HC Deb 17 May 1901 vol 94 cc423-35

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. PURVIS (Peterborough)

opposed the Second Reading of this Bill, the object of which was, he explained, to confirm a Provisional Order to enclose 477 acres of open fields and 133 acres of open heath, situated about six miles from Peterborough. As representative of that city he desired to give some explanation of the matter. As regarded the enclosure of 477 acres of open fields, he had no objection to offer, for he and those on behalf of whom he was speaking willingly allowed that to hedge in fields hitherto unhedged meant at least better cultivation. If nobody else cried "Hold," he certainly was not going to do so. But the inhabitants of Peterborough did object most strongly to the proposed enclosure of 133 acres of open heath. Peterborough was a most important railway centre, and its suburbs had grown to an extraordinary extent within the last few years. A large number of extensive brick works, employing very many working men, had been established, and, in short, the whole place had become an active, swarming, growing community. Now, the heath which it was proposed to enclose was close to the railway station of Wansford Road, connecting it with Peterborough. Moreover, in these days of cycling, a distance of six miles was as nothing, and if the heath were let alone it would year by year grow a more popular resort for botanising, picnicing, and other modes of recreation and healthy pastime for the working classes. Such pleasant places as now remained open to the public of Peterborough and neighbourhood were already far too few, and he took leave to say that they ought not to be made fewer. It would be a serious loss to the whole district if this heath were enclosed. The only compensation which it was even alleged was to be made to the people for the shutting up of the heath was to be the making of a road across it to connect Sutton with Stamford. But Stamford ay away from Peterborough. It was situated N.W. from Sutton, while Peterborough was east of that place. Stamford and Peterborough thus, in this matter, had nothing whatever to do with each other, and the proposed road would be no imaginable recompense to Peterborough for the enclosure of so large a common to which the public had hitherto had access. The gentleman who sought to enclose the whole land in question was the lord of the manor, the Rev. William Hopkinson, a clergyman and gentleman for whom he, like everyone else who knew him, entertained the sincerest respect. He said that the 133 acres he proposed to enclose for his own use and behoof were to be Compensation for the expense he incurred in making the road. But the public never asked for the road to be made. They did not want it. The thing was not good enough, and they preferred to keep the land open for all comers. Moreover, if the rev. gentleman made the road, he himself would reap the advantage, in so far as it would afford easier access from his own property to Stamford Town by the Great Northern road. It might be said that the municipal corporation of Peterborough, the members of which had unanimously requested him to oppose the Bill, and had under their common seal petitioned against it, were afraid of the expense, and were, consequently, not taking the proper steps, a course of procedure which was of course rank heresy and sacrilege in the eyes of the Parliamentary Bar, and all their belongings. It was true that the corporation were late in taking action in opposing, but they were not too late, or he would not be in order in addressing the House at that moment. Again, tardiness in action constituted no reason for depriving the people of the use of the common, and one function of the House of Commons was to secure that, where any of its Standing Orders were deficient by reason of their generality, right should be done in accordance with the merits of each particular case. He therefore begged to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.

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. Purvis.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

said he had great pleasure in supporting the Amendment. This seemed to be one of the cases which the House might very well be asked to postpone for consideration to another year. Peterborough had been accidentally excluded from having a locus standi before the Committee, and consequently only one side of the case had apparently been heard. He had no wish to pass any criticism on the action of the lord of the manor, who, he believed, was a most excellent landlord. But undoubtedly the passing of this Bill would confer solid advantages on his estate. He wished to take this opportunity of entering a caveat against the way in which public rights seemed to be disappearing, and against the gradual absorption in private estates of common lands and open fields. This was a matter which deserved the consideration of the House. There was one fact which had not yet been alluded to, and that was that of the number of cottages which had common rights in respect of these open fields and heath (five in all) a short time since, three had been allowed to fall into disrepair, and as the tenants had given up possession the common rights had fallen through. He thought it was lamentable that rights with regard to the user of common lands should be allowed to lapse in that way. He had a theory with regard to all these lands that power should be given to county councils to acquire them in the public interest.

