HL Deb 30 July 1903 vol 126 cc822-31


Bill read 3a (according to order).


My Lords, this is rather a bulky Bill, and I am afraid that my Amendment looks rather big on paper; but I think I can in a comparatively few words state the case to your Lordships. The case is one which I hope will commend itself to you, and one in which I think your Lordships will do well to review the decision of the Committee. This Bill is an omnibus Bill, and, amongst other things, it contains a quantity of tramway clauses. The Beckenham Urban Council under this Bill is given power to construct three tramways, altogether amounting to about two miles in length. Tramway No. 1 is about one mile in length, and to that we have nothing to say. Tramway No. 2 is about three-quarters of a mile in length, and runs from Thesiger Road along the Kent House Road to the county boundary between Kent and London. Then comes Train way No. 3, which is a short piece of about 280 yards, which also runs from the county boundary along Kent House Road to its I junction with the Sydenham Road, and it is with regard to this tramway that the difficulty arises. I think it is worth remarking that the Beckenham Urban Council propose to hand these tramways over under lease to the British Electric Traction Company to work, but it is curious that it is specially stipulated in the Bill that the Beckenham Urban Council should not be bound to construct Tramway No. 2 at all unless an arrangement is arrived at with regard to Tramway No. 3, which lies outside their territory, but within the territory of the London county. I think that very clearly shows that the advisers of the Beckenham Urban Council and of the British Electric Traction Company were well aware that there would probably be difficulties with regard to this short piece of tramway lying within the London county, and that they were prepared for Parliament to take a hostile view with regard to the powers sought in respect of that particular piece of tramway.

These 280 yards of tramway he entirely outside the territory of Kent and of the Beckenham Urban Council. The road authority there is the Lewisham Borough Council, and the tramway authority the London County Council, and there is absolutely no precedent whatever for one of the tramway authorities surrounding the London county carrying a tramway into London county territory without the consent of, or arrangement with, the London County Council as the tramway authority. Since the existence of the London County Council, namely, since 1889, there have been only three cases in which these powers have been sought and given—I refer to the cases of the London United Tramways Company at Hammersmith, a tramway projected by the Bexley Urban District Council in 1901, and a tramway projected by the Erith Urban District Council in the present session. But in all those three cases special arrangements were made in the Bills by which the rights of the London County Council were acknowledged and saved. The Erith Tramway case came before the very same Committee that had to deal with this Bill in the House of Commons, and in that case the Committee decided that the Erith Council should not be at liberty to construct the tramway in the London county without the consent of the London County Council, and of the Woolwich Borough Council as the road authority. With regard to the other two cases—the Hammersmith tramway and the Bexley tramway—special provisions were made, and my Amendment proposes to introduce the conditions made in 1901 with regard to the Bexley tramway into this Bill, those conditions being that the London County Council should have the right, in the course of the next two years, to construct this piece of tramway, and that if they did not use that power, then the Urban Council should have the right to go on with the work as proposed under the Bill.

I think there can be no question as to the correctness of my case so far as precedent is concerned. There is absolutely no precedent whatever for power being given to one of the smaller tramway authorities to invade the London county without the consent of the London County Council, or without some definite arrangement with that body. I shall probably be told that this tramway No. 3 affects a very small bit of the county of London, but that is a very dangerous sort of proposition to admit. After all, little though it may be, it is just as much all infringement of the principle as if a larger area were effected. The London County Council has not shown itself ill the least obstructive in regard to this matter. It offered to undertake, if necessary, the construction of the line, or to buy it from the District Council when constructed, and to lease it on the terms which have been put forward by the Highways Committee. I quite admit that in this particular case the tramway is but a short piece. I admit that it is in the interests of the people of the district that it should be connected with Tramway No. 2; that, indeed, it is almost necessary for the purpose of Tramway No. 2 that these 280 yards of tramway should be constructed from the county boundary up to the Sydenham Road in order to complete the connection. The London County Council are perfectly willing to agree to this, and are only desirous of having its rights saved in the manner adopted in all previous cases. If this piece of tramway is to he worked within our territory, it ought to be constructed by our leave, or, if we so desire it, constructed in such a manner and on such conditions as we think proper to impose. I do not think I need labour the point. I have stated the case shortly, and, I hope, clearly, and I trust your Lordships will give me your support in securing the insertion into this Bill of the clause which stands in my name Oil the Paper. I should have preferred, if it had not been for the late period of the session, to have moved that the Bill be re-committed; but I recognise that it is too late for such a course to be adopted now. I therefore beg to move my Amendment.

