§ House in Committee of Supply; Mr. BOUVERIE in the Chair.
§ (1.) 7,550l., Statute Law Commission.
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, he wished to call attention to the great public convenience which would arise from including Ireland in the labours of the Commission, and thus assimilating the Statutes of the two countries. He had been assured by one of the Commissioners that this might be effected without the least difficulty.
said, he begged to inquire whether the Government would have any objection to inform the Committee of their intentions with respect to consolidating the Statute laws. He wished to know what the intentions of the Government were with regard to the Commission—if it was appointed with a view of establishing a complete code, a scheme which he had always considered wild; or if for the purpose of framing a Consolidation Bill?
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he was quite ready to state what were the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. The Commission which was appointed last year for the purpose of consolidating, as far as possible, the Statutes, was only an experiment. The Government wished to ascertain whether that great work could be accomplished within a reasonable time, and what would be the best way of commencing it. Several gentlemen, therefore, were employed for that purpose under the directions of the Lord Chancellor. They were to deliberate upon the best method of carrying into effect the intentions of the Government with regard to the consolidation of the Statutes. Their labours, he was happy to say, had been very successful. He bad had a communication that day upon the subject with the Lord Chancellor, who stated that he was eminently pleased with the labours of the Commissioners. The Lord Chancellor stated to him that he intended to lay upon the table of the 1388 House of Lords, very shortly, as a specimen of their labours, one of the Consolidation Bills which had been framed by the Commissioners. He (the Attorney General) believed that it was the intention of the Lord Chancellor to propose the appointment of a Commission consisting of the Lord Chancellor, certain law Lords, the law officers in that House, and one or two lay Gentlemen, Members of the House of Commons, who should be unpaid Commissioners, and who would be aided by one paid Commissioner, whose business it should be to attend constantly to matters of detail. It would be competent to that Commission to guide certain draughtsmen in the framing of measures for the consolidation of the Statutes. Under their superintendence measures for reducing to the smallest possible compass the most important Statutes would be proposed in the first instance. That would be a great service to the country. They would propose to expunge from the Statute-book a number of Statutes which now incumbered it. They would then proceed to the framing of one measure which would comprehend, in the smallest possible compass, all the existing Statutes relating to one particular division of the laws. He believed that the proposed consolidation of the Statutes would confer immense advantages upon the country.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, he regretted that the hon. and learned Attorney General had held out no hope of this country obtaining a code of laws similar to that which Napoleon gave to France. His hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General spoke of the English laws as if they were different from, and more difficult and complicated than, those of any other country. But the truth was, that the laws of France were quite as complicated as our own before Napoleon commenced his magnificent work of codification, which would preserve his name when his military conquests were forgotten. Did the Attorney General propose, like Napoleon, to assemble the great jurists of the country for the purpose of producing a code of our laws? On the contrary, he proposed to employ in the consolidation of our laws men who were remarkable for their narrow and shortsighted views on the subject of general jurisprudence—namely, those who were engaged in the administration of justice in this country. The proposed plan could only produce most insignificant results. He wished that the Attorney General, 1389 than whom no one was more fitted for the task, would apply his mind to the codification of our laws. His great abilities would enable him to raise a magnificent monument of legislation, which would be for the benefit of the country, and would carry his name down to the remotest posterity. Mr. Hallam, in his work on the Middle Ages, regretted that England had not produced her Tribonian, under whose hand the unintelligible jargon of our conflicting Statutes might have been compelled to give place to a simple and intelligible code. He (Mr. G. Phillimore) did not wish to offer the slightest opposition to the Vote proposed, for he thought it was better that something should be done than nothing.
§ MR. EWART
said, he hoped that the proposed Commission would propose a measure which, for the conciseness and clearness of its language, would be a model to future Legislatures. He thought that nothing was more disgraceful than the language of the Acts which had been passed in this country in recent times. They were fuller of complication, parentheses, and tautology, than any other documents in the country; whilst it was obvious that those were the very faults that ought to be most specially avoided in our Statutes. The Statutes of Edward I., Edward II., and Edward III., were patterns of brevity and clearness. There was an avoidance in them of those parentheses which confused the modern Statutes. He hoped that the Tribonians who were about to be appointed to revise our laws would produce measures which would have some approximation to those great monuments of jurisprudence which regulated the lives of the ancient Romans.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, the present Commission was appointed twelve months ago, and it was high time that a Report of their proceedings should be laid on the table of the House.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
said, that the present unwieldy state of the Statute-book was owing in a great measure to separate Bills being proposed for England, Ireland, and Scotland, instead of proposing one Bill for the three countries. He hoped the Government would direct their attention to that very objectionable mode of legislation.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
said, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would attempt to draw a Bill which would apply to all parts of the United Kingdom, he would find it was not so easy a matter as he seemed to suppose.
1390 He (Mr. Craufurd) could not concur in the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Leominster (Mr. J. G. Phillimore) as to the works of the Consolidation Commissioners. Before the work of codification could be commenced, it was necessary to sweep away all the absurd, obsolete, and repealed parts of the Statutes. And for that work he believed the Commissioners were eminently qualified. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) had complained that no Report from the Commissioners had yet been laid on the table of the House, but the fact was, that they had presented two Reports as long ago as March, and both of them were now upon the table. They had not yet been printed, and of that he (Mr. Craufurd) thought hon. Gentlemen had a right to complain. He hoped that the department upon whom devolved the duty of directing the printing of the Reports would take care that they were printed and delivered to hon. Members without delay.
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, he considered that there would be no difficulty in assimilating the Statute law of Ireland with that of England. Up to the Union the Irish laws were mostly copies of the English laws, and he regretted to find that it was not the intention of the Government to include Ireland in the proposed measures of consolidation.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman must not infer that that would be the case. He was most anxious to assimilate the laws of the two countries, but there were many instances in which such a course would be impossible. When the measure was proposed, it would be seen how far it could be made applicable to Ireland.
