THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I rise to ask your Lordships to suspend the Standing Orders in order to give a Second Reading to the London Streets (Removal of Gates) Bill, and that is so simple a proposition that I should not think it necessary to trouble your Lordships with any remarks on the subject had it not been that I see a notice standing in the formidable name of my noble and learned Friend Lord Bramwell for the refusal of the Second Reading. I do not think it is usual to make long speeches about private Bills, and it is the less necessary in this case, because I 2 presume every one of your Lordships who is an inhabitant of London is well aware of the nature of the obstruction which this Bill seeks to remove. In fact, I should have thought there could have been no opposition to a simple proposal of this kind. The wonder to me is that those obstructions should have been allowed to remain so long, and that in the middle, or towards the latter end, of the 19th century there should be a single district of London which is shut up for the night from 11 o'clock to 7 the next morning, and through which the passage of heavy traffic or vehicular traffic from different parts of the greatest city in the world is strictly forbidden by the existence of these bars. Well, as I have said, I should have thought there could have been no opposition; but there has been a Petition filed in opposition to this measure, and I do not doubt that it is that Petition which my noble and learned Friend is prepared to support. But I do not see any opposition from the one quarter from which especially it might have been expected to come with some show of right, and that is from the noble Duke 3 himself (the Duke of Bedford), whom I do not see in his place. The intervention in this matter is entirely on the part of persons who think their comfort will be affected by the removal of these bars, and, therefore, beg your Lordships to forbid the passing of this Bill. In the first place, I would venture to remark that these bars were not made for the protection of the repose or the protection of the comfort of the inhabitants of this district in the slightest degree. That is a proposition to which I have no difficulty whatever in asking the assent of my noble and learned Friend. I hold in my hand the copy of the Act under which these bars were set up, and it is set out very clearly and plainly what their object was. It was in no degree, as I have said, to protect the comfort of the inhabitants, but it was to protect the roads which had been made by the Paving Trust of that district from being invaded or utilised by the inhabitants of the neighbouring estates. That is set forth clearly enough in this Bill to which I refer. It hands over to the Paving Commissioners, as Trustees, the roads that had been made on this estate. It hands over to them the freehold, and appoints those Commissioners for five years, and then to be renewed at the end of five years. The clause that I think will throw most light on the object with which those bars were set up is the 63rd—And be it further enacted that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed, declared, or taken to extend, to prevent or preclude the said Duke of Bedford, his heirs and assigns, or the owner or owners for the time being of the said pieces or plots of ground from erecting or placing any posts, rails, or other obstructions at the end of any streets, squares, or places intended to be made in pursuance of this Act, which shall lead into the estates now or late the property of the Worshipful Company of Skinners, or of Hans Winthorpe Mortimer, Esq., so as to prevent any horses or carriages passing or re-passing through the said streets, squares, or places, into or upon the said estates now or lately in the hands of the Worshipful Company of Skinners, or of Hans Winthorpe Mortimer, Esq,and so on. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the object of those gates was what I have stated, and that the roads made on the adjoining estates being now quite as good as those on this estate, the reason for the existence of the gates has disappeared, and they are now simply a 4 mediævalanomaly in the middle of London at the end of the present 19th century. And here I would venture to remark that these Paving Commissioners to whom, these roads were made over in freehold have disappeared, and that the Vestry have succeeded to their powers. The Vestry is the representative of those Commissioners. Have the Vestry petitioned against the removal of these gates? Not in the slightest degree. On the contrary, the Vestry petition for their removal. I only notice that in passing; but my point, which I was going to bring before your Lordships, is that if under these Paving Trusts it was intended that the gates and bars elsewhere should be kept up as they are now kept up in these four places London would have been so