HL Deb 27 February 1873 vol 214 cc1012-24

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, there was one thing which gave him confidence in performing the task assigned to him, and it was that, except under very extraordinary circumstances, their Lordships' House never refused a second reading to a Private Bill. Far be it from him to say that it was not quite within their Lordships' province to stop the further progress of any Bill at any stage; but he did hope that when a body of men, associated to serve a useful purpose towards a large population, came before their Lordships' House with a project of public utility, and asked for an inquiry into that project, such inquiry would not be refused, but that they would be allowed to bring their case before a Committee, when it could be fully examined and thoroughly discussed. He did not intend to go into the merits of the Chelsea Water scheme, because that was not the question before their Lordships—they were not asked to say it was one which Parliament ought to adopt in its present shape, all they were asked to do was to treat it as they did other Private Bills—to let it go before a Select Committee, which could examine the plans and hear the argu- ments of counsel and the evidence of witnesses. He begged leave to say that the matter cold not be properly examined by such an assembly as their Lordships' House. He was quite aware that in the minds of some parties there were strong objections to the Bill; but he ventured to think that a strong prejudice against it had been created by statements which had no foundation in fact. It had been alleged by the Lord Mayor at a public meeting that if the scheme were carried out "the finest pleasure-ground of all England" would be destroyed; but, as a matter of fact, the ground to be occupied, if the Bill was passed, was a flat meadow, and the only destruction would be the destruction of a marsh. Again, it was asserted that it was proposed to build opposite to the Gardens of Hampton Court Palace a river wall a mile in length, while the fact was that it would be only 930 yards long. Again, it was said that the wall was to be on the bank of the river, whereas the nearest point of the reservoir would be 30 yards from the river, so that the river bank would be wholly untouched, and there would be space for planting trees between the river wall and the reservoir. These statements could not be proved before their Lordships on the Motion for the second reading, and therefore it would be very hard that the Company, who were seeking to give a large district the benefit of good water, should be prevented from being heard and advancing evidence in support of their scheme. And what was the case of the Company? As their Lordships knew, it was the duty of the Company to provide the best water they could obtain for a large number of parishes, with which most of their Lordships were acquainted. Supposing this to be a proper attempt to supply the great mass of population in the district with good water, was it right to refuse the promoters a hearing? The Government employed as an Inspector of Water one of the most eminent and experienced persons in these matters. He had frequently reported that certain conditions were essential to a supply of pure water; and the Company had been told by one of the first water engineers in the kingdom that the scheme proposed in the Bill was the best that could be devised for the purpose in view; and before fixing on the present site they had taken the opinion of the most experienced persons, who all reported that it was most admirably adapted to the purpose. If carried into effect, it would not give a single additional sixpence of dividend to the shareholders. The outlay of £150,000 would not give them any advantage, but it would benefit those who drank the water. By means of an inquiry before a Committee, the Company would be able to ascertain whether any better scheme could be prepared. It should be stated that the persons holding appointments under the Government had joined in recommending the Company to promote this Bill. As he had said, the ground to be taken was not in the least ornamental; the plan would not affect residential property in any way; and the Thames bank would be untouched. He therefore trusted that their Lordships would permit the Bill to be read a second time, and send it, in the ordinary way, to a Select Committee.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a." —(The Lord Fitzwalter).


said, that in the absence of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns) who had given notice to move as an Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, he had himself undertaken to do so. His noble Friend who moved the second reading (Lord Fitzwaiter) had devoted a considerable portion of his speech to a vindication of the purity of the motives that had actuated the directors of the Company; but his noble Friend's efforts in that line had been wholly superfluous. No one desired to cast any reflection on the directors of the Company. No doubt they had endeavoured to do their duty to their shareholders, with the best of their ability, and in accordance with the obligations cast on them; but that House had a duty as well as the directors of the Company—it was their Lordships' duty if not theirs to look after the public interests in this matter. He had the deposited plans before him; and there could be no doubt what the facts were. The noble Lord said that the proposed wall was at a considerable distance from the edge of the river; but, looking at the plan, he found that the wall was positively in the river.


