HC Deb 16 December 1847 vol 95 cc1332-5

SIR R. H. INGLIS moved— That a Select Committee be appointed on the present state of the New Palace at Westminster, with a view to the reception and accommodation of this House therein; and further to consider the state of Westminster-bridge.


thought that the appointment of the Committee should be postponed till some information on the subject of the New Palace was laid before the House. The extravagant expenditure going on there was little understood by that House or the country. Before they handed over this matter to another Committee, he thought the House itself should well consider the whole subject.


believed every name upon the list he had proposed was on the old Committee, with one or two exceptions. If the hon. Member for Berwick considered that he ought to have an opportunity of examining the state of the funds, and exercising his faculties upon the subject, he had no objection whatever to his doing so. As to the Committee, however, however, he had thought it would be of advantage to have upon it, as nearly as possible, those who had acted before.


thought the Committee should be appointed to sit not only "on the present state of the New Palace," but also with a view to the reduction of the enormous expenditure that was going on, very much to the dissatisfaction of the country. He was not averse to a proper expenditure of the public money when any good object was to be obtained; but the present expenditure neither tended to our greatness nor our honour.


said, the hon. Member for the University of Oxford had consulted him on the propriety of moving the appointment of this Committee, and he had submitted to him the names of the different persons he intended to nominate. It seemed to him to him to be perfectly proper that such a Committee should be appointed, and therefore he had concurred in his hon. Friend's proposal.


apprehended that the question before the House was, that the appointment of the Select Committee be postponed. He had risen to second that Amendment; and he thought the House of Commons, in the capacity of guardians of the public purse, were bound not to suffer the gross job of the Houses of Parliament to proceed any further. He was prepared to prove that a more profligate and gross expenditure of the public money had never taken place; and he was determined, as far as he could, to prevent the public from being any longer deluded upon the subject. The original estimate was 780,000l., and 1,500,000l. had up to this time been consumed; yet the House of Commons was unfinished, and the Speaker's house and the houses for the officers of the House had not been even commenced. They had a right to know from some other authority than the Chief Commissioner of the Woods and Forests what Mr. Barry was about. He asked the House to agree to the Motion of the hon. Member for Berwick, in order that this job should be no longer continued.


thought it doubtful whether any advantage could accrue from the appointment of the Committee. He had the honour of being a Member of such a Committee, and the only result had been an increase of expenditure through the removal of responsibility from the proper parties. He thought the matters should be left to the Chief Commissioner of the Woods and Forests, who would bear the responsibility, instead of casting it upon the House of Commons.


said, he should offer no objection to the appointment of the Committee, as he saw no particular objection to it; at the same time, he agreed with his noble Friend (Lord H. Vane), that the only result of the appointment of the Committee would probably be to add to the expenditure. He should not, however, have risen but for the bold charge made by the hon. Member for Middlesex, who had designated the building of the two Houses of Parliament as a gross job. If this charge was a just one, the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) and himself, as well as the Governments with which they had been connected, were participators in the job. If any job had been perpetrated, it must have been by the architect and the Chief Commissioner of the Woods and Forests, who could not escape the charge of being participators in the job, as they were bound to check the expenditure. The hon. Member had said that there had been already an expenditure of 1,500,000l., whereas the original estimate had been only 780,000l.; but he must remind the hon. Member that there were enormous items of expense which had not been comprehended in the original estimate—river walls, purchase of buildings, &c. Again, a Committee had sat to consider the best mode of warming and ventilating the House, and that Committee had added 50,000l. or 60,000l. to the estimate. It was not fair to Mr. Barry to bring a charge against him in that House of being guilty of a gross job, without the possibility of his being able to meet and refute it. He thought the hon. Member should consent to the appointment of the Committee (proposing, if he thought proper, other names), and make his charge before that Committee. He had had opportunities of observing the proceedings of Mr. Barry, and he did not believe he was open to the charge.


had listened to the hon. Member (Mr. Osborne) with great attention, and he coincided in his observations. It was very easy to say that hon. Members, such as the Chief Commissioner of the Woods and Forests, did not wish to waste the public money; but still the public money had been wasted.


observed, that, whatever his opinion might originally have been as to the propriety of moving for this Committee, after the charge which had been made by the hon. Member for Middle- sex (Mr. Osborne) against Mr. Barry, he thought that a Committee ought to be appointed, before which Mr. Barry—who in his (Lord Morpeth's) opinion had been somewhat coarsely assailed—might have an opportunity of making any statement, or of giving any explanation he might consider necessary. He (Lord Morpeth) entertained as high an opinion of Mr. Barry's character and conduct as he did of any man's; and he was glad that it was proposed to place the hon. Member for Middlesex on the Committee, as an opportunity would be afforded him of sifting thoroughly every charge and allegation that might be brought against Mr. Barry.


begged to explain that he had called attention to the subject solely on public grounds. He made no charge against Mr. Barry personally; his charge equally applied to the Government; and he was determined to do all in his power to show that no efficient control was exercised over matters of this nature.


considered that a full and complete inquiry should be instituted as to the statements which had been made respecting Mr. Barry; and he ventured to anticipate that a most satisfactory answer would be given to them. He hoped the Committee would be appointed to-night.


expressed his hope that the House would assent to the appointment of the Committee to-night. He thought the Committee ought to inquire and report to the House what was the original estimate for the new Houses of Parliament; how far it had been exceeded; the cause of such excess; what was the present state of the buildings; the probable period at which they would be completed; and the probable total cost. He considered that these matters formed a much more fitting subject for inquiry before a Committee than for discussion in that House.

Motion withdrawn, in the understanding that it should be renewed on the following day.

House adjourned at One o'clock.