§ Vote agreed to, as were also—
§ (2.) 900l., Brehon Laws Commission (Ireland).
§ MR. APSLEY PELLATT
said, he wished to know whether any portion of the 3,050l., which was down in the Estimate under the head of "compensations," was enjoyed by persons who also received advantage under the new Act?
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, the Vote proposed for expenses of the Patent Office was certainly larger than he had anticipated would be necessary. Under the old system, the fee which the law officers received on each patent which they passed was 8l., which in the year amount- 1391 ed, on an average, to about 3,000l. for each of the law officers, and, as they had no salaries, this was considered as a sort of compensation for their services. Under the new system, by which the expenses of obtaining a patent were reduced from 300l., to 25l., the fee payable to the particular law officer who passed the patent was reduced by Lord St. Leopards, who was then Lord Chancellor, from 8l. to 6l., but the increase in the number of patents consequent on the diminution of the expense was so large that the average amount of the law officers' fees was greater than before. When the present Government came into office, the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls took the matter into their consideration, and exercising the power given to them by the Act, they reduced the law officers' fees to one-half—2l. for the provisional specification, and another 1l. for granting the warrant for the patent. Under the old system, all the law officers had to do was, to sign his name to the warrant; but now, he had to consider the provisional specification, and to see whether it stated properly the nature of the invention and the mode in which it was to be carried out; so that not only had the amount of the fee been reduced, but the duty to be performed had been increased. With regard to the average amount of the fees received, he would at once frankly state, that last year they amounted to 4,000l. for each of the law officers, instead of 3,000l., as before. He could not help thinking, however, that that increase was the result of the great influx of patents consequent upon the facilities given to inventions by the new system, and which had been dammed up, as it were, under the old law. That great influx could scarcely be expected to continue every year in future, so that ere long the fees would probably be reduced in the aggregate to about the same amount as before the new law came into operation.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he considered the sum of 10,500l. for fees payable to the law officers of the Crown a very extraordinary amount, and it appeared from the explanation of the hon. and learned Attorney General that the total sum was a mere guess. He hoped the Vote would be delayed until the Secretary of the Treasury could furnish satisfactory information as to the sum which would be required. There was also an item of 4,700l. for incidental expenses, upon which he should like to receive some explanation.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, he considered that the Committee, so far from seeing any good reason to object to the Vote, or to the general arrangements connected with the law of patents, ought to regard them with much satisfaction. The cost of patents had been reduced from 300l. to 25l., but to such an extent had the public availed themselves of the various improvements which were daily taking place in the several departments of industry and science, that a sum of no less than 64,000l. had been paid into the Exchequer in the shape of stamps last year, in connection with patents; a source from which not one single farthing had ever been placed to the public credit before. With respect to the 10,500l., it was impossible to say how many patents would come in next year, and consequently what the charges of the Patent Office, for fees, would be. The amount was the nearest which could be arrived at by an estimate. With respect to the sum of 4,700l., it was almost impossible to furnish the particulars. It was the sum required to defray the whole expenses of the office. He should, however, add, that no matter what the amount of the Vote might be, that amount of money only which would be required would be expended.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
was of opinion, that if the fees of the law officers of the Crown were paid in the shape of a regular fixed salary, then there would be no necessity for guessing with respect to what would be the probable expenditure.
§ MR. HEYWOOD
said, he believed the number of patents would be very much increased within the next two years, as he understood the proprietors of the Crystal Palace intended to give every facility for exhibiting patents in that building. He did not think there was any limit to mechanical invention in the present day. Within the last day or two he had heard of a gentleman in Lancashire who had invented a machine for excavating coal by steam power.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he wished to know if this was the only and the usual mode of paying the legal officers of the Crown, or whether it was mixed up with other payments. The mode of paying by fees he considered to be quite contrary to the system of legislation which was at present in vogue, and he could not understand why there should be these exceptions. He wished, therefore, to ask the noble Lord the President of the Coun- 1393 cil, whether the question of paying the legal officers of the Crown by direct salaries had been under the consideration of the Government.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, there was no doubt that this sum did not constitute the whole amount which was paid by fees to the legal advisers of the Crown for professional work. It was well known that no legal practitioners were so ill paid for the amount and importance of the work done by them as the law officers of the Crown. The fees paid to them were so small that no other practitioners would be willing to take such arduous and important questions for so small a remuneration. When compared with the fees paid to other professional men in private practice, the fees received by the legal officers of the Crown were ludicrously small. The work of drawing out patents was occasionally arduous and important, requiring a great deal of research. He was, however, bound to state that the fees embraced by the present Vote were not the sole payments made to the law officers of the Crown.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, the Committee on Salaries had recommended that the law officers of the Crown should be paid by salary, and this matter had been under the decision of the Cabinet; but after careful deliberation, they had come to the opinion that it was not advisable to change the present system. He was of opinion that neither of the courses which could be pursued was so good as the one which was adopted at present. If salaries were given, they would be inferior to the amount which many eminent men in the profession might make by private practice; the consequence of which would be, that the offices of Attorney and Solicitor General would be refused by men of the highest authority, and that Government and the public interest would also be sufferers, inasmuch as Government would be obliged to have recourse to any man of high reputation in the law, who was enjoying a large practice, and they would have to pay him the fees which he usually received for his other business. The result of this would be that Government would have more to pay than they had under the present system, which he, for his own part, believed had worked beneficially for the public interest.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he considered the explanation of the noble Lord not satisfactory. Why not pay the law offi- 1394 cers of the Crown a salary as well as the Lord Chancellor, and all the other officers of the State? No one would complain of paying them a liberal salary. He quite agreed with the noble Lord, that the Government should have the services of the most eminent men in their profession. The offices of Attorney and Solicitor General were always considered as stepping stones to the bench.