hampered and harassed that its development would have been absolutely impossible. In 1865 there were 316 of these Trusts, and I ask your Lordships to consider what the condition of London would have been if the other 315 Trusts with powers of barring up the streets of London had been exercised as they have been in these four places. Then I would ask the further question, when has it ever been customary in London to give compensation for the introduction of new lines of traffic? I speak with great humility and deference in the presence of my noble-and learned Friend, but I do not suppose that even he can produce one instance in which such compensation has been given. Your Lordships will remember an instance, which must be very familiar to you, where private property did sustain very signal damage by the admission of traffic for the purposes of public utility—I allude to Hamilton Place. That was one of the most agreeable residences, no doubt, in London. It was a cul de sac. The houses there were almost like country villas, with the park on one side, though they had the public street on the other. But suddenly public opinion demanded that Hamilton Place should be thrown open. Park Lane was opened, and Hamilton Place was roughly invaded by traffic. But I venture to say that not one farthing of compensation was paid for that damage to property. Again, at this moment, there has been a considerable introduction of heavy traffic into streets which hitherto have been free from it. 5 For example, of the west side of Grosvenor Square and South Audley Street, and that district which has hitherto been kept apart from public traffic, there is a perpetual and increasing stream of omnibuses and heavy traffic passing to and fro at all hours of the day; but I have yet to learn that the inhabitants of that district have come before your Lordships with an appeal on the ground that their repose has been in any degree interfered with. The honest and plain truth is, that putting all legal technicalities aside, my noble and learned Friend admits he cannot produce a case in which compensation has ever been paid for the introduction of traffic, and that if you live in the centre of the greatest city in the world you must take the drawbacks of that position as well as its conveniences. I do not believe if you brought a traveller to London and took him into this district and explained to him that, under the provisions of a private Act of Parliament passed in the year 1799, it was the prerogative of this district to be locked up in monastic seclusion from 11 o'clock at night to 7 o'clock in the morning, and to prevent the passing of traffic through that quarter, he would place the slightest credence in your assertion until he had learned the fact from experience. I believe that if there is any compensation to be paid, if compensation is due in any quarter, it is rather due from the inhabitants of these districts for the privilege they have so long enjoyed at the expense of the public than it is due from the public to the inhabitants of these districts. Then I would ask this: Is there anything in their covenants which gives them a right to expect any such redress? Have they, under the covenants of their houses, any claim for the preservation of these bars? I challenge my noble and learned Friend to produce such covenants. As a matter of fact, there is no such agreement, and they took their leases with the Act open before them under which these bars were fenced, and from which I venture to make a few quotations to your Lordships. Let me refer to another clause to prove what I say. It provides—That nothing shall prevent or hinder the said Francis, Duke of Bedford, his heirs or assigns, or the owner or owners of the said plots of ground for the time being, from re- 6 moving the said fences, gates, posts, rails, or any of them at his or their free will or pleasure.So far, therefore, from having a vested interest in these gates, the inhabitants of this district took their leases with the Act of Parliament open before them giving the ground landlord, at any time, at his own free disposition and arbitrament, power to remove these gates, rails, and posts. I venture to think, under those circumstances, your Lordships will not refuse, at any rate, a Second Reading to this Bill, and that, in view of the large interests with regard to public convenience that are involved, in view of the fact that a Committee of the House of Commons patiently and laboriously investigated this matter and have passed the Bill unanimously, nothing could be more ill-judged than that your Lordships should at this day refuse a Second Reading of the Bill.Moved, "That the Order made on the 10th day of March last, 'That no Private Bill brought from the House of Commons shall be read a second time after Friday the 20th day of; June next,' be dispensed with, and that the Bill be now read 2a;."—(The Lord Rosebery, E Rosebery.)
