§ (8.) £3,000, Supplementary sum for Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he believed that this Vote included the sum necessary to defray the cost of the proposed alterations at Hyde Park Corner. He should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Commissioner of Works whether he was right in that assumption?
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee some account of the improvements which were about to be undertaken at Hyde Park Corner. They had had a plan submitted to them which certainly was an improvement upon the existing state of things, but he thought it was capable of an alteration which would effect a still further improvement. Of course, he was prepared to admit that the difficulties of dealing with Hyde Park Corner were much increased by the large traffic north and south crossing that from east and west, and especially that part of it which came from the north to the Victoria Station and Westminster Bridge—namely, 1563 the number of cabs and other vehicles which, coming from Hyde Park Corner, turned down Grosvenor Place in order to reach the Victoria Station. There was also a considerable amount of traffic occasioned by cabs and other vehicles going in the other direction, up Grosvenor Place and turning east ward to wards Knightsbridge. There was also a stream of carriages to and from the Park itself. The large amount of this traffic at Hyde Park Corner during a short season of the year made it difficult for the through traffic down this great western road to proceed, and it was only in consequence of the strenuous exertions of the police that it was enabled to be conducted in such a manner as to afford adequate protection to the lives of the public. Now, it appeared to him that a large portion of the traffic which went down Park Lane and Hamilton Place would, if they had a road continued on the other side of Piccadilly across the Green Park, running by the side of Constitution Hill to the front of Buckingham Palace, and there joining the road from Pall Mall to Buckingham Gate, go that way to Victoria Station and Westminster Bridge. He was of opinion that such a road would be of immense value in easing the traffic, because there could not be the slightest doubt that Grosvenor Place was not at all wide enough for it at present. There would also be this great advantage—that it would be the means of causing the traffic to circulate, which was now blocked in consequence of Constitution Hill being closed for general traffic, being a private road of Her Majesty's to Hyde Park. Constitution Hill was not at all wide enough to carry the whole of the traffic, and if the plan he suggested were carried out, it would leave Constitution Hill in the same position it was now, and would in no way interfere with the private rights of the Crown. He was sorry to say that it took a very long time indeed to effect improvements in the Metropolis. It was only in 1851, on account of extra traffic caused by the Great Exhibition, that they succeeded in opening the road from Pall Mall to Buckingham Gate. Before that date the traffic had to go round by Charing Cross, or by Storey's Gate. Since 1851 the traffic was permitted to pass by Pall Mall, and cabs were now able to take that route. In 1862, when there was 1564 another International Exhibition, after great pressure had been brought to bear upon the Commissioner of Works, the traffic was opened from the north of London through Hyde Park. Previously Hyde Park had been altogether closed to traffic except private carriages. In the Exhibition year, the pressure of the traffic was found to be so great, that a road was made for carriages on the bridge over the Serpentine, which opened up a communication through Hyde Park from north to south, cabs being permitted to drive across from Victoria Gate to Alexandra Gate, and had been of the utmost convenience to the public, and had lessened the traffic in Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner. Now they wanted a road from Piccadilly through St. James' Park, and some people suggested that Constitution Hill should be thrown open. He did not suggest that himself; but if a wide road were made in continuation of Park Lane, coming out at the large open space in front of Buckingham Palace, and enabling the traffic to find its way by that means to the Victoria Station, and going on in the other direction through Storey's Gate to Westminster Bridge, Grosvenor Place would be very much relieved. The present arrangement did not relieve Grosvenor Place at all, but only the mouth of it. He must say that the arrangement suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works would make the locality around Hyde Park Corner one of the most dangerous for foot passengers they would have in the Metropolis, because the wide mouth proposed to be made from Grosvenor Place to Hamilton Place would be, to persons walking up from Piccadilly, a most dangerous spot to cross. They would have to cross another place double the width of Hyde Park Corner, and the arrangement altogether would be most inconvenient for foot passengers. Nor would it accomplish the object desired so effectually as if a roadway were made across the Park to Park Lane. It would, further—which he regarded as a great misfortune—necessitate the removal of the Arch at Hyde Park Corner. It was proposed, under the plan of the Chief Commissioner of Works, to remove it from higher to lower ground, where it would not be seen, as it was now, from Hyde Park. He was quite aware of the controversy which 1565 had been carried on upon this subject, and the criticisms which had been passed upon the Arch and the Duke of Wellington's Statue. He remembered very well when the statue was first placed upon the Arch, and the strong feeling which was manifested