(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £4,200, 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 1889, for the Extension of Admiralty Buildings.
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
said, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) would not press this Vote at present, in the absence of a large number of Members who took great interest in the question. He thought it was desirable that the House of Commons should carefully consider the course upon which it was now asked to embark. Last year the House resolved that a Select Committee should be appointed to reconsider the plans and proposals for an Admiralty and War Office, and it was ordered—That it be an Instruction to the Committee to report whether some or all of the existing buildings of the Admiralty may with advantage be retained."—(3 Hansard,  1361.)That Resolution of the House of Commons was referred to a Committee consisting of 17 Members, and that Committee had now made an extremely lame Report. What did the Report say? It said, in the first place—That the want of sufficient space in the Admiralty and War Office, respectively, for 760 all their Departments, has long been a source of inconvenience to the Public Service, and the practice, which has been already frequently condemned by Parliamentary Committees of hiring houses for the purpose of providing the additional accommodation required, is shown to be most unsatisfactory on grounds both of efficiency and economy.With the exception of the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), there had hardly been any difference of opinion upon this point among successive First Lords of the Admiralty. It was almost universally agreed that it would be desirable, if possible, to unite under one roof the War Office and the Admiralty Departments, not only for purposes of communication, but also because this contiguity would lead to many economies. That opinion was shared by persons who had had considerable experience in the Public Service. The Committee recommended—With a view to remedying these evils, the Government in 1882 acquired a site to the west of Charing Cross and Parliament Street—known as the Spring Gardens site—for the purpose of erecting there a new Admiralty and War Office; and in 1884 designs for the proposed buildings, prepared by Messrs. Leeming and, Leeming, architects, of Halifax, were, as the result of public competition, selected. The execution of those designs involved the demolition of the present Admiralty, and all the other offices and houses standing on the Spring Gardens site. Upon the land thus cleared Messrs. Leeming and Leeming proposed to erect a lofty stone structure, capable of containing under one roof all the Departments both of the Admiralty and War Office. The edifice was to be of an elaborate and ornate character, and was estimated to cost £700,000. It was further proposed to divide the building into two blocks, one of which should be finished in four years, and the whole within 10 years.Nevertheless, in paragraph 5 of the Report it would be seen that the Committee came to an entirely different decision, although they did not state the reasons which had induced them to come to a different conclusion. They said—It is not necessary for us to express any opinion upon these controversies, because we have come to the conclusion that, apart from any question of architectural merit or demerit, the scheme should be abandoned. We are satisfied that, by making additions to the present Admiralty, all the requirements of that Department may be suitably provided for; that this work, including some repairs and improvements to the existing building, can be done at a moderate cost, and may be completed within two or, at most, three years; that a very large reduction of expense for buildings would thus be secured, and to this must be added, as 761 against the cost of erecting a new War Office, the value, estimated at £266,000, of the portions of the Spring Gardens site which would be preserved, after providing for the suggested additions to the Admiralty, and for the opening of the Mall into Charing Cross. We, therefore, recommend that the entire official staff of the Admiralty and War Office respectively should each, as soon as possible, be placed under one roof; and that the two buildings should be situated at no great distance from each other.If they were to be under one roof, it was hardly possible that the two buildings could be situated at a distance from each other. It would be necessary that there should be a separate building for each Department, and he failed to see how two separate buildings could be under one roof. That, however, was a matter for the right hon. Gentleman to explain. The Committee went on to say—But we are of opinion that these recommendations can be carried out, and that a great saving of money and time can be secured, by adopting other plans instead of those which have been referred to us for consideration; and we find that the main buildings of the Admiralty may, with advantage, be retained. We further recommend that steps should be at once taken to insure greater economy and efficiency by bringing the clerks of each Department to work together in greater numbers, and in fewer rooms, and that the estimate of accommodation required for the staffs of the two Offices should be based upon such rearrangements.That was the substance of the Report, and he (Sir Julian Goldsmid) had read all the material points contained in it. He thought hon. Members would see that the information supplied to Parliament was very bald. It was now proposed that the existing Admiralty building should be left standing and that an addition should be built; but this addition would be larger than the existing building. No information was given by the Committee in regard to the War Office. The Admiralty contained, for the purposes of the Department, a space of 28,000 superficial feet, and the addition it was proposed to make to it would cover 70,000 superficial feet. Was there any advantage, from a public point of view, in arriving at this decision? Every First Lord of the Admiralty and every public official had told them, over and over again, that the existing building was entirely unsuited for the purposes to which it was put. The rooms were dark, and the ventilation extremely bad, and altogether the 762 building was wholly unlit for the work of the Department. The result was that Parliament was asked to retain this unsuitable building, which would require very great alteration, and to erect another and a larger building as well. He now came to the point whether the existing building was capable of alteration, and what would be the result of altering it. The late Sir James Pennethorne, in 1855, presented a Report on the main building of the Admiralty with reference to the proposed construction of an attic storey upon it. Sir James Pennethorne was a high authority, and his opinion could be entirely relied upon. In his Report he said—The building may be described as resting altogether upon a timber platform or raft; the first layer consists of 4-inch oak planks, 3 feet wider than the brickwork above, upon which rest oak sleepers about 9 inches by 9 inches. The planks under the external walls are about 5 feet 6 inches below the basement floor, and those under the interior walls about 4 feet by 6 inches, except one of the main cross walls from west to east, near the south end of the building (in the line of an old main sewer), where they are about 11 feet deep. All these timbers that have been seen are sound. All the walls are unusually strong, the external being 4 feet 6 inches thick above the footings, and the work extremely well done. The whole building, therefore, would have been perfectly sound and substantial; but, unfortunately, the timber platform appears to rest upon a bed of river deposit 6 or 7 feet thick, which is soft and full of water, the consequence of which is that it has settled more or less in every part, except the cross wall from west to east before referred to.It was perfectly obvious that any attempt to alter a building raised on such a platform was likely to cause subsidence in a very short time and other structural disturbance. He had recently consulted one high authority as to whether it would be necessary to excavate far below the present building for the purpose of making the very large addition to the Admiralty which the Committee recommended, and he was told that it would, and that the excavation would cause the water to escape into the hole thus made, and that a considerable quantity of water would be removed from beneath the platform on which the Admiralty was built. If that were so—and he was assured on all hands that it would be the case—the result might be dangerous. The consequence was that for the purpose of keeping 763 a building which only contained 28,000 superficial feet, it would be necessary to make arrangements which were admitted by everyone to be of the most unsatisfactory character. It was said that if the proposal were carried out there would be an economy effected to the amount of £200,000. Now he had always found that calculations in regard to economy were very erroneous. In the first place, the amount of economy must depend greatly on the value of the surplus land. In this case he did not believe that the Government would be able to sell the surplus land—for two reasons. In the first place, a great part of it would consist of back land removed from the main thorough fares; and, in the second