HC Deb 21 March 1872 vol 210 cc476-82

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


, in moving a clause permitting hired and public vehicles to be driven in any of the Parks on the same terms as private carriages were, said, that the question it involved was the equality of the rights of enjoyment of the fruits of public taxation. He thought that to support his views he could not do better than read some portions of a speech which was delivered in that House some few years ago. The hon. and learned Gentleman then read the greater portion of a speech made by Mr. Ayrton in a debate on the 24th July, 1866, originating in a Question of Mr. Osborne as to the Instructions given by the Home Office to Sir Richard Mayne with reference to The Reform Meeting in Hyde Park [3 Hansard, clxxxiv. 1386]. Mr. Ayrton commented with great severity on the disposition that had been of late evinced on the part of certain sections of society to appropriate the Parks in a specific manner to their own gratification and enjoyment—and said that this must necessarily give rise to an impression in the minds of the people that they in their turn would have the right, whenever the occasion arose, to appropriate some portion of the Parks in a manner which might be convenient to themselves; and he commented on the exclusive possession of some parts of the Parks to those who had carriages wherein to while away the time—adding that, to say there was no exclusion because everyone who had a carriage was at liberty to use the Park was like saying that anyone may go into the London Tavern and eat turtle soup if he desires it; but the qualification was limited and the appropriation exclusive. That speech was not, as hon. Members might hastily have assumed from its style, delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works, but by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets—by the chrysalis that preceded the butterfly, by the Metropolitan Tribune before he became the darling of the Conservative party.

Moved to insert the following clause:— (Hired or public vehicles not be a cause of exclusion from the Parks.) No person shall be excluded from the use of any of the Parks for purposes of enjoyment and recreation by reason of his employing for such purposes any hired or public vehicle, but every person shall be entitled to the use of the Parks for such purposes upon equal terms, and under the same conditions, whether in public or in private vehicles.


said, he regretted that his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) should have profited so little by his study of the arguments he (Mr. Ayrton) had addressed to the House some years ago, and which he had so kindly repeated to the Committee, as to have proposed the clause he had just moved. Had the hon. and learned Gentleman, however, read a little further he would have found that this Bill was framed with a view of carrying out the opinions he had expressed in that speech. His argument in that speech was that if they had a specific appropriation of the Parks, they must have it all round, so as to suit every class of society; and the present Bill was perfectly consistent with that argument, because it provided for every reasonable use of the Parks which anybody could desire for all classes of the people. His hon. and learned Friend desired that hired vehicles should be admitted into Hyde Park. But he (Mr. Ayrton) contended that they were to look at the metropolitan Royal Parks as a whole; and the principle of the Bill was that, while they allowed hired vehicles in certain places where it might be generally convenient that they should go, in other places—where their presence would destroy the use of the Parks by other classes—they should not be permitted to go. The proposal of his hon. and learned Friend was not limited to cabs—he would allow even the humbler vehicles to go round Hyde Park. Perhaps carriages containing gentlemen who had just been addressing "the people" at the base of the Nelson Column—or perhaps vehicles which had been engaged clearing away refuse in the morning, might be seen in the Park in the afternoon. Vehicles which collected the refuse of their kitchens in the morning, and would "smell as the carrion, not as the flower," might be agreeable to the hon. and learned Gentleman; but they would not be so grateful to other frequenters of the Parks, and the hon. and learned Member's clause, instead of establishing equality, would really establish inequality between different classes in respect to the enjoyment of the Parks. Moreover, it must be remembered that the equipages in Hyde Park were one of the sights of London. A great many people from the country, besides residents in London, made a point of seeing the display of equipages in the Park; and he did not think they ought to be deprived of the enjoyment of a spectacle which afforded them legitimate pleasure. He must, therefore, oppose the clause.

Clause negatived.


moved a new clause reserving the right of public meetings in Holyrood Park. From time immemorial—certainly for a period exceeding 200 years—the people of Edinburgh had been in the habit of using the Park, not only for the general purposes of recreation, but for public meetings. There could be no question that this Park be- longed to the people, and was in no sense a Royal Park. It was formerly rented by the Earl of Haddington; but disputes having arisen as to the acquirement of the Park by the people of Edinburgh, the dispute was referred to arbitration, and the arbitrators awarded £30,000. He thought, therefore, that there should be no power given by this Bill to diminish their rights to the enjoyment of the Park; but at the same time he was quite willing that a portion of the Park should be set aside, in which alone public meetings should be allowed to be held.

