§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Charles Forster.)
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he intended to move the reference of the Bill to a Hybrid Committee; but he presumed the proper time for making that Motion would be after the Bill had been read a second time?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he begged to move the Resolution which stood in his name, and which was—That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, Five to he nominated by the House, and Four by the Committee of Selection:—That all Petitions against the Bill presented not later than three clear days before the sitting of the Committee he referred to the Committee, and that such of the Petitioners as pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, Agents, or Witnesses, be heard upon their Petitions, if they think fit, and Counsel heard in favour of the Bill against such Petitions:-That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.His Motion had two distinct objects—one was that the Bill be referred to a Committee commonly understood by the name of a Hybrid Committee, and the other was that there should be a special Instruction to the Committee to hear those who 473 might desire to petition against the Bill, but who otherwise would not have a locus standi. With reference to the first of these proposals—that the Bill be referred to a Hybrid Committee—his reason for desiring this was that, looking to the fact that the Bill was more or less of a public nature, it ought to be referred to a Committee of a more public character than an ordinary Private Bill Committee. A Hybrid Committee, as the House knew, consisted in part of Members nominated by the House, and nominated with special regard to the questions they had to consider; whereas an ordinary Private Bill Committee was taken at haphazard, and might not have upon it any Member specially qualified to deal with the particular matters referred to it. This Bill, as he had said, was essentially of a public character. Most of the Bills which had hitherto been introduced, dealing with matters connected with the Metropolis, had been treated in one of two ways—either as a Public Bill, or as a Bill of a semi-public nature. Sir Erskine May, in his well-known work, said—Though a Bill relating to a city is generally held to be a Private Bill, Bills concerning the Metropolis have been dealt with as Public Bills—a large area, the number of parishes, the vast population, and the variety of interests concerned, constituting them measures of public policy, rather than of local interest.The main proposal contained in the present Bill was the construction of a subway across the Thames; the providing of steam ferries across the Thames; and the building of a new Battersea Bridge. All these proposals affected a large population, a number of parishes, and a variety of interests; and they carried out what also involved a considerable amount of taxation in the Metropolis. The subway itself, he understood, would probably cost about £2,000,000; and he contended that all these characteristics in the present Bill constituted the measure one of a public, rather than of a private character. The Bill, however, could not be introduced as a Public Bill, because certain Notices had to be given; and it was, therefore, one which had to be introduced as a Private Bill. Having been dealt with so far as a Private Bill, he now desired the House to convert it into a semi-Public Bill by referring it 474 to a Hybrid Committee. Another reason why he desired the Bill to be referred to a Hybrid Committee was, that he wished the House to give to the Committee a special Instruction, not usually given to Private Bill Committees, whereas in reference to Hybrid Committees it was very usual. He had many precedents for dealing with a matter of this kind in a public way. All questions affecting the crossing of the Thames, with one exception—namely, the High Level Bridge—had been dealt with as public questions, and inquired into by public Committees. There was a public Committee in 1836 upon Metropolitan communications; in 1846, upon toll-paying bridges; in 1855, on Metropolitan communications; and in 1865 and 1876 there were also public Committees upon similar subjects. There were also many precedents for referring Bills, brought in as Private Bills, connected with the Metropolis to Hybrid Committees. He would, however, only trouble the House with one, and that was the case of the Thames River (Prevention of Floods) Bill. That Bill was brought in as a Private Bill; but it was referred to a Hybrid Committee, notwithstanding the opposition of his hon. Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg), who used the same arguments on that occasion as, no doubt, would be repeated to-day in opposition to the proposal to refer the Bill to a Hybrid Committee. But among the supporters of the proposal to refer the Bill to a Hybrid Committee was the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), his right hon. Friend who was then Chairman of Committees (Mr. Raikes), and his right hon. Friend who was at that time Home Secretary (Sir R. Assheton Cross). All those high authorities agreed that the Bill, on account of its public nature and the many interests involved in it, ought to be referred to a Hybrid Committee; and, notwithstanding the opposition of the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the House arrived at the same conclusion, and the proposal was carried to refer the Bill to a Hybrid Committee. He had now a word to say as to the Instruction he desired the House to give to the Committee. The Instruction would have the effect of en- 475 abling the Local Boards and Vestries of London to be heard either for or against the Bill. They would have no locus standi before a Private Bill Committee on account of a purely technical reason—namely, that they were represented by the Metropolitan Board itself; and, therefore, they were supposed to be parties to the Bill, and could not appear against it, unless leave was given them to appear. The proposal he now made was such a reasonable one—namely, that those most vitally interested in the Bill should be able to have their reasons for and against the Bill heard—that he could hardly conceive it possible that it would be met with any serious objection on the part of his hon. Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works. The reason why he wanted this Instruction rendered it necessary that he should give a history, and a very short history, of the main proposals contained in the Bill. The main proposals were a provision for crossing the Thames by means of a tunnel, and by means of steam ferries. He had nothing to say against the steam ferries; but for years, in the East End of London, the people had cried out against the injustice they had suffered in consequence of the want of permanent communications across the Thames. They contended that, looking to the fact that London West of London Bridge was crowded with bridges, it was a gross injustice that they in the East End of London, with a population exceeding that of Liverpool, Manchester, Salford, and Birmingham put together, had no permanent means of communication with the other side of the River. Two years ago an agitation upon the question was set on foot, and ever since then it had been increasing. Those who had taken part in it had been pressing their claims upon all the local authorities, upon the Metropolitan Board of Works, and upon the City. What had been the result? The Metropolitan Board of Works referred the question to a Committee, and that Committee referred the matter to their engineer, who reported, after fully investigating the merits of the case, that the wants of the East End of London could only be adequately met by making three permanent means of communication—one between the Tower and Bermondsey by means of a high level bridge, another between Shad well and Rotherhithe, and 476 a third between Blackwall and Greenwich, the two latter to assume the form of a tunnel. That recommendation having been received and adopted by the Metropolitan Board of Works, they applied to the Government to sanction the re-imposition of the Coal and Wine Duties, in order to provide the necessary funds; but, their application not being assented to, they abandoned their proposal to proceed with the three means of communication which, they had said, were essential for the well-being of the East End of London, and, instead, proposed, suddenly and secretly, without notice to anybody, to provide a communication by means of a tunnel, which was not to be constructed in any of the places which their own engineer had reported as desirable sites for such communication. He contended that if the Metropolitan Board of Works were at all fit to do the work they were appointed to carry out, after having declared that these communications were necessary, they should have carried them out without regard to the means by which the money was to be raised. The Metropolitan Board, however, did not choose to do that; but they secretly prepared another scheme, which was not one of those proposed by their own engineer, or at any of the spots he had pointed out as suitable sites. The consequence was that, as soon as the proposal contained in the present Bill was made known, an outcry from the whole of the East End of London was immediately raised. The whole of the Local Boards and Vestries, without a single exception, in the East End of London passed resolutions declaring that the proposed tunnel was altogether inadequate, and that they would rather be without any permanent communication at present than accept the one proposed, preferring to wait until they could obtain that which was suitable for proper communication across the Thames. Curiously enough, the very Local Board in whose particular interest this tunnel was proposed—the Whitechapel Board of Works and the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works would hardly deny that it was in their interest that it was proposed—passed a resolution stating that they would have nothing to do with a scheme which could not in any shape or form meet the requirements of the case. Delegates from the various Boards in 477 the East End of London met and passed a resolution condemning the scheme of the Board of Works on the ground that it was altogether unsuited for vehicular traffic, and ought to be abandoned. That was the resolution arrived at at a meeting of the delegates of the whole of the East End Boards, and the reasons they gave for objecting to the scheme were very strong reasons indeed. They were of opinion that the proposed tunnel was in the wrong place. It was contended that if there was only one scheme to be proceeded with, it ought to be the central scheme proposed by the engineer of the Metropolitan Boards of Works, instead of which the proposed tunnel was to be constructed at the Western-most boundary of the East End of London. It was further objected to the proposed tunnel that in consequence of the steep gradients—1 in 25—it was altogether unfit for vehicular traffic. He need hardly point out how utterly inadequate and ridiculous such a proposal as this was. No doubt his hon. Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board would say that they proposed to provide mechanical means for overcoming the difficulty of this steep gradient; but he altogether ridiculed the idea of providing communications for heavy traffic with such steep gradients as to necessitate mechanical means for overcoming them. It was, in his opinion, an utter farce. Then, again, if mechanical means were provided, it was well known that such mechanical means would not only be extremely costly, and would require considerable expense in maintenance, but that they would be very liable to get out of order. The result would be that if this tunnel were provided for the East End of London it would not be used. Those who were desirous of crossing the River would prefer to go a very little further up and cross London Bridge upon the level, and thus rid themselves of the inconvenience of probably finding the machinery out of order. What would be the consequence of this? The tunnel would not be used, and this would be advanced as an argument against those who desired further communications. It would be contended that communications were not wanted by the people of the East End of Loudon at all, that the outcry was shallow and artificial, 478 and not justified by the necessities of the case. There was a still stronger reason against this proposal—namely, that the City of London was now contemplating—and he believed that it was under the consideration of a Committee of the Corporation—the erection of a bridge almost in the immediate locality of the proposed tunnel, with a view, mainly, to ease the traffic over London Bridge, as well as to give further facilities to the East End of London. It was proposed by the City to construct a low level bridge with a swing opening in the centre, a plan that was very feasible. If that were done, the work would be paid for out of the City revenues altogether, and the Metropolis would not be called upon to bear any portion of the cost, but would be at liberty to spend their funds in crossings which were felt to be more necessary and essential lower down. The Reference which he desired the House to pass was simply and solely this—that, before an enormous expenditure was incurred in an undertaking which the Vestries and the District Boards in the East End of London had declared to be useless to them—that before the Metropolitan Board obtained power to incur this expenditure, all the District Boards and Vestries of the East End of London should have a fair and impartial hearing of the case they desired to present be-fore the Committee who would have the duty of deciding the subject. That was all that he wanted. No doubt his hon. Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board would say that there was one, and perhaps two, Local Boards in the East End of London who would have a locus standi, because the proposed works would interfere with their land; but he need hardly point out to the House what a much stronger position those who objected to the Bill would have if the whole of the District Boards of the East End of London were able to unite together with a view of bearing the expenses that would be necessary in order to insure that their case should be adequately and completely laid before Parliament. He would say, further—and this was about the last observation he would trouble the House with—that before placing the Motion on the Paper he had considered it his duty to write to every one of the Local Boards 479 and Vestries in the East End of London, asking whether they approved of the proposal he intended to make to the House of Commons, and from every single one of those Vestries and Local Boards he had received an expression of their highest approval and of their most earnest desire that, by the House consenting to this Instruction to the Committee, they should obtain that which, by a mere technicality, they would otherwise be deprived of—namely, the power of appearing before the Committee and presenting the opinions of those they represented as to the inadequacy of the communication now about to be proposed, before Parliament agreed to sanction the expenditure of such an enormous sum as £2,000,000, and entailed upon the Metropolis so large and serious an amount of taxation. He did not mean to say that such taxation might not be necessary, provided they got what they wanted; but what he did say was, that it would be highly improper to sanction so large an expenditure of money as £2,000,000 sterling, if the case were not to be adequately put before the Committee. He thought that those who considered the expenditure undesirable had good ground of complaint, and ought to have a fair opportunity of submitting their case to the House. He begged to move the Motion which stood in his name.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, Five to be nominated by the House, and Four by the Committee of Selection:—That all Petitions against the Bill presented not later than three clear days before the sitting of the Committee be referred to the Committee, and that such of the Petitioners as pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, Agents, or Witnesses, be heard upon their Petitions, if they think fit, and Counsel heard in favour of the Bill against such Petitions:—That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records; Five to be the quorum."—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
