HC Deb 23 June 1857 vol 146 cc236-50

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, he was very sorry to feel it his duty, in deference to the wishes of a large body of his constituents, to move that this Bill be read a second time that day six months. The inhabitants of Cornwall would derive as much benefit from this park as his constituents residing in Lambeth, and he thought therefore they ought not to be taxed to provide it. A further objection was that the body under whose auspices this measure had been brought forward—the Metropolitan Board of Works—had laid down no scheme for the formation of parks in other parts of the metropolis. The people of Newington and Camberwell, and other populous districts in the borough of Lambeth, desired to have parks in their neighbourhood, but there was no intimation given of any probability of their having them, and they thought it therefore objectionable that they should be called upon to pay for a park for Finsbury. He wished to know whether the Government were going to grant £50,000 out of the public funds towards the formation of this park? The former Bill contained such a provision, and as he found no mention of a similar one in the present Bill, he would like to know whether the Government had withdrawn their promise or not. In Lambeth a park had been made by the contributions of the inhabitants of that locality. He regretted that the Board of Works should have taken up an undertaking of this kind before completing the main drainage of the metropolis.


seconded the Amendment.

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

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that the borough of Finsbury, of which he had the honour to be a Representative, had increased its population 200 per cent in twenty years, and now contained 350,000 persons. Unless the present Bill passed there would never be an open space in the borough for the health and recreation of the inhabitants. In 1851, when it was found the borough was so crowded, application was made to Lord John Russell, then at the head of Her Majesty's Government, who directed plans to be prepared, and notices given for the formation of a park for Finsbury. Before, however, a Bill could be brought in, a change of Ministry occurred. Subsequent attempts were made under the Government of Lord Derby to obtain a park for Finsbury, but again a change of Ministry frustrated the design. When the Metropolitan Board of Works was established it was felt that they were the proper body to deal with the question of new parks for the metropolis, and Parliament gave them, by a special Act, the power to form public parks. The present Bill was the first step towards carrying this Act into effect, but it was not true that there was any intention of confining the measure to one district of the metropolis, for the Metropolitan Board of Works designed to form three parks—one for Finsbury, a second for Bermondsey, and a third at Hampstead Heath. They had not been able to give the requisite notices for taking land in time for the two last mentioned parks, but it was their intention to proceed next Session with a Bill for a park for Bermondsey, and for securing Hampstead Heath for public use. The rate necessary for the present park, if spread over twenty years, would not amount to more than a farthing in the pound per annum. To this the Government had promised to recommend Parliament to add a Vote of £50,000. He believed that the ratepayers of the metropolis would be glad to pay so small a sum, since they would save more than double the amount in doctors' bills. He did not believe the House would have heard any objections to this Bill if the people of Lambeth had not already obtained their Kennington Common enclosure and their park at Battersea.


said, he would support the Bill. The hon. Member for Lambeth had been urging upon the House the rejection of this measure upon the supposition that, now his district was provided for, all other metropolitan improvements were to be given up. The whole metropolis gained by the construction of parks in any part of it. He should, for his own part, like to see it surrounded by a belt of parks, for when he saw how fast it was walking away to Dovor on one side, and Oxford on the other, he thought that for the sake of the health and comfort of those who were then living, they were bound to look forward to what might be the possible size of the metropolis twenty years hence, and the consequent difficulty to its inhabitants in escaping into the country. The sooner such improvements as this were made the cheaper would be the cost, for the value of land was increasing every year.


