HC Deb 31 July 1861 vol 164 cc1806-13

Order for Third Reading read.


rose to put a Question, of which he had given notice, to the Se- cretary of State for War relative to the supplemental Volunteer Vote. He simply desired to elicit an explanation as to the manner in which this money was to be distributed, and what provision it was proposed to make for giving musketry instruction to Volunteer corps. The financial year of many corps commenced about this time, and in making their financial arrangements for the coming year it would be convenient to know what amount of grants would be allotted to them, either in "kind" or in money, for affording that instruction. He should not ask for any specific answer on the subject then, but should content himself with requesting that as soon as the details had been settled by the War Office, the Volunteer corps should be put in possession of the views and intentions of the Government in this matter. He desired to say that he thought the late Under Secretary for War (Mr. T. G. Baring) had rather a tendency to exaggerate the amount of assistance which was at present given by the Government to the Volunteer force, and he dreaded lest an impression might get abroad that they received more than they actually did. His hon. Friend had calculated that the Volunteers would receive, including the supplementary Vote, £190,000. He (Lord Elcho) did not think that the sum on account of Volunteers could be fairly put down at anything like that amount. In that sum was calculated £43,000 for the wear and tear of arms. But the House should bear in mind that at the time of the Crimean War the stand of arms in this country was so low that there was not 100,000 stand of arms over and above the arms in the hands of the troops employed in the different parts of this great empire. Therefore, a supply of arms was indispensably necessary, and it was rather hard to debit the Volunteers entirely with this large sum, which had been necessarily spent in putting in a stock of arms. It should also be remembered that if those arms did suffer a little more from being in use than if they were kept in the Tower, the Volunteers were obliged to repair any injury done to them at their own cost. They had also to provide an armourer, and pro tanto the Government were saved the custody of those arms. The Volunteers were also debited with £64,000 for ammunition. Now, he had calculated that about 140,000 Volunteers would draw that ammunition, and allowing ninety rounds per head, and putting that allowance at 4s., that would give £28,000 on 140,000 men, instead of £64,000. He desired on the part of the Volunteers to thank the Government for the assistance which they had already extended to them, and to express a hope that as soon as possible the scheme which they bad elaborated would be made public.


said, that at present Volunteer corps had not only to provide a store room for their arms, but also to pay an armourer to take charge of them, and this was a matter which he trusted would enter into the consideration of the Government. There were many battalions also which were composed of companies of Volunteers separated by long distances, who could only be brought together for the purposes of drill at the individual expense of the members, and ho thought something should be done to meet that case. Ho trusted that any arrangement which should be made for affording assistance to Volunteers would date from the commencement of the financial year. He was sure the country would gladly pay any slight increase of expense caused by this. With respect to rifle ranges, he thought Engineer officers might be employed with advantage in laying out these ranges. He suggested that the Government should take into consideration the giving assistance to Volunteer officers and Volunteers generally to avail themselves of the instruction at Hythe.


said, that he had much pleasure in answering the question, though he felt sure if the same question had been put to the Under Secretary when the Vote was proposed, the hon. Gentleman would have received an answer as satisfactory as those which he (Mr. Baring) had been in the habit of giving in discharging the business of his department. Of the £30,000 voted £10,000 was to be applied to the pay of adjutants, and £20,000 for drill sergeants. But this latter portion was, in fact, only for six months; therefore, it must not be considered to be merely a Vote of £20,000. If it had been taken for the whole year it would have been double that amount. The Vote had only been agreed to and reported a very short time, and there had not yet been sufficient opportunity of considering the regulations with respect to its expenditure. These were now under consideration, and would shortly be issued. When they were submitted to the public he trusted it would be found that proper discretion had been exercised in framing them.


thought, that both Parliament and the country would gladly have given their sanction to a larger Vote, and regretted that the Government should have been less generous than the House of Commons in dealing with the Volunteer force. Musketry instruction, which was quite as important as ordinary drill, would still have to be provided out of the private funds of the Volunteers. Ho hoped an addition would be made to the grant next Session.


