§ Read 2a (according to Order), and committed: The Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.
§ THE EARL OF CRAWFORD had given Notice that, in the event of the Bill 690 being committed, he would move, That it be an instruction to the Committee on the Croydon Corporation Bill to strike out of the Bill all powers relating to the compulsory acquisition of the Hospital of the Holy Trinity (otherwise known as the Whitgift Hospital) in Croydon with its chapel and offices.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, the Motion which stands in my name was framed by the late Earl of Plymouth. I am sure that it is a matter of profound regret to your Lordships as a whole that we should be deprived of his judgment on these matters. Lord Plymouth had a loyal character which endeared him to members in all parts of the House and a calm far-seeing judgment which carried great weight in our counsels. I propose to move the Resolution which he originally placed on the Order Paper. The problem I shall submit to the House is simple. There is a congestion of traffic at the cross-roads in the centre of Croydon caused by the confluence of local and through traffic. How shall this congestion be relieved? It is with regard to the through traffic—that is to say, from London to the south and vice versâ—that much of the difficulty is caused. That is acknowledged by everybody, but it is already provided for. A by-pass road is actually at this moment being constructed, which will be open for public use a very few months hence. This will divert the whole of that through traffic to a route which is quicker and, I believe, shorter. It is certainly safer and more convenient into the bargain.
§ Sir Eric Geddes, when Minister of Transport, stated officially that so far as through traffic was concerned there was no case for demolishing the Whitgift Hospital. When I was Minister of Transport I repeated that statement officially, and, so far as I can learn, Colonel Ashley, who is now responsible for that Department, appears to share the opinion of his predecessors. One section, therefore, of the difficulty is practically removed. The elimination of through traffic from the town will unquestionably ease congestion in relation to the local traffic. I wonder why the Corporation did not see its way at least to wait and test the result of this great by-pass road. I cannot help wondering whether they were afraid of the demonstration of the utility that road will confer.691
§ One word as to local traffic. There is a good deal of it. Croydon is a big and a growing place. Much of the congestion is caused by the tramlines upon these narrow roads. Nothing blocks movement more than do trams, with their fixed routes, with the rigidity of the position they occupy upon the route, and with the impossibility of one tram passing another. It is quite an obsolescent method of urban traction in such places. These trams are bound to disappear in the course of time, and that disappearance in itself will remove a cause of traffic congestion.
§ Now, what is the scheme that is put before us? It is possible, I suppose, to rely on the by-pass road for the through traffic, though that idea is abruptly dismissed in the memorial of the promoters of the Bill. It is possible also to open up the cross roads, and that is what is proposed. This can be done on either side of the road, east or west. The promoters of the Bill have chosen to ask Parliament to sanction the demolition of the Hospital, the authorities of Croydon having vainly attempted for the last forty years to demolish this building. Is there no alternative to this scheme of destroying Whitgift Hospital? Immediately facing the Hospital is a public house. I am frankly amazed that the alternative scheme of removing this monster is not seriously mentioned in the promoters' statement. It presents difficulties it is true. There is a small, I might almost say, a trifling difficulty of levels, and the scheme, again, might prove more expensive. But in the opinion of good judges of Croydon itself, including, I should like to say, certain experienced tramcar drivers in and of that town, it is preferable on the grounds of traffic and the easing of traffic to remove this public house than to destroy the Whitgift Hospital.
§ Let me ask your Lordships to compare the building which it is desired to destroy with the building which it is desired to safeguard. On the west side is this public house. It is of a sickly gamboge, with vulgar gaping doorways. It is a combination of meanness and ostentation with which we are all too familiar. There are 500 of these horrors within an hour's drive of your Lordships' House, and I engage to say that within six months, without any effort of brain or imagination, another 500 could be erected. Compare that with the Whitgift Foundation just 692 across the road which Croydon proposes to destroy. An old building precious for its charm, dignity and repose; the original features are preserved almost intact; the diminutive chapel, with its rough-hewn benches and the authentic memorials of its founder and of benefactors, the common room, the dining hall, the warden's apartments. Here we have history, tradition, beauty, art. They are precious assets of increasing value to the community as a whole, and, let me add, to Croydon in particular.
§ On these grounds I have ventured to place this Motion upon the Paper. Though it is not a usual procedure, I believe there is good, if not incontestible, precedent for it, and I am fortified by feeling that the problem is so simple that it does not require examination and cross-examination before a committee of experts. The problem is simple and clear-cut, and I most earnestly press upon your Lordships that this is not purely a local matter as the promoters appear to imagine. The taxpayer, through the Motor Tax, has contributed largely to the construction of this by-pass road, which makes this act of vandalism unnecessary. As general taxpayers we have a full and complete status to advance our claim, and as citizens it is our duty to resist any such proposal which so wantonly destroys a precious heritage from the past. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve That it be an instruction to the Committee on the Croydon Corporation Bill to strike out of the Bill all powers relating to the compulsory acquisition of the Hospital of the Holy Trinity (otherwise known as the Whitgift Hospital) in Croydon with its chapel and offices.—(The Earl of Crawford.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will agree with all that the noble Earl opposite said in regard to my noble friend the late Lord Plymouth. Many of us have been associated with him in numerous matters, some of them of an artistic nature kindred to that which we are discussing this afternoon, some of them interests of a wider sort, and we all feel greatly the loss we have suffered in the fact that he is no longer with us. In this particular matter I was, of course, concerned in discussions with him at the beginning of this Session. I realise how deeply he had 693 gone into the subject, how deeply he felt upon it, and how valuable his contribution would have been to this discussion. At the same time, I certainly feel indebted to my noble friend opposite for bringing forward this subject this afternoon. It is a subject which has aroused considerable interest not only in Croydon but outside, and I feel that it is eminently proper for your Lordships to go into it with great thoroughness.
We are concerned really with two things. We are concerned with the merits, and we are concerned with the question of what is the most convenient Parliamentary procedure. On merits, I go a very long way with my noble friend opposite. On an afternoon about a month ago I spent some time—a little more time, perhaps, than the policeman on duty at the cross roads was beginning to think desirable—in walking all round the Whitgift Hospital and watching the traffic, and I came to the conclusion unhesitatingly that while something must be done, nothing ought to be done in the way of touching the Whitgift Hospital unless a very powerful public case could be shown to justify it. The Motion which my noble friend makes asks us to decide this matter this afternoon. There are, undoubtedly, precedents for the moving of mandatory instructions of this kind to Committees, though as a general rule we have been far more reluctant to agree to those instructions than has been the habit in another place.
I think I ought, as briefly as I can, to remind your Lordships of two or three recent cases. The most recent case was in 1916, and it was a subject which, I know, interests the noble Earl opposite almost as much as the Whitgift Hospital—the subject of Charing Cross Bridge. Certainly it interested the late Lord Plymouth quite as much as did the Whitgift Hospital. In that case an instruction was moved, and it was accepted on behalf of the promoters. But that does not give us much help as regards this afternoon's procedure. In 1905 an instruction was moved in respect of a Woolwich Borough Council Bill, and that instruction was accepted by the House, with the approval of the Chairman of Committees, my noble friend the late Lord Onslow. That, again, was not at all a parallel case with this one, but was a case where a private Bill was thought to repeal a decision of the Courts given 694 upon the construction of a general Act. It does not help us very much as regards our proceedings this afternoon.
But there is a precedent to which I ought to call your Lordships' attention, and it is this. It will be in the memory of many of your Lordships that in 1902 we had before us the much discussed question of trams going along the embankment, and my noble friend Lord Newton persuaded your Lordships to pass an instruction to the Committee directing them to leave out the trams to which he took objection. There are one or two other small cases with the details of which I need not trouble your Lordships owing to the fact that I think the intentions of those who wished to move the instructions were not in any way pressed. The three cases I have mentioned are the three principal ones extending over a period of twenty-one years. Your Lordships will probably notice that the case more nearly on all fours is one which occurred twenty-one years ago, justifying, I think, my claim that it has not been the habit of your Lordships to decide these matters offhand, preferring rather that they should go to the Committee first.
In this case, however, I attach far less importance to the matter of precedent than to the facts of the case. The Hospital may have to go. Temple Ban had to go, and there have been other cases in which artistic buildings have had to be sacrificed. I place myself unhesitatingly with those who would like to see this Hospital preserved. At the same time, granted that there is a traffic problem to be solved, I ask myself the question: Is the Hospital most likely to be preserved if your Lordships decide this matter this afternoon, not in the course of a Second Reading debate, but a few minutes after the passing of the Second Reading, or if, before your Lordships come to a decision, you allow the Corporation to state their case fully and publicly in the most convenient method open to them—namely, through their witnesses in the witness-chair?
This is no new problem. It is no sudden idea on the part of the Croydon Corporation. They have had this matter under consideration for many years. Whatever our æsthetic views may be, there is no doubt that there is a traffic 695 problem which requires consideration, and I should be very sorry if we were not to consider it fully upstairs. Indeed, such consideration is really what is wanted in order to find a proper solution of this matter. The alternative route has been mentioned. I am impressed with that argument, but there is a good deal of east and west traffic that will have to be considered, and the alternative route will in no way affect that traffic. I am not going to argue matters of geography with my noble friend, but I am not greatly helped by a new route which runs north and south when I want to go east and west.
The main point I wish to make is this. There must be a solution of the traffic problem satisfactory not only to Croydon, but to the public outside, and it is no disrespect to your Lordships to say that we are likely to reach a solution more quickly if a full inquiry is held than if we dismiss the matter this afternoon after whatever discussion may take place. In saying this I do not forget two things on which I desire to place emphasis. If your Lordships decide to allow this Bill to go to a Committee of your Lordships' House my noble friend in no way loses the position he has taken this afternoon. He does not lose his rights over the Bill, and he will be perfectly entitled to challenge the Bill on Third Reading if the decision of the Committee is one with which he does not agree. In fact, by doing so he would be doing what is far more frequently done in your Lordships' House. It is far more usual to challenge the decision of a Committee than it is to prejudge their decision, as we are asked to do this afternoon, and if this Bill goes through Committee and comes up for Third Reading I will undertake that proper notice is given, independent of the Standing Orders.