§ * LORD BRAMWELL
My Lords, on behalf of the people who live within the district which is affected by this proposal, I ask your Lordships to reject the Bill. I have no authority to speak for the Duke of Bedford, but I know he has expressed himself as sorry for the position of these persons, of whom upwards of 200 have petitioned against this Bill. I suppose your Lordships know where this district is now, though some 50 or 60 years ago it was considered a good joke by Theodore Hook and some of his school to represent Blooms-bury as a terra incognita which people then knew nothing about. Less than 100 years ago this district was all fields; there were no houses upon it. But by the 39 & 40 George III., to which the noble Earl has referred, a scheme was recognised and means were given for carrying it into execution of erecting houses and making it a residential district, if I may use the expression. Your Lordships may possibly know that this was carried into execution, and that houses of a very good character, though not palatial—not as good as your Lordships find in Mayfair or Belgravia—but 7 houses of a very good description, indeed, have been erected there, and are occupied by most respectable tenants. I am surprised to hear the noble Earl say that these barriers were not put up for the benefit of the district and of those who live there. They most manifestly were, and I will ask your Lordships' permission to refer to the Act in order to show it—That nothing shall prevent the said Francis, Duke of Bedford, his heirs and assigns, or the owner or owners for the time being of the said pieces or plots of ground from erecting posts, rails, and other restraints in order to prevent traffic passing over and through the said streets, squares, and places.The noble Earl says the people in the district are at the mercy of the Duke, who could remove these bars if he thought fit. I think it is very likely he can. I am not instructed that there is anything in their leases which gives them the right to insist on the maintenance of these bars; but they are satisfied that the noble Duke and those who succeed him will, unless your Lordships prevent it, continue these bars for the purpose of adding to the comfort and convenience of those who inhabit the district. Instead of building on the ground where those barriers exist, the bars and gates have been erected and the space has been sacrificed upon which houses might have been built. So far as that has been done, they feel satisfied that these bars will be continued, as the property will thus remain more valuable both to the occupier and to the freeholder. So much for the region of these barriers. Seventy years ago, in the 57th year of the reign of George III., another Act of Parliament was passed which was intended for the better paving, improving, and regulating the streets of the Metropolis, and in that Act there was this clause—Nothing in this Act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to authorise the taking down or removing of any bars, gates, rails, or other fences fixed for preventing any thoroughfare into, or from, any square, street, place, or way, without the consent of the owner of the estate or property upon which such bars, gates, rails, and other restraints shall be situate.It is true that by the original Act of Parliament Commissioners were appointed for the special purposes of rating the occupiers of these premises, and of paving and performing certain duties that were afterwards taken from them and transferred to the Vestry. It was an incon- 8 venience, I dare say, as the noble Earl has said; but by the Metropolis Local Management Act, 1855, it was provided (I will not trouble your Lordships with the particular language of the Act) that those Commissioners should cease to exist, and that the Vestry should take upon themselves the duties which the Commissioners had formerly performed, and that the rating should be a rating by the Vestry instead of by the Commisioners. In that Act, which was not a private, but a public, Act of Parliament, there was this provision—Nothing in this Act shall extend or he construed to extend to authorise the taking down or removing any bar gate rail or other fence fixed for preventing any thoroughfare into any street square or way without the consent of the proprietor of the estate or property upon which such bar gate rail or fence or square street or place shall be situate.So that the freeholder had the rights continued which he had by virtue of the private Act to which I have called your Lordships' attention, and which the noble Earl has referred to. They are continued to him by this public Act of Parliament. I suppose at that time it was hardly thought that the rights of owners could be taken away in the unceremonious way in which it is proposed by this Bill that they shall be. This, then, is the condition of things. Those are the rights which are given to these people by the law of the land—not merely by their having the property in the land, which they could apply for another purpose if they thought fit, because of course they could build upon it, but those are rights given to them, which they say, and which it cannot be denied, are useful to them for the purpose of preserving the privacy and quiet of their dwellings, and of preventing those inconveniences which will result from their being created an open thoroughfare. I agree that the public has a right to expropriate any property for public purposes. I entirely agree to that; every man who holds real property in this country holds it subject to the right on the part of the public to take it away from him. But upon what terms? Why, upon the terms of paying him for it, and upon no other terms. Your Lordships must know that the most careful provisions are found in all Acts of Parliament authorising the taking of land for railways, canals, or other public 9 purposes. The most careful and scrupulous provisions are put in those Acts for the purpose of compensating every man whose land is so taken. That is not denied here, and why? The noble Earl says he is astonished that the inhabitants of this district should like the present condition of things. Well, I should be very much astonished if they did anything else, and I will take the noble Earl's own illustration. He says the west side of Grosvenor Square is now used as a thoroughfare for a line of omnibuses, and that the people there very much dislike it. I have no doubt they do. But he says they are entitled to no compensation. Why? Because they had no right to stop the omnibuses. They had no powers by which they could lawfully have prevented any portion of the public traffic which should take that direction. Your Lordships cannot doubt—I think it is impossible to doubt, and I wish your Lordships knew—probably you do not—what may be called the quiet and privacy of this neighbourhood; but it is to be invaded by traffic, and I suppose cattle are to go through it and lines of omnibuses, heavy trucks, and all traffic at all times of the day and night. I ought here to mention that the only traffic which is at all excluded is that of a heavy character, such as that I have mentioned to your Lordships, and also that it is only from 11 o'clock at night to 7 o'clock in the morning that the gates are closed to the light traffic of cabs and carriages. There cannot be a doubt that it will be a loss to these people. They say the result of it will be that, instead of the district being a residential one, it will become to a certain extent altered; that it will be lowered in its character, and they put forward this which I think is a matter eminently entitled to your Lordships consideration—they say they have leases, and that by their leases they are prohibited from turning the houses into shops or places of business. They must keep the houses as private residences, and they say the tendency of this Bill, if your Lordships pass it, will be to leave them saddled with their leases, under which they will be unable to continue to use their houses for the same purposes as those for which they at present use them, and which they can put to no other use. 10 Now, I want to ask this question: Supposing that those who laid out this estate, instead of paving the space on which the bars were put, had put houses there? Do your Lordships know why they did not do so? They did not put houses on these spaces that are occupied by the bars, but they put bars there instead, because they knew that the property would thereby be made more valuable than it would be if these spaces had been covered with houses. But would anybody have thought for a moment if that had been the case, if houses had been built there, that the houses ought to be pulled down now without compensation? Nobody would have ventured to suggest such a thing without compensation being made to those who had suffered from it; but because it is a bar it is to come down, although that bar is something which makes the property more valuable. It is to be taken down—and why? On account of the convenience to the public. But if the convenience to the public is worth causing loss which it will occasion to the tenants, the public ought to pay for it. If it is not worth that loss, then that loss ought not to be inflicted upon the people. It is a dilemma of a most undeniable character, as it seems to me. But, no; because the bars are there as a sort of invitation, if one may so say, to suggest to people that they should be pulled down, this proposition is quietly brought forward. When, as I have said, if houses had been placed there instead, nobody would have thought of it. It puts me in mind of a case that came before a very sagacious Judge, where the plaintiff complained that the defendant had got a brickfield very near to him. When the defendant was called upon for his defence, he said, "It is so convenient; that it was a convenient place where they were burning bricks." "Convenient to whom?" said the learned Judge, Mr. Justice Wightman, "not to the plaintiff?" "No," was the answer, "convenient to me," and the plaintiff got a verdict. And I trust your Lordships will here give the verdict to those who are in this situation. It is convenient to the public that these bars should be pulled down, not to those who will suffer, as I have no doubt they will from that being done. Let there be no mistake about it 11 at all. The proposition is not that these bars should be taken down and compensation made to those who suffer, nor is there any suggestion that they will not suffer; but the Bill is that, whether they suffer or not, down must come the bars, and no compensation paid. That is the case that is laid before your Lordships. I want to know what is to be the result of it? Here is property being taken merely because it will be a convenience to the public without any compensation being made to those who are injured by it. What is the precedent for it? Are all the other bars in London to be taken down in the same way? Some of your Lordships know the convenience and comfort that such bars afford to those who live in the districts where they are. But if the reason put forward is a good one; if the requirements of civilisation in the greatest capital of Europe, as the noble Earl stated, necessitates this being done, it is a reason that would be equally applicable to every bar in the Metropolis, and it is a reason which, as far as I can see, should not stop at bars but been tended to houses or to any other property standing in the way where it is proposed to open a thoroughfare. My Lords, I ask your Lordships to read this Bill a second time this day six months.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months.")—(The Lord Bramwell.)
