HC Deb 07 July 1887 vol 317 cc174-81

Order for further Consideration of Proposed Resolution [20th June] read. (3.) "That a sum, not exceeding £71,430, be 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 1888, for the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens.


I think it will tend to cut short this debate, which might otherwise be a long one, if I explain in a few words how this matter stands. I see that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) have both given Notice of a Motion to reduce the sum voted in Supply, by £2,000, being the additional amount required as contribution towards the new statue of the Duke of Wellington. If the House will allow me I will state briefly how we came to insert this sum in the Estimate. In the first place, let me remind the House that in 1883 the Government of the day resolved upon a great change at Hyde Park Corner, and at the time, no doubt, the proposal of the Government received almost unanimous approval. The proposed changes at Hyde Park Corner, however, involved the taking down of the old statue of the Duke of Wellington which stood there, and it was said—"Whatever you do you must not put the statue back upon the arch again, because the arch was never intended for the statue, and the statue was never intended for the arch." Then it was suggested by a Committee, presided over by the late Duke of Wellington, that instead of putting up the old statue again on the arch, the old statue should be melted down and a new one cast, and placed opposite to Apsley House, at an expenditure of £6,000. I think it is quite clear that as the Government determined to abolish the old statue they were fairly bound to replace it, and to pay for the cost of doing so, for the old statue had been provided out of public subscriptions, at very considerable expense. But when the proposal was made to melt down the old statue there arose a great outcry, because whatever may have been the merits or the demerits of the old statue, no doubt interesting associations had gathered round it, and there were many people who objected altogether to the destruction of the old statue. In the meantime His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales had called together a Committee for the pur- pose of collecting funds with the intention of beautifying the space at Hyde Park Corner which had been created, as I have said, by the interference of the Government, and it succeeded in collecting a considerable amount of money by private subscription. When the difficulty as to what was to be done with the old statue arose, this committee undertook to remove it to Aldershot, and to set it up there in the presence of the Army, on the understanding that the Government spent the £6,000 which had been already suggested in providing a new statue opposite Apsley House. All that occurred in 1883 and 1884, and I think everybody will agree that so far as the expenditure of the £6,000 was concerned, it was an expenditure which the Government was under an obligation to incur. Well, under these circumstances, last year the committee presided over by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and which had collected, as I say, a considerable sum of money for the purpose of beautifying the space at Hyde Park Corner, thought that it would add considerably to the effect of the new statue if four additional figures of suitable design were placed around it. The proposed figures, it was suggested, should represent four soldiers, and cost £4,000. Now, I want the House to understand that this £2,000 which the Government have proposed is only in aid of another sum of £2,000, to be provided out of the private subscriptions collected by the committee presided over by the Prince of Wales. I consulted the Treasury, because I did not consider that the proposal was an objectionable one, when I remembered that the necessity for the whole business was created by the action of the Government, that the old statue had been originally set up by private subscriptions, that the action of the Government had necessitated the removal of the old statue, and that the committee presided over by the Prince of Wales were prepared to subscribe half the expense of the additions to the statue in order to make the statue a really good one. In that way the sum of £2,000 was inserted in the Estimate. However, as we find there is a strong opposition on both sides of the House, under the depressed circumstances, I suppose, of the time, to this £2,000 being voted, the Government have determined not to press this Vote against the will of the House; and I, therefore, propose to leave out the sum of £71,430 standing in Report of Supply, and to insert £69,430.

Amendment proposed, to leave out "£71,430," and insert "£69,430,"—(Mr. Plunket,)—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That '£71,430' stand part of the Question."

MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

Perhaps the House will indulge me for a moment or two, as the Motion for effecting this reduction originally stood in my name. I have no fault to find with the historical statement the right hon. Gentleman has given of the circumstances under which the late Government proposed the original Vote to Parliament. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman was correct as far as it went; but it was deficient in one or two parts, in regard to which I should like to refresh the memory of the right hon. Gentleman. In bringing the story down to the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) made a proposition on the part of the Government that this House should contribute £6,000, and that the entire remaining cost, not of the statue, but of beautifying and completing the improvement at Hyde Park Corner should be defrayed out of private subscriptions, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Plunket) was perfectly correct. That was the shape in which it was put to the House, and the Committee, presided over, as my right hon. Friend has indicated, by the Prince of Wales, with great public spirit undertook that the suggestion of the Government should be carried out. But that arrangement was not accepted unanimously; on the contrary, there were two debates and two Divisions in this House, and the objection that was taken was not an objection based on any want of respect to the memory of the Duke of Wellington, or any indisposition to undertake burdens which were fairly chargeable on the public; but a large number of Gentlemen in this House hold the opinion that, as the nation was erecting a monument in St. Paul's Cathedral at a cost of £30,000, and as various provincial towns had, out of their own funds, erected monuments to the Duke of Wellington, the £6,000 should be defrayed out of London funds, and not charged to the public revenue. I should like to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the Division, which took place on that occasion. On that memorable evening the distinguished Fourth Party were to the Front, and the whole of that Party—the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), the right hon. Gentleman who is now doing such important work at Constantinople (Sir Henry Drummond Wolff), and also two other Members of that distinguished Party who now sit on the Treasury Bench (Mr. A. J. Balfour and Sir John Gorst)—joined with the economists who then sat below the Gangway in opposing this charge upon the general funds. I find in the Division List the name of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Plunket) himself. He was one of those who voted with us; in fact, 14 Members of the present Administration who were then in Parliament, and a good many more leading Members of the Conservative Party who are not now in Parliament, voted with the late Mr. Peter Rylands and myself against any charge being put on the public funds, for what we considered was a charge to be borne by London and by gentlemen who resided in the neighbourhood of Hyde Park exclusively. The House decided against us. The House was of opinion it was a fair and proper charge to make, and we never raised the question again. We accepted the arrangement that £6,000, and £6,000 only, should be paid out of the public money. Now we find in the Estimates for this year an additional sum of £2,000. I must say the House is put rather at a disadvantage. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Plunket) did not explain in Committee of Supply that this £2,000 was wanted for the addition to the statue of four figures, and that another £2,000 would be supplied out of the public subscriptions. The sum is stated in the Estimates as "an additional contribution towards the statue of the Duke of Wellington." The impression loft on my mind was that the statue which was intended to cost £6,000 was going to cost £8,000, and that the public was to be asked to make up the deficiency. I am bound to say that although the Prince of Wales's Committee is prepared to subscribe £2,000 towards the addition to the statue, I think the Government have done quite right in not pressing this Vote. I wish it to be distinctly understood on behalf of those who oppose this expenditure, that we are not wanting in respect to the memory of the Duke of Wellington, we are not wanting in sympathy with those gentlemen who have, I think, with great public spirit come forward and endeavoured to carry out this plan. It is simply on the broad general principle that London should bear its own expenses, and should not come upon public funds for such expenses, that we have felt it to be our duty to resist this expenditure. I am glad that the Government have decided that the contribution of £6,000 shall be the maximum contribution, and have not persisted in making any further grant.


I can corroborate all that has been stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler). I recollect that in 1884 when this question was last before the House, it was distinctly stated by me that £6,000 would be the total amount which the House would ever be called upon to contribute towards the improvement made at Hyde Park Corner. [Mr. JACKSON: That was the estimate.] Mr. Boehm had undertaken to make the statue for £6,000, and it was intended that the cost of any additions to the work should be paid for out of the contributions that might be made by the public to the Committee, Even at that time it was contemplated to add some other figures to the statue. In my opinion it would have been a distinct breach of faith had the House been called upon to pay a further sum of £2,000. I have no fault to find with the action of the Chief Commissioner of Works from an historical point of view, but I should like to say that it was never part of the original plan that the statue of the Duke should be taken down from the arch. The original proposition was that the arch should be moved, and the statue replaced upon it; but to that the members of the Royal Academy raised an objection, and it was decided that the statue should be removed.


I only rise to express my satisfaction that my right hon. Friend has withdrawn this Vote. I wish also to express my regret that a more suit- able position has not been selected for the statue.

Question put, and negatived.

£69,430 inserted,.

Resolution, as amended, agreed to.

Resolution [4th July] reported. That a sum, not exceeding £37,635, be 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 3lst day of March 1888, for the Buildings of the Houses of Parliament.


I desire to offer one or two observations with regard to an answer given to me in a Committee of Supply by the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket). I inquired of him the other day whether any portion of the extra receipts shown on the Votes was derived from deductions made for depreciation of furniture in houses occupied by Ministers, because it had been said that there was some portion of the amount obtained in that way. When I inquired whether there was any general rule recognized under which these reductions were made, the right hon. Gentleman answered very readily and emphatically that there was an arrangement of the kind made for all Ministers alike, and that there was no exceptional treatment. I knew perfectly well at the time that the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken; but I had not the proofs in my hand. The Question was brought up before the Public Accounts Committee during the present Session, and the subordinates to the right hon. Gentleman were questioned on the point, and the first answer given by Mr. Primrose was, that under the rule laid down some years ago, which applied only to the residences of the First Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a charge was made for depreciation of furniture during the time of occupation. He was then asked if such a bill was sent in to all the Ministers supplied with furniture, and that was the question which the right hon. Gentleman answered me in the affirmative, but to which his subordinate said—"No. The rule applies only to the residences of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord. It does not apply to other official residences." I think the right hon. Gentleman will see that he was mistaken in the answer he made to me the other day. The fact is, that an exceptional system exists under which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord are charged considerable sums; that in this particular case amounts to £500 for depreciation of furniture supplied at their residences; but there is a very large number of subordinates who are not only in receipt of residence, but of furniture, and from whom no such deduction is made. I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman can explain the reason for this distinction?


I must confess that I was not aware of the existence of the discrepancy to which the hon. Member refers, and I will certainly endeavour to get rid, as far as I possibly can, of the distinction.

Resolution agreed to.