HL Deb 16 May 1890 vol 344 cc1078-81

My Lords, I hold in my hand a Bill of apparently very small importance, and not of any length, and it is, I believe, in the nature of an ordinary Continuance Bill. It, however, relates to a matter which I think your Lordships will agree with me is of very considerable public importance, and one in which, I am sure, your Lord- ships will take very great interest; I mean the widening of Parliament Street and of the approaches to your Lordships' House. When the Bill of which this Bill is in continuance was brought in, I believe the noble Marquess at the head of the Government insisted that that Bill should not pass without a large sum of money, £500,000, I believe, being subscribed by the shareholders in the company, and I think five years was the time which was allowed for that purpose. Three years of that time have already elapsed, and now we have a Continuance Bill, and I wish to ask the noble Lord whether he thinks that after the lapse of five years there will be any greater chance of the company being able to raise that sum, or whether at the end of seven years they will have a better chance than they had at the end of five; and also whether, if the money is not raised, or if there is not a fairly good prospect of its being raised, anything will be done. I would ask whether if the noble Lord sees that there is not any prospect of raising the money he is willing to allow this matter to go on—it being a matter of considerable importance as affecting greatly the appearance of this city, and involving, in point of fact, a very considerable metropolitan improvement—without taking any steps in the matter. I should like, if I may be allowed to do so, to state in a very few words, for I will not trespass long upon your Lordships' time, why I think this Bill ought to meet, I will not say with rejection, but with the very strictest supervision from Her Majesty's Government. I am myself, to a certain extent, interested in the matter, though that interest is but a small one, and my friends and neighbours Messrs. Driver, through the Government Survey Office, have requested me to ascertain what the intention of the Government is with regard to the Bill which now stands for reading in the House of Commons at a rather suspiciously distant date, as late as the 5th July. Now, I am sure your Lordships will agree that it is not a desirable thing that private individuals should have their land taken from them by compulsory powers indefinitely. I should be the last person to throw any obstacle in the way of a public improvement; but I think we ought not to be, if I may say so, blown upon hot and cold in this matter, and that we ought not to have compulsory powers exercised over us for an indefinite time. My Lords, the difficulty on a former occasion was of a pressing kind. There was a great difficulty in securing money for this important public improvement, and the noble Marquess, being naturally anxious for the improvement to be carried out, gave those great powers to a private company. But that necessity, my Lords, no longer exists. We have in the County Council a body which has ample powers for raising money, and my opinion is that the County Council would be well able to undertake this work. Indeed, I understand that the matter has been before the County Council, and that the County Council were not unwilling to consider it; but they considered that as Parliament has given large powers to this company it would not be wise to interfere now in the matter. My Lords, the real and fatal objection I think to this Bill is, that we do not know what the character of this work is to be. When I say that, I do not mean to suggest that the Bill ought not to be passed, but to state what my great objection to it is. Here is a Bill for a great public improvement to be carried out, as sanctioned, by a private company; and I wish to know whether Her Majesty's Government, in regard to a great metropolitan improvement of this kind which may very fairly be compared to what has been done at Hyde Park Corner, with great advantage to the public, have taken care to have any plans laid before the House or before the country in order that we may judge of the character of the buildings along the approach to this magnificent structure. I should like to know from Her Majesty's Government what course they propose to take with regard to this Bill, and whether they are likely in the year 1890 to get any better satisfaction from the promoters of this private company than they did on a former occasion?


My Lords, I do not know whether Her Majesty's Government propose to answer the question which the noble Lord has put at considerable length; but I would venture to suggest to the House that the question is one of the most irregular kind. The noble Lord has made a speech against a private Bill which has not yet appeared before your Lordships' House, or even been read a second time in the House of Commons. The precedent is not a very convenient one in regard to private legislation if a noble Lord is to be allowed to make a strong speech against a private Bill which is not only not yet before your Lordships, but has not yet passed the House of. Commons.


My Lords, I am perfectly prepared to answer, now the question which has been put; but I quite agree that it is not a question which ought to be put in this House. At present the Bill is before the House of Commons, and certainly any question upon it ought to be asked in the House of Commons. When the Bill comes up here I shall be prepared to answer the noble Lord any question he wishes to ask. Under those circumstances, I must respectfully say that I cannot answer the question.


Under the circumstances, my Lords, I will at once withdraw the question; but my feeling was, as I hope the noble Marquess, whom we are all very glad to see in his place again, will also consider, that in this case the circumstances are of an exceptional character, because I believe it was always understood—["Order, order!"]