HL Deb 04 July 1851 vol 118 cc188-200

Order of the Day for the Consideration of Sections 1 and 5 of the Standing Order No. 180, in order to their being dispensed with, read: said Sections considered accordingly.


said, their Lordships knew the objects of the Smithfield Market Removal Bill. The Bill might be technically a private measure, but in effect it was pre-eminently a public one, and he respectfully submitted that it would be in the last degree irrational to insist that it should be subjected to the same rules and regulations which were required in the case of ordinary Private Bills. It was not a small, a personal, or a merely local interest that was sought to be affected by the Bill. The interests of the public at large were vitally concerned—not only the interests of this metropolis, with its two millions of inhabitants, but also those of the persons who supplied the City with animal food, the thousands of persons who inhabited the neighbourhood and vicinity of this great capita], and, indirectly, to all the agricultural occupiers throughout the kingdom. Such a Bill must, therefore, be of a public character, and of such importance as to fill their Lordships with regret if its objects should be frustrated by adhering to any technical points in the rules of their House. In regard to Bills of a similar character, which, though of a public nature, still affected the interests of private parties, the House had resolved that those parties should not be excluded from an opportunity of being heard in their own defence; he should, therefore, be very sorry to take any step which would prejudice any party who had a private interest either in the present or any other Bill. The course which he proposed would not exclude any interested party from being heard in his own defence; and it was precisely because it would do no injury to the private interest of the Corporation of the city of London, that he asked leave to proceed with his present Motion. The rule of their Lordships was, that all parties interested should be heard in their own defence, either by themselves or by their counsel, against any portion of a Bill which affected their rights or interests. Their Lordships had also provided that, with regard to Bills which affected private interests, notice should be given to the parties so interested. That provision was introduced to prevent interested parties from being taken by surprise on any measure. If a Bill were of a small local interest, it was only just that such notice should be given of it, for individuals had not the same power as a great Corporation to obtain information of the risks to which their property might be exposed. Now, if this Bill had not been known beyond a small private circle—if it had been introduced to the notice of their Lordships upon petition—and if it had been so brought before the House without the parties interested having any knowledge that their interests were attacked, he should say that their Lordships would act correctly in enforcing their Standing Orders, and in not proceeding with a Bill where the parties applying for it had failed to give the requisite no- tices. But the present measure was of such notoriety that every body had notice of the intention of Government to proceed with it. Effectual notice of it had been given long since in the public prints, and by the discussion which had taken place upon it, not only in those prints but also in the two Houses of Parliament. It was true that no formal notice of the intention of Government to proceed with this Bill had appeared in the London Gazette and in the newspapers in October and November last. It was true, also, that the Orders of the House with regard to Private Bills had not been complied with; but though the Corporation of the city of London had not received such notices, it had received effectual notice of the measure which was about to be introduced, inasmuch as several communications respecting it had taken place since the close of last Session between the two parties to it—he meant Her Majesty's Government and the Corporation of London. He therefore maintained that the object of their Standing Orders had been essentially complied with, and that the security which they were intended to provide.for private interests had been afforded, and that the parties interested had no reason to complain that formal notices had not been given them in October and November last. He relied also on the precedents which were to be found in the records of their Lordships' House, as much as he did on the justice of his case. Several Bills of a character similar to the present had not been referred to the Standing Orders Committee at all; as, for instance, the Opera Colonnade Bill, the Chelsea Bridges Approach Bill, the Shoreditch New Street Improvement Bill, the Portland Harbour Bill, the Greenwich Improvement Bill, and the Battersea Park Bill. In 1830 Lord Lonsdale, who was then Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, had brought in a Bill to remove the market for the sale of hay from a certain street called the Haymarket. In the case of that Bill no notices were given. It was referred in the House of Commons, as it was afterwards in the House of Lords, not to the Standing Orders Committee, but to a Select Committee. On the 18th of April, 1830, it came up to the House of Lords. It was read a second time, and then committed to a Committee of the whole House. It was there conducted as a Public Bill, and was afterwards read a third time and passed. It might, perhaps, be urged that in the Bill then before the House there was a peculiar grant to the Corporation affected—that the Corporation of London were of opinion that this Bill repealed a grant made to them so far back as the reign of Edward III.—and that they had had no notice of this intended repeal. He maintained, on the contrary, that they had had ample notice, though they might not have had a private formal notice. In the case of the Islington Market Bill, though the Judges had advised their Lordships that private interests were affected by it, the House had taken no steps to reject the Bill on the grounds of insufficient notice. In this Bill there was no clause repealing any charter of the city of London. If the formal notice had been given, such notice would not have set forth the repeal of the charter. All the advertisements in the world could not have given them more knowledge than they already possessed of the design of the Bill. The only ground of complaint which the Corporation could advance was, that they had not got the exact notice required by their Lordships in case of Private Bills. Now, no injury had been or could be done to them by not receiving that notice. His opinion was, that this Bill was a Public Bill, and, if so, it ought not to have been referred to the Standing Orders Committee. If, however, their Lordships should not agree with him that this was a Public Bill, but that it was a Bill of a mixed character, partly public and partly private, still he was of opinion that in the exercise of their discretion they should suspend the Standing Orders. That discretion they had undoubtedly the right to exercise; for, if they had it not, they would, as his noble and learned Friend well observed the other night, be nothing else than slaves to their forms and orders.

