§ Resolutions [11th August] reported.
§ Resolutions 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.
That a Bum, not exceeding £3,043,300, he granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, for the Salaries
and Expenses of the Post Office Services, the Expenses of Post Office Savings Banks, and Government Annuities and Insurances, and the Collection of the Post Office Revenue.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
Having come down to this House at 7 o'clock last evening, as I supposed, to dine, and to watch the Post Office Vote into the small hours of the morning, I was not a little surprised on my arrival to find that it had already been taken—taken without discussion, and taken—if I am not misinformed—in the absence of the Postmaster General; and as I believe, Sir, that it would cause much disappointment out-of-doors if so important a Vote should be allowed to pass in silence, I now ask the indulgence of the House while I make a few observations which, under other circumstances, I should have wished to make in Committee. Now, Sir, as we all know, it is not a very gracious act to "look a gift horse in the mouth;" and that, I fear, is what I have to do. Hon. Members, then, will be aware, from what has passed in this House, if in no other way, that some 15 months ago the letter carriers of the United Kingdom forwarded Memorials to the Postmaster General alleging sundry grievances and asking for redress. Those Memorials remained without an answer, and (unless I am misinformed) without acknowledgment, till the middle of last month, when a public meeting was on the very point of being held to protest against the delay. Then, and not before, the right hon. Gentleman "capitulated," and the Financial Secretary swearing "He would ne'er consent, consented." Between that date and this, Sir, the answer of the Postmaster General has been under the consideration of the men; and, so far as it is understood, I am bound to say that it has been received with a perfect chorus of dissatisfaction and disappointment. And for this the right hon. Gentleman has, to a large extent, himself to blame. For what has been his constant answer to my Questions in this House? Why, that the matter was a large one, and that it required time. This answer, so often repeated, coupled with the known ability of the right hon. Gentleman, led the men to expect from him a comprehensive scheme dealing with the whole case as presented in their Memorials. Instead of that—to take an example—his answer to the Metropolitan letter 1629 carriers deals with one point, and one point only, the increase of their pay. Not one word, Sir, on the burning question of "overtime;" not one word about a re-arrangement of their duties and their hours; not one word about an increase in the number of good conduct stripes; not one word on the subject of open promotion; not one word about emoluments being reckoned for pensions; and not one word about, receiving a deputation of the Memorialists. It was the delay, Sir, of the Postmaster General which led the men to think that the official "mountain" was "in labour" upon all these points, and he should be the last to complain if they are disappointed at the "ridiculous mouse" of a scheme, which only makes a small increase in their salaries. And that is not all. In the matter of salaries the letter carriers fail to see why they are to be less liberally treated than the "sorters," for whom in the month of March the Postmaster General brought in a Supplementary Estimate for £80,000, increasing their wages by 2s. a-week at one end of the scale, by 5s. a-week at the other, and paying them "back money" to the 1st of April, 1881. Now, I do not stand here, Sir, to disparage the claims of the "sorters," who, no doubt, deserve all that they have got, and more. Non equidem invideo; miror magis. But the Postmaster General must not be surprised if the letter carriers claim to be treated with corresponding liberality. The right hon. Gentleman will say—"How am I to get the money?" I will tell him. From the net earnings of the Post Office, which was never intended to be a source of revenue, till the interest and the convenience of the public had been first consulted. What, then, is the interest of the public in this matter of the letter carriers? That their letters should come to them by the hands of men, whose pay has some relation to the laborious and responsible duties which they perform, and whose circumstances shall be such as to place them above the temptations connected with the discharge of those duties. I do not see the Financial Secretary in his place; if I did, I should like to read to him an extract from the evidence of Sir Rowland Hill, stating his view of what he called "the principle of the Post Office." It maybe desirable, however, to place the Postmaster Gene- 1630 ral in possession of the passage, so that he may bear it in mind when next he finds any difficulty with the Treasury. This was the motto on the title page of Sir Rowland Hill's pamphlet of 1837—The principle of the Post Office at its establishment, as is distinctly laid down in the 12 Charles II., was to afford advantage to trade and commerce. The direct revenue to be derived from the Post Office was not the primary consideration.Again, when Sir Rowland—then Mr. Hill—was under examination before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Postage, in the year 1843, Mr. Hawes asked him—Did you adopt the penny rate with the object of ultimately producing a larger amount of net revenue than could be, in your opinion, expected from a higher rate?Answer—No; my object was not to obtain the greatest possible amount of money profit from the Post Office, but to give the greatest amount of convenience to