That was the first plan; there was au amended plan.


said, he believed he was looking at the last edition. Of course, what the Company might be prepared to do under pressure was quite another thing. It was not an unusual thing for promoters to apply to Parliament for large powers, but to intimate that they did so as a matter of form, and without any intention of acting upon them. This course was somewhat analogous to that pursued by those obliging persons who offered young gentlemen money and only required in return their signature to a bit of paper, which they assured them meant nothing. But if they once got the piece of paper they would act on it. And he thought their Lordships would attach about the same value to the professions of promoters given under such circumstances, and might suspect that if they once got the power they were likely to act upon it. The reservoirs and wall proposed by the Company were to be opposite to the Pavilion Terrace, in the grounds of Hampton Court. For a length of some thousand yards an erection was to be built—it might be a bank or it might be a wall, but according to all precedent it would be a wall. They proposed that it should be 22 feet high, but might be 27 feet high, and was to extend opposite the whole length of the Pavilion Terrace. The noble Lord had spoken somewhat slightingly of the land upon which this erection was proposed to be made. It was not possible to exhibit in the House a photograph of the spot; but the country must be in the recollection of most of their Lordships; and so far from being an ugly marsh it was a bank very beautifully wooded, and added not a little to the remarkable attractions of one of the few places on the Thames left in their natural beauty for the enjoyment of those who sought the banks of the river for pleasure and recreation. Now, if the Park at Hampton Court were the property of any of their Lordships—what would they do in such a case? Here was a park of singularly natural beauty, and all the more endeared to the possessors because it had been such a park for many hundred years. Suppose a water company proposed to build opposite to it a wall 27 feet high, which would cut off half the river from that proprietor and extend for a length of about half a mile in front of the principal features in his park—would not the proprietor say that such an erection would make his place uninhabitable, and would he not ask that or the other House of Parliament to prevent such an injury? But if he were unable to prevail on Parliament to put an end to such a scheme, a private proprietor whom it was proposed to injure in such a way would have the ordinary law of the country to appeal to. He would get compensation, and he would also have an an opportunity of arguing his case before a Parliamentary Committee. But the Public at large were the virtual possessors of the Park at Hampton Court. They resorted to it in thousands for recreation and amusement. Now it was proposed to take from the Public the enjoyment they had hitherto had of their Park; but it would be impossible to compensate the Public as a private proprietor might be compensated, for the simple reason the rules of Parliament did not allow of the Public being heard before a Parliamentary Committee in such a case. That, then, was his justification for asking their Lordships to reject this Bill on the second reading. He agreed with what had been said as to the inexpediency of throwing out Private Bills on the second reading as a rule. On each Bill there were generally two contending parties, whose differences could best be adjusted before a Select Committee; but in this case the Public could not be heard before a Committee at all—in point of fact the Committee would hear nothing but the grievances of private individuals and the case for the promoters, and all that the Public would suffer would be absolutely shut out from their consideration. If there were any difficulty in supplying a portion of the metropolis with water, except by means of this scheme, the case would be different; but it was only a matter of the slenderest economy that had induced the Company to fix upon this particular spot. There was no reason why they should not fix on a site for their reservoirs higher up, like the other Companies. He held a letter from Mr. Hawksley, the eminent engineer, who indicated another spot; and as he imagined there was no difficulty on this point, he did not think that those who opposed the second reading were open to the charge of trying to prevent the Company from obtaining a supply of water. There was one other objection which had been suggested to him by a distinguished authority. It was that a high wall running for a length of half a mile along that part of the Thames would considerably increase the risk of fatal accidents to not always experienced oarsmen, who, when their boats now capsized, swam to the bank and were able to get on land. It did not require the gift of prophecy to see that such a wall would much increase the risk run by such persons. For all these reasons he hoped their Lordships would not be induced to give the Bill a second reading.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and insert ("this day six months.")—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


