HL Deb 09 June 1845 vol 81 cc203-9
Lord Wharncliffe

, in reference to some observations made on Thursday last by a noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Brougham), respecting a supposed assurance given by the architect of the new Houses of Parliament, wished to say, that he conceived the whole matter to have arisen out of a misapprehension. The noble and learned Lord was understood to say, that the assurance given on the subject was not of greater value than the piece of paper upon which it was written. It was not to be expected that the gentleman to whom that language was applied would remain indifferent to such an accusation; it did affect him most seriously; and he hoped that the noble and learned Lord would at once see the matter in its true light. Mr. Barry had written to him (Lord Wharncliffe) a letter, in which he said, that he was not in the habit of making assurances which he could not carry out, nor did he think that he had given an assurance or pledge that the new House of Lords should be finished at any particular time. Undoubtedly he had expressed an opinion, when asked as an architect if the House would be finished at a certain time, that it would be so finished; but it did not amount to anything that could be called an assurance. The noble Lord then went on to say, that "Mr. Barry was all but resisting the authority of the House; that he was fencing with the House." Mr. Barry wished him to assure their Lordships, that he had no intention of resisting their authority or opposing their wishes, or of fencing with the House; but at the same time, that he was undoubtedly very unwilling to make any statement which could be construed into an opinion as to when the Houses of Parliament would be finished. The noble and learned Lord further went on to say, "he (referring to Mr. Barry) foolishly, shortsightedly, and, as he will find to his cost, most ignorantly, fancies that he has high protection out of this House. He will find himself mistaken." He (Lord Wharncliffe) was authorized to assure their Lordships that Mr. Barry did not rely on any protection out of that House; he (Mr. Barry) had been honoured with the approval of many persons; but he was not aware that he had any protection of the nature referred to by the noble and learned Lord. His noble and learned Friend afterwards objected, with some warmth and energy, to an adjournment, without cause shown; stating that, "after having lost the whole day, owing to Mr. Barry and those who protected Mr. Barry out of the House, he objected to lose another morning of judicial business without cause shown." This was, undoubtedly, a very hard accusation. Mr. Barry regretted exceedingly the inconvenience the noble and learned Lord had suffered; and he (Lord Wharncliffe) might be allowed to read to their Lordships the concluding part of the letter he had received from Mr. Barry on the subject. Mr. Barry says— Relative to the new Houses of Parliament, I think it right to acquaint your Lordships that you are under an erroneous impression that I have any protection out of the House. It is my most earnest desire to consult the convenience of the House in all respects; and I am anxious to take this opportunity of stating, that I will do all in my power to consult the wishes of the House, as to the completion of the building next Session.

Lord Brougham

said, whether Mr. Barry had acted prudently or otherwise in bringing this subject under their Lordships' notice, was for himself and the noble Lord (Lord Wharncliffe) to determine. But the noble Lord had adopted a most unusual course, and one which was never permitted, of bringing before Parliament a letter written by a person out of doors to a Member of either House, complaining of anything that had been said in the course of debate. Such a proceeding he had never heard of before. He never knew such an irregular proceeding in either House, as a complaint being brought before them from a person out of doors relative to what had been said in debate. Such a proceeding was never allowed, though complaint might be made respecting anything that appeared upon the Votes. However, he would make Mr. Barry a present of that, and let him (Mr. Barry) suppose that his proceedings had been in every way regular. He (Lord Brougham) had only to say, that he had no one single word of his former statement—which was very accurately reported, though he did not think quite in such strong language as he had used—to alter. He was bound, injustice to Mr. Barry, to repeat what he had before said. Whether Mr. Barry had given an assurance or an opinion on the subject, was to him perfectly indifferent; if an architect, examined on oath before a Committee, chose to declare that, according to the best of his judgment and belief, their Lordships would be in their new House before a certain period, that, in his view, amounted to an assurance, not a mere opinion. That was not only an assurance, but a positive opinion. When he (Lord Brougham) said, that that assurance was not worth the paper on which it was written, he had over-estimated its value. Mr. Barry, like many persons who obtained small damages in court, applied for a new trial, and got still smaller damages. Mr. Barry got little by his first statement, but he gained still less by his second—his amended statement. He (Lord Brougham) made the statement the other night with perfect good humour—in as good-humoured a manner as the noble Lord (Lord Wharncliffe) had defended his friend. He (Lord Brougham) was as good-humoured as he could be, when he felt that that House had been ill-treated. He was not the only Member of the Committee who entertained this opinion; he believed that every other Member, without exception, concurred in his views. He (Lord Brougham), on a former occasion, analyzed the evidence on this subject, and showed most distinctly contradiction upon contradiction in that evidence; and he then made a much more serious charge against Mr. Barry than he had done now, because that evidence was given upon oath, and he proved that it was incorrect. He had, however, been forced to adopt this course by Mr. Barry himself. Mr. Barry had got the name of delay; as Quintilian said of Tully, that he was not only an orator, but the name of eloquence itself—as Lord Coke said of Lyttelton, that his name was not only that of an author and a judge, but of the law itself—so Mr. Barry was not only a Gothic architect, not only was he a dilatory man, but the very name of delay itself. Mr. Barry had distinctly stated to them, as one reason of the House not being in the desired state of forwardness, that he wished the whole building to be prepared at once, in order that there might be a great show at the opening. Then, from a regard to the Fine Arts, their Lordships were to be detained until the new Houses could be adorned. One great question was, whether the corridors and apartments were suitable for a display of the Fine Arts; but the only art they had to do with, was the somewhat coarse art of legislation and deciding cases. It seemed that the Commission on the Fine Arts was a very important body. No doubt it was; but their ingenuity seemed to be exercised in finding out means of delaying their Lordships in the occupation of the new building. But undoubtedly that was a very important Commission, and why? Because his Royal Highness Prince Albert was at the head of it. He (Lord Brougham) said this in so many words; and he did not care whether Mr. Barry liked what he said or not. Mr. Barry looked to that Commission; he wished to have their Lordships' House made subservient to the views of that Commission; and their Lordships might depend upon it that this was the reason they were kept out of the new House. It was for Mr. Barry to consider whether it was prudent on his part to push inquiry on this subject farther. If it was their Lordships' wish, he (Lord Brougham) was ready to give notice of a Motion on the subject; but he thought it more advisable that the Committee of his noble Friend near him (the Marquess of Clanricarde) should be revived, and that Mr. Barry should be again examined.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

