HL Deb 17 July 1866 vol 184 cc924-7


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of this Bill, explained that its object was to authorize the purchase of a certain portion of land belonging to the parish of St. Martin, and gave permissive power to purchase the site of schools in the hands of the Charity Commissioners, called Archbishop Tenison's Schools. The land in question was little more than an acre in extent, and was situate at the back of the National Gallery. It would further authorize the closing of the passage through the basement of the National Gallery, and also of the street behind that building. He did not think it was necessary to say anything further in explanation of the Bill as it had undergone discussion in the House of Commons, in which it had been introduced by the late Government. It was desirable that the Bill should be passed through the House without delay, as there was a private Bill depending upon it, introduced by the authorities of the parish of St. Martin, authorizing them to re-build their schools on other land. The expenditure which would be necessitated by the Bill was estimated at £120,000, which was held by the architect to be a fair and reasonable sum.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a." —(The Lord President.)


wished to ask the noble Duke whether he had any objection to postpone going into Committee on this Bill. The matter had been freely discussed in the House of Commons, and he understood that the whole question would shortly be raised in that House, and until then it was desirable that the further progress of the Bill should be delayed. The Burlington House scheme had been well considered by the late Government. There were various and weighty objections to the scheme of the present Bill, and, as it was a matter in which a large sum of money was involved, it would be more satisfactory if the whole question should be thoroughly sifted and discussed in the House of Commons.


said, he trusted a final decision upon the question would not be come to by passing the second reading of the Bill. The questions relating to the National Gallery and the Royal Academy had been long mixed up with extraneous matter and regarded with an amount of prejudice which was truly amazing, and it had given rise to most violent and unseemly discussions in the House of Commons; but it seemed likely that the whole matter would now be considered in a fair and reasonable manner on the basis of a Motion soon to be brought before the House of Commons. The old objections to the propositions to remove the National Gallery and Royal Academy to Kensington were now completely met. The assertion that Kensington was too far distant from the rest of the metropolis for the purpose of a National Gallery site could now no longer be made, seeing how largely metropolitan railway accommodation had been increased. There was no doubt that Trafalgar Square formed a very handsome site; but it was in the midst of a populous district, crowded by traffic, and by no means fitted for an exhibition which people visited with a view to continued study rather than cursory inspection. As to the proposition with regard to Burlington House, if acted upon, it would, in his opinion, be a wanton destruction of one of the few handsome buildings London possessed. It was certainly unadvisable that a final decision should be come to before the House of Commons had further considered the matter in the light of the Motion of which notice had been given; and he trusted that inquiries would be made of Members of the House of Commons as to their present opinion upon the matter. When that had been ascertained and the feeling of the country properly estimated the Government might during the recess give the matter their careful consideration, and come to a decision upon it satisfactory to Parliament and the country.


was understood to support the request for postponement.


asked for information with respect to the agreement come to between the Government and St. Martin's parish. As matters at present stood it appeared to him that if St. Martin's Workhouse were not taken before the 31st of December, 1869, the parochial authorities would not have compulsory powers to acquire land as a site for their buildings, as their powers lapsed at that date.


I think it is hardly possible to accede to the proposition for delay. Without entering into the question whether the present is the best arrangement that could be made, I am quite certain that after the twelve or fourteen years this question has remained unsettled, the very worst arrangement that could be made would be better than nothing at all. During the whole time this matter has remained unsettled both the National Gallery and the Royal Academy have been cramped for room, and the greatest possible injury and inconvenience has arisen to the public in consequence. It is most important that no more time should be lost in coming to a decision upon the question. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Houghton) says that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon the subject, notwithstanding that the Bill we are now considering was framed in accordance with a vote of the House of Commons passed in 1864, that the Bill itself has passed through all its stages in that House, and that the money for the purpose of making the changes proposed by the Bill has been voted—and I know no better way in which the House of Commons can express its views than by passing the Bill and voting the money. When all this has been done, and contracts have been entered into in consequence, and only three weeks of the Session remain, we are asked to wait until we have ascertained whether the House of Commons will pass a Resolution in direct opposition to the principles of a Bill which it has read three times and sent up for your Lordships' endorsement. I cannot help regarding that as an unreasonable request. I have every possible respect for the opinion of the House of Commons, and if that House before the passing of the Bill through its various stages shows in an undoubted manner that it has changed its opinion with reference to the measure, I do not mean to say that that might not be sufficient ground to warrant your Lordships in considering whether it would be advisable to proceed with the Bill. But to ask me at this period of the Session, when the House of Commons has passed the Bill introduced by the Government, to postpone the measure for further consideration, appears to be only calculated to continue that uncertainty which has existed for so many years. I have not the slightest wish to hurry the Bill through its stages, but I am afraid that I cannot consent to the postponement which is, I think, unreasonably demanded.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed for Thursday next.