§ * MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
I express my regret to the House that I am obliged at this hour to move the motion standing in my name. I know very well that no subject is more intensely uninteresting to those who are not concerned in it than that of boundaries, but at the same time it is a subject which excites even excessive interest in those who are. My business to-night is to move a motion with regard 105 to the northern boundary of the new metropolitan borough of Chelsea. At the outset I wish to say that I hope very much that nothing I may say will seem to reflect in any way on the general conduct of the Commissioners. I am sure other London Members, besides myself, recognise the skill and impartiality with which they have discharged their duties, but whore there may have been an error the only course open to us in order to rectify it is by a motion such as mine. The case as regards Chelsea is this. We have the great borough of Kensington, with a rateable value of over.£2,000,000, and a population of about 170,000 adjoining the smaller borough of Chelsea with a rateable value of about £700,000 and a population of 75,000. I do not intend to say that because this disparity exists the Commissioners or the House ought to try to rectify and equalise it. The Vestry of Chelsea has sent a Resolution to many hon. Members which asks the House to amend the Draft Order in such a manner as to take away from Kensington a large tract of territory of great value. I sympathise with the feeling of the Vestry, but I do not think that so large a re-distribution came within the scope of the labours of the Commissioners, or that the House intended them to exercise such powers. I do not now ask the House to make any such radical alteration in the Draft Order. But when we have in two neighbouring boroughs so great a disparity in rateable value and population, I think the Commissioners in rectifying the boundaries should take care that that disparity was not added to by taking away rateable value and population from the smaller borough in order to add them to the larger borough. The principle, as I understand it, on which the Commissioners worked in rectifying the boundaries was that the boundaries in future should follow the middle of roadways, and that the roadways should, if possible, be significant and well known. How has that principle been carried out as regards the northern boundary of Chelsea? Many hon. Members know the Brompton Road and Harrod's Stores. The new boundary of Chelsea, as suggested in the Draft Order in Council, will run westwards from Sloane Street by the Brompton Road until it reaches a little court called Hooper's Court, which never can be a roadway, and which no passers-by 106 would ever suspect was a thoroughfare. It is entered from the Brompton Road through an archway by a public-house. Yet that is to be the boundary between Kensington and Chelsea. I am bound to say I do not think it is a proper boundary. I should have thought that a boundary should obviously present a natural appearance. The result of making that boundary will be to increase the rateable value of Kensington by some £11,000 and the population by about 1,000. That is a result which ought to be avoided, and which can easily be avoided. If instead of being in Hooper's Court the boundary went a little way to the westward along the Brompton Road to New Street, and then by that street to Basil Street there would be a good boundary in the middle of roadways. This would, it is true, add to Chelsea some three acres of land, and increase the rateable value by £8,000 and the population by 200. But surely that is not an unreasonable request for Chelsea to make. Speaking for the smaller of the two boroughs I ask the House not to sanction what is in itself an unfortunate boundary, and which would further add to the disparity in rateable value and population which now exists. I think I may ask the President of the Local Government Board and House generally to acquit me of any sympathy with megalomania. I have no desire to make any undue invasion on Kensington, but I wish that the new boundaries should be reasonable and natural, and should be such as to give satisfaction in the future. I state without hesitation that the Hooper's Court boundary is unsatisfactory, and I ask the House to substitute for it a much better boundary, which incidentally would have the result— which, when the relative size of Kensington and Chelsea is considered, is in itself desirable —of adding to the rateable value and population of Chelsea. I beg to move, Sir.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to withhold Her Assent to the Draft Order in Council of the 27th day of March, 1900, for the establishment of the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea, unless Amendments are made therein so that the northern boundary of the new Borough shall be the centre of New Street, and the Brompton Road, in lieu of the centre of Basil Street and Hooper's Court.' —(Mr. Whitmore.)
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. CHAPLIN, Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
I was very glad to hear the tribute which my hon. friend paid to the work of the Commissioners, but, of course, notwithstanding that, he is perfectly within his right in seeking to modify their proposals. He also stated that he had no desire or intention whatever to invade the rights of Kensington, and perhaps, therefore, I may in a very few words explain the methods by which the Commissioners proceeded. It was found that the present boundary between Kensington and Chelsea was most unsatisfactory, the fact being that almost throughout the whole of its course it runs either through or at the back of buildings. My hon. friend referred to the proposal made by the vestry of Chelsea as to the now boundary they desired, but the effect of that proposal would be to transfer property of a rateable value of no less than £156,000 from Kensington to Chelsea, and that, of course, was a suggestion which very properly could not be entertained for a moment by the Commissioners, and I doubt very much, even if it had been entertained, whether Parliament would have agreed to it. The Commissioners decided that the only alterations in the boundary should be such as would secure, in their opinion, a more satisfactory boundary in the future. My hon. friend says that the effect of the arrangement as it stands at present will be to add £8,000 to the rateable value of Kensington. I think my hon. friend is mistaken. Whether that may be the result as regards the northern boundary alone I am not prepared to say at this moment, but I am advised that the net result of the changes in the boundary will be a gain of £2,000 rateable value to Chelsea.
§ MR. WHITMORE
I know perfectly well that if the alterations in the boundary between Chelsea and Westminster are considered, the statement of 108 my right hon. friend is perfectly true, but I was only referring to the result of the changes made in the boundary between Kensington and Chelsea.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
But if the net result is a gain of £2,000 in the rateable value, I do not think Chelsea has much ground for complaint. I admit my hon. friend's proposal is a great improvement on the original proposal put forward by Chelsea; but the effect even of his proposal would be to transfer blocks of property from Kensington to Chelsea, the rateable value of which is estimated at from £34,000 to £40,000. I cannot think that that is a proposal which would be by any means fair to Kensington, or a proposal which the House ought to agree to, and as far as I am concerned, as representing the Commissioners and the work they have carried out, I will be obliged to oppose it.
§ EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
said he did not think the House would accept his hon. friend's scheme, especially when they rejected a far more moderate proposal a few weeks ago. He, however, congratulated his hon. friend on having put forward a far more moderate proposal than the original proposal of the Vestry of Chelsea. He was informed that the prospective value of the property included in Kensington, as a result of the new northern boundary, was only £4,400. His hon. friend's main argument was that Chelsea was a very small borough, and that it was a great crime to further reduce its population; but Kensington had already taken over districts, mainly at the request of Chelsea itself, which were a burden on the locality. He did not think that the arguments of his hon. friend were strong enough to persuade the House to accept his scheme.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Adjourned at twenty-five minutes after Twelve of the clock.