§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
, in rising to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to examine and report on the proposed plans for the restoration of the exterior of Westminster Hall,said, the House would recollect that at the end of last Session he laid before it the plans prepared by the architect, Mr. Pearson, for the restoration of the West Front of Westminster Hall, and that, in 1333 doing so, he had stated that if there was any strong difference of opinion on the subject, he should not object to refer the matter to a Select Committee. When the Estimate for the carrying out of the work came before the House, he found that considerable difference of opinion did exist; and after a debate the proposed plans were deferred, in order that they might be considered by a Committee, a comparatively small Vote being taken for certain repairs and works for the protection of the Hall, pending the consideration of plans. Since last Session, however, he had consulted with Mr. Pearson, and had come to the conclusion that it was not desirable to spend any large sum on repairs until it was decided what should ultimately be done with the building; but that it would be better to appoint the Committee in the short Autumn Session; take its decision, and that of the House, and at once proceed with the work of restoration. It seemed to him desirable that the House should come to a decision as early as possible; and he, therefore, hoped that no objection would be taken to his Motion with a view to the speedy determination of the question. It was important that the work should be commenced, or some repairs should be executed, before the coming winter. He did not think the inquiry would be a long one, and it seemed to him that it would be easier to obtain a Committee now than it would be in the regular Session next year, when the House would be in full work. The Committee would not find it necessary to sit more than three or four days. Of course, it would be his duty to see that the plans were very carefully explained to them, and that due consideration was given to any objections which might be raised to the plans. Under the circumstances, he hoped the House would agree to his Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to examine and report on the proposed plans for the restoration of the exterior of Westminster Hall."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how soon he proposed to name the Members who were to constitute the Committee, and whether it was proposed to nominate any Irish Representative upon it?
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I have already secured that. I desire to nominate the Committee on Monday, and to propose, amongst other hon. Gentlemen, one representing Ireland, who sits in the same quarter of the House as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton).
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
How many hon. Members does the right hon. Gentleman propose to put on the Committee?
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he did not think the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was very satisfactory. For instance, he could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the opinion that the inquiry would only occupy a very short time. He had not had much to do with architectural subjects; but he objected altogether to the plans of Mr. Pearson. He was not alone in that objection, because it was taken by others who were far more competent to judge than himself. It appeared to him that if the question was to be properly discussed, the discussion must be one which would take some considerable time. It would certainly not lead to a satisfactory result if it was sought to complete the inquiry in four or five days. Now that the First Commissioner of Works proposed to appoint a Committee of 13 Members, he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, if the Committee were not able to discuss the question, or to agree to any Report at the present moment, their Sittings would be adjourned until next Session? It was as well it should be pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that this was a matter of great importance, and that it would be absolutely necessary for the Committee to call before it competent witnesses. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman had adopted a most unusual form for his Motion. He (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) could not understand why the Notice of Motion was couched in the particular terms in which they found it on the Paper; why it did not state what powers the Committee would have. Those who had any experience of the Business of the House were aware that Notices of this kind usually gave powers to the Committee to be appointed to call witnesses and so forth. Why did not the right hon. Gen- 1335 tleman put his Notice down in the usual form? He need only direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to Notice No. 6 on that night's Paper. It was a Motion standing in the name of one of the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues (the Solicitor General for Ireland); but the usual form was adopted—power was given to call witnesses, and the names of the Gentlemen who were to be proposed as Members of the Committee were also given.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) had been singularly unfortunate in the reference he had made. When the Committee was nominated he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) would certainly move that the Committee should have power to take evidence; and that was the usual and proper time to make such a Motion. He proposed to nominate the Committee on Monday. He had already said that he would be able to get a much better Committee at that time of the Session than he would if he waited until next Session; and he thought that when the hon. and learned Gentleman saw the constitution of the Committee he would be of opinion that no better Committee for the purpose could be formed.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
observed, that the reference to the Committee was—To examine and report on the proposed plans for the restoration of the exterior of Westminster Hall.He thought it was fair to ask if there was more than one plan? He had never heard of more than one plan. It appeared to him that this was a Committee to be formed for the purpose of sanctioning the plan which had been already adopted by the First Commissioner of Works—that was the plan of Mr. Pearson. He had the opportunity last Session, by the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), of visiting the locus in quo, and of hearing what was to be said. He was greatly impressed with the fact that Mr. Pearson did not do the Members of the House of Commons who assembled on the site the honour of attending to explain his own plans. The company had a statement by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), and also by another well-known official of the Board of Works; but Mr. Pearson, who was responsible for the 1336 plans, and who was recommended as the only architect in England who understood the subject—[Mr. CAVENDISH BENTINCK: Nonsense!]—they had been told that—did not attend at all. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) took great interest in architectural subjects; but he was unable to get, upon the occasion he referred to, the information which hon. Members were entitled to. Then, when he read this Reference, he found that a Committee was to be appointed to examine and report on the proposed plans. There were no other plans but the plans of Mr. Pearson, and the intention evidently was that Mr. Pearson's plans should be sanctioned by the House of Commons. He did not approve of that kind of procedure. Furthermore, he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had already formed his Committee, and that when an Irish Member opposite (Mr. Sexton) asked whether an Irish Member was to be nominated to serve on the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman should say in a very jaunty manner—"Oh, yes; I have settled that with someone on the opposite side." He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) demurred altogether to the idea that the whole of the Irish representation was to be found on the other side of the House. Politics ought not to enter into a matter of this kind; and he was quite sure, from the well-known taste of Irish Members, that there were many of them eminently qualified to serve on the Committee. The public buildings which had been erected in Dublin for many years past equalled anything there was in this country, both in originality, construction, material, and in everything else. He supposed that in this House of Commons it was no use offering any opposition; but he was bound to say that the absorption by the Board of Works of everything in the Metropolis in the shape of architecture, and the assumption that the Board of Works was to be the only judge upon architectural subjects, was most unsatisfactory. The public buildings which had been created in the Metropolis within the last 30 or 40 years had been such as to make us the laughing-stock of all nations. He did not wish to detain the House many moments; but let him take, for instance, the Natural History Museum, which was an offspring of the Board of Works, and in regard to which a right hon. Gentle- 1337 man who was not now a Member of the House was the supreme authority. That building, whatever its character might be, was sunk in a hollow, and its architectural effect was lost by the want of spending a little money in raising the foundations. That was the remark which every foreigner who visited the Museum made. He did not know that Mr. Pearson was the only person qualified to give an opinion upon the restoration of the exterior of Westminster Hall. Westminster Hall was never intended to be seen from outside, and the proposals that were laid before them last Session for the construction of a chamber—a room which was to be a garret for the accommodation of old Parliamentary Papers, and which could be of no earthly use in that situation—and the making of a corridor in which carriages might, or rather might not, be driven, for he understood it was only to be 19 feet in width, appeared to him to be one of the most absurd propositions that ever came under his notice. He hoped the House of Commons would not assent to the appointment of this Committee unless the inquiry was to be a genuine one. If the Committee was simply to be appointed to endorse the plans of Mr. Pearson, let it be so stated. If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had formed a Committee to support Mr. Pearson's plans, let it be known; but do not let them have a sham inquiry to arrive at a foregone conclusion.
§ MR. T. C. BARING
said, he did not know whether he was right in his conjecture; but, according to this Notice of Motion, there were no plans to be submitted to the Committee but those of Mr. Pearson. If that were so, he should feel bound to oppose the appointment of the Committee. Was he to understand that if the Committee were dissatisfied with Mr. Pearson's plan, they could refuse them and call for other plans, because that would be a very different matter. If it was intended that the Committee should only make more or less alterations in Mr. Pearson's plans, he should vote against the appointment of the Committee.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
said, the House seemed to have forgotten for the moment what was the question before it. The question was the appointment of a Committee, and when the Committee was 1338 appointed it would be quite within the competence of the House to adopt an Instruction to the Committee. Surely, this Committee was not to have any limit placed on its power. It would have the power to send for other architects than Mr. Pearson. ["Will it?"] He thought the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) would hardly propose a Committee which was to be restricted in—[Mr. BARING: The words of the Motion are "the proposed plans."] The powers of every Committee were granted by the House; and when the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) nominated the Committee the House would take care that its powers were sufficient, and that its Members were men in whom the House could place confidence. The present Motion was merely that the Committee should be appointed, and that it should have the power to examine and report on the plans for the restoration of the exterior of Westminster Hall. ["The proposed plans!"] Surely it would have power to call for plans other than those drawn by Mr. Pearson. The House had only to see, when the Committee came to be nominated, that the powers given it were sufficient in the matter.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said, there seemed to be every probability that in the end Mr. Pearson's plans would be sent to the right about. Some considerable time must elapse before the matter was settled; and therefore he hoped the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) would take means of securing what should be something like adequate protection from the weather for the remains of the ancient buttresses and other parts of the building, which must necessarily suffer during the coming winter if left, as at present, exposed.
said, he thought it was satisfactory to the House that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) proposed to refer the matter to a Committee; but he (Mr. Dick-Peddie) was afraid that the terms of the Motion were far too limited. Hon. Members were aware that the subject was discussed last Session, and that objection was raised, not only to Mr. Pearson's plans themselves, but to the whole character of the buildings proposed by that gentleman. It would be well that 1339 the Committee should be instructed to examine and report as to the best mode of dealing with the exterior of Westminster Hall.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he certainly had no intention of limiting the inquiry of the Committee. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) wished that the word "proposed" should be left out of the terms of Reference, he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) would gladly assent to the omission. He merely wished to add one further explanation in reply to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), with reference to the absence of Mr. Pearson on the occasion to which he referred. It was an entire accident on the part of Mr. Pearson that he was not present. As a matter of fact, he arrived on the site a short time after his (Mr. Shaw Lefevre's) explanation; had he been there earlier he would have given the explanation which he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) gave. Unfortunately Mr. Pearson was not there at the right moment; and he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), therefore, gave such explanation of the plans as he could. Mr. Pearson would have been very glad to have afforded every information had he been present.
§ Amendment made, by leaving out the words "the proposed."
§ Main Question, as amended, proposed.
suggested that the words "plans for" should also be omitted, so that the Motion would read, "report on the restoration of the exterior of Westminster Hall."
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, that before the Question was put he would like to know whether it was to be distinctly understood that the inquiry would be free and open?
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Select Committee appointed, "to examine and report on plans for the restoration of the exterior of Westminster Hall.
And, on November 10, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH, Mr. RYLANDS, Mr. BERESFORD HOPE, Sir JOHN LUBBOCK, Sir RICHARD WALLACE, Sir EDWARD REED, Sir HENRY HOLLAND, Mr. DICK-PEDDIE, Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL, Mr. WALTER, Mr. CHEETHAM, Mr. JUSTIN HUNTLY M'CARTHY, and Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE, with power to send for persons, papers, and records.
Ordered, That Five be the quorum.—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)