§ Lord Worsley
moved the Order of the Day for the House to go into Committee on the Commons Bill. [Order of the Day read.] The noble Lord expressed his regret that this measure should have been postponed so often on account of his illness. He was sorry that many hon. Members had been brought down to the House time after time, in the hope that the Bill would be proceeded with, and should have found, that it was still delayed. On his part, he must assure the House that the delay was altogether unavoidable, and arose from circumstances over which he had no control. He had been, and was still, most anxious to go on with the Bill, for he had received various communications from parties in England and Wales, who expressed the disappointment which they should feel if the Bill were not passed in the present Session, as they, in the hope that it would be carried, had not gone to any expense in its support. He had had communications with Government on the subject of the Bill, and he had ascertained that there were certain parts of it to which the Government would not assent. He had consented to omit many of the parts so objected to, and what he was now de- 296 sirous of asking the House was, that it would allow him to have the Bill committed pro formâ, in order to have some parts omitted, and several Amendments introduced, and when the Bill was thus amended, he would have it printed, and then he would consult with the noble Lord, the Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, as to any parts to which the Government might still object. Under these circumstances he did hope that the hon. and gallant officer (Colonel Sibthorp) would wave his opposition to the Bill going into Committee pro formâ. In that case, he should not feel it necessary to enter into the reasons which, in his opinion, should induce the House to allow the Bill to proceed. If the hon. and gallant Member should not object, he would assure him, that ample time would be given for considering every part of the Bill in detail. He hoped therefore, that the hon. and gallant Member would wave his objections for the present.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, that no man had a stronger disposition to oblige the noble Lord who had introduced this measure than he had, but he owned he had great doubts as to how far he would be justified in given up even for a time, his opposition to this Bill. His objections, he must say, existed to almost every part of the Bill, from the Preamble to the last Clause, because he looked upon them as so many encroachments on the rights of a class which he was strongly disposed, and which he thought the House ought to be most strongly disposed to protect. He objected to the whole of the Bill, as most arbitrary and inquisitorial in its character, and if he thought he could get rid of it on this occasion he would most willingly persevere in his opposition to the Speaker's leaving the chair. The noble Lord had asked for further time, in order to go to the Committee pro formâ, with the view of expunging certain parts of the Bill to which it appeared the Government objected. The noble Lord said, that he had had communications with Government on the subject, and that it was with the view of meeting those objections that he now asked to have the Bill sent into Committee pro formâ. He repeated that he had every wish to oblige the noble Lord, but he should like to know what was the nature of his communications with the Government. He himself had seldom any communications with the Government on 297 any subject, but he did not think that even the suggestions of the Government would render this Bill such a measure as the House ought to adopt. Indeed, he had on one occasion heard the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government express more than a doubt as to how far the House ought to assent to it; but to some pans of it as it now stood, he understood the right hon. Baronet to be decidedly opposed. In assenting to the suggestion of the noble Lord, he wished to be understood as doing so only on the grounds which the noble Lord himself had stated. If the hon. Member for Montrose did not object, he would not, for it was his intention to have seconded that hon. Member's Motion to get rid of the Bill altogether.
