HC Deb 13 July 1857 vol 146 cc1375-88

Order for Committee (Supply) read.

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


in rising to propose the Motion of which he had given notice with reference to the Ordnance Survey, observed that circumstances of a private and very painful nature, connected with the intelligence just received from India, would have induced him to forbear from bringing this subject under the attention of the House, were it not that this was the only opportunity of which he should be able to avail himself for eliciting their opinion on a question which he regarded as of great importance. He had been told that in again calling attention to the subject of the ordnance survey he would only be wasting the time of the House, but he could not think he was open to such a charge when he asked hon. Gentlemen to consider whether something like £2,000,000 of the public money was expended profitably or unprofitably. He did not propose to reopen the question of the 25-inch scale, as he bowed to the decision at which the House of Commons had arrived on that subject. He believed, however, that that decision was in a great measure attributable to the general misconception which existed on the subject, and to the idea that this was exclusively a Scotch question, or, as it had been termed, "a Scotch job." With regard to its being "a Scotch job," he begged to say that whatever steps might have been taken in Scotland since the survey upon the 25-inch scale had been in progress, a similar course had been adopted in the northern counties of England. The fact was, that the survey had proceeded in the two countries pari passu. What was the position of the survey when the House arrived at its decision? In the northern portion of England, and throughout Scotland, the Ordnance had made surveys, and had published maps of the cultivated rural districts upon the scale of 25 inches to the mile; and they were also publishing a 6-inch map, and a 1-inch map of the whole country. The large towns, the population of which exceeded 4,000, were surveyed upon a 10 feet scale. When the scale for the survey of the rural districts was raised from 6 inches to 25 inches, the scale for the survey of towns was raised from 5 feet to 10 feet; and it might have been thought that when the country survey was reduced from 25 inches to 6 inches, the town survey would also have been reduced from 10 feet to 5 feet; but no change had hitherto been made. He was, however, quite willing that towns should enjoy the advantage of a really good practical survey, which would be afforded by a 10-inch scale. He found, from the letters of the Secretary at War, that the survey was in progress on the 25-inch scale in three counties in the north of England—Northumberland, Westmoreland, and Durham— and in nine counties in Scotland, including Renfrew, Ayr, Dumfries, and Peebles; and in those counties of Scotland would be found the large proportion of the cultivated districts of that country. The total estimate for the survey of Scotland, conducted in the way he had described, after mak- ing a deduction in respect of the work already done, amounted to £624,000; and as regarded Scotland the only saving effected by the change would be about three farthings an acre, or £50,000 in the aggregate. Again, in the counties which had been begun in the north of England the only saving would be £5,000. The total saving, therefore, would amount to £55,000. But there were considerations why that sum should be reduced by at least £25,000, so that the actual saving would be something like £30,000, or rather under that sum. He admitted, however, that the unsurveyed portions of the two countries must be taken into account, and that whatever the House had done with respect to the north of England and Scotland, they must be prepared to do in the south of England. What would be the saving effected on the survey of the whole of Great Britain? Why, somewhere about £230,000, which appeared to him a very trifling one. But they had further to consider whether, in effecting that saving, they were adopting a really useful scale. It often happened that the economical votes of the House proved the most extravagant in the end. His desire, however, was not that the House should at once decide the matter, but that it should come to the conclusion that further inquiry was needed. He might remind the House that the 6-inch scale originated in Ireland in 1824, on the Motion for a Committee to report on that question made by Mr. Spring Rice, now Lord Monteagle. That Committee, after referring to the various divisions and subdivisions of land in Ireland, such as town-lands, ploughlands, colps, gneeves, cartrons, tates, bullibos, bullibellos, horsemen, beds, cows' feet, and cows' toes, came to the conclusion that the survey of that country should be conducted on such a scale as to admit of an accurate delineation on the map of the town boundaries, for the purpose of a general valuation for local purposes, and that that scale should be 6 inches to the English mile. They stated that "a survey by townlands appeared to be the rational medium between a baronial or parochial and field survey, and that the best scale for effecting the intended survey would be that of 6 inches to the English mile, adding that "a survey of 6 inches to the mile might be applied to various purposes of private utility." It was, therefore, for special purposes in Ireland that that scale was adopted—namely, for a properly purpose, and for aiding the Irish in making local assessments. Now, they had to consider whether such a scale as that was or was not a proper scale for a property survey in England and Scotland. When he used the word "property" survey, he did not mean a survey of a