the public which could be obtained without any great permanent sacrifice of revenue as it then stood. It has been thought by Lord Ashburton, Lord Sandon, and Mr. J. S. Lloyd, whose authority on such subjects is entitled to great respect, that the Post Office cannot be legitimately made a source of revenue at all; and I have Lord Lowther's authority for saying that, in the original institution of the Post Office, revenue scarcely formed any part of the object in view.With the public there will be no difficulty in the matter. Nothing is more certain than that the public wishes to see these men well paid—witness the large gratuities with which—at Christmas—it already ekes out their insufficient pay. When, therefore, the inevitable Supplementary Estimate is brought in, I hope it will be for an adequate amount. Above all, do not let these claims be trifled with because they have been urged with moderation. During the recent long trial of their patience, the conduct of the letter carriers has been above all praise, and has established for them a new claim on the respect and sympathy of the public. It would be fatal they should think that at the present day not to be disorderly is not to get redress. Dangerous examples, under the present Government, dangerous examples surround these men on every side; and, knowing how much they have been tried, I would urge the right hon. Gentleman in dealing with their claims, not only to be wise, but to be wise in time.
§ MR. WARTON
remarked that, not only had the Post Office Vote been passed hurriedly, without discussion, and in the absence of the Postmaster General, but the Vote for the Packet Service would have been passed in a similar manner if the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) had not rushed to his place, and caught the Chairman's eye before the Vote could be put. It was not till then that the other Members of the Government who were in attendance conceived it their duty to send for the Postmaster General. There was one question which he desired to put to the right hon. Gentleman upon the question of registered letters, in reference to which a pledge had been given to him last year. In redemption of that pledge the charge for registration had been reduced from 4d. to 3d., and it was now nominally 2¼d., including the cost of the stamped envelope; but practically the cost was 2½d. He appealed to the Government to sacrifice the additional 1d., and to give for 2d. the envelope which would carry a registered letter.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he was disposed generally to agree with the remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. Schreiber) as to the hurried manner in which the Government disposed of Supply, and, indeed, carried on the general Business of the country. He would not, however, pursue that subject; but he wished to put a question to the Postmaster General in regard to a matter concerning the convenience of the public—namely, whether an arrangement could not be made for the purpose of facilitating the postage of letters, not only at the principal, but at the smaller railway stations, in accordance with the plan universally followed in all other civilized countries, and especially in France, Italy, and Germany. In France, in all the railway stations there were letter boxes, in which persons up to the last moment of the departure of the trains could post letters. A few years ago, when the noble Lord the present Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) was Postmaster General, he (Mr. Bentinck) had raised this question, because there was not at that time even the means of posting a letter in the Post Office van. The noble Marquess made the concession asked for, and for some years letters were allowed to be posted in the travelling vans under 1632 certain circumstances by the payment of a considerable extra fee; but no notice was given to the public, so that they were not able to avail themselves generally of the privilege. The privilege itself was extended when his noble Friend the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) was at the head of the Post Office, and to some extent it existed still. At the present moment the plan adopted was to place a pillar post or letter box at the principal railway stations; but the arrangements for the collection of letters were simply idiotic. The letters themselves were collected at the stations and sent to the Post Office, which might be half-a-mile distant, and sorted there, instead of being sorted at once in the travelling van. He hoped the Postmaster General would consider the subject, and adopt some more satisfactory system. It seemed to him that what could be done in France, Italy, and Germany, could also be done in England; and as there was a progressive Government the people ought to have the advantage of their enterprize.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, he wished to bear his testimony to the excellent manner in which the Postmaster General had discharged the duties of his Office—a manner he was justified in saying that had won golden opinions all over the country. It was well known to all Members of the House of Commons that various Members in the House had in their gift various small appointments in the Post Office in the Provinces, and he wished to say that he had the greatest difficulty in getting people to accept these appointments on account of the small pay. The pay of such work was so low that those who accepted the appointments were mostly very old men, who did not do credit to the Postal Service. In this way the whole Postal Service of the country was made to suffer, and he would be very pleased if his right hon. Friend could induce the Treasury to increase the pay of these men.
