HC Deb 07 April 1862 vol 166 cc698-708

Order for Second Reading read.


moved the second reading of this Bill.

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


said, be should have thought his right bon. Friend (the First Commissioner of Works would have felt it his duty to have made some statement on the occasion of the second reading of the Bill; but ns he had not done so, he (Sir John Shelley) must trouble the House with a few remarks. The proposition was nothing less than to tax the inhabitants of the Metropolis to the tune of £1,500,000 out of the coal tax; and lie therefore thought that good reason ought to have been shown for the proposition. He hoped he should not be twitted with being inclined to set his face against Metropolitan improvements. He begged distinctly to say that he entirely concurred ill the opinion that, of nil propositions, not one was more likely to contribute to the welfare of the Metropolis than the embankment of the Thames. But he represented a portion of the community which would have to pay for it, and the Metropolitan Board of Works reported that ten years' produce of the coal and wine duties would not be sufficient to carry but the necessary improvements of the Metropolis. He was astonished to find that the opinion of a Select Committee, which had devoted great pains to the inquiry, was deemed unworthy of consideration; and that a Royal Commission should have been appointed, at the head of which was the Lord Mayor, who, being anxious to obtain the sweet voices of the constituency of London, was naturally anxious that the Report should contain nothing which would militate against the interests of the City. He had every respect for the members of the Commission, but he did not approve of the composition of that body, for the purpose of determining upon a plan which was not to be paid for in any shape either by the Government or Parliament. They were nominees of the Government, and included the names of Sir J. Jebb, Inspector of Prisons, Captain Burstall, Secretary of the Thames Conservancy, Mr. Henry Hunt, and Mr. Thwaites. The Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works might, in some respects, be said to represent the Metropolis, but Mr. Thwaites seemed to think his only duty was to see that the low-level sewer was put in the embankment, without regard to what scheme would be most economical. What was sauce for the goose was said to be sauce for the gander; but it was clear that what was sauce for Westminster was not sauce for the City of London. While the wharves of his constituents were to be unscrupulously swept away, the wharves in the City were to be preserved. Such a scheme had manifestly a very suspicious appearance. It appeared that the wharves in Westminster were principally devoted to the coal trade, and the Commissioners who had inquired into the question of the Thames embankment seemed to think that the removal of those wharves would lead to no public loss or inconvenience. It was, however, of the utmost consequence that coals should be carried, as near as possible, to the doors of consumers. It was calculated that the abolition of the wharves would add 2s. or 3s. per ton to the price of coals to the inhabitants of Westminster; while the filling-up of the wharves would entail an outlay of between £300,000 and £400.000. Early the other morning he moved for a detailed statement of the scheme, and he was much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for hanging up a plan in the Library. He had examined it, and must pronounce it one of the wildest he had ever heard of. It was significant, that although engineers were invited to compete, none of the plans sent in were adopted. The one which was chosen was the work of a Commissioner. That, on the face of it, was extremely suspicious. Seeing that the plan was entirely contrary to every plan which up to that time had been before them, and all of which went as far down as Queenhithe, and there communicated with Cannon street, instead of stopping at Blackfriars and leaving the wharfage untouched; and seeing that the plan did away with the wharfage property down to the Temple, treated with great respect the wharves of the City as far as Blackfriars, and conveniently turned there, giving the City of London a most magnificent street to which the Corporation did not contribute a farthing; considering further, the Lord Mayor of the City was at the head of the Commission, he (Sir John Shelley) had a right to ask for further explanations. He wished, therefore, to know how much of the £1,500,000 was to be spent on the embankment proper, and how much on the new street in the City and other unnecessary operations? He believed that a needless expense of £500,000 would be incurred. This embankment was, in his opinion, somewhat of a national improvement, and he regretted that the Consolidated Fund was not to be called upon to contribute to the expense, because in that case the subject would receive more attention than it was at present likely to obtain from the House. He should, no doubt, be told that it was what was called a hybrid Bill, and would have to go before a Committee upstairs; but lie should not be satisfied with that unless be received an assurance that there would be upon that Committee some representatives of the interests of those who were to pay for the undertaking. As he thought that the House ought not to proceed with this measure without further information, lie should move, as an Amendment to the Motion, the postponement of the second rending until a detailed Estimate had been presented.

