§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £31,700, 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, 1906, for the Houses of Parliament Buildings."940
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
said he wished to call attention to the miserable social accommodation provided for Members of the House. They often heard it said that the House was one of the best clubs in the world. He had not very much experience of clubs, but he was inclined to think it was one of the worst, and that there was not a third-rate club in London with so large a membership which would be able to keep its doors open if it provided such poor accommodation as Members of Parliament had to put up with. The Committee must remember the large number of Members who were compelled to be in attendance for long hours. It was not like an ordinary club where Members ran in for an hour or two, but there they had to stay very often for eight or ten hours consecutively, and under those circumstances he submitted that the accommodation set apart for them was an absolute scandal. Take the case of the reading-room. It was absurd to call it a room at all. It was merely a passage, and those who used it had to choose between being scorched by a fire or frozen by cold winds. There was only sitting accommodation for about twenty Members in it. Perhaps it was thought they ought not to be encouraged to read the newspapers, although one would have supposed it was their duty to do so. At any rate many were very fond of going to that place to read the reports of their own speeches, with the result that they were often in a state of semi-asphyxiation, they were suffocated by the bad atmosphere, while those who sat near the window were subjected to cold draughts and had the additional disadvantage of having their. I feet continually kicked by passers-by. And this was the place where Members of the House of Commons were supposed to study that great guide of public opinion, the Press. It was really most unreasonable that things should remain in this condition, and it was quite time I something was done to remedy it. Then there was the smoking-room. The windows of that room looked into a backyard, and the place was more of a playroom than a smoking-room. He was very fond of smoking himself, but he was bound to confess it was a most uncomfortable room, and one could not sit down 941 there calmly and quietly, smoke a pipe, and read a book as one would like to.
It might be said that all this was inevitable because of the Gothic character of the building, but he could not admit that. Some years ago there was a change in the personnel of the House, and one of the official residences was surrendered. He then appealed to the First Commissioner of Works for more accommodation for Members, and although it was admitted that the existing accommodation was quite inadequate, he got nothing but that sympathy which buttered no parsnips. Improvements were promised, but nothing was done, and when extra rooms were acquired they were given up to Members whom he need not name. It was obvious, in the first place, that the tea-room should be enlarged, and he thought that the passage, miscalled the reading-room, might with advantage be thrown into the tea-room. Then they wanted a reading-room—a decent room which would not disgrace a second-rate club; and he thought they had a right to ask for one looking out on to the Terrace, one with a light and cheerful aspect, where they need not be either grilled by the fire, frozen by the wind, or have their feet kicked by passers-by. It might be said that he was asking for luxuries, but it was time that Members stood up for themselves. The habits of the House had changed since the days of Pitt, and Members now stopped longer in and about the House. There was good speaking in those days; but now lion. Members were compelled either to listen to speaking that was not good or to wander about the desolate precincts of the Chamber without a place to rest the soles of their feet. The Government were anxious to have a good attendance of their supporters; but how could they expect diligence in such miserable conditions? There were limits to the calls that could be made on a man's patriotism. If the Government wished their followers to attend properly they should see that decent provision was made for the moderate comforts of gentlemen. Membership of the House was like marriage according to the definition of Socrates—a condition which every one outside wanted to be in and every one inside wanted to be out of. Unless 942 something were done to bring the accommodation of the House up to the level of decent modern requirements there would be a deterioration in the character of the Members. The discontent was very widespread. The occupants of the Front Benches had comfortable rooms in which they could luxuriate, but the ordinary Member had a wretched time, not knowing what to do or where to go.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (New Works, Alterations, and Additions) be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Harwood.)
§ MR. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)
said ho also had given notice of a Motion to reduce the Vote, because he wanted once again to discuss the question of the ventilation and sanitation of the House of Commons. Many hon. Members might think it faddism on his part to raise this question year after year, and he would therefore like to point out that on this occasion his criticisms would be founded upon the recent report of Dr. Gordon, an eminent sanitarian, who had examined in to the sanitation and ventilation of the House of Commons Chamber. He would like first, however, to associate himself to a considerable extent with the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member opposite with regard to the inadequacy of the accommodation provided for Members, and he would suggest to the noble Lord the Member for Chorley, the desirability of placing ventilating fans in the dining-rooms. They were now in common use in many clubs and hotels and they certainly added to the comfort of the users of the rooms. But his main object in rising was to deal with the insanitary condition of the Chamber itself.
He admitted that there had been an enormous improvement in that matter in the last few years. The ordinary cleansing of the House was now carried on in a thorough and systematic manner, and, while he would take that opportunity of expressing to the hon. Member for Chorley his gratitude for the able and enthusiastic manner in which he had grappled with this question, he would like to point out that there were still two or three radical defeats. There was, for instance, a very unequal distribution of air in the 943 Chamber, and the system of forcing the air up through the floor was, in his opinion, radically wrong, for it caused strong draughts at places and subjected the Members to very great discomfort. Again, also on the authority of Dr. Gordon, the air was altogether too dry, and, whereas the proper amount of humidity in an inhabited room was from 73 to 75 degrees, in the House of Commons it was only 63 degrees. The system of heating it was absolutely wrong. The air was desiccated by steam-pipes and a certain amount of humidity was forced into it by artificial means. In ordinary mansions it was usual to heat the air by hot-water pipes which extracted from it less humidity and allowed I it to pass into the room in very much its natural state. But steam-pipes were in vogue in that House, and he had been surprised to learn that there was one in the cotton-wool filter under the Speaker's Chair, which must add very considerably to the discomfort of Mr. Speaker during the long debates that went on in I the House. Then the occupants of the Treasury Bench were subjected to a steam-heated atmosphere to an excessive degree; indeed on the Ministerial side of the House the Members were in a worse position than those on the Opposition Benches in this respect, and he hoped hon. Members opposite would bear that fact in mind whenever there might be any slight and unusual ebullition of temper on their part. There were also steam pipes unprotected in other parts of the House.
It was quite clear that the system of ventilation was still in a state of evolution. He was somewhat in favour of the downward system of ventilation. In one of the parishes of the constituency which he had the honour to represent, they had a population which was growing more rapidly than that of any other part of Scotland, and he was glad to know that the municipal and school authorities had risen to the occasion and with great public spirit and much liberality had fitted some of their public buildings with improved ventilating apparatus. The Town Hall at Clyde Bank had been fitted with overhead ventilators at a cost of £3,000 and one of the schools had also been treated in the same way, and he had been in both 944 buildings at periods when they were filled1 by members of the artisan class, and he had found that in each case the ventilation was far superior to that of the House of Commons. He heartily concurred with Dr. Gordon that some better system of ventilation should be provided for that Chamber, and, although he was aware that a Committee which had: investigated the subject had reported against the overhead system, he did think the matter was one well worth reconsideration in the light of modern improvements.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
said he also desired to make a complaint in connection with the question of the amenities of the House. He had brought the matter before the noble Lord on several occasions, and had received a promise that it should be dealt with, but nothing had been done, and it seemed as if those in authority were flouted by their subordinates. The point was a very simple one. Many Members entered the House by a door which led along the main entrance. But a large proportion happened to have their hat pegs at the other extremity of the quadrangle, and found it more convenient therefore to enter through Westminster Hall. Now there was a door leading down some steps which adjoined the door leading into the crypt, and his suggestion was that that door should be converted into a swing door. It could easily be accomplished and would get rid of a great source of inconvenience, because Members who took their friends down to the crypt had to be very careful lest they were startled by a violent bang caused by the sudden opening of the door. Besides, those who happened to be in the cloak-room were subjected to violent draughts at the same time. He had been told that the alteration would be made during the Easter recess, then the Whitsuntide recess, and then in the autumn, but it had never been done. He should like to know why. Half the time of the constable, whose duty it was to attend to Members, was spent in closing that door after Members had entered or left. He believed the alteration was not made because some subordinate official objected to it. He meant, however, that it should be done 945 and he asked the noble Lord for some explanation why it bad not been executed.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said he thought the time was approaching when the principal arrangements for the ventilation of the House should be made so as not to injure the health of hon. Members who were getting past their best. The ventilation was conducted in a most uncertain and unpleasant manner. The other night, when the temperature fell very much, the electric fans were kept running the whole night and the discomfort was very great. Then the windows for years past had been covered at night with thick curtains, preventing the air coming through the panes of glass in a natural way, and th.3 result was that the atmosphere of the House of Commons became extremely oppressive. He could not conceive why that should be done.
§ MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W.R. Keighley)
said he wished to complain of the insufficient accommodation in the post office within the building. The number of letters received by Members, not only from their constituents, but from enterprising tradesmen, was rapidly increasing. A short time ago the number of letters received was 2,890; yesterday it reached 5,000, and to-morrow it would, in all probability, be 6,000. The officials did their very best; they were exceedingly obliging and courteous; but there were times when Members could not get to the window of the post office to make inquiries. Some improvement would have to be made. Over the post office there was a room now vacant which might be utilised; or the steps which led Members from another part of the House might be removed and the space made available for additional accommodation. Then why should not each Member be provided with a small locker or pigeonhole for his letters, with his own name upon it, as he had seen in other Legislative Chambers abroad? He knew that the Post Office officials were anxious that something should be done to improve the accommodation, and he hoped that the First Commissioner of Works would pay attention to this matter.
§ SIRGEORGE BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said that whenever this subject of the-ventilation of the House came up there-were complaints that it was defective. He himself could not complain, and it seemed to him that the Chamber was very well ventilated. Some said that it was too hot, and some that it was to cold. It largely depended on the age of hon. Members. What he complained of was that they were getting more and more luxurious and wanted more money spent on these luxuries. He had no objection to these luxuries in themselves, but he drew attention to the cost. Session after session there were complaints, especially from the opposite side of the House, about the continual growth of the Civil Service Estimates, and yet here, on Class I. of these Estimates, Members were clamouring for more expenditure. He had looked into this matter in the library and found that ten years ago the expenditure on the fabric of the House was £37,000 and it was now £47,000, or an increase of 30 per cent. If a similar increase were made over the whole Civil Service Estimates it would mean an increase of £3,000,000. In the previous ten years the expenditure on the maintenance of the Houses of Parliament was £32,000 and now it was £47,000.When the country was crying out that I the Government was spending too much, the House should show an example of a; little economy in the matter of their own accommodation. Upon the Houses of i Parliament buildings the expenditure this year was returned at £3,800 as against £800 ten years ago and £400 twenty years ago. Then the present year's expenditure on warming and ventilation was shown at £27,000 whereas the figures ten years ago were £15,000 and twenty years ago £13,000. Those figures showed that the expenditure upon the Houses of Parliament had been doubled in the last twenty years. He was 'not averse to comfort and luxury, and he acknowledged that the tea and reading-rooms were not everything that could be desired, but inasmuch as-the expenditure of the country was. increasing by leaps and bounds, he felt it his duty to protest emphatically that if hon. Members meant what they uttered about extravagance they should, instead of advocating further extravagance in these matters, economise 947 in them and thus set an example to the country.
§ MR EMMOTT (Oldham)
said the hon. Member had given the House a lecture on economy, but he surely could best serve the ends of economy by voting against national extravagance. He (Mr. Emmott) supported the hon. Member for Bolton in regard to the better accommodation required in the tea and smoking-rooms, and he demurred to the giving up of rooms to a particular Member or official when they would be of service to the general body of Members. The circumstances of the case were somewhat new. The Whips of the Government were now nervous regarding their majority, and lately there had been, on that account, more overcrowding than at any time during the five or six years he had been in the House. The position might not be improved in the next Government, because if the Liberals were returned with a large majority it would mean a body of hon. Gentlemen earnest in their work, and they would be unable to find a writing table at which to sit. This was not a matter of minor consideration, but had to do with the health of Members and with enabling them to conduct their work with efficiency.
§ MR. MILDMAY (Devonshire, Totnes)
called attention to the inconvenience suffered by hon. Members in the lobbies whilst waiting to take part in a division, and asked that some improvement should be made in respect of the closing of the outer and inner doors.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Isle of Wight)
doubted whether the hon. Member for North Islington was justified in his appeal to the House to study economy upon this expenditure, seeing that there had been a positive decrease in this year's Estimate for new works, alterations, and additions. He would suggest that the hon. Member should preach and practise economy in matters where a million of money might be saved, and should support the Opposition when they voted in favour of real economies. Personally he would like to ask for a little more fresh air in the House. They never had an open window except on hot summer days. The present 948 system of ventilation was entirely out of date and was most unhealthy. Thousands of pounds had been spent by hospitals upon similar systems of ventilation, but resource had eventually to be had to the open-window school. With more open windows hon. Members would be better both in health and temper than they were under the obsolete system of forcing the air into the House through a subterranean chamber with its bacteriological surroundings.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
agreed with the last speaker as to the desirability of having more fresh air in the House, and thought good service would be done if the noble Lord would walk round the galleries of the House, break every window, and leave them broken. He entirely agreed with the views of the hon. Member for North Islington as to the impropriety—not to say indecency—of this House, which was pledged to economy, discussing the Civil Service Estimates by proposals to increase them. This increase of luxuries was a modern innovation. It was often stated that speeches were better in olden times than now. That was possibly due to the fact that a larger number of speeches was now made by the occupants of the bench below him. In the time of Pitt, when the speeches were good, the accommodation of the House was bad. Ministers had no private rooms with beautifully upholstered furniture, nor was there any dining accommodation. In those days there was no accommodation. Members had to go to Bellamy's chophouse. The last words of Pitt were not "Oh, my country," but "I think I could eat one of Bellamy's meat pies." This House was satisfied with a little dirty, unventilated chophouse in the days of the speeches. The worse the accommodation the better the speeches. A great deal of the luxury had gone where it should not have gone; it had gone not to the independent Members of the House but to the thirty-six Gentlemen who, with great honour to themselves and no doubt with great advantage to the country, sat on the Front Bench, and who, he hoped, it was not an offence to call by the ancient and honourable name of placemen. In the first place they had 949 their offices, in which they ought to do their work, and in the second place they had the Front Bench. When not in their offices they ought to be on the Front Bench, and to give them these apartments was only to tempt them to be not in their offices, or on the Front Bench, but reclining in those gorgeous saloons. The result of all this was disastrous; the more accommodation provided the less the Ministers were seen in the House. As a matter of fact, they only saw two heroic survivors on the burning wreck—the Secretary to the Treasury and the noble Lord who looked after the ventilation of this House. But the reason of that was that they had no rooms in which to recline.
