HC Deb 20 July 1857 vol 147 cc90-6

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed,

"That the Bill be now read a Second time."


said, he must charac- terize this measure as a miserable attempt at a compromise. It was an atrocious thing to put a toll on a new bridge in London. The Bill merely proposed to exempt foot passengers, and in Committee he should move the exemption also of carriages and horses. Instead of imposing new tolls, they ought rather to endeavour to get rid of the existing tolls over all the bridges in Surrey and Middlesex, which might be done by imposing a rate of three farthings in the pound upon those two counties. Such a rate would free all the bridges on the river, from London Bridge to Staines.


submitted, that it would be absurd to have a large park at Battersea, and that the inhabitants on the opposite side of the Thames should have no means of getting to it. There was a property belonging to the Crown on the south side of the river consisting of ninety-five acres of land, which he was certain would be greatly improved in value by the bridge in question. He would add, that the money for building the bridge was furnished by a Vote of the House of Commons.


said, the money for building the bridge was advanced by Parliament on the understanding that it was to be defrayed by the tolls on the bridge, but it was never contemplated to place such a large sum upon the finances of the country. He did not approve of the attempt to subvert the original understanding on which the bridge was built, and he would decidedly enter his caveat against such a dangerous principle; at the same time he should not oppose the particular proposition.


reminded the House, that no less than £120,000 had been granted for the erection of this bridge on the faith that it was to be repaid by the tolls. Besides, Vauxhall and Battersea bridges, which were in close proximity to the new one, were subject to tolls, and if the necessity for abolishing the tolls was urgent in one case, why not apply it in the others? He admitted that it was highly important in general to have free bridges; but he would remind the House that Battersea Park was intended for the accommodation of the population on the south side of the river, and not of that on the north side. Unless, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Benjamin Hall) was prepared to go to the full extent of abolishing the tolls on Vauxhall and Battersea bridges, he should divide the House against the second reading of the Bill.


said, he regarded this proposed exemption of foot passengers from toll as an attempt on the part of the First Commissioner of Works to introduce the thin edge of the wedge, and that next year they would have him coming to Parliament to claim a similar exemption in favour of carriage traffic, on the ground that such exemption would enhance the value of some ninety-five acres of land on the south side of the river.


said, he could not refrain from stating the way in which Ireland had been treated in a matter of this kind. In 1853, the principal bridge in the city of Cork was destroyed by a flood, and with it thirteen human beings, besides property of the value of £20,000. The citizens of Cork raised £3,000 by a public subscription to relieve the families of those who had suffered from the calamity, and it cost the city an enormous sum of money to pin up the tottering bridge. A few days ago some gentlemen called on the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and showed him how £60,000 had been sacrificed in one way and another from that cause. They asked him for a small sum of money in the shape of a grant to defray the loss, but not a single farthing could they get from him. That was the way in which Irishmen were treated in that matter. They could got no grant from the Consolidated Fund for the purpose he had mentioned, but in the case before the House a toll was put on a bridge for recouping the Consolidated Fund for the money expended on its erection, and now the very men who were parties to that arrangement proposed to weaken the security on which a large sum of public money was advanced. He protested also against the injustice by which the Crown quit-rents of Ireland were expended, not in Ireland, but upon the embellishment of London.


said, he thought if the land was to be so much increased in value, the land-owners ought to be made to pay for the bridge. In the country they had to pay for their parks and their bridges, and it was too much to call upon country Members to assent to a Bill that was to tax their constituents for giving those advantages to the inhabitants of London out of the public purse.


said that, as had been stated by his right hon. Friend (Sir Benjamin Hall), there was land attached to the park which belonged to the public, and would be increased in value by the formation of the park, as well as by the abolition of the toll upon the new bridge. The sale of the land would, in all probability, repay the whole expense which had been incurred. The public having gone to the expense of forming this park professedly for the benefit of the lower classes, the imposition of a toll on the bridge would exclude them from the enjoyment of the park, and therefore militate against the object which Parliament had in view in voting a large sum of money for its construction. It was quite a mistake to say that the public on the north side of the Thames would not enjoy the benefit of the park. There was a large population there of the labouring classes, and if a workingman with his wife and family had to pay a toll in going and returning, the proposal of making the park for the use of this class of the community would be a mockery. He therefore hoped that the House would assent to the Bill, and thus take off the toll, which, if imposed, would have the effect of excluding the lower classes from that rational amusement which it was intended should be given to them by the establishment of Battersea Park.


said, this was one of the most extraordinary propositions ever made to the House. He looked upon it as a distinct breach of faith with the House and the public. As much as £120,000 had been spent upon the bridge, and Parliament would never have granted that sum except on the security of the tolls which it was now proposed to abolish. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.