Amendment proposed. To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will not proceed further with the Bill, until the Estimate of the cost of the Works to be authorized thereby shall have been laid upon the Table of the House. —instead thereof.


said, he would second the Amendment. He thought that the House, before proceeding further with the Bill, ought to be in possession of every information as to the cost of the scheme; and especially ought to have before it the Report of the Commissioners upon the embankment of the south bank of the river, which he believed would soon be presented.


said, he was so far from thinking that the subject was uninteresting to the House that he believed it concerned every inhabitant of the metropolis, in whatever part of it he might reside. Every tine who was in the habit of passing through the centre of London must feel the urgent necessity for the great thorough fare which it was proposed to construct. He had been much surprised at the Amendment which had been moved. He could not consent to give the return for which the hon. Member moved on Friday night: but as the hon. Gentleman had amended the form of his Motion, he should be glad to give him the information for which he Sought. Without waiting for the formal production of the document, he might state the substance of it in a few words. The estimated expenditure for carrying into effect the provisions of the Thames Embankment Bill was£1,500.000. The amount was made up in the following manner:—£500,000 for the works, embankment, roadway, and new Streets opening on to the embankment; £500,000 for Compensation to wharfingers, persons having frontage on the river, and others; and the remaining £500,000 of the estimate was attributed to the total loss which was expected to arise in connection with the new street to the Mansion House, after the purchase and sale of lands. The length of the embankment would be 1 mile, 17 chains, and 90 links. The short street going into Whitehall would he 11½ chains. The street parallel with the Strand, which would run from the embankment to opposite Somerset House, would be 34 chains in length, and the remaining short streets would be 34 chains and 16 links. The street from Black friars Bridge to the Mansion House would be 58 chains. It was quite impossible that any document could be presented to the House giving all the details; in fact, it would be unfair towards the engineer to oblige him to lay these on the table without an accompanying explanation. The measure stood precisely on the same footing as any private Bill, and ought to be treated in the same way. Parties whose rights were affected would have a right to appear by counsel before the Select Committee upstairs, and after they had pronounced their decision the Bill would again go through Committee in that House, when every hon. Member would have an opportunity of sifting the different items. The Committee which sat in 1860 went very fully into the subject, but did not recommend any particular design. They received nine plans, and thought very highly of five of them, but they naturally felt they were not the body which could properly decide upon their relative merits. The hon. Member for Westminster seemed to think that he ought to have taken the responsibility which the Committee shrank from assuming. He, however, thought it would be more satisfactory to the House that the Crown should be advised to appoint a Commission of competent persons to go very carefully into the details, and to point oat the plan which on the whole seemed most likely to combine economy with efficiency. For he must remind his hon. Friend that the terms of the reference distinctly contemplated both these objects; the Commission, accordingly, in the plan which they recommended, kept both these objects in view. Now, who were the members of the Commission? Sir Joshua Jebb was appointed, not because he superintended the prisons, but because he was a very eminent engineer, who was known to be quite impartial. Captain Galton was also a very eminent engineer, and it was thought desirable to have on the Commis- sion two military engineers who would be quite free from that feeling of jealousy or rivalry which was supposed to exist between members and non-members of the College of Civil Engineers. At the same time it was felt that at least one Member of the body of civil engineers ought to be appointed, and Mr. M'Clane was selected, because he was one of the few eminent engineers, who had never prepared a plan relating to the Thames, and who might, therefore, be supposed to come fresh to the consideration; of "this particular "subject. The great difficulty which had been felt in all previous schemes lay in the preservation of the wharves. All the eminent engineers who formerly considered the subject had taken it for granted that docks must be constructed. But docks would soon fill up; they would become receptacles for the mud and filth of the river, and would have to be continually dredged; while there would be not only inconvenience but danger in getting barges into these docks through entrances at right angles with the stream. Docks also involved the necessity of carrying the road at a level sufficiently high to allow barges to puss underneath; and yet, as the roadway would have to dip under the bridges, there must of necessity be great variations of the level. But the Commission, having once decided that docks were no longer necessary; found that the level of the roadway might be carried along at a height of only 4 ft. above Trinity high-water. Captain Birstol, who possessed probably a more intimate knowledge of the navigation of the river Thames than anybody else, was also a Member of the Commission, as was likewise Mr. H. A. Hunt, whose ability in the valuation of property was well known, and whose advice had been particularly useful with regard to the claims of wharfingers—the very point to which his hon. Friend had alluded. The Chairman of the Board of Works was placed upon the Commission, not merely because of his interest in the low-level sewer, but also because he might be looked upon as the representative, and by an indirect process the culminating point of the ratepayers. The Lord Mayor, it was needless to add, was not only the representative of the City, but personally extremely well qualified to deliver an opinion on a matter of this kind. He hoped the House would not refuse to read a second time the Bill giving effect to the recommendation of these practical men, especially as the second reading only affirmed the principle that the produce of the coal duties ought to be applied to the construction of the embankment, any changes of detail which might appear desirable being within the power of the Committee to introduce., He had been rather surprised to hear his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster speak of the plan for: a street from Blackfriars Bridge to the Mansion House as a wild scheme; so far from that, it had been pondered over by the City for many years, and its execution only, delayed from want of the necessary funds. The object of the Bill, which he understood the House to concur in, was the construction of a thoroughfare from west to east, either from Westminster Bridge or Charing Cross to the Mansion House. But an embankment merely leading to Blackfriars Bridge or Southwark Bridge without a street conducting to the Mansion House would not divert the traffic from the crowded thoroughfares of Ludgate Hill, Cheapside, and the Poultry. A direct thoroughfare from Westminster to the Mansion House, by means of which the traffic which now blocked up the Strand and Fleet Street would be diverted to some extent into another channel, could not, he thought, be looked upon otherwise than a great advantage. It was, however, made a cause of complaint that the powers under the Bill were to be executed by a Committee of the Metropolitan Board of Works; but if it was borne in mind that the Board consisted of forty-five members—an excellent number, no doubt, for deliberation—he did not think the House would be willing to intrust so large a body with the working of the details of the measure. It would, therefore, in his opinion, be a great improvement that a small Committee should be charged with their execution, while he considered it but right, seeing how large a portion of the work would lie within the City, that two representatives of the corporation should be among the number. Under all the circumstances of the case, he hoped the progress of a really important Bill, whose operation would be greatly to ornament the metropolis, to open up the beauties of a noble river, and to bring the fine buildings on its banks prominently into view, would not be retarded merely because the hon. Member for Westminster had not been able to obtain a copy of a Report with the substance of which he had been already furnished.


