§ Moved, "That the Report from the Committee on the Metropolitan District Railway Bill [presented on 31st May] be now read."—(Mr. Marriot.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ MR. MARRIOTT
said, that, with the permission of the House, he desired to make one or two observations in reference to the Report which had just been read. It would be in the recollection of the House that a short time before the House rose for the Whitsuntide Recess an Instruction was given by the House to the Committee on the Metropolitan District Railway Bill to give facilities to the Corporation of the City of London and to the Metropolitan Board of Works, to close certain ventilating shafts within the City of London and on the Thames Embankment, upon certain reasonable terms. The Committee did not meet until the 31st of May, and he would state very shortly what took place before the Committee. The counsel who appeared for the Metropolitan Railway Company represented that Parliament had made a grievous blunder; and, although the learned gentleman was kind enough to give the House of Commons credit for excellent motives, still he considered, notwithstanding the worthy sentiments which actuated them, a grievous wrong would be inflicted upon the public if the original plan were 1613 departed from, independently of which there would be delay in the completion of the Inner Circle Railway. In point of fact, the counsel for the Railway Company said that the Company would be able to complete the Inner Circle Railway within a year; and that if the Railway was not completed within that time great inconvenience would be caused to the public. Nevertheless, sooner than consent to what was proposed they would give up their Bill for the completion of the Inner Circle Line. It was not for him to make any remarks upon this action of the Railway Company. It certainly did seem somewhat foolish on their part to set themselves, as they did, entirely in opposition to the wishes of Parliament. After the speeches of counsel, the Committee retired, and decided that they must act upon the Instruction given by the House. Remarks were made by counsel on both sides, and the Railway Company undertook, he thought very wisely and properly, not to oppose any measure which the Metropolitan Board of Works or the City of London might think proper to introduce for obtaining a suspension of the Standing Orders, in order to enable them to bring in a Bill at their own cost. He could not complaim of that; and, being in that position, the City of London and the Metropolitan Board of Works had to consider what course they would take. He might state, however, that recent experience, since the former debate took place, had shown these ventilators to be not only noxious, but extremely dangerous, and such as to satisfy everybody that they ought to be removed at the earliest possible moment; whereas, by the proposal of the Railway Company, they would have had to wait, at all events, until the end of next year, and the ventilators would have been a source of danger in crowded streets—such as Queen Victoria Street—for 12 months longer. All they could do now was to get a Bill through as fast as possible, and as the House knew the Standing Orders stood in the way of that, what they intended to propose was that the Standing Orders should be suspended. In doing that, they were not acting without the authority of precedent. There were three precedents in the year 1867 alone—in the case of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway (No. 2)Bill, the London, Chatham, and Dover Rail- 1614 way (No. 3) Bill, and the Great Eastern Railway Bill. In those cases the Standing Orders Committee declined to suspend the Standing Orders; but the House acceded to the proposition for suspending them. In another case, in 1878, the East London Railway Bill was moved without having gone before the Standing Orders Committee at all; and, notwithstanding that fact, leave was given to bring in a Bill for the payment of the debts of the East London Railway Company, the House supporting and sanctioning that Resolution. This year, early in April, an application was made to the Standing Orders Committee to suspend the Standing Orders, so as to allow both the Corporation of London and the Metropolitan Board of Works to bring in Bills. The Committee declined to suspend the Standing Orders; but he had the authority of the Chairman of the Committee—the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John Mowbray), who was, unfortunately, not in the House that day—for saying that the circumstances which had since taken place had entirely changed his view. The obstruction had become serious, and the House fully supported the recommendations made by the Committee to whom the Bill was referred. That Committee had not even had an opportunity of hearing a word either in favour or against' the Instruction of the House; and, therefore, they recommended the House of Commons, in view of the importance of the subject, to give facilities to the Corporation of London and to the Metropolitan Board of Works for bringing in Bills to enable them to deal with these ventilators. He believed that the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works was prepared to make a proposal of that kind, and that he would receive the support of the City of London. All he (Mr. Marriott) could do was to call the attention of the House to the Report of the Committee, and he trusted the House would support the Resolution about to be submitted to them.
