HL Deb 16 July 1906 vol 160 cc1243-69

Order of the day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, "That this Bill be now read 3a"—(The Earl of Onslow.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.


My Lords, the object of my Amendment is to reinstate in the Bill the clauses which were struck out by your Lordships' Committee, giving powers to the London County Council to establish an ambulance service. These powers were unanimously granted in the House of Commons, and when the matter was before the London County Council there was almost unanimity with regard to the suggestion; at all events, the scheme as put forward by the London County Council, and as it came before the Committee of the House of Lords, was not divided against. Your Lordships Committee, of course, is as much entitled to its opinion as the Committee of the House of Commons, but I would venture to suggest that where you have something like unanimity in the London County Council with regard to a particular measure and where you have a Committee of the House of Commons unanimously approving of the proposal, there ought to be rather strong reasons given for your Lordships differing both from the London County Council and from the House of Commons.

I confess that from one point of view I rise with some reluctance to propose this Amendment. I do not wish in any way to damp the ardour for economy that has been shown by the noble Earl opposite, and by other noble Lords on that side of the House lately when discussing the London County Council Money Bill. I am exceedingly glad that that Bill should have been discussed in your Lordships' House, and I am delighted to find that many noble Lords on the opposite side are now advocates of economy and sound finance. I have no doubt that this championship of economy on Lord Camperdown's part will be as permanent as it is sincere, and that when the time comes for his own Party to be in office he will make suggestions to them and criticise their proceedings in the same impartial spirit. With regard to this suggested ambulance service, I have had some difficulty, after reading with great care the evidence placed before your Lordships' Committee, in understanding the reason why the Committee disapproved of the proposal, and that is partly the reason why I have put down this Amendment. I wish to give the noble Earl an opportunity of stating the views he holds on the matter. I cannot quite make out whether the noble Earl objects to this expenditure because it is too small or because it is too large. I imagine that the position of the noble Earl is this, that the London County Council ought to have taken one of two courses. It ought either to have gone in for a complete system, or it ought not to have asked for any powers for an ambulance service at all.

I quite admit that there is something to be said for the London County Council providing London with a complete ambulance service, but you must recollect that the circumstances of London are some what peculiar. We have in London various voluntary bodies which to a certain extent do provide ambulance facilities, and we felt that if we rushed in and covered the whole field, probably those voluntary systems, if they did not cease to exist altogether, might dwindle, and then the ratepayers would be saddled with the whole cost of the ambulance service. Our proposal is to spend only £5,200 for the first year on the ambulance service. It was suggested in the Committee, and it has been suggested on the London County Council that we ought to be in a position to know exactly how much it is proposed ultimately to spend on this system. As to that it is almost impossible to give a trustworthy estimate, but we have done our best. The noble Earl had has a witness before his Committee, Sir Shirley Murphy, our principal Officer of Health. Sir Shirley Murphy gave a detailed statement with regard to the possible cost of an efficient ambulance service of twenty-one stations in London, in the event of the total failure of the voluntary help which London now receives.


The noble Lord will remember that that was, as Sir Shirley Murphy admitted, a rough estimate of his own. It had never been tested in any way.


I know it was a rough estimate, but Sir Shirley Murphy, who is the principal officer in this matter, prepared the estimate to the best of his ability after going carefully into the matter, and I do not suppose that if we had another estimate it would differ very much. I would venture to suggest that in this matter the question of the coordination of our expenditure hardly arises. In the first place, the expenditure is by no means big. We ask only for £5,200 for the first year, with a possible increase to £30,000. This possible increase to £30,000 is the outside estimate, for it is certain that the City will have its own ambulance service, and we have offers of motor ambulances from voluntary associations. Surely, in a question of this kind it is very difficult to wait until we have coordinated all our expenditure.

We have done our best for three or four years to suggest to other people that they should supply London with an an efficient ambulance service. They have never done so, and the result is that the ambulance service in London is now certainly very inefficient. As to that I think there can be absolutely no doubt in the minds of those your Lordships at all events

