The Minister has said that the point was whether the bridge should be rebuilt out of capital or revenue, and I am attempting to demonstrate, for the first time in this House—because I have read every debate on Waterloo Bridge—that the County Council were not guilty of folly in taking the action they have taken, but did only what men of my own political faith and creed should have done years and years ago. The only time I was howled down in the County Council was when I was telling members of my own party that they ought to pull down Waterloo Bridge. [Interruption.] I am very much obliged to the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), who interrupts everybody and anybody, but as he has not been a member of the London County Council, and there are something like 100 Members of this House who have been, perhaps he will permit some of us to know something about the business of London.
I have stated what the issue is. Suppose that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) did say "We can pay for it out of revenue." So they could. A rate of 1d. in the £ brings in about £250,000, and if my right hon. Friend chose to exercise his authority with his supporters he could add 1s. to the rates in London, and find £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. But would it be fair to London? My right hon. Friend is too good a Londoner to try to injure his fellow ratepayers. Unknown to himself he possesses many attributes of the good old-fashioned Tory. He makes up his mind about a thing and carries it through, and that is in striking contrast with some people who seem to have minds like a flabby jelly, which will flow into any mould but will never take definite shape.
Knowing that Parliament has said to the County Council, "You shall be responsible for these bridges," it does seem to me an extraordinary thing that Parliament should say in 1932, because there had been a financial crisis, "We will not permit you to have this money"; later should change its mind and say, "We will not let you undertake this unless you combine it with a Charing Cross scheme"; and then change its mind again and say, "We will not let you have the money at all"—should first say the County Council can have a grant of 75 per cent., then 60 per cent. and now no grant at all. I do not think that is a very dignified position. It was the Ministry of Transport which gave the decision about a grant, and yet only two or three days ago we heard that £5,250,000 was to be taken out of the Road Fund for the Treasury. We all know that the money which goes into the Road Fund is not drawn out by London. There are representatives here of other constituencies in which enormous sums have been spent upon roads, but London has been denied a contribution. We are not asking the Minister to pledge himself to give a grant of 60 per cent. or any other sum, but we do ask that Parliament shall do an act of common justice to the ratepayers of London and relieve them of some portion of the burden which they are now called upon to bear.