HC Deb 20 August 1860 vol 160 cc1577-9

said, he rose to ask the First Commissioner of Works, Whether the Government will grant a Committee next Session for the purpose of inquiring into the Westminster Improvement Commission? He wished, in the first place, to call attention to the condition of Victoria Street. Any Gentleman who would take the trouble to turn his Steps in that direction would witness a scene of ruin and desolation which could not he paralleled in any other capital in Europe: houses half built, and more than half in ruin; plots of ground, that if a title could be made to them would be worth their surface covered with gold, now the receptacle of all the filth in the neighbour- hood, and the resort of the vice and degradation of that dense population. Surely the House would not allow this state of things to continue. The Commission was constituted in 1849, on certain conditions. The first condition to which the Commissioners were bound by the Act was, to make a direct communication between Pimlico and Westminster Abbey, and also to complete a spacious and convenient approach from that part of the town to the Houses of Parliament. He regretted to say that they had been prevented from carrying out the first condition by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. A corner of land had unfortunately been left in their hands, on which the Dean and Chapter had constructed a hideous building which looked like a nunnery outside, and was inside, he understood, a den of attorneys. Any one who looked down Victoria Street from Pimlico would scarcely believe but that a feeling of spite as much as cupidity had been the motive that induced the Dean and Chapter to shut up their noble cathedral and prevent it from being a grand and noble object in the future street. If the House did not consider the present disgraceful state of things a reason for interfering, surely the fact that £80,000 of the public money had been advanced would justify it in bringing a pressure to bear upon the First Commissioner of Works. The right hon. Gentleman might name a fresh Commission, or infuse some fresh blood into the present Commissioners, giving them the power of selling the land and half-finished houses and lodging the amount in the Court of Chancery, to be distributed as equity might direct. In any case, he trusted that this property would not be left in its present disgraceful state. If it were thought better to appoint a Select Committee, its inquiries should be carried further back than those of any former Select Committee, so that the gross dishonesty might be exposed which had occurred at the commencement of the Commission, and brought the undertaking to its present position. He wished to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman would consent to grant a Select Committee to inquire next Session into the proceedings of the Westminster Improvement Committee?


agreed with the hon. Baronet, that the present condition of Victoria Street was a most lamentable indication of the mismanagement of the building society known as the Westminster Improvement Commission. The Government had, however, no responsibility or control in the matter, nor had it taken any part in the affairs of the Commission. [Sir WILLIAM GALLWEY: They advanced £80,000.] He could not state what the Government would do next Session; all he could say was, that if the hon. Baronet made out a good case, and offered good grounds next Session for appointing a Select Committee, he for one would not offer any objection.