were members of the Committee, and noble Lords who know the circumstances will admit that our witness, Sir William Collins, did not exaggerate Sir William Collins was asked by Mr. Lushington to tell their Lordships what these voluntary associations were, and he replied— There is the St. John's Ambulance Association, the British, the Bischoffsheim Ambulance Service or the Hospitals' Association, the Volunteer Medical Staff Corps, and the Police. Certain boards of guardians, certain hospitals, and one or two railway companies have ambulances of their own, and there are one or two trading companies that supply ambulances. I can state to their Lordships, if they desire, what the various voluntary associations do. The St. John's Ambulance Association deals with the training of men in the work of first aid and ambulance work; they have some twenty-five ambulance stations in London, with litters and stretchers, and other ambulance appliances, but with three exceptions there are no men on duty at those stations. The three exceptions are, at St. John's Gate, St. Paul's Cathedral, and St. Clement Danes; but I believe there are not men on duty constantly throughout the night at those stations. Then there is the Bischoffsheim Service, which is a branch of the Hospitals' Association, and was established in 1890 by Mr. H. L. Bischoffsheim, which service consists in placing hand ambulances and stores at various fire brigade stations and cab ranks, which are available for use by the police, who have a key to the station; but no one is on duty there to work the ambulance. The Volunteer Medical Staff Corps is primarily a military organisation, which on special occasions like public processions attends to casualties and accidents which occur in the streets. The County Council on several occasions of public processions has worked in association with them, in providing temporary shelters and accommodation. Then the police possess hand ambulances and wheeled litters; but they have no hone ambulances in constant readiness; the only horsed ambulances are at Rochester Row Police Station, Carter Street and Stoke Newington, and those apparently are not kept in readiness, and the arrangement for hiring hive to be made by the individual who desires the use of the ambulance. They were originally private property, but they have been taken in hand by the police. The Metropolitan Asylums Board has been approached with a view of supplying the want. The Metropolitan Asylums Board deals principally with infectious diseases, and I should have thought it extremely desirable that ambulances for infectious diseases should be under absolutely different management from other ambulances, or, at all events, that the same staff should not deal with one as deals with the other. The Metropolitan Asylums Board sent to the County Council a communication on February 27th, 1904. They were then contemplating extending their ambulance service, which had hitherto been chiefly confined to the removal of cases of infectious disease. But their extension was not to include dealing with street accidents or casualties, and they proposed to make a charge of 7s. 6d. in respect of each removal. Therefore what they had in view was not to meet the general case Then my noble friend Viscount Knutsford was approached. He is connected with the St. John's Ambulance Association, and he expressed his desire that we should proceed and improve the ambulance service of London. Sir Kenneth Barrington, who was then actively connected with it, expressed similar views, and Mr. Bischoffscheim, of the Hospitals Association, has always been favourable to our proposals and has himself offered to provide motor ambulances if the Council is entrusted with the power of mantaining them. Such is the position with regard to the ambulance service in London.

Now, let us see how far that service is efficient. Sir William Collins went very carefully into that. He said that in four weeks he had evidence of some 1,949 cases in the chief London hospitals, and that deducting those which arrived on their own legs and taking only those that came in some kind of conveyance or other, there were 947 more or less serious casualty cases and cases of illness, and only 289, or about 31 per cent., were brought to the nine hospitals in any kind of ambulance, while more than two-thirds arrived in hansoms, four-wheelers, vans, or other unsuitable means of conveyance. Then, again, he made further investigation at the London Temperance Hospital from August, 1901, to January, 1902. He found that out of 203 cases conveyed to the hospital otherwise than on their own legs, 48 were brought in four-wheeled cabs, 102 in hansoms, 22 in vans or carts, 3 in bath-chairs, one in a barrow, 19 in ambulances, and 8 on hand-stretchers; so that 150 cases out of 203 arrived in cabs. And he added— I have known many cases of unnecessary pain and danger and injury result from putting patients with injured limbs or with undetermined internal injuries into four - wheelers or hansom cabs. Sir William Collins also stated that communications had been received from Hammersmith, Fulham, Battersea, Poplar, Wandsworth, Greenwich, Bethnal Green, Finsbury, Woolwich, Lambeth, Hackney, and Kensington urging the council to consider the desirability of establishing an ambulance service for London; and that the Council had also received deputations from medical men, including the president of the College of Physicians, the president of the College of Surgeons, and many other medical men, who urged it to proceed on the lines on which the Council was now asking Parliament to give it power. It cannot, in these circumstances, be urged that it is not necessary to improve the ambulance service in London.

Let me ask your Lordships to consider what has been done by other municipalities in providing ambulances. Sir William Collins was asked by Mr. Lushington to give the various large towns where there was a service now in the hands of the municipal authorities, and he replied— There are rapid ambulance services at Liverpool, Birkenhead, Manchester, Oldham, Bradford, Newcastle, Huddersfield, Bolton, Blackburn, Bristol, Gateshead, Burnley, Hull, Sheffield, Leeds, and Wolverhampton, worked in association with the fire brigades in some cases, but in all cases, I believe, under municipal control.


Those are all police authorities.


That is perfectly true, but I do not quite see what that has to do with London's not having an efficient ambulance service. Is London to wait until the police are under the control of the County Council before it has an efficient ambulance service? I am of opinion that the police should be under the County Council, but I do not think we should wait until then before we have our ambulance service put into an efficient condition. Moreover, we do not think that the police are the proper body to have control of this service.

The Committee over which my noble friend Lord Camperdown presided has succeeded in pleasing nobody, but in displeasing everybody by the- decision at which it has arrived. The City only opposed our scheme on the ground of rating. They did not object to

establishing a service in London so long as they were not rated. I believe we can come to a satisfactory arrangement with the City with regard to expense. I do not think that blocks the way at all. The proposal, I believe, is that in so far as the City ambulance service is satisfactory the City should be given a certain grant. At all events, I understand that the City is perhaps as much distressed as any one that these clauses have been struck out. I have merely to say, in conclusion, that, although I know that your Lordships are not very ready to interfere with the decisions of your Committees, it did appear to me that this was a matter of so much public importance that it was my duty to obtain a statement from the noble Earl as to the reasons why his Committee came to the decision to strike out these Clauses.

