HC Deb 07 July 1851 vol 118 cc302-7

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


rose to move the Resolution of which he had given notice. He said, the fact was quite evident that the Commissioners and the architect of the Houses of Parliament were now at issue as to the mode in which the building should be completed; he, therefore, wished the House itself to step in and decide the manner in which the interior decorations should be finished. It was known that Mr. Barry was said to have gone beyond the instructions he had received from the Commissioners in respect of the decorations of the New House of Commons. He (Sir D. Norreys) might state as a fact, that it was said to be the impression of the Commissioners, and also of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the whole interior of the new House of Commons was to be quite free from colour or gilding; but that Mr. Barry, by some misunderstanding, or possibly by thinking that both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Commissioners knew less on the subject than he did himself, had taken advantage of their absence, or of their being asleep, and had commenced decorating the House as he, being the architect, thought it ought to be decorated and completed. But unfortunately he was detected by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who stopped him in the middle of his operations; and then Mr. Barry, like a child detected in a fault, pleaded that he had not intended going any further with his decorations than he had done. Still, what had been done, was done in spite of the Commissioners. He (Sir D. Norreys) believed that Mr. Barry was right, and that the Commissioners were wrong, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer also was wrong. His wish was, that Mr. Barry, whom, as their architect, they had allowed to expend 2,000,000l. of money, should at least be permitted to lay on the table a statement of the manner in which he would professionally recommend that the decorations should be completed. He did not ask the House to adopt his (Sir D. Norreys') opinion, or the opinion of Mr. Barry, or of the Commissioners. What he desired was, that Mr. Barry should have an opportunity of making such a statement as he had mentioned. If the House, on receiving it, did not agree with Mr. Barry, then it was quite competent for them to pass a resolution that that gentleman should cease carrying out his own views on the subject. But at present, circumstances were in a very unsatisfactory state. On the 14th of April, the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans) brought forward a Motion on the subject; but after a long discussion, the question was left in a most unsatisfactory position. But what was the statement of the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. T. Greene) on that occasion? The hon. Member, being one of the Commissioners, said— The Commissioners had to determine upon the decorations, furniture, and fittings, subject to the approval of the Treasury with regard to the cost. He did not wish it to be understood that he said there was an understanding with Mr. Barry as to the ornaments, but that the Commissioners conferred with him on the subject. He thought Mr. Barry did understand; but he was ready to believe that that gentleman was not at all aware what were the wishes of the Commissioners."—[3 Hansard, cxvi. 199.] How was it possible that any gentleman should proceed satisfactorily with his work when, after having had a consultation with the Commissioners from whom he was to receive his instructions as to the ornaments and decorations of the building, those very Commissioners declared that they did not know whether Mr. Barry understood what were their wishes or not on the subject? He (Sir D. Norreys) supposed the conference was similar to a conference between the Lords and Commons, in which certain written statements were exchanged, with mutual bowings, for he was certain no words could have passed between the Commissioners and the architect. The House of Commons had expressed a wish that the new building should be finished in the plainest style possible. But to build a palace in the style of architecture of a particular period, and then, after having proceeded with the decorations of the building in a manner suitable to that style and period, suddenly to stop, was perfectly absurd. It would seem that it was the wish of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. Greene) and of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that while the New Houses of Parliament, in their style of architecture should bear the characteristics of the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, yet the interior decorations of the building should represent a legislative assembly of the 19th century. If that were the feeling of the House, all he could say was, that nothing was more absurd or more wasteful than the expense incurred for the elaborate work bestowed upon that building. With regard to the course which the House ought to pursue, he was of opinion that it was a matter of mere common sense to take the business out of the hands of the Commissioners, who were, no doubt, admirably qualified for every position except that in which they were placed. Between Mr. Barry and the Commissioners so many blunders had been committed, that when he accompanied strangers through the New Houses, he felt inclined rather to apologise than to commend. He did not recommend the appointment of any Committee, because the proceedings of the Committee of last year were so unsatisfactory, that he trusted they would remain unpublished. All he asked the House to do was, to call upon Mr. Barry to state how he would recommend the building to be completed, and it was then for the House to determine whether that gentleman should be allowed to finish it according to his own conceptions; or whether he should still be fettered and controlled by Gentlemen who were so little competent to the duty assigned to them that they could not convey to the architect what their wishes and intentions were with respect to the completion of the work. If he were to enter fully into the subject, he would suggest that a report should also be obtained from Dr. Reid, stating what portion of the new building had been taken from him, and what was the extent of his responsibility for the ventilation of the House; but he had not courage enough to approach that part of the subject.

