HL Deb 14 June 1892 vol 5 cc1009-22

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


My Lords, I beg to move the Second Reading of the London County Council (Tramways) Bill. The Bill as it stands proposes that a tramway should be laid from the dead end on the Surrey side of Westminster Bridge to come over the bridge, then turn sharp to the right, and go along the Embankment as far as a pro- posed new street to be called Horse Guards Avenue, which is not yet made. The houses in Parliament Street, however, are in course of demolition, and the Horse Guards Avenue will go from the Horse Guards through to the Embankment, and, being a sixty feet road, it will make a very fine road forming a junction between Whitehall and the Embankment. The tramway terminus or dead end is to be placed before the tram gets to the Horse Guards Avenue, so that there will be no block of the traffic whatever, and it will relieve the great congestion of traffic and remove the danger that at present exists on the Surrey side of Westminster Bridge. My Lords, I was not aware, till I came down to the House, that there would be any opposition to this Bill; but I have been told that there is a certain amount of opposition, which may, perhaps, be occasioned from not exactly knowing what the County Council propose to do. I will, therefore, venture first to take the opposition to the Bill as it stands itself. There are only three Petitions against it. One is from the Metropolitan District Railway Company, who appear to be apprehensive of losing a certain amount of traffic. I venture to think that that apprehension must be very small. I am speaking under correction, but I believe I am right in saying that the fares are the same from Westminster Bridge Station as they are from Charing Cross Station to the Mansion House; anyhow, there might not be the same number of people in the train, yet, at the same time, the Railway Company would not lose any money. Then there is an opposition from the Vestry of St. Margaret, Westminster. They seem to be apprehensive of the trams getting into Victoria Street. Well, my Lords, when there is any question of the trams getting into Victoria Street, that, perhaps, would be the best time to discuss the question. There is no question of the trams getting into Victoria Street or anywhere else. The terminus or dead end, as I said before, is at the end of Horse Guards Avenue, and there is no question I venture to think that need be discussed. Then the other Petition is from the frontagers and dwellers in the houses on the Embankment, who are chiefly I think represented by St. Stephen's Club. The Club pointed out that it would be a great detriment to them to have this tramway going past the door, and the chief objection that they made was that in wet weather people waiting for the trams would run and shelter themselves under the portico, which would be a great inconvenience to the members of the Club. Now there is no portico at all at St. Stephen's Club, so that I think the members may consider that that danger is not very great. And the frontagers are backed up by the Tramways Defence Association, which is an Association interested in ordinary wheel traffic, and that is the old question rather, as in the old days, of coaches against railroads. I may say briefly that the congestion of traffic at the end of Westminster Bridge is not only inconvenient, but it is a great and positive and serious danger. Besides the 55,000 passengers carried every week in omnibuses over Westminster Bridge past this dead end, there are 200,000 passengers every week who have to get out of the trams and walk over the bridge. It does not matter what the weather is; they must get out in the middle of the road, women and children, and walk through the mud; and all these 200,000 individuals have to walk across the bridge every week because they are unable to proceed any further. To help those people there are the halfpenny omnibuses which your Lordships may see,—the little red omnibuses which carry ten persons, and which it is calculated pass the end of Parliament Street 777 times a day. Now if the tramway was allowed to pass this House and was made up to this end, all those omnibuses would be run off the road of course; but I think I can put the case in a nutshell by just quoting what Mr. Street, of the Lambeth Vestry gave as one of his answers before the Select Committee of the House of Commons. He puts the case very clearly— Sometimes three or four cars are waiting at the dead end, sometimes in addition three omnibuses come from the West End, two come from the Elephant and Castle, a halfpenny 'bus takes up passengers, and another one delivers passengers on the other side, and a heavy vehicle comes up from Standgate at the York Road, besides other traffic. The marvel is how there are not a large number of accidents in that place. It is to the credit of the police and those who have the management that it is not so. It is a question not only of inconvenience, but of danger. If it is a danger on a fine day your Lordships can imagine what a terrible inconvenience it must be on a snowy wet day such as we sometimes have. The statistics that I have given to the House were taken on the 6th, 7th and 8th March last, which the House-will remember were the most stormy days that we have had during the year, when the snow came down and there was a regular blizzard. Now, my Lords, I will very briefly state who are in favour of this proposal. The Lambeth Vestry, to begin with, are strongly in favour of the Bill. Then there is a Petition signed by sixty thousand inhabitants of South London. I know that sometimes Petitions are thought very little of; but this is a bonâ fide genuine Petition signed by sixty thousand inhabitants of South London, to whom it would be a manifest and great advantage; and Colonel Ford, who represents the North Lambeth Division on the London County Council, speaking for his constituents, says that the feeling is very strong in its favour. But I venture to think that what the House will consider the thing most in favour of the Bill is that there will be no extra charge for this extra half-mile. All that we propose to do is to run the tramway a little over four furlongs, and it will cost no more to go to the dead end on the Embankment than it does to go to the dead end on the Surrey side of Westminster Bridge. And when you come to think that a great many of the female workers in the Strand, in Regent Street, and all round that part of London, come from the South of London, if they can be carried through the winter for that half-mile at the same rate that they are now carried it will be a great advantage to them—a great many of them are not able to afford the halfpenny omnibus; they have to trudge across the bridge in all weathers—I think those facts will satisfy the House. And knowing what a great benefit it will be to Walworth, Peckham, Brixton, and the whole of the district of South London, I venture respectfully to hope that your Lordships will not make any serious opposition to the Bill, or, at any rate, if any of your Lordships think they cannot support the Bill, that you will allow it to pass the Second Reading, when it will be referred to a Select Committee who will again go into the merits and demerits of the case; and then your Lordships will have an opportunity, if the Select Committee allow it to go through, of throwing out the Bill, if you are not satisfied that what I have said is absolutely correct. With great respect, in the interests of so many people in the South of London, I most earnestly ask your Lordships to be good enough to assent to the Second Reading of the Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Carrington.)


