HC Deb 03 May 1830 vol 24 cc340-5
Mr. Hobhouse

wished to ask the noble Lord opposite whether it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to grant the public access to St. James's Park by Waterloo-place? He had on a former occasion stated, that if they did not do so, he should feel it his duty to move an address to the Crown. Existing circumstances prevented him from carrying that now into effect, but although deferred for the present, it should assuredly be fulfilled in the event of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests persevering in their determination. That public works should be exempted from public inspection, was a principle at once unconstitutional, unjustifiable, and repugnant to common sense. It was in the highest degree absurd, to pretend that Government should peremptorily decide on the mode in which the public works of a great and powerful metropolis, like London, were to be carried on, without any reference to the opinions or wishes of the inhabitants. Were their complaints to be silenced with the answer, that they were not entitled to exercise any control over matters in which they were so essentially interested,—that this was not a fit subject for interference or inquiry, but should be left to the responsibility of men in office? He quite agreed with the hon. member for Cricklade, in thinking that a fairer question could not be laid before a committee, and he should vote with him accordingly. The object, however, which he had more immediately in view, was the entrance to St. James's Park, already alluded to, with respect to which he would put it to the candour of the noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests, whether the public had not at least been under an impression that the privilege required was guaranteed and ensured to them by former declarations? Since the subject had been last discussed, he had carefully examined what the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Arbuthnot) were represented to have said on the occasion referred to, and their expressions appeared to him to justify and induce the expectation that it was intended to grant such access to the park as the public now demanded, in which opinion several other hon. Gentlemen decidedly concurred. But even admitting that the imputed promise had never been conveyed, was the fact conclusive upon a question such as this? These parks were created for the purpose, it was true, of adding dignity and beauty to the palace in which the Sovereign resided; but they were equally intended for the enjoyment, the salubrity, and the comfort of the metropolis over which he reigned. It was truly not a little extraordinary, that the hints which had been already thrown out should have proved so ineffectual in the quarter where it was hoped they would have found a somewhat different reception. But architectural extravagancies and whimsical projects of perverted taste, or unthrifty ostentation, had superseded the remonstrances of the public. One day a square palace was to be pulled down, and the next a round one must be erected. In the words of the poet— Diruit, ædificat, mutat quadrata rotundis. If the wishes of the public should not be respected, he was fully resolved to persevere in his purpose, and move an address to the Crown upon the subject, as soon as he could do so with propriety. The parks were virtually the property of the people of the metropolis, and were only by courtesy considered as appurtenances of the Crown. They paid for them, and possessed, therefore, the best right to their enjoyment. Under such circumstances, it was sufficiently vexatious to see so arbitrary a violation of their privileges united to the manifest disfigurement of an ornamental part of the city. Thousands of loads of earth—he did not know how many—were collected into a mass, for no other apparent purpose except to deform and render unsightly what was otherwise magnificent and grand. Pall-mall and the Park were now sunk out of all proportion, while the stately old trees were diminished, as had been well observed in the news- paper, to the appearance of stunted goose-berry-bushes, out of keeping with the scenery around them. One part of the improvements, falsely so called, was to render a fine street a receptacle for filth and nastiness, for Pall-mall had been converted into what he might call a ditch for Regent-street. Old columns, which had been hitherto gracefully disposed in their proper places, were now so located, as at every step to remind one of the Italian's exclamation on seeing the columns at Carlton-House, Belle colonne! che fatevi qui? It had been alleged that some gentlemen who had purchased large houses on the terrace were unfavourable to the wished-for entrance, and had exerted themselves to prevent its being accomplished. This representation, however, was the reverse of the truth, as he had had the honour to receive letters from some of those respectable individuals, expressing themselves equally anxious with their fellow-citizens that this access to the Park might be permitted. When the time came that he could move an address to the Crown without impropriety, he repeated, it was his determined resolution to do so. To those who said that he was making much ado about a trifle—the erection of a gateway—he would reply in the words of a celebrated nobleman, when there was a project on foot for excluding the public altogether from the parks, and who being asked what would be the expense, replied—"that it would not cost above three Crowns."

Mr. R. Gordon

then moved, that the vote should be 10,000l., to be taken on account, and that the item should be referred to a committee of inquiry above stairs.

A conversation ensued as to the form of proceeding.

