HC Deb 04 May 1836 vol 33 cc608-11

Mr. Buckingham moved, that the Public Walks' Bill be read a second time, and was proceeding to answer some objections that had been made in a previous stage. He thought it would guard against all danger of malpractices, under the power proposed to be given by this Bill, if it were provided, that there were not less than fifty householders in a town signed a requisition for the Mayor to call a meeting, he should thereupon be empowered to summon one for the purposes specified in the Bill. He proposed that a majority of thirty should be necessary to give effect to any resolution they might adopt, and that such meeting should have power to levy a rate in furtherance of such objects, not exceeding 6d. in the pound on all household property in the town.

Mr. Tooke

said, he felt it his duty to take the sense of the House on this measure. It appeared to him that a Bill which enacted that a compulsory assessment of 6d. in the pound should be levied on all the rate-payers in a town in which fifty only of those rate-payers were favourable to the object in view, ought to receive more consideration and greater attention before it received the sanction of that House. He supposed that the regulations under the Bill were to be superintended by the master of the ceremonies in the different towns; for the measure provided that the inhabitants should be divided into different classes, who were to be expected to abstain from all irritating language, and to indulge only in their potations. In fact nothing could be more ridiculous or absurd than the proposed regulations; and he, for one, could not consent to trifle with legislation on such a subject. He would, therefore, move as an amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. Gaily Knight

Having been much in foreign countries, having been struck as the hon. Member for Sheffield, with the advantages derived by those countries from their public walks, and being equally desirous that my own country should possess the same advantages, I take pleasure in giving my cordial support to this motion. I have seen how great a source of health and recreation public walks are to the people of other countries, and I earnestly desire that the same advantages should be possessed by the people of England. But, Sir, whilst, equally with the hon. Member for Sheffield, I desire the advantage for the sake of the lower orders, I do not stop there; I desire it equally for the sake of all classes of the inhabitants of our provincial towns, not only because it will be a source of health and pleasure to all, but because I desire that the different classes should have as many points of union as possible; for the more they see of each other, the more they will be united. Sir, I am convinced that when the operatives of this metropolis, released from their daily toil by the blessed institution of the Sabbath (for it is a blessed institution) catch a sight in our parks of that aristocracy which they will never be taught, because they will never have reason, to hate, I am convinced that it gives them a pleasure the more, and I know from experience that those who are more favoured by fortune derive an. heartfelt satisfaction from the sight of the happy faces of their more humble brethren, when taking advantage of the holyday which is provided for them by our great example, they wander abroad and at large, and inhale health and enjoyment at every breath. On those occasions all classes rejoice together, and I am convinced that on those occasions as devout aspirations of thankfulness and gratitude rise from the heart of man to the Throne of God, as in the holiest places at the holiest times. Sir, it is to provide more frequent opportunities for such re-unions, and such aspirations, that I desire public walks; and, Sir, there is another way in which I think they would be conducive to the improvement of the health and morals of the people. I think they would assist in detaching the lower orders from that besetting failing from which the lower orders in other countries are comparatively free, principally, I verily believe, because they have been long in possession of public walks, and other means of innocent recreation. Sir, if we could do anything to detach the people of England from the failing of inebriety we should be doing them more good than by the repeal of any tax; and here, Sir, I cannot help remarking how much credit the hon. Member for Sheffield deserves for his steady and strenuous promotion of Temperance Societies, which, in these respects, have proved so efficacious. Sir, if we could detach the operative classes of this country from the besetting failing to which I have alluded, we should be most instrumental to their health and happiness, and enable them to eat the bread of independence in their latter years. For I am happy to say, the operatives of this country are now in the receipt of such good wages, that could they only acquire regular habits, it would be in every man's power to provide himself with a nest egg in the saving's bank. As one cure of inebriety I recommend the adoption of this measure. To gin-palaces I would oppose public walks. Sir, the arguments I have used in favour of this measure equally apply to the second Bill, which is about to be brought forward by the hon. Member for Sheffield. Public libraries and scientific institutions are no less desirable in our provincial towns than public walks; for, Sir, in these days, when men's minds are on the stir, the more opportunities we afford them of intellectual occupation and intellectual improvement, the more shall we contribute to the benefit and happiness of all.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

was not opposed to the Bill; but he was opposed to proceeding in so thin a House, with any measure, one of the provisions of which went to impose a tax upon the people.

House counted out.