I should like to consider a little further one other point, if your Lordships allow the Bill to go to Committee. I am not quite certain of the locus standi of all those societies which are taking an interest in the matter, and whether they would have the right to appear before the Committee. My noble friend has been good enough to allow me to discuss the matter with him. Certain of the learned bodies would have a locus standi before the Committee, but I am not certain that all of them would.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My anxiety is that if they desire to appear the Committee should not be prevented from hearing what they have to say because of any technical reason. Some of the bodies who have interested themselves in this matter would not be able to contribute very greatly to the proceedings. I notice that among them is the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society. It has done most useful public work, but I do not think it comes into the case of a hospital in an important borough. Those are difficulties of the kind that I should like to leave to the Committee. Should we come to the conclusion that the locus standi question is not quite satisfactory, then I am prepared to submit a Motion to your Lordships regularising the proceedings. Subject to these points, I hope my noble friend will respond to my appeal and allow the Bill to go to the Committee, it being fully understood that he retains all his rights regarding any proceedings he, may think it necessary to take at a later stage.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, this is a matter upon which it is due to your Lordships and to the public that I should say something, and say it, clearly; it is a matter which concerns my own responsibility. With regard to the point raised between the noble Earl and the Chairman of Committees I shrink from expressing an emphatic opinion. I should desire to vote for the instruction moved, but if the Lord Chairman's views commend themselves to your Lordships, in order that the other side should have an opportunity of being adequately heard, I should take no exception to that. I believe the weakness of their case would be made apparent by their endeavour to state it in a conclusive manner. The other side would have to be stated as well, and I hope I should have an opportunity of stating it before the Committee.
Upon the general question I am bound to speak clearly. You have heard what the proposal is. In order to facilitate quick traffic, either by motor or by tram, at a particular corner in Croydon the promoters seek compulsory powers to pull down a building of the highest artistic 697 and architectural value, of marked historic interest, and of eminent practical utility. The responsibility for the security and maintenance of Whitgift Hospital is peculiarly mine. Three hundred and twenty years ago the Hospital was founded by John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the later years of Queen Elizabeth's reign for the support in old age of certain poor persons whose qualifications he described. The trust of carrying out that intention he left to his successors in office as Archbishop. It has been so exercised by twenty-four successive Archbishops. It is in vigorous and useful life to-day, and I am the person responsible for its discharge.
I hold in my hand a document, the original Trust or Statute as it is called, of the Foundation, signed by Archbishop Whitgift himself, and containing the directions he laid down as to how he desired the hospital to be carried on. It says:—I doe ordeine that my successors Archbishopps of Canterburye shalbee the continuall Patrons, Governors, and Visitours of the said Hospitall earnestlie requestinge them in the Bowells of Chryste to have from tyme to tyme a Fatherly and compassionate care of theire good estete and of the poore members thereof AND that thaye woulde be pleased from tyme to tyme (as occasion shalbe offered) to compose theire contraversies, to protect, advise, order, governe, and dyrect them and when needs shall requiem by themselves or by such discreete personns as thaye shall think fit, in personn freelye to visit the said Hospitall and to enquiere both of the publique state of it and also of the pryvate demenure of every particular member thereof in such course as the law doth allow.I have endeavoured to discharge the duties that are there laid down. I esteem it to be of the greatest importance that I should discharge them with the highest satisfaction.
I think I am right in saying that all the present inmates, with one exception, have been appointed by myself personally during the last twenty years. The conduct and management of the home is admirable, and the warden, himself an inmate, is deserving of all praise. The efficiency of the Hospital as an institution has never, I think, been challenged, and I am quite sure that its usefulness cannot be impugned. It is true that its endowment could be spent in other ways, devoted to other purposes. The Hospital might be built upon another spot, but, the very strongest kind of argument 698 would be required before we could feel justified in interfering with an institution that is carrying on work of the utmost usefulness, is carrying it on precisely along the original lines laid down by the founder and proved to be perfectly workable and practicable to-day, and carrying it on with universal approbation and complete effectiveness.
So much for the institution which is housed in this building; now a few words about the building itself. You have heard, eloquently and clearly stated by Lord Crawford, the facts of the case. We are keeping this year in some of its forms the tercentenary of Shakespeare. There is a large demand, as booksellers will tell you, for a vision of the England of Shakespeare's days, its scenery, urban and rural, its people and its buildings. Here we have a building beautiful in its simplicity, remarkable for its quiet dignity, in the middle of a great noisy borough, built in Shakespeare's day, opened, worked and occupied in Shakespeare's day practically as it is now, and used from that time forward as it was used then, with the same green sward, the same little chapel, the same little common room and hall, the same warden's chambers and the rest, from that time down to this. It stands at the centre of the great borough. Are we to allow it, to be pulled down? If so, for what? To make the motor traffic or the tram traffic a little easier or a little speedier at that point, while at the same time preserving intact the public house which stands opposite, and the shops that might equally well make way for the traffic. That is what we are asked to do.