MR. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.)

, as chairman of the Committee before which the Provisional Order came, explained that it was a very large Committee and that there was a good attendance of Members on the day on which the Inclosure Award was considered. Had it been an ordinary Select Committee, evidence would not have been taken, because there was no opposition to the scheme, and when his hon. friend suggested that possibly the absence of opposition in this case was due to unwillingness to incur expense, he was afraid he was not aware that there was no expense either for parliamentary fees or lawyers beyond that of railway fares incurred in appearing before such a Committee. Although there was no opposition to the Order, the Committee went carefully through the whole of the evidence which had been taken in regard to it, asking questions on particular points in order to make sure that there was no mistake about the award. It might be well to explain that when an Inclosure Award was asked for, the Board of Agriculture sent down an inspector, who held public meetings in the parish, and notices of such meetings were circulated over a radius of six miles, so that everybody who felt that they had any concern in the matter might attend and protest against the enclosure if they thought it desirable. He particularly asked the inspector at the outset if due notice were given of these meetings and if the gatherings took place. He was told in reply that the meetings both morning and evening were held after full notice, and that no opposition whatever was offered to the scheme. The witness was also asked about existing common rights, and replied that there were none in the ordinary sense of the word so far as the open fields were concerned, while as to the heath the Committee were told that although there were originally five cottages possessing such rights, three had been pulled down and the others belonged to Mr. Hopkinson, who, as owner of the land, let the cottages together with the right. His hon. friend had described the heath as a charming place for the people of Peterborough to visit. But the witness the Committee had before them said the only time he could remember the heath being resorted to for recreative purposes was when the London and North Western Railway was being laid forty-five years since, and then the navvies used to resort to the place on Sundays to fight out their battles. Nobody in Peterborough or neighbourhood ever used the land as a recreation ground, and undoubtedly according to the evidence the making of the road across the heath would be a great advantage to the inhabitants of Sutton and other parishes. Although nobody offered any opposition before the Committee, a gentleman did, towards the close of the proceedings, say he was a member of the Peterborough town council, and would like to give evidence. But he admitted that he had no representative authority, and that the Peterborough Town Council, although notice had been duly received by its clerk, had not considered the award and had not deemed it worth while to attend before the Committee. As this gentleman had not given any notice of opposition or of his intended appearance before the Committee, the chairman decided that, according to the Rules of Committee, he had no locus standi, and therefore could not be heard. It should be remembered that the heath was only just within six miles of Peterborough. The Committee were unanimous in approving the Order, and he must observe that the hon. Member for Peterborough was that day adopting a most unusual course in asking the House to dissent from their decision. He would be very much surprised if it did so.

LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)

said that in former years he had the honour of being a member of the Committee which dealt with these Orders, and, indeed, he took some humble part in framing the procedure on which it now acted. There were always two aspects to a question of this nature, however, one technical and the other a broader one. As for the technical aspect, his hon. friend the chairman of the Committee had got an unanswerable case. Proper notices had been served, and meetings had been held, no opposition had been offered at the local inquiry, and the Provisional Order had been made in the usual course. But, looking at the matter from the broader aspect, he hoped the House would be induced to postpone the question for another year. In so doing it would not imply any kind of censure either on the Committee or on its chairman. It had been shown by the hon. Member for Peterborough that the corporation and other public bodies of Peterborough were not represented at the local inquiry, and should the House decide to send the Bill over for another year it might accompany its decision with an expression that the Peterborough Corporation should "execute" its own town clerk for his lack of zeal in the matter. The House had to consider was it right or fair that a great number of working men should suffer because of a lack of duty on the part of the town clerk, who had not thought it worth his while to bring the matter before the corporation. It was his business to have seen that the town council were represented at the inquiry, of which he had due notice. But he did nothing of the kind, and, therefore, would it not be reasonable for the House to postpone the Bill another year and give the public of Peterborough a full opportunity of placing their views before the commissioners and before Parliament? The House should not forget that under the Act of 1876, which was passed at the termination of a long controversy, they had to consider, not merely the interests of owners of land, but also those of the neighbourhood generally, and of the public at large. That was distinctly set forth in the preamble of the Act. He thought it was desirable that the House should postpone the matter another year.