said, that having been Chairman of the Committee winch had last session reported that the Thames Embankment was the first public improvement which ought to be carried out at the expense of the metropolis, he could not fairly be supposed to be averse to the great work. Heat the fame time; felt, with his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, that the inhabitants of the metropolis ought, before the House proceeded further with the Bill under discussion, to know what the real nature of the scheme was which it was meant to curry into effect. When, a few evenings before, his hon. Friend and a-ked for information on the subject, the Government had counted out the House in point of fact by their own action. Now, it was not, he contended, fair to the ratepayers that their interests should be so dealt with; and he, for one, thought they were clearly entitled to have that authentic statement with respect to the Bill for which they sought. The scheme was not a new one. It had been propounded so long before as twenty-two years, and had been examined into by one of the most distinguished Commissions which had ever: been issued by the Crown—a Commission which numbered the Duke of New castle, Lord Lyttelton, Sir Robert Inglis, Sir R. Smirke, and Sir Charles Barry among its Members. The city of London, moreover, in its corporate capacity, had examined the scheme for the extension to the Mansion-house, which also was by no means a new scheme; and each came to the conclusion that to make a street extending thus far would be so costly and of so little utility as compared with the cost, that they did not think it expedient to approve it. The surveyor of the corporation (Mr. Bunning) when asked at what he would estimate the cost of such an extension, stated that he could not undertake to put it at less than £1,000,000, and he should defy the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Works to show that his Bill was founded on any authentic estimate of the necessary expenditure. The object, then, with those who asked for the delay was, to secure authentic information on the subject, and to enable those who were most interested in it to forma correct opinion with respect to it. He had no wish—far from it—toprevent the embankment of the Thames; but as representing a constituency which would con- tribute the largest sum towards the cost of the undertaking, he desired to see it carried out with economy, judgment, and discretion.