said, there could be no doubt that the proceeding of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Wharncliffe) had been irregular; but it was not to be considered as a precedent. He well remembered what his noble and learned Friend said on Thursday night on this subject; and having heard the language of his noble Friend read, he was prepared to say, that he entirely and fully concurred in every word that had fallen from him. If he had thought such a course would have led to any result, he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) would himself have submitted a Motion to their Lordships; but they were placed in a somewhat extraordinary predicament. They possessed very little power; and this Mr. Barry had more than once intimated to them in Committee. He was prepared to say, that Mr. Barry had given assurances which had not been fulfilled. He did not wish, however, to be understood as casting any reflection upon Mr. Barry, except in his professional capacity. He referred to the opinion and assurance given by Mr. Barry as a professional man—as an architect; and he must say that Mr. Barry had given several assurances which had been totally falsified. What was the case now? It had been said in the first instance, that the whole building would be finished in about two years; afterwards they were told, over and over again, that a pledge was given that the portion to be first completed was the House of Lords; and now, at the end of eight years, during a great part of which it appeared from the evidence that Mr. Barry was uncontrolled, he declined to give any pledge or assurance as to the period at which their Lordships might expect to occupy the New Houses. This showed how little credit and reliance were to be attached to Mr. Barry's assurances. Mr. Barry, in the letter read to-night by the noble Lord opposite, said that it was his earnest desire to comply with the wishes of their Lordships; but he must say that Mr. Barry's conduct had not evinced any such feeling. There was no doubt that the time, the labour, and the money which had been expended in completing the beautiful river front and the towers, would—if they had been seriously applied with that object—have enabled their Lordships now to possess proper accommodation. He hoped the Committee would re-assemble very shortly; and that they would do all in their power to effect this object. They were, however, as the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) had said, met with the statement that attention must be paid to the Fine Arts. Undoubtedly, the Fine Arts ought to be introduced, with a view to render the new building a suitable place for the meetings of the Senate of this great nation; but the Fine Arts ought to be made subservient to their Lordships, instead of their accommodation being made subservient to the Fine Arts. It appeared from the evidence that some delay had occurred from the form of the approaches, or the shapes of the roofs and corridors not having been determined upon; because it had not been decided whether they should be decorated with statuary or painting; but the skill of the artist ought to be applied to the decoration of rooms formed for convenience, instead of making the construction of the rooms subservient to the display of his art.

Lord Campbell

said, he believed Mr. Barry to be a very great architect, and a very honourable man; but he must say, that he thought he had been trifling with their Lordships' House. He was convinced their Lordships might now have been properly accommodated in the New Houses; but, for some reason or another, Mr. Barry seemed determined to set them at defiance. The Society of Lincoln's Inn had just erected a new hall, which, in his (Lord Campbell's opinion, would be almost as great an ornament to the metropolis as the New Houses of Parliament. That hall was commenced only a year and a half ago; and the Society were to take possession of it next month. He believed that if Mr. Hardwicke, the architect of that building, had been employed to erect the New Houses of Parliament, they would by this time have been perfected, though they might not perhaps have been equally distinguished by Gothic ornament.

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