As long as I am connected with the Board of Agriculture I shall take care that no common is enclosed without sufficient reasons. It struck me as peculiar that the noble Lord, who was so much interested in the preservation of commons at the time the Bill on that subject was before the House, and who is responsible for the special form of procedure adopted in regard to these Bills, should now come forward and ask that the Committee, which he was instrumental in establishing, should be treated as practically of no consequence. No Bills, except money Bills, are treated with the same solemnity of procedure in this House. No Bill referring to a Provisional order for the enclosure of a common can be passed without the appointment ad hoc of a Committee of a particular character to consider whether there is good reason for the enclosure being made. What happened in this case? Such a Committee was set up, and took evidence. There was no opposition before that Committee, and they were unanimous on the subject. There was no opposition at any other stage of the proceedings, and it is all very fine for the noble Lord to say that the Town Clerk of Peterborough did not give notice to the Town Council of Peterborough; but that city is only six miles off, and is presumed to have a great interest in this common. It is said that they knew nothing whatever about it. There was not only one oppor- tunity offered to the Town Council of Peterborough to protest against the enclosure, but they had no less than four opportunities. Notices were sent to them formally, but they never once took any notice of them. After all, it is only by a mere technicality that Peterborough comes into the matter at all, because the law presumes that no place beyond six miles from a common proposed to be enclosed has any interest in it. A portion of the parish of Sutton is within six miles, so that it is by a mere technicality that Peterborough comes in. It so happens that Mr. Hopkinson, the lord of the manor, is the owner practically of the whole of this parish. There are no common rights at all, except one, and even in regard to this the Committee had grave doubts whether it should be dealt with by the Board of Agriculture; but it was decided ultimately that certain rights might arise if Mr. Hopkinson sold his property. When Mr. Hopkinson took the procedure he has taken, it was understood that certain conditions would be imposed on him, which he was perfectly willing to accept, and I am bound to say that the conditions imposed on him will certainly more than recoup the parish for the enclosure of the common. In the first place, the whole of the district round about is perfectly satisfied with this proposal. No objection has come from any other place than Peterborough, which did not think it worth while to take notice of any of the notices sent. We have had representatives from every parish round about in support of this Bill, and for this reason. Mr. Hopkinson is going to give five acres of his own land for a recreation ground, and six acres more for allotments for the cottages in the parish, which have already a quarter of an acre attached to each. He is going to spend nearly £1,000 in making a road through the heath, which will be a great advantage, not only to the parish, but to the whole district round. The commissioner informs me that Mr. Hopkinson could have enclosed the whole property without having conditions of any kind imposed on him. He need not have given a recreation ground or spent. £1,000 on a road Therefore, it is by a mere technicality that the whole procedure has come before the Board of Agriculture in this matter. What are the facts? Peterborough is six miles off, and is just at the extreme limit of distance which is supposed to qualify a district for having an interest in a common. This, after all, is a place where, as the Chairman of the Committee has said, practically nobody goes; no picnics take place there, and it is never used for the purpose of recreation. On the whole, therefore, I think that Peterborough's interest is exceedingly small in this common. On the other hand, we have the great advantages I have mentioned accruing to the whole parish. Mr. Hopkinson is conferring a great boon on the neighbourhood, and therefore I ask the House to pass the Bill.

MR. ROBERT SPENCER (Northamptonshire, Mid)

said the right hon. Gentleman had tried to dazzle the House with the munificent liberality of Mr. Hopkinson, but had quite omitted to state the cause of the whole dispute, namely, that Peterborough wished to have this common as a recreation ground. He asked the House to reject the Bill.

