HL Deb 29 July 1881 vol 264 cc107-9

LORD LAMINGTON, in rising to ask, Whether, before coming to any determination as to the comtemplated improvements near Saint Margaret's, Her Majesty's Government will consider how far it is desirable to carry out the recommendations of the Committee on Public Buildings of 1878? said, he had put this Question on the Paper, because he had seen in the public journals a statement that Her Majesty's Government intended to give the not very large sum of£l,000 towards the improvement of the ground near St. Margaret's Church, Westminster. The Metropolitan Board of Works, it was stated, would give another £1,000, and the Government intended to appeal to the public to subscribe the other £2,000 that would be required. He would not ask their Lordships to express an opinion as to whether this was a very dignified mode of proceeding to raise £4,000 for effecting improvements near the Houses of Parliament. At all events, the circumstance of the Government giving £1,000 indicated that they took an interest in the improvement of the ground in the vicinity of the Houses of Parliament. When he brought this question forward last year Her Majesty's Government said they were involved in so many wars that there was no money available for any improvement of the Metropolis. But now it was stated that owing to the policy of the Government there was profound peace in Afghanistan and South Africa; and, therefore, he took the present opportunity of asking the Government whether they meant to do anything in the way of giving effect to the recommendations of the Committee of 1878. In the opinion of that Committee, it would be economical to borrow £1,500,000. However, he would leave that part of the Report alone, and would only ask whether Her Majesty's Government intended to take down the houses at the end of Parliament Street? The approach to the Houses of Parliament was now a disgrace to the country. Moreover, to leave it in its present state would lead to increased expenditure, as the Government would eventually have to pay more for the leases of the houses. The Government could very well afford to spend £200,000 in buying up the buildings, and they had better do it at once, because, in consequence of the policy which the Government had adopted, they might possibly be engaged in a new Transvaal War by this time next year. The improvement of a great Metropolis was a question worthy of the consideration of statesmen. The French, after paying some milliards of francs to the Germans, voted, in one year, £1,000,000 sterling for the improvement of Paris, and in Spain, the Government had lately expended £2,000,000 in the improvement of the capital. He trusted Her Majesty's Government would be able to hold out a hope that effect would soon be given to the recommendations of the Committee of 1878.


said, that he never knew a time, since he had anything to do with public life, when this question was not under the consideration of statesmen. It was under the consideration of the Government of which he was formerly a Member; it was, doubtless, under the consideration of the late Government; and it was under the consideration of the present Government. Therefore, as far as the consideration of statesmen was concerned, his noble Friend had no reason to complain. He understood his noble Friend to argue that, as they were now in a state of profound peace, and were, consequently, relieved from a large war expenditure, this would be the proper time to spend some £2,000,000 on pub-lie buildings. He could assure his noble Friend that to embark in the scheme which had been recommended would be to ask for an expenditure that could not be counted by hundreds of thousands. The whole matter had always been one of very great difficulty. Individually, he did not like any more than his noble Friend to see the block of houses in Parliament Street; but, on the other hand, there were a variety of matters to be determined before they were pulled down. The most important part of the whole subject was the convenience of the public offices. He was afraid lest his noble Friend should be dissatisfied with the only answer he was able to give him. That answer was that the subject was really under the earnest consideration of the Government, which would in a very short time, owing to the pressure from the War Office and the Admiralty for further accommodation, have to decide what scheme should be adopted for the extension of those Offices; and that, of course, would involve deciding whether to act on the recommendations of the Committee of 1878.