§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading, read.
* LORD MONKSWELL
In asking your Lordships to give a Third Reading to this Bill, I am desired on behalf of the London County Council to say a few words in support of it. This Bill, as your Lordships are aware, is a Bill to remove various gates which cause a very great obstruction to the traffic through the streets of a portion of the Metropolis. In fact, there is no doubt as a matter of public convenience the removal of these gates has become necessary; there is no doubt that they ought to be removed, and the only question is on what terms they should be removed. The noble Marquess (the Prime Minister) himself, it will be within your Lordships recollec- 1470 tion, stated that he has on some occasions used strong language in regard to these gates. Now, this compensation question has been referred to the usual tribunal both in this House and in the Commons House. It has been argued before two Committees, composed, as the noble and learned Lord (Lord Herschell) observed to your Lordships the other day, of Members who were not for the most part Radicals, the majority of them being good sound Conservatives; and both those Committees have come to the conclusion one after the other that no compensation ought to be granted. The matter has been argued before those Committees by counsel learned in the law to whom the usual honorarium has been given, a point to which the noble Marquess seems to attach great importance. Yet now we are asked on this Third Reading to reverse the decision of those two Committees upon the authority of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell), to whom no honorarium has been given, and who has not apparently listened to the evidence that has been given before the Committees, and I should like to mention to the noble and learned Lord that that evidence appears to me to establish beyond doubt four propositions, which are these: first, that the Act authorising the erection of these gates was passed at a time when there were various Paving Trusts in existence, and that the reason why, and the only reason why those gates were authorised to be erected was owing to difficulties in the matter of repairing such roads. It was thought to be grossly unfair that persons should be allowed to make a, thoroughfare of those roads if they did not contribute to the maintenance of them. Those were the grounds on which the Act of Parliament was, passed, and I think it is perfectly clear on reading the Act that on no other grounds was it passed. When the Vestry took over the roads in the year 1855, they made themselves responsible for their repair, and that being the case, the only object for which the Act of Parliament had permitted the erection of these gates, which were put up under it, was accomplished and was at an end. The third point is this, that the Duke of Bedford for the time being might at any time, at his own will and pleasure, do away with these gates, without giving 1471 one penny of compensation to the inhabitants of the district. The fourth point is this, that in no other case whatever has compensation been granted for turning a cul de sac into a thoroughfare for traffic. Now, if the facts be so, I would ask the noble and learned Lord who moves the rejection of this Bill, on what grounds he asks for compensation? I quite agree with him that while these Paving Trusts were in existence, supposing these gates had been taken down, the Legislature must have made some sort of provision for the repair of these roads. But, I submit, after the Act of 1855 was passed, whereby the Vestry undertook to repair the roads, no inhabitant had the slightest right to suppose he would in perpetuity be allowed to keep his privacy any more than the other inhabitants of London if these obstructions to the traffic had to be done away with. I venture to say that the case of Hamilton Place was a good deal stronger than this case, and yet I never heard of anybody getting compensation there for a cul de sac being turned into a thoroughfare for traffic, because the inhabitants of Hamilton Place could only have had their privacy interfered with by the action of the Legislature, whereas in this case the persons living in the district comprised within these bars could have had their privacy invaded by the action of a single individual—the Duke of Bedford. It does appear to me that what the Act which allowed these gates to be put up did was that it gave the inhabitants inside those gates the right to say, "You shall not take away these gates unless you do something reasonable towards the repair of the roads which you make subject to traffic from other parts of London." But it seems to me that is the only right which is given, and the only right which was intended to be given by that Act of 1800. Of course, if, under the Act of 1800, it was proposed at any time to take away these gates, something would have been done by the Legislature with regard to the maintenance of the roads. But I say that no further right was given, or was intended to be given; that is to say, that these inhabitants who live inside these gates are now just in precisely the same position as the inhabitants in all other parts of London are, namely, that they 1472 are liable to have their privacy destroyed whenever the Legislature considers it to be for the interest of the general public that the public traffic should be allowed to go through their streets. In these circumstances, my Lords, I move the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a"—(The Lord Monkswell.)
§ * LORD BRAMWELL
I move, your Lordships, that this Bill be read a third time this day three months, and I daresay many of your Lordships may think I have a difficult task before me, considering the Report of your Lordships' Committee, a Committee with which it is impossible not to be perfectly satisfied both of their competence and of their entire fairness. One has the satisfaction at least of knowing that if these ways are laid open to the public, it will not be for any consideration like this—Here is one man better off than another; let us equalise their positions by taking away the benefit which the one man has.That has not been at the bottom of their decision. I cannot agree with my noble Friend that the Committee were content with the condition of things; on the contrary, they have done their best to mitigate the mischief which will be done to these people, and I am pretty sure they would have been glad if they could to have awarded them some compensation, but they (Could not see their way to do it. I ask your Lordships, therefore, either to do that, or if no compensation can be given, to reject this Bill as an unwarrantable infringement on the rights of these people who are affected by this measure. My noble Friend has said he has read the evidence, Well, so have I, and I certainly do not agree with his version of it. I must ask your Lordships to permit me to state what I am afraid I said before of the Second Reading, what the truth of the matter is in this case. The freeholder— I will call him by that name for a reason which, I trust, your Lordships will appreciate—or the freeholder's predecessor in the year 1800, did not stand in need of the Act of Parliament to do that which was then done, and which has been perpetuated since with the sanction of two subsequent Acts of Parliament. He did it as owner of the soil. The estate was laid out in a particular way, 1473 and to ensure the privacy of the people who would build upon it and live, these gates were placed by the authority of the freeholder as such freeholder. It is true that the provisions of the Act of Parliament, no doubt out of greater caution, said that the gates might be there, and that there should be no interference with the gates; but the gates were put there by right of the freeholder as owner of the soil. And there is another matter to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention, which is this: this Bill talks of the removal of certain restrictions upon traffic through the streets of London, and talks of certain bars and gates as being restrictions upon the traffic. What the Bill really does in substance is this. There is some strange notion, I cannot tell how it could have got into anybody's head—it could have got into no lawyer's head, certainly—that the right of the freeholder is to the bars apparently, and to the ground on which they stand. The truth is the right is to the entire soil of these roads in full property, subject to such privileges as he may have granted to the public. Now, the only privileges which he has granted to the public, as far as I can see, is a right of footway. I do think he has granted that, because the footway has been used by the public for all these years without interference. I should think, therefore, there is the most cogent evidence of dedication to the public of a right of footway. But there has been no dedication to the public of a right of carriage way or horse way, or anything beyond the footway; and the gates and bars which are in particular positions at this moment might, if it suited the freeholder, be put in any other positions for the purpose of preserving the privacy of that district. What would in effect be done is this: practically the ownership in the soil would be taken from him. He could at this moment build a house upon any portion of the district which is affected by this Bill where there is no public right of way, and that power will be taken from him. Practically, therefore, his property will be taken from him. It was supposed—and let me particularly remind your Lordships of this—as my noble Friend says that these gates were put here for some strange purpose, which I confess I cannot understand. They were 1474 put up for the purpose of preventing the public gaining a right of way as they would have done if the gates had not been there, and for no other purpose. That was their object and intention, and when your Lordships are told—I am surprised it should be so—that it was on account of there being Paving Commissioners for this particular district that this was done, I say it is an entire mistake, because when these Paving Commissioners were put an end to by Act of Parliament, and it was thought better that the parish should take over and repair all the roads, whether public or private in the parish, of course it made no difference in the rates. The people had been rated before, and they were rated afterwards when it was thought that the parish should become responsible for repairing the roads. The Act of Parliament passed in the year 1855 expressly reserved to the freeholder the right to the soil of these streets, and the power of having gates there. But there is another thing which shows the correctness of what I am now stating to your Lordships. There is a recital in this Bill about the gates and bars being a restraint upon the traffic, and I should like to read this to the House—And whereas the