable proposition that a great deal of money should now be spent on the improvement and enlargement of a private electricity station supplying the transport system in one area. That would appear to be detrimental to the national grid system and I hope that whoever replies will give us some further information on that point.
Subject to those important points, and subject to the assurance that this extension is only going to be looked upon as a first step in a general and much wider scheme for the improvement of transport facilities in London—and a much wider scheme will be necessary to 756 bring those transport facilities even up to a reasonable standard to say nothing of a really efficient standard—I, personally, welcome the proposals. I am sure that all Members and particularly Londoners, who know how appalling are the present transport conditions and the daily discomforts endured by a vast section of the population in going to and from their work, will agree in welcoming most heartily the proposals now before the Committee. Those affected, being reasonable people, I am sure will say "Thank Heaven that this has been done and that the Labour Government brought in a Bill which unified the transport systems in London and enabled it to be done."
§ 1.55 p.m.
Sir G. HAMILTON
I am sure it must be a relief to the Treasury Bench at last to hear a Member of this House who rises not to ask for something more, but to thank them for what his con-constituents have received. The hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G.R. Strauss) raised a question, very naturally, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer answered, about the repayment of this capital. If he thinks the matter out in a little more detail, he will realise that what is happening under this Resolution is that the Government of the day are taking advantage of being able to raise money very cheaply and are putting that cheaply raised money for a short time at the disposal of certain transport companies. Those companies, having received this benefit, consider, as I think rightly, that after they have got these services operating, they will gradually, each year, pay better and better, and at the end of 15 or 25 years, at the time when the money is to be actually borrowed by them, the services will be a paying proposition. People living out in Essex, for instance, will realise that they can get to the West End of London in a tube without even a change. They will not realise that for some years to come, however much you advertise it, but when they do, they will use that tube, not only in the rush hours in order to get to business, but in the middle of the day to take advantage of shopping and going to cinemas, theatres, matinees, and so on in the West End.
In that way, I think, the transport directors are correct in believing that these propositions, financed in this way, 757 will at the end of 15 or 25 years show such profits that the railway companies will then be able to borrow money at a very reasonable rate to repay the original capital sum; while no doubt, in their wisdom, during these 15 to 25 years they will be building up a reserve fund out of the profits made on the facilities which are being given to them at this cheap rate in order to repay the capital of the Treasury company which has lent it them at this very low rate. I think there can be no difficulty about the finance of this proposition. It seems to me perfectly clear and straightforward, and it has been accepted, I understand, not only by the Treasury, but by all the transport companies concerned, and I think we in this House may take it that they have had the best financial advice and that they are not undertaking anything on which they think they will be likely to break down.
I said in opening my remarks that it must be a pleasure to the Treasury Bench to hear someone who is satisfied, but I realise to the full that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee), and the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Rutherford), who spoke earlier in the Debate, are indeed entitled to say that the travelling facilities in the areas in which they are interested are nearly, if not quite, as bad as those in the areas with which this Bill proposes to deal. I know what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition described as a main sewer. I had the terrible experience of travelling through it only a few months ago, and it was a considerable shock. I do not think that even on the Ilford line you could find worse travelling facilities than exist there. I know also that in Walthamstow, Edmonton, both Leytons, and all through that area there is a terrific demand for further travelling facilities. I am most grateful to all the Members who represent those divisions, who have co-operated with me on the Parliamentary Committee in endeavouring to bring such pressure as back bench Members can bring on the Minister of Transport and the Government generally, which has, I hope, helped at any rate to produce this document which we are discussing to-day.
But while I am most grateful to them, I do not want them to think that their divisions have been overlooked. I be- 758 lieve, and I believe that the Minister of Transport will be able to tell the Committee, that it is the intention of the North Eastern Railway Company and the London Passenger Transport Board, as this scheme proceeds and as they see the result of this scheme, to take into immediate consideration the possibility of extending it in other directions. I believe that the North Eastern Railway Company, for instance, once they have electrified a short length of their line, will immediately realise that it will not pay them unless they electrify the whole of those local lines serving the North of London. Therefore, I feel that the efforts and the help which I have received from the hon. Members and for which I am so grateful, have not been in vain and that their interests have not been neglected, and I am confident not only that the London Passenger Transport Board, but perhaps even first the North Eastern Railway Company will extend the electrification of these lines and improve the accommodation and coaches on their various lines.