Sir J. Newport

said, he could see no objection to the items being deferred to a future occasion, on the same principle that the preamble to a bill was disposed of.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that the present case, and that of the preamble of a bill, were not at all similar. The preamble of a bill was postponed for the purpose of passing it after the clauses of the bill had been discussed and agreed to; but no other opportunity might be afforded for passing a resolution in the Committee of Supply, if it were once passed over. Adverting to the vote itself, as compared with that of 1829, he maintained that the arrangements which had been made by Government had been productive of a large saving of the public money, amounting to above 5,000l. Part of the expense complained of arose from the improvements at the Banqueting-hall, Whitehall, which were rendered necessary by the dilapidated state of the building. He would repeat then, what he had stated on a former occasion, namely—that all the recent alterations in the park had been made with a view to the public benefit, and that no indisposition existed on the part of the official authorities to promote still further the public convenience. Till the hon. member for Westminster's intended motion on the subject was substantively before the House, he should abstain from entering more fully into detail. On that occasion, he was confident he should convince hon. Members that there existed no just ground of complaint on the part of the public, on account of the recent alterations in the park, which did not curtail the privileges of the public.

Mr. R. Gordon

had heard the vaunts of the right hon. Gentleman, that the public interest had not been overlooked in the plan of the improvements still in progress in St. James's-park with no little surprise; for one might infer, from the right hon. Gentleman's tone, that permission to frequent the parks was conferred by the Crown on the public as a boon. He begged leave to ask the right hon. Gentleman, who paid for the improvements in the parks? Was it not the public? He would further ask, who had a right to have their interests considered in the plan of those improvements, if not that public which paid for them? Within the last five years, he repeated, not less than 125,000l. had been expended in the mere repairs of public works—a sum which neither that House, nor the public, would complain of, if any visible advantage could be pointed out as a result of the expenditure.

Mr. Arbuthnot

begged leave to remind the Committee, that he had, in his evidence before the committee on public works, of which the hon. member for Dorsetshire was chairman, stated, that an ingress by a flight of steps, or otherwise, into the park from Pall-mall, constituted no part of the plan of the recent alterations in the neighbourhood of the site of Carlton Palace. While he stated this he was free to admit that he also added, that no indisposition existed in the minds of those who acted under the Treasury to consult public convenience by having such an ingress. He was sure that his right hon. friend had not meant to say, that the public had not a right to frequent the parks—and to share in all the recreations that were purchased by public money. It was his wish, when he undertook the improvements of the parks, to obtain for the public, every possible accommodation; but he was not at liberty to promise, that the opening required should be made.

Sir M. W. Ridley

could also inform the Committee, that no promise had been given by the Government, that a passage should be made for the public in the place alluded to by hon. Members. It was, on the contrary, expressly stipulated in the leases of the houses which had been erected on the line of terrace from Carlton-gardens towards St. James's Palace, that no thoroughfare of the kind mentioned, public or private, should be permitted into the Park at the cud of Waterloo-place. And when a private entrance was proposed, it was very properly refused, on the ground that if there should be any ingress at that place it should be one for the public. There were circumstances of a peculiar nature connected with the matter at present, which must operate to prevent any further proceedings in it on the part of the Woods and Forests. He need not do more than allude to those circumstances, as every hon. Member, he was sure, understood what he meant. With respect to the hon. member for Westminster's animadversions on the present arrangements in St. James's-park, all he should say was, that they formed no part of the plan of the architect, and that the blame—for at least some of the defects complained of—lay with the Treasury.

Mr. Hume

suggested the propriety of postponing the vote, on the ground that it was contrary to a recommendation of the Finance Committee—that no residences should be allowed to public functionaries, except they were essential to their duly discharging their public duty. If the expenditure of the public money in public works were properly inquired into, he was sure it would be found that not less than a half or even three-fourths of the sum laid out in official residences might be advantageously saved to the public.

Mr. Protheroe

wished then to say, that there was great room for improvement in the arrangements concerning the Records. There was a valuable collection at no great distance from that House that was at any time liable to be destroyed by fire.