place, the Government would hardly be justified in selling land which they would probably have to repurchase later at advanced terms. That was a still larger question. The Committee told them—in the Report to which he referred—that it was desirable that these two Offices, the Admiralty and the War Office, should be under one roof, or contained in a contiguous building. But in this case there seemed to be a possibility of having the War Office on the other side of Whitehall. Now, it was perfectly obvious that the area on the Admiralty site, as it was called, was amply sufficient for the purposes of both Departments, and it would not be an economy, but an extravagance, to take two sites where only one was necessary. If they were to build a War Office on the other side, instead of effecting an economy to the extent of £160,000, he was afraid that it would be found that the account would stand entirely the other way, and that they would be guilty of the most extravagant and wasteful expenditure which had taken place for a long time. It must not be supposed that in the remarks he was making he was addressing the Committee in support of the plan of Messrs. Leeming. His only desire was to secure the proper utilization of the area already in the possession of the Government. It would be extravagant to utilize it simply for the purposes of the Admiralty, and he believed there were architects in England who were able to prepare a plan by which the site would be devoted to provide suitable accommodation for the two Departments of the Government that were concerned. Of course, the 764 figures submitted by Messrs. Leeming and other architects were erroneous, because they were all based on the assumption that the building would be erected on the existing site. At the time their plans were prepared it was not deemed probable that any attempt would be made to commit the extravagance of covering the site with a building which was only to be used by the Admiralty. The noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) was well aware of the requirements of the Service, and must know that great economy in regard to space could be effected by placing a certain number of clerks in the same room, as was done largely in other Departments. He was of opinion that that principle might be extended much further. All the facts went to show that it was not desirable for the requirements of one Public Department only to cover so large an extent of ground. He could only assume that the object the Committee had in view was to save the old building, which, however, was worth very little for the Public Service. Its retention was hardly desirable, as it probably would not last long. He, therefore, hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works would reconsider the matter and submit some new proposal to Parliament. This might be done by the appointment of a Departmental Committee, or in any other way that was deemed desirable. All such a Committee would have to do would be to consider whether it would not be advantageous to do what was originally intended—namely, to utilize the existing site for the purposes of these two great Public Departments. He was satisfied that it would be the most economical course, and he asked the right hon. Gentleman to exercise his ability in accomplishing that object. He had only risen for the purpose of drawing attention to one or two salient points in the matter, because, after this sum of £5,000 had been voted, the Committee would be precluded from raising the question. He, therefore, trusted that, at any rate, the Government would see their way to postponing the matter, and, in order to insure discussion, he would move the rejection of the Vote.
§ MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)
said, he had listened attentively to the speech of the hon, Baronet the Member 765 for South St. Pancras (Sir Julian Goldsmid), and, having carefully examined the plans of the proposed buildings, he felt bound to say that he could not concur with the views expressed by the hon. Baronet. On the contrary, he congratulated the Government upon having for once, in the matter of public buildings, done a very wise and prudent thing. The hon. Baronet said that calculations, even of economy, often proved erroneous. That was quite true, especially in the case of public buildings; but it would be very easy indeed to show that the course suggested by the hon. Baronet would not promote economy, because, apparently, his object was to secure that the present Admiralty building should be entirely pulled down. That Admiralty building the hon. Baronet described as paltry and poor; but that was not the opinion of most of those who had been accustomed to see it.
§ MR. ADDISON
said, he had been inside the edifice, and, as far as he knew and could judge, it was a very good building inside. Designed by Adams, it was a building which anybody who looked at it would describe as simple, stately, and effective. They were told that it covered 28,000 square feet, and to threaten with destruction a building which was sufficient for the purposes of the Admiralty, and, looked at from outside, was one of the features of London architecture, would not be true economy. It was proposed to add to the existing building, and anybody who looked at the plans would see that they were simple and effective as far as elevation was concerned. It seemed, however, that there was a natural desire in the Architectural Profession to make a clean sweep of the whole thing, and erect one of those great buildings, such as the Law Courts, of which he had had considerable experience, and of which there were already too many in London. It was suggested that the Government might not be able to sell the surplus land, seeing that it was back land. He was very glad to hear that that was likely to be the case; and he was sure most hon. Members would agree with him when he said that it was very much to the advantage of the public to preserve every open space 766 and piece of surplus land which could be obtained in this particular locality. Instead of being a disadvantage, that was one of the points which, to his mind, told in favour of the new design. It was not desirable to have one of those enormous buildings which they saw about St. James's Park; and what struck him most in favour of the new designs was that they presented a handsome and pleasing elevation which, while not crushing the Horse Guards, admitted some air and some light to get into St. James's Park. It was impossible to look at the space now covered by other Public Offices in the neighbourhood of Whitehall without seeing that it would have been much better to have erected the buildings under some such design as that which was now submitted. He certainly saw no reason why they should pull down the existing Admiralty so long as it was a good and effective building, fully adequate to the performance of the services for which it was required. He would not suggest for a moment that the plans now submitted to the House were opposed to the interests of any particular architect; but, for his own part, he supported them because he objected to the idea of continuing the erection of large, enormous, and often most inconvenient buildings.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
said, that in rising to enter his protest against the scheme now before the House, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket), who had proposed it, that it was with great regret he found himself unable to support him in any scheme for the improvement of London which he might propose. He had never thought it worth while to make a Party question of any matters affecting the Department. When he held the post of First Commissioner of Works he knew the great danger which arose from treating matters of this kind in a Party spirit, and he believed that that was the reason why so many defects had found their way into our public buildings. He had always endeavoured to obtain the co-operation of those who sat opposite in the many schemes which it fell to him to propose, and he would willingly co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman in any scheme for the improvement of our public buildings. He would also assure the right 767 hon. Gentleman that he was not actuated by any feeling of retrospective regret for the scheme for which he was responsible for dealing with the Admiralty and War Office—a scheme which had the approval of the last Parliament, but which was rejected by the Committee appointed last year. He did not think it necessary to enter into the merits of that scheme. If it were at all necessary, he should be prepared to defend it; but he must admit that it was dead. It was killed by a combination of opponents, some of whom thought it too expensive, while others considered it not expensive enough, and others also objected to the style of architecture of Messrs. Leeming's original building. As he had said, he thought it a good scheme, and he was quite prepared to defend it; but he admitted that it was now dead. He did not think the scheme received quite a fair consideration from the Committee, especially in its financial aspects; but that was past and gone, and it was of no use to revive past controversies. They had now to consider another scheme, and whether the plan now before them was on its own merits a good one, and one which would be a credit to the Government and the Metropolis. Upon that point he had been obliged to come to an adverse opinion. In the first place, he might observe that it came before them without any professional authority whatever. It did not appear to him that there was any professional opinion in favour of it. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman opposite to say whether he could produce a single professional man of high repute who had expressed himself in favour of the scheme. His impression was that the right hon. Gentleman would not find it possible to produce a single authority on architectural questions who would approve of it. There was no one who would say that the scheme was a good one, architecturally or financially, and one that ought to be carried out. It had been condemned by the Institute of Architects, he believed, unanimously, and he had received communications personally from several distinguished architects who declared that the scheme was a thoroughly bad one from every point of view. In the Office of Works there were several gentlemen called surveyors, but really most efficient architects, to whom they owed the post 768 offices which had been erected throughout the country in such places as Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford, and, particularly, the General Post Office in London. Those buildings gave great satisfaction. Among these gentlemen was Mr. Taylor, who had recently erected the addition to the National Gallery, which had given such great satisfaction to the Metropolis. Mr. Taylor was also responsible for remodelling the Royal Mint, which saved the country at least £250,000. He know better than anyone the requirements of the Departments, and he would sooner take Mr. Taylor's opinion than that of any other professional man. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner whether Mr. Taylor or any other of his staff approved of this scheme, or were responsible for it, and whether it was not a fact that they all united in condemning the proposed extension of the Admiralty as most unwise from a professional point of view? He would go further, and ask whether it was not a fact that the architects themselves, the Messrs. Leeming, who were directed to prepare plans for the extension of the Admiralty, had recommended the adoption of this scheme? Turning to the evidence given before the Committee of last year, he found that Mr. Leming said—I must emphasize the objection which Mr. Taylor raised to extending the building on the lines of the existing Admiralty. It is not wise to add in the same style to a building already admittedly deficient.As he had said, Messrs. Leeming were afterwards invited to prepare plans for carrying out the new design; and when young architects were asked to undertake works of that kind it was not natural that they would refuse to do so. But he was satisfied that if Messrs. Leeming were asked whether they considered the scheme one that ought to be carried out, they would reply that it was not one they should recommend. Then, again, he should like to know the opinion of his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works himself, and whether he thought, on the whole, that the scheme he was now proposing was one which would add dignity to the Metropolis and was a work which ought to be carried out? For his own part, he was always unwilling to obtrude on matters of taste, and he had always submitted the schemes he had laid be- 769 fore the House upon the authority of professional men. He had certainly never obtruded his own views in regard to architectural matters or matters of taste. He would, however, in this instance go further than usual, and express the objections which he entertained to the scheme. He objected to it on three grounds—first, upon administrative grounds; secondly, upon financial grounds; and, thirdly, upon architectural grounds. In regard to the administrative grounds, he objected to the scheme because it precluded from all time to come the possibility of bringing together the Admiralty and the War Office; he objected to it on financial grounds, because he believed it to involve a most wasteful use of the site which the Government had bought at considerable expense in Spring Gardens, and because he felt that, under the plea of economy, it would result in much greater expenditure of public money than if a single building were erected for both Departments. In the third place, he objected to it on architectural grounds, because the addition to the existing Admiralty works, costing nearly £200,000, and adding them to a building which was certainly not worth more than £60,000 or £70,000, was an unwise expenditure of money, inasmuch as it would be a miserable bit of patchwork, perpetuating all the defects of an existing building, and would result in a building which, according to all the best authorities, would be a discredit to the State and to the Metropolis. On the first of these points he might observe that in the last 30 or 40 years it had been the object of nearly everyone concerned with the Admiralty and the War Office to bring these two great Departments together.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
The noble Lord said "No;" but he adhered to the opinion he had expressed. That was certainly the view of the Duke of Somerset, Mr. Corry, Sir John Pakington, Lord Northbrook, and his right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). His right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh was undoubtedly a high authority upon the matter, because he had acquired experience in this respect 770 during a very important naval and military operation—namely, the Egyptian Expedition, and he gave the strongest evidence upon the point before the Committee. He said—In time of peace it is important, officially convenient, and economic that the two Departments should be close together, but in time of war it is absolutely necessary; and the keeping of the two Departments asunder is the cause of weakness, and may be the cause of disaster.He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) could confirm that from his own experience, although he was not at the Admiralty when any such important expedition as that to Egypt was being carried out. Bat he was at the Admiralty when a smaller expedition was undertaken, and he was satisfied that the separation of the two Departments, and the want of communication between them, was the cause of wasteful expenditure and want of harmony. He had no hesitation in saying that it was of the utmost importance to bring the two Departments together. The only two Heads of Departments who were of a contrary opinion were the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Treasury and the noble Lord who sat beside him—the First Lord of the Admiralty. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman the first Lord of the Treasury was a high authority, because he had been employed both at the Admiralty and the War Office; but he was not connected with either of those Departments when an important expedition or military or naval operation was being undertaken. However hon. Members might differ from that point of view, they would, at all events, be of opinion that it was desirable to secure the advantage of the juxtaposition of the two Departments, if it could be obtained without any great expenditure. It was most desirable to accomplish that object, both for administrative and financial purposes. He now came to the financial part of his argument. Without reverting to the scheme of last year, it was absolutely certain that the site which had been purchased by the Government already was amply sufficient for the Admiralty and War Office. It was now certain that the requirements of the two Departments were not so great as they were two years ago, on account of the reduction of staff and the wise plan adopted by the present Government of requiring that the clerks 771 should be collected together in large rooms, instead of being dispersed in smaller rooms. He had endeavoured to persuade the two Departments to adopt that suggestion three years ago, but without success. He was glad to find that the requirements of the two Departments were not what they were three or four years ago, and that a smaller building would suffice for all purposes. There could not be a doubt that for a sum of £600,000 a building could be erected on the present site, without the towers and other defects in Messrs. Leemings' original building, and that the building so erected would be large enough to accommodate both the Admiralty and War Office. He would ask the Committee to look at the financial alternative in the present proposal. They were asked to spend £200,000 or thereabouts in adding to the existing Admiralty; but by doing so the site could not be made available for the War Office also. The surplus land could only be of small amount, and the scheme would necessitate another site being found for the War Office, seeing that it was wholly impossible that the War Office could remain where it was. He thought the Government were quite right in saying that they had not contemplated leaving the War Office where it was. Everybody admitted that it must be moved. It was impossible to retain it on the present site; and, on the other hand, it was necessary to bring together all the Departments that were connected with it. The only alternative site which had been suggested for the War Office was a site in Whitehall, immediately opposite the Admiralty, and it was said in evidence before the Committee last year that to purchase that site would cost about £400,000. He did not believe it would be possible to obtain any site for a War Office at Whitehall lower