HC Deb 04 July 1878 vol 241 cc766-76

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)


, in rising to move— That the Order for the third reading of this Bill be discharged, and that the Bill be recommitted, in order to insert an Amendment in Clause 30, to provide for the representation of the Metropolitan Board of Works on the Committee of Management, said, that nothing was farther from his mind than to do anything which might be considered hostile to the City, and no one was more anxious than he was to pay a tribute of gratitude to the successful efforts made by the City authorities with regard to the preservation of Epping Forest to the people. There were, however, many people who took an interest in the preservation of the Forest long before the Corporation took it up, and if it had not been for the services of those people there would not now have been any part of the Forest to be preserved. He did not found his action on any Party question. He believed that the first Gentleman who interested himself in the matter was the Conservative Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford). He did not wish, in the slightest degree, to take away from the City the absolute supremacy in the management of the Forest. By Clause 30 the whole of the Forest was vested for ever in the Corporation of the City of London as Conservators; they would, in fact, be the possessors of the Forest, and what he proposed was simply to give the people of London outside the limits of the City some voice in the management of the Forest—not a controlling voice—because if this proposal was carried out the position would be this—The Corporation would have the Forest absolutely vested in them, and would nominate 12 of the committee of management, whilst the commoners and the Metropolitan Board of Works, as representing the inhabitants outside the City, would each nominate four members. If his Amendment were adopted, the City would still be left with absolute control, having 12 out of 20 members on the committee of management, or certainly three times as many as the whole of the rest of London put together. He was not going to say one word in opposition to or defence of the Board of Works. All that it was necessary for him to say was that the Board of Works was the only body which could represent the Metropolis as a whole. It appeared to be assumed that the Corporation of the City of London paid the whole of the money in question out of their own pockets; whereas the fact was that the money spent hitherto, and what would be spent in future under the Bill for purchasing the rights of the lords of the manor, was not money which could in any sense be considered to belong to the City, but was money provided by taxes which fell upon the inhabitants of London at large. The money had to be provided by the corn duties, which fell upon every inhabitant of the Metropolis. The Metropolitan Board of Works, therefore, as representing the outside districts, ought to have a voice in the management. It might be asked, what could four members possibly do against 12? Well, in the first place, there was a principle involved in the question. What he wanted to assert by his Amendment was that Epping Forest did not belong to the City, but had to be administered for the whole of London, and that the whole of the Metropolis should be represented on the managing committee. It was quite possible that the City might do things—prompted by the best feelings—which would not be in accordance with the feeling of those outside the City bounds. For instance, he would refer to what was said the other evening by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Andrew Lusk). The hon. Member said—"Pass the Bill, be good to the City, and the City in return will give you some great civic entertainment in the Forest"—the most alarming thing in the future, so far as the Forest was concerned, that he could conceive. If the City thought that, in order to repay the public for the generous appreciation of their effort, they should organize some great civic entertainment, and bring round the Lord Mayor to it with his coach-and-six, it was only fair that the rest of London should have some opportunity of saying whether the Forest should not rather be left to its own seclusion. There might be people who desired to spend a quiet day in the Forest, and probably the last thing they would desire to encounter would be a great civic entertainment. He would rather see the Forest left to its own seclusion, and that civic hospitality should confine itself as heretofore to the regions of the Mansion House and the Guildhall. It was said that it might be invidious to propose that there should be a representation of the Metropolitan Board of Works on the committee of management, as they and the Corporation were not on the most harmonious relations; but it had been his good fortune to be present when the two bodies met in convivial fraternity; and, if one-tenth of the compliments which the Metropolitan Board paid to the City were to be accepted, and if one-twentieth of the compliments which the City paid to the Metropolitan Board were to be accepted, we must come to the conclusion that the feeling they entertained of all others was that they should be brought into closer association in order that they might more fully appreciate those admirable qualities which the one discovered in the other. If a selection was not to be made from the Metropolitan Board of Works for representation on the committee of management, from what body was it to be made? It could not be from all London or from the School Board, and when the selection was made from the Metropolitan Board of Works it was made from the only body which at the present time exercised any sort of municipal authority, and from a body which had already been intrusted with the control of most of the open spaces around London. He had not brought forward his Amendment in the slightest degree at the suggestion of the Metropolitan Board, or, indeed, with the previous knowledge of any of its members. He brought it forward not simply in the interests of the Metropolitan Board, but in order to assert the principle that Epping Forest belonged to the whole of London. This Forest having been saved by money which had been contributed, to a great extent, by the whole of London, and as money was to be spent upon it which was to be contributed by the whole of London, it was only fair and right that London should have a voice in the management. He, therefore, trusted the House would not refuse the moderate representation which he proposed for the districts lying outside the City.