said, he was desirous of saying a few words before their Lordships went to a division. He did not feel competent to give an opinion on the merits of the Bill, and he thought he was not going too far in saying that there were a great many of their Lordships quite as incompetent in that respect as He was. But the preliminary proceedings with regard to this Bill reminded him very much of what used to go on in the House of Commons when he first knew it. At the time to which he referred there was canvassing on both sides in the case of every Private Bill. Now, in this instance lie, and no doubt all of their Lordships, had been canvassed on both sides, and had been furnished with two sets of papers—one by the promoters and the other by the opponents of this Water Bill. The promoters said the object they had in view was one o a great sanitary character; they were desirous to supply a portion of the metropolis with pure water, and they asked that their project should not be rejected till they had an opportunity of laying its merits before a Select Committee. That was the course taken by them. On the other hand, the opponents of the Bill said the scheme was one to destroy one of the most beautiful places on the banks of the Thames, and that if it were adopted it would interfere with the enjoyment o that place by the thousands who at present resorted to it. Now, he was not in a position to say what was the fact and what was not the fact in this case. That was the first point to be ascertained; and he believed the only way in which their Lordships could ascertain it was by means of a Select Committee. But the noble Marquess who moved the rejection of the Bill (the Marquess of Salisbury) argued that the Public would not have the advantage which would be possessed by a private proprietor if Hampton Court were his park. He thought the noble Marquess was mistaken. He did not think the private owner of a park on the side of the river opposite to that on which the wall was proposed to be erected would have any locus standi before a Select Committee of either that House or the House of Commons. While the noble Marquess argued that those works would destroy the scenery on that part of the Thames, the promoters stated that they were ready to agree that the wall would be so far back that trees might be planted on the bank of the river, and that the reservoirs, so far from being a disfigurement, would positively prevent the destruction of the picturesque appearance of the bank by the erection of any edifices along the edge of the river. He gave no opinion of his own as to these allegations, or as to what was said about half of the river being taken away in front of Hampton Court. What he wished to urge was that it was not desirable their Lordships should come down in unusual crowds to vote on a Bill like It ought to be allowed to take its chance in the usual way before a Select Committee. He thought public attention was sufficiently directed to the matter to prevent all danger of the Bill being passed ultimately if it was not desirable. If the Select Committee came down and said—"There are certain facts proved to our satisfaction, but there are other facts which ought to have their influence, though, in accordance with the Rules of the House, we were precluded from going into them"—in such a case as that it would be for their Lordships' House to strike the balance; but he did hope that some others would join him in voting with the noble Lord who moved the second reading, not thereby to vote for the Bill, but to vote that it might be subjected to a fair and impartial inquiry.


said, he should oppose the Bill on behalf of the general Public, and on behalf of those visitors, both English and foreign, who came in such numbers to admire the scenery around Hampton Court. The Company professed that their object was to obtain a supply of good water; but in a report which showed the amount of organic impurity contained in a given volume of the different waters supplied to London it was shown that while the water of the Lambeth Works, taken at Sunbury, contained 4.8, the water taken at Thames Ditton contained only 4.3. No doubt a supply of good water was very desirable; but the Chelsea Company had an opportunity, two years ago, of joining in the Lambeth Works, but for some reason best known to themselves they did not avail themselves of it. He was at Hampton Court that morning, and found that the land on the opposite side of the river was under water, being flooded by the melting of the snow, and he was informed that had there been a river wall there, such as it was now proposed to build, the Hampton Court Park, and perhaps the Palace itself, would have been flooded.


admitted that there ought to be special grounds for departing from the usual practice of Parliament in regard to Private Bills, but he thought there were those special grounds in this case. The inhabitants of the locality were unanimously opposed to the Bill, and though the Company had no doubt had great difficulty in finding a site for their reservoir, other sites of a much less objectionable character than the one they had fixed upon might be found.