down at a lower cost than that. He assumed, therefore, that the cost of the site would be £400,000, and it then became necessary to erect the building, which he put down at £340,000. They had thus an ex-expenditure of £200,000 for the extension of the existing Admiralty, £400,000 for the purchase of a site for the War Office, and £340,000 for the erection of the building, making £940,000, as against £600,000, the cost of a single building on the Spring 772 Gardens site—a difference of £340,000. Against this it was hoped to set off the value of the surplus land, if the present proposal were adopted, and this was valued at £160,000. He much doubted whether that sum would ever be realized, either by selling the land or using it for other public buildings; but, even if it were realized, there was still a very considerable margin against the expenditure the Government now proposed. Therefore, it appeared to him that the present scheme fell through, from a financial point of view; and it was absolutely certain, if they assumed that a new site was to be found for the War Office, that the scheme would result in a much greater expenditure than if they utilized the Spring Gardens site for both Departments. He was perfectly convinced that, before long, the Government would come down to Parliament, and ask for additional money; and the total expenditure would be very much greater than if the scheme were restricted to the erection of a single building on the existing site. Of the two alternatives, he was satisfied that the scheme of the Government would land the country in a very large and unnecessary expenditure of money. Where, he thought, the Committee of last year made a great mistake was not so much in rejecting Messrs. Leemings' first plans, as in not considering in what other way the Admiralty site might be utilized for both the Admiralty and War Office. He came now to the architectural question. The Government asked the House to vote a sum of £192,000 for the purpose of adding to a building the true value of which, if new, could not be more than £80,000 or £90,000. It was valued by Mr. Taylor, in his evidence before the Committee last year, at £90,000 if new; but if they took into account the whole superficial base it contained, it would not be worth so much. A new building could be erected if estimated in proportion to its area, and would give the same accommodation for office purposes for the sum of £70,000. Therefore, they were asked to spend £192,000 for a building which would only be worth, if new, £70,000. The present building was a very old one—130 years old, he believed. It had almost all the defects which old buildings possessed; it was badly lighted, it was necessary to burn gas in the passages, and it was ill- 773 ventilated. They were also told by high authority that the foundations of the building were so bad that it was impossible to add another storey to it; any disturbance of the foundations was likely to bring it down to the ground. Apart from that question, it appeared to him most unwise to add to a building admittedly so defective to the great extent now proposed. By adding to the Admiralty in this matter, they would perpetuate all the defects of the existing building, and would practically extend them to the building they were proposing to erect. The attic storey of the Admiralty was useless, and it was proposed to throw it into the upper storey, which was also very low. The Whitehall front of the building was confessedly one of the most hideous and unsightly in London. The Park front was plain, and without any architectural merit. To expend £200,000 in adding to this building and in perpetuating all its defects, was, according to the view of every architect of eminence, an act of the greatest folly, and such as no private person in his senses would perpetrate. It would also, in their view, result in a building of exceedingly bad proportions and very unsightly—one quite unworthy of the site, which was one of the most august and conspicuous in the Metropolis. Among the architects who had been authorized to speak for them in this sense were Mr. Pearson, Mr. Christian, Mr. Blomfield, and Mr. Hardwick—men of high position and eminence in the architectural world. They were united in condemning the proposal of the Government, both from an architectural and from a financial point of view. The hon. secretary of the Institute of Architects had written to say that that Body also condemned the scheme from a financial and architectural point of view. For all these reasons, it appeared to him that it would be most unwise for the Government to go further with the scheme, and he would ask the Committee to pause before committing the country irrevocably to so bad a plan. What he would suggest was, that a small Commission of experts, including some architects of eminence and some financial authorities from the Treasury, should be appointed, who should examine the whole question from a financial and architectural point of view, espe- 774 cially in connection with the War Office. For his own part, he felt confident that when this scheme was thoroughly examined, it would be found that it was as financially unsound as it was architecturally bad, and, if carried out, it would be a discredit to the House as well as to the Metropolis.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. PLUNKET) (Dublin University)
said, he had listened carefully to the remarks which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and by his hon. Friend the Member for South St. Pancras (Sir Julian Goldsmid), and he had nothing to complain of in the spirit which the subject had been discussed, while he was much obliged for the flattering manner in which he had been referred to personally. What he was asked to do was to drop the Vote altogether and to postpone the settlement of the question until, in the opinion of the hon. Member for South St. Pancras, a small number of experts had been consulted on the matter, or, in the opinion of the right hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr Shaw Lefevre), until a small Commission had reported what was best to be done. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that no one could have greater respect for anything that fell from him upon this subject than he had, and he was placed in an extremely difficult position in having to oppose any suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman, considering his great experience in such matters. But he would ask the House to bear in mind that this controversy with regard to what was to be done with the great Public Departments had been going on, in an acute sense as to the War Office and the Admiralty, for 20 years or more, and, as regarded public buildings generally, for more than half-a-century. He would ask the House, further, to remember that the subject had been considered by one Commission and Committee after another, and that it had been debated over and over again in the House itself. There was one point, however, upon which all Commissions, and all the opinions expressed by hon. Members who had taken part in the debates, were agreed, and it was that the present state of the accommodation in the War Office and the Admiralty was really scandalous, and that for the purposes of adminis- 775 trative efficiency, as well as of economy, it was absolutely necessary that the various scattered departments of the Admiralty and the War Office respectively should be brought together, while some went so far as to say that all should be under one roof. The hon. Member for South St. Pancras commented upon one passage in the Report of last year in which the Committee recommended that the official staff of the Admiralty and War Office should each, as soon as possible, be placed under one roof, and that the two buildings should be situated at no great distance from each other. There was no mistake in that passage, and if the hon. Baronet would read it attentively he would see that the grammar was perfectly correct. It was only recommended that the official staff of each Department should, as soon as possible, be placed under one roof. The use of the word "respectively" showed that it was each Department that was to be placed under its own roof and not that the two were to be under one roof, although they were to be as near to each other as could be conveniently arranged. What was proposed was to bring all the separate departments of each into one building. He could not go with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford in the sweeping statement he had made that all high authorities had been in favour of placing both Departments under the same roof. The Committee of last year thoroughly threshed out that question by the careful examination and cross-examination of witnesses, and what the evidence came to was this—that whereas some of the authorities were in favour of bringing both Departments under one roof, and others were directly opposed to that suggestion, all were agreed that the two should not be placed at an inconvenient distance from each other. That was the effect of the Report of the Committee of last year. Both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for South St. Pancras asked—"Why on earth do you propose to make this addition to the existing Admiralty, if it is not merely for the purpose of retaining the old building?" and they argued that that would be a very costly and expensive indulgence in one's fancy. Now, hon. Members must not suppose for a moment that the Report of the Committee was founded 776 on any such reason as that. No doubt there was a strong feeling in favour of maintaining the architectural features of the old Admiralty, but that was not the ground on which the recommendation was made at all. He would remind hon. Members why the Committee of last year was appointed, of whom it consisted, and for what purpose it was appointed. A controversy had been going on for many years as to how a new Admiralty and a now War Office were to be provided. It was sufficient, however, to say that in 1885 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford obtained a Vote of £10,000 in the House of Commons as the commencement of the much larger sum of £700,000 which he proposed to apply to the purpose of building a War Office and Admiralty, and bringing them under one roof, on what was known as the Spring Gardens site. The proposed expenditure staggered a great many people. The right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. W. H. Smith), being then in Opposition, asked the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), whether he would agree to the appointment of a Committee to reconsider the plans involving so large an expenditure? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby willingly agreed to the appointment in 1886; but the Dissolution soon followed, and prevented the appointment of the Committee until 1887. In that year a Committee was appointed to reconsider the plans for the proposed Admiralty and War Office, and they were further instructed to inquire whether all, or some part, of the existing Admiralty might not with advantage be retained. Who were the Members appointed to serve on that Committee? He found that the names were these—Sir William Harcourt, Lord George Hamilton, Mr. Henry H. Fowler, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Sclater-Booth, Mr. Shaw Lefevre, Colonel Malcolm, Mr. Howell, Mr. Isaacs, Mr. Dillwyn, Mr. Edward Hardcastle, Mr. William Bright, Mr. Seager Hunt, Mr. William Crossman, Mr. Patrick Joseph Power, Mr. Byrne, and Mr. David Plunket. He thought it might be fairly said that that was a Committee of some authority. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford that 777 nothing could be more fatal to arriving at a sound conclusion than that the matter should be dealt with as a Party question. It had not been in any sense dealt with by the Committee as a Party question, as was evidenced by the fact that two of the strongest supporters of the present First Lord of the Admiralty were the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler). Therefore, hon. Members would fully understand that the matter was not dealt with as a Party question, but in the Committee an honest endeavour was made to see whether there was some more economical and satisfactory way of treating the question than that to which the House was supposed at the time to be committed—namely, the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford. In fact, the ground upon which the Committee rejected that proposal and made a more modest suggestion was that they found that a great saving of time and expense would be effected by the suggested alternative. The original scheme was to cost £700,000, and it was to take 10 years before it was completed.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, the scheme which combined the War Office and the Admiralty was, he thought, to take four years for the Admiralty and the remainder of the time for the War Office.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, it was found that the wants of the Admiralty could be met by additions to the existing building, which could be made for £192,000, and which could be completed within three years. He was advised by Messrs. Leeming, to whom it was his intention to entrust the work, that they would be able to complete the additions to the existing Admiralty within two and a-half years, and the sum it would cost would be £5,000 less than the sum named in the Estimates, or for something like £188,000. Of course they did not mean to set off this sum of £188,000 or £192,000 against the sum of £700,000 for providing both 778 a War Office and Admiralty. But of the £700,000, the proportion allocated to the Admiralty was £380,000, and the new proposal, therefore, involved the saving of £188,000. The right hon. Gentleman had now expressed his belief that his original idea of combining the two offices of the Admiralty and the War Office under one roof on the Spring Gardens site could be carried out for £600,000. He knew that when the matter was before the Committee the right hon. Gentleman made a suggestion of that kind, but the right hon. Gentleman had not been able to put his revised estimates before the Committee in such a way as to induce them to accept them, and seeing that so large a sum had been knocked off the original estimate the Committee were unwilling to rely confidently upon the revised estimate. The right hon. Gentleman said that they would have to build a War Office by-and-bye at a cost of £400,000 for a site, and £340,000 for the building, or £740,000 altogether; but he was prepared to admit that a new War Office could not be provided for a much smaller sum than the right hon. Gentleman named. The view taken by the Committee on this question was, he thought, that given by the First Lord of the Treasury in answer to a question by the right hon. Member for Derby as to whether a very great expense would be incurred in providing a new office upon a new site. The First Lord of the Treasury was asked in Question 1,289—It is proposed upon this space to find room for the War Office as well as the Admiralty, and the most important question I have to ask you is this. Whether you think, having regard to the expediency of utilizing the present Admiralty buildings, there would be any insuperable objection to postponing for further consideration the making of the new War Office?—Answer; No, I do not think there would be any insuperable objection. In the first place, as I understand it, the scheme will only provide for a completed War Office in about 10 years from the present time, whilst it would be practicable, I think, after full consideration, to provide a new War Office, I hope economically, without utilizing this site, or adopting this scheme, even in less time than 10 years, taking a different and distinct site as a place on which the building should be erected if it is found to be absolutely necessary that a new War Office should be erected.That was, he believed, the view ultimately taken by the Committee, so that when there was an Amendment proposed on the consideration of the Re- 779 port of the Committee in these words—We think that no commencement should be made with the proposed addition to the Admiralty until the Government has laid before Parliament its proposals for dealing with the War Office.And when, upon that Amendment, there was a Division, the Amendment itself was supported only by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea Town (Mr. Dillwyn), while among those—eight in number—who voted against it were the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for North East Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell). Therefore all these matters came before the Committee before they adopted their Report, and upon the Main Question as between the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford and those who differed from him, when the Division was taken, the numbers were 9 to 3 against the right hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Plunket) had been challenged to say whether any architect of eminence had approved of the present proposal now submitted to the house, but he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford whether he could call any eminent architect who was altogether in favour of his scheme. Something had been said about the opinion which had been expressed by the Royal Institute of Architects; but, speaking of them with great and sincere respect, he must say that he would not go to them for a favourable or encouraging opinion upon any scheme which might be proposed for this purpose. No doubt they took a high-toned view as to what a public building should be; but they were not likely to approve of any proposal that could have been made. Here was what the Institute of British Architects said on the 2nd of March, 1866, according to The Times, as to the scheme of the right hon. Member for Bradford:—A deputation from the Royal Institute of British Architects was received by the First Commissioner of Works (the Earl of Morley). Mr. McVicar Anderson, Hon. Secretary, read a Memorial in which the objections of the Institute to the proposed treatment of the Spring Gardens site were stated, and having dwelt on the inadequacy of the Whitehall 780 thoroughfare at Charing Cross, they went on, apart however from the necessity of thus providing for the exigencies of the traffic, the widening of Whitehall and Charing Cross is essential in view of the erection of a monumental edifice on the western frontage. The unsatisfactory effect of placing lofty structures on the frontages of even wide thoroughfares is strikingly illustrated in Northumberland Avenue, and it is much to be desired that in the present instance a like result should not have to be deplored. To erect a building of great magnitude on the site in question without sufficiently providing, by the widening of Whitehall and Charing Cross, the space which is absolutely essential to the attainment of a satisfactory result—a national