§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £36,650, be granted to His 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, 1903, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Commissioners of His Majesty's Works and Public Buildings."
§ (9.0.) MR. ASHTON (Bedfordshire, Luton)
called attention to the stands which had been erected for the Coronation outside the National Gallery. He 92 said that we had there a collection of pictures unrivalled in the world, and it could not, therefore, be a matter of indifference when structures were piled up round the Gallery and put it in risk of fire. The trustees of the National Gallery were in fault in not protesting against the erection of these stands. At the very moment when the Office of Works was piling up this Coronation bonfire in Trafalgar Square, it was spending thousands of pounds in buying up brick buildings in the neighbourhood of the Gallery to protect the Gallery from fire. For whosoever these seats were intended, it was not worth while to put the great national collection of pictures in danger. Sir Henry Thompson, in a letter to The Times, had called the act one of folly. But for the urbanity of the right hon. Gentleman, he should be inclined to call it an act of criminal folly and if the right hon. Gentleman got off with a reduction of £100 on his salary he would escape very cheaply indeed. He would move a reduction of salary to that extent, and he hoped the Committee would agree to it in order to show its appreciation of the gravity of the offence which had been committed against the nation. He would also ask for an undertaking from the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Office of Works, that the offence should not be repeated. He begged to move.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries and Wages) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the First Commissioner."— (Mr. Ashton.)
§ MR. COGHILL (Stoke-upon-Trent)
asked the First Commissioner of Works what was being done with regard to the Queen Victoria Memorial. St. James's Park was a most unsuitable site for the memorial. There were too many buildings there already. The state of the parks this summer was most disgraceful, and the injury which had been done to them would endure for another eighteen months. It was not right to turn the beautiful Kensington Gardens into a camping ground for the troops. More consideration ought to be shown for the parks. Another 93 point he wished to draw attention to was the fact that many trees had the suffered, owing to widening of Piccadilly, and he hoped steps would be taken to plant fresh ones.
§ MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)
said there was a good deal of feeling among Civil servants in reference to the charge for Coronation stands. The grievance, he understood, was that Civil servants and their friends were charged 10s. for each seat for June 26th and 27th. Owing to the change that had taken place, they would now only have a seat on August 9th for the £1 they had paid, and the impression prevailed that £1 was a great deal more than was required to cover the cost of these seats. In Jubilee year the charge made to Civil servants for similar seats was 12s. 6d., and there was a balance of £4,000 or £5,000, which was given to charities. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the matter, and. if he found the cost of erecting the stands did not come up to £1, would refund a part or the whole of the 10s. charged for the second day.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
complained that thousands of visitors from America, the Continent, Australia, and New Zealand had been unable to visit Westminster Abbey, which, he believed, had been closed continuously since last May. Visitors to this country naturally wanted to see the Abbey, and it was a great hardship and misfortune that they were sent away unsatisfied. Surely, under certain restrictions, the interior might be thrown open to them. Another point he wished to raise affected Civil servants. He did not know whether uniform treatment had been extended to all the matter of facilities for witnessing the Coronation procession, but he did think that every official of the House should be given a free seat to witness the procession. He wished, to know whether there was any intention to carry out the recommendations of the Committee appointed to consider suggestions for the improvement of the House of Commons, and asked that a telegraphic tape machine should be placed in the library. There was one already in the 94 cloak-room; why could they not also have one upstairs? London clubs were much better served in this respect, and yet the House of Commons was supposed to be the best club in London.
§ MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said that he sympathised with the mover of the Amendment, although he believed the right hon. Gentleman did not desire to endanger our art treasures. The consequence would be disastrous if the stands erected within a few feet of the National Gallery caught fire. Whoever advised the erection of those stands was unfit for his post. He objected to the payment of an additional £400 to one of the architects of the Department for services in connection with the erection of the new public offices in Westminster. That was not a satisfactory way of conducting a public Department. The salary should be a fixed amount. He was sorry to say that this practice was growing to an alarming extent in Scotland, and he feared it would increase in the Office of Works unless the right hon. Gentleman promptly interfered. He further complained as to certain officers under the Board of Works being stationed in China and Japan. It was impossible to check their work; there was no means of seeing that their duties were satisfactorily carried out; and, in addition, they were granted colonial allowances, although the cost of living there was much less than in England. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee some information on the points he had raised, and assist Members in their endeavour to respond to the appeal so often made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to cut down unnecessary expenditure.
