HL Deb 07 August 1890 vol 348 cc74-6

, in rising to inquire the intentions of Her Majesty's Government respecting the future accommodation of the Royal United Service Institution's Museum and Library; and to move for Correspondence between the Council of the Institution and Her Majesty's Government, said: My Lords, the Institution referred to in the Question which I rise to ask, has been, as your Lordships are aware, established for a great number of years, and has received a certain amount of support from the Government. The value of the Institution as regards its monetary position has very greatly increased during the last 50 years. I think they began with stock of the value of £40 or £50; that stock has now increased, and the value of the models, engravings, and many other articles, which are of the utmost value to both the Naval and Military Services, is about £20,000. The books, which, when they first commenced, were very small in number, have now increased to a very large library, which is most valuable for Military and Naval purposes, and that library is valued at £23,000. The subscriptions have doubled. Such of your Lordships as have attended the various lectures, which are given during the season about once a week, must be perfectly aware of what immense value those lectures are to both Services. I may say they are attended not only by the most prominent members of both the Military and Naval Services, but that officers from the private fleets as well as engineers of great eminence attend those discussions and render the proceedings of the utmost possible value. If your Lordships have attended, as I have no doubt many have, you must be perfectly aware that some of the most distinguished officers in the Army and Navy take a lively interest and a very prominent part in those discussions; and whilst the scientific character of the Navy, as well as of the Army, is gradually increasing, the discussions of the newest subjects in science which take place there are of the utmost value to both Services. We have had meetings there presided over by the illustrious Duke the Commander-in-Chief, by His Royal Highness the Duke of-Edinburgh, and by the different First Lords of the Admiralty. Last year a deputation waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I should mention, as showing what a precarious position the Institution now stands in, that this most valuable Museum is now crowded into a dark building where there is not room for anybody to examine its contents, or even a small portion of them; and the building itself is so dilapidated that it probably will not last many years longer. Moreover, they are in this precarious position: that the building is Government property; they are under notice to quit; and may be turned out at any moment. Her Majesty's Government have from time to time made, not exactly promises, but have held out very great hopes of assistance, and I was myself present about two years ago when the First Lord of the Admiralty used language which led us to hope that the Government certainly intended to give a new building or to provide facilities for procuring a new one. Since then an address has been presented to His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief on the subject, and a deputation has waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At first the answers given on behalf of the Government were tolerably encouraging, but I am sorry to say on the last occasion (I think it was last month) the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the First Lord of the Admiralty, after communication with the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the matter was hung up and that he could afford no hope to the Institution of any immediate assistance being given. Your Lordships are perfectly aware that the Institution and its valuable museum stand upon threatened ground. There are alterations going on in every direction round it, and the building itself is a perfect disgrace to the locality. I do venture to ask that Her Majesty's Government will give their attention to this matter, which is one of the utmost importance to the Military and Naval Services; both Services are interested in it, and the benefit which has been conferred by it I am sure no one who is connected with either of those Services will venture for a moment to deny.

Moved, That there be laid before this House, Correspondence between the Council of the Royal United Service Institution and Her Majesty's Government respecting the future accommodation of the museum and library of the Institution."—(The Viscount Sidmouth.)


In the absence of the Prime Minister I have to state that this question has not been at all lost sight of; on the contrary, it is still under consideration, but it is considered that, pending a decision, it would be undesirable to produce the correspondence which has passed on the subject.


I withdraw the Motion after what the noble Earl has stated, but I am really rather surprised that the Government should object to produce the correspondence.

A noble LORD: I believe the correspondence is not yet completed.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.