We have heard something about the danger of that corner. During the years in which the subject has been before the world I have asked many times for a return of the number of accidents that have happened there. The answer is: "Well, there have not been any, but there might be." That is perfectly true, but up to the present at any rate accidents have not been produced. Do not let us exaggerate. There is no doubt that the thing could be done. By sweeping this building away you could make a few yards more space on that side of the road. All that you will have sacrificed to secure the accompanying spied or facility of traffic will be this antique building. I suppose 699 a score of contractors would be ready at once to set to work somewhere and build a house more up-to-date in its appearance and characteristics than this Elizabethan building. It could be done, and if it were done you would avoid perhaps three or four minutes' delay to motor traffic at that particular place, for undoubtedly there is occasional obstruction to motors and trams.
The same thing could be done in a great many places in England at this moment. May I quote an example somewhat familiar to me, and probably familiar to some of your Lordships? I am sure there are noble Lords who occasionally make use of the golf links at Sandwich. One mode of approaching those golf links is to go through the old borough, one of the most interesting in England, with narrow curly streets and curious old houses—a very troublesome place for motors with its narrow streets and corners, at one of which is a very remarkable old church which very markedly interferes with the flow of motor traffic. That church could be cleared away. You could drive a road right through Sandwich from one side to the other without the slightest difficulty, and reduce Sandwich to the condition of a town in the western plains of America or in a prairie province in Canada, with a rectangular pattern of streets of sufficient width to allow any number of Ford cars to go through without the slightest delay. That could be done, and so could this. But I do not think the fact that these things can be done is really what we have to consider when we are dealing with possessions of this kind.
I have an example of still more personal interest to myself, which has, I think, direct historical bearing upon what we may be desiring to do now. The City of Canterbury was in the Middle Ages surrounded, as your Lordships know, with splendid walls, massively built and of extraordinary picturesque-ness, dignity and, as we should now say, beauty. They were built in the fourteenth century, with great gateways which were famous for their dignity and their fortified strength. In the seventeenth century, when people did not care much about these things, the walls of Canterbury became a quarry for the building of houses in the town, which was then being enlarged. They were practically pulled down, and the gate- 700 ways, then or later, for the most part disappeared, beautiful and interesting as they were. But there is one gateway that still stands—the finest gateway, I believe, now standing in any city of the country—the West Gate of Canterbury on the road to London, with its two great towers, its fortifications and its massive strength.
How does it happen that this gateway still stands? It seems that about eighty years ago there was a great controversy about it, and a strong desire was felt by some of the citizens of Canterbury that the gateway should be pulled down. One of the main reasons was that there was about to be held in Canterbury a great circus and menagerie exhibition, and the promoters said that for the circus and menagerie procession to go through that gateway would be most inconvenient. The matter came before the council of the day, and we are always told—I have not seen the minutes, but the story is universal in this form—that it was by the casting vote of the mayor that the gateway was not pulled down to make way for the menagerie and circus procession. It could have been done, but I am perfectly certain that the citizens of Canterbury to-day profess to offer, and do offer, a constant tribute of gratitude to the mayor who resisted such a piece of vandalism as that.
I say without hesitation that the children of those—and they are, after all; a comparatively small group in the borough of Croydon—who desire, for the reasons which have hitherto been offered to us, to pull down this building of extreme value, interest and advantage, will be among the first in future generations to feel gratitude to those who prevented such a step.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, the question which your Lordships are asked to consider this afternoon is one upon which I know many of you hold very strong opinions. I certainly hold a strong opinion myself. We are asked to give the direction to the Committee that in the consideration of this Bill they should exclude the desire of the Croydon Corporation to destroy the Whitgift Hospital. This is undoubtedly an attempt to interfere with a locality in what would appear to be a local matter. I gather that the reason your Lordships take so keen an interest in this question is that 701 you think—and I am glad to say that I agree—that this is not a local matter at all. The truth is that these old buildings of England are parts of the country's history. An attempt ruthlessly to destroy a perfect example, such as this is, of the piety and the wisdom and the architectural skill of our ancestors, is a matter which does not merely affect people who live in Croydon but affects everybody who has the interests of the historical traditions of this country at heart.
A thing that has often struck me as so strange is that this country is about the only country in the world where history is never systematically taught in the schools; and it may be that it is due to this fact that there is a stronger tradition in this country of what we are pleased to call English characteristics than any other country can boast. It is because our history is absorbed and not taught—and it is absorbed not a little through the old buildings, old customs and institutions with which every person in this country, from his earliest days, is brought into intimate contact. This building represents to me an exact example of what I am saying. No child can pass the walls of that building in Croydon without learning, sooner or later, that that building represents the beneficence and piety of men who lived more than 300 years ago, and surely it is no small stimulus to a child's nature to have such a striking example of piety and good citizenship placed before it.
