HC Deb 06 June 1828 vol 19 cc1123-33

The House having resolved itself into a Committee of Supply, to which the Miscellaneous Services were referred,

Mr. Dawson

said, that, in laying these estimates before the committee, he should be ready to give every information in his power, as to the grounds on which they were framed. There was, however, one item to which he wished more particularly to call the attention of the committee, as he thought it related to a subject in which hon. members must feel considerable interest. He alluded to an item of 7,000l. for finishing the committee-rooms of both Houses of parliament. This was the last sum which would be required for completing those buildings. When gentlemen considered the great convenience which had arisen from the increased accommodation afforded for the committees of that House, and the still greater convenience that would be afforded by the addition of a good library, he thought they would not think the expense too great. They had a room of very handsome proportions, a room possessing every convenience for a library, with the exception of books; and he thought it would be a reflection on the House, if hereafter any person went into that room and found it, as it was at present, without a single volume connected with law, history, geography, or general literature. He did not mean to propose any vote on this subject; but, in his opinion, a proper library ought to be formed, consisting of books of reference—books of general knowledge, connected, not only with the history of this country, but the history of Europe and the colonies. It was, perhaps, too late in the year to propose a grant for this purpose; but next year, if such a vote was brought forward, he trusted that it would meet with the encouragement it deserved.

Mr. S. Rice

said, that, although when he first brought the subject of the library under the consideration of the House, his views had been misrepresented, and much sarcasm had been thrown on the project, he was convinced that it was a proper object on which to lay out a portion of the public money. He should be glad to see a sum of money voted in the present session for so desirable a purpose. He could wish the library to be open even when parliament was not sitting, for the convenience of members, who, when casually in town, might not have access to other depositories of knowledge.

Mr. Bankes

thought the House of Commons ought not to be without a library. It would, however, in making a selection of books, be as well to wait until next year, because probably they might then obtain, at a moderate price, duplicates of valuable works from the British Museum.

Mr. Bright

said, it was of very great importance to have a library to refer to.

Mr. Hume

approved of the formation of a library, and thought it ought to be kept open constantly. He was highly pleased with the conduct of Mr. Spiller, the librarian, who received only 100l. a year for his useful and unremitted services.

The Speaker

said, he had heard with great pleasure the eulogium bestowed on Mr. Spiller. The duties imposed on the librarian were scantily remunerated. He, however, had never heard any complaint from that individual. He believed that, with the exception of a fortnight in the year, the library was open to every member.

Sir M. W. Ridley

said, that the labour of Mr. Spiller in the library had become so great, that it would be necessary for the House to grant him some assistance.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

was of opinion, that a larger remuneration should be granted to the librarian, and entirely approved of the formation of a library.

On the resolution," That 80,000l. be granted to defray the expenses of the alterations in Windsor Castle,"

Mr. Hume

begged to know when there was to be an end to these alterations? 'When they were in their prosperity and had a god-send, they gave part of it, 500,000l., to finish Windsor-castle. Then it was found that more was necessary, and the estimate was 644,500l. Now they were asked for 80,000l.; so that there remained 64,500l. to be paid. He must therefore beg to know whether this was all they would be asked for?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he felt himself bound to answer the question, from the double capacity in which he stood, of commissioner and chancellor of the Exchequer. It was true, that at first, 500,000l. was thought sufficient to carry into effect all that had been contem plated; but it was soon found that more would be necessary, and the expense was then estimated at 644,500l. He was bound also, in candour, to add, that it was supposed that 50,000l. more will be required; making the whole nearly 700,000l. It must be recollected, that the original data on which the estimate was founded were extremely uncertain. Windsor-castle was not a building that was to be raised from the ground, the expense of which might be easily estimated; but it was an old building that was to be repaired. However, an estimate was made, but on examination it was found that the timbers were in that state of actual rottenness, that it was wonderful the building stood at all. The replacing of these timbers enhanced the expenses beyond any thing that could have been contemplated. The foundations, too, in many parts of the building, were in such a condition, that perpetual additions were made to the expense. But this was one of the cases in which, though the expenses were great, they were extremely satisfactory. Windsor-castle had been not only made one of the most convenient and elegant palaces for the monarch of this kingdom, but it was among that rank of buildings which would be the pride of the country, and attract the admiration of foreigners. He believed the money not only to have been well laid out, but that the country had money's worth for its money.

