HC Deb 01 April 1890 vol 343 cc416-43

1. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £165,767, 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 1891, for expenditure in respect of Public Buildings in Great Britain, including the Houses of Parliament.


I wish to call attention to Item C, the rents of houses. There is a large number of houses that are rented as public offices, at the same time that there are a considerable number of public sites that are unoccupied and have been unoccupied for years. I notice that the First Naval Lord of the Admiralty has a residence in Queen Anne's Gate at a rental of £700 a year. I could never understand why the First Naval Lord should have a residence, seeing he has a salary of £2,000; it is out of all reason. The Board of Trade Offices might be erected on a vacant site, instead of rents being paid for the present ramshackle buildings. I hope the First Commissioner of Works will, as rapidly as possible, get rid of the hired houses, and to do his best to provide buildings on sites already purchased.


For a long time past various plans have been tried by which the bad habit of the housing of the public establishments in hired premises might be got rid of. In recent times the India Office, the Local Government Board, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, and others have been properly housed. The Board of Works are at present engaged in erecting new Admiralty buildings; the War Office will probably be undertaken next, and when those two Departments are provided for, there will be comparatively little room for complaint with regard to the use of hired premises.

(3.7.) MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W)

I would wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the great want of accommodation in the Offices of the Board of Trade. When a deputation attends there is no room into which they can be shown without the presence of the clerks. The offices are a disgrace to the country.

*(3.8.) MR. PLUNKET

I agree that the accomodation at the Board of Trade is unsatisfactory, and I think it ought to be improved as soon as possible, with due regard to priority of claims, on the part of others of the Government Departments.

*(3.10.) MR. MORTON

I want to ask a question on Item C. I notice an item of £2,800 for Dover House, and I see, "Stables occupied by the First Lord of the Admiralty." I should like to know what the First Lord of the Admiralty wants with stables. Are they occupied by the celebrated Horse Marines. I think we are entitled to know something about it, because it looks a large sum. Then there is an item on page 22 for the supply of water to various public offices by private companies. I want to know whether that supply is regulated by meter, and what is the cost per 1,000 gallons. On page 23 I see that carpets, &C, cost £2,300.; then there is £3,050 for various articles—baskets, glass, and china ware. Are these articles supplied by public tender? So far as I am concerned, I shall not be satisfied until the Government—I do not care of what Party— adopts a system of publicly inviting tenders, a system adopted by the smallest Municipal Authorities throughout the country. I think we ought not to enter into contracts for works costing, say, £200, without publicly advertising for tenders. I do hope we shall have a more satisfactory answer this afternoon upon this point than we had yesterday.


There are some matters in connection with this Vote to which I think attention might be called. Some of the larger items are in connection with the sanitary improvement of some of the offices, where a perfectly new scheme has been adopted. We are asked to vote on account a further sum of £5,000, and I ask for what practical purpose is the money to be expended? Take the University of London. Of course, everybody taking an interest in the higher education of the country necessarily feels a deep interest in the education provided by this University, which I believe to be one of the best in the country. Still, I think it right to call attention to the large expenditure of £9,500 which is proposed for the purpose of providing additional accommodation for the students coming up for examination. I want to know whether this is in consequence of an increase in the number of students requiring to be examined, and whether the proposal is one that has had the sanction of the Governing Body? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Commissioner of Works will perhaps excuse my putting these questions, and will probably allow me to say further that I am glad to find that money is needed for providing increased accommodation for the University of London. I hope that this will tend to set at rest any question that might be raised in regard to the Royal University of Ireland that will come later on. I may add that I am pleased to see that the expenditure required for the Royal Courts of Justice has this year been reduced. There is one other point to which I wish to direct attention. Yesterday evening I made reference to the item put down in connection with rent, insurance, and tithe rent-charge in respect of our public buildings, and I desire so say that when the Estimates for next year are prepared, I hope these items will be placed under separate headings. As it is, it is impossible for us to know what insurance money is paid by the country in connection with our numerous valuable buildings and institutions. I yesterday called attention to the small sum payable for the insurance of the Royal Palaces. Taking up the list of the public buildings of Great Britain, I find that there is a sum of £4,709 l1s. 3d. to be paid under the three headings I have named, which is an increase of over £1,000 on the sum payable last year. This being so, I think it would be advisable to put the amounts payable under separate headings, so that the country may know exactly how much it has to pay for each. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will deem it necessary to offer some explanation with regard to these matters.

*(3.40.) MR. PLUNKET

In answer to the hon. Member for Peterborough, I have to state that the supply of water to the Public Offices is by meter, the price being from sixpence to nine-pence per 1,000 gallons. As to the stables, certain of the Public Offices carry with them the right of stabling; but there being no stables at the Admiralty, stables have been provided at Dover House for the First Lord of the Admiralty. With regard to furniture, it is not possible to take contracts for all the furnishing which has to be provided; but whenever the quantity of furniture required exceeds, say, £15 or £20, competitive tenders are invited. Any firm of standing may be placed on the list of those who are invited to tender. With regard to the London University, there is a great increase of students, which has made the present accommodation inadequate. If the hon. Gentleman complains that there are certain firms not on the list, I will see that they are included.


No, Sir. All I wish is that the Government should adopt the system of publicly inviting tenders, though I am quite aware that it could not be carried out in all cases.

(3.42.) MR. CREMER

I should be glad to know who the firms really are? A great many people would be glad to be enlightened.

*(3.43.) MR. PLUNKET

As I have said before, if any hon. Gentleman chooses to submit a firm, I shall be glad to put it on the list. The names I have here are Holland & Sons, Johnston, Norman & Co., Jenks & Wood, Hampton & Sons, Hughes & Co., E. Coote, and occasionally, also Gillows, Howard, Oetzmann, as well as a few others.

(3.44.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the further accommodation will be available for the examinations by the Civil Service Commissioners, who have been very much inconvenienced by not having a suitable place for holding their examinations?

*(3.45.) MR. PLUNKET

The suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman is a very pertinent one, and is well worthy consideration, inasmuch as the present accommodation for these examinations is not only insufficient but expensive.

*(3.45.) MR. MORTON

Will the right hon. Gentleman say that the same rule will be applied to buildings and repairs of buildings as is to be applied to furniture; and are we to understand that, where the repairs are of a serious amount, tenders will be invited by advertisement?



(3.46.) DR. TANNER

Will it not be advisable to settle this matter by attaching to the Estimates a list showing the various contracts entered into under the different headings. This would save a good deal of trouble, and would protect the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Commissioner of Works from any insinuation or innuendo as to things not being square.

*(3.47.) MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Whitehaven)

I have a few observations to make in moving the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £500 on account of the restoration of Westminster Hall. The chief point I desire to raise is one that relates to the total want of proper accommodation for carriages and carriage horses in Palace Yard. There is a cave or cavern at one corner of the yard, which is used for the shelter of horses and carriages, but in regard to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) has said that it is intended not for carriages, but for saddle horses. It would, no doubt, be a convenient place for carriages; but for the sudden and abrupt descent from the yard above, and although it is said not to be intended for carriages, I may state that I myself saw within it when I left the House last night no fewer than five carriages. For my part, I am unable to understand why saddle horses should have preference over the carriages and carriage horses which are usually waiting in Palace Yard at night. The precipitous descent into the new cave or cavern might have been easily avoided by the architect, and the fact that it exists is the fault of the Government Officers. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford in his place, because I know that he, as a former Commissioner of Works, has gone into the matter, and I submit to the House that it is quite a new thing not to have a carriage shed in connection with this House. I have been a Member of this House for a great many years, and I cannot remember the time when there was not a shelter for Members' carriages. Why such provision has not been made in connection with the new work it puzzles my comprehension to understand. The architect, by the exercise of a very small amount of ingenuity, might have provided such a shed; but instead of doing so, he has built a walk right across the entrance to the new buildings, and to the north of that wall there is a large platform of ground which is of no use whatever to Members of this House. I cannot see why that wall should not be removed and a proper carriage shelter erected there. Having thus brought this matter before the right hon. Gentleman with as little circumlocution as possible, I shall be glad to hoar what he has to say in regard to it. On the last occasion of the discussion of these Estimates, I endeavoured to impress on the right hon. Gentleman the extraordinary character of the stone parapet at the southern side of Westminster Hall, near Sir Charles Barry's Staircase. It is totally out of harmony with the original design, and I pointed out to my right right hon. Friend that it is totally useless for any practical purpose, for anyone wanting to enter the south-west door might approach it by steps through the old iron gates. In conclusion, I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £500.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item N, for the restoration of Westminster Hall, be reduced by £500."—(Mr. Cavendish Bentinck.)

*(3.57.) MR. PLUNKET

I have considered the matter of the staircase in Westminster Hall to which my right hon. Friend has referred. I have taken advice upon the subject, and I now propose to make some alterations. I propose to take the present moulded coping off the wall, and reduce the height of the latter by 1 ft. 6 in.; to continue the coping which was fixed by Sir Charles Barry in lieu of that removed; fix a guard rail on the latter coping, and re-fix the iron gates and railing to correspond with those on the opposite side. I have had a Report made to me to the effect that the use for the shelter of carriages of the covered place intended only for horses to stand in is very dangerous, and certainly the building was not planned to be used for any such purpose. I considered the question whether it would be possible to erect in the centre of Palace Yard any considerable shelter for carriages, and I came to the conclusion that it would not be possible to do so without disfiguring the appearance of the yard.

(4.3.) MR. CAUSTON

I think the use to which the new rooms outside Westminster Hall has been put fully confirms the views expressed by many of us who, in 1885, opposed the erection of the new buildings. There has evidently been great difficulty on the part of the Government in finding a use for them at all. I would point out also that the divisions and the bookcases which have been put up in the different rooms are entirely out of harmony with the rest of the elaborate design of the building. I would further draw attention to the fact that the fireplaces and grates are simply ornaments; they cannot be used. Neither coal nor gas can be burnt in them, for the simple reason that there are no chimneys. The health of the officers who use the rooms will, I am afraid, suffer in consequence of this state of things. In consequence of the arrangements adopted for heating the atmosphere is unbearable, and I believe the officials have to spend a great part of the time which should be devoted to work in walking up and down Westminster Hall for the purpose of getting fresh air. The large room does not seem to have been applied to any purpose, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say what he proposes to do with it? I know the right hon. Gentleman is not himself for the building, but I believe it to be practically useless.

