HL Deb 30 July 1896 vol 43 cc994-1000

With a view of ascertaining the best system of ventilation which can be applied to the portion of the Metropolitan Railway between King's Cross and Praed Street, and for securing that the same shall be adopted by the Company, the following provisions shall be observed and have effect:—

  1. (1.) An arbitrator or arbitrators shall be appointed by the Board of Trade to consider and determine the best and most efficient means of ventilating the said portion of railway, taking into consideration the interests and convenience, as well of the travelling public as of the persons using or interested in the streets or lands over or adjacent to the said portion of railway
  2. (2.) For and in connection with the purposes aforesaid, such arbitrator or arbitrators shall consider any proposals as to the system of ventilation to be adopted, and also as to the situation, elevation, size, and construction of any ventilating works to be executed which may be submitted to him or them by the Company, the London County Council, or the vestry of any parish in which any portion of the railway is situate.
  3. (3.) The reference to the arbitrator or arbitrators appointed under this section shall be deemed to be a submission to arbitration under the Arbitration Act, 1889.
  4. (4.) When and so soon as the arbitrator or arbitrators shall have issued their award, it shall be the duty of the Company to proceed to put the same into execution; provided that, if further statutory powers are required to enable them to give effect to the said award, the same shall be applied for by the Company, or, in default, by the London County Council.
  5. (5.) If the Company fail to proceed with the necessary works in accordance with the award within three months after the date of the award, in the event of no further statutory powers being required, or within three months after such necessary statutory powers are obtained if such powers be required, the Company shall be subject to a penalty of fifty pounds a day for every day on which they are in default. Such penalty may be recovered by the London County Council in any Court of competent jurisdiction.
The noble Earl said that an effort had been made by the London County Council to compel the Company to accept arbitration on a subject familiar to all who travelled in London—the abominable ventilation of the Underground Railway. In 1890 the Metropolitan Railway Company sought power to buy lands fronting on the Marley bone and Euston Roads, and make holes through the roads for the ventilation of their line. Great opposition to this was raised by the local authorities, and it was insisted that the Company should be placed under certain conditions. The Company then introduced a Bill in the present Session to obtain power to acquire the houses in the Marylebone and Euston roads with their front gardens. This also was opposed by the local authorities. This Bill was referred to a Committee of their Lordships' House, who, after hearing the case, said they were anxious that the best system of ventilation should be adopted that science and experience could suggest, and they were not satisfied that the system proposed by the promoters was absolutely the best. They, therefore, desired that the arbitration mentioned in Clause 19 should be enlarged in such a manner as to empower the arbitrator to determine the most efficient means of ventilating the portion of this Metropolitan Railway to which the Inquiry referred. A clause was proposed by the London County Council and the vestries to give effect to the decision of the Committee, and, on its being adopted by the Committee, the Company declined to proceed further with the part of the Bill relating to the aquisition of land, and thereby not only defeated the decision of the Committee, but deprived them of the powers without which they could do nothing in the way of ventilation. He moved the insertion of a clause to the effect that an arbitrator or arbitrators should be appointed by the Board of Trade to consider and determine the best means of ventilating the railway between King's Cross and Praed Street, taking into consideration the interests of the travelling public and those using or interested in the streets or lands adjacent. This was an unusual course to take, but those of their Lordships who had been nearly poisoned or asphyxiated on the Underground Railway would admit the urgency of the matter. ["Hear, hear!"]


said he hoped his noble Friend would not press his Amendment, for, as a matter of fact, it had no connection with the provisions of the Bill as they were at present drawn. The facts were, that, when this Bill was originally sent to the Select Committee, the promoters sought powers to acquire land for the purpose of ventilating some portions of the Metropolitan Railway; the Committee not being satisfied that the method proposed by the promoters was the best one, inserted this Amendment, and the Company, rather than accept so drastic a proposal, dropped the part of the Bill to which it referred. This course was assented to by the Committee, who passed the rest of the Bill without further reference to the Amendment. Thus it was clear that, in the opinion of the Committee, the necessity for this Amendment rested not so much upon general grounds as upon the particular proposal made by the promoters to increase the existing methods of ventilation, as to the efficiency and convenience, of which considerable doubt had been expressed. It would have been quite possible for the Committee to have inserted the Amendment even after part of the Bill had been dropped. They did not do so, and he submitted, therefore, that his noble Friend was not entitled to say the promoters defeated the intention of the Committee, and to quote the opinion of the Committee upon the Bill as originally drawn under circumstances that were now entirely different. ["Hear, hear!"] But, apart altogether from the question of the relevancy of the Amendment, he objected to it also on totally different grounds. In the first place, he did not quite understand what his noble Friend meant by the word "arbitrators." The persons proposed to be appointed by the Board of Trade were not, as a matter of fact, arbitrators at all. Their duties were not those of arbitration, and their opinion was not an award. Surely it was of the very essence of arbitration that there should be parties to a dispute and an agreement to refer. But in this ease there was no dispute; there were no parties, and there was no agreement to refer. In fact., the persons whom his noble Friend called arbitrators were commissioners, to whom was to be intrusted the duty of discovering the best mode of ventilating this portion of the Metropolitan Railway, and whose decision the Company were to be bound to accept, no matter whether that decision was practical or not, under a penalty of £50 a day, without right or power of any appeal whatever. He could not Conceive that any company would accept a proposal of that kind, so drastic in its character, and he did not believe for an instant that, if this Amendment were inserted, the promoters would continue with their Bill. The experience at the Board of Trade to a large extent bore out what the noble Earl had said with reference to the conditions of ventilation upon the Metropolitan Railway, and they were anxious to put the ventilation of that railway, if they could, on a more satisfactory footing than it was at the present time. He did not think the proposal of his noble Friend was the one best suited to carry out the objects he had in view. The insertion of the Amendment would defeat the ends which his noble Friend wished to attain, and he could not help thinking that a far better course would be to appoint either a Departmental Committee of the Board of Trade or a Select Committee of their Lordships' House, to whom the whole question of the ventilation of the Metropolitan Railway should be referred, and who would report as to the best means which should be adopted to put it on a more satisfactory footing. He hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.


