§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
said, he had just presented a Petition in favour of the Thames Embankment as the site for the future Law Courts, signed by 7,460 persons, at the head of whom was the Duke of Buccleugh, the High Steward of Westminster, the Dean of Westminster, the Archdeacon of Westminster; it was additionally signed by 366 members of learned professions, 131 editors, and 591 clerks. It had not been carried about for signature by touters, but had only remained for a few days at some of the Metropolitan Railway stations. There had also been presented a Petition, signed in their corporate capacity, by the Benchers of the Inner Temple—a similar Petition signed, in their corporate capacity, had been presented by the Benchers of the Middle Temple. No such Petition had emanated from the Benchers of Lincoln's Inn; they were far too enlightened and high-minded to set up their own pecuniary interests and infinitesimal convenience in the face of the rest of the community. This was the reply that he (Mr. Gregory) gave to the Petition of certain members of the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, the Inner Temple, and the Middle Temple, presented by the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) in which he read the following audacious passage:—That both branches of the legal profession have throughout been nearly unanimous in their adherence to the Carey Street site, as being beyond question the proper one; and that, as the funds have been, and are to be supplied by the suitors, it would be most unreasonable that the site should now be changed in opposition to their interests and wishes as expressed by their representatives.1203 Was not the hon. and learned Gentleman aware, too, that the Common Law Judges were supposed to be almost unanimous in favour of the Embankment? The whole opposition came from Lincoln's Inn. It was literally Lincoln's Inn against all England. Never was there a higher tone of superiority adopted than by these gentlemen. They first claimed for the legal profession the sole and undisputed right of pronouncing an opinion as to the site of the future Law Courts; and, having arrived at that opinion, they went a little further and declared they were the mouthpieces of that profession. The old Puritans read in their Bibles that the elect should inherit the earth, so they proceeded to vote nemine contradicente—"Resolved, that we are the elect"—and they then carried out the principle with much vigour and far more comfort to themselves than to others. Such had been the proceedings of the Lincoln's Inn gentlemen. They said, not ambiguously, that their pecuniary interests were affected by the immensely increased value which the Carey Street site gave to their property; and the convenience of the public, the credit of the country, the beauty of the capital of England, was nothing in their eyes. "We will resist every attempt at change," said they, "and we will do so as the representatives of the legal profession." These Petitions showed the baselessness of these pretensions. He (Mr. Gregory) by his Motion did two things; he pledged the House to the expediency of having the question of the site of the new Law Courts re-considered, and he pledged the House also to the opinion that the Thames Embankment—being now completed—offered advantages for the erection of these buildings. In employing the word "re-considered" he did not aim at a Committee or Commission of Inquiry. He thought the Government was in a position to re-consider and decide the matter at once and for ever, and that this debate and the vote which would be taken on it would make clear the opinion of the House of Commons. Another matter he also aimed at by the structure of this Motion, and that was that there should be no impediment to a portion of the buildings, if necessary, being placed in Carey Street, and a portion on the Embankment. That was the plan recommended by his hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Tite), and 1204 the advantages of it, as a matter of public and legal convenience, were set forth in a very able letter by Mr. Bennett in The Times some weeks since. Such were the views of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) who, on æsthetic grounds, longed for some lofty building or tower to carry the eye gradually up to St. Paul's. All those objects might be gained by this Motion. The building, which of all others might most easily be disconnected from the other Courts, would be the Probate and Registrar Office, which required a large amount of space, and which would naturally be embellished by those towers, so dear to his Friend the Member for Cambridge University, as depositories for wills. Great stress had been laid on the concentration of all the Courts and offices, and though he would be accused of violating that principle by his suggestions yet he entirely agreed in that view; but contiguity was concentration, and the fact of one portion of the law buildings being separated from the others merely by the width of the Strand, with a communication by means of a subway, so that the distance from one to another would only be a question of seconds and not of minutes, would not militate against the desideratum laid down by Sir George Lewis's Commission, but would completely carry out the spirit of it. He (Mr. Gregory), speaking his own opinion, would prefer this slight separation as tending more to convenience and certainly to architectural effect, than the huge legal town, the terrific pile of buildings, the very thought of which almost oppressed him as a nightmare; and, as a very great saving of expense might be effected were a portion of Carey Street and a portion of the Embankment selected for the new Law Courts, he thought this proposal worthy the consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now he (Mr. Gregory) felt that he was fully justified in advocating re-consideration. The Government was called upon to advance an enormous sum of money, and the Government, now that this additional call had been made upon them, had a right to pronounce an opinion whether, taking all circumstances into consideration, better arrangements might not be made for the convenience of the public, and the embellishment of London. The Act 1205 of 1865 provided that the compulsory powers of the Act to take houses and land should not be exercised until it could be shown that the whole cost of the building—that is, cost of land, and structural expenditure from first to last, should not exceed £1,500,000. Of this sum £1,000,000 was to come from the Suitors' Fund, but the Government had to advance the balance of £500,000. It was now found that this estimate was quite below the mark; other offices had been added in addition to those originally contemplated. Parliament was asked for fresh powers to purchase land and houses to the extent of £700,000 more; and when the necessity for fresh approaches, for additional air and light was considered, it could hardly be doubted that the building and the improvements essential for the building would amount to a sum far nearer £3,500,000 than to the original estimate of £1,500,000. This new claim at once unfettered the action of the Government and gave them full power to look around and. to ascertain if the original plan might not be altered, modified, or totally changed if necessary. Now, he (Mr. Gregory) contended that the Embankment site had never been considered. The only sites considered when the selection was made by Sir George Lewis's Commission, were the Westminster, Lincoln's Inn, and the Carey Street site. The Thames Embankment, in those days, was a mere dream. Men had no idea of the magnificent, stately river frontage which had grown up within the last few years, which offered vast space, air, light, access, and the noblest opportunity of redeeming London from the imputation of being the wealthiest and the meanest city, for its size, the world had ever known. As was well said in the pamphlet of his hon. Friend Mr. Baillie Cochrane, whose absence he regretted as having been the first Apostle of the Embankment—"If we had no public building for the Embankment we ought to invent one." Now, he (Mr. Gregory) was prepared to advocate the Embankment as the site for the future Law Courts on the ground of economy, convenience, and beauty, and he would deal very rapidly with each head. First as to expense. This was the first view of the balance-sheet—Money already expended, with law costs, &c., £850,000; additional land required, together with law costs, at least £700,000: 1206 total, £1,550,000. But this was not all—the Law Institution must be removed. The space between it and the Law Courts was only twenty-five feet, and it would be impossible, inasmuch as the new thoroughfare between the Strand and Holborn was to pass that way, that the immense traffic which would naturally be created could possibly be carried over a space which, when the trottoir was taken from it, would not be more than 13 or 14 feet. Mr. Street himself acknowledged this to be the case, and that the Law Institution must be removed. This would involve an additional sum of, at least, £100,000. It was almost a certainty that King's College Hospital on the north-west extremity would also have to go. The immediate proximity of this great building was a total interruption to light and air; and so close was it to the north-western end of Mr. Street's building, that he was obliged to cut off one angle of it to enable any separation to be made between the Law Courts and the hospital. But he (Mr. Gregory) although knowing well the demands that would be sure to come hereafter, would not include this item in his estimate. He would pass over to another item which was acknowledged by every one to be essential, and that was approaches from the west and from the east. Let them hear what Mr. Street said in the carefully prepared report accompanying his plans—The noisy character of the Strand side will never be changed. It will always be the side from which the greatest number of people will approach the Courts; its use in this respect will be increased when the Thames Embankment and Metropolitan; Railway are completed, so that, as far as the public are concerned (including witnesses and jurymen), no doubt by far the largest proportion will enter on this side. We have also to provide for the arrival at the Courts of all the Judges and others who hold the highest situations among the officials. Most of them will come from the west, and to a great extent, owing to the overcrowded state of the Strand, they will come from the north-west, and so approach the Courts on the Carey Street site. It will be a great object, however, not to add at all to the noise of vehicles in Carey Street; and to this end it is essential in my opinion, that some important alterations should be made in the roads leading to the northwest angle of the site.The cost of these four approaches advocated as "essential"—for that was Mr. Street's expression—was estimated by the most careful investigation to be far more above than under £1,000,000—and they should bear in mind that approaches 1207 from "the west" alone were included in this estimate—approaches from the east in order to establish a proper communication with the City, from whence a large proportion of the business came, would also be necessary if the Carey Street site were adopted. It was true Mr. Street had now modified this opinion, but he (Mr. Gregory) pinned him to the word "essential" used in his report, and everyone who had to make their way on business to Lincoln's Inn must know that it was impossible to evade the making of new approaches, and the Government must be prepared to recognize this immense additional element of expense. But there was another authority. The report of Mr. Shields, the civil engineer, was laid before Parliament. He considered a new railway from Kensington to the Mansion House through Carey Street as almost necessary for the Law Courts traffic, at a cost of £3,760,000; but, whether the railway be adopted or not, he considered the opening of new streets to be absolutely necessary "to prevent such a blockade of the most essential thoroughfare of London as will prove intolerable to the public." His estimate of the new street so required amounted to £1,600,000. Thus they had for the site alone before a brick was laid—Money already expended, including law costs, £850,000; additional land required, £700,000; Law Institution, £100,000; approaches, £1,500,000: total, £3,150,000. Now if the Embankment site were taken, the cost per acre would hardly be more than the Carey Street land, for if the price of the land and houses close to the Strand were heavy the cost of land and houses near the Embankment would be comparatively small. But let them take it at the very highest estimate, and suppose that the whole block of ten acres be purchased at £150,000 an acre, that would give a sum total of £1,500,000 against the lowest estimate of £3,150,000 on the other side, a saving to the dearly I beloved suitors, or, more probably to the dearly beloved Chancellor of the Exchequer, of £1,650,000. But if his (Mr. Gregory's) suggestion was taken, of using a portion of the Embankment and taking at the same time a portion of Carey Street, the saving would be infinitely greater. It was perfectly clear that no approaches were required for the Embankment. There was a wide and 1208 spacious drive from the west, there was the Strand access from east and west, there was the river and its steamers landing passengers at the door of the Courts, there was the Metropolitan Railway conveying them thither, from east, west, north, and south, without block, congestion, or inconvenience to the general traffic. All the cost had already been incurred as if for the express benefit of such a structure. The only allegation on the other side of pecuniary advantage was this—that a loss of £500,000 would be incurred on the ground already purchased. Now, as that ground cost but £800,000, it was a curious statement that only £300,000 was the value of the land, and that a loss of £500,000 would arise. But the whole allegation was utterly false. A gentleman in the highest rank as an architect told him, three days previously, that he would take the ground off the hands of the Government to-morrow at the price paid for the land irrespective of compensation for trade interests. Now, the trade interests—except in the one well-known case of Mr. Holloway, the pill-maker—could not have been very great in the rookeries swept away, except compensation were given for immoral traffic, in which case it might have certainly been high. But let the House once pass a Resolution that the Law Courts should be built in close contiguity with this clearing, and he (Mr. Gregory) was informed, on most unquestionable authority, that the demand for this ground would be prodigious—that it would nearly double its value in consequence of the erection of the most profitable of buildings, namely, law chambers, and that a gain rather than a loss would be obtained. An admission of the Incorporated Law Society confirmed this view, for in pleading for immediate proceeding they stated that the additional land required adjoining Carey Street had already risen in value £50,000 in one year. He (Mr. Gregory) therefore, peremptorily refused to debit the Embankment site with the loss of 1s. on account of the ground already acquired at Carey Street. Next he came to the question of convenience, and in that he must consider the convenience not merely of lawyers but of the public—the suitors, if they chose to call them. Now, as regards the legal profession, surely if a balance of convenience were to be struck, the convenience of the great body 1209 of lawyers in the Temple might be placed against the inconvenience of the lawyers and solicitors of Lincoln's Inn. But there could be no inconvenience to either; there would be a subway under the Strand, and an electric bell in the different chambers would bring the counsel from his chamber in Lincoln's Inn to the Court with ease and safety in three and a-half minutes. Out of curiosity he had walked that day from New Square, Lincoln's Inn, to where the Courts would be in the Embankment. He had not raced nor hurried, but had gone over the ground with that dignified composure which so befitted, and was so characteristic of, Members of this honourable House. It took him exactly four minutes, twenty seconds, and when he compared his mode of progress with the quick cheerful step of a prosperous solicitor, so well-known to everyone,—and all Lincoln's Inn solicitors were brisk and cheerful—the time occupied would be less by several