HL Deb 15 June 1835 vol 28 cc774-9

The Earl of Rosslyn after referring to Reports of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the best plan for re-building the two Houses of Parliament which was laid on their Lordships' Table on the 12th instant, moved that the Resolutions agreed to by that Committee, should be read seriatim. They were read accordingly as follows:—

Resolved.—That the Committee are of opinion that it is expedient that the designs for the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament should be left open to general competition.

That the Committee are of opinion that the style of the buildings should be either Gothic or Elizabethan.

That the Committee are of opinion that a lithographic plan should be made of Westminster Hall, and of the premises adjoining shewing the entire area to be occupied by the intended new buildings, and including the space to be gained by the intended embankment of the river.

That the Committee are of opinion that the plans should be delivered into the office of the Woods and Buildings at Whitehall on or before the 1st of November next.

That the Committee concur in the Resolution of the House of Commons, that a premium of 500l. should be given to each of the parties whose plans shall be recommended by the Commissioners, and that the successful competitor shall not be considered as having necessarily a claim to be intrusted with the execution of the work, but, if not so employed, that he shall receive an additional reward of 1,000l.

That the Committee are of opinion, that all designs should be executed on one scale—namely, of twenty feet to an inch; and that no coloured drawing of any kind should be received, nor any perspective ones, save such as shall be taken from situations selected and specified on the lithographic plan to be delivered to the parties.

That the Committee are of opinion, that all persons wishing to furnish plans for rebuilding of the two Houses of Parliament should, on application to the Office of the Woods and Works Department in Whitehall Place, be furnished, on the payment of 1l., with a copy of the Resolutions of the Rebuilding Committee of both Houses of Parliament, with a copy of the evidence relative to the proposed accommodation of the two Houses, and of the offices and other buildings thereunto belonging, and with a copy of the specified measurements, and of the lithographic plan on which is pointed out the ground destined as the site for the above-mentioned buildings.

That the Committee are of opinion, that in order to save any unnecessary delay in procuring the plans, or unnecessary trouble and expense to the parties furnishing them, it should not be required that any estimate should accompany a design; and should the Commissioners, on consideration, deem an estimate necessary to guide their decision, any party called upon to furnish it should receive compensation should his plan be ultimately rejected.

That the Committee are of opinion, that with the lithographic plan there should be given a specification of the general accommodation required, of the dimensions of the principal offices, of the number of persons which either House of Parliament should be calculated to hold on the floor, of the space to be allowed for each Member, and a description of the form of each House, so far as may have been determined by the respective Committees.

That the Committee are of opinion, that the statement annexed hereto, of the proposed dimensions of the rooms and offices required for conducting the necessary business of the House should be adopted.

That in the specification of the several measurements which have been adopted, the Committee have had it in view to afford a general guidance to the architects in preparing their plans, without intending to limit them to the precise dimensions prescribed for each room, with the understanding, however, that the several areas should not in general be less than the sizes specified.

That the Committee are of opinion, that the Usher of the Black Rod should have an official residence within the walls of the proposed building, and that it should contain a place of confinement for the persons committed to his custody.

That the Committee are of opinion, that in order more effectually to secure a correct decision upon the merits of the several plans, it is expedient that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, beseeching him to appoint five Commissioners to examine and report generally to the Committees of both Houses of Parliament upon the plans offered by the competitors; and that such Commissioners shall select and classify such of the plans, being not less than three, or more than five, in number, as shall seem to them most worthy the attention of the Committee, and shall state, if required, to the respective Committees, the grounds upon which the propriety of such selection and classification is founded, and that the plans to be submitted to the Commissioners shall be delivered into the Office of Woods and Buildings, on or before the 1st of November next.

That it appears to this Committee to be expedient that the said Commissioners so to be appointed, shall make their Report of the plans selected by them, on or before the 20th day of January next.

House of Lords and its Offices.—Proposed Accommodation. House of Lords.

That the House should be capable of containing 300 Peers on the floor, two feet being allowed for each Peer; and that the space occupied by each row of benches should not be less than three feet. That the same space be allowed below the Bar, and for the Throne, as was allowed in the House now occupied by the House of Commons. That the breadth of any new House to be erected should be such as to admit of one row of benches on each side, in addition to those which existed in the room lately occupied by this House, now occupied by the House of Commons. That a Lobby be provided for the Members of the House of Commons, and other persons waiting to be called in, of not less than about forty feet by thirty, opposite the centre of the great door, and a Hall outside of the said Lobby. That a passage be provided leading round the outside of the House, and communicating with the Lobbies and the gangways in the House.

