HC Deb 20 August 1860 vol 160 cc1590-601

Resolutions (Supply) reported.

(26.) £15,000, National Gallery Improvements.


said, he would not allow this Vote to pass unchallenged, notwithstanding that the House had agreed to it by a small majority. All he (Mr. Coningham) asked was that there should be a postponement of this matter till next Session, when a consideration of the whole question would take place, and when the matter came to be inquired into it would, he believed, be found that the present scheme would satisfy no one. The grant of £15,000 would be insufficient for the improvement of a Gallery worthy of the national pictures, and the scheme would be inadequate to meet the views of the Royal Academy. He had been charged with having no other propositions, but he would venture to say that his proposal was a clear, distinct, and economical one—his proposal was that the Royal Academy should be removed from the National Gallery, and the whole of the building given up for the public pictures and for the purposes of a National Gallery. If the Royal Academy had really fulfilled the purposes for which they were intended, that of cultivating and promoting the fine arts in this country, he should see no reason for removing them from Trafalgar Square; but Academies in general, and the Royal Academy in particular, were founded upon the patronage of Princes, and the management of them always fell into the hands of the directors, who naturally regarded the interests of their own body, instead of keeping in view the interests of the artistic world and of the public. Though therefore the Royal Academy might originally have contained some eminent men, the object of the Academy had wholly failed, and therefore he was justified in asking for their removal from the national building. The Royal Academicians were at present only tenants at will, but he believed their real object to be to get possession of the fee-simple of the whole building. In discussing these questions he had always found the Chancellor of the Exchequer ready to agree with him on principle, but when they came to details the right hon. Gentleman invariably voted against him. It reminded him of the nobleman whose benevolence was so very diffusive that it was never found possible to concentrate it on one object.


thought his hon. Friend laboured under a misapprehension as to the facts of the case. Upon the one point he believed they were generally agreed—namely, the advantage of the study and cultivation of the arts by the members of the Royal Academy. That was a question which came practically into the discussion. The hon. Gentleman wished a postponement of the whole question to another year. The "whole question," however was the removal of the Royal Academy elsewhere. Now, that the Royal Academy should go elsewhere, was, he apprehended, a question already decided. The material point to be determined upon was where they were to go. The arrangement now making involved the intention of appropriating the whole of the building to the national pictures. If the Royal Academy had constructed a new building and were prepared to remove to it immediately, the National Gallery would then be given up altogether to the national collection. But even under such circumstances what they were now doing would be absolutely necessary for the national collection. So far, then, as they had proceeded, they had done nothing which precluded the carrying out the arrangement that was so much desired by the hon. Gentleman. The sum voted would render the building better adapted than it now was to the purposes of a national gallery.


said, it appeared to him that the noble Lord did not put the matter very clearly before the House. It was satisfactory, however, to hear the noble Lord say that the Royal Academy was to be removed, and that they were not to occupy the building in Trafalgar Square longer than could be avoided. As it was orginally constructed it was to be adapted wholly to the National Gallery. The wall in front was only intended to be temporary. By the removal of that wall the whole building could be rendered completely applicable to its original purposes, if the Royal Academy were removed from it. If they were turned out of it they would soon find a place to locate themselves in, as the Society was in the possession of plenty of funds.


said, that when the National Gallery was first built it was too large for the pictures, and the Royal Academy was allowed the use of one half of it. Since then the national collection had so much increased that they had bad to build a second National Gallery at Kensington for their reception—thus dividing the collection. The iron buildings that had been there constructed were found injurious to the pictures, and they would have to be removed. They would, however, do for students and schools of art, and he suggested that the pictures should be taken to the National Gallery, and the Royal Academy be allowed the use of the buildings at Kensington. By this arrangement we should have one National Gallery, and all the schools of art would be under one roof.


said, that the question had been settled by the House, but he regretted that it had been settled before the Correspondence moved for by the hon. Member for North Staffordshire had been laid before the House. It would then have been seen that Captain Fowkes' plan was much better than that which had been resolved upon. They might find afterwards that the £15,000 was misspent, instead of adapting a permanent building at a smaller cost.


was sorry that hon. Members who now expressed regret that this question was settled were not here on Saturday to diminish the small majority of the Government. The question, however, had been on Saturday put so fairly before the House and the country that he for one was quite content to leave it there. He was happy to hear the noble Lord distinctly say that he considered this question of the removal of the Royal Academy a settled matter. They had, however, heard that said so often that he for one could place but little faith in it.

