HC Deb 06 August 1877 vol 236 cc448-59


Lords' Amendments considered.

Lords Amendment, page 3, line 15, at commencement of line 15, insert " Subject to the provisions of this Act," agreed to.

Amendment, in page 4, line 28, to leave out from line 28 to line 9, in page 5, inclusive, the next Amendment read a second time.


in moving that the House disagree to the Lords' Amendment, said, that the effect of the Amendment inserted by the Lords would be to postpone indefinitely a most important London improvement—namely, the construction of a new street, from Charing Cross to Tottenham Court Road; and the effect of his Motion, if carried, would be to send back the Bill to the House of Lords for re-consideration, and to give an opportunity of re-instating the most important improvement proposed by the Bill in exactly the same form in which that improvement had left this House. Happily, upon the present occasion, he was saved from inflicting a long speech upon the House, for, since he brought forward the subject on Tuesday last, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works—and he was supported by the unanimous opinion of the Board over which he presided—had come round to his views, and was now agreed that it would be most undesirable that the Bill should be passed with the clause inserted by the Lords, retained. It was thought by some that the success of his Motion would be that the Bill—which it was essential should be passed this Session— would be endangered. But he altogether disagreed with that view—all he desired was, that the Lords should have the opportunity of re-considering the decision to which they had come; and if this House should agree to strike out the clause, the promoters of the Bill would hold a consultation with the Committee of the Lords, and he had no doubt an amicable conclusion would be arrived at. When speaking on the subject last week, he had been led into a slight mistake which he now desired to correct. He found, however, that his case was really much stronger than he had presented it. The clause had been most carefully considered by the Select Committee of this House, and they came to the conclusion that it ought not to be inserted. The fact, therefore, was, that the clause was rejected in this House, and was inserted in that House, of which the owner of this property was a Member. As he had stated, the only precedent for the course taken occurred in 1868, when the Board had forced upon them a clause similar to that which they were now asked to consider at the instance of Lord Salisbury. This was the case of the Chelsea Embankment, when an Amendment precisely similar was inserted at the instance of Lord Cadogan. That clause was inserted in the Bill for the Chelsea Thames Embankment scheme; and the Metropolitan Board were in this position—that they must accept a clause which they regarded as unjust, or abandon a Bill, the loss of which for 12 months would seriously interfere with the main drainage works which they were then constructing. This clause for the protection of Lord Cadogan's property was also considered by a Select Committee of this House; it was rejected, and was afterwards inserted by the Peers to give protection to one of their own number. In this case, also, a similar clause proposed by Government for the protection of Lord Salisbury was rejected by this House and inserted in the House of Lords for the protection of one of their own body. He did not want to make any comment on these extraordinary coincidences, but they would not produce a very favourable impression out-of-doors. If such clauses were to be inserted in Metropolitan Improvement Bills, the proper course would be for both Houses to pass a general clause, applicable to all owners of property similarly circumstanced; but when the other House extended special protection only to the property of a Member of that House, it appeared to be most objectionable and pernicious. He believed, and would continue to believe, until he was told on authority to the contrary, that this clause was inserted at the instance, not of Lord Salisbury, but of an unwise and too zealous agent. He did not think that the effect of disagreeing with this Amendment would be to imperil the passing of the Bill. If his Motion were carried, a Committee could be appointed for a conference with the House of Lords, and immediately that conference was over they would know whether this particular clause for the protection of Lord Salisbury was carefully considered, or whether it was introduced in a hurry and by a mistake. The House of Lords, in any case, would have an opportunity of re-considering the subject.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with The Lords in the said Amendment."— (Mr. Fawcett.)


desired to point out the extreme inconvenience of the course adopted on that occasion. The House was asked to revise and override the decisions, not of one of its own Committee, but of a Committee of the other House. That was not all. Not only did the promoters of the Bill make no appeal against the decision of the Committee of the other House, but they so far acquiesced in it, that they proposed the Amendment with which this House was now asked to disagree. The Bill before the House authorized the construction of a number of streets, among which was the one in question, from Tottenham Court Road to Trafalgar Square. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) stated that the clause which was inserted by the House of Lords, was proposed and rejected by a Committee of this House. No such clause could have been proposed in this House by those who represented Lord Salisbury, because if they had appeared on clauses in the lower House, they could not have appeared against the Preamble in the other House.


said, that he was informed by the hon. Members for Plymouth and Inverness (Mr. Bates and Mr. Mackintosh), two Members of the Committee, that such a clause was considered and rejected by the Committee of this House.