My Lords, I beg to oppose the Motion of the noble Lord. I have not the advantage, like the noble Lord, of being spokesman for the London County Council; but I am pretty confident that I should have been more likely to have had a seat on that body if I had thought it worth while in my speech to mention the fact of the tramways being constructed on the Victoria Embankment. With regard to the history of this Bill in the other House, perhaps I may just briefly allude to it. The Bill only passed the Second Reading in the House of Commons by a majority of two; and on the Third Reading it was by misadventure that it happened to be unopposed in a House of five Members. Your Lordships would rather perhaps that I considered the demerits of the Bill itself than the actual procedure that took place in the other House; but I thought it was just as well to mention these particular points to your Lordships. With regard to the Bill itself, there are two especial considerations. First of all what are the particular disadvantages of the proposed tramway, and also what necessity is there for its construction? There are two insuperable disadvantages connected with all tramways with which, of course, your Lordships are very well acquainted: the disadvantage that is applicable to a carriage or a cart, or an apple woman's donkey cart, that in crossing a tramway line there is always a great amount of skidding; and, secondly, there is the disadvantage of the rigidity of the course of the tramway line. And with regard to this line I might quote the Report of the Highways Committee of the London County Council of last year, in which, taking into consideration the Bill that was then before the House of Commons, promoted by a Tramways Company, they said— It has been impossible to exclude from our consideration the fact that the proposed line would involve the occupation by what may be described as an inelastic traffic of a most important bridge and a thoroughfare which has been constructed at enormous expense at the cost of the Metropolis. That is the Report of the Committee of the London County Council itself, describing this traffic as most inelastic. And I might also quote the Report of a celebrated engineer, Sir John Fowler, when in 1872 there was a Joint Committee of both Houses for the purpose of considering the various proposed tramways throughout the Metropolis, in which he gave evidence with regard to this particular tramway line across Westminster Bridge. Now Sir John Fowler was asked— Do you think it would be possible to bring the tramcars across the traffic upon Westminster Bridge? and he replied— I think it would be very dangerous, and at certain periods of the day almost impossible. Evidence to the same purport was likewise given by Sir Joseph Bazalgette; and the Report of the Committee was condemnatory of any line across Westminster Bridge. Now the noble Lord has referred to the existing block on the Surrey side of the bridge; but if this Bill were passed there would be an equal block brought about by the junction that would be created between the present South London Tramways Company and the London Tramways Company. Their two lines would be united; and it is impossible to conceive that you can have a junction effected between these two tramway lines without a great block and stoppage perhaps of all the traffic at that particular I point. The noble Lord in his remarks quoted the evidence of someone—I did not gather whom—who said that if it were not for the police it would be impossible for the traffic at the present time to be continued along the Surrey side of the bridge. My Lords, it is certainly to be regretted that when this Bill was in Committee in the other House there was no evidence of the police taken with regard to the traffic over Westminster Bridge. The private petitioners against the Bill could not obtain the evidence of the police, because they said they were Government officials, and the Chairman of the Committee for some reason did not think it necessary to take their evidence; but it would have been very important to have heard what the police, who are the superintendents of the traffic of our streets, would have said. As it is now proposed that the tram line should be put on either side of the roadway, all the traffic would be bound to go over one of those tram lines, and you would have Westminster Bridge, on which is focussed most of the traffic going to one of the terminal stations in London, the station, I believe that carries more passenger traffic to and from than any other station in the Metropolis—you would have the greater part of that traffic centred upon Westminster Bridge, and all the disadvantages that are consequent upon any tramway line would be most severely felt in that particular locality; and, even if there were any strong case in favour of the Bill, I still say that this particular locality renders it most unsuitable for having any tramway line running along it. Now the present Bill, as it is presented to your Lordships' House only proposes to take the tramway line to the other side of Westminster Bridge; but the Committee of the other House in their Report stated that they were unwilling to extend the tramway along the Embankment beyond what is necessary for another terminus. Therefore those two furlongs running down the line can only be considered as another terminus—I admit a long terminus; but according to the Report of the Committee it is only proposed that the tramway should exist for the sake of the traffic coming across the bridge. I maintain that it is an equal disadvantage for people, if they have to get out of a tramway and get into an omnibus, whether they do so at one end of the bridge or the other. The people coming over the bridge go to all parts of London,—but they do not go along the Embankment; perhaps a certain number do go by the District Railway, but the District Railway Company should know their own interests; and we have the District Railway Company as petitioners against the Bill. Therefore we must assume that there would not be any great part of this traffic that would be diverted into the Underground Railway. If then this Bill only proposes to take people across the bridge, it is natural enough that people will alight not at the end of the tramway, but at the end of the bridge; and therefore you would have the trams standing at the very point where it is least desirable that they should stand, at the point at which a few years ago the Metropolitan Board of Works got a special Act for removing a small ventilator of the District Railway Company at a cost of £7,000 or £8,000, so bothersome was this ventilator to the general course of traffic. And I say if the London County Council are anxious to do a good work in the Metropolis let them curtail the present lines of the Tramway Company and put them rather further back along the York Road so that you might have an uninterrupted traffic to Waterloo Station. But if it is objected by the promoters of the Bill that it will also assist people going down the Embankment to Charing Cross, and elsewhere, I should like any of your Lordships just to look at a map of London, and you will see