Lord Milton

was surprised to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the doctrine that the public had no right to dictate or interfere with the arrangements of the Crown property. Such doctrine was by no means in keeping with the principles which led the House of Brunswick to the Throne of this Realm, and could only be acted on when feudal usages were those by which the Monarch held and managed the Crown property. He maintained that constitutionally the people had as much right to interfere with the present arrangements in the Park as with that of any other portion of what was called Crown property, from which the Crown derived no revenue, and which, in fact, belonged to the public. He admitted that the greatest deference was due to the comforts conveniences and wishes of the Monarch, but he could never allow it to be asserted unconradicted in his presence, that the public had not a full and complete right to exercise whatever control might be necessary over all the property of the Crown.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

did not deny the right of the public in the sense alluded to by the noble Lord, and only contended that a certain decorous deference was due to the Crown in the management of the Crown property.

Lord Milton

expressed himself satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's explanation.

Mr. Hobhouse

, in reply to what had fallen from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, begged to say, that whether a passage into the Park from Waterloo-place were or were not a part of the original plan, a passage had been actually made which was subsequently closed up, as every hon. Member might any day satisfy himself. The matter, however, was then at the disposal of the Committee; let it vote in a majority against the grant as it stood, and the Park would be thrown open; if did not, the promises which had been made to the country, on which some persons had actually set about building, would be unfulfilled.

The Committee divided.

The numbers were—for the Resolution 139; Against it 123,—Majority in favour of the Resolution 16.

List of the Minority.
Althorp, Lord Brougham H.
Baring, F. Brownlow, C.
Baring, B. Burden, Sir F.
Bastard, C. P. Calvert, C.
Bankes, H. Carter, B.
Belgrave, Lord Calthorpe, Hon. F. G.
Bernal, R. Cavendish, W.
Bentinck, Lord G. Clive, E. B.
Birch, J. Clements, Lord
Clinton, F. Morpeth, Lord
Cholmeley, M. J. Nugent, Lord
Colborne, N. R. Newport, Sir J.
Cripps, J. Osborne, Lord F.
Crompton, S. Ord, W.
Davenport, E. D. O'Connell, D.
Dawson, A. Parnell, Sir H.
Davies, Colonel Palmer, F.
Denison, W. Pendarvis, E. W.
Dickinson, W. Palmer, R.
Dundas, Hon. T. Poyntz, W. S.
Easthope, J. Power, R.
Ebrington, Lord Ponsonby, Hon. G.
Ellison, C. Pryse, P.
Euston, Lord Price, Sir R.
Fane, J. Philips, G. R.
Fergusson, R. C. Protheroe, E.
Fazakerley, I. N. Rumbold, C.
Fitzgibbon, Colonel Rancliffe, Lord
French, A. Rickford, W.
Fyler, T. B. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Gordon, R. Robarts, A.
Grattan, J. Robinson, Sir G.
Graham, Sir J. Rochford, G.
Guise, Sir W. Sibthorp, Colonel
Guest, J. J. Smith, V.
Harvey, D. W. Smith, W.
Howard, H. Sykes, D.
Howick, Lord Stewart, Lord J.
Honywood, W. P. Taylor, M. A.
Hobhouse, J. C. Tomes, J.
Hulse, Sir C. Trant, W. H.
Ingilby, Sir W. Thomson, P.
Jephson, C. D. O. Tufton, Hon. H.
Knight, R. Vaughan, Sir R.
Knatchbull, Sir E. Vyvyan, Sir R.
Kennedy, T. F. Warburton, H.
Kekewich, S. T. Western, C. C.
Killeen, Lord Westenra, Hon. H. R.
Lamb, Hon. G. Webb, E.
Langston, J. H. Wilson, Sir R.
Lambert, J. S. Wilbraham, G.
Lennard, T. B. Williams, O.
Labouchere, H. Whitbread, W.
Lawley, F. White, Colonel
Lester, B. Wood, C.
Marshall W. Wrottesley, Sir J.
Maberly, John TELLERS.
Maitland, E. F. Hume, J.
Maxwell, J. Dawson, G. R. PAIRED OFF.
Martin, John
Marjoribanks, S. Portman, E. B.
Macdonald, Sir J. Waithman, Alderman
Mildmay Paulet,
Mostyn, Sir T. Wood, J.
Monck, J. B. Sebright, Sir J. S.

7,000l. for the works executing at Port Patrick Harbour,

8,000l. for the works executing at Donaghadee Harbour,

20,000l. for carrying on the works at the Royal Harbour of George the Fourth, at Kingstown were also voted.