If the House really desired to increase 'the attendance of Members, it should secure the attendance of Ministers, because, after all, Ministers were magnets and where they were their followers would be, and when Ministers were not in this House their followers went into the tearoom, the reading-room, the smoking-room, and other parts of the House. That Chamber, and that Chamber alone, was where a Member ought to be when the House was sitting, and if he could not listen to other Members speaking, then let him make a speech himself. He conceived that the House was born for "the purpose of discussing the affairs of the country, and it was not, therefore, any part of its purpose to be a dining place, a species of restaurant, or a club. He had heard it was considered the finest club in London, but it was not a club and was never intended to be. The only part of the building that should be made comfortable for Members was that Chamber. Everything outside should be made as uncomfortable as possible, so that Members should be driven into the Chamber, because it was there that the work was done. If the House were better equipped with subjects of great interest to the country and to hon. Members there would be no necessity for these places outside. They ought not to be continually adding to the temptations which these places offered to Members to neglect their duty to the Chamber itself. Although this was put forward in the form of a reduction, what was really intended "was extra expense. If a reduction were 950 really intended, and they could get rid of some of these items such as the £1,500 for increased ventilation, which could be effected as he had before said by breaking the windows, he would have voted for it, but he could not vote for a reduction which was really intended to bring about an increased expenditure. There was too much luxury, too much reading, smoking, and chess. The place for Members was in the House, and the place for Ministers was on the Treasury Bench, and it was to his great regret that he saw both Ministers and Members fail in their duty.
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
complained of the way in which hon. Members monopolised seats in the libraries of the House by turning up chairs against the tables and keeping them in that position sometimes for the entire sitting of the House.
pointed out that the hon. Member would not be in order in discussing that subject on this occasion.
§ COLONEL WELBY
said he would not pursue it. With regard to what have been said as to the want of accommodation, he desired to call attention to the fact that one library, the Speaker's library, was not used. That library contained a large number of books which were catalogued for the use of Members, but the room itself was not in the use of Members. It had been suggested by the mover of the reduction that the newspaper room should be aided to the tearoom, but he himself would suggest that both the tea and the newspaper rooms should be used as reading-rooms and the library to which he had referred should be turned into a tea room. It was a spacious room and a good deal would be added to the accommodation of the Members if his suggestion was anted upon.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
asked the noble Lord to make a statement with regard to the present recommendations for the ventilation of the House. He pointed out that he himself was a member of a Committee which sat to consider this question three years ago. It was a 951 question which could not be solved, as was suggested by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, by the breaking of windows. It was an extremely difficult question and one which was of vital importance to the life and health of Members of the House. That Committee reported in due course, and it was with amazement that be saw distributed with the Papers another Report, drawn up by an outsider, which in many most important particulars upset the Report of the Committee. He had no quarrel with that Report, because he agreed with some of the conclusions of the expert who had drawn it up. What he wished to know was by whose authority the expert was called in to report, and whether the money which was now to be spent was to be expended on the recommendation of the Report of the Committee or the Report of the expert. As had been pointed out the air now came into the Chamber through the floor and from under the seats. Nothing could convince him that air coming in in that way could be pure, having regard to the fact that it came up through the floor over which hon. Members walked and thus into contact with the dirt which hon. Members brought into the House on their boots. The Committee reported, on the whole, in favour of the present system, but the expert Report condemned it and called for certain changes. As to the introduction of air from under the seats, a more uncomfortable method of ventilation never entered the mind of man. Air of a temperature comfortable to sit in was extremely dangerous when it came in a violent current on one portion of the body, and it was doubly dangerous on the feet and legs. He believed it to be the source of many of the colds, headaches, and the dull oppressed feeling of which hon. Members frequently complain.
It was a moat absurd and hardly sincere advocacy of economy to talk about the expense involved. Members were entitled to ask that the conditions under which they worked should be decently wholesome. He did not know whence hon. Members got their ideas of luxury, he could see no luxury in the House. A more uncomfortable place he was never in. None of them wanted 952 luxuries, but they were entitled to such conditions as would enable them to discharge their arduous duties without unnecessary strain upon their health. The question was really a most complicated one. When he first entered Parliament, the sanitary conditions of the building would have disgraced a common lodging-house. Members were literally poisoned, and many men undoubtedly lost their lives in consequence of the scandalous and atrocious sanitary conditions, which, after many debates and at much expense, had been to some extent remedied. The conditions of the Committee rooms, were such that many men whose business forced them to attend suffered from blood-poisoning; and were incapacitated for work through the state of the atmosphere. Hon. Members of long standing would remember what a punishment it used to-be to serve on a Committee upstairs. It was not the fault of hon. Members that every improvement had to be dragged out of the Government and carried out at extravagant expense. Not even in the War Office was there such a system of administration as prevailed until quite recently in the House. The Legislative Chamber was controlled by three separate and independent departments who spent most of their time in quarrelling one with another as to who should dust the walls and who the seats. Under such a system economy or efficiency was impossible. He desired to know whether the recommendations of the Ventilation Committee had been carried out, and whether there was any one man or department responsible for the general caretaking of the House and the Committee rooms. On one occasion in the present session he found the; smoking-room thermometer register-ins 50°, and a violent draught coming through the ventilators. Young robust people accustomed to an open air life might be able to stand it, but for ordinary citizens who had passed middle life it was a different matter. He remembered once going into the smoking-room not suffering from the slightest cold, but within a quarter of an hour he was-perfectly voiceless. He did not think Members of Parliament ought to be subjected to such risks. If a smoking-room with such qualities could be constructed 953 specially for Irish Members many hon. Members might consider it a good reform, but as all Members had to share those rooms he submitted that such condition? should not be tolerated.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire Chorley)
said the Office of Works were the sole authority in charge of the ventilation of the Chamber.
§ LORD BALCARRES
Of the ventilation generally. The defects of which many Members had complained were not the fault of the system of ventilation; he was certain that under any other system the discomfort of hon. Members would be infinitely greater. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight complained that the windows were always shut. If orders were given for the windows to be opened there would at once be an outcry. The Committee hardly realised the difficulty in which the Department was placed. Some Members complained when the temperature was high, others when it was low. There was a special staff constantly going about the House to regulate the temperature, and it was the endeavour of the whole staff to maintain an equable temperature throughout the day. Any Member of the House who went down with the engineer in charge and saw the system at work would probably revise his opinion if he thought the Department could be condemned off-hand. The amount of dirt which in foggy weather was intercepted under the floor and which, but for the cleansing apparatus, would come into the Chamber was enormous. It was no mere empiric system that had been adopted; it had been examined by expert after expert, and, as far as he could see it was really a very good system and suitable for the special requirements of the case. The recommendations made in the Report of the distinguished bacteriologist Dr. Gordon were in no way incompatible with the existing system; they did not supersede it at all. The authority who asked Dr. Gordon to go into the matter was the First Commissioner of Works. The Report of the Ventilation Committee was not definite or final on certain points, and the First Commissioner thought he 954 could not do better than have a still more careful inquiry by a professional expert to assure himself about certain points.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said he did not at all condemn it. It was on his advice that certain improvements had been made in that system, including a system of cleansing by passing the air through water. The First Commissioner had asked certain gentlemen to make a further inquiry of a more or less experimental character into these highly technical questions, with a view to the settlement of the ventilation problem, and he hoped to have a Report before the winter. The Committee consisted of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London University, Professor Haldane of Oxford, and Dr. Gordon. He assured hon. Members that he did not wish to meet their criticisms in any hostile spirit, but he believed that the system they had now was the best suited for their needs. A comparison had been made with the overhead system of ventilation which had been adopted in the Town Hall at Clyde Bank at a cost of £3,000. Personally, he would rather be in the House of Commons after a twenty-four hours sitting than in the town hall at Clyde Bank. The sittings of the House of Commons were so prolonged and the facilities and the time available for cleaning after the sittings so short that they must inevitably have some system like the one they had adopted by which automatic and almost unconscious improvement of the air was going on. As to the bacteriological tests made by Dr. Gordon he ventured to say that no owner of a public hall or theatre or incumbent of a church would for a moment dare to submit his building to such a test as the House of Commons had been submitted to, unless they were prepared for a panic on the part of the audience or congregation. Under the direction of the First Commissioner of Works most careful experiments were being conducted with a view to improving the system now in vogue. It was no good asking him to make representations 955 to the First Commissioner that there were many inconveniences in the division lobbies. He was in charge of the ventilation, but he could not alter the time honoured system unless he knew he had got the House of Commons at his back. Once he knew that he had the support of the House of Commons in dealing with any structural alterations he would carry them out, but he could not do this upon his own responsibility. He thought the hon. Member had overstated his case altogether, for, on the contrary, his constituents believed that at the House of Commons they were rolling in luxury.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said they were allowed to go into the reading-room when the House was not sitting. Hon. Members asked for more smoking-room accommodation, and better dining-room and tea-room accommodation and better writing-rooms. The First Commissioner was fully aware that these defects existed, but to remedy them was not quite so simple as hon. Members appeared to indicate. It was not a mere matter of asking for more money. If they had £100,000 to spend he was notsure that they would be able to improve the accommodation up to the requirements of the House. They did not so much want more accommodation as to have it more centralised and accessible. He did not think, however, that hon. Members made quite so much use as they might do of the accommodation that ahead} existed. The hon. Member for Keighley raised the question of post office accommodation. There was more accommodation ill the outer lobby, but that post office was eighty feet or ninety feet away. Complaint had been made about the seats in the library and the need for more writing tables. There were twenty-five writing tables on each side of the Members' Gallery upstairs, and the average number in use was one or two. As regarded smoking accommodation, no doubt the accommodation on the Terrace level had, of recent years, been largely improved; but hon. Members crowded the inconveniently small 956 smoking-room on the main floor to avoid having to come upstairs in a hurry to a division. It was not correct that all the accommodation was for Ministers; but since the new rules were adopted it had become necessary for them to do more Departmental work in the House of Commons than in their own offices, and it was imperative that they should have rooms in which they could see their Departmental officials and receive deputations. Nothing would give the First Commissioner of Works greater pleasure than to be able to solve these problems of House of Commons' accommodation, but to nine out of ten suggestions made there were insurmountable objections. The building was one of the greatest of their national monuments, and they must be jealous of proposals involving great structural alterations.
