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Cabs And Stage Carriages (London) Bill

Volume 181: debated on Wednesday 21 August 1907

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As amended (by the Standing Committee), considered.

said he did not propose to move the Amendments of which he had given notice, empowering railway companies to make reasonable regulations for the admission and control of cabs within their stations, as they were fully discussed and decided in Grand Committee. But he desired to move the rejection of the clause because, in his opinion, the abolition of the privileged cab system at the railway stations in London would inflict great inconvenience on the travelling public, and especially on those who arrived at the great railway termini on Sundays, and by the night and continental trains. For a long time the railway companies had found it necessary to have a nucleus of cabs for the purpose of meeting the requirements of travellers. He said a "nucleus of cabs" because it was well-known that the railway companies had only a limited number of cabs, and that outside cabs were called in as the railway cabs were exhausted. For all practical purposes it had been found that the privileged cab system had enabled the companies to dispose satisfactorily of the passengers arriving at night and by continental trains, and for that reason he regretted that an attempt was being made to abolish a practice which in the past had been a very great convenience to the travelling public. If the provisions in the clause were carried out, railway companies would not have proper control over the cabs entering the station yards, and they would not be able to see that the cabs within the yards were fit, well horsed, and well driven by respectable and qualified drivers. The companies thought they ought to have the control of the station yards, which the House must remember were not public streets but the property of the companies. He urged this, not with any view to the benefit of the railway companies, but only on the ground of public convenience. As a director of the South Eastern Railway, he could say that that company had actually tried the open cab system from 1883 to 1887, but were compelled to return to the privilege system because they could not get their customers conveyed from the station to their homes comfortably. The General Manager of the company, in giving evidence before the House of Commons in 1889, said that with the open system they could never got cabs when they wanted them to wait for special trains, or for the continental trains arriving at three o'clock in the morning. The cabmen preferred to go to the theatre on the chance of picking up a fare there. After a trial of three years and seven months, the company had no alternative but to give up the open cab system and return to the privi- lege system. There was another point which he would urge. Under the privilege system the companies had a greater control over the passengers' luggage. It was urged in Committee that if the luggage was placed in a wrong cab it would be taken to Scotland Yard, but even if it were, it involved time and inconvenience in recovering it, but under the privilege system the luggage was brought back immediately to the station. He moved the omission of the clause, because of the inconvenience it would cause to the travelling public, and because the railway companies would, under it, have no control over the cabs. Amendment proposed to the Bill—

"In page 1, line 23, to leave out Clause 2."—(Mr. Akers-Douglas.)
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the end of line 3, on page 2, stand part of the Bill."

said that in supporting the Motion of his right hon. friend, he would state that in order to save time he did not intend to move the Amendments standing in his name lower down on the Paper. In discussing what course they would pursue, he and his friends had come to the conclusion that in the event of the omission of the clause being negatived, they should take no further part in the proceedings, because they felt that the public would soon see that they would be the losers by the arrangement proposed. In Committee, believing that they owed a certain duty to the public to provide an official conveyance to take passengers on arrival at the railway termini in London to wherever they wanted to go, they had moved certain Amendments in what he considered was a proper spirit. But they found no support for them, and if the sense of the House was also discovered to be against them, they would not proceed further, but allow the future to show whether they or their opponents wee wrong. The reasons which animated him in supporting the omission of the clause were very simple. In the first place, it was quite open to everyone to say that it would be wise to try this experiment. One man's opinion was just as good as another's, and no man could foretell the future. But there had been some experience. The South Eastern Railway Company had made the experiment of the open cab system fifteen years ago for four years, which he thought was ample time for an experiment, but the company were obliged to go back to the old s ate of things, although the experiment was made under the most favourable circumstances. The South Eastern Stations at Charing Cross and Cannon Street were in the very centre of London, where there was always a certain number of cabs to be got; but the drivers preferred passengers who were only going a short distance to fares who desired to go to Outer London. As to the sums received by the railway companies from the privileged cab owners, it was only sufficient to cover the expense which the railway companies were put to. In Committee an hon. Member had said that he did not understand why the companies should receive any charge at all for cabs going into the yard. He had made inquiry and found that the Great Northern Railway Company received £560 from the cab owners which was spent in the employment of an inspector and five constables, to regulate the cab traffic in the station.

