HC Deb 16 July 1858 vol 151 cc1648-52

Order for Committe read.


said, he must repeat his objections to this Bill, on the ground that it was a violation of the principle and sanctioned a course of proceeding to which the House ought not to lend itself. He had no objection to open Chelsea Bridge free to passengers, if that could be done consistent with keeping public faith; but he thought it was perfectly impossible, without committing a breach of public faith, to make any alteration in the original agreement. A positive bargain had been made, by which the tolls were to be liable for the amount lent for the construction of the bridge, together with interest at the rate of 4 per cent per annum; and he contended that the agreement so entered into ought not to be violated on any pretence whatever.


said, that as soon as the West End line of railway was completed to Pimlico the revenue of the bridge would dwindle to nothing. He only regretted that the Bill did not go further and throw open the bridge. He was of opinion, that all bridges across the Thames in the metropolitan district should be free.

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3.


said, he rose to move an Amendment, the effect of which was, to abolish the toll on foot passengers after the passing of the Bill. Practically the toll of a half-penny, which was really a penny (for nobody was allowed to turn round on the bridge and go back, however much he might desire it—he must go to the other end, and pay again to come back) operated to the deprivation of the poorer classes, for whose benefit the park had been formed, of its enjoyment. The Earl of Derby had stated to a deputation which waited upon him that he would be ready to assent to the abolition of these tolls if it could be proved that the value of the land belonging to the Crown in Battersea Park would be proportionately increased. Before a Committee which had inquired into the subject Mr. Pennithorne, the ar- chitect of the Board of Works, had stated that by freeing the bridge of foot-toll the land in the neighbourhood of Battersea Park would let both more quickly and at a higher price. He was informed that a builder had that day applied to the Board of Works to know the price of this land; and he had been informed that even now it was £3,000 per acre, whereas it had been estimated at £2,000 an acre, so that there was every ground for saying that a much larger sum would be realized than was taken into the account by the Government. In a financial point of view it would he wise policy to take off the toll. They had made a bad speculation in spending £300,000 in forming a park. They had done so on the recommendation of the Royal Commission, who reported the Battersea Fields were a nuisance. They formed a park for the working classes, and then they found that nobody would go to it, and that the land around it would not let. They built a bridge at an expense of £80,000 to get out of that difficulty, and they placed a toll upon it, which destroyed the efficiency of the remedy. If they took off the toll people would go to the park, and the land would be readily taken up at £3,000 an acre or more, and they would get back at least some of the money which had been so badly spent.

Amendment proposed,— In page 3, line 14, to leave out from "after the," to "aforesaid" in line 16, in order to insert the words "passing of this Act.


said, he rose to make one observation. The principle of the Committee was that every desirable improvement should be carried out; but it was not thought advisable to tax the rural for the advantage of the metropolitan population.


said, he should oppose the Amendment. It was most desirable to assist the poorer members of the community, provided that faith were kept with the public; but he did not see bow that could be done if this Amendment were agreed to. If they admitted the principle that public money was to be lent for a local object, under specific conditions as to its repayment, and that subsequently an Act might be introduced annulling the previous one, how could it be expected that public money would henceforth be lent for a local object?


said, he willingly admitted that the provisions of the original Act were most unwise; and if he could agree with the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir J. Shelley) that there would be no breach of faith in doing away with the foot tool on the bridge, he would have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment. But having looked most carefully into the case he had been compelled most reluctantly to come to a different conclusion. The hon. Gentleman had also mixed up two questions. The park and the bridge rested upon two separate Acts of Parliament, and however much the lands at Battersea Park might rise in value there was no power authorising them to appropriate any amount they might receive from the sale of the land to the repayment of the charge for erecting the bridge. At the same time he quite admitted the absurdity of forming a park at a great expense for the benefit of the working classes, the only access to which was a bridge, and then to place a toll upon that bridge, which must to a greater extent or a less exclude those for whose enjoyment the park was intended; but as Parliament had in its wisdom so determined he was bound to oppose the Amendment.


said, he thought that in the present instance, as in the case of the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would be advisable to infringe on the public faith.


said, he must beg to deny that there would be any breach of faith in the matter whatever. They would recover the money they had expended if they would only throw open the bridge.


said, he thought the principle, as he understood it to be laid down by the noble Lord, most vicious. The park at Battersea having been laid out at enormous expense, the imposition of a toll would render it impossible to let the land, which might be profitably devoted to building purposes. A very bad bargain had been made by the Bill with respect to the park, and he could see no reason for adhering to it.

Question put, "That the words 'time when the said' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 118; Noes 41: Majority 77.


said, he would move, as an Amendment, the omission of the words after "said," in line 19, down to "shall," in line 21, and the insertion of the words "capital sum of £80,000, with 4 per cent, interest per annum thereon, and all arrears of such interest up to the date of payment."

Amendment proposed,— To leave out, in the same line, the words "sum of £98,777 10s. 6d.,"in order to insert the words "capital sum of £80,000, with six per centum interest per annum thereon, and all arrears of such interest up to the date of payment.


said he must oppose the Amendment.


said, he should support the Amendment as its object was to carry out the agreement which had been originally entered into, and to keep faith with the public.

Question put, "That the words 'sum of' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 116; Noes 45: Majority 71.

LORD JOHN MANNERS moved the omission, in line 20, of the words "ten shillings," and the insertion of the words, "together with such interest thereon, not exceeding the rate of £4 per cent. per annum as the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury may from time to time direct."


said, that within the last ten minutes the Committee had voted that black was white, by rejecting first the Amendment of the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir J. Shelley), and next the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. B. Stanhope). He would ask the noble Lord on what ground he could justify breaking the pledge he had given for specific application of the money?


said, he must deny that the Amendment proposed to give up the interest on the £80,000 advanced. All it did was to give to the Treasury a general control for the benefit of the public. The hon. Gentleman had put a construction upon the clause which it would not bear.

Amendment agreed to.


said, he wished to move at the end of Clause 3 to insert the words— Nor at any time previous to the said sum of £80,000 being paid off as aforesaid shall any toll be demanded or taken for or in respect of foot passengers passing over or on to the said bridge on Sundays. Such a concession would enable the working men of the metropolis to visit the park on the only day when most of them could enter it.


said, the only effect of the Amendment, if adopted, would be to postpone for a considerable period the free opening of the bridge. He would not, however, oppose the adoption of the Amendment if it were pressed.


remarked, that in the interests of the working men of the neighbourhood, he should support the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.


said, he was so pleased that such a provision had been adopted, that he now thought the measure really worth something, and he should not, in consequence, feel it his duty to offer any further opposition to the Bill.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Monday next.