Amendment moved. In the preamble, page 3, line 36, after the word 'made' to insert ' and whereas it is expedient that the council should be empowered to establish and maintain, or to contribute toward or otherwise aid in the establishment and maintenance of an ambulance service for dealing with cases of accident and illness in the streets and other public places in the county.' In Clause 2, page 6, line 13, after the word 'Drainage' to insert 'Part IV.— Ambulance Service.'; in page 6, line 14, to leave out ' IV. ' and to insert' V. '; in line 15, to leave out 'V.' and to insert ' VI.'; in line 17, to leave out' VI.' and to insert ' VII.'; and in page 19, line 5, after the word ' works ' to insert ' Part IV.—Ambulance Service.' 24. It shall be lawful for the council to establish and maintain, or to contribute towards the cost of or otherwise aid in establishing and maintaining; an ambulance service for dealing with cases of accident and illness in the streets or other public places in the county. 25.—(1) The council may for the purposes of this part of this Act, and as and when they may think requisite for carrying such purposes into effect: (a) Appropriate, hold, and use any lands or buildings for the time being vested in ' them for any purpose for which such lands or buildings are not required; (b) take on lease, purchase by agreement, or otherwise acquire any lands or buildings within the county;(c)erect., or cause to be erected, and maintain, repair, and manage on any lands so appropriated or acquired any buildings suitable for the said purposes; (d) adapt, furnish, and equip any buildings so appropriated, acquired, or erected. (2) The council may from time to time sell, lease, or let any lands or buildings accquired by or vested in them for the purposes: of this part of this Act, and not required for such purposes. (3) The council may for the purposes of this part of this Act contract with any company or persons for the establishment and maintenance of telegraphic, telephonic, or other suitable means of communication: between the several buildings used for the purposes of this part of this Act, and between any of such buildings and other parts of the county. 26.—(1) For the purposes of this part of this Act the council may employ and pay such officers and servants as they may I think expedient for the efficient conduct of the service authorised by this part of this Act. (2) The council may from time to time provide and maintain such ambulances and other vehicles to be drawn by hand, or by animal or electrical or other mechanical power, as they may think requisite for the accommodation and conveyance of persons meeting with accidents or seized with illness in the streets or public places in the county. Provided that any electrical power used for moving any such vehicle shall be entirely contained in and carried along with such vehicle in such a manner that no magnetic or other influence is created which is likely to affect injuriously any telegraphic line of the Postmaster-General.— (Lord Monkswell.)


My Lords, it is greatly to be hoped that your Lordships will accept the Amendment which has just been moved by the noble Lord opposite. It is recognised that a rapid ambulance service, motor or horse, is wanted for London, in place of the hand-litters and four - wheeled cabs which at present constitute the only service to convey wounded persons to the hospitals or to their homes. That conveyance in four-wheeled cabs causes intense agony, and very frequently turns an ordinary fracture into a compound fracture, is the opinion of many medical authorities, among others Sir William Church, and it may be mentioned that many of the most eminent medical practitioners in London have formed themselves into a body under the name of the Metropolitan Street Ambulance Association, their object being to revise the ambulance service of London.

No other city at all approaching London in size is now without a rapid ambulance service. The system originated in New York, and rapidly spread to Boston and Washington and all the principal cities of the United States, and then it was adopted in Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, and, as the noble Lord has informed us, it has been copied in very many provincial towns and cities. One thing about the ambulance service to be noted in London is that in only three police stations are there any horsed ambulances available, and they can only be obtained on payment. When once you get to payment, and the wounded person has to wait until the money is found for his removal, the system falls to the ground. It is also to be noted that the London County Council only adopted the idea of rapid ambulances when it had been rejected by all the other public bodies in London. It was not only refused by the hospitals; it was refused by the police, by the Metropolitan Asylums Board, and by the Fire Brigade, and then at length the London County Council adopted the idea. As regards the City, as my noble friend mentioned, the City has a system of its own in contemplation, and there is no sort of reason why the London County Council should not work harmoniously with the City. It is greatly to be hoped that the Amendment of my noble friend will meet with the approval of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, as I was Chairman of the Committee which rejected this proposal put forward by the London County Council, your Lordships will no doubt expect me to say a few words in explanation of the course which we pursued. But before I do so I must take exception to a remark made by Lord Monkswell at the close of his speech to the effect that the City Corporation were displeased at this scheme's being rejected. I do not know what authority the noble Lord has for making that statement. I can only say that their representative spoke to me as I was coming into the House in quite a contrary sense. The noble Lord seems to forget that the City Corporation appeared in opposition to the scheme, and that if the scheme had not been rejected their opposition would have had to be heard and was directed to the principle of the Bill. They said that they themselves had a scheme, not merely in contemplation but in a more advanced stage than this proposed scheme of the London County Council, and they objected. They stated that they had already 1,400 police who would administer a scheme of ambulances in the City, and they objected to being rated also as part of the County of London for this purpose.

The noble Lord omitted to state one thing which is very relevant indeed, and that is that the Home Office is opposed to the scheme. A report by the Home Office, dated March 6th, was laid before our Committee objecting to this scheme. It is an official report, and the Home Office states that it is a question whether additional facilities required would not be more efficiently and economically provided by the development of the existing services. The Home Office goes on to say that ambulance litters on wheels are provided at every police station, and that the Secretary of State is informed that no difficulty is experienced by the police— and remember the police are the persons who come first into contact with accidents —in dealing promptly with cases of accident or illness in the streets. It would in any case, the Secretary of State thinks, be undesirable to have two public services covering almost exactly the same ground each acting independently of the other. The Secretary of State pointed out in this connection that the police were obviously in the best position for dealing with such cases, as they were on the spot and could attend to them without delay, and that the police service could be extended without much difficulty and expense by the provision of additional ambulances. Therefore the Home Office is opposed to the scheme, and I understand that the Home Office is on the point of communicating with the County Council and suggesting a conference with, them on this matter.