said, he did not oppose this Bill because he objected to a general rate for this park, and he must disclaim any selfish wish to prevent the district of Finsbury possessing "lungs," or to deprive its inhabitants of opportunities of health and recreation. But when the Metropolitan Board was established Parliament said that, if they wished to spend more than a given sum, they should come to Parliament for its sanction, which, he took it, meant that Parliament was to express its opinion upon the measures which involved such an expenditure. Now he did not deny that a park was required for Finsbury; but he contended that the site suggested for this park was not the best that might be chosen. Of the 250 acres of which it was to be composed 230 were beyond the boundaries of the district embraced in the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Board. This, he thought, was in itself an objection, but it was not the moat serious one that might be taken against the proposed situation of the park. He found that, taking Finsbury Square as the centre of one of the most crowded parts of Finsbury, the site of the new park was three miles distant, while Regent's Park was only two miles and a half off; St. James's Park, two miles and a quarter; and the Victoria Park, one mile and three quarters. It was clearly a mistake to fix the new park in a situation actually more remote than those already existing for the crowded parts of the borough. It was proposed, moreover, to include in this park the filtering reservoirs of the New River Company, which contained 1,750,000 gallons, and supplied 94,000 houses on the north side of the town. Now this Bill contained powers to build in the park, which must also be drained. And he thought when they considered how liable filtering reservoirs were to receive injury, it would be better for the ratepayers of the metropolis not to run the risk of having to pay a large compensation to the New River Company for drainage to their reservoirs. He also felt considerable objections to the proposal for bridging over the New River. Knowing the difficulties with which the Metropolitan Board of Works had to contend, he thought it was much to be regretted that their first proposition should be one of so objectionable a nature. Powers such as those now asked for should, under any circumstances, be regarded with jealousy, and he felt bound to resist the present application for them.


would support the Bill. He was very sorry that the metropolis should exhibit the unseemly spectacle of a house divided against itself on the first occasion when the Metropolitan Board of Works came down to propose a scheme for providing parks for the metropolis out of a general rate. Constant complaints were made against the carrying out of metropolitan improvements at the expense of the country, and now when a proposition was made to improve the metropolis by a rate on its inhabitants, the plan was objected to by two of the metropolitan Members. He could not help characterising the opposition to the Bill as an impudent attempt on the part of Lambeth and Westminster, which had already parks created at the public expense, to escape from contributing their fair share towards providing a park for the unfortunate denizens of the district of Finsbury. The test of distance from Finsbury Square proposed with respect to the site of the park by the hon. Baronet was most fallacious, for Finsbury Square was not the centre of the borough or of its most thickly populated districts. The hon. Baronet was only caught by the name. It was true that the site of the park was out of the district embraced in the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Board. But it was impossible to get a site nearer London, and if they waited a single year longer they would have to go still further off. If Hampstead Heath was enclosed and new parks made for Finsbury and Bermondsey, the total cost would not amount to a rate of more than three farthings in the pound over the whole metropolis. He was surprised, therefore, that any one should propose the rejection of this Bill. But he was sure there would not be half-a-dozen hon. Members found to vote against it.


observed that, without entering into the quarrel of metropolitan Members, he wished to know whether the statement of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Cox) were correct—namely, that the Government had promised, if this Bill passed, to recommend to Parliament a vote of £50,000 from the national exchequer towards the completion of this park. If the public taxes were devoted to such a purpose, every other large town in the kingdom proposing to provide itself with a park would have an equal claim to a similar contribution.