MR. DALZIBL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
said that, before passing to that question, the noble Lord might answer the Question how it was that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham still got a large room, although not any longer a member of the Government.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, though a private Member, was Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party, and he was conceded the privilege of this tiny room just in the same way as the Leader of the Nationalist Party and the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Party, who were also provided with rooms.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
The noble Lord has not given any answer with reference to the question of the door.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said he understood certain officials thought that if the door 957 were opened the draught would be very serious indeed. It was on account of that objection the suggestion had not been agreed to
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
asked whether the Department was considering the possibility of providing extra library accommodation. The rooms now were very congested.
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.
said he should like to say a few words in favour of the ventilation of the House which had been very much abused. He agreed with the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight that the proper ventilation was fresh air, and that the best ventilation was from open windows. But there were people who, while pretending to believe that Providence had done most things well, thought the best thing that could be done was to set up a little atmosphere of their own. They met these people in railway carriages, churches, and chapels. He never went to a county council, or a grand jury, or a church, without being obliged to walk out because the air was so abominable, but he was always comfortable enough in that Chamber. The other rooms in the House were not too well ventilated, hut that was because certain hon. Members were always insisting on shutting the windows. It was just the same in the Committee rooms in the old days. Now that ventilators had been provided there the atmosphere was very much better. On the whole he did not think any more money ought to be spent on the House. He should like more accommodation in the smoking-room, but he did not think it was necessary for hon. Members to be always smoking and always drinking tea. The hon. Member for East Mayo had told them that a great disadvantage of the smoking-room was that it made Members lose their voices. He did not know that the atmosphere of the smoking-room had this effect, but that might not always be regarded as a disadvantage.
§ MR. FORDE RIDLEY (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
asked whether some arrangement could not be devised to draw off the gas 958 fumes from the apartment adjoining the tearoom. The health and comfort of the waitresses ought to be considered, for they had to spend long hours there. He had experienced great inconvenience from time to time on account of the nauseating feeling caused by the gas fumes which absolutely filled the room. They would not put up with such an inconvenience in their own houses. It was really an intolerable nuisance, and he we aid, therefore, press the Department to do what they could to put a stop to it. If some plan could not be devised for drawing off the gas fumes, it might be possible to introduce electric heaters, so that hon. Members would not be subjected to the trouble which they had at present to undergo. As to the smoking accommodation, which was very small, he suggested that the fine courtyard around the large cloak-rooms might be converted into one of the most beautiful rooms in the whole building. It seemed to him a great pity that this courtyard could not be used by Members of the House. He should like to see it glazed over and turned into what might be termed a winter garden. If that was impracticable, he would suggest that a few tables and chairs might be placed in it so that during the summer months hon. Members might be able to sit in the courtyard instead of being driven into the overcrowded rooms.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said he did not at all agree with hon. Gentlemen who, on getting into the House, immediately proceeded to complain of the provision made for their creature comforts, although they were far better accommodated there than at home. He thought, however, the arrangements ought in some degree to be consistent with the preservation of health. The House of Commons at present was not consistent with the preservation of health. He spoke feelingly on this point. He gave the whole of his time to his Parliamentary work. He was there from the time the House opened until it adjourned, unless health reasons prevented him. He had suffered severely under the new rule which robbed hon. Members of the half-holiday on Wednesday. When he was not in that Chamber he was working as hard as he could in 959 the library, and it was no exaggeration to say that in the library he had moved from room to room to get into a decent atmosphere. The Parliament of 1886–92 was a bad Parliament. It was a coercion Parliament, but still his Christian feeling compelled him to say that out of every ten Members one died, and he was confident that some of these deaths were due to the insanitary condition of the House. They were voting money for spacious rooms for the House of Lords which they never used. Members of this House would use those rooms if they had them. "Why were not the side galleries opened to visitors? Those galleries were not used by Members except perhaps half-a-dozen times in the session. As to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green, he should be sorry to see the courtyard turned into a smoking-room or winter garden. That would be perfectly consonant with the English disposition, for he had always understood that the beautiful crypt had at one time been converted into a dining-room for the Speaker. He thought they ought to have pure air, be free from draughts, and come there without injury to their health. In the corridors there was never pure air; and the ventilation 'if the library was exeedingly defective. In winter the place was little short of an oven; and the whole place was intolerable. He would like to know why they should keep up three magnificent dining-rooms for the House of Lords which were never used. Why should not the Members of the House of Commons have the loan of those rooms when they were not used? They all loved the House of Lords, but he thought their Lordships would not be harmed by the Members of the House of Commons occasionally dining there. Full power should be given to the Members of the House of Commons to use those rooms and the library of the House of Lords.
§ SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON (Staffordshire, Handsworth)
said that he wished to point out to the noble Lord that to give effect to the proposal of the hon. Member for the Totnes Division of Devonshire no structural alterations were necessary. All that was done when this method of conducting divisions was tried before was to move the desk at 960 which the clerks marked the names of Members from one end of the "No" Lobby to the other. He would also like to call the attention of the noble Lord to the armchairs in the Library. To begin with, there were too few of them, and most of the presumably Gothic ones that were there combined nearly every possible defect. They were extremely ugly, they were extremely uncomfortable, and they were very heavy and difficult to move.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
said he wished to draw the attention of the noble Lord to the grill in the ladies' gallery. The ventilation in that gallery was perfectly abominable; and he had heard from foreign visitors that it was a great inconvenience. It was alleged that the grill had been introduced more than a century ago because the ladies had expressed disapproval of what had taken place in the House; but similar expressions of opinion had been made in the gallery set apart for male visitors. He knew that the hon Member for East Leeds proposed to have the grill removed, but that certain Conservative Members stood in the way. If it were removed it would be an enormous advantage to the ladies who visited the House. In no other Legislature in the world was there such a separation of the sexes and such an interference with the sound of the voices of the speakers. He hoped the noble Lord would take this matter into his serious consideration, and he felt sure that the removal of the grill would meet with the approval of the great majority of the Members of the House.