(37.) £75,000, Civil Contingencies,


said, that this Vote had been passed in such haste that he had had no opportunity of stating his objections to it. He had intimated to the Secretary of State his opinion that the House should receive some explanation of the sum of £3,668 17s. 0d. charged for expenses incurred in the preparation of the Reform Bill of 1859. That sum was paid to a firm of Parliamentary agents, Messrs, Baxter and Co., although a counsel received £2,000 a year for drawing Government Bills, and a vast deal of the duty of drawing similar Bills was always understood to devolve upon the law officers of the Crown. This was one of the most monstrous charges he ever knew. The Bill, he would admit, was well and ably drawn, and in that respect came out in strong contrast to that of the present Government. Still, he believed such a thing had never been done before as to transfer to a firm of Parliamentary agents the responsibility of drawing a Bill that was supposed to amend the constitution of the country. There was another item to which he must refer, and which related exclusively to Her Majesty's present Government. The present Government had made no charge for drawing their Reform Bill, and he did not wonder at it, for any special pleader would have drawn a Bill in the same style for three or four guineas. There was, however, an extraordinary charge of £2,622 for collecting statistics, to satisfy an order of the House of Commons, of the number of male occupiers in the Parliamentary boroughs. This was the Poor Law Return that was to be the basis of the Reform Bill; the Return was challenged as having been incorrect, and it turned out to be utterly fallacious; for, although the noble Lord the Member for the City of London said that the objections to the Return were ludicrous, a Committee was appointed by the ether House to consider the subject, and they found that the Return was useless as a basis for a Reform Bill. Some explanation was required on this point. He would proceed to other items included in the Vote. He found in these Civil Contingencies a Vote of £11,000 for entertainments to distinguished persons. Here was an item for entertainment to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on board the Terrible, on going to the Ionian Islands, of £56 5s. Then came an item for entertainment to the King of the Cannibal Islands—he begged pardon—the King of the Sandwich Islands. Now, he would confess he would rather spend money in "the feast of reason and the flow of soul" with the right hon. Gentleman than with the latter potentate; but, while the cost of entertaining the right hon. Gentleman was £56 5s. 0d., the cost of entertaining the King of the Sandwich Islands was £65 4s. 0d. Some explanation should be given in reference to these extraordinary items. He must say these Estimates had been passed in a most unsatisfactory manner. The Government had postponed them until so late a period that it was impossible to consider them satisfactorily. Sometimes they were considered in so thin a House that scarcely forty Members were present. [Mr. BRAND: Oh!] It was all very well for the Secretary to the Treasury to cry "Oh!" for when a division was coming the hon. Gentleman and his colleague went out through that door like peripatetic philosophers of the Porch, and very soon sent in a subterranean phalanx from the supper rooms. The hon. Gentleman's charming face beamed with the hope of success at the door, and Members came in to vote for the Government who had not heard a word of the discussion. He thought the public mind would soon be excited very seriously on the question of our public expenditure. While a great responsibility devolved upon the Government for bringing in the Estimates so late, there were Members who filled those benches, and who talked very loudly of economy, retrenchment, and reform—and he referred particularly to some of the Manchester school—who left to twenty-five or thirty Members at the end of the Session the duty of exercising a vigilant control over public expenditure. When these hon. Members talked so loudly upon the hustings and at Manchester about economy and retrenchment, they ought not to desert the question of economy and retrenchment in that House when the Estimates came on for discussion.