*(4.7.) MR. PLUNKET

I cannot in the least agree with the view taken by the hon. Member as to the utility of the rooms. It seems to me that by the placing of now Smoking Room, Reading Room, and Ladies Dining Room at the disposal of Members during the present Session — I think much to their satisfaction — by the removal of certain officers to the other side of Westminster Hall, a very great addition has been made to the comfort and convenience of the House. I admit that some complaints were made at first as to the heating of the newly-erected rooms, but they seemed to be due to the differences of opinion existing among the occupants as to the temperature which ought to be kept up. I have since put up partitions between the various offices, and I believe the officials are now as happy as possible. It is true there are fireplaces which cannot be used; but as the rooms are perfectly well warmed and ventilated by other means, I do not think that is a very serious complaint. It is the case that £ am not responsible for the new building. I wish I were, for in my opinion it is a very handsome and stately; addition to the old Hall.


I think I must have been misunderstood on this question. I certainly never said that the erection at the side of Westminster Hall was intended as a shelter for carriages. On the contrary, I always said it was intended only for horses. That was fully explained when the scheme was being discussed. It replaces the shed which stood close by formerly, and which was certainly only intended for sheltering horses. It very often happens that 30 or 40 carriages are in the yard at the same time, and it would be impossible to make provision for sheltering the whole of them. A proposal was made to erect a carriage shelter on the other side of the yard, bat it was rejected on the ground that it could not be carried out without spoiling the artistic appearance of the Houses of Parliament.


The reply given by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Plunket) as to carriages is most unsatisfactory. We know quite well, after many years' experience, that the old shed accommodation in Palace Yard was amply sufficient for the protection of the coachmen and carriages who come down. All I ask is that equal accommodation should be given now. It seems to me ridiculous that when you are spending this vast sum of money on the new buildings and upon the land in front of them you cannot provide some kind of shelter for servants and carriages of Members during the winter months. I should like to know why the zig-zag wall has been erected on the north side. It is certainly no ornament.


It was in the plans, and was approved by the Committee.


The fact of its having been in the plans does not make it of any use, and I think that every decision the Committee arrived at ought to be condemned. This is not a question of ornamentation, but one of usefulness and almost of humanity to the servants and to the poor dumb animals brought down here night after night. Last night, at midnight, I found five carriages in the new buildings, and I am informed by the constables in attendance that as many as 10 or 12 have been in there at one time. Does not this show in the clearest way in the world that some such accommodation is necessary? I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will see the new shelter is to be handed over entirely to the horses of telegraph messengers and to the bicycles and tricycles one sees stored away there. I think Members of this House ought to be considered by the right hon. Gentleman before the telegraph boys and messengers. Members of this House are those who vote the money, attending here long hours, and I think they are entitled to some consideration. There is no doubt if the right hon. Gentleman would consult Mr. Taylor, of his own Office, who is a gentleman of ability, some means could be devised for giving shelter to carriages. All I would ask is that Members of Parliament who use private carriages and often have to take them home, as I have, late at night, shall have some consideration given to them. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford can say that this question was before the Parliamentary Committee. I should hardly think that such an important question could have been omitted. However that may be, I think the question now is a serious one, and that, although there is not a large attendance of Mem- bers, we ought to take a vote of the House about it. Members may come in and outvote us without having heard the discussion, but we must take the chance of that.


I rather agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. At present, as the right hon. Gentleman says, the shelter is used for carriages. The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner has said that it is dangerous to use it for that purpose, and, that being so, I presume he will forbid such use being made of it. Under these circumstances, and in view of the fact that we have not yet arrived at that democratic age when we all use omnibuses or walk down to the House, but have horses and coachmen who are liable to be affected by the inclemency of the weather when the House sits late, I hope the First Commissioner of Works will make inquiries to see if a change cannot be made without injury to the architectural beauties of this building—to see if some shelter cannot be put in Palace Yard or somewhere else where carriages which have to wait for Members can be protected from the weather.


I will undertake to give the matter most careful consideration.


I must say I am rather sceptical as to the extreme satisfaction of the clerks with the new rooms adjoining Westminster Hall. Though I have heard no complaint, I fail to see how they can be satisfied with the atmospheric conditions under which they live—with the manner in which the rooms are lighted and heated. In the case of one of the rooms it is said that the clerk occupying it likes it, but whether he likes it or not he ought not to be permitted to remain in it, for it is stuffy. It cannot be healthy for any one to remain in it any length of time. Will the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works tell us what is to be done with the large room called the Conference Room? It is a room of splendid proportions, and so handsome that it is a pity it cannot be used for some practical purpose. I should deprecate its being used for a Grand Committee Room for the reason that it is too great a distance from this House, and it would overtax the energies of even the most agile to get from that room to the Lobbies here during the short time the Division bell rings. Members who are old and infirm and not fitted for the athletic performance of running helter-skelter from the Committee Room to the House, traversing a tortuous flight of stairs on the way, would find it impossible to discharge their Parliamentary duties if required, to sit on a Grand Committee in this room. I hope, therefore, we shall not be put to the inconvenience and possible danger of having to use this room as a Grand Committee Room. As to the new shelter for horses and carriages, I think it is equally dangerous for both. I do not think it can be safe for horses to come down that very steep and narrow incline, especially in wet and slippery weather. Whilst inspecting the place to-day, I noticed one or two horses there, and saw a young man suddenly dash down amongst them on a bicycle. Such a thing as that, I should think, must be very inconvenient and very dangerous to horses. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be possible, without interfering with the architectural proportions of the building, to make some sort of descent down, which horses could be driven with safety?