§ Vote agreed to; as was also the next Vote—
§ (4.) 78,815l., Merchant Seamen's Fund.
§ (5.) 25,500l., Battersea Park.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
said, he did not intend to oppose the present Vote, but he wished to call the attention of the Committee to a question of deep interest to the constituents of every metropolitan Member—namely, that of metropolitan improvement. Up to the present time it had been the custom of the First Commissioner of Works to undertake what were called "metropolitan improvements," and the source from which the expenses of those improvements were paid was sometimes by borrowing money from the Exchequer Loan Commissioners, sometimes by advancing it from the Consolidated Fund, and at other times it was provided from resources which it was not necessary to particularise. Latterly it had been his lot to bring several metropolitan improvements under the notice of Government, and in 1850 he called upon the Chief Commissioner of Works, under the Government of his noble Friend the President of the Council, for the purpose of inducing him to undertake the formation of a park at Finsbury. The proposal was favourably entertained, but had not been carried into effect. In the present year the Government decided that, although the improvement might be necessary, it would be inexpedient for them to bring the subject of the Finsbury Park before the House. His right hon. Friend (Sir W. Molesworth) stated to him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was of opinion that it was not fair to carry out metropolitan improvements by means of the money levied from the general taxes of the United Kingdom. Now, in that opinion he fully concurred; but the Government declined either to undertake these improvements at all, or to give the metropolis the necessary powers to undertake them. The right hon. Baronet (Sir W. Molesworth) said that the matter was in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; that he was 1395 ready to undertake the matter if it were sanctioned by the Government, but that he declined to take the initiative. Now, what he (Lord R. Grosvenor) complained of was, that, while the Government thus refused to undertake metropolitan improvements, the hands of the metropolis were entirely tied. Hitherto the Government had considered itself the trustee of the execution of all metropolitan improvements; but now that the Government had abrogated its function, all metropolitan improvement was at a complete stand. Owing to the conduct of the Corporation of the City of London, the public had lost the pleasant and healthful promenade which they ought to have had on the banks of the Thames, and now, for a space of five miles in a direct line northwards from the Thames, the whole of the sites were encased in brick and mortar. There used to be gardens in the New Road, the houses having been built at a distance of thirty or forty feet from the road; but, one after another, these gardens were being built over, and were becoming shops and residences, or both. Then, there were the White Conduit Gardens, and other tea-gardens in Pentonville and the district adjacent, but they were one by one being sold, and the open spaces were rapidly becoming covered with buildings. For five miles northwards from the banks of the, Thames there were now no open spaces of any description. This state of things was extremely deleterious and dangerous to the health of the inhabitants, especially to those who lived in the more densely populated portion of this district, and who were for the most part tied to the district, and unable to go in search of country air. There was a Vote of 27,500l. for land at Kensington Gore, and another item of 140,000l/ for the purchase of Burlington House. He concurred in the propriety of that purchase by the Government, but both these Votes were to come out of the general taxation. He wished his noble Friend (Lord John Russell) would tell the Committee how the metropolis was to go on if the Government would neither interfere in a matter affecting the health of the metropolis, nor allow any one else to interfere? If the Government threw off the responsibility, they were bound to state who was to assume it, and how these improvements were to be carried on. The Commissioners to inquire into the municipal government of the City of London had, in their Report, given a sketch of 1396 some boards of works to which all these great undertakings were to be referred; but not only were parks and pleasure grounds wanted, but many other things besides. There was the great question of the sewers, and another great question of the supply of water. The present Board of Sewers were in the act of dissolution, and no authority had yet been appointed to succeed them. He wished to impress upon the Government that, whatever project they might determine upon for obviating these most enormous evils, not a day should be lost in putting it in such a state of forwardness that it might be submitted to the metropolis and to Parliament.
§ MR. ALEXANDER HASTIE
said, he thought that the refusal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to defray the expense of a park for the people of Finsbury out of the general taxation would meet with the approval of the country at large, although it might not be satisfactory to the noble Lord. Why should the great anti wealthy City of London put its hands into the pockets of the public for the purpose of forming parks and pleasure grounds, when other large towns had subscribed considerable sums for similar objects? In Glasgow the sum of 90,000l. had been subscribed last year for public parks. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Commissioner of Works had much better devote the money towards the improvement of the Government offices in the country, such as the Glasgow Post Office, which was in a most disgraceful state. He should, therefore, move that this Vote be rejected.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, he hoped that the Committee would not agree to the Motion. He would state the circumstances of this Vote. The formation of a park at Battersea had been recommended in 1845 by the Metropolitan Improvement Commissioners, and in 1846 all Act of Parliament was passed for the formation of the park. The estimated expenditure upon the purchase of property and the works necessary to the formation of a park at Battersea was 308,000l., while the amount applicable to this expenditure up to March, 1854, was 236,000l., leaving a balance of 72,262l. to be provided for the completion of the park. Of this sum it was proposed to vote 25,000l. this year, leaving 47,262l. to be provided for in the years 1855, 1856, and 1857. Although he did not expect to get back all this money, principal as well as interest, yet it was anticipated that by means of ground-rents a very considerable 1397 portion of the whole money advanced for the formation of the park would be returned. It had been estimated that within a few years after the park was completed 326,000l. would be realised from ground rents. If the park should now be stopped a positive loss in a pecuniary point of view would be sustained by the country. The park was now nearly completed, and the Government had engaged to pay for some land lately purchased 23,000l., of which 17,000l. would be defrayed out of the present Vote. The Government would, therefore, be compelled to break engagements made under the sanction of Parliament if Glasgow the Motion of the hon. Member for Glasgow was carried. The whole area of the park was now purchased except a very small part, and by Michaelmas Day the area of the park would be open to the public. He had shown that the effect of the Amendment would be to prevent the public not only from enjoying the benefit of the park, but also from realising a. considerable sum of money which would go far to pay for the park. It was not true, as some hon. Members seemed to suppose, that the whole of the metropolitan improvements were paid for out of the general taxation of the country. On the contrary, a great portion was defrayed out of the coal duty, which was raised by the whole of the metropolis. He had last year stated that if the people of Finsbury would raise a considerable portion of the expense of a new park, the Government might be inclined to ask the House for a Vote in furtherance of the design. His noble Friend (Lord R. Grosvenor) had referred to the Finsbury Park. Now he had inquired the amount necessary, and was told that the Finsbury Park could be completed for about 250,000l. He then stated, with the sanction of the Government, that if the people of Finsbury raised 200,000l the Government would be prepared to apply to Parliament to Vote the balance. That proposal was not accepted by those who wished for the new park, and he had, accordingly, refused to give the notices for its formation. The Government had made this offer, because they considered, that as a park was to be made at Battersea, the people of Finsbury ought to receive some benefit from a public undertaking of the same kind.