LONDON ELECTRIC RAILWAY COMPANIES (FARES, etc.) BILL.

Private Business. – in the House of Commons on 25th March 1920.

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[By Order.]

Order for Second Beading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

I rise to a point of Order. I submit that according to the rules, practices and principles of modern legislation, this Bill is out of order, and ought not to be given a Second Reading. The grounds upon which I base the point of Order are threefold. The first is that it is an immemorial practice and principle of Parliamentary legislation, when granting a monopoly franchise, to safeguard the public interest in that grant by strictly limiting the grant to a statutory company, and if a statutory company attempts to surrender or abrogate the powers which have been entrusted to it by Parliament it has committed such a contempt of Parliament that until the contempt is purged it cannot be heard in this House with regard to any alteration in the terms of its franchise. It is within your knowledge, Sir, and within the knowledge of this House, by reason of evidence which has been given on London traffic before a Committee of the House, that without exception the statutory companies mentioned in this Bill have entirely surrendered every vestige of power with which they were clothed when created by Parliament to a purely non-statutory body known as the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, Limited, and I submit that the practice and principles of Parliamentary legislation have definitely given effect to the old maxim, delegata potestas non potest-delegari—no delegated power can be delegated—and that there has been a gross contempt committed on Parliament by the people who are promoting this Bill, inasmuch as they are a statutory company, and they have abandoned their duties imposed by Parliament and their obligations to Parliament to a purely non-statutory body.

The second ground which, I submit, places the promoters of the Bill out of Order, is that in 1915 they came to this House and promoted a Bill which, like all Bills which become Acts of Parliament, is in the nature of a formal and sacred grant as between Parliament and the promoters, and by that Bill the whole of the statutory companies mentioned in this Bill asked Parliament, for certain purposes, to be allowed to depart from their pre-existing statutory obligation to enter into a pooling arrangement with another company, one of the same group, but non-statutory, the London General Omnibus-Company, and the purposes for which they asked the sanction of Parliament were these, to enable them to pay the wages and meet the increased costs caused by the War, and to improve the travelling facilities. That is to say, that from Parliament, on behalf of the public, they were getting the right to pool their part of the bargain. Their part of the bargain was that they should discharge three definite obligations—one, to pay the wages which had been increased owing to War conditions; two, to meet the increased charges owing to war conditions; and three, to give improved facilities. The preamble to the Bill discloses quite clearly that none of these duties which constituted their part of the bargain has been performed, and they are now seeking to get a new franchise without having kept faith with Parliament as laid down in the terms of their Act of 1915.

The third ground on which I submit they are out of Order is this: They are seeking by private Bill legislation to annul, abrogate and repeal certain Clauses of Public Acts of Parliament. In Sir Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice it is laid down: It has been questioned whether Public Acts may properly be repealed or amended by a Private Bill, and the inconvenience of their repeal or amendment by an Act which, being passed as a Private Bill and being of a local character, is not printed among the Public General Acts, has sometimes been urged as a reason for refusing to sanction this course. No rule, however, has been established which precludes the promoters of a Private Bill from seeking the repeal or the amendment of Public Acts…… Provisions of this kind in Private Bills demand peculiar vigilance lest public law" be lightly set aside for the benefit of particular persons or places. One test which you, Sir, in your lofty position could apply to a measure of this sort is, if this House moved as an instruction to a Committee on a Private Bill, that they should impose upon the promoters of the Bill conditions connected with large matters of public policy, and I would ask you to refer to pages 653 and 654 for the kind of case which I have indicated. I will take the case mentioned at the bottom of page 653: On the 8th March, 1892, notice was given of an instruction to the Committee on the South Eastern Railway Bill, to inquire into and report on the accommodation, etc., supplied to third-class passengers on the railway. The Speaker privately informed the Member, in whose name it stood, that the instruction was not in Order, on the ground that the remedy (if legislation were needed) should be sought in a general statute applicable to all railways alike; that this would be a matter of general policy to be considered at the time not of private, but of public business; and that it would be contrary to the practice of the House to single out the Bill of a particular company and impose on it alone conditions applicable to railways generally. Then there followed a series of similar examples, of which no doubt you are aware. I submit on this point that this Bill proposes in expressed terms to repeal a measure of large public policy; that is to say, the Workmen's Train Act of 1883, an Act which was dealt with by probably the strongest Royal Commission that has ever sat in this country, the Royal Commission that sat in 1893 on the housing of the working classes. Of that Commission the then Prince of Wales, his late lamented Majesty, was a member. The late Lord Salisbury was a member. The late Lord Goschen another member, the present Marquess of Lincolnshire, the Lord Chamberlain, was another member, and the late Sir Charles Dilke was another member. They definitely laid it down that the Workmen's Train Act of 1883 had been passed, not with regard to the question of what would or would not pay the company, but that it was passed for the purpose of securing easy and cheap access of workmen to their work. That was part of the bargain, that was the principle which was adopted, and there were two parts to that bargain. The first part was that the railway companies were forgiven all future payments of the passenger duty which was then in existence, and the other side of the bargain was that they should run trains. Here is a proposal to-day to alter one side of the bargain, a great public bargain, a matter of large public policy which only ought to be dealt with, as it has hitherto been dealt with, as a matter of public legislation. To attempt to alter one side of the bargain by private legislation is entirely contrary to the usage, the custom, and the principle of legislation in this House.

That is not the only provision of a public character which it is proposed to repeal by this Bill. Last year this House spent a great deal of time in passing into law the Ministry of Transport Act. At this moment, so far as the Metropolitan District Railway is concerned, it has ample power under the Ministry of Transport Act, passed last year, to go to the Minister of Transport to do two things—to get from him sanction to increase the fares as proposed, and to get from him further, by way of grant or loan, any money that may be necessary to redeem their obligations to their workmen—and I submit that Parliament, and those who are responsible for the administration like yourself, Mr. Speaker, ought to look very jealously at any proposed legislation by private enactment, which seeks to achieve an object which is expressly open to the promoters through a Ministry created by Parliament. There is no question that so far as the Metropolitan District Railway, which is one of the companies mentioned in this Bill, is concerned, they are controlled by the Minister of Transport and they have an absolutely unqualified right to go to him for two permissions—to get permission to raise the fares in the first place, and, secondly, permission, if they are in temporary difficulties owing to the improvement in regard to workmen's wages, to get either a grant or a loan from him. On that the question may be asked why they have not done it. The reason why they have not done it is because under Section 8 of the Ministry of Transport Act last year it is provided that if there is any increase in the revenue earning value of a company due to an increase in fares or rates ordered by the Minister of Transport, then when the period of possession by the Government comes to an end, that increase in the revenue earning value of the company has to be handed over to the Minister of Transport or, in other words, to enure for the benefit of the State and the community. If, on the other hand, he orders any decrease, and there is a corresponding reduction in the revenue-earning capacity of the company, then he has to recoup the company any loss which they have sustained. I suggest that it is to escape that particular provision of a general character, applicable to every railway company in this country—a matter of large general policy —that this Bill is being sought to be foisted on Parliament, and according to the practice, the principles, and the usage of legislation in this Parliament, it is incumbent upon those like yourself, Mr. Speaker, responsible for the administration of the law of Parliament, to say that this is not in accordance with precedent, but that it is contrary to public policy that there should be an attempt to undo a large public Act, involving a general question of public policy, by a single railway company under the cloak of a private Act of Parliament. Upon these three grounds I submit that this Bill ought not to go to a Second Reading.

Photo of Mr Noel Billing Mr Noel Billing , Hertford

I should like to know whether the hon. Member on his point of Order is appealing to you, Mr. Speaker, or to the Government.