MR. SACKVILLE (Northamptonshire, N.)

said he had the honour to represent the district of Sutton, and he believed that not a single dissentient note had been raised there with respect to the scheme of the present Bill. His recollection of the House of Commons went back to 1876, when the Commons Bill became law. He asked the House whether they would not be reversing previous legislation if they reversed the decision of the Committee appointed ad hoc. In the present day there was too much tendency to revise and reverse

in the House itself small questions which had been before Committees. He knew the whole circumstances of this case. Mr. Hopkinson had shewn the utmost liberality in the matter. He had increased the original offer with respect to the recreation ground and the allotments, and he was going to spend a sum of money in improving communication between the village of Sutton and the city of Peterborough.

MR. THOMAS BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)

said the House had not received such information from the Government as they ought to have got. They had been told that five acres were to be given for recreation purposes, but they had heard nothing as to what the county council said on this question. Five acres out of 130 to be enclosed was only about 4 per cent. for recreation grounds. Something was also said about certain allotments, but had the people who had rights in this common been put on these allotments? They must look round with suspicion when the rights of the public were being invaded without the knowledge of the county council. It was quite time that the House should look at this question of commons enclosure seriously, and he thought more time should be given to the county council and the local authorities for consultation with the borough of Peterborough as to whether this was a fair and reasonable bargain.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 151; Noes, 144. (Division List No. 191.)

