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Smithfield Market—Removal

Volume 114: debated on Wednesday 19 February 1851

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rose to ask for leave to bring in a Bill for the removal of Smith-field Market. The subject was one which had been brought frequently under the consideration of the House in past Sessions, and it was not necessary, therefore, to enter into an explanation of the circumstances which led to the appointment of a Committee in 1849. That Committee had heard evidence, and had proposed a series of resolutions on the subject submitted to them. In those resolutions they recommended the removal of Smithfield market altogether, the creation of a new market on some site more convenient, and more conducive to the general health, order, and cleanliness of the metropolis. After the Committee had made their report to the House, the Government referred the consideration of the whole subject to a Commission of seven gentlemen, two of whom were connected with the city of London, which, by ancient charter, had long possessed the right of regulating the market of Smithfield, and instructed them to consider the question of convenience to the public at large, and the consequences which resulted from the position of that market. The Commission were not unanimous in their report; but the exceptions were the two gentlemen connected with the city of London; and, with those exceptions, the Commission were unanimous. They considered not only the evidence taken by the Committee, but had before them in detail the plans prepared by the city of London for the improvement of Smithfield; and the question they considered was, whether the plans proposed by the City, and of which he was bound to say the City authorities afforded the most ample explanations, would meet the evils complained of, and provide sufficient remedy for the inconveniences which had been proved to exist. It was not necessary for him to go into the details of the measure which had been adopted by Government, as the House would have ample opportunities of considering them in future stages of the Bill; and he did not anticipate any lengthened discussion upon the present Motion, or any opposition to laying the Bill on the table. He would only say, that the Commission, having the plans proposed by the City before them, and giving the City ample credit for the great improvements which would, no doubt, be made if those plans were carried into effect, came to the conclusion, that it was expedient to remove the market from its present site, and that it should no longer remain in the heart of a populous and crowded city. After the Commission had reported the result of their inquiry to the Crown, a letter was written, by his directions, to the City Remembrancer, dated June 24, 1850, and enclosing the report. The letter was as follows:—

"I am directed by Secretary Sir George Grey to enclose, for your information, a copy of the report made by the Commissioners appointed by Her Majesty to inquire into Smithfield market, and the markets of the city of London for the sale of meat, and to request that you will bring under the notice of the corporation the recommendation of the Commissioners with respect to the discontinuance of the present market at Smithfield, and the establishment of a new market for the sale of cattle in a place without the City, and detached from the central portion of the metropolis. Before a Bill founded on the recommendations of the Commissioners is proposed to Parliament, Sir George Grey is desirous of ascertaining whether the corporation are willing to undertake the task of constructing a new cattle-market without the limits of the City, and of exercising the supervision of it when formed."
To that letter the City Remembrancer sent the following reply on the 21st of July:—
"Sir—In answer to your letter of the 24th of June, I am directed by the Markets Improvement Committee of the Corporation of London, in pursuance of an order of the Court of Common Council of the 23rd of July, to state, that your letter, and the reports accompanying it, have been fully and maturely considered; and, the notice of the corporation having been drawn by your letter to the recommendation of five of the Commissioners for the discontinuance of the present market at Smithfield, and the establishment of a new market for the sale of cattle without the City, the corporation are advised to protest against the commission being used for the purpose of affecting the rights prescriptive, chartered, and Parliamentarily and judicially confirmed to the corporation of London, and cannot concur in the proposed removal of the market from the place where it has been held by the citizens of London from time immemorial under the common law and their charters, which prohibit the establishment of any other market within seven miles of the City, and which charters have been confirmed by Parliament, and lately supported by the judgment of the House of Lords, assisted by the Judges. The corporation of London, therefore, feel themselves called upon to maintain those charters for the sake of the public and of their fellow-citizens; and rely with confidence that no such Bill as that referred to in your letter will be proposed to Parliament. The corporation having recently prepared a comprehensive plan and model, for the purpose of meeting the suggestions pointed out by the reports of the several Select Committees of the House of Commons, and proposed means for effecting it, they cannot undertake the task of constructing a new market without the limits of the City, for which ne site, nor plan, nor estimate is suggested; while the plan proposed by the corporation is ready, when sanctioned by Parliament, for immediate execution."
In other words, the Government were desirous that the supervision of the new market should continue in the hands of the city of London, in the hope that the City would have acted on the recommendations of the Commissioners. The corporation, however, by their letter, declared they would take no share in the concerns of the new market. It therefore became the duty of Government to consider how the recommendation of a Committee of that House, and the report of the Commissioners, should be carried into effect. A Bill had been framed with that object, and he would briefly state what were its principal provisions. In the first place, it would empower the Crown to appoint a commission of five person, to be incorporated under the name of "The Metropolitan Cattle Market Commissioners." These commissioners would have power to provide a cattle market in lieu of Smithfield, having at the same time full discretionary powers left to them as to the choice of a site for the new market. They would also be authorised to provide a meat market, and to make the requisite conveniences for both the markets thus to be created. The commissioners further would have power to make by-laws as to the days and hours for holding the markets, as well as for their regulation and conduct internally. They would be empowered to fix a table of tolls and a table of payments in respect of cattle, horses, and meat sold in the market, and of the use of pens and lairs, with a power to levy such tolls, rates, and payments, subject to the proviso that they were not to exceed an amount to be fixed in a schedule to the Bill. The commissioners were to report to the Secretary of State when the markets were ready for public use, and a notice would then be inserted in the Gazette as to the time when the markets would be opened; and after a time to be specified in such notice, Smith-field would cease to be a market, and no new cattle market would be allowed to be created within five miles of St. Paul's. The Commissioners of Police would have authority to regulate the routes and hours for driving cattle to and from the market. The Market Commissioners by other provisions of the Act would be empowered to raise money by mortgage on future tolls for the necessary expenses. They would be required to fix penalties, as directed by the Bill, which would provide for enforcing their payment, and they would also have to keep accounts of all transactions in their department; provision was made for auditing and publishing those accounts, and the commissioners would be required to make an annual report to the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament. The Bill also gave them power to inquire into the state of all slaughter-houses, and pro- vided that all slaughter-houses, except those under the Act, should be licensed by justices at quarter-sessions. These were the principal provisions of the Bill. He believed it was to some extent of the nature of a Private Bill, and must, therefore, be referred to the Committee on Standing Orders. He had no wish to press it with undue haste, and he would give ample time for considering all the details of the Bill; but, as it would have to be referred to the Committee, he could not fix a time for the second reading until the report of the Committee had been received.