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he was under the impression that the statement made last year was, that the sum to be received in 1398 ground-rents, &c., from Battersea Park, would cover the outlay.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
had stated that the receipts would pay off the capital, but he doubted whether they would cover the interest of the sums advanced by the Government as well.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that the question of the formation of Finsbury Park assumed a different aspect at the present moment, because a great portion of the ground had, since the park was first. proposed, been purchased by speculators for building purposes. The present Government said that, if the district would raise a portion of the money, they would be ready to assist, but that they must have some proof of the desire of the district to have a park before they engaged the public funds for this purpose. There was a difficulty, he admitted, relative to the execution of metropolitan improvements, for which it would be desirable to have some remedy.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
said, he would remind the noble Lord that what he had complained of was, that there were no means of raising money by the inhabitants of the metropolis for the purpose of metropolitan improvements; and he had asked whether, in the present state of the metropolis. the Government intended to leave this subject to be dealt with haphazard, or whether they would not introduce some large measure by which the inhabitants of the metropolis might make such improvements as they might deem desirable? As the Government appeared to have given up the execution of metropolitan improvements, he asked that some other means might be devised for promoting the health and comfort of this city.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that when the Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Corporation of the City of London came to be considered next Session there might be some plan suggested of meeting the difficulty. At all events it would be necessary to deal with the subject of metropolitan improvements in the Bill which would be introduced founded upon that Report.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, if large sums of money were to be constantly expended in forming public parks in the metropolis and Making other improvements, he should certainly put in a claim for his eon neighbourhood, and he would at once caution the noble Lord against making any promises, because if he once laid down the 1399 principle he might depend upon it that he would be required to carry it out in other places.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, the proposed park at Battersea would confer great benefit upon a large number of human beings, there being about 500,000 persons in the metropolis on the Southwark side of the river who had no means whatever of resorting to a place where they could inhale the fresh air. Battersea Park was remarkably well situated on the banks of the Thames, and a large portion of the land had been already purchased for it. He did not support this Vote because he had the honour to represent persons in the neighbourhood, but upon public grounds. A large quantity of land was purchased for Battersea Park, and he had no doubt the land which the Government would have the power to dispose of would turn out most remunerative. No loss whatever would accrue to the public from this undertaking, and he (Mr. Williams) would raise no objection whatever to a vote for Finsbury or any other park, if it could be shown that such investments would be equally remunerative and useful. A great amount of money was spent to buy Holyrood Park for the citizens of Edinburgh, and money for the same purpose had since then been expended. As much as forty-five years' purchase was given for ground there. He hoped the hon. Member for Glasgow would not persevere with his Amendment. Why did not the hon. Member object to 15,000l. for Hyde Park, St. James's Park, and the Green Park, which might be said to be entirely for the gratification of the aristocracy. He hoped the Government would turn their attention to the whole question during the recess, but, in the meantime, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. DUNCAN
thought his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Hastie) had some grounds for his objection, considering that the large sum of 90,000l. for a park had been subscribed in that city, and nothing whatever was granted by Government; at the same time he would not advise his hon. Friend to divide the Committee on the Vote, although he was perfectly right in calling the attention of the Committee to the question.
§ MR. CHEETHAM
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) did not put the matter quite fairly. In his opinion the real question should be, who 1400 were the proper parties that ought to provide the money for a public park for the recreation of people in the neighbourhood of Battersea? When the people of Manchester proposed to raise the large sum of 390,000l. for a similar purpose, only 3,000l. was granted by Sir Robert Peel towards the object. He thought it was high time for hon. Gentlemen who represented large constituencies to set themselves against such Votes as the present, which had reference only to the metropolis or its neighbourhood.
§ MR. JAMES M'GREGOR
said, that the hon. Member for Lambeth had recommended to the Government for its consideration the general wants of the metropolis in this respect; but he did not call attention to a special improvement which was much required. He believed the right hon. Baronet the First Commissioner of Works could tell them that already a large sum of money was set aside for the construction of a new road between London and Westminster Bridges on the Southwark side of the river, and no steps had yet been taken to carry out that undertaking, which was most urgently needed. He was afraid that, if something was not done soon, the opportunity would be lost altogether, as he belived that there were some conditions as to its completion within a certain time annexed to the grant. He should be glad to hear if the Government had any explanation to give upon that subject.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, it was perfectly true that a sum of 80,000l. had been set aside for the purpose of making improvements in Southwark, although those improvements were not of the precise character mentioned by the hon. Member. It was true that the propriety of making a new road between London and Westminster Bridges was brought under his notice, but that would cost more than five times 80,000l., and it was impossible, with the amount in hand, to attempt anything like such a work.
