HC Deb 26 June 1863 vol 171 cc1529-31

said, he rose to ask the First Commissioner of Works, Whether Mr. Hunt, who has made the Estimate for the repairing, altering, and arranging the International Building at South Kensington, is the same Mr. Hunt who took out the quantities for Sir Charles Barry for the New Houses of Parliament, which quantities formed the basis of the first Estimate of £750,000 for the construction of the Houses of Parliament; and whether Mr. Hunt, who has been employed by Government to value the Exhibition Buildings belonging to Messrs. Kelk & Lucas, is or has been employed for Mr. Kelk as his surveyor and valuer?


said, the difficulty he felt in answering the Question was to determine its meaning; the information asked for being of so trifling a character and so unworthy to receive the attention of the House. He presumed the object was to discover what inferences affecting the character and reputation of a professional gentleman employed by the Government might be drawn from that information. It was quite true that Mr. Hunt took out the quantities of the new Houses of Parliament for Sir Charles Barry—a fact which showed that twenty-six years ago he occupied such a position in his profession as entitled him to execute so important a work. The hon. Member probably wished to ascertain whether the expenditure subsequently incurred had been caused, in some measure, by errors in the quantities taken out by Mr. Hunt; and if that were his object, he would answer the question satisfactorily, on the authority of a document laid on the table of the House in 1837. The calculations made by Mr. Hunt and the drawings of Sir Charles Barry were subjected to a very close examination at the Office of Works, by the surveyor and architect of the Board; and Mr. Hunt's quantities were minutely gone into by two surveyors named Richardson and Corduroy. The result of their investigations was conveyed in the Report of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, who submitted a Report from Messrs. Seward and Chawner, architects, appointed by them to examine and report on Mr. Barry's estimate for the new Houses of Parliament. That Report said— In obedience to the commands of the Commissioners of Woods, &c., of the 27th of January and of the 3rd of February, 1857, directing us to report upon the estimate prepared by Mr. Barry, of the expense of erecting the proposed new Houses of Parliament, amounting to the sum of £707,104, we immediately commenced upon the subject of this reference, and after a most careful and minute examination of the numerous drawings of the details prepared by Mr. Barry for this building, comparing them with the several measurements of quantities, checking all the prices and calculations for the proposed works, we beg leave to Report that in our opinion the new Houses of Parliament can be satisfactorily erected according to the said drawings for the sum stated by Mr. Barry. It followed, therefore, as far as Mr. Hunt's work went, that it bad been carefully examined by competent persons and found to be accurate; and that the reason why the original estimate of £707,000 was exceeded was not because there had been any error in the original estimate, but because Sir Charles Barry disregarded the drawings which he had made.


said, he rose to order. He thought the right hon. Gentleman, in answering a question, had no right to make a speech.


It appeared to me that the question put by the hon. Gentleman was of a nature to require rather a lengthened reply.


said, he was endeavouring to confine himself to the information required by the question. If any blame attached to any person, it certainly was not to Mr. Hunt, who made accurate calculations, but rather to Sir Charles Barry, who altered the drawings, and the House, which sanctioned the alteration and enlargement of the original plans. With regard to the other Question asked by the hon. Member, he found, upon inquiry, that Mr. Hunt was employed three years ago by Mr. Kelk to make a valuation of the land occupied by the Victoria station of the Pimlico Railway, on the faith of which valuation Mr. Kelk made a purchase amounting to £500,000. The hon. Member, in framing his Question, took no notice of the fact that the object which the Government had in appointing Mr. Hunt was to get a man at the head of his profession, possessing that amount of ability and experience which had given him his large practice and general employment. A man of that sort must have been employed either for or in opposition to contractors; and the only alternative for the Government to adopt would be to take a man of so little ability or experience that no contractor would employ him. If the hon. Member meant to draw from the fact that Mr. Kelk in a particular transaction placed reliance on the Judgment of Mr. Hunt any inference derogatory to that gentleman, he would say that such an insinuation was utterly groundless. It was foreign to the habits of professional men to suppose that they would allow their judgment to be biassed by previous engagements. He would only add, as a matter of information to the hon. Member, that Mr. Hunt was one of the most truthful, straightforward, and honest of men; that he had an unblemished reputation.