Now, my Lords, let us come to this Bill, because it is the Bill that we are dealing with and not the general question of ambulances. Everybody desires to have a good ambulance service, but the question is, by whom is it to be provided, and whether or not the proposed scheme is a good one. That is what came before the Committee. Let me tell your Lordships, in a few words, what has happened in Parliament in regard to this matter. Last session the London County Council made up their minds that they would proceed with a Bill, and their General Purposes Committee put forward a proposal to have one principal and seven district stations, which were to cost something like £13,000 a year. The Finance Committee asked them if they could give any estimate as to the ultimate cost, and they replied that they could not. The Finance Committee thereupon requested them to prepare such an estimate. What did they do? They merely dropped the whole matter for six months and then brought up this Bill, which contained a proposal for two stations—not eight—at a cost of £5,000 a year. It is pretty obvious what the reason of that proposal was. I asked Sir William Collins whether he could say that it was a satisfactory proposal or one that could last for any time, and he said— No, it is only a tentative proposal that will cost £5,000 a year. He was then asked whether the Finance Committees were satisfied, and he said they had passed it, but were not, perhaps, entirely satisfied. Then I asked— Why did you propose eight stations last year and only two now? He replied that perhaps their scheme of the year before had been too ambitious. Then I asked whether this had any reference to the pecuniary objection which the Finance Committee took the previous year, and he replied— Yes, it has some reference to it, but it is not the special or, indeed, the only cause. The London County Council propose to have two stations. They say they cannot give an exact estimate of what they are to cost, and they have no notion of what their scheme is ultimately to be. Indeed, they could not give us the faintest estimate of what the ultimate cost would be; and when the noble Lord says it may possibly ultimately cost £30,000 a year, I would point out that there is no reason, so far as this Bill was concerned, why the Council should not expend ,£300,000 a year if they saw fit.

Let us take the clauses. The noble Lord spoke about their intention to have two stations. That may be their intention, but that is not what is in the Kill. The clause which the noble Lord wishes to insert provides that— It shall be lawful for the Council to establish and maintain or to contribute towards the cost of or otherwise aid in establishing and maintaining an ambulance service. That is all that is stated. They may use any lands or buildings for the time being vested in them for any of the purposes of the Bill, and they may erect or acquire any buildings suitable for the purpose. This is done out of revenue, and your Lordships will remember that all expenditure out of revenue by the London County Council is not subject to the approval of Parliament. I asked one of the witnesses—Sir William Collins, I think it was—whether they would not require land for this purpose and to expend capital. He replied that it was a revenue expenditure. I said— Surely a great deal of this is capital expenditure, and he replied that the Council had the land already. I asked him how he was going to provide buildings out of revenue, and he said they would be temporary buildings. He admitted that this was only the first experiment of a scheme, and he could not give me any estimate whatever, or any conjecture even, as to what the scheme was to be or what it was to cost.

I think I have said enough to show your Lordships that it was impossible to pass a scheme of this sort. There is no detail of any kind. This is a fair sample of the way in which the London County Council go about their business. The Highways Committee appoint a subcommittee to consider this matter; the subcommittee put forward a proposal; the Finance Committee object; the Highways Committee then withdraw the proposal for a time and again put forward a similar proposal, but when it comes to drawing up a Bill they take powers to incur any amount of expenditure which may seem fit. I do not see how a Committee of your Lordships' House could have passed such a scheme. That was our reason for rejecting it.


My Lords, after what has been said by the Chairman of the Committee before whom this Bill was considered, your Lordships can hardly be asked to differ from the decision of the Committee. As one who has been interested for a long time in the ambulance service, having been Chairman of the St. John's Ambulance Association for some years, I should like to offer one or two observations and to suggest a matter for consideration during the ensuing year. I think it must be admitted on all hands that in a city like this, where the population is increasing by leaps and bounds, where the traffic also is increasing to such a great extent, and where there are accidents, not only every day or every hour, but every minute, in the streets, it is not creditable that we should be in a worse position than all the other great cities to which reference has been made, and that we should have no organised system of ambulances. I see great difficulties in handing this work over to the County Council, for the reasons which have been stated by Lord Camperdown, as well as that they have quite enough work on their hands.

But what I desire to have considered is whether there should not be a Bill introduced next year creating an ambulance board on which would be represented the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, all the hospitals and those other societies and associations that have supported ambulances, as well as representatives of the City and the Metropolitan boroughs, and the police. I think if you had an ambulance board of that kind it would have a double effect. In the first place, it would lessen expense by establishing an organised system, instead of having an overlapping of work by different bodies, and, in the second place, you would interest the public in the system, and thus, it may be hoped, lessen the expense of the Board by subscriptions from outsiders. I hope this suggestion may be taken into consideration, and that next year a Bill will be introduced with the assent of all who are interested in this very important question, and will receive the sanction of Parliament.


My Lords, I think I need only say one or two words about this Bill. At any rate, your Lordships will have gathered from the tenor of this debate that there is no difference of opinion on either side of the House as to the desirability of having an efficient ambulance service in London. The noble Earl the Chairman of the Committee stopped counsel and witnesses who were arguing in favour of an ambulance service by saying they were all agreed on that. The question before them was, who should provide an efficient system, and who should pay for it. Lord Leigh said that neither the police nor the fire brigade would have anything to do with it. I hope we shall hear a word presently from the noble Earl who represents the Homo Office in this House as to what are the views of the Home Office on the subject.

