HC Deb 05 August 1853 vol 129 cc1407-14

The House then went into Committee of Supply.

The following four Votes were agreed to:

  1. (1.) 4,000l., Fire Mains, Windsor Castle.
  2. (2.) 20,000l., Buckingham Palace.
  3. (3.) 32,641l., Battersea Park.
  4. (4.) 5,500l., Chelsea Bridge.
  5. (5.) Motion made, and Question put—

"That a sum, not exceeding 35,000l., be granted to Her Majesty, towards defraying the Expense of constructing an Embankment and Public Roadway between Battersea and Vauxhall Bridges: and an Approach from Sloane Street to Chelsea Bridge."


said, he must beg to renew his annual protest against these Votes of public money for London embellishments. Why was London, which was so rich, to be beautified at the expense of provincial taxpayers? London could afford to embellish herself, and should do it without coming on the country.


said, he hoped his hon. Friend would consider the immense population that was to be benefited.


said, he could see nothing in this matter but a local improvement, which ought to be paid for, as in the country it would be paid for, out of local rates. They ought to be the more cautions in adopting this Vote, because he believed it was but the commencement of other embankments, which ought to be continued from Vauxhall down to London bridge, but which ought to be paid for the inhabitants, and not by the Unite Kingdom.


said, he thought this Vote involved a principle of the utmost importance. The various counties through out the country supported their own bridges, and therefore the cost of the Chelsea, bridge should fall not on the country at large, but upon the county of Middlesex He had been very much surprised, there fore, at the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), win had stated, some two years ago, in bringing forward a Motion on the subject of reform, that he had always found the population and property went together. If that proposition were a true one, it was clear that the large population of the metropolis was no reason for requiring that its bridges should be paid for by the united contributions of all the counties in the country. He really thought a stand ought to be made against the system of taking from the public purse for the use of the metropolis sums which must be supplied by the whole country. When he and his hon. Friends had complained of the excessive weight of local taxation which pressed especially upon the rural districts of this country, they had always been told that that system of taxation had its peculiar advantages. All those advantages, whether real or assumed, had, however, been withdrawn of late, and he thought it was the duty of hon. Gentlemen, when such Votes as that now before the Committee were proposed, to scrutinise them very closely, and ascertain whether they were founded upon just principles or not. It did not seem to hint a sound principle that the various counties of this country should be called upon, besides paying for their own bridges, to contribute to the expense of the bridges of the county of Middlesex, and that, too, on the plea that the county of Middlesex contained the richest city in the world. He thought they ought to oppose this Vote, fur he believed that by doing so they might be able to lay the foundation of a much more salutary system than was now pursued with regard to the distribution of Votes for public works.


said, he concurred with very much that. Had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. He cordially agreed with him that henceforth some plan should be adopted whereby the metropolis should be made to contribute the means for carrying out its own public works. But at present there was this difficulty—that they had no municipal machinery under which the funds could be raised. That power implied the principle of representation. The Government, however, had under its consideration the whole subject of metropolitan improvements, and t he trusted the result would be the adoption of a sounder system. But with regard to this Vote—it was part and parcel of the scheme for the new park at Battersea, founded upon the Report of the Metropolitan Improvement Commission of f 1845. In consequence of that Report, two Acts of Parliament had been introduced, one to authorise the formation of the park, s and the other the construction of the bridge and the embankment, and the amount authorised to be raised under those two Acts was 200.000l. for the park, and 120,000l. for the bridge and the embankment—the arrangement being that the money should be advanced by the Exchequer Loan Commissioners on the security of the ground rents, tolls from the bridge, and other receipts, arising from the property. The works were commenced and some of the money was borrowed for the purpose; but the system of raising the money by means of advances from the Exchequer Loan Commissioners, instead of direct Votes of the House of Commons, was objected to by the right hon. Gentleman, and it was to carry out the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman himself that these Votes were proposed. When he (Sir W. Molesworth) came into office he obtained estimates of what would be the cost of completing the works, and as to the time within which they might be finished. If they gave up the embankment, the bridge would be comparatively useless; and if they had not the bridge, the park would be of little benefit to the population of London. It was necessary, therefore, to consider the scheme as a whole. If the works had not been commenced, the case would be different; but the fact was that they were commenced, and a considerable portion of the money had been expended, and the question was, whether the works should be stopped and the money already paid should be lost, or whether they should be carried out and made productive for the purposes for which they were intended. The park would, according to the estimate, cost 308,000l., the bridge 70,000l., and the embankment and the new streets 147,000l., or 525,000l. altogether. Of that sum 280,000l. had already been advanced by the Exchequer Loan Commissioners and expended, and the amount still required was 245,000l. He calculated that by the year 1862–3, supposing the park to be completed in 1855, as was expected, they would get back in ground rents and compensation 326,000l. from the park, and 62,000l. from the embankment, making together 388,000l.; and the tolls of the bridge were estimated at 6,600l. a year. The right hon. Gentleman said they ought not to make a bridge for the metropolis at the public expense. For that very reason it had been determined to charge a toll. He believed by carrying out the scheme now as proposed they would ob- tain back a very considerable portion of the money that had been expended for the park.