Amendment moved— In Clause 18, page 19, line 38, at the end of the clause, to insert the following proviso: Provided also, that not withstanding anything in this Act contained, the Council shall not construct, the said Tramway No. 3 if the London County London County Council shall, in either of the sessions of 1904 or 1905, obtain powers to construct a tramway between the same, points as the said Tramway No. 3. and shall proceed to construct and complete the same as soon as possible after obtaining such powers, and on the completion and opening of the same for public traffic by the London County Council all powers for the construction of the said Tramway No. 3 by this Act given to the council, shall absolutely cease and determine: provided always that if the said London County Council shall not, before the thirtieth day of November one thousand nine hundred and four, have given notice of their intention to apply in either of the said sessions for such powers as aforesaid, or having given notice of such intention shall not proceed with the promotion of a Bill or Order, or shall, before the said thirtieth day of November one thousand nine hundred and four, have informed the council by notice in writing that they do not intend to construct such a tramway, then from and after the said thirtieth day of November one thousand nine hundred and four, or the abandonment of the said Bill or Order, or the receipt of such notice as last aforesaid (as the ease may be), the powers by this Act conferred upon the Council of constructing the said Tramway No. 3 shall, not withstanding anything in the foregoing proviso contained, be exerciseable by the Council.'"—(Lord Tweedmouth.)


My Lords, my noble friend has asked the House to reverse a decision that was deliberately arrived at by the Committee to which this Bill was referred. I do not think I need go into the particulars of the Bill, because my noble friend has very clearly and very fairly put them before you. The Urban District Council of Beckenham has in this Bill asked leave to construct a series of tramways, one of which—tramway No. 2—is on its own ground, but would be practically useless without this little addition of 280 yards which goes into the territory of the London County Council. There is no not question about the Standing Orders having been complied with in this case in every particular. The proper consents were given to the construction of the tramway according to the Standing not Orders, and, so far as I can see, no absolute principle is infringed except the principle that my noble friend has set up, that under no case is ay neighbouring local authority to invade the district of the London County Council. I quite agree with my noble friend, that one should be very jealous of interfering with the tramway authority of so important a body as the London County Council, but it is not a principle the applies in other parts of the country. There are many cases in which local authorities construct tramways, with local authorities construct tramways, with the two-thirds consent of the districts through which they pass, into the district of other local authorities. The London County Council have no tramways for a very long distance within the reach of these 280 yards, and even if they had they would have to obtain the consent of the Lewisham Borough Council before they could construct the tramway which they could construct the tramway which they ask leave to construct under this proposed clause. I do not think I need labour the question, but I would point out what our Standing Order is which deals with this matter. The Standing Order is No. 133, and it Provides that— No power shall be given to any local authority to construct…any tramway beyond the limit of the district…unless a Committee on the Bill shall determine that, having regard to the special local circumstances, such construction, acquisition, taking, or working ought to be sanctioned. Therefore, under our Standing Order it is perfectly open to the Committee to which the Bill is referred to consider any local circumstances connected with the case. This case was entirely before them. The London County Council was heard, and I cannot help thinking that without hearing the evidence as it was given before the Committee, it would be scarcely right of your Lordships to upset a decision deliberately arrived at after hearing both sides of the case. On those grounds I venture to hope that the House will not depart from the decision which has been arrived at by the Committee upstairs.


My Lords, I think the Noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees is mistaken when he says that there have been many cases where, contrary to the views of the local authority, their territory has been allowed to be invaded by another authority. I am told that in no single case has that been so. Tramways outside the districts of the promoting local authorities have been invaded in many cases, but my information is that in all cases it has been done by argument with the local authorities of the districts invaded. Therefore this Bill would absolutely throw to the wind the precedent that has been established in these cases. Never has even a larger local authority been allowed to invade the territory of a smaller authority, and yet here we have a smaller local authority allowed to invade the territory of a larger authority. I am sorry the noble Earl the Lord Chairman has taken the view he has on this question.


After the speech of the noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees I know perfectly well, that it is useless for me to put the House to the trouble of dividing, but I do wish to enter a very distinct protest against the decision of the Committee, and I also wish to put it very distinctly on record that that protest is solemnly entered by the London County Council, against the principle of the invasion of its territory by an outside tramway authority. I also protest that this particular case, though it may be excusable on the ground of the very small nature of the tramway, must not be accepted as a precedent for Committees to go upon in the future.

Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.


My Lords, I have an Amendment to omit Clause 40 of this Bill. That Clause was inserted on the application of the Crystal Palace District Gas Company, and it is to this effect: that if it can be proved that any damage is done to the gas pipes of that Company by electrical action the Urban District Council of Beckenham shall be made liable for such damage. The Clause was inserted in your Lordships' House upstairs without the promoters being asked to give any evidence, and I think I can show that the clause is really unnecessary. The great objection to the insertion of this clause is that it vitiates an agreement which has been made with the Electric Traction Company, who were to carry out these tramways. The clause puts an obligation which already exists in another clause in the Bill, but presents it in such a way that it vitiates to a great degree the agreement entered into with the Electric Traction Company. The clause is wholly unnecessary because Clause 35 of the Bill is the model clause, which was agreed to after full consideration by a Joint Committee of both Houses under the Chairmanship of my noble friend Viscount Cross. This clause enacts the making of regulations by the Board of Trade, which really protect all gas, water, and other pipes affected by electrical action. The Crystal Palace Gas Company have asked that Clause 40 should be inserted for their protection, but there is no special protection under this Clause for the Vauxhall Water Company's pipes. They are, of course, protected by Clause 35, and I contend that the special protection given to the Crystal Palace Gas Company in Clause 40 is-quite unnecessary in view of Clause 35, and contrary to all precedent. I therefore hope the House will agree to the omission of Clause 40.

Amendment moved— To leave out Clause 40."—(Earl Stanhope.)


My Lords, I regret very much that my noble friend, the Duke of Bedford, who was Chairman of the Committee to which this Bill was referred, is not in his place, because he would no doubt have replied to my noble friend. I feel some difficulty about this matter. I am very unwilling to support an Amendment which would seem in any way to go against a decision of a Committee of your Lordships' House, but after what my noble friend has said, I am somewhat inclined to think that the noble Duke and his colleagues had not before them the full circumstances of the case when they were induced to insert this clause on behalf of the Crystal Palace Gas Company. It is a question of some importance and a ' matter of principle. The clause provides protection for an individual company against the dangers of electrolysis. Prior to 1893 there was a great deal of difficulty in traction Bills in dealing with the different companies and different bodies who had pipes or wires likely to be affected by electrical action. So difficult did this become that Parliament appointed a Joint Committee in 1893, over which Viscount Cross presided, the result of which was that a model clause was framed which subjected all these companies to the Board of Trade regulations, and that clause has from that time, I think, hardly ever been varied. One of the sub-clauses of that clause is that the electrical power shall be used only in accordance with the Board of Trade regulations, and such regulations shall be made for preventing fusion or injurious electrolytic action on gas and water pipes. The result of that has been that that general principle has been adopted in all legislation, with very few exceptions. Where companies have come for individual protection it has almost invariably been refused to them on the ground that the Board of Trade regulations, if they were properly carried into effect, were sufficient to protect them, and that if they were not sufficient the proper course would be for the Board of Trade to render their regulations more stringent. As far as precedents go, from 1897 to 1900 four special clauses were applied for and all refused. There was one case—the London County Council Tramways in 1900—where a clause of a somewhat similar character was allowed; and in a Sheffield Bill in 1901 there was also a clause allowed, but the circumstances were so peculiar that I do not think it ought to be taken as a precedent. The year before last two clauses were refused, and in no case was one granted, and this year it has been refused in one case, allowed in one, and it is in this Bill. I should further say that the Board of Trade, in the Orders which they issue for the construction of tramways, have invariably refused to give this protective clause to individual companies or persons. They say the companies must rely on the general clause which is given to all companies and in all Bills,.and that if the Board of Trade regulations are not sufficient they must be strengthened. I believe there has been one case recently in which it is supposed—I cannot state anything definitely to your Lordships because I have not gone into the matter—that electrolytic action has been proved to have damaged water pipes, but I am informed by the Board of Trade that, so far as they know, the present regulations are sufficient to deal with this matter. Therefore, I venture to think that in allowing this clause to be inserted in the Bill the Committee hardly considered the general principle that was involved, and that it would be a misfortune if in these Bills there crept in a clause of this kind affecting individual companies and persons. On those grounds I feel I cannot possibly resist the Motion which has been moved by the noble Earl.


My Lords, the noble Earl has stated that in one case to which he referred the circumstances were peculiar, and that such a clause as the one in question was justifiable on that account. Possibly there was a similar reason for the Committee inserting the clause in this Bill. I have no doubt that the noble Duke who presided over this Committee and his colleagues weighed the evidence carefully and fully considered the points put before them, and is it not possible that the Committee inserted this protection because they recognised special circumstances which rendered it necessary? I am informed that there are other instances which are now being investigated, not only of water, but of gas pipes being injured, and that lately there was a serious explosion owing to a pipe having been moved without the knowledge of the undertakers, and if it had been a large main the damage might have been serious. I think it is rather hard to delete this clause to-day, when those who support it have not had sufficient time to prepare the case against the deletion of a provision which has evidently been inserted in the Bill for their protection after due evidence. This is a question of principle, and I submit that it is a matter for delay. I have not had time to go into it, or to ascertain whether the companies have duplicate mains or not, or whether the inconvenience to the public would be very serious in the event of an accident, and I suggest that the matter should be deferred, so that the Board of Trade might make more inquiry before the Crystal Palace Gas Company is deprived of the protection given them in this clause.


My Lords, I am, of course, unacquainted with the local circumstances in this matter, but as, by the regulations of the House, the noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees, is unable to speak again, I have to say, on behalf of the Board of Trade, that up to the present there is no evidence that the Board of Trade regulations have proved ineffective. The Board of Trade are watching the matter, and if future regulations are considered necessary they will be introduced.

On question, Amendment agreed to.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.