I think this Committee and the House of Commons must indeed be grateful to Lord Ashfield and Sir Ralph Wedgwood, the general manager of the North Eastern Railway, for having so rapidly brought this proposal of the Government's to a head. It is only 10 days ago, I think, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in a position to announce the decision of the Government in this matter, and here we have in 10 days the Treasury in a position to lay before us these financial proposals; and we understand that the Bill will be introduced very shortly. I would like to make one appeal to the Committee and to this House. Considerable legislation will have to be passed in this matter, and one of the objects of the Government's action is, I understand, to find additional employment in the country and during the coming winter months. If we in this House can co-operate and give facilities for the passage of the necessary Measures, we shall undoubtedly help to get the work really started so as to give employment in the coming winter months, which I am sure we are all anxious to see.
Several hon. Members have paid a tribute to Mr. Herbert Morrison. I am sorry to see that he wrote an article on this subject—I think it was in one of 759 the London evening papers last night—in which he ended by saying that my humble self had had nothing whatever to do with forwarding this matter, but that it had been done entirely by him. I am willing to give him all credit. He complained that I had voted against the London passenger transport combination. I did vote against his particular proposal, because, if my recollection is right—and my right hon. Friend opposite will correct me if I am wrong—there were two private Bills before this House, one by the North Eastern Railway Company and one by the London General Omnibus Company or the Underground Railways, and those two private Bills were immediately dropped by Mr. Morrison when he became Minister of Transport. A few months later he produced a proposal for the unification of London transport, with many details of which I could not agree. Therefore, I voted against it. Later, when the Government suddenly changed and we had a new Government in, I agree that that Government adopted Mr. Herbert Morrison's scheme very largely, but they modified it on all the points that I considered objectionable, and with those Amendments I gave it my whole-hearted support, and very glad was I to see the London Passenger Transport Board set up.
I am sorry Mr. Morrison should write this sort of article in the Press, because this is not really a party matter. We want in this matter to walk hand in hand with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. We want to see this improvement to the transport facilities of the East end of London carried out as rapidly as possible, and all the co-operation we can get from all parties is, I am sure, wanted and asked for by the National Government who have brought forward this scheme. While being grateful to Mr. Morrison, I cannot help expressing my gratitude to the present Minister of Transport, who, by his extraordinary energy, has undoubtedly hurried this matter up and brought it to a head, and also my great gratitude to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to his able lieutenant, and to the Government generally for having found the means of bringing forward this 760 scheme and bringing it forward so quickly.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Mr. SUMMERSBY
The London Passenger Transport Act was originally introduced by the Opposition and has been referred to several times as a bull point in their favour, but I think we should pay a tribute to the present Government who have shown that they were willing to see good in a measure no matter where the original idea came from. Mr. Herbert Morrison has been referred to. When the Bill was before the House Mr. Morrison had to sit back under the gallery unconsciously ignored by every one. I took him a copy of the Bill, and I felt sorry that our procedure was such that an ex-Minister who had introduced such an important measure was not treated with a little greater respect when he came to hear discussed a Bill with which he had had a good deal to do. One would have thought that a measure of this kind, after having been so long delayed, would have been received with rapture, and one is surprised that some hon. Members have found a good deal in the proposal to criticise. Each of us, of course, has his own particular district in mind, and feels that something more should be done for certain parts of London.
I might be regarded as guilty of neglect were I not to refer to the position in North London, more particularly in Muswell Hill, to which I have referred several times before in the House. I am not the Member for that constituency, but the hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Captain Wallace) who is now associated with the Home Office, has never suggested that I was doing work which he ought to do; on the contrary, he has been very willing to help me and has himself fought strongly for better facilities for that district. In spite of all that has been said about other districts, I do not think that there is another part of London which has suffered more terribly than Muswell Hill during the last 10 years. Twenty thousand people go to the City and West End every day to earn their living, and they have to stand in queues of 60 and 70, and sometimes 80 people. Many of them are young girls, and they have to stand in cold weather, in sleet or rain, and have to sit in their wet clothes all day. We would not allow any animals of which we are fond to 761 suffer such exposure as these people suffer. While I rejoice as much as any one at the attempts that are being made to improve London transport, I shudder to think that for another four or five years these sort of conditions have to be put up with. During the interim, while the work is being put in hand, every possible alleviation should be made in the conditions at Muswell Hill.
