HC Deb 01 March 1860 vol 156 cc2095-9

MR. COWPER moved that the Select Committee on the Serpentine should consist of the following Members—namely, Mr. COWPER, Lord JOHN MANNERS, Sir JOHN SHELLEY, Mr. BLACKBURN, Sir MORTON PETO, Mr. JOSEPH LOCKE, Mr. WALTER, Sir JOSEPH PAXTON, Lord FERMOY, Mr. BYNG, Mr. ALGERNON EGERTON, Captain ARCHDALL, Sir FREDERICK SMITH, Mr. BEACH, and Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY; with power to send for persons, papers, and records; five to be the quorum.

Mr. COWPER and Lord JOHN MANNERS nominated Members of the Select Committee on the Serpentine.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Sir JOHN SHELLEY be one other Member of the said Committee:—"


objected to the composition of the proposed Committee. It would have upon it four metropolitan Members, who, as only five were to constitute a quorum, would obviously be able to exercise an undue preponderance in its deliberations. If those four Members should have the majority in the Committee, its report, judging from past experience, would entail a very liberal, not to say lavish, expenditure of the public money. It might possibly be said that the Members for Westminster and Marylebone ought to sit on the Committee, because the question to come before it materially affected the health and comfort of their constituents. Now, there could not be the smallest objection to the people of Westminster and Marylebone cleaning out what might be called their own cesspool at their own cost; but if, because the Serpentine ran into Hyde Park, which was part of the Royal domains, the clearing out of it was to be regarded not as a local, but as a national undertaking, it was the duty of that House, as the guardian of the public purse, to take care that the Committee should be a thoroughly impartial one. That, however, could not be the case, if so many metropolitan Members, whose constituents were immediately interested in a large and reckless outlay of the public money in this matter, were to form part of the tribunal. Any Member serving on a Committee appointed to examine a group of Private Bills was required to make a solemn declaration that his constituents were neither directly nor indirectly interested in the question on which he was to sit in judgment. The same rule ought to be applied in the present instance. He meant to offer no personal disrespect to the hon. Members for Westminster and Marylebone; but, as it was the manifest interest of those whom they represented that "a thorough good job" should be made of this matter, regardless of expense, he maintained that they could not bring a calm and unbiassed judgment to bear upon it. He must, therefore, take exception to the nomination of those hon. Members, and he should begin by moving the omission of the name of Sir John Shelley.


said, that in selecting the names his desire had been to place on the Committee all the hon. Gentlemen who had evinced a special interest in the question that was to be referred to them. The hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster (Sir J. Shelley) had taken part last year in the debates on the subject of the Serpentine, and had directed his attention to the question in various forms; it was, therefore, only natural that he should be put upon the Committee. It was impossible to admit the force of the argument based on the fact that the hon. Baronet was a metropolitan Member. His constituents had no special interest in that matter. The electors of Westminster were not the only people who suffered from the present state of the Serpentine. It would be just as reasonable to say that no metropolitan Member should be allowed to sit on a Committee to inquire into the unwholesome smells arising from the Thames.


thought the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last deserved great credit for his efforts to mystify a simple question. The question was whether they were to permit the system to continue by which for years past the grossest jobs for the benefit of the metropolis, and against the general interests of the country, had been perpetrated. It was quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the four metropolitan Members now nominated had displayed, and very naturally, a deep interest in this question; but for that very reason they ought not to be placed on a Committee of which five Members were to form a quorum. It was, no doubt, the interest of the metropolis that the Serpentine should be cleansed out in the shortest possible time, and entirely at the public expense; and those four hon. Gentlemen could not be blamed if they exerted themselves on behalf of those who elected them to convert a strictly local undertaking into an Imperial one. Such a principle, however, was nothing less than downright spoliation. The metropolitan Members had great facilities for serving their constituents at the cost of the country. They could band themselves together in a compact body any day; and when so united he must say—without intending to offer them the slightest personal disrespect—they were perfectly unscrupulous. The whole object of the metropolitan Members was to obtain a large amount of Impe- rial expenditure for their constituents. Against that principle he would always contend, and he would ask all those hon. Members opposite who were not connected with the metropolis to support him. His hon. Friend objected to a system of most mischievous jobbing, the cost of which it was impossible to calculate. The country had very nearly been saddled with many millions for the purification of the Thames.


hoped the House would not waste any more time over this "bagged fox." Great interests were waiting to know the decision of the House upon the matters proposed to be dealt with by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he trusted that no more time would be taken up by the present discussion. The whole argument of the hon. Gentleman opposite was a mistake. It was impossible that operations connected with the Royal Parks could be discussed by the Metropolitan Board of Works, or the expense be thrown upon the metropolis. The expenditure for the Royal Parks stood upon a different footing, and any analogy between the constitution of the present Committee and that of a railway committee, in which the Members interested had no deciding voice, was quite erroneous. The Committee would have to consider what plan would be best adapted for the purification of the Serpentine at the smallest expenditure. Their recommendation, however, would not be binding on the House, which would look to the evidence, and then judge for itself whether the Report of the Committee was borne out. He trusted that this discussion might now close, and the House be allowed to proceed with the important business on the paper.


said, he had remarked that wherever there was any dirty water to be defended the hon. Member for West Norfolk was always foremost in that cause. The hon. Member was very l0th to part with what Shakspeare called the "ancient and the fish-like smell" of the artificial water in St. James's Park, and now that nuisance was taken from the nose of Her Majesty the hon. Member was miserable that the Serpentine was to be cleansed, and insisted that no one whose duty it was to keep the metropolis healthy should be put upon the Committee.


held that the metropolis ought to pay for its own improvements. The country at large was certainly no longer disposed to bear this expenditure.


thought it the duty of the Members for Marylebone to protect the interests which their constituents had in the purification of the Serpentine. It was highly unfair to say that the metropolitan Members ought not to be upon the Committee.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 36: Majority 86. Mr. BLACKBURN, Sir MORTON PETO, Mr. JOSEPH LOCKE, Mr. WALTER, Sir JOSEPH PAXTON, Lord FERMOY, Mr. BYNG, Mr. ALGERNON EGERTON, Captain ARCHDALL, Sir FREDERICK SMITH, Mr. BEACH, and Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY, nominated other Members of the said Committee:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.