HL Deb 26 August 1907 vol 182 cc91-105

House in Committee (according to order).

Clause 1:—

Amendment moved— In page 1, line 14, to leave out the word 'but,' and to insert the words 'and that.'"—(Lord Granard.)

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2:—


in moving the omission of the clause, said he ought, under ordinary circumstances, to apologise to the House for bringing forward an Amendment of that kind at that time of the night. He was afraid, however, that it was quite unavoidable. The clause had nothing to do with the main subject of the Bill, and it could, therefore, be perfectly well omitted without affecting in any way the remainder of the measure. The second clause related entirely to what was called the privilege system of cabs. That was not a very fortunate phrase, because a great deal of the prejudice which existed against the system was owing to the use of that particular term. This was a matter which affected railway companies, but he did not bring it forward in their interests in any degree. If it had been a railway company's question, he did not think he would have taken it up, because his own private belief was that the railway companies were rather more apt to look after the interests of their shareholders than the public, and he was not generally inclined to champion the railway company. It was a matter which affected the travelling public far more than the railway companies. The privilege system was a system by which an arrangement was made by the railway companies and the cab masters to provide cabs which should always be ready at the stations at a moment's notice if required. The demand for vehicles at railway stations was very variable, and occurred at all times of day and night. It was, consequently, only by some arrangement that the railway companies could depend upon having cabs at the stations, no matter what the circumstances or what the hour, for the comfort and convenience of the travelling public. The subject had been before two Committees. The first, a Departmental Committee, which sat about twelve years ago. The Report of that Committee was a strange one, because, in the first place, it used very strange arguments in favour of the privilege system of cabs and then ended up by reporting very much against such a system. The second Committee was a Committee of the House of Commons. and it recommended the abolition of the privilege system. It did so upon rather peculiar grounds, inasmuch as it suggested that the experiment of doing away with the privileged cabs should be tried for one year. By the clause in the Bill, however, the system was done away with altogether. What were the arguments which that Committee used for doing away with the privilege system of cabs? One was that the experiment had been tried at one of the stations in London, viz., Charing Cross. It was tried at that station for two or three years, and it proved such a complete failure and the complaints were so very great that the South Eastern Railway Company reverted to the privilege system. If that occurred at Charing Cross, which was the very centre of the area where cabs were most frequently required, how much worse would it be at some of the stations on the outskirts of the Metropolis? Another argument used was that it was not in vogue at Waterloo Station. There were two stations, or sides, at Waterloo. On one side the privilege sub-system was not in vogue, and on the other side it was. It was rather curious that within the last two or three days there had appeared in the newspapers bitter complaints of the cab system at Waterloo. One gentleman wrote saying— At Waterloo the privileged cab system is not in force. I have rarely been able to get a cab without considerable delay, the few present on the arrival platform generally being annexed by passengers on previous trains. Unless a porter is sent down to the cab rank below the station, it is usually impossible to get a cab and the traveller is left waiting with his luggage. There was one remark made by the Committee which greatly astonished him. It was that no difficulty was ever found in Palace Yard in getting a cab. He would have thought that that was a subject upon which they could form an opinion for themselves, especially those members who had been Members of the House of Commons. Nothing was more astonishing in the world than this finding that there was no difficulty in getting cabs in the Palace Yard. He was not going so far as to recommend the House of Commons to go in for the privileged cab system, but for the House of Commons to tell them that there was no difficulty in getting cabs in Palace Yard was most astounding. Their Lordships must have had experience of the very great difficulty of getting cabs in Palace Yard on a wet night. More than once he had walked a considerable distance towards his own home before he had found a cab. That, however, was an inconvenience which they could fairly well put up with, but, if they had a lot of luggage, or had the misfortune to have charge of a number of small children at the same time, they would find such a state of things extremely inconvenient; indeed, it would amount to being intolerable. There was no doubt that that was what they would find if they abolished the privileged cab system at the railway stations. It was not only the uncertainty which made the privileged cab system a necessity, but they had trains coming in just about the time the theatres closed. That was particularly the experience at Charing Cross Station, because Charing Cross was nearer the theatres than any other station. At such an hour all cabs were away. Then, again, trains, not infrequently, especially with companies working in conjunction with boat-lines, arrived late owing to the vessel not reaching her port in time. Supposing a vessel came in at an hour which made it unavoidable that passengers should not get to London at two or three o'clock in the morning, what chances were there at that hour of getting a large number of cabs to the station. without some such system as that which was now in vogue and which enabled railway companies to lay their hands on exactly the number of cabs required? They could telegraph from one end of the system to the other that so many cabs were required. Another question, much smaller, but worthy of consideration, was the character of the cabs. If they were to throw railway stations open to all cabs, the worst vehicles would go there, because no cabman was particularly anxious to have his cab knocked about by portmanteaux and such like articles. It was only by the present system that railway companies could secure good cabs, and if the privilege system were done away with, the tendency would be for the worst cabs to gravitate to the stations and the better cabs to avoid them. Who was it that wanted this change? There was certainly no demand for it on the part of the cabdrivers, except those who were excluded under the present system. It, therefore, came to this, that the public were to be put to inconvenience for the sake of their own servants. He did not think the grievance which the non-privileged cabmen were under was sufficiently great, nor had it ever been sufficiently great, to make it necessary to take very stringent measures to relieve it. But even if it were worse than it was, he ventured to think that for the convenience of the whole travelling public the need for a proper cab supply at the great railway stations in the Metropolis was so great that it ought to outweigh a considerable amount of inconvenience, even if such could be shown, on the part of those who really existed for the purpose of serving the public.

