HC Deb 17 April 1826 vol 15 cc265-9

On bringing up the report of this bill,

Sir T. Baring

said, he felt it to be his duty to enter his protest against this unwarrantable and uncalled-for measure. Its chief effect would be, to increase the number of retail dealers in corn, to the evident injury of those who had already embarked in that trade. That, however, was not the principal ground on which he founded his opposition. His great objection to the bill was, that it would interfere with the private rights of individuals—with the rights of those who were the possessors of the present Corn Exchange—without adequately remunerating them. The individuals who had formed this project might build a corn exchange where they pleased, but they had no right to throw down buildings which belonged to the occupiers of the existing Exchange. Who were the parties with whom this plan originated? They were, in fact, a joint-stock association, and they set this scheme on foot, as likely to be a speculation of a profitable nature. They asserted that a new exchange was greatly wanted. Now, he was disposed to doubt the correctness of that statement, as he believed the sale of corn had not increased within the last twenty or thirty years. He should therefore move "That the report be received this day six months."

Mr. Hume

seconded the motion. The present measure was, he said, one of those instances of interference with private property that ought to be resisted by the House. He had not attended the committee, but having seen their proceedings since they had closed their labours, he was sure, from what had transpired in the course of the inquiry, that the House would not tolerate this invasion of private property. The bill went to take from the present proprietors their property in the Corn Exchange, without any guarantee that another would be built. This was granting to the projectors a right which no persons ought to possess. If the present Corn Exchange was not large enough, he had no objection to allow a new one to be built by any body of individuals; but as no complaint had been made of the old Corn Exchange, he wished that to be suffered to remain also.

Sir E. Brydges

supported the measure on the score of public utility. It was said, that the present Exchange was private property; but if it were, it differed essentially from other private property, because it was devoted to public purposes. He hoped that the report would be received now.

Mr. T. Wilson

said, it had been asserted by the supporters of this measure, that corn would sell better in a large market than in a small one. If this were so, and if the present corn market were not sufficiently spacious, let the parties enlarge it, or build another elsewhere. The existing corn market was built by private parties for their use and convenience, and the business had been carried on there very prosperously for a great many years. This measure, he thought, interfered with private rights as much as any measure could possibly do. He believed that the sale of corn by commission had decreased, instead of having increased, of late years; and, that therefore, there could be no necessity for a new market. The effect of this bill would be, to turn out those who were in possession of the old market, and to allow the projectors to replace them by any persons they pleased. At present, the rent of a stand was 10l. a year; but if this measure succeeded, no doubt 20l. or 30l. a year would be charged; which would be an excellent speculation for those who formed the plan.

Mr. H. Sumner

expressed himself friendly to the bill. A new corn exchange was very much wanted. The present corn market was a joint-stock company concern, seventy-five years ago, when the consumption of corn could not have been near so great as it was at present. He believed the increased growth and importation of that article considerably exceeded the increase of the population, and required this new market. The present market was quite inadequate for the sale of corn; and the place opposite to it was equally so. In consequence of the want of necessary accommodation, the street in which the market stood was frequently rendered impassable. It was said, that this was an uncalled-for invasion of private property. He did not view it in that light; but even if it were considered as private property, this interference was rendered necessary for a public object. They were told that the new proprietors would, under this bill, go and turn out the old proprietors. It was no such thing. They said, "We will build a market by the side of yours; and we will, for the purpose of making a communication between the two markets, take down as much of your wall as admits of four stands, at the annual rent of 40l. a year, for which we will make full reparation." It was also stipulated, that the new proprietors should, at the option of the old, take the whole of the market, if the latter desired it. He was decidedly of opinion that the House ought to give its assent to this measure.

Mr. Curteis

thought there was great necessity for a new market; and therefore he should support the bill.