§ Mr. Hume
said, it was not often that the hon. and gallant officer who had just sat down and himself were in accord on any important question, but he assured him that he was most glad of his aid on this occasion. The noble Lord had said, that he wanted time, in order to ascertain how far he could meet the objections of Government to certain parts of the Bill. That was a course which the noble Lord ought to have adopted long before the present time. In his opinion, the Bill had been introduced without due communication with the Government on the subject, and the fact was, that as it now stood, it was most objectionable in many parts, though he would not say in all; but it would require great pruning before it was brought into a shape in which it could pass. The Bill ought to have been brought in at first as a Government measure. It was of too important and too complicated a nature to be carried through by any individual member. It was said, that the measure had the support of Government. He did not think so. At least, that support was by no means an unqualified one, for he had understood the right hon. Boronet at the head of the Government expressly to state, that it might be a question how far the Legislature ought to interfere with a right which established a connexion between large numbers of the poorer classes with the land. There were parts of the Bill which, if passed into a law, would be most injurious to the interests of those classes. It would shut up the scanty limits which now remained for their recreation, and drive them from their greens and commons to dusty roads 298 and narrow lanes. In fact, the Legislature had already done too much to deprive the humbler classes of the means of indulging in ancient and manly sports. He would not object to such a measure with respect to the recreations of the poorer classes as that which had been passed by the Parliament of Scotland in the year 1696. We had as yet done little or nothing for a similar object. On the contrary, we had, by the passing of late years of not less than 2,000 Inclosure Bills, made sad encroachments on the recreation and comforts of the poor. It was true that by many of those Inclosure Bills small portions of land had been allotted to poor parties having rights of common; but the result had been in very many, he might say, in most of those cases, to take from the poor and give additional portions of land to the neighbouring squire; for large numbers who had got those allotments, were not able to bring them into cultivation, and they sold them to some neighbouring land-owner, and thus one great object of many Inclosure Bills was defeated as regarded the poor, and made useful only to the rich. Amongst many of the objections which existed in his mind to this Bill, one was what it gave power to enclose land everywhere, even where land was covered with tide. This would show that the Government had not been consulted on the subject. When he stated his objections to the Bill, he must at the same time admit that it had been introduced by the noble Lord (Worsley) with the very best intentions, and it was therefore with reget that he felt himself bound to oppose it, but there were so many objectionable parts in it, that he did not see how he could give it any support. We had already enclosed almost all the waste or common lands in the country. ["No, no."] Well, if there were any large portions left, let them be parcelled out, leaving in every case where it was practicable a portion to serve as a place of recreation for the humbler classes in the vicinity. Taking this measure as a whole, he did not see how its objects could be carried out. There were, he would admit, many Clauses in it to which he had no objection, but there were so many others that he did strongly object to, that it would be impossible for him to support the Bill as it stood; or as he expected it would stand when it came out of the Committee. The Bill did not propose to do that which 299 would be its recommendation, namely, to make provision for giving to the people in every locality where it was practicable the means of recreation. Let not the House consent to the principle of shutting up commons and greens against the recreations of the poor. What he would advise the noble Lord to do would be, to withdraw the Bill for this Session, for he might feel assured that the poor in all parts of the country would feel its enactments a sad encroachment on their rights, and would naturally feel discontented at finding the Legislature taking away the little of common land which was yet left to them. He did not know what course the Admiralty would take with respect to the Bill, but even without such knowledge, he would again suggest to the noble Lord to withdraw the Bill for the present Session, and let it be brought in by Government in the next. That would be a much better course than having it committed pro formâ now, and again committed in a fortnight hence, for it was his firm belief, that it would be impossible, as at present framed, to make it satisfactory to the people.
§ Viscount Sandon
fully concurred in what had been just said by the hon. Member for Montrose, that it would be impossible to make the Bill, as at present framed, satisfactory to the people. There was, as the case now stood, no chance of it. He did think that common lands might with great advantage be parcelled out to the poor, for it did not follow that waste lands should continue to be so for ever; but then they had this difficulty to contend with, as had been observed by the hon. Member for Montrose, that the portion allotted to the poor man who had a right of common would probably be soon absorbed by his rich neighbour. In making such allotment, care should be taken to make adequate provision for the recreations of the poor. He thought that those who had rights of common should have full compensation where those rights were interfered with, but if possible this should be so arranged that the poor man should not lose the benefit of it by having his portion absorbed by his rich neighbour. To get rid of this difficulty he thought the best way would be to have a commission, which should examine the rights of common in every part of the country, so that the rights of individuals might be known. Without this it would be impossible to 300 come at the nature of those rights, and how they should best be compensated where interfered with. Unless such correct information were supplied, the House would not be in a fit condition to legislate on the subject. What he would suggest to the noble Lord would be, to pass his Bill through the Committee pro formâ, and when all the amendments which the noble Lord proposed were added, let it be printed and circulated through the country, and it would then be more easy to have it discussed in the next Session. The Bill as it now stood involved many questions affecting the rights and the feelings of the humbler classes. With respect to those classes, he would contend that the commons in the vicinity not only of large towns, but even of villages, should be appropriated as places for their recreation. In some foreign countries the principle was adopted of having portions of land granted to the poor in right of common inalienable. That example it would be well if we imitated in this country. Let there be sufficient time given to ascertain by inquiry what was the nature of the rights to waste lands, and what exceptions ought to be taken with respect either to the purposes of recreation or cultivation.
