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LONDON COUNTY COUNCIL (CO-ORDINATION OF PASSENGER TRAFFIC) BILL (By Order).

Orders of the Day — Private Business. – in the House of Commons on 26th February 1929.

Alert me about debates like this

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [19th February], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: this House is of opinion that proposals which vitally affect the problem of London Traffic and the tramway and traffic powers and obligations of the London County Council, the City Corporation, the Middle-sex County Council, and the local authorities of West Ham, East Ham, Croydon, Leyton, Walthamstow, Ilford, and the 28 Metropolitan boroughs, raise matters of public policy which should not be dealt with by Private Bill."—[Mr. Scurr.]

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

When the sand ran down in the hour glass a week ago, I had nearly finished my speech, and I have only one or two other points to put before the House. First, I venture to say that the Government come out of this business with very little credit. They are evading their obligations and their responsibility by bringing this question before the House in a private Bill, and the Minister of Transport himself appears as little other than the agent for the traffic combine. When we consider how this subject, which concerns so many millions of working people in the County of London is being treated, we must compare it with the attitude both of the Government and of the Members on the Government side of the House last Tuesday. Then the benches opposite were crowded in the interests of a comparatively small group of relatively well-to-do people who were seeking to blackmail the British Government, and we noted how readily the Government succumbed to that sort of pressure and are meeting the demands of the blackmailers.

Photo of Sir Patrick Hannon Sir Patrick Hannon , Birmingham Moseley

I hope the hon. Member will not use that expression of other hon. Members.

Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

I can find no other expression which adequately describes the attack made on the Government last week, resulting in the Prime Minister throwing over his own Ministers. When I compare that case with the treatment of this subject, which is vital to millions of London people, I feel London will know how to assess the action of the Government as and when the opportunity presents itself. However, I am chiefly concerned with meeting the case which the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) put up last week, more especially his remarks regarding the alleged loss on the tramway undertakings. He is reported to have said at a meeting of the Wandsworth Borough Council that the London County Council tramways, in addition to having remitted to them the payment of £300,000 a year for three years, were also making a loss of somewhere about £500,000. He repeated that statement in somewhat different terms during the debate last week. It is well that we should hear the official answer which has been given to that statement, and I will quote the statement made by the Tory vice-chairman of the Highways Committee of the London County Council. He said: With the approval of His Majesty's Treasury, the accounts for the three years ended 31st March, 1927, made no provision for repayment of that part of capital expenditure incurred up to 31st March, 1924, which is subject to the 25 years' term for redemption. This temporary suspension relieves the accounts for the three years of a large annual charge, roughly computed at £300,000; but the obligation had to be resumed in 1927–28, in which year there was a deficiency of £226,211. After meeting all debt charges in the current year the deficiency is estimated at £43,804. That is an entirely different story from what the hon. Member stated at the Wandsworth Borough Council and in this House last week. We will examine the figures in a little greater detail. The hon. Member said last week: From March, 1922, onwards we have to tell the steady grim story of financial loss, and our opinion is that that loss was entirely due to the omnibus competition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1929; col. 1060, Vol. 225.] Let us see whether that loss is a loss. I venture to say that there is hardly any business in this great business centre which, if it were judged on the ordinary terms applied to all other businesses, would be so thriving arid so prosperous as that of the London County Council tramway service; and I will go further, and say that having regard to the attempts continually made in this House, and in the London County Council itself, to sabotage the service, no business would show so great a resilience as the London County Council tramways service has done during the period through which it has just passed. According to the report of the Highways Committee of the Council, the estimated surplus for the year 1928–29 amounts to £650,000. From that we have to deduct the interest on the outstanding capital, that is to say, the interest paid on the money loaned, and after that we get a net profit of £377,015.

Photo of Sir Henry Jackson Sir Henry Jackson , Wandsworth Central

I would like to ask the hon. Member kindly to deal with the last actual figures, and not with the estimates for the coming year.

Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

If the hon. Member will allow me, will develop my case in my own way. We will discuss this matter as all matters of finance are discussed here, on Estimates put before the House by the responsible person in charge. The intervention of the hon. Member proves what I was trying to show. The hon. Member puts up a case of his own and tries to prove something from it which will riot stand examination in the light of the true facts. Under the special conditions of municipal finance, there has to be paid off the capital cost of the system in the year ended 31st March, 1929, the sum of £480,544. When the profit of £377,015 is taken from this, there is a deficit of £103,529 to be provided out of the rates. It is nonsense to describe this as a loss. When the trans- action is completed, the London County Council have got assets worth £480,544 for a payment of £103,529. That is how you would estimate it in other businesses. Why do hon. Members, for their special purposes, want to estimate it differently here? Knowing Lord Ashfield to be a keen business man, one can only feel astonishment at his eagerness to get hold of a losing business, and this talk of the London County Council tramways being subsidised out of the rates invites us either to use terms which are not within the bounds of Parliamentary language, and which I would by no means attribute to the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth, but merely to suggest, in the words of Dr. Johnson, "Ignorance, sir, ignorance."

8.0 p.m.

What are the facts? From 1897 to 1928 the total contribution from the rates to the trams has been £1,226,894. The council has paid off, provided for out of the tramways service, no less a sum than £8,752,035. In other words, there has been a net gain to the citizens of London of £7,325,141. Can the hon. Member deny that? That money has been paid into the sinking fund. [Interruption.] Hon. Members who are criticising it do not get their money back in their own businesses, and, when bad times come, they are lucky if the capital is not cut down very considerably, and then they find they are worth very much less than they thought they were. The estimate of the Highways Committee of the London County Council for the year 1929–30 shows a surplus of £770,460, with a net surplus of £17,485; that is, after all the commitments, the sinking fund payments and everything else, have been met, it is anticipated there will be a net surplus of over £17,000. This has been accomplished under a handicap such as no other business has to meet. I want to deal with another point. The tramways contribute very large sums to the rates. They have to maintain their track and 18 inches on each side of the track in good condition. I think everybody will admit, having regard to modern traffic, that the tramway track itself is worn very little by the tramways. In this way, it is estimated that expenditure to the extent of £233,600 a year is saved to the ratepayers. Furthermore, the tramway tracks are rated, and the actual payments for the financial year amount to no less than £30,690. There is, in addition, an annual charge of £30,000 placed upon the tramways in respect of contributions to road improvements which have considerably benefited all forms of road traffic. All these are charges over and above that which any other system of transport has to bear.

It is a fact that if the tramways were scrapped, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson), the London ratepayers would have to pay another £1,000,000 a year, apart from the risk of increased fares. Between the years 1914 and 1926 the amount contributed by the tramways to the Metropolitan boroughs towards the upkeep of the permanent way was no less than £1,027,056. For the same period, the amount of debt charge contributed on account of street widenings was £424,998. The estimated saving to the road authorities in consequence of the obligation of the London County Council to maintain the paving along the tramway route for the same period was no less than £2,683,500. What other form of transport has to carry such charges? It the normal scale of omnibus fares on ail the tramway routes were applied to the council's system, the increased cost to the users of the tramways is estimated at £1,000,000 per annum. There is one other point worthy of notice. It has already been pointed out that where there is keen competition between the tramways and the omnibuses the omnibuses follow the example of the tramways and give cheap midday fares, but where there is no such competition the omnibuses do not adopt cheap fares. I think that is a clear indication of what would happen if the Combine had its way.

I will try and put in a few words what I think constitutes the whole gravamen of the attack now being made on this particular form of transport. Within another 20 years, the whole of the capital of the tramway system will have been repaid. Nobody imagines that the people behind the combine, and Lord Ashfield in particular, are very cheerful in view of this prospect, because they must realise that when that comes about the tramways will be in a favourable position and will be able to give much cheaper transport to the people of London. These people know that if they can wipe out the tramways they will be able to carry on very much better, because in 20 years' time it will be difficult for the combine to compete successfully with the tramways. It is under these circumstances that this plot has been arranged with the connivance and help of the Minister of Transport. First of all, we had the case of the cables, and now the Government are proposing to lay down conditions in regard to the tramways, regardless of the well-being of the service and of the community itself. If we judge the business of the tramways on the same lines as hon. Members judge their own businesses, it is clear that it is all nonsense to talk about the tramways being a losing concern. The tramways are a very profitable business indeed, quite apart from the service which they give to the community. We want the tramways to be judged by the enormous contributions which they make to the rates, by the amount they put aside for sinking fund, and the great and unparalleled service which they give to the citizens of London.

Photo of Mr Walter Greaves-Lord Mr Walter Greaves-Lord , Lambeth Norwood

The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) commenced his remarks by making a wholly unworthy attack upon a certain number of citizens of this Empire whom he characterised as blackmailers, but who in reality were people who claimed that some reasonable compensation should be made to them for the perils they suffered when the protection of the British Empire was withdrawn from them. People who make criticisms of that kind must not complain if words which are a little strong are used about their conduct. I do not propose in any way to minimise what I consider is the position which has been taken up by some hon. Members opposite. Before I proceed to the actual details of the Bill, may I say, first of all, that I intervene purely as a London Member who has no interest in any one of the various companies concerned, and who has no interest except that of serving his own constituents who are and will be vitally affected by these Bills.

It is essential that every London Member should take the greatest care to watch matters which affect the travelling public of London, and particularly those whose constituencies are situated, as mine is, on the extremity of London, and con- sequently are greatly affected by anything which is likely to minimise or depreciate the provision which is made for traffic in and out of London. It is from that point of view that I approach these Bills. The hon. Member for North Camberwell stated that when you are dealing with matters which affect the electorate as a whole, it is certainly well to be accurate, and it is well to remember that the electorate have memories like other people.

I was a little interested in the rather intimate and personal confessions which were made by the Member for South Battersea (Mr. W. Bennett) when he seconded the Amendment which was moved by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr). The hon. Member for South Battersea pointed out in his speech that he had made this question of the trams one of the leading questions in the recent by-election at Battersea, and he went on to say: A great many people of London and of Battersea are in deadly fear that the result of this transaction, it this private Bill be passed, will be an increase in the fares. The principle involved is important. The Bill proposes to hand over to a private business—the combine—the right to make a tax on the citizens. The hon. Member went on to say that: the removal of the competition between the tramways and the omnibuses will inevitably result in a rise in fares. The hon. Member further stated: If it be possible to get rid of the London trains by a private Bill why should it not be possible to get rid of the Post Office or to hand Over the mines to a commercial combine by a private Bill? There is one other statement made by the hon. Member for South Battersea relating to the increase of fares. He said: There is not the slightest doubt in the minds of any of the people who travel by tramway from the suburbs every day that the removal of the competition between the tramways and the omnibuses will inevitably result in a rise in fares."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1929; cols. 1053–54, Vol. 225.] I think the hon. Member very much overrates the influence of the speeches which he and those who supported him made during the Battersea election. A very large number of the citizens of London do think for themselves, and they do not take advice of that kind. They think for themselves, and they do not take as gospel everything which is said on the election platform by hon. Members opposite. Take, for example, my own Division. Somebody—I know not whom—has circulated very widely in my constituency a number of postcards asking the electors to post them to their representatives in Parliament in order to protest against these traffic Bills. Although I have in my constituency a large number of poor people who might be seriously affected if they had any fears about this matter I have only received 17 or 18 of those postcards. Four of those postcards came from one house and three of them came from another house, and consequently they are not very widely representative of the very terrible fear on the part of those who live in the poorer parts of my constituency as to what may happen if these Bills are passed. I have very little doubt that a certain number of those people who heard the speeches of the hon. Member for South Battersea and the speeches of those who supported him on the platform really had instilled into them during the Battersea election a very serious fear indeed.

If the hon. Member for South Battersea said in his election speeches the things which he stated in this House I can very readily understand that the people who were vitally interested in matters of that kind might think that a public man appealing for their suffrages would be extremely careful as to his language; and that if the hon. Member used language calculated to cause fear the electors were entitled to think that there was something to be afraid of in these Bills.

When, however, the hon. Gentleman says that the Bill proposes to hand over to a private business the right to place a tax on the citizens, when he says that it will inevitably result in a rise in fares, and when he says that it means getting rid of the London trams by a private Bill, he is either saying that about which he is careless, or that about which he has made very little inquiry, or that which he knows to be untrue. I will only say that, while it may be that he raised in Battersea sufficient deadly fear to bring him to this House, that type of electioneering will only work once in the same constituency, and at the next election he will find that the electors of Battersea will take a different view. At any rate, there is no worse type of electioneering than carrying out the principle, which the hon. Gentleman carried out, of preying upon and increasing the fears of the electors.

Let me take in turn the things which have been said. Let me take the statement that this Bill is to get rid of the London trams—because, unless the statement means that, it means nothing at all. It is quite true that Parliament, either in a private Bill or in a public Bill, can do practically everything, but that statement is intended to convey that this Bill gets rid of the London trams. In the first place, let me point out that there is not a word from first to last in either of these Bills which in any way derogates from the duty of the London County Council to provide the services which it has undertaken to provide by the system of London trams. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"] There is not a word in this Bill which in any way affects the statutory duty of the London County Council to provide trams, and to keep those trams. [Interruption.] It is not a matter about which there can be any difference of opinion—

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

Surely, the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that the Bills themselves are enabling Bills, the object being to enable the London County Council to transfer the management of their undertaking to another undertaking.