said, he did not think it would be proper to enter into any details now, considering the great length at which his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) had just spoken; but he must take exception to one argument which had been raised by his hon. Friend, and that was the argument of economy. He (Baron Henry De Worms) 480 was as anxious to save the pockets of the ratepayers as any man; but he thought the proposal to send a scheme of this sort to a Hybrid Committee, instead of having any advantage, would be fraught with immense disadvantage, inasmuch as it would entail a very large expense upon the very body of men whose interests were supposed to be represented by his hon. Friend. He (Baron Henry De Worms) happened to represent a constituency which took considerable interest in the Bill, and he himself had had many interviews with, and had introduced many deputations to, the Metropolitan Board of Works upon the subject; and, speaking for a very large constituency which was supposed to be more interested in the scheme than any other part of London—namely, the Borough of Greenwich, he was certain that he was only stating their interests and desires when he said that they would be perfectly satisfied with the Bill being submitted to an ordinary Select Committee, and that they did not require that it should be submitted to a Mixed Committee, where every kind of opposition might be introduced. The inquiry might become absolutely unlimited if the Bill were referred to a Mixed Committee, for it was a question which might be said to affect, so far as the rates were concerned, every parish in the Metropolis. Why should not the parish of Hampstead, which had nothing whatever to do with the Thames, come down to the Committee and offer an elaborate opposition to the Bill? He thought the question was simply one for those parts of London which were most deeply interested in the communications between the two banks of the River; and although his hon. Friend asserted that a very large portion of the inhabitants were in favour of the Bill being referred to a Hybrid Committee, he (Baron Henry De Worms) ventured to think, from the evidence which had been laid before him, that a much larger proportion would be satisfied by the reference of the Bill to an ordinary Select Committee of the House.
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
said, that he had risen at the same moment as his hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms), and he was much obliged to his hon. Friend for interposing between himself 481 and the House, because he thought his hon. Friend had proved most conclusively that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), who assumed to speak for the whole of the East End of London, was altogether and entirely wrong.
§ MR. RITCHIE
begged his hon. Friend's pardon. He was certain that his hon. Friend would not like to misrepresent him. In speaking of the East End of London, he had meant London East of London Bridge, North of the Thames.
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
said, he had certainly not understood his hon. Friend to confine his remarks to the North-East of London; but, on the contrary, he understood him to speak for a great number of people who entirely dissented from his views. He (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) hoped the House would not assent to the Motion. There was no necessity for incurring the enormous cost which would attend a Hybrid Committee, when they might have the work done by an ordinary Select Committee of the House. He admitted that a very large number of the inhabitants of the East End of London were anxious to have communications across the Thames, and the Metropolitan Board of Works had entered into the question over and over again. They proposed, in the first instance, the erection of a high level bridge. His hon. Friend talked of this being a public matter. Of course, everything that interested the public of London was a public matter; but it so happened that the Bill for a high level bridge was referred to a Committee of five Members in the usual manner, and he contended that a Committee of that character, the Members of which would sit day by day and pay attention to the Business brought before them, was a far better tribunal than a Hybrid Committee, where it would be found that some Members would attend upon one day and some upon another, and at the end, when the time arrived for taking the vote, it would be found that many Members would attend to vote who had not heard any portion of the evidence. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) that the proposal to refer the Bill to a Hybrid Committee would involve an enormous as 482 well as a useless expenditure of the public money; and he said, further, that it was a most unusual course to take. He would ask any hon. Member of that House who represented a large constituency what he would think if special districts were to be allowed to come forward and to oppose a Body like the Metropolitan Board of Works, who represented the entire Metropolis? He might go further, and ask the House to take the large districts of London, such as Paddington, or St. George's. If those districts brought in Bills for the benefit of their own locality, what would be said if the district of Knightsbridge, or some Local Board from over the water, or from the Tower Hamlets, were to have the power of coming in and being heard against the