HL Deb 21 June 1878 vol 241 cc2-7

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.


, in moving that the House do now resolve itself into Committee, said, it might be convenient to their Lordships if he indicated the position in which the measure now stood; and, in doing so, he could not refrain from protesting against the course which had been pursued in regard to it. The Bill had been read a second time in their Lordships' House after a few observations and suggestions had been made with respect to its provisions; and he then, with the permission of the House, named a day for going into Committee. That day was the Monday after the Whitsuntide Recess; and no Notice whatever was given to him that there would be any objection to the measure being proceeded with on that date. Last Monday, however, on moving that the House go into Committee on the Bill, he found that there were some objections to the measure; and his noble Friend at the Table (the Earl of Redesdale) had desiderated further time for its consideration. Indeed, his noble Friend appeared to wish that the whole of Clause 4 of the Bill, which referred to the general power of the Metropolitan Board of Works as to monuments, should be struck out; but it was obviously impossible for any Member of their Lordships' House, who had charge of a measure of this description, which had already passed the other branch of the Legislature, to get up at a moment's Notice and say that he consented to such a deletion, and, accordingly, he consented to delay the Bill until to-day. But he confessed he could have wished that more Notice had been given to him of the objections entertained to the measure. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley of Alderley) objected to Clause 3, which provided that the obelisk known as Cleopatra's Needle should be placed under the care of the Metropolitan Board of Works, who should preserve and maintain it for the benefit of the public, and who might, "from time to time, erect, in connection therewith, any statues or other works of art;" and his noble Friend seemed to desire that the Government should be invested with some sort of authority over that Board. The noble Lord, however, scarcely appeared to understand what the real position of matters was. The Metropolitan Board of Works was constituted by the Act of 1855; and it was perfectly true that, at that time, the First Commissioner of Works had a certain control over its operations; but, in 1862, this was found to be so inconvenient, and was so much objected to by the First Commissioner himself, that, after full discussion, a Bill was passed taking away the power which had previously been reserved to him. What his noble Friend proposed to do was to restore, in the present instance, the very authority which had been advisedly removed by the wisdom of Parliament 15 years ago; and, not only so, but to place the First Commissioner of Works in a position which that right hon. Gentleman himself had not the slightest wish to occupy. He hoped the noble Lord would withdraw the Amendment, of which he had given Notice, and under which it would be necessary for the Metropolitan Board of Works to obtain the consent and approval of Her Majesty's First Commissioner; but, if the Amendment were proposed, he should feel bound to ask that the sense of the House be taken upon it. He was prepared, however, to make an alteration which, he hoped, might, to some extent, satisfy his noble Friend. He was willing to strike out the words "from time to time" at the end of the clause, and to substitute for the words "statues or other" the word "appropriate." This particular provision of the measure would then run— When the obelisk has been erected on the Victoria Embankment, the same shall thereupon be under the care and control of the Board, and the Board shall preserve and maintain the same for the benefit of the public, and the Board may erect in connection therewith any appropriate works of art. He now came to the objections of the noble Earl at the Table (the Earl of Redesdale). That noble Earl took exception to Clause 4, which was in terms which it might be as well to quote— The Board may, from time to time, accept as a gift or bequest any monument, or any moneys for the purchase of any monument, and erect or permit the erection of any monument upon any of the said embankments or lands"—those of the Thames—"and the Board may preserve and maintain every such monument, and shall have the control and management thereof for the benefit of the public. The noble Earl, in objecting to this clause, appeared to be afraid that some future Board of Works might be induced to purchase statues at the expense of the ratepayers; but that might be avoided by a verbal Amendment in the clause which he was prepared to make, and which would restrict the power of the Board in erecting or permitting the erection of monuments, to such monuments or works of art as had been given by private donors, or purchased with sums not raised from the ratepayers, but bequeathed for that special purpose. Even if he were not prepared, however, to make an such Amendment, he thought that the Bill, having passed through "another place," where the interests of the taxpayers were specially watched, their Lordships might feel satisfied in throwing upon the other branch of the Legislature the responsibility of dealing with this particular part of the question. Other statues had already been erected upon the Embankment. Those statues at the present moment were, to a certain extent, in charge of the Metropolitan Board of Works; and it was obviously undesirable that such works—interesting, important, and valuable—should not be placed under some legitimate custody. He did not believe that that custody could be in safer hands than those of the Metropolitan Board of Works. He had been asked —"Can you not trust to the discretion of the First Commissioner of Works?" He did not hesitate to say that there had been First Commissioners to whom he would not have been ready to extend the confidence which he placed in the right hon. Gentleman who now occupied that position; but it was to be remembered that there were often changes in the Office in question, even during the continuance of the same Administration; and, upon a consideration of the whole circumstances of the case, he would not be willing to accept any Amendment which substituted the responsibility of the First Commissioner of Works for that of the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board. He hoped that what he had said, and the suggestion which he had made, would remove the difficulty of the noble Earl (the Earl of Redesdale), in regard to the 4th clause; but, if the noble Earl were not satisfied, the burden of proposing that which might have the effect of leaving the Embankment in its naked deformity would rest upon his own shoulders.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."—(The Viscount Midleton.)