said, the farmers and graziers around the metropolis ought to feel extremely indebted to Her Majesty's Government for bringing this subject under the consideration of Parliament. He knew that the proposal to change the site of the market would be exceedingly welcome news to many of his constituents in North Devon.

thought the assurance of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State, that the Bill would not be pressed with undue precipitation was very necessary, and was of opinion considerable time should be given to understand the provisions of a measure involving an immense amount of patronage, and a large discretionary power in the hands of a new set of Commissioners, as well as a complete change of the metropolitan markets. He observed that their discretionary power was unlimited, and that no appeal was to be given from them, whatever districts might object to the new market sites. The Bill also contained a clause that no market for live or dead meat should be allowed within five miles of St. Paul's. [Sir G. GREY: The prohibition only applies to live cattle-markets at present.] It was rather premature for the hon. Member for North Devonshire to express his thanks, and those of the farmers, to Government till they knew where the new market was to be; the change might be from bad to worse. The changes proposed to be made respecting slaughterhouses involved an immense amount of capital, and introduced a mode of dealing with private property which the House never had adopted before. The House had now before it one Bill from the Great Northern Railway Company, another from the Islington Market, a third from the City, and a fourth from Government. The latter would exclude all the others, unless it was understood that they would select Islington as the site for the new market, and that had been condemned by the Commissioners. The charters of the corporation must be considered; and he warned the right hon. Gentleman how he brought in a Bill which would meet an opposition he little expected in another place, where charters were more carefully regarded than in that House. He would not offer any opposition to the right hon. Baronet's Motion; but he begged to ask when he proposed to take the next stage, and if it would be presented as a public or as a private Bill?

replied, that he had already stated he could not fix any day for the second reading; because the nature of the Bill required it to be presented to the Standing Orders Committee. The Bill was partly of a private and partly of a public nature, and before it was presented to the House must go through certain stages before that Committee.

hoped that, in the absence of any of the Members for the city of London, his connexion with the corporation would entitle him to say a few words, and to ask the House to give full consideration to the claims of that corporation. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had explained the plan of the Government, but he had not entered upon any explanation of that suggested by the corporation; and, though considerable difference of opinion existed in the corporation as to the removal of the market, he knew they were unanimous in the wish to effect the greatest improvement consistent with the public interest and the importance of private rights. He thought it would only be fair to refer the rival schemes to the same Committee, who could decide which was best. Although the right hon. Baronet had not mentioned the intended site of the new market, it was generally known to be somewhere about Holloway; but, before it was fixed upon, he wished to secure for the proposal of the City a full consideration by the House.

said, the Bill would be hailed with great satisfaction by the graziers in every part of the country.

said, that he gave every credit to the City for the desire to improve Smithfield as far as possible; but the question was, whether the evils arising from the locality did not call for the absolute removal of the market to another site.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir G. Grey and Mr. Cornewall Lewis.