(4.23.) MR. CREMER

Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, I would like to put a questien to him with reference to a matter that I raised in the House the other day—though if he has not yet had time to consider it, I will not press for a reply. I desire to know why Members are not allowed to visit, and to escort their friends through, the Painted Chamber and the Buckingham Chamber in the other House? Why should it be necessary to obtain the escort of a Peer in order to visit these places? Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman undertook to ascertain why we are precluded from visiting the crypt, and if he is now in a position to enlighten us on the subject I shall be glad.

(4.25.) DR. TANNER

I desire to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the ventilation of this House—a subject which I had occasion to deal with five years ago. On certain occasions, when, for instance, we are expecting a great Division, the atmo- sphere gets extremely stuffy, and laden with carbonic acid gas. The draught coming up from the chamber below through the floor is always the same. It cannot be graduated and made to fit the particular circumstances of the time, therefore, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether something cannot be done in the matter? If it is possible to effect a cure it will be greatly to the advantage of the Members of the House, and even more so to the officials who remain here throughout the sittings. The draught could be increased by enlarging the apertures for the escape of foul air overhead. I think the mode of introducing fresh air from below requires alteration. It comes up through the floor, and, therefore, of necessity, brings up with it small particles of dust, which get into the lungs of hon. Members, causing discomfort and danger to health. These are small matters, but they deserve to be gone into. I should also like to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the desirability of restoring the frescoes up stairs near Sir Charles Barry's statue, which are in a most dilapidated condition.

(4.28.) MR. CREMER

[Cries of "Divide."] I trust the Committee will bear with me for a moment, as it is seldom I waste the time of the House. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would not place a few trees or shrubs and flowers on the terrace outside the House, which at present has a most cold and barren appearance?


As I understand the right hon. Gentleman to soy he will inquire into the matter to which I draw his attention, I will not press my Amendment to a Division.

*(4.30.) MR. PLUNKET

The suggestions made by the hon. Member opposite (Dr. Tanner) some years ago with the view of excluding fogs from this House were, as the Committee knows, adopted with beneficial results. I shall be very glad to confer with him and the officials who have charge of the ventilation as to whether it is possible to do anything more to improve the ventilation of the House. As to the largo room on the other side of Westminster Hall, I am afraid it is too remote to be used by a Committee, unless it is arranged that its sittings shall not over lap those of the House; but in every other respect the room is well adapted for the purposes of a Grand Committee. I have made some inquiries respecting the picture galleries in the House of Lords, and, as regards the Painted Chamber, access can be gained to it only through the Division Lobbies and the writing-room of the House of Lords, so that it is not reasonable to expect that it should be accessible, even to the Members of this House, when the other House is sitting. I will make further inquiry as to whether additional facilities can be given to Members to visit the room when the House of Lords is not sitting. With reference to the Buckingham Chamber, I am still in correspondence with the Lord Chamberlain. I have not yet received an answer to the inquiry I made respecting the admission of Members to the Crypt. As to the frescoes on the staircase, I have taken the best advice I could obtain, and have been assured that they are no longer within the reach of remedial art; and no one is able to suggest a plan by which decay can be arrested.

(4.36.) MR. CREMER

I am not so unreasonable as to imagine that Members of this House should be admitted as of right to the Lobbies and the writing-room of the House of Lords when that House is sitting. But I would point out that the House of Lords does not meet until half-past 4 o'clock, and that it frequently happens that Members of this House are desirous of visiting the Painted Chamber and the Buckingham Chamber between the hours of 2 and half-past 4. Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries to ascertain whether Members of this House will be admitted to those Chambers during the hours I have referred to, and, in fact, during the time the House of Lords is not sitting?

*(4.37.) MR. PLUNKET

The public are admitted in the usual way when the House of Lords is not sitting on Saturdays, and on Monday and Tuesday in Easter week, and at other times, but I will make inquiries to ascertain whether there is any objection to admitting hon. Members of this House whenever the House of Lords is not sitting.


Will the right hon. Gentleman reply as to the shrubs.


The question has been considered. I have spoken to a large number of people about it and the general opinion is that to put shrubs or flowers on the river terrace would not be an adornment, but rather a disfigurement.


IS it not the fact that the restrictions upon hon. Gentlemen visiting the House of Lords are of recent date? A few years ago we were free to visit the House of Lords at any time the House was not sitting.

*(4.38.) MR. PLUNKET

I will inquire.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.


