HC Deb 31 May 1858 vol 150 cc1201-4

Resolution 13 (Royal Parks, &c.)


said, he must express his regret at finding that no Vote was proposed to be taken for clearing out the Serpentine. After the success which bad attended the experiment with the ornamental water in St. James's Park, and the pumping power that was at his command, he hoped the noble Lord at the bead of the Board of Works would take this subject also into his consideration, and, seeing what a nuisance the Serpentine had become, owing to its filthy state, propose a vote of public money for the purpose of cleansing it out and rendering it more suitable as a bathing place for the numerous inhabitants of the metropolis who now resorted to its banks with that object in view.

Resolution 14 (New Houses of Parliament),


said, that as the House was aware, the original Estimate fur building the new Houses of Parliament was £704,000, and that the sum actually expended had now reached the enormous sum of £2,250,000. It was only by dint of constantly calling for information upon the subject that the House had been enabled to get at anything like a proximate idea of what the entire expenditure was likely to be. It was due to the late Sir W. Molesworth to state that he was the first who had endeavoured to place seine check on this excessive outlay by putting an end to the old system, and in March, 1855, he contrived to make an Estimate of what was the total amount then demanded for the completion of the works. That amount was calculated at £280,000. It was also true that that Right hon. Gentleman's successor (Sir B. Hall) had done his best to keep within that Estimate; and on the 30th of March, 1856, in answer to a question which he (Sir H. Willoughby) put to him, the Right hon. Baronet stated that the £280,000 would complete the expenditure. It now turned out, however, that the arrangement had been entirely departed from, and that the sums which had been voted far exceeded that amount; in fact, were nearly double £280,000. In the years 1855, 1856, and 1857, the sums of £112,000, £93,000, and £162,000, had been voted for the new Houses of Parliament, and finally there was the Vote before the House of £160,000, making altogether upwards of half a million of money. Thus, the understanding come to with the late Sir William Molesworth, and which the right hon. Member for Marylebone had done his best to carry out, bad been completely defeated. He now wished to elicit from the noble Lord at the head of the Board of Works a distinct promise that the Vote of £160,000 should complete the matter. At any rate he begged to give notice that if hereafter any Vote whatever was asked for in addition to the £160,00, and he had the honour of continuing to sit in that House, he would take the sense of the House upon the subject. For of this he was fully persuaded in his own mind, that unless the House had the courage and pluck to take that course, they would never hear the last of these expenses. Indeed, when the question was examined by a Committee of the House, the only consolation they received was a sort of joke from Sir C. Barry, that the naked Estimate of £700,000 would be clothed in two millions and a quarter. Well, it had since been clothed in two millions and a quarter, and they were going on even in advance of that, say what they would, he contended, that the manner in which the expenditure for the new Houses had been conducted reflected no credit upon the House of Commons as controllers of the expenditure of the public money; but he trusted that the noble Lord at the bead of the Board of Works would give them an assurance that no more money should be asked for on account of the new Houses. If it should be, he sincerely hoped the House would take the matter into its own hands, and refuse the money.


said, he could assure the House that the Vote he had now taken would really complete the Palace, as he had explained to the Committee on Friday last. Whatever further operations the House might afterwards think fit to undertake would be for new buildings. Indeed the £160,000 mentioned in the Resolution was not all required by Sir Charles Barry, whose Estimates for completing the new palace amounted to £68,000, in addition to which there were £4,000 for the completion of the clock tower, and £4,000 for other purposes, which raised the total to £76,000.


After what has fallen from the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir H. Willoughby) I fear no Motion for increase of expenditure upon the present Vote will be permitted. At the same time, having heard bitter complaints from many of the ladies of my own constituents and others, as no doubt most other hon. Members have, of the want of access to this House, owing to insufficient accommodation in the ladies' gallery, I would suggest to the noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, that by removing the screen which separates the gallery from the ante-room twelve or eighteen inches further back, at a cost, as I have ascertained, of about £200, double the number of ladies might be accommodated, namely, forty-two, instead of twenty-one as it is at present. Sincerely trusting the noble Lord will take the matter into his immediate consideration, I will not further urge the matter upon the attention of the House.


said, that much as their gallantry might lead them to study the convenience of the ladies, he thought that when they came to expend money for increasing the accommodation in the House, Members themselves ought to have the priority. Pretty as that House might be—he had heard it compared to a Swiss Cottage—no one who had had a seat in the old temporary House could fail to see that the accommodation now provided for hon. Members was scanty in comparison with that. In the old House there was a number of raised seats under the Speaker's gallery in full sight and hearing of all that was going on. The Members' gallery, too, was admirable, and there was access to it from within the House. Here, however, hon. Members must quit the House, go round a corner, and up a dark staircase, to get to the gallery. At the bar, too, there was much more accommodation provided; and he trusted that when his noble Friend took into consideration the subject of providing more accommodation he would, with all respect and deference for the ladies, think first of hon. Members.


said, he thought the House and the country ought to feel deeply indebted to his hon. Friend (Sir H. Willoughby) for calling attention to the important subject of the expenditure for the new Houses of Parliament, and he would follow up what had been stated by his hon. Friend by reminding the House of what it had been frequently reminded before, but in vain—namely, that whilst it was always ready to vote large sums of money for purposes which were comparatively trivial and frivolous it grudged those sums which were necessary for purposes of the most important national character. Without going into details, he thought it would be well for the House to remember that they were spending hundreds and thousands of pounds for buildings of a merely ornamental character; and that at a moment when it had been made known to them, through official channels, that the actual defences of the country were in a very incomplete state. For his part, he was of opinion that they ought to put a stop to such a comparatively useless expenditure, and lay out the public money upon objects which were more essential and important in a national point of view.

On the Motion that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply,