HC Deb 12 July 1869 vol 197 cc1669-72

said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the sums granted for the purchase of the site for the new Public Offices, and to the proposed expenditure for a new Home Office and new Colonial Office, and to ask the First Commissioner of Works if he has any objection to lay upon the Table of the House a plan of the land already purchased, and of the land intended to be acquired, with an explanatory statement showing what portion of the land is intended to be built upon, and the amount of money already, and when, and for what purchases expended; and, if the plans and estimates for the new Home Office are prepared; and, if so, the amount of the estimate, and where the plans may be seen? Hon. Members had that day received the Report of the Committee on the New Public Offices Sites Bill, and that, to a certain extent, answered some of his questions; but it disclosed the fact that it was the intention of the First Commissioner to carry out, to a large extent, the Report of 1868. The amount already voted amounted to £147,000, and under the new Bill £700,000 more was contemplated. The evidence brought before the Committee had been of the most meagre character, and not such as to justify the large expenditure that was likely to take place. He thought they ought to have something like a definite plan, and some detailed account of the property that was to be purchased, and of the sum asked for for that purpose.


said, he had no objection whatever to give the information asked for by the hon. Member. The fact, however, was that the greater part of the information had already been given to the House. If the hon. Member turned to the Paper laid on the table on the 3rd of April, 1865, he would find a complete plan of the Foreign Office, India Office, and the Colonial and Home Offices, and the proposed purchases in King Street. That Paper comprised all the information he was able to give on that part of the subject. In addition, the fullest plans of all the houses and ground proposed to be taken had been deposited according to the requirements of Parliament, and if the hon. Member would turn to the Public Offices Act of 1865, and the similar Act of 1866, he would find attached to those Acts copies of the deposited plans. The hon. Member had mixed up two questions entirely separate. There were two distinct transactions—the purchase of the property for the erection of buildings already decided upon and commenced, which had been completed with the exception of a very small block, and the contemplated purchase of a part of George Street, included in the Bill introduced this Session, which had come from a Select Committee. The site occupied by the India and Foreign Offices, and to be occupied by the Home and Colonial Offices—the purchase of which had been sanctioned by the House—cost £465,000. As regarded the plans for the Home and Colonial Offices, they were not yet in a state to be submitted to the House. When he came into Office he found that Mr. Scott had prepared plans for those Offices. He (Mr. Layard) had submitted them to a Committee, consisting of Sir Charles Trevelyan, Mr. Stevenson, and Mr. Fergusson, and by their assistance he had succeeded in including in the plan several Departments which Mr. Scott had omitted. Mr. Scott had, therefore, to prepare his plans anew, and they were not yet finished. There was no contract yet for the building; only the foundations were laid. When the plans were completed, which he hoped would be shortly, he would have them placed in the Library for the inspection of Members. All he could say was, that the plans had been looked over most carefully by the Committee, and had been sanctioned by the heads of the Home and Colonial Departments. So far, therefore, as regarded the site for which money had been voted, that necessary for the erection of the Foreign, India, Home, and Colonial Offices had been acquired. The other question was entirely distinct—namely, the acquisition of a further site for the erection of other public offices, as recommended by the Commission of 1868. That Commission recommended the acquisition of the whole block of land between Parliament Street, George Street, and the Park. The site thus recommended to be acquired appeared to the Government far more extensive than was necessary, and a Bill for the acquisition of a much more limited area had been referred to a Select Committee, which had passed it. The Bill had been recommitted to the Whole House, and the question of the acquisition of this site or of any fresh property could then be fully discussed. The Bill would not be proceeded with to-night, and probably not this week. As regarded that part of King Street which would still remain after the portion already acquired had been pulled down, of course, when the Home and Colonial Offices were erected, it would no longer be so convenient as a thoroughfare in consequence of its entrance being somewhat impeded by those buildings. The maps were already before the House, and the accounts should be laid on the table in a condensed form.


said, he wished to know whether any estimate of the amount required for the Home and Colonial Offices would be given before the buildings were commenced?


said, there was, of course, a general estimate, and the House might have any particulars it required.


said, he wished to know what amount of money had been expended in the purchase of the site?


said, he had in his hand a statement of the whole of the expenditure in respect of the public offices. The Foreign Office was already erected, and the account for the offices to be erected on that site was exclusive of the India Office, which was paid for out of Indian revenues. The operation was a prolonged one, having lasted a good many years, but the account up to December 31, 1868, in round numbers stood thus—For the purchase of property, £409,484; preliminary and other expenses, £16,000; for the buildings, £258,000;furnitureandfittings, £15,000; miscellaneous, £6,000. The total was £706,223. Then with regard to the blocks on the south side, there would be required to complete the purchase of the land, £67,000; for buildings and public offices, £407,000; making a total of £1,181,000. The India Office had refunded £86,000; so that the actual expense up to the present time was £1,094,000 to complete the block of buildings as designed, subject to a further and complicated question of £50,000 for property taken in exchange.