HL Deb 23 March 1871 vol 205 cc450-2

, who had given Notice to ask whether any arrangement has been made by the First Commissioner of Works for the completion within a specified time of the Wellington monument, said, that in deference to the request of the First Commissioner of Works, he would postpone his inquiry as to arrangements for the completion of this monument, having been assured that an arrangement was being made under conditions and guarantees which would be satisfactory to their Lordships and the public; and that, after the terms had been settled, the Government would proceed with the work which had been so long in abeyance. Nearly 15 years had elapsed since he, then sitting in the other House, had suggested the propriety of erecting a monument to the memory of the late Duke of Wellington; yet, at the present time, only the less important half of the work had been completed, while the whole amount voted had been expended; and he was sure that their Lordships would agree with him that it was high time for this wearisome and disgraceful case of incapacity and want of good faith on the one hand, and of official mismanagement and laches on the other, should be brought to an end; and the House would eagerly await the announcement shortly expected to be made, that means had been devised for the completion, within a reasonable period, of this unfortunate and long-suffering undertaking. In fairness, he ought to state that this result would be entirely due to the energy and determination displayed by the present First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Ayrton) in his arduous and protracted struggle with Mr. Stevens, the artist, and his coadjutor, Mr. Penrose—energy and determination which contrasted favourably with the conduct of his immediate predecessor in office, who did nothing; while the authorities were, year after year, set at defiance, while public expectation was baffled, and while public money was squandered. He hoped that as soon as the arrangement had been concluded the noble Marquess opposite would give the House full information on the subject.


said, he was obliged by the courtesy of the noble Earl in postponing his Motion. He hoped he should be in a position immediately after Easter to afford their Lordships a full explanation of the course Her Majesty's Government intended to pursue in reference to this matter. As he had already said to the noble Earl opposite, it would be desirable when he had a statement to make, that it should refer not to what was being done, but to what had actually been done. He desired, however, to make one remark with reference to one part of the noble Earl's statement. While he entirely agreed with the noble Earl that the present Commissioner of Works had acted with a decision most creditable to him, he regretted that the noble Earl should have said that the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman in office had been guilty of remissness in this matter. He must remind the noble Earl that this scandal—for that was certainly the only word that could properly be used—did not date from the tenure of office of Mr. Ayrton's immediate predecessor, but had been going on under several successive occupants of office, and was attributable not to any remissness on their part, but to the indulgence with which artists were always treated by those who employed them.


said, he had intended to use the plural number, and to apply his remarks to every First Commissioner of Works from 1858 to the present time.