The question asked by Lord Monks-well, " Why should London wait? " is one which has been put to us on many other points, and I think it was the tenor of the debate a few nights ago in your Lordships' House that the tendency of the London County Council is, if anything, one of rather too great speed. I cannot help thinking that the London County Council and the question generally will take no harm by waiting until another session of Parliament. It seems to me that the proper course would be that some ommunication or conference should take place between the Government Department which has control of the London Police, the London Fire Brigade, and the-London County Council themselves, and if they see fit either to come to some arrangement for a joint management of the ambulance system or for the creation of an ambulance board, that will, I think, be a more satisfactory solution of the question than by rushing the matter in at this moment, and inserting these clauses, the financial effect of which is not at all agreed. I sincerely hope your Lordships will take time to consider the matter, and that we may have a well-matured and well-considered scheme for dealing with it next year.


My Lords, on behalf of His Majesty's Government I am unable to advise your Lordships to agree to the proposal of the noble Lord to reinsert the clause in the Bill. Your Lordships know quite well that it is within the power of this House to take such a step, but it would be a very unusual course to take on an occasion like the present. The chairman of this particular Committee is well known as one of the most experienced and careful Members of your Lordships' House, and His Majesty's Government, therefore, are unable to advise your Lordships to reverse the decision to which his Committee came. I venture to hope that the House will follow the same course with regard to another Amendment which is to be moved by the noble Earl (Lord Wemyss).

On behalf of the Home Office I have to say that in their opinion the scheme has not yet received that mature consideration which it should have before complete power is given to the London County Council in the matter. In the opinion of the Home Office another scheme for supplying ambulances to this city should not duplicate the present system, but rather supplement it; but under the clauses which were struck out of this Bill it was in the power of the London County Council to sweep aside the other agencies which exist at the present time and establish an entirely new system The opinion of the Secretary of State is that it would be better to follow the line of developing the present resources rather than by a revolutionary change to inaugurate an entirely new system. At the same time, the Home Office are not of opinion that improvement is impossible in this matter. They recognise fully that other countries have, perhaps, better ambulance services than we have, and they would be very anxious indeed, in co-operation with other public bodies which take an interest in the subject, to do what they could to improve the service in London.

I am afraid I cannot quite agree with the noble Lord who drew a somewhat melancholy picture of the condition of London at the present time in the matter of its ambulance service. There is a considerable amount of provision made already by the Metropolitan police; there are ambulances on wheels at every police station throughout the Metropolitan police district, and, further than that, there are also the necessary appliances for rendering first aid to the injured, and a very large number of the Metropolitan police force have obtained certificates from the St. John's Ambulance Association which enable them to render that first aid. I think it is a matter of great satisfaction that no leas than 6,082 members of the police force should be qualified to render first aid. Beyond that, I may say there are 240 litters at police stations, and forty other similar ambulances and appliances are placed in other central positions. The police stations do provide special facilities in the case of injured persons, because they are able, with the aid of the telephone, to get into direct communication with the hospitals, and warn them to prepare for really dangerous cases.

I do not think that in discussing the question of the ambulance service your Lordships should be allowed to forget that, in addition to those I have already mentioned, there are a very large number of ambulances which deal only with cases of infectious disease. Those are the property of the Metropolitan Asylums Board, and some 32,000 people made use of them during the year 1904. Those two services are entirely distinct, and the litters which are used by the Metropolitan police are never used for the cases which come under the purview of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. In looking at the ambulance provision of London as a whole, one should not forget the large number of ambulances in the possession of the Metropolitan Asylums Board.

The Secretary of State is of opinion that the time has come when further steps might well be taken in order to improve the present condition of the ambulance service, and he has, therefore, summoned a conference of the three bodies concerned—the London County Council, the Metropolitan police, and the Home Office—to consider what should be done in order to effect this improvement. It is not unlikely that a Committee from these three bodies will be formed to deal with the question as a whole, and to formulate some scheme. Meanwhile, it obviously would be unwise for your Lordships to interfere with any such scheme by reintroducing the clauses which the noble Lord wishes to restore in this Bill. I venture to hope, therefore, that your Lordships will not concur in the noble Lord's suggestion, and that next year, by the consent of all the bodies interested, a thoroughly sound system will be introduced which will meet with the approval of everyone concerned


Might I suggest to the noble Earl, with reference to his last statement, that the Home Office should call the City Corporation into the conference? At the present time, according to their own statement, the City have a scheme which is in a somewhat advanced condition.


I will communicate that suggestion.


As to my statement that the City authorities were in favour of my Amendment, I think I ought to mention that I obtained that information from persons who I thought were likely to know, and looking at the evidence I find the statement by Sir Ralph Littler, on behalf of the City, that rating is the only question at issue between the City and the London County Council, and that if the question of rating was settled the City would be willing that the London County Council should have these powers. Therefore I had every justification for my statement as to the position of the City. I think this discussion has done a great deal of good. I am very glad that the Home Office are going to call this conference, and I am sure it can only have this result, that next year the London County Council will be able to set up an efficient ambulance service. I cannot agree with the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees that we on the London County Council are in this matter going at too great a speed.


