HL Deb 24 February 1885 vol 294 cc1143-4

asked, Whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to empower a private company to widen Parliament Street and to carry out all the other projected improvements in the vicinity of the Houses of Parliament? The noble Lord said, he desired to congratulate the noble Earl (the Earl of Rosebery) on his appointment as First Commissioner of Works, and the House upon the fact that that Department was now directly represented in their Lordships' House. There was great need of the Public Offices being concentrated in the vicinity of the houses of Parliament, and it was with regret that he found that it had been decided that the new Admiralty and War Offices were not to be built on the George Street site. The site chosen was not only too distant from the Houses of Parliament, but the buildings would be a disfigurement and injury to the Park. The proposed scheme to which his Question referred would prevent that concentration of the Public Offices in the vicinity of Parliament which had always been considered so desirable, and leave the land in the hands of private speculators. He understood that the Government intended to place all these improvements in the hands of a private Company—that was to say, would give the Company that site which was the best for Public Offices; but he could not believe that such a thing on the part of the Government could be possible. He thought that it was the duty of the Government to carry out the improvements required, and to obtain the best sites they could in the neighbourhood of Parliament for the numerous Offices, independently of the Admiralty and War Offices which now needed to be located there.


in reply, said, he had no reason to complain of the tone of the noble Lord in asking this Question; and he should not find it necessary, in answering it, to excuse himself on the ground that he was unacquainted with the business of the Board of Works. As a matter of fact, it was not the intention of the Government to empower any private Company to take any steps to widen Parliament Street. It was true that a private Company had brought a Bill into Parliament asking for powers to do these things; but it had no connection with the Government, and was not empowered by the Government to deal with the matter. The noble Lord must be aware of the difficulty of dealing with this great question of Parliament Street. Ho would only say, further, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the time being on either side could be persuaded to take the matter up, it would, no doubt, be desirable; but in the present case he did not see why, if the interests of the Government were properly safeguarded, the Department he represented should offer any opposition to the proposal. That was a very large admission to make; but as regarded the actual Question of the noble Lord, his answer was that the Government had given no power to any private Company to deal with this matter.


said, anything more important than that Parliament should allow a private Company to deal with the land in and behind Parliament Street really could not be well imagined. The proposal was that the Company should deal with the land and streets near Parliament Street, re-arrange the streets, and make new ones, and do some unnecessary works. The Company proposed to raise a capital of £300,000, and to suppose that the Government could not provide that sum was perfectly absurd. The whole question should be carefully inquired into. He had never heard of a more mischievous proposal than that which the noble Earl seemed inclined to sanction. The work ought to be carried out by a Public Department for public objects, otherwise not only would sites required for Public Offices be lost, but the alterations made would have the effect of improving the property of the individuals interested, at the expense of much-needed public improvements.