§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. WHITESIDE moved the second reading of this Bill.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. BYNG
said, he rose with reluctance to oppose the further progress of this Bill, and to move that it be read a second time that day six months. He wished to disclaim any personal hostility to the gentleman whose interests would chiefly be affected by it; but he was compelled to object to the Bill because many of his constituents were of opinion that it would interfere greatly with their rights, as well as the formerly expressed opinion of the Legislature. The subject was not a new one, having been before Parliament for the last twenty years. The gentleman whose property would be affected by this Bill had made many vain attempts to obtain building power upon the property at Hampstead. In the year 1829 the first application was made and refused. Since that period Bills were introduced almost every Session having the same object in view, but Parliament uniformly rejected them. Moreover, in the Leases and Sales of Settled Estates Act passed in l856 it was provided that no such power should be granted by the Court of Chancery in cases where previous applications to Parliament had been unsuccessful. The will under which the gentleman in question took his property gave him power to grant building leases at Charlton, but not at Hampstead. The inference was that the testator had good reasons for the expection. The chief grounds on which he opposed the Bill was because he did not consider that a private Bill should override a public Act; and though the right hon. Gentleman had done his best to render the Bill as harmless as possible on public grounds, he (Mr. Byng) felt bound to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
relied upon the justice of the case to induce the House to pass the Bill. The gentleman in question, Sir T. Wilson, unfortunately for himself, lived within the jurisdiction of the metropolitan Members. He had an estate at Hampstead, and it was said that he intended to build on the Heath; but he had no more intention to do so than he had to build in the moon. He had consented to the introduction of a clause prohibiting him from building on Hampstead Heath, but that did not appear to satisfy all parties. The Judges had reported four times in favour of Sir Thomas Wilson; the House of Lords passed a Bill on the subject in 1854; and when that Bill came before the Commons the metropolitan Members had influence enough to throw it out. Since that time the question had been brought before the Court of Chancery, and, Sir William Page Wood, though he was prevented from entertaining the application, said there was nothing to induce him to think that the testator had the slightest conception of precluding those who came after him from building on the property in question. Every man who voted against this Bill would vote simply for this proposition—that a gentleman should not be heard in a Court of justice; for all that Sir Thomas Wilson asked was to be at liberty to represent his case to the Court of Chancery. His (Mr. Whiteside's) argument was founded upon the justice of the case, and he ventured to think that no Gentleman who respected justice could vote with the hon. Member for Middlesex.
§ Mr. EDWIN JAMES
said he could only suppose that the right hon. Gentleman was engaged to conduct the Bill through the House because no English Member would undertake it. He (Mr. James) dared to say that if a similar Bill, affecting a suburb of Dublin, were entrusted to an English Member, no man would be more eloquent against it than the right hon. Member for Dublin University. Besides, a similar Bill had been rejected by Parliament seven or eight times after the Judges to whom it was referred had reported against it. Although the Bill pretended to exclude Hampstead Heath it included the adjoining property, and the result would be, if the Bill passed, that Sir Thomas Wilson would be at liberty to build a wall entirely round the Heath. The object of the testator was, beyond all question, that the property 2288 should not be built upon at all; and an attempt was now made to hoodwink the House by introducing, in the guise of a public Bill, a measure which Parliament had over and over again rejected as a private Bill.
§ MR. ALCOCK
said, he should vote against the Bill. This was the eleventh time Sir Thomas Wilson had attempted the same thing, although he bad no more right to enclose Hampstead Heath than he had to enclose the moon. The fact was that the father of Sir Thomas Wilson was charmed with the Heath, and left it in his will that no son of his should build over it.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, he trusted that hon. Members unconnected with the metropolitan representation would give this matter a fair consideration. The object of the Bill was practically to modify a clause in a general Act of Parliament which prevented Sir Thomas Wilson doing that which every other subject, under kindred circumstances, was enabled to do by that Act,—namely, to apply to the Court of Chancery to ascertain whether, according to the intention of the testator, he, Sir Thomas Wilson, was, or was not, empowered to grant valid leases of the land in question. It would be an act of gross injustice to this gentleman to throw out this Bill merely because the property it referred to adjoined one of the most beautiful spots in the neighbourhood of the metropolis.
§ LORD FERMOY
said, there was but one inference to be drawn from the will as to the intention of the late Sir Thomas Wilson. He had left three estates to his son. As to two of them he had given ample leasing powers; but as to the third, that in contiguity with Hampstead Heath, he had debarred his son from those rights. It was clear, therefore, that that prohibition was intended to be permanent for the purpose of protecting one of the most beautiful spots near London. Credit was taken in some quarters for not taking in the Heath; but it belonged to the copyholders, and who would dare to interfere with their rights? They could not, however, build round the Heath without doing so in some measure; for it would be necessary to make roads, and to cart materials for the purposes of the buildings. It was desired by this Bill to obtain the prohibited right by a sidewind, and destroy the right the public clearly had to the uninterrupted enjoyment of Hampstead Heath.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, he should support the measure, as Hampstead Heath was specially excluded from its operation. If leasing powers were to be granted to any owner of a settled estate he saw no reason why that power should be excluded with respect to Sir Thomas Wilson.
§ MR. HANBURY
opposed the Bill. The fresh air and brown heath of Hampstead were necessary to the health and recreation of a large portion of his constituents, and they were not prepared to yield an inch of it for the benefit of Sir Thomas Wilson. Every one, therefore, who voted 2290 in favour of a measure that rendered its enclosure possible voted for an infraction of a poor man's right.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 43; Noes 86: Majority 43.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.
§ House adjourned at half-past Eleven o'clock.