against the erection of any monument there to the great warrior, whose memory it was intended to perpetuate. There were many who thought that, from an architectural point of view, it was a great mistake; and there were others who were opposed to the erection of the statue of a subject of Her Majesty, upon horse-back, because up to that time no statue of a subject had ever been placed on a horse. Persons who entertained that view, were all united against an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington being placed on the Arch at Hyde Park Corner; but notwithstanding the objections that were urged at the time, and the criticisms that were passed, the statue was erected. It was now proposed to take down the statue of the Duke and to remove the Arch itself. He did not think that it would be any improvement to remove the Arch, and the site which it now occupied was far preferable to the site to which it was proposed to remove it to a lower elevation. In addition, as he had already pointed out, the plan of the Chief Commissioner of Works would make it exceedingly dangerous for passengers to cross at this point from Hyde Park, and the amount of relief to the traffic in Grosvenor Place which ought to be afforded would not be given. By far the best plan was to make a thoroughfare into the Park by means of a road from Piccadilly to Marlborough House. A road of that kind would be of immense advantage, and while carrying out the object really desired, it might be made at a small expense. If anything more were found to be requisite afterwards, it might easily be accomplished. Such a scheme would not involve the removal of the Arch, nor the making of a number of roads at a heavy expense, such as was involved in carrying out the plan proposed by the Chief Commissioner; and in the end he believed it would give more satisfaction. He threw out the suggestion for the consideration of the Chief Commissioner, whose own plan he certainly did not think would meet all the requirements of the case. Indeed, he did not believe 1566 that if it were carried out it would reflect much credit upon the taste of the Government and of the Metropolis.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
My hon. Friend began by asking me to describe at length the scheme I propose to the House. I think the best answer I can make to him is to refer him to the model which has been in the Tea Room of the House for many weeks, and which, I believe I may say confidently, has given general satisfaction. My hon. Friend then proceeded to describe a plan of his own, which is altogether different, and one which has no bearing upon the objects we have in view, and which, although there might be something to be said for it from other points of view, would not in any way remedy the evils proposed to be remedied by the plan we have ourselves submitted. My hon. Friend proposes that a road should be taken from the bottom of Park Lane across the Green Park to the front of Buckingham Palace, and he says that the traffic might be carried in that way to the Victoria Station. I am quite sure that my hon. Friend cannot have consulted the map and taken the distances, because, if he supposes that cabs or carriages would go down such a road for the purpose of going from the north to Victoria Station, he is very much mistaken. The route would be a great deal longer than the existing route. I will, therefore, say no more about the plan of my hon. Friend, which every hon. Member will see at once is impracticable for the object we have in view, and is, therefore, hopeless and out of the question. It might be that such a road would be convenient for carriages going to Grosvenor Square and down to the Houses of Parliament; but it would not get rid of the difficulty at Hyde Park Corner, nor relieve the pressure of the traffic. The only other point mentioned by my hon. Friend is his objection to the removal of the Arch. Now, the removal of the Arch is an essential feature of the scheme which I have laid before the House, and without that removal the scheme could not be carried out. It is necessary, for two reasons—First, because, without the removal of the Arch, we could not widen the road; and, secondly, if the plan is to be carried out in its main features, it would not be possible for the road between the two Parks—the Green Park 1567 and Hyde Park—to pass through the Arch, but it would be necessary to make a road by the side of the Arch, with an entrance to Hyde Park through one of the side gates; and in this way the dignity of the approach, which, it must be remembered, is a Royal approach to the Park, would be altogether destroyed, and a considerable portion of the improvement would be entirely lost. In point of fact, if an open space is to be made at that point, the removal of the Arch is an essential condition. It is proposed that the Arch should be placed at the end of Constitution Hill—from the entrance to Her Majesty's Park at the end of the Hill. I have only to add that I fully expect that it will be found possible to remove the Arch bodily on the American plan. Whether it can be removed with the Duke upon it, I do not know; but I believe that the Arch itself can be removed bodily on the American plan.
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
said, that if it was found necessary to take the statue of the Duke down, it would be far better that it should not be put up again.
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
said, that he would leave both that question and the statue to Her Majesty's Government.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (9.) £25,000, Supplementary sum for Natural History Museum.
§ (10.) £3,645, Supplementary sum for Public Buildings, Ireland.
§ (11.) £27,000, Royal University, Ireland, Buildings.
