HC Deb 04 August 1845 vol 82 cc1365-7
Sir R. Inglis,

seeing his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury in his place, begged to be allowed to put a question to him relative to the state of Westminster Bridge, and the intention of Her Majesty's Government with respect to it. In order to make his question intelligible, perhaps the House would indulge him with permission to say a few words by way of preliminary explanation. Gentlemen would, perhaps, recollect that last year a Committee was appointed to inquire into the condition of the bridge. They took evidence upon it, and, amongst other testimony, re- ceived the opinions of several distinguished engineers — Mr. Rendel, Mr. George Rennie, Mr. Payne, Mr. Wm. Cubitt, and, by letter, of Sir John Rennie. These gentlemen all concurred in the opinion that, for engineering and architectural purposes, it was desirable that the present structure should be removed. Two gentlemen gave a contrary opinion. Mr. Walker, the architect, and Mr. Cubitt, the contractor for the repair of the bridge. The Committee did not concur in the opinion of the five gentlemen whose names he had enumerated; and the Commissioners of Westminster Bridge proceeded, at their own expense, to make repairs which, according to the evidence, could not place the bridge in an effective condition. Under these circumstances the House separated last year, the Committee concurring in the view of the minority; but, in the course of the winter, additional injuries occurred to the bridge, which rendered its state still more unsatisfactory, and he therefore wished to ask the Government, in the person of his right hon. Friend the First Minister, whether the subject had been already under the consideration of the Government, and what were their intentions with respect to the continuance of repairs at an enormous expense, and which were ineffectual for the complete restoration of the structure; or whether they contemplated the pulling down of the bridge and rebuilding it, either at the present spot, or at the other side of the new Palace of Westminster?

Sir R. Peel,

in answer to the question of his hon. Friend, begged to remind the House that a Committee had been appointed last Session to inquire into the state of Westminster Bridge, and he believed that the Committee, by a small majority, decided, upon a review of the whole of the evidence, there was no case upon which to recommend the pulling down of the bridge, and building a new one. The facts he believed to be these—that the Commissioners for superintending the bridge, were in possession of certain estates, which, if converted into capital, would represent a sum of 172,000l. Two estimates for rebuilding the bridge had been laid before the Committee, one from Mr. Walker, and the other from Mr. Rennie; the one stating the amount at 260,000l., and the other at 350,000l., independent of the approaches. He understood that since the Report of the Committee, the Commissioners who had the charge of the bridge had taken fresh evidence, and had called for reports from the engineers and others immediately connected with the bridge, Mr. Walker and Mr. Cubitt, and had also received the opinions of Mr. Rennie and Mr. Rendel, and other independent engineers. These opinions had been sent to the Board of Treasury; but having been so sent only within the last three days, it had been impossible to give them the consideration which so important a subject required; and he was only enabled to state to his hon. Friend, that as soon as the labours of that House were brought to a close, the recent communication from the Commissioners to the Board of Treasury should receive due attention. He was not prepared at present to go further, or to state that the Government thought that the rebuilding the bridge, at an expense of 350,000l., would be consistent with a due regard for the interests of the public.