Amendment proposed to leave out the word ("now") and at the end of the Question to add the words ("upon this day three months.")


said, he would second the Amendment of the hon. Member for Norfolk. They ought to know where this kind of expenditure was to stop.


had no interest in the abolition of the toll, but he was sure that the value of the ninety-five acres of the land to be sold would be more than sufficient to make up for the toll.


wished to know whether it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Works to refer this Bill to a Select Committee, according to the usual practice of the House?


observed, he did not consider it necessary to refer the measure to a Select Committee. It consisted of one plain clause, which provided for the remission of tolls paid by foot passengers. The ninety-five acres to be sold would pay for the toll.


said, the Bill involved the breach of a solemn bargain, by which the public money had been obtained to build the bridge. The Government did not pledge themselves that should their anticipations of profit for the land not be realized, the public should not suffer. It was a deliberate attempt to relieve certain classes at the expense of the public. He represented a constituency who paid tolls for their bridges, because they were honest, and never came whining to Parliament for relief.


said, that he could not consent to these tolls being taking off at the expense of the public, but he was sure than any one who took the land in question would find it a good speculation, besides paying a compensation for the tolls.


said, there was some force in the suggestion that had been made, that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. The Bill was, no doubt, as the right hon. Baronet said, a very small one, but it involved a very large principle. It ought to be recollected that the conditions under which this bridge was to be built were very special. If the Bill were referred to a Select Committee evidence should be required as to the improvement which it was said would be effected upon the property adjoining the site of the bridge. It was quite clear that if taking off the passenger toll would improve it, it would be still further improved by taking off the carriage toll. If, then, this Bill were agreed to, a foundation would be laid for a further stop hereafter with respect to the carriage toll. The abolition of both passenger and carriage tolls would no doubt be an advantage to the Metropolis, and he submitted that the Metropolitan Board of Works should tax the whole of the Metropolis to purchase that advantage. The counties paid for their bridges, and so ought the Metropolitan counties to pay for their bridges.


said, one of the results of modern legislation had been to drive a large portion of the working classes of the Metropolis from the northern to the southern side of the Thames. At this moment there was a working population exceeding 35,000 between Westminster and Vauxhall. The scattering of the working population which had been pent up in crowded and miserable dwellings on the north side of the Thames was conducive to its morality, and he believed that the small tax which the abolition of the toll on Chelsea bridge would impose on the country, would be more than counterbalanced by the reduction which it would effect in the general taxation for the punishment of crime. Battersea Park would be comparatively valueless unless the access to it were without toll.


said, he thought that the people of the Metropolis ought to imitate the example of the people of York, who got rid of the toll on one of their bridges some years ago, by subscribing among themselves the funds necessary to purchase the fee simple of the tolls. Those hon. Gentlemen who had professed such desire to improve the condition of the working classes might, if such a subscription were started in London with regard to Chelsea bridge, prove the sincerity of their professions.

Question put "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes, 94; Noes,74: Majority, 20.

MR. BONHAM-CARTER moved that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.


said, he would not oppose the Motion.

Main Question put, and agreed to:— Bill read 2o and committed to a Select Committee.

On the next Order of the Day being read,

MR. COX moved that the House do now adjourn.


hoped that the hon. Member would allow the House to dispose of the remaining orders.


said, the present system of midnight legislation was giving great dissatisfaction out of doors. He therefore hoped the hon. Member for Finsbury would persevere with his motion.


observed, that it was partly out of consideration to the Speaker that he had made the Motion; it was nearly half-past one o'clock, and the House was to meet again at twelve o'clock this day (Tuesday). On the understanding that no opposed orders would be taken, he would, with the consent of the House, withdraw his Motion for adjournment.

Motion by leave withdrawn, and the order proceeded with.