was proceeding to address the House, when——


asked if the right hon. Gentleman proposed to second the Amendment?


No, Sir, on the contrary.


seconded the Amendment, but pointed out that when he brought the subject forward the other night no proposal was made for a representation of the Metropolitan Board of Works, as he had only raised the general question in favour of the public being in some measure represented on the committee of management. He thought that London generally should be represented, and, therefore, he seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "be" to end of the Question, in order to add the words "recommitted, in order to insert an Amendment in Clause 30, to provide for the representation of the Metropolitan Board of Works on the Committee of Management,"—(Mr. Fawcett,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he rose early to answer the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett); because the subject had already, on more than one occasion, been discussed in the House. The history of this struggle had been stated oftener than once. As far back as 1864 this question of dealing with Epping Forest was raised by the then Secretary to the Treasury, and in June of that year he applied to the Metropolitan Board of Works by letter, asking them to consider whether they could not take up the subject with the view of treating it under their powers for the preservation of commons in the interests of the public. In October of the same year, after careful consideration of the whole case, they refused to accept any responsibility in the matter, and stated, in answer to questions put to them by the Treasury, that the area in question was wholly beyond their jurisdiction, and that they had arrived at the conclusion that the case was not one which their powers enabled them to deal with, or with which they could advantageously interfere. That seemed to have been the opinion of the Metropolitan Board of Works until the time when a right hon. Gentleman opposite carried against the Government a Motion for an Address to the Crown in regard to the preservation of Epping Forest as an open space. What had happened since 1871? Since that year the City of London had come forward as champions of Epping Forest as an open space. They had done something more than that. They had expended money in the purchase of the freehold rights of the soil, with the view and under the condition of keeping that freehold soil open for the benefit of the public, and they had done this previous to any attempt to make them Conservators of this space. And when he came to the discussion which had taken place during some years before the Epping Forest Commission, which was appointed in 1871, he found the Metropolitan Board claiming to be heard as being constituted authorities. The Epping Forest Commissioners went into the case, and decided absolutely against them and in favour of their rivals, the City of London, on this particular question. The hon. Member for Hackney had laid great stress on this particular point that the money by which these freehold rights had been acquired, and by which, under the clauses of this Bill, the City proposed to deal with the further purchase of the rights still unacquired, was money raised in grain dues on the whole town; and that, therefore, the whole of London should be represented in the management and expenditure of that money. But what had been the history of that money in the past? Up to the present moment that money had been raised from the inhabitants of the town generally, and it had been decided up to the present time that it should be administered by the City of London and not by a body representing the whole of the inhabitants. There had been no suggestion that the Corporation had not dealt properly with the money, and that, therefore, the Metropolitan Board should have a voice in the matter. He could not see, therefore, why such a proposal should be brought forward now, when the question had already been decided on more than one occasion by the Epping Forest Commissioners against the Metropolitan Board of Works——


said, he was sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but the question decided by the Epping Forest Commissioners was not that the Metropolitan Board should have no representation, but as to whether the whole management should be intrusted to the City or to the Metropolitan Board. The question of a joint representation was never brought before the Commissioners.