(12.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £6,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, for Diplomatic and Consular Buildings, including Rents and Furniture, and for the maintenance of certain Cemeteries abroad.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he did not think, he should be able to sleep comfortably in his bed if he did not enter his protest against a job which was being perpetrated by means of this Vote. Of course, he knew perfectly well that as it 1568 was the dinner hour, he could do no more than enter a protest, unless he could convince the Prime Minister that it would be desirable to withdraw the Vote altogether. They were all, to a certain extent, guardians of the public purse; but the Prime Minister was the natural and official guardian, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would do him the honour to listen for a moment to an explanation of what the matter really was of which he desired to complain, because he thought he should be able to show the right hon. Gentleman that it was a job which ought not to be allowed by a Ministry who had come into Office on the ground that they were desirous of effecting considerable economies in the public expenditure. The question he was about to call attention to was a very old question—namely, the question of diplomatic residences. Personally, he thought it was a very great mistake ever to buy these residences. They certainly seemed to cost the country a very considerable sum in repairs. It would, he thought, be better to give the Minister a certain sum of money to pay for the hire of a house. In Rome it appeared to have been thought desirable to have a place for the English Ambassador. Therefore, Her Majesty's Government had purchased a plot of ground within the walls, but in a part of Rome where there was not much building going on. Attached to the house was a considerable garden. The plot was of an oblong form, and at one end, beyond the garden, was a wood. In this wood the members of the Embassy were accustomed to walk, and take their recreation. There was very little land in this direction which was built upon until recently, when, the town having spread, it became valuable as building land. The total value of the wood, which was of about the same size as the Ambassador's garden, was about £20,000, which would prove that the garden and ground on which the Embassy-house stood were also worth £20,000. He called particular attention to this fact, because the country was not only giving a large house to Her Majesty's Ambassador at Rome, but was also giving him that which cost, putting it at 5 per cent upon the actual value, the sum of £1,000 per annum. Most persons in that House had no garden at all. They had to accept the fact that when a 1569 person came to live in a town he must make up his mind to be without a garden. But certainly a person with a garden worth £1,000 a-year might be supposed to rest content without requiring more land to add to it at the expense of the State. But not so the Ambassador at Rome. The land, which was at present a wood, was proposed to be built over. Through the middle of it it was proposed to run a road, and on one side of that road to erect a number of houses. Well, the country was now asked by Her Majesty's Government to buy one-half of this wood—that was to say, the half of it which would bring the Ambassador's garden down to the proposed new road. The reason assigned for the purchase was actually stated in the Vote, "in order to maintain the privacy of the British Embassy grounds in Rome." That was to say, that the people of this country were to pay £6,000 in order that no house should be built in Rome which should look, not into the residence of the Ambassador, but into this large garden, which the State had already provided for him, and which was worth something like £1,000 a-year. Now, what would anybody in that House do if he had a garden and somebody proposed to build a house that might overlook it? If he were a man of common sense, would he dream of spending £6,000 to shut it out? Nobody, unless he was able to put his hand into the public till, would ever dream of any extravagance of the kind. He would build a wall or plant some trees, and shut out the obnoxious building by that means. This was the ground on which he appealed to the Prime Minister on the subject. He (Mr. Labouchere) knew that social influences had been at work in order to induce the Chief Commissioner of Works, not alone the right hon. Gentleman now upon the Treasury Bench (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), but others who had held the same position, to induce him to agree to these jobs; and he knew how difficult it was to resist them. But he would appeal to hon. Members on either side of the House whether he had not fairly made out his case, and whether it was not amply sufficient for Her Majesty's Ambassador at Rome to have given to him by the country, not only a house to live in, but a garden and land worth £1,000 per annum, without being called 1570 upon to dip their hands still deeper into the public purse, and hand over a further sum of £6,000 for the purchase of additional land, in order that our Representative might throw it into the existing garden and prevent the inhabitants of the houses which were being built in the neighbourhood from occasionally having a peep into his grounds. He asked if it was considered necessary that every diplomatist employed by the country should be able to surround himself with a species of secrecy even in his own garden? He (Mr. Labouchere) certainly could not understand why an Ambassador, more than any other person, was not to be looked at. He contended that the Government had no right to take the public money for any such purpose. Even the building of a wall was not necessary; but it would be quite sufficient to run up a few palings and plant a few trees. The houses might then be built up, and the Ambassador would be perfectly safe from vulgar intrusion. But he did protest most strongly against any Government Department being called upon to spend a large sum of the public money upon such a purpose. It was all very well to say that it was only £6,000; but when they had £6,000 spent here and £10,000 spent there, upon little jobs of this kind, the total soon mounted up to a very considerable sum per annum. Unless the consideration and discussion of the Estimates in that House was to be regarded as a perfect farce, they ought to resist a Vote of this kind; and he should therefore ask the Committee, unless the Prime Minister would withdraw the Vote and undertake to take the matter in hand, to divide upon the question. In any event, he should record, his own vote against this wasteful expenditure.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he agreed generally with the remarks which had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), but feared it was pretty certain that the Committee would not support the proposition of his hon. Friend and reject the Vote. He knew something about the particular locality referred to, and in regard to this and other instances he had observed the great pressure which was brought to bear upon Her Majesty's Government by our Representatives abroad. He remembered a case which occurred some time ago in 1571 which a little difficulty arose. It was a case in which a Minister lately representing Her Majesty in a distant part of the world had become so Oriental in his habits that when the Ambassador of the Porte thought proper to erect an Embassy at a distance of half-a-mile from the British Embassy in Teheran, he at once appealed against any such interference with the amenities of the English Embassy, and applied to the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to relieve him from the dreadful oppression and indignity-he was likely to suffer in consequence of some objectionable Turks being able to look over his grounds from a distance of half-a-mile. He (Mr. Arthur Arnold) believed the matter was inquired into, and that the claim was rejected. He thought the House had become somewhat lax in regard to its acceptance of Supplementary Estimates. Members on both sides of the House were, perhaps, to blame for having been too ready to adopt the Estimates which had been presented, at all events without making a due investigation. He was of opinion that on this occasion they ought to unite in making a protest.
