HC Deb 03 August 1860 vol 160 cc674-86

Order for Committee read.


said, he hoped that the House would allow them to go into Committee at once, and he should propose that they should only take the Vote which had been partly discussed in the morning. It would be impossible to do more; and hon. Gentlemen who had Motions on the Paper would perhaps at that hour (half-past eleven) think that it was too late to discuss those Motions with satisfaction to themselves.

House in Committee.


in the Chair.

Question again proposed, That a sum not exceeding £39,697, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Works and Expenses at the New Houses of Parliament, to the 31st day of March, 1861.


complained that the Vote was not prepared in a more business-like form; and he proceeded to criticise some of the details of it. There was a large sum amounting to several thousand pounds for the purchase of land, mixed up with the ordinary expenses for gas, and coal, and other things for the two Houses of Parliament. He would next advert to the "balances in the Exchequer," a matter which had been previously referred to. The Vote under this head last year was £58,000, but not a shilling of this had been spent, and, therefore, there was now in hand nearly £90,000 to meet an estimated expenditure of about 140,000. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had told them that the Government could not spend more than the total sum voted for the year; hut it was doubtful whether the right hon. Baronet, notwithstanding the attention he had paid to the question as a member of the Committee on Public Moneys, really understood the rule in regard to the balances which remained in the Exchequer. He wished distinctly to understand whether the Government, although asking for a new Vote of £39,000, actually had at their command the whole of the £58,000 voted last year.


said, he wished to direct attention to the estimate of £800 a piece for statues of the British Sovereigns, in a series, to be placed in various parts of the Palace of Westminster. He also wished to ask the First Commissioner of Works what chronological period the series was to embrace? Was it to begin with the Norman conquest, or did they intend to go back to King Arthur? It was proposed that commissions should first be given for two of these statues. What were the two statues to be commissioned, and by whom were they to be executed? At the morning sitting the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) had raised the question whether, among the series of British Sovereigns, there was to be a statue to Oliver Cromwell. The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner did not give a distinct answer to that question, but lie was understood to say that a certain Commission of the Fine Arts had recommended that there ought not to be a statue to Cromwell. He thought that that was the proper time to discuss this question before they embarked upon a large expenditure for statues of British Sovereigns; and, therefore, he wished to know whether Oliver Cromwell was to be included in that series. That was a question not only of art, but of a sentiment in the English mind. He thought there should he a statue of Oliver Cromwell. Whether it should be placed between Charles I. and Charles II. was a matter of taste. For his own part, he (Mr. James) thought, if it stood alone in solitary grandeur, it would be regarded as superior to all the Sovereigns. Unless he obtained a distinct reply, he should move to reduce the vote by £1,600.


said, he would not enter into an historical disquisition about Oliver Cromwell, who was undoubtedly a men of talent and genius, who did much to raise the power of this country, but, it must be remembered, that he was also a great tyrant. How any Gentleman, who prided himself on professing Liberal opinions, could praise Oliver Cromwell was most astonishing. What had he done? He had said "Take away that bauble." He had taken away that "bauble," shut up the House of Commons, and governed England by means of majors-general. Oliver Cromwell cut off the head of his Sovereign Charles I. because he said the King had betrayed the liberties of his country; but did Charles I. ever do anything against the liberties of the country compared with the act of Oliver Cromwell in shutting up the House of Commons? He cut oft the King's head because it was necessary to gratify his own ambition. He (Sir George Bowyer) said that Oliver Cromwell was a murderer, and if a statue of that man was placed in that building, it could only be regarded as a declaration against monarchical principle. He would be sorry to see in that House the statue of a man who murdered his Sovereign, and destroyed the Constitution.