Sir Robert Wilson

said, that a most respectable corn dealer had, in his evidence, pointed out the impossibility of carrying on business in the present state of the market, and it had come out in the course of the inquiry, that a bye-law had been framed by the society, or joint-stock company, who held the Exchange, by which they excluded from participating in this corn trade, every person except corn factors. The corn factors had thus elected themselves into a body, who were to mete out to the public whatever quantity of corn they thought fit, under their own regulations, and at their own price. That this was a monopoly, and a very profitable one, was apparent from this fact—that though the premises were not worth more than 10,000l. the good-will was estimated at 60,000l.; and the proprietors actually called for that indemnity, if the market were affected by this measure. Those who required this bill, were anxious that the present proprietors should throw open the market to the corn dealer generally, and give sufficient accommodation for transacting business. They did not wish to keep possession of the whole, but to have a place allotted to them where they might have the same advantages as were enjoyed by the corn factors. That was refused. Then they said to the old proprietors, "If you will not do that, let the city, or the government of the country, take the matter up. We are not anxious to pay our money. Let the government of the country advance the money on the usual terms, and let a new market be erected." This proposal appeared to be as disagreeable to the old proprietors as the other. The new proprietors then said, "Let us have access to the old market by a passage. All we ask is ingress and egress to those premises which we are about to build, through your market." This was also refused, although a full indemnification for any loss was offered. The new proprietors then asked for a facade. "Let the portico," said they, "run round the market, and we will raise a building contiguous to it; so that the doors of the two buildings will be under the same portico." This was likewise refused. In short, he never before heard of such a series of refusals connected with a matter of public utility. What did the persons who called for this bill say? They said, "We want another market; and if you, the old proprietors, refuse to grant what we require, and we are compelled, under this bill, to take your market, let the value of the premises be assessed by a jury, and we will pay you even 60,000l., if they are estimated at that sum, and that, too, before a single stone of the building is touched." This was perfectly fair. The bill, too, it should be recollected, was only for a limited period; and if the new building were not built in the course of twelve months, and the money for indemnity, whether 10,000l. or 60,000l., paid, its provisions would be null and void. Those who were hostile to this measure were not opposing the projectors of the bill, but the general benefit of the public at large.

Mr. Calcraft

said, that the object of this bill was, to take by force the property of individuals; and, in order to put a face upon the matter, those individuals were calumniated as monopolists. That was the charge against them. Now, he suspected that the other parties were the monopolists; because, if they intended fair competition, they would leave the old Corn Exchange to compete with the new one. If this were done, he could understand what his gallant friend meant when he spoke of benefitting the public. The old proprietors only said, "Leave us as we are, and we will compete with you; but pray do not take away our property." What would the Bank of England say, if, at the end of their charter, a body of individuals declared, "We want to set up a bank to upset your monopoly; but we will not only do that, but insist on having your premises?" The Bank would make answer, "Leave us as we are. You may set up a bank in the most commodious place for the benefit of the public, and we will compete with you; let there be two banks, but leave our premises alone." This was his view of the case. He could not agree to this infraction of private right, to serve any set of speculators.

Sir E. Knatchbull

defended the character of those with whom this measure originated. It was admitted on all hands, that the present market was most inconvenient; and those individuals had taken the only method of remedying the inconvenience. But it was said, "cannot you build elsewhere?" It would, indeed, be speculating with a vengeance if they came to the west end of the town to erect a corn-market. These individuals had fixed upon the only place where the corn business could be efficiently carried on. If this bill was defeated, the building would still go on; but there would be no communication between the two markets, and the greatest possible inconvenience would be the consequence.

Mr. Alderman Wood

said, there could be no doubt that it would be very inconvenient to the promoters of this new market if the bill should not pass, as they had already purchased the ground for it close to the old one; but that was no valid reason why those who held private property should be compelled to surrender their rights. He, however, wished to see the matter amicably arranged; as he was of opinion, that there ought to be an enlarged market; but, he trusted parliament would not encourage an invasion of private property, especially as there was no charge brought against the individuals who would be affected by it.

The House then divided: For bringing up the Report 76; Against it 27. Majority 49.