We shall make a tremendous mistake if we have too much centralisation and if we take it for granted that the whole of the travelling public want to go to one place. The main arteries are in- adequate and overcrowded, but the cross country and circular facilities of London are even worse. In order to get from Finchley to Muswell Hill the other day, a lady had to wait half-an-hour for an omnibus which is supposed to be on a good service. If the Transport Board were to do a little pioneer work and thought a little less of centralisation, and dealt with cross country services, they would gain a tremendous revenue, and the public would be grateful. A debt is due to borough councillors and aldermen and others for the tremendous amount of work done on behalf of the public in connection with this question. There is an organisation in North London which has done very good work, and the public owes it a, debt of gratitude.
I hope that the seats in the new trains will be made as comfortable as these benches are. It is not a matter of extra cost, but of someone getting down to it and getting the right angle on the seats. I am not saying that as a joke, but because so many people spend so much of their lives in railway carriages that the pitch, width and height of the seats in the carriages have a great effect on their comfort and health. I hope that before long the scheme will be extended, and we shall see carried out the electrification of the line to Portsmouth and to the inter mediate South Coast towns, where the conditions are almost prehistoric. One cannot be proud of being an Englishman when riding on some of the railways to the South Coast. I thank the Government for having put this matter in hand, and I hope that, in the meantime, conditions will be made as bearable as possible, and that no delay of any sort will be allowed to occur.
§ 2.12 p.m.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
I and others who have supported the National Government congratulate them on the scheme which has been adumbrated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Those of us who have been in the House a few years know that such a far-reaching measure would have been impossible of acceptance were it not for the type and quality of the Government as it is now constituted, although some of us sometimes think that it might be adjusted in certain respects. At any rate, this Financial Resolution could not have been put forward were it not for the mixed quality of the Government. Paragraph (1) on page 4 of the White Paper deals with the power of varying the scheme. Those of us who have read the Lord Chief Justice's book on bureaucracy and the power given to Ministers feel that this is a rather dangerous power in respect of an experiment which has never been tried before, although I agree that elasticity in such an experiment is essential. It is a combination of public company and Government Department, and I trust that this weakness will be adjusted by the Parliamentary draftsman so that it will not permit of any improper application to schemes which deal with large private interests, amongst others, to the disadvantage of the public weal.
Next I want to make a special plea for the district a portion of which I represent in the House. When I became one of the Members for Leyton, I took a survey of the transport available for the locality, and I also took a census of the railway travelling public there. While much has been said by the Leader of the Opposition and others who have spoken as to the needs of their own localities, I would submit to the Committee with great respect that there are no constituencies in the South of England that require more immediate attention in respect of transport than those which are represented by my distinguished colleague and myself. I read somewhere—I think it was in an evening paper—an interesting article by a gentleman who said that he had been travelling for 10 years on a railway, and had never been able to obtain a seat. I do not want to say that that is the exact position of every resident in my constituency, but I do know this, that I have met one gentleman there who has been habitually travelling for many years and has never been able to get a seat.
763 I hope I am pursuing no dog-in-the-manger policy when I suggest that the varying Clause in this Financial Resolution might legitimately and properly be usefully applied to including in the scheme Leyton, Leytonstone and perhaps one other adjacent district, namely, the outskirts of Wanstead. There may well be considerations, whether physical, financial, or connected with organisation, which weigh against the immediate inclusion of these localities, but I would respectfully ask the Minister whether he will not consider that question. I understand that the present scheme will come very near to these localities, so that the necessary modification would be but very small; and that the additional travelling facilities so rendered available would provide a still more lucrative source of revenue. Another point that has not been mentioned before in the Debate is that this new line could be adapted for the purposes of merchandise and general traffic, which at the present time is not being transported in the cheapest way from one district to another. In these days, when transport plays such a dominant part in regard to competition, both as regards the cost of raw materials and as regards their manufacture into goods, I suggest that the advantages of making the scheme available for the haulage of general merchandise in the constituency which I represent would outweigh any additional cost that might be considered to weigh against such a proposal.