§ Mr. Aglionby
declared that he should be sorry if the noble Lord who had charge of this Bill, and to whom the public were much indebted for his attention to this subject, were to adopt the suggestion of the noble Viscount the Member for Liverpool and withdraw his Bill for another Session. The effect of such a postponement would only be to increase the doubts and perplexities which prevailed as to the alleged rights of the public with regard to waste lands. The result of further inquiry would cause greater disappointment to those who contended for those rights— for disappointment there certainly would be when the question was fully considered. If the Bill was wrong in principle he would rather have it decided upon at once and put an end to. But, so far was he from thinking that was the case, that he believed the Bill would protect the interests of all parties. The noble Viscount and himself could never meet upon this subject—they were proceeding in parallel lines and could come to no agreement. The noble Viscount contended for some mysterious and undefined rights which he wished the House to respect. The hon. Member for Montrose thought that all the 301 poor of the kingdom had a claim upon these waste lands; and that the poor man had an inherent right to them. Well, then, if these waste lands were public property, why should they not be made available for the public benefit? To such a proposition he never could agree. It was well known that certain persons had a title to these lands by law, subject to certain modifications and conditions—a title as good as that of the hon. Member for Montrose, or of any other hon. Member, to his estates. They were originally granted to lords of the manor, not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of those who held lands within the manor; and those rights were so well defined that it was not possible for any one to put even a cow to graze upon such lands unless he could prove his right. The rights varied on different manors, because custom had interfered and established practices not warranted by the original grants. It would be better if they were controlled and managed by some commission—by some responsible party, as proposed by the noble Lord's Bill. "What would become of the rights which the hon. Member for Montrose supposed the poor to possess if the lord of the manor and every tenant were to agree to inclose waste lands without coming to that House? In what condition would the poor be then in reference to these waste lands? If the poor had rights, they ought to be inalienable; they ought to be protected. The House had declared itself in favour of providing space sufficient for the recreation of the inhabitants of the neighbouring town; but in doing that, they did not that which was a matter of law, but of amicable arrangement. Therefore the House had told parties that if they came to the Legislature for such an object, certain conditions would be imposed. That was the view which the House had always taken of such cases. If the noble Lord did not mean that to be one principle of the Bill, he would surely alter it; for it was not his object to give larger rights than at present existed, and those would be placed on a much better footing if they were protected by an Act of the Legislature. Inclosure Bills had been introduced heretofore and passed without discussion; and no one could tell how many persons had suffered in their interests and rights by the interference of those Bills. Certainly those Bills had been referred to Committees up stairs, but every 302 one knew how those Committees were generally conducted. They were attended only by hon. Members who were interested in them, being lords of manors; and the rights of the poor, though they might be talked about, had frequently been taken away under that system. Under this Bill a much greater control would be exercised over commons and waste lands; initial proceedings must be taken, and before they could be put in force application must be made to the Commissioner, who would have great controlling power, and he apprehended that the Commissioners, being appointed by Government, were not likely to be persons totally regardless of the rights of any party. A second safeguard process would be established, a new right recognized, and a new power of veto given, which never existed before. Now, with regard to the advantages of this Bill, he thought they would be very great to the poor; for his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose would not deny that the more food was produced in this country the better for the people, and therefore, the more land was made available for that purpose, it was pro tanto a benefit to the people. Although much land had already been inclosed, there were hundreds and thousands of acres still uninclosed, which might be made extremely productive and much more valuable than they were at present. He knew an instance of an inclosure in Cumberland, which had been of great benefit to the poor in finding employment during the winter for them in fencing, and draining, and planting, which they would have been without. The whole neighbourhood of Commons might be made more salubrious, if the swamps were drained, and the lands improved and cultivated. That had been proved in the case of a swampy waste adjacent to Cockermouth, over which it was formerly impossible to walk. In his opinion a Commission of Inquiry would be a useless waste of time. The measure was not now to be left to any individual Member of the House. However highly he might appreciate the talents of the noble Lord, his good intentions, and his desire to regard the rights of the people, yet he was glad that Her Majesty's Government, though they did not take the Bill in charge, would give the noble Lord the benefit of their advice and assistance. That being the case, what would the public have? The Bill had been brought in by a noble 303 Lord who was a most zealous protector of the rights of the poor, and therefore there was no fear of any infringement of their just rights—just rights he said, or of any rights that might be reasonably allowed; for he would never be a party to maintain all sorts of idle claims. He admitted that there were many large towns to which the adjacent commons were of great advantage, and he would therefore have it laid down in the Bill what commons or waste lands should remain untouched. He hoped the noble Lord would proceed with his Bill, and that the House would not stop its further progress.