that this reach of the river by Westminster is really north and south, and not east and west. Take a point down at the Borough—take the Obelisk—no man in his senses would think of coming across by Westminster Bridge to get to Charing Cross or the Strand; he would come by Waterloo Bridge if he were driving, or by the footroad of Hungerford Bridge to Charing Cross, running parallel with the railway. I am not talking of those portions of Lambeth that lie rather to the south-west; but the great mass of the dense population of the South of London would invariably go either by the Hungerford Bridge, or Waterloo Bridge, if they wanted to get to any portion of London east of Charing Cross. And if this is only in theory, I can say that I myself a Sunday or two ago thought I would go and stand down by the corner of Westminster Bridge and watch, on a beautiful Sunday evening, when you might imagine that people would go by the Embankment, and see what percentage of the people went along the Embankment, and what number went along Bridge Street; and I calculated about seven per cent. turned down the Embankment. But I may say that the Vestry of St. Martin-in-the-Fields took statistics with regard to the number of people going along the Embankment from South London, and on 5th May between the hours of five a.m. and nine p.m., out of 5,564 persons crossing only 270 went along the Embankment; and it is evident to anybody knowing what the Embankment is, that none of the working classes, or only a very small proportion, would go along the Embankment itself. And another proof that there is no traffic that way is that there are no omnibuses running there. We know that omnibuses are numerous enough in the Metropolis, and, if there were any likelihood of their paying, there would be an omnibus from the present termination of the tramway to take people along to Charing Cross; but they do not exist; and therefore we may fairly assume that there is no traffic that way. It may be asked why the London Council Council want to take their tramway along the Embankment if there is not likely to be any passenger traffic; and it is very hard to say at first sight. It is not likely that the members of the National Liberal Club, or even Constitutional Club want the tramway; there must be some deeper reason for it; and it is that the County Council want a starting point from which to have a general system of tramways throughout the West End of London. But my Lords, there is no likelihood of this present line being worked. The Tramway Companies at the present time refuse the conditions of the London County Council. According to the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons up to 1898, when, if the Bill passes, they will get full power to work over any other tramway in London, the tramway shall not be worked by the London County Council unless it is found that they are unable to obtain an inadequate rent. I understand that they have come to some agreement about the rental, £1,000 or £1,300, with the Tramway Company; but what the Tramway Company stick at is the ten hours' limit per day, and there they are at a dead-lock. Supposing even the County Council were to get permission from the Board of Trade under these circumstances to work the line themselves, is it likely that they would incur the expense of starting their own staff of men, stables, cars, horses, and all the rest of it, to work four furlongs and an odd number of yards? Besides, even if they did, that would involve the changing of the passengers from the system of the Tramway Company to that of the London County Council. The fact of the whole thing is that it is an abortive scheme; it is a still-born child, this production of the London County Council; there would be lying a decaying nuisance along the Embankment until such time as it may have some life infused into it by a general system of tramways throughout the whole of the West End of London. Then it may indeed become the heart centre, the great starting point for all the tramways of the West End. There was evidence given by the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the London County Council, I think at the County Council itself, in which it was distinctly stated that the Council tried to get trams along Victoria Street, and that with regard to Parliament Street they would leave it an open question; and a Member of the House of Commons, I think it was Lord Compton, said that it was a necessity for joining the southern and northern systems of tramways in the Metropolis. Therefore you would have probably the tramways from Moorgate Street, the tramways-from Gray's Inn Road, and the tramways from Hampstead Road all converging towards Charing Cross; and thence there would be other tramways radiating out of Victoria Street, and through the West End. If your Lordships think it desirable to have tramways throughout the West End, then you must vote for this Bill; but otherwise you should not pass this Bill, because it is only an excuse for making a great centre for a general tramway system. And I may remind your Lordships that at the present time Electric Subway Train Bills are being promoted which would most effectually deal with this particular district. There is one Bill in particular for a subway running under the river right up to the North of London, up by the Hampstead Road. Now with regard to the evidence brought forward either in support of, or against the Bill, of course the owners of frontages are strongly hostile to the Bill. I may also say that St. Thomas's Hospital is strongly opposed to the Bill, and, if the noble Lord quoted the Vestry of Lambeth as being in favour of the Bill, it is also assuredly legitimate to quote the Vestries of St. Margaret's and St. John's, Westminster, as being strongly opposed to the Bill, and as being petitioners against it. And I think the noble Lord quoted Colonel Ford as being in favour of the Bill, as representing Lambeth on the County Council; and I might equally quote General Sir Charles Fraser, who is strongly opposed to the Bill, and who said that he had the unanimous support of all the tradespeople in the Westminster Bridge Road against the Bill. My Lords, let me then just sum up the points as I have put them to you. First of all, that the inconvenience created by the tramway would outweigh any real benefit; secondly, that the traffic down the Embankment is a minimum amount, and there is no prospect of the line being worked; that it has been stated in evidence that the desire of the London County Council is to extend the tramway system throughout the West End; and also that there is likely soon to be a most efficient way of increasing locomotion throughout the Metropolis by means of electric railways. I trust, therefore, that your Lordships will not be led away by any appeals that you are doing a benefit to the masses who reside in South London. It has not been proved that the Bill would be a benefit; and, even if it were a benefit, it would be a benefit in no proportion to the injury that would be done to the general public of the Metropolis. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months").—(The Lord Lamington.)