seconds. He was particular about these seconds, for the Carey Street party laid great stress on them. This was their actual argument in black and white—"We, the solicitors and clerks of Lincoln's Inn' make 18,000 visits a day to the Courts. If you move the Courts fifty yards nearer the Thames, it follows that an additional walk of 600,000 yards will be entailed—conceive the wear and tear of legal shoe leather, all of which must fall on the suitors." That was a terrible menace to the suitors, but they might be consoled by reflecting that they would gain in the saving of shoe leather as regards the distant inhabitants of the legal regions; for, no doubt, once the Carey Street site was left open to be built upon for law chambers, the members of the legal profession would flock in from the far off regions of John Street and Bedford Row to the contiguity of the Law Courts. Mr. Whitmore, Treasurer of the Middle Temple, had written to him an admirable letter on this subject, which he would quote—The distant solicitors may be immense gainers, as would their clients and others, in one event, if the land now purchased were to be re-sold and made available for chambers and offices. That such an employment of it would be highly profitable, no one can doubt who takes the trouble to inquire what are the rents freely given for chambers in the Temple; and what a noble income is obtainable from say ten sets of chambers opening upon a single staircase. Nor would the same in- 1210 quiry fail to show him how large a demand—aye, how large and urgent a need—exists for such accommodation. There are, at the present moment, some 140 names of applicants on the books of this society for chambers, which it is impossible to supply; and the want is equally great, or greater, for decent offices for solicitors in a central position. These, at present, are not to be had; and, in their absence, the legal practitioner is compelled to plant himself at a distance, and occupy inconvenient rooms in second-rate localities, unapproached by public vehicles, and hardly discoverable by cabmen. These denizens of Bedford Row, John Street, and such northern regions, or even the more fortunate possessors of cupboards in Southampton Buildings, Quality Court, not to say Chancery Lane itself, would be glad enough to exchange darkness for light—eight-foot square for a space in which they could move and breathe, commodiously stow away their papers and deed-boxes, dispose of their clerks, receive their clients—and all this in a locality lying midway between the great Inns of Court, and close to the Courts of Law. I cannot imagine a greater boon than would result to them from the opportunity thus given of obtaining suitable places of business, in lieu of the miserable holes in which they are now, perforce, compelled to practice.In short, wherever the carcass was there would the eagles be gathered together. As regards the legal profession to the west and to the east of Carey Street, there could be no doubt of the superiority of the Embankment on the score of convenience—and they, as living far away from the New Palace of Justice, were the portion of the legal community who should most be consulted. The real and best concentration that could be effected for the legal profession would be to enable them to cluster round the Courts. The real inconvenience which they suffered was being dragged from their chambers and having to wait their day in Court instead of being summoned only when wanted and being left to do their work when not required. That was the whole story. Give the Embankment to the Law Courts and Offices, and Carey Street for lawyers' offices, and they would be then effecting the greatest possible convenience to the legal profession, and effecting a real concentration; but by adhering to Carey Street for the Law Courts, all this great convenience would be lost to the legal profession. Let them hear what Mr. Webster, the great champion of Carey Street, says must be done before that site is endurable. At a meeting of the Jurisprudence Department of Social Science, on the 23rd of March, Mr. Webster, Q.C., read a paper on the advantage of Carey Street, and made this admission— 1211Let anyone having experience of the present state of obstruction in the great eastern and western arteries of the metropolis—Holborn and Fleet Street—consider what would be the effect of quitting the Palace of Justice during these hours—an intolerable nuisance—an unjustifiable aggravation of present inconvenience. Carey Street must be extended to Farringdon Street to the east, and to Covent Garden to the west.And then he proceeded to say what would be necessary to be done in addition for the accommodation of lawyers, even when this additional street extension had been obtained—The congested state of the Strand and Fleet Street and Holborn may be relieved of all traffic due to the Law Courts by proper communication to the east and to the west, and by subways under the Strand near St. Clement's Church, under Fleet Street near Chancery Lane, under Chancery Lane near Roll's Court, under Sergeant's Inn, and under Holborn near Gray's Inn.Why, the learned Gentleman seemed to think it would be necessary, if he got Carey Street, to turn it into a kind of rabbit burrow, and, perhaps, one of the future London amusements would be to see the lawyers in wig and gown bolting out of their holes like rabbits on a mild May evening. What with Mr. Webster's rabbit holes, and Mr. Street's lift to send up the unfortunate Judge like a Jack in the box, he must say the Carey Street advocates were obliged to have recourse to the most extraordinary expedients to make their site even possible. It was thus perfectly clear that, as far as regards the legal profession, the Embankment would bring with it convenience and advantages which would be all sacrificed if Carey Street were retained. Then as to the convenience of the suitors. Nothing was more amusing than the way in which the suitors were referred to in these Lincoln's Inn solicitors' documents and petitions—they claimed the suitors as their property; they were jealous that anyone should have anything to say to them but themselves. They looked on the suitor as being created expressly by Providence for Lincoln's Inn attorneys, just as Brindley regarded rivers as things created solely to feed navigable canals; or as ants are said by naturalists to claim and fight for certain other little insects which they stroke with their antennae and get juice from. But who were the suitors? Why every one was a suitor either "in ease or in posse." The public were the suitors, and could any one deny that the Embankment was 1212 more convenient to them than Carey Street? It was reached by a railway in direct communication with the stations of the Great Northern and Great Western railways, with the Waterloo and Victoria stations, thus bringing passengers from north and south to the door of the Courts. Steamboats were also constantly calling at its pier. All these advantages were not enjoyed by Carey Street, which could not be approached from the north, north-west and east, without fresh openings at enormous expenditure. Then as to air. Surely the air from the river and the open grounds of the Temple and Somerset House was to be preferred to the balmy gales from the rookeries and tripe markets of Drury Lane. As to light. Let them turn to Instruction 23, given by the Commission to the competing are hitects—For the interior of such a building, and in such a locality, a requirement of the first magnitude is abundant window light. It will be next to impossible to give too much to any of the offices.But where was this light to be obtained in Carey Street, with two great buildings like the King's College Hospital and the Law Institution shutting out the light to east and west? And was there any reflector that art could suggest equal to a wide river? Then, as to quiet. Let them turn again to the Instructions to the architects. Instruction 25—But while the question of a sufficiency of light is of great importance, a necessity of almost equal urgency is quiet.But could there be greater quiet than the silent highway of the river to the south, and the repose of the Temple and Somerset House to east and west? Whereas Carey Street site would be surrounded by incessant and ever-increasing noise. Thus as regards convenience to lawyers, accessibility to suitors and the public, air, light, and quiet he (Mr. Gregory) thought there could be no difference of opinion as to which site possessed them most. Another great object might be obtained if Carey Street be rejected. Everyone felt the want of a large thoroughfare between Holborn and the Strand. That could be at once effected, at very slight expense, by opening Little Turnstile, carrying the roadway by the east side of Lincoln's Inn and through the middle of the Carey Street site into the Strand—but if that site be covered with Law Courts 1213 and offices, how could this great convenience be obtained? There was one objection only to the Embankment site which he would here notice—that, though it was admitted to be large enough for all the Courts and offices at the present time, yet that hereafter more space might be required, and that it could not be obtained. That was one of the main objections in the Lincoln's Inn Petition, and the remarks circulated that day among Members. The best answer to this objection was this—that the tendency of Law Reform was all towards reduction of offices and Courts rather than of expansion If the recommendations of the Judicature Commission, which were just published, were acted on, a vast saving would be effected, and, in consequence of these recommendations, he (Mr. Gregory) doubted if this huge pile of buildings would be required. A suit would have its beginning and its ending in one Court, and the multiplicity of judicial centers would come to an end. The Report proposes the merging into one Superior Court of all the Superior Courts of Law and Equity and even of the Court of Admiralty—and thus a great saving in money and in space required would be gained.
There was one matter before leaving this branch of the subject to which he (Mr. Gregory) must allude, for it was most important, and he bogged to call the attention of the Lord Mayor to it. Has that eminent City functionary at all considered, if the Carey Street site be maintained, what will happen to that great artery, the Strand and Fleet Street, which opened his dominions to the southwest? Had he thought over the inevitable virtual closing of these streets for six or seven or possibly ten years, from the enormous mass of materials which must be conveyed over them, during the construction of this huge building? But nothing of the kind would happen if the Embankment were selected; all the materials could and would be brought by water. He would not argue all the intricacies of structural convenience, but he would be content to quote the opinion of a gentleman, who of all others was best entitled to speak on that head, because he came out the first of all competitors as regards the arrangements of the Courts, and, of course, he could form a better judgment than any one as to 1214 the architectural advantages and conveniences of each site. Mr. Barry thus writes—As regards our Law Courts, there can be no question a great central building flanked by the Temple on one side and Somerset House on the other is the only way of satisfactorily settling this question. The present site is altogether bad. It is noisy and inconvenient as to levels. Long before I came to the end of my arduous labour on the plans, I came to and expressed this conclusion, and the examination of the plans of the other competitors only strengthened my conviction. Speaking as one who has devoted himself to the details of the question, and whose designs have been admitted to be best for light, air, &c., I can most positively affirm that to attempt to provide the specified accommodation on the present site cannot be otherwise than a failure.Now he turned to the subject of delay—an impression prevailed and an outcry had been raised that if, after so much had been done, the site were changed, great loss of time, of years perhaps, would ensue. But nothing was more fallacious. If this Resolution passed, a Bill could be passed this year and notices served, just as a Bill must be passed and notices served, before anything could be done at Carey Street. The new site would have quite as good a start as the old one, and on this point he appealed to his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works, for he (Mr. Gregory) knew that if that objection were removed there wore many hon. Gentlemen who would not hesitate in supporting him.
And now, before sitting down, let him say a few words as regards what might be called the æsthetie portion of the question. He (Mr. Gregory) had reserved this to the last, for had he been unable to prove that on the grounds of expense, accessibility, air, light, and repose, the Thames Embankment was superior to its rival, he could hardly have ventured to propose it for the acceptance of the House on the ground of the adornment to London which would be secured by its selection. No one could deny that the Thames Embankment was a noble site fit for any building in the world. The curve between the Temple and Somerset House would add to the beauty. Conceive a building such as Greenwich Hospital, with open courts and vistas, filling up this space. Conceive Greenwich Hospital away from the river, and buried in the back streets of Greenwich, and then they might conceive what the Palace of Justice would be buried in the rookeries of 1215 Drury Lane. It was plain that considerations of beauty had largely influenced the decision of the Judges, because, if it had not, why should they have not have adopted Mr. Barry's plan, which was acknowledged to be first as far as fitness and arrangement, instead of Mr. Street's, which was selected from its architectural composition. Now, he asked the House, were they going to allow that splendid facade to the river to be disfigured by leaving it occupied by brick and timber yards, or still more disfigured by the erection of contractors' buildings? He (Mr. Gregory) was not without hopes, if he lived some ten years more, of seeing the present empty space along the whole sweep from the Palace of Westminster to the Temple covered with noble public buildings. Let him read one more passage from Mr. Whitmore's letter, which was so admirable that he could not afford to omit it. Mr. Whitmore said—In truth, take it how you will, it is really a question for posterity. Few of us who are now battling it can hope to see the judicial work of the country, or hear future trials between Saurins and Stars, in either of these localities. The elderly gentlemen who are so animated in the solicitor's statement will be gone, and, alas, unremembered, when this mighty fabric will be reared and occupied; but their successors will have to criticise their acts and opinions. And what will those successors—that posterity—say? I wish that others, like myself, were called upon to traverse the bridges that span our river between Westminster and Blackfriars. From either of these let any one with a grain of intelligence, with a particle of taste, look down upon the gap now dividing Somerset House and the Temple. Let him figure to himself this gap filled up with some appropriate continuation of Somerset House facade, or, on the other hand, cut up into fragments, and filled with inharmonious specimens of private speculation, and what conclusion will he arrive at?Why, the conclusion he would arrive at was this—that those who ruled England, in 1869, were devoid of shame and insensible to beauty—that they cared nothing about their city being the most mean and dingy in the universe. But it was not so. He never knew the House of Commons to be ungenerous as regards money, or careless about the aspect of their city, so long as they thought the money was well spent, and not either wasted or applied rather to the disfigurement, than the adornment of London; and he was convinced—now that he had laid the case before them, and had shown them that vast sums would be saved, innumerable difficulties overcome, 1216 and the whole aspect of their river front beautified and adorned—that they would aid him in giving effect to the Resolution which he was about to move.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, ic is desirable to reconsider the question of Carey Street as the site of the New Law Courts, inasmuch as the Thames Embankment, between the Temple and Somerset House, now offers many advantages for the erection of such buildings."—(Mr. W. H. Gregory.)