Vestry which represented the district immediately concerned? He took it that if such a course were to be sanctioned, it would involve a scandalous waste of public money; and he hoped the House would, therefore, not adopt the proposition of his hon. Friend, but would allow the Bill to go to a Committee, where, as his hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) said, only the representatives of the districts interested could appear, instead of referring it to a Committee before whom the Vestries of the East, North-East, and South-East, and even the Vestries of Hampstead, Paddington, or anywhere else, who liked to be represented, would be able to come and swell the large expense which would have to be incurred. That would inevitably be the result if the proposal of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) was adopted, which, however, he trusted it would not be. What was the nature of the Petitions which had already been presented against the Bill? If the House would kindly give him their attention for a few minutes, he thought he would be able to show that the proposal of his hon. Friend was not only unnecessary, unusual, and inexpedient, but that his hon. Friend's arguments in support of it were founded upon a misrepresentation of the real state of the facts. His hon. Friend asserted that the interests only of two of the London Boards could properly be brought before the Committee; but his hon. Friend omitted to state that the general shipping interests, and the navigation of the River, were altogether adequately repre- 483 sented by Petitions from the Conservators of the River Thames, the General Steam Navigation Company, and the Steamship Owners' Association, Then, again, the existing ferry rights were represented by the London and Black-wall and Great Eastern Railway Companies, and the Watermen and Lighter-men's Company; the quays, wharves, and foreshore rights, by the London and St. Katherine's Dock Company, the owners of quays and warehouses, and traders of the Port of Loudon, the Carron Company, and the Conservators of the Thames; and the general interests of the Port of London, and special local interests, were also represented by the Corporation of the City of London, the Whitechapel District Board of Works, and the Limehouse District Board of Works. It would be seen that among the Petitioners were the Corporation of London, who would, no doubt, appear and say everything that a great Corporation could have to say against the Bill, if there was any real necessity for opposing it; and as regarded the Vestries, his hon. Friend said—" Let the Vestries combine together, and let them in that way divide the expense." Now, what be (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) contended was, that there were already two District Boards which had a locus standi—namely, the Whitechapel and the Limehouse Boards of Works. Those two Boards could combine together in order to be represented before the Committee, and by that means they would be able to reduce the expense; and surely, if necessary, the intelligent friends of his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Ritchie) could take common action with them, and select some counsel to represent the views of the entire body. By that means they would save the ratepayers a vast amount of money, and would even do more than that in preventing what he could not help considering a great scandal—namely, that Vestries and District Boards should be allowed in any way, after the matter had been thoroughly thrashed out, to come in and not only protract the inquiry, but materially increase the expense. He thought the proper course would be to allow the question to go before the usual Committee, where every interest would be well and amply represented in the simplest way, and at the smallest cost to the ratepayers. He would not travel through 484 all the statements which had been made by his hon. Friend, as he had no wish to take up the time of the House unnecessarily. He would only say that the Metropolitan Board were now proposing a low level bridge. They had brought in a Bill for a high level bridge, and that Bill was sent to the same sort of Committee he was now advocating. That Committee came to a decision which was adverse to the scheme of the Metropolitan Board. The same thing might happen now, but the proposition now made and supported by the Metropolitan Board was that the Bill should be referred to a Committee composed of a body of independent Gentlemen. He believed that a body of independent Members would be far better qualified to form a judgment upon a question of this sort, than a certain number of independent Members combined with a certain number of persons like himself—because it would be necessary to put him upon a Hybrid Committee—in which, in his opinion, everybody would know how every Member was going to vote. It would be much better to have the case laid before an independent Committee, who would be able to give an impartial decision. Under these circumstances, he should do all in his power to oppose the proposal of his hon. Friend, and he hoped the House would not consent to it.