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Smithfield Market Removal Bill

Volume 117: debated on Tuesday 24 June 1851

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Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time."

said, he must enter his protest against the measure he was not going to divide the House upon it; but he felt bound to protest against it; and to express his hope that it would be treated with more care in another place than it had boon in that House. Smithfield market had so strong a hold upon the public, that it challenged free and independent competition. There was no objection to the establishment of other markets; Smith-field did not fear the establishment of twenty others; but in legislating upon the subject he thought they ought to have left that little space in the centre of the City, and not have endeavoured to establish a monopoly by legislative enactment which would destroy the central market. The effect of the Bill would be to raise up a number of little markets, to the great detriment of the consumer and the grazier. He considered that the conduct of the Corporation of London, on the subject of Smith-field market, contrasted very favourably with that of the Government on the same question. The policy of the Government was insincere and tortuous; whereas that of the Corporation was straightforward and single-minded. They openly declared what it was they intended to do, and they indicated the site on which the new market should be erected; but the Government, on the contrary, supplied no information whatever on these points, but cloaked their intentions in mystery.

believed that the course which had been adopted with reference to this Bill was hasty, inconsistent, and rash, and that due regard had not been had to the interests of the public service he objected altogether to committing to the hands of the Government a matter so important as the supplying of meat to 2,500,000 of people. Government had determined to take into their own hands the supply of an article when it had been clearly experienced that they failed in everything of the kind they tried. When Government took such a matter in hand, it became a job. Places were created, salaries were given, and the public interest was neglected. This was the case, with scarcely an exception, as regarded every Administration for the last fifty years. It had been the uniform advice of Committees of that House, that Government should not he permitted to erect works. This Bill would throw a stigma on the Corporation of London, the first municipal establishment in the world, and was certainty very inconsistent with the fulsome addresses which were delivered by Ministers of the Crown when they dined with the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, and made long postprandial orations about the city of London being the cradle of liberty, the fountain-head of national glory, and all that sort of thing. If there was anything wrong in the municipal institutions of the country, the defect ought to be corrected by some legislative remedy; but the corporations, with all their faults, were the representatives of the people, and in their hands ought to be placed the power of controlling the markets, and regulating the supply of food for the citizens. The Government were overthrowing old institutions, and were proving to the world that they were not radicals but destructives. So strong a feeling had he with respect to the indignity which was about to be offered to the people at largo by investing the Government with powers which of right only belonged to the municipal representatives of the nation at large, that he was determined to divide against this Bill, even though he were to be his own teller, and were to walk into the lobby by himself alone. He begged to move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Ques- tion to add the words "upon this day six months."

seconded the Motion. He said that there was amongst his constituents one unanimous feeling of dissatisfaction with the Bill, which would abrogate the immemorial rights of the municipal institutions, and give to the Secretary of State for the Home Department powers which had in no former period of English history been entrusted to him.

was willing to admit that the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had vindicated his right to the praise of a persevering opposition to this Bill, for he continued to resist it and to protest against it, even after the City Members had abandoned their opposition. Nothing could be more absurd or more flagrantly irrational than to charge Government with a desire to legislate in a hasty and precipitate spirit in this matter, or to impute to them an anxiety to supersede the ancient rights and privileges of the city of London. Those who made such charges exhibited their prejudice, not their intelligence, and proved that they were in total ignorance of the true facts of the case. If the Government were fairly liable to any censure in this matter, it was that they had in their anxiety to please all parties delayed too long a measure of reform which was imperatively necessary for the welfare of the community; for so far back as the year 1809, the Committee of Trade and Navigation had drawn attention to the scandalous condition of Smithfield market, had denounced it as a nuisance, and had declared that some legislation with respect to it was imperatively required. Forty years had elapsed since then, and yet this necessary legislation had not as yet been introduced. And yet the hon. Member (Mr. Hume) would have it that the Government were proceeding with indecent haste. With respect to the Corporation of London, it was utterly untrue that the Government had any desire to supersede their ancient rights and privileges; on the contrary, they were, and had always been, most anxious that the Corporation should undertake the management of the market; and it was only after their repeated and peremptory refusals to do so that this Bill had been introduced. Even now the Government had consented that their own hands should be tied up for a period, in the hope that the Corporation would reconsider their determination, and at length consent to take charge of the market. Under these circumstances he hoped that the House would support the Government, and signify their approval of the Bill.

said, the City was diametrically opposed to this Bill. The right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) complained that the City would do nothing to abate the nuisances connected with Smith-field. Why, the City was willing to lay out a large sum for the purpose of abating these nuisances, and improving the market; also to deprive itself of the benefit it now derived from the tolls, and in the end to make it almost a free market. The revenue at present derived was about 5,500l. a year, but that would not pay the interest of 200,000l., which it was said a new market would cost; hut 200,000l. would not cover the expenditure. And, besides, they could not expect that the Committee would undertake such an office without being well paid, and then there would be secretaries and treasurers to pay. The right hon. Baronet said he wished the City to undertake the management of the new market; but that was a very unpopular duty. He thought the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stafford) had done himself honour by the way in which he opposed the Bill. With him he protested against it. He thought the corporation ought to have had their plan examined, and that having been refused to them he thought would have a great effect in another place.