For this reason the subject we are discussing has an interest far wider than that of the borough of Croydon, and no one has any right to resent the consideration by your Lordships of this question upon national and not upon local grounds. That might well be regarded as a strong reason for supporting the Motion of Lord Crawford, and as I am sometimes accused of being rebellious against authority I might be prepared to support the Motion in spite of the appeal of the Chairman of Committees. I do feel, however, that there is a good deal of force in what the Chairman of Committees has said. After all, if this matter goes to a Committee we have not relinquished our hold upon it, and we shall be able at a later stage, if we do not approve of what the Committee have done, to express in an unequivocal manner the opinion which we hold. It is for that reason, and for that reason only, that I should be prepared 702 I to accede to the request of the Chairman of Committees to let this matter take its more usual Parliamentary course.
As both the most rev. Primate and others have suggested some reasons for the consideration of the Committee, it might not be inept if I added one or two as well. I have never heard that the destruction of this building was in any way necessary for the commercial prosperity of Croydon. It is not that you are holding up the commerce of the town and arresting its growth in any way. What you are doing is that you are causing an obstruction to traffic, most of which is pleasure traffic, going north and south, east and west. In these days of haste a little rest to that traffic will not do much harm, and I say also that it would not be a bad thing, if it were desired to accelerate it, to do so by allowing it to move over the site of a modern public house rather than over the site of this ancient and venerable building. I can conceive no earthly reason, having looked at the plans, why that should not be done. It may be possible in Committee to explain what is the priority of claim that the public house has over this place of rest and charity.
For the rest, the Chairman of Committees has said that some widening is necessary in order to enable the traffic to go east and west as well as north and south. Once you have got rid of the north and south difficulty you have got rid of half the difficulty. I see the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, shakes his head. I will not say half, but some of the difficulty, and for the rest nobody can doubt that the east and west traffic can be made perfectly simple by the removal of the public house. I have not heard that the public house would even cost more money. Indeed, in the memorandum presented to me by the Croydon Corporation it was pointed out that the charity would be so abundantly endowed, if the building were destroyed, that it might be able to carry on its activities more successfully in some other spot. Such arguments make no appeal to me. I want the building to stand as it was built, and in the place where it was built, and I want it to remain to stimulate, encourage, and, I think, elevate succeeding generations as it has stimulated and elevated generations 703 that have gone by. I sincerely hope that if your Lordships accede to the appeal of the Chairman of Committees you will not relax your grip upon the question when it comes before the House again, but will express your opinion without the least regard to what the Committee may say.
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
My Lords, I desire to add a word in support of the appeal of the Chairman of Committees. During the greater part of the time when I had the honour of sitting in another place I was closely associated with the procedure in connection with Private Bill legislation, and I have a lively recollection of the views always expressed, so far as I know without any variation, with regard to the procedure of your Lordships' House. More than once it has been described to me, both by the supporters and opponents of Bills, and by counsel, as being the most competent and fair tribunal before which any man could desire to appear. I venture with great respect to urge that the Chairman of Committees is right in the view which he has expressed, and that it would be an undesirable step to pass a mandatory instruction to the Committee on the Second Reading stage of the Bill. I share the views expressed by everybody, including Lord Buckmaster, to the effect that this building ought to be maintained, for every reason, on its present site and in its present condition, and, further, I believe there is an alternative which would be perfectly practicable and suitable.
When it comes to a comparison between this Hospital, on the one hand, and a public house, on the other, there can be no doubt as to which way the decision ought to go. Nobody holds these views more strongly than I do, and I believe that if the case for the Corporation were to be maintained before the Committee your Lordships would then be absolutely justified in taking action on the ground advocated by more than one speaker; namely, that this is a national question and not a local one. But to give the Committee an instruction at this stage is to take a course for which I believe it would be very hard to find a precedent in either House. The Chairman of Committees said that the other House was more given to such a course of procedure than were your Lordships in this House. My memory goes back over more than forty years of 704 the procedure in the House of Commons, and I believe that there are very few precedents indeed.
With great respect, I would urge upon your Lordships the view that the more sentiment is aroused by the case, the more excited public opinion is, the more important it is that in accordance with the great principles of Private Bill procedure, long adopted, you should allow this Bill to go first to a Committee. It is undesirable that any body should be in a position to say that they have not been allowed to put their case before the tribunal, and that it is decided against them without their being given a hearing. I hope that when the Committee have this Bill before them they will adopt the view of Lord Crawford. I hope also, having, regard to the great importance to the nation of the procedure of your Lordships' House in connection with Private Bill legislation, that the advice of the Chairman of Committees will be listened to, and that Lord Crawford will accept that advice, remembering that in so doing he does not part with his power and that, if justice is not done before the Committee, we can, on the Third Reading, take the matter into our own hands.
THE EARL OF MEATH
My Lords, although I came down here to support the noble Earl who has moved the instruction to the Committee, and although I am a most deadly opponent of the destruction of a splendid old building like the Whitgift Hospital, I honestly believe, after the debate that we have heard, that there will not be one noble Lord on that Committee who will not take our view when he has gone into the question. Looked at from the point of view of the Croydon Corporation—because, after all, I always think we ought to consider our opponents' point of view—their action appears to be one of the most stupid and silly things they could possibly have done in their own commercial interest. For what is Croydon? Who wants to go and see Croydon? Why, you could see a dozen such suburbs of London; but thousands of Americans, from South America as well as the United States, go to Croydon in order to see this building which has hardly been touched for 327 years.