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, for that one main reason he should be extremely glad if the House found itself able to agree to the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie); and that reason was that the Vestries and District Boards might have an opportunity of being heard upon certain questions raised by a Bill which vitally affected their interests. He did not altogether agree with the statement of the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board as to the enormous expense which this course would involve. With respect to the East End of London and its communications, he did not propose to say anything in addition to that which had been stated by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie); but the Bill would prejudicially affect one part of the West End—namely, Chelsea; and he desired to point out that the Chelsea Vestry could not be heard, and would have no opportunity of expressing an opinion upon the provisions of the measure unless 485 the proposition of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) was accepted, because the Metropolitan Board did not propose to take any land at Chelsea. The people of Chelsea had a very great desire to be heard before the Committee, and they would be heard if the proposition now before the House were adopted. He thought it was most desirable that the Vestries of London should have an opportunity of expressing their opinions, because, although the Metropolitan Board of Works was supposed to be a Body representative of the Vestries, and in one point of view it undoubtedly was, still, as a matter of fact, there were sometimes wide differences of opinion between the Board and some of the Vestries and the people of London generally. He trusted that the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) would be accepted.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he thought it was always undesirable to prejudge any question that would have to be considered by a Committee of the House—whether a Select Committee or a Hybrid Committee—to whom it was afterwards to be referred. He understood, however, that there was no intention on the part of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets, although he had glanced at the question in the course of his speech, to attempt to defeat the Bill by the Motion which he had submitted. If he (Mr. Raikes) thought there was any such intention on the part of his hon. Friend he would certainly be very unwilling to follow him in such a course; but the question, as was stated by the last speaker, really arose from the fact that the Metropolitan Board of Works, in consequence of the Rules of locus standi, which prevailed in the House, would be able, practically, to exclude the expression of the opinion of the Vestries before an ordinary Committee of the House of Commons. Some years ago, when he (Mr. Raikes) was more frequently concerned in these questions than now, this matter was continually cropping up; and it was held that as the Metropolitan Board of Works was a public Body these Bills were practically Public Bills, seeing that they touched vast public interests. As a matter of fact, they were frequently introduced as Public Bills, but sometimes only as Private Bills of a quasi public character. But whenever a reasonable 486 case was made out for sending them to a Hybrid Committee, the House was generally willing to consent to that course. It would certainly be a very great hardship if the ratepayers in certain parts of London, who were most immediately affected by a scheme of this sort, were precluded by the Rules of the House from putting their case before the Committee. He took that view himself—and he would venture to remind the House that on previous occasions it was a view which had very frequently, and, indeed, generally, been taken by the House. Therefore it would be something of a new departure if the House refused to assent to the Motion which had been made by his hon. Friend.
§ MR. BRYCE
wished to say a word or two as one of the Representatives of the district affected by the Bill. He could assure the House that very great interest was felt in the question of a communication across the River in the East of London North of the Thames. Although he did not think this the time to discuss the merits of the Bill, he could say as much as this—that the Metropolitan Board of Works did not properly represent the local feeling, and that it was exceedingly desirable some opportunity should be given for that local feeling, particularly as represented by the Vestries, to express itself. The question was one that affected a population of 500,000 on each side of the River, and it was not too much to ask the House to appoint an exceedingly strong Committee, with power to elicit a full expression of opinion with regard to the merits of the Bill.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he hoped that his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works would not put the House to the trouble of a Division, but would accept the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). The practice was one which had been adopted on former occasions of referring Bills relating to the Thames to a Hybrid Committee, as in the case of the Floods Prevention Bill.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he remembered the instance referred to by the President of the Local Government Board very well. A Motion was made to refer the Floods Prevention Bill to a Hybrid Committee. He was in Office 487 at the time, and he certainly took no objection to that course.
SIR JAMES M'GAREL HOGG
said, that after the frank opinion expressed on both sides of the House, and seeing that everybody was against him, he did not think there would be any use in dividing. He would, therefore, bow to the decision of the House, and accept the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie).