observed that he was Chairman of a Select Committee of their Lordships' House which inquired into this matter some ten years ago. That Committee authorised certain ventilators to be made which the Metropolitan District Railway asked for. But after their Report objection was taken to the ventilators on the ground of unsightliness, and the result was that in the House, of Commons a great deal of what had been sanctioned in the House of Lords was struck out of the Bill, and nothing had practically been done from that day to this. Anybody who travelled on the railway knew the state of things was no better now than it was ten years ago, and, whatever the fate of this Amendment, something ought to be done early next Session with a view to arriving at a settlement of the matter.


thought it might be well to adjourn this matter for a little while, and the noble Earl might be able to arrange some clause with the Board of Trade and the local authorities during the course of the present Session, the subject being of so much urgency as to suggest that course. He hoped the matter would not be hung up till another Session, but that the Board of Trade would at once do what they could with a view of suggesting some clause that might be accepted both by the local authorities and the railway company with regard to the ventilation.


sympathised with the object of the Amendment, but was bound to say he entirely agreed with what had been said by his noble Friend who represented the Board of Trade. The Amendment was a very stringent one, and did not concern anything that was in the Bill now before the House. The Committee desired to impose upon the Company a clause with regard to ventilation. The Company refused to accept that clause, and the Committee allowed the Bill to proceed, omitting from it anything relating to the Metropolis. The Bill, therefore, came before the House as an Omnibus Bill, which had no connection whatever with any land or works in the Metropolis. He thought it would be a strong measure indeed, on the Third Reading of a Bill, to introduce into it an Amendment of this character, which had no connection with anything in the Bill itself. It would be hard upon the Company, and he was afraid would introduce a very inconvenient precedent into private Bill legislation. He therefore earnestly trusted the House, would not adopt the Amendment of his noble Friend. With regard to what had been said by Lord Monkswell, it was somewhat late in the Session to postpone this Motion, and he thought the Board of Trade would have some difficulty in introducing into the Bill any Amendment dealing in a really efficient and thorough manner with the question they all desired to see dealt with. Having said this he would like to express his opinion strongly as to the ventilation of the Metropolitan Railway. The views expressed by the Committee ought to he taken into consideration by the Company, and he would venture to urge upon the Company the importance of considering the whole question of the ventilation of their railway, and to warn them that there might he some difficulty in their obtaining Parliamentary assistance in the future unless they took the matter really and effectively into consideration, and acted upon it.


as Chaiman of the Committee which considered the Bill, said the only part that was seriously opposed was the part relating to the ventilation of the Metropolitan Railway, and the Committee thought it would he fairer to all parties that the whole matter, being so technical, should be taken into consideration by an arbitrator who could decide as to the best mode of ventilation. The evidence given led the Committee to believe that the proposal before them for this object was not the best that could be conceived. The course the Committee suggested was, he considered, a very fair one, but the promoters were perfectly within their rights in declining to accept the Arbitration Clause, and as there were other useful clauses in the Bill, the Committee did not, because of this, care to refuse the whole Bill. He perfectly agreed with what the Earl of Dudley had stated on behalf of the Board of Trade, and he need not say he agreed entirely with the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees, as to the course which ought to he adopted. He thought it would he both inconvenient and inexpedient to adopt the Amendment which had been proposed by the noble Lord, which embodied a penal clause, throwing upon the promoters of the Bill the necessity of adopting some mode of ventilation the Board of Trade might suggest to them, or, in the alternative of their failing to do so, submit to a fine of £50 a day. It would be well to adopt the suggestion of the noble Earl below him, and leave the whole matter in the hands of the Board of Trade, when the whole question could he settled within a very few months.


said that, in view of the expression of opinion that had fallen from the noble Lords, and in view of what had been stated by the noble Earl representing the Board of Trade, he would withdraw his Amendment. He could only say he was glad to have obtained an expression of opinion from some noble Lords as to the great necessity which existed for this ventilation. He could only hope that the noble Lord would do what he could to obtain a Departmental Committee of the Board of Trade to inquire into this matter, and to see that it was not allowed to rest longer than was absolutely necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.

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