§ MR. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said that there was an excessive and silly use of the electric light in the House. One day last July he found thirty-seven electric lights burning to the considerable discomfort of the House.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said he wished to draw the attention of the Committee to a very important precedent set 961 by the present Government. He referred to the setting aside of a room for the occupation and use of a Member of the House who was not a member of the Government. The explanation given by the noble Lord was the most extraordinary he had ever heard on the part of the Conservative and Unionist Government as to why that course had been taken. They were told that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham was the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party. He had no personal objection to that right hon. Gentleman having a room; the right hon. Gentleman might have six rooms so far as he was concerned. But the statement that the right hon. Gentleman was the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party in the House was made for the first time on the part of a member of the Conservative and Unionist Administration. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham was not at all in the same position as the hon. Member for Waterford what led the Irish Nationalist Party, or the hon. Member who was Chairman of the Welsh Party. In their case they were duly elected by the Party the led at the commencement of the session, and they had their own Whips. But from what data were the Committee to understand that the Liberal Unionists in the House constituted a separate Party and a separate organisation? During the existence of the present Administration he always understood that the Liberal Unionist Party were part and parcel of the present Government Party, and that, if they were not the masters, at any rate they were the joint-partners in the Administration. When did the election of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to the leadership of the Liberal Unionist Party take place? It had not been publicly announced. If this precedent was quietly adopted, it would be open to any Member to go to the First Commissioner of Works and make a representation that he was the leader of a Party, although he had never been elected to the position, and get a comfortable private room for himself in some part of the House. If this precedent was set, it was only a question of whether or not some private Member could bring suffi- 962 cient force to bear on the Government to get a private room. If the disposition of rooms was going round, why should not the Leader of the Labour Party get one? There was no Party more entitled to that privilege. An hon. Member might go to the First Commissioner and say, "If I am not a leader of a Party, I ought to be, and I must have a private room." He contended that they could not in that Ho is; recognise separate and distinct Parties unless they met at the beginning of the session and elected their own Chairman and their own Whips. He did not know whether the Liberal Unionist Party itself would accept the statement of the noble Lord. He saw the hon. Member for Durham present; and, in the absence of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, perhaps that hon. Gentleman could tell the Committee at what date the right hon. Member for West Birmingham had been elected Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party, and what qualified him to be the Leader of that Party? If the noble Lord said that the right hon. Gentleman was really elected Leader of of that Party, and was fully entitled to that position, he would withdraw all he had stated: but he contended that if the right hon. Gentleman had not been so elected as Chairman of the Liberal Unionist Party in the House, that right hon. Gentleman, had no claim to a separate private room.
§ MR. ELLIOT (Durham)
said he had been asked by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs to throw some light as to the Leadership of the Liberal Unionist Party, but he did not know that he was entitled to do so. As regarded the hon. Member's complaint that a private room in that building bad been allotted to the right hon Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, on the ground that he was the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party in the House, he could only say that it was the first time since Liberal Unionism began that he had heard that a room had been allotted to the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party, as such, in the House. For a great many years when the Party was a considerable power in that House it was led by Lord Hartington, and he never remembered that Lord Hartington had a room allotted to him there. Nor did he remember during the many years 963 he had been connected with the Party any formal election at the beginning of the session of a Leader of the Party in question. He deprecated in that House the breaking up of the constitution into too many separate Parties, too many separate leaders, and too many separate sets of "Whips. He thought they had gone quite far enough in that respect, and he could only say that the giving of an official position in that House to the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party was done without their knowledge.
§ MAJOR SEELY
asked the noble Lord to reconsider the matter. If it had been the custom to give a room in that House to the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party, then he should have one allotted to him now, but it was very doubtful whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party. He understood the right hon. Gentleman was repudiated by the hon. Member for Durham, and, no doubt, by other Members opposite. As a matter of fait the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party had never before had a room in the House, and why should the innovation be made when it was doubtful whether the right hon. Gentleman was the Leader of the Party. The noble Lord had unwittingly conveyed admistaken impression to the Committee.
§ LORD BALCARRES
did not know whether hon. Gentlemen expected him to enter into a vexed question of this kind on a very small technical point. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs had remarked that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West I Birmingham was not the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party in that House. If the hon. Gentleman satisfied the First Commissioner of Works of that he (Lord Balcarres) presumed the First Commissioner would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give up his room. The hon. Member for Durham said that when Lord Hartington was Leader of the Party he had no room. He (Lord Balcarres) was not in the House at the time, but if Lord Hartington had no room in those days neither had the Welsh Liberal Party nor the Irish Nationalist Party. The fact that a room had been 964 allotted to the use of the right hon. Gentleman seemed scarcely to justify the amount of discussion it had already involved. The use of a very dark room in a very detached part of the House did not call for serious or prolonged consideration. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green had asked if they could not draw off the gas fumes in the tea-rooms. His reply to that was that they were expending money in ventilation, which it was hoped would supply a remedy for the evil. The hon. Member for the Totnes Division had asked for an improvement to be made in the closing of the outer and inner doors with a view to adding to the comfort and convenience of hon. Members awaiting a division, and had stated that no structural alterations were necessary to effect-that object. They, however, could not undertake to alter the arrangement for divisions without first obtaining the consent of the House.
§ MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN (Kilkenny)
called attention to the necessity for a room to which hon. Members could be taken in cases of illness. He believed that the House possessed a medicine chest which was never opened. Further, he thought there should be a medical "gentleman who could be called upon in cases of necessity. An arrangement might be made under which, by granting a sum of money to Westminster Hospital, they could by pressing an electric button obtain the services of a doctor at a moment's notice. He trusted that attention would be given to the necessity for a separate room, suitable appliances, and tin prompt services of a medical man to deal with sudden casses of illness.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire. Cleveland)
asked whether it would not be possible to avoid discussions year after year upon the accommodation of the House. They had devoted the greater part of that sitting to debating matters which, although a concern to hon. Members individually, were of the smallest interest to the country. He advocated the appointment of a Standing Committee, like the Kitchen Committee, who could act in co-operation with the First Commissioner of Works and deal with complaints and suggestions.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said although he was afraid that he could not accede to the suggestion of the lion. Member to set aside a room for unfortunate incidents that occurred at rare intervals he was authorised by the Serjeant-at-Arms to say that his room was available at all times of the day and night for the reception of anyone who might become suddenly ill. With regard to the question
§ of telephonic communication with Westminster Hospital he had consulted with his noble friend the First Commissioner of Works, and he hoped it would be possible to have telephonic communication with the hospital shortly.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 114; Noes 202. (Division List No. 149.)967
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said that for the good of Parliament itself, and on the principle of equality between Member and Member he wished to find out distinctly why a private room had been given to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who had no right to preferential treatment above other private Members. The right hon. Gentleman, with his retiring disposition, would be 968 the very first to deprecate any compliment being paid to himself at the expense of his fellow Members. If he wanted a room could he not go into the room of his son the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or conduct his correspondence in the rooms of the five or six Ministers who owed their appointment to his influence? Was this special treatment accorded because he was leader of the tariff reform movement? The late Mr. Gladstone once said that between private 969 Member and private Member there should be no distinction in Parliament, and that he would not belong to a House of Commons in which any such distinction was made. There were too many leaders in the House of Commons and too many who wished to be leaders. He charged the Government with having favoured the right hon. Gentleman because they "were afraid of the scheme-maker and the Cabinet-maker. Other Members were more entitled to a room than he. The hon. Member for Mid-Lanark, Chairman of the Private Bills Committee, was sc entitled, and so, too, was the hon. Baronet the Member for Peckham, who did the "blocking" for the Government. The right hon. Gentleman was the leader, not of a Party, but of a caucus which met in George Street, and as such had no right to any preferential treatment. He would be quite prepared to leave the question to a Gentleman well versed in the proprieties of the House of Commons: did the hon. Member for King's Lynn think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was entitled to a private room in the House?
