§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(Lord Stanley of Alderley.)
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
presented a Petition of Charles Hay Frewen, Esq., a landowner in the neighbourhood of Hastings, praying to be heard by counsel against the Bill. He (Lord Chelmsford) regarded the Provisional Order to which the Bill referred as so objectionable that be should have opposed the second reading had not the proper course been pointed out by 254 Parliament. The 77th section of the Local Government Act provided that in case of any petition being presented to either House of Parliament against any Provisional Order, the Bill must be referred to a Select Committee, and the petitioner be allowed to appear by counsel and oppose it, as in the case of a Private Bill. This Provisional Order proposed to take compulsorily the land of Mr. Frewen, the petitioner, for the purpose of widening and improving a certain lane at Hastings. There were two formidable objections to this—one in point of policy, the other in point of law. Local Boards had large powers entrusted to them, which were peculiarly liable to abuse; and it was because he believed these powers had not been properly applied in the present instance that be wished to explain the circumstances before the Bill went to a Committee. The Provisional Order had been made at the instigation of a Mr. Pope, who had no property within the district, but who was the owner of a tract of building land outside it. Mr. Pope applied to the Local Board, and told them that if they would make an order to widen and improve this land, he would pay the whole of the purchase money of the land required and legal costs, and contribute £100 towards the improvement. Without doubt these powers were not entrusted to Local Boards for the benefit of individuals, although individuals might incidentally be benefited, but for the advantage of the inhabitants generally; and it was therefore against public policy that an Act like this for the benefit of a private individual should be passed. Then as to the legal objection. He contended that all the Local Government Act incorporated the Public Health (1848) Act, which required that land to be taken for improvements should be taken by agreement, and by agreement only, and not compulsorily, as in this case. It might be said that several Provisional Orders before this had been sanctioned; but if so he could only say he was sorry for it, as they were perfectly illegal, though if the parties were agreed no great harm might be done. It had been stated that the Court of Queen's Bench had decided against Mr. Frewen, but that was altogether a mistake. An application was made for a writ of certiorari to remove the order into the Court of Queen's Bench for the purpose of its being quashed. When the rule came to be argued, it was held that 255 the Provisional Order was of no value till it had been confirmed by an Act of Parliament; and as it might never receive that confirmation, the Court, therefore, had no power then to consider the matter.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
could only say, in answer, that it was a mistake to suppose that the object of this Provisional Order was to benefit a particular individual. This Provisional Order proceeded from the body entrusted with the local management of the town, and if they recommended the improvement the inference was that it was for the accommodation of the public. In fact, the action in this matter had been taken at the instance of the ratepayers of the district, and the widening of the lane in question was regarded as a great public improvement. With regard to the legal point raised, he did not feel competent to dispute the position laid down by the noble and learned Lord. He could only say this, that during the last five Sessions of Parliament not fewer than twenty-five Acts had passed on the supposition of powers being possessed by local improvement bodies to take lands compulsorily for widening and improving streets. It was quite true that in the original Act for the improvement of towns no compulsory powers were given; but it was contended, whether rightly or wrongly he did not know, that these compulsory powers were incidentally transferred to them by the Act of 1858, which incorporated the Lands Clauses Act. He quite agreed that the noble and learned Lord had done right in calling attention to this case.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
made an observation on the question of law which was inaudible.
§ THE DUKE OF CLEVELAND
said, there was a great desire at Hastings that this useful project should be carried out. The lane or road which it was sought to widen led from the town to the country, and was at present much too narrow for the traffic.
§ LORD REDESDALE
thought that the question of law involved in the Bill should not be left to the decision of a Select Committee. If this were a case in which one person was seeking to obtain rights over the property of another for his own advantage the House should refuse its sanction to the projected improvement.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly and committed; the Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.