Photo of Mr James Lowther Mr James Lowther , Penrith and Cockermouth

I think the speech was really more intended for the House than for mc. I will endeavour to deal with the question, but not at such length, I hope. On the first point the hon. Gentleman suggests that the company is not entitled to come forward and ask Parliament to pass this Private Bill on the ground that the company has handed over some of its duties to another company. I think that is insufficient ground for preventing the company coming here at all. The hon. Member is entitled to put that point on the merits of the Bill and to suggest to the House that by reason of the action of the company the House should not grant what the company is now seeking. That is not a point upon which I can rule the Bill out of Order. The second point was that this company had not complied with the promise which was made in the preamble of the Act of 1915. That is not for me to decide That again is a matter entirely for the House to decide. The third point was' that it repeals a public Act and that it is undesirable that a private Bill should repeal a public Act. There are many cases, as the hon. and learned Gentleman shows by the quotation which he read from Sir Erskine May, in which that has happened. It may be allowed if it is necessary. That is entirely a matter for the House and for the Committee to which the Bill may go. The fourth point was that the company had the right to go to the Ministry of Transport. The company apparently has two methods of procedure open to it. It has decided to come here to ask the House for something for which it could have asked the Ministry of Transport. It certainly is not for me to indicate to the company which course it should take. It is for the company to take whichever course it decides. I think on the whole that the company is to be praised for coming to this House and bringing the matter before the House for its decision. I see no reason for interfering. The points which the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised are points which ho can raise in Debate, and if he can persuade the House to accept his suggestion he is quite entitled to do so.

Photo of Mr Charles Bowerman Mr Charles Bowerman , Deptford

I beg to move to leave out the word "now" at the end of the Question, and to add the words "upon this day six months."

I cannot refrain from complimenting the promoters of this Bill upon having secured the valuable services of my right hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). Everyone in this-House knows the splendid work which my right hon. Friend has done on behalf of the railwayman, and the manner in which their position with regard to wages and so on has been improved. To-night I am interested to note that now he has taken under his charge railway directors and shareholders, and I am not going to express the hope that he will be as successful on their behalf as he has been on behalf of the railwaymen.

My task has been lightened in certain respects by the points of Order raised by the hon. Member opposite. Quite apart from the directors and shareholders-and members of the particular unions to which I have referred, there is another body to be considered, that body being the vast army of workpeople who have to travel day after day by what are known as workmen's trains. It is singular that at a time when the railway companies admittedly cannot carry the passengers that apply for travelling facilities, is the moment chosen for asking this House to agree with them in abrogating the workmen's trains. We who know the congestion on these lines must know the increasing necessity for continuing a practice which has been beneficial to London, and which has been the means of taking workmen and their wives and families to and from the crowded districts. The companies have encouraged them to live some distance away from their work, and now they are asking this House to stop the practice which has conferred great benefit upon workmen, but which has equally conferred benefits upon the railway companies themselves.

In this case, as I understand from the Bill, they propose to increase the fares by 100 per cent. The present maximum of a penny per mile for third-class passenger fares is to be increased to 2d. a mile, and any distance less than two miles is to be charged as two miles. I assume from my reading of the Bill that that means that a workman will be unable to travel now at a charge of less than 4d. If you carry that further it seems to me, if the Bill goes through, that the fares to be charged will be of such a character that I really do not know where workmen are going to find the money to pay them. At a time like this, this is one of those matters which, if agreed to, are going to add to unrest so far as working people are concerned. It is not a matter merely of workmen or of women, but it applies to young people who travel backwards and forwards day after day, who will be equally badly hit if these proposals are accepted. If the companies—I do not wish to be unjust to them for a moment—instead of allowing workmen in particular—it applies to more than workmen—to be rushed into carriages and dragged out at railway stations, as I and most hon. Members probably have seen, were taking steps to deal with that, I might be prepared to look upon the Bill in a more favourable manner. I characterise it as scandalous the manner in which passengers on our Metropolitan lines have been treated for the last seven or eight or nine years. Admitting, as every reasonable man must admit, that during the period of the War there were certain good reasons why difficulties would have to be met and could not be overcome, yet we have passed that stage, and I have yet to learn that much has been done by these companies to study in a reasonable and proper manner the necessities of the travelling public. This may mean that thousands of working people will have an increased expenditure of from 6s. to 10s. a week in order to travel to and from their work.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

It will be more than double that in some cases.

10.0 P.M.

Photo of Mr Charles Bowerman Mr Charles Bowerman , Deptford

I submit, in particular, to the Minister of Transport that that is a serious prospect facing these men and women, and that it is a prospect which this House ought to consider before allowing this Bill to go up before a Committee. I cannot conceive any more serious matter to be considered by this House than the infliction upon these thousands and thousands of working people of an increased charge for railway fares of from 6s. to 10s. a week. That money must come from somewhere, and the result will be the starting of a fresh wage movement in order to recompense these people for the extra loss on travelling. I put this question to the promoters of the Bill, They are a combination of railway companies and bus companies, and on their own showing, so far as passengers are concerned, the railways cannot be said to be in a bankrupt condition. The large bus concern which is part of the combine has not paid its way. I think I am right in saying that something like £500,000 has had to be paid out of the common pool in order to help the London General Omnibus Company. I would have thought that in a business concern, if there was one branch that was not paying, they would knock it off, and not cause those who travel by the railway to make up the loss caused by running an omnibus service. What is that omnibus service? It is run in the main in competition with the municipal tramway service. I think it would be much better if the combine elected to drop that part of their operations and allowed the London County Council to run their tramcars with a better chance of success. As a traveller on the railways, I strongly resent being called upon to pay an increased fare in order that a proportion of it might go to maintain an omnibus service which is unable to pay its way. So far as workmen are concerned, and so far as members of the various Borough Councils in London are concerned, there is a very strong feeling of resentment against this Bill. That resentment has made itself manifest by way of resolutions, by the holding of mass meetings, and in many other ways, and whilst everyone in this House and outside it wishes that the railwaymen, the men who do the work, the men who help to raise the dividends, should work under the best of conditions, yet I appeal to the House to remember the hundreds of thousands of working people who, by this Bill, are going to suffer in their pockets and, later on, probably in their health, by being forced to come back to districts which are already congested.

Photo of Sir Ernest Wild Sir Ernest Wild , West Ham Upton

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do not profess to speak entirely for the working men, as they are called, or for the working women, but for the whole of the community of London and out of London who are affected by the proposals of the Bill. It is no exaggeration to say that this Bill has struck consternation into most families, both rich and poor, throughout the metropolis. In the second place, nobody is going to pretend that this can be discussed from a sentimental point of view. None will pretend that the concerns which are affected by this discussion are not entitled to be furnished with funds which will enable them efficiently to carry on those concerns, that is to say, to supply the public with proper coaches and convenient methods of travel, and also to pay themselves and their shareholders a reasonable return. The real question that the House has to consider is whether or not the promoters of these Bills have made out a case for more money. The Division which I have the honour, with others, to represent, that of West Ham, is peculiarly affected by this Bill.

I have had it pointed out to me, on behalf of the Corporation of West Ham, that these companies received from Parliament powers on condition that these low rates were charged for workmen, and that the rates were generally in the limits at present imposed. Another point, and it is one of the strongest arguments against giving more money unless a cogent case for more money can be made out, is that many workmen's houses and dwellings have been erected on the outskirts of London on the faith of the Parliamentary obligations to which I have referred. I regret that the House is not fuller than it is at present, because this is a big question, and one which affects a very great number of people. In order to see what is proposed one cannot do better than turn to the statement that has been presented by the promoters of the Bill. They point out, as my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford has pointed out, that these two companies are in a pool or combine with tramways. This is the London Electric with the General Omnibus Company, and the Underground with two minor omnibus companies. When you turn to the figures you find that upon the figures of 1919 there was a surplus of £1,250,000 in favour of the Underground, but that there was a deficit of nearly £500,000 against the tramway companies.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

That includes the Government subsidy.

