HC Deb 11 April 1836 vol 32 cc865-7
Sir Robert Peel

, seeing the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place, rose to put a question to him respecting the exhibition of the plans for the new Houses of Parliament. He had received several communications which made him believe that considerable dissatisfaction was felt upon the subject on two grounds—first, that architects were specifically excluded from permission to inspect the successful plans. He had received a letter from a very eminent architect who applied to be admitted: he had gone with a friend, who was allowed to enter, but being himself asked if he were an architect, and the answer being in the affirmative, he was excluded, as he was told, by the express orders of the Woods and Forests Department. Unless some good reason could be assigned, this exclusion, to say the least of it, seemed ungenerous. The other ground of complaint was, that the plans of the successful candidates were not exhibited with the others. He had understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the successful plans should be sent with the others for exhibition in the building intended for the National Gallery. It was easy to see why the plan that had been eminently successful—that of Mr. Barry—could not yet be exhibited, because it might be necessary to retain it for the purpose of forming the estimates of the expense of carrying it into execution; but he could not see why the three others next in merit should not have been sent for exhibition with the others. Unless they were sent at an early period, it seemed likely that the public attention would be exhausted, and he therefore hoped, that some means would be adopted, that the three less successful plans would be exhibited according to their original intention.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

, in reply to the second question of the right hon. Baronet, was able to state (having received a communication from his noble Friend at the head of the department of Woods and Forests), that he had himself been disposed to think, in the first instance, that there would be no inconveniences in sending the three less successful plans for exhibition; but his noble Friend had been of opinion that until the Committees of the two Houses had finally determined what should be done—the approval of Mr. Barry's plan being only provisional—he had no right to part with the custody of them. On Monday next he believed the Committees resumed their sittings; and perhaps it was not too much to anticipate, that, at one meeting, the preliminary point might be settled, and then the three plans might be exhibited on Tuesday or Wednesday, and soon afterwards an engraved copy of Mr. Barry's plan might be placed with them in the collection. He was not so well prepared to reply to the first question of the right hon. Baronet; he did not know on what grounds professional men were excluded from an inspection of the successful plans, but the rule laid down might possibly be founded upon the alarm of the architects, lest sketches should be made of their plans, and an unauthorised publication made of their designs. On some former occasion, an incident of this sort had occurred, and it was more likely to arise out of the inspection of professional than non-professional men. It did not, however, seem a matter of importance, inasmuch as next week all the plans would probably be publicly exhibited.

Mr. Hawes

knew, that architects had been excluded, and not only architects generally, but particular architects by name. He did not think that any rule for the exclusion of professional men should have been adopted, but if it were adopted, it ought at least to be general, and not particular. He did not see why the four plans should be in the hands of the Woods and Forests; they ought rather to be in the custody of the Committee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken of an engraved copy of Mr. Barry's plan, and he (Mr. Hawes) wished to know whether it was an engraving of the original plan, or of the plan as it had been cut down for the estimate? The original plan, it should be recollected, had been departed from. He did not say that the public had been treated with disrespect, but perhaps two-thirds of those who were likely to visit the National Gallery had been there already, and the object of the exhibition had, therefore, been so far defeated.

Mr. Hume

had received a letter from an architect, who had been anxious to see the approved plans. This was the fifth or sixth time the subject had been mentioned, and the expectation held out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, about three weeks ago, had been disappointed. He did not know why the three less successful plans had been kept back, and it was very natural that the public, which paid for them, should feel a curiosity to inspect them. They had a right to see all, and they would not be fairly dealt with if Mr. Barry's plan were exhibited with any of the leading features altered. The original, as approved by the Commissioners, ought to be placed in the National Gallery.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that the Committee had not yet finally decided, and until they had decided, the noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests had no right to deal with the plans; by parting with them the Commissioners might be deprived of the means of carrying into effect the directions of the Committees. He had formerly pledged himself that before the House came to its ultimate determination on the plan to be adopted, they should all be exhibited, and to that undertaking he still adhered.

Sir Robert Peel

added, that exclusion gave an artificial importance and mystery to the affair; he could see no good reason why all the world should not be allowed to inspect at least three of the plans, reserving Mr. Barry's as necessary to the formation of the estimate; when that was completed it ought to be shown with the others.

Subject dropped.