§ MR. BRADY
said, he wished to call attention to the fact that, since the Crystal Palace had been opened, there had been a considerable increase of traffic in the borough of Southwark; the inhabitants felt great inconvenience, and he knew to a certainty that trade had been much injured from the circumstance of the proposed road not having been carried out. They were now about to advance a large sum of money 1401 for the improvement of Chelsea, Battersea, and the neighbourhood. He wished to know who lived there? It had been urged by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) that the improvement which would be introduced into Battersea would be a justification for this grant, but it was a singular fact, and one which was deserving the attention of the Committee, that, while all other portions of land in the metropolitan suburbs were daily improving and being built upon, that neighbourhood had not advanced for the last twenty-five years. From the railway station at Vauxhall Bridge up to Battersea and Chelsea scarcely any improvement had taken place during that period. The hon. Member for Lambeth said 500,000 people in Southwark had no place of recreation, but he (Mr. Brady) would call attention to the fact that they had Clapham Park, and the new park that was being made at Kennington, besides which, by crossing Westminster Bridge, they could go into St. James's and Hyde Parks. He thought it right to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that speculative people in London had wholly neglected this particular neighbourhood, and he was convinced that if it had been a situation likely to be improved, some of the capital spent in different portions of London would have found its way there long since. The fact was, it was a perfect swamp. He thought great caution ought to be observed in advancing the public moneys in such a manner as might improve private property without conferring a corresponding benefit on the public.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, that, while the hon. Member for Lambeth was quite willing to spend the public money on the improvement of the metropolis in his neighbourhood, he was prepared to cheesepare and cut down the sums voted for such improvements in Ireland. If he (Mr. V. Scully) did not oppose the present Vote, he should expect equal generosity for the Irish Votes. He thought there was great inconsistency in metropolitan Members constantly attacking recipients of public money in Ireland in the most opprobrious language, and stigmatising them as a parcel of beggars. There appeared to be so much inclination to centralise Irish establishments in the metropolis that he should not be surprised at a serious proposition to amalgamate and centralise Phœmix Park in Hyde Park.
§ (6.) 35,000l.., Chelsea Embankment and Public Roadway.
§ MR. MICHELL
said, he considered this a mere job for the benefit of Mr. Cubitt and the Marquess of Westminster, and he should like to know what contribution these personages were going to make towards the expense? He entirely objected to the Vote.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
said, that though it might be expedient to complete these works, as they were begun, yet he hoped the Government would not enter upon any more such undertakings, which might be better left to that private spirit and enterprise which were found quite sufficient for such improvements in other towns.
§ MR. HILDYARD
said, he hoped the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Michell) would divide the Committee against the Vote. The laxity with which the national money was expended by the Government for metropolitan jobs was monstrous.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, he felt it his duty to vindicate the Vote, the purposes of which had been in the most decided manner, and repeatedly, sanctioned by Parliament, as purposes of public utility. As to Mr. Cubitt, he had made a portion of the embankment at his own expense in the most admirable manner, and the Marquess of Westminster had undertaken to contribute as much towards the expenditure as should be deemed by the Government a fair contribution on his part.
said, that, when he was in office in 1850, he had been disposed to think that the expenditure upon Battersea Park would be so extravagant that Parliament had better consent to pay the forfeits upon the contracts made and give up the plan; but he had found upon further inquiry, that the Government was so involved in all sorts of engagements, under Acts of Parliament, that it would he cheaper to go on than to stop. Certainly, as the matter now stood, the more economical course would be to complete the park and the works connected with it as soon as possible, so as the earlier to realise the returns to which his right hon. Friend (Sir W. Molesworth) had adverted.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (7.) 3,393l., British Ambassador's House, Paris.
§ MR. AYSIIFORD WISE
said, he had called attention to a similar Vote of last year, amounting to 9,234l., which had led to the very singular Report of Mr, Albano, 1403 the architect of the Public Works Commissioners, a document that contained some astonishing and disgusting details with respect to the state of the house and furniture. It was the duty of the Board of Works to see that the house was in a state of proper repair, as a large sum was annually voted for keeping it up; but Mr. Albano said that the furniture was infested with vermin, the floors tumbling in, and the whole place full of rats. This palace cost 30,000l. in 1815, and the nation had since expended 40,000l. upon it, and considering that some 700l. or 800l. were voted every year for repairs, he must say he thought there was great negligence at the office of Works. He (Mr. Wise) wished to know how much of the furniture belonged to the nation, and also what was the object of fitting up the drawing-room as a chapel, at an expense of nearly 400l., and the spending more than 300l. in converting the dining-room into a place of worship for the ambassador and the fashionables who frequented Paris. He certainly thought that such expenditure ought to be checked. He wished also to know what had been done with respect to a scheme which had been concocted by a few individuals calling themselves "the English in Paris," but who in reality were three individuals who composed a public meeting, a committee, and a deputation to the Government. A proposal was submitted to build an English church in Paris, founded on the assumption that there was not sufficient accommodation for the English who visited that capital. Now, it was notorious that there were three large churches in Paris for English Episcopalians, which, except for a short season, were never more than half full, and he would ask, therefore, if Her Majesty's Government had given any encouragement to such a scheme? He saw a great increase in the annual Vote for these chapels abroad, and thought these charges worthy the attention of the Committee. Besides 3,000l. for a church at Constantinople, he found in other parts of the Estimates a Vote for 7,500l. for the support of chapels in foreign countries, and a further sum of 1,300l. for chaplains attached to embassies. In 1844 the Vote was 4,000l.; in 1849, 5,000l.; in 1850, 5,500l.; in 1832, 6,000l.; and in 1853, 6,500l. He thought it his duty to call the attention of the Committee to this gradual increase, and to protest against the system of making Parliament a more registry court of foregone conclusion, and of voting 1404 money to pay for the past instead of asking money for the future. He saw an item for building a cemetery wall at Madrid of 1,400l.; but he happened to know that the work was doing—that Mr. Albano, the architect, was at Madrid superintending the work, and that thus the House was called on to pay for what it had never sanctioned. He must say that he thought it was very inexpedient that the Government should first incur large expenses, make purchases, and direct the expenditure of large sums of money all over the world, and afterwards come to Parliament to sanction the outlay. Such a system of voting away the nation's money was unsatisfactory, and certainly was not agreeable to the notion that hon. Members were the guardians of the public purse.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, an estimate had been submitted to the House last Session for repairing and furnishing the Ambassador's house at Paris, which amounted to 9,213l. and which had been prepared by direction of the former Government. Of this sum 5,820l. was voted in 1853, and a balance of 3,393l. remained to be voted this year. Every ten years or so it was necessary to do up a building, but he hoped the house would not again fall into that bad state in which it certainly was last year.