§ MR. FAWCETT
denied that there was any intention on the part of the Government to hurry the Post Office Votes through the Committee. They had come on in the ordinary course, and on two of them there had been considerable discussion. As to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport 1633 (Mr. Warton), he would make inquiry and see whether or not that suggestion could be carried out. In regard to the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck), he was glad to be able to tell him that he had already given instructions which he hoped would meet his views. The Post Office was going, as an experiment, to have a letter-box attached to certain mail trains, in which letters could be posted while the train was en route at any station. A small extra fee would be charged, because it would be necessary to discourage the posting of letters in these boxes as far as possible. The reason was this—that if a great number of letters were posted in this way it would be impossible to have them properly sorted; but he believed the arrangements they were now carrying out would meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman, and if the experiment was successful they would extend it. There was one observation made by the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Schreiber) towards the close of his remarks that he thought would have a very prejudicial effect all over the country on the Public Service. The hon. Member said that, in the face of a public meeting announced to be held by the letter carriers, the Treasury and the Post Office suddenly capitulated. If there was any meaning in the expression "suddenly capitulated," it must mean that they yielded to intimidation. Unless the hon. Member had some very clear evidence to substantiate that statement, it was a very grave charge, that ought not lightly to have been brought against a Public Department. He could assure the hon. Member, so far from capitulating, the only thing he regretted about that public meeting was that language might be held which would render it more difficult than it would otherwise be for the Government to do what they intended to do in behalf of the letter carriers. He would put a ease before the hon. Member and the House. Suppose he was a large employer of labour, and his workmen presented him with a memorial; suppose he said the memorial they presented raised questions which were difficult and delicate, and they would take a little time to be fully and carefully investigated; suppose, having given them that assurance, they suddenly announced that unless that decision was 1634 given within a certain time they would call in the force of a public agitation. In such a case, would not any large employer of labour do as the Government had done? There was no capitulation on the part of the Government, and the whole cause of delay was that the subject was a large, complicated, and difficult one. He knew of no question that was more difficult and delicate than what was the just remuneration to be given for a particular class of labour, and personally he was extremely anxious that the letter carriers, and everyone else employed in the Post Office, should receive the remuneration to which they were justly entitled; but, as he had had occasion often to remark before, the money was not his money—it was not the money of the Government—but the money of the taxpayers, and as trustee for the taxpayers he was bound to look after their interests. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Schreiber) seemed to think that very little had been done for the Post Office employés. He had formerly stated that the new scheme would involve on the Public Exchequer a charge of at least £60,000 a-year, and that represented the interest on a capital sum of no less than £2,000,000. He put it to the House whether anyone would be justified in taking a capital sum of £2,000,000 from the general body of the taxpayers, in order to benefit a particular class of Government employés, until he felt certain that this large expenditure of public money was required by the circumstances of the case? It must be remembered that there were two sides of this picture. No doubt the letter carriers were anxious to have good wages; but not long ago he received a very indignant letter from a working man in London—not the only one he had received, he might tell the House. This working man was evidently, from the style of his letter, a man of considerable education, and he said he found it impossible to earn as much as a letter carrier. He said his work was casual; he had no sick pay and no pension. He pointed out that the letter carrier had certainty of employment, sick pay, and pension, and said, comparing their lot with his own, he altogether objected to additional taxation being imposed on him for the benefit of a class who were better off than he was himself by the exercise of all his energies. Therefore, 1635 it was important that the subject should be looked at from two points of view. The hon. Member for Poole had said that what the Government were going to give the letter carriers was inadequate; but he had brought forward no facts in proof of that statement. On the other hand, he could tell the hon. Member that during the last 12 months he had investigated the subject, and having made a most fair and impartial comparison between the remuneration received by the letter carriers and the remuneration obtained by artizans and other employés in the various industries of the country, he believed the letter carriers, at the present time and under the new scheme, received remuneration which was just. The hon. Member for Poole also asked what had been the cause of the long delay. If he understood fully the whole nature and the complexity of the problem the Government had to solve, he would know at once that nothing could be more unwise and more unjust to the taxpayers of the country than to speak of the delay? He had, first of all, to apply to the various classes of employers throughout the country, so as to