I see an item of £200 here for the supply of oil for the lamps used in the Committee Rooms. Why is there so much oil used here? I have been looking about but have been unable to find many lamps in use. I also find that the Resident Engineer has a salary of £250, rising by £5 annual increments to £300; but he is here accredited with £400. How does that happen? I notice that he receives other sums under other heads but there is nothing to account for the increase of salary. Would it not be well in future to put the whole sum paid to this gentleman down in one item instead of dividing it in this way? I am aware that payments are sometimes put down in this way in order that more than the maximum salary can be paid, and, perhaps, that has been done in this case. If so, I must say I do not agree with the system.

*(4.39.) MR. PLUNKET

Up to the present year the salary of the Assistant Engineer was as stated by the hon. Member, but Dr. Percy, the eminent Engineer of the House of Commons, unfortunately died last autumn, and we took the opportunity of re-modelling the Department. Instead of filling up the vacancy at the old salary of £600 a year we added £100 to the salary of the Assistant Engineer, giving him £400 instead of £300, and conferred the whole responsibility on that gentleman. As to the consumption of oil, oil lamps are used in Committee Rooms and in the residences attached to the House, but the consumption of oil will be reduced as the electric light is extended, as it will be during the Easter and Whitsuntide holidays.

Vote agreed to.

2. £21,000, to complete the sum for Admiralty, Extension of Buildings.


There has been such a long delay in commencing the extension that I was in hopes the rumour was true that the Government had determined to re-consider the matter, and I regret to learn from this Vote that it is intended to persist in the extension scheme. Two years ago we had the assurance of architects that the work would be completed in two and a half years. Now, two years have passed and nothing has been done beyond digging the foundations. I presume no contracts has been entered into for the new building. I am opposed to the scheme because it will prevent for any period within present contemplation the bringing of the Admiralty and the War Office under one roof. That defect has been prominently brought before our notice by the Report of the Army and Navy Royal Commission. The whole question seems to me to turn on the expediency of bringing the naval and military Departments into harmony with each other. One of the proposals of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) was that these two Departments should be placed under the control of one Secretary of State. Though that proposal was rejected by the Royal Commission it is obvions that the Commissioners regarded it as of enormous importance that the two Departments should be brought into harmonious working, and I understand that they have a plan for effecting that. I believe myself there would be no mode in which the two departments could be brought into greater harmony with one another than by putting them under the same roof. Until quite recently that has always been the view of every high Authority who has considered the matter. In time of peace the adoption of such a scheme would involve economy whilst in time of war it would involve a large increase of efficiency. My right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), who has presided over the Admiralty and the War Office, and who was at the head of the War Office at the time when this country was involved in war -with Egypt, stated in evidence before the Committee that in time of peace it was important that the two Departments should be close together, whilst in time of war it was absolutely essential. He also said that the separation of the two Departments was a cause of weakness and might be the cause of disaster. Within the past two or three years a somewhat adverse opinion has been given on the point by the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord G. Hamilton) and the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith). I quite admit the high authority of the First Lord of the Treasury in such matters, but at all events he has not had experience of the advantages of such relations between the two Departments in time of war. I believe some proposal has been considered for putting the War Office on the other side of Whitehall on the site of what is known as Carington House; but if that proposal were carried out the War Office would be on the other side of the street, and it would involve great additional cost. It was with the view of bringing the two Departments together that the Spring Gardens site was purchased seven or eight years ago. I am not now recommending that Messrs. Jennings' plan should be revived, as that scheme, in my opinion, is dead.

(4.50.) MR. COURTNEY

retired and the Chair was taken by Sir J. GORST.


continued: At the same time some scheme might be adopted which would carry out the plan I am advocating. Looking at the question from an economic and an artistic point of view, I must again challenge my right hon. Friend, as I did two years ago, to say whether he could bring forward any single architect of influence or importance who will recommend the present proposal either upon architectural or economic grounds. The proposal is to add two wings to the existing Admiralty at a cost of something like £195,000. The existing Admiralty, which is, I believe, about 150 years old, certainly would not cost more than £80,000 or £90,000 to re-erect. You are going to add to an old building, which is certainly very deficient as an office, and which is not a lofty building as compared with offices in other parts of London, an extension which will cost £195,000, and from the necessity of maintaining the old building you are practically going to extend all its main defects to the two wings. From an economic point of view, that does not seem to be a wise course. As to the artistic point of view, I believe every Authority who has looked at the plans has condemned them. They have been condemned by the Institute of Architects, and I believe I am right in saying that the professional officers of the Office of Works itself have not recommended them to the Government, and that those who are entrusted with the erection of the buildings do not consider the scheme a wise or sound one. I believe myself that even now, at the eleventh hour, it would be wise not to proceed further with the scheme, but to invite suggestions for utilising the site, which was bought at very considerable cost, for the erection of a great building which would accommodate both the Admiralty and the War Office. At present the War Office is spread about in numerous separate buildings. I believe there are as many as nine or ten of them, in different parts of London. The existing War Office site cannot be made available for new buildings, and it will, therefore, be absolutely necessary at some future time to purchase a new site at a very considerable outlay of money. The most serious defect of the present scheme is the impossibility of the two great Departments ever being brought into continuity. On the whole, I most seriously suggest to the right hon. Gentleman whether even now it would not be a wise course to postpone further progress with the building, and consider whether it would not be possible to erect upon the Spring Gardens site a building—not according to the original plan of Messrs. Leeming—which will be suitable both for the Admiralty and the War Office. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think, in the remarks I have made, that I have any personal feeling in the matter, arising from the rejection of the scheme which I originally recommended to the House. On the contrary, I shall be most willing to support the right hon. Gentleman in any scheme which, on the whole, commends itself to me as one likely to attain the object I have set forth. I do not think the present scheme will prove effective from an administrative point of view. I believe that, architecturally, it will be a failure, and that in the long run it will land the country in greater expenditure.