said, he rose to call attention to an item of £4,000 for decorating the Palace of Westminster, respecting which he desired explanations, fie found that Mr. Maclise was employed to execute paintings in fresco for £5,300. The amount already voted was £2,500; less than that sum had been expended, and yet now £1,000 more was asked. Then for the Peers' corridor the estimate of works to he done was £4,800. The amount already voted was £3,000, the amount expended was only £1,800, and yet now the Committee was asked for £600 more on account. For the Commons' corridor there were votes somewhat similar. He thought these and other facts showed that the Fine Arts' Commission had money enough in band, and he would give three instances of the evils resulting from allowing them to have money on account. In 1848 the Fine Arts' Commission entered into an agreement with Mr. Dyce to paint a work in fresco for the Queen's robbing-room, for which he was to be paid £800 a year for six years, making altogether £4,800. That contract expired in 1854, but an additional year's time and a further sum of £600 were granted. Mr. Dyce, according to the Estimates, had been voted £5,400, but where was the fresco? And yet that gentleman had in the meantime executed a very important work for a church in Margaret Street. He did not wish to make any charge against Mr. Dyce, hut he did think it was Mr. Dyce's duty to execute the frescoes entrusted to him by the Government before he entered upon any other work. No private individual would dream of paying for work before it was done. What difference, then, ought there to be made in the payments by the nation? But he found upon examining the Report of the Fine Arts Commission, that they had a sort of suspicion that all was not right, for they made observations on Mr. Dyce, saying that lie had not done his work, and they hoped he would. Then, again, Mr. Herbert was to paint frescoes for the Peers' robbing-room, for £9,000 in nine years, ending in April, 1860; but, although Mr. Herbert had been voted £6,000, he (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) could find no frescoes. If anything happened to Mr. Herbert, how would the nation be placed with regard to the £6,000 already paid? Mr. Maclise was to paint the Painted Chamber in ten years, for which he. was to receive £9,000. In 1855 a Vote of £1,500 on account was taken, but Mr. Maclise became dissatisfied, and requested that the contract should be cancelled, which was done, and the £1,500 applied to painting certain "signs," called the "Tudor portraits, in the Painted Chamber, of which there were twenty-eight, and for which £70 each was paid. The House ought to be told under what authority money voted for one purpose had thus been applied to another. These "Tudor portraits" were the universal derision of every one connected with art. They were not the work of any painter, but were executed by the Kensington Museum—by the Head of the School of Design and his pupils—the head being taken from one portrait, the legs from another, and the coat from a third; a pasticcio, in fact, from different authorities, and fitted in to suit the absurd mediaeval decoration of that chamber. The Commons' corridor was to be painted by Mr. Ward, and the Peers' corridor by Mr. Cope. There were eight compartments in each corridor. By the original contract Mr. Ward was to paint eight oil pictures, at £450 each. In 1857 the Commission determined to change the pictures from oil paintings to frescoes, and that was accomplished by the payment of £600 a piece instead of £450, and by allowing Mr. Ward to retain the first oil-paint- ing executed for his own benefit. The result was, that there were now only three; frescoes in each corridor, which was equal I to £1,800. The amount already voted to Mr. Ward was £3,600, and a further sum: of £600 was now asked. He did not, however, believe that either Mr. Ward or any j other man could paint three frescoes between this and next year. Mr. Cope had painted three frescoes for the Lords' corridor, for which £1,800 had been expended, but the Fine Arts Commission had already got £3,000 for this corridor, and they ought to be satisfied with the money they still had in hand, without asking for £600 more. With regard to the Vote for the statues of British Sovereigns, it was desirable the House should have some information as to the manner in which they were to be erected. For himself, he was fearful lest they might repeat those medieval, dreadful objects now in the House of Lords. He was not prepared to state what those black gentlemen cost, but he believed it was £4,000, and anything more detestable in art could not be conceived. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works would tell the Committee that the statues should be erected by the best British artists in the best manner.


said, he believed that the Commission of Fine Arts was at the bottom of all this jobbing in the fine arts. The Commission had done no good, and the sooner it was abolished the better. Oliver Cromwell was a great man, and the memory of our great men was a sacred inheritance. To treat him as a tyrant and impostor was, he had thought, a symptom of a bygone period. A literary man of celebrity had recently collected his letter* and written a sketch of his life, and it was thought, had rescued his fame from those who had calumniated him. As Lord Protector, England never had a greater or more powerful ruler than the man who had extended his protecting hand to our coreligionists on the Continent. The hon. Gentleman who had contended that Oliver Cromwell ought not to have a statue, was an ardent admirer and defender of the paternal Government that prevailed in the Eternal City. [Sir GEORGE BOWTER: Hear, hear!] That hon. Gentleman was the champion of the most execrable system of Government that now prevailed on the face of the earth, except, perhaps, that of Naples. He trusted that the insurrection that had broken out in Sicily would spread to the mainland, and that an end would be put to the system of Government now prevailing in Naples.


