HC Deb 12 March 1835 vol 26 cc880-4
Mr. Alderman

Wood moved the second reading of the Smith field market improvement Bill.

Mr. Handley

felt it due to his constituents and to the farmers and graziers of the country, generally, to oppose the measure. Though the hon. Member was the patron and the successful advocate of the privileges of the Corporation of London he did not expect he would have had the hardihood to move the second reading of a Bill of this nature, not on account of its own intrinsic merits, but in reference to another Bill—the Islington Market Bill. In the body of the Bill moved by the worthy Alderman there was a clause, which went to impose on the graziers of the kingdom who sent stock to London additional tolls, for no other purpose but the aggrandizement of the property of the Corporation of London, and the perpetuation of an admitted nuisance. He believed that since 1800, the Corporation had been before Parliament with bills for the improvement of this market. In the year 1809 a Committee was appointed on the subject, and that Committee recommended the removal of the market to the nearest and most convenient situation, where a space of not less than twelve acres could be appropriated to it. Among the names affixed to that Report he found the respectable, influential, but not consistent name, of Matthew Wood. The worthy Alderman had talked of the opinion of farmers and graziers being in favour of retaining the market in its present site. Now, he supposed that Mr. Coke of Norfolk, would be acknowledged to be an authority on such a point. Mr. Coke had given his opinion against the proposition for the enlargement of the market, on the ground that it would only per- petuate the existing nuisances. The Bill which he (Mr. Handley) had brought forward last Session for the establishment of a market at Islington, and which he should again introduce this Session, he had brought forward on the grounds of public utility. He had no personal acquaintance with the individual who had projected that market, and the fact was that he had never met him but once, and that accidentally. With regard to the present Smithfield-market, he would state, from his own experience, having paid some visits there through curiosity, as well as on business, and having witnessed the most disgusting scenes of brutality and ill-treatment towards the cattle, that it was a perfect nuisance. The worthy Alderman had talked of the decisive evidence given before the Committee last Session, and certainly some of the witnesses exhibited decision enough in their testimony. A butcher from Sheerness had the unblushing effrontery to state in his evidence, that the bullocks which he bought in Smithfield on Monday, and drove down to Sheerness, a distance of fifty miles, on Tuesday evening, were fresher than if he had bought them in some of the neighbouring markets. Even if the market should be enlarged to the extent this Bill proposed it would be still far too small for the purpose. But what right had the Corporation of London to tax the graziers and agriculturists to defray the expense of that enlargement? They would not submit to such an imposition. When he again introduced the Islington Market Bill, he would again state to the House the reasons which in his opinion, called for such an improvement. At present he would content himself with moving, trusting that the House would stop this Bill at once in its progress, that it be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. Williams

wished to ask the probable amount of the expense of the proposed market, and in what manner it was to be raised. [Mr. Alderman Wood. "It is estimated at 100,000l., of that sum 50,000l. would be provided by the Corporation, and the remainder it is proposed to raise by a toll on all cattle exhibited for sale in the market."] Then as a member of the Corporation of the City of London, he felt called upon to oppose the second reading of the Bill on the ground of the enormous expense that would necessarily be entailed on that body, in the event of its passing. During the last thirty-five years there had not been less than eleven applications to Parliament on the part of the Corporation for enlarging and improving Smithfield-market. On all those occasions it had been satisfactorily proved that the present site of the market could not be enlarged so as to answer its purposes. The worthy Alderman had told them that 50,000l. was to come out of the funds of the Corporation. Now where, he would ask, would they find this 50,000l., for it appeared from a recent report of theirs, that they were deficient 20,000l. on the expenditure of the last year? The worthy Alderman, no doubt, would represent the funds of the Corporation as being of great extent; but he could assure the House that they were of a very limited description, except as arising from taxes upon the public. The revenue of the Corporation might be stated at 400,000l., of which only 48,000l. came out of the estates of the Corporation, the remainder being derived from taxes on the citizens. He had seen so much market jobbing in the City of London, that he must deprecate the idea of the Corporation having anything to do with the management of this market. He was told that the estimated expense for enlarging Smithfield-market would be 100,000l., but they had no means of ascertaining what the actual expense would be. The expenses of the Corporation had always exceeded their estimates in such matters. In the case of Farringdon-market the estimated expense of the building was 150,000l. whereas the removal alone amounted to that sum, and it cost altogether, no less than 250,000l. How was this additional sum raised? The Corporation, seeing that they had not sufficient money, placed a new tax upon coals. The profit to the Corporation derived from Farringdon market was last year but 4l. 15s. 5d., and next year it would be a loss to the City, since the expenditure would be more than the receipts. To purchase the site of some houses in Farringdon-street the Corporation expended the sum of 27,000l., and to the inhabitants of those houses 18,200l. was given as a recompense for their loss in trade, whereas it was afterwards proved that those persons suffered no loss, since their trade produced them no profits. If the costs for improving the present market were now stated at 100,000l., he was sure that the ultimate expense would be upwards of 150,000l. He would therefore oppose the second reading of the Bill.