§ LORD HERSCHELL
My Lords, I trust that notwithstanding the alarmist speech which has just been delivered by my noble and learned Friend you will give this Bill a Second Reading. In asking your Lordships to reject the Bill, my noble and learned Friend can only support that proposal if he can establish the proposition that in favour of those whose interests he has represented the interests of the public at large are to be absolutely disregarded. Of course, the reading of this Bill a second time does not preclude any of these petitioners from making out such a case as they can before a Select Committee for such compensation as the law may warrant or your Lordships' House may deem them entitled to. But my noble and learned Friend is not satisfied with that; he asks your Lordships to say that, because these bars have 12 existed, and because their existence produces a certain amount of comfort to 200 people—
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I took the number which my noble and learned Friend himself stated. Because that is so, the interests of thousands in this Metropolis are to be thoroughly disregarded. The truth is, these bars are an anachronism, barring as they do the passage across this great Metropolis from one district to another, and from more than one important railway station, at inconvenient times in the day, making them inaccessible except by going round a very considerable distance. I should have thought that the right of the public to have their interests considered in this matter, and to have these bars removed, whatever claims any person might have to consideration, was absolutely clear. At the time their erection was sanctioned, the state of things which existed was something totally different from that which exists to-day. Since that time railways and railway stations have come into existence, and the vast amount of traffic has arisen in different parts of the Metropolis, owing to the extension of London, which finds its outlet and inlet by these railway stations. And when you look at the object with which those bars were erected, you will find that object was not one which had in contemplation this purpose for which it is now desired they should be maintained against the public. In those days the cost of paving and repairing the streets, the ownership of the streets being in the freeholder, was cast upon those living within the particular district, which was, practically speaking, really the estate where the streets were made and the bars erected; and the object of the bars was to prevent the owners of adjoining estates using the streets that had been made at the expense of those residing within the limited area for their purposes. That was the original object. But what has happened since then? It is obvious that, whilst the burden of paving and repairing streets is not cast upon the inhabitants generally, the Act of Parliament says that they shall not use those streets, but that these people shall have an exclusive right and control over them, and use of them, which no other part of the 13 Metropolis possesses. If they want compensation—if my noble and learned Friend talks of what is just and fair—I say that during all those years they ought to have paid higher rates than the rest of the people in the Metropolis who have not enjoyed those advantages. It seems to me they have really during all those years been enjoying a very good quid pro quo for what is now asked of them. But the cost of repairing those streets is no longer cast upon the inhabitants of the district; the whole parish pays for it. They pay every penny of the cost of the repairs.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
Yes, but they are only rated as everybody else is rated; and whilst they have, at all times of the day and night, the use of the streets for which the general public are rated, they ask that the public shall be restrained from using those streets which are within the area absolutely during the Eight.