Amendment moved— In pages 1 and 2, to leave out Clause 2."—(The Duke of Northumberland.)


said the noble Lord who had moved the omission of the clause had really left very little for him to say. There were, however, two or three points to which he desired to call their Lordships' attention. Why was the year 1910 put in as the year when the Act should commence? It was said to be a mistake, but his own impression was that it was done with a very proper object, and that was to meet the case of those contracts which would expire in 1910. There would have been something in that. He did not know whether the Home Office ever did make a mistake, but, if they did, that must be one of them. Subsection 2 of Clause 2 was put in avowedly to prevent railway companies owning cabs, and so dealing with the difficulties which would arise when the privileged cabs were done away with. If the railway companies were allowed to own their own cabs and to have them at their stations, which they would be perfectly able to do, a good deal of the difficulty would be done away with, but Subsection 2 of Clause 2 utterly prevented that being done. It might also affect the omnibuses which now plied from station to station. There were two points with regard to the two Committees which had sat on this matter. In 1895 a Commission reported in favour, as the noble Duke had said, of a very modified form of abolition of the privileged cab system, but at the same time it recommended most strongly that ample power should be given to the railway companies to deal with cabs in and about their stations. There was the power to regulate the number of cabs that might be admitted to the stations and the liability of cabs admitted to comply with any regulation the companies might make for the purpose of maintaining order or dealing with the traffic. There was nothing in the world to prevent a cabman in drink or a man with a very bad horse or cab getting into the station. It might be urged by the Home Office that such points were dealt with by the police, but if a cabman had been waiting some time outside a station and had been to the nearest public-house, it was quite possible that there might be no policeman on duty to see him, and he might get into the station, under the influence of liquor. He knew many cabowners and drivers very well, and he was glad to say that cases of drunkenness were rare; but police reports showed that cases did occur, and it was of the utmost importance that they should have at the stations civil and sober cabmen. The railway companies did not believe that their duty ended with landing passengers on the platform in London; they were bound to give them facilities for getting away, and he could assure their Lordships that the privileged cab system was started by the then London and Birmingham Railway in 1839 with that object. Their Lordships would see how many years the system had been in existence, I and there had been no complaint what ever on the subject except in 1895, when I there was a strike of cabmen. The cabmen, however, then saw that they had no case at all, and they admitted, after having spent £20,000 on the strike, that the public were entirely against them, and things went on as before with one slight exception, the so-called privilege being extended to all companies being able to go into every station. There was now really no hardship in the trade with regard to the privileged cabs, and he asked their Lordships, in the interests of hundreds of thousands of passengers not to do away with a system which had worked so well. The noble Duke had alluded to the case of a boat coming in late and the train arriving late at the terminal station in London. By their arrangements with the cabowners, the railway companies were able to send to them, and they were bound to provide the cabs required. They understood that, and they did it. He knew that the noble Lord would say that the Local Government Board had made arrangements with the Cabdrivers' Union, and that they would provide the cabs; but what was that worth? It was worth nothing whatever. It was only a kind of promise, and it was not worth the paper on which it was written. Where were they to call for them? Where were they to get them? Would they be seen when they were sent for? The result would be when English and American passengers arrived, say at Euston, late at night, they would have to go to every cab station in the neighbourhood and compel them to come in. Euston, too, was more favourably situated than some stations. At Paddington it would be absolutely impossible to get any cabs during the night. The same might be said of Liverpool Street. The difficulty, therefore, which would arise would be so enormous that it would not be worth, just on the plea of a few cabmen, throwing over a system which had worked so well. It was perfectly true that a railway cabman might go on to a stand and ply for hire and he was bound to do it by the police regulations, but as a matter of fact, he did not do it, because he went back to the yard or to his own station, or to the nearest terminal station as quickly as he could, and left the street traffic to other cabs. They would hardly ever see a railway cab on a cab rank in any street, except perhaps, on a Sunday morning when, the trains having come in early, men turned on to the ranks and took people to church who were willing to go. That was the only occasion on which railway cabs competed with street cabs, and it was then advantageous to the public.