said, that he could only appeal to the well-known practice, that if a Petitioner appeared on the clauses of a Bill in the one House, he could not appear against the Preamble in the other. The proceedings before the Committee of the other House were described by the Chairman of the Board of Works as a long and laborious investigation; three of the improvements proposed by it were opposed, and one—the Millbank improvement—was thrown out by the Commons' Committee, because it was given in evidence that the Metropolitan Board, in spite of an agreement with Mr. Freeman, proposed to take more land than was necessary for the improvement; but it would not be possible for this House now to enter into a long inquiry into the matter. The scheme now in question was opposed by the Marquess of Salisbury's representatives, who said it was a bad one, and proposed an alternative scheme. Their special objection was, that it would expose his Lordship to exceptional hardship. The property on the west side of Castle Street, including the Alhambra, was not proposed to be taken, and all that Lord Salisbury asked was that he should be put in the same position as the owners of property on the west side of Castle Street. The houses in question, which were almost entirely the property of the Marquess of Salisbury, were on the south end of the west side of St. Martin's Lane. They consisted almost exclusively of wholesale cloth-houses, which required very great depth, and when the Metropolitan Board of Works proposed to take part of the frontage, they took away the depth required for this particular class of property. That was an injury to the property which was taken into consideration by the Committee; and after the most careful inquiry, the Committee would only sanction Street No. 6, on the terms that the Metropolitan Board of Works were to deal with Lord Salisbury as they had dealt with the Alhambra and other owners, by only taking as much of the land as was wanted for the purpose of the street. It was said, however, that by so doing a precedent would be created; and it was a strong point in the speech of the hon. Member for Hackney last week that there was no precedent for such legislation. He (Mr. Gorst) had, however, found several precedents, but could only quote one or two. The Thames Embankment Bill of 1867, Section 53, provided an exception in the case of the Duke of Northumberland. [" Hear!"] Really, it was childish to cheer in that manner, because the owner happened to be a Peer, all the great landowners in London were Peers; but he would quote other instances in which the owners were commoners and public bodies. That Act provided, that without the consent in writing of the Duke of Northumberland the Board should not take any more land than was necessary to form a street of average width. The same Act contained the same exception in favour of a private landowner—not a Peer— on the Adelphi estate. The next Act of 1868 made a similar exception in favour of the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Salisbury. Lastly, in the same Act, it was provided in the case of the property of the Duchy of Lancaster, that the Board should not, without the consent in writing of the Chancellor and the Council of the Duchy, take any more ground than was actually necessary for the construction of the Embankment. Another precedent was to be found in the Metropolitan Street Improvement Act of 1872, Section 29, which in the case of the Charter House Estate provided that the Metropolitan Board should not, without the consent in writing of the governors, use land taken from the Charter House estate for building purposes, or for any other purpose than for making the street or road. He had other precedents, but he had cited enough to show that there were precedents enough for the clause which the Committee had put into the Bill. The question really was, whether the promoters of the Bill were to be the sole judges of what land they should take and what they should leave. It was said that this Bill did not give the same protection to the small landowners as to the large landowners. It could not do so, because there were no small landowners who had petitioned against the Bill. Only wealthy men could oppose a Bill before a Committee of that House. After hearing witnesses, the Committee came to conclusion that the street should only be made on the condition known to the House. The Metropolitan Board acquiesced in the decision to this extent, and they proposed to strike out the street altogether. They now stated that they were prepared to give up the Bill altogether, and they chose to say that they gave it up because of this particular clause inserted by the Lords' Committee. It was all very well to make a scapegoat of Lord Salisbury, but the real reason might be that the Metropolitan Board now saw that the proposed improvement was not a good one, and that a preferable plan might be found. Since that time an agitation, which emanated chiefly from the Vestry of St. Anne's, Soho, had been got up, and now the House was invited, at this very late period of the Session, when it was difficult to have a full discussion, to take a peculiar course for the assertion of what was called a great principle. He trusted that some one would tell the House what this great principle was, because for the life of him he could not make it out. Who was to decide what land the Board was to take and what it was to leave? Were they to decide the matter for themselves? If so, might not the fact lead to an immense amount of jobbery and corruption? For his part, he always thought that the question was one for Parliament to decide after hearing evidence, and that was precisely the principle which had been adopted in the Bill. He protested against the Metropolitan Board being left in such a matter, for if they were they might take any man's property they thought fit. The Board was a body in no way responsible to the ratepayers. They were, in fact, an overgrown vestry, supported by architects, surveyors, and solicitors, and represented no one but themselves. With great respect to the gallant Chairman of the Board, he said that from first to last the land jobbing which had been indulged in by the Metropolitan Board had saddled the ratepayers with enormous expense, and that considerable improvements could have been effected much more economically if the Board had not existed, or if they had ceased the land jobbing in which they had indulged. If in the present case he had a map to exhibit, he would show the House how the Board had run in and out for the purpose of obtaining little bits of the property of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) here and there. It was because they had no evidence before them that the House was unfit to decide the question. He trusted that in the absence of such evi- dence they would not agree to the Motion.