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, that he could not venture to follow his hon. Friend in those high flights of fancy and imagination in which his hon. Friend had indulged in the course of his very humorous speech. His own views on the subject were plain and prosaic, and he trusted to be able to give the House some reasons for believing that it would be more safe to follow those views than the flights of imagination and the humorous fancies of his hon. Friend. His hon. Friend began his speech by puffing, it might almost be said, the Petition which he had presented, and which he assured them was the spontaneous emanation of a great number of unsolicited British citizens, who, by some attraction not to be explained otherwise than by the fact that they had been led by their overpowering convictions, had been brought together to sign that Petition in favour of the Thames Embankment site. It appeared, however, that among the number of those who signed the Petition there were very few barristers or solicitors. He was told by an hon. Member near him that this same Petition, so spontaneously signed, had been for some time past lying at every railway station of the Metropolitan Railway, where there had been in attendance at least one person at each station, duly and diligently employed in soliciting everybody who went there for his signature to the Petition. That, at all events, tended to show that the House would be mistaken if they supposed that there were not some people who had taken considerable pains to get up the Petition. His hon. Friend had said that the opposition to the proposition to build the new Law Courts on the Thames Embankment came from Lincoln's Inn, which advocated the Carey Street site. The truth was that the members of Lincoln's Inn opposed the Carey Street site when the Act of Parliament was passed, 1217 that body having a site of its own for the Equity Courts, which it preferred, and it was in the interest of the public that the Carey Street site was selected, Of all the unprofitable debates that occurred in this House, he thought the debates got up by those whom his hon. Friend had described as dilettanti gentlemen were the most unprofitable; and he wished to know whether his hon. Friend spoke in the interest of these dilettanti gentlemen, or whether he spoke in the interest of the practical and prosaic solicitors, whose main business it was to deal with the administration of the law, and who knew what its wants were, and who, if they were honest men, would consider the interests of their clients as well as their own. To which of these classes was it that we owed the fact that, at this moment, the Legislature had determined to have a concentration of these Courts? The true secret of the Motion was contained in the few words which his hon. Friend had quoted from the gentleman whom he called the Apostle of the Thames Embankment (Mr. Baillie Cochrane)—"If a public building were not ready for the purpose, they must invent one and put it there." And so the administration of the law was to be the corpus vile on which this experiment was to be made, and then reasons must be pressed into the service to demonstrate how utterly ignorant the solicitors and lawyers were of the business in which their lives were engaged, how certainly they were mistaken, and how every consideration combined to recommend the Embankment site, for which "if there were no public building ready, they would have to invent one." The real history of this question might be summed up in a few words, and he must say that there was scarcely a statement made by his hon. Friend which was not erroneous in respect either to facts or to opinions. One of the most remarkable facts of his hon. Friend was that this question of the Thames Embankment came now before the House as quite a new one. Now would the House believe that it was really the case that the Thames Embankment was proposed as a preferable site for the New Law Courts, and debated upon its merits in that House, before the Act of 1865 was passed, and before 1s. was laid out on the purchase of the Carey Street site? At that time, when there had not arisen 1218 this inflated structure of architectural fancies, it was rejected by the House on its merits at the instance of the then Government, almost all the Members of which were now sitting on the Treasury Bench; Parliament being of opinion that the Carey Street site on the score of public convenience was preferable. Those solicitors, who were supposed not to know anything about the matter, were the first to stir the subject of the concentration of the Courts in that House in 1833. A Committee on the subject was appointed in 1842; a Royal Commission, presided over by Sir George Lewis, was issued, in 1858, and. it reported in 1860 in favour of the Carey Street site. It was true that at the time that Commission reported the Thames Embankment was not in existence, as it was not till 1862 that the Act was passed to make it; but Parliament did not legislate on the Report of the Commission until 1865, at which time the Act to make the Embankment had been passed three years, and both the Thames Embankment and the Carey Street site were then tabulœ rasœ, with respect to which Parliament was able to exercise an unprejudiced judgment. In passing from the subject of the Report of the Commission, he could not help expressing regret and disappointment at the success which had attended, to a certain extent, the efforts made to induce the residents in the Temple, to whom, in point of local convenience, the Embankment site and the Carey Street site would be much the same, to separate from the rest of their profession on this question, and to support the Embankment site. He regretted that circumstance all the more, because that was not the spirit in which the I Chancery practitioners acted when the site of Lincoln's Inn Fields was in question. The Lincoln's Inn Fields' site would have been more convenient to the Chancery practitioners than the Carey Street site; but, for the sake of general convenience, and the proximity of the Courts to all classes of practitioners in the law, it was thought wrong to choose a site more remote from the Temple, even though it would have been more convenient to other members of the profession from its proximity to Lincoln's Inn. The whole legislation on this subject had been proposed on entirely practical grounds. It was feared by some that greater expense would be incurred than 1219 was desirable by the adoption of costly designs of architectural beauty; but it was not the purpose of the Government of 1865 to sacrifice practical convenience to any considerations of an architectural character. The choice of the site and the adoption of every other measure were determined by reasons of practical convenience. That was the primary condition, and the Commissioners' Report stated, and Sir Charles Trevelyan in his pamphlet expressed agreement with the statement, that—In speaking of concentration, it was necessary to include not merely that of Courts with Courts, but of Courts with their offices; and, in a larger sense, with the chambers of the Bar and the offices of the attorneys.It was necessary, for the sake of economy of time and the dispatch of business, to bring the Courts into the best centre of the legal business and population, and that could only be effected by putting the Courts in such a position as they had been most fortunate to find in the Carey Street site, midway between the Temple and Lincoln's Inn, not so far from either as to make attendance in the Courts irreconcilable with access to the chambers of barristers, and conveniently accessible, without the constant crossing of great thoroughfares, to the great body of the general practitioners of the law. His hon. Friend was mistaken in supposing that, let the Courts be put wherever they might, the practitioners would go and establish themselves near them. When the Courts always sat at Westminster, the members of the Bar continued to have their chambers in the Temple, Lincoln's Inn, and Gray's Inn, and did not move up to the Courts. He must say that it seemed to him strange that the whole legal profession should be expected to shift their quarters to wherever Parliament might choose to place the Law Courts. Experience had shown the contrary; and it was, therefore, that the Commissioners recommended that the Courts should be put in the most convenient central position in the legal quarter, where they would be most readily accessible to the barristers of the Temple and Lincoln's Inn, and to the solicitors inhabiting that district, and at least as conveniently accessible as any other site would be to those who were at a greater distance. He would remind the House of some of the practical in- 1220 conveniences which would arise from any error in this respect. The difference of a quarter of a mile might make the difference of a loss of whole days to the suitors. When the Courts sat at Westminster what happened to the business of suitors which had to be transacted at Lincoln's Inn and the Temple—such as preparing pleadings, advising cases, consulting books, &c.? All had to be delayed for weeks—sometimes even for months, on account merely of the barristers having to dance attendance in Court, waiting for cases coming on, many of which did not come on; and that happened more especially to juniors, who had perhaps little business in Court, but which little they could not neglect. How did that affect their clients? They paid for it all, over and over again. This was no inconsiderable source of the delays in Chancery; bills of costs were enormously swollen in consequence, and no doubt what was said by the witnesses about it was quite true. Mr. Lake gave remarkable evidence on that subject. He said the suitors would save ten times more than the amount they would gain if all fees were taken away by the saving of time which the concentration of the Courts would make. And Mr. Field said it would be difficult to find a dozen solicitors, in or out of town, and having anything to do with the transaction of business at the Courts, who would not agree that such a result would be a great gain to their clients. Lawyers, speaking on this subject, were dealing with matters which they must understand, although some dilettanti gentlemen thought they understood the business better. [A laugh.] He said lawyers must understand this matter. He was perfectly certain that the change from Carey Street to the Embankment to barristers having chambers in Lincoln's Inn and those living north of that would occasion a very important loss of time, entail delays of a very serious character, and render it impossible for them to go freely backwards and forwards between chambers and the Courts. To many whole days would be lost, just as if the Courts were at Westminster; and there were many who thought the whole benefit of the concentration of the Courts would be lost. Such was the sacrifice they would have to make to what he might call this demon of good taste. Yet there was a genius of good taste 1221 who might be conciliated. It was a false taste, not real good taste, that demanded this sacrifice from them. To those who lived in the Temple the change might make little difference, it might even be an advantage to some; in point of distance, it would make no difference in favour of the majority of them—but he admitted that individually they would not probably be worse off. But he had said this was no new question—and he was going to prove it. He hoped his hon. Friends on the opposite Benches would attend to what he was about to read, even if some of those around him might not be moved. Because not only was he able on that occasion to appeal to the authority of Lord Palmerston's Chief Commissioner of Works the Member for South Hants (Mr. W. Cowper), who, he had reason to believe, had not changed his mind on this subject; and he believed also, that the present Lord Chancellor had not changed his opinion; he believed that the First Lord of the Admiralty, who had been a working member of the Commission, had not changed his opinion; he should like to know whether any of those on the Bench below him had changed their opinions? He believed the opinion of the Lord Chancellor, who had been well acquainted with this question for years, was the same as ever, and if he was wrong he had no doubt he should be told so; and he must confess he could not take the opinion of a man of taste in preference to that of men thoroughly conversant with the business and requirements of the law, who were also working members of the Commission. But he had not only to claim attention to these men's opinions, and to the opinion of the Member for South Hants—the father of the Thames Embankment in that House, and certainly as desirous as any other man to adorn it—he had to claim the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the words he was about to read of one who must be held to be a considerable authority with them, and who uttered those words certainly with strict impartiality so far as any party considerations were concerned, if it were possible to suppose that such a question as this had any party bearing. He referred to the present Lord Cairns. The question was debated on the 30th of March, 1865, on a Motion of Mr. Lygon to re-commit the Site Bill to the Select Committee, with an Instruction that they 1222 should inquire into the capabilities of the Thames Embankment as a site for the proposed edifice; and on that occasion Sir Hugh Cairns said this—I believe I express the opinion of the great mass of hon. Members present, as well as my own, when I say that I trust the Government will not accede to this Amendment. I have not the least doubt that it has been brought forward in an earnest desire on the part of my hon. Friend that every consideration should be given before so important a step is taken as the selection of a site for this great building. But the House must observe that to carry this Amendment will be equivalent to the defeat of this measure for the present Session; and in a future Session no one can venture to foretell what may happen. But even suppose at this period next year we may get to this stage, who is to say whether hon. Members may not get up and propose inquiry into a third site, different from Carey Street and the Thames Embankment, which no one thought of in 1865? We shall then be in the same position as we are now. I confess I was anxious to hear from the two hon. Gentlemen who supported this Motion what are the reasons of greater convenience to the public on which the proposal of the Thames Embankment site rests. I did not hear them. No doubt the hon. Baronet (Sir John Shelley) says it would be a fine thing to have the ornamental facade of the Palace of Justice fronting the river. That may be; but the great consideration which puts Parliament in motion is the great inconvenience of the present arrangements; and the question is—Which site will be most suitable for the purpose? Can there be a doubt as to what will be most convenient to the public? The hon. Baronet talks of lawyers; but who are the lawyers on this question? They are the great body of the solicitors of London, who transact not only the legal business of London, but the legal business of the whole kingdom; and on what ground do they prefer the Carey Street site? Because on all sides in the immediate neighbourhood north of that locality they have their offices, and they could not get the same accommodation elsewhere—therefore, they say, give us some central Courts of Justice, which we can get at without going very far from our own offices, for our time is that of our clients. Then, on the south side of the Carey Street site is the Temple, where the banisters say the very same thing. Carey Street, then, stands exactly in the centre of these two localities, and would obviously be most suitable as a site for the proposed Courts."—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 493–4.]He (Sir Roundell Palmer) was at a loss to understand what new element they had now introduced into this question which did not exist in 1865. Was the opinion of the solicitors different? The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory) did not pretend to say they were not nearly unanimous on the subject. He believed that in the Incorporated Law Society there was absolute unanimity, or the very nearest approach to it, on this point. They said this— 1223The site is so obviously the best, and combines so many advantages possessed by no other site, that no one really competent to form an opinion on the subject, and looking only to the interests of the suitors, who are to pay for the whole, could for a moment think of proposing any other site. The suitors are in possession of the site, which was granted to them more than three and a-half years ago, by the authority of Parliament; and it is admirably adapted to their needs. The abandonment now of this site would involve an absolute sacrifice of not less than £500,000, and to compel them to give up this site, and to pay for another in no way adapted to their wants, would be one of the most oppressive and unjust proceedings that could be conceived.It was true that a considerably larger expenditure was now contemplated for the Carey Street site than that which was originally submitted to Parliament. When the Bill was introduced, in bringing in which he was the organ of the Government, the estimate was that the area of the Carey Street site would be, in round numbers, seven and a-half acres, and the cost £750,000, and as much more, it was judged, would suffice for the erection of the necessary Courts and offices then in contemplation, the plan of which was laid before the Select Committee. The ways and means were, at the same time, to be provided entirely out of legal funds, which, it was proved, were disposable by Parliament, and which had accumulated in the Court of Chancery from the management of the monies of the suitors. It was no doubt perfectly competent to the Legislature to deal with those funds; but it had hitherto shown no disposition to treat the funds in question otherwise than as properly applicable for the better administration of justice. These funds would otherwise have gone to reduce the fees payable by suitors, and a longer continuation of these burdens was submitted to for the sake of this greater benefit. There was an additional sum of £200,000 to be contributed by the public as the value of existing sites of which they would obtain the use, or which they might dispose of; and a further sum of £400,000 to be advanced by the Government to be re-paid in the course of years by means of fees to be levied upon the suitors in other Courts which did not contribute to the first sum. There was a belief that the work could be accomplished at this cost, but as the Bill passed through the House two things were done which resulted in an enlargement of the scheme. One was that on 1224 the part of the Temple, especially, it was insisted that it was desirable that the Government should not retain in their own hands the entire and exclusive control over the execution of the plan; but that, on account of the immense importance of making it as well as possible adapted to the administration of justice, a Commission should be appointed to confer with the Treasury and. advise them as to the plan of the building to be adopted, and as to the best mode of executing the work. A very numerous Commission was accordingly appointed, consisting of very eminent persons—Judges, representatives of the Bar, solicitors, and officers of the Courts. The Commission was so numerous that it could not have been expected to work so harmoniously as it had done; and it was only naturally to be expected that in the discharge of their duty the scheme should undergo some development and modification at their hands. That was not all, for a clause was inserted during the passage of the Bill through Parliament, which provided not merely that those Courts and offices which it was the original plan to concentrate should be erected, but that it should be competent to the Treasury and to the Commissioners to consider whether other buildings might not, with public advantage, be added, and also what approaches and accesses it might be expedient to construct which had not been provided for by the scheme. There was, however, no reason to suppose that if there had been no enlargement of the original design necessitating an enlargement of the site the estimate of the expenditure need have been exceeded. It was true that the plan now proposed by Mr. Street for a greatly enlarged building was one which deviated in part, though not to a great extent, from the original site; and no doubt Mr. Street's ultimate estimate of the expense of the work would be about double the sum which had been originally contemplated. It should, however, be recollected that at first provision was not made for a magnificent architectural work, and it was admitted that if that was what the country wanted, no person could undertake to tell what would be its ultimate cost. He had now to state how it was proposed by the Commissioners to provide for the additional expenditure which would be required for a magnificent pile of build- 1225 ings, and which the Commissioners estimated at £3,250,000. In that sum was included the cost of several acres of additional land to be obtained adjoining to the Carey Street site: a considerable part of which it was proposed to acquire only for greater convenience of access, and for light and air; and much of which might afterwards be so employed, as in the end to repay a great part of the money laid out in obtaining it. The late Board of Treasury saw no reason to doubt that the whole of that outlay might be | met by means of legal funds which had accumulated in the Courts of Law, and which might be appropriated for that purpose without doing a wrong to any one, or endangering the public faith with the suitors; and by a surplus of fees which, under an Act of 1867, had been specially dedicated to the re-payment of public advances on that account, and also by a small fee of 1s. per £100 proposed to be imposed on probates and administrations in the ease of every property above £100. The Commissioners satisfied themselves that these charges would not be sensibly or appreciably felt by those on whom they would fall, and who benefit by the new Courts. If the present Government disapproved that proposal, it might be right to confine the plan to its former narrower limits, and to refuse the means; but the House would see that it was not proposed to lay upon the general public a single fraction of the charge at the increased rate that was now proposed. Having stated this, he now had to deal with some of the views involved in the counter scheme. The first difficulty in dealing with this proposal was that it was altogether in nubibus. It had been put before the public in splendid Oriental imagery by a most accomplished man, who, having visited the palaces of the Moguls at Delhi, desired to re-produce something similar to them for the City of London on the shores of the Thames—a man whose flights of imagination overcame all obstacles of space and time—who had got a space not only equivalent to that of the Carey Street site, but containing 70,000 square feet more—who thought that there was nothing more easy than to rectify the alignment of the Thames Embankment—who said, "I will dam the river" at this point, and at another "it shall not run with such a deep indent and rob me of the best of all my land." Lincoln's 1226 Inn was to be moved to Somerset House, and Somerset House was