gentleman's property for private purposes, but a survey for registration and other public purposes—one, in fact, which should fulfil all those national objects for which such a survey should be undertaken. That brought him to the Committee of 1851, appointed to consider the survey of Scotland. He had heard complaints made—chiefly by Irish Members—as to the constitution of that Committee, that the Scotch had shown, very little delicacy in the matter, in that the majority of Members who served upon it were Scotchmen. Now, he found that the Irish Members had had three Committees appointed in connection with the question of an Ordnance Survey. The first was in 1824, which consisted of twenty-one Members. Lord Monteagle being Chairman, of whom one was a Scotchman, five were Englishmen—one of the latter being the Irish Secretary—and fifteen were Irish. In 1846 there was another Committee appointed to inquire into and report upon the then state of the Ordnance Survey in Ireland and on the works which would be required for its completion. That Committee, of whom Sir Denham Norreys was Chairman, consisted of fifteen Members, of whom one was a Scotchman, two were Englishmen—one being the Irish Secretary and the other the Clerk of the Ordnance—and twelve were Irishmen. Mr. Barry Baldwin was subsequently added to the Committee, a name which he (Lord Elcho) suspected was that of an Irish gentleman, though he sat for an English borough. Again, in 1853, a Committee was appointed to consider and report upon the details of the reduced map of Ireland then in course of publication; and that Committee consisted of thirteen Members, of whom, while there was not a single Scotchman, one was an Englishman and twelve were Irish, Sir Denham Norreys being again Chairman. He (Lord Elcho) therefore trusted, after that, that the House would hear no more from any hon. Member from across St. Georges's Channel as to the indelicacy of the Scotch in the constitution of any Committee of that House. He would revert to the Committee of 1851, which was appointed chiefly on account of the delay which had occurred in the survey of Scotland. What had that Committee done? They examined several persons both for and against the 6-inch scale, and the conclusions they came to were:— That the 6-inch scale be abandoned. It is, evident that if the 6-inch scale were abandoned a very large saving would be effected, and the time necessary for the completion of the map (1 inch) greatly shortened. Your Committee, therefore, recommend the abandonment of the 6-inch scale as being, generally speaking, inapplicable to Scotland". What applied to Scotland applied equally to England, either in the north or in the south. The Committee added, that undoubtedly the plans would be of some value to proprietors in the valuation of their estates. The Scotch Members decided, notwithstanding, against the 6-inch scale, upon the ground that they did not think the advantages to the public would be proportionate to the cost to the country. All the objections which could be taken to the 25-inch scale, on account of size, applied equally to the 6-inch scale, because the moment they abandoned the 1-inch scale they adopted the principle of a plan, and not of a map. It appeared in evidence before the Committee that a map of Scotland on the 6-inch scale would be 216 feet long by 120 feet broad. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mallow (Sir Denham Norreys) said he considered a large map a great evil, and that the thing was to get as small a map as possible. In the Committee of 1846, when the hon. Baronet was very anxious to get a 1-inch map, he denied as far as possible the utility of a 6-inch map. When Mr. Griffith was under examination Sir R. Ferguson asked, "Is it likely there would be any room large enough to hold the map of a very large county upon the 6-inch scale?" The answer was, "It would require a very large room indeed. In the county of Cork I do not suppose they have any room large enough to hold the map of the county." The hon. Baronet who was Chairman of the Committee was not satisfied, and he put this further question:— Even if there were such a room, would it be of any practical utility from the impossibility of the eye catching the names and lines upon it?" The answer was, "No eye could take in two distant points in one view with sufficient clearness. The objection, therefore, of the hon. Baronet to the 25-inch scale applied equally to the 6-inch scale. In either case it was not of much value, for no one ever thought of putting the maps together; they were, as every hon. Gentleman well knew, bound up in separate parts. Still it seemed to afford strong reason for inquiry, but his reasons for inquiry were not exhausted. He came next to the correspondence upon the scales which was published in 1854, and which resulted in the circular from the Treasury, to which he had on several occasions alluded. His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford being then Chancellor of the Exchequer, determined to endeavour to ascertain what would be the best scale, if there were to be a large map, for the survey of England and Scotland, and with that view sent out upwards of 300 circulars to public bodies, engineers, surveyors, valuers, land agents, and others whose opinions were entitled to consideration. The replies returned were in favour of the 6-inch scale 32, in favour of the larger scale 120. He begged to call attention to the names of some of the public bodies who condemned the 6-inch and were favourable to a larger scale. Those names included the Registrar General, Copyhold, Enclosure, and Tithe Commissioners, the President of the Geological Society, the President of the Geographical Society, the Cathedral Commission, Society