I did not say in this matter.


I rather thought the noble Earl said that this was an instance of our going at too great a speed. Twelve months' delay will undoubtedly cause a great deal of preventable misery. I suggest that the Home Office are a little sanguine in supposing that the police deal in anything like an efficient manner with the provision of ambulances in cases of accidents. There is not one horsed ambulance under the command of the police which has persons in constant readiness to take charge of it. I hope the Home Office will not hug themselves with the belief that there are not very great improvements to be introduced into the present police scheme. It has also been suggested that we intend to sweep aside all the voluntary bodies which at present provide ambulance accommodation. The proof that we do not intend to do so is that we have specially committed ourselves on the Council only to spend £5,200 in the course of the first year. We intend to work as much as we possibly can in co-operation with the voluntary associations. In the circumstances, I will not press my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.


My Lords, I move to leave out Clauses 27, 28, and 29 in Part V. Your Lordships had on this day week a very interesting, and, I hope, a very useful, discussion with regard to the Money Bill of the London County Council. In the Bill now before you there are three clauses which embrace the principle of municipal trading, and it is to these clauses that I specially direct your Lordships' attention. I think the clauses are objectionable as regards the private trader and as regards the ratepayer, and that they are not in the interest of the progress of the nation. As regards the private trader, if this Bill were to pass as it now stands it would practically oust all those who have to do with electrical fittings and wiring. It is proposed that fitting and wiring should be done by the local authorities.

There is a special clause to the effect that the borough councils are not to manufacture the fittings. But does any sane man doubt that next year or the year following, if you pass this now, there will be a Bill brought in to enable them to make these fittings? I venture to think that it is not in the interests of the nation that private trade should be driven out of the market by municipal or even State trading. That really is what is happening. As regards the ratepayer, he will be in great danger. I am old enough to recollect the day when every town was lighted, not by gas, but by oil. Suppose in those days you had had municipal authorities of the same ambitious character as the County Council. They would have had a fleet of whalers and would have brought their blubber here and made their own oil. Then came gas, and now electricity, and the cost of substituting these different supplies would have been saddled upon the shoulders of the ratepayers.

We are now perfectly satisfied with electric light, but the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition hit the right nail on the head when he said the other day that there is no limit to invention. What will happen? Some unknown illuminant may be introduced, and the electrical plant may become so much dead weight round the necks of the London ratepayers. I therefore venture to think that, in the interests of progress, of free trade, of private trade, and of the London ratepayer, this municipal trading ought not to be allowed. What does this trading mean? You have now at the head of the Local Government Board Mr. John Burns. What is Mr. Burns's view of municipal trading? Why, that everything in the shape of production and distribution should be in the hands of a labour-governed State. Therefore, I hold that every step in this direction is a step in the direction of State omnipotence. During a discussion some years ago at the Society of Arts, I put this question to Mr. Burns— Do you, or do you not, mean that all the instruments of production are to be in the hands of a labour-governed State? Mr. Burns simply bowed his head and said " Yes." Therefore, whatever you do in this direction is leading to this end.

How does this question of municipal trading affect national progress? You are always in the infancy of invention. You have progressed hitherto in this way —Science discovers and invents, and public enterprise has taken up the invention and speculated upon it. But if, when the invention succeeds, it is to be seized by the State progress will be stopped, because if this is generally done no one will take up inventions. Therefore on this ground I respectfully ask your Lordships to reject those clauses. The discussions in your Lordships' House have been most useful in showing up the finance and general proceedings of the London County Council, but you want more check upon the action of that body. I That check ought to have been in the original Act under which they were appointed, The compound householder ought to be got rid of, and then everyone would know what he was paying in rates. This it is impossible to know when the rates are included in the rent. You want an audit of the accounts of these corporations, ' and there ought to have been in the original Act a limit to their rating power. Instead of having their hands in everybody's pockets they ought to have been limited as to the rate they should be entitled to raise. If that had been done, instead of the rivalry which now exists as to which of them should have the biggest concerns, the rivalry would be as to which could do the most with the money at their disposal. There is another suggestion I have to make. It is that when a man has been elected to the London County Council he should have to pass an examination before a Government official in all the matters with which he professes to deal, and that there should be a special examination in shipbuilding and navigation. That strikes me as a very practical suggestion, and I throw it out for the consideration of the Government. These clauses were rejected in 1902 by a Committee of the House of Commons. In 1903 this trading power was again re- jected, and, lastly, in 1905 it was rejected by a Committe of the House of Lords. I therefore venture to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved. In Part V (Supply of Electric Fittings by Metropolitan Borough Councils), to leave out Clauses 27, 28, and 29."— (The, Earl of Wemyss.)


My Lords, I regret very much that after having been attacked just now from the left wing we are now attacked from the right. I can assure my noble friend that no one is more opposed to municipal trading as such than I am; but, with reference to this question of electrical fittings, it appears to me that it is to be looked at from quite a different point of view. The proposal in the Bill is that distributors of power and light should be allowed to supply the fittings by means of which that power and light are given. The power which we propose is not in any way a power of monopoly as against private traders. When either a private company or a public body distribute electricity, there are certainprima faciereasons why it is more convenient from the point of view of the consumer that they should also have the power of supplying fittings. If these clauses remain in the Bill it will be equally in the power of any consumer, just as at present, to employ a private trader and to have the fittings put in by him. Moreover, in the case of the supplying company or the supplying borough authority trading unfairly, there is an appeal to the Board of Trade, and, as was pointed out to us on the Committee, this has boon found perfectly effectual. With regard to what the noble Earl said in defence of the ratepayers, these clauses were specially drawn by a Committee in a previous session of Parliament to meet objections which had been raised and to prevent the Council in any way putting down the expenditure incurred by them in supplying fittings under such headings as to charge it to their general undertaking. In the first place, there is the security that no council of any Metropolitan borough is to manufacture.