Moved—"That the said Sections be dispensed with on the said Bill."


considered this Motion to be of great importance, as well on account of the importance of the Bill to which it related, as on account of the innate justice of the case. First of all, his noble Friend insisted that this Bill ought not to have gone to the Standing Orders Committee at all; and then he argued, that even if it ought to have gone there, and if the Committee had reported against it, the report ought not to be regarded, but the Standing Orders ought to be suspended. In the other House of Parliament no one ever expressed a doubt about sending this Bill to the Standing Orders Committee; and it had been very properly sent there in that House, as it was also sent here. It was essentially a Private Bill, and if their Lordships should once allow the Government the power of bringing in a Private Bill, without affording to private interests the protection which they had always hitherto enjoyed, they would expose the rights and properties of individuals to dangers to which they had never hitherto been exposed. The noble Baron had then maintained that if the Bill were a Private Bill, the Standing Orders ought to be suspended, and had quoted precedents to show that they had been frequently so suspended. But on what grounds had that been done? It was always in cases in which the Standing Orders Committee had reported that the Standing Orders ought to be dispensed with. He undertook to prove that there never was a case in which it was so clear that the Standing Orders should be complied with as the present. One of the reasons for establishing the Standing Orders regarding Private Bills was, that it was only fair that those whose private interests were assailed by Bills of attack, should have time given them to prepare for defence. Now, what would have been more easy in the present case than for the Government to give the Corporation notice of its intention to proceed with this Bill during the present Session? It was proved in the evidence before the other House, that soon after the close of the last Session the Government had sent a communication to the Corporation, in which they asked whether it was their intention to remove this market; and that the reply of the Corporation was that it had no such intention. He maintained that on receiving that reply the Government should have served the Corporation with notice of their intention to introduce this Bill. The consequence was that the Corporation, not having received any notice from the Government, resolved to bring in, and did bring in, a Bill of their own. He had watched, as it was his duty as Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee to watch, all the proceedings in the present Bill; and the protection which he now awarded to the powerful Corporation of London, he should have awarded to the weakest and poorest corporation in the kingdom. He asked their Lordships calmly and deliberately whether the Corporation of London had done anything to forfeit its right to such protection? Under these circumstances, unpleasant as it might be to him to oppose the further progress of this Bill—which might be a desirable Bill, though not regularly introduced—he must resist the present Motion. He did conceive it to be a very unusual course for the House to set aside the conclusion of the Standing Orders Committee. That Committee had a right to expect the support of Her Majesty's Government. If the House did not give support to their Committees, it would be out of the question to expect that the Committees could discharge the onerous duties assigned to them in a manner either creditable to themselves or advantageous to the country. Nothing could have been easier than for the Government to have given the requisite notices, just as the Corporation had done in the month of November last. Alter the title of this Bill, and suppose that it was not Smithfield but Covent Garden Market that it affected; suppose, further, that the Duke of Bedford, as proprietor of the latter market, came to the Standing Orders Committee, and claimed its protection; suppose that that Committee reported in his favour, would not their Lordships, one and all of them, comedown to the House in order to protect him from the attack irregularly made upon him by the Government? That protection which their Lordships would be ready to give to a Member of their own body, why should they withhold from the Corporation of London? He cared not whether it was a largo or a small, a rich or a poor corporation; but so long as he had the honour to remain in the chair of the Standing Orders Committee, so long should every corporation and every private individual receive from him the same protection. Unpleasant as it was to him to oppose a Bill which, for anything he knew to the contrary, might be a beneficial one, he should feel himself bound, on grounds of public policy and general justice, to oppose any Motion having for its object the dispensing with the Standing Orders. If their Lordships would sanction such a Motion, they would do that which would not tend to promote the true interests of the public, or have a favourable result even for their Lordships' reputation. If their Lordships dispensed with the Standing Orders in the present instance, they would give a great shock to public confidence, and would destroy one great security which the public possessed against an injurious interference with private rights.


reminded their Lordships that the question they were called upon to decide was not only important as affecting the Standing Orders, but also as concerning the progress of a Bill in which the public undoubtedly had a deep interest. The noble Lord who had just addressed their Lordships (Lord Redesdale), being the Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, had only done his duty in defending the principle of the Standing Orders; but though those orders were unquestionably very valuable, and though they were well designed for the protection of private rights and interests, he never could bring himself to believe that either House of Parliament could have intended to make themselves so completely the slaves of those Standing Orders as to exclude from consideration the various inducements of public advantage which might conspire to render it desirable and expedient that those orders should occasionally be set aside. It was not easy to draw with critical accuracy the precise line of demarcation which separated Public from Private Bills. The attempt to draw that line had been frequently made; but he was persuaded that an accurate examination of the various measures which were passed by the Legislature from year to year would go to prove that in one-half of the Bills which were styled public, private interests were involved, and that at least one-half of the Private Bills affected the interests of the public also in a minor or greater degree. It was clear, therefore, that it was by the precise proportion or degree in which one character preponderated over the other, that their Lordships must be determined in applying one rule of action, or the opposite rule, to any measure that might be brought under their consideration. The present measure might not, technically speaking, be a Public Bill; but surely it would not be denied that in effect and substance it was pre-eminently entitled to that designation. If ever there was a Bill which deserved to be regarded and treated as a Public Bill, it was this, the object of which was to regulate the supply of animal food for the inhabitants of this great capital—and to provide that that supply should be of the very best and purest quality. So pre-eminently was this considered to be a public question, that all the Governments of Europe had felt themselves justified, with a view to the protection of society, in taking the management of it into their own hands. The best means of supplying good, cheap, and wholesome food to the inhabitants of this great metropolis never could be considered as a matter of private interest; and therefore it became the Government, watching over the public interest, to provide that every one in this huge metropolis should have the means of obtaining meat in its best state and in the most effectual manner. The noble Lord who had introduced this Motion, had directed their Lordships' attention to the fact, that in the case of the Bills relating to the Colonnade in Regent-street, and the Park at Battersea, private interests were held by the Legislature to be subservient to public interests; and surely it would not be denied that the objects which the Colonnade Bill and the Battersea Park Bill contemplated to effect for the public, sank into insignificance when compared with the great public object which it was intended, not without notice, not without inquiry, to achieve by the present Bill. It was idle to maintain that any party had been taken by surprise in this matter. The Bill had been discussed at numerous public meetings, and in the columns of every newspaper in the country. An active agitation had been got up on the subject, both in town and country, and nothing was left undone to acquaint every man, woman, and child, in the kingdom of what was intended to be done with regard to it, and of the reasons why such things were intended. Under all the circumstances of the case, he should feel himself obliged to vote in favour of the Motion, and he trusted their Lordships would pursue a similar course. He admitted that it was only for grave considerations that the Standing Orders ought to be departed from; but he hoped that their Lordships would agree with him in thinking that public opinion and public good ought not to be sacrificed to points of technical form. If the day should ever come when there was the same necessity for removing Co-vent-garden market as there now was for removing Smithfield market, he should be among the first to assent to a similar Motion under similar circumstances, just as he knew that his noble Friend the Duke of Bedford would be the first, and not the last, to assent to the removal of such a nuisance.


