§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir James M'Garel-Hogg.)245
§ MR. RITCHIE
rose to move—That this House regrets that the Bill contains no provision to confer powers on the Metropolitan Board of Works to carry out the recommendation of the Select Committee on the Metropolitan Board of Works (Thames Crossings) Bill, 1884, to the effect that two crossings being immediately required a subway at or near Shadwell should be constructed by the Metropolitan Board of Works.The hon. Member said, he should have preferred that his hon. and gallant Friend should have followed the usual practice of making a statement in moving the second reading of the Bill; but he was not surprised that, under the circumstances, his hon. and gallant Friend had not adopted the usual course. What he (Mr. Ritchie) proposed to ask the House to do was not so much to object to the Bill, or anything it contained, as rather to express regret for what it did not contain. As far as the propositions in the Bill were concerned, he had not a word to say against them. The Motion which he had placed on the Paper expressed regret that the Bill included no provision or power within it to enable the Metropolitan Board of Works to carry out what was admitted, on all hands, to be a very necessary communication between the two sides of the River Thames, and which had been strongly recommended by a Parliamentary Select Committee which sat only last Session. It would be unnecessary for him to take up the time of the House by any lengthened remarks as to the absolute necessity and great urgency of establishing permanent communication between the two sides of the River below London Bridge. It was unnecessary to go over ground which had so often been gone over before, or to show that a large mass of the labouring and industrial population of London, living upon an area which extended for three or four miles East of London Bridge, were without any means whatever of crossing from one side of the River to the other. The question had been the subject of much discussion before; and in every quarter of the House it was admitted that the East End of London was unfairly handicapped in consequence of this want of communication. As long ago as 1882 the engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works recommended that three permanent crossings should be made—one by means of a High Level Bridge at or near the Tower, a second by a subway 246 at Shadwell, and a third by means of a subway or tunnel at Blackwall. Not only did the engineer of the Board recommend that the requirements of the East End of London should thus be met, but he also submitted full plans of the means by which he proposed to provide the accommodation which he considered necessary, after a careful investigation had been made by him into the whole subject. The plans and estimates submitted by Sir Joseph Bazalgette were for the construction of a High Level Bridge at Tower Hill, and subways at Shadwell and Blackwall. It would not be correct to say that the Metropolitan Board of Works ever adopted the Re-port of their engineer. But his hon. and gallant Friend would not consider that he (Mr. Ritchie) went too far when he said that the proposal of the engineer of the Board was, to say the least of it, favourably regarded by the Metropolitan Board; and, indeed, more than once, they gave as a reason why the Board did not proceed to carry out the plans suggested by their own engineer that they did not think they had sufficient funds at their disposal to permit them to entertain so large and important a scheme. They hinted, however, that if they could induce the Government to renew the Coal and Wine Duties for another period of years they might probably then be in a position to carry out the suggestions of their engineer. But it soon became known that Her Majesty's Government did not propose to renew the Coal and Wine Duties, so that any idea of carrying out this important system of crossings by that means was given up by the Metropolitan Board of Works. They had received propositions without number from the East End of London asking them, if they did not see their way to the carrying out of the entire scheme of their own engineer, but found themselves only able to proceed with one part of it, that the crossing decided upon should be in a more central position than those proposed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. It was pointed out that if only one crossing was to he made, that ought to be one that would be most convenient for the three miles of district at present without accommodation. The utmost importance was attached, in the interests of the population, to the central position of the subway, if the full scheme of Sir 247 Joseph Bazalgette were not to be carried out. But, notwithstanding the representations made to the Metropolitan Board of Works by deputations and otherwise, the Board declined to consent to the wishes of the inhabitants, and put them entirely on one side. All the public Bodies in the East End of London, with one exception, were absolutely unanimous in deciding that the subway at Shadwell was that which ought to be constructed. But, notwithstanding that fact, the Metropolitan Board of Works, although they came to a resolution that one scheme only should be proceeded with, resolved that it should not be a tunnel at Shadwell—that, in point of fact, it should not be any one of the three schemes suggested by their own engineer, but that it should be a tunnel or subway from Wapping to Bermondsey known as the Nightingale Lane Tunnel. That scheme was unanimously opposed by the East End of London, quite as unanimously as the Shadwell scheme was recommended by the Local Authorities. It was felt that, as the question was one which directly affected the interests of a large body of the inhabitants of the Metropolis, it ought not to be dealt with by an ordinary Private Bill Committee, but by a Hybrid Committee, where all persons who were interested might be heard and evidence fully taken. A proposal to that effect was made by himself (Mr. Ritchie) and brought forward in the House, but objected to by his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg). The House, however, thought that it was a reasonable proposal and consented to it, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Glamorganshire (Sir Hussey Vivian) was appointed Chairman of the Committee. After a long, patient, and very careful inquiry, this Hybrid Committee, having heard all the evidence laid before them on the subject, unanimously came to the conclusion that the public Bodies and deputations which had waited on the Metropolitan Board of Works, and recommended them to proceed, not with the Nightingale Lane scheme, but with the Shadwell scheme, were right. They, therefore, threw out the Bill of the Board of Works. But they felt that the evidence they had received was of so important a character, and that the whole question was of such vital 248 interest to the Metropolis, that they asked leave of the House to make a special Report, in addition to the ordinary Report it was customary to make as to the merits of a Private Bill. The Committee, in this special Report, stated that there were two objects to be served—one was the relief of the congested traffic of London Bridge and the district North and North-East of the Tower and Bermondsey, while a second object was to meet the requirements of Mile End, Shadwell, Bethnal Green, Limehouse, Poplar, Bow, Bromley, and Hackney, also the largely increasing traffic between the factories of the Silver Town Estate and West India Docks, Mill-wall, and Victoria Docks on the North, and Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, the Surrey Commercial Docks, and Deptford on the South. This