HC Deb 13 June 1850 vol 111 cc1174-9

Order for Committee read.

MR. EWART moved that the House resolve itself into Committee on this Bill. He understood that the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln intended to oppose Mr. Speaker's leaving the chair to go into Committee, although he had divided the House on the introduction of the measure, and on the second reading. The object of the Bill was to allow the inhabitants of towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants to have the advantage of free libraries and museums. He had, in the first instance; proposed that town councils should have the same powers to levy rates for this purpose, as they had under the Baths and Washhouses Act. With the view of meeting some of the opponents of the measure, who objected to this power being given to the town councils, he had withdrawn the former Bill, and introduced a new one on the subject. By the present measure it was essential that the consent of two-thirds of the ratepayers should be obtained before this measure could be carried into effect in any place. On an application being made on the subject, the mayor of a borough was bound to give public notice on the door of the town-hall, and in a newspaper circulated in the place, of his intention to call a meeting of the inhabitants of the place to consider the matter, and this meeting could not be held until at least ten days after the notices had been issued. If the meeting should agree to the plan, the votes of the ratepayers would be taken, and the Act could not be brought into operation in any place without the consent of two-thirds of the ratepayers. He trusted there would be no further objection to the Bill going into Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair."


said, although this Bill might be considered to be a new one as compared with the former, he felt bound to continue his opposition to it. These were not times for spending money in the way proposed, when it might be much better expended in providing food and employment for the people. When they bad done this, it was time enough to provide amusements and recreation of the character to be provided for by this Bill. Instead of endeavouring to afford them industrious and profitable employment, he supposed they would be thinking of supplying the working classes with quoits, peg-tops, and foot-ball. They should first teach the people to read and write. What would be the use of these libraries to those who could not read or write? He supposed that the hon. Member and his Friends would soon be thinking of introducing the performances of Punch for the amusement of the people. The Bill was wholly uncalled for. There were no petitions presented in favour of it. Instead of calling upon the unfortunate ratepayers to pay for these amusements, he, for one, would be more disposed to put his hand in his pocket in order to enable them to enjoy them altogether free from taxation.

Amendment proposed— To leave out from the word 'that' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee,'

instead thereof.


said, that, from the speech of the hon. and gallant Officer, it was evident he had not read the Bill with that attention which was required. Though the greater part of what he had said had been inaudible where he (Mr. Hume) sat, yet there were some points on which he was disposed not to differ much from the hon. and gallant Member: for instance, he was averse from saddling people with any taxation without representation. It would be most objectionable, in particular, to do so for such things as billiard tables. The Bill, however, did not propose to do all these things entirely without the consent of the inhabitants, but after a public meeting of the ratepayers, and the vote of a certain majority of them. With reference to the gallant Officer himself, he should not be surprised if one of the very first things he would do, after the passing of the Bill, would be to present his constituents with a handsome sum of money wherewith to purchase a library. In the United States there were some 10,000 public libraries, but in England, not 200; and, thinking it was much better that the people should have the opportunity of spending their time in public libraries in preference to public houses, he did hope that the gallant Officer would not put the House to the trouble of dividing, but let them proceed with the details of the measure.


felt some difficulty in opposing a measure of this kind; but there were several very great discrepancies in the Bill as it at present stood. There was no provision in the Bill for calling a public meeting of the burgesses, and, if such meeting were called, it was not two-thirds of the whole of the burgesses, but only two-thirds of those at the meeting, whose assent was required. Again, the Act having been once put in force, there was no provision for its ever being repealed. In many towns he believed it would prove utterly abortive. In such a town as Leeds, for example, a single library or museum would not be of the slightest benefit to persons residing at a distance from the centre of the town. He could not admit that the Bill was called for, and should divide against it.


had objected to the former Bill; but after the alterations which had been made, he should vote for going into Committee. He thought the preliminary step of taking the opinion of the ratepayers was a most fair mode of proceeding.


asked whether it was intended to make it applicable to Ireland?


said, it did not apply to Ireland, but he understood that an hon. Member had given notice of his intention to introduce it into Ireland.


