HC Deb 14 February 1854 vol 130 cc692-7

said, the subject to which he now begged to call the attention of the House was one of much importance to agriculture, to those who were breeders of animals, as well as to the purveyors and consumers of meat in the metropolis. It related to the mode in which the Corporation of London was about to carry out the "Smithfield Removal Act," and to a clause which he contended had been inserted by the Corporation of London, enabling them to carry out the Act, and build this new market. When the Act passed, the public believed they had got out of the clutches of the Corporation, but, unfortunately, there was a clause in the Bill which gave them the option within six months of taking on themselves the carrying of it out, It was clear that the spirit of the Act was that there should be one great metropolitan market for animals, and attached to it a dead-meat market, and it was the opinion of the trade, that the dead-meat market should be near that for live animals. It was apparently the intention of the Corporation that there should be no dead-meat market near that for live animals, but that the former should be opened on the site of Smithfield. This was opposed to all the recommendations of the Commissioners on the subject, and contrary to the Act itself. But unfortunately the Corporation on the very last day of the six months allowed them, took on themselves, much to the regret of the meat producers, the carrying out of the market, having shown their ignorance on the subject by the models they produced before a Committee of the House of Lords, which did not give the necessary space for animals. Fortunately the 39th section of the Act gave power to the Home Secretary, if it seemed desirable, to interfere with the proceedings of the Corporation in carrying out the market. Now, what was the Corporation going to do? It appeared that Mr. Taylor, the chairman of the Corporation Markets Committee, a wholesale ironmonger—not the person apparently most fitted to deal with a meat market—was summoned before the Commission of Inquiry into the Corporation of London. He (Sir J. Shel- ley) should perhaps have left this question to the Commissioners, as had been done by the Coal Tax Committee, in the hope that they would report in reference to the tax on coals in such a manner as to prevent the Corporation having any further control over those funds; but it happened that the Commissioners had no power to report as to what was to be done with the meat market, and his object now was, that the Home Secretary might do something to put a stop to any evasion of the Act. Well, Mr. Taylor stated in his evidence with regard to the meat market, that under the sanction of Mr. Secretary Walpole, the Corporation had purchased the largest quantity of land they could obtain, and afterwards, under the sanction of the noble Lord the Home Secretary (Lord Palmerston) had tried to obtain more, but had not been successful. Mr. Taylor then proceeded to inform the Commission how it was proposed to apportion this land, stating that the model on the table "showed a space of fifteen acres allotted for bullocks and sheep, the present market being only six acres and a half." Now he maintained that it was impossible, at the present rate of supply, to put the animals into the space allotted for them except by the greatest cruelty and injury to the animals, and consequently at the expense of a great waste of food; but how could it be expected that these gentlemen, who it was proved before the Lords' Committee did not know the size of a short-horn, should be able to make the proper arrangements in a case of this nature? It was worthy of remark that the Corporation had purchased the land at Copenhagen Fields at a much cheaper rate than otherwise they could have done in consequence of its not being bought as building land; but now when they had got possession of the land they were about erecting on it taverns and public-houses. He (Sir J. Shelley) was sorry to see that one of the Commissioners—Mr. Cornewall Lewis—had said to Mr. Taylor, "that it was impossible the Corporation could have done more than they had," which would tend very much to encourage the Corporation in their proceedings, who never went out of their way to do anything for the public good. Mr. Taylor was delighted with this, and went on to say, that it was proposed to erect "taverns and public-houses" on the ground, which would be very valuable; and that on the land which the Corporation had stated was only intended for pens and stalls. The trade were of opi- nion that the building of taverns and public-houses within the market would be a nuisance; and that all that was necessary in the way of taverns would spring up in the neighbourhood, and that the only buildings within the market should be the branch banks and other offices for the transaction of business. Mr. Taylor also said that in the seventy-eight acres which had been purchased, there would be space for a hide market. Now there was no necessity for a hide market to be near the meat market. Mr. Taylor calculated that the produce of the market to the Corporation would be 14.000l. a year on an expenditure of 300,000l. Looking to the increased consumption of meat, and the facilities of transit projected by railroads into the market, and the improvement in agriculture and breeding, there must be an enormous increase of animals, for which it would be necessary to provide space. Mr. Taylor afterwards stated "that in course of time it was proposed to erect a dead-meat market in Smithfield, Newgate market being a great nuisance." It seemed extraordinary that such an attempt should be made in the teeth of the provisions of the Act of Parliament, and that a dead-meat market was to be established in Smithfield; but it turned out that if Smithfield was not used as a market, it reverted to the Crown, and the Corporation would lose the site unless by some dodge they retained it; and this they proposed to do by depriving the metropolis of that space which would afford air, health and exercise to the inhabitants. He (Sir J. Shelley) thought it his duty to bring this matter before the House, in order that it might be seen, that if the evidence of the Chairman of the Markets' Committee was correct, it was the intention of the Corporation to commit a breach of faith, and to elude the provisions of the Smithfield Removal Act. The public looked to the Home Secretary to exercise the power given him by the 39th section of the Act, and it was desirable that the noble Lord's attention should be directed to the matter before the proposed taverns and public-houses were erected, so that a market worthy of the metropolis should be obtained. The noble Lord the Home Secretary had so often acted in a manner conducive to the public welfare, that it was only necessary to point the matter out to him; and he could assure the noble Lord and his Under Secretary that the public looked to them for protection against the Corporation of London. He would therefore beg to move for— Copies of any Correspondence which may have passed between the Government and the Corporation of the City, in reference to the providing a dead-meat Market in conjunction with a live-stock Market at the new Market in Copenhagen Fields.