Sir M. W. Ridley

confirmed the statement of his right hon. friend. Not a single shilling had been wastefully expended; not a stone had been placed which was afterwards withdrawn. Every thing had gone steadily and regularly forward, and in the best possible manner. It was the unexpected rottenness of some of the timbers which had so much enhanced the expense. On one occasion, a ceiling of one of the rooms had given way; and had there not fortunately been workmen on the spot, the whole north side would, in all probability, have come down. There was every reason to suppose that no further sum would be required for furniture than that stated in the estimate. There must undoubtedly have been a much greater outlay on that account, had not all the ornamental furniture, the candelabra, &c, been removed from Carlton-house, and carried to Windsor. The 50,000l. additional, which it might be necessary to call for hereafter, would be for the purpose of completing works not originally contemplated, because not considered at that period to be absolutely necessary, but which on further survey were found to be indispensable to the completion of what had been begun. It would be the last money called for, for the present purpose; but he must state it honestly to be his opinion, that Windsor-castle would not be what it ought to be, unless, at some future period, an additional sum of money should be laid out upon it.

Mr. F. Lewis

said, the fact was, that Windsor-castle had been left too long without repair. Nothing could be more gratifying than the sight of what had been done. He could not adequately express his admiration of the identity of effect which had been produced between the old and the new part of the structure. It was quite surprising that so much had been accomplished with the means. The money that had been already voted, however, was not, in his opinion, sufficient to do what ought to be done. Looking at the fair degree of splendor which ought to belong to the principal palace of the Sovereign of this country, he hoped parliament would not abandon the undertaking until it should be completed. No one could say that the money hitherto granted had not been well applied.

Mr. Hume

could not permit the hon. gentleman's statement to pass without entering his protest against it. It was mighty well for an hon. member to talk of a splendid residence for the king of the country. The hon. member had said, that no one would object to the expense that had been incurred. There were millions who would object to it. At a time when bread could scarcely be found for a large portion of our population, it was unjustifiable to lavish such sums upon such purposes. The expense, within the last four years, of Buckingham-palace and Windsor-castle would not be paid with 1,200,000l.; and yet the hon. gentleman talked of going on, until the castle was made to suit his taste. It now appeared, notwithstanding the chancellor of the Exchequer's statement, that a further grant of 50,000l. beyond the sums comprehended in the estimate would be sufficient, that a million of money would hardly be adequate. He wished to ask the right hon. gentleman, why he did not convert various useless royal edifices to purposes of public benefit? For instance, there was Hampton-court, What was its use, except to maintain certain individuals at the public expense? The palace at Kew he was happy to understand, was about to be removed. The right hon. gentleman ought to direct his attention to getting rid of any of these buildings which were unnecessary, he did hope that a termination would be put to the expense of Windsor-castle. When they saw thousands ruined around them by the pressure of taxation in order to complete this place in a style of unnecessary splendor, it should induce them to pause in their career. The Crown of England did not require such splendor. Foreign countries might indulge in frippery, but England ought to pride herself on her plainness and simplicity. Yet we saw our soldiers clothed in gold lace and other finery, while thousands of the people were starving. This lavish expenditure, this profusion of gilding and gold lace were probably in conformity with the taste of the Committee of Taste. He understood that some of the chairs in Windsor-castle cost 100l. or 200l. a piece [cries of" No ! no!"]. At any rate, 167,000l. was put down in the estimate as the expenditure incurred and to be incurred in furnishing the castle. He trusted that the right hon. the chancellor of the Exchequer, if he remained in office, would draw in this item of the public expenditure as much as possible.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that with regard to regret for the expenditure that had been incurred, that regret would have been better expressed before the works were begun. To complain now was to complain at the wrong end of the business. He must repeat, that, of all the buildings he had ever seen, Windsor-castle was the most magnificent, and the best adapted to its purpose. It ought to be recollected, that Windsor-castle was the only palace ever erected for the king of England. Other palaces had been presented to the king of England by his subjects, or bought and improved for his use; but Windsor-castle was the only palace in this country that had ever been built as such. As to the furniture of Windsor-castle, the fact was, that there had actually been none in it. His late majesty being anxious, during the long war, to avoid increasing the pressure upon the country, had forborne to add any furniture to that already in the castle. This abstinence imposed on his late majesty's successor the necessity of incurring a heavy expense to supply the deficiency. If, therefore, the hon. member thought the estimate for furniture a large one, he must recollect for how many antecedent years the public had been exempted from expense on that score. With respect to the general question, all he was desirous of was, to finish the works in a manner suitable to that in which they had been begun; and, when that should be accomplished, to avoid, as far as was possible, any further expense.

