Orders of the Day — Surrey County Council Bill.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 17th February 1931.

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Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I ask the House to reject this Instruction. With all due respect to my two hon. Friends, I cannot help feeling that this is precisely the kind of point that ought not to be submitted by anyone to the Imperial Parliament of the British Empire. We are waiting tonight to deal with matters actually extending from China to Peru, and we are held up in order that we may discuss about 600 yards of a Surrey suburban street. We almost merit, I think, the description given by Byron of Napoleon: One moment of the mightiest, and againOn little objects with like firmness fixt;Extreme in all things! I want to say quite frankly that the scheme which we are being asked to reject is a good one, and I suggest that, having received, by 23 votes to one, the approval of the Barnes Urban District Council, and having been passed, again with a minority of one, by the Surrey County Council, consisting of 93 members, it ought to be passed by this House, because the two minorities of one consisted of the same person, who, I believe, has supplied the brief for the two speeches to which we have just listened—[Interruption.] At any rate the same gentleman has been seen in close consultation with the two speakers. We may appreciate his pertinacity. I do, for he is a valued colleague of mine on the Surrey County Council, and I can only hope that he will be as zealous in good works as in this case he has been in had. A professor living in Mortlake High Street has suggested that another line ought to be taken. If we proposed to widen Mortlake High Street—and many hon. Members who have been to see the Universities Boat Race must have passed along Mortlake High Street—we should have to do two things. On the north side we should have to take down Watney, Combe, Reid and Company's brewery, and, after the disastrous debate of the Liquor Traffic Prohibition Bill last Friday, that establishment, apparently, has a new lease of life for some years to come, and is probably one of the most valuable frontages in the whole country. On the south side it would be necessary to interfere with the entrance to one of the most historic churches in the county, and also to take down a couple of public houses.

With some knowledge of dealing with highway improvements, I venture to suggest that any proposal to interfere with the entrance to a historic church, and put it back practically on to the main road, so that the traffic on Sundays, when the sermon is being delivered, will keep the people awake instead of letting them take their usual slumber, would be highly resented by the inhabitants of the district, while it is by no means certain that the taking down of a couple of public houses would not cost far more in compensation than would have to be paid for the property at the back. With regard to the school, for eight years I taught in Mortlake, so I may be presumed at least to know a little about the accommodation there. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Junior Member for Oldham. (Mr. J. Wilson) said that this was the largest school in the district. As a matter of fact, it is not the largest school in the district. There was a time when it was, but that was when Mortlake was a small place. Mortlake is now bigger than Richmond, and there are at least two other schools in the parish which are larger than this. At present Mortlake High Street receives the children from this school through a series of narrow footpaths which rejoice in such names as Tinderbox Alley and Mullins Path. The names themselves give some indication of the kind of openings that these are, and it is infinitely more dangerous for them to debouch on the main road through narrow paths like that, all of a heap, than to come along reasonably wide roads.

I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Sherwood), in his accurate description of things as they are, forgot that this House has assented to the creation of two new bridges over the Thames, one slightly to the west of the road in question and the other leading again over the Thames at Richmond, and the effect of the building of those two bridges will be to bring along this road, and to divert from going along the Upper Richmond Road from the Lower Richmond Road, a lot of traffic desiring to get to Richmond and beyond. The result will be that this road will be increasingly used as a line of through traffic. The opponents of the scheme have christened this the Mortlake By-pass Road. No one with any authority suggests that it is a by-pass road. The northern part of the road is to be used for traffic coming London-wards, and the southern part of the road is to be used for traffic going towards Richmond. This property at the back is a very higgledy-piggledy property. It goes back to the days when Mortlake was a collection of market gardens, when people erected labourers' cottages wherever they liked on the boundaries of their own property, and connected them in this very narrow and straggling path called Vineyard Path. Eighty-six dwellings are to be demolished. The council are preserving, I think rightly, the whole of the frontages on the new road, and they propose to erect 126 in place of the 86 that are being demolished. I am authorised by the Barnes Urban Council to say that the existing tenants who are dispossessed will be granted, in the process of displacement and re-housing, all the privileges with regard to rent under the Rent Restriction Acts that they now enjoy.

I am sure that, in doing that the Council are doing nothing more than the Committee would demand for these people. The scheme enables a very much needed improvement to be carried out at very little cost, it enables a much needed housing improvement and a very essential highway improvement to be carried out, the local authorities concerned being willing to meet the existing tenants as generously as can be demanded of them. I ask the House to allow these Clauses in Part IX to go to Committee. If, when it gets to Committee, the pledges that I have given have not been redeemed, the Bill must come back here, and it would then be open to hon. Members to raise opposition, and I am sure the House would insist that pledges given openly in the House should be honoured.