remarked, that Oliver Cromwell was not a Sovereign, and no such office as Lord Protector was known to the laws of England. He had been looking to the statutes of the Parliament of Oliver Cromwell, and he found that the oath of allegiance was abolished, and the oath ordered to be taken by any freeman admitted to his freedom was that he would be "faithful to the Commonwealth." An ancestor of his had been legal adviser to General Monk, and he was of opinion that Oliver Cromwell never had been legally, properly, or in any sense Sovereign of this country. He had been head of the Commonwealth, and be trusted that his statue would not be placed among those of British Sovereigns. Let his statue be placed elsewhere, among those of the very greatest men that England had ever possessed; but there were many considerations that rendered it highly improper to place his statue among the crowned heads.


said, he hoped that on the 3rd of August, and at that hour (midnight), the House would not enter into a discussion upon Oliver Cromwell. The Fine Arts' Commission had recommended that certain portions of the building should contain statues of the Sovereigns of this country. The Report of the Commission did not, however, give a list of them; and different opinions had been expressed as to whether Oliver Cromwell was to be reckoned to have been during his supreme rule one of the Sovereigns of this country. The question did not, however, press for a decision, because the proposition of the Fine Arts' Commission was that the artists should begin with the later Sovereigns, William IV. and George IV., and go backwards. Proceeding in that manner, at the rate of two Sovereigns a year, a considerable time would elapse before they reached the Commonwealth. The artists who were to execute these statues were Mr. Thornyeroft and Mr. Theed. The Fine Arts' Commission was composed of men whose names would carry the greatest weight on such subjects; and upon their recommendations this Vote was framed. It was usual for private individuals, who gave commissions to painters, to pay them a sum of money at the commencement of their work, and another sum at its conclusion. This enabled them to obtain their pictures for a less amount than if they made no such advance. A similar rule had been adopted by the Fine Arts Commission; their practice being to give the artist a sum of money when the cartoon was completed, and before the painting was executed on the wall. Mr. Herbert was to receive £6,000 for four pictures which he bad in hand. He had already received £3,500; and, although he had executed very little on the wall, he had given three or four years of intense labour to the composition of these works, and had produced very noble cartoons, which were of themselves worth all the money. They could not deal with men of artistic genius, who threw their whole souls into the it work, as with a contractor for a building, who was limited in respect to the time in which he should finish his contract. Mr. Herbert bad devoted himself exclusively to these Pictures, and had refused other orders, being anxious to produce something which should be worthy of the place in which it was to be put, and hand his name down to posterity. To tie him down, therefore, as to the time, would be to deprive themselves of the benefit of his sustained thought and study. So, again, with Mr. Maclise, who, though perhaps he had not advanced quite so rapidly in his work as might have been anticipated, had yet bestowed immense labour upon it, and was executing paintings that would uphold his great reputation. Mr. Dyce might not have devoted himself to his work so exclusively as Mr. Herbert and Mr. Maclise; but ho also had finished his cartoon, which was the result of great labour and skill. With regard to the Tudor portraits, they might be obnoxious to those who were exclusively devoted to the Classic period; but they had been copied very carefully from valuable originals; and their production had been useful in forming a school of young artists, whom it was desirable to accustom to minute and faithful drawing. With regard to the state of the cash balance, to which an lion. Member (Mr. A. Smith) bad referred, there was, on the 31st of March, 1859, £96,000 in the Exchequer, and taking, also, what was in the Paymaster-general and Sub accountant's hands, that gave £107,000 standing to the credit of the new Houses of Parliament. The important thing was to know how far the balance was available. It was clearly available for the purposes to which it was devoted; and it would lead to the greatest irregularity and confusion in the accounts, if the residue of the Vote of last year were mixed up with the present vote. The right course was to pay over any unexpended sum to the Consolidated Fund. He thought it very convenient to have placed under a single head all the various items of expenditure upon the Houses of Parliament. During the first year of his term of office, the present Speaker lived in his own house, to which his own stables were attached. It was only lately that the official residence had been occupied by that right hon. Gentleman; and that it became necessary to provide stables for him. That arrangement was desirable on the score of economy, and it was proposed to purchase a site for the purpose in the neighbourhood of the House. He did not think the House would consider the sum placed in the Estimates too high for a site in that neighbourhood, where sites were very expensive. Due economy would be observed in the erection of the stable; and be would ho prepared afterwards to give a detailed account of the expenditure.


said, that as regarded the items for portraits of British Sovereigns, he hoped that if they were to proceed, they would begin at that period of our history when the Sovereigns engaged by statutes to defend the rights of their subjects, and he believed that the fresco on which Mr. Herbert was engaged would exceed in merit any we had ever seen in Italy.


