HL Deb 31 May 1883 vol 279 cc1265-73

Order of the Day for the Second Beading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."


, in rising to move— That it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill is referred that the Railway Company shall not be empowered to appropriate a larger portion of the Parochial Burial Ground of St. James' than is proved to be absolutely required for the neeessary convenience of the travelling public, by means of the enlargement of the railway station and of the substitution of a new street in lieu of the existing street which is to be absorbed in the process of the enlargement of the station. said, the question he desired to raise was one of policy and principle, and therefore it ought to be raised in the House. Committees often considered it their duty to restrict their attention to a decision on the conflicting claims of parties pecuniarily interested, and not to enter upon public policy. The Bill was an Omnibus Bill, containing many provisions to which there was no objection, and therefore he did not move its rejection; but he asked the House to express its opinion on the two clauses relating to the burial ground. An open space in London ought not to be sacrificed unnecessarily; and the Metropolitan Board of Works desired to take charge of this burial ground, and to maintain it as a place of public recreation, as they had done in the case of seven or eight other burial grounds. The Railway Company sought to take two portions, and one of them they did not require, for their counsel admitted that one acre given to them by this Bill was not necessary for the enlargement of the station; and they proposed to utilize it for stabling and the storage of omnibuses, and for the parcel post, and this space might be taken from private property instead of from the recreation of the public. It would be necessary for the Company to cart away 17,000 remains, and many of the relatives of those interred had petitioned their Lordships, praying that desecration might not be permitted. There would be no desecration of any part handed over to the Metropolitan Board, as there had been no desecration in any of the other burial grounds handed over to them. The trustees sought to escape from their statutory obligation to maintain this open space for ever. The House would disregard its duty if it sanctioned this breach of trust. As a matter of policy, he contended that their Lordships ought not to allow any of these parochial burial grounds to be desecrated without proof of the clearest necessity. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Instruction.


said, his noble Friend entirely misapprehended the wishes of the London and North-Western Railway Company on this point. No one was more desirous to increase the lung power of the Metropolis than they were. In the present case, however, there were other considerations besides that of open spaces. That part of London which was situate near Euston was not badly off for open spaces. Regent's Park was only half-a-mile away. Primrose Hill was under a mile, and there was a churchyard which might be easily converted into an open space. There were several other open spaces all round the neighbourhood. Therefore, he did not think his noble Friend's remarks were quite appropriate to this particular graveyard. They all knew what an inconvenience it was for railway stations to be overcrowded. This proposed change would give ample space for increasing the accommodation of the station; and, now that the Government intended to introduce a new system of Parcels Post, it was most necessary and desirable that there should be more space. At present the limited space was not only an inconvenience, but also a great source of danger. It was a curious fact that nobody ever thought of converting this old graveyard into an open space until the Railway Company obtained a slice of it. The Company only wished to take about two acres and a-half, leaving two acres and a-half which would be available for garden ground, and most useful for the Temperance Hospital that was close to the place. He hoped their Lordships would vote for the Bill on its merits. An hon. Friend of his, when asked why he had voted against the second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons, said—"Because the London and North-Western Company have behaved very badly to me," Asked further in what way they had behaved badly to him, he replied—"They weighed my luggage." That showed him how reasonable much of the opposition to the Bill was. He trusted that their Lordships would, on consideration, view the matter in the same light as he (the Duke of Sutherland) did, and commit the Bill as it stood; for surely five Peers could be found to do justice on all sides without any Instruction from their Lordships.


said, he agreed with the noble Duke in hoping that the House would vote on the merits of the question, but was unable to concur with his view of the case. Why was the Company asking for land which they did not originally require? At first they only asked for a very small portion of the burial ground. The Trustees of St. James's Parish, seeing their way to make a good thing out of the space, insisted on the Company taking two-thirds and paying the sum of £15,000 for it, which would be devoted to ecclesiastical purposes in the Parish of St. James's. On the showing of the Railway Company themselves, the quantity of land proposed to be given to them was unnecessary for the station. This was pre-eminently a question for the consideration of their Lordships' House, as this populous and very poor neighbourhood was practically voiceless in regard to it. In the division which took place in the House of Commons there were no fewer than 50 Railway Directors in the majority, and only four in the minority. It was only natural that Railway Directors should be somewhat prejudiced in favour of Railway Companies, and should exaggerate the advantages conferred by them on the public. He hoped the House would reverse the decision of the Select Committee of the House of Commons.