Another question which was raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and in which I certainly support him, is the question of compensation for those railway servants who may, by reason of the change-over, either find themselves compelled to accept less lucrative positions because of their lack of training in this sort of transport, or may even find themselves unable to obtain employment under the new scheme. I suggest that facilities should be offered for training these men and women—for women are included as well—so that, if at once they are not Able to change over fully qualified to enter the new job, they may have some offer of compensation and opportunities of acquiring sufficient technical knowledge to enable them eventually to carry on under the new conditions arising under the scheme.
764 There is another matter which, to my mind, should receive consideration. It has been my privilege to travel in some few countries, and I want to say that the last word in transport as regards accommodation for passengers and haulage of merchandise has not yet been spoken in this country. Here is an opportunity of applying some of the more modern systems, such, for example, as those which are in operation in the United States of America, in certain parts of Italy, and also on some of the German railways. There are certain improvements of coach accommodation and the operating of the same in the United States, in Germany and in Italy, which might usefully be applied in the new scheme which is to be put into operation here. I do not say that they are foolproof in respect of comfort, ease and convenience, but I do say that the huge travelling public who will be using these routes will consist mainly of members of the industrial classes who are travelling either to or from their work; and I suggest that they will be better able to do their work if they can travel in comfort, and that, when they go back after a long day's work, they are entitled to expect a certain amount of relaxation and ease in the means of transport which they use.
Finally, I want to say a word about the electrification question. While the grid system is supposed to be the last word in regard to electrification in this country, there are some of us who have never been completely converted to it. I had the privilege of being chairman of a large municipal electricity undertaking in the North of England, where we were producing current at less than a third of a penny per unit, and, when we note some interesting figures that are now being bandied about the country, some of us feel that a time may come when there may have to be considerable alterations in electrification under the grid system. I agree with the hon. Member who referred to this question a short time ago, that there is here an opportunity for greater usefulness in the future, though I differ from him as to the method of adaptation, if we would consider some of the systems which are being utilised in the United States for the production of electricity, and also for its use. There is an opportunity, in connection with the electrification of some of these suburban lines, of utilising some of these American, 765 Swiss and German systems for producing electricity in this country at less even than a third of a penny per unit. I suggest to the Minister that this question might be seriously considered in connection with the present scheme. I congratulate him on his courage in presenting this very helpful scheme. There are certain weaknesses in it, which of course can be eliminated or lessened when the Bill is before the House, but it is doing something to lessen the terrible strain of carrying those unfortunate people who want work but cannot get it, for it will provide more work in the production of the needful machinery, and on the whole it is a step forward with respect to the general transport of the people and of merchandise and so on which is vitally essential.
§ 2.24 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I feel that those who are acquainted with the conditions that prevail in the districts covered by this scheme ought to take the opportunity of telling the Minister that the Measure which he has taken is giving a considerable amount of satisfaction, but there is also a considerable amount of hope that it may be followed speedily by additional facilities for districts which still require help in this regard. I should like to say in the first place that those of us who have opportunities of seeing what is happening in London feel that the plea which has been made on behalf of North London ought to be very strongly supported. North London is certainly a district where travelling facilities are far from being satisfactory, and though each of us is anxious to claim proper facilities for his own constituency it is only proper that we should realise the needs of adjoining constituencies where the circumstances are such as I have indicated.
I am glad to hear that improvements are to be made at the junctions at Aldgate and Aldgate East. For many years there has been a tremendous amount of difficulty in connection with the facilities for carrying passengers from their work in different parts of London to the East End of London and vice versa. I do not know whether the improvements to be carried out at these junctions will do all that is necessary to relieve the present situation, but I am sure they will go a fair distance in that respect if they 766 are carried out on a proper scale. One cannot tell from the Schedule whether it is to be a small job or a big job, but we hope it is to be on a sufficiently large scale to assist in relieving the congestion which prevails at present. I have stood outside Aldgate Station and watched the queues of weary and worn persons returning from their work waiting for considerable periods of time, with no cover; tired out with waiting for vehicles to take them to their homes. Their lot is a very uncomfortable one, particularly in bad weather. They ought not to be kept waiting and thus be deprived of the opportunities of getting the rest that is necessary to enable them to be ready for their work the following morning. If the new junctions even partially relieve that congestion they will prove to be a valuable improvement.
