HC Deb 22 February 1867 vol 185 cc890-8

rose to ask the Secretary to the Treasury for a further expla- nation of the sums required for particular items in the approaching Paris Exhibition. He said the hour was late, and the House exhausted, and Members might take his word that, not being a lawyer, he would not occupy two hours in saying what could be said in a few minutes. If any excuse were wanted for bringing the matter forward, it was to be found in the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury the other night, who said, that when this Vote was first brought before him, his feelings were first those of surprise, then of indignation, and lastly of resignation. When the Secretary to the Treasury, a man who was known to be not generally moved by the common emotions of the human heart, spoke officially in that way, the subject must indeed be one demanding the grave consideration of the House. The question before them was, in reality, nothing more nor less than this—whether the House was to have any voice or control over the public expenditure. This was a subject on which he had heard Chancellors of the Exchequer lecture in former years. He had heard them complain that the House was neglectful of the public interests. Although there were a few Members who said that this matter must be passed sub silentio, because it concerned a foreign Government, he believed there was enough public spirit left in the House, even at so late an hour, to endeavour to exercise some control over the public expenditure. What was the history of this Vote of £116,000? It was a curious fact that no detailed Estimate for this sum had ever been laid before the House. The history began with the constitution of the Royal Commission on May 2, 1865; and the Commission directed that the Estimates were to be laid before the House, and were to be managed through the Department of Science and Art. The Estimates never had been laid before the House. The Commission was constituted originally of eighty-four Members, including twenty Peers and twenty Members of that House, and eighteen gentlemen were afterwards added, which made a total of 102. It was said that the Commission was not composed of men of business, but many men of business were on it. Members of that House and of the other House were on the Commission, and they might be said to be in most senses innocent of science and incapable of art. This Commission was, in fact, a mere ornamental Commission. The hon. Member for Stoke- upon-Trent was a member of it, and he had already told them what its duties were. The Commission met once in about two months, some thirty gentlemen sat round a table, and they discussed nothing, but some unseen hand prepared resolutions, and, he believed, it was that of their trusted and well-beloved Henry Cole. The Commissioners discussed nothing, but it passed whatever was laid before it. What was every man's business, was no man's responsibility, and to that minute they did not know on whom responsibility rested or by whose direction the money had been spent. In June, 1865, the House was called upon to vote £5,000 for "preliminary expenses" on account of the management of the British department of the Universal Exhibition at Paris for 1867. That £5,000 was voted as a matter of course; it excited no curiosity. The next Vote was one of £12,000 in 1866, again for preliminary expenses; and that also passed without remark. But the other night the House was taken by surprise, by seeing a sum of £50,000 included among other things in the Supplementary Estimates, not for "preliminary expenses" but with real business connected with the Exhibition. Some little discussion then occurred, and the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt) was kind enough to give them, for the first time, the estimates for this Exhibition. In the previous Paris Exhibition an Estimate was laid before the House in 1854. The House voted £50,000, and strange to say only £41,000 was spent, and the remaining £9,000 was returned to the Exchequer—a great contrast to our present management. The estimates now given by the officers of the Department of Science and Art included these items:—For internal fittings, £16,100; supplemental buildings and park, £23,065; ancient and modern art, £11,050; and management, £14,755. Respecting this management they were entitled to full explanations. He understood that a house was taken at the Champs Elysées, which made up about forty beds, and that there were forty-seven secretaries to this Commission. The next item was one of £17,190 for house and office expenses. Now, he should like to know what were the salaries given to the forty-seven secretaries, and especially how much was given to "their trusty and well-beloved Henry Cole." Then there came another very singular item of £8,250 for freight, which brought the House to a very curious consideration. He wished to know whether it was true that it was designed by the Commission that there should be an exhibition of blue books in Paris. [Laughter.] The House might laugh, but he had been informed by the Librarian of that House that that officer had received an intimation that it was the wish of the Commission that all the blue books and all the Parliamentary publications of that House and of the House of Lords should be sent to Paris to be exhibited. He believed it was only through the exertions of their respected Speaker that this profligate waste of money had been controlled, and that only a few specimens of the blue books were to be exhibited. If this extravagant, lavish, and foolish expenditure was to go on in this way, where was it to stop? Then there was another item which he did not under-stand, "Royal Commission," it said, for these 102 gentlemen, £2,750. There was no explanation given of that. Then there came another, and, he thought, a most extraordinary item—namely, "Exhibition of implements of war, £11,490." Now, that was a very contradiction to the title of the Exhibition, which was instituted as an "Exhibition of works of industry and agriculture, as well as of the Fine Arts." Put some evil genius on the Commission seemed to have suggested an exhibition of implements of war, and accordingly the expenditure would be enormous, because all the largest bits of ordnance which this country had produced were about to be sent to this peaceful Exhibition at Paris. He thought it was time for the House to step in and say, "We have no objection to cultivate the arts of peace, and even to send you a few blue books; but to send big guns into the bargain is not only ridiculous, but a waste of money." In the former Exhibitions, both in Paris and London, the jurors were not paid, but were thankful for a bronze medal; but here there was a grant of £12,000 for jurors. He had been so struck with this grant that he looked into the original constitution of the system of jurors, and he found that on the 26th of June, 1866, the number of Jurors for England and Ireland was eighty-five only. Now, a gentleman, who had lately been appointed a juror, informed him that each juror was to receive £50, so that these eighty-five gentlemen would receive £4,250. He should like to know what was going to be done with the rest of the £12,000? These were matters requiring explanation, for, though only £116,000 was asked for, it was well known that that would only carry them on to the opening of the Exhibition, but when it was closed his hon. Friend—and he hoped he would then be on the Treasury Bench, because he was so efficient—would be asking for another £50,000 or £60,000, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would say, that unless hon. Members wished to imperil the peaceful relations between the two countries they must agree to his Vote. For his own part, he had no wish to stand in the way of a grant of anything reasonable and proper; but while he held a seat in the House he hoped the House would assist him when he exposed lavish expenditure and equally lavish waste.


