HL Deb 18 February 1861 vol 161 cc491-2

moved for a Return showing the Sources and Amounts of Receipts and Payments in the Account Current of the Metropolitan Board of Works with the Parish of St. George, Hanover Square, from the 1st of January, 1856, to the 25th of March, 1857, wherein it is shown on the last mentioned Date that the Parish was in debt to the Metropolitan Board on a Balance of £4,417 3s. 2d.; and detailing in the Return how that Balance could have teen arrived at without the Sum of £1,099 3s. 4d. having formed one of the Payments as against the Receipts in such Account.


said, the Return in question did not appear to be within the province of the Government. He had received from the Chairman of the Board of Works a letter, from which he would read the following passages:— I, Greek Street, Feb. 18, 1861. My Lord,—From the terms in which Lord Torrington has couched his notice, being nearly identical with expressions used by a member of this Board, I am led to infer that his Lordship is moving at the request of Mr. Leslie, who has several times reiterated charges of inaccuracy in the account referred to in the Notice of Motion. These charges were carefully investigated by our Finance Committee, of which Mr. Leslie is a member, and were demonstrated, in a Report I have the honour to enclose you, to be utterly without foundation. Mr. Leslie, however, subsequently repeated the charges at the vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square. A select committee of this body attended at this office, at my special request, for the purpose of examining our documents and officers, who, after mature deliberation, arrived at a similar conclusion, affirming the accuracy of our accounts, and reporting that Mr. Leslie's allegations were wholly unfounded. I am not aware of any objection to the House ordering the Return; the Board are always most desirous of affording the fullest information on all, especially their financial, proceedings; but it is, I submit, a very inconvenient course that a gentleman should endeavour to reopen in "another place" a question which has been most minutely and carefully investigated by two independent bodies. I have the honour to be, my Lord, your obedient servant, J. THWAITES. The Right Hon. Earl Granville, K.G., Lord President.


rose to protest against the doctrine that a body, under the authority of which large sums of public money were administered, and to which enormous powers of taxation were entrusted, were not bound to furnish to Parliament returns respecting their proceedings. Such a doctrine could not be listened to for one moment. Parliament called for returns affecting county and parochial expenditure, and this Board ought not to raise the slightest objection when a similar return was moved for. He knew nothing about Mr. Leslie, except that in the vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square, this gentleman had effected a large amount of reform, for which he received the thanks of the whole parish. So far from a local inquiry forming a bar to inquiry by Parliament it was an additional ground for Parliamentary interference. The Board of Works had succeeded to the performance of the duties of the old Commission of Sewers, who occupied an office which they found sufficient for their accommodation. The first act of the new Board, however, was to purchase the mansion of the Berkeley family in one of the most expensive quarters of London, and then entirely to rebuild it. If they had determined to indulge themselves in a beautiful situation adjoining the Park at their own expense they might undoubtedly have done so without reflection. But all this was done with money raised by taxation.


said, the principal allegation made by Mr. Leslie appeared to be that the parish of St. George's had paid the Board of Works the same sum twice over. Into this point Mr. Leslie asked for an investigation; a Committee of Inquiry was appointed, to which every facility was offered by the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Committee came to the unanimous decision that the charge had not been substantiated; the decision was stated in language the least likely to be offensive to Mr. Leslie, as it recognized his ability and services and recognized the integrity of his motives. The Report of the Committee had been circulated among the ratepayers; and, he admitted, if the great body of those ratepayers were not satisfied with it, but still thought there were grounds for the allegation of Mr. Leslie, they might call upon the Board of Works to produce the accounts moved for.

Motion agreed to; Return ordered to be laid before the House.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.