know the rate of wages, and then he had to make a comparison between such employés and the letter carriers of England, Ireland, and Scotland, and he could say that he had arrived at his decision with the least possible delay. The hon. Member for Poole said also that he (Mr. Fawcett) had only partially investigated the charges made in the Memorial presented by the postmen. In answer to that he had to say that he had investigated many allegations made in the Memorial, and in due time the complaints made would receive answers. Where concession could be made it would be made, and he would be glad to make it; where he thought the demands made ought to be refused, he hoped the House, in the interests of the public, would support him in his refusal. The hon. Member for Poole had started a very extraordinary theory, and one which he had seen stated in other places, and he would, therefore, say a word or two upon it. The hon. Member for Poole seemed to think that the Revenue raised from the Post Office should be distributed among the employés of the Post Office. The hon. Member might just as well say that the Revenue yielded by 1636 the Excise ought to be distributed among the employés of the Excise. The Revenue raised by the Post Office did not belong any more to the employés of the Post Office than the Revenue of the Excise to the employés of the Excise. It really belonged to the public; and suppose the House of Commons decided that the Post Office was not to be used as a Department of Revenue, the sacrifice of Revenue should not be used in paying Post Office employés more than the market rate of wages, but in giving to the public more postal facilities, and reducing various charges. There were many ways in which the Revenue might be applied. For instance, he had had applications to reduce the price of telegrams, and, no doubt, it would be a great boon to the public. If any reduction of Post Office Revenue was to be sanctioned this reduction in the price of telegrams was, to his mind, one of the first things to be considered. Then, again, there were great districts in England, Scotland, and Ireland in which the postal communication required to be improved, especially in the rural districts, by having more frequent deliveries of letters. If Revenue could be spared from the Post Office, that seemed to him one of the ways in which it ought to be spent; and he could not help thinking that nothing but mischief could result from encouraging the idea that the Revenue from the Post Office belonged not to the public, from whom it was obtained, but to the employés of the Post Office. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Magniac) made a complaint on the previous night that the annual Report of the Post Office was published a very short time before the Estimates came to be discussed. In reply to that he could only say that he had done everything possible in order to get the Report out as soon as it could be published, and he regretted that it was so late in getting into the hands of hon. Members. With reference to the Telephone Companies, as there had been in the City a considerable amount of speculation on the chance that the Government would take over those Companies, and as some people seemed to suppose that what took place with regard to the Telegraphs would be repeated with reference to the telephone Companies, he thought it would be well to take that opportunity of making a few 1637 remarks with the object of removing all doubts and misapprehensions on the subject. From the policy which had recently been adopted with regard to telephone enterprize, he did not think there was the smallest chance that the Government would ever have to purchase any Telephone Company's undertaking; and he thought that the investors who had speculated in them with the idea that some day they would get favourable terms from the Government should at once know the truth. The Department were going to allow free competition—competition not only among the Telephone Companies themselves, but between the Companies and the Post Office. When that competition had gone on for some time the public would be able to judge who did the telephone business best. If it were done better by the Private Companies than by the Post Office, the Department would be delighted to have the whole telephone business of the country conducted by private enterprize. If, on the other hand, it was proved that the business was better done by the Government than by the private Companies, the Government would have beaten the Companies in the fair open field of competition, and they could occupy the ground without any question of purchase or compensation arising. He trusted the House would excuse him for having entered into the question at such length; but he thought it was important that investors should at once know the intentions of the Government.
§ Resolution agreed, to.
§ Resolutions 6 and 7 agreed to.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £3,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, for the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that, as he was not in his place when the Vote came on for consideration last night, he wished now to make a few observations with reference to it. He believed he was right in saying that the Vote was practically for the removal of the underground reservoir now in existence near Piccadilly, in the neighbourhood of Hyde Park Corner, and which supplied certain 1638 Government office with water. The question was where the reservoir was now to be placed; and until the House knew that, it would be sanctioning a Vote of which it did not know the meaning. He believed it was intended to place it in Hyde Park, where, for a long time to come, until it was covered by trees, it would necessarily be a most unsightly object.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
stated that the actual spot to which the reservoir was to be removed was not quite decided; but the new site would be in Hyde Park, on higher ground, somewhere north of the Serpentine.