said, he would endeavour to give an explanation of the particular items in the Vote for Civil Contingencies to which the hon. and learned Gentleman alluded, and for which the present Government were responsible. As regarded the item of £2,622 for collecting information in connection with the Reform Bill of this year, the House would recollect that the accuracy of the Returns already on the table had excited much interest, and was actually called in question. The right hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) moved for certain returns with the view of checking the Poor Law returns. Those returns related to the payment of the income and assessed taxes in different boroughs. As it was impossible to obtain the latter returns within the required time by the ordinary means, and the Government had no power over the parties to whom application would have to be made, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, deeming the subject to be one of such urgent importance, gave directions for the employment of the extra assistance which was needed in order to ensure their completion within the prescribed time. With respect to the entertainment of distinguished personages on board ship, the explanation was a very short one. It was customary to incur some expense in entertaining distinguished personages who, travelling for public objects, had obtained a passage on board one of Her Majesty's ships, and as the pay of captains in the navy was not such as would justify this extra outlay being thrown upon them, it had always been the custom to make a grant of public money to defray the expense. The only question was whether the personages alluded to in this instance were distinguished personages. Some people were born great, some achieved greatness, whilst others had greatness thrust upon them. One of these personages, however, undoubtedly came under the second class; for his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had achieved greatness. And he thought the King of the Sandwich Islands might be included under cither the first or the last of the definitions. He therefore thought the item could not be objected to. With respect to the sum of £3,600 for preparation of the Reform Bill of 1859, he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite could best give an answer to that question, for it would be seen by a reference to the Treasury Minute ordering that payment that it was dated June 13—some days before the present Government came into office, and therefore they were absolved from all responsibility. He could not, however, help remarking that the value of matters of this description was to be determined by two standards—namely, the amount of labour bestowed upon the article and the intrinsic value of the thing itself. Measured by the first of these he thought the charge could not be called excessive. The hon. Member had observed that the Government had salaried law officers to do this work; but a Reform Bill was a work of a very different character from that of drawing ordinary Bills. As an instance of the moderate nature of the charges made, he referred to one of £33 6s. 8d. for perusing 183 brief sheets, comprising seventeen different schemes of reform suggested to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other members of the Government from time to time. He could only say, as far as he personally was concerned, that if any one had requested him to place 183 brief sheets in his carpet bag by way of a little light reading, to be remunerated by a payment of £33, he should most respectfully have declined to perform the request. But with respect to the second standard—the intrinsic value of the article—that depended on a variety of esthetic considerations—it was very much a matter of taste. The hon. and learned Gentleman preferred the classic style and preferred to see the Goddess of Liberty unencumbered with superfluous drapery. But the Bill of 1859was a work of the Romantic school, emanating as it did from a Government who had in their Cabinet two distinguished authors of works of imagination. "Fancy franchises," too, were then in fashion, and the consequence was that the Bill was not so simple as it might have been. One effect of its introduction was the dissolution of Parliament. Another effect was one which all on that side of the House would rejoice at, and which many Gentlemen opposite would not deplore—it placed the helm of the country in the hands of his noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston). With respect to the charges of extravagance which had been made against the Government, it had been said by some of the patriotic guardians of the public purse, that Government had almost purposely delayed the introduction of the Estimates to the end of the Session, so that they might pass them without comment. Now, how stood the facts?—for it was right the public should be informed of the truth of the case. The Army and Navy Estimates were brought under discussion as early as February, and, indeed, none of the Votes were discussed at an unusually late period of the Session. The Vote for the fortifications was considered while the principal leaders of the various parties in the House were present, and was carried by a large majority. The Civil Estimates were all that remained to be disposed of; and he wished to remind the House, in reply to any charge of extravagance that might have been attempted against the Government, that whereas during the last ten years it had been customary to show an annual increase of £200,000 over the preceding year, this year there had been a positive decrease of £300,000; showing thus far a saving, as compared with past years, of £500,000. This would prove the Government had not been forgetful of economy. It would be recollected that a Commission had sat for the purpose of discovering how the Civil Service expenditure might be reduced, and the only reduction they had been able to recommend was one of a trifling character—namely £500 from the salary of the office he himself happened at present to fill—namely, the Secretary of the Treasury. He thought this formed a rather favourable contrast between the results of the labour of that Committee, insisted upon by the professed guardians of the public purse, and the practical result of the desire for economy evinced by the Government; it was £500 as against £500,000.


said, it appeared from the statement made to the House by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone, that the introduction of Reform Bills was an expensive amusement, and led to a great waste both of time and money. It appeared that the introduction of these two Reform Bills had cost the country £6,000 in money, and a considerable portion of two Sessions of Parliament, and the sacrifice of nearly every measure of public utility. In the present Session at least all the practical measures which would have done honour to the Session and the country had been passed over on account of the consumption of time in the discussion of the Reform Bill. For whom was this expensive amusement provided? The noble and hon. Gentlemen opposite, they all knew, wanted no Reform Bill, and on his (Mr. Malins') side of the House there was no very great desire on the subject. It was provided, then, for the special delectation of the hon. Member for Birmingham and some twenty Gentlemen below the gangway, and for their amusement these large sums of money were to be spent and the time of the country was to be sacrificed without any practicable result, The great advantage of past experience would be to induce the House to avoid similar errors for the future, and his object in rising was to express a hope that the noble Lord, after such bitter experience of the Reform Bill of this year, which had cost the country so much money and so much time, and which with universal satisfaction, excepting to the twenty Gentlemen below the gangway to whom he had alluded, had been withdrawn, would profit by past experience, and would not pester the House with a Reform Bill in the ensuing Session. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone said that any special pleader would have drawn a Reform Bill for three or four guineas. [Mr. JAMES: Such a one as the last]. Well, there was great simplicity in that Bill, but there was also a great deal of destruction, and he believed that all parties were now agreed that if a Reform Bill, such as the Government introduced, had passed, they might have bid adieu to the greatness of England. ["Oh!"] That was his opinion, and he ventured to say it was the opinion of an overwhelming majority of the people of England. ["Oh, oh!"] If it was not the opinion of the people of England how did they account for the fact that the hon. Member for Birmingham, and those few persons who cooperated with him and coincided in his views, had agitated the country without success? He was satisfied that what he was now saying had the general concurrence of the House—and with the exception of a very few Members of the House, there was a general desire that there might be no attempt to introduce another Reform Bill next Session, or indeed for some time to come. There were some things in the representation of the people which he should be glad to see altered, but he saw plainly that when a Reform Bill was introduced, it was an attempt to make such extensive alterations in the country that no one could foresee what the consequences might be, and the result of the discussions which had taken place in that House on this subject had led the country and the House to the conclusion that it would be unsafe in the present aspect of foreign affairs to embark in such an undertaking. Nothing, therefore, would give the people of the country greater satisfaction than to know that it was not the intention of the Government to make any attempt of this kind during the ensuing Session. He hoped that next year they might have an opportunity of applying themselves to practical legislation, because he ventured to predict that if the noble Lord introduced another Reform Bill like that introduced this year, months of time would be wasted, it would have the same result, and it would produce the same dissatisfaction in the country and amongst the Members of that House.