said, there was a vein of humour in everything connected with this market, to which it was well to direct the attention of the House. First, there was his hon. Friend the Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford), the great advocate of Smithfield as it is, who objected to the Bill because it was going to create a monopoly, he knowing very well that the only monopoly it maintained was that created by the City Charter. The hon. Gentleman also objected to it on the ground that the City would have removed certain nests of vice and disease, and he did this in the face of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Duke), who told them that Smithfield, of all places in the City, during the time of the cholera, was free from that disease. He also objected to it on the ground that it would increase the price of food, he having voted for the Bill promoted by the City, the tolls in the schedule of which were no less than three times those that were now collected. He had expected something more serious from the hon. Member for Montrose, but that hon. Gentleman was tinged with the same humorous disposition. He (Mr. Hume) was so great an advocate of consistency, that he wished hon. Members in that House to express sentiments precisely similar to those used at the Lord Mayor's table. The hon. Member also objected to the Bill because it would interfere with the supply of food for 2,000,000 of people. His argument was, that this was a Bill to create Government patronage, and that it was a Bill planned in the dark. But the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Duke) said they only make 5,500l. a year by the market at present; that there was no probability of the new market paying its expenses; and that giving the management of it to the City was imposing on them an unpopular duty, so that Government, in undertaking this matter, took upon themselves an unpopular duty, coupled with financial embarrassment. And now with regard to the allegation that they wore hasty in this legislation. In 1809 the Board of Trade recommended the removal of the market. In 1810, a Bill for that purpose was brought in. In 1828, the City Remembrancer described the market as an abominable nuisance. In 1847, there was a Parliamentary Committee, which did not report. In 1849 there was another Committee, and in 1850 the report recommended the removal of the market. In 1851 they had that report referred to a Committee upstairs, and carefully investigated. He had read through the whole of the evidence, and they came to the conclusion that the market ought to be removed. Charges had been made against them that they had been regardless of City rights; but he believed that, if they had done anything wrong, it was that they had imperilled the success of a great public reform from an excess of consideration for the rights of the City.

said, that the graziers and agriculturists wanted a convenient place to keep and refresh their cattle, should they not be sold. It was idle to say that the farmers and graziers were in favour of the retention of Smith-field, because the Select Committee had it in evidence that the farmers did not know their own cattle after they had been three days in London, so badly had they been used in the market. The value of all kinds of animals was deteriorated by the present system.

could not see how the grazier's interest could be served by his cattle being driven five additional miles through the streets. He objected to the Bill, because it did not state where the now market was to be, or what was to be the cost of it. The farmers south of the metropolis would not have to thank the Government for removing the market on the score of con-venience to themselves, or humanity to their animals.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 81; 32: Majority 49.

List of the AYES

Abdy, Sir T. N.Heyworth, L.
Bailey, J.Hogg, Sir J. W.
Barrington, Visct,Hollond, R.
Berkeley, Adm.Howard, P. H.
Bowles, Adm.Jermyn, Earl
Brotherton, J.Kershaw, J.
Brown, W.Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Cardwell, E.Lewis, G. C.
Carew, W. H. P.Mackinnon, W. A.
Childers, J. W.Mangles, R. D.
Christopher, R. A.Marshall, W.
Clay, J.Martin, C. W.
Clifford, H. M.Matheson, Col.
Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.Miles, W.
Corry, rt. hon. H. LMilner, W. M. E.
Cowan, C.Moody, C. A.
Craig, Sir W. G.Mowatt, F.
Davie, Sir H. R. F.O'Connell, J.
Dawes, E.Pendarves, E. W. W.
Denison, J. E.Perfect, R.
Drummond, H.Pilkington, J.
Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.Portal, M.
Duncan, G.Power, Dr.
Duncuft, J.Pusey, P.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.Rich, H.
Edwards, H.Russell, Lord J.
Ellice, E.Salwey, Col.
Elliot, hon. J. E.Sandars, G.
Evans, W.Seymour, Lord
Fergus, J.Stanford, J. F.
Fox, W. J.Thicknesse, R. A.
Freestun, Col.Thompson, Col.
Fuller, A. E.Tyler, Sir G.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.Verney, Sir H.
Granger, T. C.Watkins, Col. L.
Grenfell, C. W.Wilcox, B. M.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir GWilson, J.
Grosvenor, Lord R.Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Grosvenor, EarlYoung, Sir J.
Hall, Sir B.


Hatchell, rt. hon. J.Hayter, W. G.
Heywood, J.Cowper, W. F.

List of the NOES.

Bankes, G.Currie, H.
Barron, Sir H. W.Dashwood, Sir G. H.
Barrow, W. H.Davies, D. A. J.
Booker, T. W.D' Eyncourt, rt. hon. C. T.
Brocklehurst, J.Duke, Sir J.
Buller, Sir J. Y.Duncan, Visct.
Bunbury, W. M.Duncombe, T,
Chatterton, Col.Forbes, W.

Frewen, C. H.Osborne, R.
Gilpin, Col.Pechell, Sir G. B.
Henley, J. W.Stafford, A.
Hodges, T. L.Stanley, E.
Inglis, Sir R. H.Verner, Sir W.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.Wall, C. B.
Keogh, W.
Lowther, hon. Col.


Mullings, J. R.Hume, J.
O'Flaherty, A.Williams, W.

Main Question put, and agreed to: Bill read 3°, and passed.