Photo of Mr Walter Greaves-Lord Mr Walter Greaves-Lord , Lambeth Norwood

The first thing which has to be considered is that: The associated undertakings shall at all times be maintained in good and efficient working order and condition and be operated as a unified system of transport so that adequate travelling facilities are provided for the public. The hon. Member says that this is an enabling Bill, but an enabling Bill can only enable people to do that which it directly says they may do. This Bill enables the London County Council and the Combine to enter into agreement, but no where is there anything in either of these Bills which enables the London County Council either to part with their trams or to get rid of their statutory obligation to maintain them and carry on their services.

Photo of Mr Walter Greaves-Lord Mr Walter Greaves-Lord , Lambeth Norwood

I am not going to give way about things as to which there is absolutely no question; I am going to continue what I have to say with regard to the Bill. Again, there is nothing in these Bills which allows or enables the London County Council to get rid of its obligation to provide workmen's fares. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for South Battersea was right, that a deadly fear was raised in the Battersea Division when that was suggested to the electors of Battersea, but there is nothing in either of these Bills which alters, or allows anyone to alter, the statutory provisions in regard to workmen's fares in the Metropolitan area. Those statutory provisions were contained, in the first place, in, the various Acts of Parliament which authorised the London tramways. I have one here as an illustration, the Metropolitan Electric Tramways Act, and there is also the London United Tramways Act, and a number of others. They provide that: At all times after the opening of the tramway for public traffic the promoters shall and are hereby required to run a proper and sufficient service of carriages for artisans, mechanics and daily labourers each way every morning and every evening at such hours not being later than eight o'clock in the morning or earlier than five o'clock in the evening as may be most convenient for such workmen going to and from their work at fares not exceeding one halfpenny for every mile or fraction of that distance. All of those obligations were taken over by the London County Council, and they are imposed by Statute. There is no word from beginning to end of these Bills which authorises any diminution of that statutory duty, or which authorises the making of any agreement which brings about any diminution of that statutory duty.

Photo of Mr William Bennett Mr William Bennett , Battersea South

This statutory charge of ½d. per mile is double what the London County Council charge, and, if the Combine makes the statutory charge of ½d. per mile, that will be raising the fares to nearly double. The hon. and learned Gentleman is proving my case.

Photo of Mr Walter Greaves-Lord Mr Walter Greaves-Lord , Lambeth Norwood

First of all, I am pointing out that there is a statutory obligation. In the second place, I am pointing out that that statutory obligation is not interfered with. I am further assured, not merely by those who represent the London County Council, but by those who represent the other bodies, that there is absolutely no idea or suggestion of interfering with the workmen's fares in any way, or with the workmen's services. There is another thing which the London County Council cannot do; they cannot get rid of their sinking fund. The hon. Member for South Battersea was pleased to ask whether this Bill would enable the London County Council to get rid, or would lead to the London County Council getting rid, of its sinking fund, but there again he is dealing with something which is a statutory duty, and again there is not a word in this Bill which enables the London County Council to get rid of that statutory duty.

Let me come to another matter about which there was some debate, and as to which, so far as I know, there is no statutory obligation, that is to say, the matter of the mid-day fares. As one who conies down to business mainly between the hours of eight and 10, and who, therefore, has to pay full fare, I have some little interest in realising how the mid-day fares are financed. It is quite clear that, if the London County Council's trains are such a paying undertaking as the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) would make out, the loss which is incurred on the mid-day fares must be made up by those, who go to business between eight and 10 and return after half-past four, and who are, after all, a very large proportion of the London population; and the position today is that they, for their necessary journeys in going to and from their business, are being used to finance people who go about merely for pleasure during the day. I do not say that everyone who goes about during the day goes about for pleasure, but it is perfectly clear—[Interruption.] That may be the hon. Member's style, but it is not everyone's style. It is clear that the present system results in a considerable amount of waste in the middle of the day. You have only to stand in any thoroughfare where omnibuses go over the tram routes and yon will see omnibus after omnibus and tram after tram comparatively empty. That obviously is a wasteful proceeding. If by co-ordination you can get rid of that, you get rid of a very considerable amount of the loss which at present has to be made up by those who go to business early in the morning, and you make it more likely that the fares during business hours will be reduced.

Let us come to the question of what is meant by "getting rid of." Some hon. Members opposite talk as though, when the time came that the debt would be paid off, the Combine would get the trains for nothing. The position clearly is that the capital invested in the County Council undertaking remains the same. That capital ranks for its return, and under these Bills, so far as there is any ranking capital at all, their ranking capital must be based upon exactly the same principles as the ranking capital of the Combine, and, if the position is that the Combine gets a greater return as the result of this, so also, out of the pool, the County Council will get an increased return on its capital. There are some people who consider—this is not the first time I have heard it in connection with Socialist politics—that the only capital in connection with an undertaking is that which is either shown in the statement of capital, or shares issued or something of that kind, or loan capital. But that is not the right way to arrive at the capital of an undertaking, and the County Council undertaking will have its capital arrived at in exactly the same way as the Combine's capital, and it will get the same return.

We come to the question of control, and here a very serious mistake was made by all three of the Members on that side of the house who spoke on the last occasion. They said the Metropolitan boroughs would have no right to make representations or to be heard, and they based that upon the definition of local authority. It is clear from the Bill that, first of all, any local authority whose area or district is wholly or partly within the London traffic area will have the right to make representations with regard to the alteration of the general standard of fares, rates or charges or withdrawn services, and also with regard to the order or priority of developments and extensions. They will be able to approach the Minister, and say there is a need for development or extension, and to ask for an inquiry. Further, on any matter which affects thoses local authorities, the Minister can direct that any local authority affected shall have the right to be consulted. The definition of "local authority" is "the council of any county or of any county or other municipal borough," and for this purpose, under the Interpretation Act, and also under the London Local Government Act, the London boroughs are municipal boroughs.

Mr. SCURR indicated dissent.

Photo of Mr Walter Greaves-Lord Mr Walter Greaves-Lord , Lambeth Norwood

I take responsibility for my own interpretation, and I am told that is the opinion of those who have been consulted by the authorities. I am told, further, that if there is the smallest doubt as to whether municipal boroughs include the London boroughs, words will be introduced which will leave no conceivable doubt.

Photo of Mr Robert Morrison Mr Robert Morrison , Tottenham North

Is that statement made on behalf of the county council?

Photo of Mr Walter Greaves-Lord Mr Walter Greaves-Lord , Lambeth Norwood

As a lawyer I have no doubt whatever about it, but I realised that there were other people who had doubts, and I consulted the promoters of both Bills. I find their clear intention was that those words should cover the Metropolitan boroughs, and I have an assurance from the promoters of both Bills that if there is the smallest doubt about it it will be put right in Committee. Under those circumstances, that point disappears at once.

There is another point I want to deal with on this question of control. It was stated that there were important differences between the sort of control that was suggested in the Blue Report, and the control suggested in this Bill. If one looks at the Blue Report, one finds that the controlling authority which is suggested is really the London Traffic Advisory Committee, in conjunction with, and in discussion with, such local authorities as are affected. In addition to that, the purposes of control are to ensure extension or development, proper scales of fees, and adequate services. Every one of these matters is dealt with by public control under these by-laws in Clauses 9 and 10 of the London County Council Bill and under Clauses 9 and 10 of the London Electric Railway Company's Bill. Under those circumstances, it is idle to say that there is not public control with regard to the things that matter. The things that matter are undoubtedly fares, the possibility of extension of the services, and in addition to that, the possibility of withdrawal of the services, and full and adequate representation. So much for that point.

Another question which was raised was as to the personnel of the London Traffic Advisory Committee, but I find when I look at the London Traffic Act that these matters of co-ordination are matters in respect of which additional members of the Traffic Advisory Committee have, under the First Schedule, the right to be consulted. Therefore, when matters affecting co-ordination come before the Traffic Advisory Committee, the additional members must be taken in and must take part. In addition to that, I find that in any case, where the Minister thinks fit, he may direct that the additional members shall form part of the Committee when considering, and when reporting to and advising him upon, any matter or any question referred to the Committee under this Act or in connection with any of the matters in Part II of the Schedule. Therefore, under that also, there is a considerable amount of public control. There was one other matter about which I found that some constituents of mine were a little anxious. That was the question of staffs. No one can say that there is not full provision under these by-laws for the compensation of any members of the staffs who may be displaced. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Only the Council's employés!"]. I thought that it was the Council's employés and the Council's tramways about which Members opposite were so solicitous, and the only anxiety which has been expressed to me has been by employés of the Council. It is abundantly clear that the Clause of the County Council Bill which deals with compensation—Clause 11—provides an ample and full measure of compensation and ensures that no members of the staff of the County Council shall suffer in any way as a result of the co-ordination of the London traffic services.

What of the advantage? There again, quite apart from the advantage of control of the traffic above ground, there is the other matter in which certainly my own constituents and many constituents in South-East London and North-East London are absolutely interested and very seriously interested, and that is the provision of further traffic facilities. It is abundantly clear to every one that the provision of further traffic facilities overground is a practical and physical impossibility, and the one thing we shall get from this coordination of London traffic is the provision of three underground services which will do a very great deal to relieve the difficulties under which the people in South-East London and North-East London suffer at the present time. [AN HON. MEMBER: "The ratepayers' money!"] No, it will be the ratepayers in one sense, in exactly the same sense that every man who pays his railway fare is a ratepayer supporting a railway, but in no other sense.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Camberwell said something about the contribution of trams to the roads of London. I am told that the contribution to the Road Fund, which also goes to relieve the expenditure on roads in London, by the omnibuses which belong to the Combine, is no less than £600,000 per annum. Under these circumstances, the £30,000 which, it is said, is the amount which the trams relieve the ratepayers of London, sinks into insignificance. I listened with a great deal of admiration to the peroration of the hon. Member for Mile End. No one could listen to that peroration without being moved by it. He gave us a vision of the growth of London and of the commerce of London as though he was entranced by the wonderful growth of the commerce of this great city. It was one of the most perfect cases of the apotheosis of private enterprise that I have ever heard. It is an amazing thing that such an apotheosis of private enterprise should come in the tardy way it Cid at the end of a speech objecting to private enterprise under public control being utilised to bring great relief to the traffic problem of London and extensive serf ices to those who have to work and earn their daily bread in this great city.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord) has taken up pretty well half-an-hour of the time of the House, and I think T am right in saying that he has not added one iota to the wisdom of the House or anything of benefit to the two Bills which we are discussing. He has been far more concerned with criticising the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Battersea (Mr. W. Bennett) for, as he said, imparting fear to the electorate, a practice in regard to which the hon. and learned Gentleman himself is no mean hand, in view of the fact that he had the protection of his own Fascisti when he spoke at a meeting held at the Rotherhithe Town Hall.

Photo of Mr Walter Greaves-Lord Mr Walter Greaves-Lord , Lambeth Norwood

The hon. Member has used a phrase which I do not understand—"my Fascisti." I have never had the smallest connection with any such illegal body during the whole of my life, and as far as exercising the fears of the electorate is concerned, have now been returned three times with an overwhelming majority, the largest on the last occasion.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

The hon. and learned Gentleman will no doubt remember that he had the protection of these gentlemen when he spoke at the Rotherhithe Town Hall about four years ago. He has referred to the question as to whether under the by-laws the County Council tramways are in danger of going out of the control of that body. The hon. and learned Gentleman will agree, I think, that if and when these Bills become law, the management of the London County Council tramways will be definitely in the hands of the Combine. If he does not know it, may I add to his little store of knowledge by telling him that that is a fact. That is an arrangement with which everybody who has given any consideration to these Bills is already cognisant.

Photo of Mr Walter Greaves-Lord Mr Walter Greaves-Lord , Lambeth Norwood

If the hon. Member misrepresents me, he must expect to be put right. They will be under one management, subject to the control of the Minister of Transport and the public authorities set up by the London Traffic Act of 1924.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

As I shall show later on, there will be no such thing as public control in any shape or form in the event of these two Bills passing. The hon. and learned Member has been at great pains to tell us that under no circumstances can the fares on the trams be raised. Had he taken a little more trouble he would have discovered that workmen's fares are slightly more than half the statutory fare that could be charged to workmen at this moment. Therefore, it is a possibility that within the Statute they can increase the fares, although I doubt very much whether they will do so. The hon. and learned Member has given us advice at large. He ought to give us accurate advice, and he ought to know his subject when he begins to talk about it. He complained that a certain type of traffic is being exploited by the council for the support of the midday fares. He omits the fact that, if that argument be the correct argument, they are also being exploited to pay for the uneconomic workmen's fares, and that the three combined fares make one source of revenue from which the income of the tramways is derived. Therefore, it is pointless to make a grievance, a middle class grievance, that he objects to make any contribution to the assistance of the artisan or to what he calls the pleasure seekers who use the midday fares. His picture of a sinking fund reminds me of a cartoon, suitable for the General Election, of the Prime Minister with his head through a lifebuoy, representing "That sinking feeling."