§ (9.32.) MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
expressed his surprise that, although this Vote had been put down on the plea that many Members desired to discuss it, it was impossible now to discover any signs of that alleged desire. However, as the Vote was before the Committee, he would call attention to certain clerks who commenced at a salary of £150, and rose by annual increments of £15 to £500. It was the most extraordinary item in the whole of the Estimates. Another case could 95 not be found in which men, by the mere efflux of time, rose to such a salary without any reference whatever to their ability. He did not object to a man getting £500 a year if he was worth it, but in this case the rise was automatic. Staff-clerks began at £300, but their maximum was only £400, and it was monstrous that a £150 man should be able to rise to £100 more than a £300 man. In addition to that, one of these men received another £200 a year for acting as private secretary to the First Commissioner. Another case in which an outrageous discrepancy existed between the minimum and maximum salary was that of second division clerks, who commenced at £70 and rose automatically to £250. Why should men rise to such salaries whether they were worth them or not? It was a bad principle that such a disparity should exist. He agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty with regard to the officials in China. He could not understand what buildings there were to necessitate a staff in connection with the Board of Works. There were plenty of people on the spot if such services were required. It was an extravagant policy to keep such a staff, as buildings which were not really required would be erected in order that the officials might justify their existence. He hoped the First Commissioner would attend to these matters, and also explain why this Vote had been put down at such a period of the Session when others of far greater importance had not been discussed.
LORD BALGARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
agreed with the remarks which. had been made as to the danger of fire involved to the National Gallery by the Coronation stands, and hoped the First Commissioner would give an assurance that he would veto the re-erection of such stands if the Trustees of the Gallery were not sufficiently public-spirited to take that course on their own account. The matter to which he desired to call attention concerned the new public buildings now in course of erection. Under Acts of two or three years ago the Government were responsible for three new public buildings of enormous 96 size and great importance, viz. the extension of South Kensington Museum, and the new War Office and Local Government Board Offices in Whitehall. By a curious fatality the two architects appointed by the Government of these buildings recently died. The plans for the buildings were very incomplete. That, however, was not the official view, as the First Commissioner had declared that the drawings were practically complete, and that they could be easily carried out. Those statements were entirely inaccurate. The drawings were essentially incomplete. There were a number of drawings on the scale of 10 to 1. There were no full size drawings whatever, except for two small portions of the joiners' work, which were done in order to allow the surveyor's quantities to be made out. Mr. Leonard Stokes, himself an architect of distinction, who was the executor of Mr. Brydon, the architect for the Local Government Board Offices, in a letter to The Times repudiated the idea that the Office of Works, acting on the small drawings, could make a satisfactory building. He contended that the First Commissioner ought to have appointed a thoroughly competent architect to succeed Mr. Brydon. He asked his right hon. friend some questions in July last, upon this point, as to what was going to happen, and the reply was that he hoped that by the change a considerable saving would be effected. Of course he did not attribute to the right hon. Gentleman a desire simply to make money by this transaction. There was a very amusing semiofficial communiqué to The Times in answer to a protest which had been made by those interested in the beautification of this city. It stated that the main motive of the transfer of this work to the Office of Works was the comfort of the occupants. If they prided themselves much on that, they must remember that the Post Office was notoriously a public building, in which the comfort of the officers, according to the officers themselves, was most gravely at fault.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. AKERS DOUGLAS, Kent, St. Augustine's)
said it was new to him that any complaint had been made about the Post Office building.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said complaints were frequently made about ill-ventilated rooms. He had no wish to make an attack on the Post Office, but it was not such an elysium as that paragraph in the paper would lead one to suppose. In their defence they said the Public Record Office was one of the most beautiful buildings in London. It was really one of the most, ugly buildings in London that he was acquainted with. The real defence of his right hon. friend was that there was no architect available to take over this work. It was well known that architects were not anxious to undertake work for the office of Works. They were apt to be harassed a good deal. The letter in The Times referred to confidential inquiry after an architect. There ought not to be confidential inquiry when an architect was wanted to carry out probably one of the most important public buildings in London. The great architectural institutions should be consulted. He knew that several architects of high standing would have been very glad to carry out the work. A gentleman was appointed who