said, he was afraid that the hon. Member for Hackney had not considered the Report of the Commissioners so carefully as he had done himself. What they decided was that the representation should consist of the Corporation of the City of London, with the addition of certain Verderers who were named. The Metropolitan Board of Works was not considered at all in reference to the matter. He could not deduce from the arguments of the hon. Member any reason why it should now be thought necessary to amalgamate with the City of London for the management and expenditure of the money any fresh body. What he had formerly stated in answer to the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was the only answer he could give now. The Government had carefully considered the question, they had determined on all they facts submitted to them, and on the evidence and Report of the Commission, that the proper constituent body for the future management of the money was a body formed as between the representatives of those who had hitherto spent the money in the interests of preserving the Forest as an open space and the representatives of those inhabitants who as commoners had a distinct existing right to the open space itself. These were the representatives who had been selected by the Government as the future managers; and, in these circumstances, he asked the House not to re-open the question by entertaining any proposal for the introduction of a fresh element, which he certainly thought was entirely foreign to the purpose in view.


said, he could quite endorse what had been said by the hon. Member for Hackney as to his having brought forward the Amendment without consultation with the Metropolitan Board of Works. Although he was Chairman of that Board, he had been so much taken by surprise in the matter, that he had not had any opportunity of communicating on the subject with his Colleagues. When the question was before the Epping Forest Commissioners, the Metropolitan Board made certain other suggestions besides that relating to their claim to be the proper authority for the care of the Forest as an open space—namely, as to a deer park, shooting licences, and other matters. Some of these suggestions were adopted by the Commissioners, although others were not considered desirable. The Commissioners certainly did not think it right that the Metropolitan Board should be brought in as an authority. As to what the Secretary to the Treasury had said regarding a change of mind on the part of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the Metropolitan Board was not singular in that respect, and so august a body as the House of Commons itself sometimes changed its decisions, At any rate, having already been intrusted by Parliament with the care of open spaces in the interests of the public, the Metropolitan Board of Works considered that they were the proper body to undertake the management of Epping Forest, and it was on that ground that they sought to be heard before the Commissioners. In supporting his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, he did not wish in any way to detract from the credit due to the City for the exertions it had made and the public spirit it had shown in this matter; but, as the money was provided by the whole Metropolis, the Metropolis ought to have some share in the representation, though the City was to have the largest share. If, then, it should be the pleasure of the House to give four representatives to the Metropolis, he could answer for the Metropolitan Board that they would endeavour to choose the best men.


said, though there was a good deal in the argument of his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, and though he had himself pressed on the Government the propriety of giving some representation to the Metropolis, he did not think the proposition before the House, on the whole, either expedient or wise. We could not altogether dissociate this question from the previous action of the Metropolitan Board. In 1864, the Government offered the management of the Forest to the Metropolitan Board, and to concede the Crown's rights to it; but the Metropolitan Board declined to have anything to do with the affair, and in the following year, when an important deputation waited on the Chairman, he said that the matter was entirely out of his jurisdiction. In 1869, for the first time, the Metropolitan Board made the astounding proposition that Epping Forest should be divided equally between the lords of the manor and the public. That was a scheme which prevented those who advocated the rights of the public from having any sympathy with the Metropolitan Board on the question. In 1872, when the grain duties were continued to the City of London by Act of Parliament, it was proposed that the fund arising from them should be used exclusively in preserving the open spaces of the Metropolis; but the Metropolitan Board objected to the City spending any of the money on open spaces within the Metropolitan district. Looking to past history, he considered that the introduction of members from the Metropolitan Board of Works, as delegates of an Assembly which itself consisted of delegated vestrymen, into the management of the Forest, would produce an element of confusion rather than the reverse. He should like to have seen some representation of the people in the management; but, as the proposition before the House was not the best mode of dealing with the subject, he should vote against the Amendment.


