HC Deb 12 February 1839 vol 45 cc312-4
Sir Matthew Wood

, pursuant to notice, moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to take into their consideration the several plans for the Improvement of the Metropolis, concerning which reports were made to this House in the years 1836, 1837, and 1838; together with any other plans for the same object which they might deem deserving of consideration, and to report their opinion as to the expediency of adopting any of the said improvements; and also as to the best means of carrying the same into effect.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, that it had been insinuated that the re-appointment of this Committee was for the purpose of ascertaining what their construction was of the Act of Parliament relating to the improvements of the avenues leading to the new Royal Exchange. To this he strongly objected. The law officers of the crown were the proper persons to construe an act of Parliament for the guidance of the Government. If, therefore, the re-appointment of the Committee was not necessary for the purpose of carrying out the general improvement of the metropolis, he hoped the House would not consent to the motion.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, if the meaning of his hon. Friend was, that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had suggested the present motion, he begged distinctly to disavow it. If it had been his object to revive the Committee, he would have been himself the person to make the proposition to the House. The motion was made without any knowledge on his part. He knew nothing about it until he saw the notice on the paper. At the same time, he should be guilty of concealing half the case if he did not state to the House, that if the hon. Baronet (Sir Matthew Wood) had not proposed to renew this Committee, he, for one, should have done so, with the direct object his hon. Friend (Sir Robert Inglis) had men- tioned, and upon which he had declared it to be his intention to oppose the motion. He would not now go into a consideration of the case of the Royal Exchange. He had taken the earliest opportunity of laying on the table of the House, a copy of the correspondence which had occurred on the subject; and there was no part of the question which he should not be prepared to explain, if, after hon. Members had read the papers, they should entertain any doubt respecting any portion of it. But what he was anxious about at the present moment was, to guard himself, in the judgment of the House, from the supposition that he had prompted the hon. Alderman to take a step which he was himself unwilling to take, for the purpose of obtaining, under the cloak of this motion, an interpretation of an Act of Parliament. The papers respecting the transaction relating to the Royal Exchange having been so short a time before the House, it would be premature for him to enter upon the subject. But if the Committee should be re-appointed, he would submit to the House, whether it would not be proper to refer the Commissioners to the Committee, not with a view to obtain from them a construction of an Act of Parliament, but to ascertain whether a due consideration of those papers did not show, that the Treasury had acted upon the distinct understanding that the report of that Committee, as communicated to the Treasury, through the House, would be adopted.

Captain Wood

said, if the expense of improving the avenues to the Royal Exchange was to be defrayed by a tax, why was not that tax openly proposed in the House, rather than sought for by means of a Committee?

Sir Robert Peel

saw no objection to the re-appointment of the Committee, nor did he know of any objection to refer the papers relating to the Royal Exchange to them. At all events, considering that several gentlemen had gratuitously devoted their time to the devising of plans for the improvement of the metropolis, he thought there could be no objection to further consideration being given to those plans, especially as they would not be in the slightest degree committing themselves as to the question whether there should be any tax or not imposed on account of those plans. It was possible, that the hon. and worthy Alderman might propose some other tax, besides a tax on coals. Probably he had some scheme in reserve. The only object which the Committee would have to consider was, the means of improving the metropolis, and of facilitating the communication between the different parts of it. The latter was a point which we had always been much more apt to neglect than the other great cities of Europe. He hoped, therefore, the House would not throw any obstruction in the way of further considering these plans.

Committee appointed.