§ LORD ELCHO
That was exactly the fault that he found with the proceedings of the Government. The whole plan should have been settled and explained to the House before the Vote was asked for; but, as things were, the House was called upon to sanction a plan without an opportunity of considering it. As far as he could judge, the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would fail to diminish the plethora of traffic at Hyde Park Corner, would disfigure, rather than embellish, that part of the Metropolis, and, if it did not succeed, would do irremediable damage. The stoppages in the traffic were at Hamilton Terrace and at Hyde Park Corner. The plan of the First Commissioner left the width of Piccadilly from Park Lane to the Corner the same as now, therefore the congestion would not be relieved at all. But after he had gone to the expense of a model and of plans, and had got the promise of £20,000 from the Metropolitan Board of Works, and of £3,000 from the Duke of Westminster, he amended his plan. When he had done all, he did not meet the block that had to be dealt with. He had to go to the Board of Works to ask them to widen his plan, thus confessing an oversight on the most important point. The Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects had considered the First Commissioner's model and plan, and they pointed out that there was no indication of an increase of width at Hamilton Place. Although he had since proposed to widen Piccadilly, the extra width would only be that of a footpath, and this was quite inadequate. But even his amended plan would not meet the difficulty. This might be illustrated by the case of a man with a contracted mouth and a stricture 1639 in the gullet. The right hon. Gentleman's remedy was equivalent to cutting the mouth from ear to ear and leaving the gullet untouched. Upon the aesthetic aspect of the scheme the Royal Institute of British Architects had expressed a very strong opinion, and behind that superior opinion he took shelter. The architects stated in their Report that the contemplated removal of the Arch from its present position would destroy a well-balanced architectural group, involving, moreover, an expenditure which they considered had little or nothing to recommend it. A line drawn through the Arch, as contemplated, would lead to nowhere and to nothing. It simply opened into an awkward place. If the Arch were removed, St. George's Hospital would be the main feature of the thoroughfare; whereas it was at present almost entirely hidden from view. It was said that the First Commissioner of Works had some wide scheme in hand for getting rid of the Hospital altogether, and having some central station erected on the site.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that, at all events, such a plan had been talked of. He had adduced sufficient reasons why the House ought to pause before it compelled the Iron Duke to do what he never did in the flesh, to retire from a position which he occupied in strength into a lower one in which he would not look well. He had ventured to call the attention of Members to what he denominated a rival revival of earlier plans; and, as the right hon. Gentleman would not allow it to be exhibited along with his own, he had obtained permission to place it in the Cloak Room, where lithographed copies might be obtained. This combination of plans was to be found in the Office of the First Commissioner. If it were tried and failed, there was nothing in it to prevent the ultimate adoption of the right hon. Gentleman's plan. It divided itself into two parts. On the north of Piccadilly there would be a new road in the Park from Stanhope Gate to the Corner; and the present road, with a new opening into Park Lane, would be made a street outside the Park. South of Piccadilly, from Hamilton Place, a new road would be made to Grosvenor 1640 Place, and at the intersection of Constitution Hill there would be a bridge. A temporary bridge might be constructed for a trial, and the permanent structure might be made as ornamental as possible. This plan would leave the reservoir and the Arch untouched, and it would relieve both Hamilton Place and Hyde Park Corner, giving a continuous route to traffic from the north to Victoria Station and the east. The plan he recommended would be an ornamental one, and would greatly facilitate traffic. By it the Duke of Wellington's Arch would remain untouched, and the Hospital would not be interfered with. He had the authority of the Council of the Institute of Architects that the plan of the right hon. Gentleman would not be nearly so ornamental or so convenient as that which he advocated. At all events, he wished it to be clearly understood that, in putting forward this proposal, he and others who supported it were merely animated by a friendly feeling of rivalry as to who should do most in improving the Metropolis. He did not think that the requirements of the case could be met by the plan of the right hon. Gentleman; and he should like to know who were the eminent authorities on whose support the right hon. Gentleman relied. He thought that in all the circumstances he was entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman either to give his plan a trial, or else to postpone his decision on the matter