§ Order for second reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
said, he should move as an Amendment that it be read a second time that day six months. He objected to the measure, because it proposed to give to a private trading company powers to interfere with property which, in his opinion, were perfectly monstrous.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
said, he was glad that the attention of the House was drawn to the Bill, as it was one of such a nature as required their special consideration. Such a trading speculation had never been brought before Parliament. To the provision enabling the company to take Crown property, with the consent of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, there could of course be no objection; but the Bill went further, and proposed to give powers to the company to take adjoining property without the consent of the owners. It was said that this project would tend to a great public improvement, but such a supposition was not a sufficient reason for giving those compulsory powers to a trading company. There was no precedent for such a course. The question of a railway, or of a canal company, was different, for in both those cases the importance was not only public, but national. He trusted that the House would agree to the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he was in no way concerned with the Bill, but as it proposed a great metropolitan improvement, he as a metropolitan member had examined it, and he thought it one which ought to be referred to a Select Committee. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Fitzroy) said that there was no precedent for the House agreeing to such a Bill, forgetting that there must be a beginning to everything. The complaint against the Bill was that it proposed to give the company compulsory power to purchase certain private property adjoining the Crown property, on which it was intended to build the hotel. They all knew that that property was at present occupied by a very low class of houses indeed. The company, in asking for that power, proposed to give up a large portion of that property for the formation of a new street, which would be the commencement of very great improvements. If, then, therefore, the hon. Member (Mr. Bentinck) should persevere in his Amendment, he (Sir J. Shelley) would take the sense of the House upon it, as he thought it should be a very strong case, indeed, which should induce the House to prevent the Bill of a great public company going before a Select Committee.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, he was opposed to the second reading of the Bill, because he objected to the company getting from the House any compulsory powers. In Railway and Canal Bills the object sought was not only of national importance, but could not be carried out without compulsory powers, whereas in the present instance there was nothing to preclude the company from building their hotel elsewhere. The question was one of principle, not for a Committee but for the House to decide, and it was whether the House would establish a now precedent by agreeing to a Bill conferring such extraordinary powers on a trading company. The passing of the Bill would be the beginning of a system of legislation under which nobody's property would be safe.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, he could not conceive a greater nuisance than an hotel or public-house on the proposed site. He thought that a great part of the property, particularly where the barracks were situated, might be improved; but at the same time they might have a better building there than that proposed in the Bill.
§ MR. WILSON
said, he must explain assent to 1701 the Bill only so far as the Government property was concerned; and it would be for the House to decide on the other part of the Bill as it thought fit.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, he should oppose the measure, and he cautioned the House against taking a dangerous step, by agreeing to the second reading. In the case of Railway Bills, when the House granted compulsory powers, they obtained a guarantee of the public being convenienccd—that they should, for instance, be carried at certain fares; while the House could not, in the present instance, fix a scale of prices for the public accommodation.
§ MR. OTWAY
said, as his name was on the back of the Bill, he would state the grounds upon which he was induced to support it. It was proposed to enable a company to obtain public property, by which great advantage would be derived to the public generally in the improvements they proposed to make in this metropolis. They would not only have a magnificent hotel erected, but great sanitary improvements effected in extending the area in the neighbourhood of Trafalgar Square, and in also throwing open the streets in that neighbourhood. As to precedents, he would remind the House that there was no precedent for the first railway that was established. They might have to wait for ever for great improvements if they were to wait for the establishment of a precedent.
§ MR. JAMES MACGREGOR
said, he hoped that the Bill would be read a second time, as there was nothing so much desired in this great metropolis as a large hotel to come into competition with the hotels already established.
§ MR. W. EWART
said, he thought that the objections raised against the Bill could be easily removed if the measure were referred to a Select Committee.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he was a Member of the Committee that had reported unanimously in favour of the removal of the National Gallery from its present site. He thought that the present Bill would be a most advantageous measure towards effecting that object. It would give a stimulus to the whole question, and would enable them to appropriate to some good purpose the property purchased by the Government for an enormous sum some years ago. The magnificent pictures of Mr. Turner were all heaped together in what lie might call the 1702 cellars of the building, as there was no site in which they could be placed so as to be exposed to public view. The Crown had acted most liberally in not opposing this great improvement.
§ MR. WILSON
said, he simply meant to say, that the Government, so far as Crown property was concerned, had no objection to the Bill being read a second time, but with regard to the second point involved in the question they left that to be decided by the House.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, at the time the National Gallery was about being built, the architect that was employed went to Greece in search of a facsimile in a Grecian building. This had given much satisfaction, as it was then said that Greece could produce the most perfect model for such a building. No sooner, however, was it erected than there was a universal cry raised against it. Well, the same thing happened every day. No sooner did they buy a great picture than it was discovered that it was not worth a farthing. No sooner did they erect a great building than they found out that it was a complete disgrace to the country. At the bottom of all this he had always detected a job. He did not know who the gentlemen were that were promoting this work, but at the bottom of such plans he had always found some jobbing architect and a, lawyer.
§ Question put "That the word 'now' stand part of the question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 72; Noes 64; Majority 8.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2o.