said there was a great point in common between noble Lords opposite and the Home Office. They both desired to meet the convenience of the travelling public, and the point was whether the anxiety shown by the noble Lords opposite was more disinterested than that shown by the Home Office. The noble Duke who moved the omission of the subsection omitted to inform their Lordships that there was a number of railway companies who derived a considerable sum of money from the fees they exacted from the privileged cabs. It was impossible for their Lordships to overlook the fact that, whereas there was a disinterested anxiety on the part of the Home Office, it must be impossible for any director of any railway company to forget the advantages which accrued to his company from the existence of the privileged system, and which were ultimately derived out of the pockets of the travelling public.


Might I ask on what facts the noble Lord states that a revenue is derived by the railway companies from the privileged cab system?


I did not think it was doubted. It has been stated before now that a considerable revenue is derived by the railway companies from the system.


I challenge the accuracy of the statement.


said he had never heard it doubted before, but he did not pretend to know what the exact sum was that was derived from the privileged cabs, or what they paid on each occasion, but they were certainly obliged to pay a larger sum than was paid at the open stations. The Cabdrivers' Organisation had undertaken that, if the privileged system were abolished, they would organise and maintain an effective supply of cabs to serve all the stations at all hours of day and night.


Who are the Cabdrivers' Organisation?


said he thought their representative was a Mr. Smith. He was sincerely sorry that the noble Lord, who was chairman of the London and North Western Railway Company, had made a serious charge against an honourable body of working men that their promise was not worth the paper on which it was written. If a railway company would telephone to their headquarters they were prepared to use the whole power of their organisation. He proposed to give a few figures with regard to the numbers of the organisation as compared with privileged cabs, and he also thought it was only fair to point out that under the Bill it would be perfectly easy for the Secretary of State to return to the privilege system if the travelling public found that its abolition was not a success. The total number of licensed drivers of cabs in London was 12,400. There were at the direct disposal of the organisation at the present moment, 4,873, or if he might put it in round numbers, 5,000. Whenever there was a call for united action that number was increased by some 2,000 more. Those 2,000 were in favour of the abolition of the privileged cab system. That made very nearly 7,000. The remainder of the 12,400 were represented mostly by the 1,600 privileged drivers, and by some 1,300 small proprietors who drove their own cabs. Those small proprietors, however, were also in favour of the abolition of the system and would be willing to co-operate with their fellow drivers in seeing that the convenience of the travelling public was not interfered with. Therefore, there were some 8,000 out of 12,400 upon whom the travelling public would have direct claim, whereas at the present time there were only 1,600 privileged drivers, who were able to drive people from terminal stations. It was not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that the travelling public would get just as good a service of cabs from the 8,000 as they did from the 1,600 privileged cab-drivers. He had not seen the letters in the newspaper which the noble Duke had quoted, but he understood they had reference to trials or experiments which had taken place.


The letters I read were from travellers travelling on the South Western Railway. There was no experiment tried—it was the normal condition of things at the South Western Waterloo Station.


That is what I mean. That is an open station.


One part is open and the other is not. The letters refer to that part which has not the privileged system.


That is what I mean. The letters refer to the unsatisfactory service where there was free entry for all cabs.