to be raised a story; King's College Hospital was to disappear; Lincoln's Inn was to be appropriated for King's College, with a cricket ground for the young gentlemen educated there; Gray's Inn was to move down to the Carey Street site; and the old site of Gray's Inn was to be devoted to building houses for the poor, who had already been displaced from Carey Street at an expense of £600,000, and all for nothing if this new scheme were to be carried out. In fact, the whole world was to be changed for the purpose of realizing these magnificent dreams of Sir Charles Trevelyan. What could possibly be more imaginative than all that? For his part, he believed that the unavoidable consequence of the adoption of the scheme of his excellent Friend, Sir Charles Trevelyan, would be the expenditure of millions upon millions. There was to be a large new street into Piccadilly, another into the City, and in fact, streets north, south, east, and west;—and, nevertheless they were expected to believe that even this would not exceed the expense of building upon the Carey Street site. The opponents of the Carey Street site had their own estimates, and showed great versatility in making estimates of the cost of buying the whole of the ground down to the Thames Embankment; of buying King's College and removing it to make a great street to the north—for that was said to be indispensably necessary; of throwing a bridge across Essex Street, and a subway across the Strand. Well, of course, it was easy to cut "ducks and drakes" with figures; he regretted he had trusted quite so implicitly to the original figures of the Carey Street site as he did; the later estimates turned out to be extremely different from what he had anticipated, and he believed it would be precisely the same with regard to the fanciful estimates of expenditure on the Embankment site. Although his hon. Friend had got a certain company in his pocket ready to buy up the Carey Street site, he was assured by practical men that site could not be sold for the £800,000 which it cost by some hundreds of thousands. On the other hand, the cost of purchasing the Embankment site was equally undervalued. He had an estimate of a gentleman of experience upon this point. Mr. Rowcliffe said— 1227There are upwards of fifty shops and houses fronting the Strand, some of them newly erected, many of them the best frequented shops in London. In my judgment those houses could not be acquired for less than £800,000. There are nearly 250 houses and places of business in the rear, some of them of great value, which I put down at not less than £1,200,000. There are, besides courts, alleys, and frontages, which cannot be estimated at less than £200,000.Mr. Rowcliffe thus presented an aggregate of £2,200,000 for the Strand site. To this must be added the loss on the re-sale of the Carey Street site, and unforeseen expenses, so that the cost of the Embankment site would probably amount to £3,000,000 before a stone was laid. All that, too, let it be remembered, was exclusive of the purchase of King's College. It might be said that these figures were merely conjectural; but they were the result of the personal inquiries of one competent to judge of the matter, and should be taken side by side with the figures of the hon. Member for Galway. The supporters of the Embankment site were like children who planted flowers and then took them up to see how they grew; they would lose their former expenditure and their time, and would launch upon a new and unknown expenditure with great inconvenience to the public. Passing next to the question of the cost of the approaches to the Carey Street site, he asked whether it was reasonable to mix up that question with the cost of the Courts and buildings? All persons were agreed that it was desirable, wherever the Law Courts might be placed, that there should be better communications established between Holborn and the Strand, and that better access was needed to Lincoln's Inn Fields from the east and the west; but it surely would not be fair to charge the cost of these improvements upon the Carey Street site. If the Courts of Justice were once erected upon that site these works would probably follow in the natural course of things, and would fall upon the funds properly applicable to metropolitan improvements; but they would not, with the exception of a short opening from Holborn into Lincoln's Inn Fields, be more indispensable then than they were already. It should be borne in mind that the great body of solicitors lived on the north side of Carey Street. There were on that side 1,212 London solicitors who acted as agents for 3,875 country solicitors; while on the south 1228 of the Strand, including the Temple, there were 134 London solicitors, who acted as agents for 477 country houses; or, in other words, there were 5,087 as against 611. There were, no doubt, in the City 937 houses representing 1,119 country houses, and in other parts of the metropolis there were 1,067 houses representing 1,529 country houses; but the solicitors who were so distributed not only did not wish for a change to the Embankment, but the vast majority of them desired that the Carey Street site should be retained. It was at present proposed that all barristers and solicitors residing at the north side of the Strand should cross that thoroughfare as often as they had occasion to go to a Court, and something had been said about a subway and a bridge for that purpose; but at any rate such a scheme would be attended with great inconvenience, affording as it did access on only one side, while the Carey Street site could be approached both from the north and the south. Then, again, the fall in the ground from the Strand to the Thames Embankment varied from thirty to thirty-three feet, while the fall from Carey Street to the Strand, which was originally sixteen feet, had been reduced to eleven or twelve feet. All these things pointed one way; and there was this additional consideration, that the Carey Street site might be enlarged should the legal business require it, while no extension of available space was possible between Somerset House and the Temple. The hon. Member for Galway had assured us that the tendency of law business would be to contract rather than increase, and he appealed to the Report of the Judicature Commission to prove this; but the object of that Commission was to afford facilities for the disposal of business; and all experience showed that business increased with the introduction of improvements for its transaction. The Commissioners assumed that the same Judges would continue to sit in the same Courts, and they certainly did not contemplate a diminution in our future judicial business. But had the House no opinions upon which to decide this matter but those of lawyers? The name of Mr. Barry had been mentioned in connection with that subject. Now, he had not one word to say against Mr. Barry, who was a very able and excellent man; but they were all aware that 1229 Mr. Street, the architect, whose design for the new Courts had been chosen by a majority of the appointed Judges, and a man who personally and professionally commanded universal respect and confidence, differed upon that question from his hon. Friend and those who supported him. Mr. Street, in page 36 of the recent publication of the proceedings of a committee appointed by the Council of the Society of Arts upon this subject, said that the large map which had been prepared from the Ordnance Survey would show that Sir Charles Trevelyan's figures were not accurate, and could not be made a basis for his conclusions, and then he went on to state that—A carefully prepared map of the two sites to a large scale shows clearly that if approach roads are left on the east and west sides of the building (as they must be) there is just space for a building of the area I have planned on the Embankment site. But there is no more than proper space, and Sir Charles Trevelyan's estimate of an excess of 76,000 feet is evidently an entirely mistaken estimate.With regard to the accessibility of the site to the public, he said—On this head I have only to remark that the Carey Street site is very easily reached from the Embankment by roads practicable for carriages, while a very slight alteration of approaches on the north of Carey Street will make the access to the building more easy from all the great railway stations—the Great Western, North Western, Midland, Great Northern and Eastern Counties—than it would be if the building were on the south side of the Strand. Sir Charles Trevelyan's scheme would bring the whole of the traffic through or under the building itself. My view is that though the building ought to be accessible on all sides, the less it has to do immediately with vast thoroughfares the better.He then stated his objections to the plan of Sir Charles Trevelyan to making a street from the eastern side of Lincoln's Inn to Holborn, as it could not be continued north of Holborn, and also to Mr. Shield's scheme of approaches, as being very expensive. Upon the comparative cost of the two sites, he said—Upon this head I have no observation to make beyond referring to what I have just said on the subject of approaches, as to the cost of which I think Sir Charles Trevelyan has formed a most exaggerated estimate. I may also observe that the experience of any architect would enable him to say that it is always more costly to build on a steep incline than on a nearly level site, and that I believe the building on the Embankment, if it is to be really worth its position, would cost more than one on the Carey Street site would.Upon the fitness of the Strand site on architectural grounds, he said— 1230I cannot but think that the Carey Street site has been most unnecessarily disparaged. It appears to me to have some very great advantages, which may be allowed without the slightest disparagement of the Embankment site. The around on which it stands is so well raised above the river that any large and lofty building erected on it ought to add enormously to the architectural effect of London in all distant views, and even in all views from the bridges. The building would stand on ground which is as high above the river as the ground on which St. Paul stands; and we all know how magnificent an effect such an elevation produces.He went on to enlarge upon that point, and stated that the view from the Strand would be very grand, whereas if a fine facade was required towards the river, it would be impossible to have one towards the Strand. He had, however, adduced sufficient authorities upon this subject, and he would merely add that in the opinion of the architect of the building the levels of the Carey Street site were the best. Instead of being shut up in a wretched neighbourhood, as was anticipated by those who opposed the Carey Street site, the fabric would, in the course of time, be surrounded by handsome buildings, which would be built independently on the north, east, and west, and thus this part would become an ornament to the rest of the metropolis. It would be quite unnecessary that King's College Hospital or the Law Institution should be removed. In his opinion and belief, the original reasons for preferring the Carey Street site remained in full force, and those reasons had been rendered still stronger by the fact that a large expenditure had been incurred, that a large area of land had been acquired, that a large population had been displaced, that four years of time had been consumed in preparations, that great expectations had been raised, and that the site was generally approved by the legal profession. Under these circumstances he begged to move the Amendment of which he had given notice.
To leave out from the word "desirable" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "to proceed as soon as possible with the election of the New Law Courts, and the offices connected therewith, upon the site appropriated for that purpose by the Act 28 and 29 Vic. c. 49; and that if additional land be necessary for the proper erection of such Courts and offices, such addi-
tional land ought to be acquired in immediate proximity to that site,"—(Sir Roundell Palmer,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
hoped that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) would not set him down as a dilettante, as it was owing to his intervention in Parliament in 1858, as the representative of the Incorporated Law Society, that the Commission, presided over by Sir George Lewis, was appointed, whose Report had been the origin of the proceeding which had been taken with regard to the new Law Courts. He accordingly trusted to have the indulgence of the hon. and learned Member when he told him that he was about to argue this question, not in any dilettanti spirit, nor as a lawyer, but as an inhabitant and a ratepayer of London, who thought the beauty and the convenience of the city were of the greatest importance. The question before the House was sufficiently broad and sufficiently deep to have many sides, and therefore he was sorry that so many hon. Gentlemen had come down that evening, marshalled in two opposite ranks, as partizans of either the Carey Street or the Thames Embankment sites, when their object should be to take care that the best building should be put upon the best site in London. The Carey Street site had in itself great architectural and practical merits. It stood well raised above the level of the river; for the calculation was that the ground level of the building would equal that of St. Paul's; and any pile erected on this spot would have a magnificent aspect from Waterloo and the other bridges, from the other side of the river, and from the surrounding heights. On the other hand, the Thames Embankment site had many and equally indisputable advantages; and, now that the quay had grown into existence in solid granite, it had become a pressing question which of the two was the better adapted for a public building. It was a great mistake to assume that the moment we had succeeded in obtaining a handsome quay we were to block it up with great buildings. Not only should the buildings on it be fine, but the spaces between them should be 1232 extensive. A quay was above all things an artery to a great city. It existed for the purposes of broad avenues and of abundant fresh air. To block it up with large and heavy structures closely massed together, and leave the slums behind unimproved, was to act in direct violation of common sense. It was like the procedure of an old lady who stuck a livery coat over the clothes of a flyman, and thought to persuade the world she had procured a family coachman. We should in a word discount a great improvement if all the new public buildings are in future to be planted on the quay. On the other hand, no doubt, the great monument we have placed by the side of the Thames, with its granite steps, its sculptures, and its broad solid wall should not be blocked up with lodging-houses, vitriol works, builders' yards, and public houses in the space between the Temple and Somerset House. Between these two conflicting considerations the House needed enlightenment, and it had not been vouchsafed any competent guidance. He challenged his hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory) to say what he meant to do with the Carey Street site if he carried his Motion. He challenged the Government to answer the same question. In the beginning of his speech his hon. Friend made something like an appeal to his (Mr. Beresford Hope's) sensitive feelings when he spoke of the towers and the sky-line which he might see rising on the Carey Street site. Then he shifted his ground, and he spoke of an anonymous but perfectly solvent company which would take that site and deal with it as building ground. He was himself as anxious as any man to see the Thames Embankment finished, and to see upon it buildings worthy of that great roadway. At the same time he could not but appreciate the great advantage of the Carey Street site, and he did not want to drop his bone into the river and get only a shadow in return. Suppose they gave the Carey Street site up, and suppose then a fit of economy to come upon his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that, as their reward, they had an ugly block of barrack-like buildings stuck on the Thames Embankment they would be losers in every respect. The Embankment site being lower by a considerable number of feet than the Carey Street 1233 site, and placed upon a steep slope, the former would require a building of greater elevation and of more grandiose features. The House must have the matter put before them as it had not been put before them yet, or they could not proceed to a division with their eyes open. He hoped they would have from the Treasury Bench an intimation that in any event the Carey Street site should not be appropriated to speculative buildings, but reserved for a public structure. He trusted that, if the Courts themselves were not to be erected on the Carey Street site, some of the offices in connection with the Courts, including the great depository of wills, would be erected there. He was anxious that both sites should be made use of to advantage. In reference to what had been said by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond on the subject of concentration, he would remind the House that the Law Courts building would lose its effect if it were too large; over-centralization would decentralize. It would be a collection of passages and cells and labyrinths. To be a really imposing building it ought to be of moderate size. As for Sir Charles Trevelyan's grand scheme of sending everything in London dancing about somewhere else, it was impracticable. Lincoln's Inn was to come down to Somerset House, and Somerset House was to go up to Lincoln's Inn, or anywhere. The Temple was the only place which would be left where it is. Sir Charles Trevelyan's plan had really nothing to do with the question, and it was unfortunate that it should have been introduced, to complicate a practical discussion. The House had now before them the great contingency of the Thames Embankment, which was not in question eight years ago; they had also the solid advantages of the Carey Street site. He would gladly vote for the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Galway if he was sure there would in consequence be an unprejudiced re-consideration of the whole matter, and that the forfeiture of the Carey Street site for some public use would not be thereby risked; but until the Government gave the House some further information on the subject he was not prepared to say how he would vote on a division.
must say he thought his hon. and learned Friend the Member 1234 for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) had not served his case by indulging so much in invective as he had in the first part of his speech. His hon. and learned Friend had spoken in somewhat disparaging terms of the interference of dilettanti. Did his hon. and learned Friend think that no one but lawyers ought to have an opinion on this subject? He was not a lawyer, nor could he boast of being a dilettante; but as one who liked good architecture, and who was a ratepayer, he had given some thought to the question under consideration, and he had a predilection for the Embankment site. If they looked at that site from one of the bridges they would see a roadway 100 feet wide, with a large area behind it eligible for building purposes, and in the rear of that area a great main thoroughfare. A building on the Embankment would have the river in front, so that there would be a good supply of light and air, while such a building would not be, to any very appreciable extent, removed from the haunts of legal men. But what did they find on the other side of the Strand? There they found a large space of land that had been cleared, and that another space of considerable size would still be required; while the public buildings already adjacent to the site would block up the new Courts, and it would be difficult under any circumstances adequately to develop their architectural proportions. In the matter of approach the Carey Street site was open to the gravest objections; to get at it you must penetrate through some of the densest slums of London, come from what quarter you might, unless, indeed, a new arterial communication was to be opened at an unknown cost. In the Embankment a great arterial communication east and west already existed; for the Carey Street site it would have to be made, and to be made at the expense of the ratepayers of London, who were already more than sufficiently taxed. As one of that body he thought this was a very serious matter. No doubt, as the hon. and learned Member for Richmond had said, the expense of constructing such an outward communication ought not to be put upon the Carey Street site; but that very argument told in favour of the Embankment. The Metropolitan Railway would soon be running along it, and he had seen a scheme for 1235 constructing a railway right through the centre of London from Cromwell Street straight to the Law Courts. Then as to architectural advantages, he believed that the Thames Embankment site was superior to its opponent, although he was willing to acknowledge that the Carey Street site would offer favourable comparison with any other site, if the arterial communications suggested were made. But if that part of the undertaking was to be left in nubibus—left to chance—to be done some day or other—then he maintained that after the Law Courts had been erected on the Carey Street site nobody would be able to see them. Some of the arrangements connected with that site were really ridiculous. According to the proposed method the coup d'œil would be this—barristers, in their gowns and wigs, would be seen approaching the Courts from all quarters; suddenly they would disappear from sight, and be working their way through the burrows or tunnels leading to the Court. It would be still more ludicrous to see a venerable and learned Judge, full of years and honours, and arrayed in the garb of office, being hoisted up, body and bones, to his place of justice. If he preferred entering his Court by the way set apart for the public and the suitors, instead of being lifted in this way, he would have to mount eighty steps; and though this might be no great hardship if confined to an individual and to one or two occasions, it would, if it were to be a perpetual occurrence, be enough in itself, if everything else were equal, to turn the scale in favour of the Embankment site, where the access would be easy alike for carriages and passengers. His hon. and learned Friend had rather found fault with the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory) for opening a question which had already been decided; but he maintained that the case, if decided, had been decided in the absence of a material witness, and that at the time the Carey Street site was selected the Embankment site was unknown. It was not even alluded to in the Report of Sir George Lewis. In fact, the whole thing was sub lite. The material part of the Report which had been made on this subject was that, in order to secure anything like sufficient concentration, they would have to spend double or treble the amount which had been anticipated. 1236 The cost of the Thames Embankment site would compare not unfavourably with that of the Carey Street site; and, keeping especially in view the superiority of the former as regarded the approaches, he could not help thinking that greater advantage would accrue from its selection.