§ SIR HENEY HOLLAND
said, he thought it was necessary that for the future expenditure of this nature should be looked into in the hope that some reduction might be effected. This was not the case of a very large expenditure; but he certainly thought it ought to be saved. He knew the locality well, and he could not conceive why, if the Minister wished to walk about in his garden, he did not put up a palisade. That was all that could, be really necessary to secure privacy, and he could not help thinking that the proposed expenditure was throwing away the public money.
said, he should like to know what was the size of the present garden, and how far the house of the Ambassador was removed from the piece of garden it was proposed to purchase?
Mr. E. N. FOWLER
said, he was glad to hear from the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) that Her Majesty's Embassy in Rome was now suitably located. He remembered being in Rome at the time when Lord Derby was Foreign Secretary in 1874, and, having occasion to call upon Her 1572 Majesty's Representative, he had to go a long way round before he could find the Embassy; and then, after going up three pairs of stairs, to ring a bell for half-an-hour before it was answered; and it certainly struck him that it was not a place that accorded with the dignity of a British Minister, as he was not then Ambassador. Whatever the expenditure might be now, there must be a large credit to the Embassy of Rome for the penuriousness of former days.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I must repudiate altogether the remark of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) that there has been any job in this matter. I am quite sure that, on reflection, the hon. Member will say that the word was not used in the ordinary sense of the term, and that, in the observations he has felt it necessary to make, he had no real intention of accusing Her Majesty's Government of having perpetrated a "job." I can assure my hon. Friend that it was with great hesitation that the Government consented to this expenditure. For my own part, I may say that when I came into Office I found that an agreement had already been arrived at by the Government, authorizing the expenditure of even a larger sum of money, for the purchase of a larger piece of ground than it is now proposed to purchase. The plot of ground it was originally intended to obtain would have cost £10,000, and that expenditure was agreed to by my Predecessor, on the application of the Foreign Office, and with the concurrence of the noble Lord the Head of the Treasury (Lord Beaconsfield.) I found the negotiations in that state; but they fell through, and then it was suggested that a smaller piece of land, that would cost £6,000, should be purchased. The state of the case is this. As my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has pointed out, the site of the Embassy was bought for £80,000; and I think it is hardly fair to speak of it as a garden, because it is the site of the Embassy, including the house.
§ Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE
No doubt part of the site consists of a garden. Beyond the garden is a piece of ground which has been used by the Embassy; but recently the owner determined to 1573 lay it out as building ground, and then came the question whether a portion of it should be bought as an addition to the garden of the Embassy. The argument which weighed with the Government was this—that the addition of this piece of ground to the garden of the Embassy would considerably add to the value of the Embassy as a property. On the other hand, if it were not added to the Embassy, and were allowed to be built upon, the property of the Embassy would be very seriously depreciated in value. My hon. Friend has alluded to the fact of its being possible to build a wall at the end of the garden. That is quite true. The Government is under an obligation to the owner of the adjoining land to build a wall; and I am told that a wall sufficient to keep out of view the houses on the adjoining land will be erected, and will probably cost no less than £1,500. Therefore the whole of the £6,000 would not be devoted to the purchase of additional land, and the sum asked for is reduced accordingly to £4,500. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Rome has protested in the strongest possible terms against the building of houses—and houses, too, of an inferior class, which will be built very high, in accordance with the custom of Rome, and which will look into the gardens of the Embassy. He states that they would be of great detriment to the property, that the drainage from them will possibly flow through the Embassy gardens, that people will hang out their dirty linen within sight of the residence of the Ambassador, and that the amenities of the place will be so destroyed that it will be impossible to enjoy the garden in future. I may also mention another fact—that when houses are built in Rome, there is a municipal regulation that they should not be inhabited for a year; and this would also have a deteriorating effect upon the property of the Embassy. It has, therefore, been proposed to make an addition to the land already acquired, and which has cost a sum of £82,000. The land proposed to be purchased will add very materially to the value of the existing property; and, if not purchased, the value of that property will be seriously depreciated. The amount is not a large one as compared with the cost at Paris and other places. I think no one can doubt that, had it been foreseen that 1574 these building operations would have taken place so close to the land belonging to the Embassy, the Government of the day would have sanctioned a much larger purchase. The Government have entered upon the present transaction with great circumspection, and not until the most pressing representations had reached them as to the desirability of making this addition to the grounds of the Embassy.