said, he did not expect hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches to encourage the noble Lord to introduce a Reform Bill, but as an independent Member he must express his belief that the noble Lord would retain his seat on the Treasury bench for a very short time unless he did introduce a Reform Bill. The total of the bill of Messrs. Baxter and Norton, the Conservative Parliamentary agents—£3,600 for drawing the Reform Bill last year—was very large, and he should move that the item be rejected. [An hon. MEMBER: The money has been paid.] He begged to refer to the right hon. Gentleman whether he had power to move the rejection of the present Vote.


The hon. Member can move the rejection of the whole Vote, or its reduction by the omission of any items.


moved that the Vote be reduced by £3,600.


said, the House was not called upon to vote anything upon this item. It was not a Vote. It was a mere explanatory account of the mode in which money formerly voted by the House had been laid out; but it happened that the account had been presented at the same time with Votes for other purposes prospectively to he met in the course of the current year, and any vote upon the particular payment of which the hon. Member complained would have no more effect than if the House were to oppose a payment made by Mr. Pitt at the time of the Revolutionary war. The payment might be the ground of impeachment, but it could not in any other way be questioned.


was surprised at the cowardice of the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) in not voting against the Reform Bill, if he thought it so destructive and revolutionary a measure. The Opposition Members made long speeches night after night, and indulged in the most lavish abuse of the hop. Member for Birmingham, although there had been a time when the Government of Lord Derby existed under his patronage, when private communications were made to him by Cabinet Ministers, and when a former Member of Lord Derby's Cabinet spoke of him in Leicestershire as "that most patriotic and exemplary Member of Parliament, Mr. Bright." It was very hard that the Members on the Ministerial side should he held responsible for the waste of time. Surely, hon. Members opposite were equally responsible, if not rather more so, because they had not the courage to vote against the Reform Bill.


said, he would withdraw his Motion, as no object could be gained, since the money had been paid.

(39.) £17,000, South Kensington Museum,


declared his determination to put a stop to this profligate expenditure by dividing the House upon the Vote.

Thirty-ninth Resolution read 2o.

Motion made, and Question put, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.

The House divided:—Ayes 60; Noes 21: Majority 39.

(40.) £80,117, Public Works (Ireland).


moved the omission of the item of £2,000 for the model school at Cork, the establishment of which, he contended, was contrary to the wishes of the most influential portion of the community of Cork. There was no necessity for the school; the wants of the inhabitants were amply supplied, and this would only be a rival to the existing schools.


said, he had already fully explained the reasons for proposing this Vote on Saturday last, when it was affirmed by a large majority. The proposal was based on a memorial which had been received from Cork, signed by a very large and influential body, including the Lord Lieutenant and Sheriff of the county and the Protestant Bishop of the diocese.


said, the Bishop of Cork had objected to the establishment of this school, and he, therefore, thought it impolitic to throw down an apple of discoid between the Roman Catholics and Protestants by persisting against such a dissentient in carrying out the project. He therefore most earnestly asked the right hon. Gentleman to refrain from pursuing such a course.


said, he believed the Mayor of Cork, who was a Liberal and a supporter of the Government, had withdrawn his vote in consequence of certain expressions that had been made use of by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland.


said, the engagement of the Commissioners to erect this model school was made some time ago, in answer to a very numerously signed requisition. No opposition was raised to the plan on that occasion, but he had since heard that it had been strongly objected to, on the ground that it would interfere with existing schools. With all deference, he believed that it would not have that effect; and, the engagement being made, and there being Protestants in Cork who were anxious for the establishment of the school, he saw no reason why they should be deprived of its benefits.


said, the requisition had been hawked round the city by those interested in the Queen's Colleges. The Irish Members had now nearly all gone home, but, if the question had been raised earlier in the Session, there would have been a very respectable minority against the Government.


contended that the House ought not to be bound by the engagement of the Commissioners, and this was not a sufficient reason for passing the Vote.

Fortieth Resolution read 2o.

Amendment proposed, to leave out "£80,117," in order to insert "£78,117,"—instead thereof.

Question put, "That £80,117, stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 13: Majority 45.

Resolutions agreed to,