§ MR. DALZIEL
complained that the Kitchen Committee were being treated with discourtesy, and, indeed, contempt, by the authorities of the House of Lords. For some months they had been trying to arrange for the use of the House of Lords Committee room, next the present dining-room, in exchange for a House of Commons Committee room, but they had not been able to obtain any reply beyond an acknowledgment of their communication and a promise to consider the matter. The person responsible seemed to be the Lord Great Chamberlain, who he considered was not very worthy of his imposing title, or he would not treat.a Committee representing and elected by the House of Commons with such a lack of respect. He hoped the noble Lord, if he had any influence in that direction, would endeavour to induce the Lord Great Chamberlain to give a reply one way or the other, so that the Kitchen Committee should not go on wasting their time with fruitless meetings.
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
drew attention to an item of £10,000 for the 970 purchase of a house in Abingdon Street, and asked for what purpose the house was to be used.
§ LORD BALCARRES
referred the hon. Member to his reply to a Question on the subject three or four weeks ago. For the £10,000 the Office of Works would obtain the existing house, which the London County Council had recently acquired under its Westminster improvement scheme. The bargain was fair to both parties. It would enable the County Council to carry out a very important road improvement, and at the same time complete a valuable block of Government property.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said the First Commissioner had not settled what it would be used for as the house was to be demolished to widen the street.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said the front of the house was required for the street-widening, and therefore it was necessary to demolish the house. In the matter raised by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs his position was one of some delicacy. The room in question was vested in the Lord Great Chamberlain, over whom the Office of Works had no control whatever. He would take care, however, that the representations of the hon Member were duly laid before the First Commissioner of Works.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said the explanation of the noble Lord with regard to the purchase of the house in Abingdon Street required to be either seriously considered or materially supplemented. The £10,000 was to be paid for a building which apparently was not to be applied to any Parliamentary purpose whatever. Why, then, did the money appear on this Vote at all? If it was to be used for public offices it should come in come other Vote. There was a Vote for each public building and for miscellaneous buildings, and this sum should appear in one of those. He did 971 not quite understand why they were asked to contribute at all in this matter. It was purely a question for the London County Council, which had proved itself quite competent to carry out other public improvements. He did not comprehend the reason for the introduction of a Vote in this House upon this matter, because this building did not come under the Houses of Parliament. Would the noble Lord tell them what on earth this had to do with the Houses of Parliament? If he knew to what purpose this property was to be appropriated then he would know to what Vote it belonged. Could the noble Lord tell them that this building was to be appropriated to some purpose belonging to the Houses of Parliament? If he could not do so, then he could not see why this £10,000 was in this Vote at all.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said he had had no notice of this Question, otherwise he would have been able to give a fuller Answer. He had been asked why this sum had not been included in miscellaneous buildings. The reason was that this building came within the Palace of Westminster, and therefore it was put in with the Houses of Parliament buildings. The Government had yet to settle whether this site should be used for erecting a fresh block of Government offices, or whether it should be preserved as an open space. He should be glad on a future occasion to give any further information of a detailed character, but at the moment he was only able to give the general facts.
§ MR. LAWRENCE
drew attention to the unnecessary lighting of the electric lights in the various corridors and lobbies. He noticed on days when the sun was shining that these lights were on, and they had been fixed here and there in places where they were not required.
§ MR. DELANY (Queen's County, Ossory)
I think, Mr. Deputy-Chairman if we had a little more light now it would do no harm.
§ 2. £36,500, to complete the sum for Royal Palaces.972
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he noticed that Item D showed an increase. He wished, to draw attention to the increase in this item in order to see whether a limit could not be put to this expenditure. Two years ago it amounted to £7,000; the next year to £8,000, and this year it had increased to £10,000 for new works, alterations, and additions. This was in addition to the large sums spent at the time of the accession of His Majesty for improving Buckingham Palace and other palaces in the occupation of His Majesty. He did not think they ought to have this annual increase in this particular item. Then there was Item E., which amounted to £38,180, and this showed a slight reduction upon last year, but, nevertheless, it remained at a higher figure than it stood at four years ago. He thought there was room for a substantial amount of economy upon this Vote. He also noticed that certain particulars had been withdrawn during the last three years.. He alluded to the details of Item A in regard to salaries, wages, and allowances. Why had they been withheld? It had not been done by the authority of the House, and he hoped the noble Lord would be able to answer that Question.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said he should be happy to give the precise details under the six headings which formed Item A. He did not think the hon. Member was correct in saying that the information had been withheld. He could give the hon. Member any particular items if he would mention which he required. As to the alterations and additions there had been a small increase, but objection had not been taken by the hon. Member for Halifax to any particular item. The two largest items which had caused this-increase were electric lighting at St.. James's Palace and electric lighting at Hampton Court. The safety of thoes great historical monuments were better secured by a system of electric lighting. He thought these increases were well worthy of acceptance by the Committee, and they were doing their best to prevent any extravagance.
§ COLONEL WELBY
asked if there was any intention on the part of the Board of Works to do anything to bring the facade of Buckingham Palace into 973 harmony with the Memorial to Queen Victoria. The more that Memorial grew the grander it became, and the more it seemed out of keeping with the front of the Palace. No mere renovation or repainting of the front would do; they wanted a great scheme for a new front in order to bring it into harmony with the Memorial. He wished to know whether that alteration would come within the scope of the Memorial or would it have to be done at some future time.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said that was a question which, as the hon. Gentleman must see, must stand over in the meantime.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £7,900, 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, 1905, for Expenditure in respect of Osborne."
§ MR. WHITLEY
said that two years ago this Vote was lumped in with the preceeding one. That was a form of the accounts which he hoped would not be maintained. In the first place he objected to this Vote on the ground that it was not properly a Civil Service Estimate. He understood that Osborne House was used as a convalescent home for member's of His Majesty's forces. He thought, therefore, that the cost ought to be borne by the Army and Navy funds and not the Civil Service Estimates. He asked what was the number of patients during the year who had obtained benefit from this expenditure, and what was the average number who had been in the convalescent home. The expense seemed to be rather heavy. He thought the Committee ought to have something in the nature of an annual Report, or even a footnote on the Estimates, giving such particulars as would justify this demand for money. The details showed that there was a house governor who received £360 this year, The same item last year was £400, and at footnote explained that this officer's 974 salary was subject to a deduction of 10 per cent, as he was in receipt of retired pay from the Admiralty. That raised the question of the re-employment of persons who were retired on handsome pensions voted by the House. The pensions of well-paid officers amounted to two-thirds of their salaries, if they had served their full time, and yet there were continual cases of the re-employment of such men at salaries which doubled their pensions. What pay did this person receive in addition to the £360 on the Vote? He thought men who were in receipt of very small pensions, ranging from £6 to £25 a year, should be encouraged to apply for these posts. He supposed he was correct in assuming that the house governor had a free residence, coal, and gas, in addition to the amount that appeared for salary. He asked the noble Lord to state also what the arrangements were as to the payment of fees by the officers who took advantage of this institution. Did they pay anything in addition to the item that appeared in the appropriation-in-aid of 2s. 6d. par day? Was that charge always collected from the patients, or did it depend upon the rank of the person concerned?