said, he entirely approved of the 3rd clause as it had been amended by the noble Viscount. It would be a serious matter for any one man to say that such a statue, or such a monument, should or should not be erected on the Embankment; and he could well understand the First Commissioner of Works hesitating to undertake such a responsibility. At the same time, it seemed to him very undesirable that Parliament should deliberately give the power of determination in such a matter to a body like the Metropolitan Board of Works. That Board was elected from the different vestries. No adequate responsibility would rest upon it, as a whole, in dealing with the question; and it might lie with a mere majority to decide whether a monument should be put up at the public expense, against, perhaps, the opinion of their Chairman, in whom the noble Viscount was disposed to confide. As had been truly said, there were already monuments on the Embankment. There was the statue of John Stuart Mill; but, in connection with the application for permission to erect that statue, difficulties had arisen as to the site—one near to Outram being asked for—and those difficulties were only solved after a good deal of negotiation. There was also the statue of Brunel, an estimable man, and a distinguished civil engineer, who had, no doubt, been well remunerated for the services he had performed in that capacity. But what was most known about him?—simply, that he had invented the broad gauge, which had caused expense and trouble to the railway company which adopted it, and of which more than half had been already removed, and the remainder would probably be gone in a few more years. He did not think such a power ought to be granted as that which was sought under Clause 4, and therefore he should be glad of its omission from the Bill. It would not be expedient that Parliament should give authority to the Metropolitan Board of Works to erect and to maintain at the public expense what statues they thought fit.


said, when he gave Notice of his Amendment, that the consent and approval of Her Majesty's First Commissioner of Works should be obtained, he did not regard the question as one of competency between the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works and the First Commissioner of Works. He desired to have some check upon the discretion of the Board of Works, and to have the control vested in some one on whom Parliament could call for an explanation. The Chairman of the Board of Works need not necessarily have a seat in Parliament; and, if he had, there was no obligation on his part to answer questions. He would, however, consent to the Amendment in the clause proposed by the noble Viscount who had charge of the Bill.

Motion agreed to; House in Committee accordingly.

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3.

The words "from time to time" were omitted; as were, also, the words "statues or other," and the word "appropriate" was inserted in lieu of "statues or other."

Clause, as amended, agreed tö.

Clause 4.


said, he entirely agreed with the observations of the noble Earl (the Earl of Redesdale), that this clause ought to be omitted; and, as the noble Earl, being in the Chair, could not make a Motion to that effect, he would himself move the omission of Clause 4.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause omitted.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Remaining Clauses agreed to.

Amendments made; the Report thereof to be received on Tuesday next.