If you say that the people of Croydon desire this destruction I answer that six 705 times has Croydon rejected the idea of destroying one of its great landmarks. On this occasion, by a small majority, the proposal has been carried. It has already been said that such historical buildings cannot and ought not to be considered merely from a local point of view. What brings this influx of gold from America to England—England whose shores are not too bright or too sunny? Why do not these visitors go straight through England to the Continent and to the South? Simply because of the historical and literary interest of the antiquities of England. That is what attracts the Americans. And do you believe that Croydon will gain when this interesting old building is destroyed because it has obtained three yards more roadway?—and, mind you, three yards on the eastern side, which does not affect the traffic in the least. If you look at the model in the neighbouring chamber you will see that there is an angle and that it is on the western side that you want to clear it away. And Croydon will ultimately have to do it, but it will in the meantime have destroyed its ancient building for nothing. Croydon will have to spend more money in doing what it ought to do now; namely, to straighten out the streets.
I feel perfectly confident, notwithstanding all the money which will be spent in paying the high fees of lawyers and experts in the Committee upstairs, that the members of that Committee will reach the conclusion that the money has been thrown away, and that in no circumstances whatever ought this ancient monument to be destroyed. Croydon may be likened unto a plain and foolish woman who, possessing only one charm, but that a charm of priceless value, which has drawn to her many admirers from distant parts, deliberately mutilates herself so that she is left without a single grace to raise her above the ruck of unattractive womanhood. And I feel perfectly certain that Croydon would, within a very short time, resent what is now being done to destroy her only charm and her only beauty. The most rev. Primate has read an extract from an ancient document written by Archbishop Whitgift himself, in which he said that this gift was to be in continuance for ever. I hope that Parliament, at all events, will see that that pious wish is carried out to the letter.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I should like to say a few words upon the question of procedure. It is more than forty-five years since I first had the honour of appearing before Private Bill Committees, both of this House and of the House of Commons, and no one has a greater respect for their decisions than I have. But at the same time, so long as this procedure of Parliament exists, I think there are certain cases in which this House or the other place should intervene at this stage, for reasons which I will state in a moment, and I very much hope that the noble Earl will press his Motion to a Division. Having regard to the views expressed in nearly all parts of the House why should the promoters and the opponents be put to the enormous expense which will be involved in this inquiry? It is all very well to say that the Bill will come back for Third Reading, but I think this is the proper time to deal with the matter. If a Select Committee had considered the Bill and people had been put to an enormous expense, I, for one, certainly should not vote to overthrow the decision of a Committee given in those circumstances. It would, indeed, be rather an abuse of our procedure, and not a protection of it.
There is another matter which I hope the noble Earl will consider. It is true, as the Chairman of Committees has pointed out, that you may give a locus standi to various bodies who otherwise would not have the right to appear before a Committee of your Lordships' House. But the possession of that locus standi does not necessarily imply that you will get a real hearing of the issue involved. In the first place, it is a rule of your Lordships' Committees that they do not pay attention to what are called alternative schemes. They have a particular proposal before them, and as regards that proposal they have to give an answer, Yes or No. In such matters of general and national importance as this the issue is not of the kind that can properly be thrashed out by the ordinary procedure before our Private Bill Committees.
I do not want to quote precedents, but I am certain that there are a considerable number of precedents in both Houses, where matters of this kind, being national questions and not questions at issue between particular parties, have been dealt with on Second Reading and not 707 allowed to go forward to a Committee in detail. It is not the business of a Committee to consider questions of this kind. The business of a Committee is to consider local questions. It is the business of this House to consider national questions. I can tell your Lordships from my experience, and I think that no one in this House has appeared so much before Private Bill Committees as I have done; I have appeared on some thousands of occasions in years gone by—that we could never get a proper discussion of what I might call a national question. The parties were not there for that purpose. They were not interested to incur expense for that purpose. Whenever the question of the preservation of our Private Bill procedure has come up in the other place—and it came up on several occasions while I was a Member there—the answer has always been: "Keep it in Parliament, because there are occasions when these national questions arise and when the House itself ought to intervene in order to come to a decision."
