HC Deb 03 May 1867 vol 186 cc2018-20

said, that he desired, as an old member of the Royal Institute of Architects and as President of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, to make a Motion with reference to the advisability of adding professional men to the judges of designs for the new Law Courts. He did not wish to make any imputation upon the judges at present appointed, or offer them any slight in taking this course. The competing architects had the most implicit confidence in the judges as men of honour, but feared they would be wanting in technical knowledge. If the Solicitor General had a great question with reference to the procedure of Chancery, would he bring it before a committee of architects? Or if a question of trade was to be decided on, would the bench of Bishops be the proper tribunal? He was aware that two professional men had been appointed to advise the judges. That was a step in the right direction, but it did not go far enough. Those two professional gentlemen were approved by the competing architects. They had every confidence in them, and it was desired that these two gentlemen should have the same power of voting in the final decision as the fully appointed judges had. It would be only fair towards the judges that they should be assisted in their deliberations by able and competent professional colleagues, as their decision, however righteous and impartial, must unavoidably be criticized by eleven disappointed men. To the public it would likewise be more satisfactory that the judges who were to decide upon this great work, one of the most important ever submitted to competition, should not wholly lack the professional element. He trusted the Government would re-consider the matter, and satisfy the reasonable desire of the competing architects.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words" in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that two professional architects should be added to the Committee appointed for the purpose of selecting a Design for the New Courts of Justice,"—(Mr. Lanyon,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that as the mouthpiece of the Society of British architects he had already communicated to the Treasury the wishes of that body. The claim had been made before, and its justice had been admitted. What was urged against it was that it came too late. He could not see that it was too late to make the alteration suggested. One word of assent from his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cowper) on the part of the judges, would free the hands of the Government, and materially strengthen in public and professional estimation the tribunal of which he was a member.


said, Her Majesty's Government had no wish in the matter save that of obtaining the best designs of competent architects. The five gentlemen, who, as at present arranged, were to constitute the judges, with the aid of two professional architects as assessors, were selected before the present Government came into office, as the result of conferences which took place in 1865. Though his hon. Friend (Mr. Bentinck) exerted himself last May to procure the addition to the tribunal of some professional members, he let the matter drop without effecting anything practical. [Mr. BENTINCK: I beg pardon. The matter dropped in consequence of the dropping of the Reform Bill.] At all events, from May, 1866, till the present time the matter was never mooted, and the Government naturally supposed that the House acquiesced in the arrangement made by the late Government. If the gentlemen appointed as judges were of opinion that they would derive assistance from the appointment of additional members in the manner now proposed, the Government would offer no opposition to that course. But it was one which they could not sanction without previous communication with the gentlemen who had been already appointed, and had undertaken to act. Under these circumstances, he hoped his hon. Friend would not press the Motion.


said, that as one of the Committee of five appointed to adjudicate upon these designs, he could entertain no possible objection to the proposal. In any case, very serious and onerous duties must be entailed upon the judges, and as the competitors had declared that the ex- clusion from the tribunal of professional opinions would not increase their confidence in its decisions, that declaration was entitled to the utmost consideration. The reason why the Committee originally was composed exclusively of unprofessional men was that it was supposed they would be unbiased in their opinions by any of those predilections or prejudices which professional training almost necessarily engendered. He thought that, under the circumstances, no objection to the proposal need be anticipated from other members of the Committee. After what had been said by the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hunt) there was no necessity for pressing the Motion to a division.


said, he was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cowper) had come to his senses on the subject since he had left office. He thought it highly desirable that whenever considerable sums of money were expended in connection with Art, the advice of professional men should be secure.


said, he would withdraw his Motion. After what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury he was quite prepared to leave the matter in the hands of the Government.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.