§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Lord Harris.)
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, I desire to move the Amendment which stands in my name—namely, that this Bill be read a second time this day three months; and I do so in order to call attention to the affairs of these companies, and more particularly to what I consider the extremely unsatisfactory facilities for travelling which they offer to the public. I do not take this action as a discontented shareholder and certainly not as part of a general attack on the railway system of this kingdom. I do so merely as an unfortunate member of the public who for five or six years past has had to travel fairly regularly on the lines worked by these companies, and who feels that, apart from the civility of the officials, as to which there is very rarely, indeed, complaint to be made on any British railway, the service offered to the public by the South Eastern and London, Chatham and Dover Railway Companies falls very far short of what the public has a right to expect.
The Bill itself is concerned with a number of small matters, to some of which nobody would take any exception. It deals with the widening of a bridge, with the extension of Dover Harbour Station—I hope that means an improvement of Dover Harbour Station, as I can imagine 439 that in such weather as we have been experiencing during the last few days, landing at Dover must be a particularly uncomfortable thing—and, further, with the widening of Charing Cross Bridge, again a provision to which nobody, I think, would take any exception, though I feel bound to point out that powers for widening Charing Cross Bridge have been confided to these companies for, I think, over ten years. There has, however, never been any attempt to exercise them; and it has been announced in a speech by the chairman of one of these companies that there is no intention now of using these powers immediately. I am not at all sure that it is desirable that Parliament should confer powers upon companies which those companies do not intend to make use of in the immediate future. If there is no necessity for the powers at the moment, it is time enough to come for them when they are actually wanted. This is a matter of private Bill procedure with which I do not feel qualified to finally deal myself, but we should be glad to have the opinion of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees upon the point or that of some other Member of your Lordships' House more conversant with Committee Room work upstairs than I am.
But what chiefly catches my eye in this Bill and moves me to raise a discussion upon the Second Reading are Clauses 11 and 13, but more particularly Clause 11, which deals with what is known as the Managing Committee, and which, therefore, really raises the whole question of the government and management of the two companies. May I, in three or four sentences, remind your Lordships of the history of this matter? Up to 1899 these two companies were rival companies, and I think it is not really unfair to say that they were almost the laughing stock of the railway world. They were competing companies, although their joint mileage made up what was really a very small railway system. At that time the two companies worked a system of about 640 miles, which, of course, is very small compared with the large systems of the Great Northern, with 1,151 miles; the London and North Western, with 1,911 miles; and the Great Western, with 2,599 miles; and it was obvious, therefore, that there was a great waste of effort in keeping them as rival companies. Therefore they came to Parliament. Their original intention 440 was to amalgamate, but difficulties intervened, and instead of amalgamating the two companies they amalgamated their names and a certain amount of the management, but kept the two companies as distinct and separate entities. In respect of the extent that they did amalgamate, they set up what is known as the Joint Managing Committee, which has worked the properties of the two companies for the past ten years, the receipts being divided in certain agreed proportions. But it is noteworthy that it was made quite clear at the time that the setting up of this managing committee was merely a first step, and was not intended to be the final solution of the difficulties in which the two companies found themselves. I notice that in the witness chair in the Committee Room of the House of Commons, before the Committee of which my noble friend Lord Derby was Chairman, Mr. Forbes, the late chairman of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company, said categorically, in the course of cross-examination—This working union was the first step towards amalgamation undoubtedly.Parliament accepted this pledge. I have never heard that there has been any hesitation in anybody's mind in accepting a pledge given by the late Mr. Forbes, and undoubtedly Parliament was influenced by this pledge in granting the companies the facilities that they obtained under the Act of 1899.
But times have now changed. It is quite clear that the companies do not intend to carry out that pledge now. That is evident from the mere reading of Clause 11 of the Bill, and I do feel that we ought to have some explanation as to why it is not intended now to carry out this pledge and to thoroughly amalgamate the companies as was originally intended. It is obvious, I think, still that the working of the two companies does result in tremendous overlapping and confusion. These companies, although the system is such a small one, find it necessary to maintain no fewer than seven stations in London alone, apart altogether from suburban stations; these are led up to by a network of lines, all crossing and re-crossing each other in hopeless confusion, and all this to feed a mileage about one-third of the size of a big system such as we know it in the North and West of England. The public long ago came to 441 the conclusion that drastic measures were necessary if they were to be properly served, and amalgamation was to be one of the first of them; but we now know that even this preliminary remedy is not to be carried out.