*(5.2.) MR. PLUNKET

Certainly any suggestion on such a subject coming from the right hon. Gentleman is worthy of very respectful and careful consideration; but when he asks us not at the eleventh hour, as he says, but at half - past 12 to reject the present scheme he can hardly expect us to assent. I do not suppose that it is desired that I should follow the right hon. Gentleman through all the arguments which he has put forward on several previous occasions, and which have been answered over and over again. The whole question was very carefully considered by a strong and important Committee who rejected the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. It then became our duty to do something, and accordingly in 1887 were entrusted to Messrs. Leeming the duty of preparing fresh plans. It is true Messrs. Leeming preferred their own original plan, but for the purpose of carrying out the recommendations of the Committee they do entirely approve of their present plan. That plan was adopted in principle by the House in 1887, when it voted the sum of £500 for the preliminary expenses which it entailed. In the following year the plans when prepared were exhibited in the Tea-room, and in the same year the House voted £5,000 on account of the cost of carrying them out. In these circumstances, I think that it is impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to ask the Committee to go back in the matter. In December last the Government authorised the expenditure of £21,000 upon the construction of the foundations of the new buildings, and I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman is serious when he asks the Government now to stay their hands in the matter.


I do not wish to do any injustice to Messrs. Leeming. I have no doubt they con- sider they are making the very best of the job which has been entrusted to them, and that they are as a matter of fact doing the work as well as it can be done.

Vote agreed to.

3. Motion made, and Question pro posed, That a sum, not exceeding £52,522, 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, 1891, for Expenditure in respect of Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, viz., County Courts, Metropolitan Police Courts, and Sheriff Court Houses, Scotland.


I am afraid I shall be obliged to put the Committee to the trouble of a Division on this Vote. The Committee will see that it includes a very large sum for the Metropolitan Police Court Buildings. It is the old question whether these Metropolitan Police Courts ought to be paid for by London or by the Imperial Exchequer. I have raised the point when Liberal and Conservative Ministries were in power, and before London got its County Council, and the reply I always got was, wait until London gets a County Council or some sort of Municipality. The very last year before the County Council was established the point was especially impressed upon the House, that as soon as the County Council was set up a new arrangement would be made. We have got a County Council, but we still have to pay for the Metropolitan Police Courts. It may be urged that in some sense some of the expenditure is Imperial. A little of the business at Bow Street is connected with extradition treaties and so on, and no doubt to that small extent the expenditure may be regarded as Imperial. Many of us represent towns in different parts of the country, and we know that our constituents have to pay for their own Police Courts. Why, in the name of goodness, should we be called upon to pay for our own and also for the Police Courts of the richest place in the entire country? Under the circumstances, and seeing that neither Liberal or Conservative Governments have kept faith in the pledges given, I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by £18,000, which will allow a little for the Imperial work at Bow Street.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Items G to K. for Metropolitan Police Court Buildings, be reduced by £18,000."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

(5.13.) At this point Mr. COURTNEY returned to the Chair.


Of course I am not going to enter into the general question whether or not these buildings ought to be maintained by the country at large or by the Metropolis itself. That is a question, no doubt, for discussion. The answer I have to give to the hon. Member is simply this, that I am an humble builder who must follow instructions, and the 17th and 18th Vic. cap. 94, authorises and commands me to provide these buildings.


No doubt the right hon. Gentleman is bound by Act of Parliament to provide these buildings, but if my Motion is carried the Parliament that gave him that authority will relieve him of it.

(5.16.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

The question is not as small as the Motion seems to indicate, and I desire to state the reason why I intend to vote against the proposed reduction. I am not prepared to vote for the transfer to the County Council of any expenditure on Metropolitan Police Courts or the Police, now incurred by this House, until the whole question of the control of the Metropolitan Police has been settled in the only way it can be settled, and that is by handing over that control to the County Council.

*(5.18.) MR. MORTON

I do not propose to discuss the question as to who should pay this money, although it is very hard that the people in the provinces should have to pay for their own Police Courts, and that the London Courts should be paid for out of the general purse. What I want to know, however, is whether the works in connection with the Wandsworth Police Court are to be completed. I understand that a site has been purchased. Is the building to be proceeded with at once?

(5.20.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 51; Noes 130.—(Div. List, No. 43.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

4. £18,062, to complete the sum for Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain.

*MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

I desire to know whether the First Commissioner of Works can assure us that the New National Portrait Gallery is secure against fire, and also that the building is proof against damp. With regard to South Kensington, many friends of the Government expressed great regret two or three years ago that the Government could not do more for that institution, and especially for the building devoted to educational purposes. It is with great gratification, however, that they now notice that the Government heve adopted a more liberal policy. There is a Vote this year for £100,000 for South Kensington. I trust that, having so well begun, and having occupied sr worthy a position in connection with education, the Government will proceed further in the same direction. The point I am coming to now is in reference to South Kensington Museum. I think it is greatly to be regretted that that magnificent building, South Kensington Museum, should be left incomplete; that while some portions of the building are just cause of pride, other portions remain in that miserable condition in which they have stood for many years. In the course of last Session I called attention to one particular part of the building, the shed that adjoins the main building, the roof of which was in a hopelessly dilapidated state. Last autumn when I visited the museum and saw beautiful specimens of art from various parts of the country, which were being prepared for exhibition, so unsound was the state of the roof, that large portions of the floor and tables were marked out as being not safe to receive the drawings. Notwithstanding all the care thus exercised many drawings were seriously injured by wet. I cannot conceive anything more mortifying than for students to prepare drawings with much diligence and skill, and then to find them so little cared for or appreciated that they are injured in exhibition. Another point of more importance is the danger to the Museum itself. This building to which I have alluded is of such a character that it is full of inflammable material, and it might well take fire from negligence that could scarely be called culpable. I do not think there is any warehouse in the country that is liable to such risk as this shed, to which I called attention last year. If a fire should break out the building must inevitably be destroyed, and a great body of fire will be called into existence to the extreme danger of the rest of the buildings. Although in theory the Museum itself is fireproof, we know what a great difference there is between theory and fact in these matters, and how buildings which are calculated to be fireproof are apt to succumb to the influence of fire by reason of some unsuspected crack or flaw in the ironwork, which makes your precautions vain, and so your building is destroyed and your collection perishes. I cannot conceive anything more discreditable to the administration of this country than to allow such a risk to the South Kensington Museum for the sake of the paltry saving over this shed. Other parts of the building are in a not more satisfactory condition; but this shed calls for special condemnation as a discredit to British art and an alarming danger to the Museum. I will not occupy time by going into the history of the South Kensington Museum, but I may be permitted to call attention to the fact that so long as seven years ago, when the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was in charge of the Department of Works, he placed on the Votes a sum of £5,000 as the beginning of the completion of what was then known as the South West Wing. He withdrew that Vote under pressure of debate in the early part of the Session, but he said he would replace it on the Estimates in the course of the Session. This was a distinct promise in 1883, but from that time until now no steps whatever have been taken, so far as I know. I feel great reluctance to occupy the time of the Committee now, for I know how valuable time is. I will content myself with saying that the condition of these buildings is a discredit to this country, and the continued postponement of the necessary work shows an uncertainty of policy which is a condemnation of our administration. I do hope that ere long fresh proposals will be made to the House towards completing the buildings, making them worthy of their purpose, and that, as a preliminary step, this shed may be taken in hand and rebuilt, so that we may have a place wherein to exhibit in safety those specimens of art sent up by our young students all over the country.

*(5.40.) MR. PLUNKET

Certainly my hon. Friend has no need to make any apology for the remarks he has addressed to us on a subject most interesting and important. I think that in a few words I can satisfy him. In the first place I can assure him that the building in which the National Portrait Gallery collection is housed at Bethnal Green is as carefully provided with every possible appliance to prevent danger from fire as any building can possibly be. I need scarcely say that in the new building about to be erected for the collection at the back of the National Gallery every care that experience and science can suggest for the exhibition, lighting, and security of the pictures will be taken. My hon. Friend has alluded to some imperfections in the roof of the South Kensington building and to damage caused to pictures there; but this damage, I think, was caused by the neglect of some of the attendants, who left the sky-light windows open, and allowed the rain to enter. Whatever imperfections in that roof there were have been set to rights. As to the larger question, my hon. Friend is aware that a few weeks ago we obtained, by a Supplementary Estimates, £100,000 for effectually improving the housing of the science and art collection at South Kensington, and I think my hon. Friend will accept that as an earnest of the goodwill of the present Government to carry out the objects he has at heart. We have undertaken the purchase of a large piece of land, and hope to make, if I may use the expression, a really good job of the whole thing for the future. No more time than is necessary will be occupied in the preparation of plans that will take the utmost advantage of the great acquisition of space secured, and my hon. Friend may rest assured that we are prepared to put the buildings on a proper and worthy footing.

(5.42.) DR. TANNER

There is one point to which I should like to call attention. By dint of continual questioning a certain amount of conces- sion has been obtained. There was a great amount of protestation offered at the time we were urging that the British Museum should be thrown open in the evening, and much was said about the additional expense that would be incurred. I am glad to see that these forebodings have not been fulfilled. The British Museum is now opened in the evening, and I notice that under sub-head D, for maintenance and repairs, there is a decrease of £10. There is, I think, sufficient encouragement in this to justify our urging that the Government should go a step further. The Trustees have not incurred that large expense which it was alleged they would have to incur to make the concession to public opinion, and certainly I would hope that, seeing that in every way in which you approach the subject, the public would benefit by the opening of the Museum on Sunday——


This is a question that should be raised on the Vote for Administration, not for the Maintenance of the building. The hon. Member should discuss the point he desires to raise when the Vote for Administration and Personnel comes forward.


In that case I will defer my observations.

Vote agreed to.

5. £33,993, to complete the sum for Diplomatic and Consular Buildings.