asked if it was not the fact that the Great Northern Railway Company would have to engage these constables to regulate the cab traffic, whether the cabs were privileged or not.

said the companies desired to give facilities to their passengers and to do it in their own way; and there was no obligation on their part to maintain order in the station. There were some 1,700 cabs in London provided by privileged proprietors on the understanding that they would be allowed to go into the railway stations, and if at the end of two or three years the right hon. Gentleman found his experiment was not a success, who was going to start privileged cabs again? because according to this Bill, the Home Secretary could come down and upset the whole system. It was easy to destroy a system, but it was not so easy to set one up. There was a clause of this Bill which it was difficult to understand, but the Under-Secretary informed them that for the future railway companies were not to supply any vehicle of their own, unless it was previously ordered.

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explained that what he had said was that the railway companies must either supply vehicles which had been ordered, or else licensed to ply for hire.

said there was not much in that interruption, because anyone as long as he complied with certain conditions was entitled to ply for hire. The railway omnibus had been a great convenience, but under the Amendment it could not be run any longer under the present conditions. Supposing an hon. Member ordered an omnibus, but he did not arrive and another hon. Member did arrive, and asked a porter if there was an omnibus. The porter would say "Yes, there is one," but under this Bill in future the railway companies would not be allowed to let that omnibus to the passenger who had arrived, or to use their own omnibus in the way they liked. He did not wish to allude to the unpleasant question of strikes, but he pointed out that in the event of one, it would not be possible for the railway companies to provide vehicles of their own, and the public would be absolutely at the mercy of the Cabmen's Union. That Union would be all-powerful in regard to ingress into and egress from London. Ingress and egress would be stopped unless people had private carriages. He was not sure that that was not at the bottom of the agitation for the abolition of the privileged cab system. The clause had been pitchforked into the Bill, the idea of which was to licence taximeters on cabs. He did not know that the cabmen would benefit by that, but that was their lookout. For these reasons he had great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.

said he quite appreciated the moderate and reasonable tone of the hon. Baronet who, with himself, re-recognised that this was not a Party question. The only question was what was fair to the cabman on the one hand and what was fair to the public on the other, and what they had to find was the solution which would be equitable to both. The hon. Baronet had dealt with several questions. Amongst other things he said that they proposed to take away the stations. There was nothing in this Bill to justify that contention. All they were proposing was that the Home Secretary should have power to limit the companies' charges for the cabs which went into the railway stations and that cabs should also be subjected to ordinary regulations if they plied for hire in the stations. Under the proposed system, it would be necessary for the cabmen to organise a supply of cabs. It was urged that the experiment had been tried twenty years ago at Charing Cross and that it had failed. At that time there was no organisation among the cabmen. There was no Cabdrivers' Union. They could not organise for one station; they might organise for all stations. He had listened attentively to his right hon. friend opposite, and he was quite sure that he could appreciate the services which he had always been willing to render to the Home Office, but perhaps in his speech there was rather an echo of the directors' board than of the office which he had so worthily filled. Personally, he was absolutely free from any influence which might be brought so far as the railway companies were concerned, and he acted impartially from the public point of view, and from the point of view of what was fair to the cabmen. He thought that his right hon. friend had put the case fairly, but the Government wished that this experiment, and it was an experiment, should be tried. It was not a new thing they were seeking to do. It was a matter that had been vexing the authorities for fifteen or twenty years, but the circumstances had been such that one Government after another had refrained from touching it. Now what did they find? Not only did the Committee in 1895 report in favour of the abolition of the privileged cab system, but the Committee which sat last year was absolutely and entirely in favour of that proposal. And this Bill received the strong support not only of the great majority of his friends on that side of the House, but of the hon. Members for South-east Durham, Bristol and Marylebone. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had not made out a case against the Bill. Power was retained under the Bill, in the event of the system breaking down in any particular case, to exempt the station where the breakdown occurred from its operation. That power would certainly only be used where necessary. But he recognised that there was an element of uncertainty in the matter, and they were bound in any event to look after the interests of the public. The cabmen served the public, and deserved to be considered. He asserted from what he had learnt, that the cabmen in London would recognise the responsibility upon them. Even if they thought they would not get a job they would turn out at any hour of the night, and they would do loyally all they could to supply the public with cabs whenever they were wanted. He had a great belief in the capacity of the London cabmen to find a job when a job was going. The London cabman had a sort of instinct for finding a job, and he did not think that he would fail in this particular instance, He had only to remind the House that they had got the open system in Palace Yard. He had been in that House twenty-seven years, and he had frequently used cabs at night. Save on rainy nights or on the occasions of exceptionally heavy divisions, he had never seen any paucity of cabs, even in the small hours of the morning. Hon. Members who had sat up there until eight o'clock in the morning no doubt had found that there were plenty of cabs waiting to take them home. He hoped that the House would pass the Bill practically as it stood.