monument moreover the principal frontage of which according to the official scheme will remain partially occupied by buildings of an inferior nature, such as shops and a tavern, is in our judgment unworthy of the country.His (Mr. Plunket's) scheme was not, therefore, to be deemed unsatisfactory merely because it was criticized by architects who had schemes of their own. The name of Mr. Taylor had been mentioned, and he (Mr. Plunket) would gladly join in and emphasize everything that had been said in his commendation; but all the evidence given by that gentleman before the Committee had reference to a comparison between the two schemes—namely, that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which was to cost £700,000, and that which was submitted at the present moment; and it must be borne in mind that he and other witnesses were already committed to the former of those schemes, although, no doubt, they gave their evidence honestly. The Government had submitted to the House an elevation which, as far as the exterior decorations were concerned, was not ambitious or pretentious; but everyone would agree that it was satisfactory and agreeable to the eye, and in sympathy and harmony with the surrounding buildings. The Vote he was now asking for was not merely to make an addition to the existing Admiralty, but also to improve it. It was proposed to take out the attic floor, and to use a portion of the space in the roof; and he was assured by eminent architects that when so altered the upper storey would be well adapted for the purposes of the Admiralty. It was said that the scheme of the Government would perpetuate in the now buildings all the defects of the old. That was absolutely inaccurate and not the fact. The architects had 781 undertaken to give a considerable increased height to each of the floors in the new buildings, and not only so, but they had adopted, or would adopt in it, if the Committee agreed to the proposal, every improvement which modern science had invented as to light and air and ventilation and drainage, so that a new building would be supplied in these matters on the best pattern science could now devise. The system of ventilation would in one respect be even a better system than that proposed by the right hon. Member for Central Bradford, because, the height of the building being less in proportion to the size of the Court yards, the ventilation would be better. It was said, and he had seen the statement repeated in the newspapers that morning, that if they did any excavating work, and interfered with the foundations of the existing building, they would bring down the old edifice. It would, however, have been necessary to make excavations even under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, because he proposed to preserve all the staff of the Admiralty in the old building for three or four years while providing the foundations for the new building. That, however, was a matter for architects to decide. He did not venture any opinion of his own; but he had that day been assured by Messrs. Leeming that there was no ground whatever for any of the fears that had been expressed. He thought he had now dealt with all the objections which had been raised, and he must apologize to the Committee for the length to which his remarks had extended. He believed that if they were to wait until they had a plan to which they could get all the architects to agree, they would have to wait a very long time, and the scandalous state of things which now existed in some parts of the Admiralty buildings and also in some parts of the War Office would continue; not only so, but they would have to go on paying a sum of no less than £4,400 a-year, which they now paid for the hire of premises for those officials of the Admiralty for whom accommodation could not be found in the existing building, while the Service would still suffer great administrative inconvenience. If the Committee adopted this estimate the work would be commenced at once, and within two and a-half years—he was 782 informed by Messrs. Leeming that it would take about two years and four months—they would be able to complete the building. He trusted that under these circumstances the Committee would agree to the Vote.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
said, he looked with a considerable degree of alarm at the proposal now before the House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Plunket), and other hon. Gentlemen who were Members of the Committee would remember that he had expressed his ideas in the same sense when it came before the Committee of last year. He regarded the present scheme as an absolute perpetuation of the present system under which the affairs of the Admiralty were managed. The Committee last year were at some disadvantage in having no definite set of alternate plans before them, and they found it difficult, therefore, to arrive at a decision. Nevertheless, the Members of the Committee were impressed with the absolute necessity for making some sweeping change in the position in which the clerks and other officials at the Board of Admiralty were placed. Leaving out of view the War Office altogether and dealing with the Admiralty alone, they were asked to give a sum of money nearly equal to one-third of the total amount that would have had to be provided to carry out the designs that were rejected by the Committee last year. He could only say, as a Member of the Committee, that he had gone over the present Admiralty building, and he had had to go there since on matters of public business, and he must say that the difficulty first of finding his way into the place, and, secondly, of finding his way out again, owing to the peculiar arrangement of the different staircases and passages, was something marvellous. It was impossible, without making large structural alterations in the present Admiralty buildings, to make them suitable and convenient for the proper supervision of the staff of clerks employed in them and the economical performance of the work they had to do there. The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works had said that a large amount of money was expended every year in order to supply the clerks and other officials with suitable accommodation 783 outside the present Admiralty buildings; but if the designs which were rejected by the Committee last year had been adopted, all the clerks would have been brought under one roof, where they would have been properly supervised, and would have been able to do their duty satisfactorily and economically for the benefit of the country. He spoke with some knowledge upon the matter, having had a long acquaintance with structural alterations, and however lightly architects might think of underpinning, builders did not think lightly of it; at any rate, it was a work which entailed large extra expenditure. There was always danger unless the foundations, in the first place, were absolutely good; and, so far as the foundations of the Admiralty were concerned, they were not only not good, but bad. When once they commenced to touch the foundations they would never know where they were going to end. He had no wish to prolong the debate; but he had expressed these views and the fears he entertained before the Committee upstairs. He still entertained the same fears. They were now asked to vote the sum of £192,000; but if they could get out of it with £250,000 at the end of three years they might consider themselves exceedingly well off. Even then they would simply have perpetuated in a milder degree the scandalous state of things which now existed in regard to the accommodation at the Admiralty Office. He was thoroughly opposed to anything like wasteful expenditure, and he was earnest in his desire to secure economy. He maintained, however, that the best economy, when they found anything structurally bad in a building of this description, was to sweep it away and to erect a new building adequate and suitable to the requirements of the nation. He had no objection to the erection of a grand building—that was to say, grand, not in the sense of external decoration, but in the sense of the useful purpose it was to serve. The plans rejected last year were doubtless grand designs, and the decorative work would, in some respects, be superb. Probably all the decorations involved were not needed for all public offices; but even admitting that the ornamentation was more than necessary, he ventured to assert that it would have been wiser economy in the long run to have 784 adopted those plans with all their accessories than to vote money for a scheme which would have to be supplemented hereafter by other large sums of money. Even when the work was complete, the complaint which had been made from time to time would not be removed. The officials would not be gathered together in large rooms; but one man would be in one room, while another engaged in the same kind of work would be in another room. It was necessary that they should be closely associated together if they were to make the building useful and efficient for its purpose. He supposed that the Vote under discussion would be agreed to; but they might depend upon it that the sum of £192,000 would not be sufficient to cover the whole of the alterations, and they would find, when the building was ready to be handed over, the cost would inevitably have to be supplemented by other large sums, and they would find, in the long run, that it would have been more economical to have provided a new building.