until Parliament had had an opportunity of discussing the question. He had been told that if the matter came to a vote the Prime Minister would not be found in the same Lobby as the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, the noble Lord was quite correct in the statement that he made at the commencement of his speech, that the £3,000 which had been asked for was merely for the purposes of the removal of the reservoir. He had pointed out when he first explained the scheme that that was so. The reservoir supplied the Public Offices with water, and certainly was not such as it might be. It would, therefore, be desirable that the reservoir should be removed to a higher spot, so that the pressure for the supply of water might be greater. It was proposed under the scheme of the Government to remove the reservoir to a higher point in Hyde 1641 Park, but the exact spot had not yet been determined upon; anyhow, it would probably be the highest point in the Park, and most probably it would be placed in the north of the grounds. The removal of the reservoir would be no disfigurement whatever, and would not involve the cutting down of any trees. It would be covered in for the greater part of its length. He wished to point out to the House that the question of the Hyde Park difficulty had exercised the minds of successive Commissioners and of the House for many years past, and it had been generally agreed that the serious block that occurred at Hyde Park Corner was extremely inconvenient and dangerous. A great many schemes had been proposed; but, for some reason or other, they had all been found deficient. In 1875, the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), then Chief Commissioner, submitted a plan for making a road from Hamilton Place to Halkin Street, tunnelling under Constitution Hill, almost identical with one part of the noble Lord's plan, and the House voted £5,000 towards it; but in the following Session the noble Lord came down to the House, and was obliged to admit that insuperable difficulties had occurred, and that he was obliged to abandon his scheme. He then proposed another plan, in which, by altering the direction of Constitution Hill, his road would cross it at the level. This he was also compelled to abandon from not being able to obtain the necessary consents. In the following year the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rutlandshire (Mr. Gerard Noel), who succeeded him, stated to the House that he had a comprehensive plan which did not differ materially from that which he had presented, dealing with the subject, but that he did not see his way to obtaining the money for it. When it became his duty to deal with it, he had carefully considered all three plans, and he had come to the conclusion that that which he proposed was at once the boldest and the most certain to afford a remedy, and the most likely to obtain the various consents. He need hardly point out to the House and to the noble Lord that the essential feature of that plan was the cutting off the corner of the Green Park in a line from Hamilton Place to Halkin Street, and the promotion of an open place in which as many roads could be 1642 made as would properly distribute the traffic and remove the block. It was one condition of the plan that the Wellington Arch should be removed from its present position to the point at which Constitution Hill in future would meet the open place, about 100 yards to the south of its present situation, where it would form the Royal entrance to the Green Park. It was said by some that the general features of the scheme could be carried out without the removal of the Arch. That was not so—first, because if the Arch were left where it was, it would not be possible to widen the upper part of Grosvenor Place, and without this widening the block could not be removed; and, secondly, because, if left in its present position, the gradients or other conditions would require that the road between the two Parks should not pass under the Arch, but round one side of it, and through one of the side gates into Hyde Park, and thus all the dignity of the approach and the meaning of the Arch would be lost. The noble Lord had objected that the Arch in its new position would not be square with the gateway to Hyde Park and to other buildings. This was true; it would be at right angles to Constitution Hill, but would not be parallel or at right angles to other buildings. This might be a serious defect if it were at all near to other buildings; but it would be at a considerable distance, and would no longer be a part of the group of arches at the entrance of Hyde Park. As to his authorities for the advantages of his scheme, all he could say was that they were of the highest eminence; amongst others he had consulted Mr. Street. ["Oh!" and "Law Courts," from Mr. CAVENDISH BENTINCK.] Well, he ventured to say that those who had seen the Law Courts recognized in them ability of the highest merit. The word "askew" was a formidable one, but there was no canon of Art against buildings being askew to one another; on the contrary, the greatest artists in architecture the world had known—namely, the Greeks—were of an opposite opinion; they rather avoided placing buildings at right angles or parallel to one