I sincerely hope that the noble Earl will press his Motion to a Division now. I have every respect for the view of the Lord Chairman; no one can have a higher respect for it than I have; but I cannot help thinking that he must know that one is somewhat prejudiced in discussing a national matter of this kind if the Committee has found in the other direction—which they may do, not at all in accordance with national considerations but entirely in accordance with their duty in regard to local conditions. Therefore, on the point of procedure, if your Lordships are of opinion that this is a national matter let us decide it as a national matter, and do not let us go through the pretext of having a local inquiry, because this is not a matter for a local inquiry. Let us decide it at this stage.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
The noble and learned Lord used the expression "local inquiry." That is a perfectly well known technical expression for an inquiry on the spot by an inspector of a Government Department, and I never suggested that.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I did not mean a local inquiry in that sense, and I am glad that the Lord Chairman has called my attention to it. I meant a local issue 708 before a Parliamentary Committee. A local inquiry means technically something else and is not the form of local inquiry to which I was referring.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships for more than a moment on a subject which has been so fully discussed. But I should like to support the appeal made by the noble Lord on my right to the noble Earl to go to a Division on this question. I beg him to bring the question before the House. In spite of the respect which we must all feel for the opinion of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees and my noble friend Lord Long of Wraxall, there are a great many of us who hold that this piece of vandalism ought finally to be made impossible. If that is our opinion, are we going to lose the chance of making it so to-day, and run all the risk which will undoubtedly arise if the question is discussed by a Committee, and then, perhaps, comes before the House again prejudiced by the decision of that Committee, and possibly at a time when many of us will not be able to express the opinions which we have come here to express to-day? I have come here expressly, at some inconvenience and difficulty as it happens, though perhaps I ought not to refer to them, in order to take my part in giving a quietus to what I think is a shocking and indefensible piece of vandalism, and I should be deeply grieved were I prevented from doing so by any technicality of procedure.
My Lords, may I say one word as to the way in which I suggest this matter should be dealt with? We have here, as your Lordships are all agreed, a very remarkable building. We should all regard it as a national misfortune, not merely to lose this building, but even to have it interfered with or cut in halves as is proposed by this scheme. That is a matter our knowledge of which and our belief in which cannot be added to or subtracted from by any proceedings of a Committee, and I think your Lordships would probably all agree, that being so, that this is a building which should not be interfered with unless the matter was vital and there was no possible alternative scheme. I have read all the literature that has been circulated to your Lordships by the interested parties, and I do not find it 709 anywhere said in the statement of the Croydon Corporation that there is no possible alternative scheme to the one which is now proposed. That matter is passed over sub silentio. They merely say that they have considered the matter very fully and that this is their scheme. Those are matters which are clearly not of the kind to be approached in what one might call a Committee spirit. They are matters to be approached in the spirit in which this House, as a House, and as people in the general ordinary way approach such things, and they will not, it seems to me, be added to or subtracted from by evidence. No suggestion is made to us that there is no possible alternative to this scheme and that this scheme is essentially necessary.
The most rev. Primate spoke of the delay to the traffic. I have sometimes been known to drive a motor car, and I say frankly that I would rather be delayed for twenty minutes or half an hour every time I approached this crossing than have the Hospital sacrificed. Most people who have any regard for our valuable antiquities in this country would feel the same. The whole House knows the good sense and the extreme fairness of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees, and I am sure that none of your Lordships would at any time like to run in any way counter to his advice if you could possibly avoid doing so. I am sure that he has stated the issue quite correctly and has put before us the proper official point of view of the office which he holds. None the less, we are not actually bound by that and I hope that the noble Earl who has brought forward this Motion will persist in it and take it to a Division, because I believe in the end that we shall do more good by following that course than by putting upon the parties the expense of going before a Committee, before whom, as the noble and learned Lord below me has just said, the real issues cannot adequately be raised.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, this subject, very interesting and important in itself, has been so thoroughly sifted in the series of speeches to which we have listened that very few words are required from me. Nor is it as Leader of the House that I would presume to offer advice to your Lordships upon this 710 occasion. This is a matter upon which every member of your Lordships' House will give his vote according to his own sense either of aesthetic propriety or of public duty. I speak only because of the strong views that I hold upon this matter. Those views have already found expression in the speeches of more than one of those who have preceded me, notably in the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster. I rejoice in the fine old Tory sentiments of the noble and learned Lord. I have noticed in recent years a growing reverence on his part for the past, and the more remote the past the greater the reverence, which inspires me with the liveliest hopes as to his political future.
As I have listened to this Debate I have put to myself three questions, and it is upon the answers to them that my vote personally will be given. The first question is this: Is this building of which we are speaking a building of artistic beauty, of national interest, and of historic importance? I do not think there can be any doubt that the answer to that question must be in the affirmative. We have had from the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, and the most rev. Primate an account of this building. It is an original building. It was raised by an Archbishop of Canterbury in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. But slight repairs have been carried out upon the structure in the interval. The bulk of it remains unchanged. It is a genuine and a noble relic of old English architecture. Further, we learn from the Archbishop what I had not thoroughly realised before, that the building is still, centuries after its foundation, devoted, and successfully devoted, to the same purposes as those for which it was founded. That is to say, persons are accommodated in this hospital; there is a warden, I understand, in charge; there is a chapel where daily prayers take place, and, indeed, the institution is serving now in the twentieth century the exact purpose it was intended to serve when it was founded in the sixteenth.
