§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.— (Lord Hamilton of Dalzell).
§ On Question, Bill read 3a.
My Lords, I believe my Amendment has precedence of that standing on the Paper in the name of my noble friend Lord Kinnaird, because it is to amend the clause which the noble Lord proposes to expunge. This is a Bill which comes to your Lordships' House under the Scottish Procedure Act of 1899. Up to the Third Reading your Lordships have had nothing to do with the Bill, but I venture to 1064 suggest that at this stage your Lordships' House has and ought to exercise complete jurisdiction over it, and the Third Reading ought not to be considered merely a formal matter.
I quite understand that your Lordships might be inclined to defer to Scottish opinion, and that the Bill having passed in Scotland in this particular form your Lordships might be disinclined to amend it. I fully admit, therefore, that the onus lies upon me to show good reason why it should be amended. It cannot be said that Scottish opinion in this matter is at all unanimous inasmuch as the Corporation of Glasgow are very much against the particular clause in question; indeed, they would greatly prefer that Lord Kinnaird's Amendment should pass than that the one standing in my name should be adopted. Whether your Lordships accept my Amendment or not, an opportunity will be given of voting for the omission of the whole clause; but I think it is quite possible that some of your Lordships may think that the Amendment of my noble friend is too drastic and that a middle course ought to be pursued.
The question at issue in this Bill is as to the terms on which a railway company ought to be allowed to exercise powers over road traffic, either in connection with their railway or not in connection with their railway. Clause 3 of the schedule, which I propose to amend, appears to me in its present form to be absolutely inadmissible, being against all precedent. In 1899 the first case arose of a railway company being allowed to exercise these powers over road traffic, and there have been some eight or nine cases since. Quite recently, in the case of the Mersey Railway Company, a clause of this kind was struck out altogether.† The first precedent for the insertion of such a clause was in the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Act,. 1899.
There have, as I have said, been altogether ten instances of a clause of this description being inserted, but it has always been put in subject to two principles being observed. The first principle† See (4) Debates, clvii., 433, et seq.1065 is that this road traffic must be in connection with the railway, or in connection with some extension of the railway; and the second is that the road traffic must not be allowed to compete with the traffic facilities afforded by a local authority. And where it is at all necessary, there has always been a further clause providing that the local authority shall have some sort of veto over the road traffic; and in one recent case—that of the North Eastern Railway Act, 1905— there is a stringent provision to the effect that the local authority may from time to time prescribe the route for this road traffic.
As time has gone on it would seem that the conditions imposed upon railway companies seeking powers over road traffic have become more and more stringent. The last instance before the Mersey case was that of the Brighton railway. In the Brighton Railway Act, in order, I suppose, to make it perfectly certain that the road traffic was used bona fide for the purposes of the railway, a provision was inserted that the company might convey by road passengers, passengers' luggage, luggage, parcels, and merchandise, who or which had been, or were to be conveyed over some part of the railways owned, worked, or used by the company. That provision was, no doubt, a stringent one, but it has been very recently passed by the House of Commons. Clause 3 in the schedule of the Great North of Scotland Railway Order Confirmation Bill now before your Lordships' House offends against both of the principles I have referred to.
As regards the safeguard to local authorities, there is a provision in the Bill safeguarding the Corporation of Aberdeen, but that is the only local authority which is safeguarded. It is clear that that is not an efficient safeguard inasmuch as the Bill proposes to give the company powers to run road traffic anywhere they like, quite irrespective of whether it is in connection with their railway or any station on their railway. It appears to me that such a provision is absolutely contrary to all precedent. Clause 3 as it stands provides that—The company may provide, own, work, and use, in connection with or in extension of their railway system or otherwise— 1066 that is to say, they may use it not in extension of their railway system—in any district to which their said system affords access or in which they may find it expedient to afford improved means of communication," etc.Under that very wide power it is perfectly clear that the company might set up road traffic anywhere in Scotland they liked, and the Corporation of Glasgow suggest that they might even compete with the excellent system of tramways now set up in Glasgow. I do not know whether that is likely to be the case, but at all events this power is a very much bigger power than has hitherto been granted to a railway company, and if it is to be given at all I suggest that it should be on the same terms as in the case of the Brighton Railway. My Amendment follows very closely the terms of the Amendment in the Brighton Bill, and I hope your Lordships will accept it.
In the Schedule, in Clause 3, page 3, line 30, to leave out from the beginning of the clause to the word 'provided' on line 4, page 4, and to insert the words 'the company may provide own work and use to or from any railway station depot or hotel owned, leased, or worked by the company road vehicles to be drawn or moved by animal, electrical, or other mechanical power and may therein convey passengers, passengers' luggage, luggage, parcels, and merchandise, who or which have been or are to be conveyed over some part of the railways owned, worked, or used by the company, and may make and recover such charges as they think fit in respect of such conveyance and may enter into contracts or agreements with any company or person for the supply or working of any such vehicles."—(Lord Monkswell.)