The hon. and learned Member says that, as a lawyer, he has no doubt that in Clause 2 the term "municipal boroughs" includes the 28 metropolitan boroughs. I wish the lawyers would agree amongst themselves on this subject. The hon. and learned Member assured us, out of his own knowledge of the law, that what he had stated was a fact, but I have here an opinion from another lawyer. A letter was sent by Mr. Herbert Morrison to Mr. Preston-Hillary, Assistant. Solicitor to the London County Council. Morrison wrote: 21st February, 1929.Dear Sir,Would you he good enough to let me know whether the phrase 'the council of any county or other municipal borough,' includes a metropolitan borough. The reply was: Dear Sir,Referring to your letter of to-day's date, in my opinion"— He is modest enough to say that it is in his opinion. He is not at all dogmatic about it. the phrase 'the council of any county or other municipal borough,' standing by itself does not include a metropolitan borough. A metropolitan borough is obviously not a county, and the Interpreta- tion Act, 1889, defines a municipal borough as meaning as respects England and Wales ally place for the time being subject to the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882. That letter is from an authority equally as good as the hon. and learned Member. The hon. and learned Member, after dogmatising over the matter, went on to say that if he was wrong, the matter would be put right upstairs. If it is going to be put right upstairs, that is evidence that our criticism in regard to the interpretation was right.

I want to deal more with the Minister than with the merits of the two Bills. As one who has some regard for public decencies—I use that term advisedly—as one who, with my colleagues on the Committee, has served since 1924 in a genuine effort to bring about complete co-ordination of. London traffic, I have a distinct personal feeling that, with the advent of these Bills and the backing of the Minister, I have been used, and I resent it. May we look a little into the history of the Report that is before the House? The hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson), when he spoke last week, gave reasons for supporting the Bills. The Report in five of its pages is a complaint of the Traffic Committee as a whole. The Report began with a letter of the 9th January, 1929, when the Minister asked us to go into the matter. We say, that is the whole Committee—I am quoting only parts of the Report—that: Co-ordination of passenger transport services in the London area in one form or another has been repeatedly urged for about 25 years. Recommendations on this subject were made by the Royal Commission of 1905, and also by the Kennedy-Jones Committee in 1920 … We recommend that these proposals should be carefully examined with the least possible delay, and offer to undertake such examination if you so desire. The result of that Report was that on the 19th April, 1926, the Minister complimented the Committee on the work they had done, on their having held a laborious inquiry and on the preparation of their able Report. He then said that he was not in a position to form an opinion on the proposal, and he would not attempt to do so. He agreed, therefore, with the Sub-Committee that a proposal put forward with such authority ought to be fully and impartially examined. The authority, incidentally, was the representative of the Combine at one of the three inquiries held in regard to traffic facilities. The Minister, thereupon, said that he would be glad if the Traffic Committee would arrange for this or some other Sub-Committee: To discuss with the companies and municipalities engaged in the operation of transport undertakings in the London area whether any further co-operation or Combined action is possible or desirable. The right hon. Gentleman asked us to go into the matter. He will not deny that. He asked the Committee to give their services and to use in a perfectly voluntary capacity any spare time or any knowledge that they might have of the traffic services of London, to enable him as the Minister, as the public representative, not as the chairman of the Anti-Socialist Union, not as somebody obsessed with one political outlook, but as someone who is the head of a public Department and has to look after the public interests. He referred the matter to the Committee, who were representative of many interests, including public interests. The Report came before us and was gone into. We said that in our previous Reports of the various committees that were held and the evidence adduced at the inquiries relating to North and North-East London, still further emphasised the necessity for unification. On the 27th January we presented a Report, entitled the Report of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, known as the Blue Report. The Report was gone into by the Minister and he undertook that he would submit that Report to the Cabinet if he was satisfied that the Report was good. It, apparently, was good, because we were informed that he did submit it to the Cabinet, and he came back and asked us to continue our work. We con-tinned our work, and our Report concluded as follows: Government approval of the general principles of the proposed scheme. The Committee have not had any formal negotiations with any of the transport undertakers, but from information obtained informally there is every reason to believe that the proposals set out herein provide a basis, upon which formal negotiations might he opened with a reasonable prospect of success. It is thought, however, that no useful purpose would be served by attempting to negotiate unless the Committee were in a position to indicate the outlines of a scheme, coupled with an assurance that, in its main principles it would meet with the approval of the Government, and that if it were generally acceptable to the local authorities and companies concerned, the Government would be prepared either to promote or to support the necessary legislation to enable effect to be given to it. Has the Minister of Transport anything to complain about with regard to the people mentioned here? In February, 1927, he circularised all the municipalities, and I have their replies here. Not a single one turned down the Blue Report. They all gave qualified acceptance to it. They said they would accept it in principle, but very naturally wanted to know how it would affect them when it came to transferring their own undertakings. The British Automobile Traction Company and Messrs. Thomas Tilling and Company were definitely against it. For 13 months these letters have been with the Minister of Transport. He promised that he would interview the municipal authorities. I should like to ask whether he has, in fact, interviewed the municipalities and the interested parties. He said that arrangements had been made for a conference to be held with the local authorities on 3rd November. Has that conference been held? The right hon. Gentleman is silent; apparently the conference has never been held.

Properly handled the whole of the interested parties in the traffic facilities of London were prepared to come into one sound co-ordinating scheme. The scheme you have to-day although it may be called a co-ordinating scheme is not co-ordination at all. How can it be a co-ordination of the traffic facilities of London when 11 different interests are left outside? The London County Council and the trams, the omnibus and tube companies, are two parties. They are the two largest parties. Stress has been laid by the hon. Member for Wandsworth on the fact that between them they carry 77 per cent. of the total number of passengers of London; but that is no reason why you should bring these two parties together and immediately intensify the competition which has hitherto existed with a view to forcing unwilling people into something in which they have had no voice at all. It was the duty of the Minister, with the opportunities before him, to bring about not only a scheme that would largely have eliminated any opposition but one which would not have created any political controversy in this House, one which would have carried with it a measure of agreement with the people concerned. In that case the result would not have been the unholy system brought about by these Bills.

The Minister of Transport went to the Cabinet, came back to the Committee, and we went on with our work. Every Member of the Committee is complaining and will endorse the statement I have made; even the hon. Member for Wandsworth who signed the Blue Report. He also signed the Majority Report; I do not know where he is quite yet. But all Members of the Committee signed the Report and are complaining that the Minister of Transport has not done those things which a Minister of Transport ought to have done. If the hon. Member for Wandsworth denies it I will read the Report.

9.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

This is what is said in the Report: We have been informed that during the course of these negotiations it was intimated to the promoters, that having regard to the heavy Government commitments in connection with public legislation, it would not be practicable in any circumstances, for Parliamentary time to be found during the lifetime of the present Parliament for a Government Bill. As a result of this intimation"— This is your complaint— it is understood that the promoters considered to what extent the passenger transport services they provide could be coordinated by agreement, but were both advised that they lacked the powers which are now sought in these Bills. By this time it was late in the autumn of 1928, and they accordingly, without reference to the Ministry, decided to promote the Bill upon which we are now asked to report. That is the complaint, that the Minister of Transport, who promised to submit out Report to the Government and to the Committee as a whole, said that it would take two years before such a Report would ever find legislation in this House. What does the Minister do? Does he call the Traffic Committee together? Does he meet them and say, "I have considered this with my colleagues in the Cabinet and I regret to tell you that the Cabinet cannot find time for it." Not at all. On the contrary, he invites the representatives of the Combine and the London County Council as a whole and very beneficently said: "Of course, I have asked you to come here, but I have a very able servant in Sir Henry Maybury"—and we all agree with that—"and if you like him to take the chair I can assure you that he will be discretion itself." At that meeting an intimation was conveyed to these parties direct, not to the Committee, that there was no possibility of Government time being given for these Bills. In this very Report they say that Government time should be given to implement the Blue Report in its entirety. Will the hon. Member for Wandsworth deny that?

Photo of Sir Henry Jackson Sir Henry Jackson , Wandsworth Central

Certainly not. We stand by that Report.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

Yet you were complaining that you wanted your first love. The Minister of Transport has sidestepped the Committee and given advice to other bodies to get about their job.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

The hon. Member has no right at all to make any such state-merit. He says that I have asked and advised other bodies to promote these Bills. I must ask him to substantiate that statement.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

If the Minister invites the two largest bodies to a conference and suggests that his director-general of roads would be willing to take the chair, and if it is conveyed to the two parties at that conference that there cannot be public legislation, does not that by inference imply that the Minister advises them to promote private legislation?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

It was just to let them know exactly the position.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

My grievance is that the right lion. Gentleman ought to have let the Committee know, the Committee which has worked so honestly for him.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

Does the hon. Member suggest that the Committee did not know?

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

The Committee has never had it reported to them officially that Parliamentary time could not be afforded for these Bills. It is in this Report. It is not a question whether I knew it or not. It is what is done officially or un- officially, and I stand by the official thing all the time. When this is done, what is going to be the general effect?

An HON. MEMBER:

You will get a job all right.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

I shall not get it with the Combine, and I shall not get it with the London County Council. Whatever job I get it will not be an interest job with the Combine.

Photo of Mr Francis Broad Mr Francis Broad , Edmonton

All the friends of hon. Members opposite cannot say that.

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

I must ask hon. Members to keep to the Bill.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

I sat and heard the Debate last week, and I can only say, at the least, that I was astounded by the type of representative on the opposite benches through the whole of that Debate, for practically every one, more so than to-night, was interested legally or financially in the whole thing.

Photo of Mr Robert Tasker Mr Robert Tasker , Islington East

On a point of Order. Is it in order for charges of this kind to be levelled at members of the London County Council? I emphatically deny the statement, as a member of the London County Council since 1910. I have no interest in the London General Omnibus Company or any other concern.

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

As a matter of order, I do not think that there was anything out of order in what the hon. Member said. Of course, if any hon. Member feels himself impugned, he has the right to make a personal explanation.

Photo of Mr Robert Tasker Mr Robert Tasker , Islington East

Was it not a disgraceful charge to make?

Photo of Sir Henry Jackson Sir Henry Jackson , Wandsworth Central

I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw his statement. I have no interest of any kind, financial or otherwise, in the Combine. The suggestion is that people on this side have some financial interest. I first of all deny the statement, and I hope that in decency my hon. Friend will withdraw his statement so far as I am concerned.

Photo of Sir Ellis Hume-Williams Sir Ellis Hume-Williams , Bassetlaw

I wish to say the same thing. I have no interest of any sort or kind.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

It is unfortunate that I should first be challenged by hon. Mem- bers opposite, and that when I retort there is a demand that I should withdraw.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman entitled to make against a Member of this House who spoke on the last occasion the accusation that he was legally or financially interested in the Debate, and when that statement is repudiated he gives no apology?

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

As a matter of order, I do not think that the hon. Member is out of order.

HON. MEMBERS:

Withdraw!

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

What I said I shall repeat for the benefit of hon. Members. I said that last week the majority of the people—I did not say any specific individual—were interested either legally or financially in the Bill. That is what I said.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

Look at the OFFICIAL REPORT, and you will see. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) was himself present.

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

It is impossible for anyone to remember exactly who were there. I suggest to the hon. Member that he should get back to the Bill.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

I agree. I should have been back to the Bill long ago if it had not been for the interruptions of hon. Members opposite. I was saying that not only has the Committee as a whole said in the Report that it still adheres to the terms of the Blue Report. Representatives of the traffic Combine on the Committee and representatives of the London County Council on the Traffic Committee signed this Blue Report and said that they agreed with it. "We have refrained from signing the Traffic Advisory Committee's Report," they say, because we represent upon the Committee the promoters of the Bills under consideration. We do not dissent from the terms of the Report, and are prepared to recommend to our respective undertakings the acceptance of the specific Amendments included in the Report in so far as they are applicable to the Bills. The promoters themselves say, as well as the backers of the Bill, with the Committee as a whole, that they stand by the Blue Report. The Blue Report postulates public control not public ownership. Here I say that some of us who signed that Report, with colleagues on the other side politically, had to stretch out a long way to get a compromise that gave effective public control as against the thing that we have to-day. They compromised in signing, and we compromised. The effort was to get an effective co-ordination scheme. To-day we are not going to get it. The local authorities that have riot had an opportunity of being consulted on this matter—through no fault of the Committee, but through lack of diligence on the part of the Minister, I suggest, he having had their reply before him for months—are East Ham, West Ham, Barking, Erith, Bexley, Dartford, Leyton, Ilford and Croydon. Four hundred small omnibus proprietors and two larger undertakings, including the British Automobile Traction Company and Messrs. Tillings, are against. I understand that the latter have withdrawn any objection that they had originally. So that there was this unique opportunity of getting the thing that was asked for in the Blue Report—effective co-ordination.

Much has been said about the finance of the London County Council. I am not going into the intricacies of finance, but I want to put this proposition honourably to any Member of this House. Has the London County Council ever had difficulty in raising money? Has the Combine at this moment difficulty in raising money for the building of tubes? Every speaker who has mentioned the subject has said that, when given this measure of co-ordination, the Combine will be able to raise money to get on with the tubes. Is not that in itself an admission of want of efficiency, of want of business enterprise, that bond-holders will be able to get money at far more favourable terms than the Combine? Yet the private enterprise that is vaunted here so emphatically, says that as things at present stand it is impossible to raise the necessary capital for the projection of more tubes, though tubes are a crying necessity. This is the burden of the whole story. Therefore I say that had the Blue Report found acceptance with the Minister and the Cabinet, had it been brought before this House in a proper manner with a view to effective legislation, there would have been little difficulty within a short period in getting money on far more beneficial terms than will ever be done by the coordination of these two bodies only.