Wait a year or two.


But this does not apply to these boroughs only. The noble Earl must not suppose for a moment that these powers are being given to Metropolitan boroughs alone. They have been given to a great many boroughs and also to gas companies and other companies of the kind whose supply is to a very large extent connected with the fittings and apparatus by means of which the supply is given. You have to judge a matter of this sort very much on the merits of the particular case, and, with regard to these Metropolitan boroughs, many of the houses are very small—£20, £25, and £30—and there are a great many persons who take a supply of electric power who prefer to hire rather than to purchase. All the evidence before us went to show that the private companies, and even persons who supplied motors, were rather in favour of the purchase system, and were inclined, as far as they could, to encourage that system rather than the system of hire. It was pointed out to us that a great many small manufacturers using electrical energy wished to hire rather than to purchase. It is perfectly true that a Committee of your Lordships' House did reject this proposal, or one almost identical with it, in the last session of Parliament, but I believe I am speaking for the majority of the members of the Committee when I say that, considering all the circumstances of the case, we thought it expedient to allow these clauses to remain in the Bill.


My Lords, the evidence which was brought before us this year was almost exactly similar to that which came before your Lordships' Committee in the year 1905. The witnesses were almost identical, and having served on the previous Committee as well as on this one, I could not detect much difference in the arguments. Yet the Committee of 1905 unanimously rejected the clauses, and the Committee this year, by a majority of four to one, allowed them to proceed. This, no doubt, is but a minor instance of municipal trading, but still the principle remains the same. It is the principle which has been very strongly objected to, not only by Members of your Lordships' House, but by a very large number of people outside, on the ground, chiefly, that the gradual absorption of private-trading into the hands of municipalities is likely to produce a very serious evil, and if it becomes more general may lead to the great discouragement of almost all forms of individual effort.

I do not profess to be such a strong opponent of municipal trading as the noble-Earl who has moved this Amendment. I can understand that in certain circumstances municipal trading is both justifiable and advantageous, but I think before the power is given it should be shown that the municipality wishes to embark on trading for the purpose of accomplishing some great public enterprise, and they should also, I think, be able to show that they can do it better than private individuals or public companies But in the case which is now before us there was no evidence of the kind, and my whole point is that these great powers should only be granted by Parliament as an exceptional matter of very great importance. The evidence before us did not show that there was any necessity at all, in my opinion, for these borough councils entering into this form of trading.

The noble Earl who presided over the Committee this year, the Earl of Camper-down, has told us that it would be a great convenience for the public to be able to have their fittings supplied by the same people who supplied the power. I can quite believe that there is a convenience in that, but I do say that the convenience, such as it is, is not sufficient to outweigh the primary objections to the principle of this municipal trading. The London County Council showed in evidence that in certain cases the firms at present engaged in supplying electrical fittings were unwilling or unable to supply them to the smaller class of houses where only some ten or twenty lights were required, and, in particular, that they were unwilling to adopt what is known as the hire-purchase system. I believe that system is a great convenience and is very much desired by a large number of small users of electrical power, but I hold that the firms have a complete answer.

The firms stated that this system had been tried, and they found that it could not, in these particular cases, be carried out at a profit. They found that the attendant risks were too great. There was the risk of unpunctuality in payment, and the risk of the purchaser leaving his house and going to another locality before his payments were completed. If private firms have found it impossible to carry on this system at a profit, is it likely that a municipal authority will be able to do so? I do not think our past experience of municipal trading would justify us in coming to such a conclusion, and if the municipal authority cannot carry it on at a profit, ought they to be allowed to risk the ratepayers' money in attempting to do so? I hold that the passing of this Bill, while it would be a danger, would also be a very serious hardship to the large number of respectable firms at present engaged in supplying these fittings; that it would bring them face to face with the serious competition of a municipality which possibly, by the aid of the rates, would succeed in forcing them out of their district with the loss of their capital and without any compensating advantage whatever to the general public.


My Lords, having been a member of this Committee, I would like to explain what influenced me in voting in the way I did. Personally, in a business sense I am opposed to municipal trading. But I think it is a misnomer to say that these clauses come within that category, because they simply continue the process of supplying the consumer and enabling that supply to reach the consumer. In two instances the manufacturers who came before us were quite willing to let the wiring go. They said there was no profit in it. We thought it would be to the benefit of the consumer, both from the point of view of convenience and expense, that this power should be given. I understand that there are several boroughs which have been given the power, and it has been found to work in a satisfactory way. On the other hand, I admit that Glasgow was given the power and has withdrawn it at the urgent request of contractors; but the principle remains the same, that the development of the supply largely depends on the facility with which fittings and wiring are carried out. Therefore we thought it right that the power should be given.