Mr. Hume

said, he had never objected to the king's having a suitable palace. The only question was whether, after all, he would have one. The palace at Buckingham-house was disgraceful to every one connected with it. The money which had been laid out upon it, and the manner in which the money had been expended, were equally censurable. Adverting to what the right hon. gentleman had stated of the forbearance of his late majesty in furnishing Windsor-castle, he thought the moderate expense of the late reign was more suited to the simple and chaste old English character, than the course which had been since pursued.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he had merely stated, that, in consequence of a long and expensive war, his late majesty had refrained from purchases which were oven necessary, and the House had seen how the hon. gentleman had turned this expression. He was sure it was not necessary for him, in that House, to speak in defence of his sovereign; he was sure that in that country, the people entertained much juster notions of their sovereign, than the hon. member had expressed. The hon. member might charge him with keeping up unnecessary splendor, but it ought to be recollected, that his majesty had done much for the country, and that he at least deserved to be spoken of respectfully. [Cheers.] The hon. gentleman had chosen the very night on which the question of his majesty's splendid gift to the country—he meant the library of the late king—had been called to the attention of the House, to indulge in these observations. If, however, that gift, and the expenses of his majesty's palaces were set against each other, there would be found little charge upon the country.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, that, he could not hear what had fallen from the hon. member for Aberdeen, without entering his decided protest against the introduction of the name of the sovereign into the debates of that House. If the hon. member thought that a greater expense had been incurred than was justifiable, he ought to bring forward a charge against his majesty's confidential advisers. To introduce the name of the sovereign in discussions in that House was contrary to the doctrine and practice of the constitution. The hon. member must know that the Crown could not incur any expense, except on the advice of its ministers. It was, therefore, most irregular and unconstitutional, to introduce the name of the sovereign into the discussion. If introduced at all, it ought to have been introduced as the name of the patron of every liberal institution; the warm friend of the arts and sciences; the ardent and anxious supporter of the best interests of the country.

Mr. R. Colborne

said, he was the last man to sanction any unnecessary expense; but he must express his admiration of the solid and excellent manner in which the repairs of Windsor-castle had been e fleeted.

Sir M. W. Ridley

said, that the structure of Buckingham-palace, which the hon. gentleman had called a disgrace to all who were concerned in the erection of it, had nevertheless found admirers. He would venture to say, that when it was completed, it would be pronounced any thing but a disgrace to those who had superintended its erection. The same thing had been said of Regent-street; but what did people say of it now? As to the site of the palace, it was not the best possible, but it was chosen because it would not interfere with the conveniences of the people. It was at first proposed to build at Kensington-gardens, but that would have encroached on the comforts of the public. The same objection was thought fatal to the proposal to build the palace at the edge of the Green-park.

Colonel Davies

said, that when he looked at the square towers at the side, and at the wretched inverted egg-cup, at the top of Buckingham-palace, he must concur with his hon. friend, that it was a disgrace to all who were concerned in it.

Mr. Hume

said, he had intended to speak of the king with no disrespect, but only to regret the taste which he had displayed. If, however, he had said any thing which could be construed into dis respect, he was sorry for it. He had intended merely to declare his sorrow, that the taste of his majesty was not of that simple, chaste, and solid English kind, which he thought most suitable to the character of the people. He was not aware that he had done more than that, and did not think that the right hon. gentleman had any occasion to read him a lecture on the subject. If, when he was called upon to vote away hundreds of thousands of pounds, regard for any individual was to prevent him from expressing what he honestly felt, there was an end to all deliberation.

The resolution was agreed to. On the resolution, that 15,000l. be granted for the establishment of the Penitentiary at Milbank, from June, to December, 1828,

Mr. Hume

asked, whether that establishment was intended to be given up. It had been admitted last year, that it had not answered the purpose for which it was built.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, there had undoubtedly been a considerable expenditure with respect to the Penitentiary, but the building being now completed, he thought it would be improper to abandon it. In proportion as capital punishment was mitigated, it became necessary to find the means of secondary punishment. The Penitentiary afforded one of those means. The establishment was conducted on the most economical principles. It was superintended by a committee of twenty-one gentlemen, who devoted their time to that purpose gratuitously.