said, it was in consequence of the plan for making a park at Battersea that he particularly opposed this Vote. They were told by the right hon. Baronet that the plan of asking for Votes was adopted in consequence of the objection which he (Mr. Disraeli), on the part of the late Government, had made to the system of advances by the Exchequer Loan Commissioners for carving out this project. The right hon. Baronet had not stated, however, that the Commissioners had ceased to make these or similar advances, for at present the machinery for such advances still existed, although these Votes were proposed in Committee of Supply. His (Mr. Disraeli's) objection to the advances by the Exchequer Loan Commissioners was, that very considerable expenditure was thus incurred without any proper control on the part of Parliament, for purposes of a local and partial character, which had really nothing to do with the general convenience and interests of the country. The right hon. Baronet said, in effect, "We intend to continue the same pernicious system, but, in consequence of the statements you made, we shall continue it by other means." Now, he (Mr. Disraeli) considered that Battersea Park ought never to have been made. He objected to the expenditure of so large a sum of money as 500,000l. upon the formation of such a park. He wished to stop the system, for having constructed that park, why should they not be called upon to-morrow to make a park at Finsbury? He considered that every Vote granted in Committee of Supply for these objects was an additional argument in favour of analogous appeals to the Legislature. Such objects ought, in his opinion, to be accomplished by local funds; and if the Committee entertained the same view they would resist this Vote. He thought the time had come when they must put an end to these grants of public money for local objects, for it was most unjust to continue such a system. He therefore earnestly recommended the Committee to oppose the Vote; and, if they succeeded in resisting it, he believed they would put an end to one of the most flagrant systems of expenditure that had ever existed.


said, he cordially concurred in the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Gentleman; but he must observe that, when the present Government came into office, last December, they found the works for which this Vote was now required very far advanced; and, although the; late Government had not commenced those works, yet they had not stopped them. It was complained that the works were not sufficiently under the control of Parliament; but he had stated to the Committee at an early period of the Session that they would be carried on, but that, as Votes would be applied for in Supply, they would be continued with the full cognisance of Parliament.


said, the hon. Member for Westbury was mistaken in supposing that no attempt had been made by the late Government to stop these works. The subject had been brought before him when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it appeared to him of the greatest importance to the public interests that measures should be adopted for stopping all works of the kind. He took the earliest steps in his power to discontinue advances, and he had entirely opposed all grants for the establishment of a park in Finsbury, which was proposed to the late Government. It was represented to him by a very large deputation which did him the honour to wait upon him from that populous and wealthy district, that it was of the utmost importance that such a park should be made, and he told them he would consider the proposition if they would inform him what sum the district would contribute to the object. He was sorry to say, however, that the very wealthy community of Finsbury were apparently not prepared to advance a single pound sterling for the purpose. The late Government, therefore, had given no encouragement whatever to such projects.


said, he found an Act of Parliament of the last Session, the object of which was, by amending the previous Act, to hasten the completion of the embankment of the Thames. According to the first Act the embankment could not be commenced until certain agreements were entered into with the landed proprietors, the object of which was to make those gentlemen contribute a certain sum of money towards the construction of the embankment. An Act—the 15 & 16 Vic. chap. 71—was therefore passed, of course with the assent of the late noble Chief Commissioner of Works (Lord John Manners), and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to empower the Commissioners of Works to pro- ceed with the embankments before such agreements were made.


