§ Order for further Debate on the Motion, That the First Commissioner of Public Works have Leave to appear by Counsel against the same before the Select Committee on the said Bill; and that certain Documents be referred to the said Committee (which stands appointed for this Day).
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he had had an opportunity since their Lordships last met of looking into this question, and he had come to the conclusion, without any doubt at all, that there was no necessity to have the consent of the Crown to the progress of this Bill. It appeared that 692 when the Act for the establishment of Battersea Park was passed in the 9th and 10th of the Queen, there was inserted in it an enactment that the land should be conveyed to Her Majesty, and that it should be part of the hereditary revenues of the Crown. If that enactment had remained unaltered, of course there would be a necessity for the interference of the Crown in this case; but the enactment had been repealed, and the land was now vested in the Board of Works as a corporation under the title of "the Commissioners for Battersea Park." The same state of things existed with regard to the Thames Embankment. When the embankment of the river was complete, the soil of the road was vested in the Commissioner of Works, and when streets were formed the lighting and paving was entrusted to the boards of the various parishes through which they passed. Therefore the Commissioners were the trustees for the public, and were bound to take care of their rights; and if any question arose as to those rights, the Commissioners might appear by counsel either in opposition to the Bill or for the purpose of introducing protective clauses into it. The late First Commissioner of Works (Sir B. Hall) had given his sanction to this measure, or, at all events, said that he had no objection to it; and his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cranworth) had said that it would be contrary to good faith if, after consent had been given by the late First Commissioner, this Bill were opposed on behalf of the public by the present First Commissioner. But that opinion must be considered as requiring a little qualification. If the late First Commissioner had given his consent to this Bill inadvertently, or under a misapprehension of the facts, without having seen the plans; or if his noble Friend the present First Commissioner was of opinion that the interests of the public were being interfered with, he was not only entitled, but he was bound to interfere, and not to ratify the sanction he had given under a different state of things. The noble Lord had since said that he must introduce some further clauses into the measure. In the ordinary course, for this purpose, he should present a petition by counsel against the Bill; but there being a doubt as to how he should interfere, inasmuch as the Standing Orders of the House prevented such a petition from being presented; and, as his noble and learned Friend would agree, some opportunity of appearing ought to be permitted him, he 693 (the Lord Chancellor) proposed to move, to-morrow, that the Standing Order be dispensed with, in order that the Chief Commissioner of Works might be enabled to appear before the Select Committee.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
said, it clearly appeared that in this case the assent of the Crown was not necessary; but he thought their Lordships ought to pause before they did anything for a First Commissioner of Works which they would not do for a private individual. He thought it would be a breach of faith not to adhere to the assent given to the scheme by the late First Commissioner. A change of Government ought not to make any difference.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
read a letter from Sir Benjamin Hall, correcting the statement which had been made by more than one noble Lord, that he had never seen the plans, and was, therefore, not qualified to assent to the scheme. Sir Benjamin Hall had seen the plans, and was so satisfied with them that he abstained from presenting a petition to be heard by council against the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said, the authority on which he stated that Sir Benjamin Hall had never seen the plans was the copy of a letter to the present Chief Commissioner of Works, in which Sir Benjamin Hall himself stated that he had not seen the plans.
§ After a few words from Lord CAMPBELL,
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said, he would adopt the suggestion of the Lord Chancellor, and now give notice that tomorrow he would move the suspension of the Standing Order. He would now ask that the further consideration of the Bill should be postponed.
§ Order discharged.
§ Standing Order, No. 179, sec. 1, to be considered To-morrow, in order to its being dispensed with.