It was the word "experiment" that I took exception to.


said the open system would not have a fair trial unless it was tried in a great many more stations than one. Probably their Lordships at an inconvenient moment had tried to get a hansom to catch a train at Euston. An ordinary cab which took one there was not allowed to pick up a traveller at the station when it returned again. They therefore took that cab-driver a long way from his home to an inconvenient place where he was not able to pick up a fare. It was really hard on the cab-driver that he should be obliged to go such a long distance without the hope of bringing anybody back. It was also so if they took a cab from one of the terminal stations to go to another part. He was anxious to try and point out that if they took a cab from any stray place or street in which they happened to live and went to a terminal station, and the cab-drivers were there allowed to pick up travellers, it would be better for them than it was at the present time. He thought it would in that case be likely that in the early mornings there would be more hansoms about, because they would be more likely to make a profit by being able to pick up a fare back from the stations instead of being turned out at once. It was quite impossible to-prove beforehand that success could be assured by this new system, but he thought he was entitled to point out that both the Departmental Committee of 1894–5 and the Select Committee of 1906., after hearing the evidence of the companies and the men, and after exhaustively discussing the question of supplying the public, thought the experiment ought to be given a fair trial. After all, the men themselves did not ask for more than a fair trial. If their Lordships would refer to Subsection 3 of Clause 2 they would find that the Secretary of State reserved to himself full powers, if the system was not a success, to modify or suspend the operation of the section subject to such conditions as might be specified in the order. The Home Office were not asking their Lordships to commit themselves irrevocably to an entirely new system. They were only asking that a fair trial should be given to the system. If the Secretary of State, owing to representations which, he was quite sure, would reach him at once from the travelling public if the system was not a success, was not satisfied with it, he could assure their Lordships he would not oppose a return to the present system. The small proprietors themselves, numbering 1,300, were in favour of abolishing the privileged system, and the opinion of the Secretary of State was that it was quite impossible for him to ignore the findings of the Select Committee of last year. The House of Commons took the same view and strongly affirmed the clause by a majority of 126 to twenty-four, a majority of something like seven to one. That was an expression of opinion which it would be very difficult indeed for the Secretary of State to ignore. Might he say something with regard to the points raised by the Chairman of the London and North Western Railway Company. There was first the question of the year 1910. He could assure them that it was a mistake for 1909. The Secretary for State was anxious that no hardship should be done and to fix a date which would allow existing contracts to expire. He did not know whether the noble Lord would charge the Home Office with that as an offence, but it was found afterwards that the contracts appeared generally to be terminable at any time. The date, therefore, was altered to 1908, and the Secretary of State promised to consider any bona fide cases brought before him. None were brought before him, and the date therefore remained. The general question of privilege was one which was often debated, and it was agreed that privilege should not exist except under special circumstances of necessity. It rested with noble Lords opposite to prove that there was necessity in the present case. It was not the opinion of the Government that it had been proved. The Government were unwilling to leave out Clause 2, but, if the noble Duke would withdraw his Amendment, they would be willing to withdraw Subsection 2 of Clause 2, and to insert words in the clause to make it perfectly plain that the railway companies should retain complete control over the vehicles which entered their stations, and be able, for instance, to eject a man if he was drunk or if he came in with a horse in such a bad condition that it was really cruel to drive it. If there was wilful non-compliance with any regulation reasonably made by the railway company, the company would be able to require the cab to leave the station forthwith. He wished to show that the Government were very anxious to meet the noble Lords opposite with regard to any of the points raised. They would be perfectly willing to put in those Amendments if they would meet the views of noble Lords opposite. Meanwhile he might say on behalf of the cab-drivers of the Metropolis that there was a very grave complaint in regard to the present system, and he hoped their Lordships would not agree to the Amendment of the noble Duke, but would allow the new system a fair trial and give the Secretary of State an oppor- tunity of seeing whether the convenience of the travelling public could not be better met under the new system than under the old.


