HC Deb 19 June 1873 vol 216 cc1168-70

asked the First Commissioner of Works, Whether it is true that the Royal Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851 have offered to lease for building purposes certain pieces of land fronting Kensington Gardens, and lying between Queen's Gate and the Albert Hall, forming a portion of the site originally selected by them to be devoted specially to purposes connected with science and art; and, whether tenders for the same were not to be sent in on the 18th instant?


, in reply, said, that being an ex officio Commissioner of the Exhibition of 1851 he had made inquiries to enable him to answer the Question of his hon. Friend; but as there were other Gentlemen sitting on the Ministerial bench who were also Commissioners, and would, no doubt, like to answer all questions relating to that Commission, he hoped the putting of a Question on this subject would not be drawn into a precedent. The Commission was constituted by two Royal Charters, the second of which conferred upon the Commissioners licence and authority to purchase and hold lands and hereditaments in any part of the Queen's dominions, and provided that such lands and hereditaments might from time to time be applied to such purposes as might be deemed fit. Thus an absolute discretion was vested in the Commissioners to buy and sell land. The Commissioners having from time to time purchased a large extent of land in the neighbourhood of the Exhibition, had, in the exercise of their power, sold some and let other portions of the property they had so acquired, with the object of raising funds for carrying out the purposes they had in view. The lands, with the houses standing upon them, to which the hon. Baronet's Question particularly referred, had been let upon lease as private residences by the Commissioners, and when the leases fell in the Commissioners would deal with those lands and houses in a manner which they considered would be the best for the interests intrusted to them. In dealing with the property to which the Question of the hon. Baronet referred, therefore, the Commissioners had acted entirely within their authority, and it was quite a mistake to suppose that the lands they held had been especially dedicated to purposes connected with science and art, or any other public purpose. They had let land for the Albert Hall, for the Horticultural Gardens, and for Government purposes; and in doing so they had not exceeded their authority.


asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether, if the above circumstances are correctly stated, such a proceeding is not distinctly contrary to the spirit and provisions of the Act 21 and 22 Vic. c. 36, under which the Commissioners of 1851 hold their charters, and under which they have only power to sell off for purposes other than those of science and art, detached blocks of the land vested in them?


, in reply, said, that the hon. Baronet, on looking at the Act, would see that the proper answer to his Question would depend upon a number of facts with which he was not at present acquainted. He was entirely ignorant of the contents of the Charters under which the Commissioners were appointed. It was his duty to have a knowledge of the Act of Parliament, and he had accordingly looked at it carefully, and the hon. Baronet would see from its terms that whether the Commissioners had or had not acted within their authority depended upon whether they had discharged certain liabilities enumerated by the Act of Parliament, as to which he really had no knowledge.


gave Notice that he should take the opinion of the House upon the subject, by moving for a Return relating to the question on some early day.