Photo of Sir Ernest Wild Sir Ernest Wild , West Ham Upton

I cannot say everything at once. I had not forgotten the Government subsidy, and I should have thought it would not have required the omni-science of the right hon. Baronet to know that the Government subsidy was something over £500,000. I am reading their own figures. If you take the railway deficiencies, they say, with the deficiencies of the omnibus and of the tramways, there would be a deficiency about equivalent to the Government subsidy to the four railways. I quite agree without the Government subsidy there would have been, on these figures, a slight deficiency against the railways, but it would be very small. The same fact applies with regard to the estimated deficiencies for the year 1920. The point is that the railway companies, if the railways were not weighed down by the omnibuses, would be, to all intents and purposes, a paying concern. They go on to tell us what powers they seek under the Bill, and those powers really are enormous. The first power they seek is to increase their fares by at least 100 per cent. in any case. That is a pretty big order. They then propose, in a light and airy way, to abolish the existing schedules of cheap fares for workmen, which, as an hon. Member pointed out, are Regulations which have been made in public Acts of Parliament. The minimum fare of 2d. is raised to 4d. They indulge in this piece of somewhat callous cynicism: Workmen's tickets are not issued only to bonâ fide workmen. Practically all passengers riding between 7.30 and 8 o'clock, according to the railway or tramway they use, take workmen's tickets. It is quite possible that there are people who travel at those unhealthy hours of the morning who may not be what are called working men. I certainly think that anybody who travels at that time of day, whether he is a manual labourer or not, is entitled to a reduced fare, unless he is coming home from a midnight orgy. That is the case for the Bill, and I rather apprehend, from the rather hurried interruption of the right hon. Baronet, that this Bill is going to receive his blessing. He is an economist in most things, but not where workmen's trains are concerned. I have in my hand the petition of the borough, a part of which I represent, and it is a hard case. The petition points out that West Ham, which is only one of many outer London boroughs, has a population of some 300,000 people, that most of this population gain their livelihood in London—in fact, West Ham and other districts, of what we call the West End of Essex, may be called the dormitory of London. These people have got to come into London in order to do their work, and it points out, as my hon. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. W. Thorne) has said, this is not merely a question of doubling workmen's fares, it is a question in some oases of decupling the fares. The fares can be increased under this Bill by no less than 10, 12 and 14 times the amount that is now paid, and the whole trouble is, I suggest, because of the combine. Under the combine you have a sort of monopoly between the buses, and the underground, and the tubes, and the fact remains that whereas the railways are paying, the buses are losing, and this question does affect the whole question of housing. I am all against subsidies, but it docs seem to me that a subsidy of £500,000 is well spent if it can be in furtherance of the housing problems which this House has got to solve. You have got your housing schemes all outside London. If you increase the fares to workmen and to others, you will take away for them the whole or the main object of living outside London; you will bring them into Central London, you will increase the rents in Central London, and you will largely frustrate your housing schemes. Those are some of the main objections which are made against the Bill, and, of course, if this Bill is passed, it will mean that all fares, all over the place, will go up—other railways, trams, buses, etc.

It may be, of course, that when we hear the promoters they will make out a case, and if they make out a case for powers they are entitled to powers. I must say that having perused their petition, their Bills, and the statement of their case, I cannot, at the moment, see any case made out. You have the railways paying, the buses losing, and, of course, the effect of the combine is to kill healthy competition; it creates a monopoly; and what is the position of the buses? The London General Omnibus Company is run upon non-business lines. Of course, everybody knows that there are three parts of the day in which people are using vehicular traffic. There is the inrush to town in the morning, there is the slack period in the middle of the day, and there is the outrush away from business in the evening. What do you find? You find that during the slack period of the day you have the buses competing with the municipal trams. You see the buses driving about, very likely, with three or four passengers, and competing with the municipal trams. You find that the buses are not properly distributed, and that there are too many in the inner area and far too few in the outer area. You find in the buses and in the trams—not so much in the tubes, because I have little complaint to make of the tubes—human beings are merely treated as dumb-driven cattle, and especially in the buses, speaking generally, there is no attempt whatever made at ordinary civility, or stopping for people, or letting people, especially women and children, have time to get on and get off. The thing is not run in a businesslike way, and, in my submission, that is largely due to the combine. It is largely due to the fact that the General Omnibus Company was able to pay dividends of 7 or 10 per cent. from the money it drew out of the combine, whereas, if it had not had the combine to fall back upon, it would have had to conduct its business on ordinary business principles. In these circumstances, I really do not understand this enthusiasm for increased fares to the people. It is an interesting commentary.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

You cannot run a company at a loss. I never knew of a barrister working for nothing.

Photo of Sir Ernest Wild Sir Ernest Wild , West Ham Upton

I do not understand the interjection of the right hon. Baronet. I do not quite know why it is necessary to be so personal. The right hon. Baronet has worked for nothing again and again to prevent many reforms for the people of this country. When it is a question of trying to protect the people, he cannot complain when his turn comes. If all traffic can be co-ordinated it will be a good thing. It must be remembered that the buses pay nothing for the upkeep of the road. I have seen it argued on the part of the promoters that they have only increased their fares by 30 per cent. They omit to state this fact, that they carry ten passengers—I have this on the highest authority—as against six in pre-war times, and for the money they get out of their ten passengers they only give the same amount of work, because there are so many more people travelling. There are many minor points which might be suggested, but this case will not be dealt with on minor points. My right hon. Friend, the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), has joined the combine, and has given the great weight of his name to it. This is the first time my right hon. Friend has played the part of Janus. Coming purely as an ambassador of peace, which is his favourite pose in this House, he stated the other day that if this Bill were not passed there would be a strike.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

It is most important that such an unfair statement should be corrected. I did not state that, as the OFFICIAL REPORT shows.

Photo of Sir Ernest Wild Sir Ernest Wild , West Ham Upton

The OFFICIAL REPORT shows that the hon. Member did not state that he was in favour of it, but that it would happen.

Photo of Sir Ernest Wild Sir Ernest Wild , West Ham Upton

Well, there was something said about it. However, I expressly said that my right hon. Friend was only an ambassador, and entirely dissociated himself from any desire that such a strike should take place. I am perfectly certain his whole life shows that if there is one man who hates strikes, and would have nothing to do with strikes, it is the right hon. Member for Derby. The House will not be frightened by any threat of strikes, but will be influenced by the desire that working men should be properly paid, and if my right hon. Friend can, as he may be able—and I would much rather take it from him than the right hon. Baronet—to make out a case, and can really show us that without this money, or some money, the men cannot be properly paid, I should be the last person to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill.

The last thing I want to say is that the House owes a very great debt of gratitude to the London Members, particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, because the work that the London Members have done in respect of this Bill has been very great. Speaking as a Member for outer London, I can render that service, because it has been done by a Committee more of inner London. I know that yesterday there was a meeting between London Members and Lord Ashfield. The result is the Instruction down upon the Paper in the names of the hon. Members for Hammersmith, Southwark, Dulwich, and others. I do think—trying to speak quite candidly—that this is not a matter into which any heat needs to be imported, but that the Instruction, if accepted, will greatly benefit the Bill. Under that Instruction the Committee that will be appointed under this Bill will have power to consider the whole financial position, to protect the working men, and to see that the company does not have more money than it ought to have. That is really the point of our opposition; which, putting it in a nutshell, is this: no greater mistake can be made than to give a company, rendering public service, too much money so that it can be independent of Parliamentary control. At the present moment I feel it is right to second the rejection of the Bill, although I am perfectly open to argument. I do, however, hope that this Bill will receive very sincere consideration from the House, because it has provoked very great interest outside, not only amongst working men, but amongst all users of the underground, the buses and the trams.