said the cabmen of London would be very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for bringing in this Bill. He thought the two Committees which sat in 1895 and in 1906 had not considered the circumstances which would prevail after this Bill was brought in in regard to the taximeter question—not that the taximeter question would affect the subject of the privileged cab at railway stations very much. Everybody knew the reason why there was a large number of cabs in Palace Yard, namely, that Members like the right hon. Gentleman paid the cabman more than his fare. When the taximeter came into operation they could not possibly tell what amount extra the poor cabman would get. In certain stations no doubt this system would be a success, but in other stations it would have the opposite effect, but as yet it was an unknown quantity. He was extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for bringing in the Bill in the interests of the public, but he believed that the public would be amply satisfied as far as the stations were concerned with the present system. Therefore, as far as that part of the Bill was concerned it was really brought in in the interests of the cabmen. He sincerely hoped that the system would be a success, and he was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman had seen his way to undertake that if any instance of a breakdown occurred he would make an exception of the station concerned.

appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the clause. There was no question that the present system at stations had worked well. This question of the privileged cabs began with the strike of ten or twelve years ago. Previous to that time the privileged cab system was confined to the very unworkable plan of confining the system to one station for particular cabs, and one station only. That was the reason why the experience of 1887 was so valuable. In the strike of ten or twelve years ago those who drove privileged cabs incurred the wrath of cab drivers, because it was those privileged cabs alone which gave any kind of service to the public during the struggle. That was the genesis of this trouble. The system of privileged cabs which had been established since that time had worked well. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that if this experiment did not work well in the case of some particular station he would issue an order declaring that the Bill should not apply to that station. He thought that showed the weakness of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. It was impossible to make the system a success if they allowed a privilege to one station and not to another. The privilege system was working very well both in the interests of the public and, as he believed, of the cabmen, and once it was broken down they could not go back to it. He regarded the experiment which was being made by the Home Secretary as a very dangerous one.

said that under Subsection (1) the Home Secretary had power to allow the railway companies to charge 1d. or 2d., or whatever sum was deemed reasonable, for allowing cabs to go into their stations. He protested against that meanness on the part of the companies who were bound to regulate the traffic whether the cabs were privileged or not. He hoped the Home Secretary would not continue to allow these companies to charge cabmen for coming into their stations. If the companies had to provide their own cab service they would not get it at anything like the present cost. The charge made for cabs entering a railway station was a wholly unjustifiable one, and at a later stage of this Bill he would move an Amendment providing that no such charge should be allowed.

who spoke as a Member of the Committee which considered this matter, said he would support the Government. He thought the open system should be given a fair trial. The Committee came to the