After all, we must remember that it is the public who suffer. The public do not receive the facilities for travelling which they expect and to which they are entitled. You will find this if you look into the question from almost any point of view. Take their rolling-stock. Do the public travel on these lines in equal comfort with that to which they are accustomed in other parts of the country? We are accustomed to comfortable express trains, corridor carriages, and all sorts of modern conveniences. Even the Continental traffic, of which I shall have a word to say later, cannot be claimed to be up to date as compared with the comfort in which people travel on other lines, whether in England or on the Continent. Are the South Eastern and Chatham and Dover trains celebrated for their punctuality? Undoubtedly there has been great improvement in the punctuality of trains throughout the whole of England. During the last few weeks I have been coming up regularly by the Great Western Railway from Exeter. I have travelled by a number of express trains, all of which make a non-stop run, doing the journey of 173 miles in three hours; and I have no hesitation in saying that you could set your watch by the arrival of those trains. Even the much-abused London and South Western Railway has vastly improved as regards punctuality of late years. I remember two years ago in one of the Committee Rooms upstairs, Sir Charles Owens, the general manager, laid it down as a principle that it was quite exceptional for a London and South Western train to be late. I always thought it was very creditable to the five Members of your Lordships' House who formed the Committee before whom that statement was made that none of them smiled; however, this statement was not shaken in cross-examination. On the other hand, it cannot be maintained that any one short of a maniac would set his watch by the arrival of a particular train at Charing Cross. Again, one can only speak of one's own experience.
For the last five or six years I have had occasion very often to come up to Charing Cross from the Hastings line, and at one 442 time I used innocently to stay in the train till I got to Charing Cross, going round from London Bridge to Cannon Street and thence to Charing Cross. But I have since found that there is a much faster way of getting home. If you leave the train at London Bridge and take a hansom cab, passing Charing Cross on the way, I venture to say that you will get home much quicker than if you stay in the train till you reach Charing Cross. Certainly that has been my experience. These things are, after all, only founded upon personal experience, and therefore the matter is open to argument. It may be claimed that it is merely a matter of opinion, and I daresay some noble Lord who takes a brighter view of the doings of these companies may get up and say, with perfect truth, that, in his opinion, the trains are punctual and everything is satisfactory. But there are ways of testing the facilities that these companies give. We can test them from their own timetables, and I would ask your Lordships' permission before I sit down to quote a few figures that I have taken from their own time-tables as to the number of trains they provide the public with, and the speed at which those trains travel. I have taken places at random, but I think they very well illustrate my argument.
There is an important town on the South Eastern system known as Tunbridge Wells. It is thirty-three miles from London, and has a population of 33,000; therefore, it is an important place. The South Eastern Railway Company consider that they serve it adequately by giving it seven trains on Sundays, twenty-four on ordinary weekdays, and twenty-five on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Compare that with two other lines. Reading is a town about the same distance from London as Tunbridge Wells, but the Great Western Railway Company run to Reading fourteen trains on Sundays, thirty-four on weekdays, and thirty-five on Saturdays. The much-abused London and South Western Railway Company run to Woking, which is about the same distance from London as Tunbridge Wells but with a smaller population, nineteen trains on Sundays, forty-eight on Mondays, and forty-nine on other weekdays except Saturday, when they run fifty. Twice as many trains are run by the London and South Western Railway Company to Woking as the South Eastern Company consider necessary to Tunbridge 443 Wells. Obviously, therefore, the facilities given by the South Eastern Company are not equal to what the public are led to expect from other companies.