Have we any precedent for public control? In Berlin there is not nearly the amount of congestion which we have here and in Berlin the amalgamation of the transport undertakings has now been sanctioned. Tramways, elevated and underground railways and omnibuses are all coming under municipal control, and they will be operated as a single undertaking and according to an identical policy. They of course had to form company because the terms applying to an American loan precluded them from taking over definite municipal control. They had to form a company backed by municipal money, but, to-day, in Berlin the whole of the traffic interests are operating as a municipal body with identity of fares and identity of management and if there is any return it will go back to the community as a whole. If Berlin can do it why cannot we do it? What is the objection. Some people say it is Socialism, while others call it Bolshevism, but, if you leave political phrases aside, it is the soundest common sense to say that all the elements of transport in London should be properly co-ordinated under one body, even including the local main line services. That is the only means of securing an equal distribution.

When one goes through the reports daily one sees that, even with the restricted streets as they are now, the Committee are continually getting representations from the London County Council that there is too much competition. Again what is the burden of the story? Originally the trams and omnibuses competed. With the advent of the War, and after the War the Auto omnibuses competed with the Combine omnibuses and compelled them to compete with their own trams. The result, of which was that the M.E.T. and the L.U.T. were hopelessly bankrupt—or if they were not actually bankrupt, the official receiver was in, so far as the M.E.T. was concerned. That has not yet happened to the London County Council or to any other municipal body. They are not bankrupt and, except in two instances, the trams are not on the rates and they would be less on the rates if it were not for the competition which existed. Having, through the beneficent Labour Government, introduced the London Traffic Bill which became an Act, the system of restricted streets gradually brought about a limiting of the number of licences and did away with the unholy competition of the omnibuses, and the omnibuses in turn were able to relieve the distress of their own trams.

In like manner distress was relieved on the whole of the municipal tramway undertakings of London—so much so that progressively, year by year, the trams have got into a better financial position and provided a inure efficient service. With the service becoming efficient and likely to become remunerative the Combine naturally looked on it with a jealous eye. I am not going to say that the Combine is unfair in what it is doing. I believe the Combine has a right to do that which the law permits it to do but we in this House have the right to say what that law should be. The fact remains that, with the element of competition gone, there is a tendency to bring these two bodies together by one of the political parties in the London County Council, backed by the very forward-thinking and very able Lord Ashfield, and his co-director Mr. Frank Pick. Then, I would ask, are the Press in favour of this? The "Economist" of 3rd November said: While it is possible that some people are crying out before they are hurt, the vagueness of the report makes it all the morn essential that any agreement reached between the County Council and the Underground group should receive the utmost possible publicity. For this reason we should be inclined to deprecate the suggestion that the approval of Parliament required to give effect to this agreement should lie obtained by means of a, series of private Bills rather than by a public Bill…As regards the details of the proposals themselves, the following broad propositions must be borne in mind. The first essential is full consideration of the rights and needs of the travelling public; the next is recognition of the fact that capital derived from a municipal loan possesses a higher status than that raised in the form of shares"— That bears out what I said earlier— simply because the shareholder has elected to take a risk which the bondholder has refused. The third is that while the average citizen recognises the need for co-ordination ho will equally insist on maintaining some measure of control, These Bills afford no measure of public control. Rationalisation ought not to consist simply of handing over the terms to the Underground group. It should imply that the Underground group is prepared to accept a greater measure of public control. The Underground group say in this Report and in the Blue Report that they are prepared to accept a measure of public control but the Minister, in my opinion, by dilatoriness has failed to take advantage of the unique opportunities that were presented in London. The practical acquiescence of all parties concerned with traffic could have been brought about. With the Government behind him the Minister could have given public legislation and could have given us a real co-ordination scheme which would have been of benefit to the operators and the undertakers and to the public of London as a whole.

Photo of Sir George Hume Sir George Hume , Greenwich

I listened to the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. B. Smith) with great interest because I realised that he was in a difficult place. I should like to pay a tribute to the work which he has done in connection with this problem and there are many others on both sides of the House to whom such a tribute could be paid. I agree with the extract which he has given from the "Economist." I have already said that I regarded it as a calamity that these Bills had to be brought in otherwise than as public Bills. I cannot say whether it would have been possible, at an earlier stage, to have brought them in as public Bills, but, in any case, the inevitable has happened. The problem, which is a most serious one for London, has become a political matter instead of being dealt with as a practical commonsense business matter.

This question dates back for some years. The hon. Member for Rotherhithe has referred to the London Traffic Act which was passed when the Socialist Government was in office. A distinguished member of the Socialist party in the House at that time and a few of his friends were much opposed to the London Traffic Act. I refer to my friend who occupies a position of eminence in the London County Council, Mr. Herbert Morrison, a man of whom we feel proud. When the Blue Report was worked out and signed, with practical unanimity, and when the representatives of the trade unions added their names lo that report, it looked as though the opposition which, came from the quarter I have indicated would cease to operate. But the moment the Bill was drawn, otherwise than as a public Bill, absolutely on the lines of the report, without any variation—the moment that happened, then the opposition, which had not been able to make itself effective during the time of the Socialist Government, became very effective indeed. It was then alleged that great differences existed between the proposals of that responsible committee, and the actual proposals which are more or less outlined in these Bills. The result to-day is that our Socialist friends on the London County Council have got the Labour party in chains.

In the course of this Debate last week, it was alleged that there was a tremendous difference between the proposals in these Bills and the proposals in the Blue Report. Yet we have not had a single statement made in the House as to what those differences are, except that in the Blue Report there is postulated public control. My own view was that the public control in the Blue Report was not sufficient, but that was accepted. What is the difference in these proposals? It is still the same personnel, but it would not be a statutory advisory body, because in a private Bill you cannot get a statutory body created.

Photo of Sir George Hume Sir George Hume , Greenwich

In years gone by, we knew perfectly well that this problem had to be tackled. The London County Council made efforts on several occasions. First of all I remember it was before the Local Government Board that we and other public bodies in London tried to get together, but we failed. Later, under the Geddes regime at the Ministry of Transport we again made an effort, and we succeeded in agreement then. A scheme was drawn up, and I venture to think that the public control arrangements then were far more effective than those suggested in the Blue Report. What happened then? The Ministry of Transport on that occasion refused to go for- ward to get the powers which were necessary in order that the scheme might be put into force, and it broke down. Hon. Members on the other side ought to remember it, because some of the boroughs from which the greatest demand came were boroughs which were known as Labour boroughs. Deptford was one of the most insistent as to the necessity to getting more tube facilities. The Advisory Committee worked like Trojans with sub-committees sitting in different parts of London. I have read their reports, and there was insistence on their part as to the necessity of acting quickly. The hon. Member for Rotherhithe put his signature to this document as well, we are going to drift on year after year with such an insistent problem at our doors, and any authority stands by and does not do its best, could they not be blamed for not coming forward to try to solve the problem?

These Bills are not drawn exclusively for the benefit of the council and the Combine, but in the hope of seeing the railways and other bodies come in. I thought they were really coming in, and that the tramways and public undertakings would come in. We on the London County Council have got no reason to complain of the speeches made with reference to our tramways on the other side of the council chamber. When we hear so much of the iniquities of the wicked Tories and of the way in which they are always trying to pick the people's pockets, and then we get such tributes to a tramway undertaking which has been run for the last 25 years by Tory government, I think we can be extremely gratified. But I do not want to play the political game. I am too anxious to see something done in this matter. A very distinguished chairman on the London County Council belonging to the Progressive party, alias Liberal, some years ago said to me: "We made a capital mistake when we as a party decided that the trams should not only he taken over but operated by the London County Council. If we had not made that mistake, to-day the London County Council would have been a central municipal authority for London for controlling traffic." That is true. In the last few years people have been looking round anxiously to find some competent municipal authority to control transport and because of the false line taken, there has been no authority available. On the London County Council an attempt was made to bring forward proposals for a larger authority. A Royal Commission turned that down and that being so, and being persuaded that this matter could not stand still, it was only open to the London County Council to take the line which it has. I do not blame hon. Members on the other side for being suspicious. If you are going forward with Bills asking for powers to come to agreements, I suppose it is in human nature for politicians of another colour to imagine that all sorts of wicked things are going to be done in the agreements.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

It is a matter of experience.

Photo of Sir George Hume Sir George Hume , Greenwich

That is all very well, but consider the position of the London County Council. What do you imagine that council is going to do? Do you imagine that that body is going to take the people's trams and hand them over holes bolus to a private concern? Do you imagine that is possible? In a matter of this kind, if the tramways undertaking and all the amenities which the people now enjoy were gradually stripped from the public bit by bit, where would the majority of the London County Council be, and where would the Conservative party in London be? Do you imagine that the men over on the other side of the river are such foolish persons that they would play into the hands of the Opposition in that way? It is not for me to teach the Opposition a lesson in tactics, but, really, I am astounded at the way in which this matter has been fought throughout London during the last few weeks.

It has been alleged that the public is going to be stripped of this and that thing. Suppose they are not, and suppose, as a result of the agreements which are come to, we find that the public have greater amenities than before, and are able to book through on the trams, omnibuses and tubes, with better travelling facilities, and that we do not lose those things which we so much prize, and that we find there is a movement in the so much desired direction, and new tubes are constructed or at all events commenced—if all that happens, surely people will want to know what all this means, and it will act as a boomerang. I would advise very much greater caution. I hope the House will not be intimidated by these melodramatic dreams of what may take place. We are talking about unified control, and in the Bill we are venturing to suggest provisions by which, if these arrangements come into operation, people using the London County Council tramway services, unless they read about it in the newspapers, would not really know that anything had happened. They will go on very much as in the past but instead of pulling against one another in London we shall have the opportunity—in so far as we can get the different interests within the scope of this agreement—by which co-operation will be obtained, and moneys will he concentrated in the direction and for the purpose for which they are needed, namely, expansion. I am sorry, because political feeling has been aroused by the procedure that has been adopted, but on the whole I am satisfied that, if the thing is carried through properly and if the negotiators do their duty fairly, the one side and the other looking at the public interest, it will have been a very good thing indeed to get these Bills through the House and into operation as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Edward Strauss Mr Edward Strauss , Southwark North

We have listened to some very remarkable speeches. The hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. B. Smith) was very angry with the Minister of Transport, but the cause of his anger I was not able to discover; the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord) tried to explain some legal quibbles, but I can assure him that those legal quibbles do not really either worry or interest us; and as far as the speech of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Sir G. Hume) is concerned, he has painted a very glowing picture of the future, in very attractive colours, if these Bills should find their way on to the Statute Book.

As far as I am personally concerned, I cannot see my way to support this Bill, for one simple reason, and that is that I fail to discover in the whole Bill a single word which will solve the great problem of London traffic. I have no doubt that it will be a good business for the Combine if the amalgamation takes place. I feel confident that those astute gentlemen who direct the affairs of the Combine would not for a moment entertain the scheme if they did not think it was in the interests of their shareholders. After all, the first object of a private transport company is to earn dividends for its shareholders and remuneration and fees for its directors. On the other hand, the first object of a municipal service is to provide convenient facilities for the travelling public, and I am sure that in no town in the whole wide world is that more necessary than it is in this great, thickly populated metropolis of ours. To hand anything in the shape of a monopoly over to private control and private management is, in my humble opinion, a great mistake.

London traffic is a matter of public concern. I should have thought the proper way to deal with an important matter affecting the welfare of millions of people would have been to introduce into this House a public Bill, in charge of a Minister of the Crown, and I certainly regret, more than I care to express, that the Minister of Transport could not have seen his way, during the four years that his party has been in power, and he a distinguished Member of the present Government, to have introduced a Measure giving some public body authority and power to deal with this vital question. I do not wish to enter into a controversy on the question of the trams, whether or not they are a profitable undertaking. As far as I can understand the figures, I cannot see that the ratepayers of London have suffered very much in the cost of the working of their tramway system. On the other hand, we must all admit that the trams are a great convenience and a great advantage to thousands and thousands—I may say millions—of workers in this great metropolis. But what I fear, and what I think we all fear, is that, if these Bills should find their way upon the Statute Book, the fares in this great town of ours will be increased. If our fears are not based on common sense, I see no reason why the promoters of these Bills should not see their way to insert some provision guaranteeing that the present fares that are in operation on our tramway system should be continued. If such a provision were put in, I am sure that some, at least, of the opposition to these Bills would be removed.

I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) saying last week that anyone outside Bedlam could not conceive of scrapping our tramway system, but I am afraid that there are some people who do think that the traffic of London could be carried on without the trams. I am sure that we in London appreciate what the trams have done for the workers of London. Speaking as one who has lived all his life in London, and watched the development of London's traffic, I am sure I am voicing the feelings of many of those who use our trams when I say that we fear that, should the tramway system be absorbed by the Combine, cheap fares would be a thing of the past. I can give instances. In the constituency that I have the honour to represent in this House, where there is tramway competition, the omnibus fares are lower than where there is no tramway competition. From the Elephant and Castle, over Westminster Bridge, to the Embankment, and from the Elephant and Castle over Blackfriars Bridge, to the Embankment, where there is tramway competition, the omnibus fare is 1d., but from the Elephant and Castle, over London Bridge, to the City, where there is no tramway competition, the omnibus fare is 1d., and there is not a difference of 100 yards in those three routes.

