HC Deb 21 March 1837 vol 37 cc678-81
Sir T. Fremantle

presented a petition against the Great Western Railway Bill. Nothing could be more dangerous than where two railways crossed each other, as fatal consequences might ensue from two trains, proceeding with great rapidity, coming in contact. It was against this that the petition particularly prayed.

Mr. Hall

begged to ask the hon. Member opposite, whether the sums of 23,000l. and 7,000l., which were to be paid to the Bishop of London, were intended as compensation for the land to be occupied by the railway, and which he understood to be public property?

Mr. Tooke

was in a situation to state, that the bishop was only a joint occupier in the land, and had only a one-third interest. He could assure the House, that the bishop had not received one shilling as fine or compensation—all the benefit he had derived was in common with the others, and merely as an increased rent.

Mr. Thomas Duncombe

could not consider, that he was discharging his duty if he did not call the attention of the House to a circumstance which had taken place in the Committee on this Bill. In the observations he was about to make he begged the House distinctly to understand, that he had no connexion, either directly or indirectly, with the Company. On the contrary, he thought, that the extension of the line of this railway would be productive of great public good, and he hoped it would be attended with a proportionate advantage to the Company. The facts of what occurred before the Committee were, that four miles being proposed to be added to the Great Western Railway, coining up to Paddington, it would have to go through the Paddington estate belonging to the see of London. To complete these four miles of railway several little cottages, besides those which had already been pulled down, would have to be removed, and on those cottages which held leases under the Bishop of London coming before the Committee for compensation, Mr. Harrison, on behalf of the Bishop, resisted their claim. He thought the petitioners ought to be heard. A discussion took place in the Committee upon the subject, and it was ultimately decided, that the petitioners should be heard, and that Mr. Austin should defend their claims to compensation. Upon this the promoters of the Bill and the Bishop of London instantly turned round, and said there was no necessity for the case of the petitioners being advocated, as the Bishop of London had a sufficient sum of money to give them adequate compensation. Upon this Mr. Austin withdrew his opposition. The engineer was then called, and asked what amount it would require to complete the line of four miles? He answered, about 250,000l., and that 175,000l. of that would have to be appropriated for the purchase of land. He was then asked, what proportion of that amount the Bishop of London would receive in order to enable him to give adequate compensation to the cottagers? The learned counsel for the Bishop of London refused to answer that question, declaring that it was one that ought not to be put, for the agreement related to private property. Now, the question was, whether Church property was to be considered private or public property. Before the Committee he maintained, that the land in question was public property, and that therefore it did not come within the rule which had been stated by the counsel. An hon. Gentleman then jumped up and said, "I dispute your premises. Church property is not public property, and therefore you have no right to put the question to the Bishop." He then divided the Committee; they were six to two against him, and the question was not put. He now, therefore, contended, that the investigation before the Committee was crippled in a manner it ought not to have been. There was a sum of money to be paid to the Bishop for the land, to the great prejudice of the public; and he thought the conduct that had been pursued on the part of a great public functionary like the Bishop of London would have a very bad appearance with the House and the public. The hon. Member concluded by moving, that the Bill be re-committed, with an instruction to the Committee to inquire into the grounds on which the Bishop of London had agreed to dispose of the land to the Great Western Railway.

Mr. Wason

seconded the motion.

Mr. Hawes

imagined there never was such a reason given for opposing a private Bill as that which had been assigned by the hon. Member for Finsbury, and, to come to a decision on this question, the House would have to decide whether Church property was public property or not. The Bill was to be re-committed, in order that the hon. Member for Finsbury might put one single question. He (Mr. Hawes) begged to put in his disclaimer as to any interest, directly or indirectly, in this or any other railway, but he thought he should be able to show from the enacting clauses of the Bill itself that there was not the slightest foundation for opposing its further progress. It was provided that the 30,000l. should be appropriated in sums of 23,000l. and 7,000l. to the Bishop and trustees, and it was made lawful for the Bishop and trustees to receive the same only for discharging the mortgages or other liabilities affecting the land. He was as decided an advocate for the cottagers as the hon. Member for Finsbury, but it was admitted on all hands that they had no legal claim to compensation, and therefore, he thought it better for them to raise up some equitable question, in order to procure for them some remuneration. The question of compensation, however, had nothing to do with the case; and he trusted the House would not stop the further progress of a measure which the hon. Gentleman who brought forward the motion for the re-commitment of the Bill, admitted to be of great public importance.

Mr. Harvey

said, that his attention had been called to this subject, and the question was, would this House interfere to protect poor people who had not the means of protecting themselves?—It appeared by the deed which referred to the property in question, that the Bishop of London demised certain lands to the parties alluded to for a period of seven years, and it further appeared that the lessors were to give three months' notice to the lessees should they at any time require the land for building purposes. Now, laying aside the question whether Church property was public property, the question which the House had to consider was, is a railroad a house? The parties in question had consented to the three months' notice to leave their premises, if the land were required for building purposes. This was a voluntary contract, and they must be bound by it; but the land was now required for a railway, a circumstance which could not have been anticipated by any party, when the contract had been entered into. This being the case, the parties in question felt that they had a beneficial interest which ought to be protected, and that they ought not to be swept away without compensation. It was said that the sum of 7,000l. had been deposited with the Bishop of London wherewith to pay all just demands; but the petitioners were simple men, who entertained the vulgar notion that the Church grasped its possessions with peculiar tenacity, and that it might be no easy thing to get it out of the hands of a Bishop into their own pockets. They had heard of the word tithe, and they dreaded its application to themselves. It was idle to argue against these homely notions, and they ought to be respected. Indeed it was due to the rev. Father, to ease him of the burthen and trouble of the distribution, for it must be most painful to have his mind diverted from higher concerns.

Sir Samuel Whalley

said, the parties were some of his constituents, and he hoped their rights would be protected, and that the House would express some decided opinion upon the subject.

Mr. Pease

said, he had heard nothing to induce him to vote for the re-commitment of this Bill. It was well known that the value of a railroad would be considerably lessened if it were to be crossed by several other lines.

Motion negatived.

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