was on the staff of the Office of Works, and they also appointed one of the late Mr. Brydon's draughtsmen, with the result that the President of the Royal Institution of British Architects made a very warm protest against the action of his right hon. friend, and in this protest he was seconded by the presidents of seventeen other great architectural institutions. In consequence of the action of the right hon. Gentleman there were great public protests, and very hostile articles appeared in the newspapers, and more particularly in The Time. He considered that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have appointed a gentleman of high standing, well known for his successful public works, but instead of doing this, the First Commissioner of Works had done a very serious thing. He appointed Mr. Young, the son of the Mr. Young who designed the War Office, to carry out his father's work. Then the right hon. Gentleman appointed another architect to work in conjunction with him. It was a fallacy to appoint one architect to work with another. The Office of Works first chose Mr. Young, and because they could not trust him sufficiently, they chose another architect to 98 work with him. A priori they could not trust this other architect to carry out the work, and consequently the responsibility was divided between two men whose views on architectural development might differ totocælo. This practice had been in the past the cause which had produced so much misfortune in regard to their public buildings, and he was sorry to hear that the Secretary to the Treasury was proposing to carry out this fallacy in regard to the buildings to be erected in Dublin. Those two great buildings in London, which had been undertaken by the Office of Works, would cost £1,000,000 sterling, and they would be paid for out of the money taken from the Consolidated Fund. There appeared to be no increase in the staff to account for the increase for work which had fallen upon this Department. The actual staff was only larger by two than it was last year. In regard to this question, Sir William Emerson had stated that to carry out these great works would require a considerable extension both of staff and premises. This increase was not shown on the Estimates with the exception of an additional salary given to one officer. He considered that a very substantial increase of the staff ought to have been made. There had been an immense amount of work thrown upon this Department considering that they had had to look after the renewal and re—decoration of all the Royal palaces. His right hon. friend had also been occupied with the memorial to Queen Victoria, and with an immense amount of work connected with the Coronation. As there had been practically no increase in the staff, one was inclined to think that the Office of Works was over staffed in its higher department, and under staffed in its lower department.
He desired to congratulate his right hon. friend on the remarkable forgery he had produced at the west end of Westminster Abbey, a most skilful forgery. It was a pity it should have been made by an Italian† He asked for some assurance that Mr. Brydon's designs should not be interfered with by the Office of Works. Would the† See letters to The Times, July 31, p. 8; August 1.p. 10; August 4, p. 8.99 archway connecting the new buildings with the old be maintained? Would he maintain the towers? What steps would be taken as to the extension of the buildings? He wished to know if the finished drawings would be made from Mr. Brydon's sketches, and, if so, he hoped the Office of Works would employ a skilled and efficient architect, not simply an experienced surveyor who had distinguished himself by erecting police stations and post offices all over the kingdom. If a skilled and appreciative architect were not employed, the inherent beauty of Mr. Brydon's design would be vulgarised and destroyed. Within the next few years there would be much work to be done upon our public buildings in London, and it was to be regretted that his right lion, friend had not appointed some man of architectural experience to supply the technical knowledge which could not be expected in the Departmental Minister.
§ (10.15.) MR. J. P. FARRELL (Longford, N.)
thought they were entitled to have some explanation as to why the charges were still going up in this Department. He noticed that there was an increase of £3,200 over the amount required last year. The noble Lord who had just sat down had spoken at length upon the beauty of the buildings which were to be erected at Whitehall. During the passage of the Act which provided for the erection of those buildings, Irish Members protested against what they looked upon, as far as the taxpayers of Ireland were concerned, as an utterly useless expenditure of public money. They were chided for protesting against that expenditure, but, according to the noble Lord's Statement, what was going on now? He had told them that the expenditure of this public money was proceeding entirely upon a wrong basis; that they were not carrying out the designs of the original architect; and that they would find that the doors and windows would not fit; and that a large portion of the money being expended—so far as aesthetic appearance went—would be absolutely wasted. He thought the Office of Works was a fraud upon the taxpayers, and they got no value of any description for the work which it was alleged to perform. Before they passed this Vote he should like some definite 100 explanation from the First Commissioner of Works as to the duties which were discharged by the large number of clerks whose salaries were down upon the Paper. They had a Board of Works in Ireland, but it supervised the expenditure of public money, and arranged for the lending of money for public buildings; but no such duty was fulfilled by the Office of Works in London. Before