Mr. H. Berkeley
said, the hon. Gentleman had talked much of the protection which this Bill would give to the poor, but it appeared to him that the alleged protection would be of a very negative description. For, to whom were the poor consigned by it?—to whom were the old cherished rights and privileges of the poor entrusted? Why, to a Commission of Three, armed with plenary and arbitrary powers, such as were never given to any Commission before. Was he to be told that the people were to have all their rights depending upon a Commission like that? He must say that they would not be doing their duty to the country, and to the poor, whose interests they were bound to protect, if they agreed to give up those rights to a Commission like that. When the Bill was introduced last Session there was a very small division against it, but at a subsequent stage, the country having in the meantime become acquainted with its provisions, the opposition to it became so strong, and so general, that the noble Lord withdrew it. This Bill which the noble Lord now introduced was, however, nothing more nor less than the ghost of the former Bill, and it was as all ghosts had been represented to be—more disgusting in its second appearance than its first, and more objectionable in the character of its provisions. This Bill, in its present shape, was strenuously and vigorously opposed at its second reading by many hon. Members, and it was "damned with faint praise" by its supporters, every one of whom qualified the support which he gave to it by a "but" or an "if". Some said that they would support the second reading of the Bill, "but" it should be altered in Committee; others gave their support to that stage of the Bill, saying, however, that "if" they did 304 so they expected certain portions of it to be amended at a future stage. He believed that it would not have passed the second reading this Session if it had not been for the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, and what that right hon. Baronet said in its support was more remarkable than any other speech for the number of "buts" and "ifs" which it contained. Many of the right hon. Baronet's supporters admitted that it was a bad Bill in the shape in which it then was, but they expressed a hope that it would be altered in the Committee, and the second reading was agreed to only as a reward for the industry of the noble Lord who introduced it. Was there ever such a reason given for agreeing to the second reading of an important Bill? The noble Lord might have bestowed a good deal of industry upon it, but were there not other industrious Members in the House—was there not the Member for Montrose, and his hon. Friend who sat near him, and why was the industry of the noble Lord rewarded any more than their industry? The right hon. Baronet who supported the second reading of course carried such weight with his approbation that the second reading was agreed to. He complained of the Bill for its arbitrary and inquisitorial character, and for its proposal to give to a tribunal to be appointed by the Bill, a power to interfere with the rights which had never before been similarly interfered with. There was one clause which considerably extended the rights of the Bishop, and proposed to take power away from the patron of the living, and he was opposed to such a provision. The Bill was in fact an attempt, by means of a measure of this kind, to palliate the evils which had been brought upon the country by the Corn Laws. It was said, forsooth, that it was desirous to give employment to the poor, and increase the quantity of productive ground, by inclosing those commons; but if that were so desirous, why did not the noble Lord propose to deal similarly with the parks of the rich as well as those in which the poor had an interest? It appeared from a calculation which had been made, that if all the parks and ornamental grounds in the country belonging to the nobility and gentry were cultivated, an immense amount of produce would be the result, and a great number of persons would be employed. Far be it from hint (Mr. H. Berkeley) to 305 advocate any such recommendation as the cultivation of those parks and ornamental grounds; but if the parks of the rich were not interfered with, and very properly were not interfered with, why, he would ask, should they interfere with those commons which belonged to the poor? Why should they take from the poor man's child the means of enjoying his miserable and humble amusement? Let them recollect that the wild flower which the poor man's child gathered upon the common was as valuable to that child as the richest rose or violet which the child of the rich man plucked in the best arranged garden. Why should they deprive the child of the poor man of the power any longer to breathe the pure air of heaven and drive him to play