said, that he believed that no positive engagement had been entered into by the Government to give £50,000 towards the construction of this park; but that certainly there was an understanding, that if £250,000 out of the whole estimated cost, which amounts to £300,000, were raised by a general rate, they were prepared to ask the sanction of Parliament for the remaining sum. This plan had been approved by all previous Governments. He believed, that if the Government of Lord John Russell had not gone out of office, they would have formed the park without putting the metropolis to any expense. The Government of Lord Derby were also willing to aid in the construction of a park. And that of the Earl of Aberdeen, in like manner, offered to recommend a vote of public money for this purpose, provided a sum of £250,000 were raised by the metropolis. The question had since been referred to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the Board had come to a resolution, proposing to make a rate for £250,000 over the whole metropolis. The park had been called a Finsbury Park, but in reality it was a park for the whole of the northern part of the metropolis which was increasing every day. Let them look at the increase in the population in the parish of Islington alone. When he represented the borough of Finsbury in the first reformed Parliament, that parish had 2,000 or 3,000 registered electors, and 30,000 or 40,000 population. It had now 10,000 electors and a population of 130,000 or 140,000. The park which it was proposed to construct under the authority of this Bill would accommodate a population of from 500,000 to 600,000 people; and he thought that nothing could be more unreasonable or ungenerous than the opposition to it raised by the representative of Lambeth, which had had Battersea Park constructed for it at the public expense out of the Consolidated Fund, at a cost of between £200,000 and £300,000. And even this very year a sum of £8,000 had been voted by the House for the completion of the Battersea Park, which the hon. Member had got for himself and the Battersea boys to disport themselves in free of cost. It had been asked, what use would Finsbury Park be to the inhabitants of Lambeth? He might retort by asking what use Battersea Park was to the inhabitants of Finsbury? It was, indeed, sought to form a park at Finsbury, for the very reason, that from the distance it would be of no use to the inhabitants of Lambeth. He believed that the ratepayers of the metropolis generally were in favour of this measure; nor did he think that even the unreformed corporation of the City of London would come forward to oppose a park for the recreation of the people. He did trust that the House would not decline to send to a Select Committee a Bill, whose object was to provide a place of recreation for the inhabitants of the crowded districts of St. Luke's, Clerkenwell, and of the northern parts of the metropolis. If that Committee did not approve of it, on full consideration of its provisions, they could, of course, reject it.


said, he would very much rejoice to see a park formed, not only at Finsbury, but in every place where there was a crowded population. But the difficulty they were placed in, arose from the statements of the hon. Members for Finsbury, that the funds of the country were to be called upon to contribute to its cost. They were told this park would only cost the metropolis a rate of a farthing in the pound. And yet, the hon. Members for Finsbury told the House that some inappreciable part of this farthing was to be made up by the taxes of England. Now, upon this point, he thought they ought to have some explanation. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone had conferred great benefit upon the metropolis by the creation of the Metropolitan Board of Works, for the management of the affairs of this vast metropolis. The right hon. Gentleman took especial care to vest them with ample taxing powers, which he (Mr. Henley) was quite certain would secure their popularity. Well, let them tax themselves. He was sure they would exercise a sound discretion in the matter. He was sure that no one would grudge paying his share of rates for providing so great a source of enjoyment as this park for the inhabitants of the metropolis generally. He could not think there would be any substantial opposition, if they had a satisfactory assurance from the Government on the point to which he had referred. As to the opposition of Lambeth and Westminster, he quite agreed in what had been said, that what was a benefit to one part of the metropolis was a benefit to all. It was all the better for Lambeth and Westminster if they had got parks at the public expense, but then let them not refuse to contribute their fair share to provide parks for others.


said, that a deputation from the ratepayers of Finsbury had recently waited upon his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with reference to the proposed park; but that in the absence of his right hon. Friend, he (Sir G. Grey) was unable to say, whether any promise had been given by the Government to submit to the House a vote in aid; but if there had been any such arrangement, of which he had heard nothing till this day, of course it was open to any hon. Gentleman, who was so disposed, to vote for the second reading, upon the understanding that no such promise had been given by the Government, and oppose the Bill at the next stage, if he should find that the Government had at all bound themselves in the matter.