expressed regret that the noble Lord should have charged the railway companies with a sordid motive by implying that it was to their interest that the privileged cab system should continue because of the money they got from it. He had made careful inquiry with regard to that company on the board of which he was, and the gross sum taken by the Great Northern was about £560. A charge of 1s. 6d. per cab and 2d. per week for each man was made, but the men got a place for their meals and the companies lost money on the transaction. If a new system similar to that at Waterloo was brought into force, the revenue gained by the Great Northern would I be considerably in excess of what it was at the present time. The money question did not enter into their feelings in the matter at all. He had not, however, confined his inquiries to the company which he actually knew. The revenue drawn by the Great Western I under a system of Id. for the admission of a cab would be in excess of the sum now derived, so that he hoped the noble Lord would dismiss from his mind the idea of any sordid motive on the part of the railway companies. The cost to the companies of keeping the places clean was in excess of the money taken from the cabs. All these things, however, were side issues. The real question, frankly stated by the noble Lord the other day, was what was most convenient to the travelling public. That was the consideration by which he would like the whole matter to be judged. The noble Lord was very liberal as to the promises of what might be done by the cab-drivers, but the railway companies would have no claim upon them which they could enforce, and practically it was the unanimous feeling of everybody interested in managing the traffic at railway stations, and especially stations in the North of London, I that, unless there was some such system as that now existing, they could not guarantee getting passengers promptly away from the stations. It was all very well for the Home Office to say that they would consider complaints, but complaints would reach those who managed the stations long before they leached the Home Office. He quite understood that no disclaimer of this sort would gain credence with the Government or the public, because they always assumed that the railway companies must have some selfish interest in the matter. They believed that without the privileged system it would be impossible to get passengers promptly away from the stations. It was all very well to say they might have a trial for a year, and to parade the discretion of the Secretary of State if he had complaints, but how long were those complaints to go on before those responsible for the railway companies were to get relief? He wished to state as distinctly as possible that their position was taken up, not on the ground of pecuniary consideration, but solely on the ground of public convenience. He had only to say in conclusion, as he intimated the other day, that the London Members were not really in any way representative of the travellers who arrived in London. He had

no doubt that the London cab-drivers put pressure on their representatives, and he did not blame those Members for looking after the interests of their constituents, but the unanimous opinion of those who had had experience was that the present system was the best for the public.


said that what the noble Lord had said about King's Cross applied equally to Euston. If there was a free system of Id. per cab they could make more money. The money question did not enter into the matter at all. He was assured it was exactly the same at Paddington. They would make more money there than they did by the present system. The Lord Steward had said that there was unanimity amongst the cab-owners, but he would ask him to read the evidence of Mr. Curl given before the last Committee. He would then see that there was not unanimity amongst all cab-owners.

On Question, whether the clause should stand part of the Bill, their Lordships divided;—Contents, 18; Not-contents, 87.

Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.) Allendale, L. Granard, L. (E. Granard.) [Teller.]
Blyth, L.
Crewe, E. (L. President.) Colebrooke, L. Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Denman, L. [Teller.] Herschell, L.
Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.) Elgin, E. (E. Elgin and Kincardine) Lucas, L.
O'Hagan, L.
Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.) Fitzmaurice, L. Tweedmouth, L.
Glantawe, L. Weardale, L.
Argyll, D. Morton, E. Atkinson, L.
Bedford, D. Onslow, E. Balfour, L.
Northumberland, D. [Teller.] Radnor, E. Barnard, L.
Richmond and Gordon, D. Scarbrough, E. Barrymore, L.
Wellington, D. Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Waldegrave, E. Brodriek, L. (V. Midleton.)
Ailesbury, M. Wicklow, E. Calthorpe, L.
Camden, M. Churchill, V. Cheylesmore, L.
Lansdowne, M. Falmouth, V. Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Hill, V. Clonbrock, L.
Camperdown, E. Hood, V. Cloncurry, L.
Cathcart, E. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore) Colchester, L.
Cawdor, E. Cottesloe, L.
Dartrey, E. St. Aldwyn, V. Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)
Derby, E. Douglas, L. (E. Home.)
Doncaster E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Lichfield, L. Bp. Estcourt, L.
Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)
Eldon, E. Addington, L. Forester, L.
Lauderdale, E. Amherst of Hackney, L. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Londesborough, E. Ardilaun, L. Hatherton, L.
Malmesbury, E. Ashbourne, L. Kenmare, L (E. Kenmare.)
Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.) Penrhyn, L. Seaton, L.
Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.) Ponsonby, I. (E. Bessborough.) Stalbridge, L. [Teller.]
Lamington, L. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway)
Lawrence, L. Ranfurly, E. (E. Ranfurly.)
Leigh, L. Rathmore, L. Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)
Lovat, L. Robertson, L. Templemore, L.
Monckton, L. (V. Galway.) Saltoun, L. Tennyson, L.
Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.) Sandys, L. Waleran, L.

On Question. Motion agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.


said the object of his Amendment was to give the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Commissioner of the City Police power to fix stopping places for stage carriages, and he did not think it was in any sense controversial.

Amendment moved— After Clause 3, to insert the following new clause:—' The Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, and as respects the City of London the Commissioner of City Police, may give directions with respect to the stopping places for stage carriages in London, and if the driver or conductor of any stage carriage acts in contravention of any direction so given, he shall be liable in respect of each offence on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding 40s.'"—(Earl Beauchamp.)

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Standing Committee negatived; then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) Amendments reporter: Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.