§ MR. DENMAN
maintained that the Carey Street site was the one most favourable to the interests of the public, of the suitors, and of the profession, whose convenience was of course the interest of the suitors, and that the adoption of the Embankment site would involve a wanton waste of money. There was no reason for rejecting the scheme that had been deliberately decided upon for the sake of a new one. If the Courts of Law were raised on the Carey Street site they would be within two or three minutes' walk of the chambers of almost all barristers in practice, whether they were in Lincoln's Inn or in either of the Temples; and within a very short time there were sure to be either subways or covered passages leading from every set of chambers in the Inns to the Courts, so that barristers should pass to and fro in all weathers without inconvenience. Barristers were now compelled to waste hours upon hours in Court waiting for their cases to come on—a loss of time full of inconvenience to themselves and of expense to their clients—but which would be entirely obviated if their chambers were close to the Courts. They would then be summoned within a few minutes of the time when their attendance was necessary, and in the meanwhile they could be doing work in their chambers. In fact the arrangement would be far more convenient than any in the world, not excepting the Four Courts in Dublin, for there the barristers ordinarily transacted their chamber practice at home. But place the Courts on the Embankment, and half of these advantages were sacrificed. Lincoln's Inn would be isolated; barristers having chambers there would find it a walk of seven or eight minutes, across an open and crowded thoroughfare, before they could reach the new Courts; and however trifling a matter a few minutes more or less might appear to the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory), every lawyer knew that they constantly made all the difference in the world, and might be 1237 the occasion of a cause being struck out and so postponed for weeks, and in this way thousands of pounds, in the way of costs, would be incurred by suitors in useless delays. If the hon. Member for Galway's proposition were adopted, the whole object in choosing a concentrated site would be lost as far as the barristers were concerned, and the case would be still worse in respect to the solicitors. The great bulk of the latter had their places of business roundabout the selected site, a great majority having offices to the north of it; and it was of immense importance that the chambers of counsel and the Law Courts should be of easy access to them, so that they might be able to summon counsel to attend in Court as soon as their respective cases came on; but the adoption of the present Motion would deprive them of that advantage. It by no means followed that if the Courts were not built on the Embankment the space must be occupied by poor and mean edifices. It could and ought to be secured by the Government and reserved for important public buildings worthy of the position, and he quite felt, with the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope), that it would be highly desirable if the House was informed what the plans of the Government in that respect were. In all respects the Carey Street site was preferable. He had been told that, as a Lincoln's Inn man, he naturally took only the Lincoln's Inn view of the case; but in fact his advocacy was wholly disinterested; for though a bencher of Lincoln's Inn his practice at the Common Law made it necessary for him to occupy chambers in the Temple, so that he had no personal reasons to give a bias to his judgment. In another respect the concentration of the Courts of Law, and especially the concentration of them upon the site most convenient to the profession, was a measure of the weightiest moment. He believed that it would be one great step towards the fusion of law and equity. That fusion, it was well known, had been retarded, in spite of the disposition on the part of the Legislature to promote it by nothing more than by the present separation of the practitioners at the Chancery and Common Law bars. He contended that if Lincoln's Inn were cut off from the Law Courts—if the Chancery barristers were to hang about the Courts all day while the Temple 1238 barristers spent their time in their chambers, the fusion of law and equity would be rendered as far off as ever. He had not studied the question of expense; but he was not surprised at all when the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) stated, on the authority of a competent and trustworthy witness, that the site of the Thames Embankment, including the purchase of rights, and the pulling down of buildings, would not be less than £2,000,000. He could easily believe that when he saw what was the cost of the Carey Street site with buildings of a much inferior character. The cost of the buildings on the Embankment site would be enormous, even though they did not include King's College in the site. It would, at all events, include the vast establishment of the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), a great number of large and thriving shops in the Strand, and a number of engineering establishments down towards the river. This must satisfy all reasonable people that the cost of the Embankment site would be much greater than that of Carey Street. It was a curious thing that at the discussion of this subject in the Society of Arts, which had been sent round to all the members, among the novelties of schemes that were propounded, it was agreed on all hands that the scheme of Sir Charles Trevelyan, which was the one now practically before the House, could not possibly be carried into effect. Objections were raised against it by artists as well as by architects. What was wanted was to get all the space they could, and cover the whole of the ground with Courts and offices. He entirely agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond that the tendency of improvement in the present day was to require greater, instead of less, space for the Law Courts. This was evident from the Report of the Judicature Commission, which proposed to bring the whole of the Home Circuit business—of the five counties adjacent, as well as Middlesex itself—into these Law Courts; and every effort made to improve and facilitate the administration of the law certainly led to the requirement of more space and more Court accommodation. Ought they not, then, to have regard to the spot where they might within reasonable limits extend the accommodation 1239 as required? In an architectural point of view the Carey Street site was admitted on all hands to be an admirable one. It was as good a site m that respect as could possibly be selected. It was more elevated than the Thames Embankment, and there was no part of London where you more wanted the monotonous line broken. Of itself it would be a splendid thing. Why should they prefer another site, which, after all, might be better occupied by four or five beautiful buildings than by one long building, which, looking from this side of Waterloo Bridge, owing to the bend in the river, could not take the Line of Somerset House, and might have to be erected in a curved line? Besides, the plans were already prepared; the architect knew exactly what was wanted. Any change of site would involve an extravagant waste of time and a reckless plunging into doubts and difficulties for the future. It would be far wiser and better, after so much expense had been already incurred, to complete the buildings on the present site and plans, which they had the means of doing within the next two or three years, than to postpone the accomplishment of so desirable an object for an indefinite period.
§ MR. G. GREGORY
said, he would not have obtruded himself upon the House if it had not been for the allusion made by the hon. Member who introduced the Motion (Mr. W. H. Gregory) to that branch of the legal profession to which he belonged. The hon. Member said that the opposition to the Embankment site originated with the solicitors of Lincoln's Inn. Now, he denied that. No doubt those solicitors did object, but it was only in common with the other members of their profession. The opposition originated with the Law Institution, of which 2,000 solicitors were members; and it originated there because they had devoted much time and labour to the question; and in the Carey Street site they thought they saw an end to their labours, while this Embankment site tended to dissipate the expectation. His hon. Friends who preceeded him had left him little to say, and he rather tendered himself as a witness than appeared as an advocate. The hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) had referred to a pamphlet giving some details as to the cost of the new site. He knew the 1240 author of that pamphlet, and he could certify that the figures were correct, for they had been tested by two or three eminent surveyors. Then, if they did abandon the Carey Street site, it was estimated that the Government would lose £500,000. He thought too much had been said on the subject of approaches. They did not want grand approaches to Courts of Law, where the people that came in their carriages were few. If they opened the Turnstile out of Holborn, and widened the corners of some of the streets leading from Long Acre to Carey Street, they would give all that was wanted. He did not know that it was desirable to make the Courts very convenient for the public to attend. If they provided a large space for their attendance they were apt to indulge in expressions which disturbed the course of justice. The Judges, he contended, would be put to no more inconvenience in reaching their Courts there than they every day experienced in ascending the staircases at their clubs, while, owing to the fall in the ground from the Strand to the Thames Embankment, it would be necessary to have an inclined plane, giving access to the floors of the Courts if built on that site, which would oblige them to go up something like sixty steps. He entreated the House to settle this question now at once, and for ever. It had too long been made the subject of discussion. Even if the new Courts were commenced at once there were many in his profession who could not hope to do business in them, but they wished to leave them to their successors as buildings where justice could be administered with something of the decency, not to say the dignity, that was due to the administration of the law.
§ MR. W. F. COWPER
said, that, as he had had to consider the relative advantages of the two sites, he would, with the permission of the House, state his opinion on the subject. Nothing which had occurred in the discussions that had taken place had altered his previous opinion that the Carey Street site was the most convenient and economical, and afforded the best opportunity for grand architectural effect. He was rather surprised at the sanguine view taken by his hon. Friend who opened the debate (Mr. W. H. Gregory) respecting the financial aspect of the question. It was an ascertained fact, and not a matter of cal- 1241 culation, that the Carey Street site cost £800,000, an amount he might incidentally remark which did not much exceed the original estimate. With regard to the other demands for £700,000 more, that additional sum would not be absolutely required for the erection of the building, although it was thought desirable to expend it in order to get better light, air, and approaches, and to obtain the means of ultimate extension of the building. But the estimate of the cost of the Embankment site rested on no responsible authority, but was open to grave questioning and doubts. Indeed, looking at the character of the houses which would have to be bought, the valuable shops on the south side of the Strand, and the excellent houses in Norfolk Street and Arundel Street, he thought the amount required would be in excess of the estimate. It had been assumed that the Carey Street site would sell for as much as it cost; but this would certainly not be the case if it were sold in the ordinary manner. The good-wills which cost so much to purchase were no longer in existence; and a competent authority had calculated that, if the site were sold in the ordinary way, a loss would be incurred of between £400,000 and £500,000. The hon. Member for Galway said the whole of the money might be recouped if the site were sold to a company for the purpose of erecting chambers for barristers and attorneys; but this, in his opinion, was highly problematical. Certainly, building on the Embankment site would involve considerably greater expense than building on the Carey Street site. The latter site was a level surface, and supplied the ordinary foundation for a building, but the Embankment site was of a very peculiar character. There was a slope of from thirty feet to thirty-two feet, and consequently it would be necessary to spend a great deal of money in building a basement like that of Somerset House, in order to produce the proper architectural effect from the river and to get a ground floor for the whole building on a level with the Strand. Again, it was well-known that the foundations on the banks of the river were peculiarly bad, and that it was necessary in erecting buildings to go to a greater depth than in other parts of the town. That was made evident when the Charing Cross Railway station was built. Then, the Underground Railway would come close 1242 to the proposed new building, and the only chance of avoiding the annoyance consequent on the vibration would be to carry the foundations below the level of the railway. For these two reasons it would probably be necessary to carry the foundations to a depth of forty feet. Now, the additional expenses involved in doing that and in making the useless substructure had been estimated by a competent authority at no less than £300,000. There was no doubt that it would be a very considerable increase in the expenditure of the building which would be erected on the Carey Street site. Another ground on which the claim had been made of superior economy for the Embankment site was the question of approaches; but it appeared to him that the two sites varied very little indeed in regard to approaches. They had the Strand in common; and the difference was that on the other side of the Embankment building would run the Embankment roadway, while on the other side of the Carey Street site were the communications that reached to Holborn; and he thought the advantage in point of convenience from approaches attaching to the Carey Street site would lie in the easier access given to those who lived on the northern side of London, while the greater convenience of the Embankment site would be to those who approached it from the southern side of London. They all knew that the enormous preponderance of the legal firms that frequented those buildings came from the northern and not from the southern side of London, and that of the ordinary public who came to the Strand, the great majority would come from the northern side. Supposing the present plan were continued, and the Law Courts were erected on the Carey Street site, there must of course be an easy communication with it through Norfolk Street or Essex Street from the Embankment roadway and from the Underground Railway. On the other hand, the accesses from Holborn would remain the same in either case, because, whether the Courts of Justice were built to the south or the north of the Strand, it was equally desirable that there should be some improvement in the communications to the northward, and the easiest mode of effecting that would be to break through the Turnstile at Lincoln's Inn. In some way or other 1243 the communications would be improved; but then the Embankment site had this disadvantage—that all the vehicles which came from northwards to reach it had to compete with the traffic in the Strand itself; they would have to cross the Strand, and be liable to all the hindrances incident to crossing there; whereas, if the Courts were on the north side, vehicles which approached them would only have to cross the Strand if they came from the south side. As to the traffic which came from east and west, there did not seem to be much difference between the two sites. Fleet Street and the Strand would supply the communication in either case. But, then, in point of quiet, the Carey Street site had a great advantage over the other; because it had only one noisy thoroughfare on the one side of it, instead of having such thoroughfares on both sides as the Embankment site would have. There would be much noise from the Embankment Railway, which would be much used for going from the City to Westminster. The Carey Street site was peculiarly adapted for the purpose, inasmuch as on the north side there were no thoroughfares along which vehicles were perpetually passing; but there were just those communications to the north and to Holborn which, with a little improvement, would easily provide for the convenient arrival of the persons frequenting the Law Courts. Judging from experience in regard to the Courts at Westminster, there was no reason to suppose that any large number of vehicles at any one moment would be crowding into those Courts. It seemed to him then, that on the score of economy and of convenience to those frequenting the buildings, the Carey Street site was the preferable one. Then there really could be no question between the two as to convenience of situation for the gentlemen of the legal profession, as Carey Street was in the very heart of their professional residences; and it was only on the supposition made by Sir Charles Trevelyan in so sanguine a mood that almost all the barristers and solicitors who lived to the north of the Strand would be displaced from their present position, and would be all shifting their quarters, that Sir Charles could got ever the obvious disadvantage of moving the site of the Law Courts to the south of the Strand. Therefore, he 1244 did not think any ground had yet been made why they should now, after so many years of consideration, after having passed Acts of Parliament and got possession of the site—which was now ready to be built upon—incur new delays, the extent of which they could not easily estimate. Although one might sanguinely hope that a Bill might be passed rapidly and approaches made quickly, experience had shown that delays always arose which were not previously expected. And then, too, they did not know, even supposing the House were now to decide that they ought to abandon the Carey Street site and adopt the Embankment, that next year the precedent of this year might not be followed—that a new plan might not be suggested which might find favour in the eyes of many—and thus they might be left for an indefinite number of years with their Courts of Justice in their present inconvenient and unsatisfactory condition. Believing that the convenience of the matter lay in the selection of the Carey Street site, he could not see any architectural ground on which they should abandon it. Anyone who looked at London from a distant quarter would always be struck with the advantage of St. Paul's and some of the upper parts of the towers of Westminster, which dominated over the lower buildings around them; and he conceived that the building which had been planned by Mr. Street would have a most effective aspect, from being erected on high ground and from being lofty in itself, and would prove more of an adornment to the metropolis at large than a structure built so low down as on the banks of the river. One portion of the building would be of the height of St. Paul's, at the point from which the dome sprang; the towers would be of the height of the western pinnacle of St. Paul's: so, that from all parts of London where the western pinnacle of St. Paul's was seen, the towers and upper part of the building in Carey Street would be also seen. The low situation in which the Houses of Parliament stood detracted from their architectural effect. The best architecture was always that which endeavoured to secure the greatest utility; and architectural success was oftener attained—not by subordinating utility to beauty—but, on the contrary, by aiming to carry out in the 1245 most effective way the purposes for which the building was required. On these grounds he should oppose the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Galway.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
wished to add his testimony to that of other members of his profession in that House in favour of the Carey Street site, which he considered infinitely preferable to that of the Thames Embankment. The view he took of the matter was that they ought above all things to go as nearly to the centre of the whole legal profession as they possibly could; and the Carey Street site had this advantage, that whereas it would scarcely make any appreciable difference to those who practised in the Temple, there could be no doubt that when they came to Bedford Row and Bloomsbury it would make all the difference in the world, having to come across the whole of the distance with the Strand intervening between their places of business and the site of the Courts.