was sorry that he felt himself bound in common justice to vote in favour of his noble Friend's (Lord Redesdale's) view of the question—for he had a perfect horror of Smithfield market—it was injurious to the public, aye, and it was injurious to the agricultural interest, inasmuch as it was not large enough to contain the beasts which they sent to it, and which were thus damaged and deteriorated in value. He viewed the question with reference to the Standing Orders, which ought either to be adhered to or abolished. He wanted, however, to know why Government had not given notice to the Corporation in time, and why it was in such a hurry to proceed with this Bill, when it could introduce another regularly within six months' time? Let the Bill be thrown out now, let due notices be given, let another Bill be brought in next Session, and then he (the Duke of Richmond) would vote for it. His noble Friend opposite had produced some precedents for his Motion; but his noble Friend had not told them that the Acts which he had referred to as precedents had ever been referred to the Standing Orders Committee, or that that Committee had reported upon them at all. Now, who were the members of that Committee? Peers of the highest character, chosen from both sides of the House, to see that private interests were adequately protected. He had attended many meetings of that Committee, and unless their Lordships backed it with their support, instead of overthrowing its decisions, that Committee would be rendered worthless, and he doubted whether they would be able to obtain Peers to attend upon it. He repeated that Smithfield market was at present an inconvenience and an injury to the country—he had a downright horror of it—but he could not get rid of the regard which he thought due to private property.


felt very grateful to the noble Duke for the admission which he had made as to the merits of this Bill, and for his acknowledgment of the very great evil which it was intended to remove. He (Earl Granville) would not enter at present into the merits of the Bill, but would confine himself strictly to the question on the Standing Orders. He agreed with the noble Marquess, that in ordinary cases it was important that the Standing Orders should be complied with. But there was a great difference between a Bill of this magnitude and importance and a Private Bill of the ordinary character. When a Public Bill was introduced in the other House of Parliament, if on the face of it any of its provisions affected the rights and interests of any individual or of any corporate body, it was referred at once to the Standing Orders Committee, to see what injury would be done to the rights and interests of that individual, or of that corporation. Then the Standing Orders Committee considered whether the parties would be put to more inconvenience by its being introduced as a Public or a Private Bill. If the interested parties were put to more inconvenience by its being introduced as a Private Bill, then, if the due notices were not given, as in a Private Bill, the proceeding ceased; but, if not, then the Committee considered whether they would be placed in the same favourable situation as if it had been introduced as a Private Bill. In this case the Committee of the House of Commons found that no injustice would be done to the Corporation of the city of London by introducing this Bill as a Public Bill; but on one particular point it ordered a notice to be given to the Corporation in the course of March last. The noble Earl then proceeded to examine the question whether any injustice had been done to the Corporation by the course now pursued; and, after some reference to the evidence given before the Committee in the House of Commons by one of the Corporation officers, concluded that no injustice had been committed. When they recollected the notice which the Corporation received from the Secretary of State in July last, and when they also recollected the publicity which had been given to the subject by the Committees which had been appointed, and by the inquiries which had been instituted, he thought it quite absurd to contend that any injustice had been inflicted on the Corporation in consequence of the notices not having been given, which, it was said, the Standing Orders required. He was of opinion that, if the House did not agree to the course proposed by his noble Friend (Lord Beaumont), it would bring its Standing Orders into disrepute, and would not increase the respect now paid to the House itself.


said, that the Motion of Lord Beaumont, if carried, would deprive the Corporation of London of a boon conferred upon it by ancient charter. If their Lordships should adopt that Motion, the conclusions of the Standing Orders Committee would in every instance be called into dispute.


said, the noble Lord the Chairman of the Committee appeared to think that, if his (Lord Beaumont's) Motion were carried, it would do away with or slight the Report of the Standing Orders Committee. Now he differed with the noble Lord upon that point. The Standing Orders Committee could not have reported otherwise than they did. The evidence before them was such, that they could not come to any other decision than that the Standing Orders had not been complied with. But the Standing Orders Committee was a Committee to investigate and report upon facts. They had in this case investigated the facts, and found that the Standing Orders had not been complied with; and they had reported the result of their investigations. But it was for their Lordships to decide whether they would enforce the Standing Orders or not; to say whether they would bind themselves down to be the slaves of the Standing Orders Committee. It depended with the House whether the question of the Standing Orders should be raised. This was not a question with respect to what injury would be inflicted by the Bill. The question really was, whether the parties had notice or no, and he (Lord Beaumont) maintained that they had.