Report applied to a stretch of four miles East of London Bridge, containing 1,500,000 people. To secure these objects the Committee recommended—That two crossings are immediately required, and should he sanctioned by Parliament. One a Low Level Bridge at Little Tower Hill; the other a subway at or near Shadwell, which would be central, and would best meet the wants and wishes of the inhabitants East of London Bridge.The Committee concluded their Report as follows:—Your Committee cannot avoid expressing a hope that the Corporation of the City of London may be induced to undertake this great and useful work (a Bridge) contemporaneously with the construction of a subway at Shadwell by the Metropolitan Board of Works.It would thus be seen that the Committee entirely agreed with the Local Bodies and deputations which had waited on the Metropolitan Board of Works, and that they entirely concurred with the Metropolitan Board's own engineer, who had two years before recommended the very work which the Select Committee of the House of Commons, after hearing evidence, also felt themselves bound to recommend. It was a somewhat remarkable fact that the Report of the Select Committee met with more approval than the Report of almost any Select Committee for years. It was not only approved by the Local Bodies in the East End of London and by the Corporation of the City of London, but by the whole of the Press of the Metropolis. It was felt that the Report was a fair 249 one, and that it dealt adequately with the necessities of the case. In regard to the action of the City of London, it must not be forgotten that the Bridge upon which the City was about to commence operations was not within the area of the City at all, but outside of it; and he was bound to give the highest praise to the Corporation of the City when he felt that they were not bound to take the construction of a Bridge into consideration at all. They followed a different course, and at once referred the Report of the Select Committee to a Committee specially appointed to inquire into all the circumstances, and to suggest what action was, in their opinion, necessary to enable the Corporation to carry out the recommendations of the Select Committee. The Committee sat without delay, and, after full inquiry, reported in favour of the recommendations of the Select Committee, and it was only yesterday that the House read a second time a Bill promoted by the Corporation of the City of London for carrying out the first of the proposals originally suggested by Sir Joseph Bazalgette—namely, the construction of a Bridge near Tower Hill, which was not to cost the ratepayers of the Metropolis one single penny. He maintained that action like this on the part of the Corporation of London evinced a public spirit which the House, he was sure, would cordially approve. It was only another evidence, added to many other evidences, which the City of London had invariably given of their great desire to meet the wants and wishes, not only of the inhabitants of the City proper, but of the larger portion of the Metropolis situated outside the area of the City. And now he would endeavour to show what the action of the Metropolitan Board of Works had been. He believed that the Metropolitan Board also referred the Report of the Select Committee to a Committee of their own about the middle of July; but, unlike the action of the Corporation of London, no Report emerged from that Committee until the 7th of November, exhibiting a marked contrast to the speedy and energetic manner in which the Corporation of London had taken up the recommendations of the Select Committee of the House of Commons. Ultimately, the Metropolitan Board of Works, notwithstanding the views that 250 were placed before them by many deputations upon the subject, declined to proceed with the recommendations of the Select Committee. And why? He gathered from the discussion, which took place at the Board that they did not believe the City of London was in earnest in regard to the construction of the Bridge, a fear which, he was glad to say, had been altogether falsified by the result. In the next place, the Metropolitan Board were of opinion that the Select Committee was not a strong Committee; and, further, they did not see why they should be dictated to by a Committee of the House of Commons. As he (Mr. Ritchie) was a Member of the Select Committee, he would not say much about the Committee generally; but he would point out that they had in the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Sir Hussey Vivian) a Chairman of such strength as was not often equalled, and certainly could not be exceeded, upon any Committee of that House. He had the authority of that hon. Member for saying that he had rarely, if ever, presided over a stronger, or, indeed, as strong a Committee. If his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) had addressed the House when moving the second reading of the Bill, he might probably have enlightened the House as to the reason why the Board of Works had not proceeded to carry out the recommendations of the Select Committee; but, unfortunately, by the course which his hon. and gallant Friend had taken, he (Mr. Ritchie) had been precluded from knowing what the case of the Metropolitan Board of Works was. He found that, in the Report which was made by the Committee of the Metropolitan Board, one or two reasons were given. The first was that it would be objectionable—To construct a subway immediately under the bed of the River, for which purpose it would be necessary to form a cofferdam, and thereby interfere to a serious extent with the entrances to the London and to the Surrey Commercial Docks; or (2) to construct the Tunnel at a much greater depth involving the use of mechanical means for lowering and lifting the traffic on both sides of the River. That having regard to the stringent conditions as to the navigable waterway which were sought to be imposed upon the Board last Session in connection with their Bill for a subway at Nightingale Lane by wharfingers and others interested in the 251 navigation of the River, as well as the wharfingers adjacent to the site of the works, and to the objections raised by the Conservators to the interruption of the River traffic by cofferdams, the Board is of opinion that the opposition to the formation of a shallow subway at Shad-well by cofferdams would be of a formidable character.What did those reasons amount to? If they were of any value at all, they would, of course, with equal force apply to any scheme. They equally went to prove that it would be impossible for the Metropolitan Board of Works to make any subway there at all; and he would ask why these two objections were not brought forward last year, when the Board were themselves before Parliament? They included a provision in their Bill for enabling them to pay proper and adequate compensation to the Conservators and wharfingers for any interference with their property; and if in this case any difficulty were to arise in that respect, it could be got over in precisely the same way. He might say, also, in reference to that declaration, that the objection existed just as strongly in 1882, when the engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works recommended the construction of this very subway. The same difficulty was raised by the wharfingers and the Conservators as to the obstruction of the River traffic by the construction of the subway; and if there was one thing on which the Committee last year were more unanimous and agreed upon than another, it was that if the Metropolitan Board of Works, provided that their scheme was a scheme in the public interest, and one which was necessary in order to serve a great public purpose, desired