said, he judged, from the figures which had been stated in the course of the discussion, that the size of the Embassy garden must be a very large one. He thought it was unreasonable that the country should be called upon to pay this additional sum of money for the Embassy at Rome.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, as they were about to divide, it was only right that the Committee should understand what they were going to divide on. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Commissioner of Works had stated what were the reasons why they were to vote the money now asked for. In the first place, he said it would be an exceedingly good speculation to invest £6,000 in land in order to increase the value of the residence of the Ambassador at Rome; and, secondly, that representations had been made that it was very desirable to make this addition to the grounds of the Embassy. He called it a job when an Ambassador suggested that his garden ought to be enlarged, and a Chief Commissioner of Works assented without any reason to the proposition that the garden ought to be enlarged. However, when the amenities of a garden were before the Committee, he was most unwilling to say anything contrary to the amenities of debate.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, that the Government were only doing what any prudent owner of a mansion and garden would do whose property was situated as the Embassy at Rome was situated—namely, take advantage of the opportunity of purchasing adjoining ground, which would enhance the value of the property, and prevent a nuisance being created which would deteriorate it. That being so, he thought there should be no hesitation on the part of the Committee to grant the money asked for.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 25: Majority 24.—(Div. List, No. 328.)
§ (13.) £250,000, Disturnpiked Roads.
§ MR. DODSON
said, it would be in the recollection of hon. Members that in the month of February last the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. E. W. Harcourt) called attention to this subject, and gave Notice of an Amendment on going into Committee of Supply, which was accepted by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. That Amendment was in the form of a Resolution to the effect that, in the opinion of the House, some relief ought to be afforded to the body of ratepayers from the incidence of rates for the maintenance of disturnpiked and main roads in England; and his right hon. Friend stated at the time, or a little while afterwards, that his intention was that Scotland should be dealt with in a corresponding manner. Now, that pledge of his right hon. Friend on behalf of Her Majesty's Government was made conditional on the Government being unable to carry out what they intended to do—namely, to deal with county government, and to endeavour to place grants in aid on a better footing. That, as the House was aware, they had not been able to effect; and they were, therefore, called upon to redeem the pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman on the occasion referred to. He would briefly state how it was proposed to distribute this grant in aid of disturnpiked and main roads, and then explain the reasons for that mode of dealing with them. The Vote was taken by way of a contribution to be paid in the course of the financial year ending on the 31st of March, 1883, in aid of payments by local authorities for the maintenance of the disturnpiked and main roads in the preceding year ended at Lady Day in England and Whitsuntide in Scotland. Now, the proposal with regard to England and North Wales was to give for roads in respect of which, repayment had been made during the year ending March 25, 1882, by the county to the road authority of a moiety of the cost of maintenance according to the Highways and Locomotives (Amendment) Act, 1878, to the extent of one-fourth of the cost of such main- 1576 tenance for the preceding year. In the case of roads in the Metropolis and Quarter Sessions boroughs, one-fourth of the estimated annual cost of the maintenance—understanding by maintenance, materials and labour—of the roads disturnpiked since 1870; and in the case of Scotland for the roads disturnpiked since 1860 one-fourth of the cost of maintenance—that was, of materials and labour—during the local financial year ending at or before Whitsuntide, 1882. He now came to the case of main roads in South Wales, and to these, following as far as the nature of the case would allow the precedent adopted in respect of the roads in England and North Wales, Her Majesty's Government proposed to give assistance at the rate of half the average amount which each county had been required to pay towards the maintenance of such roads since the year 1870. As the House was well aware, the cause of the complaint in respect of disturnpiked roads in England was the abolition of the tolls by which they were supported. It was complained that the maintenance of roads which were not merely local roads, but great highways of communication through the counties, and which were formerly paid for by the public by means of tolls, had been, by the abolition of tolls, thrown exclusively on the rates of the parishes or districts in which they happened to lie. The Act of 1878 recognized that there was a grievance on the part of the districts and parishes through which these roads ran, and charged half the cost of the maintenance of the roads disturnpiked since 1870 upon the county rate; it also gave discretion to the county authorities to relieve the local rates in the same manner in respect of those roads which had been disturnpiked before 1870, and in respect of highways which, from the general character of the traffic carried upon them, the county authorities might consider entitled to relief—those roads being called in the Act "main or disturnpiked roads." Thus the claims of roads disturnpiked since 1870 had been expressly recognized and compulsorily provided for by Parliament; and of the 15,000 miles of "main or disturnpiked roads," under the Act of 1878, in England and North Wales, upwards of 12,000 miles represented roads within that category. Well, in redemption of the pledge given by his right hon. Friend 1577 at the head of the Government that some further help should be given to the parishes and districts on which the burden of maintaining these roads had been thrown, they proposed, as he had already stated, to give half the amount received from the county rate—that was to say, an amount equal to one-fourth of the total cost of their maintenance, the word maintenance being understood in the sense in which it was used in the Act of 1878. The effect of that would be that the parishes and districts through which "disturnpiked or main" roads passed would be assisted, on the whole, to the extent of three-fourths of their maintenance—half of that assistance proceeding from the county rate, and one-fourth from the subvention now proposed. He ought to have stated to the Committee at first that his proposal was essentially and distinctly provisional, and that it was made in redemption of the promise of the Prime Minister given in regard to this financial year only. With reference