THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE moved—
That Standing Order, No. 179, sec. 1, directing that no Petition praying to be heard upon the merits against any Private Bill shall be received by this House, unless the same be presented on or before the second sitting-day after such Bill shall have been reported from the Standing Order Committee be considered, in order to its being dispensed with upon the petition of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Works and Public Buildings, praying 'to be heard against The Victoria Station and Pimlico Railway Bill.'"
The noble Earl read an extract of a letter from Sir Benjamin Hall, stating that his successor was not bound by anything he (Sir Benjamin Hall) had done in the matter. As to the propriety of waiving the Standing Order, there was no instance, he believed, in which the head of a public Department had ever petitioned Parliament before; and before the present First Commissioner became aware that he might take that step the time had passed. Under these circumstances he hoped the House would agree to the Motion.
§ EARL GREY
said, that before consenting to suspend the Standing Order, they ought to understand that there was a clear case made out for doing so. He was not able to concur with the noble Earl opposite as to the propriety of such a course in the present case. The Chief Commissioner of Works had no right in this instance to act as representing the Crown, and he was merely to be regarded as the head of a corporation, which had for one of its duties the management of Battersea and Chelsea Bridge. That Corporation was to be treated just as individuals were. The fact that the head of the corporation had been changed made no difference whatever, and what had been done by a previous head was binding on his successor. The letter of Sir Benjamin Hall, therefore, put an end to the case. He would only add, that no grounds of public interest had been shown for suspending the Standing Order, for the case which had been made out was a most trumpery one.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR ,
while agreeing that it was most important to adhere to the Standing Orders, said that the question was, whether this was not a case in which this Standing Order should 798 be suspended. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) said that this corporation was the same as other corporations, and that a change of head made no difference. But there was a great difference in the character of the corporation. This was a corporation instituted not for private purposes, but for the public benefit. He thought, indeed, that there was nothing to have prevented the late First Commissioner of Works from receding from his consent to the Bill, and presenting a petition against it on behalf of the Crown. But even if he had given such a consent as to preclude him from doing so, was that to bind his successor? On the contrary, he (the Lord Chancellor) thought that, if his successor looked upon the Bill as prejudicial to the public interests, it was his bounden duty to appear and protect these interests.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
thought they ought to consider not only what was just in this particular case, but also how the general practice would be affected. He did not go so far as to say that the decision of the First Commissioner of Works on a point of this sort was to bind his successor; for if a case of great hardship on the part of the public were made out, no doubt the Standing Order ought not to be allowed to interfere. But no strong case had been made out, and in the absence of that he thought that they ought to adhere to their usual mode of proceeding.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, that it was not at all unusual for the Standing Order to be suspended in favour of petitions which had been accidentally delayed beyond the time. The extraordinary position in which the park and bridge were placed of itself justified a suspension of the Standing Order.
THE EARL OF WICKLOW
thought it was a monstrous thing to suspend the Standing Orders in a case of this kind, when it was well known that the Board of Works, under the late Commissioner, had no intention of offering any opposition to the Bill. He trusted their Lordships would have regard to the interests of the public and to the interests of those companies which had, at a great expense and with vast trouble, endeavoured to find accommodation for the public.
§ On Question, That the said Section of the said Standing Order be dispensed with on the said Petition?
§ Their Lordships then divided:—Contents 63; Not-Contents 48: Majority 15.
§ Resolved in the affirmative.