New Clause (Public meetings in Holy-rood Park to be free as hitherto,)—(Mr. M'Laren,)—brought up, and read the first time.


said, that his hon. Friend based his clause on a specific right, and wished that right to be admitted in this Bill. But it was not the purpose of the Bill to define any claims of right one way or the other. There was already a clause which provided that any rights existing in regard to any Royal Park should be unaffected by the Bill, and if the words used in regard to English Parks did not seem technically applicable to Scotch Parks, he was quite willing they should be amended. His hon. Friend might be quite sure that there was not the least intention of prohibiting meetings in Holyrood Park; but he certainly had in his mind the necessity of regulations for the government of all Parks. So far as the claim of right was concerned, his hon. Friend seemed to take the right of the people of Edinburgh for granted; but be assured him he was mistaken in his view of the law. It was perfectly true that Holyrood Park was purchased out of the public moneys; but that showed that the Park had not belonged, as he said, to the people from time immemorial, and, further, that it formed no portion of the hereditary domains of the Crown. The Park belonged to the nation, and Parliament had a right to prescribe the manner in which it should be used. That this was the case was shown by the fact that his hon. Friend himself, in 1866, wrote to the then First Commissioner of Works, inclosing him a Petition from the working men of Edinburgh that they might be permitted to hold a public meeting in Holyrood Park, in the same way that they had held a Reform meeting in 1832. The application showed, at any rate, that at that time his hon. Friend did not consider the inhabitants of Edinburgh to be possessed of the right he now claimed for them. He (Mr. Ayrton) did not at all claim that the Government should be the arbiter of the description of meetings that should be held; but he did claim that they should be entitled to see that they were held under proper regulations.


said, he did not at all agree with the inference his right hon. Friend had put upon that letter. The Resident Officer of Works in Scotland raised an objection to the meeting in question, and his object in writing to the First Commissioner was, not as acknowledging a right, but to get an obstacle removed. The answer of the First Commissioner was that they would not interfere in the matter—and, in fact, they never had interfered; but this Bill would not only give them a power to interfere, but would to some extent throw upon them the duty of doing so.


said, that when the letter was written he had the honour to hold the office of First Commissioner of Works. He believed the application was made because the Resident Offices of the Office of Works in Scotland had expressed himself hostile to the holding of that particular meeting. The statement of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) was not exactly correct. He did, in fact, make an application to hold the meeting, and therefore at that time, as it appeared to him (Lord John Manners), the hon. Member considered the people had no right to hold the meeting. At all events, there was no such right as he now understood the hon. Member to claim in the speech which he had just delivered.


said, that it appeared to him very ungracious on the part of the Government to refuse to accept the clause. The hon. Member for Edinburgh merely asked to have words inserted to secure that public meetings might be held in Holyrood Park as they had been from time immemorial, and it would be very disagreeable to the people of Edinburgh to have such a request refused.


said, there was no intention of extinguishing any existing right whatever. What words could be best inserted might be considered on Report; but his right hon. Friend (Mr. Ayrton) objected to a special clause affecting Holyrood, and contended that all reservations should be of a genera] character.


suggested that the word "any" should be substituted for "Holyrood" in the clause, so that it should be general in its application, in accordance with the views expressed by the Prime Minister.


said, he would consult the Lord Advocate as to the words that would best express the reservation of right according to the law of Scotland.


said, that was the last occasion in which hon. Members would have the opportunity of vindicating the right of the people to meet in the Parks; he accordingly supported the Amendment.

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

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 85: Majority 28.


moved to report Progress.


said, the clause could be amended only upon Report, and therefore they could not effect in that Committee the object which his hon. Friend desired to accomplish. He trusted, therefore, that the Motion would not be pressed.


supported the Motion for reporting Progress.


said, the First Commissioner of Works had set the House very much at defiance, and it was a painful spectacle to hear him argue in the way in which he had done that evening. He, for one, must protest against the Bill being proceeded with at so late an hour.


said, that a quarter past 1 was not, after all, so very late an hour to proceed with the discussion of the Bill. Hon. Members might make up for it by taking an hour or two extra in bed to-morrow morning.

Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

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