to carry out this plan, they ought not to be deterred from proceeding with it by objections such as those which had been raised by the wharfingers or the Conservators. No doubt, some temporary inconvenience must be suffered while works of this nature were in progress. It was felt that in carrying out a great public object some little temporary inconvenience must have to be put up with; but such little temporary inconvenience was no reason why the works should not be carried out. If the wharfingers or Conservators could show that they were likely to sustain inconvenience of a serious character, it would have been possible to insert Wharfinger Clauses in the Bill to provide compensation for 252 them for any injury they might suffer in consequence of the carrying out of the works. What the East End of London was now unanimously asking for was that the Metropolitan Board of Works should undertake a scheme that was approved by everybody. Nevertheless, they preferred last year to promote a scheme which was approved by no one, setting aside the proposal which originated from their own engineer, and which had received the unanimous consent of all the public Bodies concerned. It was unnecessary for him to urge the great and pressing need for this important public improvement. The House knew very well that improved means of communication had always developed the traffic of the Metropolis to an enormous extent, and there was no part of London where it was more necessary that something should be done to improve the condition of the traffic. Nevertheless, the Metropolitan Board of Works, in their present Bill, made no provision for a permanent communication by means of a crossing or a subway; but they did propose to make provision for establishing free ferries across the Thames at Woolwich and Greenwich. It was recognized that that would be a purely temporary accommodation, and it was recognized by no one more that the engineer of the Metropolitan Board himself, who pointed out, in reference to a Report in 1882, suggesting that ferries should be made for local traffic, that the establishment of ferries would be a serious mistake, as, for instance, in the case of New York, where it had been found impossible to conduct the traffic by means of ferries. So far as he could understand, the ferries proposed to be established by the Bill wore simply a temporary means of communication, which could not and ought not, for a single moment, to stand in the way of that permanent communication for which the East End of London for a long series of years had been languishing, and would continue to languish, unless Parliament would bring some pressure to bear upon the Metropolitan Board of Works. It might be asked why it was that he came down to the House to propose the Resolution he had placed upon the Paper. His answer to that was that all matters affecting the Metropolis had always been considered by Parliament to be matters with which it 253 might fairly be asked to deal. In such an enormous area, with such a vast population, and with such important public interests, it had long been held that all matters affecting the Metropolis ought to be treated much more as Imperial questions than a mere measure promoted by an ordinary Corporate Body. If the proposal he had placed upon the Paper were assented to by the House, expressing regret that the Metropolitan Board of Works had not seen its way to carry out the recommendations of the Select Committee of last year, he desired to point out that it would in no way affect the position of the Bill. The only effect it would have upon the Bill would be that the Bill itself would have to be set down for a second reading on another day—perhaps Monday; and, therefore, it would be seen that if the suggestion in opposition to the Resolution were that the only effect of carrying it would be to delay the second reading of the Bill, the real result of adopting it would only be to delay the progress of the Bill for a day or two. He hoped the House of Commons would express a strong opinion that, after the careful recommendations which had been made in the Report of the Select Committee, it was the duty of the Metropolitan Board of Works to take up the question; and he hoped and believed that the result would be that next Session the Metropolitan Board would come forward with a proposal for the construction of this subway. He deeply regretted that they were not coming forward with that proposal now. One word more, and he would have done. Yesterday a deputation upon this subject waited upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir William Harcourt). He (Mr. Ritchie) was asked whether he would accompany that deputation; but he declined to do so for two reasons—first, because he did not see what the Home Secretary could do in the matter except what he would probably do now—namely, give them a word of sympathy in regard to the wants and requirements of the East End of London—and, secondly, because he knew very well that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would readily take advantage of the presence of the deputation to read them a lecture on London Government. There- 254 fore, as he would have been unable to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and reply to the arguments made use of, he thought it was better that he should not accompany the deputation. He now found that what actually took place was exactly what he had anticipated. The Home Secretary, while expressing sympathy for the East End of London, took advantage of the opportunity—as he always took advantage of every opportunity—to read the deputation a lecture upon the apathy with which the scheme he had brought forward last Session for the reform of London Government had been regarded, and to tell them, further, that if they had not got subways, bridges, and crossings it was entirely their own fault. At the same time, he failed to see, from the remarks of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, what proof there was that, if the House had passed the Bill introduced by the Government last year, the people of London would have been one whit better off in this respect. In fact, he was very strongly of opinion that if they had had that Bill they would have been much worse off, because he remembered that one portion of the Government proposals was to abolish the existing Corporation of the City of London; and, at any rate, as that Corporation had not been abolished, the public had obtained this advantage from the existing state of things in the East End of London—that the Corporation were promoting the construction of a Bridge which, if Parliament consented to their proposals, would not cost the ratepayers generally one farthing. That, he maintained, was a very great advantage indeed, and even if it were not so the right hon. and learned Gentleman forgot, and many other people always appeared to forget, that London was not like Glasgow, or Liverpool, or Manchester—one homogeneous whole, but that it was composed of what might be regarded as half-a-dozen large towns, with aims entirely different, with objects wholly distinct and separate, and with hardly a single thing in common. Therefore, if the Bill of the Government had been passed, what chance would they have had in the East End of London, with the small influence they were likely to possess in a Central Board, of inducing the authorities to spend millions of money in opening up 255 communications across the River? If they had a Corporation of their own, of course they could have dealt with the matter themselves; but even then the result might not have been satisfactory, because, although the necessity for having these communications was admitted on all hands, there were a good many persons who would not be so anxious to pay for them. He did not wish, however, to enter into a discussion of the question of London Government; but he would venture to express a hope that, notwithstanding the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary was not very much pleased with the people of London for not having adopted his scheme, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would say one or two words in sympathy with the wants and requirements of the East End of the Metropolis. He believed that such a declaration from the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have a good effect upon the Metropolitan Board of "Works, and that next year they might be prepared with a Bill to give the people of the East End of London that which they were now asking for.