said, the manner in which this question came before the House rendered its determination one of great importance—it was an important principle which the House now had to decide. Hon. Members were doubtless aware that where land was taken under compulsory powers, the landowner was entitled to compensation, to be awarded by means of a jury or an arbitrator, and that he was fully compensated not only for the actual land taken, but also for the prospective value of that land. In addition to all that there was the arbitrary rule that, to the sum so ascertained, 10 per cent was added as a bonus. Therefore, although yearly tenants might suffer some hardship, the landowners received not only a full but a generous compensation. It was the rule that in London the promoters of street improvements took not only the land which was necessary for the street, but also the land on either side in order to obtain the building frontage. Unless they did this, street improvement in this Metropolis would become absolutely impossible, because by acquiring the frontages to their new street they acquired property which they sold at a greatly increased value, and by that means recouped themselves—or rather the ratepayers—for the immense expenditure such improvements involved. If the objection on the part of the Marquess of Salisbury were allowed to prevail, the result would be that a jury would have first of all to give the Marquess of Salisbury compensation for the land taken, and then to give him the frontage in addition to the amount paid for his comparatively valueless property. The effect of applying this rule, and the result of the right of taking property in this way, as applied to Northumberland Avenue, was such that not only had the Metropolitan Board of Works recouped itself the large outlay paid for that property, but they had several thousands of pounds in hand, in consequence of the price they had obtained for the street frontages. He might mention that 6,000 persons had been compensated for landed property, and that out of that number in no single case had this principle been sought to be applied. In this very Bill 2,500 persons had had their property taken, and in 2,499 of those cases the property had been taken subject to the general rules. Was a different rule to be applied to Lord Salisbury; and, if so, why? Another general consideration was, that if they gave a landowner the right to the property on either side of a new thoroughfare, they took away all control over it, and he would have the right to leave the land vacant or to put up workshops, small houses, or, in fact, any kind of buildings he pleased; whereas the Metropolitan Board would make it a special condition with purchasers or lessees that houses of a certain description and elevation only should be erected. Dealing with the question of precedents, cited by his hon. and learned Friend, he asserted that they were no precedents whatever. The instance quoted from the Thames Embankment Act could not be deemed a precedent at all. It was thought—and very justly thought—in the ease of persons who had property abutting upon the river, that they should have the right of pre-emption, so that they should not be deprived of the amenities of their situation by the erection of new buildings between their residences and the river; and in all the other cases save one it was suggested that the Board should acquire other property for building purposes. These, therefore, were no precedents. As to the 29th section of the Act of 1872, the Charterhouse was going to be out almost in two by street improvements, and the effect would have been that the Charterhouse could have called upon the Board of Works to have taken the whole of their property. The sum to be paid in that case would have been so great that the Board of Works, for its own protection, asked that the clause should be inserted. That, again, was absolutely no precedent for the present case. The question simply was, whether the House should uphold the decision of its own Committee which had considered the whole question, or should accept the conclusion at which the House of Lords had arrived. He trusted that the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney would be successful.


merely rose to say that every word which had been uttered on this subject by the hon. Member for Hackney was correct. The claim of Lord Salisbury to pre-emption was before the Committee, and they unanimously held that it could not be enter- tained, and that, if it were, it would be a distinct fraud upon the ratepayers.