on the road side, where he was obliged to swallow the dust from the wheels of their carriages? He would ask the hon. Members for Bath, if they were present, whether they would like Lansdowne and Claverton-down to be inclosed under this Bill? He would ask the Members for Middlesex if they would be contented to have Hampstead Heath inclosed under the operation of the Bill, or if they would wish to see Clapham and Kennington Commons inclosed under it? Let them recollect the advantages that were derived from Clapham, and Hampstead, and Kennington Commons. Many a poor clerk who was employed in the confined air of the City during the day was enabled to breathe the pure air of Hampstead at his residence during the night; and would hon. Members wish to see such men deprived of that advantage —would they wish to see that fine wild heath given up from its present state, to be enclosed and covered with a parcel of stinking cabbage gardens — to have it given up to those who might employ in the cultivation of the most horrible manures, and taint the free air of heaven which passed over the gardens? Why should they deprive the poor man of those rights which it was their duty to secure to him? He confessed, for his own part, that he should be extremely jealous of any interference with the downs in the vicinity of Clifton. He knew the lord of the manor was fond of agricultural pursuits; but if he took away those downs from the people of Bristol and Clifton, and turned them into cultivation, he would find that all his guano, and his other newly invented manures, would be looked upon by the 306 people of Bristol and Clifton as a poor compensation for the pure air which they can now inhale upon the downs. He hoped the House would reject the Bill of the noble Lord; but if the noble Lord brought in a Bill which would not interfere with the rights of the poor, as this Bill proposed, it should have his support. He hoped this Bill, however, would not be agreed to by the House.
§ Lord J. Manners
said, that there did not appear to be any desire upon the part of the noble Lord who introduced the Bill to inclose the commons in the neighbourhood of all the large towns. Indeed, there was rather a desire to prevent them from being inclosed, but under the present law, it was possible that such a thing could take place. He would instance Hampsted-heath, which had been alluded to by the hon. Member who had just sat down, and which, under the present state of the law, it was proposed to inclose. There was a power under the existing state of the law to inclose Hampstead-heath, and he agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose, in his remarks upon the mode of dealing with the subject by private Inclosure Bills, for it was impossible to watch their progress, and therefore in order to put an end to such a state of things, he would support the measure of the noble Lord, which was calculated in his opinion to give a greater security to the rights of the poor than they enjoyed at present. He thought that when the rights of the poor were protected by Gentlemen whose actions were all prominently before the public eye, as the Commissioners under this Bill would be, they were more likely to be properly cared for than at present. Those Gentlemen's acts would be liable to constant scrutiny and examination, and they would he liable to removal if they did not satisfactorily discharge the duties which would devolve upon them. He thought, that under such circumstances, they would be likely to discharge the duties which affected the rights of the poor in a more satisfactory manner than an irresponsible Committee of the House of Commons. He had heard, he would admit, a great number of "ifs" and "buts" in the speeches of hon. Members with respect to the Bill, but they had very little weight with him. He rejoiced to perceive that Her Majesty's Government had turned their attention to the subject, which he agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose 307 in thinking it was of the greatest importance to the country. He thought that it was more desirable that this subject should be brought to a satisfactory issue than many of the matters which had been brought before their attention since he came into Parliament, and which had been often discussed at inordinate length, and he must say, that he thought the country owed a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord who had taken the matter up, and who, by his great attention to the subject, and his exertions to carry out the measure, had at length induced the Government to give to it that consideration which a subject of so much public importance deserved. He approved highly of the Bill, and he rejoiced that the noble Lord had consulted with the Government on the subject, and that they had agreed to take the course which was stated with respect to it.