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House regrets that the Bill contains no provision to confer powers on the Metropolitan Board of Works to carry out the recommendation of the Select Committee on the Metropolitan Board of Works (Thames Crossings) Bill, 1884, to the effect that two crossings being immediately required a subway at or near Shad well should he constructed by the Metropolitan Board of Works,"—(Mr. Ritchie,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
said, his hon. Friend had complained that an unusual course had been taken in moving the second reading of the Bill without entering into any explanation with regard to it. He thought that the speech of his hon. Friend, as well as the Resolution which he had moved, afforded ample justification for him (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) for having said nothing until he heard what his hon. Friend had to say on behalf of himself and the Resolution. The Resolution now before the House, if 256 not one of direct censure, certainly involved an indirect censure upon the Metropolitan Board of Works, although he dared say that his hon. Friend did not mean that. He (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg), for one, entertained the greatest possible consideration and respect, not only for that House, but for all the recommendations made by the House or by its Committees; but he ventured to say that Committees of the House of Commons were not always infallible, even if they were of the stupendous strength of the Committee of last year, as described by his hon. Friend. The Metropolitan Board of Works had had some experience of Committees; and he might say they found that sometimes a Committee of the House of Commons passed a strong Resolution in one way, and if the same Bill was introduced in another Session that Resolution was entirely reversed. That was certainly the experience which the Metropolitan Board of Works had acquired; and although they were anxious to treat the recommendations of the Committees of the House of Commons with every possible respect, it was the duty of the Metropolitan Board to go carefully into the recommendations of the Select Committee of last year, and to dissect them thoroughly. They had done so, and the result was the Bill which he held in his hand. He would not trouble the House with specifying every subject that was dealt with in the Bill, further than to say that it included subjects of the greatest possible importance to every district in the Metropolis. He would go at once to the points which had been raised by his hon. Friend with regard to the Report of Sir Joseph Bazalgette. That Report was made to the Metropolitan Board of Works when they wanted to ascertain the best means of establishing a communication between the two aides of the River below London Bridge; and he might here say that they always had, and did still, most thoroughly sympathize with a desire that existed, not only in the East End, but in other parts of the Metropolis, to have this communication established. The Metropolitan Board of Works had already proved their sympathy, because in 1879 they brought in a Bill to enable them to erect a High Level Bridge. That Bill was thrown out, and last year they brought in a Bill for the construc- 257 tion of a subway at Nightingale Lane. That Bill was also thrown out, and now they were bringing in a Bill for establishing and regulating ferries across the Thames at Woolwich and Greenwich. The reason they had not applied for subways was this—when their engineer was directed to report upon the subject, the Board of Works hoped that Her Majesty's Government would see their way to continuing the Coal and Wine Duties. He was sorry to say that they had not done so, and he regretted the step they had taken. He thought they had displayed a want of intelligence in not having taken advantage of the opportunity afforded to them. As a matter of fact, they refused to do anything of the sort; but when Sir Joseph Bazalgette was told by the Board to report, he suggested several schemes, all of which, if they could have been carried out, would have been of manifest advantage to the public. The cost, however, would have been very great. No doubt, when Sir Joseph Bazalgette reported with regard to the communications across the Lower Thames, he suggested, as his hon. Friend behind had stated, that there ought to be a bridge at the Tower, and two subways at Shadwell and Blackwall. That was quite true; but when the Metropolitan Board of Works found that they had not got the money for the construction of a bridge and two subways, they were obliged to reconsider their position. Unfortunately, it was very difficult for him, without a map, to explain the matter clearly to the House; but those who were conversant with these localities would know that what would have been a great public convenience with two subways and one bridge, would not have been a convenience at all if there was only to be one subway. Therefore, the engineer of the Board of Works was directed to consider what would be the best means of communication below Bridge for the inhabitants generally, in the event of only one subway being provided. It must be borne in mind that the Metropolitan Board of Works could not take into consideration the wants of one district alone. They were bound to think of every locality concerned. They had studied the interests of all, and they maintained that the subway proposed to be made under the Bill which was brought in last year was the one which was best, and which, if con- 258 structed, would have been most conducive to the public interests. He was sorry he was obliged to leave the deliberations of the Committee on which he had had the honour to serve on account of stress of business elsewhere; but he could not withhold his opinion that the Committee were not right in what they did in rejecting the Preamble of the Bill, and that the recommendations which were come to afterwards were adopted without due consideration and without hearing the wharfingers. That statement might not meet the approval of the Committee; but he would point out to the House that a Motion was moved in the Committee itself by his hon. Friend opposite the Member for Wenlock (Mr. Brown), which proposed to add the words—Although the evidence of the wharfingers and others against such means of crossing would have to he considered.That Amendment was rejected; but it was evident that some of the Members of the Committee thought that the case of the wharfingers ought to have been considered more than it was. His hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) had gone to a great deal of trouble in quoting a Report of the Metropolitan Board of Works in answer to representations made to them by various Vestries and District Boards. The engineer of the Metropolitan Board went most carefully into the question of the subway recommended by the Committee which his hon. Friend thought ought to have been