this estimate was adopted, he should like a detailed account from the right hon. Gentleman as to the duties which were discharged by these officials whose salaries they were asked to vote. He was not so much concerned with the appearance of public buildings in London, or the amount of money spent in Chancery Lane or anywhere else. What he was more concerned about was that taxation was going up, and the very bread of the poor people was being taxed. He believed they had just received intelligence as to the feeling of the people in regard to this tax by the result of the election at Leeds. The erection of National Galleries and new buildings in connection with Museums to provide for the requirements of a certain class of people were, after all, of very little value to the country as a whole. They should oppose this Vote until they heard from the First Commissioner of Works something in regard to the work that was being done with the money. For salaries alone there was an increase of,£2,450 on the £53,050 they were asked to vote last year. He should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether that increase was based upon the Civil Service scale, or mainly due to perquisites. He found that in the Finance Division the Comptroller of Accounts had a salary commencing at £600 and rising by annual increments of £25 to £800. But according to a footnote he—Receives an allowance of £100 per annum in addition to salary on scale.What did he get that for? There were no particulars showing what he got it for, and, so far as appeared from the Estimate, there was not a single reason why this gentleman should get this £100. He had not the least personal ill-feeling towards this gentleman; but it seemed to him they were increasing his salary without reason at a time when the taxation of the country was going up. If expenditure was to be reduced they must 101 begin at these small things. If they did not begin at some point or another they would never have any retrenchment in the public Service. There were two senior clerks with salaries commencing each at £120 and rising by annual increments of £20 to £550. A footnote said—One of those officers receives. £600. per annum, the maximum of the former scale, and an allowance of £50 per annum for acting as Deputy-Comptroller of Accounts.Why did this gentleman get a salary in excess of the maximum? Really, the whole Vote was full of small instances like that which called for explanation. In the case of "architects and surveyors," of whom there were six, exclusive of two "principal architects and surveyors," the salary commenced at £500 and rose by annual increments of £25 to £750. In this instance a footnote said—One of these officers receives £100 per annum from Class IV, Vote 2, and another an allowance of £100 per annum for services as Consulting Engineer. Another, stationed in China and Japan, occupies an official residence and receives a colonial allowance of £100 per annum, the maximum of salary and allowance being not more than £800.In the name of goodness, what value did the taxpayers get from these gentlemen? There was no explanation to enable the Committee to see what duties they performed. He offered his strongest protest against this system of presenting the Votes without sufficient information. Those "allowances," in addition to the salaries, appeared to him like official bribes or "jobs," rather than just rewards for services rendered.
§ (10.30.) MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
said several questions had been asked, and perhaps it would be more convenient to the Committee if he dealt with them at once. The hon. Member for Mid Lanark wanted to know why this Vote had been taken tonight when there were so many other Votes of more importance which might have been taken. If the hon. Member had waited a few minutes longer he would have heard the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the Chorley division of Lancashire, who had asked the Leader of the House to take this Vote tonight in order that he might make a strong protest and an attack upon the policy of the 102 Department over which he himself had the honour to preside. He would deal first with the question brought forward by the noble Lord in regard to new buildings; that being the most important which had been raised. Ho would like to tell the Committee what was the policy of the Government with regard to that matter. His noble friend had reminded the Committee of the circumstances connected with the passing of the Public Buildings Expenses Act, and the Public Buildings Sites Acts. When it was decided to erect these buildings the Government thought it better, having regard to the unfortunate results of public competition themselves, to select an architect. At the request of the Government, the council of the Royal Institute of British Architects named a panel of architects qualified for the work, and, from that panel, Mr. Young and Mr. Brydon were chosen to prepare plans for the new War Office and the new Local Government Board Office respectively. As to the buildings at South Kensington, plans were prepared some years ago by Mr. Webb, and, as that gentleman was still prepared to carry them out, the Government thought it best to leave the work to one who had on so many occasions shown great talent. But, with regard to the other new buildings, it was thought desirable to associate with the architects selected, Sir John Taylor, whose long service to the State afforded him such an intimate knowledge of the requirements of public offices. Too often in the past the architect of public buildings had thought only of his elevation and not sufficiently of his interior. The rooms on the top floor of the Foreign Office were a case in point. To suit the elevation the windows were close to the floor, with the worst results on the lighting and the ventilation of the rooms.
§ MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
said that his noble friend disliked so intensely the Office of Works that nothing would convince him on the point. The plans for the new buildings were submitted by he Government for criticism to the 103 House of Commons. They were approved by the House: of Commons, and orders were given to proceed with the work. But Mr. Young the architect of the War Office died when the plans only had been completed; and Mr. Young's son was then appointed to carry out his father's plans, in association with Sir John Taylor. In 1901 Mr. Brydon also died, leaving no one to succeed him. The plans, which had been approved, and on which large sums had been expended, could not be abandoned, and the Government were anxious to have them carried out in their integrity. He had tried to get an architect of note to undertake the work, but it was only possible on condition that the architect was given a free hand. They had the assistance of Sir John Taylor, who had worked constantly both with Mr. Young and Mr. Brydon in the preparation of these plans, and was intimately acquainted with Mr. Brydon's desires, and in sympathy with his views. They also engaged Mr. Brydon's chief assistant, who had, under that gentle man's personal direction, prepared the greater portion of the drawings, to help to carry out the smaller drawings and the necessary details. He could assure the noble Lord that the saving of expense was not his main object at all, and that he was perfectly ready to spend all the money if he thought good work could be done with it. In order to secure to the House that the plans which they had approved of should be carried out in their integrity, and without any change, directly he received them from Mr. Brydon's executors he had them stamped and countersigned by the President of the Institute of British Architects; and, if the House desired it, the plans would be deposited at the House and would be entirely at its disposal. The noble Lord had asked him for an assurance that no variation whatever should be made in these plans. He had already given a public assurance, and he now repeated it, that no variations at all would be permitted in the external elevations, and that they should only take place when approved by the President of the Institute of British Architects and the Consultative Committee. The noble Lord seemed rather to complain of the appointment of the Clerk of Works. That was not an appointment in his hands, but it was 104 a good appointment and the gentleman had shown already very considerable aptitude for the work he had to perform, and he would do it in the most satisfactory manner. The noble Lord had rather suggested that he had not brought quite so much attention to the affairs of his Office, or especially to the matters of these buildings, as he might have done, owing to the fact that he last year presided over the Committee on the education of officers in the Army. He would point out that this was the first time that he had heard in that House the acceptance of a very unpleasant and onerous duty of that sort thrown into a Minister's teeth. With regard to the Queen Victoria Memorial, a question about which had been put by the hon. Member for Stoke, he pointed out that it was not a work which had been undertaken by the Government. The Committee would recollect that the King appointed a committee to consider the question of this memorial, and the committee, after having decided on the general form of the memorial, appointed an executive committee, to whom they referred the question of site and design. This committee, which consisted of Lord Windsor, Lord Redesdale, Sir E. J. Poynter, President of the Royal Academy, Sir L. Alma-Tadema, Sir Arthur Ellis, Sir W. Emerson, and Mr. Sydney Colvin, with Lord Esher as Secretary, reported in favour of the designs of Mr. Brock and Mr. Aston Webb, with whom the general committee authorised arrangements to be made. Mr. Brock's model had already been completed, and he understood that Mr. Webb's would also shortly be finished. Ho understood that when Mr. Brock's and Mr. Webb's models in plaster were completed, it was His Majesty's desire that these models should be submitted to the public as well as to the committee. The monument would only take up a small portion of the space in the front of Buckingham Palace, and would be a very great improvement to the front of the palace, and lead to only a very slight curtailment of the park. This, however, was not a matter for which he was personally responsible, and he only gave the hon. Gentleman this information as a matter of courtesy. With regard to Coronation seats and civil servants, he said that the seats were erected on the co-operative principle, and for the lowest price possible on sites the use of which was afforded by the Government. No Government money 105 was involved. When the seats and the restoration of the ground had been paid for there would be nothing left to hand back. He was afraid he could give the hem. Gentleman no further comfort than this—that they would do their best to find room on 9th August for the whole of those who had taken seats for 26th. June, and for those who had taken seats for 27th June on the day of the Royal progress. With regard to the camping ground in Kensington Gardens, he felt he could not very well refuse the application made by the military authorities, seeing that there was no other camping ground in London which could be utilised. He ventured to think, however, that his hon. friend the Member for Stoke had drawn too alarming a picture of the results of this use of the gardens, and that in a very short time there would be very little trace of the camp which had occupied so prominent a position there. Everything that could be done to help the recovery of the verdure would be done by his Department. The hon. Member for Luton had asked for an assurance that stands would not be erected again in front of the National Gallery. He fully realised the responsibility which attached to him for giving his consent on the present occasion, but it was unavoidable, and there was precedent for it. He took every possible precaution, however, to see that there was no undue danger from five, but all the same ho shared the fears and the anxieties of the hon. Member during the whole time that the structure remained in the immediate neighbourhood of the Gallery. He certainly would not readily incur the risk again.
