§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL GRANVILLE moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, it was very desirable, particularly after what had passed in another place, that public attention should be called to the state of our public offices. Disposed as these offices now were over different parts of the metropolis, the inconvenience that arose in the transaction of public business could hardly be told, and the advantage of concentrating them on one spot could only be appreciated by 1623 those who had experience of the present system. It was quite clear that there was but one spot in the metropolis in which it would be practicable, with a view to convenience and propriety, to place our public offices, and that was near the Houses of Parliament. It was also evident that a site so situated could not be obtained except at great expense. But then the whole of the plot of ground between Downing Street and George Street was covered with as poor buildings as any part of the metropolis, and he begged to impress upon their Lordships and on the public the advisability of acquiring the fee of that property with the view of having at command a full frontage from the Treasury to the Houses of Parliament. In the Bill then before their Lordships something was proposed to be done, but that something was very little; and so far from being calculated to secure to the nation the property at a cheap rate, it would have the effect of raising the value of the neighbouring property, which it would be necessary for the public ultimately to acquire. He thought it desirable that that notice should be given for the whole of the plot, and that power should be obtained in the ensuing session to get possession of the fee-simple of the land. It would not be necessary to proceed to pull down the whole of the houses, but if the fee-simple was obtained it would always be in the power of Parliament to do much or little; and in getting possession of the ground they need not even purchase the leases. Without any very extraordinary outlay possession might be obtained of the whole of the ground which would ultimately be required. He trusted that during the vacation the attention of the Government would be directed to this subject. He begged also to remind the Government of a proposition which was made some years ago by parties who said they were ready to undertake to obtain the ground, clear it, and erect the required buildings on it, and, for a certain number of thousands a year as rent for their expenditure, let it to the Government on such terms that the whole would ultimately fall into the possession of the Crown. If that plan could be carried out the works would be more economically built, and the property could be acquired for the country by a certain annual vote, and not by an extraordinary outlay in the first instance. He did not gay whether it would be desirable or not to accept such a proposal, but it was deserving of consider- 1624 ation. He had before him the designs of these parties, and they proposed to adopt the whole of that portion of the buildings now erected in Whitehall, and to add other buildings as desired, and carry them on with a full frontage down to the Houses of Parliament, and to build all in a magnificent style. He hoped, however, that the attention of the Government would be turned to the necessity of obtaining the full frontage which would be ultimately required.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, the public were extremely indebted to the noble Lord for calling the attention of that House, and of the other House of Parliament, to the circumstances connected with the state of our public offices. Not only the officials, but the public at large were deeply interested in this matter, for if hundreds of the former felt the inconveniences attending the present state of the offices, thousands of the latter who were obliged to transact business there also felt them. He entirely joined with the noble Lord in the hope that Her Majesty's Government would, during the recess, turn their attention to the subject, and that the Members of the other House of Parliament would likewise consider the amount of expenditure which might be incurred by an ill-placed economy. Every one knew the folly, in his own private house, of doing things piecemeal, the result of which often was to cause an ultimate expenditure of double what would have sufficed, in the first instance, if done on a plan and as a whole.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, he thought the proposal referred to by the noble Lord, to erect the required offices on a certain specified rental, was worthy of consideration. The experiment had been already tried, in the time of Lord Liverpool, with the barracks in the Regent's Park. The advantage of such a plan was that they saw at once what would be the total expense of carrying it out. He agreed with the noble Lord that the acquisition of the fee of the land to George Street was most desirable. It might not be necessary to occupy the buildings, but the Crown having become the owner would be able to make use of the ground as it might judge best. So far as giving the notices, Parliament ought in the next Session to be enabled to deal with that question.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
concurred in the great importance of informing the public mind as to the real wants of the Govern- 1625 ment in respect to public offices, and the more so, because a right hon. Friend in another place, of great weight and official experience, had stated there was plenty of accommodation for other offices in the building now occupied by the Privy Council and the Board of Trade. He (Earl Granville) would appeal to his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade whether his office was not very much crowded, and whether some departments under him were not inconveniently placed out of the building altogether.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
with regard to his own office, so far from there being any room to spare, there was absolutely no waiting-room for persons who wished to see him or the Secretary—that the Members of the Council had no room of their own, and were obliged to use the Boardroom—and that a large portion of the clerks nearly struck last year in consequence of the great inconvenience they were put to from the want of proper accommodation. He, therefore, hoped that the statement of his right hon. Friend would not mislead the public. His noble Friend behind him knew that the report which they had lately received on the system of administration in Paris ended by a statement that that system could not be applied to England, owing to that disconnection of departments which was caused by their being in different buildings. He hoped the matter would be properly brought under the notice of the Committee of the House of Commons which was to be appointed next year.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
thought great advantage would accrue to the naval service by placing the whole departments connected with it under one roof. Somerset-house would form a magnificent structure for uniting the whole of those departments, and then the Admiralty at Whitehall could be disposed of for other offices. He hoped the Government would consider this important question, not only in reference to Downing Street, but in reference to all the other Government offices, and particularly that great department—the Admiralty.
§ Motion agreed to,
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed for To-morrow.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.