made; but the Report of the Metropolitan Board of Works was as follows:—To construct a subway immediately under the bed of the River, for which purpose it would he necessary to form a cofferdam, and thereby interfere to a serious extent with the entrances to the London and to the Surrey Commercial Docks; or (2) to construct the Tunnel at a much greater depth, involving the use of mechanical means for lowering and lifting the traffic on both sides of the River.That Report called attention to the importance of abstaining, as far as possible, from interfering with the traffic on the River, and that point was pressed strongly upon the Board by various persons who were interested in the traffic of the River. In addition they had this fact, that the House of Commons and Committees of the House 259 were very jealous of any proposal that was calculated to interfere in any shape or form with the traffic of the River. If the recommendation of the Select Committee that a subway should be constructed at or near Shadwell had been carried out, it would have been necessary to construct the tunnel at an enormous depth, which would have involved the use of hydraulic power, and the Board were confident that not only? would the cost be excessive, but that the House of Commons would not consent to pass the scheme. His hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) had alluded to the fact that the Corporation of the City of London had kindly undertaken to make a bridge at the Tower. All he could say was that he believed they were perfectly right in doing so; and, instead of complaining of the Metropolitan Board of Works for not taxing the ratepayers unnecessarily, he thought they ought to be applauded for the course they had pursued, seeing that the City of London? was now going to do the work out of their own funds. Under such circumstances, the Metropolitan Board of Works, as guardians of the public purse, would certainly have done wrong if they had undertaken this work at the expense of the ratepayers. The bridge would now be constructed by the Corporation of London without expense to anybody. But the undertaking of the City of London to construct this bridge had considerably changed and modified the place where the subway should be constructed, because if they were to have another crossing they must look lower down the River for a subway. The proposal of the Board of Works was to establish steam ferries, which he maintained would be very useful to the inhabitants on both sides of the River, and he did not see why they should not be permanently kept up. The inhabitants of Woolwich and Greenwich were quite satisfied, and these steam ferries would give accommodation to hundreds of thousands of working men who desired to cross from one side of the River to the other. He thought it was an act of presumption for the persons who waited yesterday upon the Home Secretary to arrogate to themselves that they represented everybody and everything. He did not propose to deliver a lecture upon London Govern- 260 ment; but he might state that the Board of Works had also received a deputation from working men, who had represented their case in a very proper spirit. He had expressed to them the same sympathy which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt) had expressed, and he wished it was in the power of the Metropolitan Board of Works to do something for them; but he did not happen to be the Head of a Board of Guardians, or of a Relief Committee. The position he occupied was that of Chairman of a Body which was accountable for every penny of the public money they expended, and who were looked after in the most extraordinary and careful manner by the auditors. Therefore, with all their sympathy for the East End of London, they found it impossible to spend the money of the Board in relieving the necessities of these distressed people. There were many other things he should like to bring under the notice of the House; but he could not believe that the House would consent to carry this extraordinary Resolution, involving as it did a most undeserved vote of censure upon the Metropolitan Board of Works, who in this very Bill were trying to help every part of London—North, South, East, and West. He would reiterate that the case of the East End of London had been thoroughly and amply considered by a Committee of the Metropolitan Board of Works; but they could not confine their operations to one single district. It was their duty to consider the Metropolis at large, and he repudiated the idea that they would ever consent to give more consideration to one part of the Metropolis than another. The Board had a difficult duty to discharge, and they had endeavoured to discharge it to the best of their ability. The requirements of the East End of London had been considered in every shape and form, and they would be still further considered as far as was possible. He therefore hoped that the House would read the Bill a second time, and reject the Resolution which had been moved by his hon. Friend.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he thought that the hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down had laid down, in excellent terms, the principle on which the Metropolitan Board ought to proceed, and upon which 261 he thought, in this matter, they were proceeding. The suggestion made by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) was that the House should pass practically a vote of censure upon the Metropolitan Board for not including in their Bill this year a proposition to erect crossings over the Thames which would probably have involved an expenditure, charged on the whole of London, of a very considerable amount. With regard to the arguments used by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) as to the necessity of these communications, they were all agreed; but it was also requisite that that necessity should be supplied by an expenditure of money. And then came the question, "How was the money to be raised?" Whenever it was proposed to spend money, the principle was laid down that those who had to supply the money should give their consent. It appeared from the statement of the hon. Member opposite that the Report of the Select Committee of last year had been referred to a Committee of the Metropolitan Board of Works, with whom rested the discretion of fulfilling the condition as to supplying the money. Of course, it was highly desirable, when a scheme was proposed which would involve a large expenditure of public money, that some authority in which the public were duly represented should first give their consent to it. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) praised the Corporation of the City of London for its generosity, because, forsooth, in their Tower Bridge Bill, they proposed to charge a Trust Estate—the Bridge House Estate—with the sum of £750,000 for the purpose of building the bridge. He did not object to that Bill being passed; but with respect to the suggestion that the Metropolitan Board of Works should expend a considerable sum more without the opinion being taken upon it of those who would have to provide the money, he thought it was a most unreasonable suggestion altogether. He failed to see why a vote of censure should be passed upon a spending body because they declined to spend the money of the inhabitants of the Metropolis upon a project of which they did not approve. References had been made to lectures on Local Government; but the only point connected with London Government in- 262 volved in this case was the desirability of having in existence some directly representative Body who should control the expenditure of the money of the ratepayers. He had no wish to say anything personal to the hon. Member opposite; but he thought that a considerable amount of blame rested upon the hon. Member's shoulders for the condition of things which he condemned that day, and which he proposed to remedy by moving a vote of censure upon the Metropolitan Board of Works. He (Mr. Firth) should certainly oppose the Motion.