HC Deb 07 May 1819 vol 40 cc234-5

On the motion for going into a Committee of Supply,

Mr. R. Gordon

desired, before the Speaker left the chair, to put a few questions to an hon. friend of his opposite, relative to the New Post Office. There had been already expended, in preparing the site of that edifice, the sum of 238,000l.—a sum of such magnitude, that during the last parliament he had called the attion of the House, or if not of the House, at least of the country, to it. This scheme, which, on its first agitation, had been a mighty favourite with the hon. secretary of the treasury, though he had now perhaps repented of it, had been originally brought forward in the year 1814, just one year before the system of economy commenced. The questions which he wished to ask, referred to the manner in which the 238,000l. had been expended for the ornament, accommodation, and convenience of the city, and the estimate of the expenses which were hereafter to be incurred. He had heard that the city of London was to pay one-third of the whole expense; but that was totally impossible. The only way in which they could attempt to do it, would be by the duties on coal and on wines, or by taking from the Orphan fund. That plan, however, would also be insufficient; so that he had no doubt that not merely the sum of 238,000l. already expended, but also 158,000l. which he heard was to be expended, would come out of the pockets of the people. He would also call the attention of the House to the manner in which the edifice had been ordered to be constructed. The secretary of the treasury and the chancellor of the exchequer had assured the House, on proposing the measure to its notice, that there should be a fair competition among architects for its plan; that there should be no favoritism, no partiality in the selection of the plan; in short, that there should be no job in the execution of it. In addition to this assurance, there was the report of one of their own committee containing a similar declaration. Such were the declarations of the first advisers of this scheme; and he therefore thought, that he was only seconding their intentions in preventing the erection of this new building from degenerating into a job. Now, he had heard that the architect of the post-office had sent in a plan to the secretary of the treasury, and that the secretary of the treasury had transmitted it for their approval to the commissioners of the board of works. He did not say that this was fact, but he wished to know whether the competition of architects was no longer to be allowed.

Mr. Lushington

Stated, that until all the buildings were pulled down on which the new post-office was to be erected, it was quite useless to take any plan into consideration. Preparatory steps had lately been taken to promote a competition of architects. When it was recollected that 7 or 800 individuals were to be accommodated in the new office, the selection of a plan ought not to be made in a hasty manner. He could inform his hon. friend, that what he had chosen to denominate a job, would be not more an ornament than an accommodation to the city.

Mr. Alderman Wood

observed, that whatever money might be wanted for the new post-office, ought very properly to be defrayed by the public, as it was an absolute convenience for the carrying on of business. The city of London would pay 10,500l. a year towards this expense as long as the orphan duty remained.

Sir J. Newport

said, the best mode of producing a good plan, would be by exciting a free and fair competition of artists.

Mr. Lushington

had no hesitation in promising that that would be done.