Mr. Speaker, before the House divides, which hon. Members are apparently impatient to do, perhaps they would like to hear a word from me. I shall not allude to the various precedents which have been mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), who, I am sorry to see, has gone away, because I think the whole of those precedents have been entirely and totally demolished by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James). I want, if the House will permit me, to explain what may seem a slight inconsistency on my part. On Tuesday last I opposed the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney for postponing this question, and, in doing so, I asked him to be kind enough to be satisfied with the protest, instead of entering a disagreement with the Lords' Amendments. I did so, because I, as the exponent of the Metropolitan Board of Works, was bound to advocate the case which was placed in my hands. Since that time, the House having thought fit to adjourn the matter, I have had the opportunity of consulting one of the most important Committees of my own body, and they have unanimously asked me to support the hon. Member for Hackney in his Motion; and I must say I do so with the greatest possible pleasure, be- cause I, and the whole of the Metropolitan Board of Works, entirely concur with the hon. Member for Hackney that, if such a clause as the 29th clause was put into this Bill, as was stated by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton, all street improvements in the Metropolis and elsewhere would be practically impossible. I have been taunted—the Metropolitan Board of Works have been taunted—because in the Lords they did not try to get this matter reconsidered; but let me tell the House that I then felt we had no other course open. We were obliged anxiously to seek that the House of Lords should allow us to obtain the other various improvements, and we were afraid those other improvements might possibly be lost; and, therefore, we thought it was better to sacrifice one improvement—although that improvement was one of a very great and important character—rather than imperil the rest of the Bill. I shall not, as the House is impatient and it is getting late, go into the various reasons of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Gorst) who wishes the House not to disagree with the Lords' Amendments, but I would just say one or two words to justify my Board; and I ask the House whether it is right and proper in this House that hon. Members should get up and stigmatize an honourable body like the Metropolitan Board of Works, who have been elected by the ratepayers of the Metropolis, and who have been anxiously endeavouring to discharge their public duties, and who, I venture to say, have discharged those public duties in a manner which has conduced very much to the public interest—I ask the House whether that Board are to be held up by hon. Members in this House as jobbers or land-jobbers. Talk of land-jobbers! Why are we and how are we land-jobbers? If we are anxious to promote street improvements, we are anxious, according to the law of the land, to ask the Houses of Parliament to give us a frontage of land upon each side of the street; so that we may be able in some way to recoup the ratepayers for the vast expenses they have to incur. I consider that to be fair—I consider it to be just and equitable. It is a course that has been pursued ever since I have had the honour of a seat on the Metropolitan Board. It is a course that has been pursued, I believe, not only in all Metropolitan improvements, but in all improvements in other great cities in England; and I would ask whether the Metropolis would have been so well improved if the Metropolitan Board of Works had never existed? All I wish is that my hon. and learned Friend had brought his map down, and spread it out on the floor of the House, that he might have shown you thereby how London was in days gone by—how it was 22 years ago— and then he might have pointed out the various changes that have taken place in the last 22 years—changes and improvements in communications which I venture to assert would not have been made had it not been for the Metropolitan Board. I know the House is impatient to go on with the Public Business, and I can only say I hope the House will unanimously receive the proposition of the hon. Member for Hackney.


said, that when this matter was brought forward on Tuesday last by the hon. Member for Hackney, it appeared to him that the House was asked to take a very unusual step; and he thought that to encourage private Members to intervene between the promoters and opposers of Private Bills, with the view of upsetting on general principles agreements which had been arrived at between parties by consent, was such a course as would result in the greatest possible inconvenience and in much embarrassment to that House. But he desired, in the first place, to point out that with regard to this particular matter the Metropolitan Board proposed to apply the general principle of their right to take a fringe of land along the line of the improvements they effected to the one side of the street on which Lord Salisbury's property was situated, and not to the other. The House had, he thought, been placed in a peculiar position by what appeared the uncertain and vacillating conduct of the Metropolitan Board. They had, to a certain extent, acquiesced in the decision of the other House, and they now asked this House to disagree with and reverse that decision. The hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) now asked them to restore the Bill to the shape in which it originally left this House; and he was bound to say the hon. and gallant Member was within his right in doing so. It was not for him to say what would be the fate of the Bill if it were sent back to the other House; but perhaps it might be induced to re-consider the matter. He admitted that it was usually regarded as a matter of custom, if not as a recognized principle, that the body effecting a street improvement were justified in asking for power to acquire strips of land on the line of such improvement; but such a general practice as that could only be held good as regarded country towns, where street improvements were required perhaps not more than once in 10 or 20 years; while it would not do to set up a body in London who were at the expense of the ratepayers to run riot as land-jobbers, and therefore if the House allowed on this occasion the contention of his hon. and gallant Friend, they must do so with a great deal of reservation. On the whole, he thought that the House might fairly stand by the Bill as it left them, and he hoped that they should not be put to the trouble of a division on the Question.


wished to make one remark upon the doctrines which had been laid down by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, whose high authority rendered it the more necessary that it should not be lent to any doctrines that were not perfectly sound. He was bound to say he did not altogether agree with the principle he had laid down; and, for his own part, he hoped that if a similar case should arise, the hon. Member for Hackney would take precisely the same steps which he had done in this case, and that the House would refrain from giving its assent to the proposition that in these so-called Private Bills the promoters and the op-posers were to be left to fight the matter out by themselves, and that the public should have no voice or locus standi in reference to it. He protested against this Bill being treated as an ordinary Private Bill, in the sense that it was not to be altered in any way. He should certainly vote against the Amendment introduced into the Bill by the House of Lords.

Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.

Subsequent Amendments agreed to, with Consequential Amendments to the Bill.

Committee appointed, '' to draw up Reasons to be assigned to The Lords for disagreeing to one of the Amendments made by their Lordships to the Metropolitan Street Improvements Bill: "— Mr. FAWCETT, Sir JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG, Sir HENRY JAMES, Sir CHARLES W. DILKE, Mr. GORDON, Mr. RODWELL, Sir CHARLES FORSTER, and Sir GEORGE BOWYER:—To withdraw immediately:—Three to be the quorum.

Reasons for disagreeing to The Lords Amendment reported, and agreed to:—To be communicated to The Lords.

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