concurred in the observation of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that it would be a very unusual course to reject a Private Bill on the second reading, and if it were frequently followed it would lead to very serious inconveniences. Formerly it was the practice of both Houses of Parliament to consider private legislation in the House itself. It was impossible in cases where extensive evidence or complicated plans were involved to give them consideration in a large assembly, and the result was that in cases where great pecuniary interests were involved on both sides the fate of the Bill was often decided, not fairly according to its merits, but by canvass and private intrigue. Those who, like himself, were old enough to remember the proceedings of Parliament 40 years ago, must know that the abuses became so scandalous and intolerable that Parliament was forced to the conclusion that each House, in its collective capacity, was totally unfit to deal with such questions, and that they ought to be referred to a Select Committee, where they could be maturely considered, and where the matter could. be decided after a careful examination of plans and the hearing of evidence. He was far from saying that the proceedings of Parliament in respect of private legislation were even at this moment altogether satisfactory, but certainly they were a great improvement on the former state of things. At the period to which he had referred. he had seen all the excitement that usually characterized a debate on a great party question imported into the consideration of a Private Bill. It was most important for the honour and. character of their Lordships' House that the old abuses should not be allowed to rear their heads again; but, having regard to the appearance of the House at that moment, he would venture to ask their Lordships whether a danger of that kind did not really exist? Was the question of this second. reading before their Lordships without any canvass—without any solicitation on the one side or the other? He was afraid that could not be said. But it had been said that there were special reasons for taking this Bill out of the ordinary category of private legislation. He had. listened carefully for those reasons, but he had not been able to discover them. There was not one of their Lordships who could take upon himself to say that —apart from what was contained in the papers which had. been printed. on one side and the other—he had information which would enable him to form a sound opinion as to which of the two parties was in the right. The case, therefore, was exactly one in which their Lordships should adhere to their usual practice of referring the Bill to a Select Committee. The noble Marquess who moved the Amendment (the Marquess of Salisbury) said the Public could not be heard by a Select Committee. Now, he found among the petitioners against the Bill, the Conservators of the Thames, and the residents of Thames Ditton; and. he found that money was being raised. to assist the opponents of the measure in putting their case before Parliament. He repeated, therefore, that there was no reason for not sending the Bill before a Select Committee. No doubt the Select Committee would be quite alive to the importance of preserving the public interests and of preventing Hampton Court from being damaged; and if it should be found that the Bill would injure Hampton Court in the manner alleged there would not be the slightest chance of its becoming an Act of Parliament.


said, he did not mean to follow the noble Earl (Earl Grey) into a history of the private legislation of Parliament; but as he was one of the individuals to whom the noble Earl alluded when he said that not one of their Lordships had information sufficient to enable him to come to a conclusion on the merits of the Bill, he ventured to tell the noble Earl that he, for one, had that information. More than that, he was convinced that he did not stand alone. The majority of the noble Lords then present were as capable of coming to a decision on the Bill as any Select Committee would be. His noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, with that ingenuity of which he was so great a master, ran round the subject to be discussed, and left the public interests altogether out of consideration; and the noble Earl who had just spoken referred to the Petitions of the inhabitants of Thames Ditton and the Conservators of the Thames. But the noble Earl had quite omitted to show that the inhabitants of Thames Ditton would have any locus standi before a Select Committee. If they would not, how could they protect the public interests? But the noble Earl said the public interests would be guarded by the Conservators of the Thames. Now, if the Conservators of the Thames attempted to go outside the four corners of their petition, which had reference solely to the navigation and bed of the river, it would be the duty of the Select Committee to refuse to hear them. The case of the general Public who were in the habit of frequenting Hampton Court could not, in any way, be brought before a Committee, and he did not hesitate to say that, of all the able men in the body of Parliamentary agents, the ablest would not be able to draw up a Petition which would give the public a locus standi before a Select Committee on this Bill. There could be no doubt of the injury the proposed erection would do to the Park at Hampton Court; and, that being so, unless it was shown that the reservoirs could not be placed in at least as good a place as that fixed on by the promoters, he thought their Lordships ought, in this case, to depart from the usual course and refuse to read the Bill a second time. His noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs laid down the "hard and fast line" that no Private Bill ought to be opposed on the second reading. He could not take that view, and therefore he had much satisfaction in supporting the Amendment.


said, he by no means wished to lay it down as a rule that a Private Bill ought never to be opposed on the second reading. On the contrary, he thought there were occasions when a Private Bill ought to be opposed at that stage. If it was quite clear that a Bill ought not to pass, it would be much better for all parties to reject it on the second reading. The only good objection against reading this Bill a second time was one furnished by the promoters themselves in their having found it necessary to declare that they would engage to depart from the deposited plans, admitting thereby that what they had proposed was indefensible. They now said that they would give up the river wall, and put the reservoir within certain lines, so as to make the embankment ornamental. On the other hand, on the very spot selected for the reservoir there might at any time be erected the most offensive manufactory, and the amended plan might very probably prevent a nuisance which all would consider more objectionable. Still the feeling of the inhabitants appeared to be unanimously against the Bill, and the Company had put themselves in the wrong by laying themselves open to such great objections. So many Peers had asked him how he intended to vote, intimating their intention to follow his example, that having stated both sides of the case as fairly as he could, He thought the proper course for him to pursue would be to decline giving a vote on the question.


asked whether or not the noble Lord (Lord Fitzwalter) was authorized on the part of the Company to say that they would alter their scheme so as to meet the objections taken to it.


was authorized to say that if a modification of the scheme was deemed requisite, they were quite ready to adopt it. It would be impossible for them otherwise to go before the Committee with any chance of success.


remarked that if the Bill went before a Committee there would be nobody whose interest or in whose power it would lie to enforce the proper fulfilment of the pledge given by the noble Lord.


would remind their Lordships that they would be able to reject the Bill on the third reading if it came back from the Committee in an unsatisfactory shape.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion?—Their Lordships divided: — Contents 29; Not-Contents 70: Majority 41:—Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2a this day six months.

Selborne, L. (L. Chan- Camoys, L.
cellor.) DeL'IsleandDudley, L.
Fitzwalter, L. [Teller.]
Saint Albans, D. Hanmer, L.
Somerset, D. Kenmare, L. (E. Ken-
Ailesbury, M. Lawrence, L.
Lansdowne, M. Lyttelton, L.
Politimore, L.
Camperdown, E. Robartes, L.
Cowper, E. Rosebery, L. (E. Rose-
Granville, E. bery.)
Grey, E. [Teller.] Saltersford,L. (E.Cour-
Vane, E. (M. London- town.)
derry.) Seaton, L.
Somerhill, L.(M. Clan-
Halifax, V. ricarde.)
Truro, L.
Ashburton, L. Vernon, L.
Aveland, L. Wrottesley, L.
Cambridge, D. Mount Edgcumbe, E.
Selkirk, E.
York, Archp. Shaftesbury, E.
Stanhope, E.
Norfolk, D. Strathmore and King-
Richmond, D. horn, E.
Rutland, D. Verulam, E.
Hertford, M. [Teller.] Bolingbroke and St.
Salisbury, M. [Teller.] John, V.
Westminster, M. Eversley, V.
Exmouth, V.
Abergavenny, E. Hardinge, V.
Abingdon, E. Hawarden, V.
Annesley, E. Sidmouth, V.
Bathurst, E. Sydney, V.
Cottenham, E.
De La Warr, E.
Denbigh, E. London, Bp.
Essex, E. Winchester, Bp.
Howe, E.
Lauderdale, E. Abinger, L.
Lucan, E. Belper, L.
Malmersbury, E. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and
Manvers, E. Orrery.)
Morton, E. Braybrooke, L.
Brodrick, L. (V. Midle- Monson, L.
ton.) Monteagle of Brandon,
Chelmsford, L. L.
Colonsay, L. O'Hagan, L.
Colville of Culross, L. Ormonde, L. (M. Or-
Congleton, L. monde.)
Ebury, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess-
Ettrick, L. (L. Napier.) borough.)
Foley, L. Romilly, L.
Foxford, L. (E. Lime- Saltoun, L.
rick.) Stanley of Alderley, L.
Gwydir, L. Stratheden, L.
Howard de Walden, L. Strathnairn, L.
Hylton, L. Templemore, L.
Kesteven, L. Thurlow, L.
Meldrum, L. (M. Wharncliffe, L.
Huntly.) Wynford, L.

House adjourned at half-past Six o'clock, 'till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.