AYES.
Abraham, William (Rhondda)Everett, R. LaceyLever, A. Levy(Essex, Harwich)
Acland, Francis DykeFenwick, CharlesLevy, Sir Maurice
Alden, PercyFerens, T. R.Lewis, John Herbert
Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E. )Flavin, Michael JosephLough, Thomas
Balfour, Robert (Lanark)Fletcher, J. S.Lyell, Charles Henry
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)Fuller, John Michael F.Lynch, H. B.
Barnard, E. B.Gibb, James (Harrow)Macdonald, J. M. (FalkirkB'ghs)
Barnes, G. N.Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)Maclean, Donald
Barry, RedmondJ. (Tyrone, N. )Gill, A. H.Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Beauchamp,E.Gladstone, Rt. Hn. HerbertJohnMacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)
Beck, A.CecilGlover, ThomasMac Veigh, Charles(Donegal, E. )
Bell, RichardGooch, George PeabodyM'Callum, John M.
Benn, SirJ. Williams(DevonportGrant, CorrieM'Crae, George
Berridge, T. H. D.Gulland, John W.M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)
Bertram, JuliusGurdon, RtHn. SirW. BramptonMaddison, Frederick
Bowerman, C. W.Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.Markham,Arthur Basil
Brace, WilliamHarmsworth, Cecil B. (Wor'cr)Marks, G. Croydon(Launceston)
Bramsdon, T. A.Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.Marnham, F. J.
Brodie, H. C.Haworth, Arthur A.Menzies, Walter
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)Hazel, Dr. A. E.Micklem, Nathaniel
Byles, William PollardHedges, A. PagetMolteno, Percy Alport
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.Helme, Norval WatsonMorgan, G. Hay (Cronwall)
Carr-Gomm, H. W.Henderson, Arthur (Durham)Morrell, Philip
Causton, Rt. Hn. RichardKnightHenry, Charles S.Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Cawley, Sir FrederickHigham, John SharpMuldoon, John
Cheetham, John FrederickHobart, Sir RobertMyer, Horatio
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.Hobhouse, Charles E. H.Nicholls, George
Clough, WilliamHogan, MichaelNicholson, CharlesN. (Doncast'r
Clynes, J. R.Holland, Sir William HenryNolan, Joseph
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)Holt, Richard DurningNorton, Capt. Cecil William
Collins. Sir William J. (S. Pan-cras, W.)Horniman, Emslie JohnNuttall, Harry
Idris, T. H. W.O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinst'dIllingworth, Percy H.O'Connor, John (Kildare, N. )
Cowan, W. H.Jardine, Sir J.O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.
Cox, HaroldJohnson, John (Gateshead)Parker, James (Halifax)
Cremer, Sir William RandalJohnson, W. (Nuneaton)Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)
Crooks, WilliamJones, William (CarnarvonshirePearson, SirW. D. (Colchester)
Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)Jowett, F. W.Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)
Dobson, Thomas W.Kelley, George D.Richards, Thomas(W. Monm'th
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-FurnessKilbride, DenisRichards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n
Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)King, Alfred John (Knutsford)Rickett, J. Compton
Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)Laidlaw, RobertRoberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Elibank, Master ofLambert, GeorgeRoberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Erskine, David C.Lamont, NormanRoberts, John H. (Denbighs. )
Esslemont, George BirnieLehmann, R. C.Robertson, SirG. Scott(Bradf'rd
conclusion that there was a grievance, on the part of both the drivers and the public. and the public, and that a change was necessary. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had met the railway companies in a fair way, because by Substation (5) it was provided that nothing should affect the power of the companies to exercise control of their railway stations as to the number of cabs to be admitted. Question put The House divided:—Ayes, 176; Noes 24 (Division List No. 456.)

Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N. W. )Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Robinson, S.Steadman, W. C. Weir, James Galloway
Roe, Sir ThomasStewart, Halley (Greenock) White, J, D. (Dumbarronshire)
Rowlands, J.Strachey, Sir Edward Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Runciman, WalterStrauss, E. A. (Abingdon) Wiles, Thomas
Samuel, HerbertL. (Cleveland)Summerbell, T. Wills, Arthur Walters
Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)Taylor, John W. (Durham) Wilson, HenryJ. (York, W. R. )
Scott, A. H. (Ashton under LyneTennant, SirEdward(Salisbury)Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Sears, J. E.Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Seely, ColonelToulmin, George Winfrey, R.
Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick, B. )Ure, Alexander Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Sherwell, Arthur JamesVivian, Henry
Simon, John AllsebrookWalsh, StephenTELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.
Sinclair, Rt. Hon. JohnWalters, John TudorWhiteley and Mr. J. A.
Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S. )Waring, WalterPease.

NOES.
Acland-Hood, RtHn. SirAlex. F.Fell, ArthurNield, Herbert
Arkwright, John StanhopeForster, Henry WilliamRoberts, S. (Sheffield, Eeclesall)
Balcarres, LordHamilton, Marquess ofSalter, Arthur Clavell
Banner, John S. HarmoodHarris, Frederick Leverton Valentia, Viscount
Baring, Capt. Hn. G(Winchester)Harrison-Broadley, H. B.
Cavendish, Rt. Hon. Victor C. W.Hills, J. W.TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir
Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-Hunt, RowlandFrederick Banbury and
Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham)Lowe, Sir Francis WilliamMr. Rawlinson.
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.Magnus, Sir Philip
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)

moved to omit from the operation of Clause 3, carriages drawn by four horses. At present there were four-horse coaches running out of London, and he thought they should be exempted. The Amendment did not touch the object of the Bill, and by accepting it they would preserve what he thought hon. Members were anxious to preserve, namely, four-horse coaches on the road.

seconded the Amendment. Amendment proposed—

"In page 2, line 27, after the word 'carriages' to insert the words 'not drawn by four horses.'"—(Sir F. Banbury.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

said he was sure all hon. Members sympathised with the proposal of the hon. Baronet. He would be glad to accept the Amendment if it were necessary, but four-horse coaches would not come under the clause. The clause was necessary because it had been found that inadequate and inferior motor 'buses were plying for hire outside London and running into London. Under the law as it stood these motor 'buses were not subject to the law which applied to motor 'buses running in London. Unless this clause was passed, London would be worse protected than at present in regard to the worst type of motor 'buses. It was not possible to accept the Amendment. As the hon. Baronet knew, additional horses were sometimes put in a coach to drive to Kew, and if the Amendment were adopted, they would be excluded from the operation of the clause.

said that within the police area they had already to put on numbers. His objection applied, for instance, to those who ran outside the police area, say, to Kew. He was quite aware that the powers were only permissive, but once a regulation of this kind was passed there would be exemptions.

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said his hon. friend was wrong. These coaches would not have to be exempted. They would be excluded unless the clause was applied to them. And there was not the slightest intention of applying the clause to them. With all respect to the hon. Baronet, he preferred the law which he was advised was the law rather than the law which the hon. Baronet thought was actually the law. Amendment negatived.

said he wished to ask Mr. Speaker's ruling on an Amendment which appeared on the paper in his name. The Orders of the Day were run through very rapidly, and at the time when this Bill was reached he was having his dinner. He hoped that was not an unreasonable thing, having regard to the labours they had been undergoing during the last two or three days. He hastened as well as he possibly could, but when he returned to the House he found that his Amendment, which was the first, had been reached and passed over. He had arranged with a Ministerialist to move the clause standing in his name, but it was not allowed. He wanted to know whether he could move that clause even now, though the Amendments to the Bill had been gone through. He submitted that it did not matter when a new clause should be moved.

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The clause must perish in order that the hon. Member may dine. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a third time." Question put, and agreed to.

said he did not propose to divide, but he hoped that the assurances which the right hon. Gentleman had given would be made effective; and that he would notify them to the Scotland Yard authorities. Bill read the third time, and passed.