§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Mr. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
proposed to leave out the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words—this House declines to proceed further with this Bill until it is informed as to what interpretation the Corporation of London intends to place upon the Report from the Committee with reference to the sale of the vacant lands as an open space and recreation ground.The hon. Member reminded the House that the question was of vital importance to his constituents. The Bill affected the sale of 12 or 13 acres of land round the Cattle Market in Islington. On the Second Reading in February last he moved an Instruction, which was received in an amiable spirit by the hon. Member for the City of London, asking the Committee to consider whether the land was not suitable for an open space and a recreation ground in Islington. While the Committee had found that the land was suitable for an open space, no provision had been made in the Bill in accordance with that Instruction. He referred to a statement which had been circulated by the promoters in favour of the Bill, the last clause of which was scarcely fair. It was asked that the Bill should be allowed to pass, because the stage which was taken last week had been allowed to pass without opposition. He had told the promoters in the Lobby that he would take exception to the Bill, and he assumed that they would have given him some notice when the stage for consideration was put down. But he had received no such 724 notice. He reminded the House that the question was of vital importance to his constituents. It affected the sale of 12 or 13 acres of land round the cattle market in Islington. When the Bill was introduced the only liberty asked was to sell this land as building ground; but on February 25 he moved an Instruction on the Second Reading, which was received in an amiable spirit by the hon. Member for the City of London asking the Committee to consider whether the land was not suitable for an open space and recreation ground in Islington, which was a crowded district. While the Committee had found that the land was suitable for an open space, they had not made any provision in the Bill in accordance with the Instruction. The report circulated with the Bill said that the Corporation should deal with the vestry of Islington as to the difference in terms in connection with the land; but this was not embodied in the Bill. If they passed the Bill at this stage there was nothing to induce the markets committee of the Corporation to agree to the report that had come down from the Committee. There was a difference between the Corporation and the body which was managing the vacant land at present. This was not old property belonging to the Corporation, but to the markets committee, which acquired the land 40 years ago; and since that time it had always been an enclosed space of no use to the public. It might be said that the Corporation were liberal with regard to open spaces. He did not reflect on what the Corporation had done, but the markets committee had shown a different spirit in regard to this piece of land than might have been expected from the Corporation. For three months the Islington Vestry had been trying to settle with the Markets Committee of the Corporation about the acquisition of this land, and had failed to do so. The Markets Committee, up to the present, had declined to enter into any arrangement, and therefore he asked the House to defer the consideration of this stage of the Bill until some arrangement could be made with regard to the purchase of the land between the Corporation of London and the Vestry of Islington. A deputation from vestrymen had waited upon the Markets Committee, and the Committee 725 said that their property in London was not paying, and that they could not undertake to extend special consideration to the Vestry in this matter. But since the Select Committee had reported, it had been pointed out to the Markets Committee that the Report directed them to deal on liberal terms with the Vestry, and last Friday the Vestry wrote a letter asking the Markets Committee how they were going to interpret the words "liberal terms," and at what they valued the land? The Markets Committee had replied, declining to state the price at which they would sell the land, or how they would interpret the words "liberal terms." In this experience of the treatment of the Vestry by the Markets Committee, it could not be expected that the Members for Islington would allow the Bill to go through the House that evening in the absence of some satisfactory assurance. The whole purport of this Bill was the sale of these lands which the Vestry wished to acquire, and all he asked was that the present stage of the Bill should be deferred until an arrangement had been arrived at between the Islington Vestry and the Markets Committee as to the terms upon which the land could be acquired. The preservation of the land as an open space was of vast importance to the crowded inhabitants of Islington. He concluded by moving the Amendment.