continuance of such gates and bars and the restriction of the traffic through, the said streets tend to the public inconvenience.Well, I daresay they do; that is to say, I daresay it would be very convenient to the public if these streets were opened. I daresay that is so. There is not one word said as to the convenience of those whose privacy is protected by these gates and bars. But the section goes on to say—It is expedient that provision should be made for their removal; and whereas the object aforesaid cannot be attained without the authority of Pariament;that is to say, the County Council cannot, and nobody can, without the authority of Parliament, interfere with the ownership and the rights of ownership, which the freeholder possesses and exercises in the way which has been mentioned. Remember that, my Lords. I beg your Lordships to remember that it is recited here, and most truly recited, that without the authority of Parliament, what is sought to be done cannot be done. Now, I venture to say that if 1475 the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act had been incorporated in this Bill, the freeholder would have had a right to maintain a claim for compensation, not merely for the bare removal of the gates and bars, the value of the gates and bars, and the soil on which they stand, but he would have had a right to maintain a claim for compensation for that property, the loss of which I have described to your Lordships. He would have been entitled to maintain that claim according to a recent case of "Cowper Essex v. The Local Board of Acton." [14 Appeal cases, page 153.] I speak in the presence of two noble and learned Lords, who were parties to that Judgment—for such depreciation of the value of his property, on part of which these gates and bars stand. He would have been entitled to maintain a claim on those two heads. However, they did not think fit to put in a reference to the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act. Now, one word with regard to the inhabitants. I see some of the witnesses, gentlemen whose opinion is of great value, stated that in their judgment the tenants of the freeholder's property, that is, of the houses, would have been entitled to maintain an action against him—the freeholder—if he had removed these gates. I do not like to put my judgment against that of others, but in addressing your Lordships, I must tell you what my opinion is, I do not think so. I do not think if it had pleased the freeholder of his own accord to take down these gates, that any of the tenants could have maintained an action against him for having done so. The case is not quite clear, for there are cases in some of which it has been held that the tenants have the benefit of a stipulation made by their landlord, and in others it has been held, and I think it would be held in this case, that the landlord's right is one which he has exercised by placing the gates there for his own advantage, and that whenever he thinks it expedient to remove those bars and gates, he is at liberty to do so without any action being brought against him. That is my judgment upon the matter, and I cannot say otherwise. There is not the slightest doubt in the world that these people are damaged. There is no doubt whatever about that. The Committee were of that opinion evidently, because they did all 1476 they could, and I firmly believe would have done more if they had seen their way to do it. The evidence is of the most convincing character. The first surveyors in London have been called to prove this damage, and they positively proved that at the north and west sides of one of these places, say Russell Square, the privacy of which is protected by these gates, rents are much higher than on the east and south sides, which are unprotected. It has been said, and I am really surprised at it that it should have been, I am not surprised that it should have been said in the first instance, stupid as it is, I cannot help saying so; but I am surprised that after the fallacy has been exposed it should have been repeated—it has been said, "Why the law never gives compensation for an increase of traffic." There is a line of noisy omnibuses passing on the west side of Grosvenor Square (it is rather remarkable, I think, that they should have furnished such evidence of what mischief they propose to do to these people in Russell Square), and it has been said that the people in Grosvenor Square have no right to compensation. Do your Lordships know why? Because they had no right to stop those omnibuses, and there was a public right to go along-there. There is no public right to go along where these bars are placed. What the County Council say upon that point here is, that there is an impossibility of settling any Compensation Clause on a fair basis; and what also influenced the Council was the comparatively few persons who are resident in this district, and so forth. Therefore, it appears that the Council were influenced by the difficulty of settling the compensation on any fair basis. What would your Lordships think of anybody who would say, "I met a man coming along with a very nice-looking watch, and I wanted it: well, there was an impossibility of settling the compensation with him upon a fair basis, so I took it for nothing. "That is what they are doing here; that is their argument, and that is their justification. Just consider for a moment the damage that would be done to these people. It cannot be estimated by thousands, nor even, I believe, by tens of thousands of pounds. It would be an enormous damage that would be done to them, 1477 I speak in the presence of the Members of the Committee. Did anyone undertake to say in the evidence that the benefit to the public would be anything equal in value to the damage done to the tenants on this property? But if not, there is no justification for doing it. If you are to do more harm than good, valued in money, it ought not to be done. Well, it is said that these are restictions and obstructions. I admit it: but I cannot help saying there is something rather curious in the sort of argument which is brought forward, because if there had been no road there, and if the place had been in the condition in which it was 90 years ago, that is to say, fields with no roads across them, there would have been nothing to obstruct, there would have been no necessity for any restriction there, because there would have been no way or track. Well, then, what is the complaint? But before I go on with that head of my remarks let me say this: I have told your Lordships I do not think the inhabitants would have any cause of action against the freeholder if he had removed these gates. No; but they are as safe as if they would have had a right of action, because the same reason that induced him originally to put these streets there with these bars would induce him to continue them there; that is say, for the purpose of keeping up the value of the property. I forget to mention that. Now, let me go on with what I was saying to your Lordships, that if there was no street there would be no obstruction, and the complaint, therefore, conies to this: "You have made a road for your own benefit, which you need not have made; had you not made it we should have had no right or power to go there; you have put up gates, and therefore we have got a cause of complaint against you." Are your Lordships prepared to say that? Are your Lordships prepared to say that if a man should make a way from a public road to a mine, or a farm, or an hotel, or a private house, and should make another way from the mine, farm, or what not, to another public road, and put up gates in. order that the business of his mine, or farm, or the privacy of his house should not be interfered with, there would be a right in that case? Are your Lordships prepared to lay down as a 1478 great principle that in that case the public have a right to complain, if they are not let through by a short cut, to the interference and annoyance and loss of the person who has put up those gates? If that be so, let there be an Act of Parliament passed at once which will save the trouble of referring such matters to Committees, and the expense attending such references and the honoraria which my noble Friend spoke of, and lay down, as a general rule, that whenever anybody likes, no matter what damage it may do to the owner, wherever anybody is entitled to say, "Here is a short cut made not for the benefit of the public, but for the benefit of the man who made it, and who protected it by gates and bars. That is a thing which the public must have the enjoyment of, and the benefit of, at once." I do not think your Lordships will be prepared to say that. The noble Marquess gave some sort of evidence against the tenants by saying that he had sometimes been obstructed in going to the Great Northern Railway Station, and I think he said that when that happened to him he would have used an execration.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE JOB FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
An internal execration.
§ * LORD BRAMWELL
Yes; expressed internally. Well, if your Lordships reject this Bill, and if the noble Marquess is obstructed again, I hope he will neither internally nor aloud include me in the objects of his execration, for I am sure I would most willingly remove all obstruction from him. I know he suffers very considerably from it, and I would remove it, not only by throwing open these bars, but by closure if I could—very much I trust to his benefit, if it were in my power to do it. Now, my Lords, really the case comes to this: I do not want to say over and over again the same thing. That a deal of damage will be done to a number of people is beyond all doubt; it is proved by the best experts in the world. That some inconvenience is sustained at present by the public at large—I protest against it being called an inconvenience—that a convenience might be given to them to which they are not entitled, I confess at once; whether that convenience will be bought at a fair price to the inhabi- 1479 tants I know not. I am strongly inclined to think there will be more loss than gain in it, but, after all, whichever way it may be, it comes to this: that your Lordships are called upon to take away from the freeholder the right which he possesses to the consequent damage of the tenants for no other reason than because it is handy and because it is convenient to do it. As I said before, if your Lordships are prepared to say no matter what the right of the freeholder is, and it is a right as freeholder mind, no matter what the amount of damage that is done to others, if the public desire it that road which is a private road, and that property which is private property, shall become public, all protest would be unavailing. I move that the Bill should be read the third time this day three months.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months.")—(The Lord Bramwell.)
