HL Deb 29 June 1858 vol 151 cc586-9

THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE moved 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. The noble Earl said the objection to the scheme was the mode in which the promoters proposed to cross the river near the new bridge at Chelsea; and as the First Commissioner of Public Works was deeply interested in that bridge it was only right that he should have leave to appear by counsel before the Committee; and the Committee would then report whether his objections were well founded or not. It was quite true that his noble Friend the First Commissioner had the power of refusing his assent to the Bill, but he did not wish to exercise his power arbitrarily.


said, that the First Commissioner on the present occasion stood in the position of a private proprietor or company, and the Motion now made being quite exceptional, be thought it ought not to be agreed to. The plans of the company had been approved of by the late First Commissioner. The effect of adopting the Motion of the noble Lord would be to postpone the Bill for the present Session. The object of the Bill was the construction of a terminus for all the railways on this side of the Thames. The assent of a great variety of persons bad to be obtained to the project, and if the Bill were postponed there might be some difficulty in getting the assent of the various parties interested again, and the public might thus be deprived of the advantage of an excellent scheme.


thought it was a case in which the Government were clearly bound to interfere, and in which the First Commissioner ought to be heard before the Committee. If their Lordships refused to allow the First Commissioner an opportunity of being heard on the subject, the result would probably be that the First Commissioner would probably advise the Crown not to assent to the Bill.


said, it was desirable that the House should guard against acting under false pretences; it ought, he thought, to be distinctly understood whether the property alleged to be affected stood in the position of having the protection of the Crown thrown over it. On the whole, he thought it would be better that the Motion should be agreed to.


said, that the Bill had passed the other House without any interference from the Board of Works; now a different course was to be taken, for no other reason than that there had been a change of Govern- ment. Three important railway companies were interested in the success of the Bill, and yet the Government threatened them with the veto of the Crown if they were not heard in Committee against the Bill. That was a most unconstitutional course. The late First Commissioner (Sir B. Hall) had given his consent to the measure in the early part of the year; now a new First Commissioner having been appointed, and being influenced by some one connected with Battersea Park, He had come down to ask their Lordships to deviate from their usual course.


said, that if the First Commissioner was refused a hearing on the Bill, the Government would be disposed to recommend that the Royal Assent should be withheld. The word "veto" was not the proper term to apply to the case. The late First Commissioner had not seen the plans, the present First Commissioner had, and he was of opinion that the expenditure on Chelsea Bridge would be thrown away if that plan was not modified. His noble Friend did not refuse his assent, but he asked that be might be beard.


said, that no sufficient reasons had been shown to induce their Lordships to depart from their usual rule. All the circumstances were known to the late First Commissioner (Sir B. Hall), than whom no man in the office of First Commissioner had conferred greater benefit on the public. The companies promoting this Bill had incurred enormous expense; and if the Bill were now defeated, it was probable the public would be permanently deprived of the advantage which it would afford.


said, if the Government was determined to refuse the consent of the Crown, which must be given to the Bill at some stage, there was an end of the question.


said, he was only anxious to ascertain What was the relation of the Crown to the property in question.


said, that the late Chief Commissioner had been informed that he might petition, if be thought proper; but he had not thought it necessary to do so. The case now made against the Bill was the most frivolous that could be imagined.


said, that the land of Battersea Park had been bought by a grant of public money, and was vested in some form or other in the Board of Works.


was understood to deny this, and to say that the assent of the Crown was not necessary to the progress of the Bill.

After some further conversation on the question whether the property was Crown property or not,


said, his attention had not been called to this question, which he thought was a very important one, and one on which it was very necessary that their Lordships should have some opinion. He would suggest, therefore, the propriety of adjourning the further consideration of the subject to give time for ascertaining what were the rights of the Crown in the matter; as they could have no other wish but to proceed in the regular order.


said, he had no objection to the adjournment of the debate, and he wished to take that opportunity of saying that the Board of Works had never given their assent to this scheme. The facts of the case were that the project was mentioned to the late First Commissioner of Works, who gave a general assent to the scheme, but desired to see the plans. He never did see them, however, for he went out of office before they were sent in; and they accordingly fell into the hands of his noble Friend the present Commissioner, who, as soon as he saw the plans, made that objection which was now under their Lordships' consideration.

Further debate adjourned to Thursday next.