That is what we are afraid of, and that is why we are prepared to oppose these Bills in their present form. The promoters of the Bill think that the appeal to the Minister of Transport is sufficient safeguard for the public, but I cannot share that view. Anyone who has taken the trouble to study the finance of the Combine will have found some difficulty in understanding their financial arrangements, and I am credibly informed that the Combine frequently make losses by putting omnibuses on unremunerative routes, with a view to developing in the future a remunerative service.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—I do not complain, but let us assume that such a policy is carried on in a wholesale fashion. A financial position could be created apparently showing such unsatisfactory figures as to compel the Minister of Transport, under the provisions of this Bill, to sanction a scheme involving an increase of fares all round. That is what we are afraid of.

I do not desire to speak at any great length, for we have already had speeches which, in my humble opinion, have taken up too much time, but I should like to remind the House of what the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth said on the last occasion. It was a very interesting speech, if he will allow me to say so, and in it he reminded us that the London Traffic Act was the first real step in the line of progress, or something of that kind. I have heard the cause of progress used in various directions, but I have never heard the elimination of competition referred to as progress. There is no doubt that the London Traffic Act enabled the Combine to get control of competitive concerns. Now they are casting longing eyes on our London trams. When we realise what the trams have done for London in the way of workmen's cars, cheap mid-day fares and all-night services, we have something for which to be thankful, and we should go very carefully before we support Measures of which we know so little. I should like to say a word to our Friends above the Gangway, because I put all our trouble down to the London Traffic Act of 1924.

The hon. Members above the Gangway rightly oppose these Bills, but I would like to remind them that they are really reared on the foundations which they themselves have laid. The Socialist Government of 1924 introduced this Measure supported by the then Conservative party—a most unholy alliance. Without the London Traffic Act of 1924 it would have been impossible to proceed with these Bills. References have been made to Mr. Herbert Morrison, who warned the Socialist Government of the danger or the steps which they were taking. I hope, therefore, that we shall in future take greater care if we have a Socialist Government in power. The hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson)-expressed a pious sentiment at the conclusion of his speech last week, when he said that London traffic was too big a thing to be made the plaything of political doctrinaires. I should like to add another pious sentiment, and say that London traffic is too big a thing to be handed over to the tender mercies of private monopolists.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan Lieut-Colonel Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan , Fulham East

The note on which the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Strauss) concluded his remarks reminded me of the opinion of Mr. Ernest Bevin, the General Secretary of the Transport Workers Union, in his letter of 23rd June, 1923, to the general manager of the London Suburban Traction Company in which he expressed the following view: But we are resolved that the policy of inaction pursued by the Government, together with the stupid policy of competitive interests in London, shall not be used for the purpose of depressing the standard of livelihood of our members employed by your company. That is a definite opinion on the subject of competition in transport services of London, and the way in which it is held to affect the welfare of the workers in the industry. One of the arguments which the promoters of the Bills have in mind is that the successful operation of the co-ordination proposed will be to raise and maintain the standard of life among the workers and the conditions of their work. Let me refer, so far as I am personally concerned, to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr). My name appears on the back of both these Bills, and I have no personal interest whatever of a pecuniary kind in any of the undertakings represented by what is commonly called the London Traffic Combine. I have no personal interest and no inducement of that sort to support the Bills. I support them as a London Member and as a Londoner, who has lived in the city all his life and has made some study of the conditions of London transport and the facilities necessary for the welfare of the workers.

In regard to the anxiety which it is thought in some quarters is felt by the inhabitants of London, I have received three postcards and one letter on the subject from the very large numbers of working men who live in my Division. The question of the co-ordination of London traffic on the general lines of these Bills was before the electorate of London at the time of the last County Council election in March, 1928. The result of that election, allowing for uncontested seats, was a Municipal Reform majority, the Municipal Reformers having received 315,000 votes, the Socialists 257,000, and the Liberals 97,000 votes. If there had been the apprehension which is alleged to be felt among the electors of London, we would have had a different result; we would certainly have had a larger percentage of voters voting if they thought that their welfare and liberty was so much in danger. Only 35 per cent. was the average polled for the whole of London. Hon. Members on the Liberal Benches object to these Bills, but they do not object for the same reasons that are advanced by hon. Members of the Opposition. This question was referred to in the manifestoes of the three parties in the County Council election. In the Liberal manifesto it was stated: Any scheme which would involve the transfer of their management— That is the trams— without providing great compensatory advantages and full municipal control must be resisted. The Labour point of view is different. They said: Recognising that the tramways are a very big factor in our traffic facilities, that under pressure from Labour they have been the pioneers of cheap fares and popular facilities, There has been a municipal reform majority on the County Council for the past 20 years— the Labour party is opposed to any scheme which would remove them from effective public control. On the contrary, the party stands for complete co-ordination for all London traffic under efficient municipal management. Therefore, you have a divergence of view on that side of the House, so that their opposition need not be reckoned together, although they may have to go into the Lobby together. Let me again reassure the House as to the very large amount of alleged opposition to these proposals from the great body of Londoners. Only eight out of 28 Metropolitan Boroughs have expressed objection to the Bills, so that we may take it there is not the apprehension that is alleged to be felt. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson), in his most interesting statement on the last occasion recited the recommendations which had been made towards these proposals of co-ordination, but he did not say one thing which he might have done. He did not do justice to the work which he has done as a member of the London Traffic Advisory Committee in rescuing London from the congestion and the great difficulties which the traffic had to face before the Committee came into operation. They have enabled the traffic of London to make better use of the available streets and highways. [Interruption]. Conditions are not so bad as they would have been otherwise. But we want greater facilities, we want more railways, tubes and so on, and we are positively assured that we shall get them as a result of these proposals.

How much they are needed statistics will show. In 30 years the population of Greater London increased by 2,225,000. That figure is probably very much higher now. In the last report of Lord Ashfield's companies he notified us that the figure of 6,000,000 a day has been largely increased, and that it is approaching 5,000,000,000 a year. The need is greater, the facilities are greater, and the public are travelling more. They have every inducement to travel as the result of the efficient management of the services, and the fact that the public undertake the number of journeys per bead per year which they do is surely a tribute to the efficient management of those important undertakings. But, above and beyond that, we have to bear in mind how the population of Greater London has grown, and how important the traffic question, is in relation to housing.

It is quite unnecessary to engage in further controversy on the question of what the London County Council tramways have done in the past to contribute to the relief of the rates or the extent to which they have drawn on the rates. Everyone knows that they have done both, at different times. There was a time when they contributed, and there have also been times when they drew substantially on the pockets of the ratepayers.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

They have always contributed to the rates.

10.0.p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan Lieut-Colonel Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan , Fulham East

Unfortunately, the outlook at the moment does not seem to be particularly favourable. I have a cutting from a newspaper, headed "L.C.C. Slump," which states that following a decline of more than 900,000 passengers in the last two weeks of January the London County Council tramways had a further slump in January. At the present moment the London. County Council tramways are subject to competition, but under this co-ordinated scheme they will be protected from the prospect of future competition to which they may be open unless these proposals go through. Co-ordination has been largely approved of on all sides, and undoubtedly it is necessary for the sake of efficiency and for the sake of the prospects of future transport facilities. Some reference has also been made to this subject in the Press. I recently read the following paragraph in a well-known weekly newspaper which cannot be said frequently to throw bouquets at the Party to which I belong, and that is the "New Statesman" It wrote: The struggle over the London Traffic Bill began in the House of Commons this week. In one of its aspects the Bill is designed to inaugurate an interesting experiment in the joint conduct of public utility services by public and private Looses. There are examples of this joint system already in the electricity services, and it is snore than likely that it will be imitated elsewhere. We are quite unable to share, in principle, the indignation that is felt against it by some whole-hogging advocates of nationalisation as a panacea. Clearly, there ought to be a co-ordinated scheme for London traffic, and clearly it is out of the question for this co-ordination to be secured at present on a basis of complete public ownership. It goes on in that way at considerable length, and then it says: From both these points of view the Traffic Bill merits the closest possible scrutiny, and we agree that so important an issue as the control of London's traffic ought not to be handled hurriedly by way of a Private Bill at the very end of a crowded Session. But opposition to the Bill on these grounds needs to be carefully distinguished from opposition merely because it proposes a mixed system of public and private enterprise. The interests of the passengers on the London County Council tramways are to be safeguarded, the interests of the workers on those tramways are protected, and the value of the asset itself is protected under the Clauses of the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] I think it is in Clause 5. If the opposition to these Bills be on the ground that public ownership of all the undertakings is desirable, we shall have to wait a long time before this co-ordination can be brought into operation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Is it proposed that the London County Council should he endowed with the necessary powers to buy all the assets of the Com- bine, and, if so, on what terms; and how long would it take to carry that through? Even if it were carried through, how do we know that the London County Council could manage these undertakings better than they are managed at present? If they were not managed well, the population of London would not gain as they do gain from the benefits of good management. The profits might go down, and probably would if one judges by nationalized management in other instances. [Interruption.] Of course they would go down. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) suggested that he would be willing, apparently, to part with the ownership of the London County Council trams if the inducement were sufficient. It is only common sense to suggest that if the London County Council are to part with their tramways they should sell them for a valuable consideration. We do not propose to sell them at all.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan Lieut-Colonel Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan , Fulham East

No, we are not going to give them away. When I say "we," of course I mean the London County Council. They are not going to part with the ownership of the trams, and they safeguard the interests of the property itself, of these who use the trams, and of those who work on the trams. There is a valuable consideration in the benefits which will follow from the passing of these Bills—a valuable consideration for the passengers of all the transport services in London, and a valuable consideration, consequently, for all the citizens of London who are interested in being able to get cheaply, quickly and frequently from and to their work or from and to their homes. I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

Photo of Mr Henry Snell Mr Henry Snell , Woolwich East

The hon. and gallant Member for East Fulham (Colonel Vaughan-Morgan) has repeated in substance what has been said already in support of this Bill. It is as though the promoters of the Bill were writing a company prospectus, and are quite unwilling to consider what is to be the position of the public who now have ownership of and control over these tramways. I, too, am in favour of co-ordination. It is quite certain that the present system of traffic in London will require to be very seriously overhauled. But if we are to have a system of co-ordination it ought to be a public system, over which the public can exercise sonic control, and not a system under which they are limited to two tame representatives of the majority on the London County Council, sitting in the presence of a great band of private undertakers of traffic.

We have heard of the record of the London County Council in regard to its tramways, and an hon. Member opposite has told us that for 20 years the majority on that council have supported municipal trams. That is perfectly true, but they have clone so because the Labour and Progressive groups kept them up to it, and for no other reason. It is quite a different matter for hon. Members to listen to the genial speeches of members of the county council when they come here asking for privileges, but it is quite another matter for their colleagues who have worked with them on the county council and who know what their real attitude has been to the tramway system.

The hon. Member for West Fulham (Sir C. Cobb) who introduced these Bills said: "We are proud of our tramway system." I could not help feeling that the hon. Member was proud of the tramway system in much the same way as he was proud of the goose that he fattens up for Christmas before he hands it over to the slaughterer. I think pride for any system would lead anybody to attempt to make it as strong as possible for the people of London. We have been asked if we thought the London County Council would be willing to hand over the tramway system to somebody else. My reply is that things are not done in that way either on the London County Council or in the City. There are other ways of getting the same end.

We are told that this Bill embodies a public and not a private scheme. I resent this solemn parade of good intentions on the part of those who are promoting these Bills as if we were children to be led away with protestations of that kind. As one who has sat on the London County Council for some years, I want to say that in my humble opinion the majority on the London County Council all the time I was a member and since have crabbed a great undertaking and have never given it a fair chance. Every opportunity has been seized by the majority on the London County Council to play into the hands of those who manipulate figures on behalf of private interests. Hon. Members who are supporting these Bills apply a system of finance in dealing with the tramway system which they would not dream of applying to their own businesses.

Let me remind the House of what my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) said earlier it the Debate. In London, we have to remember that in 20 years' time the ratepayers will have an enormously valuable asset in the tramways in their possession capable of earning a great revenue, and we want to know before we hand them over to the predatory gang behind these Bills what is going to be the position of our tramways in 20 years' time. It is all very well to say that the promoters of this Bill are not animated with bad motives, but we have to take ordinary business precautions. We have to protect the property of the people of London in this great undertaking which has cost them many millions and which is worth more to-day than they have spent upon it.