said, he thought it was time they came to a vote. He should therefore move that the £4,000 fur divers works be totally omitted. They had already spent too much money about the lobbies of that House, and among the items included in the Vote he would reduce was the sum of £1,600 for statues. He could by no means give his consent to enter upon a new course of expenditure, which he considered this to be. Another item was the two sums of £600 for what was going on in the corridors.


said, that the Vote should be taken first upon the first item of the £1,600 for the two statues of William IV. and George IV.


said, he would certainly Vote for the reduction. Had it been proposed to commence with our early monarchs, some scope might have been given to the fancy and genius of the artist, but with all his loyalty to the House of Brunswick, he must protest against pigtails and pigtail statues. He trusted they would not continue encumbering the corridors of Parliament with statues which had cost a great deal of money, which were no credit to the country, and which had already drawn down ridicule on the ornamentation of the House.


said, he hoped, with a view to reason, propriety, and the interests of art, that this matter would be reconsidered. So far a3 the wish to convert Oliver Cromwell into a Sovereign was concerned, he was afraid there was no possibility of giving it effect, inasmuch as no process of reasoning could alter the fact that he was not a Sovereign. He would further observe that, considering bow much more than one of our monarchs cost us in their lifetime, £800 a piece did not seem so large a sum to expend upon erecting statues of them when dead; but before a project of that nature was sanctioned by the House, the Government ought to bring to bear upon it more intelligent consideration than it was evident they had done. Hon. Members ought to know what was to be the character of the works for which the Vote was asked—whether they were to be in the mediaeval style of art; for if so ho thought it would be found that the House was sick of works of that description, as represented by the miserable images which were stuck upon the walls of the House of Lords.


said, the Committee were very naturally alarmed at the idea of assenting to a scheme to erect statues to the very formidable number of English Sovereigns. He would admit that much consideration was desirable before they pledged themselves to so large an expenditure as would be requisite in order to carry out that object. He begged, at the same time, to remind the Committee that the effect of passing the Vote as it stood would simply be to sanction the erection of statues to two of our latest Sovereigns, and that they would not in any way be bound by taking that course to proceed with the whole series, if hereafter it should be deemed expedient to stop at a certain point. He might add, that he was assured by his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works that the architectural arrangements to be made in connection with those statues would not require that more than four of them should be erected. In reply to the appeal which had been made to him to resist any further expenditure in the direction which was proposed by votes he would merely observe that, while he did not hesitate to admit that the ornamentation of the Houses of Parliament had been in many instances enormously and ludicrously overdone, yet a distinction might very properly be drawn between works of art and those which were purely of an ornamental character. As Mr. Herbert had been alluded to in the course of the discussion, he might state that he was of his own knowledge aware that that Gentleman had devoted the great bulk of his time for some years past to the collection of materials and the institution of inquiries with the view of rendering the work on which he was engaged as accurate as possible; and that he had, moreover—and no doubt something of the same kind must have occurred in the case of Mr. Dyce—left several private commissions unexecuted for the last twelve years, in consequence of the earnestness with which his attention was directed to the one great task which he had undertaken in connection with the Houses of Parliament.


reminded the right hon. Gentleman that the words contained in the Vote were "for the purpose of erecting statues to the British Sovereigns in series;" so that, if the present Vote were agreed to, and two statues as the result erected, the Committee would find it extremely difficult to halt in the course on which they would have entered, or to refuse their consent to Votes for the completion of the series in future years. With regard to the fresco paintings on the execution of which Mr. Herbert was employed, there could be no doubt that a good deal of time and labour had been expended upon them by that Gentleman, while Mr. Dyce had not, he thought, done so well in these respects as the House had a right to anticipate. But, be that as it might, our great painters of the present day were not, he should contend, able to complete works in fresco fit to adorn the walls of the Houses of Parliament; the fact being that those which had already been placed there had better be erased. The only fresco, indeed, executed in this country which he believed likely to last as a great work of art was that of Mr. Watts.


said, that the original intention was to have statues of the whole series of English Sovereigns, beginning with Egbert and Canute. Since that proposal was made in the year 1845 the opinion of the House and the Government had changed, and it was now intended to have only four statues, one at each corner of the Royal Gallery. Under these circumstances he should be willing to withdraw this item with the view of considering whether some selection of Sovereigns could not be made which would be generally acceptable to the House.

Motion made, and Question, That the item of £1,600, for Statues of British Sovereigns in series, to be placed in various parts of the interior of the Palace of Westminster, be omitted from the proposed Vote.