I hope hon. Members will support a reference to my own constituency, though I suppose one is expected to make it in a debate like this. There is one part of my constituency, the Wapping and Shad-well area, which is some distance from the main stream of traffic, and is not in my view, and in the view of the people who live there, provided with proper transport facilities. The people of Shad-well and Wapping unfortunately are not endowed with much of this world's wealth. They are hard-working, honest, struggling people, who have considerable difficulty in making both ends meet, and many of their sons and daughters have to go out to work in other districts as clerks or warehousemen or in some manual occupation. The facilities for travel at present available not only make it difficult for them to get to and from their work but frequently make it difficult for them to get work itself in competition with people who live in districts which enable them to get to their employment mare quickly. Some time ago we had a long and, as far as we were able to make it so, an interesting discussion on the tramway system in the East End of London in which the questions of overhead lines and trolley cars was raised. In the view of those of us connected with the district changes were to be made which would produce a considerable amount of noise and which would particularly affect the health of the patients in the largest of our hospitals. I should like to know whether the Minister can tell us what is to be done in respect to 767 the alteration of the tramway system—if anything at all is to be done in that part of the world in the immediate future. It is of considerable importance to us to know this because it may be necessary to raise the question in a different form at a proper time.
We are glad to know that more employment will be found for the people by these alterations and additions to the transport system of London and the adjoining districts, but we are also anxious—and I am glad that the matter has also been dealt with by the leader of the Opposition and by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Sir W. Sugden)—that any people who may be displaced from their present posts as a result of these alterations shall be given adequate jobs in place of those they are losing. If they lose an appointment which some of them may have held for years, and in which they have worked efficiently, as the result of changes introduced by a big public undertaking of this description it is only right that they should be given an opportunity of getting other employment under the same undertaking, or be given adequate compensation for any difference between what they were earning before and what they will be able to earn afterwards. I am sure no one in any part of the House will disagree about that, and I hope the Minister will take note of it. I will conclude by saying that we hope the Minister will be given strength—shall I put it that way?—to enable him to extend this scheme much further than it goes at present, but at the same time we are pleased that the scheme has at long last been taken in hand, and I want to say for my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton), who has been fighting this matter for many years and with whom I have had the pleasure of working on a body which has been concerning itself with this subject that we are very glad that we have eventually seen some result after our exertions in that direction.
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ Mr. JOHN WILMOT
All of us on this side of the House join in expressing our satisfaction that the Government have gone ahead with the scheme, which arises naturally out of the excellent foundations laid by Mr. Herbert Morrison when he was Minister of Transport. It 768 is a tribute to the principle of public organisation and ownership, because it is generally admitted that unless London's transport had been brought under unified public control, as was done by Mr. Morrison, this excellent development of London's travelling facilities would never have been brought about. For that reason, we are glad that, notwithstanding their political prejudices, the present Government have been constrained to go on with a scheme whose principle and merits are so outstandingly right and proper.
Admiration and approval of the scheme do not, however, relieve the Committee of the necessity and the duty of examining the details of a public enterprise of this kind very closely and, if need be, critically. The scheme, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer says, is very complex. The agreement which forms the subject of the White Paper does not tell us many things which we require to know before we finally approve the arrangement proposed. One or two points seem to be of outstanding importance, and the Committee should ask for an assurance and some definite information in regard to them. This is a very big scheme, involving a very large public guarantee, and the time to see that things are being done in the best way is when the guarantee is being given. Some hon. Members have expressed disappointment that particular areas of the Metropolis, with which they are most familiar or which they represent in this House, are not to be provided for, and they are fairly entitled to do so. I hope the Government will take notice that the needs of London's passenger transport are by no means met by the scheme. This is only the beginning of a very much wider field of development which is, as it were, growing on the gooseberry bush, and which the Chancellor can pick off now.