Photo of Sir Eric Geddes Sir Eric Geddes , Cambridge

My excuse for intervening so early in the Debate is that I thought perhaps it might assist the House in coming to a decision if I stated the Government position, and gave, among the welter of figures to which the House is being treated to-night, the figures which, after the most careful investigation by accountants for six or seven weeks, we have arrived at as regards the finances of this Combine. First, I should like, if I may, to refer to what the hon. and learned Member for North-West Ham said about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. The difficulty about the paying of the men on these undertakings is that it is impossible to separate the Metropolitan District Railway, which is controlled by the Government, and to which the settlement made for the rest of the railways of the country applies, from the Tube railways, worked under the same general management.

Photo of Sir Eric Geddes Sir Eric Geddes , Cambridge

You would immediately have a strike upon the tubes, because the men would have to be paid the same wages. You cannot separate men doing the same work and pay them different rates! It is quite impossible. Take the locomotive settlement made in the early part of last year. That was applied to the tubes although, as the finances show, the tubes could not afford that additional wage. They accepted it in order to keep the service going. There has been a settlement for the other grades. If this addition is to be given on the District as well as on the Tubes, then we must have additional revenue in some form or other. You have authorised this from the other well as on the tubes, then we must have additional revenue to pay these extra wages.

My hon. and learned Friend said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby came here with a threat, but I think he was hardly fair to him. I was in the House, and all that was said—and I think the OFFICIAL REPORT will bear me out—was that the men were getting restive over the delay in regard to this payment. As regards the combine, the House will recollect that it was decided in 1915, by a special Act, to promote this combine which in no way limited or reduced the statutory obligations of the various companies. This was done because a part of the combine was not paying, and at that time the buses were the prosperous part of the combine. In the preamble of that Bill it was laid down that in order to maintain the requisite service for the public, and provide increased wages and expenses to enable further facilities to be charged, it was necessary that they should have power to deal with their respective rates. A good deal has been said about the housing question, and bow those who live some distance from the town will be affected if such increases as are proposed are granted. As a matter of fact, the promoters of this Bill have powers which would enable them to raise a very considerable revenue on the long distance passengers. They could do that, but it would be a suicidal policy which would congest London. It is in regard to the short distances that we require additional powers. It is said why not cut off the buses and let the municipalities look after the traffic.

I do not wish to compare municipal and private enterprise at this stage, but it is a very significant thing that only last Monday I received a deputation of one of the Whitley Councils connected with the tramways, and they agreed that increased wages are necessary for the men, and that it is impossible to pay it unless our charges are increased. It is not only the companies that will have to raise their charges, but it is municipalities as well, and there are hundreds of them. I would like to put it on record I had to agree that I would, recommend the Cabinet that it was indispensable that at the earliest possible date, to meet the just demands of these men, that the Government should introduce emergency legislation to enable the charges of municipal undertakings to be put up, and that will have to be done at a very early date, otherwise there will be no municipal trams running in the country. This Council has agreed that it is essential that the men should have more money, and so we had to give that undertaking. So we have to give that undertaking. We must all agree with everything that has been said about the undesirability of continuing the cycle of increasing charges and wages and prices. We all agree, and we also regret, that there should not be the best service, and that it should be a crowded service. But we must also face facts. It is no use expecting a prosperous transport undertaking unless you give it a reasonable living wage and enable it to raise capital. Here are some figures which I had endeavoured to put as simply as possible. They have been published in the voluminous addendum; to the Report of the Committee on London Traffic, and I have extracted them with the hope of clearly bringing to the House the position of the companies. I am merely taking the companies themselves, and not the finance companies which control them, and I am taking them at the best estimate of working charges and revenue at existing rates. They are the result of an investigation over a period of seven weeks. The estimated profit of the four railways in the combine is £833,000 a year, and on the buses, if you add them, you get a loss of £177,000 a year. That is without any interest at all. If you add the prior charge" on the four railways and the London General Omnibus Company you get a loss of £1,016,000, making a total loss of £1,194,000. That is without giving the ordinary stock any interest at all. If you add 4 per cent. on the ordinary stock you get a gross loss of £1,900,000.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

Does not that Estimate of £1,194,000 include all the prior charges and the 4 per cent. on the ordinary stock?

Photo of Sir Eric Geddes Sir Eric Geddes , Cambridge

If you take all their existing powers, leaving out the long distance rates, which only make matters far worse, and if the workers do not put up their rates, the practical action of the existing powers is to give about £300,000 a year additional revenue, and then, if you raise the bus fares which you can when you put up the railway fares, you get another £400,000, so that on existing powers it is pratically open to raise £700,000 against the loss on the prior charges and a loss on the working of £1,194,000. I am leaving out the 4 per cent. altogether.

Photo of Sir William Perring Sir William Perring , Paddington North

To what extent is it proposed to increase the bus fares in order to produce that?

Photo of Sir Eric Geddes Sir Eric Geddes , Cambridge

I am afraid I cannot answer that. This matter was very carefully considered. The Report of the Committee on London Traffic gives the figures, and I would like to quote something from that Report. It is this: To what extent fares or any of them should be raised so as to become economic is a matter for close investigation and we are of opinion that the most suitable method of reaching a definite conclusion is through the medium of the Private Bill Committee of the House of Commons, which from the detailed statement furnished by the Minister of Transport, should be able to settle—

  1. (1) The present value of the share capital on which a reasonable rate of remuneration should be paid;
  2. (2) The rate of remuneration which can be considered reasonable;
  3. 742
  4. (3) The percentage of increase in fares necessary to place the undertaking on a sound working basis."
That expresses very clearly the attitude of the Government on this Bill. It appears to us absolutely beyond dispute that, if these undertakings are to go on serving the public at the present-day cost, they are entitled to an inquiry as to whether they can go on financially as a healthy concern. I have been asked why we did not deal with it under the Ministry of Transport Act. It would have been possible to have taken possession of these railway undertakings and to have authorised an increase in the fares. I will tell the House quite frankly. It involves considering these questions which have been put down by the Committee on London Traffic: what is a reasonable return on capital? That is a very difficult thing to ask any one Minister to lay down in putting up the fares for the whole of London. What is the present share value of the capital I Frankly, I did not want to act in an arbitrary way in this matter. I wanted to get help and consideration, and where can I get better consideration than from a Committee of the House of Commons? That is why we did not act under the Ministry of Transport Act, and, I submit, with very good reason. That is the reason that I am asking the House to-night to grant a Second Reading to this Bill. I do not commit the Government to any single figure in the Bill; only to this, that the promoters of the Bill are entitled to consideration of their position, and I ask the House to give it.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

Whatever differences of opinion there may be as to my attitude on this particular Bill, there will be at least general agreement that I am not taking the popular side as a Labour man in taking this action. On the other hand, facts must be faced. As my right hon. Friend says, the combine may be fortunate in having my assistance. I only observe that the Seconder of the Motion ought at least to keep it in mind when he twits us about our connections with strikes, cheap sneers do not alter the fact that for five years in this country we have been subject to much industrial trouble. The House of Commons only hears of disputes that take place, and nothing of the thousands of disputes that we are able to prevent taking place. It ill becomes hon. Members of this House, if they knew the facts, to twit one on the differences and disputes that take place, when one's daily efforts are devoted to at least trying to keep things smooth. The difference between my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bowerman) and myself in this matter is a very simple one. He, like me, has succeeded in obtaining improved conditions for our men. Repeatedly he has gone to the printing trade and said to the employers, "We want more money," and, incidentally, he has managed to persuade the employers to give the compositors much more than we have succeeded in persuading the railway companies to give us. The result is that the employers have granted concessions to the printing trade, and they have granted concessions to the men represented by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. W. Thorne). The result has been that the printing bill has gone up 300 per cent., and they have now had to come to Parliament to justify it. Incidentally, I have no record of my right hon. Friend ever asking the employers where the money came from when he went and made the proposal.