said, that as the people of Westminster had heen placed in the position of opponents of this Bill, he felt called upon to exonerate himself from that charge. He entirely concurred in the observation of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, that it would be ungenerous in any particular portion of the metropolis to oppose Bills for the improvement of other portions of the metropolis, on the ground that that particular portion might not profit by them. The people of Westminster ought to be the last to oppose such a Bill as this, because Westminster, without one farthing of expense to the ratepayers, and entirely by means of the Imperial exchequer, had obtained the best lungs in the metropolis. No representation had been made to him by any of the ratepayers of Westminster to induce him to oppose the Bill, and, even were the case otherwise, he should feel it his duty to support it. But the hon. Member for Warwickshire had raised a very different question. That hon. Member had talked of the injustice of taxing the country generally for the formation of parks in the metropolis, and had contended that any large country town was quite as much entitled as London to grants of the public money for the formation of a park. But it was ridiculous to put a country town on a par with London, for London was the metropolis of the whole empire, and every part of the empire was interested in the well-being of its capital. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire, and the hon. Member for Warwickshire had said, that they represented parts of the country which received no benefit from the London parks, and which ought, therefore, not to be taxed on account of those parks. He hoped, then, that those Gentlemen would never present themselves in the metropolitan parks, for, according to their arguments, they really had no right to enjoy fresh air in them. Millions had been already voted this year for different parts of the country; but did any metropolitan Member rise in his place when the votes, for instance, for Dublin hospitals and ports in various parts of the kingdom were proposed, and exclaim against them on the ground that the metropolis would derive no immediate benefit from the expenditure of the money? On the contrary, he, for one, thought the House took the wiser course in not refusing all votes for local purposes, but in granting them to different parts of the country, and relieving London particularly, not from all local charges and expenses, but only to some extent. Nothing could be more just than to extend such relief to her, whether by rates such as were now referred to, or by bearing a portion of the expense of the police, when they considered how very different was the position of the metropolis from other towns, and that there was hardly any person in the kingdom who was not obliged occasionally to repair here, and thus enjoyed the benefit of any improvements which were made, or of any expenditure of the public money which took place.


said, he thought there ought to be a clear understanding, whether in assenting to the second reading of this Bill, the House would be committed to the arrangement, that a part of the money required for this park should be advanced by the country.


said, he regretted that he was not in the House when this discussion began, for he might then have prevented some misconception as to the scope of the Bill. There had been for a considerable time communications between the Government and the parties interested in the creation of this park. They represented (and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and himself felt the full force of their representation) the great advantages which would accrue to the inhabitants of a very thickly populated part of the metropolis, not situated close to any outlet, if this park were formed; that it would afford them the same facilities for recreation, and the same benefits as regarded health which were enjoyed by the inhabitants of other portions of London situated near to parks already existing; that it would be almost impossible to raise by local rates the whole amount of money required for the purchase of land and its formation into a park; and they urged, that if the Government could induce Parliament to contribute £50,000 towards the expenses this would render easy, if not certain, the operation to which they attached so much importance. They represented, moreover, that if the arrangement were not at once made, every successive year, by extended buildings upon ground now open, would tend to render the undertaking they had in view more difficult, or even to defeat it altogether. His right hon. Friend and himself ultimately agreed to the proposal, and said, "If you bring in your Bill and it is likely to be carried, we will propose to Parliament—subject, of course, to their decision—to give you this £50,000 in aid." He was not quite sure, whether the arrangement was to form part of the Bill, or whether the proposal was to be made contingent on the passing of the measure. He rather thought it was to form part and parcel of the Bill, but be this as it may, of course the Government could not engage to issue any sum out of the Consolidated Fund without the sanction of Parliament. All they could do was, to recommend to Parliament to agree to a grant upon the grounds he had stated. He thought it exceedingly desirable that this park should be made. He quite agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir De Lacy Evans) that it was preposterous for hon. Gentlemen to object to grants of this kind, simply on the ground that the advantage derived was but local. If that principle were to be adopted as a guide for the conduct of Parliament, no general or public improvements would be made, and they would be reduced, as he stated on a former occasion, to a parochial subdivision; nothing would be done in any part of the United Kingdom, unless it could be accomplished by a rate upon the inhabitants of the parish in which the improvement happened to be proposed. He quite agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend that Parliament ought to take a larger and more liberal view of these things, and that the whole country was interested in these metropolitan improvements. London belonged to the empire at large, and it was quite a perversion of terms to suppose that great improvements in the metropolis only concerned the persons who happened to live upon the spot.