He has talked about the Government's cheap money policy. The cheap money period is a result of trade stagnation, and the Government should be the last to be proud that they have allowed the stagnation of trade to develop to such a point that money has become almost unusable. It is welcome that they have at last seen the unwisdom of lying on your back and starving because you will not take the trouble to get up and use the tools which are ready to hand. Another part of London which has been over- 769 looked is—not my own constituency—one with which I am very familiar, the South-East district, concentrated upon Camberwell Green, where transport facilities have not been improved very much for a large number of years, and where congestion, inconvenience and wastage of time and effort take place as in many other areas such as the East of London. An obvious and simple extension of the tube system to cover the South-East of London is a development which is long overdue.
Another matter with which I am concerned is the financial part of the proposed arrangement. I suppose it is necessarily vague, but it is so vague as to seem a little dangerous for the Committee to leave it in its present form. A new principle of compounding the interest by paying the interest out of capital is contained in it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that you cannot pay the interest on works of this kind until the works are completed and are producing revenue. That is true of all kinds of construction, and there is nothing peculiar in that. When I heard him say that, I wondered whether we had reached the point where all works of capital construction of a major character could not be financed without a Government guarantee because a long time must elapse before the works are completed and the revenues are incoming. That is true not only of the tube railways of London but of all manner of other capital constructions as well.
I thought the White Paper was a little vague also as to how long the interest was to be paid out of capital. The difference in cost is very startling on sums of this size. Assuming that the cost of the works was £35,000,000, a delay of one year in paying the interest would mean an addition to the capital of £1,400,000. One can easily see that unless there be some tighter provision as to the point at which interest is to cease to be added to the capital, the capital cost of the works must be unduly inflated by that continued addition, and that will be reflected in the fares which are charged. It is true that the Railway Rates Tribunal will determine the fares, but I believe that the capital cost of the undertaking and the service of the debt are prime factors which the tribunal must take into consideration in fixing the fares. It is in the interest of everybody 770 concerned to keep the capital cost as low as reasonably possible and thus avoid charging to the enterprise capital cost which will unduly raise the level of fares. With railway development without a heavy volume of traffic you get a law of diminishing returns operating with peculiar severity in railway economics, and it is as essential to the enterprise as to the public that the fares should be such as to enable everybody to use the railway.
Another point is as to voltage. I believe it was exhaustively dealt with by the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. R. Strauss), but I would ask the Government to give us an assurance about it. There are schools of thought which believe that the time is not very far distant when we shall be electrifying some of our long-distance railways. The Southern Railway is already electrified to Brighton, and I hear talk of electrifying the line as far as Portsmouth. If that is to be the future of railway traction, we should now consider the implications of it. It may be that the development of the Diesel engine or of the generation of steam may leave us still with unelectrified lines as the best way of maintaining out railways, but, if the future means the electrification of the long-distance railways, it will be folly for us to begin now the mistakes which led to the battle of the gauges in the days of the old steam railways. Hon. Members will remember how every separate enterprise developed its line on a different railway gauge and the battle that went on to standardise the gauges. Every year, more and more capital was involved in the multiplicity of gauges, and it was very difficult to bring about any standardisation.
I believe that the authoritative committee which considered the question of long distance railway electrification came down heavily in favour of one of two voltages—750 or 1500. The present voltage in London, I believe, is 660. I am certainly not competent, and possibly the Committee would not be competent, to express views on a matter that may require expert knowledge, but I do feel that the Committee ought to be assured that these questions have been considered by the appropriate authorities, and that nothing will be done in extending London transport to make it more difficult to unify and develop national transport in the future. London 771 grows bigger and bigger unfortunately, and the suburb gets further and further away, and what to-day may be regarded as a main line, within a few years may be regarded as a suburban line. We must consider what we do now in its effect upon the development of national transport in the future.
There is also the question of power supply. I observe in the Third Schedule that some of this money is to be used to improve the power supply of the London Passenger Transport Board which maintains stations at Lots Road and elsewhere. Those stations are nonstandard stations. They provide electricity, I think, exclusively for the London Passenger Transport Board. Have the Central Electricity Board been consulted? Has it been decided, as between all the public interests concerned, whether it is really better to spend more public money developing non-standard stations purely for the purpose of railway generation, or should we not take the current required from the Central Electricity Board and the Grid? That seems to be a matter on which the Committee should have assurance right away. We ought not to authorise the spending of money upon electrical generation unless the method commands the approval of the Electricity Commission and we must not allow conflicts to develop between one public authority and another.