§ MR. TITE
said, no doubt £760,000 beyond the £800,000 that had already been expended would be required to complete the Carey Street site, in order to give the necessary light and air that would be required for so large a building as it was proposed to erect there, for it would be impossible to construct such an edifice as was proposed, without an area in itself sixty feet wide all round it. The area which the Commissioners began with was, if he recollected rightly, 376,000 feet, or about seven and a-half acres, and now they asked for 276,000 feet more. With regard to the Embankment site every one was enamoured with the wonderful work which had been done there, and filled with a desire to make the Embankment worthy of the metropolis. If things, however remained as they were there was danger that instead of an ornament they would have a disgrace. Owing to the original provisions of the Bill the Metropolitan Board of Works had no power whatever to take an atom of the dirty, unsightly streets that ran down from the Strand to the Embankment. But there was a small portion of ground between Essex Street and Arundel Street which might be put to very good use. If he was asked to vote for one site as against another he should hesitate before voting against 1246 the Thames Embankment. He would not venture to put his experience against that of the lawyers as to which site was the more convenient and better for them. But he would ask how it was that a large number of eminent lawyers who practised in the City had contrived for so long a time to get from one Court to another? The question of Lincoln's Inn and the solicitors' chambers adjacent, that so much had been made of, appeared to him a very small matter. With regard to the estimates, he was not going to say a word after the reproaches which had been addressed to him the other night. But when they saw that lawyers had the making of the estimates, and it was suggested that what had began at £ 1,000,000 might possibly become £3,200,000, he thought architects need not be very much ashamed of themselves. He had only suggested doubling the estimate, and that was very natural and not very unusual in Government works. But looking at the matter as a man of business, it appeared to him that the building itself, from its enormous size was a mistake, and that to congregate so many persons together would be a failure. Last Session he was of opinion that if they were to divide the building it would be possible to get rid of the difficulty with respect to the two architects, one of whom he could not but think had been very ill-treated. If they could separate the building into two portions—one might be larger than the other—they might have it in their power to do some justice to a man whom they had treated with great injustice. The House would recollect that originally two architects were appointed—Mr. Street and Mr. Barry, who agreed to act together as joint architects; but subsequently the Government took Mr. Street, and threw over Mr. Barry altogether. He had a great regard for both architects, and had been always on excellent terms with them; but putting the architects out of the question he believed that the proposed building might be divided properly and economically. It was perfectly well known to the Metropolitan Board that, if they could not have the inclined road between Hungerford and Waterloo Bridges, they must have some communication from the Strand with the Thames Embankment, and the only other alternative was Esssex Street. 1247 Now, at the bottom of Essex Street would be found a very convenient piece of ground for a handsome building which might be used for the storage of wills, and leading lawyers had told him that it would be desirable to take such a building out of the crowded streets. Such a building would lend to the Embankment a certain amount of ornament, even if Carey Street were retained as the site for the main building.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
stated, that if he wanted an argument against the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory), he would find it in the recommendations of the last speaker. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite) had told them he could not enter into the question as a lawyer; but they had never heard from any lawyer, during the long period over which the discussion had ranged, an opinion in favour of separating the Law Courts, and the offices connected with them. So far as his (Lord John Manners') experience went, he did not think the hon. Member for Bath's suggestions would find favour with the legal profession. And Sir Charles Trevelyan, the great promoter of the scheme suggested by the hon. Member for Galway, was as strong as any one on that point. Everyone who had as yet taken an interest in the subject was of opinion that the Courts and offices should be concentrated on one spot. Evidently the hon. Member for Galway should have made his Motion in that arena to which reference had been made so frequently—the Society of Arts. It was a purely abstract Resolution, designed to commit no one, either the House, the Government, or the Commission; it was simply an expression of opinion that it was desirable to re-consider the question of Carey Street as a site, considering that the Thames Embankment offered peculiar advantages. What the hon. Member apparently meant was that the Government should consider the matter, but he explained that the House of Commons should come to a decision tonight, and that the Government should take that decision as final. It would have been better, then, that the hon. Member had said distinctly that the Embankment site was preferable to the Carey Street, and divided the House of Commons on that question. He, however, had put before them an apparently 1248 harmless Motion, and had explained it by saying that he meant the Government to act upon it, and explained that by saying that the House of Commons should tell the Government what construction to put upon it. His hon. Friend had argued the question under three general heads, the first of which was economy. He (Lord John Manners) earnestly entreated the House to beware how they accepted the budget of a private Member on a question of this sort. It was well known that the official framers of budgets were not always correct in their anticipations; even the most experienced financiers had failed in this respect. Was it not, then, very probable that the budget of the hon. Member for Galway was rather faulty? The hon. Gentleman's budget consisted of two parts, in the first of which he heaped up on the debtor side every conceivable and inconceivable item of possible or impossible expenditure on the Carey Street site; while the second consisted of the very moderate figures which the hon. Gentleman gave as being enough to enable the House to carry out the project on the Thames Embankment. The hon. Gentleman assumed that the total cost of the Carey Street site would be £1,550,000, to which he added £100,000 for the purchase of the Law Institution, £1,000,000 for the necessary approaches, as suggested by Mr. Street in his preliminary Report—who, however, now expressed Ms dissent from that estimate—and then £1,600,000 for the road proposed by Mr. Shields, who was called upon by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to report upon the subject, which made so enormous a total that he really distrusted the power of his memory to retain it. Now, what were the facts of the case? Mr. Shield's road was entirely repudiated by Mr. Street, the architect of the building; and, even if that road was required, it would be for the general improvement, embellishment, and convenience of the whole metropolis, and therefore the estimate for the Carey Street site ought not to be saddled with it. The item of £1,600,000 ought therefore to be entirely left out of consideration. The item for King's College Hospital and the approaches, £1,000,000, was a very large one, but neither Mr. Street nor the Commission proposed to purchase King's College Hospital.
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
said, he had 1249 not included the purchase of the hospital. His item was £1,500,000 altogether, for the approaches from east and west.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he was so overwhelmed by the hon. Gentleman's figures that it was no wonder he had understated them. The item of £1,500,000 for approaches was not wanted for the Law Courts, and it was in the highest degree unfair to saddle the Carey Street site with it. His hon. Friend also saddled that site with £100,000 for the purchase of the Law Institution; but that was a comparatively small item, which he would not raise much question about. But the two large items which he objected to have saddled upon the Carey Street site amounted to £3,100,000. The three and a-half acres of land required for the approaches to the Carey Street site, &c., would cost £685,000, or, in round numbers, £700,000; but an acre of that would not be required, and could be re-sold, so that the total net cost would be £418,000. By that extent no doubt the cost of the Carey Street site would have to be increased, and as the site had already cost in round numbers £800,000, the total would be £1,218,000. Now, what was the expenditure for the Thames Embankment site? The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite) spoke derisively of lawyers making estimates for the purchase of land; but it was a remarkable fact that the estimate for the Thames Embankment site was made by the same gentleman, not a lawyer, but an eminent surveyor, who made the estimate for the Carey Street site. The Thames Embankment site alone was estimated at £1,500,000, without anything for approaches or anything else, so that there was an excess on the site alone of £282,000. But was that the measure, or anything like the measure, of the cost of the Embankment site? Certainly not, for there must be an estimate of the loss which would take place on the resale of the Carey Street site, as it was impossible to assume that the re-sale could be accomplished without loss. That loss had been estimated by one of the most eminent surveyors in London at £500,000. As, however, there might be some compensating circumstances which would reduce the loss, he would estimate it at £400,000. He now came to consider what must be the additional 1250 cost of the buildings if they were erected on the Thames Embankment. For the foundation works the Carey Street site might be treated with the spade; but there must be immense building operations in connection with the foundation on the Thames Embankment. He understood from high authority that the difference on this head could not be less than £500,000 as against the Embankment site, He admitted that, owing to the water carriage, building materials could be conveyed to the Embankment at a cheaper rate, and he deducted £50,000 for that, which would leave a balance of £450,000 against the Embankment site on the mere expenditure for foundation. They had not heard much—indeed, he did not think they had heard anything that evening—of the other sources of expenditure which would necessarily follow the choice of the Embankment site. The Strand must be widened, and to effect this a block of houses must be removed. Sir Charles Trevelyan admitted the necessity of this improvement, and he believed that £400,000 was not too high an estimate of the cost of it. He thought the House would find that £1,532,000 was his estimate of the total expenditure on these heads; for it must be remembered that the great advocates of the change to the Embankment site did not urge it on the ground of its convenience to suitors, barristers, and solicitors, but they came forward on what was called the æsthetic ground, and advocated it as a great metropolitan improvement—as an embellishment to the Thames Embankment and to the metropolis. But if that were the real reason for the change, it could not be supposed that a gigantic building—like the Law Courts were to be—could be put up side by side with Somerset House, while Somerset House was left as it now stood, with its dumpy domes and narrow windows. Somerset House would be dwarfed and killed by the Law Courts unless a great change were made in its facade and summit. It was proposed by some people that two storeys should be added to Somerset House to meet the difficulty, and others more moderate contented themselves with the proposal for one additional storey. He had no estimate of the expense of this alteration of Somerset House. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner 1251 of Works (Mr. Layard) had. But there was another matter to be considered. It was said that Somerset House had had the misfortune to have a great deal of unsound timber used in its construction, and it was a question how far the building would be able to bear these additional storeys. If they were to act simply from an æsthetic point of view, they would either have Somerset House completely dwarfed by the new Courts, or they would incur a great expense, at the risk of having Somerset House brought about their ears. His hon. Friend the Member for Galway had said—"Don't talk to me about suitors; we are all suitors. The public are the suitors." He recognized the great ability of his his hon. Friend; but when Irish Members spoke of the public in connection with expenditure they generally meant the public ought to pay. He thought that on this occasion his hon. Friend was no exception to the rule; and he should like to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to call upon the public to pay for the architectural whims and fancies of his hon. Friend the Member for Galway? He warned the House that, if the proposition were carried, the right hon. Gentleman might probably be compelled in two or three years to come down to the House with a little bill as the result of it. The hon. Member urged that the proposed edifice would be a great metropolitan improvement, and adornment to the metropolis. No doubt of it; but that did not furnish any reason for raising it on the site of the Thames Embankment. The elevation of Carey Street was admirable—it was pretty near the level of St. Paul's, and any great building placed upon the site must be seen from almost every part of the metropolis; whereas unless it was raised to an extraordinary height, it could not be seen at any great distance, if built upon the Thames Embankment. The hon. Member had referred to Mr. Baillie Cochrane as the Parliamentary introducer of this measure. Deeply as he regretted that gentleman's absence from their debates, he could not, if he had been present, have said a word less against the proposal of the hon. Member for Galway. He asked the House to view the question in a practical spirit, and not allow itself to he led away by architectural dreams of what might or might not happen. He 1252 entreated the House to persevere in the course which all previous Governments, since 1858, adopted, and permit this great work to be carried out, which only awaited its decision on this question to be commenced. He had noticed, with regret, that much of the delay, which, in effect, meant extra expense, and of the increased expenditure following the projection of schemes of metropolitan improvements and national buildings, resulted often from the unfortunate jealousy which one Government felt of the decision of its predecessor. He had had the honour of filling the Office of First Commissioner of Works on three separate occasions, and he had no hesitation in saying that he had always endeavoured to avoid that most expensive error. His object was to carry out, if possible, those works that had been sanctioned by his predecessor in Office. In the present instance he thought it would be a most unfortunate event if the Government were to reverse the decision of their predecessors for the last eleven years, and by their vote that night plunge this great question into architectural confusion and financial chaos.