to the Metropolis and Quarter Sessions boroughs, they would, as he had stated, receive in respect of their disturnpiked roads aid to the extent of one-fourth of the estimated annual cost of maintenance of those roads which had been disturnpiked since 1870. He believed that in Scotland the process of abolition of tolls had been going on since 1863, by means of local Acts in the first place; and, secondly, by the operation of the Roads and Bridges Bill passed in 1878, certain counties having adopted the powers given under the Act for the abolition of tolls, in anticipation of their compulsory extinction. Where Scotch counties had taken upon themselves the consequences of the abolition of tolls, the Scotch rates had a similar claim to assistance as the rates in England and Wales; and it was accordingly proposed to give them assistance to the extent of one-fourth of the cost of the material and labour for the maintenance of the roads. It now remained for him to speak of the case of the six counties of South Wales, which, as compared with others, was the most peculiar. Those counties had been since 1844, or at least for a long series of years, placed under an exceptional form of legislation. The roads in these counties were formerly maintained by tolls alone, the ratepayers being at no cost for their maintenance. But some years ago Parliament com- 1578 pulsorily reduced the tolls, and might thus be said to have disturnpiked the roads to a certain extent, and it expressly imposed on each of the six counties the burden of making good the deficiency which resulted. That deficiency having been created by Parliament, Her Majesty's Government thought it right that the rates in the six counties of South Wales should be likewise assisted, and accordingly they proposed to assist the county rates to the extent of half of the average annual deficiency which had occurred since 1870. The reason why they took, instead of the deficiency of last year, the average annual deficiency since 1870, was because the deficiency in respect of the various counties oscillated from year to year; and, therefore, to take the deficiency of a single year as a basis in calculating the assistance to be given would not effect the equitable distribution which they desired to carry out. Taking, however, the average deficiency since 1870, they arrived at what they believed to be a fair distribution over the different counties. He hoped he had made to the Committee an intelligible statement upon a subject which it was, perhaps, not easy to make clear in a short space of time, owing to the circumstance that the position of the various portions of the Kingdom, in respect of the roads to be maintained, was in each case different. The Government had endeavoured to apportion the assistance they had to give fairly and equitably to the circumstances of the different localities; and in that sense, he believed, he might commend that proposal to the Committee. He again reminded the Committee that the arrangement was provisional, and for one year only, because they still retained the hope of being able to carry out the intention they wanted to have fulfilled this year of placing main roads and grants in aid upon a more satisfactory footing. The Government had not proposed legislation on this subject; they simply asked for a sum of money for the purpose he had described, which he trusted the Committee would grant; and it would then rest with the Local Government Board to take upon itself the labour of distributing to each road authority its proportion of the grant.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, that there were some points in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman which 1579 he did not quite understand. Putting aside the case of South Wales and the more complicated points raised by the proposal of the Government, he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say with regard to the English counties that one-quarter of the cost of maintaining the roads would be refunded by the Treasury. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean, in the case of roads costing £40 a-mile, of which £20 was paid by the county, that £ 10 of the latter sum would be refunded to the repairing authority—the Highway Board or parish?
§ MR. DODSON
said, that was not intended. Supposing the cost of maintenance, as defined by the Act of 1878, to be £40 a-mile, £20 of this would be paid by the county as hitherto; but the parish rates would be relieved to the extent of an additional £10 out of the grant.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, in that case the cost of surveying and similar charges would have to be borne by the parishes; it would have to be deducted from the relief given.
§ MR. DODSON
said, for the purpose of illustration, he assumed that the materials and labour required for the maintenance of the roads was £40 a-mile. The counties, as the hon. Baronet was aware, repaid one-half of the cost of labour and materials. The Government would pay a sum equal to one-half of that paid by the counties; and the parishes would, therefore, be relieved to the extent of three-fourths of the whole cost of labour and materials required for the maintenance of the roads.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, it was then quite clear that when the roads were damaged one-quarter of the cost of repairing them would be repaid out of this grant to the ratepayers. There was another point as to which he was in some doubt. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to treat the disturnpiked roads and the main roads as the same. There was, however, a large number of roads that were not main roads, but which had been disturnpiked—some 4,000 miles of them according to the figures of the right hon. Gentleman—and he was anxious to know how they would stand with reference to the grant.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he thought he had explained that point. The Govern- 1580 ment would pay half of whatever the county paid under the Act for maintenance of roads, whether they were main roads disturnpiked since 1870, and expressly charged on the county rate since 1878, or whether they were those roads which were dealt with by the county authorities under the enabling powers of the Act.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, the subject was a very complicated one, and he had no doubt that, on the whole, no better proposal than that put forward by the right hon. Gentleman could be made as regarded the mode of payment, especially as it was provisional; but he must protest altogether against the inadequacy of the amount. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned that there were 12,000 miles of main road to be dealt with.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he had mentioned that, roundly, the total number of miles of main road was 15,000; of these 12,000 miles had been disturnpiked since 1870, and came compulsorily under the Act of 1878; but the grant applied to the whole 15,000 miles of road.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, he was not aware that the number of miles of road was so large; the right hon. Gentleman's information, however, was probably better than his own.
