HC Deb 25 February 1856 vol 140 cc1388-93

said, he rose to move for a Select Committee to consider the best means of communication between those parts of the metropolis which lie north of St. James's Park and those parts which lie south and south-west thereof.


said, he should move that the House do now adjourn. So important a Motion as that which the right hon. Baronet now wished to make ought not to be taken at that late hour of the night.


said, he would second the Motion for the adjournment of the House. The right hon. Baronet contemplated, not merely the destruction of the park, but a large expenditure of the public money. Instead of calling for a Select Committee in the matter, he thought it would be much better if the Government acted upon their own undivided responsibility.

Motion made and Question proposed—"That this House do now adjourn."


Sir, before the Motion for the adjournment of the House is put, I wish to make a short statement explaining the real object which the Government have in view in asking for this Committee. It is well known that for a considerable time past a desire has been expressed on the part of the public that a convenient communication should be opened between the one side of St. James's Park and the other; and, therefore, all that the Government now seek by the appointment of a Committee is, that there should be a full and impartial inquiry as to the best means of supplying that desideratum. My right hon. Friend (Sir G. Grey) has laid on the table, by command of Her Majesty, two plans which I directed to be prepared for effecting this object; but it is not at all the intention of the Government to confine the attention of the Committee to these two plans. Care will be taken to make the terms of the reference sufficiently wide to enable the Committee to consider any other plans that may be suggested to them, and after what has proceeded from the public press, and from other quarters on this subject, I cannot but think that the most convenient course to pursue would be to have a Select Committee to inquire into the best means of attaining the desired communication. I did not think it would have been necessary for me to say anything on such a simple Motion; but as I have been called upon to say this much, I may observe that the public mind has been led away by the rumours that have been extensively circulated to the effect that a desire has existed to exclude the public from St. James's Park, and more especially to prevent them from passing in front of Buckingham Palace. The best answer I can give to that is, that at the very time when these reports were most industriously circulated, and even previously thereto, I had received instructions to prepare a plan which should admit the public immediately in front of the palace. That simple statement I think will sufficiently show how purely gratuitous and unfounded are the allegations to which I have referred. I can only further assure the House, should it be its pleasure to assent to this Committee, that we have no wish to convert this into a party question. The Committee shall be as fairly struck as any Committee can be; and notice will be given of the names to-night, that any hon. Member wishing to object to any particular nomination may have an opportunity to do so at once. The Government are desirous of affording the communication which is so anxiously sought by the public, and I think there ought, therefore, to be no time lost in sending the matter before a Select Committee.


No doubt, Sir, a desire has been manifested on the part of the public to have a communication opened between what is called Belgravia and St. James's Street; but then, to mystify the question, the Government propose to make a communication from the north to the south side of the park—that is, from St. James's Street to Westminster, which is an entirely different matter. I fully believe that no objection has ever been entertained to the public going past the palace; but I can easily conceive that there may be other parties who are anxious to prevent that "run" from being made; and I suspect that this is a case in which there has been the dragging of a red herring across the line to throw the hounds off the real scent. Therefore, there are to be all sorts of plans; and with his usual liberality the right hon. Baronet says, "I am not the man to confine you to my own two plans. You may lay any other plans you please before the same Committee"—a mode of proceeding about as certain to divert public attention from what they really want as any one could possibly contrive. If you start half a dozen hares at once for the hounds to catch, I will be bound to say the hounds will not catch any one of them. Living myself in Westminster, I confess that I feel considerable interest in this question. My family derives no small advantage from the park, and I do not wish to see the place cut to pieces. If, therefore, there is to be an inquiry, I hope it will be a fair one; and I trust the Government have not come to us on this question pledged beforehand; but rather that they will be open to consider candidly any representations that may be made to them, and that, in point of fact, they will secure to the public what the public undoubtedly want—namely, a communication from St. James's Street to Belgravia. No one ever heard of the public wishing to go across the water in the park till somebody smelt out that the right hon. Gentleman had got a beautiful plan, when a decided opposition to the project sprang up in various quarters. Let a communication, then, be opened from Belgravia, but not across the park.