§ MR. LOCKE
believed that all the legal arguments to-night had been on the Lincoln's Inn side of the question. He was not aware that any member of any other Inn had risen, not even Gray's Inn—for the hon. and learned Member (Sir Roundell Palmer) had taken Gray's Inn under his protection—the two Inns, as it would seem, being in the same boat. It might be taken that the site of Carey Street, if it were completed, with the buildings, would cost as much, if not more, than the site of the Thames Embankment. If so, the two plans started fair. Utrum horum mavis accipe—which did they choose?—as they said in the Latin grammar. If the question were now raised for the first time, and if they had the two sites to choose from, he appealed to an enlightened public to say whether they would not prefer the Thames Embankment. In the first place, in an aesthetic point of view there would be no question that the Thames Embankment was far preferable to the Carey Street site. Then, with regard to convenience, hon. Members always looked to the north of London; but as a representative of Southwark he wished to say one word in favour of his constituents and of the south side of London. Per- 1253 sons in Southwark would naturally prefer that site to which they could come from London Bridge for 1d. Considering that we were a maritime people hon. Members had been strangely remiss in leaving out of their consideration the above-bridge navy and the facilities of carrying the people to these Courts by water. The advocates of the Carey Street site had argued as if all the attorneys and solicitors in London had their offices in or around Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn, but was it not the fact that they were to be found in all parts of the metropolis? The inhabitants of the Borough, of Southwark, and Lambeth were as litigious as the rest of the community, and the attorneys and solicitors in those boroughs would not object to come to these Courts by water; indeed, it would be to them the greatest convenience; but the attorneys near Lincoln's Inn were represented as having fallen into such a decrepid condition that they could only manage to walk a few yards to the Courts, and as being utterly unable to cross the Strand and walk fifty or sixty yards to the Thames Embankment. Those gentlemen were greatly to be pitied; and in the interests of their bodily health it was most desirable to raise the building on the river site, because, no doubt, the bracing and invigorating atmosphere of the Thames Embankment would have a most renovating effect upon them. The distance for which they were stipulating now was, they said, only a few yards from their chambers to the Courts; nevertheless they contrived, though with great physical exertion, when they had business in the Law Courts at Westminster, to go much further. Referring to the representations of the Law Institution of Chancery Lane, he looked upon them as concerning a question of mere pounds, shillings, and pence. That institution possessed some ground in the neighbourhood of Lincoln's Inn, and it was willing, no doubt, to take its chance of something happening to its property which might be useful to it in a pecuniary point of view. The noble Lord (Lord John Manners) had complained that the hon. Member for Galway had not put this question before the House in a sufficiently definite form; but the fact was that it assumed too definite a shape to secure the noble Lord's approval. If the Resolution of the hon. Member for Galway were carried, the 1254 House would show that it did not altogether approve the scheme of building the Law Courts in Carey-street, but that it was ready to consider and approve the site of the Thames Embankment. That was the issue now before them. On grounds of economy and convenience to everybody who had business in the Law Courts, the Embankment site was infinitely to be preferred to the Carey Street.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It well becomes my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) to stand up so heartily and strongly in behalf of the profession of which he is the undoubted head; but, when I heard him speaking up for the lawyers, I could not help wishing that his earnest worship of Thomas was a little less intolerant of others. I think my hon. and learned Friend ought to be content to say all that he did in honour of the legal profession without denouncing so very severely those gentlemen, his opponents, as dilettanti persons who have given a little attention to the Fine Arts, and denouncing also all attempts to beautify this metropolis as "imaginative," and therefore contemptible. I wish I could have discovered one redeeming virtue in the hon. and learned Member's speech, and have traced some slight regard for the British tax-payer. That happens to be the point upon which I am principally concerned. The noble Lord opposite (Lord John Manners) called my attention to the matter in a very marked manner, and I am much obliged to him; but I can assure him my attention has been called to this matter for many months, and I must express to the House my anxiety respecting it. When I first came into Office my attention was drawn to an account of the Royal Commission, dated the 21st of June, which stated that the actual cost of the present site is £785,000; additional lands proposed to be purchased, £668,000; cost of building and architect's commission, say £1,650,000; furniture and contingencies, say £147,000: total, £3,250,000. I was considerably startled to find the expenditure with which we were threatened, and I was not relieved when I discovered that I must add to this sum £108,000 for the expenses of the Royal Commission, in which was included £27,000 payment to Messrs. Field & 1255 Co. for commissions, disbursements, and taxed costs, so I was confronted at once with an expenditure of £3,385,000. I, of course, immediately referred to the authority for this expenditure, and turned to the Acts passed with reference to this matter—one fixing the expenditure and the other the means of payment. I found this remarkable enactment—No notice shall be given of the intention to take any property under this Act, nor shall any contract be entered into for the purchase of any property, until a certificate in writing shall have been received by the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, signed by the major part in number of the persons appointed by Her Majesty under the Courts of Justice Building Act, 1865, to advise and concur with the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury with reference to the plan and arrangements of the buildings to be erected upon the lands hereby authorized to be taken, stating that they were satisfied that the lands to be acquired under this Act, of which a plan has been laid before Parliament, are sufficient for all the purposes of the intended new Courts and buildings connected therewith, and that the probable cost of the said lands and buildings will not exceed the amount of the funds provided under the Courts of Justice Building Act, 1865, for those purposes.The sum referred to is £1,500,000. It seemed to me as if the ground had given way under my feet when we compared these two statements. I next referred to the debates which had preceded the passing of those Acts, and I find that my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Roundell Palmer), who at present urges us not to stop at any expenditure, delivered an excellent speech, in which, after remarking that the cost of the site and the building would be £1,500,000, said that was, no doubt, a considerable sum of money, but that the House would think it well and economically spent if they could obtain for it so important a public benefit as the proposed building. On the second reading of the Bill my hon. and learned Friend returned to the charge, and said—Of course, every one is aware that when you begin to build you may, if you choose, exceed any estimate which can, under any circumstances, be made; but I believe that the Treasury are fully determined, as far as in them lies, to watch narrowlyver the execution of these works, and to take all proper measures to check the expense, and to prevent any extravagant expenditure upon mere ornament or decoration, as distinguished from actually useful work, without which there is reason to believe that there will be no danger of the estimate being exceeded."—[3 Hansard, clxxvii. 303.]1256 And that is the speech of the same person who now urges us to go on with an expenditure which is estimated at present at £3,250,000,—an estimate which is certain to be largely exceeded, and about which I shall have a word or two to say by-and-by. It was enough to frighten anyone to read that Act of Parliament and those speeches, and then to be informed that the sum required would be so enormous. I will tell the House what course I adopted when these circumstances came to my knowledge, because I am aware that in following that course I took upon myself a heavy responsibility. The House is aware that the Royal Commission was composed of most eminent persons, whose judgment in other matters I should be bound to respect, but who could not possibly go into the necessary details which would enable them to form a sound opinion on this question, and who were therefore obliged to rely on the statements of other persons. The Act of Parliament says that the Treasury and the Royal Commission must concur in what is to be done, and the first thing I did when I came into Office was to refuse my assent to the expenditure of the £668,000 which it is now proposed to lay out upon the purchase of additional land. I went to the Commission, and I read to them the very section which I have read to the House, and said that the appearance of the thing was so startling that I thought my duty would be best performed by checking all expenditure until the determination of the House upon the question should be known. I may say that, had it not been for the heavy engagements of the Session, the decision of the House would have been taken upon the subject before this time. That is the responsibility I have taken upon myself in this matter, and it is for the House to-night to decide the course that shall be taken with regard to it. I will now proceed to point out what I believe to be the real nature of the situation in which we are placed with reference to this question. The estimate I have mentioned amounts to £3,250,000, and to that must be added a further sum of £108,000 for expenses incurred by the Royal Commission, and £27,000 to Messrs. Field, making together a total of £3,385,000. I must, however, point out that this by no means pretends to be a final estimate—it is what is called, I believe, "a sketch" estimate—being, 1257 in fact, only a guess on the part of the architect, whom it would be unfair to hold bound to it, inasmuch as he has not as yet had an opportunity of going through the details of the work, and therefore of estimating with accuracy its precise cost. But besides that, it is mentioned in this very account that certain other lands called, I believe, "Cook's Block" must be purchased before the proposed site can be available for the purpose for which it is intended; and of the probable cost of the additional land there is not even an estimate, but I apprehend that it will amount to a considerable sum. Then there further remains the vexed question of the approaches. I do not want to exaggerate matters upon this point; but hon. Members speak of these approaches as if the formation of them was optional. I can assure them that such is not the case. The Strand is called "the great artery of London, through which flows the full tide of life," and so on; but I can assure hon. Members that I have a friend who lives at the east side of Temple Bar, and when he wants to go to the West End, he goes up Chancery Lane, and across Lincoln's Inn Fields, and so on through Covent Garden, in order to avoid the unpleasantness of proceeding along this great artery. Now, of course, looking at the question in the view taken by the hon. and learned Member for Richmond—for, of course, in that view all mankind are made for the benefit of the legal gentlemen—the inconvenience of the public will be a matter of but small consequence so long as they themselves can walk, almost at a hop, from their chambers to the Courts; but the hon. and learned Member must excuse me if I take a more cosmopolitan view of the question. We have to consider not only the convenience of the lawyers, but also that of the jurors, that of the witnesses, that of the litigants, and that of those persons whom curiosity or interest may induce to become spectators of a trial, and, looking at what are likely to be the numbers of these various classes, we must come to the conclusion that it is impossible for a Court of Justice to properly discharge the province for which it is intended unless we provide good access to it—not only streets which can be got to and through, but also such access to the building itself as may not put an unnecessary strain upon weak or aged 1258 people in coming to the place where justice is administered. Neither is it unreasonable that we should endeavour to provide for the safety of the people frequenting the Courts. I find that in the proposed plan for building the Courts of Justice upon the Carey Street site there are no less than sixty steps—[An hon. MEMBER: 100 steps.] Well, 100 stops, but sixty are enough for my purpose, between the Strand and the floor of the Courts. What would be likely to be the result, in the event of the people leaving in a dense mass after the verdict in a case exciting considerable interest had just been given, and having to descend sixty or 100 steps? In such a case accidents would be almost certain to happen. All these things have to be taken into consideration in determining which is the best site for a building of this description, and therefore it is that I say that, on whatever site the building may be erected, we must take care that the approaches to it are adequate. Now, the Metropolitan Board of Works is not at this moment rich, and even if it were we could not force it to make the approaches, and we could not go on without them. If we are to make adequate approaches to the site in Carey Street from Holborn and the West End, I think I may say that we shall be fortunate if the actual cost of the new Courts, if built on that site, does not exceed £4,000,000. That is the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond. Now, I being charged—however unworthy I may be—with the financial business of the country must enter my protest against an expenditure of that magnitude. I hold it to be an entirely unnecessary expenditure. I hold that the view the House took when it put the clause into the Act requiring a certificate that the building should be made for the sum of £1,500,000 was sound; and I think the hon. and learned Member for Richmond would be using his influence in this House much better if, instead of urging us to sanction an expenditure of that sum multiplied many fold, he would ask us to retrace our steps, and refuse to allow the sum which was originally deemed sufficient to be exceeded. I put the question as a question of economy, and as such the House must consider it. It is a question of the amount of money which the tax-payer will have to provide for this purpose. But, it may be reason- 1259 ably asked, how is it that the sum said to be required for the purpose of carrying out the intention of the House has been growing from £1,500,000 to £3,385,000, with the probability that the latter sum may be still further increased by an indefinite amount? It is simply for the reason which the hon. and learned Member for Richmond has been pressing upon the House, and upon which no lawyer will differ from him—namely, the desire that exists for concentrating the Courts, and everything connected with them, however slight the connection may be, in the same building. As far as the mere concentration of the Courts and of their immediate offices, such as the Judges' chambers, the Masters' offices, the offices of the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellors and others are concerned, I am willing to agree with him. I believe that if the desire for concentration were limited to those offices, or even to one-third more, that the original estimate would never have been exceeded. But, instead of being content with this reasonable proposal, what has happened? Why, we have been seized with what I may call a sort of frenzy of concentration. We seem to think that we must concentrate everything. It has been said that the English are a people who have good ideas, but they never know when they have had enough of them. Having got this idea of concentration into our heads, instead of being content with making a mere place for the administration of justice, we have set ourselves to work to build a sort of Tower of Babel, which will be the centre of noise, tumult, and confusion; through which only an habitué will be able to make his way, and in which every species of disorder is likely to prevail. In fact, it would be the very paradise of thieves and pickpockets. Under these circumstances, I ask the House whether it is wise to multiply our difficulties by adding to the necessary offices immediately attached to the Law Courts a number of offices that are only remotely connected with them? It has been held out as a great fact that we are going to remove the Accountant General's department—a department which is in reality a branch of the Bank of England—to the new building, and that we are going to remove, under the same roof, all the wills of all the testators in England, because now and then a will 1260 forms the subject of litigation. These are only specimens of the absurd spirit of headlong extravagance upon this point that possesses us. 80 far from this system of concentration proving a convenience, I am satisfied that it will work most disadvantageously. It cannot facilitate the administration of justice to form a sort of gigantic Vanity Fair, in which everything is to be collected and piled up one on the top of the other. I earnestly ask the House to retrace its steps, and to go back to the more moderate and wiser views they held only four years ago. This is the view which I felt it to be my duty as Minister of Finance to lay before the House; and I have to warn them that, if they launch into the headlong expenditure which has been proposed, they will be embarrassing the finances of the country for years, and will hamper, by those operations, means by which I hope it may be possible to lighten the burdens of the people. There is another point on which, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I feel bound to touch. A great deal has been said about the public having little or nothing to pay for this matter, as the whole charge will be borne by a tax upon suitors, except the sum of £200,000 which the Government will have to contribute in consideration of the rent of certain offices. Now, I am bound to tell the House that no greater fallacy than that can be put forward. The state of the matter generally is this—I admit that the fees and payments by suitors are, to a certain degree, fairly stamped with a sort of trust that they shall be employed in the administration of justice; that idea has been generally acted upon by this House, and I am not concerned to dispute the propriety of it; but the House may not be aware that we are about to introduce a measure this Session which will transfer the fee fund of the Court of Chancery to the revenue, and bring on the revenue all the charges connected with the Courts, which will appear, for the first time, in the Estimates next year. The Judges will then be no longer able to impose charges without the consent of the Treasury, and the salaries and the pensions they give will be subject, like any others, to the review of Parliament. Premising that, I beg the House to note it before they give ear to the stories told them about the relief to be obtained from the suitors' 1261 fee fund. I will give the state of the account of the fund derived from fees, savings, and other matters of that kind for the administration of justice, and the cost of that administration; and the application of the facts will be easily seen. On the suitors' fund, the suitors' fee fund, the salaries' fund, there is a surplus of revenue over expenditure of £7,703. In the Superior Courts of Common Law there is a surplus of £16,000; but that is in rapid course of diminution through the operation of the Act passed last year extending the jurisdiction of the County Courts. In the Court of Bankruptcy there is a surplus of £5,000; but I should think that likely to disappear; from what we know of the abolitions and compensations to follow the best intentioned Bankruptcy Bills. On the Court of