There also seems to be a certain amount of indefiniteness about the operation of the sinking fund, or the method by which the debt is to be repaid. Is it to be refunded at the end of the period by a fresh issue; or is there to be a sinking fund during the life of the debt; or in what manner is it proposed that these borrowed sums should be repaid? These seem to be matters which should be dealt with by the Committee at this stage, and before the actual guarantee has been given. I do hope that the hon. Gentleman, in his reply, will be able to cover one or two of the points that I have raised. Then what is going to be the effect of the issue of these new stocks upon the existing London Passenger Transport stocks? I see there is some misgiving in financial quarters that the issue of these stocks may have an adverse effect upon those who have already got money in the London Passenger Transport stocks, and I think it would be a 772 good thing if the hon. Gentleman in his reply would define rather more precisely the exact position vis-a-vis the existing London Passenger Transport stocks.
One final word concerns a matter with which my own constituency is concerned. I do hope it will be possible, now that this development of London's transport is being planned, to deal with what has been somewhat of a grave public scandal, and that is the existence in the West of London of a large tract of railway land held out of use by anybody, and an eyesore and a public nuisance to all concerned. I refer to the site that once housed the Earls Court Exhibition.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I hardly think that arises on this Resolution. I think we had better keep purely to transport questions.
§ Mr. WILMOT
With respect, this Resolution deals with an authority designed to extend London's transport. This land is being held for that purpose, and I was expressing the hope that now that that purpose is being fulfilled, some decision can be made as to what is to be done with this land, which is covered with derelict buildings, which is a public nuisance and which the local authorities would very much like to be able to buy for purposes of housing. It was waiting some such development as this that has kept, for 25 years, this piece of land out of use. Local authorities cannot proceed because of the statutory nature of the railway companies, but it is to be hoped that in the course of this business a solution of that crying public evil and difficulty may be found.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Duff Cooper)
The Committee this afternoon has been more like a cave of harmony than is usually the case, and it is my duty to reply to the speeches of the hon. Members who have taken a line, if not identical, at least similar. The hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) and the Leader of the Opposition have been working hand in hand, and the attractive feature has been presented of my right hon. Friends the Chancellor the Exchequer and the Minister of Transport sandwiched together in one of those trains which run in the morning and evening to the suburbs. While thanking the Committee 773 and all the Members for the general approval that has been expressed, I think by every speaker, I would, before replying, remind the Committee that we are dealing this afternoon with a Financial Resolution which only deals with one particular scheme by the raising of £40,000,000, or a sum within that figure, for one definite purpose. While it has been the pleasant duty of many hon. Members to point out the urgent need of similar schemes in their own constituencies, and while I have every sympathy with those who have put forward those views, they will not expect me to reply to them in detail, or to criticise or even hold out any promises of what may be done in that direction. Members for London constituencies, of course, are particularly interested in the scheme, and have particular reasons for suggesting its extension for the advantage of their constituencies, but we have gone, I must say, rather far afield when the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Sir W. Rea) suggested an extension to Yorkshire. I was only waiting for the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) to stand up and say that money could be well spent on improving transport facilities in the Orkney and Shetland Islands.
§ Sir W. REA
The hon. Member does not compare the density of the population in Yorkshire with that in the Orkney and Shetlands?
§ Mr. COOPER
With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. J. Rutherford), I think I have some intelligence that may be of interest to him and to other Members. I have a communication from the General Manager of the London and North Eastern Railway to the effect thatThe needs of the Enfield and Tottenham districts have not been overlooked, but it was felt that they were of a less urgent character than those of the Ilford, Loughton and Finchley areas. It would be impossible to enlarge the ambit of the scheme so as to include Enfield and Tottenham in the proposal, but the situation will receive consideration as soon as the development at present in hand has made further progress.
§ Mr. COOPER
The scheme allows for the replacement of trams by trolley omnibuses and that will take place in the Walthamstow district and will be, I hope, of some benefit to the hon. Members constituents. I have been asked how the electricity is to be supplied. On that point I am not in a position at present to give any detailed information. The Government fully realise the importance of the question, but it will, of course, be primarily a matter for the Transport Board to decide, and they will equally naturally keep in close touch with the Ministry of Transport throughout the negotiations and all the important considerations that have been referred to will undoubtedly be borne in mind.