SIR TREVOR LAWRENCE
said, the question of a Hybrid Committee in connection with the Thames Floods Prevention Bill had been referred to. He was one of the Members who sat upon that Committee, and he felt bound to state that a greater waste of money and time than that Committee was required to make had very seldom been experienced. In his opinion the whole of the money and time devoted to that inquiry was thrown away. He thought the proposal of the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works was extremely reasonable, and that the opposition to it was extremely unreasonable. He was, therefore, sorry to find that his hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) had consented to accept the Resolution.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he had on the Paper an Instruction to the Committee to provide a temporary bridge for the accommodation of foot passengers during the reconstruction of Battersea Bridge. The Bill proposed to repeal a section contained in the Act of 1881, in regard to the rebuilding of Battersea Bridge; and in that section provision was made for the accommodation of foot passengers during the reconstruction of the bridge. The persons in whose interests he spoke did not oppose the main provisions of the Bill. All they wanted was that a temporary bridge should be provided for the accommodation of foot passengers, while the necessary operations for the reconstruction of the bridge were going on. He hoped that his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works would be prepared to make some concession in the matter, as it was absolutely necessary that some provision should be made. Ten thousand people passed over the present bridge every day, and if no provision 488 were made for their accommodation, except by crossing the River in a boat, the result would be that 10,000 people would have to go half-a-mile out of their way every day. He believed that no bridge across the Thames had ever been rebuilt without some provision of this kind; and unless his hon. and gallant Friend made a concession he hoped the House would pass a mandatory Instruction of this kind.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they do provide a temporary bridge for the accommodation of foot-passengers during the reconstruction of Battersea Bridge."—(Mr. Firth.)
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
said, his hon. Friend would recollect that soon after the bridges over the Thames were set free the Metropolitan Board of Works found it absolutely necessary to rebuild two of them. One was now in the process of reconstruction, and Battersea would have been begun ere now, if it had not been for the fact that after the Metropolitan Board of Works succeeded in passing their Bill through Parliament, all the districts on the North side of the River presented Memorials requesting them to stay their hands and to alter the position of the bridge. The Board, in reply, said—Will you undertake that there shall be no demand upon us for a temporary foot bridge and the expenditure of a large sum of money for that purpose if we accede to your request?The Metropolitan Board received that assurance over and over again from the Battersea people, and upon the faith of it they stayed their hands, and brought in the present Bill. If the Instruction now moved by the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth) were passed, directing that no bridge should be built at all without a temporary foot bridge being first provided, of course he could not pledge the Metropolitan Board not to withdraw at once all the clauses of the Bill which related to Battersea with the intention of adhering to the scheme for which they had already received the sanction of Parliament. They would be most unwilling, however, after the representation which had been made to them, to take that course; and all he could say was, that if the hon. Member would be satisfied with an Instruction to the Committee empowering them to inquire into the matter, if that would be 489 agreeable to the hon. Member, he, on the part of the Metropolitan Board, would be glad to accept such an Instruction, without further troubling the House.
§ SIR HENRY PEEK
expressed a hope that the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth) would accede to the request of the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board, and not make it an absolute Instruction to the Committee to provide a foot bridge. It would be better to leave the matter entirely to the discretion of the Committee. He could assure the House that there was a very great difference of opinion upon the subject between the two sides of the River.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he would recommend his hon. Colleague to accept the offer which had been made by the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works. Of course, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) did not forget that the Bill, as it stood, was taking away from the people of Chelsea that which they had got at the present time—namely, the power of crossing the River. But after the Resolution which had been carried by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), together with the promise of the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board that all these matters should be opened up before the Committee, he hoped his hon. Friend would be content with an Instruction empowering the Committee to inquire into the matter.
Question put, and negatived.
Ordered, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they are empowered to receive evidence as to the necessity of erecting a footbridge during the reconstruction of Battersea Bridge.—(Mr. Firth.)