trusted the House would permit him to take that opportunity, the last which would occur, to express his surprise and regret at the statement made by the First Commissioner of Works in the early part of the sitting with respect to the Embankment of the Thames. He had understood that the carrying out of so important an improvement as the Embankment of the Thames would be intrusted to the Metropolitan Board of Works; but it now appeared that the Chief Commissioner himself proposed to bring in a Bill on the subject, and that the Metropolitan Board were to be employed merely in the mechanical construction of the embankment. The Metropolitan Board had already resolved to examine the plans and bring forward a Bill themselves; so that if the Government persisted in their determination to take the matter into their own hands, unnecessary expense would be incurred by the preparation of two Bills. He protested, on behalf of the ratepayers of the Metropolis, against the proposal that the First Commissioner or the Government should decide what the plan ought to he, and that the Metropolitan Board should be treated like a parcel of masons. Nobody had seen the plan recommended by the Royal Commissioners, and for his own part he was entirely ignorant whether it was an economical plan or one which would be generally approved. It had received the approval of the Commissioners themselves; but, with all respect to those gentlemen, he doubted whether anybody would have selected them as the persons best qualified to prepare a plan for so important a work. Before the Government assumed the responsibility of adopting any particular plan, whether recommended by a body of Royal Commissioners or not, they should take further advice upon it. The Embankment of the Thames was to be paid for by the inhabitants of the Metropolis, and in their name he protested against the treatment which, according to the statement of the Chief Commissioner, the Metropolitan Board of Works were about to receive from the Government. Judging from the report which, he had seen in The Times, the present was the first occasion, although the matter had been discussed for years, on which a proposal had been made to dispense with docks and all means of carrying on traffic on the banks of the Thames in Westminster. As four-fifths of the embankment would be in Westminster, he thought that before any plan was adopted by the Government, the opinion of his constituents should be taken upon it. For these reasons, ho hoped to receive an assurance from the Government that they intended, not only to intrust the construction of the work to the Metropolitan Board, but also to impose upon that body the responsibility of bringing forward a Bill, and of deciding whether the plan recommended by the Royal Commissioners was the best which could be adopted.


said, that as a constituent of the hon. Baronet and a ratepayer of the Metropolis, he protested against the proposal to intrust the Metropolitan Board of Works with the embankment of the Thames. He knew that body only in one way—they were pepetually sending him bills for rates, and, up to the present moment, he had seen none of their works, except a fine Italian palace which they had erected for themselves in Spring Gardens. The embankment of the Thames was a great national work, and as such it ought to be carried out under the responsibility of the Government.


enquired whether it was intended to construct an embankment on the Surrey side of the river? That district was exposed to frequent inundations, and it paid a larger proportion of the coal duties than any other part of the Metropolis. The embankment of the north side, moreover, would throw a larger body of water into the south side. It was, therefore, entitled to have a fair share of the money expended in the improvement of the banks of the river.


, in reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Windsor, begged to assure him that the taxes he paid were to pay off the debts of the old Commissioners of Sewers, and he did not pay a shilling towards the erection of the edifice in Spring Gardens which he thought so grand. As to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir John Shelley), he had made a mistake in saying that the Metropolitan Board of Works had taken up the plans in reference to the embankment of the Thames. At the present moment the Metropolitan Board of Works were perfectly blank on the matter. He thought, however, if the matter were left to them at all it should be left to them absolutely. If it were taken up by the Government, then perhaps the Government would pay for it. But if the inhabitants of the Metropolis were to be taxed for it, then the Metropolitan Board of Works should have the deciding upon it.