Mr. Alderman Wood

regretted that the hon. Member for Coventry had thought it necessary to amuse the House with a sort of statement such as he had been in the constant habit of making in the Common Council of London, and to which appropriate sphere it had better have been confined. As to the expense of Farringdon-market, the fact was, that juries had given such extravagant verdicts of compensation, that it was impossible to confine the undertaking within the ordinary calculation. Another great improvement had, however, been effected, with a saving of, perhaps, 200,000l. or 300,000l.: he alluded to London-bridge, and its approaches, upon which not less than a million of money had been most advantageously expended. So important had the Duke of Wellington considered this work, that he had actually kept Parliament sitting, when the Members would fain have gone into the country, because he was anxious to see the Bill passed for its completion. Many had been the attempts of the City of London to enlarge and improve Smithfield-market, and at one time the plan was to carry it only, perhaps, a quarter of a mile further than at present, to an open space near Sadler's Wells. That project had, however, with others, been defeated, and the scheme now seemed to be to remove it to a swamp at a considerable distance, which could scarcely be drained, and to which there was only one road. If removal were necessary surely it would be much better not to remove it so far, especially when a space quite sufficient for the purpose could be found much nearer the present site. He was aware that his hon. Friend (Mr. Handley) was alarmed for the fate of the Bill he had introduced, because last year he had been completely beaten in the Committee as the evidence was all against his scheme. His hon. Friend had alluded to the authority of Mr. Coke, not recollecting that that venerable authority had retracted his opinion in favour of a change, and had declared that on looking at the question in all its bearings he found no situation so good as that of Smithfield. In the Committee the testimony of persons who sold fifty or sixty beasts, and a proportionate number of sheep in the week, was opposed to the evidence of men who only sold five or six beasts in the week. The hon. Member had complained that 50,000l. was to be raised by an additional toll. What was that toll? Twopence instead of 1d. per head, and yet by his own Bill of last year 4d. was to have been paid if the beast remained in the market a certain time, and the whole charge might amount to 1s. per head. When the new Post-office was erected the Corporation of London might have sold the site of Smithfield-market for 190,000l. and the ground on which the building stood actually cost 150,000l., half of which was paid by the City. But besides the 50,000l. to be raised, as he had said, by a toll of 2d. per head, the Corporation was about to expend a very large sum of its own money, equal in amount to that obtained by the toll. All the Corporation wanted was, that the public should be duly accommodated, which it most certainly would not be by removing the market to a spot of ground at a great distance, and merely purchased by a speculator in the hope of prevailing upon Parliament to pass a Bill to abolish the present market.

Mr. Thomas Duncombe

The worthy Alderman had stated that the site of the new market was a swamp. All he would say in reply to the observation was, that its site was many feet higher than that of Smithfield.

The House divided: Ayes 27; Noes 142—Majority 115. Bill thrown out.

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