I lament that the London County Council has lent itself to this shabby trick of bringing in a Measure of this kind as a private Bill. These Measures deal with matters of vast importance, and they should not be rushed through in this way. The real reason for pushing these Bills forward is that the promoters want to take advantage of the fact that the Government are a decaying and dying Government. The blessed word co-ordination has been used in this Debate until we are almost tired of it, but we do not find the people who are echoing that sentiment are very anxious to co-ordinate in regard to the coal industry or industry generally; it is only when there is a tramway system to be absorbed into the capitalist system. That is the kind of co-ordination that we do not want. It is our duty to London to resist these Bills as far as we can. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Sir G. Hume) spoke as if the whole question was one of faith, and so it is. We have no faith in the intentions either of the majority of the London County Council or of the Government in this matter.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

In view of the importance of this subject to London, I do not think anyone will consider that two evenings have been wasted in the discussion of these proposals. They are proposals which have been discussed with more or less intensity in this House and outside for more than a generation. These proposals mark a very important advance on anything which has preceded them, though I think it is only right to recall to the House the great advance which was made in 1915 when the Bill was passed which enabled the London General Omnibus Company and the various tube railway companies to conic together for the purposes of a common management and a common fund. [An HON. MEMBER: "For war purposes."] The result of that combination has been greatly to the advantage of the public of London. It has given traffic facilities which could not otherwise have been afforded; it has enabled the Edgware Tube to be constructed; it has enabled the City and South London line to be entirely reconstructed and renovated; and, above all, and I say this without fear of contradiction, it has given under private enterprise the finest system of transportation in the world. Anyone who has visited other great cities must acknowledge that for efficiency of transportation, lowness of fares, skill on the part of those who operate these great services, civility, and general efficiency, they are unequalled in the world. Therefore, when hon. Members opposite make such a great parade of the efficiency of municipal enterprise—and that it is efficient at times I do not deny—they must be equally generous in ascribing to private enterprise, as far as London is concerned, a very great advance on anything that is to be seen in any foreign country.

The next Measure which dealt with London traffic, and which, within limits, has helped greatly, I do not say to solve, but to mitigate the troubles of London transportation, was the Bill of 1924, now the London Traffic Act, which was passed by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. In that connection, may I say how sorry I am that the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Gosling)—a man beloved in all quarters of the House—is temporarily absent from our deliberations. I am glad to say that I heard from him by telephone this morning that he hopes to come back to his Parliamentary duties next week if it is at all possible. He, in the face of great difficulties, his Government being a minority Government, put through that Measure, and, in spite of what has been said by hon. Members opposite, that Act, conceived largely by a Conservative Government, and passed by a Socialist Government, has done a great deal to help in this problem. In spite of the remarks of the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. B. Smith) in criticism of the Minister of Transport—whose back is quite broad enough to bear it—I would pay a tribute, not only to the hon. Member's colleagues on the Traffic Advisory Committee, but also to himself, for the very efficient way in which they have carried out their very arduous duties, which, I am sorry to say, have not always come to that full fruition which we should all have liked to see. At any rate, that Act has enabled the Minister, acting by and with the advice of the Traffic Advisory Committee, to do a great deal to mitigate the difficulties. By stabilisation of the number of omnibuses it has done away with some of the absurd and wasteful competition that we saw in our streets, has prevented any further increase of congestion, and in many other ways has helped towards the solution of the transport problem of this great city.

Directly after the present Government came into office, I asked the Traffic Advisory Committee if they would be good enough to investigate the deplorable traffic conditions which still exist, I am sorry to say, in North-East London, East London, and South-East London. I myself, when I was able to visit some of the places in question, notably Finsbury Park, found that the reports which they made to me were in no wise exaggerated, and urgently called for some measures of amelioration. The next step was, as the hon. Member for Rotherhithe pointed out, that I asked the Traffic Advisory Committee, in view of the experience that they had gained in these particular congested areas, to consider whether a scheme could he formulated to deal drastically with the whole situation, and to endeavour to put forward something which might afford a permanent solution of our great difficulties. They brought forward what is called the Blue Report, a Report which contemplated a common management and a common fund for all passenger transport services in the London Traffic Area, other than the main lines, and subject to public control. I do not deny—I do not suppose that there are many in this House who would deny—that the principles of that Report are sound. Whether all the machinery which was devised was the right machinery or not may be a matter of opinion, but the principles are sound.

The gravamen of the charge of the hon. Member for Rotherhithe, and also the charge made by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) on the last occasion, against the Government and the Minister of Transport, was that we did not proceed at once to put that Report into legislative operation by a public Bill. There are many legislative proposals that are desired by large sections of the population, and there are many legislative proposals that are desired by the Government of the day, but anyone who considers for a moment the difficult situation which now exists, and which nearly always exists, in getting Measures passed in this House, owing to the congestion of Parliamentary business, must know quite well that no Government during the last 15 months could have put through a public Bill, which would have enabled the scheme to be carried out compulsorily—and that is the whole essence of the Blue Report—and which would inevitably have aroused very strong objection in various quarters of the House and would have taken up a great deal of Parliamentary time. The hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) last week said it was contemplated that at least two years of inquiry would have had to take place before a public Measure could possibly be brought in. Therefore, considering the congestion of Parliamentary time, and considering that it would take two years to investigate before you could bring in a Bill, the charge that the Government have been dilatory and neglectful of public interests in not promoting a public Bill obviously falls to the ground.

Consequently, what was the alternative? The alternative was apparently that which the County Council and the Traffic Combine have decided is the right one, and the result of their deliberations is the two Bills which we have before us to-night, Bills which are not compulsory but purely voluntary. As regards those Bills, what is the considered opinion of the overwhelming majority of the Traffic Advisory Committee? They say that, they would have preferred the Blue Report, but they advise the Government to assist the passage of these Bills as far as their main principles are concerned. They say that there is nothing in these Bills in their opinion—and I agree—which would prevent a public Bill on the lines of the Blue Report being brought into operation if and when Parliamentary time can be found for it. They also say that they hope the possibility of the main line railways coming under these voluntary Bills will be contemplated, and furthered and, in that respect, may I say how I hope the Clauses in this Bill, which, if my recollection is correct, say the main line railways may come into this arrangement, are really meant to indicate that every facility should be given to the main line railways to come in.

It is vitally important, in my opinion, that the main line railways should, if possible, come in. I know that the difficulties of distinction between suburban and main line traffic for the purpose of a common fund are very great, but I cannot help thinking that with good will on both sides some agreement can be hammered out, so that if these Bills get their Second Reading and become law, we may see the main lines coming in with the County Council and the Traffic Combine. If that be so, you would really have a more or less complete scheme for the whole of London. What I like about these Bills is that we have—I do not say for the first time—an outstanding example of municipal enterprise and private enterprise seeking to work together, instead of always flying at each other's throats. [Laughter.] The hon. Member may laugh. Does he not wish that private enterprise and municipal enterprise should work together? Does he always wish that they should be at daggers drawn?

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

What I do not wish is that the profit earned by municipal enterprise should be taken by private enterprise.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

The hon. Gentleman is assuming what will not be the fact. The whole essence of these Bills depends upon the agreements which will be made between the London County Council and the Combine, agreements which, if I read the Bills correctly, will have to be approved by the Minister of Transport of the day in material respects and also afterwards approved by this House. Therefore, I do not know why it should be assumed that all the profits are to go into the pockets of private enterprise and none of it to the municipality. It is very strange, at any rate, that the hon. Member cannot trust the Municipal Reform party to look after the interests of the tramways, considering that the electors have entrusted them with the government of London for 22 years. No doubt there may be differences of opinion as to what will be the effect of these Bills. Personally, I think that they will somewhat relieve the congestion of the streets. I think that possibly—I put it no higher—you will get better facilities and lower fares. What I am quite sure will happen, because the pressure of public opinion will be so great, is that you will see new tubes built which would never have been built unless these Bills had been passed. That is the great need of London to-day.

I am sure the hon. Member for Rotherhithe will not disagree with the fact that tubes are needed, though he may not agree that these Bills will give those tubes. But he and everybody who took part in those investigations know that the congestion on the surface is so great now that no relief of any sort can be given by trams or by omnibuses, and that if we are going to help those hardly-pressed districts in the East, North East and South East of London, where the congestion is deplorable and is getting worse year by year, it must be by building tubes. Building tubes is a costly matter. It may cost anything from £900,000 to 81,000,000 a mile. Obviously you are not going to get people to put their money into an enterprise such as that unless they have—and hon. Members opposite, I am sure will in fairness agree—a prospect of getting some sort of return for their money. I am convinced that a common management and a common fund for the London County Council trams, the Com- bine, and municipal and private trams, if they come in, is the only hope of getting some security whereby money can be raised in order to build tubes which are so urgently needed. I do press hon. Members before they continue to oppose these Bills earnestly to consider, as practical men, whether there is any other immediate prospect of getting these tubes built.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

There is no guarantee that we shall have the tubes built if we pass these Bills.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

If the hon. Member will look at the Bills he will see, if my recollection is correct, that there are three objects on which the local authorities may appeal to the Minister. He can then ask the common management to put forward schemes to provide better transport facilities—which would include tubes—lower fares, or to give greater facilities in existing services. No doubt the Minister of the day would put forward proposals to the controlling council, or whatever they call themselves, suggesting that the tubes should be built. The hon. Member has in mind that there is no legal compulsion in the Bill to compel the common management to build the tubes, but I submit that where a great deal of control is vested in the Minister, the pressure of public opinion would be so great that, if there was money available, they would be compelled to build the tubes, whether they wished to do so or not.

I have listened very carefully to the whole of the Debate, last week and this week, and I have been unable to discover any valid reason why hon. Members opposite should object to these Bills. They may say that they object to anything which is not public ownership and public control. Surely, they would not condemn the vast population of London, some 10,000,000 of people, to continue with these inadequate traffic facilities simply because this one political nostrum of theirs, public ownership and public control, cannot immediately be brought into effect. Would they allow the patient to die because the particular medicine which they prescribe is not allowed to be given to the patient? Surely, that would be taking a small and certainly not a broad view of the difficulties of the case. A further point seems to be that these Bills must be opposed on that assertion that it means handing over the people's trams to private enterprise. I would ask hon. Members opposite to keep that for the public platform and not for the House of Commons. It does not mean handing over the people's trams to anybody. The ownership of the tramways remain vested in the London County Council. Therefore, hon. Members will be able to call them the people's trams as long as they like.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

Not the control of the tramways.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

The hon. Member says "not the control of the tramways." The control of the tramways depends on the agreements that are entered into. Surely hon. Members can trust the Municipal Reform majority to look after that [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then I would point out to hon. Members that they must at once cease to be led by the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald), and they must no longer allow Mr. Herbert Morrison to lead them in the county council, because a pamphlet which I hold in my hand, which has a foreword by the right hon. Member for Aberavon, a pamphlet written by Mr. Herbert Morrison, states: The statement that the tramways are inefficient is no more reliable than the statement that they are a nuisance. There you have the statement that the tramways are efficiently managed. There is also this remark: The statement that the tramways do not pay is also untrue.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

The right hon Gentleman is quoting apparently from an official document, and I want to ask whether it will be on the official records of the House?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

I do not know whether this is an official document or not, but if it is it shall certainly be laid on the Table of the House.

Photo of Mr William Kelly Mr William Kelly , Rochdale

What is the title of the pamphlet?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

"The London Traffic Fraud." I am sorry I have detained the House so long, but I ask hon. Members by a large majority to give a Second Reading to these Bills because it is my considered opinion that they will be for the benefit of the citizens of London and give them better traffic facilities.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

I was hoping that the Minister of Transport would have given us some reasons for supporting these Bills, but during the two days' Debate I have not heard one hon. Member on the other side endeavour to prove that the public interests are safeguarded in this matter. They have simply made assertions. The right hon. Gentleman has said that what he likes about these Bills is the fact that for the first time we have a public authority and a private company working together, and he was rather surprised that hon. Members on these benches did not agree with that statement. We do not consider that this is a case of a public authority and a private company working together on equal terms, because I am hoping to prove, by an examination of the Bills themselves, that the public interests are not safeguarded and that the position is determined to the advantage of the Combine as against the advantage of the public authorities. All the material assets and managerial control are deliberately and definitely handed over to the Combine.

Why is it that public necessity is always made the occasion for private gain? Why do we find on this occasion, when the traffic problems of London are growing more acute each year, that there is to be a sale of London traffic to private interests? That is the point to which the Minister of Transport as the representative of the public should have addressed himself rather than to the other matters with which he dealt, and which were not material to the point. The right hon. Gentleman placed great emphasis on the fact that the best way of obtaining improved traffic facilities for London is by an extension of the tube system; that at the present time the general situation in London traffic is such that it is impossible for the Combine to go on the open market and to raise the necessary capital for the extension of its tube system; and that therefore the only way in which the Combine can raise the necessary capital is to form a common fund, so that those who invest will be assured of their dividends.

The statement of the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) when he first spoke on the Bill, the Minister's statement just made, the Blue Report and every investigation have proved that the only material extension of London's traffic facilities is to be in the form of extensions provided by the Combine of its tube system. The confession of Lord Ashfield in the report to his own company meeting and the statements by the Minister and by the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth show that it is impossible to get an extension of the tube system until some common fund can be established to safeguard the necessary capital expenditure. So the one thing that does emerge in the whole of these investigations and in these Bills is that a common fund is to be established, not in the interest of the London County Council tramway system, but that the sole purpose of the common fund is to safeguard the interests of the shareholders of the Combine.

I would like the Minister of Transport or the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth to point to anything in the Blue Report that suggests any material expansion of the public side of traffic in London. It is clear to anyone who examines the problem that out of this common fund you are to get the private side of London traffic extended, and that that will become an increasing quantity while the public side will become relatively a dwindling quantity. Therefore, public powers are being voted here deliberately for the purpose of providing profit for private shareholders. We are not asking the House to decide on the merits or demerits of these Bills. What we are asking the House to decide is that the public interests involved are so extensive that they should never have been dealt with by means of a private Bill, and that the Government have no right to ask the House to consider the Government's convenience before the House's responsibility to the 8,000,000 people of Greater London. There is no precedent of a private Bill affecting so many people and of so widespread a character being introduced and passed as private legislation.