The Earl of Malmesbury

begged to observe, that he thought that the space allotted for the House was not sufficient for the accommodation of their Lordships. It was agreed, he believed, that the accommodation proposed should be sufficient for 300 persons on the floor of the House. He saw no provision respecting galleries for their Lordships, and he hoped there would be none, for nothing could he more inconvenient than these galleries. According to the measurement given for the House, he found that there would not be more than two feet allowed for a sitting space, which he thought their Lordships would agree with him was not large enough for convenient accommodation. Upon the division on the Reform Bill, which he believed was the largest remembered in that House, the numbers present were 278. Since then there had been a considerable accession to their numbers; and, therefore, he should suggest that there should be an increase of three inches on the space of two feet now proposed to be allotted. This was his first proposition, by way of amendment. His next was, that some larger space should be allotted below the Bar, and in front of the Throne, for the accommodation of their Lordships' sons and other gentlemen. The gangways near the Throne were exceedingly narrow, and had often been found to be very inconvenient; he should, therefore, propose to alter the words of the Resolution, and instead of saying, "as large a space as before," he should propose the words be "larger than before."

The Earl of Rosslyn

explained that both these matters had been the subject of consideration, and that considerable inconvenience would arise from the proposed increase in the size of the House.

The Earl of Malmesbury

would not press his objection with respect to the space to be allotted to each Peer; but he should persist in his second object, that of enlarging the space between the Throne and the Bar. Much inconvenience was experienced when divisions took place, in which some noble Lords did not wish to join, and who, therefore, retired behind the Woolsack. On such occasions, the space, in the old House, had been most inconveniently crowded.

The Marquess of Lansdown

said, the Committee had fixed on the minimum of space as a direction to the architect that the House and its avenues should not be smaller than was described in the Report. He conceived that it would be better to submit to a little inconvenience on one or two occasions, rather than interfere with what had been done after mature consideration. In his opinion, the space proposed to be allowed between the Throne and the Woolsack was sufficiently large for every useful purpose. Indeed, conversations frequently took place behind the Woolsack, which must have the effect of distracting the Lord Chancellor's attention, and he was not anxious to afford additional facilities for such a practice. It was necessary to proceed as speedily as possible in order to give architects time to prepare their plans, and also time for the due consideration of those plans. It was proposed, that five Commissioners should be appointed by the Crown, to whom all the plans sent in should be referred. From these a few should be selected, and referred to the Committee of both Houses of Parliament, who were to decide ultimately on that which appeared to be the most eligible. Although neither the Committee of the House of Commons nor of the House of Lords had decided on the maximum or minimum of expense, yet he could assure their Lordships, that that subject had not escaped the attention of either Committee. It should not go forth, that though the Legislature were prepared to act with due liberality in raising a pile worthy of the country, they would not adhere to a system of strict economy on this as on other occasions. A due regard to the expense would form one of the principal ingredients in the ultimate consideration of the Committee, when the plans were submitted to them.

The Earl of Malmesbury

was still of opinion, that a greater space should be allowed between the Throne and the Woolsack.

Lord Brougham

said, the noble Earl seemed to think that the House proposed to be built would be too small, but it was possible that they might have to encounter the opposite inconvenience if they greatly extended the plan—the House in that case might be too large for the transaction of business. A very large hall might be splendid to look at, but might be very inconvenient for the performance of legislative duties. There was one point which his noble Friend, the President of the Council, had suggested to him that every one must admit to be worthy of serious consideration. He alluded to the expense. He would not be niggardly in the grant that ought to be appropriated to this purpose, but fair and just economy ought to form an element in the consideration of this subject. He would, ceteris paribus, have the work executed on the least expensive plan. They ought, while they raised a building properly suited to the purposes for which it was intended, to endeavour at the same time to suit the public pocket. For his own part he would rather have a plain building, but substantial and good, than one that would look fine and cost but little. To execute public works on this latter plan was the greatest blunder that could be committed; and he hoped that the system of competition which was to be adopted on the present occasion would not lead to such a result. He understood that the library was to consist of two rooms. Now, he certainly should prefer one spacious, lofty, and well-lighted room. He saw, by the Report, that there would be in and about the House between 100 and 120 rooms, besides two or three residences; and the other House of Parliament, he supposed, would be furnished in the same proportion. If this were so, it would be most expensive, and would besides take a very long time before the buildings could be completed.

The Earl of Malmesbury

then proposed the words "a larger space," which he insisted ought to be adopted, as there should be space enough not only for their Lordships' sons, who were to succeed them, but for distinguished foreigners.

The Earl of Wicklow

thought that the erection of a gallery would provide for visitors of all kinds better than an enlargement of the House.

The Earl of Limerick

was of opinion that there should be accommodation for the Peers of Ireland who were not Peers of Parliament.

Lord Kenyon proposed to refer back the matter to the Committee.

The Earl of Malmesbury was ready to accede to that proposal.

The Marquess of Lansdown objected to the delay.

Lord Denman

suggested that the noble Earl should print his Amendment and circulate it, as the Resolutions had been circulated among their Lordships.

The Earl of Malmesbury

should be willing to accede to the proposal but for the objection of delay raised by the noble Marquess opposite.

The Marquess of Lansdown

said, that the debate might be adjourned till tomorrow to consider of the matter finally.

The House divided on the Earl of Malmesbury's Amendment, Contents 25; not Contents 30; Majority 5.

The Resolutions were agreed to; and on the Motion of Lord Rosslyn, an Address to the King, praying his Majesty to take the necessary steps to carry them into effect, was also agreed to.

Back to