§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Charles Forster.)
§ MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
I beg to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months, and in doing so I shall have to ask the indulgence of the House for a few moments while I state my reasons for objecting to the Bill. In the first place, this is not a Market Bill at all. It makes no provision whatever in the shape of market requirements. Secondly, there is no necessity for a market in this locality. As far as I have been able to gather, the Bill is in reality a Land Appropriation Bill. There was an Act of Parliament passed about 80 years ago, called the Rush Common Act, which gave a certain 1072 frontage to the Brixton Road, and made provision that no building should be erected upon it thereafter. A clause in this Market Bill gives to the Company who are promoting it power to cover the frontage with market buildings. Since the opposition to the Bill has become known, the promoters of the measure have offered to surrender their claim to this open space, but it is only a surrender in name, and in reality is no surrender at all. They would still retain if not complete, almost complete, authority to do what they like with the land in question. The latest proposal of the promoters is that they should enclose this space themselves, in garden patches, but that, at the same time, they should have the right of cutting two very wide roads through this narrow strip of land, which would not be half the size it is now; while in regard to the small plots they propose to enclose, the House would surrender to the Company complete authority and control over them. I sincerely hope that no hon. Member, by reciting the concessions, or so-called concessions, which the promoters propose to make, will succeed in leading the House astray, or induce them to believe that the inhabitants of Brixton would still enjoy their ancient rights over this property. Looking at the question in its proper light, I wish to make it clearly understood by the House that if it was only this narrow strip of land that was involved, the question would not be so important as it really is. But, as a matter of fact, there are many acres of land farther south which are under the same Act of Parliament, passed in 1806, and if the House of Commons concedes to the Brixton Market Company the provisions now asked for, it would be unable to deny to other Companies who might propose to take possession and cover with buildings other lands farther south upon the Brixton Road. And now, Sir, with regard to the scheme for establishing a market, apart from the question of the land. As a matter of fact, there is no market at all wanted in the district. I have lived for 12 years only a few minutes' walk from the site which the Bill proposes to appropriate, and therefore I know personally what the necessities of the case are, if there are any. The only necessity that 1073 actually exists is to provide some place where the costermongers may expose their goods for sale. But there is no provision whatever in this Bill for that class of market people. So far as I can gather, the Bill simply provides for the erection of a series of colonnades for fancy shops, with which I am able to say that the district is more than well supplied already. Not one inch of space is set apart for costermongers and street hawkers, who are the only people who, at the present moment, need protection in that part of London. I do not propose to occupy the time of the House at any greater length than I can help; but, in order to show the House how little the scheme is required in the neighbourhood, I must mention the fact that no one interested in the locality is engaged in the promotion of the Bill. There are only three names mentioned in the measure of those who are to be Directors of the proposed Company, and I am told that one of them comes from India, another from Ceylon, and the third, I was given to understand, at first came from Portugal, but I have since been informed that he is resident somewhere in London; but few, if any, of the residents in the neighbourhood have asked for or desired the proposed scheme, and that fact should, I think, of itself be sufficient to condemn the Bill. But there is one other appeal I wish to make to the House, and it is this. A portion of land in the vicinity of the Brixton Road was dedicated to the inhabitants by the Act of 1806, and provision was made that a wide open space should be maintained on one side of the main road. But, at the present moment, we have no single authority in London to stand up in defence of that Act, and we are at the absolute mercy of any Company-mongers who have selfish objects of their own to carry out. I should have thought that the Metropolitan Board of Works would have afforded us their protection. I do not see the hon. Baronet the Chairman of the Board (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) in his place, but the Metropolitan Board of Works appear to be either incapable or careless so far as the proposals contained in this Bill are concerned. Then, again, the Lambeth Vestry, which is the immediate Local Body that ought to protect us, is itself pervaded by land-grabbers, and is not likely to take any active 1074 steps to frustrate such an encroachment as this. I may tell the House that so extensive is the system of land-grabbing in that part of London, that if a resident were to leave his house unprotected for a day, it is scarcely too much to say that on returning home at night he would find a cottage built in his front garden. That is scarcely an exaggeration of things that are now taking place, and in regard to which we have in vain appealed for protection from the Metropolitan Board of Works. We hope, however, that even yet we may be protected by some Metropolitan authority against these encroachments. I have no doubt that much mischief would be done if it were not for the exceptional efficiency af the police in that part of London. Then, Sir, I appeal very earnestly to the House of Commons to protect the people of South London from so gross a proposal to encroach upon their rights as is contained in this Bill; and, in doing so, I would call the attention of hon. Members to the fact that this is not in the least degree a Party question. The hon. and learned Member opposite who sits for the Brixton Division of Lambeth (Mr. Baggallay), adjoining which Division I myself reside, has undertaken to second my Amendment. I have been informed that urgent appeals have been made to the hon. and learned Gentleman to put his name on the back of the Bill, but that he refused to do so because the inhabitants were opposed to it. I understand that the promoters also applied to the hon. Gentleman who—I do not like to say represents me in this House (Mr. Bristowe), but who, at least, sits for the Division in which I am a voter—but that hon. Gentleman also very wisely refused to put his name on the back of the Bill. The promoters did not invite me to do so, because they probably knew that I should oppose the measure. They obtained the signature and sanction of two of my hon. Friends, who have allowed their names to appear on the Bill; but I venture to say that, if those hon. Gentlemen had known the real nature of the proposal, and the opposition there is to it by the people who live in the neighbourhood, they would at once have refused their sanction to this attempt to rob the inhabitants of their common rights. I must apologize for trespassing so long upon the time of the House upon a Private 1075 Bill; but I earnestly hope that all Parties in the House will join hands in protecting the great mass of the inhabitants of London, who at present have no protection, except that which is afforded to them by the House of Commons, from such encroachments upon their rights and privileges as are involved in this Bill. I beg, Sir, to move that the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months.