§ MR. DODSON
said, the 15,000 miles of road he had mentioned represented the main roads under the Act of 1878. Of those 15,000 miles upwards of 12,000 represented roads disturnpiked since 1870; of the remainder the larger proportion represented roads disturnpiked before 1870, of which the counties felt they ought to assume the responsibility; and the smaller proportion, or about 700 miles, represented highways over which there was a great deal of traffic and which the counties also had taken upon their own shoulders.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, that, having regard to the future rather than the present, the proposed contribution was disproportionate to the amount of relief required; and not only disproportionate to the equitable amount required, but inadequate as regarded the Vote. It would not exhaust or represent the amount of the Vote. The right hon. Gentleman had given them no figures and no calculation as to cost per mile, or as to the cost that had been unjustly thrown upon the ratepayers, and 1581 especially the farmer. He found on inquiry amongst the farmers in his own county that before the present arrangements existed, the cost to them for the use of the roads was about 1s. a-week on the average; whereas they had now to pay three times as much, or £7 10s. instead of the 50s. a-year paid formerly. His own opinion, based on the figures and facts that could be demonstrated, was that a subvention of at least one-half of the cost was necessary to afford effectual relief. He believed that the proper basis for the calculation of the right hon. Gentleman would be a mileage rate.
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
said, he could not agree with the hon. Baronet that the Vote was insufficient for the relief of the localities. It should be remembered that the rural parishes, which, through their Highway Boards, complained most, had already had a subvention of very nearly half the whole cost of maintaining the roads by that proportion being thrown upon the counties at large. The effect of the Act of 1878 was to throw a considerable proportion of the cost of disturnpiked roads on a class of property which was peculiarly free from the obligation of paying for turnpike roads, because that property was situated in districts where there were very few turnpikes. It seemed to him very inconvenient that they should, at that moment, be invited to discuss a subject surrounded with technicalities, the details of which it was impossible to examine without full consideration. He could not help thinking that something in the nature of an official intimation of the Government intentions ought to have been given a week or 10 days ago, so that hon. Members might have had ample time to examine the details of the question, and, in case of need, bring forward an alternative plan before the Government proposal came forward in Committee. The proposal of the Government to increase the tax on carriages had, at any rate, a relation to the persons who used the roads; but their proposal to put the burden of relieving the rural parishes upon the shoulders of the Income Taxpayer appeared to him to have more of the character of simplicity than justice. He regarded the proposal as unfair, inasmuch as, in his opinion, if there were to be any subvention at all of the one-fourth of the whole cost of maintaining 1582 the disturnpiked roads, it ought to be given to the county rate, and not the local Highway Boards. Hon. Members who were interested in the latter would, of course, dissent from this view. It was notorious that when subventions of this kind were made from the Treasury there was a general rush and scramble to get as much as possible. He repeated his belief that the local Highway Boards had already had their share of relief, and that it would be more just if the urban authorities had been relieved in respect of their present contribution, instead of having to contribute further to the relief of the rural parishes. There had been a great deal said that would not bear examination as to the character of the disturnpiked roads, which, before the railway system was introduced, were main roads, but which, since the introduction of that system, had notoriously been reconverted into local roads only. There were, however, a few of these roads which had not lost their local character, amongst which he might instance the road between Manchester and Bury; but the general effect of the introduction of the railway system had been such as he had indicated, and, therefore, he contended that the cost of maintaining the roads in question should properly fail on the localities. There was another great injustice done to towns to which he would refer. In the case of London, they had not had such a thing as a turnpike gate within it since 1870; and he should very much doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board could point to one that had existed beyond the year 1870. The gates had been a nuisance, and a hindrance to the traffic, and were always being complained of. He should like to know how much of the £250,000 would go to London—the rateable value of which was more than one-sixth of the whole of the country. London, they must bear in mind, paid more than one-sixth of the whole of the Income Tax of England, and yet nothing like one-sixth of the £250,000 would go to the people of the Metropolis in relief of their rates. In the large towns of England, in the same way, there would be no relief to the rates. What relief, for instance, would Manchester or Liverpool get from this new Vote, although, of course, these towns would have to contribute their share to the Income Tax? They 1583 knew that the main roads were not only disturnpiked roads, but also such as were declared by the local authorities to be main roads. What guarantee was there as to the roads, which the magistrates in Quarter Sessions might declare to be main roads, that this apparently tentative and annual Vote would not slide into a thing as perpetual as the Mutiny Act, which was passed annually? What were they doing but giving power to magistrates in Quarter Sessions, by declaring a road to be a main road, to obtain this Vote from time to time? This Vote would make a precedent, and it was well known that there was nothing more attractive for the purpose of being made into a precedent than an arrangement which gave public money in aid of local rates. If they went into counties where there was a conflict between manufacturing and agricultural communities, they would find it a constant complaint that the magistrates and the Quarter Sessions were always doing something for the rural portion, whilst they did nothing to relieve the community in the large mining or industrial districts. It was useless to try to oppose the passage of this Vote he knew; but, at the same time, he could not help expressing an opinion that it was objectionable, and violated all principles of equity.