§ Mr. WILMOT
In the Schedule, money is to be spent on the improvement or development of the passenger transport power station. Could we have some information from the Electricity Board before Bills are introduced?
§ Mr. COOPER
I will certainly consult the Minister of Transport who will, I hope, be able to satisfy the hon. Member on that point. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) asked me my opinion of the effect that this issue was likely to have on the issue of previous stocks of the London Passenger Transport Board. I can only give him my own opinion, and I do not think it will be of very great value, but I understand, from what I have read in the papers and have gathered from those who are better qualified to judge, that it is, in the opinion of those who know most about it, not likely to exercise any adverse effect upon stock previously issued by the Board. With regard to the question of the payment of interest and how long that will go on, that is, I think, more or less laid down in the terms of the agreement in paragraph 12 (c), which says "until the work is completed," and in the second paragraph of the agreement it is anticipated that the work will be completed in five years. Therefore, it may be roughly taken that five years will be the limit of time during which interest will be paid in that way.
§ Mr. COOPER
I will take advice on the point. I am not in a position to say 775 whether the agreement can be altered. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the question of compensation for those who lose their work or are reduced in wages owing to the alterations that will be made. I had to deal with a rather similar suggestion a few days ago on the Finance Bill, and many of the arguments that I put forward then will apply. But in this case I am very doubtful whether such a Clause would be necessary, because this is not by any means a process of rationalisation which envisages closing down or employing fewer people than before. It is the definite object of the scheme to employ a great many more people, and it is sincerely to be hoped that there will be no case of people losing employment, but, on the contrary, a great many cases of people gaining employment.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The London Passenger Transport Board have now the power to compensate people who are displaced in certain conditions. We agree with the hon. Gentleman that this scheme will probably employ more people, but it may displace some. If we could have an assurance from the Board and the railway companies that those people will be dealt with in a manner similar to those who are already being dealt with, that would go some way to satisfy us.
§ Mr. COOPER
A matter of that sort would be better dealt with in the powers taken in the private Bill, but I repeat that it is to be hoped that no employment will be lost, and we can also take it with some confidence that the London Passenger Transport Board will act with generosity towards their employees, as they always have done in the past, and will exercise the powers that are already within their scope.
The right hon. Gentleman taunted us with having stolen the thunder of the Labour party and produced a Socialistic plan. I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not afraid of that taunt. It is one that he has had to meet before. It is very easy to call a scheme Socialistic or Conservative. A scheme to lend Government assistance to a great industrial project is not necessarily Socialistic. When the right hon. Gentleman was First 776 Commissioner of Works, he very often took steps to preserve ancient monuments, which was part of his duty. If we had then taunted him with being a Conservative—
§ Mr. COOPER
He would have enjoyed it and would not have resented it. Neither do we resent the taunt of socialism, because in this respect our activities seem to bear a slightly Socialistic tinge. He said he thought my right hon. Friend had been ungenerous in not mentioning the Minister of Transport in the Labour Government. I am sure it was far from his intention to deny any credit to Mr. Morrison for the very useful work that he performed while he held that office, but there is no fear of that work escaping notice, because Mr. Morrison has lost no opportunity of calling attention to it. In an article by him that I read last night I find very little mention of the National Government and very little of the credit due to the activities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends when they were in office would have liked to do this. We do not doubt that for a moment. We have never suggested that their intentions whether in or out of office are not of the very best. They were unable to do it. Why were they unable to do it? Because when they came to put their hands to it they found that the money had mysteriously disappeared. That is the difference between their activities and ours, and, when they ask us, as so many Members have, to do more in every direction, in every corner of London, in Yorkshire and elsewhere, I would reply that we are always prepared to consider any useful schemes of the kind, but we are not prepared beforehand to enter into any commitment or promise as to what we shall do in the future. We are going to wait until the scheme is there and the money is there, and we shall always apply the money which, by sound finance, we have had put at our disposal for such wise schemes as will bear fruitful results for the people.
§ Mr. SUMMERSBY
Would the hon. Gentleman satisfy the public that there is good reason for putting trolley omnibuses 777 on the road instead of motor cars? What is the reason?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.778
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Ten Minutes after Three o'Clock until Monday next, 24th June.