Amendment proposed— To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'the Architect of the New Palace at Westminster, be requested to lay before the House forthwith, a Report in detail on the manner in which he would recommend that the interior decorations of the New House of Commons, and of the Halls and Rooms connected with it, should be completed; and that he be directed to prepare his plans with due attention to the style of decoration usually adopted at the period to which the general architectural character of the New Palace is referable,' instead thereof.


seconded the Motion.


said, that he did not feel called upon to defend himself, for the work was none of his. He did not know whether the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. T. Greene) would feel it his duty to answer the hon. Baronet. At the same time he confessed he did, rather for the sake of the House, deprecate any further interference with respect to the new House of Commons. Last year a Committee was appointed, and he could not agree with his hon. Friend (Sir D. Norreys) that the proceedings of that Committee were so unsatisfactory as he had represented them to be. That Committee recommended certain alterations in the building, and the House would see that some very considerable improvements had been made in the arrangements of the House for the facility of divisions and the convenience of hon. Members. He had spoken with Mr. Barry and with the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. T. Greene) a short time since, and he hoped in the course of a fortnight to have one or two morning sittings in the new House, to give hon. Members an opportunity of testing the convenience of those arrangements. He thought it far better to have a practical supervision of the House than to call for an architectural report. Several recommendations were made by the Committee last year, many of which had been undertaken to be carried out by the Commissioners. Some of them had already been fully adopted; he, therefore, thought it better to leave the matter in the hands of the Commissioners, than to begin again, by ripping the whole thing open, and confiding in the discretion of the architect as to what further alterations should be made. Were such a course to be adopted, it would inevitably lead to further expense, and also to the postponement of the completion of the new House of Commons. He hoped, therefore, instead of affirming the Resolution of the hon. Baronet, the House would resolve itself at once into a Committee of Supply.


thought they ought to have a report from the Commissioners of what they had done up to the present time, of which he confessed he was ignorant. Rooms had been erected, he knew, which did not suit the object for which they were built, and when one roof did not answer, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "Try another." That was the way they were going on; and he was sorry the House had not agreed to take the matter out of the hands of Mr. Barry, because it was his (Mr. Hume's) belief he did not know his own mind. He (Mr. Hume) was perfectly satisfied that Mr. Barry ought to be called upon to report what he intended to do to complete the building, and how he intended to complete it; and, if the plan was approved of by the Commissioners, to complete it by that plan. Who could say now when the building would be finished? There never was a building proceeded with in the manner in which this building had been proceeded with; and when the whole of the money had been spent, it would be totally unsuited to the objects for which it was built. Let Mr. Barry have his own will, but let him tell them what he intended to do, in order that they might know when it would be finished. It was his (Mr. Hume's) opinion that he should never see it finished.


could not agree with the Motion, because it would be giving a sanction to some of the absurdities of which the hon. Baronet (Sir D. Norreys) had spoken. He doubted whether there should be a statement from the architect at all. Commissioners having been appointed, it was impossible the House could recognise any other party. He hoped the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. T. Greene) would be able to make some statement as to the present position in which this matter stood. If they went on as they had, from year to year voting large sums annually, there would be no end to the expense, the alterations, the cuttings down, the buildings up. It would be far better to vote a sum at once, and have two or three years fixed for the completion of the building. They would save, in the first place, 5,000l. or 6,000l. a year for temporary buildings; and they might depend on it, the longer the works were carried on, the more uncontrolled would be the architect.


said, the House would have the opportunity, before the close of the Session, of seeing whether the alterations directed by the Committee which sat last year had been satisfactorily carried out; and he hoped sincerely that they would find that they had been so carried out. It was of importance that the House should be satisfied, because it would enable the Commissioners to order the removal of the House in which they were now sitting, of the temporary offices, and of the buildings connected with the House of Lords and Westminster Hall, the latter of which were not only unsightly but dangerous to the edifice. Within a very short time the offices of the House of Lords and the groundwork would be completed. He quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Member (Sir De Lacy Evans), that if a larger sum was voted for carrying on the works, it would be better, because they could then be carried on with greater expedition; but the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer was the best judge of what could be spared, and the works had been carried on in accordance with the Votes agreed to by that House. He (Mr. T. Greene) did trust that, by the time the House assembled next year, they would be able to enter into the full occupation of the new House of Commons, including the approaches, the refreshment room, and the library; and that all those offices, which now completely defaced and obscured the appearance of the building, would be removed, and the whole completed in a manner satisfactory to the House.


, having had as many foreigners consigned to him as any one, was bound, in justice to Mr. Barry, to say, that upon taking them over the new Houses of Parliament, he had never had to make any apology to them, and they were impressed with general feelings of admiration.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.