another; and in the Acropolis he need hardly remind hon. Members that the group of buildings, the most celebrated in the world, were purposely not placed at right angles or parallel to one another. It was abso- 1643 lutely necessary, if the scheme in its general features was to be carried out, that the Arch should be removed. The noble Lord had not, however, contented himself with criticizing the scheme put forward by the Government, but had proposed an alternative scheme, and that enabled him (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) to put himself in the position of a critic. He would venture to say, having given to the matter a very careful consideration, and without any prejudice whatever, that the scheme which the noble Lord proposed was not one that had given satisfaction to those who had gone into it; and he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was quite sure of this—that if his scheme were out of the way, there would not be the remotest chance of that of the noble Lord being accepted. The noble Lord objected to moving one arch; but his plan proposed to move three arches, the beautiful erection of Mr. Burton, the present position of which could not be improved. The noble Lord also proposed that the entrance to Hyde Park should be removed from its present position and placed at right angles to where it now was; and he also proposed not only to cut off the corner of the Green Park, but also the corner of Hyde Park. The general effect of the noble Lord's scheme would be to take no less than three acres of land from the Park and give it up for the purpose of making roads; whereas the Government scheme only took something like one acre. He further ventured to say that, if the noble Lord's scheme were accepted, it would not remove the block or the congestion of traffic, for the real block was at Hyde Park Corner, and not at Hamilton Place; while the scheme of the noble Lord seemed only to deal with the block at Hamilton Place.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he had contended that there were two blocks — one at Hamilton Place and one at Hyde Park Corner.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that, if that were so, the noble Lord made no provision whatever for widening the top of Grosvenor Place, and thus relieving the traffic at Hyde Park Corner. All he could say was that, while this scheme of the noble Lord involved the maximum of alteration, it ended in the minimum of accommodation to the public, and would not at all deal with the difficulty of the block at Hyde Park Corner. 1644 He was confident it could not be carried out. The noble Lord had called to his aid the Institute of Architects, and had claimed that they had condemned the official plan. It was true that some days ago the Council of that Institute came as a deputation to him and presented to him an alternative plan prepared by their Secretary. They told him, however, that they were not united on the subject; and he had no difficulty in proving to them that there were more serious objections to the plan of their Secretary, and they left him under the impression that the majority of them were convinced. They subsequently sent a deputation to the Metropolitan Board with another plan; but this, again, was open to other objections, and the Board unanimously declined to adopt it. The noble Lord seemed to think it a serious matter that the Institute of Architects should express an opinion. He could not, however, accept their Council as an arbiter in such matters. Till the present time the Institute had never undertaken to advise the Government or the public in such questions. Their present President was a gentleman to whom the public of London was indebted for the monument known as the Griffin. When, last year, he endeavoured to disestablish the creature, and so remove the obstruction which it caused to traffic in front of the new Law Courts, he received no assistance from the Institute of Architects. But, though he had not consulted the Institute of Architects in its collective capacity, he did not adopt this scheme without taking advice from a great number of persons well qualified to give opinion. He did not hesitate to say that it had been approved of by the great bulk of persons who were qualified—by such men as the late Mr. Street, Mr. Water-house, Mr. Fergusson, the well-known writer on architecture, Mr. Holford, and numerous others. It had been laid before both Houses of Parliament, and had been received with favour on both sides. It had received the approval of Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, who had been graciously pleased to give up a small part of the garden of Buckingham Palace for the public wants; and the Board of Works had almost unanimously adopted the plan, and had voted £20,000 towards its being carried out. The scheme, having been some months before the public, had been almost 1645 unanimously approved by the Press. He therefore ventured to hope the House would not support the noble Lord in his desire to postpone the scheme. It was his conviction that if this plan were postponed no other alternative would be more fortunate or more acceptable, and the only result would be that the difficulty would remain for an indefinite period unsolved and without a remedy.