Now I come to the last point to which I wish to draw attention—the question of speed; and really the speed of the trains on the South Eastern and Chatham lines is scandalous compared with that of other companies. Again I have taken instances at random from the A.B.C. time-table, from Bradshaw, and from the companies' own time-tables. I take four important towns. I notice from Bradshaw that these companies do not call their trains "express" trains, but "fast" trains; I presume in order to avoid comparison with what goes on on other lines. I have taken four towns that are served by express trains by other companies. Your Lordships will notice that they are towns very much further away from London than the longest run the South Eastern have to make, and, therefore, one would expect a lower average perhaps to be kept in reaching them.
The run to Plymouth from Paddington is 226½ miles. The four best trains in the day go down at forty-five, forty-six and three-quarters, fifty, and fifty-five miles per hour. Again, the Great Western Railway run to Swansea is a perfectly fair comparison with the South Eastern, because whereas the South Eastern have a monopoly of the express traffic to the towns in the South-east of England, so far as London to Swansea is concerned the Great Western Railway Company in their turn have a monopoly of that traffic. The Great Western Company run four trains in the day to Swansea, one at forty-three, one at forty-six, and two at forty-nine and a half miles per hour. The London and North Western give four trains to Carlisle (299½ miles) at speeds of fifty-one and a half, fifty, forty-seven, and forty-eight and a half miles per hour. The Great Northern give four trains to York (188½ miles) at speeds of fifty-one, fifty-one, fifty-two and a half, and fifty-four miles per hour. Therefore, of the sixteen express trains that I have quoted there is one only which does the Journey under forty-five miles an hour, eight out of the sixteen travelling at or over fifty miles an hour, and all for very long distances.
Now what happens in connection with the South Eastern and Chatham and 444 Dover? The fastest train in the day from London to Dover (seventy-eight miles) goes down at 42 16 miles per hour, slower than the slowest train of the sixteen expresses that I have quoted. The next best train —the five o'clock from Victoria—goes down at thirty-nine miles per hour; the next best at thirty-six; and the next best at thirty-four and two-third miles per hour. Those are the four best trains to Dover. The four fastest trains to Hastings (sixty-two miles) go down at these average speeds—two at 33 8, one at thirty-three and a quarter, and one at thirty-one miles per hour. The four fastest trains to Ramsgate (seventy-nine miles) go down at a speed of forty-three, thirty-eight and a half, thirty-four, and thirty-two miles per hour. That is the best service that the South Eastern and Chatham can provide for the public as far as express trains are concerned, and I submit that these speeds are really ridiculous when compared with the average speeds, including stops, maintained by express trains on other lines.
In regard to the Continental traffic, the comparison is equally unfavourable. There are four routes to the Continent with which the South Eastern and Chatham Railways are concerned. My figures are all taken from the companies' own time-tables, and the distances which have enabled me to calculate my average are taken from their time-tables as well. First, as regards Dover to Ostend, the 9 a.m. from Charing Cross goes down to Dover at forty-three and a half miles per hour, and the train in connection with it goes on from Ostend to Brussels at forty-five and a half miles per hour. Secondly, the 8.35 p.m. from Victoria to Queenborough goes down at thirty-five and a half miles per hour, and the connecting train goes on from Flushing to Rotterdam at thirty-six and one-third miles per hour. Therefore, as far as the Dutch and Belgian State railways go, the South Eastern is not very much worse. But when the Paris service is considered, the difference is really enormous. The 8.25 from Paris to Boulogne goes north at 45 9 miles per hour, but the connecting train from Folkestone to Charing Cross comes up at thirty-six miles per hour. The 2.20 from Charing Cross to Folkestone goes down at forty-three miles per hour, and the connecting train from Boulogne to Paris goes on at fifty-three miles per hour. The nine o'clock from Charing Cross to Dover goes down at forty-three and a half; 445 the connecting train from Calais to Paris goes on at fifty-two and a half miles per hour. The eleven o'clock from Victoria goes down to Dover at forty-two and a half miles per hour, and the connecting train from Calais to Paris goes on at fifty miles per hour; and, lastly, the 9.50 from Paris to Calais goes up at fifty-two and a half, and the connecting train from Dover comes up to London at forty-two and a half miles per hour. Therefore, as far as speed is concerned, the comparison is ludicrously against the South Eastern and Chatham. We ought, I claim, to have some explanation. Again, as regards accommodation, the French train is exceedingly comfortable; it is a corridor train, well heated, and connected with a dining and refreshment car. As to the English train, I do not remember ever coming across one that was a corridor train; the heating is very bad if there is any at all, and the companies' idea of refreshments is to offer you a dirty-looking tea basket on the pier at Dover, one glance at which to a moderately-fastidious man is almost as dangerous as a rough crossing.