said, it had been left unexplained why a different plan was to be carried out with respect to that plan of the river between the east end of the Temple Gardens and Blackfriars Bridge and the other portions. He differed from the hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster, and thought that a solid embankment was very much preferable, and regretted that the Government had not decided upon such an embankment throughout, for by the proposal of open arches under viaducts they would never get rid of the mud-banks by the side of the Thames. Down to the east end of the Temple Gardens the solid embankment had been adopted; but from that point to Blackfriars Bridge they were to have a viaduct upon arches, through which there was to be a communication with the wharves behind. He could not understand why one plan should be adopted for Westminster, and another for the city of London. The viaduct from the Temple Gardens to Blackfriars Bridge would lead to an accumulation of filth, and necessitate a difference in the level of the roadway; and as the accent would commence in front of the Temple Gardens, the appearance of those grounds would be very much impaired. He believed the object was to accommodate the City Gasworks, which were certainly not an ornament to the metropolis; and he trusted, that when the Bill came to be considered in Committee, care would be taken to have a uniform plan adopted from Westminster to Blackfriars. One part of the scheme was the formation of a new street from Blackfriars Bridge to Cannon Street and thence to the Mansion-house. Now, the city of London had already commenced a street from Cannon Street to Blackfriars Bridge, and he saw no reason why the corporation should not be asked to complete it out of the proceeds of the 4d. coal tax, which ought to be devoted to public improvements. A considerable reduction might thus be made in the estimated cost of the undertaking, and a fund obtained out of which provision might be made for completing the whole line as a solid embankment, and compensating the City Gas Company and the other holders of property between the east end of the Temple Gardens and Blackfriars Bridge.


said, that if the present were only a Thames Embankment Bill, he should offer it no opposition; but it proposed to make a new street from Blackfriars Bridge to the Mansion-house, which, he believed, would cost at least £1,000,000. A new route from east to west was, no doubt, urgently required, but the Bill did not go about the business in the proper way. By pulling down Temple Bar and widening Ludgate Hill an easy communication might be established with Cannon Street. Take the parallel line of street from New Oxford Street: pull down Middle Row, Hol-born, and they would have a good broad thoroughfare to the Poultry; pull down one side of the Poultry, and there would be a good thoroughfare to Gracechurch Street; pull down a few houses at Gracechurch Street, and there would be two continuous broad thoroughfares from east to west, all made at one half the money to be laid out under this Bill. He hoped the hon. Baronet would divide against the second reading of the Bill, in order to give further time for the examination of the scheme.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 116; Noes 9: Majority 107.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee."


said, he rose to move an Amendment. The matter was one of great importance; public interests were involved to a large extent, and there was also an enormous amount of private interests at stake. He was satisfied that those whose private interests were largely concerned in the scheme would not be content if the question were referred to a Committee of shifting or uncertain character. He therefore proposed to add to the Motion that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee the following words:—" Such Committee to be chosen by the Committee of Selection, and whose attendance shall be subject to the same regulations as attendance on a private Bill." His object was that five impartial members should be selected to give their attention to this important subject, and that those only should vote who heard the evidence.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Question, to add the words "to be chosen by the Committee of Selection, and whose attendance shall be subject to the same regulations as on a Committee on a Private Bill.

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


said, that if the Amendment were carried, it would make a great change in the practice which had hitherto prevailed. The Bill was promoted with a view to the public interest, but affected private property. The invariable course was to combine the gentlemen named by the Committee of Selection, who would endeavour to find, persons most impartial and least connected with; the subject, with gentlemen who were supposed to have some public connection with the project. That practice, he believed, had hitherto worked well, and he was sure the gentlemen forming the Committee would feel it to be their duty to attend, even though not named by the Committee of Selection.


said, he was in favour of compulsory attendance. It was, he thought, desirable that the same practice should prevail with respect to private and public Bills, and that no member of a Committee should be allowed to vote who had not heard the entire of the evidence.


said, that practically the ratepayers would be unrepresented before the Committee. They could only be heard by counsel, and the expense attendant on having the services of counsel from day to day while the inquiry lasted would be very heavy. He spoke in the interest of the public, whose money should not be devoted to the buying up the wharfingers.


said, he saw no reason for deviating from the usual course on similar questions. He should therefore give his opposition to the Amendment.


also briefly opposed the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee.