HC Deb 05 August 1914 vol 65 cc2031-40

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."


I beg to move to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."

It is well known that the House has certain powers under ordinary circumstances in regard to private Bills such as this, and if ever a case called for the use of those powers to the very utmost to prevent the passing of a Bill, this is one. I do not want to enter into the general principles of the measure. The Bill is no doubt an important one to Glasgow. Amongst other principles it involves the carrying still further of an enormous scheme of municipal trading. From one point of view or another, we might, in ordinary circumstances, have had an opportunity of effectively bringing the real merits or demerits of such a proposal before the House. This scheme of municipal trading in the present instance proposes to drive a tramway line altogether unnecessarily through the centre of a great branch of the University of Glasgow—the Queen Margaret College—which not only provides for the education of women, but is without the possibility of gainsaying the most important institution existing in Scotland for the higher education of women. There are between 600 and 700 lady students in the University of Glasgow, and a very large number of them attend this Queen Margaret College. The college has been built up by the hard efforts and loving care of those who founded it, and those who have for more than a generation spent their money and their lives in fostering it. It has very admirable buildings, situated in large grounds, the amenity of which adds very greatly, not only to the name and dignity of the college, but also to the efficiency of the work there carried on. Without considering whether any alternative plan might be carried out, the Committee entrusted with this Bill has chosen to give its assent to a scheme by which the grounds and buildings of the college will be entirely ruined.




I am quite prepared to make out my case. It is, no doubt, suggested that the corporation should take a very important part of the grounds of the college, changing what are quiet and pleasant premises into the noisy neighbourhood of a thoroughfare along which tramways will be running all day long. At present the neighbour of the Queen Margaret College is the Botanic Gardens, and the site was selected on that account. If you take off a considerable part of the premises and construct thereon a noisy thoroughfare, with rumbling trams running all day long, you will practically destroy the amenity of the grounds and the efficiency of the work of the college. There was another plan set aside by the Committee without any consideration at all. The opponents of the Bill were not allowed even to prove how efficacious it might be. That was the plan of taking the tramway through a hideous erection bearing the strange name of the Kibble Conservatory, or something of that sort—a building which might, with great advantage to the dignity of Glasgow, to the benefit of the Botanic Gardens, and to the pleasure of the eye of the passer-by, be swept away—in order to enable the tramway to be constructed without interfering with the college. But it seems to me to be a source of pleasure to this aggrandising, aggravating corporation that it should choose precisely that route which most seriously affects this great place of education. Nothing would satisfy them except interfering by taking off a considerable part of the premises or else driving their tramway through the middle of the building and leave the college houseless. Another proposal laid before the Committee and considered by them was that the corporation should reinstate the college' on some other ground equally adapted to the purpose, free from restrictions as to building, so that the college authorities could be enabled to erect suitable buildings. That very reasonable plan was understood to be accepted by the leading counsel for the promoters of the Bill. I will read an extract from the notes of the proceedings before the Committee:— Principal Counsel for the Corporation: Dr. Murray said there is a site upon which they could house. Mr. Lyndon Macassey: No, he did not. Counsel: As I understand, that site would do if it were free from restrictions? The Witness: If it were free from restrictions. Counsel (on the part of the Corporation): I am willing to buy that land. I am willing in my very next Bill I have in Parliament to put in a Clause freeing it from restrictions, and to hand over that to them as part of the compensation for the Queen Margaret, the rest of the compensation to be determined by an arbitrator. The Witness: But we proposed that ages ago, and you would not listen to it. The Chairman: I thought I was seeing daylight in this complicated matter. The Committee adjourned in order that on that basis a compromise might be effected. But when they came together to consult, the corporation offered a certain sum of money, but would take no responsibility whatever for assisting the college to obtain another site, but left them to fight against the proprietors in the neighbourhood, whose land was to be obtained only under severe restrictions. To remove those restrictions the corporation would not give the slightest help. Then follow—and I wish to call the attention of the Chairman of Committee to this—these words:— The Witness: We do not like the site, but we will take it. Mr. Lynden Macassey: That is free from restrictions?—Yes. The Chairman: It is very necessary that the corporation should undertake that. That was the pledge given by the Corporation, accepted by the Chairman, and made the basis of a bargain-that is entirely repudiated when we come to deal with the Promoters. I never knew a great Corporation so carried away by its enthusiasm for a matter of this sort, as to be unfair to a great educational institution.


Will the hon. Member say how much of the garden of this institution is being taken?


The point is the separation of the garden from the institution, so that the students will be studying in the midst of a thoroughfare. Is not that absolutely destroying the amenities of the site altogether? I ask hon. Members to remember, even under the strained circumstances under which I speak to-day, and in which my powers as a private Member in obstructing legislation of this kind are so severely restricted, to remember if they condone this, what sort of precedent will be created? What sort of institution will be sacred against the maw of municipal legislation, seeing the Corporation care for nothing but the dividends they obtain?


No dividends are paid!


I can only raise my protest, not only on behalf of the University of Glasgow, but on behalf of similar institutions elsewhere against this proposal. I know no precedent for taking away part of the premises, and for practically breaking up a great institution of this kind without aiding it in the least degree to reinstate itself in another place. Is the university merely to take the small sum offered by arbitration and to be left to wander about and to look for a site on which to place their institution, knowing as they do, and as the corporation does, that the sites all round in the neighbourhood conveniently placed are under such restrictions as render them, unless you obtain an Act of Parliament with the help of convocation practically useless for the purpose.


I cordially second the Amendment. I am not a Scottish Member, but I have the honour of being a graduate of the University of Glasgow, an honour which I have been in the enjoyment of for twenty years, and during that time I have many times worked with the distinguished men who constitute the faculty of the university; therefore, I know something about their fairness and also of their ability in directing the fortunes of that institution. To a Southerner like myself it comes as a matter of great astonishment that there should be any question of a dispute between the City of Glasgow and the university, the home of Adam Smith, James Watt, Lister, Kelvin—[HON. MEMBERS: "And yourself!"]. I am aware, from direct intercourse, of the very strong views that the authorities of the university took on this, matter, and the way they regard it as an exercise of tyranny, and if I may venture to express what is given to me of their views, the public opinion of the City of Glasgow has not had the opportunity of expressing itself on this subject. The negotiations concerned with this Bill have been conducted by the officials of the Corporation of Glasgow practically without contact with the corporation itself. I think I am expressing the opinion of many members of the university that if they had had time to put their case before the City of Glasgow they would have obtained strong support; that in fact, they would have won their case, and it would not have been necessary to make the proposal. I formally second the Resolution on the ground I have stated. To a person south of the Tweed it does seem a matter of great astonishment that such a quarrel should have arisen at all.


Perhaps it would be desirable to say at once how the matter was dealt with upstairs by the Committee of which I was Chairman. The hon. Member for Glasgow University today talked about the "aggrandisement of au aggravating corporation," of "enthusiastic tyranny," of "caring nothing but for the dividends which it could get." That is the way the hon. Member for Glasgow University dealt with the subject. I can assure the House that that was not the spirit in which the Committee of this House dealt with this Bill, and I do not think it is the spirit in which any Member, if I may say so with respect, should treat a Bill promoted by a responsible corporation like Glasgow. Let hon. Members look at the Clause which the hon. Member for the University has put upon the Paper. It is true that he has not moved it, but the Clause on the Paper shows the spirit of the hon. Member. It is an impossible Clause. No corporation would have inserted in its Bill a Clause for reinstatement on the lines that are here put down by the hon. Member—I suppose on behalf of the university! That was rather the difficulty that we were in in Committee. My colleagues and myself took a great deal of pains with regard to this Bill. We considered that the fact that the corporation proposed to take part of the ground of St. Margaret College—


You do not even know the name!


Queen Margaret College. I know the circumstances very well. Glasgow Corporation proposed to take part of the ground of Queen Margaret College, an educational institution in Glasgow, given by a benevolent lady for the benefit of the education of young women. That fact weighed very much with the Committee. We felt that it was not an ordinary case of a corporation taking property, and if there was anything that a Committee of Parliament could do, or anything that Parliament could do, in the passage of this Bill to make an equitable arrangement and accommodation between the corporation and university, it was the duty of the Committee to do it. We struggled for two days in trying to bring about a fair accommodation. As the hon. Gentleman opposite has pointed out, 1, on one occasion, said that I thought I saw daylight. We adjourned the Committee one day until the next in the hope that the parties would agree, but the words read by the hon. Member as to the new site and the restrictions do not quite bear the interpretation he put upon them. There is a technical reading in those words that it is impossible to go into now, but when we met the next morning after adjournment, and I hoped to hear that the Glasgow Corporation and the Glasgow University had come to an agreement, we found, to our regret, that they had not done so.


Because the corporation repudiated the undertaking of their counsel.


I dispute that entirely. If the hon. Member had waited for me to finish my sentence he would have heard what I said in regard to that. We met next morning, regretting that the parties had not come to agreement. My colleagues and myself all agreed that the reason that an arrangement had not been come to was owing to the attitude of the university, and was not the fault of the corporation. That did not, of course, lead the Committee to cease its effort to do all it could to make a proper arrangement, but an arrangement by agreement proved impossible. Hon. Members who know the procedure in these matters know that no Committee can, while considering a Bill of this nature, put any reinstatement Clause in it unless by agreement. Although I hoped there would be agreement on the question of reinstatement the day that we adjourned, the fact that there was no agreement made it impossible for the Committee to proceed on the lines of an arrangement, because it was beyond our power to set ourselves up as arbitrators.


Can the hon. Gentleman say what the corporation did propose?