§ (11.5.) SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said he did not presume to interfere in the question of taste which had been raised by the noble Lord opposite. He could not aspire to be an authority on matters of taste or architecture or art, but, as a practical man, he thought the First Commissioner of Works had taken the wisest and best course he could have taken in the circumstances of the case. Any other course would have involved the appointing of a new architect and the preparation of new plans. He desired to draw 106 the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to, he could not call it the progress, but the standstill of the Victoria and Albert Museum in Cromwell-road, of which the late Queen laid the foundation stone. He did not know who was to blame, but be would ask the right hon. Gentleman to see that a new leaf was turned over. In selecting contractors to carry out the works, he hoped the First Commissioner would ' have regard to the capacity of the contractors, and their capital and ability to carry out so great a work as the; Victoria and Albert Museum. He further called attention to the defective lighting of the parks and Palace Yard, which, in his opinion, was not creditable to London.
§ *SIR J. STIRLING-MAXWELL (Glasgow, College)
said he could not help feeling, after hearing the speech of the First Commissioner, and also that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that his noble friend had good reason for the strong line he had taken. He hoped it was not too late for his right hon. friend to reconsider the situation. He had seen a letter in The Times recommending that a certain architect should be selected as a fitting man to complete Mr. Bryden's building owing to his great knowledge of classical architecture. That architect told him that he would have been happy to complete the work, but that he was not consulted. He could not help thinking that a first class architect could be found who would be more than glad to add the finishing touches to the work. The right hon. Gentleman said that as that was impossible, the work had been entrusted to gentlemen who were closely associated with the late Mr. Brydon; but everyone who knew anything about the designs of the late Mr. Brydon was aware that their value depended on detail to a greater extent than did the work of most architects, and it was very unlikely that even such a competent architect as Sir. John Taylor, who thoroughly understood his own work, had discussed the details with Mr. Brydon. He certainly hoped it was not yet too late for the right hon. Gentleman to 107 reconsider the situation. If he could not do that, they at least were right in pointing out in advance that the credit or discredit for these buildings would rest entirely with the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and the House of Commons would have the satisfaction of feeling that a protest had been made against an arrangement which seemed so little likely to lead to good results. There was one other matter which he wished to put before the right hon. Gentleman. That was that some steps should be taken to fill up the innumerable vacant shields which now disfigure the Houses of Parliament. An empty shield was a horrible disfigurement; and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would do well to appoint a small Committee to consider how these shields could best be filled up. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider that modest suggestion.
§ *MR. KE1R HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said he desired to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee to the wages paid to women typists in the Department. The minimum wage was 16s. a week, and the maximum 25s. a week. It was a well known fact that large numbers of women were being employed in lieu of men, not because they did the work better, but because they could be employed at cheaper rates. As far as he was concerned, he had no objection to women being employed in occupations to which they were suited, of which typewriting was essentially one, but there was a strong objection, both on the part of the women themselves and on the part of the men they displaced, that they should be employed at a lower rate of wages for the same work. Sixteen shillings a week was not a living wage for a woman who had to maintain herself in London. In the best firms in the city, the wages of typists went as high as 30s. a week; and a Government Department ought to set an example to other employers. Typewriting, with the corresponding knowledge of shorthand, was a skilled occupation which ought to command a reasonable wage. Yet typists were only paid from 16s. to 26s. a week, whereas messengers were paid in 108 one case from £110 to £130 a year, and in another case from £95 to £100. The coal porter was paid from 25s. to 30s., and the caretaker began at 35s. and reached 45s. He did not allege that these rates were too high, but if an ordinary unskilled coal porter received 30s. a week, a typist was surely entitled to an equal sum. He trusted that the First Commissioner of Works would take this into his consideration. The House of Commons had placed every Department of the Government under an obligation to pay good wages, and become a model to private employers; and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to make the minimum paid to these typists 20s, a week, with a maximum of 30s. a week.
§ MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Portsmouth)
said he wished to ask his right hon. friend whether it would be possible to preserve the annexe at Westminster Abbey, which had been described as a "forgery," after the Coronation ceremony. It was so clever, so ingenious, and so interesting, that he hoped it would be preserved as a relic of the Coronation, and as a specimen of the ingenuity of which the Office of Works was capable. He wished to protest against what had been said by the hon. Member for Mid Lanark as to the salaries of private secretaries. The hon. Gentleman, as he understood him, objected to the private secretary to the First Commissioner of Works receiving an adequate salary. It seemed to him that few public servants earned their salaries more legitimately than private secretaries. It had been laid down by a former Prime Minister that the man who was capable of holding the position of private secretary to a Cabinet Minister was capable of holding any position in the Civil Service. A Minister should be able to choose the best man he could get; and he did not think that any reasonable man would object to an efficient private secretary being paid the salary he deserved. He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman opposite had a private secretary himself. [Mr. CALDWELL: No.] In that case, he was all the more amazed at the output of the hon. Gentleman. It was a marvel to him how the hon. Gentleman achieved all he did without the assistance of a 109 private secretary; and he would respectfully suggest to him that if he had a private secretary he would find life easier and more agreeable, always assuming that his private secretary was a good one. Every labourer was worthy of his hire, but no labourer was more worthy of his hire than a private secretary; and no one would grudge the salary he got, or the ultimate position in the Civil Service to which he would be entitled.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said he did not complain of a private secretary being paid for his work. His complaint was that the salary of a private secretary, who began at £150 a year, increased by the effluxion of time to £500 a year, and, in addition, he got 200 for doing work which was really part of his work as privatesecretary. He had practically £700 a year, whereas an official clerk, who began at £300, could not rise above £400 a year. Private secretaries were no doubt very useful to those who required them, but if a man did his work himself he would find it much better done. Possibly that was the reason why his own work was so well done.
§ (11.27.) MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said he had paid some attention to the arrangements of the First Commissioner of Works to meet the convenience of the House in connection with the Coronation celebration, and he did not think that any more could be done than had been done by the right hon. Gentleman, He said that, because on a previous occasion he had been one of those who had criticised the action of the Office of Works in regard to the accommodation given and prices charged. He really thought there was no cause for complaint on the present occasion. He understood that his hon. friend moved the reduction of the Vote in order to call attention to the stands erected in front of the National Gallery. He did not know whether his hon. friend was satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's reply, but he thought, on the whole, that the right hon. Gentleman had gone as far as he could in the matter. The stands had now been removed, and although the 110 matter was one of great importance, he thought that the criticism of hon. Members was a little too severe. On the whole, there was not much risk to the priceless treasures stored in the National Gallery, and he would appeal to his hon. friend not to press his Motion in view of the efforts of the First Commissioner of Works to meet the convenience of the House and the public. With regard to the "forgery" at Westminster Abbey, he could not join in the appeal of the hon. Gentleman opposite that it should be preserved. He did not think it was worth it. He understood that Messrs. Barnum and Bailey had offered a small sum for it and he would advise the First Commissioner of Works when he got a good offer for it to take it. It was certainly a monument to the ingenuity and ability of the Office of Works. It was one of the best imitations he had ever seen, but it was not worth handing down to future ages. As a London Member, he wished to call the attention of the Office of Works to an important matter with reference to the public works now being carried on in London. Several hon. Members had appealed to the right hon. Gentleman that these works should be carried on without fluctuation. Whenever a public building was started in London, it attracted workmen from the country. Then, for some reason or the other, the plans were changed, the work was stopped, and a number of workmen were thrown on the market. Such fluctuations ought to be avoided in all Government work. He would not dwell on the case of the South Kensington Museum, although that was a glaring instance; but he would like to ask why the new Admiralty was not completed. Why was the hoarding still being kept up? Then, again, when was the road from The Mall to Charing Cross to be put in hand? If the right hon. Gentleman had not the money he ought to get it; but it was a great evil to pause in the midst of work of that kind. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give the Committee an assurance that Government work would be carried on steadily in future and without fluctuation.
SIR HOWARD VINCENT
said he wished heartily to thank the First Commissioner of Works for the facilities which had been given to cyclists in Hyde Park, which were greatly appreciated. Ho also wished to call his attention to the manner in which the traffic was stopped at Birdcage Walk and turned down Princes Street, to find its way through devious and narrow streets near St. James's Park Station to Victoria Station. The loss of time was tremendous, and he could not see any reason why the traffic could not proceed through Birdcage Walk. Time was money in a business city, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to prevent the waste of time which now occurred owing to the traffic being diverted.
§ MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
said, with reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for East Clare, he had the privilege of sitting with the hon. Member, who took a great interest in improvements in the House, on a Committee on the Sanitation and Ventilation of the House. Most of the smaller improvements recommended by that Committee had been carried out. He had been unable to obtain the money necessary to carry out the larger recommendations, and, further, he did not think it right to propose a large expenditure in view of the alterations in the rules of the House. The hon. Gentleman would remember that the Committee found great fault with the accommodation for the minor officials of the House, especially in the Postmaster's Department. During the recess he had been able to make an arrangement with the House of Lords by which the recommendations of the 112 Committee had been carried out in that respect. He was glad to be able to assure the Committee that all the experiments in connection with the ventilation of the House itself had been extremely satisfactory. Hon. Members need not be alarmed regarding the condition of the atmosphere of the chamber itself, which, according to all the tests, applied was extremely good. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil raised the question of the wages paid to women typists in the Office of Works. He did not know if the hon. Member had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Ross, in which he complained of the large amount of salaries paid in the Office of Works.
§ MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
said he was quite prepared to look into the matter raised by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, as ho had no wish to employ girls at inadequate wages in the Office of Works. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be satisfied with that assurance. The hon. Member for West Islington asked a few questions with regard to public works now going on in London, and he asked especially about the Admiralty buildings. There was a hoarding in front of the new Admiralty buildings, but building was just about to commence there. The north and west blocks of the new buildings had been finished, and with regard to the south block, the work of the foundation was new proceeding rapidly. There had been great difficulties with regard to the foundation. The old Admiralty building was 113 built on a morass, and rested on piles, and it was very difficult to find a solid foundation for such a large building as was now being erected. They had been extremely fortunate with regard to the foundations for the War Office. The site was a solid bed of gravel, apparently an island between two creeks; and they were also more fortunate in the matter of the foundations in Parliament Street than they had expected to be. Then, as to the opening of the now road, they had been waiting to get possession of certain buildings which they had acquired, and they were now perfectly ready to proceed as soon as the money for the purpose could be found. He had hoped to introduce, before the House adjourned, a Bill to enable him to transfer to that purpose certain moneys which had been ear-marked for public improvements in London. He had no doubt that in the Autumn he should be able to put that Bill on the Table, and, considering the feeling on both sides of the House, he hoped he would have no difficulty in passing it. With reference to the remarks of his hon. friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow, he had perfect confidence in the architects who were now carrying out the work to which his hon. friend had referred. His hon. friend also mentioned the filling up of the shields. He had not had attention called to that matter before, but he would assure his hon. friend that he would consider it. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for West Islington that it was desirable that public works should not be interrupted. There had been some difficulty in the earlier stages with regard to the supply of stone, but that had now been removed. With regard to the contract for the South Kensington Museum, the contractors were up 114 to their date, but he would take care that in any new contract the suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton should be considered. They took a great deal of pains in selecting contractors, and they were always careful that the contractors occupied a proper financial position, and were able to proceed rapidly with the work. But they were naturally bound to take the lowest tender, provided it was satisfactory in other respects. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the lighting of the parks. A great deal had been done in that direction during the last few years. He agreed that all the main thoroughfares in the parks should be properly lighted, but he was not in favour of placing lamps all over the parks. The hon. Member for Ross asked him one or two questions. He did not know if the hon. Member required a detailed answer, or would be satisfied with a general assurance.
§ MR. WEIR
said he brought forward two specific cases. One was the ease of an architect who received an allowance of £400 a year, in addition to his salary, for acting as architect to the public buildings at Westminster. The other was the case of a consulting engineer who was responsible for closing up the fireplaces in the Vote Office. He might also mention cases of gentlemen in China and Japan, who were paid double salaries although living was much cheaper in these countries than it was at home. He was heartily sick of such allowance, and he hoped they would be swept away.
§ MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
said that the specific case mentioned by the hon. Member, was an extra allowance given to the architect of the Office of Works in respect 115 of work in connection with the new public buildings. The question was very carefully considered by the Treasury, who were generally most careful in such matters. He agreed with the hon. Member that allowances were objectionable A few years ago there were constant instances of allowances being given, but now, when new men were brought in, the, view of the hon. Member was the view likely to be carried out. With regard to gentlemen in China and Japan, they could not be asked to go out to foreign countries at the same salary as they were receiving at home. The other gentleman referred to by the hon. Member had really nothing whatever to do with the ventilation of the Vote Office. He could assure the hon. Member that the care and comfort of the officials of the House were always present to the Office of Works. He appealed to the Committee to pass the Vote.
§ MR. ASHTON
said that after the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman he desired to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said he was much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, but he was bound to say he did not consider his explanation satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the recommendations of the Committee last year were not carried out because of the new Rules. He failed to see how the new Rules would affect many of the recommendations of the Committee. He quite admitted that with regard to the dining rooms, the new Rules might 116 have some effect; but they should not prevent the other recommendations from being carried out.
It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.