thought the noble Lord who had just sat down, had not at all satisfactorily described the duties of the Standing Orders Committee. It was not correct to say that that Committee had delegated to it only the right to inquire into facts. It was the everyday practice of the House that the Standing Orders Committee, having ascertained the fact that either the whole or a portion of the Standing Orders had not been complied with, recommended that they should be dispensed with, to a certain extent, and that the Bill should be proceeded with. On the other hand, they had necessarily the power, if they were of opinion that the justice of the case demanded it, to offer an opinion that the Bill should not be proceeded with. They had to exercise a discretion with respect to the preservation of the rights of the public. The adoption of the suggestion of the Committee would not delay the Bill more than six months. The question then was, whether the Bill was of that importance in its character and detail as to call for the suspension of the Standing Orders, in order to have it passed this year. Having looked at the provisions of the Bill, he must say that he could not see that it was calculated to effect that public good which would alone justify the House in suspending the Standing Orders; and he thought no harm would result from having its consideration postponed to the early part of the next Session.


observed, that, in voting for the Motion of Lord Beaumont, he merely voted on the point of the propriety of dispensing with the Standing Orders. All those noble Lords who were opposed to the removal of Smithfield market—and he confessed that he was strongly in favour of its removal—would have an opportunity of stating their opinions hereafter, and would not be precluded from opposing this Bill by any vote they might give now. He had originally been of opinion that this Bill should have been treated as a Private Bill, and that the Standing Orders as to notices ought to have been complied with. But, on more mature reflection, he had had more than doubts of the correctness of his conclusion. This market of Smithfield was impeachable, or rather indictable, as a public nuisance. It might, he repeated, be so proceeded against. He repeated that he thought that Smithfield market was a public nuisance, and that the rights of the Corporation were endangered by continuing such a nuisance. It was a nuisance as a market, and it was a still greater nuisance on account of the dangers which environed the public in its avenues and approaches. By the course proposed by his noble Friend opposite, those who opposed this Bill were not shut out from opposing it; the Corporation was not shut out from defending this nuisance. It might still resist the general cry for improvement, and might still maintain its right to stand by its ancient nuisance. It was not true that the House of Commons had treated this as a Private Bill. It was, therefore, for their Lordships to consider whether they would treat it as such. If, however, he were asked, "Supposing it to be a Private Bill, will you suspend the standing orders?" he had no hesitation in saying that he would, and give his support to Lord Beaumont's Motion.


observed, that it was the duty of the Committee under the Standing Orders to state their opinion, and to report it to the House, on the question whether those orders had been complied with, and whether, if not, the Bill should be proceeded with. In this case the Committee had reported in the negative on both these questions. If this Motion were carried, it would be the first instance in which the Report of the Standing Orders Committee had been disregarded and set aside; and it would open a door to injustice, which they would have great difficulty in closing hereafter.

On Question, their Lordships divided:—Content 76; Not Content 22: Majority 54.

List of the CONTENTS.
Archbishop of Canterbury Wicklow
DUKES. Zetland
Cambridge VISCOUNTS.
Grafton Canning
Norfolk Strangford
Anglesey BISHOPS.
Breadalbane Cork
Donegal Durham
Headfort Hereford
Lansdowne Lichfield
Normanby London
Westminster Rochester
EARLS. St. Asaph
Bessborough Salisbury
Charlemont Alvanley
Chichester Ashburton
Craven Beaumont
Effingham Belhaven
Ellesmere Brougham
Fingall Broughton
Fortescue Carington
Fitzhardinge Colborne
Galloway Carnworth
Granville Dinorben
Grey Dufferin
Harrowby Elphinstone
Ilchester Feversham
Leitrim Foley
Minto Kinnaird
Morley Leigh
Morton Manners
Roden Overstone
St. Germans Petre
Shaftesbury Sudeley
Strafford Vivian
Suffolk Wodehouse
Waldegrave Willoughby

Resolved in the Affirmative; and Bill to be read 2a on Monday next.

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