That is exactly the situation, and we had to face this fact. I have said to the men outside, as I say here—and there is nothing that the working classes ought to realise more—that you cannot get more out of an industry than is put into it. That is not a new doctrine. I have preached it to the men just as readily as in this House. The result is that we made this agreement. Here is the answer to the question, "Why did the Company not pay the section control," I would ask the House of Commons to visualise the situation. There are 500,000 members in my organisation. Rightly or wrongly, they believe that there ought to be uniform conditions. They believe that the railwayman, merely because he works for one particular company, ought not to be treated differently from the man working for another company. I think that is quite sound, and I think the House will agree that it is. The result is that we negotiated with the Government, and fixed up the agreement. Forty-nine per cent. of the employés of the Underground are covered by what is called the Government subsidy, that is, the Metropolitan District Railway, and 51 per cent. are not covered. Therefore we could have said—and, indeed, it is only fair to the right hon. Gentleman to say that he offered straight away to do so—that the agreement must be applied to those controlled by the Government. I had, however, to take this into consideration. Suppose that we accepted that, and 49 per cent. of the men were left outside. They are not concerned whether the railway is controlled or not. They are not conversant with the details of the finance. They are not influenced by, and know very little about, the pooling arrangement. All they know is that they are working for the same employer, doing the same work, and are entitled to the same conditions.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he himself and those with him urged the Government that the Transport Department should exercise their power and control the tubes as well as the Metropolitan District?

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

I can assure my hon. Friend that I will state the case fairly, and he can answer me. If it were agreed that the 51 per cent. of the men should be paid and 49 per cent. left outside, I ask the House of Commons to imagine what would have happened. The men would have said, "No, we will stop work," and the 51 per cent. would have said, "Yes, and we will stop with you." The result was that we said "No." Common sense and our experience prove that in the interest of peace it would be much better for the whole of the men to be treated alike. This difficulty is not a new one. Hon. Members have talked about this pooling arrangement as if it were something this House had nothing to do with, but it had all to do with it, and, incidentally, we had a Debate. The London County Council opposed the Bill, and I myself gave evidence in support of it upstairs. But curiously enough the situation then was the reverse of what it is to-day. My union wanted the tubes taken over, and the present Prime Minister, who was then in charge of Munitions, was in favour of it. We met Lord Kitchener, with the authority of the then Minister of Munitions, and we said to him: "In our judgment it ought to be possible for the Government to take over the whole of this transport system and control it." Lord Kitchener gave one short answer. He said: "I only agree to the taking over of the railways for military reasons, and there was no other object in the agreement arrived at with the Government except for military reasons, and seeing that the tubes serve no military purpose there is no justification for them taking them over." We then again urged the Prime Minister, and the answer he gave was that the War Office had turned it down and nothing could be done. At that moment this very serious situation arose. The omnibuses were paying a fairly good dividend, but the railways were not only not paying a dividend, as they had never done, but they were not meeting the prior charges of one or two of the smaller companies. We met the management, and they said: "We do not want a strike. We agree that our men should be treated as fairly as other men, we agree that they should have the same conditions, and there is only one way out of the difficulty. If the Government will not take over the tubes, we are prepared to use the omnibus money in order to meet the increased charges of the railways." I said then: "Very well, if that can be done I will render all the assistance possible." I supported the Bill then, as I do to-night. I hope in these dangerous times it is not going to be a crime when employers and employés happen to agree. We hear from time to time the doctrine that it would be far better if the relationship of both sides is more amicable, and I agree, and then immediately we find ourselves face to face with something that is common to both, and then we are to be twitted that it is an unholy alliance and against the public. I agree with the Report of the Traffic Committee that there ought to be a unified system and a unified control, but I am, and always have been, entirely opposed to a subsidy, but if there is to be a subsidy for the underground railways of London, I want a subsidy for the railways of Derby.

Sir J. D. REES:

And Nottingham.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

The hon. Gentleman is capable of looking after the interests of Nottingham, and I thought I would leave that preserve to him. At all events, I believe, as far as the traffic of London is concerned, there ought to be unified control. I am sure my right hon. Friend merely made a debating point in saying there was going to be an increase of 100 per cent. I do not agree that it ought to be left to any railway company, regardless of public interests, to fix any charge. I do not agree that it ought to be within the power of a railway company to make any charge they like for workmen's fares. I do not believe that they ought to have the power to alter the Workmen's Train Act; but I do say that this House ought to say honestly and fairly that it is going to do justice to all. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Bowerman) made the astounding suggestion that if the buses do not pay take them off. I should like to know what is his regard for his constituents; what would happen to the London workmen if the buses were to be taken off? If his suggestion is logic, and if he really means it, then he must say that if the underground railways do not pay, take them off. It is simply absurd; we have to face this fact, that the service that is rendered to the public of London is something that we cannot measure in words. We all know perfectly well what would happen if they were stopped. Therefore it is for a Committee upstairs to examine this question in all its bearings. Much has been said about the finance. It is not for me to defend the finance; but it is for a Committee of the House of Commons, acting as the guardians of the public, to say what are the facts of the case. That cannot be argued across the Floor of the House. Nobody can accurately say what ought to be the fares charged. No one can pretend to protect even the travelling public unless they have made a very careful and thorough examination into the whole situation. By giving a Second Reading to this Bill that can be done. I want to correct what my hon. Friend (Sir E. Wild) said. In all trade disputes I believe that the more publicity that is given to the difficulty, the more likely you are to arrive at a settlement. Where the public is involved the public should know the facts. What I said was taken as a threat. I merely stated what I knew was the decision of the men.

Photo of Sir Ernest Wild Sir Ernest Wild , West Ham Upton

I said the right hon. Gentleman stated it as an ambassador.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

All I have to say, and it is fair that I should say it, is that we have met the management of the company and the agreement arrived at by the London members, which I understand is satisfactory to them, merely puts these companies into precisely the same position as the trunk lines are in to-day so far as fares are concerned. In the next place they have given an intimation that on the Second Reading of this Bill the wages will be paid, and I hope that will smooth over the difficulties. I ask the House to understand that, so far as myself and our union are concerned, I do not apologise for being compelled in this House to disagree with the majority of my party, and to disagree with large numbers of workmen who I am proud to represent. I do it because I believe that this is a just and honest case, and because I believe that when workmen and trade union officials come up against facts they have to consider, not what is popular or unpopular, but what is right and just. Upon these grounds I support the Bill.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

This matter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Vote!"] It is all very well for hon. Members to say "Vote," but this matter is one of life and death to the great constituency which I represent, and much as I would like to study the personal convenience of Members of this House, I must put the interests of my constituents first. I put a specific question to the Minister of Transport and I also put the same question to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Thomas) who has just sat down. It is argued by both of them that it is a necessity, from the financial point of view and the wages point of view, that this Bill should be passed to enable the combined companies to pay the wages of the Tube men, because the Tube railways are not under the control of the Government. I asked the leader of the railway men if he had requested the Minister of Transport to exercise the powers expressly provided in Section 3 of the Transport Act by giving a month's notice so as to control these Tubes. His answer is, "Leave it alone. I will deal with it in a moment or two," and he then goes back five years.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

I am sorry if I did not make it clear. I wanted to say I went back five years, and since I made the same request and the right hon. Gentleman gave the same answer to me as he gave to-night.

11.0 P.M.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I am quite sure that hon. Members are not aware that the Eleven o'clock Rule does not apply. I shall be as brief as I can, but, as representing my constituents, I insist on stating to the House all the points which I desire to put. The point which I wish to emphasise is that the Minister of Transport is expressly authorised by the Act of last year to take over the Tube railways, and instead of coming to this House and committing the whole Government to sanctioning the consideration of this Bill, he ought, in the interests of the public and in discharge of his duty, to have taken over these railways, unless it could be found that finance was forthcoming under the pooling arrangement of 1915. He has submitted certain figures to this House. These do not really represent the figures as given by his financial experts, which appear in the Report of the Advisory Committee on London Traffic. If the actual figures are given, there is a totally different state of things disclosed. I agree with those who think that the Combine and every company in the Combine is entitled to charge such fares as will give them a proper remuneration upon the actual capital invested.