My Lords, I think there is one consideration which ought to weigh very strongly with your Lordships, and that is that this Bill has been before a Select Committee of the other House, and has been carefully considered by that Select Committee who, after hearing the evidence, reported in its favour. Your Lordships are asked in the case of a Bill, the importance of which cannot be denied, after what has been said by my noble Friend near me, and even by the noble Lord opposite, to reject the Bill without hearing evidence, without having any means of guiding your Lordships to a conclusion, although the Committee of the other House, after hearing evidence, have reported in its favour. What will be the result? Your Lordships will be said to have determined to proceed not upon evidence, but without evidence, to reject the Bill which the other House upon evidence determined to pass. Surely, by so doing, your Lordships will put yourselves in a position extremely to be deprecated. The result of reading this Bill a second time will merely be that it will go to be investigated by a Committee of your Lordships' House; and, if those who promote it do not establish their case, and, if those who oppose it can show that, upon the whole, this Bill will not be a public advantage, then the Committee will so report; and if, on the other hand, the Committee report to the contrary, and your Lordships' Committee come to the same conclusion as the Committee of the other House, it will still be in your Lordships' power to act; but then you will be acting with evidence before you, and with the means of judging. I am not going into the merits of the Bill at this stage; I think it undesirable to discuss its merits; I am at the moment not in a position to do so; but I do appeal to your Lordships to let the determination of this question be a determination when you have the evidence and can act upon it, and not before.