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) deprecated very much the introduction into the discussion of lectures upon London Government; but the hon. Member had done something more practical than deliver a lecture upon London Government, because he had brought forward a Resolution which was properly described as a vote of censure, and a vote of want of confidence in one of the principal Bodies engaged in conducting the government of London. That was something that went a little further than a lecture, because the hon. Member wanted the House, by a direct vote, to condemn the Metropolitan Board of Works for the mode in which they conducted their own business. It was not necessary that he (Sir William Harcourt) should deliver any lecture on the government of London; because, if the House should by this vote assent to the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, it would entirely condemn the present government of London by a vote of censure upon the Metropolitan Board of Works. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets said that if the London Reform Bill of last year had been passed they would not have had the new bridge which was to be constructed by the Corporation of London; but he (Sir William Harcourt) did not know why the work should not have been undertaken by the new Municipal Council, which would have charge of the Bridge House Estate of the Corporation, just as much as the Corporation had now. The hon. Member had asked for an expression of sympathy on his (Sir William Harcourt's) part with the East End of London. Certainly, that expression was freely granted to the constituents of the hon. Member in 263 the East End, and he had said so yesterday. It was granted all the more because they could not help themselves. They had no choice in the matter, and the Home Office could not help them. The Governing Bodies of London, whether good or bad, were the only persons from whom they could get help. How was Her Majesty's Government or the House of Commons to take the administration of the details of this work out of the hands of those to whom it had been intrusted? The Metropolitan Board of "Works had power to raise the money to do the work, and they ought to be able to judge what work should be done, and what money should be spent upon it. If they were unable to judge of that, he did not know who could. How could a Legislative Body take out of the hands of an Administrative Body like the Metropolitan Board of Works the details of the administration in which they were engaged? How could they say to the Metropolitan Board of Works—"We think that you are not fit to undertake such work; but we insist upon your doing it, and we insist that you shall raise £2,000,000 "—whioh he was told this work would cost—"and expend it in a certain way?" How could they say to this Legislative Body whose duty it was to raise the money, and to whom the whole administration of it was confided—"You shall spend £2,000,000, and raise the money by means of rates, whether you think it right to do the work or not?" He ventured to say that no Government and no Legislative Assembly would ever consent to say anything of the kind. The Metropolitan Board of Works had arrived at a decision. He did not say that they were right in the decision they had arrived at; but he had not himself spoken of them in the terms of condemnation used by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). On a former occasion, the hon. Gentleman spoke of the Board of Works as if they were perfect, and now he was the first to condemn them.
§ MR. RITCHIE
begged the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was alluding now to a former debate which took place in that House. Ho had expressly stated that he by no means considered the Board of Works perfect, and he had also expressed the opinion that 264 there was a large necessity for reform in their constitution.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he was glad to find that the hon. Member was not what he believed him to be—namely, a trusty champion of the existing constitution of the London Government. The hon. Member must be perfectly aware that in other towns the richer portion of the population contributed to the wants of those who were not so fortunately circumstanced. The hon. Gentleman himself spoke of Glasgow and Liverpool as homogeneous. Had the hon. Gentleman ever been in Liverpool? Did he mean that all parts of Liverpool were exactly the same? Because, if so, he was altogether wrong. There were poor parts which corresponded with the East End of London, and so also in Glasgow; but in Liverpool and Glasgow there was a system of government by which the superfluities of the wealthy could be brought in in aid of the wants of the poor, and that was what was required in London. It could, however, only be done by having a proper representative Body, representing both sections of the people, to manage the details of the administration and to raise the money that was required for the wants of both. The Metropolitan Board of Works was a representative Body. He supposed that the hon. Gentleman did not think that it was a representative Body, and that was why he asked for a vote of want of confidence. With regard to this particular proposal, he could not himself undertake to pass a general vote of censure. Before doing so, it would be necessary to enter into a detailed examination, and that was not a duty which fell within the province of the Government. The Legislature had already decided the matter by constituting the Metropolitan Board of Works. There was one argument which everybody could understand, and that was that very large sums of money had been expended on the upper parts of the River in freeing the bridges; and the people below Bridge were entitled to proportionate consideration and outlay in respect of their means of getting across the River. No doubt, the money hitherto spent upon the River had been mainly for the benefit of those who inhabited the districts extending over the upper parts of it, and which affected what might, generally speaking, be 265 called the heart of the population of London. Similar considerations to those which had applied to the accommodation afforded above London Bridge did not apply to the lower part of the River, and consequently there had been a suggestion that subways should be constructed under the River for the benefit of the Eastern part of the Metropolis. He should have thought that the Metropolitan Board of Works would have done well to have considered the requirements of the East End of London; and he should have thought that the construction of the subway which had been recommended would have had some claim upon them for their favour. But he understood that the Metropolitan Board of Works had proposed a subway, and so far he could not see that they had failed in the discharge of their duty. Whether the subway ought to be made in the place proposed by the Board of Works, or at the place proposed by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), he had no means of judging.