§ MR. CRAIG
was of opinion that the plan proposed by the Chief Commissioner of Works would produce a much better effect than that proposed by the noble Lord. It was a position of great prominence, and it should be made as beautiful as possible. He considered the plan of the Chief Commissioner of Works would combine utility with beauty in an essential degree.
said, he had given a good deal of attention to this question, and had carefully considered the plans; and the result he had arrived at was that, so far as relieving the congestion of the traffic was concerned, the plan of the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) was the better of the two. His chief objection to the Chief Commissioner's plan was that the place which it would create would be cut up into too many small plots and gardens. The plan, however, might, by some modifications, be made much more acceptable.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
said, he had watched Hyde Park Corner for some years, and he felt greatly relieved when the plan for improving it was placed in the Tea Room. With regard to the statue of our great Commander, which was at present at the Corner, if it could not stay where it was, he saw no reason why it should not be placed on a suitable pedestal in front of Apsley House, where it could be seen by the people of England. The plan of the Chief Commissioner seemed to combine every requisite with boldness of conception and completeness in treatment; and, therefore, he gave it his hearty and grateful support.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
expressed the satisfaction he felt when he heard the plan which the Chief Commissioner had decided upon. He had, under a previous Chief Commissioner, carefully examined plans put forward for an improvement; but the objection to every plan was that it involved the retention of the Arch. The problem had now 1646 been solved in the only way in which a solution could be arrived at by the bodily removal of the Arch. Anyone who had observed the traffic on the spot must admit that the plan would afford relief where it was most required, at Hyde Park Corner and Hamilton Place. As to the aesthetic view of the question, he was at a loss to know how anyone could contend that the Arch was in a satisfactory position. Standing in the road, and looking through the Arch, one would find it led to nothing, but was a monstrous object placed in a false position. The plan of the Chief Commissioner would take the Arch to a position removed from other architectural features, and leave it free to the observer under the best circumstances. At the end of a straightened Constitution Hill it would afford the fitting approach to a Royal Palace. From every point of view the change would be a vast improvement, and he hoped the Chief Commissioner would set about the work without hesitation and delay.
§ MR. CATENDISH BENTINCK
agreed in the main with the remarks of his noble Friend (Lord Elcho), and on the question of convenience certainly thought he had the best of the argument. But what he had been unable to gather was what objections there really were to the scheme proposed by the Institute of British Architects. In the matter of gradients there certainly was no objection. As to the artistic or æsthetic point of view, he differed altogether from those who thought any advantage would be gained from placing the Arch askew. He did not pretend to be a man of taste himself, and he thought that taste was matter of opinion not to be referred to any abstract idea. But they could learn from observation of the works of great architects of the Greco and Roman era, from the great Italian masters of the 16th century, and from the works of their own architects, Sir Christopher Wren, Inigo Jones, and others of the 17th century, and their taste might be accepted as standards of comparison. Uniformity was the great feature of ancient architecture, and hence it was that the Institute of British Architects objected to the proposed scheme, as it would destroy a well-balanced architectural group. At present the Ionic screen and the Arch formed that well-balanced group, and that it was proposed to de- 1647 stroy. The authority of Mr. Street had been put forward in support of the Chief Commissioner's scheme. Now, he was not disposed to accept the authority of the late Mr. Street, and anyone who had read the books of Mr. Street—for instance, his North of Italy—knew that if ever there was an enemy to architectural uniformity it was Mr. Street. Mr. Street, at the time of his death, was President of the Institute of British Architects, and the opinion of the Institute and its present President was known. The new President was Mr. Horace Jones. True, he designed the "Griffin" Memorial, and it must be admitted he failed there; but still the Griffin was better than many monuments in London, and, indeed, there were persons who thought it the finest thing in the Metropolis. But the Institute of which he was President had on several occasions been consulted in proposed alterations, and had done good service in preventing such monstrous acts as the destruction of the Portico of St. Martin's Church, and their opinion was worth consideration. Imagine a proposal to pull down the Arc de Triomphe, at Paris, and set it askew. Why, all Paris would rise in semi-revolution against such a proposal. From the point of view of convenience, as well as æstheticism, the scheme of his noble Friend was preferable to that of the Chief Commissioner.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
observed, that very much had been said about relieving the traffic; but he hoped that Constitution Hill would be opened to the public.
§ MR. WARTON
expressed his objection to the proposed plan, and disputed the authority of Mr. Street, condemning his new Law Courts as an incongruous mixture of ideas without convenience, and which had not a Court in the building equal to the old Court of Exchequer. He appealed to the Chief Commissioner to let a little more time pass before commencing the work.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ Remaining Resolutions agreed to.