THE BISHOP OF ROCHESTER
I would ask your Lordships to hear a few words from me on the ground that any Member of your Lordships' House who happens to possess local knowledge or local information on the subject under discussion is bound to give it for the benefit of the House. I think I may claim this advantage which perhaps few or none of your Lordships possess; that I have lived within the district comprised inside these gates for 10 years, and that it was all within the limits of my own parish. I may, therefore, be supposed to have some practical and considerable knowledge on the subject, both as to the inconvenience or otherwise of the gates, and also as to the feelings of the inhabitants in regard to their existence. No doubt there is a certain inconvenience from these gates, especially at one of them. I must not impute to your Lordships too intimate knowledge of the geography of that part of London; but there is inconvenience, especially at the Upper We burn Place Gates, which are closed to traffic in hired carriages, and where anybody arriving in a hansom would be very reasonably surprised at being told he could not pass, but must go round by another way. None of the other gates are closed to light traffic, but only to traffic of a heavy character. Attendants are seated outside the gates ready 1480 when they see carriages or cabs coming to throw them open, and I have soldom, in my own experience, found myself delayed by them. I simply desire to infer from this fact, not that there is no inconvenience arising from the gates, but that the inconvenience said to arise from their position is somewhat exaggerated. If the great Railway Companies and the public require these gates and bars to be-removed, no doubt it must be done, and Parliament must be asked for power to-do it. There is no doubt about that But the fact which I desire to put to your Lordships with great earnestness is this: that it is a very high-handed course to remove these gates and bars without some sort of compensation being made to the householders and leaseholders in the neighbourhood, who indisputably either bought or took their property on the undertaking that they would not be interfered with by the freeholder in the-enjoyment of these valuable rights. Conceive what will happen to them if heavy traffic comes down through Upper-Woburn Place or Tavistock Street. It will be impossible to use the bedrooms in front of the houses. Not only will the personal comfort of the inhabitants be-interfered with, but they will not really be able to sleep. I have read the evidence given before your Lordships' Committee, and I am perfectly certain that the property in those houses will be-very seriously diminished in value in that neighbourhood, where property is-already not likely to increase in value. I should like to add that the neighbourhood-is certainly not a fashionable one; it is-inhabited by struggling professional men with limited incomes, who are not, perhaps, as well able to protect themselves as persons living in other parts of London might do, and on whose behalf there I appeal to your Lordships for protection. I do not live there now, and I have no property there, but I have some valued friends in the neighbourhood for whom I have a great regard, and I think, therefore, that your Lordships will pardon me for protesting against what I do feel to be an arbitrary invasion of the rights of private property. I do ask your Lordships to pause before passing a Bill which will inflict very serious injury and personal damage on those who have no right whatever to be treated in such a way as is proposed by the Bill.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I should desire to call your Lordships' attention to the position of this Bill, and to the effect of the proposal of my noble and learned Friend. My noble and learned Friend admits that, if it is for the public interest that this change should be made, private interests or even private rights must necessarily give way.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I thought my noble and learned Friend so stated on the last occasion in the most distinct terms. I am sorry I have not his assent to that; but we have the admission made that the public can interfere with private rights, only they must do so upon terms of making proper compensation.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I had only half finished the statement of my proposition. My noble and learned Friend assumed that I was not going to say more than I had said at that moment. My noble and learned Friend admits that in the contest between public and private interest, the private interest must give way. What is the course which he and those whom he represents have taken with reference to this Bill? The Bill was discussed in the other House. It was sent to a Committee of that House; it was argued for a considerable time before that Committee; the Committee reported in favour of the Bill; the other House then passed it, and it came up to your Lordships' House. One would have thought that by that time, at least those who have been represented by my noble and learned Friend, would have come to see that the Bill is one to the principle of which, the Preamble of which, they should offer no objection. They might, of course, insist that they had a right to compensation, which claim to compensation might have been then considered. When the matter came to this House, my noble and learned Friend moved the rejection of the Bill, and then, when it went before the Committee, what position did the petitioners assume? Did they say: "We admit, of course, that our interests must give way in this matter of public concern, but we propose to insert a clause and ask that you should insert it in protection of our interests." Nothing of the kind. They did attempt to get the Committee to find 1482 the Preamble of the Bill not proved, and to get the Bill rejected by the Committee. The proposition was put in a most subsidiary manner. The first witness called had given a great part of his evidence—in fact, almost the whole of his evidence— before he came to the question of compensation, at all. I do not say in the slightest that they abandoned or did not say if the Bill passes we ought to have compensation. But they cannot say that the Bill was not opposed. Then the Bill comes before your Lordships for Third Reading. It has been well discussed and considered; all the arguments of my noble and learned Friend on the other side have been fully canvassed by the Committee, and considered and weighed by them, and that Committee has found what my noble and learned Friend does not dispute is a conclusion arrived at by them perfectly honestly, and to the best of their judgment. But now my noble and learned Friend comes at this, the last stage, after the Bill has passed through those various stages, and asks your Lordships to reject this Bill on the Third Reading. And why, my Lords? Because, as he says, their claims to compensation have not been entertained by the Committee. In the first place, my noble and learned Friend asks your Lordships to reject this Bill, though as to one of the gates proposed to be removed by it there was no opposition. No objection whatever was made with regard to that, and yet my noble and learned Friend asks that the Bill should be rejected which will provide for that being done, to which nobody objected. That is the sort of wholesale way in which this Bill is treated, and after it has gone through all these stages, and after it has come to its present stage in your Lordships' House. These point?, which have been referred to by my noble and learned Friend, and upon which he has argued in the interests of those whom he represents, were perfectly reasonable matters to be considered. I do not mean to say it was otherwise. The whole subject of claim to compensation was considered by this Committee most anxiously and most carefully, and, having considered it, they came to the conclusion that the proper course to take was to provide means of securing, by the silent paving of the streets, as far as possible 1483 against the inconvenience to the in habitants of these streets being thrown open to public traffic; but that it would not be right to make a provision for a compensation. My noble and learned Friend has spoken as though this claim to compensation on behalf of the occupiers of these houses was a claim similar to those which have been hitherto recognised by the law. On the contrary, no such claim to compensate has as far as I know, ever been recognised; and if this claim be recognised, I maintain that it will run counter to every principle which has regulated the law of compensation in similar cases. It has not been the case, as my noble and learned Friend has assumed, that wherever Parliament has interfered it has done so on the basis of compensating every person who would suffer inconvenience, or even pecuniary loss, by reason of the interference of the Legislature. I could give your Lordships abundance of illustrations of that. For example: you have bought a residence; a railway comes near the residence. The railway does not take any of your land, but it interferes with your privacy; it certainly diminishes the comfort of your house, and would very likely diminish its selling value, and yet, beyond question, no compensation could be claimed by the person who suffered that direct pecuniary loss by reason of the railway having come there. Though he has been subjected to inconvenience, loss of privacy, and even diminution of the value of the premises, yet he has no right to compensation. That is a great deal more analogous to the case we are dealing with than any of the cases to which my noble and learned Friend has alluded. I give this instance only, because I maintain that compensation is never given unless for interference with some legal right. However great the inconvenience, however unquestionable the pecuniary loss, unless that can be established, there is no claim to compensation, with perhaps this exception to which my noble and learned Friend has alluded. If you take a portion of a man's land, and have to compensate him for that, he may, in some cases, get consequential damages, which other persons whose land had not been taken would not be entitled to claim, and, therefore, I ought to limit my general proposition in that way, although 1484 it is not really relevant to the point we are discussing. In that way, it seems to me, my noble and learned Friend abandoned the whole case when he admitted that these occupiers and lessees had no legal right to enfore the continuance of the gates and bars in the position in which they are. The whole case was gone, as it seemed to me, when my noble and learned Friend made that admission. I do not allude to his argument as regards the freeholder, because the freeholder did not petition against this Bill, and he has not asked for any compensation clause to be inserted. He is the only person whose legal rights will be in any way interfered with by this Bill, and, he certainly, not having asked for compensation, it would be out of all reason to reject this Bill because there is no provision made for compensation in his case. We have, therefore, only to deal with the case of lessees and occupiers. I am not going for a moment to dispute that there are many people whose convenience and comfort would be diminished by these streets becoming subject to more traffic than had hitherto passed through them, although I cannot help thinking that the reality would turn out to be as bad as the anticipation, and that people will not find that the traffic, divided as it will be among several streets, will be anything like so burdensome as they imagine. The right rev. Prelate has alluded to his personal experience of this neighbourhood. I may claim to have even greater experience in these matters, because I lived a great deal nearer to a railway station than probably anyone who objects to this Bill. I do not mean to say that there is not a great deal of traffic occasioned by the neighbourhood of a railway station, and perhaps some prefer that there should be less; but when the change is made, people will not, perhaps, find it so bad as they suppose at the present time. Still, making all allowances, no doubt they would prefer that there should be less rather than more traffic through their streets. But, my Lords, that difference by the admission of traffic through streets which have hitherto been protected from it, has never been regarded as a subject of compensation, and, if it were to be so regarded, it would land you with an endless vista of compensation claims. In the present case the petitioners are 1485 not persons residing in the streets where these gates are; they are people residing at a considerable distance. They say if you render this particular street an open thoroughfare, then more traffic will come into the street which leads to that street, and more traffic will come into other streets which lead to the street which leads into the first street, and all these people will suggest that they are entitled to compensation. My Lords, it is a claim which has never been admitted. We have had numberless improvements in London which have produced that result. Take, for example, the opening of Hamilton Place. All the persons residing along Park Lane could, if my noble and learned Friend makes out this case, have said when you have opened Hamilton Place (which was done under statutory authority) you have induced more traffic to pass down along the thoroughfare than when there was only the narrow outlet at Park Lane. No doubt there has been an increase of traffic there, and yet no suggestion of this kind was ever made in that case. As far as I know it has never been made before.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
There was no right to stop it, nor is there here any right to stop it in the case of the persons whose interest my noble and learned Friend has been advocating. That was the point to which I was referring. My noble and learned Friend admits that there is no right in any of these occupiers who are petitioning to insist that these bars should be kept there. Well, then, it comes exactly to this: it is a parallel case. They were just in the same position as the people in Park Lane and Hamilton Place, when there was a house, I believe, at the end of Hamilton Place; the people there might have quite relied that nobody would voluntarily remove the house for the purpose of making it a thoroughfare. I do not know whether there really was a house there, but, at all events, the way was closed, and they had to obtain an Act of Parliament to enable Hamilton Place to be opened. Just in the same way as the people here might have relied upon these gates remaining to prevent traffic, the people in Hamilton Place might have relied upon the obstruction remaining there as it was, 1486 and yet no compensation was paid. My proposition is shortly this: that no compensation is ever paid where all you do is to interfere with an expectation which people might reasonably have entertained, but where is no interference with any legal rights which they possess. If you interfere with legal rights, of course, they have a right to compensation, but not otherwise. My noble and learned Friend seems to have left out of sight one view of this ease which impresses me strongly. He says these are not public streets but private streets, and I see that was very strongly put forward in evidence by one of the witnesses. All I can say is that it is a most astounding thing, if they are private streets, to think that ever since 1855 these private streets have been repaired entirely at the public expense. I can understand the case of private streets which the people themselves keep up and bear the expense of, but private streets which they insist the public have no right to use, but which nevertheless the public have repaired just as much as they have repaired all the other streets in the Metropolis, appears to me a very strange anomaly, and I was astonished to find, when I read the evidence, that from one of those streets there is actually excluded all traffic except gentlemen's carriages, a street which has for 35 years been repaired just as all the other streets in London have been at the public expense. What does that come to? That the inhabitants of other parts of London have to bear the inconvenience arising from the noise of traffic through their streets, and as to those streets they have to share the expense with people who do not live in them. The streets are repaired for the benefit of people living in them without the public having the full rights which they have over other streets in the Metropolis. What strikes me is this: that if for 35 years this state of things has gone on there is a large debit in favour of the people due from whoever is interested in these private streets, which, if it were set off against the claim for compensation, would, I think, hugely outweigh them. It is, I think, very difficult to say that they are private streets. No doubt, passage through them was limited, but to say that beyond those gates these were not public streets is a proposition which, I think, it 1487 would be rather difficult to establish, considering the way in which they have been dealt with during all these years. I must demur to one observation which has been made by my noble and learned Friend, because I do not think it is accurate. He says these gates were put up for the protection of the privacy of the inhabitants. I have looked through the Acts of Parliament, and I cannot come to that conclusion. I believe they wore put up, in the first instance, without any thought of the kind, but simply to secure that the roads on the Bedford estate should not be unduly used by your neighbouring estates not then laid out for building, so that when they rested entirely, as they then did, upon the people on the Bedford estate, those streets should not be used by people who did not contribute to them, and who wanted to develop their rival estates. The effect of their securing privacy has been an accidental effect which has subsequently resulted. People, I do not dispute, may have gone to live in some of these streets relying on the fact that these bars existed, and were likely to continue to exist, but that in itself cannot give any claim to compensation on any principle which has been hitherto recognised by the law, and it would be, as it seems to me, a very dangerous precedent if you were to introduce any new principle which would permit now heads of compensation to arise. It would render very difficult many public works which would be of advantage to the community. The principle hitherto has been that persons must take their chance of any changes which may happen, owing to improvements in the public streets, and that those changes and improvements may be made without compensation of this kind being paid. No doubt, if you could work out complete justice, what you might like to do would be to say this traffic which will go through these streets when they are opened goes somewhere else now, and therefore the streets where it now passes will be rendered quieter to the extent that the others will be rendered more noisy; and if you could devise some means of making the people whose streets thus become quiter provide means for paying compensation to the people whose streets become noisier, that might be a very equitable arrangement, 1488 and I, personally, should see no objection to it, though I do not mean to suggest that it would be a very practicable one. But in this case, just as in the case of a railway passing near your house, or, in many other cases, the only way of dealing with these matters is to stand by the principle that unless you can establish that a legal right has been interfered with, you cannot establish a like right to compensation.
§ The LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I confess I am a little astonished at the principles which have been enunciated by the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down, because it strikes me he has entirely forgotten to notice the fact that the freeholder and the tenantsare the persons who alone could regulate between themselves the relations under which the bars and gates exist, and that an Act of Parliament is required to deal with the interest of the freeholder and leaseholder, because the freeholder and leaseholders if left to themselves would keep matters in the position in which they are now, and would keep their property as it is. For the sake of public convenience you are to force the freeholder and leaseholders to place their property in a different condition to that in which it is at present, and in which they desire to have it remain. I do not desire to discuss the questions which have been raised between the two noble and learned Lords, but this I think will not be disputed by anyone: a great many people have thought that the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act has been very harshly construed in respect of some rights; but whether it is so or not, the principle on which that Act rests is that you should not take for public purposes that which we do not pay for, and that if you take away something which I will not say a person has a right to; but if he has it, and if he is in such relations with his landlord that he is likely to retain it, and if a third person for public purposes chooses to take it away, that you must pay for it. I desire to say that I am afraid in that respect I may be found a little in conflict with my noble and learned Friend at the head of the Government; but I do not think the inconvenience which is caused by these gates is so great as has been represented. Like the right rev. Prelate, I can speak from personal knowledge, having lived within the ambit of these gates. I 1489 have not taken the trouble to go again to look at the place; but as far as my knowledge of it goes, the inconvenience is that you must go round by Tottenham Court Road on the west, or by Burton Crescent on the east. That is the whole inconvenience; and if you measure it, it is not a question of miles or half miles, but merely of yards. That is the supposed inconvenience. The traffic which comes up from the east can very readily go up by the Bagnigge Wells Road; and the traffic from the west by the Tottenham Court Road; but because there is this little "short cut," which might be made available, it is supposed that there is great inconvenience to the public in the existence of these gates. I remember hearing in the course of my professional experience of a very curious case of an effort which was made to establish a right of way between two of the doors of a public house which stood between two roads. There was a passage through from one road to the other, and there was no doubt that the public had been accustomed to go through the two flap doors as a short cut. We know that a short cut is a most fascinating thing, and accordingly an effort was made to establish that a public right of way had been acquired between those two flap doors of the public house. I am happy to say the effort failed, but that is a singular instance of this kind of claim. If a third person is to come forward and set aside the rights of the freeholder and the leaseholders, where is the interference to stop? My noble and learned Friend has said he does not recognise the claim to compensation, except where a legal right is invaded. But the legal right of the leaseholder here is certainly invaded.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think my noble and learned Friend was not quite accurate. The freeholder did not oppose in the other House—so I am told, and I believe accurately. That he does not think it worth while to oppose the Bill may be very well understood, after the decision in the other House and in the Committees; but he opposed the Bill in the other House, and, therefore, that shows that he does not assent to it, though he has not thought it worth his while to continue 1490 his opposition in this House. You have, therefore, the legal right of the freeholder interfered with and invaded. Is it not a reasonable thing for the tenants, the leaseholders, and others, all of whom desire to maintain the privacy of this district, to say, "You are taking away the legal right of the freeholder, en which we were perfectly justified in relying; and we knew we could rely upon it, for he would not changed the position in which the property now stands; you have taken away from us the protection we have now; you have taken away these restrictions; it rests entirely upon the state of good feeling between tenants and lessees and their landlord; and if you are going to take this course, which the right rev. Prelate has designated as a high-handed measure, you must provide some kind of compensation for those who are injured?" I do not understand the argument which my noble and learned Friend used with reference to-the remoteness of the compensation which might be claimed—that persons in one street would claim because their street let into another street which was affected by this throwing open to public traffic. This claim could only be made by persons within the protected district. Persons who are not within the district have not paid extra prices for their leases or houses, and they are not. entitled, in point of justice, to compensation. They have taken their houses like others in the Metropolis. But there is here a real case for compensation. People have gone to this place for privacy, and have paid for it, and the persons letting the houses have let them on such terms as represent that price. They would now have to pay the same rates as before, in addition to the sums which they had so paid.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
Would the noble and learned Lord allow me to ask him to define what he means by "protected district?"
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The district protected by these gates. My noble and learned Friend does not seem to be aware that there are gates on four sides. For instance, the gate at Cower Street shuts out the traffic from St. Pancras, and practically it comes to this: that there is an area which is completely protected against heavy traffic passing through it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
There is nothing on the south of Russell Square, I agree; but persons going through and looking at the physical condition of the neighbourhood can see that it is a protected district, heavy traffic being prevented passing through it to the London and North-Western and St. Pan-cras Stations. I am quite aware that the London and North-Western Railway was not in existence at the time these gates were put up; but I say it is an extraordinary thing to claim that these gates should be thrown down because the London and North-Western Railway is there now, and has established a large station for the reception of traffic. That, I should think, is one of the tilings which the persons clamouring to keep this district private would insist upon us showing the equity of this claim. My noble and learned Friend said that he has lived in a place near a railway station. So have I. In fact, I lived within the protected district, in Bedford Place, at one time, and subsequently outside it, in the neighbourhood of the Great Western Railway, where there was no protection. In the former place there was perfect quiet, but in the latter I found that it was impossible after 4 o'clock in the morning to get anything like sleep on account of the noise made by vans and carts. That seems to me to constitute a serious grievance, and not at all a fanciful one. I cannot help surmising that my noble and learned Friend's reference to the gentleman's carriage being allowed to pass the gates is explained by the fact that it was not by reason of social considerations, but because it was not a heavy vehicle.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I beg the noble and learned Lord's pardon; but even in that case some were turned back, and when the explanation was given it was found that they were thought to be hired flys.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The argument founded upon this is, that for 35 years these streets have been paved and repaired at the public expense. When those who made that arrangement made it, they agreed to pay, and did pay, with the gates there. If that was 1492 an improvident bargain to make, as it is now thought apparantly according to this Bill, looking to its terms, it was an improvident bargain made 35 years ago, and since kept. It seems to me that is rather an additional objection to this sort of legislation than anything else, and that you have here a bargain made which has received the sanction of the Legislature itself; but now, without compensation, you are asked to take away that advantage which the Legislature secured at first. My Lords, I confess I regard, with great jealousy, attempts of this sort to interfere with the comfort and convenience of persons who have been guilty of no wrong, who have paid their money for the purpose of obtaining that protection which they have received, and which you now propose to take away simply because it is said the public suffer some additional inconvenience by being obliged to go round, really a distance of a few yards by Tottenham Court Road, or Judd Street, or Barton Crescent. I should have been much better pleased, I confess, if the Committee could have seen their way to do that which would have prevented all question by recognising the right of the inhabitants of this district to compensation. I think it might very well have recorded an opinion in favour of the claims to compensation which my noble and learned Friend has put forward; but as the Committee have refused to take any such course, I shall vote with my noble and learned Friend in moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
As my noble and learned Friend has rather challenged me in regard to the inconvenience, which I have myself experienced from the existence of these gates, I wish merely to say that the inconvenience seems to me to be not merely that the public have to go round, but that the traffic through the streets remaining open is so congested in consequence of so many streets being withdrawn from traffic, that a very serious impediment to the traffic of London has resulted. I merely wish to make that little correction, because I confess to be in some little difficulty as to the vote I shall give, because the issue which my noble and learned Friend has put forward is not the issue on which I should have liked to vote. If he had produced a compensation clause, I should have been very glad 1493 to consider it, and it is very possible we might have seen our way to sanction the introduction of something of the kind into the Bill which would have satisfied us; but he has not done so, and he proposes that after the Bill has been considered in two Houses, after the Bill has been submitted to the proper tribunal, and the proper tribunal has determined that there shall be no compensation, and that the Bill shall pass, we shall reject the Bill altogether on account of that decision. I think that is leaning rather heavily against the public in this matter, and that, on the whole, as my noble and learned Friend has not given us the opportunity of voting upon the question of this compensation, I think we are bound to pass the Third Beading of the Bill. I do not wish to be the cause of continuing this Debate, but I should have been glad to hear from some Member of the Committee the reason for the views which they took in deciding that no compensation was justly to be paid. With regard to the argument of the noble Lord opposite, Lord Herschell, the point on which he seemed to rely was that of estoppal against the freeholder, because he did not appear in this House, but I can quite understand his objection. He is a great London landowner, and he might very well think that it would put him in an invidious position to renew here the opposition which he offered in the other House of Parliament. I do not think that could be made a ground of estoppal against the freeholder for refusing him his just right. I should have been glad to have had the opportunity of voting upon a compensation clause; but when the question is put to me whether I shall vote for the Third Reading, or throw out the Bill, I see no alternative but to support the Bill, and I am consoled by the reflection that if we granted compensation after all, it would have to be decided by a jury, and I do not know that a jury is a superior institution to the five Members of this House and four Gentlemen of the other who have decided against compensation.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I should like to be permitted to add one word by way of explanation. I certainly did not intend to be understood as arguing that the noble Duke by not opposing the Bill 1494 here would lose his claim to compensation. What I said was, that when he petitioned in the other House he did not petition on the ground that he was aggrieved, but entirely on the ground that he appeared in the interests of his lessees and tenants.
§ LORD HOUGHTON
My Lords, as I had the honour of acting as Chairman of the Committee which considered this Bill, and reported upon it to the House in its present shape, I think it will be most convenient to the noble Marquess if I rise at once to state what our reasons were in coming to the decision at which we arrived. In speaking of the Committee, I should like to state frankly at once that our decision was not arrived at without some discussion, and although, for reasons which your Lordships will quite appreciate, none of my noble Friends attempted to divide the Committee, yet their opinion was not entirely unanimous. I only say that, so that when I speak of the decision of the Committee I may be understood as speaking of the decision at which the majority ultimately arrived. Something fell from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack as to the great necessity for the Bill not having been, in his opinion, entirely proved. I am bound to say the evidence given before us on that point seemed absolutely overwhelming. We had the evidence, in the first place, of the officials of the County Council, who perhaps the noble Lord would say were not unbiased, but we also had the evidence of one of the Superintendents of the North-Western Railway, the Secretary of the Cab Proprietors' Association, a representative of the St. Pancras Vestry, Inspectors from two divisions of police, the Parcels Delivery manager, and Messrs. Shoolbred, and other van proprietors in the neighbourhood, and I believe that we might have been hearing evidence of that kind still had we not concluded that we did not consider it necessary to be further informed on the subject. I am told that attention has been drawn to that point by the noble Marquess, but I should like to impress upon your Lordships that owing to the form which my noble and learned Friend has employed on this occasion, if he succeeds, the Bill will be absolutely lost. There is no question of its Amendment; and the public will still have to suffer 1495 what I think I may say was unanimously regarded by the Committee, after a hearing extending over some days, was a very great inconvenience indeed to the public. Therefore, I may say that the only point we had to decide was the question of compensation. That question of compensation was rather presented to us in two different points of view. In the first place, from what I may call the good-natured point of view, it was urged very strongly that these people might suffer inconvenience; that London is a very rich town; that it is desirable to make everybody as happy as possible; and that, therefore, it would be much better to give compensation. But, my Lords, we do not live in Arcadia, where everybody may be supposed to be to be made perfectly happy, but we live in London, and in London, as my noble and learned Friend behind me has shown, people are often put to great inconvenience in these matters of street improvements and opening streets for traffic without receiving any compensation at all. However, I need hardly say that was not the point of view in which the learned counsel who conducted to case with great ability presented it, but that they pressed it from the practical point of view of the question. We had to go back to what we considered was the original intention with which these gates were erected. The noble and learned Lord said that if the then Duke of Bedford, at the end of last century, had wished, he need not have erected gates at all, but might have put walls or houses there, and he need not have made roads. I suppose there would have been nothing to prevent the then Duke of Bedford laying out his estate, if he had chosen, on something like the principle of the maze at Hampton Court, with all the streets cuts de sac, and all the squares only approachable by balloons, but it was of, course, very unlikely that he would do anything of that kind, and what he did was to lay out the estate to the best advantage. The contention of the petitioners was that the gates were placed there with the object of making the estate a private and residential estate. That point was at once taken issue upon, and we decided it was not by any means proved. Your Lordships have heard that the Paving Commissioners were appointed at that 1496 time in connection with the building-estates, and were entitled to rate the inhabitants for paving purposes. Adjoining the Duke of Bedford's estate was an estate of the Skinners' Company on the east, and another belonging to a Mr. Mortimer on the west. These estates are specially mentioned in the Act of Parliament to which my noble and learned Friend alluded, as being the estates to secure protection against which, these gates had been set up, and the inference seemed to him absolutely certain that the intention with which those gates were then erected was to prevent, when the time came for laying out those adjacent estates, the carts filled with heavy materials passing over those roads on the Bedford estate which were to be made by the inhabitants of that estate alone. Not to detain your Lordships too long on this point, matters went on as they were, and several other Acts were passed which left matters very much in the same position until the year 1855, when the Metropolis Management Act was passed. There were then over 300 of these little Paving Trusts in London, and the time had then come to consolidate the paving of the whole Metropolis, and, as your Lordships are aware, it was then handed over to the different vestries. Then my noble and learned Friend says if that was the only reason, why were the gates not taken down at that time? My answer, like that of the noble and learned Lord, is that they most certainly ought to have been taken down, but there are, I think, two reasons why they were not; one was suggested by the learned Council, who appeared before the Committee, and it is to the effect that this Metropolis Management Act was rather in the nature of an experiment. It might not have succeeded, and it might have been found necessary to go back to the Paving Trusts, and in that case the loss of the gates might have been a serious matter to them. But I think in reality what weighed more with Parliament was that at that time the gates were not a serious nuisance, that 35 years ago there was by no means the same amount of traffic as there is now, and, as your Lordships are well aware, Parliament is very timid of touching anything of that kind, or of interfering with legal rights, unless a strong case 1497 is made out for doing so. On that point we arrived at this conclusion, that, in the first place, the gates were put up to save the roads, and not to keep them private, and that the roads were, therefore, to all intents and purposes, and ought to be treated for all intents and purposes as public roads; and we also arrived at the conclusion, which I may say was very hotly contested by the petitioners, and appeared to them to be a very strong point, although we did not give it as much weight as they desired, namely, that the Duke of Bedford was the sole proprietor of these gates, that he had power either to take them away, or to alter their present position or to remove them without asking his leaseholders. That was hotly contested, but as the noble and learned Lord has conceded the point I do not know that I need say anything more about it. Supposing my contention to be correct, that the gates ought to be taken away, then the real fact is that these people have had thirty-five years more of privacy than they were really entitled to. I was told of a case the other day of a man who had kindly allowed some friends to live for three years in his house, which they did with great apparent satisfaction, but at the end of that time they went to live elsewhere, and sent him in a claim for £2,000 compensation. It seems that is rather the manner in which the inhabitants of these squares are acting towards the public at this moment. Then we come to the point that these houses were taken on the faith of these gates being there. All I can say is there is nothing to show it. I could understand it if there had been covenants in the leases to the effect that if these gates were taken away the lessees would have had a claim, then the Duke of Bedford could have come to the Committee and said, "You see what you are doing; you are diminishing the value of my property." I think in that case the Duke could have made out a claim to compensation, but there are no such covenants in the leases, and how the Duke, except under those circumstances, could have asked for compensation I fail to understand. I do not want to lay too much stress on the fact that the Duke of Bedford did not appear before us. I think the reason given by the noble Marquess may very likely be the right 1498 one. As the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack drew attention to the fact that he did appear in the other House, it is only fair for me to say that he did so only to say what he could for his lessees, and I have no doubt that being on good terms with them he would have liked to say what he could for them. But what I want your Lordships to do is to regard very carefully the possibility of these houses having been taken on such a distinct understanding as mentioned. Take the case of Carlton House Terrace. Supposing one of your Lordships took a house there. I am not sure of my facts here; but I think there would be nothing to prevent the Crown turning Carlton House Terrace into a thoroughfare tomorrow if they chose, and if they considered Pall Mall so congested as to require that to be done. I do not imagine that in such a case the inhabitants of Carlton House Terrace would have a claim to compensation, and yet their expectation of continuing to enjoy their privacy is quite as reasonable as any which these people living in Upper Woburn Place could have had by the maintenance of these gates. Once you concede that they had not a right to maintain these gates themselves, and that the Duke of Bedford could not do so either, I cannot see where their claim for compensation comes in. I should like once more to impress upon your Lordships what has been often said, that claims for compensation for annoyance, as conceded by the petitioner's own witnesses in the case, cannot be maintained or defended. All they claimed was compensation for deterioration of property, and even if they were entitled to make out their case upon that they did not make it out on the ground of annoyance. Of course, if we could have given it them it would have been much more agreeable to us. It is very nice to sit on a Committee and please everybody, if that is not done at the public expense; but we did not desire to confiscate anybody's proparty. The reason why we did not assent to the claim for compensation was simply because we did not think anybody had made out a claim to compensation.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I should like to state in a very few words the reasons which bring me to the same 1499 conclusion as the noble Marquess opposite, a conclusion which I confess I have reached with very great difficulty, because now that we have heard from the Chairman of the Committee the reasons which induced the Committee to give no compensation, I am bound to say that so far as the freeholders are concerned those reasons seem to me to be quite insufficient and quite unsatisfactory. That is my only reason for voting in favour of the Bill. I think the leaseholders have not, strictly speaking, any legal locus standi in this matter. The rule about compensation in Acts of Parliament where the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act applies is that unless an action could have been brought in the absence of an authority given by the Act of Parliament there is no right. Having heard this debated fully it does seem to me perfectly clear that the occupiers of these houses would have no right to bring any action at all. They have no contract with the freeholder, and it seems to me that the freeholder could, without giving them any right of action, have consented to the removal of these gates, and that if he has consented to it they are entirely out of Court. The reasons urged in connection with the paving of the streets, and so on, seem to me, if I may say so with respect, to be irrelevant. I do not think they would have the least tendency to bar any right to compensation, which would otherwise exist. In this stage of the matter what effect ought to be given to the action of the freeholder in not appearing before the Committee to ask for compensation? Upon the whole I cannot but come to this conclusion, that it must be interpreted as a virtual consent by the freeholder to leave the matter in the hands of the Committee. The Committee have apparently acted upon that principal, and upon that I have been unable from any of the reasons suggested, except those which affect the freeholder, to say that compensation ought to have been given. I think, therefore, the best way of arriving at a just conclusion is to assume that the freeholder did not wish to press his claims.