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
remarked, that, after the action already taken by the House, it would not be necessary to take up any time by going into the question of these ventilators. The action already taken had been fully endorsed by the Instruction given to the Committee presided over by the hon. and gallant Member for East Derbyshire 1615 (Admiral Egerton). The Metropolitan Board of Works and the City of London were perfectly ready to go on with their evidence, and they were very anxious to be allowed to do so; but those who were in charge of the Railway Bill did not think it expedient to persevere with it, and therefore they withdrew their Bill. The Committee presided over by his hon. and gallant Friend made a recommendation that the Metropolitan Board of Works and the City of London should have every facility given to them for carrying out the recommendations of the Committee; and the only way in which they could proceed was by suspending the Standing Orders, so as to enable the Metropolitan Board to bring in the Bill they were anxious to bring in some time ago for the purpose of removing these obstructions and nuisances. He could quite confirm what the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott) had stated. He had the authority of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John Mowbray), the Chairman of the Committee on Standing Orders, for saying that the circumstances had now entirely changed from what they were before. He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to be in his place, because, if he had been, he certainly would have supported the proposal of the Metropolitan Board of Works to suspend the Standing Orders. He (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) knew perfectly well that it was an extraordinary course to ask the House to suspend these Standing Orders. But unusual circumstances required unusual remedies. He was unable to understand why, considering what had happened, the Railway Company should have refused to enter into the question. He believed it could be proved to demonstration that all the ventilation could be much better provided by other means, if the House would kindly accede to the request he now made to them to suspend the Standing Orders, and allow him to bring in a Bill, which would be referred, at the earliest possible moment, to a Committee. All that he could say was that these obstructions were destructive to the Embankment Gardens, and upon the roadways in the City they were actually dangerous. He therefore earnestly impressed upon the House the necessity of insisting upon 1616 their removal. So far as his own observation went, one of these ventilators, which it was said, in the course of previous discussions, would never be used, was constantly vomiting forth offensive and noxious gases. He begged to move—That the Standing Orders be suspended, and that leave be given to the Metropolitan Board of Works to bring in a Bill to amend 'The Metropolitan District Railway Act, 1881, in relation to the openings or shafts authorised by that Act to be constructed in roads or open spaces within the Metropolis, for the purpose of ventilating their Railways; and for other purposes.He intended to propose that a Bill should be brought in by the noble Lord (Lord Algernon Percy), the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott), and himself.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Standing Orders be suspended, and that leave be given to the Metropolitan Boards of Works to bring in a Bill to amend 'The Metropolitan District Railway Act, 1881,' in relation to the openings or shafts authorised by that Act to be constructed in roads or open spaces within the Metropolis, for the purpose of ventilating their Railways; and for other purposes."—(Sir James M'Garel-Hogg.)