§ MR. J. WILSON,
in answer to the inquire made by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Wise) about the building of a chapel in Paris, said, that a proposal to this effect had been made to the Government; the answer given was, that if the residents in Paris were prepared to raise among themselves—according to the usual practice in the case of such grants—half the amount asked for, the Government would take into consideration the propriety of making an advance. The Government, however, were told that was not likely to be the case, and there the matter dropped, no sum of money being granted.
§ Vote agreed to, as were the following—
§ (8.) 10,900l., Lighthouses Abroad.
§ (9.) 2,500l., Royal Dublin Society Building.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
(10.) "That a sum not exceeding 27,000l., be granted to Her Majesty, for the year ending the 31st day of March 1850, towards the purchase by the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851, of certain additional Lands at Kensington Gore, necessary for the purpose of the New National Gallery and other Institutions connected with Science and the Arts,
said, he wished to 1405 know whether a National Gallery was to be erected in this place.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, it was absolutely necessary that the Committee should know something about what the ultimate expense would be. Unless they had some distinct and clear statement as to the object for which this money was wanted, the Committee ought to make a stand against this Vote.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, that 150,000l. had already been voted on account of this land at Kensington, and as far as he could ascertain, they had no statement of what was the quantity of land for which they were paying this large amount, or even of its exact locality. He considered Kensington a very inconvenient place for an institution of art, both as regarded the public and the artists who wished to avail themselves of the institution for the purposes of study.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that in 1852 the Government obtained a Vote of 150,000l., which together with another 150,000l., the surplus funds from the Great Exhibition, were applied to the purchase of a magnificent and very eligible plot of land, about ninety acres in extent, at Kensington Gore. The bargain was an exceedingly profitable one, and many private individuals would like to take it off their hands at the terms they gave for it. But there was a small wedge-shaped piece of ground running from the Hammersmith Road to the centre of the property, and upon which a very bad description of tenements were situated, which greatly diminished the value of the whole of the land. An Act had therefore been obtained by the Commissioners to buy this small piece of land, and these miserable tenements, and appropriate a sum as compensation to the owners. A Committee of that House last year decided that the National Gallery should be removed to this spot, and he hoped that decision would be inflexibly adhered to; but, at all events, it was manifest that this small additional outlay of 27,500l. would be more than counter-balanced by the enhanced value it would give to the whole of the rest of the property.
MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he hoped the Committee would require from Government a statement of its intentions before they voted this money, and also whether Government intended to carry out the recommendations in the Report of the Royal Commissioners of 1851. With re- 1406 gard to the block of land which was originally to serve for the erection of a building for scientific societies, that project was opposed by the societies themselves, who said the site was inconvenient, and if their societies were removed there it would prove their destruction. He believed the plan was then entertained of erecting a new National Gallery on the land, but he thought the distance was so great, persons would not go so far to see the pictures. He would only say that he hoped Government would not attempt the expensive and impracticable plan of fostering scientific objects by large grants of public money. With regard to the Committee relative to the new National Gallery, he must say he thought the appointment of the members was conducted on an unfair principle. He thought on a subject of such magnitude, there ought to be a special Committee appointed to take the whole question into consideration. He also objected to the employment of police in the interior of public institutions. If the police were so numerous as to require to be employed in such labours, he thought they ought to be reduced forthwith. He had asked Government to lay on the table the plan of Sir Charles Barry, as that plan did not propose to remove all the societies to Kensington Gore, but only to have some of them in that locality, and to concentrate the scientific departments at the British Museum. All he wanted was, that Government would give an assurance that they would enter upon no career of change and expenditure, without due deliberation and the consent of Parliament. He thought that such an institution as that contemplated at Kensington Gore would injure and interfere with the interests of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. If no one else made the Motion, he should move that the Vote be rejected.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, the Motion of the hon. Gentleman was not at all consistent with his argument. The hon. Member said, he had no objection to complete the purchase, and what he did object to was, that the Committee should be pledged to apply this ground to the erection of a National Gallery; but the Committee would not be at all pledged by this Vote to do any such thing. According to the views of the Government the ground should be bought and the National Gallery should be erected on the ground; but all the Government now asked was, that the purchase made by the late Government 1407 should be improved, by the additional purchase of a piece of land which would make what had been already bought far more valuable. By next year the Government would consider the subject very maturely, and if they should continue of the opinion that the National Gallery should be built on the ground, the matter would be submitted to the House. But the Government certainly agreed with the Commission appointed three years ago, and with the Committee that sat last year, that there are reasons against maintaining the National Gallery in its present position. In the first place, it was very difficult to obtain space for additional pictures that might be expected to arrive from time to time; and in the next place, the pictures were exposed there to great injury; but if they were removed to Kensington Gore, and to a more spacious building erected there, they would not be thus liable to injury. The hon. Gentleman also said it would be impossible to expect people to go so far as Kensington Gore to see the pictures, but it was well known that persons went a great deal further than that for a similar object. As many as 11,000 persons attended on one day at Sydenham, which was a greater distance from London than Kensington Gore. There were other proposals made by the Royal Commissioners with respect to the disposal of this ground, one for the benefit of learned societies who might or might not be inclined to adopt any proposal of the kind, and another for education and arts connected with manufactures, which he thought would be of very essential use to this country. There was also at present a large collection at Marlborough House, and that was another reason why the ground should be devoted to the purpose proposed. At all events, the purchase was not an unwise purchase, for the ground in itself was very valuable, and provided the House of Commons was of opinion that the land was unfit for any of the purposes to which the Government proposed to devote it, the ground might sold at probably a much advanced price. They could then repay the 150,000l. contributed by the Royal Commissioners, and they would be able to apply that 150,000l. to any other purpose they might think conducive to the ends of the Exhibition of 1851. The hon. Gentleman would see that by refusing this grant he would not at all attain his object. All he would attain was, that the inconvenient piece of ground 1408 running into the land already purchased would be kept out of the purchase, and that thereby the land that was bought would be made less valuable than otherwise it would be. Whatever might be the ultimate decision, it was desirable to make the purchase of this ground; and he begged to state at the same time that it was the opinion of the Government that a plan should be proposed to the House for the erection of a National Gallery on that site. But no plan was yet settled, the House of Commons was not called upon to vote a single shilling for it, and the wish of the hon. Gentleman, that that question should be deferred to next year, was therefore completely fulfilled.