§ SIR WILLIAM CODDINGTON (Blackburn),
speaking as the Chairman of the Committee that passed the Preamble of the Bill, said that he felt that it would be a great injustice to deal with the Measure in the manner proposed by the hon. Member. The Bill was practically an unopposed Bill, with the exception of that part of it which referred to open spaces. The arrangement come to by the Select Committee with reference to that part of it ought, in his opinion, to meet the views both of the Islington Vestry and the Markets Committee of the Corporation. The House had instructed the Select Committee to consider the advisability of taking the unoccupied land for the purpose of an open space. The Committee considered that instruction carefully, and resolved:—That, in view of the instruction from the House of Commons, and also of the self-evident 726 want of a recreation-ground in this district, the Corporation of London should treat for the sale of the whole or part of this land upon liberal terms.The representative of the Corporation stated that he was prepared to say that the Corporation would accept the verdict of the Committee, and would deal on the most liberal terms with the Islington Vestry. Then, on May 4th, the Corporation, writing to the Vestry, said:—It is of course impossible to give an answer as to the money value of the property until the matter is gone further into; but this you may take for certain, that the Corporation will loyally abide by the expressed views of the Select Committee of the House, and deal liberally with the Vestry with regard to their application for the land.He held that the Vestry ought to be satisfied with such an assurance as that. If the interests of his own constituency were concerned, he should be quite satisfied with it.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said that past experience taught them that when the Corporation of the City declared that it would deal with anybody fairly and equitably, its word could be taken implicitly. In connection with a question of this kind it was not unimportant to remember that the Corporation had always promoted the extension of open spaces, and that it was to the Corporation that London owed the preservation of Epping Forest. The Markets Committee represented the Corporation in this matter, and he strongly urged the Islington Vestry to accept the very generous assurances which had been offered to them. The Corporation, through its Committee, had agreed to treat with Islington on liberal terms, and he believed that it would keep its word. He trusted that the Amendment would be rejected.
§ CAPTAIN C. W. NORTON (Newington, W.)
held that the proposal of the hon. Member for West Islington was a very reasonable one. No detriment would be caused to the Corporation if this Bill were postponed for a few weeks. There was at present nothing in the Bill to prevent the sale of this land at any moment; it might even be sold by auction and the people of Islington might lose the open space which was so 727 necessary to their well-being. The Report of the Select Committee had been spoken of as if it had the effect of law, but of course it had not. The Islington Vestry simply asked for breathing-space, and surely one month's delay could not be a matter of very great danger to the interests of the Corporation, whereas it might be a means of enabling the Vestry to acquire the land. Therefore, he heartily supported the proposal of his hon. Friend.
§ SIR REGINALD HANSON (City of London)
fully admitted the kindly spirit in which the hon. Member for Islington had introduced his Motion; but he did not think that the House quite saw what the result would be if it was carried. His reading of it was that the Bill would never pass until the Islington Vestry obtained the land at its own price. He was glad to hear the hon. Member disclaim any intention to cast reflection on the Corporation, and he would point out to him that this matter must come before the Corporation, and that the Markets Committee had only power to deal with it in a preliminary way. The hon. Member for Islington and his friends had the assurance that the Corporation intended to act in a liberal spirit, and it was hardly necessary to repeat the liberal work that the Corporation had done in the past in the way of securing open spaces, seeing that the hon. Member himself spoke very favourably of it when he moved an Instruction to the Committee on this Bill. Surely it was not too much to ask that the Corporation should be believed when they promised to deal with the matter in a liberal way. He thought their past history was sufficient security that they would do so. He hoped that the House, as the Committee had already done, would show its confidence in the Corporation, and would not assent to the Motion of the hon. Member.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
did not think there was any intention to cast reflection upon the Corporation. His hon. Friend did not propose to prevent the passing of the Bill, but he asked that a certain number of weeks should be given in which the Vestry and the Corporation might come to terms. While there was no intention to reflect on the Corporation, his hon. Friend who had just spoken would see, 728 at all events, that the Corporation would be in a better position to drive a hard bargain if the Bill were passed before they came to terms with the Vestry. In the circumstances, however, he thought his hon. Friend the Member for Islington had served his purpose by raising this discussion, and would be well advised if he did not press for a Division, seeing that the House had been assured by those interested in the Corporation that they were willing to meet the Vestry on liberal terms.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
said he was very glad to hear the observations of his hon. Friend opposite, as he was himself about to ask the hon. Member for Islington not to press his Motion to a Division. In the unavoidable absence of the Chairman of Committees, this matter had been brought to his notice, and it appeared to him to be a matter in which it would be right and proper for the House to support the decision of the Committee. The points urged by the hon. Member for Islington, in a very fair and proper spirit, were all considered by the Committee, and the Corporation had pledged themselves, through their counsel, to carry out the wishes of the Committee, and to deal with the question of the land on fair and reasonable terms, and if a price could not be agreed upon, to go to an arbitrator. He did not think the hon. Member would get better terms by postponing the Bill, and he hoped he would accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Poplar, and allow the Bill to pass.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill read a Third time, and passed