for Promoting the Amendment of the Law, Metropolitan Commissioners of Sewers, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the Poor Law Board, Highland and Agricultural Society, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Belper), the Commissioner of Woods (Mr. Gore), the Board of Supervision for Relief of the Poor (Scotland), the General Board of Health, the Statistical Society, the Statistical Conference (held at Brussels, 1853, Mr. Farr deputed by Government), Sir H. De La Beche, Messrs. Brunel, Stephenson, and Locke, Mr. Vignoles, Colonel Dawson (engineer to the Tithe, &c. Commission), Lord Ross, Lord Wrottesley, Lord Beaumont, Mr. Coulson, Mr. Bellenden Ker (Titles Registration Commissioners), and Mr. Warburton. The substance of those replies supported the view that, however applicable the 6-inch scale might be to the large properties, large counties, large estates, and large holdings, when they came to smaller divisions, such as the 40s. freeholders in England and the £10 franchise in Scotland, they must have recourse to a larger scale. Mr. Griffith, who was engaged in the valuation of Ireland, was obliged to enlarge the 6-inch maps when he came to the smaller parishes and parishes where the division of property was more minute. The same had been the result in the Encumbered Estates Court. Colonel Dawson, the engineer to the Tithe Commission, stated that— For rating purposes in England and for valuation every separate parcel of land or tenement, however small, is required to be accurately drawn upon the plan, and to have marked within its limits a reference number to an accompanying terrier; those numbers consisting very commonly of three or four figures, and possibly of five or six. It is, moreover, indispensably requisite that the exact acreage, as for buying and selling, should be obtained by admeasurement within the limits of each parcel or tenement upon the plan; and no surveyor, valuer, land agent, or other person employed in the management and transfer of land in England would admit the sufficiency of a smaller scale than twenty inches to the mile for ascertaining' the areas with the degree of minuteness required. Mr. Griffith, in the correspondence of 1854, said:— In making the tenement valuation, I find the 6-inch scale sufficient for determining the area of tenements not less than one acre, measuring from the paper; when the area is less than one acre, its contents is ascertained by measurement in the field. For valuation purposes, for the transfer of property, for the registration of assurances, it was important that they should be able to measure the area on the paper without reference to the property, and that the map should be of a size to admit of five or six figures of reference being inserted and accurately read. The blue-book was full of evidence given by persons most conversant with the subject, and tending uniformly to show that in England and Scotland a survey should be made much larger than that of six inches to the mile. The Board of Supervision for the Relief of the Poor in Scotland, of which Sir J. M' Neil was the able head, expressed an opinion that it was most important for valuation purposes, and the purposes of the board, that there should be maps of from twenty to twenty-six inches to the mile. Since the subject had been under discussion, a Valuation Act for Scotland had passed, and he believed the Lord Advocate would confirm his statement, that for the purposes of that Act such maps would be extremely valuable. The head of the Poor Law Board gave evidence to the same effect. They were empowered to order maps to be made. They were unable to avail themselves of the 6-inch maps, and when they ordered any, they ordered them on the larger scale. It was the same with the Tithe, Enclosure, and Copyhold Commissioners. From the Commissioners of Woods they had instances of the disadvantages of not possessing a plan sufficiently large. There was a Crown estate at the mouth of the Humber. They could make no use of a 6-inch plan, which was in existence in Yorkshire, and had to survey upon the larger scale. The same was the case with regard to the drainage of Windsor Park. He could keep the House for a week listening to extracts to prove that in England and Scotland for valuation purposes it would be advantageous to have a map much larger than six inches to the mile. In the blue-book would also be found the strongest evidence from Mr. Bellenden Ker, and the other authorities who had been consulted, that it was essential, with reference to the transfer of property and the registration of assurances, there should be a larger map than one of that size. He had delayed the House at such length because he wished it to feel that the decision to which it came the other day upset the 25-inch scale, which would have been perfect for all purposes where a map or plan could ever be used, and that if no further inquiry were instituted the survey of the rural districts would proceed upon the 6-inch scale. He did not deny that the 6-inch scale had its merits. It had succeeded in Ireland for the purposes to which it was applied in that country, and, as the son of a landed proprietor in the Lothians, where all the divisions were large, it would be more convenient to him to have a plan of his estate upon that scale than upon any other. But when they came to great national purposes—such as valuations, registration, and transfer of property—they must adopt a larger scale than six inches to the mile if they wished to make the survey useful. He could understand the views of those who said that a 1-inch map was all that the nation should be required to make. He did not deny the beauty and advantages of such a map; but they ought to bear in mind that the