Probate there is a deficiency of nearly £74,000; on the High Court of Admiralty there is a deficiency of nearly £4,000; and on the Land Registry Court there is a deficiency of £4,300. The result is that the expenditure on these Courts exceeds the funds provided from these sources by the sum of £53,000 a year. I now wish the House to consider the account rendered by the Commissioners, on the 21st of July of last year, on their Ways and Means for meeting the further expenditure of £3,250,000. First, there is the Chancery contribution of £1,000,000 stock which has realized £900,000; that is, of course, spent and done with. Then there is the £200,000 granted by the Government in consideration of the buildings which are to be vacated by placing these offices in a single building. Next, there is the produce of the sale of £201,000 Consols out of Chancery, but from this part of the £7,000 surplus has been derived, and when you have sold that £201,000 of Consols you will have diminished the receipts of the Court of Chancery, and I shall have to provide for a deficiency of £7,000. Therefore, it is exactly the same, except for the look of the thing, as if you took the money out of the taxation of the country. The next item is Bankruptcy Stock, £271,000; that again is part of the assets, the income from which goes to keep down the expenditure of the country; if you take it away I shall lose the income from that also, which will make the deficiency still larger. The same with regard to the £177,000 of unclaimed dividends, in 1262 respect of which also you will increase my expenditure by diminishing my revenue. There is a tax to be imposed on the probate of wills—a proposed rent of Courts' fee of Is. per £100 to be imposed on probates and administrations, which it is estimated will produce £46,000; but that is clearly an Imperial tax; we tax probates already; if anybody ought to tax them it should be this House. That item must, therefore, clearly be struck off. What results from all this is that the Commissioners toll us they expect us to lend them a sum of £1,395,000, for the purpose of making up £3,250,000, which is to be redeemed by an annuity at 4 per cent for fifty years, paid mainly by these taxes on probates. So we are to tax the people to pay an annuity which we lend; we are to lend the money and tax ourselves to repay the loan we lend. That is the state of the finances. We must not, therefore, deceive ourselves by supposing that this money comes out of these funds; it conies out of the general revenue of the country; we must make up our mind to that. I believe I have stated, as nearly as I can, the precise position in which the matter stands. I have suspended the purchase of land; I have stopped all the operations I could, awaiting the pleasure of this House; it remains to be seen what that pleasure is, and I have only to suggest what I believe ought to be their preference. With every respect for the Royal Commission, I believe it has now performed all its functions; it has gone through the whole matter; it has reported upon it and made its recommendation of this building and this expenditure. I do not speak in any spirit of irony at all; but I do not think that anything remains for it to do which it was contemplated it should do. Things have certainly arrived at this point, that the Treasury and the Commission are unable to do what the Act of Parliament said they should do—namely, to concur upon this matter. I differ from them most distinctly; and I do not think I should be doing my duty to the taxpayers if I did not express that difference without the slightest hesitation. I therefore venture to suggest to the House that which I wish to see done. It is that we should put an end to this double authority; that as the Chief Commissioner of Works must have the management of this matter, as the Treasury must really find the 1263 funds, and as it is a delusion to suppose that any peculiar fund is at the command of the Commission, you should give back the power to the hands of those who must really do the work and must be responsible for it, and give us power to act without the consent of the Commission. We are now at a dead-lock, and therefore we ought to relieve the Commission of their duties, and give back to the Treasury and the First Commissioner of Works the power of dealing with this business. I cannot see any other way out of the difficulty. Again, I earnestly press on the House not to plunge into this vast expenditure, to "rather bear the ills we have," than go to such an extremity as this—at any rate, to give back the power to those who are directly responsible for its use. Having said so much, I should not discharge my duty if I did not say what use we propose to make of the power if it be given us. I have expressed my very strong objections to the proceedings of the Commission. I think the building proposed altogether outrageous; I ought also to state, in justice to the Commission and everybody concerned, that what has been done has been done with perfect legality. After the Commission was appointed an Act was passed which appears to have undergone no discussion in any part of its course, and which undid what was done by former Acts, and gave complete power to the Commission and the Treasury together to alter and enlarge their plan, and gave an annuity to meet any expenses the Treasury and the Commission might deem necessary. I do not attribute any blame to the Government for the passing of that Act, because, of course, they could not make people take notice of it if they did not choose to do so. My belief is that Act was as unknown to most people as it was to me; and therefore it comes upon us by surprise. I earnestly hope the House will not go on with this enormous building. I earnestly hope they will re-consider the question altogether and cut down the enormously inflated estimates they have to something like the modest simplicity at which they started. I have stated incidentally my objections to Carey Street; they will be stated much better by my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Layard), when he addresses the House. I think we want for Courts, air, light, quiet, and accessibility; all these 1264 things are not to be found in Carey Street. I think my hon. and learned Friend argues too much upon the assumption that because a number of legal gentlemen have thought fit to encamp themselves and take up their residence in one of the worst and lowest parts of London, we are bound to follow them. I am not at all prepared to accept that conclusion. It is assumed by some that there are only two alternatives before us; and that if we do not ruin ourselves on the north side of the Strand we must do so on the south side. I do not acquiesce in that; it seems to me we have bought Strand frontage enough in this matter. I can imagine no more melancholy spectacle than the British tax-payer walking along the Strand, with the knowledge that north and south frontages have been bought by Parliament for a building which can be only on one side. Therefore I cannot give my consent, and I hope the House will not do so, to the proposal to go to an enormous expenditure by buying a south frontage. I believe that the cost of such a purchase as is contemplated by the plan identified with the name of Sir Charles Trevelyan will be £2,000,000, and I hope sincerely we shall not go into such an extravagance as that. Is there no other alternative? Cannot we hope that it is possible to do all we reasonably want to do, and yet not very far exceed what we originally intended? I think it is perfectly possible. It seems to me—and I do not speak unadvisedly, but on the opinion of very competent persons—that we can do so. There is a street called Howard Street, which is situate midway between the roadway of the Embankment and the Strand, and which runs from Arundel Street to Surrey Street. The frontage of the Strand is, of course, very valuable; but I am informed that between Howard Street and the Embankment the property is not valuable, consisting as it does of premises which have been left derelict by the Embankment. I am told that a site there can be purchased for £600,000 and that on it, buildings comprising all the Courts with their auxiliary offices and other offices besides, can be erected for a sum of £1,000,000. If that estimate were not excceded—and I hope it would not be—you would have the site and the buildings for £1,600,000, or only £1,000,000 more than the sum originally estimated for the 1265 building. I need not point out to the House the advantages which the site would have in the way of approaches by road, by railway, and by the river. It would have communication with the Strand by several streets, and access to it by bridges and other means could be constructed if necessary. As the building would not open to the Strand, it would not require a frontage of a very expensive or ornamental character on that side, but on the Thames side there must, of course, be a very ornamental frontage. I am not myself a dilettante, or a man of high imagination, but there was a dilettante and a man of imagination, an obscure individual called Inigo Jones, who lived 200 years ago. He gave a plan of a palace to Charles I. It consisted of a quadrangle, and was to have been placed between the river and the Horse Guards. A faÇade 150 feet long was to have formed a portion of the building, and it has been the admiration of every person since Inigo Jones designed it. By extending that plan a little the House might produce a beautiful building with a faÇade in the style of the palace, the erection of which was interrupted by the Civil War. It is for the House to say whether they will adopt this scheme. I mention it as my contribution to the suggestions on this subject; and though my business is with money and figures, I ask the House to give a favourable consideration to a scheme which is the result of much consideration and of many laborious inquiries. If it should not meet with their approbation, let them dismiss it; but whether they approve it or not, I ask them not to go back to a career of extravagance. I think that rather than do so they should do without a new building altogether. At all events, I have conscientiously done all in my power to prevent the House and the country from entering into this enormous expenditure without seeing what they were doing. I hope we shall perform our duty by looking carefully into the question and doing efficiently what is really required, while, at the same time, we do it with that economy which is only due to our constituents. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: What do you propose to do with the Carey Street site?] I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding me of the point. My opinion is that the Carey Street site will form no exception to the ordinary rule. 1266 By a little patience and a little care we may dispose of it well. But if we force it on people—if we go about begging of people to buy it—we may have to throw it away. Let us for a while bear the loss of interest on the money; let us see what will be the effect of the buildings on the Embankment and of the railway from Brompton which are spoken of. If these works are carried out, the site is likely to become more valuable. But, at all events, there is nothing more true for statesmen as well as for merchants than that it is a good thing to know when to make a loss. It is not because we have already expended too much that we should go on headlong in that expenditure; it is not because we have already expended £900,000 we should go on and throw £700,000 more after it. I have been assured, by some of as good authorities as there are in London, that the building between Howard Street and the Thames can be erected for the sum I have stated. I would, therefore, ask the House to pause to consider. Whether we are to dispose of the Carey Street site through that financier of whom we heard in the early part of the evening, or in any other way, I am certainly of opinion that we ought to pause in the career of extravagance on which we have entered, and not throw good money after bad.
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had raised a completely new issue, and it seemed to him that it would have been better to have done so earlier in the evening. Hitherto, they had been discussing the probable advantage of a change of site, or of going on with the old one; but the right hon. Gentleman had suggested a plan on which it was difficult to decide at this instant, but which was certainly of a style altogether different, and affording much less accommodation. Five or six years ago the House was pressed to sanction large operations as a necessity. The case was carefully investigated, and large sums had been already expended in carrying out the plan then laid down. It was alarming to reflect how the expenditure, past and future, had gone on increasing, until the figure of £3,000,000 was exceeded. The public was now urged to put up with less accommodation and less grandeur; but, considering the expectations which had been raised, and the 1267 evidence they already had of the rapid growth of plans with the progress of business, it was difficult to believe that the public would be content as they were asked to be. If it should turn out that they were not contented, and that with an indifferent building they had less accommodation than was required, then what sort of an economy would they have effected? Considering the length of time which had already passed, he had been prepared to say that the moment had come when they should do something, and make an effort to obtain some practical return for all the money already spent, as well as for the labours devoted to the consideration of the question. But what security had they that under this new plan the £1,500,000 would not, in a few years, have swollen to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. It was enough to alarm anybody to see how the Estimates had swollen; and did they believe that another delay of five years would make them less? See what the public offices were, and how every year people wanted accommodation, of which five years ago they never would have thought. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought that a moderate building would be sufficient; but the legal profession—to say nothing of the public—was one that managed to make its voice heard. He thought this question had assumed such a new aspect that it was hardly fair to ask the House to come to any decision; and, indeed, it would have been well if the right hon. Gentleman had himself moved the adjournment of the debate. An issue, of a character completely new, had been raised. He hoped he was justified in the belief that the Government considered that he took the right view in not asking the House to come to an immediate decision. Thus an opportunity might be given for considering the proposal of the Government, and the consideration of saving about £1,500,000 was not one to be lightly cast aside. That was a temptation so great that he should be glad to have it considered. He hoped there would be no endeavour to force on a conclusion that night. He begged to move that the debate be adjourned.
§ MR. CRAWFORD, in seconding the Motion, said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given the House some very good, advice; but he entirely agreed with the right 1268 hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley), that that advice had come very late in the evening, and he exceedingly regretted that they had not had an opportunity of learning the views of the Government at an earlier period. The course now pursued devoured of taking the House by surprise. He had come down there with the intention of taking some part in the discussion on behalf of his constituents, and he must say that, to a great extent, a valuable evening had been wasted. As to the new proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he thought he would be a bold man who, after the experience they had had with respect to the Carey Street site, would place the slightest confidence in it. He agreed now in the proposal that the debate should be adjourned; or, perhaps, the better course would be to withdraw both the Motion and Amendment, and throw the whole responsibility upon the Government.
said, that the Government would, perhaps, be open to the charge which had just been made if they had shown any disposition to force a division, but they had not indicated such a desire. On the contrary, they quite approved of the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) that the debate should be adjourned, and he would go further and say that, in their opinion, that would have been a reasonable proposal even if the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been made earlier in the evening; because if it had been so made it would not have placed the House in a better position to decide the question to-night, and he even thought that the position of the House would have been worse. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley), who had been a faithful attendant during the evening, would remember what had passed, His hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Gregory) and his hon. and learned Friend (Sir Roundell Palmer) both occupied some time, and when his hon. and learned Friend sat down towards half-past seven o'clock the House had thinned to such a degree that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had then risen to state the views of the Government he would have defeated his own purpose. His right hon. Friend had been in attendance the whole evening for the purpose of stating these views, and if any blame attached to any- 1269 body it was not to him alone, but to those of his Colleagues who advised him to postpone his statement until it could be made before a reasonably full House. On the part of the Government, he cheerfully assented to the adjournment of the debate.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, he wished to address a few words to the House, because he thought his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, no doubt unintentionally, put him in a false position with the House as to some of his observations. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had put the case as if he (Sir Roundell Palmer) had been urging the House to launch into the large expenditure which he deprecated. Now his Amendment was care fully expressed in terms which left upon the Government the responsibility of determining whether or no it would approve that extension of the scheme which had undoubtedly been recommended by the Commission. He did not propose that the House should buy more lands; but he did propose that, if they were necessary, they should be bought in immediate proximity to the Carey Street site. He confined himself strictly to the question of site, and while explaining how it was that the Commission had been led to recommend this in creased expenditure, which had not yet been incurred, he said it was for the Government to determine whether or not they would accept that plan, whether they would or would not incur that large expenditure, and whether they would raise money by the means proposed. He did not take upon himself to anticipate the determination of the Government on those points, or to urge upon them that particular plan.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he thought the adjournment was imperatively called for, but that it ought to be merely a formal adjournment, for he could not think that any good would result even if a day could be obtained for bringing on the discussion. The plan of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was one which it was impossible for the House to discuss now with anything like a prospect of arriving at a profitable conclusion. The Chancellor of the Exchequer having recommended that the Commission should be abrogated, and that the whole thing should be taken in hand by the Government, this should be a 1270 formal adjournment; and he hoped that the Government would submit a scheme which would enable the House to arrive at a sound decision upon the subject.
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
said, he would not object to the adjournment of the debate, but he would like to have some explanation as to the course which the Government intended to take. The less time the matter was hung up the better; as if anything were to be done, it would be necessary to give the notices for the new land to be acquired.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he quite accepted the proposal of the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) to consider this adjournment as really throwing upon the Government the duty of making, with as little delay as possible, some definite proposal upon this subject.
§ Debate adjourned till Tuesday 18th May.