Put, and agreed to.


moved the omission from the Vote of the sum of £1,200 for the Lords' and Commons' corridors.


said, he thought that, after the candid manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had treated the House, it would hardly be fair to reject this item. If it was agreed to, they might have a picture of Oliver Cromwell before they had a statue of George IV.

Motion made, and Question put, That the item of £1,200, for Fresco Paintings in the Peers' and Commons' Corridors, be omitted from the proposed Vote.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 44; Noes 67: Majority 23.

Original Question, as amended, again proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £37,997, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Works and Expenses at the New Houses of Parliament, to the 31st day of March, 1861.


said, that on the 31st of March, 1859, there was in the Exchequer a balance of £25,000 upon this Vote. There was now, in addition, the whole of last year's Vote. He wished to know whether the Government had surrendered any part of that balance?


asked whether the accounts for the building of the Houses of Parliament were now closed and settled. He wished to know whether all the debts were paid, and, if not, the amount of those which were outstanding, distinguishing between the money which was still in the Exchequer and that which had been drawn out and issued to the Pay-office.


said it was an entire mistake to suppose that because a balance remained over from one year to the other it could be applied to any purpose other than that for which it had been voted. These unexpended balances were either spent for the purpose for which they had been voted, or, according to the usual course, if it were found at the end of three years that the amount was not required, it was considered as forfeited, and was surrendered back into the Exchequer. Without inquiring into the particular items, he could not undertake to state the exact sum which remained in the Exchequer, or had been issued to the Pay-office; but ho was able to say generally that the whole expenditure on the Houses of Parliament had been as nearly as possible completed. The Committee appointed during the Session to investigate the accounts had recommended a very material improvement, which consisted in printing along with the Estimates the amount of the unexpended balances, and he would take care that the suggestion should be faithfully acted upon.


said, the explanation of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, as far as it went, was satisfactory; but he had not answered the exact question addressed to him. He found in the Estimates sums taken for particular objects last year, and other sums for similar purposes were included in this year's accounts, though not a single penny had been drawn on account of these items in the meantime. He wished to know out of what funds these amounts had been paid. £7,600 was voted last year for casual and internal repairs; only £5,000 was asked for this year, but not a single sixpence of the former amount had been drawn. In the same way £4,900 was taken last year for warming and ventilating, and £4,300 was asked for this year, though the amount voted last year remained untouched. For the supply of gas £5,000 was now required, though £5,800 granted last year was still unexpended. These sums must all have been paid out of the unexpended balances of a former year, and what he objected to was, that the Government should ask for money for the same purpose for which they already had funds in their hands.


said, the Estimates were often not voted till August, though the financial year began in April, and in the interval it was requisite that the amount should be paid out of the unexpended balances of the previous year. The accounts were then got into order again by voting in the Estimate sums which had already been so paid out of those balances.


said, he thought the question might safely be left in the hands of the Government, after the precaution which the Committee had adopted and the assurance given by the Secretary to the Treasury.


said, he had been very much astonished to find that the cost of fuel, gas, and lighting for the House of Parliament was nearly £10,000 a year. Having applied to Mr. Goldsworthy Gurney for an explanation, he found that this outlay was not consequent on the new scheme of ventilation, but was mainly due to the quantity of fuel burnt to counteract the bad system of chimneys, by which every one of the residences connected with the House was completely spoiled. He wished to know whether it was not possible to devise some plan by which the annual consumption of £2,000 worth of fuel, merely to make a draught, might be rendered unnecessary.


said, he had given much consideration to the subject, and he had asked Mr. Goldsworthy Gurney to make a Report on the best means of getting rid of the smoke. He entertained great hopes of a successful result.


asked, out of what fund the salary of the superintendent of warming and lighting, which did not fall due till October or January, and which ought to be taken out of the Vote for the year, had been defrayed.


asked, what was to be done with the great bell? It had been a perfect nuisance to the whole Metropolis, and he hoped would never be used again for striking the hours.


said, he trusted that the bell would be kept quiet, at all events during the sitting of Parliament.


said, the Bill was irretrievably cracked, and he had no proposition to make with respect to another. The quarter bells would be used in future.

Motion made, and Question put, That a sum, not exceeding £37,997, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Works and Expenses at the New Houses of Parliament, to the 31st day of March, 1861.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 32; Noes 60: Majority 28.

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £37,997, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Works and Expenses at the New Houses of Parliament to the 31st day of March, 1861.

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported on Monday next; Committee to sit again on Monday next.

House adjourned at a quarter before Three o'clock till Monday next.