§ * LORD BRAMWELL
There has been less traffic over those streets, and, there-fore, they have required less paving.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
They have required less paving to some extent, but, at the same time, nothing like the extent that would justify or give these people the right to say that these streets should not be made available to the inhabitants of the other parts of the parish. These streets are now vested in the Public Authorities for the use of the public, just as other streets are; and whatever rights the inhabitants may have to compensation—and I will say nothing about that at present, as that is a question for Committee, and not for your Lordships' House, upon the Second Reading of the Bill—I say that gives them no right to say that these streets shall not be made available for public use in the public interest, and to the full extent to which the public interest requires. I entirely concur that the Committee will have to consider that which the House of Commons Committee had to consider—that is to say, the question whether a right to compensation has been established by anybody. My noble Friend speaks of this as a most alarming proposition, as one which is destructive of the rights of property, and I know not what. But it is, I think, a very sad fact that such a 14 lamentable measure has been passed, not by a Radical House of Commons at all, but passed unanimously by a Committee which had for its Chairman a respectable Conservative County Member. It is surely a shocking thing to think that we have come to such a pass that such a measure should have been sanctioned by a Committee presided over by a Conservative Chairman! But in addition to that, it has been passed by the other House, the majority of which can hardly be regarded, I think, at the present time as representative of Radical opinions. Therefore, it comes to your Lordships from a Body, and with an impress which ought to mitigate the alarm which otherwise my noble and learned Friend's speech might have been calculated to produce. The sole question is now: Ought your Lordships to read this Bill a second time? That must surely be decided quite apart from the question of compensation which will arise hereafter. It is a question simply whether there is a right in the interests of the public to remove a great obstruction to the public traffic, even though doing so should, to a limited extent, interfere with the comfort and convenience of the residents in the district. That is a proposition which I scarcely thought my noble and learned Friend would have disputed as regards compensation. I certainly do not mean either to trouble your Lordships with or to suggest to the London County Council an argument against the right of compensation to counterbalance the arguments which my noble and learned Friend has adduced in favour of the right of compensation. Those arguments will, no doubt, be put fully before the Committee of your Lordships' House by learned counsel representing both sides, and I think there would be no advantage in anticipating the able speeches which no doubt the learned advocates will be well prepared to deliver, and adequately and highly remunerated for, by addressing their arguments to those who are learned in the law in your Lordships' House. I think those arguments may be left for the consideration of the Committee. My noble and learned Friend has spoken of the petitioners in this neighbourhood. He did not very clearly define their position, but, as I understand, the petitioners are not con- 15 fined to those who are residing in these particular streets which are protected by the bars, but some of the petitioners are persons residing in adjoining streets at some little distance who say that if you take down these bars, though they do not dwell in any street where the bars are, more traffic will pass into their streets from the protected streets. It is very difficult to draw the line and to say how far such claims shall extend, if they should be admitted at all. It is true they say:—"We do not live in these streets, bat we relied incidentally upon the protection which we received from these bars, and the people who live in the streets themselves have no more legal right than we had, because they had no bargain with their freeholder that those bars should be kept up; and if you take down those bars, our houses will be rendered less convenient and comfortable, and, therefore, we also claim compensation." That danger, therefore must be kept well in view in considering this question of compensation—that is to say, the extent to which it may go. My noble and learned Friend answered the case which was put by my noble and learned Friend Lord Rosebery, with regard to traffic coming where traffic had not come before, by saying that that did not arise from any change arising from the removal of the bars. But there have been numbers of cases where, owing to street improvements, streets which were formerly quiet streets, apart from everything but local traffic, have been made part of the public thoroughfare, along which the traffic has become very considerable. It seems to me that, if my noble and learned Friend is right, the principle for which he contends might be just as much relied on in the case I have put, although no such claim for compensation has ever yet been entertained or heard of, as far as I know. There have been many cases, as my noble and learned Friend knows perfectly well, where street improvements, authorised by Act of Parliament, have turned streets and portions of streets, which hitherto have been free from traffic, into thoroughfares for the public traffic. If you once acknowledge that compensation must be paid it would be difficult to argue that there would not be just as much right in those cases as in the present. I have not desired to pre- 16 vent any argument upon the question, which will have to be discussed no doubt, as to whether any of the persons are entitled to compensation if this Bill goes before a Committee of your Lordships' House. All I wish to do is to point out that the case is not so very simple as my noble and learned Friend seemed to suggest, and that such claims, even if any of them be legitimate, cannot be accepted wholesale; but there will need to be the greatest possible discrimination shown with regard to them unless you wish hereafter to establish a doctrine which will hamper all Metropolitan improvements by making the ratepayers pay an enormous amount of compensation in satisfaction of claims which have never yet been heard of.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I should advise the noble and learned Lord opposite to accept the species of compromise which has been offered by the noble and learned Lord' who has just sat down. He entirely admits that the question of compensation remains open, and if the question of compensation is not settled to the satisfaction of my noble and learned Friend, or of those who oppose this Bill, it would be entirely in the power of your Lordships' House to deal with that matter when the Bill comes back from Committee. The result of your Lordships' accepting the proposition which has been recommended by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell) would be that under no possible circumstances has the public any right to relief. I confess that is rather a difficult theory to substantiate that under no possible circumstances has the public a right to be relieved from these obstructions to traffic. I feel that all the more keenly because I am a constant passenger by the Great Northern Railway, and I must say that I have never passed the sacred gates in going to the Great Northern Station without mental imprecations against the persons who originally set them up and the persons-who have since maintained them there. The question whether they have a right to compensation is not now before your Lordships. The question whether compensation ought to be given is a question for the Committee, and it is one which must be examined 17 into in detail. I thought the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down hardly kept his promise when he said he was not going to argue on the subject of compensation, and then proceeded to deliver a very subtle argument against it. He, however, drew our attention to the fact that it was the case of a legal opinion being given without pecuniary reward, and I trust he will forgive me for saying that in this case particularly a legal opinion is worth precisely what is given for it. But I would venture to submit to the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down that the whole question is with what view and under what understanding did the people who have acquired interests in these houses acquire them? Have they given more money, or consented to pay more rent, distinctly for the sake of this protection which they knew had come into existence in a legal manner and which they had every reason to believe would be perpetual? I do not see how you can avoid their claim to compensation. But I quite agree that any accommodation which people derive from the fact that traffic does not go through their streets is a right which is held upon a precarious tenure, and people in those circumstances have no right to complain of a change of condition in the Metropolis which may lead the traffic by their doors which they had previously been fortunate enough to escape from. Those are matters which would be better discussed in the whole House; and as the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down stated, examination must be made into each individual case, and each case will have to be dealt with upon its merits. There are questions here of common right depending upon the understanding upon which each man has entered into the bargain he has made, and I should be sorry if your Lordships were to prevent that examination from taking place by refusing to read the Bill a second time, and thus not allowing it to go before a Committee.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I propose to add a few words in support of the appeal which the noble Marquess and my noble and learned Friend have made. I certainly will not say one word with regard to the merits of the question. I am quite satisfied with the way Lord Rosebery and Lord Herschell have put 18 that, but I really think it is very important as a matter of procedure in this House. The noble and learned Lord' admits that if there be a public advantage it is quite right to legislate in a sense to serve that public advantage, but with the reservation that some compensation should be paid to those who suffer. But the result of his Motion to-day would be, while postponing the question of compensation, to put an end to this obstruction, for the public advantage, which, has been so strongly advocated by my noble Friends. I do not think anybody in this House can deny that those gates-and bars are a very great inconvenience indeed to a large body of the public; but I am most anxious to point out that it is the constant practice of this House to refer questions of this sort to Committee, and to reserve to ourselves, if necessary, after the question has been dealt with in Committee, the power of dealing with it, without our being now called upon to pledge ourselves one way or the other. This question of traffic is one of pressing importance in London. It happened that a day or two ago a similar scheme was brought forward, and I do not say whether the Committee were right or not in rejecting it, but it was rejected; and now here is another proposition for relieving the traffic in London, and I should really feel sorry if we bound ourselves to be obliged to reject it in a summary way before the Committee has dealt with it. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell) quoted the Duke of Bedford, though he said he was not authorised to speak for him. I have, certainly, no authority to speak for the Duke of Bedford, and I do not know which way his desires would go; but if I were speaking as a landowner of London, I must say I should be very glad to be relieved from, such a very invidious position as he occupies with regard to the convenience of the public. However, that is for the Duke of Bedford to judge of. He may appear before the Committee to support or to oppose the scheme, or he may abstain altogether; but I think the best conclusion for your Lordships to arrive at is, in conformity with your constant practice, to allow this Bill to be read a second time, not pledging yourselves for the future after it has been dealt with in the way to which my noble and learned Friend has referred.