said, that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. H. Berkeley) appeared to be under a misapprehension with regard to Hampstead-heath. He (Colonel Wood) could assure the hon. Member that he was quite satisfied any attempt to press the inclosure of Hampstead-heath on the House would be altogether vain. He was of opinion, that it would be a bad system to allow inclosures to take place, without requiring the parties who were desirous to undertake the inclosures to come before Parliament and state their case. That was a system which was well calculated to protect the interests and rights of the public. He believed that there were many wastes and commons in the country, the inclosure of which would be so much facilitated by this Bill, if it passed into a law, that they could not be kept open after its passing; and he could not help thinking that many Gentlemen were inclined to look favourably on the Bill in consequence of that circumstance, as they thought that many pieces of common might be inclosed after the passing of the Bill which could not at present be inclosed. It was objected against Inclosure Bills under the existing law, that the expense of such Bills was very considerable, but to that he (Colonel Wood) should answer, that if the wastes or commons were worth inclosing, they were worth the expense of a Bill. The fees it was said were large, but they were not so large as for other Bills; the costs in that way amounted to about 300l. for an 308 Inclosure Bill; and if any inclosure were not worth incurring the expense of 300l. in obtaining the Bill, then the common ought to be allowed to remain open altogether. There were other expenses connected with the passing of such Bills which he should like to see reduced, but this could be done by appointing a Board for auditing the accounts, and thus removing just causes of complaint on the ground of expense. He approved of the principle of obliging parties, who were anxious to have an Inclosure Bill passed, to come before Parliament to make out their case. He had, on one or two occasions, to watch the progress of Inclosure Bills with a view to protect the rights of the poor in the Principality, and he believed that the progress of Inclosure Bills through the House afforded a very good opportunity for defending the rights of the poor. They all knew how easy it was to make it appear that many parties who were interested in the matter were anxious to have commons inclosed, but in such cases they ought always to recollect the very great interest the poor in the neighbourhood had in such a common—a poor man might feed his goose or depasture his ass upon the common; and it must appear to him a great hardship to have that advantage taken from him. If the Bill now before them passed into a law, he could not see that any of the real difficulties of the case would be removed. There would be, after the passing of this Bill, just as much expense and as much difficulty in protecting the rights of all the individuals who might be affected by a large inclosure as at present. He had seen the bad effects of such inclosures, but one in particular; he remembered the forest of Brecon, in which 40,000 acres were assigned to that purpose, 10,000 acres to defray the expenses, 15,000 assigned to the Crown, and 15,000 sold, the latter 15,000 having been disposed of for 15,000l.; and he could assure the House that it proved a ruinous speculation for those who embarked in it. He was opposed to the Bill in its present shape, and he should support the hon. Member for Montrose if he went to a division.
§ Mr. C. Buller
could not conceive how there could be any difference of opinion amongst hon. Members as to the advantage which roust necessarily be derived by the public, from the cultivation of many wastes in the country, nor could he 309 see how any one could suppose such an addition to the wealth of the nation could possibly be injurious. It was well known that there were throughout England, but especially through the South of England, great quantities of good land waste and uncultivated, and they were waste not from any deficiency of productive power — not from any inferiority of the land to the cultivated land in its neighbourhood; but because the commons tenure prevented it from being inclosed. [Colonel Wood: Such land might be inclosed under the existing law.] He remembered a circumstance which showed how those who were interested in the commons often perceived the disadvantage of having such land lying waste. There was a common in Cornwall, in which the poor in the neighbourhood bad for years fed a few geese and starved some jack-asses, and the poor people who were interested in the subject were so impressed with the advantage which would arise from inclosing it that they applied to the corporation of the borough, near which the common was situated, to assist them in taking proper measures for inclosing the ground, in order that they might have the advantage of employment upon it. The matter was discussed, and it was agreed that the inclosure of the common, which was only seventy or eighty acres, would be advantageous; but it was found that in consequence of the uncertainty of the rights of common, the inclosure could not be effected without an enormous cost in comparison with the value of the land. It was important, he admitted, to consider not only proprietary rights, but to consider also the right of persons to enjoy healthful recreation on