Mr. KENNEDY JONES:

The hon. Gentleman has stated that the figures given by the Minister of Transport are not the figures shown in the Report. They are, and can be seen on pages 16 and 17.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

I say they do not truly represent the position, and I will proceed to show that. This is not a new problem. There was a Traffic Committee that sat upstairs last summer. I was a member, and I had an opportunity of very closely examining and cross-examining witnesses in the matter of the finance of the combine, and I say emphatically that the people who have come here as the promoters of this Bill have come representing a whole lot of spurious, bogus, watered capital.

Photo of Sir Arthur Benn Sir Arthur Benn , Plymouth Drake

May I ask whether my hon. Friend asserts that the capital of the company is not represented properly?

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

I do. I say that of the £43,000,000 represented as the capital of the Underground Electric Railway Company of London, Limited, £19,000,000 is spurious and watered.

Sir J. D. REES:

What is the relevance of that?

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

I can quite understand the hon. Baronet asking. The relevance is that they are coming here and making out that they have not the wherewithal from the present fares to pay themselves an ordinary dividend.

Sir J. D. REES:

That is so.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

What have they done? They have taken out of their income that which would have paid substantial ordinary dividends, and they have created spurious stock without putting any money in. There is no question about it. Never mind about the report of last year. I commend to hon. Members the report of 38 pages, which was published this morning. Take the case of the holding of this combine concern, which was promoted by a German financier, and which is at this moment directed secretly by a German financier, who has an enormous holding held in trust by one of the banks, in London. We are asked to abrogate the workman's train, to give power to penalise the poor working girl of East London and South-East London, in the interest of that kind of finance. That is the position, and I challenge contradiction.

Photo of Sir Eric Geddes Sir Eric Geddes , Cambridge

In dealing with these figures the hon. Member has referred to the combine and to a gentleman of German extraction who was connected with it at one time. Those figures have nothing to, do with the combine at all, but are the figures of an operating company.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

With great respect you speak of these figures as being the figures of the operating companies. What I say is, that these figures to which reference has been made, are the figures of the Underground Railway Company, and are the figures of the London General Omnibus Company. The entire holding of some of these companies is under the control of the Octopus Company, and you cannot differentiate what are the figures.

Mr. J. JONES:

What about the Equipment Company?

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

These figures include stocks which are held by the same people, but they also embrace stocks which are held by the controlling company in those particular concerns. Let me take an example. The London Central Electric Company came to Parliament and obtained a franchise. Broadly speaking, the shareholders of that concern were satisfied with the 3 per cent. they were getting. What happened? The Octopus Company comes along and says: "If you will hand over the whole of your ordinary stock of £3,000,000 we will guarantee you 4 per cent. dividend." On their own admission in evidence not a single farthing was promised to the London Central Electric in return, and now the House is asked to increase the fares of the London Central Electric. That is an example of the thing that is happening. Let us take the Metropolitan District, the old Underground, the railway with which I am most concerned now, because it is the railway which carries seventy-five per cent. of the bread-winners in East Ham to and from their work. The combine in that case undertook to electrify the railway, and that electrification cost, on their own admission, something like £1,300,000, in return for which they got the creation of stock of somewhere about £5,000,000. Not merely that, but they bought the ordinary £100 stock of the Metropolitan and District at £25, and they created water 37 per cent. above that. They now come to the House for power to earn a reasonable dividend on the whole 137 per cent. instead of upon the £25 which they paid. In this financial report, which has been presented by the financial experts of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, they say, in Clause 9: With regard to the suggested allowance of 4 per cent. on ordinary capital, it must be pointed out that such an allowance on shares, some of which have been issued at a discount or purchased at low value raises a question of very great importance which may conceivably have far-reaching results. That is the solemn report of the financial advisers to the right hon. Gentleman. I would ask hon. Members to get a copy of Paper No. 636, issued this morning. Now I will talk of the methods that have been adopted. What happened upstairs in the Committee? The Combine came before that Committee, over which the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. K. Jones), so ably presided, they pretended that they had made a clean breast of every one of their ramifications when they submitted the statement of accounts for five companies that they controlled. One of their witnesses swore positively, in answer to a question of mine, that they were the whole of the companies that they controlled, yet, bit by bit, we dragged out of them, after a witness had fainted and they had tried to substitute other witnesses, that at the back of those five companies there were seven other companies, many of whom appeared for large capital, which were bogus and spurious and for which no money at all had passed. It is vital that hon. Members should appreciate this point. Take the case of the London General Omnibus Company. At the time that Company was taken over it was both an operating company and a manufacturing company, and they simply detached the manufacturing company from the other, and they created quite spurious capital; that is to say, that they gave the combine either 1,000,000 or 1,500,000 of shares, representing the larger part, without anything in return, except that these same people, the directors of that Company, also directors of the. London General Omnibus Company, which had been part and parcel, gave them a contract to manufacture buses for the other half of the thing that had been split for some years to come. Then the War came, and this Company manufactured buses and lorries for the Government and made huge profits, which went to the combine without a single halfpenny having been expended by any one member of the combine in the matter of invested capital in this particular concern, and so on with all these companies.

What is the broad financial position? I say unhesitatingly, first of all, that I agree that capital has got to have its return, and I would not merely give these people a fair return on the capital they have invested and on the stock they have bought at a low price, but I would give them something for the skill they have manifested in running the traffic of London, and there is a great deal of credit due to them for that. I would also give them ample remuneration to enable them to carry on, but what I do say is this: They are not entitled to come to this House without having performed their part of the bargain, and they are not entitled to come to this House and ask us to give them a return on a whole lot of perfectly spurious capital.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

I am very glad the right hon. Baronet has asked the question, and it is spurious in this sense. Take the case of the Metropolitan Underground. They agreed to electrify at a certain sum. They electrify, roughly, for £1,300,000, and they get paid for that in the form of ordinary shares. But, as part and parcel of the consideration, they get permission to create, roughly, £3,000,000 of preferential stock upon which 5 and 6 per cent. is guaranteed. I say the whole of that £3,000,000 preference stock is spurious and bogus. If the evidence which was dragged out of those people upstairs was in the minds of the Members of this House, we should no more consider the advisability of reading this Bill a second time than we did with the Cardiff Railway Bill four years ago, when bogus and spurious finance similar to this was disclosed, and I hope the House will not grant a Second Beading to this Bill. The promoters have not carried out their bargain under the pooling arrangement of 1915, and, in spite of the appeal of the Government, I hope that Members will have the courage to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. I warn the London Members and I warn the Government, that by sanctioning this measure—if they do sanction it—they will have created for themselves a storm that will swallow them very quickly.

