HL Deb 17 June 1884 vol 289 cc555-67

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that he would refer for one moment to the question of Privilege raised by the noble Marquess opposite when the matter was brought before their Lordships' House before Whitsuntide. Since then the matter had been considered by the official authorities of the other House; and he was empowered to state that, in their opinion, this Bill did not in any way affect the Privilege of the House of Commons. In their opinion this Bill was, to all intents and purposes, a private one; all the incidents of a Private Bill being attached to it — the Standing Orders must be complied with, and the Bill go to a Select Committee. They considered it to come under Clause 226 of their Standing Orders, which stated that the House would not insist upon its privileges with regard to any clause in Private Bills sent down from the House of Lords which referred to tolls and charges for services performed not in the nature of taxes but of rates levied and assessed by Local Authorities for local purposes. The object of the Bill was a very simple one. It was to make arrangements for placing in the hands of the proper Local Authority, whoever that might be, the duty of maintaining the now streets created in effecting the Hyde Park Corner improvements. In the ordinary course these new streets being properly completed and open for public traffic would as highways come under the care of the parish in which they were situated. In this particular case very considerable difficulties had arisen. It appeared that the Green Park, at the corner of which these improvements had been made, was entirely in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, while the adjoining streets of Piccadilly and Grosvenor Place were in the parish of St. George, Hanover Square. The parochial authorities of St. Martin-in-the-Fields declined naturally to take over these new streets, on the ground that the inhabitants resided at the other end of the parish, and were not benefited by the improvements. They further contended that as the traffic would be diverted from Grosvenor Place and Piccadilly, thereby proportionately reducing the expense of repair in those streets, the cost of maintenance of the new ones should be borne by St. George's, as the parish derived a direct benefit from the improvements. They also said very fairly that having no houses abutting on the new roads, they could not recoup themselves for their increased expenditure by means of new rates. They said that the Green Park was an outlying tongue of land from which they received under £5 in rates; and, lastly, that the new street, being clearly to the profit of St. George's, should, in accordance with the precedent when Piccadilly was widened, be maintained at the cost of the parish benefited, and they did not see why rich St. George's should throw this burden on poor St. Martin's. The authorities of St. George's, on the other hand, objected to maintaining these roads on the ground that by the existing law no parish was bound to maintain a road situated in another parish. Secondly, they stated that they had not been consulted. Thirdly, they disliked having to pay an annual charge of £1,500 to £1,600 a-year, or, indeed, anything, if they could get out of it. But the parish of St. George's seemed to forget that they had obtained a very considerable benefit, and that when the traffic was diffused, as it now was, over so large an area it must very largely lessen the expense of maintaining that part where the traffic had been congested, and where the road had consequently been much cut up. Their wish appeared to be to throw the expense either upon the Metropolitan Board of Works or upon the Office of Works. The Metropolitan Board of Works, as to whom the First Commissioner suggested that as there were so many difficulties in the way they might be willing to take over these duties themselves in the same manner as they had undertaken the maintenance of the Thames Embankment, replied that not being a road authority the Board would be unable to take charge except by statutory power; besides which, following all precedents of similar improvements, the streets should be maintained by the parish or parishes in which they were situated. The Thames Embankment seemed to have been a special case, in which there were so many authorities interested that it was thought desirable it should be vested in the charge of one responsible body; but this was the only case where the Metropolitan Board of Works had undertaken the maintenance of any improvement. So far as the Office of Works was concerned, it could not undertake to keep these roads in order, because Parliament would not vote the money for maintaining Metropolitan improvements of this character. Met by all these difficulties, the First Commissioner of Works placed the matter before the Metropolitan Board of Works as the great municipal authority, and asked for an expression of their opinion. They replied on the 20th of June, 1883, that— The best course would be that statutory power should be obtained to enable the Board to determine by what parish or parishes the roads should be hereafter maintained. The present Bill was, therefore, brought forward to carry out this suggestion. Now, what were the objections? It was urged, in the first place, that the Metropolitan Board of Works were an interested party in the matter, and, therefore, were not impartial, and ought not to be appointed to determine who should be responsible for the work. Secondly, that it was purely a Metropolitan improvement, and not of a parochial character; and that the whole Metropolis ought to bear a proportion of the expense incurred. Further, that if there was any doubt on this subject, it was cleared up by the fact of the Metropolitan Board of Works contributing £20,000 towards the making of the improvements. It must be remembered that the Metropolitan Board of Works was a body representing the interests and communities of a great part of London; and that by the contribution they had given towards the improvements they had made over an amount which at 3 per cent interest meant a perpetual sum of £600 a-year, which they considered a fair quota towards the necessary expenses from the general ratepayers of London. Then, again, it should not be forgotten that the appointment of the Board of Works as referee was by no means a new idea. By the Act of 25 & 26 Vict. c. 102, s. 71, the Metropolitan Board of Works was authorized, on the making of new streets or improvements in different parishes, to apportion the contribution by each towards the cost of maintenance as they might think fit. Unfortunately, by this Act they were only authorized to make such apportionment when the new streets were in two or more different parishes; and as in this case the improvement was made entirely in one parish, the Board was technically unable to carry out this provision, however clear it might be hold to be that the parish of St. Martin ought not to bear the charges for maintenance of these improvements. He had a great many precedents to show how this apportionment had been carried out in the great improvements which had been made in Northumberland Avenue and many other places. Those precedents showed clearly that Parliament looked upon the Board as the proper authority to determine such questions. With this clearly before them, he hardly thought the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Powis) could be serious in wishing to throw out the Bill on its second reading. This was a Hybrid Bill, and as such must go before a Select Committee to be considered on its merits. If it was thought by the Committee that the Metropolitan Board of Works was not the proper authority to arbitrate in the matter, then it would be quite competent for the Committee to decide in what proportions the two parishes and the Metropolitan Board of Works themselves should contribute, and to alter the Bill accordingly. There were in this matter a great many interested parties; and it seemed only right that the question should be reviewed by such a tribunal as a Select Committee, with all parties properly represented. He ventured to draw their Lordships' attention before he concluded to the consequences of the throwing out of this Bill. Only two things were possible. Either these great street improvements at Hyde Park Corner must be stopped and the traffic diverted to the old channel—as it was quite certain Parliament would not vote money to maintain a Metropolitan road —or else it would be necessary for the Government to bring in a Bill following the precedent created in the year 1844, when Piccadilly was widened; to sever that portion of the Green Park from St. Martin-in-the-Fields and throw it into St. George's, when it would then be liable for the entire maintenance of the new streets; whereas if they sent this Bill before a Select Committee it was probable it would have to pay a proportion only. It seemed to the interest of everyone concerned that this Bill should go before a Select Committee to be thoroughly investigated, and he trusted their Lordships would consent to give it a second reading.

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


remarked, that the Bill which the noble Lord had just described involved the question whether a parish could be properly taxed for works constructed outside its borders with regard to which its Vestry had not only not been consulted, but had not been allowed to say a word. What was the history of this matter? When, in 1882, the Chief Commissioner of Works was inspired by a laudable enthusiasm to make Hyde Park Corner perpetuate the memory of his own official career as Edile instead of the memory of the Duke of Wellington, he devised the roads which formed the subject of this Bill, and persuaded the Metropolitan Board to give him £20,000 towards the expenses of the works. He was now engaged in removing the Duke's statue. When the plan was first started, as this land all lay in the Green Park, the First Commissioner was under no necessity of applying to Parliament for compulsory powers to take land. He gave no Parliamentary notice in The London Gazette, and simply communicated with the Metropolitan Board. The matter became one of public notoriety, and the Vestry of St. George's wrote to ask whether they might be permitted to see the plans, and make representations upon the subject. The answer of the Office of Works was not contained in the Correspondence before their Lordships' House; but it was a distinct and peremptory refusal. It was clear, however, that in May, 1882, the Office of Works had not conceived the idea that it would be convenient to tax St. George's for these works. It was suggested that the Metropolitan Board should undertake the matter; but they declined. The Vestry of St. George's also pointed out that the works were outside their parish, and that they ought not to be taxed for the maintenance of those works. The Office of Works then sent a letter to the Vestry of St. Martin's, desiring them to take over the roads on the 1st of May last year. This letter was sent after the communication to the effect that that Vestry ought not to be taxed; but it did not succeed. In the month of July a Bill was introduced which would practically throw the roads upon the parish. The Standing Orders, however, were not complied with, and the Government did not venture in that House to move their suspension. Then they came to the beginning of the present year. This was a great Metropolitan improvement, as much used by the traffic from all parts of London as by that of the locality, and it would not be fair to put the proposed tax on the parish. In 1842, when Piccadilly was widened, a portion of the Green Park was added to the thoroughfare; but Lord Lincoln had previously consulted the parish, who accepted his plans. The precedent then established ought to have been now followed. The cost of these new streets should not be thrown upon the local burdens, in a manner for which there was no precedent in highway or street law. The Bill proposed to vest the arbitration of the issue in the Metropolitan Board; but that Body was interested in keeping the cost of maintenance off its own rates. It would, therefore, be a collusive arbitration. If independent parishes and districts could be treated in this way now, what would be their position when they were only component parts of a central Corporation? On the grounds that the Metropolitan Board would be an interested arbitrator, and that expense would be thrown on St. George's, which had nothing whatever to do with the improvement, he moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—(The Earl of Powis.)


said, that as the noble Lord had just alluded to a Bill which was not yet before their Lordships, he would remark that this case illustrated the extraordinary position in which the Metropolis was placed, for when its authorities could not agree among themselves as to the maintenance of an important improvement, yet one of no great magnitude, their Lordships were asked to say that it should not be maintained at all. It was absolutely necessary that some provision should be made, for no one would say that the streets should be shut up; if they were adopted and used by the public, they must be maintained in some way. No doubt, any objections might be urged against all the four modes of maintaining them. As between the two parishes, the preponderance of the facts seemed to be in favour of the case of St. Martin's. The Metropolitan Board had not undertaken anything like it anywhere else; and there was no precedent for throwing the cost of maintenance on Imperial funds. But their Lordships were not asked to determine the question; they were asked to say that it should be decided by the Metropolitan Board. By the Metropolis Local Management Acts that Body was appointed arbitrator as between two parishes or districts; but the present case did not come within the Acts; and, therefore, it would be necessary to come to Parliament. Their Lordships were not tied to any particular method of distributing the cost of the improvement by the Bill, and might refer it to a Select Committee. It would certainly not be a satisfactory method of dealing with the question to throw out the Bill on a second reading. If the Bill passed, and was referred to a Select Committee, who could satisfactorily deal with all the questions involved, that would certainly be a better course than to leave the matter altogether unsettled.


said, he hoped that the noble Earl opposite would not press his Motion, for the reasons given by his noble Friend behind him and the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack. The Committee would have full power to apportion the various sums to be paid by the different Bodies. There could be no doubt that the proposed changes were a great Metropolitan improvement, especially in respect of the enormous traffic from the Great Western Railway to the South West of London, and that the Metropolitan Board of Works should therefore contribute. There was no doubt that the two divisions of St. George's parish would benefit largely.


said, there was one point which had not been touched in the speeches which had been addressed to their Lordships. This was not simply an improvement for the convenience of traffic, but a great ornament to the Metropolis. If precedent were to be followed, the cost would have to be borne by the Metropolitan Board of Works or the Crown. In the case of the Thames Embankment, no one had ever thought of making each successive parish through which it passed contribute to its construction. This was as near a case to the Thames Embankment as could be found. Now it was proposed that the Metropolitan Board of Works should arbitrate on the question. But that impartial arbitrator had on June 20 last year declined to take upon itself any portion of the cost. Yet, with this announcement staring them in the face, the Government gravely asked their Lordships to refer this matter to that Body for them to say whether they would bear the costs or not. It was ridiculous to pass an Act of Parliament of that kind. The proposed road really fell within the precedent of Constitution Hill, of which it was a continuation. If he was not mistaken, Constitution Hill was maintained out of the public Estimates, and it was out of the Estimates that this payment ought to be made. He quite understood the argument of the noble Duke (the Duke of Westminster) if the Committee would have full power to determine the whole matter. But a Select Committee would not be empowered to decide whether the burden should be borne by the Crown, or the Estimates, or the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Government should be called upon to pursue a consistent course; and they ought not to be allowed, simply because it suited them, to refer to a mutilated and one-sided Committee a matter which required full and unlimited powers to be properly dealt with. He did not see what on earth the Standing Order referred to by the noble Lord, which said that the House of Commons would not insist on its privileges in respect of Private Bills or Provisional Orders or Certificates sent down from the House of Lords, had to do with the matter. Their Lordships ought to deal with the question in a consistent manner. The House could not insert words which would have the effect of bringing a. charge on the Estimates. As their Lordships' Committee would not be able to decide whether the money should be paid by the parishes of St. George's or St. Martin's, or the Metropolitan Board of Works, or the Estimates, he should support his noble Friend behind him.


said, the noble Marques's argument was one of the most singular he had over heard. Their Lordships always took care not to come into collision with the House of Commons. There was no reason why their Lordships should not deal with the matter on the ground that the House of Commons might take a narrow view of its rights and privileges. The noble Marquess objected to the Bill because they had no power of putting a Vote on the Estimates. But that objection had no weight, because, in strictness, no Vote could be proposed in the House of Commons itself except by the responsible Minister of the Crown. But of all the curious arguments he had ever heard, the noble Marques's argument about Constitution Hill was the most curious. Constitution Hill was not a public thoroughfare at all, and there was, therefore, no analogy between the two cases. The question was, who was to provide for the maintenance of this highway? There was something to be said for throwing it on the Board of Works, so that it would be paid out of a general rate, and something for making the cost chargeable to St. George's and the other parishes interested. He gathered from the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Powis) that there was a soreness felt by St. George's, because it was not consulted. He should be most anxious to consider parochial honour, and was sorry if that were so. But the question of this thoroughfare, which was an especial convenience to almost all Members of that House and to the public generally, was a broad and important one, and the method of apportioning the contributions to its maintenance could well be decided by a Select Committee. The noble Marquess stated that the Metropolitan Board had already decided this question. What they did was to decline to undertake the whole cost of maintaining this road.


said, the decision of the Board was in these terms: — The Board is of opinion that the best course is that statutory powers should be obtained to enable the Board to determine by what parish or parishes the road should be maintained.


said, the Board had consented to the introduction of this Bill, which proposed to apportion the cost between the Metropolitan Board and the two parishes. The only point, therefore, that remained was, that this House was not enabled to impose the expenses on the National Exchequer. But he was strongly of opinion that there could be nothing more unjust or unfair to the general taxpayer than that they should be called on to contribute to the maintenance of roads in this rich Metropolis.


pointed out that the Bill was originally introduced in the other House; that it remained there for some time, and then was withdrawn and brought in in that House; but the question now in issue should have been determined in the other House. He objected to the Bill, on the ground that it would leave to the Board to determine whether it should pay anything, or throw the whole charge on the parishes or one of them.


said, he desired to explain why the Bill was withdrawn from the other House. As their Lordships were aware, there was a certain hon. Member there who blocked everything. This Bill was, unfortunately, blocked by him, and as the Government saw that there was no chance of their getting the Bill referred to a Select Committee, they felt that the only course was to introduce it into their Lordships' House.


said, he had always understood that in the case of taxing Bills this House dealt with the non-taxing clauses, and left the taxing clauses to the other House. This Bill would enable the whole of the expense of maintaining this road to be cast on parish No. 1, or parish No. 2, or on the Metropolitan Board. Could there be a more taxing clause than that?


said, the highest authorities of the other House had been consulted, and were of opinion that this was not a taxing clause.


said, that the clause was distinctly a taxing clause, for though it did not impose the expense directly on any parish or body, it enabled another authority to do so. If this Bill, which contained only one clause, and that a taxing clause, was to be accepted by the House of Commons, though introduced in this House, he hoped that this decision of the authorities would apply to every case, and not merely to Government Bills.


said, the Government could not accept the noble and learned Earl's interpretation of this clause. Rates were not the same thing as taxes. This Bill imposed rates on a certain district, and not taxes of a national character. That was the ground of the distinction.


reminded the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack that in a previous Session he proposed an Amendment to a Bill dealing with local guarantees for tramways, and he was told that he was treading on the province of the other House.


said, he had no recollection of this incident.

On Question, "That ('now') stand part of the Motion?"

Their Lordships divided:— Contents 70; Not-Contents 94: Majority 24.

Selborne, E. (L. Chancellor.) Derby, E.
Ducie, E.
Kimberley, E.
Bedford, D. Lucan, E.
Devonshire, D. Minto, E.
Saint Albans, D. Morley, E.
Westminster, D. Northbrook, E.
Ravensworth, E.
Bristol, M. Saint Germans, E.
Northampton, M. Sydney, E,
Yarborough, E. Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)
Eversley, V. Lawrence, L.
Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.) Leigh, L.
Loftus, L. (M. Ely.)
Powerscourt, V. Methuen, L.
Sherbrooke, V. Monson, L. [Teller.]
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Carlisle, L. Bp.
London, L. Bp. Ormonde, L. (M. Or-monde.)
Rochester, L. Bp.
Penrhyn, L.
Aberdare, L. Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
Auckland, L.
Belper, L. Ribblesdale, L.
Brabourne, L. Robartes, L.
Bram well, L. Romilly, L.
Breadalbane, L. (E. Breadalbane.) Sandhurst, L.
Sefton, L. (E. Sefton.)
Carlingford, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Carrington, L.
Castletown, L, Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Cottesloe, L.
Crewe, L. Sudeley, L. [Teller.]
Emly, L. Teynham, L.
FitzGerald, L. Thurlow, L.
Greville, L. Truro, L.
Hare, L. (E. Listowel.) Vernon, L.
Hatherton, L. Walsingham, L.
Hothfield, L. Winmarleigh, L.
Houghton, L. Wolverton, L.
Inchiquin, L. Wrottesley, L.
Grafton, D. Stanhope, E.
Rutland, D. Strange, E. (D. Athole.)
Somerset, D. Wharncliffe, E.
Abergavenny, M. Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)
Exeter, M. [Teller.]
Salisbury, M. Hawarden, V.
Hood, V.
Annesley, E. Sidmouth, V.
Ashburnham, E. Strathallan, V.
Bathurst, E. Temple town, V.
Beauchamp, E.
Brooke and Warwick, E. Gloucester and Bristol, L. Bp.
Cadogan, E. Abercromby, L.
Cairns, E. Abinger, L.
Camper down, E. Aveland, L.
Carnarvon, E. Bagot, L.
Coventry, E. Balfour of Burley, L.
Fortescue, E. Bolton, L.
Haddington, E. Brancepeth, L. (V Boyne.)
Hardwicke, E.
Harewood, E. Calthorpe, L.
Howe, E. Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)
Jersey, E.
Lathom, E. Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)
Leven and Melville, E.
Macclesfield, E. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)
Manvers, E.
Mar and Kellie, E. Cloncurry, L.
Milltown, E. Colchester, L.
Morton, E. Delamere, L.
Mount Edgcumbe, E. de Ros, L.
Powis, E. [Teller.] Dig by, L.
Radnor, E. Dinevor, L.
Redesdale, E. Dorchester, L.
Rosse, E. Egerton, L.
Selkirk, E. Ellenborough, L,
Fisherwick, L. (M. Donegal.) Ormathwaite, L.
Poltimore, L.
Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.) Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Gerard, L. Shute, L. (V, Barrington.)
Harlech, L.
Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.) Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.) Stanley of Alderley, L.
Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.) Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Lamington, L. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Loveland Holland, L. (E. Egmont.) Tollemache, L.
Lyveden, L. Tredegar, L.
Moore, L. (Mr. Drogheda.) Trevor, L.
Ventry, L.
Mostyn, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Norton, L.
North, L. Windsor, L.
Oranmore and Browne, L.

Resolved in the negative.

Bill to be read 2a this day six months.