principle of a property survey—and by that term he meant a survey for great public purposes,—was adopted in Ireland in 1824, and that it was extended to England and Scotland in 1840, when it was resolved to proceed upon the 6-inch scale. Moreover, such an amount of work had been done upon a larger scale than one inch to the mile, and the advantages of the enlarged scale were so fully appreciated by the public that he believed it impossible to revert to a 1-inch map alone. The Government of Lord John Russell tried to do so in 1851, but the administration of Lord Derby, which succeeded, found that they could not abide by the decision of their predecessors, and they were obliged to depart from it in consequence of the memorials they received from all parts of the country praying for a larger scale. In the same manner the Ministry of Lord Aberdeen found it impossible to revert to the 1-inch scale. Upon his own suggestion— for at that time he held an office in the Treasury—a circular was sent to all the most competent authorities in Great Britain with a view of ascertaining what, in their opinion, was the best scale, and the result he had already detailed to the House. So great and universal, indeed, was the demand for large plans, that no Government could take their stand upon a 1-inch map alone; and, seeing that the difference of cost between the 6-inch scale and the 25-inch scale was a mere trifle—something like three farthings an acre in the cultivated districts, the total difference upon the whole of England and Scotland being £230,000, and upon the unsurveyed districts of the north of England and Scotland only £30,000—he thought it would be unwise economy not to spend a little more in order to get a really useful map. England was not so poor that it could not afford to spend £230,000—spread, if they pleased, over ten or twenty years—upon a map which, in the opinion of all the most competent authorities whom the Treasury had consulted, was essential, if they wished to have a map practically useful for the national purposes of the valuation and registration of property. At the same time, England was not rich enough to spend £2,000,000 (which would be the cost of the 6-inch map for the whole of England and Scotland) for a map which might to a certain extend be useful, but which the authorities united in declaring would not be sufficiently large for any practical purpose. He did not ask the House to negative the 6-inch scale. He did not, indeed, submit any proposition with respect to scales at all. That was not a question for the House to decide, because it was of a technical, scientific, and practical nature, and as such the Treasury, feeling its incompetence, had been obliged to refer it to acknowledged authorities. He warned them not to be led away by professional opinions which might be given in that House. There had always been a jealousy on the part of the civil engineers towards the Ordnance with respect to this question of survey. The civil surveyors had uniformly endeavoured to get the work into their own hands, and were naturally vexed that the Ordnance-office should be allowed to proceed with it. But this great national work was undertaken by the Government corps of engineers. Commenced in the last century it had proceeded gradually and slowly over the length and breadth of England under the same superintendence. The civil engineers were naturally anxious that the survey should be limited to as small a scale as possible, because the more that was left undone the more would remain for them to do. Mr. Jones, the Cathedral Commissioner, in his reply to the Treasury circular, said that he was in favour of a map upon the scale of 26⅔ inches to the mile, that being the scale which the civil engineers always adopted, though it would appear that they locked up their maps in order that they might be employed to make fresh surveys upon different scales. Any professional opinion, therefore, which might be given upon this question must be taken cum grano salis. He trusted he had said sufficient to induce the House not to take any hasty or irrevocable step with respect to the scale or scales upon which the survey should be made. The question was already in a state of great confusion, and he believed that by referring it to a fair, impartial, and competent tribunal, they would adopt the only practical issue out of their difficulties. The most fair and competent tribunal to which it could be referred would be a Royal Commission properly constituted. Do not let a single Scotchman be upon the Commission, but let it consist of such men as his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University, the hon. Member for Sheffield, the hon. Member for West Surrey; or, in the other House, Lord Eversley, Lord Belper, Lord Rosse, and Lord Wrottesley. It would be only fair to exclude civil engineers, but the Commission ought to have the services of some scientific man, such as the Astronomer Royal. If the Commission were properly constituted he had no doubt that the inquiry would be a fair and searching one; and in that event he would be content never to open his lips again upon this subject, but to abide by the decision of the Commissioners. Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the present position of the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, the Survey on the six-inch Scale ought not to be proceeded with without further inquiry; and this House is of opinion, that an humble Address should be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to be graciously pleased to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole subject of the National Survey, and report upon the Scale or Scales on which it should be made and published," instead thereof.