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he could not see how anybody outside the Metropolitan Board of Works could determine what work was to be done, or what amount of money should be expended. By all means, if the Metropolitan Board did not understand their work, remove and change them; but he did not believe that either the Government or the House of Commons could undertake the work of the Board. Therefore, he went back to the point with which he commenced. The Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) was practically a vote of censure upon the Metropolitan Board. He shared to a great degree in that want of confidence in the existing government of London, and he was very much disposed to vote with the hon. Member in a Motion of this kind, which might lay a good foundation for the proposition that a great and sweeping change was necessary. Therefore he would not say that if the hon. Gentleman went to a division he would not vote with him. But, on the other hand, he must point out the extreme difficulty of endeavouring to force the Metropolitan Board of Works to undertake any particular work, and 266 raise the money that was necessary for carrying it out.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, he would only say one or two words in endeavouring to show the House how simple the issue was against the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Metropolitan Board had admitted that communications were needed, and they had twice brought in a Bill which had gone before a Select Committee of the House, and been rejected on each occasion. The Board had further reported, through their own engineer, that these communications were necessary; and in that state of the facts the Board brought forward a proposal which went before a Committee last year, and as the Committee rejected it in favour of another proposal, the House, without further information upon the matter, must take it that the decision of the Committee was right. Whenever a measure was rejected by a Select Committee, the House was disposed to assume that the decision of the Committee was not to be disturbed. In this case there had been a long investigation, and he believed that the Committee, which was a strong one, had arrived, unanimously at a clear decision. In that state of facts, the Metropolitan Board of Works in the very next year came forward with a Bill in which they took no steps whatever to give effect to the suggestions of the Select Committee. Having already admitted that the communications were necessary, having the decision of a tribunal of the House that they were needed, the Board of Works deliberately refused to take any action in the matter. Therefore, he thought that a very strong case indeed had been made out for condemning the inaction of the Metropolitan Board. To what cause that inaction was due he would not stop to discuss; but he wished to remind the House that there was a very strong feeling in London upon this subject. The East End of London had been altogether neglected, while hundreds of thousands of pounds had been expended upon communications in the upper part of the Thames. Under these circumstances, he confessed that he drew the conclusion which was not drawn by the hon. Gentleman opposite—that not only had the Metropolitan Board acted in this case with very little regard to the interests of the people of London, but that the case for a reform 267 of London Government which the feebleness or wilfulness of that Board disclosed was very strong indeed.
§ SIR HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, that as he was Chairman of the Select Committee of last year, it was only fitting that he should say a few words on this question. He had no desire to censure the Metropolitan Board of "Works. It was very unfortunate, he thought, that in a question of this kind, which seriously affected the material interests of 1,500,000 people, the question of censure upon the Metropolitan Board of Works should have been introduced at all. What the House had to do was to see that justice was done to the inhabitants of the Metropolis as far as they were able, and in supporting the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) he did not desire to convey any censure upon the action of the Metropolitan Board. All he desired to express was a strong opinion that the Metropolitan Board of Works ought to take measures to afford facilities for the communication across the Thames of large bodies of the people who lived East of London Bridge. The case stood thus—something like 1,500,000 people resided East of London Bridge, in a space about four miles in length. The proposition of the Metropolitan Board, last year, which came before the Select Committee, was to construct a subway at a cost of £1,900,000, or, in round numbers, of £2,000,000, at a point only one mile East of London Bridge. Therefore, it was clear that the population, for three miles below, would be very inadequately accommodated. And the Metropolitan Board proposed to do this without consulting the wishes of those who resided North of the River Thames and East of London Bridge. It was a very painful fact that a serious opposition was raised to the Bill before the Committee by every public body North and East of London Bridge. He felt that to be a very important matter. The Committee had before them what he might almost call the scandal of an enormous expenditure of money going on on account of disputes between the Metropolitan Board of Works and the whole of the public bodies representing the inhabitants of the North-East of London. A great many eminent counsel were employed in the case, and the investigation of the Select Committee lasted for 20 268 days. For his own part he had approached the question, as he was sure every Member of the Committee approached it, with an entirely unbiased mind. If he had any bias at all it was the belief that a Body like the Metropolitan Board of Works would have duly weighed and considered the question before they came to Parliament to authorize the expenditure of so large a sum of money. But as the investigation proceeded it became evident that they had not done so. The evidence proved that the consideration of the case by the Metropolitan Board of Works was of an extremely brief and perfunctory character. The Committee had it in evidence that it was on the 8th of October, 1883, that they instructed their surveyor to report as to the best means of crossing the River Thames below London Bridge. That Report was brought up on the 15th of October; on the 22nd it was approved, and on the 26th it was adopted. Therefore, only one week elapsed during which the engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works could consider this most important question, and only six day days elapsed before the Report of the engineer was adopted by the Board of Works. Where £2,000,000 were being spent and 1,600,000 people accommodated, greater consideration should be given to the case than had been given to it by the Metropolitan Board of Works. When the matter came to be investigated, they found that the proposal of the Metropolitan Board was a mere compromise. They had to consider the question of the remedying of congested traffic at London Bridge and the accommodation of a large population stretching down the Thames for four miles; and when they endeavoured to meet these two eases they effected a compromise—and compromises, as hon. Members knew, were as a rule very bad things. It became evident that no one was satisfied with the arrangement which had been proposed by the Metropolitan Board of Works. The whole of the population interested were opposed to it, and it became evident that not only would this £2,000,000 have to be expended, but that a further £2,000,000 would have to be raised for the construction of a subway lower down the river. They had reason to believe that the Corporation of London, with funds which they had at 269 their disposal—the Bridge House Estate Funds, which could only be devoted to Metropolitan bridges—would construct a bridge where they were now proposing to construct it—at Tower Hill. That bridge