HC Deb 13 June 1893 vol 13 cc896-9
MR. DARLING (Deptford)

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in case the London County Council accept the offer of the Government to sell to them, for the purpose of erecting thereon workmen's dwellings, a portion of the Millbank Prison site at less than the market value of the land, the Government will put the County Council under the obligation to give to the working tenants, in the shape of rents below the market value, the benefit of the advantage they receive from the Government?

MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)

At the same time, I will ask the First Commissioner of Works from whom he received strong local representations in favour of the erection of artizans' dwellings on 10 acres of the Millbank Prison site, to the exclusion of any portion of it being devoted to a recreation ground; whether he is aware that the Loudon County Council, on 15th June, 1891, communicated with the Westminster Vestry with a view to the acquisition of an open space on that site, and early in the present year refused to entertain the proposal to erect artizans' dwellings in such close proximity to the military barracks decided on by the Government; and whether, considering that the Westminster Vestry, by 33 votes to five (11th January, 1893), refused to approve of the erection of artizans' dwellings on this site, and, by 33 votes to 12 (26th April, 1893), offered to find one-half the cost of 10 acres of the site for the purpose of a recreation ground, and to bear the cost of laying out and maintaining the same, and the fact that the site is in the heart of a parish in which 40,000 persons live on 175 acres (including roads), and nearly 5,000 school children have no other playground than the public streets, he will intervene to prevent the site being finally disposed of until a poll of the ratepayers of Westminster is taken, by the County Council or otherwise, on the subject?


In answer to the hon. Member for Deptford, I have to say I do not propose to make any condition such as that suggested, nor am I aware that the London County Council have vet accepted the offer of the land. In reply to the hon. Member for Westminster, I may say that the question of devoting part of the Millbank site to artizans' dwellings has been for some years under the consideration of the London County Council, but no agreement could be come to with reference to price. It is true that, in the first instance, the County Council objected on the score of the proximity of barracks, but that objection has been withdrawn. I consider the provision of artizans' dwellings is more urgent than that of a recreation ground, as it concerns the whole Metropolis, and not Westminster alone, which has the advantage of proximity to the parks.


The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the first part of my question, on which the First Commissioner of Works has founded the answer to two previous questions of mine.


I did not found my answers on that. I received a strong representation from the Liberal Association asking me to receive a deputation from various organised bodies of Westminster in favour of erecting artizans' dwellings on the Millbank site. I also received from the noble Lord the Member for the Barnsley Division of Yorkshire, who was till lately the Chairman of the Committee of the London County Council for Housing the Working Classes, a letter in which he said— I should be very glad if the young men of Westminster who are signing Petitions could obtain a recreation ground, but there is supreme importance in securing proper dwellings for the working classes in Westminster, particularly as many improvements have been and are going to be carried out, and these classes are being driven elsewhere into already over-populated districts.


Does the right hon. Gentleman intend altogether to disregard local feeling on this subject? I will also ask whether, in view of the natural course in Westminster being to convert slums into artizans' dwellings, the decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced will not for ever deprive the populous district of Westminster of all hope of sanitary improvement? Will he not re-consider his decision?


I have already stated the grounds on which the Government have come to a decision in the matter.

DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)

I wish to put a question which contains a suggestion. Would not this be a very excellent site for a small-pox hospital? Could it not be thus used with greater advantage to the working classes than turning it into dwellings?


That is a matter of opinion.


My answer is, No. As there are to be barracks on the site, beside the gallery for Mr. Tate's pictures, I do not think it would be a proper place for a small-pox hospital.