6.0 P.M.


I cannot go into that, but the reports of proceedings will show what took place in negotiation. The result of the Committee's labours in their other House and in this House come to this: that the university can require the corporation to deviate the road and only take part of its ground—if the university desire that that course should be taken—and limiting the amount of land which the corporation can take. The total area of the land of the university is 11,783 square yards. The triangular piece of garden is 2,100 yards. The corporation offered, and the offer still holds good, of £10,000 for this small triangular piece of land in front of their building. That is at the rate of £5 per square yard—a very large sum. If the university are not satisfied with £10,000 they have got a provision in the Bill that they can go to arbitration under the Lands Clauses Act. There is the limitation of the Lands Clauses Act which only provides one arbitrator. We removed that limitation in favour of the university so that they should have the two arbitrators and all the advantages of the Lands Clauses Act. They also have the power, if they like, under the Bill to compel the corporation to take the whole of their premises and to go to arbitration upon it. I am telling the House the exceptional terms which the House of Lords Committee the Committee of this House gave these particular owners of property because they were a branch of the Glasgow University, and because they were an educational institution deserving of every consideration from this House. These are the special provisions which we put into the Bill as a Grant to the universities. I should like the House to understand that this is not the Glasgow University as generally known. It is a branch of the university, a dwelling house, bought by a benevolent lady, and used for ladies of the college connected with the university. No one would suggest that an institution of this kind should not be preserved if possible, but when the Glasgow Corporation comes along and wants to make a necessary main road through its city for the advantage of the tramways and for the general facilities of the traffic of the city, how could a Committee of this House resist the application of the corporation for an ordinary Bill of this nature? I think I have shown that the Committee was very anxious in this matter, and gave the fullest consideration to it and put in special clauses and provisions for the protection of Glasgow University. I hope that the House will support the Committee and appreciate the fact that we did everything we could to act fairly and rightly as between the corporation and the college.


This Bill provides in Glasgow, amongst other things, for the making of a new street and a new bridge for tramways, and for this purpose it takes a portion of the ground of Queen Margaret's College. I believe that it is agreed on all sides that for the portion of the ground taken, full, ample, and generous compensation is given.




I understood that was agreed. It certainly is my opinion that more than the value of the ground is given. The university, which is the owner of the ground, has also the option of compelling the Glasgow Corporation to take not merely a portion but the Whole of the ground of the college and to give full compensation for it as settled by arbitration. The contention of the university is that the taking of this portion of the garden for the purpose of a new street with a tramway running along it will destroy the amenities of the college, and they therefore ask that the corporation should be bound to give compensation, not merely for the portion of the ground taken, but should carry out a complete transfer of the college to some other site, and completely and wholly reinstate it there. The case for the university has been presented with great force and vigour by the hon. Gentleman opposite who represents the university. I myself, like the hon. Member for Cambridge University who seconded the Amendment, am a graduate of the university, and my loyalty and filial affection are due to it. I feel myself drawn towards everything that can be said in support of its interests, but I am torn between a double loyalty. I am also a Member for one of the Divisions of the City of Glasgow. There can be no doubt that this Bill is one of vital importance to Glasgow to secure the necessary development of the tramway system which is urgently required in order to provide adequate facilities for the travelling public and to equip the city with those modern conveniences which are necessary for the proper organisation of a large city. I think that in this position, torn by a double loyalty, there is no course open for me but to accept the verdict of an impartial and disinterested Committee which considered this matter. The Bill has been before a Committee of this House. The Chairman of that Committee—the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken—is a man of great experience in these matters, and has given the fullest and most careful consideration to the very point which is in dispute, and I understand, perhaps with some hesitation, but without any doubt, in their final decision they have recommended that the Bill in its present form should be passed by this House. In these circumstances, as one who is closely interested in the Bill from both points of view, I find myself obliged to give my support to the Bill.

The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS (Mr. Whitley)

I think as this Bill has been most carefully examined by a Committee in both Houses of Parliament, the House should be prepared in a matter of this kind to take the decision of the Committee upstairs. I have been asked a question upon which some Members desire to be quite clear, and that is whether or not the university have the option as they please of making the Glasgow Corporation take the whole or part. The answer is that that option does lie in the hands of the university. It is for them to say which course and consideration they desire. I have it also from the Glasgow Corporation that they have come to the conclusion that if the university prefers that the whole should be taken, and therefore wish to seek another site, the Glasgow Corporation will give them every reasonable assistance and facility in their power in carrying out a scheme of that kind.


Is that part of the corporation' s undertaking?


That I am authorised to say by the Corporation of Glasgow, and I hope the House will reject the Amendment now before it.


I must say, having listened to the right hon. Gentleman, the Chairman of Ways and Means, that I do not think my hon. Friend should go to a division. I was ready to support him, because I thought that the policy proposed in this Bill is a wrong policy, but I now understand that the college have a right to go to the corporation itself and to say, "You must not take a bit of our property, but you must take the whole of it, and under the Lands Clauses Act." Much as I dislike tramways, I do not think I could possibly vote against what seems to me to be a very reasonable proposition.


I thought I made that quite clear.


I do not propose to put the House to the trouble of a division. I accept what the Chairman of Ways and Means has said on behalf of the corporation, but I do think the college is put to very great inconvenience, and probably will have great difficulty in this matter. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, considered.

Ordered, That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the third time.—[Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed, with Amendments.