Sir, there can be nothing more ample, I think, than the order of reference which my right hon. Friend (Sir B. Hall) proposes to make to the Committee, and, therefore, the alarm which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) feels is quite unfounded. There is no intention on the part of the Government to confine the Committee to any one particular line of road; and to prevent all possibility of cavil, the Committee will not consider any particular communication—any passage to Belgravia but from one side of the Park—from that large area extending from Hyde Park Corner to the Horse Guards. Nothing can be more complete than the order of reference; and, with regard to the red herrings alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, I am quite persuaded the right hon. Gentleman will be kept to the proper scent, and that he will not be diverted by any plan which may be thrown in his way.


said, he thought they might have had a communication between those two places without waiting for the Report of a Committee or the order of the Board of Works. A present and immediate communication between the two districts was greatly required, and might, he thought, be given at once, and it seemed hardly necessary to have the intervention of a Select Committee to define what all knew was desired by the public generally. Every one in his own experience knew that the traffic between what he might call old London and Westminster and Belgravia was daily increasing. A communication between those districts was therefore required; and he hoped that, pending the Report of the Committee, something might be done to effect it.


said, that all persons who were in the habit of passing through the Stableyard Gate—and all persons in private carriages could now pass through it—were aware that there was a very dangerous corner in that short route, and that that was the only communication between St. James's Street and the park. If that was still to be the only communication, and it was to be thrown open to all public vehicles, or at least to omnibuses and cabs, very serious accidents might occur. He would ask the House, then, whether they were not of opinion that an inquiry should take place with a view of ascertaining whether the communication might not be improved?


said, he would suggest that there was another means of establishing a communication between St. James's Street and the park—namely, by removing the German Chapel at St. James's Palace, and he thought that was a road which might very properly be opened.


said, he had been told a few days ago that after eight o'clock in the evening persons were allowed to pass from the Pimlico Gate to St. James's Street. The other evening he took that road, when he was stopped by a policeman and turned back. Perhaps the Home Secretary would give orders to the policemen that, at all events, during the dusk of the evening, this privilege might be accorded to the public.


said, it was no doubt of great importance that, as the noble Member for Marylebone (Viscount Ebrington) had recommended, the communication between Belgravia and what he had called Old London, should be improved; but among his (Sir J. Shelley's) constituents there was a great desire that the traffic at Charing Cross should be relieved by the establishment of a communication between Pall Mall and Westminster. He thought the Committee proposed by the Government might fairly take the whole subject into consideration with the view of ascertaining the best mode of affording accommodation to all parties.


said, he begged to express his concurrence in the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck).


said, he was still of opinion that a Motion on a subject of so much importance should not be brought forward at so late an hour, and he was unwilling to withdraw his Amendment for the adjournment.

Motion negatived.


said, he must appeal to the noble Lord at the head of the Government to consent to the postponement of the appointment of the Committee. On going into the library that night he found there the two plans which had been laid upon the table, but they had not been placed in the hands of hon. Members. He thought that copies of those plans ought to be printed and circulated among Members before they were called upon to form a decided opinion on the subject.


said, if the House was now called upon to come to a decision, the objection of the hon. Member, that plans of the proposed routes had not been circulated among hon. Gentlemen, would undoubtedly have considerable force; but as the question was to be referred to a Select Committee the House would not be called upon to pronounce any opinion upon the subject until that Committee had made its Report. He thought they need not fear that before that Report was presented plans would be in the hands of hon. Gentlemen, and that they would have full time for their consideration.

Motion agreed to.

Select Committee appointed to consider the best means of Communication between those parts of the Metropolis which lie North of the St. James's Park and those parts which lie South and South-west thereof, and to report thereupon to the House.

Paper [presented 18th February] referred:—(Queen's Consent signified).

The House adjourned at One o'clock.