§ MR. HEYWOOD
said, he must complain that they were asked to vote a sum of money for a purpose that could not be realised, the societies connected with science having unanimously declared that they would not go to Kensington Gore.
§ MR. CROSSLEY
said, that if the public, as stated by the noble Lord, went to a greater distance than Kensington Gore, they went for a very different purpose besides that of seeing pictures; and the present site of the National Gallery, he considered, was more convenient. Manufacturers were better able to get artists than Government were able to get them for them; and if they were to take Marlborough House as an example, he might remark that though a pattern had been declared there to be an incorrect specimen of art, there had been sold of that very pattern 40,000l. to 50,000l. worth. He did not believe, therefore, that the gentlemen sitting in judgment upon those things were such very good judges of what the public required.
said, the land which had been purchased by Government, if it were sold to-morrow, would bring a profit of at least 100,000l. He hoped the Vote would be agreed to, as the bargain was a good speculation.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, though we were not bound by the preamble of the Vote, yet when the question of the new National Gallery came before the House they would be told, "How can you object to a Vote for the new gallery, when you have agreed to this Vote?" If the hon. Member (Mr. D. Seymour) persevered in his Amendment, he should support it. He thought that there must be some peculiar pressure outside the House to induce the Government, at a time like the present, to carry 1409 out a plan which, in a time of affluence and with a prospect of peace, they would not be justified in doing. It was the duty of that House to stand between the Minister and that pressure. He believed if they had been independent of that pressure that they would not have proposed this Vote.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he quite agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. Spooner) that there was some pressure out of doors that did not act upon the Government, and he hoped they would be bound by that action, and that was—the generally diffused idea that they should elevate the taste of the people of this country; and this was one of the first steps to attain that important object. This was really an addition to the Vote which he had the honour to recommend to the House when the sum of 150,000l., contributed by the shillings of the people of the country, was proposed by the Royal Commissioners to be devoted to the advancement of the arts and sciences; they having applied at the same time to the Government to know whether they would recommend to Parliament to contribute an equal sum in order to accomplish that object. It was generally believed that that object would be best accomplished by buying a considerable piece of ground, which would be the future theatre of their operations; and when he had the honour of proposing that the House should vote an equal sum to that which was contributed by the Royal Commissioners as the residue of the accumulation of the receipts received from the Exhibition of 1851, it was at that time well known, both to himself and to all those acquainted with the circumstances, that there would be a future necessity for asking for a Supplementary Vote of this description. It was not concealed; and if they did not dwell upon it, it was only because they were of opinion that if it was stated that there was this small segment of laud which they were desirous of obtaining, those in possession would be ready to take advantage of their anxiety to get it. If they dwelt upon the necessity of obtaining that small segment or wedge of land, of course the price would be increased, and that was the only reason why they had not placed the point ostentatiously before the public. He begged to call the attention of the Committee to the evidence of the secretary of the Royal Commission, Mr. Edgar Bowring, who was examined on the subject, and who stated that it was scarcely advisable to ender into particulars with reference to this piece of 1410 ground. If they had entered into great detail as to the extreme necessity and advantage of obtaining this wedge of ground, or entered into any narrative of that kind, there was no doubt if it could be obtained at all, it would be only obtained at a greater cost, and that was the only reason why the Supplementary Vote had been postponed. The Government were asking the Committee to sanction an arrangement to which a year and a half ago they had given their assent without a division, and so far as this Vote was concerned the Committee should feel they were acting on a pledge previously made, and in a prudent manner by giving their assent to it. By doing so they would not pledge themselves to erect the National Gallery at Kensington Gore. The plan for doing so must be offered in detail to the House of Commons, and the House would have an opportunity of discussing the propriety of the proposition when brought forward for their consideration. They might have great difficulties to encounter before all the objects which they contemplated were achieved, but he should be quite satisfied if the Committee would then agree to a Vote to which they must see there was no fair objection.
MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he had been of opinion that they could not agree to the Vote without pledging themselves to the erection of the National Gallery at Kensington Gore, but from what had been said by the noble Lord he did not then think that question would be decided by their voting that 27,000l.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he did not know whether the hon. Gentleman intended to withdraw his Amendment, but if so, he (Mr. Spooner) would not consent to its withdrawal, because he was resolved to have his vote recorded against the cornmencement of a plan that would involve the country in a most expensive undertaking.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he thought, after the experience they had of the building of the Houses of Parliament, they should not heedlessly embark in another great work, because they might have to regret that they had ever entered into it. He felt quite sure that the institution for whose benefit they were about to erect this great building would not take advantage of it when it was erected. The House of Commons should insist that a specific plan, with die expense, should be laid before theta before they embarked in a project of which 1411 they could neither know the expense nor limit. By that Vote to-night they would be laying the foundation of other Votes, which would lead to the same result as had been experienced with respect to the building of the Houses of Parliament, and he would, therefore, most willingly vote for the rejection of the Vote, unless they received an explanation with respect to the ultimate object and expense of this undertaking.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, if the Vote were carried, the course the Government would adopt would be to consider the different plans which might be offered for the erection of the proposed building, and to choose that which seemed best adapted for the objects in view. The Estimates for the purpose would then be proposed next year, and at that time all explanations required would be given. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, he must remind him that before the Houses of Parliament were commenced estimates and plans were made, and that it was not so much the doing of the Government of the day that Sir Charles Barry's plans were adopted as of the Members of the two Houses generally. For his own part, he should have been better satisfied with a plainer and cheaper building, but noble Lords and hon. Members would not have it so.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, that it was stated in the Vote that it was necessary for the purpose of the National Gallery, but it was now universally admitted that it was not necessary for that purpose; and he suggested, therefore, that those words should be omitted, or that the Vote should be withdrawn for the present, and again proposed in an unobjectionable form.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he wished to know whether, if the Committee assented to this grant, the noble Lord the Lord President would give an assurance that before any further Vote was taken in order to carry out the scheme for the removal of the various institutions, which had been referred to, to Kensington Gore, a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the necessity of such removal?
§ Question put; the Committee divided:—Ayes 169; Noes 48: Majority 121.
§ Vote agreed to; as was also the next Vote—
§ (11.) 5,000l., Australia Expedition.1412
§ (12.) 2,800l., Cholera in Jamaica.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, he would take that occasion to ask whether Her Majesty's Ministers were aware that cholera had broken out in the island of Jamaica, and whether any steps had been taken to furnish additional medical assistance to the inhabitants of that island?
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he was very sorry to say that the cholera had broken out both at Jamaica and Barbadoes, but the Government had received no information that there was any want of medical assistance in either of these islands. He regretted, however, to have to inform the Committee that the House of Assembly at Jamaica had declined to provide the funds for sending the requisite medical and other assistance.
SIR JOHN PARINGTON
said, he did not consider the answer of the right hon. Gentleman at all satisfactory. This was not solely a West Indian question; but it was one in which our own sailors and soldiers stationed in those islands were concerned. Frightful ravages had been made by this disease in those Colonies; further medical assistance ought to be rendered; and the only reason it was not was, that the Government were afraid to apply to the Committee for a Vote to enable them to take the necessary precautions against visitations of this disease.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that when the cholera broke out before, three medical inspectors were sent out from this country. One of them died, but another had made a most useful Report with reference to the best course to be taken, either as to precautions against future visitations, or for the actual treatment of the disease. That information had been placed at the disposal of the Colonial Governments. But if the Government were not only to provide a medical staff for the treatment of the disease when it actually existed in the West Indies, but also to take measures in anticipation of its visitations, there was no saying what expense might be thrown upon this country.
said, he must express his deep regret at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and his strong sense of disapprobation of the course which the Government were pursuing.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the right hon. the Secretary for the Colonies had not correctly stated the purport of his remarks. All that he wished was, that 1413 the Government should again send out medical inspectors, in the same manner as was done by Earl Grey when this epidemic last visited the West Indies.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (13.) Register, High Court of Admiralty.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, he wished to make a short explanation with respect to the nature of the Vote and the reasons why it had been placed upon the Estimates. The Committee were aware that the High Court of Admiralty was an independent Court, and that its Registrar was, neither with respect to his acts nor the management of his accounts, placed under the control of that House. Now, the late Registrar had, of his own free motion, admitted the existence of a large defalcation in his accounts, that defalcation never having been suspected by either the Judge or any of the other officers of the Court. A Committee had been appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the case, and the fraud having been fully established, it became the duty of the Government to lay bands upon all the property of the Registrar; and the Committee were of opinion that that property would be found sufficient to cover the whole of the amount of the defalcation. Now, it had been found that certain sums of money which were due to the suitors of the Court of Chancery, and which had been placed by order of the Judge in the hands of the late Registrar of the Court of Admiralty, had been included in the defalcation, and upon consultation with the Board of Admiralty Her Majesty's Ministers had deemed it would be unfair—although they possessed no control over the Registrar, yet, as he was a public officer, and the suitors in question laboured under the conviction that their interests would be protected by the general supervision of the Government—to allow those suitors to suffer any pecuniary loss. Under these circumstances it was that the Vote now under their notice had been placed upon the Estimates.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, the hon. Gentleman was correct in stating that this was an extraordinary case, but he was not so correct in stating that no blame attached to any one. It was quite true that the Registrar was appointed by Act of Parliament, and not by the Government, but it did not follow that the Government should not have exacted from him what was exacted in the case of any other officer, namely, some surety for the money which 1414 passed through his hands. There must have been some negligence on the part of the superintending officers that some security was not taken for the good behaviour of the Registrar, for he found that, by an Act of Parliament passed in 1813, it was expressly enacted that the Registrar of the Court of Admiralty should not have more than 10,000l. in hand at any one time, and that the surplus should be paid into the Bank. If that Act had been enforced, how could the Registrar have been a defaulter for 25,000l.? In November, 1853, a Treasury Minute appointed three gentlemen to inquire how these defalcations had occurred. Their Report had only been delivered that morning, and until the House had had an opportunity of considering it the Vote ought to be postponed.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, by the Act of Parliament in question, there was no Member of the Government, nor any department of the Government that had the slightest control over that Court or any of its officers. As, however, the Report of the Committee was only asked for last night, and was not yet distributed, he was ready to consent to the postponement of the Vote until Members had had an opportunity of perusing it.
§ MR. J. WILSON
replied, that security had been taken from the new Registrar, and, moreover, that the office would be brought under the annual control of Parliament by a Vote.
§ Vote postponed.
§ House resumed.