§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. GOLDNEY,
in the absence of the noble Lord the Member for West Kent (Viscount Holmesdale), moved the second reading of the Finchley Road Estate Bill, which had come from the Lords, and the object of which was to enable Sir Thomas Marion Wilson, the tenant for life of the Finchley Road Estate, of which he was lord of the manor, to grant building leases of land specially exempted from such leases by the will and codicils to the same of his late father.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Goldney.)
§ MR. HARVEY LEWIS
opposed the Motion, and stated that Sir Thomas Wilson came into possession as tenant for life of the Finchley Road Estate, including the manor of Hampstead, and much adjacent property in 1806, under the will of his father, a well-considered document, to which there were eight or nine codicils, the two last of which dealt particularly with leasing powers. The late Sir Thomas Wilson jealously guarded Hampstead Heath from invasion by excluding it from the operation of the leasing powers which he granted over other portions of his estate; and it was idle to say that Hamp- 753 stead Heath had only lately become valuable for building purposes. In 1829 Sir Thomas Wilson made his first application to Parliament for power to do that which he was precluded from doing by his father's will, and since then he had come forward ten or eleven times with a similar Bill; but Parliament had always held that the testator thoroughly understood his own affairs, and that there was no reason for interfering with his arrangements respecting the property. The highest legal authorities, including Lord Tenterden, Lord Denman, Lord Campbell, Lord Chief Baron Pollock, Mr. Justice Williams, had given judgment in suits against the claim, being of opinion that the testator intended that there should be no power of granting building leases over Hampstead Heath. The copyholders in the neighbourhood had petitioned against the claims of the tenant for life; and the Metropolitan Board of Works petitioned against this Bill. Sir Thomas Wilson had given evidence before the Committee of the House on Open Spaces, and his answers to the questions put to him showed that his main object was his own personal benefit, while he did not respond to a suggestion that he should give up Hampstead Heath in perpetuity to the public if Parliament gave him power over the Finchley Road Estate. The wisest course for Sir Thomas Wilson would be to enter into negotiations with the metropolitan authorities with a view to handing Hampstead Heath over to them on terms that would be mutually advantageous to himself and the public; and when an arrangement of that kind had been made Parliament might deal with the claims made by the Bill. To allow time for the negotiation he suggested, he moved that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—s(Mr. Harvey Lewis. )
§ GENERAL DUNNE
said, that the Bill asked for leasing powers over land which was no part of Hampstead Heath, but was separated from it by the village of Finchley. The property was very valuable, and with the present demand for buildings round London it appeared to him that the measure was one in which the public were as much concerned as Sir Thomas Wilson. Two railways had been allowed to penetrate into the district, and it would be 754 convenient for the public if the locality, to which easy access had been given, were built upon. He could understand why the hon. Gentleman, representing the district he did, should object to a measure which might add many votes to the county of Middlesex. He objected as strongly as any one to interfering with the wishes of a testator, but the circumstances of this case were peculiar; there had been great changes since the death of the testator.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
had no objection to Sir Thomas Wilson making as many faggot votes as he pleased, but what they wanted was to save Hampstead Heath, the most beautiful open ground about the metropolis, which was as near, or should be, as Hyde Park, and was one of its lungs. Let Sir Thomas Wilson come forward with a fair offer to cede his rights in Hampstead Heath to the Metropolitan Board, or some other authority, getting if he pleased a just price for it, and then he might make faggot votes or build palaces if he liked; but it was preposterous to ask the House to discuss this Bill when they were expecting to hear an eloquent address in another place.
§ MR. ADAIR
wished, before they went to a division, that the House might be put in possession of the real circumstances of the case. They would not in any way prejudice Hampstead Heath by consenting to the second reading of this Bill, and there should in his opinion be some exceedingly strong ground made out before the House decided not to permit a Bill to go before a Select Committee, where all objections might be fully heard. It was well known that Sir Thomas Wilson had the misfortune to have a considerable property in the neighbourhood of Hampstead, which comprised within its extent Hampstead Heath. That gentleman now came forward and asked for power to build over a certain portion of that property, which was not by any means in proximity to the Heath. Indeed, the whole village of Hampstead and a certain portion of the hamlet of the West End interposed between the Heath and the property in question. It was surrounded by land which was gradually being covered with villas and dwellings of a neat and pleasing character, and Sir Thomas Wilson desired to utilize his property in the same way; but the House was called upon to oppose this course. He ventured to say that if the testator had been living in these days, 755 and been aware of the necessity for extending suburban accommodation wherever it could be afforded without infringing public interests, there was no doubt that he would never have wished that the land in question should remain in its present state. He hoped the House would not reject the second reading of the Bill, but would allow it to go to a Committee upstairs, where the Metropolitan Board would protect the interests of the public, if in their opinion those interests were likely to suffer by the present Bill.
§ MR. THOMAS CHAMBERS
said, the first question was whether the Bill ought to be opposed in that House or before the Select Committee. Now it would be difficult to point out anybody possessing the necessary locus standi to enable him to oppose the Bill in Committee, seeing that opposition rested not upon private right but upon public health and convenience. He contended that the House ought not to in effect add a new codicil to the will of the testator after he had been dead forty years. The House had on nine former occasions, when the matter was brought before it, decided against the course contemplated by Sir Thomas Wilson; while the highest Courts and the greatest statesmen had agreed that his father's will ought not to be overridden. He held that the public interests demanded the rejection of the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 72: Majority 7.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for three months.