HC Deb 02 April 1849 vol 104 cc155-60

On the Vote of 50,000l being proposed on account of the New Houses of Parliament,


wished to draw the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as that of the hon. Member for Montrose, to this vote for the new Houses of Parliament. They were now regularly called upon, year after year, to vote increased sums for these buildings. If the Financial Reform Association at Liverpool, instead of troubling themselves so much about soldiers' coats, would take up the question as to the expenditure on the erection of the new Houses of Parliament, they would do much good. He believed the hon. Member for Lancaster knew as little about the progress of the buildings as any other Member of that House. According to the original contract with Mr. Barry, it was agreed that the remuneration that he should receive for the completion of the buildings should be 25,000l.; but now Mr. Barry disavowed this agreement. He would warn the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if they went on in this way year after year, the contract would be broken, and Mr. Barry would have a right to call for a much larger remuneration than he originally consented to receive. He wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement without delay, as to what would be the cost of these buildings. Already the expenditure upon them had nearly doubled the estimate, and they had no means of learning how much more would be required to finish them. He had heard it stated that an architect of eminence had said that they could not be finished under less than 3,500,000l. It would be far better for the Chancellor of the Exchequer at once to raise a large sum of money—say, for instance, 800,000l.—and at once finish them. By persisting in the present system, they not only incurred a large expenditure for the architect, but also for the occupation of houses, in consequence of there not being sufficient room at present in the new buildings.


thought that they had arrived at a period when they should come to some final decision on the subject of these new buildings. Last year, in consequence of the system pursued by the architect, a Commission had been appointed to control the expenditure; and they should have had before this some report from the Commissioners, as to what had been done, and as to what was to he done; for he understood that they allowed the architect to do just what he pleased, and to build up one day and pull down the next. They should at once have a report, specifically stating what had been done, and what remained to be done. He did not think that they were justified in acceding to this vote of 50,000l, until they had a direct return such as he had described.


assured the hon. Member for Montrose that there was a strong desire on the part of the Commissioners to forward the progress of the building as rapidly as possible; but they could not proceed so rapidly as they wished, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not advance them such large sums of money as they should require for the purpose. With respect to the report which the hon. Gentleman called for, he could only observe that it was being prepared. One report had been sent into the Treasury on the 27th of February, and they were anxious that the return in detail should be appended to the report to be laid before the House. Some circumstances had occurred which prevented the report being furnished as soon as they had wished; but he believed it would be placed on the table in the course of a few days. With regard to the sum now required, he could only say, that they voted last year 130,000l. on account of the new Houses of Parliament, out of which 12,000l. had to be devoted to repayments, and 24,000l. was also expended before the Commission was appointed; therefore they had not a control over the whole expenditure. The commission for Mr. Barry had to be paid, as well as other charges of a miscellaneous character; for instance, there was the salary of Dr. Reid, 1,200l.; and the expense of the Commission of the Fine Arts connected with the building of the new Houses was 2,000l. He might also mention, that in February there was due to a contractor the sum of 8,000l.; therefore, it had he-come absolutely necessary that a sum of money, on account, should be voted. There would be an expense of about 4,000l. a month for the progress of the building.


quite agreed in the observations which had been made by the hon. Member for Montrose and the hon. Member for Middlesex. He strongly objected to such largo sums of money being laid out on temporary buildings, which they were obliged to occupy in consequence of the New Houses being so slowly proceeded with. Surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer could raise a sufficient sum of money for the completion of the buildings by Exchequer-bills, which would be much more economical than their present system. At present they were always going from some new work to another, and leaving a great portion unfinished. With respect to one remark that had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster, he felt bound to say, that he did not believe that any contractor, unless he made a most exorbitant profit, would allow 8,000l. to remain over due to him. It was quite time that the House should require from the Commissioners a much more specific report as to these buildings than they had hitherto received.


said, that he did not state that the 8,000l. was in arrear, but it was now due to the contractor.


wished the House distinctly to be informed as to what would be the probable expense of these buildings. He also wished to know whether the Commissioners possessed the power of contracting the expenditure? More than a million of money had already been spent on the buildings, and he understood that the Commissioners last year stated that it would require three years to complete them.


replied, that, with regard to all matters of expenditure, the Commissioners were bound to report to the Treasury, and they could not order any expenditure without the sanction of that department.


wished to know what would be the cost of the useful, and what the cost of the ornamental, parts of the building. There was a strong feeling abroad that the greater portion of the expenditure was absorbed in the ornamental part of the works. He thought that the House should have some information on this point.


observed, that he apprehended that the return which would in the course of a few days be laid on the table would give all the information which the gallant Officer required; but if this should prove not to be the case, he would take care that a further return should be prepared.


had been informed that the miserable squabble between Mr. Barry and Dr. Reid was not over, and as long as that was the case they would never get into the new House of Commons. He would prophesy that this would be the case unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer determined to put an end to it. He had heard that the hearing in the new House of Commons would be so defective that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be able to make himself heard, unless by those on the benches quite close to him.


believed that the squabble was still going on, and he felt no disposition to interfere in the matter. He was rather surprised at the desire expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex, calling upon him at once to complete the new buildings; but this could not be accomplished without borrowing money. In conformity with the oft-expressed wishes of his hon. Friend on former occasions, he bad endeavoured in the present year to keep the expenditure within the income; and not only as regarded the Army, Navy, and the Ordnance, but the Miscellaneous Estimates, and that for building the new Houses of Parliament. He believed that this was the best system that could be pursued in the regulation of the finances of the country. As for the information which was required, he thought that the hon. Gentleman and the House should be provided with it, and this should be done before they were called upon to vote the whole estimate, this being only a vote on account. When the return alluded to by his hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster was laid on the table, he believed it would furnish all the information which was required. It was perfectly right that the estimates, and an account of the progress of the buildings, should be laid before the House, and there was no disposition on the part of the Government, or the Members of the Commission, to withhold any information on the subject. With regard to the building itself, he found that some contracts for the exterior works were now in progress, and could not be stopped without great injury; but as soon as this contract was completed, he hoped progress would be made with the interior works. The money which would be expended next year would be applied to the more useful works.


stated that he, with some other Members, formed the Committee on a private Bill which had excited considerable interest in the City, and they were sitting in one of the new committee rooms. During the last three weeks the smoke in it had been so annoying to them that they had been obliged to open the windows, and the Members had to sit in their great coats; and, as regarded himself, he had caught a severe cold. The ventilation of the room was bad in the extreme, and must be most injurious to the Members of the Committee, as well as to the other persons present, and the room was generally full. If any one retired from the room, and returned in five minutes, he would find the smell to be intolerable, and he could only compare it to that of bilge-water in an open sewer. He wished to know whether this was the last vote for the New Houses to be taken in the present year?


replied, that this was only a vote on account.


observed, that the ventilation of the committee rooms was originally intrusted to Dr. Reid; but some time ago they were placed under the control of Mr. Barry, Mr. Barry since then had not had time to complete the ventilation of these rooms; but, no doubt, within a very short time he would be able to complete the ventilation, and thus improve the air as well as the warming of these rooms.


stated, that he had lately served on the Committee to which the Insolvent Members Bill bad been referred, and they had sat in one of the new committee rooms; but the reverberation was so great that in point of fact they could not hear each other speak across the table.


believed, that this was a matter in which the Commissioners could not interfere. He had been informed that they would be able to prevent the reverberation of sound by placing floss paper on the walls of those rooms.

The Vote was then agreed to.

The next Vote was 10,000l., on account, towards defraying law charges and other expenses of prosecutions.

Agreed to.

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