said, he objected to the question being referred to a Parliamentary Committee, as it was one of principle, which could be discussed more satisfactorily by their Lordships than by a Committee. Besides, there was great danger that interests adverse to the Railway Company would not be adequately presented to the Committee by counsel. The Company would have the best counsel on their side, while the poor population, whose welfare was in danger of being sacrificed, would pro- bably be unrepresented. Many years ago he had served on a Committee of the House of Commons, which inquired into the conduct of its Private Business; and the evidence then showed conclusively that, though Parliamentary Committees generally decided justly between the contending parties, the public interest in different places, if there were no rich persons sufficiently affected by the proposed Bill to make it worth their while to pay counsel, was apt to suffer in consequence.


said, he hoped the House would agree to the Motion of the noble Lord. A certain question of public policy was involved. He objected to giving the Company any portion of the land at all, and would have supported still more cordially a proposal that none of the land should be acquired by the Railway, but that the Railway should buy even at a higher price whatever land they needed. He should certainly vote for a proposal which should give the Company exactly the quantity of land required for their undertaking and no more. He supported the Motion, first, because the London and North - Western Railway Company did not want the whole of the land; and, secondly, because the Parish of St. James's had no local interest in the matter, and the parish affected was a poor and crowded one which greatly needed open spaces. He thought, too, there was something in the argument of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (Earl Fortescue).


supported the Motion. It was doubtful whether the vicar and churchwardens of St. James's had the power of selling the land. They had buried 15,000 persons in the churchyard, and the burial fees had been paid. Thus it was not clear to whom the land belonged, as many of those whose relatives were buried in it might have bought the fee simple of the graves. He hoped their Lordships would pay particular attention to the 13th clause.


said, he trusted that their Lordships would treat the measure as they were accustomed to treat similar measures coming before them, and send the Bill to a Committee of the House without any Instruction. It was hardly complimentary to their Lordships to give such an Instruction to a Committee. It was said that the Company were buying more land than was actually required. But it should be borne in mind that since the contract was entered into new obligations had been imposed on Railway Companies. The Parcels Post system would come into operation in August next, and a large and important service would have then to be discharged by the Company. He hoped the Bill would not be met in the spirit in which a Member of the House of Commons had approached it. A noble Lord, a Member of the House of Commons, related at a railway charity dinner the other day that he met a Member in the Lobby who said he was going to vote against "Forbes and his blowholes." He was then informed that the Bill did not relate to the Metropolitan or District Railway at all. But the hon. Member replied that he should vote against it "because Railway Companies wanted sitting upon." He hoped the House would treat the Bill in the ordinary manner in which such Bills were treated. The Open Spaces Committee never contemplated putting this ground in a condition for the use of the public; whereas the Railway Company had, by the promotion of this Bill, brought about an open space which would be utilized for the public benefit.


said, that the Trustees of St. James's had no wish to disturb the dead, and were not desirous of selling the burial ground; but the Railway Company were promoting this Bill to enable them to purchase it; and, if so, the parish to which it belonged would seem to have the first right to profit by the proceeding. The ground in question seemed to be one of the last places which ought to be chosen for a playground. It was damp, and the Trustees never could drain it properly. On all sides was a larger number of open places, squares, and crescents than can be found in most parts of London. On the other hand, the Parish of St. James's, Westminster, to which the ground belonged, which was considered a rich parish by those who only moved in Western and Southern boundaries—St. James's, Pall Mall, and part of Regent Street—had, East of Regent Street, a population as poor as any in the East End of London. It contained 18,000 working men and their families. Each of these families, instead of occupying small houses or flats, were compelled to crowd together in one room, eight or ten such families occupying each house. These houses were erected in the time of Charles II. and Queen Anne. It was proposed to use the money to be paid for the ground in question for the purpose of building new houses for the working classes; and he was of opinion that in applying the money for that purpose the parish would be doing more to promote the temporal comfort of the poor of London than by securing another open space for their recreation, where it was much less needed.


said, he thought that every argument which had been urged against the Bill was a strong one in favour of sending it before a Select Committee, who could inquire into the validity of the objections which had been raised to the proposal.


said, he would point out to the noble Earl that while before a Select Committee the Railway Company and Trustees would be represented by counsel, it would be nobody's business to support the objections to the Bill on behalf of the public.


said, he thought that the Metropolitan Board of Works would be able to defend the public interests before the Committee.


pointed out that the Vestry of St. Pancras intended, as was understood, to oppose the Bill in Committee.