Therefore, if I may sum up, this is the position in which we find ourselves. We have had ten years experience of this "working union," which has given these companies a very great chance of coming into line with modern progress of railway science. These ten years, for all I know, may have been very advantageous to the shareholders or they may not. I do not know; but they certainly have not been advantageous to the public. The public do not, I claim, receive the facilities they have a right to expect. I am not moving the rejection of this Bill as an advocate of nationalisation. I fully believe that private enterprise is necessary and infinitely better from all points of view. I even go so far, though in these days, perhaps, it is not fashionable to say so, as to admit that the shareholders have the first claim on the activities of the directors; but I do submit that if Parliament grants facilities for their business to these great railway companies, we have a right to claim in return that the management to which these facilities are given must keep pace with the requirements of the times and with the facilities offered by other companies as the result of the progress of railway science. This the South Eastern and Chatham Companies have not done, and I suggest to your Lordships that no further legislative facilities 446 should be given to them while they neglect the public's claims upon them.
Amendment moved—To leave out the word 'now' and to add at the end of the Motion the words 'this day three months.'" —(The Earl of Donoughmore.)
LORD MONK BRETTON
My Lords, I do not rise to take up the time of the House in regard to the misfortunes of travellers on the South Eastern and Chatham Railways. Those misfortunes have been very vividly described by the noble Earl who has just sat down. I wish to refer to what the noble Earl said in the earlier part of his speech with regard to the amalgamation of the two companies. I think he made an important point when he quoted the statement of the late Mr. Forbes, who was the General Manager of the Chatham line, and in which Mr. Forbes said that the Act of 1899 was the first step in the direction of the amalgamation of the two companies. This Bill is only a step towards the amalgamation of rather more of the property of the two companies, and what I should like to know is this. Can the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of the Bill tell us whether there is any immediate prospect of the amalgamation of the two companies taking place? When this Bill was deposited in your Lordships' House the Lord Chairman wrote to the promoters saying—I hope this is a prelude to what is most important, the absolute amalgamation of the two companies.In this connection it is with regret that one reads the statement made by Mr. Bonsor at the meeting of the company with regard to this Bill. Mr. Bonsor said —On more than one occcasion he had stated that the amalgamation of the two companies was quite impossible at the present moment. He only knew of two sets of machinery by which such amalgamation could be brought about—namely, by one company buying the other's undertaking, or by a new company buying both undertakings. But the stamp duty which would have to be paid in either instance was prohibitory. Therefore, the actual amalgamation must be deferred for some time.I do not understand from this report whether the chairman of the company means that the amalgamation is postponed for the moment, or whether it is postponed until such time as the stamp duty ceases to be prohibitory. I wonder when the stamp duty will cease to be pro- 447 hibitory. Other railway companies have succeeded in amalgamating and in paying the stamp duty. I ask the noble Lord in charge of the Bill whether he can give us any information on this point. There is a difference between the amalgamation of the capital of the companies and the amalgamation of the administration of the companies. My point is that, according to the evidence of the late Mr. Forbes, it was the intention of Parliament that the two companies should be amalgamated not only in respect to their administration, but also in respect to their capital. I cannot but feel—I do not say this in any sense of hostility to the directors of these companies —that it must be more satisfactory for an undertaking to have a united direction, and I think it is desirable that the amalgamation of these companies should take place at as early a date as possible in order that they may be put under one administration, and not; as at present, have two boards of directors and one committee of management.