My Lords, I do not think it is necessary for me to say very much with regard to this Bill; I would only point out to your Lordships that it is unusual, to say the least, to reject a Bill of this kind without allowing it to go to a Committee. I admit further that this Bill does not stand absolutely on the same footing as many Bills of the kind, because no doubt it is connected with an important thoroughfare that is well known to your Lordships. At the same time the House must remember that it comes from an important body; it is promoted by an important representative body, the County Council of London, and it has been passed by the House of Commons. I do not wish to say that that is to have an extreme weight with your Lordships, but I think it must have some weight with you, and should deter you, at any rate, from rejecting a Bill on the Second Reading without allowing it to go to a Committee. The course would be an unusual one, and I venture to think in the present case, it would be somewhat unfortunate. I would remind the House that after the Bill has gone through a Select Committee, where the many points that have been brought before your Lordships by the noble Lord, who moved the rejection of the Bill, may be fully considered, there will still be an opportunity for the House, if it thinks fit, to reject the the Bill on the Third Reading.


My Lords, having had some experience of Private Bill legislation in this House, and perhaps being now one of the oldest Members of it, I can only bear my testimony to the fact that during the time I have been in this House I do not remember any course being taken similar to that which is now proposed by the noble Lord opposite—with one exception, and that was taken by the late Earl of Derby, when he moved the rejection of a Bill which had for its purpose, if I am rightly informed, the erection of an arcade, somewhat similar to the Burlington Arcade leading out of Bond Street. The House on that occasion rejected the Bill on Second Reading; but the difference between that Bill and this one was very important, because that was a Bill that originated in this House, and did not come up, as this Bill has done, from the other House. I have looked in vain for any precedent for the course suggested by the noble Lord opposite, and I think it would really be a very dangerous course; and I venture to hope that the House will seriously consider before they take the step they are asked to take this evening.


If this Bill does go to a Select Committee would the noble Lord who brought in the Bill allow it to be an undertaking that no objection shall be made to any petitioner appearing before the Committee? Very few people have a locus standi in the matter. The roadway of the bridge and of the Embankment belongs entirely to the London County Council, and therefore it is possible for the Vestries of St. Margaret's and St. John's, Westminster, who practically are chiefly interested in the Bill not to be allowed to appear before the Committee. But, if the noble Lord would agree to their being allowed to appear, and any other petitioners, then I will withdraw my Motion.


I cannot bind myself to do exactly what my noble Friend wishes; but I can bind myself so far as this: that the London County Council will cause no objection to be placed in the way of any persons who wish to oppose the Bill, and who have any valid reason to show why it should not be passed into law.


May I be allowed to point out that the noble Lord cannot bind the Committee? The noble Lord can bind himself not to oppose the locus standi of any person who wishes to appear before the Committee; but it rests with the Committee alone to decide who shall appear before them.

On Question, whether ("now") shall stand part of the Motion, resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed: The Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.