§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now taken into Consideration."
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that when this Bill stood for Consideration on the last occasion he ventured to oppose it, because he thought it desirable that there should be an opportunity given to the Chairman of the Committee which tried 2015 the Bill to state what had been the course taken by the Committee with reference to it. As far as the position of the House was concerned, the House only knew this much—that the Bill had been referred to a Select Committee, and that that Committee had reported generally in its favour; but from what had appeared in the papers, the Committee seemed to have made some recommendations which were considered by the Metropolitan Board of Works. When the Bill was first brought before the House he had opposed it, and proposed that it should be sent to a hybrid Committee—not with the view of saving Northumberland House, although as a general principle he did not think it advisable in the course of metropolitan improvements that a house of such architectural interest should be swept away. But Northumberland House must of course give way, if necessary, for a real public improvement, like humbler buildings; and all the desire was that a Bill dealing with one of the most important parts of the West-end of the metropolis should be considered in a more formal and satisfactory way than if it was a Railway Bill dealing with some section of a railway in an obscure part of England. The House did not approve his suggestion of a hybrid Committee, and the Bill was remitted to a Committee up-stairs sitting in the ordinary way. And he believed the Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Bouverie) had taken evidence whether the scheme was really a metropolitan improvement. Models and plans were laid before the Committee, and the question was more fully gone into than would probably have been the case but for the discussion on his Motion. If, as he gathered from the newspapers, any recommendation had been made by the Committee that these plans should be submitted to the Institute of Architects, that was a step in the right direction, as they might hope yet to see some superintending body in the metropolis acting in union with the First Commissioner of Works, and not in a spirit of jealousy or hostility to the Metropolitan Board, or any other body in the City of London, and to see also that there might be some uniformity of action in all public works which required an appeal to Parliament to enable them to be made. By these means they might guard against such ugly structures 2016 as those at Charing Cross and Cannon Street, and the more ugly railway arches over the great public thoroughfares of the metropolis. If there was such a body acting in concert with the House of Commons they might have some security that acres of space in Kensington Gardens, with fine trees, should not be destroyed by having the trees cut down without the sanction of Parliament, and only by the fiat of the First Commissioner of Works. He did not wish to oppose the Bill in any way.
§ MR. BOUVERIE,
as Chairman of the Select Committee, to which the Bill in question had been referred, wished to state that, with his Colleagues, he had paid great attention to the measure, because they knew there was a strong feeling in favour of the preservation of Northumberland House, as it was one of the few surviving specimens of the ancient princely houses of London. But the evidence which was laid before the Committee was so conclusive as to the importance and desirability of the improvement to be effected by the Bill that, by a majority of 3 to 1, they passed its Preamble. The Committee had had seven different plans submitted to them for forming a new approach to connect the West-end with the Victoria Embankment, and several of the most eminent architects of London were examined. These gentlemen, though they all wished that Northumberland House could be preserved, declared that the scheme would be such an enormous improvement to London generally, and in particular would afford such a convenient approach to the Embankment—which without some such approach would be practically useless—that they had no hesitation in cordially recommending it to the Committee; and, as his Grace the Duke of Northumberland, acting under the Parliamentary guarantee contained in the Thames Embankment Act, refused to part with any portion of his property unless the whole was taken, the Committee saw no course open to them except to pass the Preamble of a Bill which would effect so great an improvement. His Grace the Duke of Northumberland attended before the Committee, and said that though he did not wish to part with the family mansion, he would consent to do so if the public convenience or necessity required it. Therefore, as he had said, the Committee passed the Pre- 2017 amble of the Bill, and at the same time had introduced a clause requiring that the elevation of the new street, which would be one of the finest in London, would be submitted by the Metropolitan Board of Works to the Council of the National Institute of British Architects before being carried out.
thanked the noble Lord for having postponed a Question he intended to put, from Monday till to-day, because it had given the Chairman of the Select Committee the opportunity of proving to the noble Lord that the Metropolitan Board of Works had not entered upon the question of the demolition of Northumberland House without the most careful consideration, and every desire to save the historic monuments of the metropolis. That the Board had acted rightly was abundantly proved by the fact that the Select Committee had had no fewer than seven plans submitted to them; and, after having gone through them most carefully, they decided in favour of the one chosen by the Board. He thought it right to state, on the part of the Board, that they accepted, under protest, Clause 30, by which the plans were to be submitted for the consideration of the Council of the Institute of British Architects. They would not regard the course pursued as a precedent for future legislation in reference to other improvements; but if the Bill were passed the Board would loyally carry out its provisions.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now taken into Consideration," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered; to be read the third time.