said, that having been under the late Government a Member of that Department which was immediately responsible for the outlay of sums granted towards the expenditure on the Paris Exhibition, the House would perhaps allow him to make an explanation respecting the state of our relations with the French Commissioners up to June last. In March, 1865, the Science and Art Department applied to the Treasury for a sum of £50,000 towards the expenses of the forthcoming Exhibition, in which this country had been invited by the Emperor of the French to take part. The reason why that sum was asked for was that a similar sum had been granted in 1855; and although the £9,000 had then been returned to the Treasury, there was reason to believe that the arrangements would be on a much larger scale in 1867, and that consequently more money would be required. The then Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Peel, adverted to the fact that the whole sum of £50,000 had not been expended in 1855, and proposed that a somewhat smaller sum—£45,000—should be granted. The reply to him was that it was impossible to estimate, at that time, what the whole expenditure would be, but that there was a probability that it would exceed the previous expenditure. The sum of £5,000 was taken that year for preliminary expenses. In January, 1866, it became necessary to consider what would be required for the current financial year, and an estimate of £12,000 was thought to be sufficient. But, that being so, the House might ask how it was that before the year had expired a further sum of £50,000 had been asked for, and he would explain the reasons of this large difference between the first estimate and the second. It was not till February, 1866, a month after the estimates had been sent in, that the Commission first became aware of the different principles under which the French Government proposed to carry on this great Exhibition. From that time to the month of May there was an unceasing struggle with the French Commissioners to resist demands which would inevitably lead to an expenditure far exceeding the sum spent in 1855. He might mention that the French Commissioners made demands for expenditure upon every possible object, except the mere shell of the building—upon the flooring, the partitions, the places on which the articles were to be exhibited, even on the very roads from the Seine up to the Exhibition. A large building in the gardens was also required for the exhibition of marine and military engines, and a house had to be erected. On the 8th of May, 1866, the Secretary of the Science and Art Department, by the direction of the Lord President, addressed a serious letter on this subject to the managing Commissioner of the French Exhibition. In that letter he stated, that although they had made demands upon exhibitors entirely different from anything asked by this country, or by the French themselves in 1855, yet there might be some show of reason in asking manufacturers, who, in sending their manufactures for exhibition, might have a view to profit, to contribute to the expenses of the Exhibition. It was pointed out, however, that the case was entirely altered when gentlemen were requested to send over works of art, and that gentlemen who did so ought not to be expected to defray the cost of conveyance, and packing and unpacking. The managing Commissioner of the French Exhibition was informed that it was the opinion of Lord Granville that the matter ought to be brought under the notice of the French Minister, M. Rouher, and that, in the event of his insisting on these conditions being complied with, a formal communication to that effect ought to be drawn up with a view to its being laid before Parliament, as furnishing the explanation why a Vote so much in excess of that which had been demanded, or thought possible, was required. No direct answer to that letter was received; but he might say that, up to the period when the late Government went out of office, no concession to these unexpected demands had been made, except that it was agreed that the Admiralty should incur a certain expenditure in landing machinery at the Seine. He entirely agreed with what the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Osborne) had said as to sending implements of war to the Exhibition. Indeed, the Commissioners of this country came unanimously to the conclusion that as this was to be an exhibition of articles of peace, munitions of war ought not to be sent to it; but on its being found that all the other nations of Europe—France and Austria especially—were going to exhibit munitions of war, it was considered that it would be ungracious if this country did not show what she possessed. ["No, no!"] As to no detailed estimate having been laid before the House at an early period, it must be borne in mind that the scheme had been growing greater day by day, and it was therefore impossible for the Department of Science and Art to say what it would be called upon to contribute. The space allotted to British exhibitors was twice as Jarge as it had been on the last occasion, and he might mention that his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-upon-Trent, who had so severely criticized the proceedings of the Department, had demanded, on behalf of the Architectural Society, of which he was President, not less than 110,000 square feet, which was one-third of the whole space allocated to British exhibitors. He had stated how the case stood up to the resignation of the late Government, which occurred at a most critical period in the history of the Exhibition, because it would have been their duty to decide what course they ought to take; whether, on the one hand, to imperil the success of the Exhibition, and inflict a blow on the pride of the French nation, or, on the other, to incur an expense altogether unprecedented, and to which they themselves strongly objected. In this dilemma the present Government succeeded to office, and it was they who were responsible, since the late Government had not authorized any expenditure which departed from the precedent of the previous Exhibition. He did not wish to throw any censure upon the Government, as their position was one of extreme difficulty. Much blame had been unjustly imputed to public servants during this discussion, and in order that Parliament and the country might be fully informed as to the real facts of the case, he had that night given notice that he would on the following Tuesday move for the Correspondence on the subject between the Department of Science and Art and the Treasury, and with the French Commissioners referring to expenditure.