This is one of the Votes we were anxious to have postponed, and there is one item in it really very important—£9,000 for the purchase of a site for building a house at Cairo. It can hardly be said that in the present condition of affairs we can discuss this matter just now; and what I would suggest is, that if the Vote is passed now, it should be understood it is without prejudice of any opinion we may have to express as to the purchase of this Cairo site, that we have in no way pledged ourselves, and that we may raise the question on Report.

*(5.45.) MR. W. H. SMITH

The hon. Member would only be within his right in raising this question on Report; and, as he says, the passing of the Vote now is without prejudice to any Motion he may think it right to make on Report, when he will have full opportunity offered him for raising a discussion. I have explained the circumstances under which we are compelled to ask for the Vote, and those circumstances will equally hold good when we ask the House to confirm the Vote of the Committee.


I did not hear them.


We are compelled to purchase the site, and the arrangement will lapse unless we complete the purchase within a given time.


The House may amend the Vote.


We must take our responsibility for that. The hon. Member will be perfectly within his right in moving the reduction of the Vote by £9,000, but I need not say the Government will adhere to the original sum, and we have no doubt the House will sustain us.


I only hope it will be fairly understood that we have not assented to it.


We shall put it no higher than that the Committee has assented to the Vote.


That is just it.


We shall ask the House to approve the assent of the Committee. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that it is entirely within his right to move that the House shall disagree with the Committee to the extent of £9,000 or any other sum.

(5.47.) MR. LEVESON GOWER (Stoke-on-Trent)

I have no wish to waste time; but can the Government give us any information as to the increase under the head of new works for the Legations in China and Japan? The item is £5,200 this year; it was only £2,000 last year.

*(5.47.) MR. PLUNKET

As the hon. Member is aware, our relations with China and Japan are becoming very much more extended, and it has become more and more expedient, as the importance of our relations with these countries has increased, that our representatives should be placed in positions of dignity and comfort. Without going in detail into the work, which, in various places has been necessary, I may assure the hon. Member that this additional expense has been found to be absolutely necessary, and it is a not altogether unsatisfactory sign of increasing importance of our relations with these countries.

(5.48.) MR. W. REDMOND

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain the increased cost of the Legation at Tangiers? That which was last year £2,195 is increased this year to £6,200. For a place of this kind it would seem to me it is a disproportionate increase. Also I should like to have some explanation of items under Sub-head T, whore there is a decrease from the estimate of last year for various Missions and Consulates. It appears to me that there are many places abroad where largo sums of money are spent under this head without any returning advantage. I should like to know how the Government proceed in regard to this expenditure, whose estimate they act upon, and whether any tenders for the contracts are invited. It is fit matter for remark, I think, that we should be asked to sanction an increase of £4,000 on a place like Tangiers without an explanation.

*(5.49.) MR. PLUNKET

As to the Legation at Tangiers, that was a subject of discussion last year, and this is the carrying out of an undertaking I then explained which involved an expenditure of £9,000. The principle we proceed upon, when it becomes necessary to sanction additional expenditure, is where it is practicable to sand a surveyor to make personal investigation as to value. We have an officer who is frequently employed in such work. The necessity (Tangiers) has arisen from reasons I need not now go into again. Shortly, I may say that the growth of Native building around the old house has rendered it unfit for the habitation of our Representative.

Vote agreed to.

6. £281,465, to complete the sum for Revenue Department Buildings, Great Britain.

7. £176,000, to complete the sum for Surveys of the United Kingdom.

8. £17,375, to complete the sum for Harbours and Lighthouses Abroad under the Board of Trade.

(5.22.) MR. W. REDMOND

I understood the First Lord to say that he would be satisfied if the first eight Votes were taken.

*(5.22.) MR. W. H. SMITH

No. I said it was absolutely necessary that the first eight Votes should be taken because of the contracts to which I referred; but there wore other Votes I mentioned as being of a character that would not occupy much time, and these I asked the Committee to take before the Adjournment. That was the understanding.

(5.53.) MR. W. REDMOND

It appears, then, that I was mistaken. The right hon. Gentleman asks us to take these Votes as being of a non-contentious character, but that does not apply to Vote 10. Occasion arises for a short discussion upon Holy-head Harbour, upon which item there is an increase of £4,702, due to the repair of damages caused by storm. Upon this matter questions have been addressed to the Government, and I am aware that great dissatisfaction has been expressed as to the manner in which works on the breakwater at Holyhead have been carried out. I am not, myself, prepared to state the case; but I know there is much to be said on the subject by Members not now present, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to allow the Vote to stand over, or to give an undertaking that a full opportunity for discussion shall be given on Report.

*(5.55.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I am sorry that I am unable to consent to a postponement; but, undoubtedly, there will be an opportunity on Report for the hon. Member and his friends to make such observations as they may think fit. I am in the recollection of the House when I say that I distinctly stated that I must ask the Committee to continue until these Votes were taken.

Vote agreed to.

9. £25,040, to complete the sum for Peterhead Harbour.

10. £4,000, to complete the sum for Caledonian Canal.

11. £156,453, to complete the sum for rates on Government property.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday 14th April.

Committee to sit again upon Monday 14th April.