§ LORD BALCARRES
said the hon. Member had raised a point which was discussed last year as to whether the Vote for Osborne House should appear on the Civil Service Estimates. Certainly there were services provided there from which the Army and Navy drew advantage, but the question raised had been carefully considered. It should be remembered that a large part of Osborne was of the nature now of a public museum which was visited by many thousands of the public. That he thought, was sufficient to justify its place on the Civil Service Estimates. Last year there were 255 admissions to the home, and the average number there was thirty-five. The gross total required was £16,700, from which the appropriation-in-aid and fees paid, amounting to £1,800, was deducted. But there was a considerable income from the Osborne Estate which was credited to the Woods and Forests Department, and he dared say there was an annual sum from the cadet college on the estate which might be credited against the outlay under this Vote. He 975 believed, too, that many of the officers, owing to the exceptional advantages of the situation, completely recovered from their illnesses, which seemed to him in the nature of an economy. He thought it would be found that the expense of Osborne was very moderate indeed.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire, Cleveland)
asked whether the money on this Vote included anything for the college.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said that if the average number of patients was thirty-five, £600 per bed seemed to be a large expenditure. That seemed to him a most extraordinary sum, and he believed a case had been made out for the most careful inquiry.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said that although he had stated that that was the total expense of the hospital and convalescent home, the hon. Member must understand Osborne House was to all intents and purposes a great public museum, visited by thousands of the public. All of this had to be kept up, and there was a large collection of works of art, formed by Her late Majesty. This and the parks and gardens were open to the public, and were entirely included in the expenditure mentioned.
§ MR. BRIGHT (Shropshire, Oswestry)
asked whether it was possible to dissect the different expenditure on the different sections of Osborne. He had been a director of an hospital and he knew that the average cost of each bed was only £60 or £70 per annum.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said there was a museum which cost a certain amount of expenditure and gave great pleasure to a considerable number of people. Then there was a convalescent hospital in respect of which they were asked to vote a large sum. Thirdly, there was the Admiralty cadet training college; and, fourthly, there were the apartments for which the noble Lord said the Department of Woods and Forests were re- 976 sponsible. It seemed to him that this was an extraordinary method of keeping account. The noble Lord said that a certain amount of revenue was derived by the Department of Woods and Forests for Osborne, but could he say what it amounted to? No, the noble Lord could not. He could see no reason why that should not be an appropriation-in-aid. Again, why was there no mention here of the additional sum of £20,500 asked for by the Admiralty for the training of cadets? The Osborne Estate was apparently under four different managements, which seemed to him a very bad arrangement, but he understood that the Chief Commissioner of Works was supreme. The arrangement was a very bad one and did not lend itself to efficient and responsible administration.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)
said that the Committee were asked to vote £14,900 for a convalescent home at Osborne, but now they were told that whilst the Vote excluded the expense of the cadet training college, it included certain works, and the museum. The Committee should be informed how much of the Vote was to be appropriated to each purpose. It was absurd to say that a sum of £14,000 was required to support thirty-five beds in the convalescent home. The extravagance of the expenditure upon this object would be obvious when it was pointed out that the cost worked out at about £10 per patient p r week, whereas the cost of properly maintaining a convalescent home ought not to amount to more than 15s. a head weekly. He was conversant with homes where the cost did not exceed that sum and the number of berths were less than thirty-five. The matter called for some further explanation.
§ MR. BRIGG
thought the solution might be found in the number of Departments that had to do with the subject and the number of people for whom occupation had to be found. He drew the noble Lord's attention to an item of £1,460 in respect of receipts from patients, and asked whether it was a condition that the patients should pay 2s. 6d. each per day, or whether and by whom the payments were made on their behalf.
§ MR. WHITLEY
noticed that there were 4,000 acres of land in connection with the hospital and inquired what use was made of it. The management of the whole thing showed a state of muddle. There were at least four and possibly more divergent interests dealing with the estate, and there was certainly a very small result for a very great cost. They were entitled to ask that there should be some new method adopted in dealing with the matter. It was true that the Vote was not so large this year, but last year there were charges for alterations and extensions, and as a protest against an increased permanent charge he moved to reduce the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £7,800, be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Whitley.)
§ LORD BALCARRES
said the hon. Member had asserted that a state of muddle had arisen because there were four divergent interests. Did the hon. Gentleman think the muddle would disappear if the estate were put under four Departments instead of one. The whole control was with the Office of Works. A portion of the estate was handed over for the purposes of a naval hospital. That would be included in a Vote on the Navy Estimates over which they had no control, whilst the Admiralty had nothing to do with the other part of the estate except so far as they were interested in the hospital patients who spent their period of convalescence there.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN (Dewsbury)
asked whether the position of Osborne House was in any way analogous to the college at Dartmouth.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said he did not know anything regarding the College at Dartmouth. Osborne House was the residence of the late Queen, and was handed over by His Majesty the King to the nation for the purpose of a convalescent home. It was one building; it could not be separated by wings for naval or military purposes, and it was unusual to bring in the name of the Sovereign in discussions of that nature. As, however, Osborne House contained 978 private property, it seemed advisable that a portion of it should be kept absolutely private. For that reason the public was admitted only to one part—the museum. The whole control of Osborne House Museum—the portion to which the public were admitted—of the private apartments of Her late Majesty, and of the Naval and Military Convalescent Home was locally and directly under the house governor, and Departmentally, under the First Commissioner. The medical control was under the consulting surgeon and physician, who resided in the Isle of Wight, and there was also what was called the medical consultative staff (unpaid), who paid regular visits to the convalescent home. The officers, who were sent to the home on the recommendation respectively of the Admiralty and the War Office, paid 2s. 6d. a day. In this they were simply following the arrangement which already existed at Netley and other hospitals.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £02,400, 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, 1906, for the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens."
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
called attention to what he described as the "absolute and wanton defacement" of the Green Park by the construction across it of a hard broad road 60 feet wide, which was supposed to be reserved for pedestrians, but which bore all the marks of an intended permanent road for vehicular traffic. He could conceive no reason for this road, for the making of which trees had been cut down, and no less than two acres of grass had been removed. It was a wasteful expenditure even if it were for the use of vehicular traffic, for which it was not required What was wanted in London parks was not broad have granite, asphalte or wooden roads but trees and grass, and trees had been cut down and grass removed from this road and no reason 979 had been given for such an extraordinary proceeding. The major part of the cost of construction—namely, a sum of £4,000, had been defrayed out of a fund raised for the unemployed in London, and he would suggest, if it was really desired to employ the unemployed, that they should be engaged to restore this part of the park to its original state. A six-foot path would have amply supplied the wants of all the people who were ever likely to use the road, and he could not conceive what the purpose of it was unless it was to form a sort of vista to the Memorial to be erected to Her late Majesty. Whatever the object might be with which the road had been made, he denounced it as a gross outrage on the part of the First Commissioner of Works, who had defaced and practically spoiled the most precious park in London. If the noble Lord could say there was likely to be a vast amount of traffic over the path, or to at it led from tome where to some where, or that it had any quality to recommend it, or that in his opinion it was really an improvement, he would have nothing further to say. His conviction, however, was that the noble Lord himself must have regretted the defacement to the Green Park, and he seriously commended his suggestion that the unemployed should be again used, if necessary at the cost of another £4,000, to restore the path to its original condition.