was not opposed to the principles of the Bill; but he complained that the understanding that had been come to on a previous occasion had been departed from by the hon. Member who had charge of the Bill. There was a distinct understanding, on the occasion to which he referred, that the Act should not be forced on any borough without the assent of two-thirds of the ratepayers. There was a distinct understanding, on the occasion to which he referred, that the Act should not be forced on any borough without the assent of two-thirds of the ratepayers. The effect of this would be, that in the borough which he represented, the 4,000 or 5,000 ratepayers which it contained would be governed by two-thirds of the persons upon the burgess-roll—a proceeding to which he should certainly object. He considered, also, that the Bill was too limited in its object. The vast machinery which it proposed to put in motion was merely to erect buildings, and nothing more. When the buildings were erected there would be no books to put into them, unless the defect was supplied by donations. He believed it would prove as inoperative as the Museums Bill which was passed five years ago; the fact being, he understood, that not one museum had been erected under that Act.


said, that the statement which had just been made by the +hon. Member for Reading was hardly consistent with fact, inasmuch as he knew of one museum, at all events, that had been established under the Act—he meant the one at Salford; and he believed the Act had also come into operation in other places. With respect to the present measure, he begged to say, that so far from the large ratepayers being likely to object to the small rate which the Bill provided for, his firm conviction was, that they would willingly pay it, in order to secure to the people of this country the great benefits which would be derived from this Bill, if it should become law. In his opinion, it was impossible to overrate the advantages which were likely to flow from a measure of this kind; and, therefore, it should have his hearty support at every stage.


appealed to his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lincoln, whether it was worth while to take the sense of the House again upon the principle of the Bill, there having been already two divisions upon it; and whether it would not be better to go at once into Committee, and endeavour to amend it there as much as possible.


had heard various reasons assigned for going into Committee on this Bill, but none of them appeared to his mind at all satisfactory; and, therefore, if his hon. and gallant Friend divided the House, he should vote with him.


was surprised at the opposition which had been offered to this Bill by the agricultural interest, and could only account for it by supposing that they were alarmed lest it should lead to the diminished consumption of an article in which they largely dealt (malt); because it appeared, from the whole course of evidence on this subject, that, in proportion as institutions of this kind were established, drunkenness and crime had diminished.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 87; Noes 21: Majority 66.

List of the NOES.
Benbow, J. Dick, Q.
Best, J. Gwyn, H.
Booth, Sir R. G. Hildyard, R. C.
Brockman, E. D. Hood, Sir A.
Chatterton, Col. Hudson, G.
Cubitt, W. Inglis, Sir E. H.
Denison, E. Law, hon. C. E.
Masterman, J. Stanford, J. F.
Mailings, J. R. Stanley, E.
Prime, R. TELLERS.
Sidney, Ald. Forbes, W.
Spooner, R. Sibthorp, Col.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee.

On Clause 1 being proposed,


desired to be informed in how many instances the Museums Bill, which was passed five years ago, had been adopted?


said, it had been, or was being adopted, in Warrington, Salford, Manchester, Leicester, and other places.


said, that, as he observed the object of hon. Members opposite was to waste the time of the House, in order, apparently, to prevent them getting to the next Order on the Paper (the Marriages Bill), he begged to move that the Chairman report progress.


thought they had better go on with the present Bill.


reminded the hon. Gentleman that the effect of his Motion would be to delay the measure indefinitely.


considered that, in the circumstances, it would be advisable to proceed with the business which was expected to come on; and he would therefore support the Motion.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 48: Majority 20.

House resumed.

Committee report progress, and ask leave to sit again.

On the Question, that the Committee have leave to sit again,

MR. EWART moved that the Chairman have leave to sit again on Wednesday.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, upon Wednesday next, again resolve itself into the said Committee."

MR. LAW moved the substitution of the words "this day six months," for "Wednesday."

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Wednesday next," and insert the words "this day six months" instead thereof.


expressed his sorrow to find how much disposition there was in the House to obstruct a measure for the enlightenment of the country. He was sorry for it, but hon. Members opposite seemed determined advocates for keeping the country in as dark an ignorance as possible.


, without the least disrespect to the hon. Member, must enroll him amongst the advocates for ignorance, inasmuch as he had just voted to stop the progress of this Bill for the enlightenment of the country.


said, that those hon. Members who were advocates for this Bill had great reason to complain of the conduct of the hon. Member who had charge of the Bill. He considered the measure one of the greatest importance to the country; its only fault was, that it was applicable to towns alone, and not to the agricultural districts.


, as an impartial witness, must say, that in his judgment there had been no opposition from the other side of the House, and all the opposition had been on his.

Question put, "That the words 'Wednesday next stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 85; Noes 47: Majority 38.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Committee to sit again on Wednesday next.