the commons; however, it seemed a rude and clumsy way of meeting the question to say, that there ought to be no inclosure in the neighbourhood of large towns, and he was of opinion that it would be a great advantage to place the subject of inclosures under the cognizance of a different body from that before which they were brought according to the existing law. He was convinced that it would be most advantageous to refer such matters to Commissioners, such for instance at the Tithe Commissioners, who would be enabled to carry on the necessary inquiries more efficiently and more cheaply than under the present system. That would be not only more advantageous to the public, but would be 310 far more satisfactory to the parties concerned than the present system of trusting to all the chances of party or personal opposition. It would be far more advantageous to have a Commission which would make all the necessary inquiries, and report upon them. To take away the inquiry from the House of Commons and refer the subject to Commissioners, would be a very great improvement as regarded every one concerned, for those who were desirous for the inclosure, for the interests of the public, or for the rights of the poor. The hon. and gallant Colonel opposite said that it would be disadvantageous to the public to take away the control from those Bills which Parliament at present exercised. Now, with regard to Hampstead-heath, and all the other commons in the vicinity of London, where the right of the public to walk and enjoy healthful recreation were concerned, he (Mr. Buller) thought those rights might be safely entrusted to the Commissioners. He should certainly like the House of Commons to have some control; for although he believed the Commission, as proposed by the Bill, would be a cheaper and more efficient system than that which is now in operation, it would be still of advantage to the public that the Parliament should not be deprived of all voice in the matter. Suppose they adopted the principle of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who made most important inquiries with regard to Church affairs. They had no legislative power, but they reported to the House and the Government what they wished to have done, and that was adopted if approved of. The recommendations of the Commissioners might be embodied in general Inclosure Acts and agreed to. Under the system which he would recommend there would be afforded a full opportunity to the friends of the poor of defending their interests in Parliament, whilst there would be a great benefit derived from a cheaper mode of proceeding than that which is at present in existence. He trusted the House would not refuse their assent to the further progress of a Bill which was of great importance to the country, for they would not be doing their duty to the public if they consented, in a rough and summary way, to throw it over, and sacrifice without inquiry, all the advantages that it was calculated to produce.
said, that his noble Friend 311 was desirous merely to commit the Bill pro formâ. It was a Bill of the utmost importance to the country, either for good or evil, and they ought to allow it to pass this stage in order that they might see what alterations would be proposed by the Government, after which they could determine whether they would agree to the Bill or reject it. He (Mr. Miles) had not the slightest doubt that the Bill would, if carried into a law, confer the greatest benefit upon the country. He had no doubt that if the Bill passed, the rights of the poor would be strictly preserved; and there were a large body of Members who were determined, that if the Bill went through Committee, all the proper and just rights of the poor, and even more than strictly those, should be preserved. He would not vote for the Bill if it were not calculated to guard and protect the rights of the poor, and he was satisfied that his noble Friend who introduced the Bill entertained similar views. It would, if carried into effect, give employment to a large number of persons, and would thus confer an important benefit on the poorer classes. He hoped the Bill would be sent to the House by the Government in such a shape as to obtain general approval.
§ Mr. Warburton
asked, if Hyde-park were in the condition of Southampton-common, would it be of as much advantage and productive of as much enjoyment to the people as it was at present? When land was drained, inclosed, and improved, it need not necessarily be less advantageous to the people, but might be in fact more so, provided that their rights of pasture or of passage were reserved. In that case, inclosure would be the reverse of a public injury; more especially as the value of the land would be greatly enhanced by the increase of the produce of the soil. Much was said of the desirability of establishing parks for the people; what more was requisite for this purpose than the enclosure of land at present, perhaps (like Wimbledon-common, for instance), partly swampy, and converting it into capital pasture, reserving to the people their existing privileges? With such reservation, a measure of public inclosure might be beneficial; and it was to be regretted that the enormous fees of Parliamentary proceedings on Private Bills obstructed inclosures at present.
§ Bill went through Committee pro formâ, and was ordered to be re-committed.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past seven o'clock.