My Lords, I may perhaps be allowed to say a few words on this point, as I was Chairman of the Committee which rejected these clauses last year. I do not know that I should have troubled your Lordships if it had not been for the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down, which I confess seemed to me to be one of a very alarming character. It appears that the decision which the Committee has come to in this instance is based on the contention that the right of ' supplying the power should always be; accompanied by the right of supplying the fittings.


It is a concurrent power, not a monopoly.


Is that the accepted rule, the understood principle, upon which Committees have gone in the past? Is not that an entirely new principle altogether? No doubt in certain instances powers have been given to corporations, but they do compete seriously with the retail dealer. One curious recommendation by which the noble Lord supported these proceedings was that the operations could be carried out much more cheaply for the consumer by the local authorty. What does that mean? It means that the retail dealer is to be unfairly competed with by the local authority, which has means of supplying articles at a lower price than the retail dealer.


I was only referring to the wiring. The contractors themselves acknowledge that there is no money in it, and they do not care about the wiring.


I understand that the power you will give in these clauses goes as far as the supply of motors also, and I must say I think this is rather an instance of very great abuse in the matter of our Private Bill Legislation. Promoters bring Bills forward year after year. Sometimes the whole Bill, and sometimes clauses of the Bill, meet with rejection at the hands of one or other House of Parliament. The promoters bring the Bills up again and again until at last they manage to do one of two things—either to drain the pockets of the opponents to such an extent that it is no longer worth their while to oppose the proposal, or else by some means to induce the Committee to pass and adopt it. There does not seem to be that continuity of policy in our Private Bill Legislation which there ought to be. I do not think it should be in the power of a body like the London County Council to bring forward year after year proposals of this kind, which year after year are rejected. No noble Lord has had more experience as Chairman of your Lordships' Committees than my noble friend Lord Camperdown, whose opinion is, of course, entitled to every respect; but it does seem to me that, perhaps through the case not being fully put before thorn, he and his colleagues have come to a conclusion absolutely opposed to that of four or five other Committees who have sat on this question. I do not think this should be possible, and for that reason, if for no other, it would be advisable for your Lordships to agree to the Amendment to strike out these clauses. I am a little alarmed at the arguments of my noble friend Lord Camperdown, and all the more alarmed because of his tried judgment and great experience in these matters. The noble Earl began by telling us that he was opposed to municipal trading, but that there were exceptional circumstances which now and then must be taken into consideration.


I said in this case.


One of those circumstances was that the power was not to be a monopoly. But is that the whole objection to municipal trading? Is there no objection to municipal trading unless that trading is a monopoly? The objection to municipal trading is that it competes with fair commercial undertakings. I venture to think that anything approaching retail dealing should only be entrusted to local authorities in the most exceptional circumstances. The noble Earl said that one of the main reasons why these powers should be given to the London County Council was that they supply a large number of very small houses. That is a very wide-reaching reason. It is an argument which may be applied to every city and borough in England, and I do protest most strongly against doctrines, even proceeding from the noble Earl, so utterly subversive of what I believe has hitherto been the policy of Parliament.


My Lords, the Board of Trade see no reason why electrical fittings should not be sold by municipal bodies. They see no reason why bodies which are authorised to manufacture and sell electricity should not also have the advantage of being able to sell the fittings. In no case will they manufacture them, and, therefore, they will not be competing with private enterprise. My noble friend Lord Wemyss said he was afraid they would next year bring in a Bill for power to manufacture fittings, but I do not think there is any reason to fear that. Nearly every gas company has power to sell fittings, and a great many of the electrical lighting companies in the provinces also have that power. I therefore hope that in these circum stances the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.


My Lords, I do not think your Lordships need be afraid that in the Chairman of the Committee which considered this Bill you have any dangerous socialist anxious to advocate collective rather than individual doctrines. The noble Earl, with the consent of the majority of his Committee, decided in favour of allowing these clauses, and I gather from the remarks he made that that action was taken on the ground that it would benefit the poorer classes. I have no doubt there is a great deal of difficulty in getting them to adopt any new system unless it is made extremely simple, and if they have to go to two authorities, one to light and one to wire, there is a difficulty in getting them to adopt what undoubtedly they would wish to have. I remember an American friend of mine, commenting on the position of the legal profession in this country, saying that in America they did not have the two classes, barristers and solicitors, because they could not afford there to be lathered in one shop and to be shaved in another. I think that is very much the case here: that these persons prefer to buy their electricity and their fittings from the same body.

The noble Duke who was Chairman of the Committee last year made some complaint against the course of Private Bill Business in your Lordships' House, and he pointed out that it was the practice to bring in proposals again and again until they were accepted by the House. I hardly think that in this case, at any rate, the argument of the noble Duke has much force, because there are already two metropolitan boroughs supplying fittings, and there are no fewer than forty-two provincial authorities who have clauses which enable them to supply fittings as well as electricity. I venture to think, if we are to refer to precedents, that they are rather on the side of the promoters of this Bill. As I said on the last Amendment proposed to this Bill, I am not one of those who always support a negative answer to the question," Should London wait?" and I do not see why on all . occasions London should come in last in the race. In this particular case I do not think the principle which the House has agreed to in connection with two metropolitan and forty-two provincial authorities is so dangerous that your Lordships may not safely extend it to the other boroughs within the area of the London County Council.

On question, Amendment negatived.

On question, Bill passed and returned to the Commons.