The second question I put to myself is this: Is the place, therefore, worth preserving on its own merits or in the national interest? And when I say "on its own merits" I mean with a view to the interests of the locality. Surely there can be no doubt about our reply. I am not quite so well acquainted with Croydon 711 as the noble Earl, Lord Meath, who describes it as a very unattractive and even repulsive place, but if that be so, all the greater need for keeping, in the interests of Croydon itself, the one solitary fragment of beauty which it possesses. Then, if we look at it from the rather larger point of view, I find myself here absolutely in line with Lord Buckmaster. I am delighted when I see growing up in this country an increasing historical sense that links us by indissoluble bonds with the past which is so swiftly going away. In a small way I have done something myself in the direction of promoting that sense. I feel that the preservation of these ancient places, their presence in our midst, the fact that they are there as a daily object to be seen by our children as they grow up, not only instils a spirit of local pride in the places where they exist but adds to the dignity and romance of our surroundings, and strikes a note of beauty, tranquillity and peace in a world of revolting garishness, vulgarity and noise. I think, therefore, that the preservation of these places wherever they exist is almost in the category of a national duty, and that they inflict a wound upon the State who heedlessly or thoughtlessly, for some utilitarian interest, destroy that which can never be replaced. You can make another motor road; you can never build another Whitgift Hospital.
§ NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The third question I put to myself—and about this I have no local knowledge—is: Are the utilitarian and commercial interests which have been mentioned in this case sufficient to override the larger, even if they are the more sentimental and historical, considerations that I have named? If the case is as it has been put before us, surely the answer must be in the negative. I gather from what Lord Crawford said that, whether the obstruction to traffic is or is not serious, it is capable of being dealt with, and to a large extent reduced, in other ways. I understand that alternative roads can be made, and that the great road which is called the by-pass is already in course of construction, and that with some local adjustment (the setting back of the frontage of 712 houses or whatever it may be) the difficulty with which you are confronted can be met. Therefore these considerations—what I call the commercial or utilitarian considerations—do not seem to me to be sufficient to justify us in tampering with an ancient historical monument of this description.
There were two other points that struck me. The first was that even Sir Eric Geddes spared this building. Really if that ruthless man, with his axe upon his shoulder and mad about transport, nevertheless, in spite of his passion both for economy and for road-making, said that this Whitgift Hospital must not be touched, that indeed is very strong testimony. The other point was that someone suggested that this is no new proposal, as if they thought it ought on that account to be treated with greater respect. I take exactly the opposite view. For forty years the Croydon Corporation, men destitute of any sense of beauty, men evidently imbued with the lowest utilitarian spirit, have been trying to destroy this lovely relic, and for forty years a series of valiant champions of beauty have risen and defeated them. Let us do it again. Let the Croydon Corporation realise that they cannot trifle in this way with the treasure that has been left to them.
I come to the much more difficult question raised by the Chairman of Committees. Like all members of your Lordships' House, I view with the respect attaching to his authority and experience the suggestion that he made, and did my noble friend Lord Crawford say that he thought it right in the interests of our procedure, or in the interests of the case itself, to accept that suggestion, I would not oppose it. But at the same time, if Lord Crawford goes to a Division, I shall vote for him. If he goes to a Division on the Motion he has put upon the Paper, I shall vote for him for this reason. What really is the use, viewing the general sentiment of your Lordships' House from the speeches which we have heard to-night, in inviting these gentlemen to come upstairs and put before your Lordships, or before a small Committee of your Lordships, arguments which are certain not to prevail, which have been prejudged in advance, and which, even if they were to prevail, would only be the cause of another debate taking 713 place in your Lordships' House in which you would repeat, probably with greater emphasis, the arguments you have used this afternoon, thereby implicating the Croydon Corporation in an even more overwhelming defeat? My own view is that this debate has been sufficient in itself to be a signal to the Croydon Corporation that they will be very unwise to proceed further, and, holding that view, if my noble friend Lord Crawford desires to take his case to a Division I shall myself support him.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, may I say one word in support of what has just fallen from thee. Leader of the House? I join with him in hoping that the Motion of Lord Crawford will be carried. My view as a student of roads is that no main road out of London should be taken through any of the suburbs, but should go around. To widen a street so as to make it sufficient to carry traffic through a place like Croydon is not to look far enough ahead. It will not be sufficient for the main trunk communications of the future. Merely to widen a street, as is proposed in this case, by destroying Whitgift Hospital would, in my opinion, be useless except for the needs of a year or two ahead. I look forward to a much larger scheme of trunk roads in the south of London. If the noble Earl goes to a Division I shall be prepared to vote with him.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
My Lords, with your Lordships' indulgence may I say one word before this Motion is put? Your Lordships will remember that I stated clearly at the beginning of the remarks I made to your Lordships that on merits I went a very long way with my noble friend Lord Crawford. I am bound, however, to remark upon one thing in the debate, and that is that the Croydon Corporation have not had a single speaker. I did not, of course, in what I said, range myself on their side. My duty was to put the position so far as I could do so from the public point of view. That was also the attitude of my noble friend Lord Long. But in view of the debate which has taken place, and of the overwhelming opinion obviously held by your Lordships, I am not, of course, going to trouble you by asking you to go to a Division if my noble friend presses his Motion. May I say one 714 other word? It is this: I hope the Croydon Corporation will take warning, and realise that the House is in earnest on this matter, and that they will not content themselves with merely repeating this Bill when they deposit their Bills next Session.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.
§ Read 2a.
§ Read 2a.
§ Read 2a.
§ Read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.
§ Read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.