§ MR. SUMMERS (Huddersfield)
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it is a fact, as stated in the newspapers, that the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, after having offered to place a statue of the late Earl of Shaftesbury in Westminster Abbey, required the payment, in the first instance, of £400, and afterwards of £250, for the privilege of permitting its erection; whether this demand has hitherto had the effect of preventing the erection of the statue; and, whether he will consider the propriety of amending the Westminster Abbey Act, so as to render 1721 the demand of such fees in the future illegal?
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Whitehaven)
asked, whether the right hon. Gentleman would consider the propriety of amending the Westminster Abbey Act, so as to prevent the erection of any more statues in the Abbey and the consequent disfigurement of the interior of the church?
§ THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I cannot give the right hon. Member for Whitehaven the assurance which he desires. No doubt the Abbey is extremely crowded, but I understand that the Dean and Chapter now exercise considerable discretion with regard to the erection of additional monuments. I have no reason to doubt that the allegations contained in the Question of the hon. Member (Mr. Summers) are correct; but in the absence of the Dean of Westminster from England I am not in a position to make any authoritative statement on the question. I am, however, informed that the customary fees for the erection of statues in the Abbey are applied in aid of the Fabric Fund; and I do not think I should be justified in asking Parliament to prohibit such contributions from being obtained for the maintenance and repair of the Abbey, as has been the practice from time immemorial.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
asked, whether the First Lord would not suggest to the authorities of the Abbey that it would be as well to wait for a little time after the death of an individual before placing his bust in the Abbey, seeing that there was no power of real discrimination as to the enduring merits of any person until some years after his death?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The duties of the Government are sufficiently onerous as they are. I would be stepping beyond my duty if I sought to interfere with the discretion which, I think, has been well exercised by the authorities of the Abbey.