would deal with the difficulty and the obstruction and congestion of traffic on London Bridge. It would be within half-a-mile of London Bridge, and remedy that portion of the difficulty. Then it became more evident that a subway ought to be constructed lower down the River, and the Committee had suggested that that should be made—that a subway should be constructed at Shadwell, where the surveyor of the Metropolitan Board of Works had proposed to construct a subway. The Committee had reason to believe that there was no substantial difficulty in the way of the construction of such a subway, and therefore they ventured to suggest that this would be the right way of solving this difficult problem. The Metropolitan Board of Works might complain that two Parliamentary Committees had considered the proposals they had made, and had rejected them. He (Sir Hussey Vivian) felt sure that last year's Committee had rejected the proposals submitted to them on very good grounds. The Committee thought that it would be in the interest of the Metropolitan Board if, after the very protracted and careful investigation they had conducted, they could make such a suggestion as would probably be carried by Parliament when next proposed. Therefore it was that they suggested that a tunnel should be constructed at Shadwell, and he very much regretted that the Metropolitan Board of Works had not availed themselves of the suggestion, and proposed to carry out that or some analogous scheme. He believed it due to the great body of ratepayers living to the East of London Bridge that this communication should be made. The expenditure on the bridges above London Bridge had been very heavy indeed—about £1,300,000 having been expended in freeing bridges from tolls. In order to do this, the ratepayers of the Metropolis were taxed. The ratepayers in the East of London did not escape, but were taxed with the rest on account of the bridges above London Bridge, though they got very little or no benefit from them. The Committee over which he presided had certainly 270 thought it was incumbent on the Metropolitan Board of Works to meet the wants of the people living to the East of London Bridge, and he must say that he regretted that that matter had not been dealt with. He supposed it could not be dealt with now, because the necessary Parliamentary Notice could not be given; but he trusted that if this discussion had no other result, it would, at any rate, have the effect of bringing strong pressure to bear on the Metropolitan Board of Works to induce them to carry out such a work as the Committee had suggested, and as he believed it was their duty to carry out, for the benefit of the inhabitants of the North-East of London.
§ MR. MARRIOTT
said, there was no Question before the House—as might be gathered from the speeches which had been delivered—in relation to a Bill for the better government of London. The only question was, whether the Bill of the Metropolitan Board of Works of this year was a right one or a wrong one? Now, with regard to these bridges, the Metropolitan Board felt as much as anyone else the wants of those who lived in the East of London, and desired as much as anybody to meet those wants with regard to means of communication between the two shores of the Thames. In 1879 the Board brought in a Bill for the purpose of affording that communication, and they brought in another last year; but both measures had been rejected, by Parliamentary Committees. He did not wish to blame the Committees—he would not say whether they were right or wrong in the course they had taken; but they had rejected them, and what had occurred this year? Why, the Corporation of London had brought in a Bill to construct a bridge below London Bridge, and those who had the charge of the money of the ratepayers of the Metropolis said that they would not move in the matter of a subway. If they did propose such a scheme, what would happen? Why, there would be two Committees sitting in the House, one considering the measure brought in by the Corporation of the City of London, and the other inquiring into the merits of the scheme promoted by the Metropolitan Board. There would be two Committees. Why two Committees? The Committees were not acting together, and they could not do so. What 271 the Metropolitan Board said -was that they would not propose any bridge, but?would propose means which would be a great advantage to the poorer classes who lived on the North and South sides of the Thames. They proposed to establish two free ferries, which would be, no doubt, of immense benefit to the inhabitants of Woolwich, Poplar, and Greenwich. With regard to the tunnel, it was a very serious matter, and would require an enormous amount of scientific opinion. It interfered with a great many rights; and whether they had a Central Government for London or not, it would not simplify the passing of such a scheme, because it would still be necessary to come to the House of Commons and submit the proposal to a Parliamentary Committee before they could obtain sanction to it. It was not the City of London or the Metropolitan Board of Works that stood in the way of the improvements; it was the House of Commons itself which had declined to allow the Metropolitan Board of Works to do what it proposed to do on a former occasion. The Metropolitan Board of Works, looking at the present position of the question, considered that it would be desirable, while experiments were going on, to supply these ferries. No doubt, the House would be of opinion that no vote should be passed throwing upon them work which they could not possibly perform this year; and he therefore thought that, so far from deserving a vote of censure, they had endeavoured to meet the wants of the people of the East of London, and had exercised a wise judgment in the action they had taken.
§ MR. A. H. BROWN
said, that the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down had shown some arguments why the Metropolitan Board of Works should not be called upon to promote a Bill this year for the construction of a bridge below London Bridge. The fact was, as anyone who sat on the Committee of last year knew, that below London Bridge there was an enormous population growing up and rapidly developing manufacturing interests, all of whom felt most intensely the want of sufficient communication across the Thames. Then it had been said that it was as well to save the pockets of the ratepayers, and that the Metropolitan Board of Works should not be asked to make this tunnel for the benefit of Shad well. That would 272 have been an argument to use last year; but it was no good now. Last year the Metropolitan Board of Works came down and asked Parliament to sanction the expenditure of £2,000,000 for the purpose of providing efficient means for crossing the Thames; but now they refused to come to the House for any sum of money for the same purpose. Everyone who knew anything about the district was well aware that there was a great and increasing traffic on the River at the point in question, consequent on the increased population in the neighbourhood. There was only one Authority in London which could take the matter in hand, and that was the Metropolitan Board of Works; and therefore he regretted that they had not proposed to construct a tunnel at Shadwell this year, Shadwell being, in the opinion of the engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the right place for it.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that his object had been to obtain an expression of opinion. He was satisfied with the expression of opinion which had been given, and he would not, therefore, ask the House to divide upon the Question.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.