§ MR. T. C. BARING
said, the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) was evidently talking about what he did not understand when he said that the rural districts would benefit disproportionately by this arrangement. It was not the main roads in rural districts which would derive the greatest advantage. But he would like to know to what roads this grant would apply? He presumed it would only apply to roads which had been declared main roads at or before the Easter Quarter Sessions. But he would like a specific answer. Was it intended to include roads declared main at the Midsummer Sessions, or not?
§ Mr. WARTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dodson) was beautifully clear as to the number of miles of road in England—as to the 15,000, the 12,000, the 700, and the 2,000; but there was one thing which was not at 1584 all clear from the right hon. Gentleman, and it was this—there was nothing whatever in what the right hon. Gentleman had said to lead one to know, or to lead one to imagine, what the cost per mile of these main roads would be. They were told that the counties of England and North Wales were to have a quarter each, and that South Wales was to have a half; and what he complained of was that the right hon. Gentleman did not put before them a single estimate of the cost of a single mile, whether rural or urban. If they had a simple multiplication sum put before them, both figures could be easily ascertained in the result. There was a result put before them; but he was at a loss to know how it was arrived at. No one could be more clear than the right hon. Gentleman when he liked. He was clear enough as to the number of miles, but was delightfully obscure as to the expense per mile. He (Mr. Warton) wished to make a practical suggestion arising out of what had been said by the hon. Member for South Shropshire (Sir Baldwyn Leighton); he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be better, if the amount in aid was to be £250,000, to divide it according to the mileage, which would give about £15 or £16 per mile? Was that sum of £250,000—that net round sum—an estimate, or was it not merely a guess in the dark? Was it a limited sum that could not be exceeded, or was it an estimate on the basis of paying a quarter in one place and a half in another? He wished to know on what principle the right hon. Gentleman was acting? The right hon. Gentleman did or did not know what the cost was to be. If he did not know, he ought to know, and if he did know, he ought to tell the Committee. The only object of the right hon. Gentleman now seemed to be to slur over the business as quickly as possible, and to give them no details for their judgment. They had a lump sum thrown at them just as they had in the case of the Post Office Vote, which was put before them in the absence of the Postmaster General. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dodson) was above the matter of detail; but he (Mr. Warton) would ask him point blank, had he the slightest idea of what the counties had paid last year?
§ MR. DODSON
said, that, first of all, the hon. and learned Member had asked 1585 him why they did not pay so much per mile, instead of paying on the actual cost, and his answer to that must be that mileage was no test. One mile of road might have a great deal more traffic upon it than another. Then, again, the material for repairing one mile of road might be much more expensive than that for repairing another mile. Moreover, the mileage of a road took no account of the width of that road, and that was a very important point. The system adopted secured the best possible test. Local Government auditors were now auditing the accounts of every highway district and parish in the Kingdom. The calculation was based on the actual cost incurred in the latest year for which they had Returns.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could give them the average cost per mile, or, at least, the full amount on which his calculation was based.
§ MR. DODSON
said, the county treasurer's Returns would give the amount paid per mile. The Government found that the county treasurer's accounts were below the amount they would have to pay; and what sum would be asked for over and above the amount stated by the county authorities he could not tell until further Returns were received. According to the accounts, what the Government would have to pay would be £145,000, which was half the amount paid by the counties; but the accounts were incomplete, and considerable margin must be allowed to represent the amount they might have to pay over and above the £145,000.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, there was no separate account kept of the maintenance of turnpike roads in boroughs. How would they arrive at that?
§ Mr. WARTON
said, he rose for the purpose of putting himself right with the Committee, because no one had a right to take up the time of the Committee without an object. The Committee would see that, by his having occupied their time, he had extracted one figure from the right hon. Gentleman. He had given them £145,000 as the half that the Government would have to pay. If he (Mr. Warton) had not been pertinacious, they would not have got that amount.
§ Vote agreed to.