* LORD HARRIS
My Lords, I am in a peculiarly difficult position. Late last night I was asked by the General Manager—Mr. Vincent Hill —to be good enough to move the Second Reading of this Bill. I am not on the board of either company, although I once was on the board of the London, Chatham and Dover, and was on the joint committee at its initiation; and, obviously, I am not in a position to reply with any authority to the criticisms of either noble Lord. I would hope, however, that the noble Earl, having had an opportunity of offering these criticisms to your Lordships, which criticisms, I imagine, will attract the attention of the Committee to which I hope this Bill may presently go, will be content to let the Bill have a Second Reading. There would then be an opportunity of calling the attention of the managing body to the observations of the noble Earl, to the criticisms which he has advanced, and to the want of facilities which he thinks exists in the services of these companies; and then would be the opportunity, I submit, of obtaining, if possible, some guarantees from the companies that those facilities would be improved. I trust, therefore, that the noble Earl will not press his Amendment to a Division; but, if he should be so inclined, I hope your Lordships will follow your usual practice by giving the Bill a Second Reading and 448 allowing the details which the noble Earl has raised to be discussed by a Committee upstairs.
So far as I can offer a remark or two, I would venture to say this, that I have no doubt Mr. Forbes did hope eventually to see the amalgamation of the two companies, but I cannot recollect that I ever heard him say that he expected it to come about in the immediate future. The object at the time was undoubtedly to get rid of the antagonism that existed between the two boards, and if possible, and if funds permitted, to improve the service. As a constant user of the line I should say that the public has decidedly benefited by the existence of the joint managing committee. As to the trains on which I travel—and I am on the line very nearly every day of my life—their punctuality is certainly not complained of by those who travel at the same time as I do. The rolling stock has certainly been improved; I do not mean to say that it is up to that of some of the other lines, but its improvement is one of the results of the amalgamation of management. The London, Chatham and Dover Company was not in a sufficiently good financial position to give large orders for rolling stock at the time of the formation of the joint committee, but with the assistance of its colleague it has certainly improved the rolling stock enormously.
I do not think I can agree with the noble Earl that the existence of seven termini in London is a disadvantage to the travelling public. Surely in a huge place like London it is a convenience to the public that they should have these termini, and certainly as a constant traveller on the line I have no reason to complain that there are termini east and west. It is rather for the management to say whether they find the crossing of lines leads to confusion, but the junction of the two lines—for instance, at Chislehurst, where both up and down trains have now been enabled to pass to either line—has been an immense convenience. The other day when His Majesty was travelling down there was an unfortunate accident at Tonbridge, just in front of His Majesty's train, but owing to the crossing of lines the company was able to send His Majesty's train down by quite a different route with only a short loss of time. I should most unhesitatingly say that, with regard to that point also, the 449 public has distinctly gained in the addition of those junction lines to which I referred.
I often heard Mr. Forbes speak about the comparative pace of the best trains on the London, Chatham and Dover—at that time the amalgamation had not taken place—and that of those on the big lines. I understood that the difficulty the Chatham had was in getting out of London, because the suburban district of London is so much thicker through for their lines than for any other line except the Great Eastern; and I have heard him say that the "little Chatham," as he used to call it, carried as many passengers per train mile on its suburban area as any line in the kingdom, showing the large number of trains running on the suburban lines, and, to a certain extent, impeding the pace of the fast trains. I do not know whether it is fair to compare a run of eighty miles with one of 240 miles, as the noble Earl did. I submit that your Lordships are not in a position to judge on a point of that kind. It is a matter that can be better judged by the Committee. I am sorry that the noble Earl was not satisfied with the refreshments offered him on Dover pier. That is, I admit, within the power of the company to arrange for when they let their contract for refreshments; but, so far as the pier and the discomfort there are concerned, that is not a matter concerning the company. The pier belongs to the Harbour Board, and the Harbour Board have been continually pressed to make improvements. I believe an agreement has been signed between the company and the Harbour Board for the making of a large station by means of reclamation at the end of the harbour, which when completed will, I should imagine, enormously improve the service there.