had little to add to the statement which he made in the early part of the sitting. The House had agreed to place the coal duties in the hands of the Commissioners of the Treasury, in order to await the passing of a Bill authorizing the money to be expended in the embankment of the Thames. Next Session the whole matter must come under the notice of the House in the form of a Bill, and, no doubt, it would then be fully discussed. Meanwhile he begged it to he understood that he never said anything which could lead the House to suppose that the Government contemplated taking any part in the expenditure of the coal duties on the Thames embankment. The Royal Commissioners had reported that in the first instance the embankment should be executed on the north side of the river, but he was himself strongly of opinion that the work would not be complete until it included the Surrey side also. He thought, however, it would be quite enough to undertake the embankment of one side at a time.


was glad that the Chief Commissioner had to some extent retracted the statement he made in the early part of the sitting, and that the Metropolitan Board of Works were to have some control over the preparation of the plans as well as over the mere stone and mortar work. He certainly thought that, if the Metropolis was to pay for the work, their representatives should have the management of it.


said, he had retracted nothing. What he stated in reply to the hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster, and what he had just repeated, was that the Government were not going to take any part in the management or execution of the Thames embankment. It was necessary, however, that the Government should take measures for passing the Bill which was to confer upon the Metropolitan Board of Works the power of making that embankment. Certain notices with respect to the purchase of property must he given in November next, unless another year was to be wasted, and, as the Government had obtained the consent of Parliament to their measure with reference to the coal duties, and had appointed a Royal Commissioner to consider the various plans which had been suggested for the embankment of the river, they would take the necessary steps for enabling Parliament to complete the subject next Session. His desire was that another year should not be wasted, but that, on the contrary, they should have an opportunity next Session of applying the coal duties to the embankment of the Thames.


regretted that the Metropolitan Board of Works were to have anything whatever to do with the Thames embankment. Hitherto they had done nothing at all, and he was afraid that, if placed in their hands, the plan recommended by the Royal Commissioners would never be carried out. It was not correct to say that the Metropolis was to pay for the embankment. The expense would be borne by the consumers of coal.


denied that the Metropolitan Board had done nothing. They were charged with correcting errors committed under the patronage of the Government for about 100 years in the drainage of the Metropolis, and when they succeeded in preparing plans for the work the Government appointed referees of their own to supersede those plans and to substitute new ones. The plans of the Board were to cost £2,300,000; those substituted by by the Government would have cost £11,000,000. The Board had intelligence and firmness enough to refuse to listen to the suggestions of the Government; and what was the result? The Government of Lord Derby had the sense to intrust the work entirely to the Metropolitan Board. Such was the policy of a Conservative Government respecting the municipal institutions of the country; and the consequence was that, instead of the funds of the Metropolis being squandered in the most unintelligible and stupid manner to the extent of £11,000,000, a plan was sanctioned by the Derby Government, under which the same benefits would be conferred upon the inhabitants of the Metropolis at an expense of less than £3,000,000. The works had been going on for some time; they were of great magnitude and importance, but, being under- ground, the hon. Member for East Kent ad not seen them, and so he jumped to the conclusion that the Metropolitan Board had done nothing. When completed they would be among the finest works of the kind in the world. With regard to the Thames embankment, a permanent Commission had been recommended, in order that some of the engineers and surveyors who had been engaged in the inquiry might continue to be employed in carrying out the work. That was the way he expected the thing would end. The right hon. Gentleman proposed a scheme which would deprive all the inhabitants of Westminster of exercising any power whatever in regard to the plans. The proceedings were to be carried on by the Chief Commissioner regardless of expense, and were to be paid for, not out of the imperial revenue, but from the local taxation. Before any steps were taken the inhabitants of the Metropolis should have the opportunity of expressing their opinions on the subject.


, regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had so far committed himself that this work should be carried on by the Metropolitan Board of Works. It would have been much better to take time maturely to consider the question. He much feared, if the work got into the hands of the Metropolitan Board, it would prove a never-ending job. If an independent Commission were intrusted with its execution, the expense might have soem chance of being limited to the amount of the estimate.

Bill read 30 and passed.