Photo of Mr James Gilbert Mr James Gilbert , Southwark Central

As the London Members have been referred to more than once in this Debate, perhaps I may be allowed to put before the House exactly what the London Members have done upon this Bill. I do not think there is a single London Member who can say that part of his constituency at least does not have to depend on one or more of the different services of what is called the Combine. When this Bill was promoted in this House some of us London Members took a very keen interest in its contents, and my name appears among those on the paper to-night to move the rejection of the Bill. My name was put down directly the measure was put down for Second Reading. Since then conferences of the London Members of the Unionist and Liberal parties have been held on four different occasions with the chairman of the Combine companies. Those conferences have been very long, and all kinds of questions have been asked. Some Members may have seen printed notes which have been circulated of these conferences. All the London Members who attended those conferences, and even some of the extra-London Members who also attended, are, I think, keen on keeping down fares to the lowest possible limit, and at the same time getting the very best service for London that it is possible to obtain. The work of these conferences and the questions addressed to the Chairman of the Company were with that object. At these conferences all kinds of questions were asked about capital, the pooling of profits—on which I personally feel very strongly—and so on. As a result of the fourth conference, held yesterday, we agreed with the Chairman of the Committee that he would agree, that a certain Instruction, being passed by this House, should be accepted by the promoters of the Bill. That Instruction is on the Order Paper in the names of six London Members, put down by instruction of yesterday's Conference of London Members. I suggest that the London Members who have taken part in these Conferences during the last month have done something practical to turn this Bill to the benefit of London traffic. If hon. Members will read the Introduction they will see that it is an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be committed, after inquiry into the financial position of the various companies named in the Bill,…. our object being that the Committee upstairs, dealing with the Bill, should have instructions to inquire into the financial position of the undertakings and to deal with the questions that have been raised in debate to-night. If this instruction be passed we believe the Committee will fully inquire into the financial position and into the questions raised to-night. There is a further instruction— (a) So as to provide that the maximum powers of charge in excess of the fares which the companies are now authorised to charge shall not be more than are required to provide from time to time for working expenses, efficiently maintaining and renewing the undertakings, and a reasonable return on capital. That, I think, bears out very much what the Minister of Transport said to-night. It does away with the maximum charge that the promoters have in the Bill, of 2d. per mile, and the minimum fare of 4d. There is also— (b) That workmen's return fares between any two stations shall not exceed the single ordinary fare for a journey between those stations, with a minimum fare of threepence London Members who attended at those Conferences are very keen on retaining, if at all possible, workmen's fares in the Bill. If the Bill had passed in its original form without the instruction, the Committee upstairs would not be able to insert workmen's fares in the Bill I, therefore, respectfully submit to the House that if this Instruction—which has been drawn up by the London Members in conference with the promoters of the Bill, which the promoters are quite willing to accept, and which, I understand, the Government are willing to accept on behalf of the promoters—be carried, we have done something to see that the London passenger gets a reasonable fare, and that the workmen are not forgotten under paragraph (b). I hope, if the House give a Second Reading to this Bill, we shall agree to the Instruction put forward by the London Members.

Photo of Sir Herbert Nield Sir Herbert Nield , Ealing

With only two exceptions no people living in my Constituency can reach their homes without using this Combine. When the position which was explained at the conference of London Members is understood, it will be seen that hitherto the companies have shown great moderation, inasmuch as they have never advanced their fares to the maximum. Where an ordinary fare was 7d. or 7½d. they had a right to charge 11d., and I think that disposes of some of the charges levelled against the companies to-night. I am the chairman of the county committee of Middlesex, and as no part of Middlesex is outside one or other of the branches of this Combine we were very much disturbed by this proposed increase of fares. Although I prefer another Instruction which is down on the Paper, which is an alternative just as acceptable to the promoters as the one which has been decided upon by the London Members, in view of the practical unanimity which prevailed I consented that that Instruction should be passed over in favour of the one we are supporting. I desire to say that tomorrow I intend formally to move at the time of Private Business the same Instruction in respect of the Metropolitan Railway Bill. Two other Bills, the South Metropolitan Tramway Company and the London United Tramway Company, are being held over, and when these Bills are sent up they should all have the same Instruction applied to place them upon an equal footing. Then I think we may leave it to the Select Committee, under this Instruction, to deal with the allegations which have been made with regard to finance, and have them fully investigated, and I do not think that any decision will be arrived at unless and until every opportunity has been given to reassure the public that what is sought now ought to be granted as the minimum of what is rendered necessary by the times in which we live.

Photo of Sir William Perring Sir William Perring , Paddington North

The statement that the fares of workers using these railways will be raised from 6s. to 10s. should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. When hon. Members realise that the number of passengers carried over the system covered by the Combine exceeds 1,500,000,000 it will be seen it does not require a very large increase of fares to make up the deficit which the companies are called upon to pay. If each passenger carried over the system paid an increase of one penny that would provide six millions sterling, and inasmuch as the average journey of each passenger is two miles—according to information furnished by the companies—the necessary increase would represent not more than halfpenny per mile. This should be made clear in view of the alarmist assertions by various Members of this House which ought not to be allowed to go unchallenged.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

I will give cases to the contrary in a minute.

Photo of Sir William Perring Sir William Perring , Paddington North

In regard to workmen's fares, there are only 70,000,000 of them out of the total of 1,500,000,000 and inasmuch as the cost of a workman's fare is only 2d., and there is a deficit on every such fare of l.36d., it would only require an average fare of 3d. over the whole number of workmen's fares to make up the deficit which the companies claim will exist. Therefore the statements as to enormous increases of fares are not justified, and inasmuch as the Committee are to be instructed to go into all the details to which I have referred there is every reason to hope that the Committee will protect the travelling public, and we shall have justice done to those whom we represent here. I think it is only fair in justice to the London members who have taken the trouble to deal with this question that we should not allow these statements to go unchallenged. I am quite sure that when the Committee do go into the facts the travelling public will get the justice that they are entitled to, and that the companies will get all that they have a just claim to ask for—that they will get what they are entitled to—their working expenses covered and a reasonable dividend on the invested capital.

Mr. J. JONES:

I am not a financial expert and am not therefore going into figures. Although figures cannot lie, liars can figure. All the experience I gained as a member of the first Committee set up after I became a Member of this House proved to me the possibility of hiding facts behind a mass of figures. I want to support the hon. Member for South East Ham in his denunciation of the methods of giving evidence which was exemplified before the Committee. When we got the witnesses into a corner, they were sheltered very conveniently by those who were interested, and until we get the real facts regarding the finances of these undertakings, I say we have no right to pass measures through this House which are likely to put very heavy burdens on the people of London. I want to suggest, if I may be allowed to do so, that when the companies secured these powers in the first place, they obtained them on the principle that they were going to render a great service to the public of London. The Metropolis at that time was becoming very congested, and the companies were given certain privileges for the purpose of getting the people from the inner circle to the outer area of London. The people went out believing that they were going to have cheap fares from the outer ring to the inner ring. But what is going to happen as a consequence of this Bill? The people who have been spread out in an area of twenty or thirty miles from the centre are now to be charged the ordinary fares, while workmen's fares will be increased to the single fare. That is the principle underlying this Bill—the principle of the abolition of workmen's fares. I know that some hon. Members do not like the idea of workmen having privileges. They think their only privilege should be to travel to work early. But surely that is a privilege which ought to be abolished. In my opinion the workman should be able to go up to town as early or as late as his boss. But seeing that he has to travel up in the early morning, the privilege he has hitherto possessed is to be taken from him, and in future if this Bill pass his fare is to be at the rate of 3d. return between Stations. May I remind some of the London Members that their friends and supporters have to travel fifteen miles to their work within the London area. What fare will they have to pay under the new Bill? Will they not have to pay the single ordinary fare, which is called the workman's fare, under the new proposal? Who made that compromise? It is all very well for the hon. Member for South wark, within a penny of Westminster Bridge, but what about the men living in West Ham, East Ham, Tottenham, Enfield, and other places that supply the workmen for London? They are going to be charged the ordinary single fare, and that is going to be called the workman's fare for the return journey. It really means from 6s. to 10s. for the men, women, and boys and girls living in the outer area.