§ SIR THOMAS CHAMBERS
said, the Motion made by his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works was not in exact conformity with the terms of the special Report of the Committee—namely, that, in view of the importance of the subject, the Committee were of opinion that facilities should be given to the Corporation of the City of London and to the Metropolitan Board of Works to enable them to bring in a Bill dealing with the ventilators. The Motion submitted by the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works was confined to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and did not include the Corporation of the City of London. He had risen, therefore, to remedy this defect; and he proposed to move an Amendment, not in any hostile spirit, but in order to carry out more fully what was the obvious intention of the Committee. The Amendment he proposed was, to insert in line 2, after the word "the," the words "Corporation of London and the." In other words, the object of the Amendment was to enable the Corporation as well as the Metropolitan Board of Works, both of whom wore equally concerned in regard 1617 to jurisdiction, and both of whom were equally anxious for the removal of these ventilators, to bring in Bills.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 2, after the word "the," to insert the words "Corporation of London and the."—(Sir Thomas Chambers.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
said, he was quite willing to accept the Amendment, and also a further Amendment which the hon. and learned Member proposed to move.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he was glad that the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works had accepted the Amendment. It was extremely unusual for these two Metropolitan Bodies to be found acting together, and he was glad to see that it was the case in the present instance.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 3, after the word "Bill," to insert the words "or Bills."—(Sir Thomas Chambers.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he did not think that much good would result from opposing this absurd proposal; but he did not think it ought to be allowed to pass without a few words being said upon it. The action of the House in the matter had, in the first place, been to give a severe slap in the face to one of its own Committees, and a Committee whose action was approved of by the House itself, when it consented to read the Bill containing the original provision a third time. The proposal now before the House was to give another slap in the face to the Standing Orders Committee of the House, that Standing Orders Committee having had before them this very question only a few weeks ago, and having, he believed, unanimously refused to suspend the Standing Orders. It was quite true that the Standing Orders Committee found themselves now in a very difficult position. They found, from the action of the House, that they would have this proposal forced upon them; and, therefore, an announcement had been made by the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works that indirectly the Standing Orders Committee would no longer oppose the granting of 1618 the power which they refused to grant only a few weeks ago. That being so, he believed there was no advantage to be gained by opposing the Motion. He could only say that he regretted exceedingly the course which the House was taking in the matter, and he was sorry that he could not prevent it.
§ MR. CROPPER
said, he fully agreed with the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). On a previous occasion he had expressed his own views upon the question as to the small amount of damage done by the ventilators to the Embankment Gardens, and the great deal of good they were doing to the people down below. As, however, the hon. Gentleman was not going to take any action in the matter, he (Mr. Cropper) would not attempt to divide the House on the subject. He trusted when a Bill came before the House, and they were enabled to see its provisions, a full opportunity would be afforded for discussing it, and, if necessary, of amending it with advantage.
SIR JAMES C. LAWRENCE
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Kendal (Mr. Cropper) spoke of the very small amount of damage and inconvenience occasioned by the ventilators. He trusted the House would not take it for granted that there were no grounds for the complaints which had been made in regard to the inconvenience caused by the ventilators. Perhaps he might be allowed to mention a circumstance which came under his own observation a few days ago. He had frequently passed one of these ventilators, in the middle of the roadway on the Embankment; but he had not remarked any smoke or steam coming from it until the other day, when he perceived a large volume of steam coming out of the grating. He was in a Hansom cab at the time; the horse started, and he also saw two carriages drawn by horses which the coachmen had great difficulty in managing. He thought this little experience of his own the other day more than answered the observations which had been made by the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Cropper).
§ MR. CUBITT
said, the Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee was, unfortunately, absent; but, speaking for his right hon. Friend and for himself, as an individual Member of the 1619 Standing Orders Committee, he certainly did not consider that the present Motion was in any way a slap in the face. When the matter came originally before the Standing Orders Committee the circumstances were very different, as the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott) had explained, from what they were now. Under the then circumstances the Committee found themselves unable to suspend the Standing Orders, and if the circumstances remained the same still they would be prepared to act in the same manner; but a great change had taken place, owing to the peculiar action of the Railway Company, and he believed, if the matter, as it now stood, were to come before the Standing Orders Committee, a different decision would probably be arrived at. He knew it was the opinion of the Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee that, as this was a special case, it would be very much better that power should be given to meet it by a direct Instruction of the House than by referring it to the Standing Orders Committee. By the course now proposed to be taken the question could be settled with greater speed than in any other way, and, at a late period of the Session, that was a consideration which ought to weigh with the House. He therefore cordially supported, as an individual Member of the Standing Orders Committee, the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg).
§ Question put, and agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put.
Ordered, That the Standing Orders be suspended, and that leave be given to the Corporation of London and the Metropolitan Board of Works to bring in a Bill or Bills to amend "The Metropolitan District Railway Act, 1881," in relation to the openings or shafts authorised by that Act to be constructed in roads or open spaces within the Metropolis, for the purpose of ventilating their Railways; and for other purposes.