§ MR. ISAACS (Newington, Walworth)
said, he would ask for the indulgence of the Committee while, as a Member of the Committee to which the question was referred last year, he ventured to state the views which he entertained on the subject. The question really resolved itself into this—Were the designs which had been placed in the Tea Room of the House, or the designs which were first submitted to the Committee, to be carried into effect? As far as his personal predilections were concerned, he went into the Committee with a perfectly open mind. If he had any bias, it was rather in favour of the designs of Messrs. Leeming, which he had seen before, and could not fail to admire. But after the evidence adduced before the Committee day by day, he had come to the conclusion that it would not have been advisable to have adopted the designs which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) advocated. It was pointed out that, coming next to the Horse Guards, the proposed new building would have dwarfed that structure, and the first thing which the right hon. Member for Bradford did was to eliminate the South-Eastern wing of the building in deference to the adverse criticisms made upon it; and thus, at one stroke, to save a sum 785 of no less than £30,000 in the cost of the work. But that was not a sufficient saving, and it was necessary to do more. It was proposed to eliminate the whole of the features of the design above the roof, as also the columns and pilasters of the several facades, and by that means the main features of the design were sacrificed. The cost of the building was thus reduced to £561,000, of which sum £261,000 was allocated to the Admiralty buildings, and the remaining £300,000 to the War Office. But he ventured to say that the whole of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman opposite founded on that Estimate of £561,000 were absolutely fallacious. The building to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was what might be described as a "bogus" building, because the great charm of Messrs. Leeming's design consisted very much in the features above the roof, its domes, cupolas, and other matters; but it was now proposed to cut down these features as well as the columns and pilasters, and very much of the ornamentation, so that the building would entirely lose its character. Apart, however, from the question of the style of architecture, there were grave doubts on the part of the Committee as to whether the internal corridors would be sufficiently lighted, and whether the other arrangements were quite of the character suited for a large assembly of clerks. On the whole, the Committee failed to be impressed with the opinion that the building would do the work for which it was intended, from an economical and practical point of view. Thereupon the Committee took an early opportunity of viewing the existing Admiralty buildings, in order to ascertain whether it was possible to adapt and retain any portion of the existing structure. He was sorry to find himself at issue on this point with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell), because he believed the hon. Member to be a practical man, who had claims to be considered an authority in these matters. But he went carefully over the building, and after paying great attention to the whole of the internal arrangements, he came to an exactly opposite conclusion to that of the hon. Member. He thought it would be possible to alter the internal arrangements of the existing Admiralty 786 in such a way as to render it unnecessary to make any great structural alteration; and it would be possible to put together several rooms so as to facilitate the concentration of clerks without any danger to the existing building. Of course, he was prepared to admit, that when they came to deal with foundations like those of the existing Admiralty buildings it would be necessary to proceed with the utmost caution. He knew what it was to deal with large volumes of water in the foundations of buildings. He had had experience of water in foundations, and he knew the expense the getting rid of that water entailed; but he ventured to tell the hon. Member for Bethnal Green that in these days work of that kind was not regarded by practical men as one which ought to appal them or deter them from pushing forward with it. Within the last three or four years the foundations of so important a structure as Waterloo Bridge had been dealt with without any serious difficulty. The old piles on which the Bridge stood were removed while the public were continually using the structure, and absolutely ignorant of the nature of the work in progress. That structure at present stood without the slightest sign of subsidence being shown. If it were possible to deal with such a bridge as that it would be infinitely more easy to overcome any difficulties connected with the foundations of the Admiralty. In Committee they had the evidence of experts as to the cost of carrying out the building designed by Messrs. Leeming, and he ventured to say that the figures given were too low, and that instead of 1s. per cubic foot in one case, 1s. 2d. would be nearer the mark, and in another, instead of 1s. 6d., 1s. 8d. per cubic foot. When they came to consider the case of the alternative scheme they had figures given to them from which it would appear that the cost of the proposed addition to the Admiralty would not be more than 11d. per cubic foot. The right hon. Member for Bradford, in the Report he had submitted to the Committee, said that he had cut down the estimates of Messrs. Leeming for the alternative scheme from £700,000 to £561,000, of which £261,000 was the amount allocated to the Admiralty, and £300,000 to the War Office. Taking the alternative scheme of 787 Messrs. Leeming at 11d. per cubic foot, they reached a total of £185,000, and adding £7,500 for under-pinning the existing Admiralty structure they arrived at £192,500. Taking this figure as £192,000, he would ask the Committee to bear with him while he gave another set of figures which he would desire them to accept instead of those of the right hon. Gentleman. The cost of the Admiralty and War Office, instead of being £700,000, on the assumption that the work could be done for 1s. 2d. a cubic foot instead of 1s., would be enlarged to £820,000. He thought, on the other hand, that it would be possible to proceed with the alternative scheme of the Admiralty extension for 10d. per foot cube. One ounce of fact was worth a whole ton of argument, and he had been so staggered by the figures submitted to the Committee that he ventured to ask permission to put himself in the box to give evidence in connection with the Railway Clearing House building in Euston Square, which accommodated 1,400 clerks, as large a number as the Admiralty and War Office combined. Those 1,400 clerks were housed in a building of excellent design, built by Messrs. Cubitt, who were among the first of builders. The right hon. Gentleman added to the item of £192,000 £440,000 for the new War Office site, and £300,000 for the building. To-day the right hon. Gentleman favoured the Committee with another figure—namely, £340,000 for the building. Why he did so he (Mr. Isaacs) did not know, but he failed to find that figure in the draft Report submitted to the Committee. Taking those three items—£192,000 for the extension of the existing Admiralty, £440,000 for the purchase of a new site for the War Office, and £300,000 for the new War Office itself, there would be a total of £932,000. From that total they must take two items representing the value of surplus land—namely, £161,000 for the land in Spring Gardens, and £42,000 for land on the War Office site, making a total of £203,000, and bringing down the estimated cost to £729,000. For that sum they would get, according to the amended plans of Messrs. Leeming, what he called a "bogus" building, and they would land the country in an excess of expenditure amounting to £160,000. He (Mr. Isaacs) read to the Committee a letter he had received 788 from the Architect of the Railway Clearing House Building, intimating that the cost of that structure amounted only to 6d. per foot cube. He submitted, therefore, that if it was possible to do this in the case of the Railway Clearing House, it was only reasonable to assume that a suitable building could be erected for the Admiralty extension at 10d. per foot cube. The estimate, therefore, would have to be reduced by one-eleventh, and instead of £185,000 it would be brought down to £168,000. The total cost of the two establishments, if they were proceeded with on the basis he had sketched out, would be £705,000, and deducting £705,000 from £820,000, the saving to the country would be £115,000. He had thought it fair to put these considerations before the Committee, inasmuch as he felt particular interest in the subject, and having endeavoured to thrash out the whole of the figures, he thought he was entitled to ask the attention of the Committee for a few minutes while he submitted his views to hon. Members.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that in estimating the cost of the Admiralty and War Offices at £600,000 for the purpose of his argument, he had made no reference to the scheme of Messrs. Leeming.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said, he objected to this Vote, not on the ground of the cost of the building, but because it did not provide for the War Office and the Admiralty being under one roof. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) had said that that question did not come before the Committee, but since the Committee sat, the country had been assured that the Army was not properly organized. They knew that the work of both the Army and the Navy would be greatly facilitated by being under one roof. He was prepared to vote against the estimate if a Division was challenged, because in his opinion, expenditure that did not tend to efficiency was only money thrown away. It was not a question of what the buildings cost, in the first instance. They would save money by having efficiency, because efficiency was really true economy.
§ MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town)
said, he did not wish to prolong the discussion, indeed, he should not have 789 taken part in the debate at all but for the remark of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) that he (Mr. Dillwyn) had proposed an Amendment to the Report last submitted. He did propose an Amendment. He was actuated very much by the argument just addressed to them by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hammersmith (General Goldsworthy)—namely, that it was very desirable that the work of the two Services of the Army and Navy should be transacted under one roof. He believed that the work of the country would be greatly facilitated thereby, and that the arrangement would prove an economical one. The hon. Baronet the Member for South St. Pancras (Sir Julian Goldsmid) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell) had given good reasons why the Government plan should be rejected. They objected to the inconvenience which would result from it, and they objected to it on account of the danger of making the alterations upon insecure and had foundations. The foundations of the present building had been found to be very bad; indeed, the evidence given before the Committee went to show that there were no solid foundations. He had seen something of building and of altering old houses, and he thought that when they began to alter old houses they ran a great danger of pulling the houses down altogether. Generally speaking, it was far more satisfactory to pull a building down altogether than to put up new erections on the old foundations. He had only to say further that the challenge which was thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had not been met at all. The right hon. Gentleman challenged the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works to show a single architectural authority for the plan they now had before them. He (Mr. Dillwyn) had heard very many objections to the plan, and he hoped they might still hear a little more of the plan from an architect's point of view.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, that as one who had spent many years in the Public Service, he wished to press very earnestly upon the Government one point, which he considered of great im- 790 portance. He was glad to see that in this building it was proposed to make very large rooms in which a large number of clerks could be employed. He was fully persuaded there would never be efficiency or economy in the Public Service until the system of large rooms was greatly extended. In the plan of rooms, but he thought the system could be extended a little more. He trusted that the Admiralty and War Office would bear in mind the importance of employing in large rooms all except those few who were obliged from their position to have private rooms.
§ MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
said, he rose to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works whether it was a definite part of the present scheme that the Mall should be extended and opened out to Charing Cross. The point was not clear in the designs, though it was one to which considerable importance was attached by all who took an interest in the amenity of London. He earnestly hoped that this opening would now be made.
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID
said, that before they went to a Division there were two or three points he desired to refer to. The hon. Member for the Walworth Division of Newington (Mr. Isaacs) had given convincing proof that the Government were absolutely wrong. The hon. Gentleman had shown that the Railway Clearing House, a large building capable of accommodating 1,400 clerks, had been put up very economically upon a site less than the site of the Admiralty and the proposed additions, and yet he approved of this piece of extravagance. They would have to go elsewhere and obtain a site for the War Office. The proposal amounted to the greatest piece of extravagance he ever heard of, and he quite understood why his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) took no notice of it; it was absolutely indefensible. There were some persons who were anxious to have economy at the expense of efficiency, and he ventured to say that the argument which the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works used in support of this proposal—namely, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was in favour 791 of it, was a little in that direction, because the right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt), as Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his zeal for economy, sent orders to the Departments as to the amount they were to spend, leaving them to settle how that amount was to be utilized. True economy would prompt them to spend a proper sum for putting the War Office and the Admiralty upon one site. They had the site, but the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works proposed to use it for the Admiralty only. He (Sir Julian Goldsmid) maintained that the proposal was an extravagant one, because the right hon. Gentleman would have to purchase another site whenever he built the War Office. Under these circumstances, he had thought it right to bring this matter before the House of Commons. The hon. Member for the Walworth Division of Newington tried to draw a red herring across the path by telling them a good deal about Messrs. Leeming's building. Probably the hon. Gentleman did not do him the honour to listen to the remarks he made earlier in the debate; but, if he did, he must know he said he knew nothing of Messrs. Leeming, and that he was not speaking in any particular interest. Upon the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Isaacs') own showing, a suitable building for both War Office and Admiralty could be put up upon this site at a moderate cost, and, therefore, it must be bad economy to use the site for the Admiralty only. He claimed the hon. Member's vote.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, that, in answer to his hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley), he was able to say that they had already in these plans gone far in the direction of having large rooms in which the work could be carried on under proper supervision. But they had not yet had the final Report of the Admiralty as to the reorganization of their staff. If the Board suggested that the system of large rooms should be carried further, he had no doubt the system would be extended. He entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman as to the advisability of adopting the system as far as possible. With regard to the question of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Whitmore), he could answer, if the proposal now submitted 792 to the Committee were carried out, there would be an opening provided from the Mall to Charing Cross, in the same way as an opening would have been provided if the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had been adopted. The present was really a test Vote. The Department, therefore, now only asked for £5,000; but if the Committee agreed to the Vote, he hoped they would be able to spend and ask for a little more before the end of the year. He earnestly begged the Committee not to prevent them proceeding as soon as possible with the remedy of a defective and almost scandalous state of things.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, that nothing had been proposed on that subject. The Vote which was now proposed was based on the Report of the Committee of last year.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, it was an important item in the consideration of the whole matter what was to be done with the War Office. If the War Office was to be left where it was, the scheme was not a bad one—it would result in economy—but if the War Office was to be removed, which he believed was an essential part of the scheme, then the scheme was financially bad and unsound.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, that if the House of Commons were of opinion that the Government should at once undertake further expense in building a War Office, he would lose no time in making the necessary inquiries.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 144; Noes 85: Majority 59.—(Div. List, No. 116.)