said, that the document on which the hon. Baronet had founded the greater part of his speech being at present only an ex parte statement laid before the Commissioners, now sitting to inquire into the state of the Corporation, was not one upon which any legislative proceedings could be founded in that House. To obtain such a force it must be accepted by the Commissioners, and incorporated by them as evidence in their Report. There was no man, he was bound to say, who was better acquainted with the whole question of the removal of Smithfield market than Mr. Cornewall Lewis, and certainly any observation which might have fallen from him was worthy of attention, for the House was aware of the active part he had taken in carrying the Bill through the House. There could be no objection to the production of the correspondence desired by the hon. Baronet, though he must warn him that the answer would be nil, since no correspondence on the subject had taken place between the Home Department and the Commissioners. It appeared, however, that no meat market could be established by the Corporation until the situation of it had been approved of by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The site of Copenhagen-fields had been approved of by the Secretary of State for a cattle market; but, so far as he was aware, no application had been made to the Home Department with regard to the sanctioning of a site for a meat market. Therefore, if there was any plan in contemplation of turning what was the site of Smithfield into a meat market, it would have to be laid before the Secretary of State for the Home Department for approbation, and the promoters of it would have to show that the public interest would be benefited thereby before they could carry it out.


said, that as the Corporation of London was at present passing through a most searching inquiry before a Commission, as to its constitution, and the personal character of its body, he did not consider it worth his while to answer the greater part of the observations which had been made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster. With regard, however, to the charge made by the hon. Baronet that the Corporation were ignorant of the size of a short-horned beast, and could form no idea of what accommodation to provide for them, he would only refer the hon. Baronet to the Report of the Commissioners, in which he would find the testimony of Sir Harry Verney, the breeder of one of the largest short-horned beasts ever known, and Mr. William Miles, a name not unknown in agriculture, where the plan of the Corporation was spoken of in the highest terms, as being most convenient, and conceived in a comprehensive and liberal spirit. The hon. Baronet blamed the Corporation for not having undertaken the duty of removing the market, except at the last moment which was allowed them, and then only to serve their own purpose. He (Mr. S. Wortley) was willing to take upon himself any blame which could attach to this transaction, for he had advised the Corporation to undertake the responsibility as a public duty, feeling that, on the whole, the Corporation had been well treated by Parliament; and, though many of the Corporation were of opinion that they could not carry it out without loss, yet the task was undertaken on public grounds only, and for the benefit of the public. With regard to the evidence of, Mr. Taylor, at present it was but a newspaper report, since the official evidence was not yet printed, and, consequently, was not the kind of evidence that House was in the habit of proceeding upon. Now the real state of the facts was simply this:—The Committee of the Corporation, looking to the suggestions and recommendations of the Commissioners on the subject, had desired the City architect to make a plan and estimate for the erection of a meat market upon the old site of Smithfield. If that plan were adopted by the Committee, it would have to be reported to the general body representing the Corporation of London—the Common Council, and there discussed and decided upon before any further proceedings could be taken on it. If, in the meantime, it should be found that any such proceeding was inconsistent with the Act of Parliament, of course, that would materially affect any decision upon the subject, and the greatest respect and deference would undoubtedly be paid to any suggestion or intimation which might be made by the Government on it.


said, he hoped that the Corporation would turn their attention to the propriety of changing the market day from Monday to Tuesday. In former times, when cattle were a long time on the road to market, perhaps the Monday market did not so much matter; but, now that a few hours was sufficient to bring them to market, the change which he had mentioned would not only be a great advantag to the feeder of beasts, but also to consumers. Many of the constituency which he represented were the largest cattle feeder in the kingdom, and it would be a great advantage to them if they could take their fat cattle straight from their fields into the market, instead of having to keep them in London over Sunday.

Motion agreed to.