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex) Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Bowles, TGibson (King's Lynn Dalrymple, Sir Charles
Allsopp, Hon. George Brassey, Albert Dickson, Charles Scott
Anstruther, H. T. Brookfield, Colonel Montagu Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Campbell, Rt Hn J. A. (Glasgow Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-
Arrol, Sir William Carew, James Laurence Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield
Bain, Col. James Robert Cavendish, B. F. (N. Lancs.) Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-
Baldwin, Alfred Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh. Doxford, Sir William Theodore
Balfour, Rt.Hon. A. J. (Manc'r) Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm. Duke, Henry Edward
Banbury, Frederick George Chamberlain, J Austen (Worc'r Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin
Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor) Chapman, Edward Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.
Bartley, George C. T. Coghill, Douglas Harry Fergusson, Rt Hn Sir J. (Manc'r
Beach Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol Cohen, Benjamin Louis Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst
Bill, Charles Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready Fisher, William Hayes
Blundell, Colonel Henry Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Fletcher, Sir Henry
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow) Flower, Ernest
Boulnois, Edmund Cranborne, Viscount Forster, Henry William
Galloway, William Johnson Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Garfit, William Macartney, Rt Hn. W G Ellison Rollit, Sir Albert
Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk. M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.) Ropner, Colonel Robert
Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.) M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.) Royds, Clement Molyneux
Gordon, Maj Evans- (T'rH'ml's M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire) Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse
Goschen, Hon. George Joachim Malcolm, Ian Saunderson, Rt. Hn Col. Edw. J.
Goulding, Edward Alfred Mellor, Rt. Hon. John William Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)
Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'ry Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Sharpe, William Edward T.
Greene, Sir E W (B'ry S Edm'nds Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)
Grenfell, William Henry Moore, William (Antrim, N.) Simeon, Sir Barrington
Greville, Hon. Ronald Morrell, George Herbert Smith, H C. (North'd., Tyneside
Hain, Edward Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F. Smith, James Parker (Lanarks
Hamilton, Rt Hn. Ld. G (Midd'x Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford Spear, John Ward
Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robt. Wm. Mount, William Arthur Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk
Hardy, Laurence (Kent Ashfrd Muntz, Philip A. Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Hay, Hon. Claude George Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute) Stewart, Sir Mark J M'Taggart
Hope, J. F. (Sheffi'ld, Brightside Myers, William Henry Stroyan, John
Howard, John (Kent, Faversh. Nicholson, William Graham Thomas, F. Freeman- (Hastings
Howard, J. (Midd., Tortenham) Nicol, Donald Ninian Thorburn, Sir Walter
Hozier, Hn. Jas. Henry Cecil Nussey, Thomas Willans Tuke, Sir John Batty
Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex) O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens Valentia, Viscount
Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt Hn Sir U Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Walrond, Rt Hn. Sir William H.
Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh Parker, Gilbert Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Kenyon, James (Lancs., Bury) Pease, Herbt. P. (Darlington) Welby, Lt.-Col. A C E (Taunton)
Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley Williams, Rt Hn J Powell (Birm
Lawson, John Grant Pemberton, John S. G. Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks)
Lee, Arthur H (Hants, Fareham Penn, John Wodehouse, Rt. Hn E. R. (Bath)
Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Platt-Higgins, Frederick Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S. Plummer, Walter R. Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Loder, Gerald W. Erskine Randles, John S. Younger, William
Lonsdale, John Brownlee Rankin, Sir James
Lowther, Rt. Hon. Jas. (Kent Ratcliffe, R. F. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Jeffreys and Colonel Stopford-Sackville.
Lowther, Rt Hn JW (Cum. Penr. Reid, James (Greenock
Loyd, Archie Kirkman Renshaw, Charles Bine
Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Ridley, Hn. M.W. (Stalybridge
Abraham, William (Cork, N.E. Dillon, John Leamy, Edmund
Allan, William (Gateshead) Donelan, Captain A. Leng, Sir John
Allen, Chas. P. (Glouc., Stroud Doogan, P. C. Lough, Thomas
Ambrose, Robert Duncan, J. Hastings Lundon, W.
Asher, Alexander Dunn, Sir William MacNeill, John Gordon Swift
Ashton, Thomas Gair Edwards, Frank M'Cann, James
Austin, Sir John Emmott, Alfred M'Crae, George
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Esmonde, Sir Thomas M'Laren, Charles Benjamin
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Farquharson, Dr. Robert Mansfield, Horace Rendall
Beoumont, Wentworth C. B. Farrell, James Patrick Mooney, John J.
Big wood, James Ffrench, Peter Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)
Blake, Edward Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Murphy, J.
Boland, John Flavin, Michael Joseph Nannetti, Joseph P.
Boyle, James Flynn, James Christopher Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)
Brand, Hon. Arthur G. Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) Norman, Henry
Brigg, John Fuller, J. M. F. Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Gilhooly, James O'Brien, Kendal (T'pp'rary Mid
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Goddard, Daniel Ford O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Burke, E. Haviland- Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)
Caldwell, James Hardie, J. K. (Merthyr Tydvil) O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Harwood, George O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H. Hayden, John Patrick O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale- O'Dowd, John
Cawley, Frederick Healy, Timothy Michael O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)
Channing, Francis Allston Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H. O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Clancy, John Joseph Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol E.) O'Shee, James John
Colville, John Holland, William Henry Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Hope, John D. (Fife, West) Partington, Oswald
Craig, Robert Hunter Horniman, Frederick John Paulton, James Mellor
Crean, Eugene Jacoby, James Alfred Philipps, John Wynford
Crombie, John Willian Jameson, Major J. Eustace Power, Patrick Joseph
Cullinan, J. Joicey, Sir James Price, Robert John
Daly, James Jones, Dav. Brynmor (Swansea) Rea, Russell
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan Joyce, Michael Reddy, M.
Delany, William Kinloch Sir John George Smyth Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Dewar, J. A. (Inverness-shire) Lambert, George Rickett, J. Compton
Dilke, Rt. Hn. Sir Charles Layland-Barratt, Francis Rigg, Richard
Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Taylor, Theodore Cooke White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Robertson, Edmund (Dundee) Tennant, Harold J. White, Patrick (Meath, North
Roche, John Thomas, J A (Glamorgan, Gow'r Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Schwann, Charles E. Thomson, F. W. (York, W.R.) Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)
Scott, Chas. P. (Leigh) Tomkinson, James Wilson, John (Durham. Mid)
Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.) Trevelyan, Charles Philips Wilson, J W (Worcestershire N.
Shipman, Dr. John G. Tully, Jasper Woodhouse, Sir J T (Hudders'fd
Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire Wallace, Robert Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Soames, Arthur Wellesley Walton, Joseph (Barnsley) Yoxall, James Henry
Soares, Ernest J. Warner, Thomas Courtenay T. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Strachey, Edward Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan Mr. Purvis and Mr. Chas. Spencer.
Sullivan, Donal White, George (Norfolk)

Bill read a second time, and committed.