§ SIR A. HAYTER (Walsall)
agreed with the hon. Member for King's Lynn as to the hideousness of this so-called improvement. He could not understand why so enormous a quantity of turf had been cut from both sides of the road. The foundations of the pathway rendered it unsuitable for vehicular traffic, there being no solid granite blocks for a foundation, but if it was intended merely for a footpath, why had it been mode of such enormous width? He was extremely sorry the park had been destroyed for the sake of a path.
said the hon. Member for King's Lynn did not appreciate the situation. This pathway was not for the purpose of a thorough-fare across the Green Park. It had been planted with three rows of trees on either 980 side and was an integral part of the Memorial. In the course of time it would form a fine avenue with rows of trees leading from a great thoroughfare to a grand memorial, analogous in many respects to the Broad Walk at Kensington. Kensington Gardens and Hampton Court Park were laid out in avenues of trees, not merely to provide roadways, but to make fine vistas, and this pathway would in time make a fine vista. There was no intention of using the pathway for carriage traffic; as the hon. Baronet opposite had stated, the foundations rendered it unsuitable for that purpose. Eighteen months ago hon. Members declared that St. James's Park was being spoilt by the making of the pathway which was now universally recognised to be a great improvement, and he believed a similar result would be achieved in the present case. He did not admit that anything like 400 trees had been cut down. The grass area in St. James's Park to-day was larger than before the improvement was made.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
reminded the noble Lord that there were such things as avenues with grass between the trees which were very beautiful. The Long Walk at Windsor was such an one. In any case a path fifteen feet wide would have been ample for all purposes.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
asked whether in the appointment of park-keepers the claims of old soldiers and sailors were considered. One of the obstacles to recruiting was the great difficulty experienced by old soldiers in obtaining employment, and he hoped the First Commissioner would not lose sight of the formally expressed desire of the House of Commons that old soldiers and sailors should be appointed to these posts. He congratulated the Board of Works upon the great improvement which had taken place in recent years in the parks, which were now as beautiful as those in any capital in Europe.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Hagger-ston)
said he wished to draw attention to-the contacts for refreshment in the kiosks in the parks, and also to the supply of 981 chairs and free seats. Ten or twelve years ago when this question of seats was raised in the House they were told by the then First Commissioner of Works that no rent was paid by the contractor to the State. Since that time the First commissioner of Works had been somewhat severely heckled on the subject, and the year following that heckling there appeared in the accounts an item of £1,000 paid by the contractors for the right of putting seats in the parks; so that it was quite clear that the First Commissioner of Works had been deluded by someone, and he had frankly admitted his mistake. Subsequently the sum of £2,000 was put down as the rent received from the contractor, who now had the right to put the chairs in Hyde Park. Anyone who had visited Hyde Park on Sunday must have noticed the enormous crowds there, and in his opinion £2,001 was a very small sum to be paid for the right of putting chairs in the parks. The First Commissioner of Works told him twelve months ago that he had come to the conclusion that when the present contract expired there ought to be a much larger sum paid into the coffers of the State by the man who was allowed to put those seats in the parks. Not only was the State being defrauded by the insufficient sum that was paid, but the number of free seats in the parks was year by year diminishing, while the number of paid seats was increasing. He wished to know whether a new contract had been entered into, and if so, had the rental from the new contractor for the seats been increased? He also wished to know if tenders had been invited. The last Commissioner of Works had contemplated purchasing the chairs, and, had this been done, then the whole of the money received would have gone into the Exchequer. He thought a very considerable sum of money would have been realised in that way.
He noticed that with regard to the supply of refreshments in the parks, there was an item of £1,000 for the purchase and repair of refreshment kiosks in Regent's Park. He wished to know if any rent was received for the use of those kiosks by the refreshment contractors, and were they obliged to give any guarantee to redeem the promise they made to supply' the public with whole- 982 some refreshments at a very moderate price. He had raised before in the-House the question of the character of the refreshments supplied, and he was by no means satisfied that even at the present time they were of as good a quality as they might be, and they might also be supplied at a cheaper rate. If the Government erected these kiosks and received rent for them, he wished to know who determined the amount of rent. Some of the contractors had written asking for an interview with him in order to explain the circumstances under which they supplied refreshments, but he thought that was an abominable practice, and he trusted the refreshment contractors would take warning and not renew those invitations to anyone who happened to complain of the price and quality of their refreshments.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said he desired to have an explanation in regard to an incident which took place last winter when most hon. Members were out of town. He alluded to the two old ladies whose stall was removed from St. James's Park. He did not know what their rights were, but it was stated in the Press, that these old ladies were evicted from their stall in a manner quite unknown in this country, although it might be customary enough in Ireland. They were only reinstated in the position which they now held by the intervention of a power whose name could not be mentioned in the debates in that House. A. great deal was said in the public Press on the matter, and he thought the noble Lord should explain authoritatively what was done.
§ MR. MOONEY (Dublin County, S.)
said the trade which was now being conducted by the two old ladies was absolutely different from that which they carried on before. This gave one the impression that the old ladies were being exploited by some refreshment caterer who was doing an illegitimate trade there to the detriment of the traders in the locality.
§ LORD BALCARRES
, replying to the Question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, said that 983 the park attendants appointed during the last two years had been retired soldiers and sailors. The hon. Member for Haggerston had asked about the chair rents The sum of £1000 was paid by the man who held the contract. The contract would expire at the end of the present year, and, no doubt, during the summer or autumn the whole question would have to be reconsidered. The hon. Member had been misinformed as to the number of free seats. There were between 600 and 700, and the number had not been diminished in Hyde Park.
§ MR. CREMER
said he had known the parks for forty years, and he had noticed that the free seats had been gradually diminishing in number.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said the free seats were moved about from time to time, but the total number was not only not smaller, but rather larger. As to Regent's Park, the New Works Vote contained an item of £1,000 for the purpose of buying up the central kiosk. Hitherto the rent received by the Office of Works had been £4 a year. That arrangement was now coming to an end. They hoped to obtain under the new arrangement £250, after the outlay of the £1,000 which had been sanctioned by the Treasury. At to the two old ladies referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, he had really little to say. There were, in the old days, a large number of establishments similar to that formerly held by these ladies. They existed pretty well all over the parks. Notice was given a good many years ago to the persons who occupied similar places, and they recognised that they had no title or status. They received small compensation to give up their tenure. In this case, as hon. Members knew, there had been a great deal of newspaper discussion, in which there had been much exaggeration. The right of occupation, being terminable, had expired, and there was some kind of informal tenancy. As the right hon. Gentleman Lad said, another place was substituted further down on the Horse Guards Parade. The tenure on which the two old ladies occupied the kiosk was terminable at the decease of one or both. It was not desirable, 984 as hon. Members would agree, that such a tenancy should be allowed to become a freehold. It was not in the interest of the Crown, the public, or the Department, that they should countenance any claim for freehold in respect of such occupation. With regard to what had been said by the hon. Member for Dublin County he hoped the statement made was not well-founded, but, of course, it was a matter upon which inquiry ought to be made.
§ MR. CREMER
asked whether the same rule that was to be applied in regard to the kiosk in Regent's Park would be applied to the kiosk in Kew Gardens, and to similar establishments where they existed in other parks. He could not find that any rent was recorded for the kiosk in Kew Gardens, where an enormous business was done.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said a rent was recorded. Some of the kiosks were very old. As in the case of the Regent's Park kiosk, whenever the present tenures expired the opportunity would be taken of increasing the rents and improving the services.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he was sure the public appreciated the extension of Richmond Park made by His Majesty through the removal of the railing round the enclosure. The finance, however, showed an increase from £3,000 to £5,000. Certain offices were to be abolished and certain new ones created.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again this evening.