Let us consider what is involved. In London and Greater London there are 8,000,000 persons who use the traffic facilities of London. There you have a population almost twice that of Scotland. Would some of the hon. Members who are supporting these Bills, support Bills of this sort to deal with similar problems in a place like Scotland, or even in some of the larger cities like Manchester or Birmingham? In such cases you would never find legislation of this sort introduced in the form of a private Bill. The Minister never mentioned the fact that there are no fewer than 174 local authorities in the London traffic area—and these Bills cover the whole of the traffic facilities in that area. The Blue Report says that the problems of traffic for the whole of the London traffic area are involved. But although there are 174 authorities in that area, these Bills are promoted by one local authority and one private organisation.

I contend that the Bills constitute a direct infringement of the rights of the other local authorities and should have been ruled out from the Chair on that ground. But, as the Chair has left the matter to the decision of the House, I say that the House ought to have no hesitation whatever in refusing to pass these Bills as private Bills. There are two county councils—the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council—involved in the London traffic area. There are parts of five other counties, namely, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire and Surrey. There are three county boroughs, East Ham, West Ham and Croydon. These three boroughs have a representative on the Advisory Committee and I notice that he has signed the Report. Yet I can state authoritatively that these three county boroughs oppose these Bills and are lodging petitions against them. Two of them, I know for certain, are opposed in principle and practice to the Bills. There are 38 borough councils, 56 urban district councils, 16 rural district councils and 54 parish councils also involved.

Photo of Sir Ian Fraser Sir Ian Fraser , St Pancras North

How many of these are traffic authorities?

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

It may be that only 11 or 12 are traffic authorities, but that does not materially affect my point. The population in the areas of these local authorities, whether they are traffic authorities or not, have to use the traffic facilities of London. My point is that the. Traffic Advisory Committee was created solely to look after the public interest. In the Committee upstairs, when we were discussing the London Traffic Act, Members of all parties, against the advice of the then Minister, joined in insisting that the members of the Advisory Committee should be drawn solely from public authorities. That was an effort to safeguard the public interest, and in view of the large public interests involved, these Bills should not be brought in as private Bills by one local authority and one private undertaking.

May I quote some precedents which strengthen my claim that these should be public Bills. In 1881 we had the Thames Navigation Bill introduced as a private Bill. Important as is the navigation of the Thames, it will not be alleged that it is as important as the whole of the traffic problem of the London area. But objection was raised in that case, and, on the attention of the Speaker being directed to that Bill, it was withdrawn as a private Bill and reintroduced as a public Bill. In 1871 the City of London introduced a private Bill called the Court of Hustings City of London Bill. It was found to infringe the rights of other local authorities and the Bill was withdrawn when that point became apparent. Neither of these Bills infringed the rights of powers of local authorities to the extent which I have just indicated. In 1900, the Metropolitan Water Company introduced a private Bill. In it the Local Government Board were proposing to confer new powers on the Metropolitan Water Board. Mr. Speaker on that occasion called attention to the important powers that it contained, and the Bill had to be withdrawn. In 1910, the Society of Apothecaries of London introduced a private Bill to grant diplomas in sanitary science to their members. Again, Mr. Speaker ruled out the Bill. I venture to submit to this House that no Member can quote any precedent for Bills of this magnitude, which affect so many local authorities, and which touch the travelling facilities of 8,000,000 of people, and prove that they should be introduced as private Bills.

Let us compare the character of the parent Act itself, the London Traffic Act, and the powers and functions given to the Minister and the Advisory Committee under it, with the powers proposed in these Bills. In the London Traffic Act, I find that the powers are purely advisory, tentative, and regulatory in character. Neither the Minister nor the Committee have any power to interfere with capital, management, depreciation, and a variety of other subjects. Therefore, these private Bills, although not inclusive, are as a matter of fact, much more far reaching in effect and more executive in character than the London Traffic Act itself. Let me indicate the possibilities and issues involved in this Bill without any safeguard being inserted. The Minister himself admitted my case fully when he had repeatedly to agree that certain subjects were not defined but were subject to subsequent agreements. Management, services, maintenance, development of all land and buildings, fixtures and rolling stocks, interchange of traffic, fares, rates, charges on receipts and revenue, allocation and apportionment of receipts and balances under anticipated agreements—all these are in no way defined. Control and distribution of the common fund are in no way defined.

The complete management of the London County Council trams is handed over to the Combine. That may be refuted and I think the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Colonel Vaughan-Morgan) referred to Clause 5 and said there was complete safeguards. If he will refer to the statement of the London County Council themselves, he will find that there is no safeguard over management. The complete management of the London County Council trams is to be handed over to the directors of the Combine, and the council are to have only two representatives. There is to be a Tramways Advisory Committee if all the other local authorities come into the scheme later on. If they do, they will come under duress and have no alternative. They either come in or else their whole traffic system will collapse, because you cannot consider the outer area of London apart from the inner area. If the Tramway Advisory Committee is created, then Lord Ashfield is to be the ex-officio chairman of the entirely municipal tramway system. That is treating the public services and safeguards with contempt. What is the use of hon. Members getting up here and making general statements about there being safeguards in the Bill When I defy any hon. Member to quote any Clause where safeguards are determined, scheduled, and defined? Every Clause is a complete blank cheque to the directors of the Combine to arrange every phase of London traffic so as to secure the end which the Minister himself mentioned, namely, to bolster up any expansion which they want and, first of all, to secure a return to their members.

If this Bill had been a public Bill, there is a whole variety of matters that we could have dealt with. We could have inserted safeguards which would have given local authorities fair and equitable powers of appeal. I submit that the local authorities have no right of effective appeal to the Minister in areas outside the London County Council area, except on fares and services within their own locality. Anyone who is familiar with London traffic is fully aware that you cannot separate the fares and services in West Ham or East Ham from the through journeys throughout London. If the London County Council and the Combine wished to take an unfair advantage of a situation of that sort, they could easily meet the local difficulties, but by adjustments in further stages of the journey they could nullify that advantage. I challenge either the Minister of Labour or the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth to prove that there is any safeguard in the Bill for the cheap fares inaugurated by the London County Council. The marginal note to Clause 5 and the third Sub-section of that Clause enable the Combine and any management to prove various things, and the Minister would be in an impossible position to upset the evidence that they would be able to submit under that third Sub-section. Although the Minister's name is mentioned, I submit that there is no, effective safeguard for cheap fares or facilities.

The House of Commons is asked to give a blank cheque to the traffic system controlled by the Combine, and no attempt is made to insert any real safeguards in any direction. I submit, further, that whatever loss there is in traffic will be at the expense of the London County Council. If that is not so, why is it that the only compensation Clause in these two Bills is one affecting the London County Council staff? That is a clear indication on the part of the Combine that they are not looking forward to a restriction of their services and that they do not anticipate any displacement of their staff; but the fact that compensation is inserted in the London County Council Bill foreshadows a restriction in the personnel of their service, and that means that many of the functions of their staff are to be taken over and performed by the Combine staff. The whole sequence of events proves conclusively t subordination of the public interest private enterprise.

11.0 p.m.

If I may summarise our grounds of opposition to the Bill, they are that, despite all the lip service which we have heard, there are no real safeguards in the Bill to protect the public interest. The intention of the traffic control of London is to drive the Londoner underground, and if that is the case, then the Londoner ought to have a say in the matter through his representatives in this House. There are no effective safeguards for cheap fares, and no hon. Member so far, representing either the London County Council or anyone else, has been able to point to any provision in the Bill which is a safeguard. The marginal note to Clause 5 rules out the Minister, and there is no effective safeguard for fares. I want to emphasise that all the history of London teaches that it has been the municipal side that has reduced the prices for electricity, for transport facilities and for water. Londoners never look to private enterprise to reduce the cost of any of the services. In this scheme public trusts are being betrayed and public property is being used for the benefit of the Combine. That large public interests are involved cannot be denied when the travelling facilities of 8,000,000 people are affected. These Bills infringed the rights of 173 local authorities, many of whom are opposed to them. The coordination of all tramway authorities—[Interruption.] Many hon. Members who are now talking to each other on the other side have been absent through all our Debates. Those who represent large traffic interests in London and who represent masses of people are entitled to ask Conservative Members, even if they are going into the Lobby to support these Bills, at least to have the courtesy to listen to those Members who have sat through two nights of the Debate. If they do not want to listen to the speeches, why do they not go to the Smoke Room? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] We ask the House of Commons to remember that large public interests are involved, and as the Minister of Transport will not carry out his duty, we hope that Members of the House of commons will carry out theirs.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

On a point of Order. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has a direct connection with one of the parties promoting these Bills. As I understand it, the parties have deliberately promoted Private Bills rather than Public Bills, and I ask you, Sir, whether the right hon. Gentleman, in view of his direct connection with one of the promoting parties, has any right to take part in the discussion?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

There is nothing at all to prevent the right hon. Gentleman taking part in the discussion.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

May I ask, therefore, whether he has any right to vote in the Division Lobby?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I do not know any reason why he should nut vote in the Division Lobby.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

May I then quote from Erskine May where it says: In the Commons it is a rule that no Member who has a direct pecuniary interest"—

HON. MEMBERS:

Direct!

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

Surely a directorship is a direct interest. a direct pecuniary interest in a question, shall be allowed to vote upon it. It goes on to say: But, in order to operate as a disqualification, this interest must be immediate and personal, and not merely of a general or remote character. I submit that the holding of a directorship does mean that there is an immediate personal interest involved.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I am afraid that, if the Rule were strictly carried out on every occasion according to the interpretation put upon it by the hon. Member, there would be a great many abstentions from all parts of the House.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

I always understood that when there was any doubt as to Parliamentary practice, we referred to the book of Erskine May. May I ask, if this book is not to be taken as a reliable authority, where we may look for guidance in matters of this kind?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I have very good reason to know and to follow that book. I consult it on every occasion.

Mr. BENN:

Would it be in order, after the Division, to follow a precedent, which has been known in this House and to move a Motion that the vote of the right hon. Gentleman be disallowed in the Division?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

There is no reason why the hon. Member should not put down such a Motion.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I made inquiries before I thought of speaking to-night, and I was informed by hon. Members who have much longer experience in the practices of this House than I have that it was entirely appropriate for me to speak. I reflected, further, that we listen constantly in this House to speeches from hon. Members opposite in connection with their unions, in which they are directly interested as officials and from which they draw salaries. Accordingly, it seemed to me that no distinction could be drawn between their case and mine; and, in addition to that, one has very often heard speeches upon questions of moment to trade in which hon. Members were directly interested. Accordingly, I myself, think, being challenged, that it would not be in any way either dishonourable or inconsistent with the practices of this House if I were to carry on and make the speech which I had intended to make. We have listened to speeches from railway directors upon occasions when the interests of their railways have been concerned, and very important Bills were passed last year in which the speeches made in connection with the railway interests were made by directors of the companies. Accordingly, as it seemed to me, it was quite within the practice of this House that I should speak; but I now propose entirely to relieve the minds of hon. Members oppo- site who are so very anxious not to hear me. There being this feeling in the matter, and a wish, apparently, that the House should not take advantage of the views of those who are intimately connected with these matters, I accordingly propose neither to speak nor to vote, not because I think it would be wrong, but because I shall not give any opportunity to anybody to say that the progress of this Bill has been in any way influenced by anything I have said.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

After the speech from the Minister of Transport, followed by the speech of one of the leaders of our party on this particular matter, and the speech of the right hon Gentleman who has just sat down, I think one of us who represents the orphans of the storm in this case ought to have the right to say a few words. West Ham has been treated all through this matter as though it did not matter; anything is good enough for us. We are one of the places that the London General Omnibus Company and the Traffic Combine are treating with contempt. For over 30 years, we have asked them to provide traffic facilities in and around the docks. They have refused to provide them, and when our council have promoted private Bills they were the first to oppose our effort to provide travelling facilities for our own people. Silvertown is a great industrial area, but to-day we have no direct traffic communication; we are interlocked and interlaced by iron bridges, level crossings, and all sorts of obstacles to traffic. Every time we have proposed to have an omnibus service the first opposition we have had to encounter has always been the people who have come along now in support of these Bills. We fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts. We all remember General Blucher, who helped to win the Battle of Waterloo. As a reward we invited Blucher home to London, and we wined and dined him, and then we sent him away with bands playing and flags flying. When Blucher was asked what he thought of London, he said, "What a magnificent city to sack." We have been told that we shall have to find £3,000,000 to rescue a bankrupt undertaking. Remember that this Bill is only a beginning of what hon. Members opposite intend to do. In West Ham we have done more than the Combine. A child in West Ham can travel all over our own area for a halfpenny. I wonder if the omnibus companies will allow halfpenny fares for children. In West Ham we are poor and we are told that we have not the brains possessed by these people but we have more honesty. We have paid all our debts up to now. As far as our trams are concerned we have invested in them £2,000,000 of public money and now we are beginning to understand the reason for these Bills. Ten years from now our municipal undertakings will be clear of debt. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the guardians?"] I am not talking about the guardians, but about the trams. On these matters I do not know so much as hon. Members opposite, because they can be directors of all sorts of things that they know nothing about. I am only a common trade union official, and I only do the job I know. Hon. Members opposite can run the universe in company with God Almighty for £10,000 a year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I know what I do know, and that is enough for me to know.