, having been so pointedly alluded to by his right hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, felt bound to explain that his large demand for space, on the part of the Institute of Architects, which he had urged, arose in this way. Very early in the day that Institute was anxious to bring together a large exhibition of works of industrial art cognate with architecture. The Executive Commission asked him how much space they would require. Their reply was, as much as the Commission was prepared to yield them. To this the Executive did not seem to demur, and they conceived they were only carrying out an intimation which they had received from it, when, in order to "regularize" their application, they put in a colourable figure, just as a man put £1,000 on his dog when he sent it to a dog show, and did not wish I to part with it. This meant that they were ready to use any space which might in reason be allotted to them. From that day forward, however, when the Executive was out of temper with them, which was not unusual, they had this thrown in their teeth, though the real cause of all the difficulty had been the unconscionable time during which they had been kept waiting.


hoped some explanation would be given satisfactory to the House and the country. He hoped some answer would be given with respect to the expenditure for jurors. The sum charged was £12,000. There were eighty-five jurors at £50 each. What was to be done with the difference?


said, that no Member of the Government would complain of the jealousy shown by the House with regard to the sums asked for the Exhibition. It was the wish of the Government to give the information asked for in the best possible way, but the most convenient mode of doing so would be as he stated a few days ago. In the Estimates of 1867–8 there should be a full account respecting the various sums, and he believed the Estimates would be in the hands of Members in a few days.


asked whether the implements of war had been as yet sent, or whether there was time to stop them?


said, they had not been sent yet.


gave notice of his intention to move on an early day that the implements of war should not be sent.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.