Mr. Maberly

said, that 500,000l. had been laid out on this place, and the expense now required to maintain it was greater than would be wanted for supporting in the hulks an equal number of men. There was, besides, this objection, that in the latter place the labour was unprofitable, while in the hulks the labour of the convicts produced 80l. a-head.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, that all prisoners could not be sent to the hulks, but only those who were strong enough to work. He thought it would be as erroneous to abandon altogether the hope of reforming prisoners, as it was to attach too much importance to it. As affording an opportunity of steering a middle course between the two extremes, the Penitentiary was highly useful.

The resolution was agreed to. On the resolution that 16,182l. be granted for the expense of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in certain of the colonies,

Mr. Hume

objected to the grant. The Society had been a long time established, and for years used to receive a small grant from government, for the support of missionary clergy of the Church of England, but of late years it got this large sum, and had received altogether 145,000l. Now, he wished to know how this large sum had been applied. From the account of a Mr. Griffin, who had been employed in Canada on the mission, it appeared that the episcopalians formed but a small portion of the inhabitants in Lower Canada, they did not form one sixteenth, and in Nova Scotia about one tenth. The great mass of the people did not wish for this grant, and ten thousand had petitioned against the application of the money of the public in this way. He would therefore propose, that one half the grant be reduced this year, and next year he would move that the whole be discontinued.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that this was not a new grant; a sum was formerly granted by government for the support of the clergy of the Church of England in Canada, but it had of late years been transferred to this society, who applied large funds of their own to the same purpose. In Nova Scotia twenty-eight thousand of the inhabitants, were members of the Church of England, which was a greater number than any one body of dissenters in that colony, He considered the assistance rendered in this way by government, for their instruction, well applied.

Mr. Monck

said, he wished well to the society, and hoped it would increase, but he did not think that it required any addition from government for the object mentioned. It was clear the members of the Church of England in these colonies were the minority, and he did not see why they should not pay for their own religious instruction, as well as other bodies of Christians.

Sir R. Inglis

said, it did not appear that the money had been misapplied. He would therefore support the grant.

Sir T. D. Acland

observed, that it would be great injustice to a very useful body to have this grant withheld, and that it would be unfair to take the House by surprise on this vote.

Mr. Hume

denied that he took the House by surprise, for he had given notice of his objection last year.

Mr. Monck

said, if he thought that the withdrawal of half the grant would leave the clergy of the Church of England destitute, he would not support the amendment, but he could not think that the members of that Church would refuse to provide for their clergy if left to themselves.

Mr. O'Neil

said, he would support the grant, as he was unwilling to leave the clergy to the generosity of the public.

Mr. Labouchere

supported the original motion, but did not mean thereby to make the episcopal church the dominant party in the colony.

Mr. Hobhouse

said, that, unless he could get some assurance that the grant would be reduced next year, he must support the amendment.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he could not give any assurance of that kind.

Mr. Stuart Wortley

said, he had great doubts as to the policy of continuing this grant, which was applied exclusively to the ministry of the Church of England. A large majority of the North American colonists were dissenters, and it had lately been resolved by one of the legislative assemblies, by a majority of thirty-five votes, that the Church of England was not the predominant religion. He therefore thought it should be submitted to a committee of that House, to decide whether the vote should be continued, and if continued, whether the money should not be distributed according to the religious circumstances of the population of the colonies.

Mr. Hume

thought this a fit subject for the consideration of the Finance-committee, or some other that might be appointed for the purpose. He would therefore move, that the vote be postponed for fourteen days, to allow time to have it examined.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

remarked, that the hon. gentleman, as a member of the Finance-committee, must know how inconvenient it would be to have the course they had chalked out for themselves broken in upon, for the purpose of discussing the employment of the public money for religious missions in North America. The subject in itself was very important, but it could not be usefully undertaken by the Finance-committee; nor by the Canada committee; for their inquiries were too general and extensive to admit of their devoting sufficient attention to this subject.

The committee divided: For the Postponement 28; Against it 107; Majority 79. The original resolution was then agreed to.

List of the Minority.
Abercromby, r. hon. J. Palmer, Fysche
Benett, J. Pendarvis, F. W.
Brougham, H. Ponsonby, hon. G.
Cave, Otway Russell, J.
Davies, col. Smith, Wm.
Dawson, A. Waithman, alderman
Grattan, H. Wilbraham, G.
Grattan, J. Wilson, sir R.
Guest, J. J. Webb, col.
Hobhouse, J. C. Warburton, H.
Lumley, S. Wrottesley, sir J.
Maberly, J. Wood, alderman
Martin, J. Wood, John
Monck, J. B. TELLER.
Normanby, lord Hume, Joseph

The other resolutions were agreed to, and the House resumed.