§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY,
in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, its object was to remove the toll as far as the foot passengers were concerned. The whole sum which had been advanced out of the Consolidated Fund for the construction of Battersea Park had been recouped; and the fund which remained was applicable to setting the bridge free. To the working classes especially this would be a great boon; as, since the improvements on the north side of the river, they had been obliged in large numbers to seek for dwellings on the south side of the Thames. One of many similar cases had been brought under his notice, in which a man living in a £20 house and paying £3 10s. taxes being obliged to cross Chelsea Bridge every day with his two sons, expended an amount which at the end of the year came to £3 18s., or actually more than all the taxes upon his house. The proposition of the worthy Alderman (Mr. Alderman Solomons) the Member for Greenwich to do away with the tolls upon metropolitan bridges generally went far beyond what the present measure asked for. It was not advisable that the Government should remain in possession of a toll-paying bridge, and he hoped the House would allow the Bill to be read a second time upon the understanding that by so doing they were not pledged to the principle, but that the measure should go to a Select Committee, with a view to devise some means for 1302 recouping the Consolidated Fund for the loss occasioned by the abolition.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir John Shelley.)
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, it often happened that when those distinguished Gentlemen, the metropolitan representatives, came forward with financial proposals they were looked upon with some suspicion, because suggestions were made that might be beneficial to their constituents and injurious to the public purse; and he believed the present to be a proposal of that character. Some years ago, for the convenience of the locality in question, a sum of money was advanced out of the Consolidated Fund on the faith of tolls to be levied on the bridge. Until that money was entirely repaid there ought to be no diminution of the security so given.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, if that were the ease the toll would at once cease. He desired to promote the interests of the working classes, but there might be another motive for the proposed change, and that was the increased value that would be given to the property on the other side of the bridge. He concluded by moving that the Bill be read that day six months.
MR. BANKS STANHOPE
seconded the Amendment, as he could not consent that public money should be taken for such a purpose.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Bentinclc.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
said, the chief fault he found with the Bill was that it was too short. It consisted simply of one clause of only two lines, providing that, after a certain time, the foot toll should cease. It ought, he thought, to have an addition made to it, providing that the money which would be lost by the proposed abolition of tolls should be made good out of a local rate or some other local fund. It was quite clear that the Government could not support, as it stood, a measure which would entail a sacrifice of £96,000 to the public revenue, but if the hon. Baronet would consent to refer the Bill to a Select Committee—as a somewhat similar Bill 1303 had been—who might suggest some plan for recouping the money, he should have no objection to vote for the second reading, for he should be glad to see the poor relieved, as far as possible, from the necessity of paying these tolls.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, he could not understand how the right hon. Gentleman could vote for the second reading of a Bill of which, as it stood, he so entirely disapproved. He could not see how Chelsea Bridge could be placed in a different position from Waterloo or Lambeth Bridges, or why, if the poor were to be relieved from the payment of tolls in the case of the one, they should not be freed from them in the case of the others also. As for the plea that the working men would be benefited, was it not a fact that the moment the tolls were abolished the rents would be raised? The abolition of the toll at this one bridge was a jobbing piece of favouritism, which would place the House in an absurd position. He was decidedly against the payment of all tolls, but then he thought they ought to be abolished on some general principle.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he had to express his astonishment that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not present to protect the public revenue. If an Irish Member were to ask for £96,000 out of the Consolidated Fund for the purposes of Ireland he would be looked upon by the right hon. Gentleman as a mendicant. There was not the slightest necessity for the Bill, which sought to effect for the metropolis, what the House would be loath to do for any other part of the Empire.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he thought the proposal of the First Commissioner of Works to refer the Bill to a Select Committee was a most reasonable one.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, it was his intention that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, when there would be an end of it if it was found that no means could be devised to refund to the Government the £96,000 in question.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 27; Noes 14: Majority 13.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ House adjourned at One o'clock.