§ LORD HOUGHTON
I should desire, my Lords, to say one word in explanation. I carefully intended to guard myself against saying anything as to 1500 whether the freeholder waived his right to claim compensation or not. All I said was that he did not ask for it, and that seemed to us on the Committee to be absolutely conclusive.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
If the freeholder had asked for compensation it seems to me his right to compensation would have been as clear as any that has ever been brought before Parliament.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I do not rise to add anything the discussion of a subject which, I think, has now been pretty well threshed out. I am perfectly satisfied from what has been said by my noble Friends, Lord Herschell, Lord Houghton, Lord Salisbury, and Lord Selborne, as to the vote which I shall give. My reason for rising is to give a short and, perhaps, not very unimportant explanation. I find that I was reported on the Second Beading to give my opinion in favour of compensation. Now, I gave no such opinion at all, and I was quoted afterwards as having done so. What I stated was this: that by general consent the present state of things is an inconvenience to the public: that the removal of the gates would be a convenience to the public—everybody was agreed upon that; that with regard to compensation there was a difference of opinion, and that if the Bill had been rejected on Second Reading your Lordships would have destroyed the chance of removing an inconvenience to the public, and would have left undecided the question of compensation, which appeared to me to be a very fitting one to go to a Committee. The Committee, as my noble Friend has very fairly described, came to the conclusion that compensation is undesirable, but if they had proposed a clause of a practical character I should certainly not have-been one to oppose their decision. However, as this Committee-has, after very carefully hearing evidence, and having discussed the whole matter, come to the contrary opinion, I should extremely regret that this House —I do not wish to dwell on the reasons why I think so—should pass over the judgments of the Select Committee of the House of Commons and' the Select Committee of your own body, that an end ought to be put to what is on all 1501 hands regarded as a great inconvenience to the public.
* LORD ZOUCHE
My Lords, as a Member of the Committee before which this matter was brought, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words. It has been stated with great candour by my noble Friend opposite, Lord Houghton, that, although we did not actually divide on the question, yet that we were by no means unanimous as to the questions involved, particularly that of compensation. We discussed this question at very great length, and I can assure your Lordships we gave every attention to it. I should be the very last to make light of the decision of a Committee, or to say that their verdict should be lightly set aside. They occupy a position of very great trust; they have important matters to deal with; they have a high reputation in your Lordships' House, and admittedly do their work well; but I do not mean to say that under no circumstances ought the verdict of a Select Committee, such as this, to be passed in review before your Lordships' House. In fact, in this case, there were somewhat unusual difficulties presented to us. Although, when looked at in one sense—perhaps what I may call the common sense view of the matter —it was extremely clear, yet there were technical points raised which, although we gave great attention to them, were far fitter to be dealt with by a tribunal composed of men possessing legal training, than by an entirely lay tribunal. Besides that, there was a further difficulty which, I think, has been admitted several times in your Lordships' House, and that was the non-appearance of the freeholder, the owner of those gates, either as a claimant for compensation, or as opposing the Bill in any way. Of course, my Lords, this was, so to speak, the trump card in the hands of the London County Council. All reference to the Duke of Bedford, who happened to be the freeholder in this case, was immediately stopped, and there was a point connected with that which I ventured to raise in the Committee which I considered relevant, and I will leave your Lordships to judge whether it was so or not. I ventured to inquire whether, because in this particular case an owner of property (because it was admitted there was an owner of property here) makes no par- 1502 ticular objection to having his property taken away in one particular instance, Parliament should on that account sanction a Bill giving to a Municipal Body like the London County Council, or to any Municipal Body, power to act in such a sweeping manner, and to take away a man's property without giving him a shilling of compensation for it. That is a point which I venture to think is extremely relevant to the issue which you have to determine tonight. It was admitted, after a few moments of the opening statement of counsel, that these gates were the property of the freeholder, and then there was this curious statement made: Supposing instead of there being gates here there had been a house built across the street, then, of course, proper steps would have had to be taken to purchase. But it was said you may take away a man's gates, and it is nonsense to say you do not injure the property by doing that; but that if it happens to be a house, you must give him something for it. It was contended, also, that there was no claim for the freeholder because his property was not injured; but it was proved over and over again—in fact, it was sufficiently obvious that if you take away the protection which these gates give to these houses, the property would suffer. Then came the other case put forward—how far the lessees and occupiers were entitled to compensation. There was a great deal of technical reasoning about it; but the main argument was that these people had not really any vested interest in the gates. That was one of the great arguments for compensation; not only were they protected and their property made of greater value by the existence of these gates, but these gates were put there by the freeholder under an Act of Parliament— wore kept up by him under a series of Acts of Parliament. But it was contended on the other side that as these gates were not to be removed without the consent of the owner, therefore the owner could at any time give that consent, and that in that case these unfortunate people would have no redress whatever. But it was somewhat necessary for that contention to ascertain whether the freeholder did in fact give his consent or not. It was never for one single instant contended, although the freeholder had 1503 not chosen to appear for reasons of his own against the Bill, that he had in any sort of way given his consent to these gates being taken away. I do not wish to detain your Lordships after so long a Debate as has taken place, but I think for these and many other reasons it would be unwise to establish such a precedent, and that by admitting this principle you would be establishing a very dangerous precedent. I think in this case especially it is somewhat advisable that your Lordships should review the decision of the Committee, and I would submit that your Lordships should now carefully consider whether you will allow this Bill to proceed or not.
§ * THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, I have risen more than once to address the House, and I apologise for speaking so late, but I have only a few words to say. It appears to me this is not a question which is at all involved in any legal technicalities, but that, on the contrary, it is one of the simplest questions ever submitted to your Lordships' House. To my mind it is simply this: will your Lordships sanction what the right rev. Prelate has called a high-handed and arbitrary proceeding, namely, the overthrowing of existing recognised rights without any compensation being made. That is the simple question. All other questions as to whether the proprietor, the Duke in this case, has done this or 'that sink into nothingness compared with that simple proposition. It turns, therefore, upon this: are there existing rights; are they recognised; have they been acknowledged? Having read the statements made by the promoters and by the opponents of this Bill respectively, and having read the evidence, it appears to me that these rights have been recognised over and over again. They have been recognised in Acts of Parliament; they were recognised by the Act of 1855, to which the noble and learned Lord the ex-Lord Chancellor referred, which constituted the Metropolitan Board; they were recognised by Lord Magheraniorne in the House of Commons when he was at the head of the Metropolitan Board. He was asked a question on this subject by Mr. Montagu Guest, whether they would bring in a Bill to do away with all gates and obstructions in the Metropolis. Lord Magheramorne's answer was that 1504 it was a question involving great rights and claims to compensation. Sir William Harcourt was asked in the House of Commons at the same time—this was in the year 1884—a question on the same subject by Mr. Montagu Guest, and what was his answer? I will give it as it was given in evidence before this very Committee, which reported in favour of this measure. Sir William Harcourt, in reply to the question of Mr. Montagu Guest, on behalf of the Government, said heDid not think the matter was one which the Government ought to undertake; that owners of land and residences were interested in the maintenance of these gates, bars, and posts; and that it was impossible to destroy those interests without making compensation.I would then refer the noble and learned Lord the ex-Lord Chancellor to the language used by the late Home Secretary upon this question of compensation for the reply to his argument. Therefore, I submit that it is thus distinctly shown that the principle of the right to compensation has been fully recognised and accepted. But more than that. These statements which I have quoted were made, as I have said, in the year 1884. What happened in the year 1885? Why, the Metropolitan Board of Works, as it then was, which has now been succeeded, as we know, by this London County Council, brought in a general Bill, and in that general Bill they had a clause accepting the principle of compensation and making provision for it. That Bill was for taking away all such bars, gates, and obstructions and it provided that the owner of any such bar, gate, or other obstruction was entitled to receive from the Board compensation in respect of the taking down and removal of such bar, gate, rails, or other obstruction. And that was a Bill brought in by the London County Council of the day only five years ago. Further than that, I maintain that the promoters of this Bill have shown that they know the principle of compensation is at stake, because they have declined to put in this Bill the Lands Clauses Act Compensation Clauses, because they knew, of course, that if they had incorporated and adopted that clause they would have had to give compensation. I will go further on this question of compensation, and say that this very 1505 Committee, although apparently unanimous in its Report, certainly appears from the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down not to have been at all unanimous in the view which it took of this question, because there were statements made as to what an important question this was in dealing with property and the danger there was of this London County Council in other cases dealing with property without making compensation. That is what the noble Lord tells us. I say that the Committee has itself shown that this case admits of the application of the principle of compensation by the suggestion they have made with regard to repaving these streets. That shows clearly that they admit this principle of compensation, and that they recognise that this measure will be an injury to these inhabitants. The surveyors who gave evidence say that it will lower the value of their property 25 per cent., and the Committee accordingly propose this new idea for the first time: they propose that the compensation, instead of being paid as it should be in current coin of the realm, is to be paid in wooden blocks, with, I suppose, the image and superscription of Lord Rosebery on one side—whom we may look upon as the "Hadji-baba" of modern Metropolitan munici-palism—and with the figure of Lord Houghton as "Britannia" on the other. And what is the reason given for all this? Public convenience! Nobody doubts that it may be a convenience to have these gates and bars removed, but that is no reason why property should be confiscated; and if these streets are to be thrown open, the noble Marquess, when he is in a hurry to catch a train to get to Hatfield, may find himself more obstructed and impeded by the carts and waggons passing along them than ever he has been by these gates. But I quite admit that the existence of bars of this kind in the centre of a great Metropolis is in these days an anomaly, and that they constitute an obstruction which ought to be swept away; but not without compensation. And what is the reason given for it? We have heard nothing from the promoters of the Bill of the rights which, as I have pointed out, have been recognised so frequently; but we have had, instead, false analogies drawn between this district and 1506 parts of the town which have nothing whatever to do with the question, such as Hamilton Place and other districts which had not the guarantee of Acts of Parliament. Your Lordships have had an argument used to-night by the noble and learned Lord the ex-Lord Chancellor, which he used on a former occasion and which has also been used by Lord Rosebery, which goes very far, namely, that those persons who claim to be compensated may be very thankful that they have had the use and enjoyment of this privacy for so many years. Why, my Lords, what is that but Henry George's argument with regard to land? It may be applied in the same way to every estate possessed by any one of your Lordships, as proposed by Mr. Hyndman and the Socialists. But Mr. Hyndman and the Socialists go further; they would strike against pensions and property of all kinds; and how will my noble and learned Friend like it when they come and propose to take away his pension on the ground that he has enjoyed it for so many years? There is no half way. The true principle is, that if the public wants something for which they require to get an Act of Parliament, in order to take it from the owner, or lessee or whoever it is, compensation ought to be given; and it is with something more than astonishment—I may say it was with consternation—that I heard the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, from whom we might have looked for protection in these matters, declare that he would vote for this Bill. I heard with far greater pleasure the speech of the Lord Chancellor, and I hope that the majority of this House will on this occasion follow the Lord Chancellor rather than the Prime Minister into the Lobby.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
My Lords, I will not detain the House more than a few moments, but I should wish to add my own humble contribution to the remarks of those who have urged your Lordships to pause before you reverse the decisions which have been come to by the Committees of your Lord ships' House and of the other House of Parliament, and adopt the Resolution moved by the noble and learned Lord behind me. I do not for a moment mean to assert that it is never proper to review the decision 1507 of a Committee of your Lordships' House; but the occasions when we do so are generally when it is found either that fresh evidence has been obtained, or that evidence which has been offered has not been received. In this case no fresh evidence has been brought forward, and no occasion of that kind has arisen. It has been admitted, I believe on all hands, that the inquiry into the Bill was conducted with great care, patience, and ability; and I venture to say that the House would incur no little responsibility if it now reversed the decision of the Committee, arrived at after hearing evidence on the matter for no less than three days. I do not wish for a moment to traverse again all the ground which has been gone over by the noble Lords who have already spoken; but this I would say, that it appears to me at the present time an entirely false issue is placed before the House. It is admitted on all hands that the Bill which you are now asked to throw out will be for the public convenience. There is no doubt whatever about that. Then, why did not the noble and learned Lord bring forward a Motion which would agree with the argument he used, namely, that although good was to be obtained by the Bill, it should be paid for? If the noble and learned Lord had brought forward a clause proposing that compensation should be given in certain cases and in certain ways, I think it would have been perfectly open to the House to have discussed the matter; but now, to throw out this Bill at its Third Reading, after it has been fought through both Houses and threshed out with the greatest care in both Houses, is a course which your Lordships ought not hastily to adopt. With great humility I would venture to urge that the House ought not to take that step without great and careful consideration. The noble Lord who last addressed the House has spoken of the recognised rights which are taken away and not compensated for. I really think the noble Lord cannot have risen to the weighty argument which has been presented by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Selborne, who said, and with perfect justice if I may be allowed to say so, that the leaseholders who petitioned against this Bill had really no legal rights whatever on which you could 1508 base compensation. I do not wish to argue the subject over again; but I thought it right to say those few words in the endeavour to induce your Lordships to pause, at any rate, before you assent to the proposition of my noble and learned Friend.
§ On Question whether the word ("now") shall stand part of the Motion, their Lordships divided:—Contents 38; Not-Contents 29.
§ Resolved in the affirmative.
§ Bill read 3a accordingly, with the amendment.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
I beg to move the postponement of the last stage of this Bill until Tuesday next. The noble Marquess the Prime Minister has not, I think, disputed the reasonableness of compensation; but on the occasion of the Second Reading he said he thought the Second Reading ought to be passed, and I believe if the noble Marquess had not intervened on that occasion it would not have passed. He suggested that it ought to be sent to a Select Committee, and that in Select Committee it could be considered whether a Compensation Clause ought not to be put in. He said that if a Compensation Clause had been put in he would have considered it. I venture, therefore, to propose a postponement in order to give an opportunity for the adoption of a clause of that kind. There are precedents for it, and there is no hurry for the last stage. A postponement until Tuesday would give an opportunity for following the course proposed by the Prime Minister.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
As my noble Friend has mentioned me specially I will say a word. I see no objection to the postponement. I believe that if there is to be a practical clause of compensation brought forward, which approves itself to the majority of the House, I am sure it would be very satisfactory that it should be proposed. After having been told that such a clause is contemplated, it would, I think, hardly be just—especially as there is no hurry in the matter—if we insist on now passing the Bill.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
But surely this is a very unusual practice, suggesting in this way a clause at the last moment. 1509 Why did not my noble Friend prepare a clause ready for insertion in the Bill? I think we were entitled to have had the clause prepared at the last stage of the Bill. If my noble Friend thought that course desirable why did he not prepare a clause?
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
The proposed clause was not prepared by me, and it may not, perhaps, be exactly the clause that ought to be put in. Whether it is put in to-day or on Tuesday really cannot matter, as the noble Earl knows perfectly well; and I think, with the view of justice being done to all parties, it had better be postponed. Therefore, I still adhere to my Motion, that this last stage of the Bill be postponed.
§ Bill to be further proceeded with on Tuesday next.