HC Deb 27 July 1855 vol 139 cc1461-3

said, that though he was unwilling in any way to interrupt the course of public business, he wished to refer shortly to a matter of a private nature, which arose out of a speech made the other night by the noble Lord the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour). He was not in the House the other night when the noble Lord made a speech on the Ordnance survey of Scotland, but when he returned to the House, he was told by an hon. Member that he ought to have been present, as the speech of the noble Lord was at least not complimentary to him. Although he spoke on that occasion, he could not reply to the noble Lord's speech, as he was not aware what he had said; but he trusted the House would indulge him on this occasion, as it was a matter which affected his personal character. What the noble Lord the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour) was reported to have said on that occasion was this:— Nothing could be more absurd, or, indeed, more laughable, than the ground on which Lord Elcho had justified the twenty-five-inch scale. The noble Lord was, as they all knew, a large landed proprietor; and he had remarked with admirable naivete, that he was of opinion with Lord Tweeddale, that it would be a matter of great convenience to the landed proprietors of Scotland if the survey was constructed on the scale of twenty-five inches to the mile. Of course it would. Not a doubt of it; but if it was to be done for the convenience of landlords, it was manifestly fair that the landlords should pay for it. A survey on so large a scale could only be of local service, and those only who had a local interest in the work should endure the cost. Why should the country be saddled with the expense of a scheme of survey larger than the country needed, and larger than that house approved of, and simply because this gigantic undertaking would be of service to landed proprietors? Now, it might have been possible that something absurd or laughable in what he had said or written might have occasioned this opinion in the noble Lord, for they all knew he was a man of a hilarious disposition and a cheerful countenance—and he might have been excited thereby; but he denied that, in anything which he had said or written, could he find any such ground or motive. The point of the noble Lord's speech was this, that he (Lord Elcho), being a large landed proprietor, had endeavoured to obtain a scale beneficial to himself as a landlord, at the expense of the rest of the community. That was a statement which he considered as reflecting on his character, and there- fore he wished to show that the grounds on which he advocated that scale was not the grounds attributed to him by the noble Lord, but on the public interest alone. His first connection with this subject was in 1851, when he was Chairman of the Committee appointed to consider the subject; but his position did not exempt him from observation by the noble Lord, for, although he advocated the six-inch scale, yet the Committee were unanimously of opinion that, whatever advantages it possessed, they were not such as to justify the expense it would occasion to the community. He considered the question was one of great national importance, and that Parliament, before they pronounced a definite opinion upon it, ought carefully to peruse the Report.


observed, that the noble Lord was not present when he made the speech of which he complained, and he had not read through the whole of the remarks he made on the occasion, nor replied to the only point he (Lord Seymour) had advanced in reference to the noble Lord. He had never imputed to the noble Lord selfish considerations or a desire to benefit his own property at the expense of the country. That was out of the question. What be bad intended to convey was, that the noble Lord, being a landed proprietor, felt with the general body of landed proprietors, and that the feeling if acted upon was disadvantageous to the tax-payers of the country generally. He was glad the noble Lord had brought this subject before the House, because there was one point connected with it to which he wished to refer. The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford, speaking on the subject on the 2nd of March, 1854, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that this was a great question, in which not hundreds of thousands only, but millions of the public money were involved; and that the question as to the scale ought therefore to be decided, not by the Treasury, but by the House. But had the House decided the question? It had never had the opportunity of doing so; and what he contended was, that that opportunity ought to be afforded. This statement was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 2nd of March, and so far from the question having been submitted to the House, the Treasury Minute was issued in July, ordering that Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire should be drawn upon the enlarged scale, and that until a final decision was come to, the system applied to those two counties should be applied to the other counties. Was that waiting for the decision of the House? On the contrary, it was begging the whole question, and involving the country in the large expenditure to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred. He was not the only person deceived in the matter, the noble Lord at the head of the Government was deceived also. He thought that Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire were to be the only counties surveyed. It was upon this ground that he had thought he felt justified in bringing the subject forward. But there was another point which the noble Lord, as a Lord of the Treasury, ought to have answered. There had been a twenty-five-inch scale survey in England, but who paid for it? The landlords of England themselves, by a tax upon the land. It was not paid for out of the public taxes. But was this all? He was accused of attacking the landlords. What said the President of the Royal Geographical Society in his inaugural address? He said, "I reassert that patriotism, in this instance, has merged in the desire to obtain local advantages." It was his (Lord Seymour's) opinion also that local advantages had been allowed to prevail over the general interests of the country, and that those local interests had had more influence at the Treasury than the interests of the public.


said, the survey for Scotland had been postponed for upwards of sixty years, and that that country ought to have a scale at least as good as that which had been given to Ireland. He trusted the survey would be continued on the present scale until Parliament had finally decided what scale should be adopted, when it could be reduced to that scale.


said, that the only map which it was intended to publish was on the one inch scale, and he could assure the hon. Gentleman that there should be no unnecessary delay in its publication.