Sir C. COBB rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but MR. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

If hon. Members opposite were risking £2,000,000 worth of investments, as we are, I am sure that they would not support a Bill of this character which takes all authority away from us. I represent a population of 320,000 and under this Bill they will not be allowed to have any say about the fares. Presently we shall have to approach these people on our knees and say, "Please may we breathe." Then you will consult the Lord Almighty upstairs—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] I have heard hon. Members use worse language than that.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

On a point of Order. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, merely as a matter of information, whether it is in order to use in debate a term like "God Almighty"? May I call attention to the fact that it has previously been held that to introduce the name of the Deity in that way is an abuse of the Rules of the House?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I must say that the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) was going much too far.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

May I say that I never used the words that the Noble Lord states? I said "Lord Almighty," and that is perfectly in order. I only meant that, so far as this traffic problem is concerned, one gentleman has been singled out to be the Lord Almighty. He is going to be in control of the whole system, and the only public guarantee that we have is that two people out of 18 will have to be there. The two people will count for nothing. Therefore, so far as we in this House are concerned, we are handing over the whole interests of the people of London to a committee composed, practically speaking, of a huge combine—one company—and they are not going to stop at London; the octopus will stretch its tentacles all over Great Britain. When you are talking about interest in public authorities, the only interest you have in the public authorities is the interest you get out of them. It reminds me of a certain kind of serpent, which slobbers all over its victim before finally swallowing it.

We are making a protest against the whole principle of this Bill. If co-ordination is wanted, let us have real co-ordination, and let the public have the right to decide how the co-ordination shall take place, so that all the time and every time the public interest shall come before private interest. Therefore, I associate myself with the opposition to these Bills. If it is desired to discuss public interests, let it be done on the Floor of this Chamber, and not by means of private Bills. Let this great problem, which is an actual problem, be discussed by means of a Government Bill, which will give us the opportunity of fair, free and full discussion.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 168; Noes, 113.

Division No. 240.]AYES.[11.19 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelGadie, Lieut.-Colonel AnthonyNicholson, O. (Westminster)
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. CharlesGates, PercyNicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)
Albery, Irving JamesGault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew HamiltonOman, Sir Charles William C.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)Glyn, Major R. G. C.Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Goff, Sir ParkPerring, Sir William George
Applin, Colonel R. V. K.Gower, Sir RobertPeto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Apsley, LordGraham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)Power, Sir John Cecil
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Greaves-Lord, Sir WalterPownall, Sir Assheton
Atholl, Duchess ofGrenfell, Edward C. (City of London)Preston, William
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. JohnRadford, E. A.
Balniel, LordGrotrian, H. BrentRaine, Sir Walter
Banks, Sir Reginald MitchellGuinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.Rawson, Sir Cooper
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.Hamilton, Sir GeorgeReid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryRemer, J. R.
Bethel, A.Harrison, G. J. C.Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Bevan, S. J.Hartington, Marquess ofRichardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Boothby, R. J. G.Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Bourne, Captain Robert CroftHarvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)Ropner, Major L.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartHenderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)Ross, R. D.
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Braithwaite, Major A. N.Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.Salmon, Major I.
Briscoe, Richard GeorgeHilton, CecilSamuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Brittain, Sir HarryHohler, Sir Gerald FitzroySamuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)Sandon, Lord
Broun-Lindsay, Major H.Hopkins, J. W. W.Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl.(Renfrew,W.)
Bullock, Captain M.Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.Shepperson, E. W.
Butt, Sir AlfredHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)Skelton, A. N.
Campbell, E. T.Hume, Sir G. H.Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Carver, Major W. H.Hume-Williams, Sir W. EllisSmith-Carington, Neville W.
Cassels, J. D.Hurd, Percy A.Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Christie, J. A.Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Clayton, G. C.Kindersley, Major G. M.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir GeorgeKing, Commodore Henry DouglasSugden, Sir Wilfrid
Colfox, Major William PhillipsLamb, J. Q.Tasker, R. Inigo.
Conway, Sir W. MartinLoder, J. de V.Templeton, W. P.
Cope, Major Sir WilliamLooker, Herbert WilliamThomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Couper, J. B.Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard HarmanTitchfield, Major the Marquess of
Courtauld, Major J. S.Lumley, L. R.Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)Wallace, Captain D. E.
Crockshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)McLean, Major A.Ward, Lt.Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Dalkeith, Earl ofMacmillan, Captain H.Warrender, Sir Victor
Davies, Dr. VernonMacquisten, F. A.Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)MacRobert, Alexander M.Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Dawson, Sir PhilipMakins, Brigadier-General E.Watts, Sir Thomas
Edmondson, Major A. J.Margesson, Captain D.Wayland, Sir William A.
Ellis, R. G.Marriott, Sir J. A. R.Wells, S. R.
Erskine, James Malcolm MonteithMason, Colonel Glyn K.Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Fairfax, Captain J. G.Merriman, Sir F. BoydWilliams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Fermoy, LordMitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)
Fielden, E. B.Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Ford, Sir P. J.Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.Womersley, W. J.
Forestier-Walker, Sir L.Moore, Sir Newton J.
Fraser, Captain IanMorrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Nail, Colonel Sir JosephSir Cyril Cobb and Sir Henry Jackson.
NOES.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)Day, HarryJohn, William (Rhondda, West)
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')Duncan, C.Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)
Ammon, Charles GeorgeEdwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Barnes, A.Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)
Barr, J.Gardner, J. P.Kelly, W. T.
Batey, JosephGarro-Jones, Captain G. M.Kennedy, T.
Bellamy, A.Gibbins, JosephKenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.
Benn, WedgwoodGillett, George M.Kirkwood, D.
Bennett, William (Battersea, South)Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)Lansbury, George
Bondfield, MargaretGrenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Lawrence, Susan
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Lawson, John James
Briant, FrankGroves, T.Lee, F.
Broad, F. A.Grundy, T. W.Lindley, F. W.
Bromfield, WilliamHall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Longbottom, A. W.
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Hardie, George D.Lowth, T.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Harris, Percy A.Lunn, William
Buchanan, G.Hayday, ArthurMacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)
Cape, ThomasHenderson, T. (Glasgow)Mackinder, W.
Charleton, H. C.Hirst, G. H.Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Clarke, A. B.Hollins, A.MacNeill-Weir, L.
Cluse, W. S.Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)
Compton, JosephHore-Belisha, LeslieMontague, Frederick
Dalton, Ruth (Bishop Auckland)Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield).Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Murnin, H.Sitch, Charles H.Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Oliver, George HaroldSlesser, Sir Henry H.Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Owen, Major G.Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)Wellock, Wilfred
Palin, John HenrySmith, Rennie (Penistone)Westwood, J.
Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)Snell, HarryWheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.Snowden, Rt. Hon. PhilipWhiteley, W.
Potts, John S.Stamford, T. W.Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Purcell, A. A.Stephen, CampbellWilliams, David (Swansea, East)
Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Ritson, J.Strauss, E. A.Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St.Ives)Sullivan, JosephWindsor, Walter
Runciman, Rt. Hon. WalterSutton, J. E.Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Sexton, JamesTaylor, R. A.
Shepherd, Arthur LewisThorne. W. (West Ham, Plaistow)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Shield, G. W.Thurtle, ErnestMr. Scurr and Mr. Naylor.
Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)Townend, A. E.

Bill read a Second time.

Photo of Sir Cyril Cobb Sir Cyril Cobb , Fulham West

I beg to move, That it is expedient that the Bill be committed to a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons.

Sir GEORGE HAMILTON:

I beg to second the Motion.

Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

I think it would be wrong if we allowed this Bill to go to a Joint Committee without uttering some words of protest before going into the Division Lobby against the proposal. The manner in which this Bill has been put before the House in the form of a private Bill seems to violate all the usages of Parliament, particularly having regard to the great public interests concerned. Only the minimum of Parliamentary consideration is being given to it. We look upon this present proposal as an attempt further to

circumscribe the discussion and examination of the Bill. I will content myself with that protest, and ask my friends to vote against it in the Lobby.

Mr. BENN:

It is another of these testamentary dispositions of a dying Government. The promoters of this Bill have chosen to put the Measure through as a private Bill because it suits their private interests. If they wish to put it through as a private Bill they should give all the opportunities for discussion which Private Bill Procedure provides. Instead of that, they wish to curtail the procedure. The only reason is that this Bill shall become law before the General Election sweeps them out from power to do this sort of thing.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 162; Noes, 110.

Division No. 241.]AYES.[11.29 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelCecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. CharlesChristie, J. A.Grotrian, H. Brent
Albery, Irving JamesClayton, G. C.Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir GeorgeHamilton, Sir George
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Colfox, Major Wm. PhilipHannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Applin, Colonel R. V. K.Conway, Sir W. MartinHarrison, G. J. C.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Cope, Major Sir WilliamHarvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)
Atholl, Duchess ofCouper, J. B.Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Courtauld, Major J. S.Henderson,Capt.R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)
Balniel, LordCowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Banks, Sir Reginald MitchellCrookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.Dalkeith, Earl ofHilton, Cecil
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Davies, Dr. VernonHohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy
Bethel, A.Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)
Bevan, S. J.Dawson, Sir PhilipHope, Sir Harry (Forfar)
Boothby, R. J. G.Edmondson, Major A. J.Hopkins, J. W. W.
Bourne, Captain Robert CroftEllis, R. G.Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartErskine, James Malcolm MonteithHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.Fairfax, Captain J. G.Hume, Sir G. H.
Braithwaite, Major A. N.Fermoy, LordHume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis
Briscoe, Richard GeorgeFord, Sir P. J.Hurd, Percy A.
Brittain, Sir HarryFraser, Captain IanInskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.Gadie, Lieut.-Col. AnthonyKennedy, A. R. (Preston)
Broun-Lindsay, Major H.Gates, PercyKindersley, Major Guy M.
Bullock, Captain M.Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew HamiltonKing, Commodore Henry Douglas
Butt, Sir AlfredGlyn, Major R. G. C.Lamb, J. Q.
Campbell, E. T.Goff, Sir ParkLoder, J. de V.
Carver, Major W. H.Gower, Sir RobertLooker, Herbert William
Cassels, J. D.Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Herman
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Greaves-Lord, Sir WalterLumley, L. R.
Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)Radford, E. A.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
McLean, Major A.Raine, Sir WalterSugden, Sir Wilfrid
Macmillan, Captain H.Rawson, Sir CooperTasker, R. Inigo.
Macquisten, F. A.Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)Templeton, W. P.
Mac Robert, Alexander M.Remer, J. R.Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Makins, Brigadier-General E.Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Margesson, Captain D.Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Marriott, Sir J. A. ft.Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James RennellWallace, Captain D. E.
Mason, Colonel Glyn K.Ropner, Major L.Ward, Lt.Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Merriman, Sir F. BoydRoss, R. D.Warrender, Sir Victor
Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.Salmon, Major I.Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Moore, Sir Newton J.Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)Watts, Sir Thomas
Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)Wayland, Sir William A.
Nail, Colonel Sir JosephSanders, Sir Robert A.Wells, S. R.
Nicholson, O. (Westminster)Sandon, LordWilliams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl.(Renfrew,W.)Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Oman, Sir Charles William C.Shepperson, E. W.Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)
Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)Skelton, A. N.Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Perring, Sir William GeorgeSmith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)Womersley, W. J.
Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Power, Sir John CecilSouthby, Commander A. R. J.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Pownall, Sir AsshetonSpender-Clay, Colonel H.Sir Henry Jackson and Sir Cyril Cobb.
Preston, WilliamStanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
NOES.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)Harris, Percy A.Ritson, J.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')Hayday, ArthurRunciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St.Ives)
Ammon, Charles GeorgeHenderson, T. (Glasgow)Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Barnes, A.Hirst, G. H.Sexton, James
Barr, J.Hollins, A.Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Batey, JosephHore-Belisha, LeslieShield, G. W.
Bellamy, A.Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Benn, WedgwoodJohn, William (Rhondda, West)Sitch, Charles H.
Bennett, William (Battersea, South)Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Bondfield, MargaretJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Briant, FrankKelly, W. T.Snell, Harry
Broad, F. A.Kennedy, T.Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Bromfield, WilliamKirkwood, D.Stamford, T. W.
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Lansbury, GeorgeStephen, Campbell
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Lawrence, SusanStrauss, E. A.
Buchanan, G.Lawson, John JamesSullivan, Joseph
Cape, ThomasLee, F.Sutton, J. E.
Charleton, H. C.Lindley, F. W.Taylor, R. A.
Clarke, A. B.Longbottom, A. W.Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Cluse, W. S.Lowth, T.Thurtle, Ernest
Compton, JosephLunn, WilliamTownend, A. E.
Dalton, Ruth (Bishop Auckland)MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Day, HarryMackinder, W.Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Duncan, C.Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)Wellock, Wilfred
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)MacNeill-Weir, L.Westwood, J.
Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Gardner, J. P.Montague, FrederickWhiteley, W.
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Gibbins, JosephMurnin, H.Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Gillett, George M.Oliver, George HaroldWilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Atttercliffe)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)Owen, Major G.Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Palin, John HenryWindsor, Walter
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Groves, T.Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Grundy, T. W.Potts, John S.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Purcell, A. A.Mr. Scurr and Mr. Naylor.
Hardie, George D.Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.