HC Deb 22 June 1876 vol 230 cc241-3

Order for Second Reading read.


said, there were certain matters in the measure to which he, as Chairman of Ways and Means, felt bound to call attention. The Bill proposed certain improvements in the City of Edinburgh—and so far he had nothing to say to it; but Clause 10 proposed that after certain lands had been acquired by the Corporation they should be made over to Her Majesty's Commissioners of Public Works for the purpose of being utilized for scientific instruction to the students of the Medical University and others. That was obviously a very excellent object, and one which he would be very sorry in any way to impede; but inasmuch as an arrangement was contemplated which would require some outlay of public money by the Commissioners of Works, the Bill seemed to come within the purview of Standing Order No. 90, which required that in regard to any Bill involving a contract between the Government and some other body, the Chairman of Ways and Means should, three days before the second reading, make a Report of the said contract to the House. He would have been glad to comply with that Standing Order, and to lay the contract on the Table of the House; but, as a matter of fact, that would be a physical impossibility, inasmuch as the contract in question did not yet exist. Had the first part of the Standing Order stood alone it would have been incumbent on him to call for the production of the contract; but it was clear from the second section of the Order that it only referred to contracts already concluded, or at all events contracts in esse, or which it was proposed to conclude immediately. As the Bill referred only to hypothetical contracts to be made at some future time, it might be considered as not coming within the Standing Order; but he had thought it his duty to call attention to it, lest the door should be opened to a general disregard of the Rules. Having cleared his conscience, and it being impossible for him to make any report on the contract, he had nothing further to say. He did not wish it to be supposed that he was opposing a Bill which was, undoubtedly, calculated to confer great benefits on the City of Edinburgh.


said, the House was much indebted to the hon. Chairman of Ways and Means for bringing the subject forward. It appeared that there were large botanical gardens in connection with the Medical School at Edinburgh, and as there were now in the market 30 or 40 acres of land adjoining, this Bill proposed to purchase that land by means of a local rate. The expenditure would probably be £20,000. The Corporation having purchased the land, it was to be handed, over to the Board of Works and the Treasury. There had been many pleasant conversations between the Government representatives and the Corporation, and the latter had been persuaded that if the City of Edinburgh would impose the rate and purchase the land, the Government would maintain it in all time to come as part of the existing Botanical Gardens. There were many of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, however, who did not like that kind of mere conversational agreement between the local authorities and the representatives of the Government, and they wished the Standing Order to which the hon. Gentleman had referred had been complied with. If the Government meant to keep up these grounds for the benefit of the inhabitants, it should either be clearly set forth in a Schedule to the Bill what they really did intend, or else some Treasury Minute or a Board of Works contract should be produced on the subject. He appealed to the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Works to inform the House definitely as to the terms of the contract into which the Government proposed to enter with the local authorities. At all events, he trusted the inhabitants of Edinburgh would not lay out a single shilling on the purchase of the land until they had a distinct understanding as to the conditions under which it would be taken over by the Government.


said, that the Chairman of Ways and Means had been more than justified in making the remarks with which he had opened the discussion. There was, however, no contract yet existing such as was contemplated by Standing Order No. 90, between the City of Edinburgh and the Office of Works. What was proposed was this—that if the Corporation agreed to acquire by a rate certain property on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the Government would then enter into communication with the City of Edinburgh with a view to throwing the land in question into the Botanical Gardens, and keeping it up at the public expense. As there was no contract to lay before the House now, the House might rest perfectly satisfied that it would not hereafter be done without its sanction. If the agreement he had referred to should be made—as he hoped it would be—it would be necessary to confirm it by a Vote of the Whole House. There would then be an ample opportunity for discussion, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh and others would be able to state their views. The hon. Member had challenged him to say what the rules and regulations were which the Office of Works intended to lay down; but it would be premature to make any statement of the kind as to property which had not yet been handed over to the Board. He repeated that before this property could be utilized for Botanical Gardens, a Vote of the House would be taken.

Bill read a second time, and committed.