My noble Friend has thrown out challenges right and left. He has challenged the Irish Members, he has challenged my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, he has challenged the civil engineers who are Members of this House. Now, I hope none of these parties will accept the challenge of the noble Lord. It is no disparagement to the courage of any man that when he is engaged in the performance of public duties, or is about to be called upon to do so, he should, for the moment at least, decline any private challenge that might be tendered him. We are met this night to enter upon the performance of a public duty far more important than any discussion upon the 25-inch scale, the 6-inch scale, or the 1-inch scale. We are anxious to go into Committee of Supply in order to determine the expenditure of the country, and really I do hope that we shall not have a renewal of the discussion; about the 25-inch or any other scale, which, if once begun, would probably occupy the whole night. I hope the House will be satisfied with having indulged my noble Friend with what, no doubt, was his real object, to vindicate the character of his countrymen from any charge of selfishness, or that their desire for the larger survey arose from other motives than those which should guide all public men in their advocacy of public measures. He has also stated again, in great detail, the reasons which he gave the other evening in support of his own opinions, and I am bound to say that in many of them I agree with him, for the House will excuse me for saying that I believe the decision it arrived at the other evening was a wrong one. But, nevertheless, there is that decision, and whether it was based upon full examination and careful deliberation, or founded upon prejudice and superficial impressions, it is not for me to inquire. The House determined by a majority that the 25-inch survey should not be continued or published. That decision we adopted, and by it we are bound to abide. My noble Friend purposes, with a view to the reversal of that decision and the re-establishment of the 25-inch scale of survey, that all surveys of any kind should be at once stopped, the officers and men engaged upon them should be paralyzed until a Commission, which he suggests, shall have reported to the Government, and the Government shall have laid the Report before this House in the next Session. By that proceeding many months would be wasted, all the persons now engaged in these surveys must be kept in idleness at a great expense or be discharged; and in the latter case, it would be found necessary, when the work was recommenced, to reorganize the staff, at great cost and labour, and after all, with a great risk of inconvenience, from the ignorance of the persons employed. It is impossible, therefore, for me to agree with the Resolution proposed by my noble Friend—that is, as to the first part of it. If he will consent to strike out all the first portion of the Resolution, and, not to-night, but on some future occasion, would propose a simple address to the Crown to appoint a Commission to inquire into this matter, I should have no objection to offer to such a proposal. Every one must admit there have been so many changes of decision, so many plans adopted and abandoned, perhaps I may be permitted to add, so much tergiversation upon the question of these surveys, that it may be desirable to have a Commission properly constituted to inquire into the whole matter, and to endeavour to educe some order out of this seeming chaos. However that may be, it would be highly inexpedient to stop all proceedings until the Report of that Commission shall have been read, and still more inexpedient would it be to raise at this time a debate upon these surveys, which would certainly entail the loss of this night, as far as the Committee of Supply is concerned. I entreat the House, therefore, not to be drawn into a discussion, however tempting the occasion may be, but hope they will allow this matter to drop for the present, and proceed at once with the business of the evening.


