HL Deb 19 April 1866 vol 182 cc1640-2

had to present petitions referring to a very important subject—the Railway Bills affecting the City of London during the present Session. The first of these petitions was one from Merchants, Traders, and Inhabitants of the Ward of Billingsgate, against allowing any Bills introduced by any Railway Company whose line is proposed to enter the City of London to pass into law; and contained some general statements as to the inconvenience and hardship arising from the construction of railways in the metropolis. He believed no one could doubt that the construction of those railways did cause very great inconvenience, and no one could deny that it was attended with considerable hardship to the working classes. To a certain extent this was inevitable in the formation of any new railway, and on this ground alone it would not be right to interfere with a scheme which was otherwise beneficial. The second petition was from the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Commoners of the City of London, and prayed that all Bills affecting the City of London may be referred to the same Committee, and made subject to the general laws relating to railways. The statements made in this petition were of a more specific character. It alleged that the Bills now being promoted in Parliament would monopolize a very large acreage in the City—not less than twenty-six acres in the very heart of the metropolis. Their Lordships might perhaps have seen a paragraph in The Times stating that in the immediate vicinity of St. Paul's Churchyard property had been sold at the rate of £1,000,000 an acre. Now, though we could not think that these twenty-six acres would be worth £26,000,000, it was certain that the land required by railways in the City was of enormous value. The petitioners expressed a hope that means might be found of prescribing certain limits as to the quantity of work to be constructed at one time, so as to mitigate the inconvenience resulting from having portions of the City blocked up. Some time ago he brought under the notice of their Lordships the fact that in some of the Railway Bills now being promoted the promoters sought for very remarkable powers, and powers quite inconsistent with public statutes. The petition of the corporation of London referred to some of those Bills. The petitioners complained that one Company proposed to enter on house property without purchase, and also sought for powers to use part of a house without taking the rest of it. Such powers would be in contravention of the provisions of the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act. Another Company proposed to make use of the vaults and cellars of houses without purchasing the houses themselves; and another Company required a clause providing that no owner or occupier of a house should be entitled to compensation for any mischief done to it in consequence of the railway running underneath. This again would be contrary to the provisions of the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act. He would suggest to their Lordships that some general rule should be laid down for these cases, and that provisions overriding statutory enactments should not be permitted in Bills promoted by railway companies. He thought it would be very desirable to reduce so important a matter to a general rule. The petition of the corporation prayed that the Bills for metropolitan railways should all be referred to one Committee. He himself thought it would be advisable to adhere to the recommendation of the Select Committee of 1864 on metropolitan railways, and, as far as possible, to refer all those Bills to one Committee. He was told that this year the number was so considerable it would be impossible to send them to one Committee. If that were so, the next best thing would be to refer such of those Bills as had any connection with each other to the same Committee.


said, that no doubt very important and peculiar considerations arose in connection with Bills for railways in the metropolis; but he did not think the Committee of 1864, to which the noble Earl alluded, had any reference to the points submitted in the petitions which the noble Earl had brought under their Lordships' notice. The recommendations of that Committee were directed to the general effect of all railways running through London, and not to the details of particular Bills. Having regard to the number of metropolitan Bills promoted this year, and to the period of the Session, he did not think it would be possible to have all those Bills referred to one Committee. No doubt there were very peculiar clauses in some of them, most of the clauses having for their object to lessen the cost of construction. This was an important consideration; but Parliament could not allow an injurious and unfair interference with property merely for the purpose of reducing the cost of a construction to the promoters of the line. He must say he had not found any disposition on the part of the Committees to which such Bills were referred not to pay due attention to the details; and he trusted this would continue to be the case. With regard to the domolition of property, it was consequent on the introduction of railways into the metropolis; and though the construction of those railways would impede the traffic of the streets for a time, they might have the effect ultimately of very much relieving that traffic. He did not think the poor would suffer to the extent that was generally supposed; because, if the value of land in the City was so great, it was obviously impossible to suppose that as the old houses fell into decay they would be reinstated as dwellings for the labouring classes. No doubt, great numbers of bad and offensive buildings were being removed. Much good must ultimately result from that circumstance; and, in the meantime, the City must adapt itself to the change. The first inconvenience to which parties were now subjected was, doubtless, severe. At the same time, the change was so intimately connected with the work itself, that, however much to be regretted, he did not see how it was to be avoided.

Petitions to lie on the table.

House adjourned at a quarter past Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.