observed that he could not bring himself to believe that this great metropolis was so poor as not to be able to find means for effecting its own improvements. All that had been said of the grants already given in aid of metropolitan improvements was an argument to show that the people of the country should not give any more money for such objects, as in them might be detected the growth of a system which was gradually tending to the exemption of the metropolis from all liability in this respect. The hon. and gallant Member for Westminster had referred to the fact, that the county Members and Members for provincial boroughs spent several months of each year in the metropolis, and that as they therefore had a share in the enjoyments with its inhabitants, they should not object to an imperial contribution towards those improvements. Now, had it not struck the hon. and gallant Member that the county and borough Members who resided in the metropolis for the purpose of attending those Parliamentary duties paid for any enjoyments which the metropolis afforded them by the contribution which they, by their residence, made to the general wealth of the capital? In his (Mr. Newdegate's) opinion, that was quite a sufficient contribution for the enjoyments they received. He objected to this apparent tendency towards the adoption of the imperial system in France, involving, as it did, the neglect of the principle of old—always recognized in this country—that local wants should be supplied by rates levied upon the people more immediately benefited. Such a system was not English. The parochial system was the one under which England had thriven, and if a division were taken on the second reading of the Bill now before the House, he should feel it to be his duty to vote against it.


remarked, he really thought that the present was an attempt to obtain money under false pretences. If it was proposed that money should be paid out of the public funds, such proposition should come before Parliament in a public and not in a private Bill. He should oppose the second reading of the Bill, for, if they passed, it would be used as a precedent next Session. They would be told that, with full notice of the object of the Bill, they had voted for it, and thereby established the principle to which the House seemed so much opposed.


said, he thought the House ought to be informed whether, in the event of any other application being made for the establishment of parks, the Government would propose a similar arrangement? It appeared to him that, if they voted this £50,000 for the Finsbury Park, they could not refuse to do the same to either of the two other metropolitan parks which it was proposed to form; and as those proposed parks were intended to be of more extensive character than that, the subject of the present Bill, the grants towards them should be proportionately larger. Another objection which he had to the proposal now before the House was, that it was an appeal ad misericordiam. The principles on which that House should proceed in a matter of rating were those of justice and equity; and he could not think this Bill founded on either justice or equity. It certainly was not just nor fair to make the people of the United Kingdom pay for improvements in Finsbury. A good deal had been said about the difficulty of raising, by rates, the entire sum necessary for the park; and the House was reminded that £50,000 was a small sum when coming from the Imperial Exchequer, but not one word had been said about the increased value which this park would give property in its vicinity. In plain terms, the proposal was one to tax the inhabitants of distant localities for that which would increase the value of private property in Finsbury. He could not congratulate the Metropolitan Board of Works on this achievement; and, anxious as he was to see the people of towns provided with parks, he should vote against the second reading of this Bill.


observed, he should like to know on what system they were to vote this £50,000. Were they in future to vote grants to every town or district in the country that wished to establish a park; or was it only to those localities which could bring pressure on the Government that they were to give these favours? If so, he very much feared that the people of poor towns would stand a bad chance in their candidature for a share of grants for parks. He thought that Finsbury did not come within the metropolis proper; it was not a district of the metropolis that people coining from the country enjoyed much advantage from.


said, he thought the question whether Finsbury should or should not have a park had been remitted by common consent to the Metropolitan Board, but, that being the case, he certainly thought the Metropolitan Board ought to pay for it. He wished the House to understand the question now under its consideration. If it had been simply a question of whether Finsbury should have a park or not, he should not refuse to support the Bill. The point on which they were going to divide was the great question of, whether the Government, holding the public funds at their disposal, were to be at liberty to say to every deputation that waited upon them, "We'll give you £15,000, or £20,000," and so on. Against all such proceedings he should always be prepared to give his vote, and he thought that it was the duty of the metropolis to set an example against going to the central Government for aid for local purposes.