said, he believed his noble Friend (Lord Elcho) would be much mistaken if he suffered himself to think that the House was prepared to sanction the suggestion thrown out by the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) towards the close of his address. All the inconvenience which the noble Lord had pointed out as likely to follow from the adoption of the course proposed by his noble Friend must inevitably be produced by the adoption of that recommended by the noble Lord himself; and he (Lord J. Manners) rose for the purpose of stating, that upon that, or upon any other occasion, he should feel it his duty to oppose any attempt to reverse the decision at which the House had arrived the other evening in reference to that question.


observed, he was quite prepared to accede to the suggestion of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and to allow the challenge of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire to pass without notice, if the Government would declare that no Commission should issue upon this subject during the present Session. He must, however, be allowed to say, that any Commission nominated by Lord Panmure could only be intended as an evasion of the decision arrived at by the House on a former evening.


wished to know whether he had correctly understood an answer which had been given that evening by the Secretary for the Treasury, that whenever the engineers had commenced the survey of any county on the 25-inch scale, no matter how small the commencement had been, the survey of that county should be proceeded with on the same scale.


said, he believed the Ordnance Department had put an erroneous construction on the division of the House the other evening. The opinion entertained at the Treasury upon the subject was, that the 25-inch survey might be completed in those districts in which it had previously been commenced, but that it should not be adopted in any portions of the counties in which those districts were situated; and that opinion would be communicated by the Treasury to the Ordnance Department.


said, he thought there could be no doubt the object of the Motion was to reverse the decision to which the House had come on a former evening. If he was to understand that the Government intended to oppose that Motion he would not say one word; but if it was intended that hereafter the same Motion was to be brought forward without the same opportunity of resisting it that existed now, he should feel inclined to go on with the discussion at once.


We have moved that the Speaker do leave the Chair, in order that the House may go into Com- mittee of Supply. My noble Friend (Lord Elcho) has moved his Resolution as an. Amendment to that Motion. The Government support the original question. If my noble Friend should on some future occasion think fit to renew his Motion in its present or in a modified shape, of course ample opportunity will be afforded to all hon. members to state their objections.


The course I propose to take now is to withdraw my Resolution for the present, and to bring it forward on some future occasion. [Loud cries of "No!"]


said, as the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) had occupied one hour of the time of the House in introducing his Resolution, it was only fair that he should now submit it to the House.

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

Main Question put, and agreed to.