§ MR. BAGGALLAY (Lambeth, Brixton)
I rise to second the Motion which my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham has made. I believe that, in doing so, I am acting in behalf of my entire constituency. I have taken some trouble to ascertain the feeling of the people residing in the neighbourhood, and of the tradesmen there, and I am fully able to endorse what my hon. Friend has said—that this is not a question of party or class, but that all parties and all classes in Brixton are unanimously against this proposal—in the first place, because they say that a market of this character is not wanted; and, in the next, that the measure is an infringement of their rights. They have affirmed their opinion by presenting, through me, two Petitions against the Bill, signed by nearly 6,000 persons living in the immediate neighbourhood. The Vestry of the parish of Lambeth are unanimously against it, and have resolved to present a Petition to this House in opposition. The question of whether or not a market is required is, of course, one which might be considered by a Committee upstairs, and might be a very fit and proper question to send before a Committee, provided there were no other grounds of opposition; but there are other and very important objections. One of the most important is the proposal which is contained in it to take possession of a long strip of ground which is now covered with trees, shrubs, grass, and flowers, and to devote that land to building and other purposes. It is right to say that an undertaking has been given by the promoters that, if they are allowed to take this piece of land, they do not propose to build upon it. Perhaps, at first sight, that undertaking might appear to meet the objections of the opponents of the Bill; but I wish to point out that the promoters only propose not to build upon it. They do not undertake that 1076 they will not cut any number of roads through it; they do not undertake that they will not cut down every tree upon it; that they will not take up every shrub, remove all the grass, and so cover the space as to be able to carry on the business of a market upon it, although they place no building or fixed erection upon it. It would be quite possible for them to put shanties and costermongers' barrows, and do other things which would be equally, and perhaps more, objectionable to the inhabitants of Brixton than the building of good houses and shops upon that strip of land. The Circular issued by the promoters this morning in support of the Bill points out the concessions which the promoters are willing to make; but my objection is that, even with the Amendments which they propose to introduce, it would still take away from the inhabitants a piece of land dedicated to them by an Act of Parliament 80 years ago. To cut down the trees and shrubs which now exist upon this spot, and to destroy the garden ground, would give to the land the most unsightly appearance; but, in addition to that, it would be in the power of the Company to cut roads through it, and cover the rest with temporary sheds and stalls, as a market for the sale of goods. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham has alluded to the fact that the promoters of the scheme have no interest in the district, and that no inhabitant of Brixton is taking an active part in it. I have made every inquiry as to the promotion of the Bill, and I have thoroughly satisfied myself that the desire for the Bill is not local. The measure comes from certain people—whether from India, Ceylon, or elsewhere, I know not; but this I do know, that it is not supported by any person who has a genuine interest in the locality. It emanates from gentlemen who may be able to satisfy a Committee upstairs of their bona fides; but we have no assurance that, as soon as they secured the passing of the Bill, they would not put up temporary shops and shanties, and then seek to cover over other open spaces for the purposes of their own private profit. Believing that the Bill is not required; that it is promoted by people who have no connection with the neighbourhood; that there has been no public meeting in the locality in support of it, 1077 and that any Petition in favour of it has only received the signatures of a few costermongers, I feel it my duty to second the Motion for the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Broadhurst.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE METROPOLITAN BOARD OF WORKS (Sir JAMES M'GAREL HOGG) (Middlesex, Hornsey)
I had not intended to take any part whatever in this debate, because I had not considered the merits of the Bill, either in one way or the other. I have myself, generally speaking, supported the diffusion of markets throughout the Metropolis and elsewhere, believing their extension to be for the benefit of the inhabitants. I lay that down as a general principle. But in regard to this particular scheme, if the hon. Gentleman had not referred to me, and suggested that I and my colleagues upon the Metropolitan Board of Works were either incapable or careless, so far as the discharge of our duties is concerned, I should not have risen now. I wish the hon. Member to know that the Metropolitan Board, and I, as its Chairman, have no wish to act in any way against the law. We never attempt, in any shape or form, to interfere with interests with which we have nothing to do. A Question was asked the other night about lines of frontage; but, as regards that Question, it is impossible for the Metropolitan Board to go against existing Acts of Parliament. In this case an Act of Parliament has been passed which deals with this land; and so long as the law is clearly laid down and defined, I am of opinion that the Metropolitan Board pursue a wise course in attempting no interference with the law as laid down by Parliament.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I would ask the House to reject this Bill on a much wider ground than that which has been taken by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. It will be within the knowledge of some hon. Members that I obtained a somewhat voluminous Return in regard to market rights and tolls in the last Parliament. I propose to bring the subject before the House, in the shape of a Re- 1078 solution, in two or three weeks' time; and I would ask the House in the meantime not to confer upon any private body the right of collecting tolls or of creating new privileges in connection with markets. It is upon that ground that I ask the House not to assent to the second reading of this Bill.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.