said, he thought that the issue proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken was not that which fairly arose upon the question that this Bill be read a second time. Any opposition with respect to a grant of money in aid of this park would properly arise upon a clause in the Bill, and not on the second reading; and, as an apprehension appeared to exist that the Government were under some engagement to advance money to other parks, he begged to state that no such engagement or understanding had been come to with respect to any other park whatever. It should not be forgotten that the constituents of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets had had a park provided for them at the public expense.


observed, that he looked upon this proposition as the first step towards a grant of £50,000 for the construction of a park in Finsbury; and; as his constituents were anxious to make a park for themselves, and were subscribing money for the purpose, he feared that he should not be able to persuade them that there was any justice in calling upon them to give money for a park in Finsbury, when the Finsbury people subscribed nothing for making a park in the Staffordshire potteries. Seeing the immense sums of money that were being expended in museums and galleries in the metropolis, he should on every occassion set his face against grants of public money for the local purposes of the metropolis.


said, he believed that there would be no opposition to the passing of this Bill, but for an implied understanding that an advance of £50,000 was to be proposed by the Government. As he felt that it would be extremely unadvisable to stop a Bill of this kind, which was the first production—if he might use the expression—of the Metropolitan Board of Works, he should like to test the opinion of the House on the question of whether a Vote of £50,000 ought to be submitted to the House or not. He would suggest, therefore, that some hon. Gentleman, who was opposed to the grant of £50,000 should move that the debate should be adjourned till that day fortnight, and that the decision come to should be taken as a test of the opinion of the House with respect to the grant. He proposed this course, because it would be very hard to throw out the Bill on the ground of an objection to the grant, and nothing else. If the House then should decide against the grant, it would be for the Metropolitan Board of Works to decide whether, under those circumstances, they would proceed with the Bill.


said, he would support the Bill, on the ground that the proposed park was one which had been recommended by a Board of Commissioners, to be formed in the metropolis for the recreation of the working classes of the metropolis.


said, that there could be no objection to the formation of this park by means of local taxation, but he had very great doubts as to the propriety of that House voting £50,000 out of the public funds for a park at Finsbury. However, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir B. Hall) that it would not be well for the House to altogether set themselves against this first and ricketty production of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and he should therefore move, as an Amendment, that the debate be now adjourned.


observed, that he had a strong objection to voting public money for local purposes; but he should not like, on that account, to stop the progress of this private Bill. He had no objection, therefore, to the postponement of the Bill for a fortnight, in order that the House might save itself from the bad principle of voting public money for local objects.


said, it would be understood, then, that the principle on which the debate was adjourned was, that those who voted for the adjournment were against paying £50,000 of public money in aid of this park, but that they did not want to throw over the Bill if the persons interested in it would construct the park for themselves, without Government assistance.


who was nearly inaudible, said, they ought to read the Bill a second time, and discuss the clauses in Committee, otherwise there was no hope of getting the Bill up to the House of Lords in time to be within the Standing Orders.


said, that he hoped that, in the Vote about to be given, the hon. Members who, like himself, were opposed to this grant, would be distinctly understood to express their opinion that the public money ought not to be voted for such purposes, as that contemplated by the Bill. They were about to give the Government an opportunity of bringing the measure again before the House, and, at the same time, to give them an opportunity of knowing that they would emphatically resist any such proposition as that now under discussion.


said, that that was distinctly the understanding.


wished to say that he had been misunderstood. He had not spoken against metropolitan parks in general, but merely against the site selected for the Finsbury Park.


said he wished to point out that the present proposition was simply to make a park at the cost of the metropolis. It would be for the House to deal as it chose with the proposition to vote public money in aid whenever that proposition should be submitted to the House.


taking out his watch, said, that if the House would indulge him for five minutes he should not detain them beyond that time. He merely wished to say that in voting for the second reading he did not consider he was pledging himself to the grant of £50,000. He certainly thought the House should read the Bill a second time, and he would vote accordingly.

Motion made and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

The House divided:—Ayes 214; Noes 123: Majority 91.

Debate adjourned till Thursday.