said, he considered the work a national work. It was strange that hon. Gentlemen opposite should object to this Vote on the ground that public money ought not to be granted for local objects, when the very next Vote was for a harbour in Ireland.


begged to state, for the information of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) that counties could not be, and were not, liable to build bridges, although they were bound to maintain them. His object was to get this bridge built, and then the expenses of it would be thrown on the counties of Surrey and Middlesex.


said, that the real question was whether distant counties ought to be called upon to pay for the luxuries of other parts of the country.


said, he objected to a toll being placed on the bridge; but, in the hope that eventually the Government would not impose any such toll, he was prepared to vote for the grant.


said, he had objected to the commencement of these works; but now that they were actually in progress, it would be, in his opinion, not by any means a wise proceeding, to discontinue them.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 94; Noes 27: Majority 67.

Vote agreed to; as were the two following Votes:—


said, with respect to this Vote he would state in explanation that a convention had been agreed upon between certain foreign countries for the establishment of electric communication throughout the whole continent of Europe. This country was invited to join the convention, but the Government of the day did not accept the invitation, because they had no power of establishing a communication with the wires upon the Continent. That communication had, however, since been effected, and he thought it most important that the Government of this country should avail itself of the advantages of the convention. The advantages of joining the convention, so far as the diplomatic service was concerned, were the right to priority of intelligence, to send messages in cipher, and to the continuous transmission of messages which might be sent through several countries without any delay. Then the advantage with regard to commercial messages was this—at present the English language was not allowed to be used in the transmission of English messages across the Continent. If the Government of this country joined the convention, messages in the English language might, however, be sent to all the Continental countries, the Governments of which had agreed to the convention. The estimate now proposed included the sum required for laying down six independent lines of wire from London to Dover, and thence to the opposite coast. This was the estimate of the whole, cost Parliament would be called upon to incur. He had been informed by his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary that, even if this arrangement were confined to the transmission of diplomatic messages, it would be attended with great advantage. He (Mr. Cardwell) had, however, to deal with the commercial bearing of the question, and he was most desirous that, if any just and fair arrangement could be made, the benefits of this mode of communication should be available for the interests of British commerce. He might observe that it was not intended that any of the lines of this telegraph should extend beyond London, or interfere with the perfectly free competition which now existed between the Electric Telegraph Companies whose lines were established in this country. The States which had already joined the convention were France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hanover, Wurtemberg, the German States, Prussia, Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, Switzerland, and Sardinia.


said, he entertained a very great suspicion indeed of Her Majesty's Government, and of this new system which they were about to inaugurate. He was slow to regard anybody with suspicion, but he would not conceal from the country the folly of England being thus placed at the feet of the foreigner. He was there to protest against confidence being reposed directly or indirectly in the foreigner, be he the Russian, the Frenchman, or the American, for the game of all was to undermine England, and attain an ascendancy over her. There was that Crystal Palace, had he not told them that the Sovereigns would laugh at them for it; and that they were only be- fooling themselves in their eyes? [Laughter, and "Question, question!"] They might laugh at him and cry Question as they would, but be would tell them that by this scheme the Government was only encouraging the intrigues of the foreigner, and rendering this country subservient to him. His opinion was that the Vote was most absurd, unmeaning, and ridiculous, as it was aiding the foreigner at the expense of his own countrymen, towards whom he professed still to entertain an unshaken attachment.


said, he thought it would be better to endeavour to effect an arrangement with the existing companies before applying to Parliament for money to create a rival set of wires.


said, that the Government had had objects in view which were wholly distinct. The one was, the advantage of our diplomatic communication, and the other was, that British commerce should enjoy the full benefit of the advantages which the convention gave to those nations who joined in it. It was highly desirable that this country should not be wholly dependent upon the Electric Telegraph Companies in foreign countries.


said, he objected to our Government interfering with enterprises which ought to be left to the action of private competition; and he wished to know if all the objects which the right hon. Gentleman had in view might not be secured from the lines at present in existence?


said, if we wanted to enter into this convention, we must do so as a Government. The Imperial Government of France had given the monopoly of the supply of electric telegraphs along the whole coast of France to a single commercial company, and in like manner the Belgian Government had given a monopoly of their coast to an English telegraph company. The only way of preventing monopolies was for this country to accede to the convention through its Government.

Vote agreed to: as was the following:—

House resumed.