§ * EARL FORTESCUE
I would venture to support the appeal which has been made by the Prime Minister to my noble and learned Friend. It is quite true, as he has said, that everyone holds his property under the tenure of its being liable to be taken for the Public Service; but on payment of compensation; the whole question turns on the payment of compensation. No one can say it is of greater importance to the public that a thoroughfare should be opened to the North-Western and Great Northern Stations than that a battery should be erected for defending our Dockyards from attack; but I have never heard it suggested that the Government is to seize the land on which a battery is to stand on account of its great public importance, and of its being indispensable to the defence of the country without paying compensation. I must venture to claim for myself a little prescience with regard to the line which the London County Council have not hesitated to take. I ventured to say, in the Debate on the Local Government Bill, that I thought they would try to divert public attention from an expensive and not very efficient management of Metropolitan concerns by introducing Bills to conciliate popular favour at other peoples' expense. They quite lately brought in a Bill which was rejected by a Committee of the House of Commons, to introduce a new principle of betterment. They want to conciliate popular favour by improving? the Metropolis, and they shrink from honestly paying, or inviting the ratepayers to pay, what is justly due to the parties affected. I felt convinced that before very long that line would be taken by that popularly-elected body, but I did not expect that my predictions would be verified within one year. This Bill, however, was introduced without any hint of compensation for any damage done, and without any suggestion that such a question could arise; and then the noble Earl, the late Chairman of the London County Council, gives us as an example of similar injustice done, and of reasonable facilities of communication being afforded to the public at the expense of the comfort of private individuals, the opening of Hamilton Place. But Hamilton Place was sealed at the end by Crown property. There was no question of any Act of Parliament 20 sanctioning that impediment. I myself was the person who carried, through the Metropolitan Communications Committee of the House of Commons, some 40 years ago, I think, the recommendation that Hamilton Place should be opened to the public. A quarter of a century after that recommendation Hamilton Place was opened; and a very great convenience it has been, though an inconvenience to the persons whose houses are there. But there was no ground for compensation being paid to them, seeing that there were no bars existing there, but simply part of the Crown property, which was liable at any moment to be taken for public improvements. A more infelicitous illustration of the justice of the present claim I can hardly conceive. A real hardship arises to the parties who are resident within these bars in the fact that their existence has been confirmed and sanctioned distinctly by the Metropolitan Local Management Act. What the noble Earl proposes is practically to repeal a clause in the Metropolitan Local Management Act which was inserted simply as an act of justice, as a great deal of traffic was already at that time going in that direction between other parts of the Metropolis and these railway stations. It was inserted in consequence of the conviction of Parliament of the justice of the claim of the parties interested in its insertion.
§ * LORD BRAMWELL
My Lords, I suppose I need scarcely say that after what has been said by the noble Marquess and the noble Earl on this side, I will, with your Lordships' leave, withdraw my Amendment. But permit me just to say that really I have attained my object. I am pretty sure that if compensation is to be paid, your Lordships will not be troubled with this Bill again. I did want to save your Lordships the trouble of discussing it in Select Committee and to save the parties that expense; but as it will now be an open question for the Committee, I feel pretty sure how it will be dealt with, and whether compensation will be paid. As that is the case I have no objection. The Lord Chancellor the other day quoted an opinion of an "old Parliamentary hand" that all the Second Reading of a Bill meant was that something was required to be done in the matter. Well, now, I am a young Parliamentary hand, but I 21 should have thought there was another thing involved in it, which is this: That not only is there something which requires to be done, but that the something in the Bill was the right remedy. I do not see any indication in the Bill that people shall be paid for the loss they will sustain. However, as that is now possible, I will ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn; Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly; and committed: The Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.