This is a Bill supported by so-called "democrats" in order to produce a dividend for hook-nosed patriots who sing "God save the King" in broken English—the men who have got hold of the Combine. This is the direct result of the financial jiggery-pokery that has been going on in connection with London traffic. We are not so much affected, because we have our own tramway system, but I know what the result of this Bill will be. As soon as the proposals of the Bill are through, there will be a general increase in travelling expenses throughout London. I am not speaking for the strongly organised Trade Unionists of London, who can get what they want by industrial action; I am speaking for the people who cannot help themselves, the men, women, and children whose fares are going to be increased enormously by this Bill. We know what goes on upstairs. Generally, there is a certain amount of secrecy. [HON. MEMBERS: Why?] I have heard enough upstairs to prove it to me. I have found vested interests well installed when I have got there, and it makes me tired of the business upstairs. When we got to the Committee stage of the Trans port Bill all the various interests were well represented, and when it came to the vote it was the vested interest first, and the public nowhere. I venture to suggest that no proof has yet been given of the necessity for this Bill. Why have we a loss of £750,000 on the omni buses in one year? What profits are made by the Associated Equipment Company? If we are to have a Traffic Combine in London, why should not the people who make the omnibuses help the people who lose on the omnibuses? [HON. MEMBERS: Do not they?] They do not, because it has been separated from the Combine for the purposes of dividend paying. There is a certain gentleman who holds shares in one part of the Combine and who controls the whole business. It is the public who pay every time; it is heads they win and tails we lose. I venture to suggest that a Bill of this kind simply means trying it on the people, and it is nearly time the people said they were not going to have any more of it. Why should we have buses running if they cannot pay their way? It means that what is lost on the swings is gained on the roundabouts. The railways do pay. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, according to your own evidence given before the Committee the railways did pay; but they had to subsidise the buses, they had to subsidise the trams, and because they had to do that they were brought into a position of financial incapacity. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What about the Member for Derby?"] I am not talking about the Member for Derby. He is representing the people he represents, and I am representing the people I represent.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. HALL:

With different ideas.

Mr. JONES:

So far as I am concerned, I want public control of public services. I am not going to enter into a compact merely for the sake of members of my own union, to try to bleed the public in order that I my get an increase in wages for them or for any other section. The people that I represent stand for real recognition of public responsibility. We are paying at the rate of £5,000 a mile for the maintenance of our roads. I know it is all one. The Metropolitan Tramways Company are part of the Combine, and some of their shareholders are interrupting me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name?"] I am not naming anyone. "No names, no pack drill." I am not going to slander anyone if I can help it, but I am going to tell the truth. I want the House to recognise that, so far as we are concerned, we are paying at the rate of £5,000 a mile for the maintenance of our roads, which are used by this Combine, and they pay nothing at all. Is not that going to be counted in? Are we going to be always treated as Cinderellas in the public service? Our own tramways have not come along and asked for the right to increase their fares. We have not asked Parliament to get us out of our troubles. We are facing our troubles, as we ought to do; but those who believe in private enterprise always beating public enterprise, who talk about individual property as against public property, come and say, "For God's sake get us out of our trouble." [An HON. MEMBER: "How about the rates?"] The people are willing to pay the rates. What they grumble at is that, whilst we are maintaining our roads, laying down our rails, and paying all the expenses of laying down a proper service for the public, you come along with

your Combine and use the roads and do not pay us anything for the use of them. Give us fair and equal opportunity, and we can show you the way to run public services for the public good. I oppose this Bill because, in the first place, we have not the full facts so far as finance is concerned. When it goes upstairs, my right hon. Friend opposite may talk as much as he likes about getting the facts from the people concerned, but he will get just as many facts as we got when we had the last Select Committee. I am opposing the Bill on behalf of the workers of the East End of London, with my hon. Friend opposite (Sir E. Wild), and I hope it will be rejected by this House.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes, 137; Noes, 21.

Division No. 71.]AYES.[11.45 p.m.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James TynteHacking, Captain Douglas H.O'Neill, Major Hen. Robert W. H.
Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William JamesHailwood, AugustinePalmer, Major Godfrey Mark
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel MartinHail, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.
Baldwin, StanleyHanna, George BoyleParker, James
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Hanson, Sir Charles AugustinPeel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.Harris, Sir Henry PercyPerring, William George
Barlow, Sir MontagueHartshorn, VernonPollock, Sir Ernest M.
Barrie, Charles CouparHenry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)Pulley, Charles Thornton
Belialrs, Commander Carlyon W.Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel FrankPurchase, H. G.
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Hills, Major John WallerRaw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.
Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)Hinds, JohnRees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)
Betterton, Henry B.Holmes, J. StanleyRoberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)
Birchall, Major J. DearmanHood, JosephRobinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Blades, Capt. Sir George RowlandHopkins, John W. W.Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)
Berwick, Major G. O.Hotchkin, Captain Stafford VereSamuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Breese, Major Charles E.Hurd, Percy A.Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.
Brown, Captain D. C.Inskip, Thomas Walker H.Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesJameson, J. CordonScott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)
Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)Jephcott, A. R.Seddon, J. A.
Butcher, Sir John GeorgeJessen, C.Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John
Camplon, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.Jodrell, Neville PaulShaw, William T. (Forfar)
Cautley, Henry S.Johnson, L. S.Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Chadwick, R. BurtonJones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)Smithers, Sir Alfred W.
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.
Conway, Sir W. MartinJones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)Stevens, Marshall
Cooper, Sir Richard AshmoleKidd, JamesStewart, Gershom
Curzon, Commander ViscountKiley, James D.Strauss, Edward Anthony
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)King, Commander Henry DouglasSurtees, Brigadier-General H. C.
Doyle, N. GrattanKnights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.)Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell. (Maryhill)
Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.Lloyd-Greame, Major P.Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Farquharson, Major A. C.Lorden, John WilliamTurton, E. R.
Fell, Sir ArthurLort Williams, J.Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Fraser, Major Sir KeithLowther, Lt.-Col. Claude (Lancaster)Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)
Gange, E. StanleyLyle-Samuel, AlexanderWheler, Major Granville C. H.
Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Camb'dge)Lynn, R. J.Whitla, Sir William
Gilbert, James DanielMcLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel JohnM'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)
Goff, Sir R. ParkMallalieu, F. W.Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
Gould, James C.Manville, EdwardYoung, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)
Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.Younger, Sir George
Greene, Lieut.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Gregory, HolmanMurray, John (Leeds, West)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Gritten, W. G. HowardNeal, ArthurLord Edmund Talbot and Captain Guest.
Guest, Major O. (Leic, Loughboro')Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
NOES.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. WilliamGriffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Raper, A. Baldwin
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Brittain, Sir HarryMaclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)Morgan, Major D. WattsWild, Sir Ernest Edward
Entwistle, Major C. F.Mosley, Oswald
Glanville, Harold JamesNewbould, Alfred ErnestTELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Nield, Sir HerbertMr. Sitch and Mr. Bowerman.

Question put accordingly, "That the word" now "stand part of the Question."

Photo of Sir William Bull Sir William Bull , Hammersmith South

I beg to move,

"That it be an Instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be committed.

The House divided: Ayes, 131; Noes, 25.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

I desire to move as an Amendment, after the word "Bill" ["named in the Bill"], to insert the words "and Companies in Association therewith."

The object is that the inquiry shall be an exhaustive one to include the Companies controlled by the Combine.

Photo of Sir Edwin Cornwall Sir Edwin Cornwall , Bethnal Green North East

I do not think such an Amendment would be in order, as the Committee would have power to inquire into the Companies named in the Bill.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

In the Appendix to the Report of the Select Committee on Transport in the Metropolitan Area there are two lists given of companies controlled by the Underground Electric Rail ways of London, which is, of course, the combine. I suggest the words "all those companies which are controlled by the combine" and mentioned on page 367 of that Report.

Photo of Sir Edwin Cornwall Sir Edwin Cornwall , Bethnal Green North East

I would ask the hon. and learned Member not to press those words. I felt it to be my duty to rule his proposed Amendment out of Order, as I am quite sure the Committee have the power, as a matter of course, to take into consideration the companies mentioned by the hon. and learned Member as appearing in the Schedule.

Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be committed, after inquiry into the financial position of the various companies named in the Bill, to amend the Bill as follows:—

  1. (a) So as to provide that the maximum powers of charge in excess of the fares which the companies are now authorised to charge shall not be more than are required to provide from time to time for working expenses, efficiently maintaining and renewing the undertakings, and a reasonable return on capital;
  2. (b) That workmen's return fares between any two stations shall not exceed the single ordinary fare for a journey between those stations, with a maximum fare of threepence.—[Sir William Bull.]