said, he hoped that their Lordships would not be prepared to take any unusual step in this matter, but would allow the Bill to be read a second time, with the object of its being sent before a Select Committee.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a, and committed. Moved," That it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill is referred, that the Railway Company shall not be empowered to appropriate a larger portion of the Parochial Burial Ground of St. James' than is proved to be absolutely required for the necessary convenience of the travelling public, by means of the enlargement of the railway station and of the substitution of a new street in lieu of the existing street which is to be absorbed in the process of the enlargement of the station."—(The Lord Mount-Temple.)


asked their Lordships to consider whether there was any precedent for an Instruction of this nature. The object of an Instruction to a Committee was to enlarge the power of a Committee, and to enable them to do that which otherwise they could not do. There was no precedent for an Instruction to limit the power of a Committee, and to require them to discharge their duty in a particular way.


said, he thought that the principle which had just been laid down by the noble and learned Earl was a very unreasonable and dangerous one. A great number of things might be proposed by these Private Bills in which public interests were incidentally concerned; and if that House was never to be at liberty to express an opinion by way of Instruction that something ought not to be done which was proposed to be done by such Private Bills, but was to be bound to leave the remedy to the technical rules of locus standi which prevailed in respect of these Committees, the result would, in his opinion, be the increase of that encroachment, which he had observed to be continually tending to increase, of Private Bills upon the province of public legislation.


said, he felt bound to say, as regarded the practice of Parliament, that he remembered as distinctly as possible that it was ruled again and again that Instructions could not be moved upon matters which were within the competency of a Committee. The object of an Instruction was to enlarge the powers which a Committee possessed. Of course, if the House desired to take some course different from that which was recommended by the Committee, its course was obvious. It could either re-commit the Bill to a Committee of the Whole House, or move for an alteration upon Report or third reading. But, for the sake of the order of their proceedings, he hoped this Instruction would not be accepted.

On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 49; Not-Contents 89: Majority 40.

Canterbury, L. Archp. York, L. Archp.
Selborne, E. (L. Chancellor.) Bath, M.
Amherst, E. Emly, L.
Beauchamp, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard.)
Camperdown, E.
Carnarvon, E. Hammond, L.
Cowper, E. Hylton, L.
Dartrey, E. Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)
Derby, E.
Fortescue, E. Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Granville, E.
Kimberley, E. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Morley, E.
Northbrook, E. Mostyn, L.
Onslow, E. Mount - Temple, L. [Teller.]
Ravensworth, E.
Shaftesbury, E. O'Hagan, L.
Oranmore and Browne, L.
Powerscourt, V.
Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.) [Teller.]
Carlisle, L. Bp.
St. Asaph, L. Bp. Reay, L.
Winchester, L. Bp. Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)
Alcester, L. Sandhurst, L.
Bramwell, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Braye, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Carlingford, L.
Carrington, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Chelmsford, L. Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Dorchester, L.
Grafton, D. Gloucester and Bristol, L. Bp.
Richmond, D.
Somerset, D. London, L. Bp.
Sutherland, D. [Teller.] Peterborough, L. Bp.
Auckland, L.
Bristol, M. Brabourne, L.
Salisbury, M. Breadalbane, L. (E. Breadalbane.)
Cairns, E. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Coventry, E.
Dartmouth, E. Calthorpe, L.
Devon, E. Carysfort, L. (E Carysfort.)
Ducie, E.
Ellesmere, E. Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)
Feversham, E.
Harewood, E. Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.) Clinton, L.
Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]
Jersey, E.
Kilmorey, E. Cottesloe, L.
Lathom, E. Crofton, L.
Lonsdale, E. Denman, L.
Lovelace, E. de Ros, L.
Malmesbury, E. Derwent, L.
Manvers, E. Digby, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Douglas, L. (E. Home.)
Milltown, E. Fitzgerald, L.
Redesdale, E. Forbes, L.
Rosse, E. Gerard, L.
Sandwich, E. Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)
Selkirk, E. Harlech, L.
Sondes, E. Harris, L.
Stanhope, E. Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
Wharncliffe, E.
Hopetoun, L. (E Hopetoun.)
Cranbrook, V.
Hardinge, V. Hothfield, L.
Hawarden, V. Howth, L. (E. Howth.)
Sherbrooke, V. Inchiquin, L.
Sidmouth, V. Kintore, L.(E. Kintore.)
St. Vincent, V. Leconfield, L.
Lovat, L. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Lyveden, L.
Moore, L. (M. Drogheda.) Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Norton, L. Sudeley, L.
Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.) Suffield, T.
Thurlow, L.
Romilly, L. Tollemache, L.
Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.) Truro, L.
Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford)
Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)
Ventry, L.
Stewart of Gtarlies, L. (B. Galloway.) Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)

Resolved in the negative.

The Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.