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I hope the House will not be led away by the arguments to which we have just listened. The Amendment of the noble Lord who has just sat down is narrower in its scope than that to be moved by the noble Lord below the gangway (Lord Kinnaird), and I shall carefully avoid, in endeavouring to answer the noble Lord opposite, trenching upon the arguments which will have to be used in regard to the larger question. But, briefly put, the noble Lord below the gangway intends to delete altogether from this Bill the power to run omnibuses or motor cars, 1067 while the noble Lord opposite only proposes to amend the power to such an extent as to prevent the railway company from carrying in their road vehicles traffic which does not originate on the railway or go on to the railway after it has originated in the motor cars. I do not think that that proposal will bear examination for a moment.
If the railway company only desired to deal with traffic originating on the railway or going to the railway, there would be no occasion to have this power at all, because there is no limit to the distance of cartage or delivery which a railway company may undertake. But, looking at the proposal on the merits, if you are going, as the noble Lord proposes, to give power to a railway company to run omnibuses and motor cars for the continuation of traffic, is there any sense in preventing those vehicles picking up and setting down traffic by the way?
The case for the power is this. The Great North of Scotland Railway serves, generally speaking, poor, agricultural, outlying districts. Railway companies are constantly charged with not giving proper facilities for the picking up and delivery of agricultural produce and other articles of that kind. This is an effort on the part of the Great North of Scotland Railway Company to meet a real public demand. It may be said that light railways could be laid down, but in many of these cases there is not traffic sufficient for a light railway. This is a cheaper way of serving the outlying districts. The noble Lord, in moving his Amendment, said there were no precedents. Motor vehicles are a comparatively recent invention, and it is because of these inventions that you have from time to time to make new precedents. There is no danger in this precedent. It is on the lines of what has been done before, and I hope and believe that the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees will say that, on the whole, it is a safe step for us to take.
The noble Lord who moved this Amendment seemed to hold some brief for the municipality of Glasgow. I cannot see what Glasgow has to do with this case. Glasgow is, and rightly, a tramway owner in its own district, though some of your 1068 Lordships have doubts whether municipal trading and tram-owning has not gone too far already. I do not raise that question. But it is a new departure if a municipality which has gone in for this trading is to set its face against legitimate opposition and legitimate trading even in another part of the country.
I submit that you must judge each case on its merits. If this were in the suburbs of some large town there might be a case against it. Why, because some large municipal corporation have started tramways to serve their own district, are they to come in the way of a legitimate extension of facilities to country districts? It is a strong point in my favour that there is absolutely no local opposition to this proposal. The Corporation of Aberdeen, as the noble Lord fairly said, have been met and have agreed with the promoters to this proposal. There may be other municipalities in the district. Any of them might have appeared, if they had chosen, at the preliminary inquiry. I am informed that none of them did appear. The inquiry was held at Aberdeen under the provisions of the Scottish Private Bill Procedure Act. Two Members of your Lordships' House were concerned in that inquiry, and the decision of the tribunal was unanimous.
I submit that it would be unfair, I might almost say unjust, at this stage of the Bill, and after it has passed the other House, to make an alteration of this kind. The noble Lord seems to suggest that under the clause as it at present stands the Great North of Scotland Railway Bill might run motor vehicles all over Scotland and England. Now, is that a sane suggestion? Is it likely that this railway company will be so foolish as to do any such thing? I venture to think that their shareholders would soon look after them if they made any such proposal. I contend that the noble Lord opposite has not made out a shadow of a case for the proposal he has put before us, and I trust your Lordships will reject the Amendment.
*THE MARQUESS OF HUNTLY
My Lords, I should like to add my testimony in favour of the provision in the Bill as it stands. The effect of the Amendment 1069 would be this: that the company might run motor vehicles to and from the stations on their system, but that if a wretched passenger wished to be taken up for a short distance along the route he would not be allowed to avail himself of this facility unless he could give an assurance that he would travel on the railway afterwards or had come from the railway, and no convenience in the carriage of goods would be given to the public along this route. Anything more ridiculous it would be impossible to imagine. This is a Bill which is unanimously desired by the county of Aberdeen and by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company, who serve that district. It is not opposed by the Corporation of Aberdeen, and it has received strong support throughout the district. The proposal of the railway company to run these motor 'buses will be of the very greatest advantage to the district, and I hope at this late stage of the Bill your Lordships will not accept the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ *LORD LEITH OF FYVIE
My Lords, knowing the district concerned, I can assure your Lordships that this scheme is much required. It is, indeed, a necessity in the interests of the farmers and the inhabitants of the district generally. It is to motor traction that farmers have to look for the more economical handling of agricultural produce. I can assure your Lordships that unless we give the powers asked for in the Bill the farmers and others concerned will feel that we did not consider their interests and the equities of the case. Those mostly interested are the people along the proposed route, and I venture to think that if the proposal in the Bill is agreed to and motor vehicles are allowed to run, the necessity for their existence will be very quickly demonstrated.
LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, the Provisional Order which this Bill seeks to confirm was made last year by Lord Linlithgow, the then Secretary for Scotland. There was not time last year to bring in this Bill, and it was therefore introduced into the House of Commons this Session. It has passed 1070 that House without Amendment, and is now before your Lordships on Third Reading. The only opposition to the Bill, so far as we have heard, is in respect of the clause now under discussion, and in a similar case to this recently before the House of Commons the matter was left to the House. His Majesty's Government are desirous that in this case a similar course should be followed, and have every confidence in leaving the matter in your Lordships' hands.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of ONSLOW)
My Lords, I hesitate to trouble your Lordships on this subject, but after the speech of the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, and after the appeal of my noble friend behind me, your Lordships may expect me to say a few words. This Bill originated in the office of the Secretary for Scotland, and I had thought that we should have from the noble Lord some expression of opinion either for or against the Amendment moved by my noble friend. But we are not altogether unprepared to hear that in this case, as in others, the Government desire to leave the matter to the judgment of the House. If the Secretary of State did not take objection to it in the House of Commons I should have thought that the Bill would have been supported in the condition in which it come up from the other House.
I confess I was surprised when I heard from the noble Lord opposite that he opposed the Bill in the interests of the Corporation of Glasgow. As far as I know, the nearest point on the Great North of Scotland Railway is Aberdeen or Boat of Garten, both of which are over 100 miles from Glasgow. What the interest of Glasgow can be I fail to understand. The Corporation of Aberdeen have secured the insertion of a clause in the Bill which has been settled to their satisfaction, and which will protect that Corporation from any undue competition with the tramway business they carry on.
In my opinion Bills of this kind, dealing as they do with a somewhat novel mode of traction, ought in every case to be decided on their merits. The merits have been gone into, and there has been no objection raised. I see no reason for refusing to allow the Great North 1071 of Scotland Railway Company, which carries on its business in sparsely populated areas, to do something to encourage the agricultural interests of those districts. I do not see that there are any grounds to justify your Lordships interfering at this late stage of the Bill and inserting an Amendment which would necessitate its being sent back to the House of Commons. If it were a private Bill under my charge I should certainly urge your Lordships to consider that it had been decided on its merits, and not accept any Amendment on the Third Reading.
My Lords, after the speech of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees I do not desire to press my Amendment to a division, as it apparently receives no support. I shall be quite content to leave the matter in the hands of the House as between the Amendment of the noble Lord opposite and the Bill as it stands.
§ Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.
My Lords, I beg to move the omission of Clause 3 in the Schedule. I understand that this is the only clause in the Bill on which there is any difference of opinion. I fully admit that the Third Reading stage is not an advantageous time to raise this matter or to impede a Bill which is evidently wanted, but I thought the general question was of sufficient importance to justify the step I am taking, especially in view of the action taken in the other House since this Bill was first introduced. I understand, too, that the omnibus clause with reference to the Glasgow and South Western Railway Order was withdrawn at the inquiry held in Glasgow.
As to the general question of motor traffic, I do not think your Lordships can have any doubt that before long, both in regard to towns and the country, some limit will have to be fixed as to speed and as to the damage which may be done by these, to many of us, instruments of torture which go about at all hours of the day and night making the roads and streets impassible and depreciating the value of property. In con- 1072 sequence of these heavy traction engines miles and miles of road around Aberdeen have been absolutely ruined, and it has been rendered extremely difficult for tourist traffic to go through many of the narrow roads. The companies sending out these great vehicles pay no rates for the roads, and I understand that if this clause passes there is no limit to any damage which may be done by these vehicles.
I know districts where whole rows of houses have been depreciated to the extent of 50, 60, and 70 per cent., and many of them are unoccupied, owing to the nuisance caused by the motor traction vehicles which are becoming the popular form of conveying goods. There are indications even in London that this is a question which will have to be seriously considered by Parliament. It has been thought that it would not be well to allow this clause to go through in its present wide form, and that the House of Commons has done well in putting a stop to the increasing tendency on the part of the great railway companies to run these motor vehicles. I submit the Amendment standing in my name, but if the feeling against it is anything like that shown to the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Monkswell I shall not press it.
In the Schedule, to leave out Clause 3.'—(Lord Kinnaird.)
LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, the proposal of the noble Lord who has just sat down is even wider than that of the noble Lord who moved the previous Amendment, and I think that any arguments which could be used against the present Amendment have already been used against, the former one. I am sorry that certain noble Lords have not been satisfied with the attitude taken up with regard to this Bill, but I think it has been justified by the event.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I am not certain whether the noble Lord intends to persist in his Amendment. If he does I shall have something to say upon it.
§ Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.
§ Moved, "That the Bill do pass."— (Lord Hamilton O) Dalzell.)
§ On question, Motion agreed to.
§ Bill passed.