As regards the amalgamation of the two companies' stock I never heard Mr. Forbes say anything definite about that. The noble Earl stated to-night that the companies—did not intend to carry out Mr. Forbes' pledge.I have not had an opportunity of seeing what Mr. Forbes actually said, but I should have thought it foreign to his usual caution if he had given a pledge that the two companies would be amalgamated within any given time. I have, however, no doubt that the chairmen of the two companies will have their attention directed to what 450 the noble Earl has said, and I daresay will be able to give some reply upon it in Committee. With two such very large capitals as are concerned and the price of the shares in the market, it would be an extremely difficult matter to provide satisfactorily for the absorption of one into the other, or for the purchase of the two by a new company. I have never myself heard that there is any extreme pressure by the shareholders for an amalgamation of stock, and it is obvious that the objection which Mr. Bonsor raised, as regards the cost owing to the stamp duty which would fall on the shareholders, is a very serious one. I am sure the remarks which have been made to-day will receive attention from the Committee, and, in these circumstances, I hope your Lordships will be induced to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ * LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, I am not a director of either of the companies promoting this Bill, but for more than fifty years I have been a constant traveller on these lines, and as one of the public I should like to say a word or two in support of what has fallen from the noble Lord who has just sat down. I was rather surprised to hear the noble Earl who moved the Amendment, and the noble Lord who followed him, speak so strongly in favour of the amalgamation of the companies. I have very grave doubts whether the amalgamation would be for the public interest.
Generally speaking, Parliament has looked with a somewhat jealous eye upon the amalgamation of companies. Until the joint committee of management was founded there was a certain amount of competition between the London, Chatham and Dover and the South Eastern, and although no doubt that has been very much diminished by the joint arrangement, still there are the two interests; and, as one who is resident in Kent and a constant traveller on the line, I am rather disposed to doubt whether the public would be better served by the amalgamation. I do not think there is any evidence whatever that Parliament has at any time expressed a wish for the amalgamation of these two companies. At any rate, the absence of proposals for absolute amalgamation can surely be no sufficient reason for rejecting this Bill. My noble friend Lord Harris has just stated that the shareholders have expressed no such wish, and, living in the 451 district and constantly using the line, I can say that there has been no desire on the part of the public that there should be amalgamation.
I am not altogether sorry that my noble friend Lord Donoughmore has brought up this matter, because we do feel that there is room for improvement. At the same time, I must say that any comparison of the speed upon our Kentish lines with that upon those, for instance, of the Great Western is somewhat misleading and hardly fair, I think, to the Kentish companies. In the first place, the distances are very much shorter; in the second place, they have to go through a considerable district of the metropolis, which necessarily involves going slowly; and, in the third place, the gradients in Kent are very heavy and our lines, unfortunately, are somewhat winding. I think nobody who has travelled much through Rochester and Chatham would wish to see trains go much faster there than they do. At the same time there is, as I have said, room for improvement. I hope the House will take the advice of my noble friend Lord Harris and allow the Bill to be read a second time and go to a Committee, where I have no doubt the suggestions made by Lord Donoughmore and Lord Monk Bretton, many of which were very much to the purpose, will be thoroughly considered; but I feel that no sufficient reason has been shown why the House should throw out the Bill on Second Reading.
LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, as representing the Board of Trade, I have only a very few observations to make on this subject. In the first place, I should like to thank the noble Earl who has moved the rejection of this Bill for his kindness in communicating with me on the matter. I think, from what he has said, that he does not really find much in the Bill itself to which he takes exception, but that his objection is based on more general grounds. The only clause in the Bill which I think is of at all an unusual character is Clause 11, which touches, but only touches lightly, on a subject which has been mentioned this afternoon—the subject of railway amalgamation. Your Lordships have heard what the position of these two companies is. Amalgamation has not taken place. They are still separate companies; but something in the nature of a marriage has taken place between them, and the 452 object of this clause is to bring certain property into settlement which was not included in the original marriage settlement. That property consists, I think, of hotels and refreshment rooms, and, as far as the Board of Trade can see, there does not seem to be any objection to the proposed course, and I hope it may result in the superior management of those departments, which may remove the difficulties with regard to refreshments to which the noble Earl alluded. I understand that what the noble Earl really wishes is not so much to call attention to anything in this Bill as to suggest that we should reject the Bill as a protest against the management of these two companies. That is rather a drastic course to pursue, and I hope your Lordships will not follow it. I, of course, hold no brief either for or against these particular companies, and I am quite ready to admit that, in regard to accommodation and train service, they do not reach the high standard which is reached by many of the companies in this country. That is a matter of general knowledge. I will also admit that the pooling arrangement has not been so fruitful in good results, either to the shareholders or to the travelling public, as was hoped at the time it came before Parliament; but, at the same time, there has been considerable improvement. I would especially allude to the very extensive widening of the line which has taken place and which has undoubtedly resulted in very greatly increased punctuality. There are further improvements in contemplation shortly at Dover Harbour, and the Board of Trade hope that, when these improvements have been carried out, a still further amelioration of the conditions of travelling on these lines may be found. I hope, therefore, the noble Earl will be content with the discussion which has taken place, and will not ask your Lordships to pursue the very drastic course he has suggested.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, perhaps I ought to add a word upon this discussion. The noble Earl who moved the rejection of the Bill pointed out, at the commencement of his remarks, that the Bill embodied a great many provisions, some of which he described as of a small nature, but which I am informed are matters to which the Company itself attaches considerable importance. I venture to think, therefore, that your Lordships 453 would do well to allow the Bill to go to a Second Reading, because if you throw it out, it is quite obvious that you;will thereby destroy all the provisions as well as any particular one to which the noble Earl takes exception.
The noble Lord below the gangway (Lord Monk Bretton) referred to a remark I made when I expressed the hope that the time was approaching when these two companies would be amalgamated. The noble Lord opposite, who spoke on behalf of the Board of Trade, described the union between these two companies as something in the nature of a marriage. I would venture to say that they have entered into a marriage contract, but that the marriage contract has not yet been fulfilled; but I rather differ from my noble friend behind me, Lord Avebury, that it would not be in the interests of the public that this amalgamation should take place. Competition is, of course, always good for the public; but it must be borne in mind that these two companies now work harmoniously together through the managing committee. What happens, however, is that expenses are duplicated, and consequently money which might be put into the improvement of the line has to be expended on the maintenance of the companies as two separate undertakings. Clause 11, to which the noble Lord referred, is a clause which provides for the pooling of the landed property, hotels, and so forth of the two companies, and I venture to hope that that may be a prelude towards the amalgamation which Parliament was given to understand would be the ultimate result of the Bill they passed in 1899.
The noble Earl who moved the rejection of this Bill had no other course to pursue if he desired to call your Lordships' attention to the facilities given by these companies as compared with other companies. I am afraid he would not have been given a locus standi before the Committee, and therefore the only opportunity the noble Earl had was to bring the matter before your Lordships in the manner he has done. But I venture to hope that he will be satisfied with the discussion, which I am quite sure will be brought to the notice of the chairman and directors of the South Eastern and Chatham Companies, who, I have no doubt, will do what they can to meet the views of the noble Earl. I can say, for myself, that sometimes when I 454 arrive from the Continent the glow of pride which I feel at again setting foot on my native soil is somewhat chastened by the comparison between the railway accommodation given me between Paris and Boulogne and the accommodation provided between Folkestone and London. I hope that that is a reproach which before long may be removed. In any case I venture to express the hope that, having initiated this discussion, the noble Earl will allow the Bill to go to a Committee, where the remarks he has made will receive consideration.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, the noble Earl the Lord Chairman has correctly interpreted my motive in initiating this debate. I was anxious that a Bill of this kind should not go through without some discussion and some protest. I am quite satisfied with the admissions I have obtained that these companies have great opportunities of improving their services, and I hope we may see some earnest attempt at improving those services in the course of the next year or two. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, complained of the comparison of speeds which I had ventured to make and described them as unfair. He said that the gradients and curves on these lines militated against fast speeds. I do not think the noble Lord can maintain that argument as against the London and North Western run to Carlisle, this journey including the crossing of Shap Fell, a far more serious feat than anything the South Eastern or Chatham have to face. Moreover, if their gradients are bad and their curves considerable, that is entirely their own fault, and I should have thought it was a matter that they might have endeavoured to improve.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Then the original Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed: the Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.