said, that the Secretary to the Treasury and the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had mistaken the argument of the hon. Member for Hackney. It was not the Metropolitan Board that his hon. Friend wished to see represented, but the inhabitants of the Metropolis generally, and the Metropolitan Board was the only body which could in any sense be said to speak for them. In his opinion, the Metropolitan Board required a good deal of improvement; but the real question was, whether the inhabitants of the Metropolis outside the City should have any sort of representation in the body about to be formed? It was desirable that those who enjoyed the Forest should be represented. He should be the last to disparage what the Corporation of the City had done to obtain the Forest for the people; but they could not in any sense of the word be said to represent those who would use it, because those who lived within the City were those who would least use the Forest. Besides, the people of the Metropolis outside the City had the right to representation from another point of view—they very largely contributed to the fund which would maintain the Forest.


said, he would address himself almost exclusively to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down—namely, the claim, arising from the finance of the matter. It had been said that this money came from the Metropolis at large. The grain duties belonged from time immemorial to the Corporation of the City of London, and in 1872, with the consent of Parliament, they made an arrangement which he would explain. The metage duties reached about £50,000, but only £14,000 went into the pocket of the Corporation; the rest was spent on collection. There was great waste. The City then consented to give up the rights of metage it had enjoyed for a small tax; and, whereas formerly it had the exclusive right to the employment of the fund, in 1872 it agreed that the money should be applied for the purpose of preserving open spaces outside the Metropolis. The Metropolitan Board, which now put itself forward as the representative of the public, not only claimed no share then in the management of the fund, but said distinctly they did not wish that any portion of the money thus raised from the taxpayers of the Metropolis should be spent on preserving open spaces in the Metropolis. That was an extraordinary bargain, and they had foregone the right of interfering with that money now. He would only detain the House to say that it was rather late in the day—at the third reading of the Bill, after the Forest had been rescued and the battle won—for the Metropolitan Board of Works which had taken no part in the struggle, to put forward such a claim as that urged by the hon. Member for Hackney.


said, the proposition to include the Metropolitan Board of Works in the management of Epping Forest was—he might almost say—a monstrous one. They had done nothing to save the Forest from being inclosed by individuals; on the contrary, they had specially declined the suggestion of the Government to take the matter into their own hands and do something in that direction. He thought his excellent Friend the Member for Truro (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) might fairly have declined to accept the proposal as made by the hon. Member for Hackney. The Corporation had behaved with true nobleness of spirit in this matter, and had expended large sums in the promotion of this great public object. In these circumstances, he hoped the House would reject the proposal by a large majority.


said, he did not think the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had shown much generosity on the present occasion. The City of London had commenced this struggle in 1871, when there were no funds available but their own, and they had spent more than the grain duties would ever recoup. Now that the struggle had been happily concluded, the City of London would rather not have the assistance of the Metropolitan Board. The Metropolitan Board had already a great many parks to manage. Besides, they had the floods to control; and they had not yet managed the floods.


said, he hoped it would be remembered that the whole policy of the Metropolitan Board had been not to take any interest in or help forward the movement for the preservation of Epping Forest; whereas the Corporation had always taken a patriotic and public-spirited view of the matter. By adopting the proposal of the hon. Member for Hackney, they would certainly not encourage the Corporation to engage in similar good work for the future.


contended, that the population of London outside the City should be as adequately represented on the Board as the City itself.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 209; Noes 49: Majority 160.—(Div. List, No. 194.)


inquired whether Sir Arthur Hobhouse, who was nominated as Arbitrator under the Bill, had consented to serve? He might take that opportunity of remarking that the appointment was one which would give satisfaction.


said, he had already announced in the Select Committee that Sir Arthur Hob-house had accepted the office of Arbitrator, and his name accordingly appeared in the reprint of the Bill.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time (Queen's Consent signified), and passed.