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Supply—Civil Service Estimates

Volume 215: debated on Monday 21 April 1873

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SUPPLY considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £25,615, to complete the sum for Royal Palaces.

(2.) £83,727, to complete the sum for Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens.

asked for explanations as to the increased charge for the services of the police connected with the keeping of Hyde Park and Kew Gardens, and wished to know if the public got value for their money?

presumed that that expenditure was required because the Parks were much frequented and were somewhat highly cultivated. He should be glad to get the police to perform that duty at a smaller cost, but the matter was not exactly within his power. The expense for Kew Gardens was no doubt large, but the gardens were kept in a high state of cultivation.

said, that Hyde Park was a highly-cultivated Park, but he did not know that the police cultivated it. He supposed the police did not attend to the flowers, and it was to the police he had particularly referred.

said, that if a Park was in a high state of cultivation it all the more required to be protected by the police from the inroads of the public. If, however, everybody going into the Park was as well-behaved as his hon. Friend, of course, no police would be required; but the fact was, that there were people in the metropolis who did not exactly know how to use a Park, and who fancied that they could go there and do very much what they liked; and the Chief Commissioner of Police deemed a police force necessary—first, to protect the Park against the people, and then to protect the people against one another.

Vote agreed to.

(3.) £128,431, to complete the sum for Maintenance and Repair of Public Buildings.

asked for explanations as to an item for the erection of new buildings in Southampton in connection with the Ordnance Survey. He did not know what these buildings were, especially as he had expected, with everybody else, that the Ordnance Survey would come to an end soon.

said, the new buildings in question were necessary, because the old buildings where the business of the Ordnance Survey was carried on, and which were originally erected for military purposes, had to be pulled down. Arrangements had been made for selling the Ordnance maps in London, where a depôt for supplying them to the trade had been established.

asked what were the Royal monuments for the restoration of which sums were taken in this Vote, and also under whose guidance the restoration was taking place?

did not know why the hon. Gentleman should assume that the person charged with superintending the restoration of these monuments was incompetent to discharge the duty.

said, he expressed no opinion upon the competency or otherwise of the gentleman; he had asked a simple question.

replied that the monuments which were being restored were one of King John in Worcester Cathedral, and some monuments in Westmin- ster Abbey, and that the restoration was taking place under the superintendence of an officer of the Department of Works.

Vote agreed to.

(4.) £12,000, to complete the sum for Furniture, Public Departments.

asked for some explanation with respect to two items which many people would think ought to go together—namely, £997 for Chelsea Hospital and £757 for the Military Asylum, Chelsea. There was also under the Head of Home Office, "Inspector of Anatomy 7s. 6d. The thing was very cheap if it was good.

asked, whether the apartments which had been vacated by the removal of the Horse Guards to the War Office at Pall Mall were available for temporary offices?

said, that the Vote for furniture was of a most unsatisfactory character. It seemed to be taken for granted that when a certain sum was spent on furniture in one year an equal sum should be asked for the next. That plan of taking the estimate for the coming year on the basis of the past was a most unsatisfactory one, but at the same time he was not prepared to point out a better.

said, the offices which had been vacated by the removal of the Horse Guards to Pall Mall were not empty; they were occupied by such persons connected with the administration of the Army as could be conveniently located there. With regard to the estimate for furniture, it must not be supposed that the same expenditure would take place in each office every year. If a great expenditure was made in one year on one office there would be very little the next; but taking all the public offices together, it was found that the total expenditure amounted to about the sum that was asked.

Vote agreed to.

(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a sum, not exceeding £25,670, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1874, for the Buildings of the Houses of Parliament."

was glad that the First Commissioner of Works had so far kept down the very large cost of the supply of fuel and gas for the Houses of Parliament, that the increase in the Vote only represented the great increase in the price of coal. He (Mr. Bowring) also asked what was about to be done with regard to the light in the clock tower, which had been very unsatisfactory of late as compared with previous years; and also whether means could be taken to continue the covered way between the cloak-room and the railway station, so that Members should not be exposed to the wet on rainy nights upon going to the train. The distance which was not under cover was only a few yards.

stated, with regard to the light in the clock tower, that before finally determining what light should be adopted, several persons were exhibiting the merits of their inventions at their own expense, and when the qualities and costs of each had been ascertained the decision of the Office of Works would be submitted to the House. With regard to the subway to the railway station, it would be difficult to continue the covered way to the cloak-room without making considerable alterations in the structure of the House. The opening at the other end would shortly be covered in by the building in course of erection there.

remarked that a sum of £1,000 had been voted four years in succession to Mr. Herbert for his picture of the "Judgment of Daniel," and it had never been paid. Surely if it was not to be paid it would be better not to vote it.

explained that the sum in question had not been paid because the picture was not yet completed. When it was nearly completed the canvas exhibited signs of swelling, and the artist was unwilling to put it up in that condition. The picture was the work of an artist of great eminence and genius, which it was desirable they should possess, and the £1,000 had been inserted in the Votes in anticipation of its completion. The money would be paid as soon as the picture was placed in the House of Lords robing-room.

In answer to Mr. RYLANDS,

said, that a plan was under consideration by which the staircase, which now came down to the Smoking Room from the lobby, would be continued upwards, so as to afford a private access to the lobby for Members called from Committee Rooms upstairs to divisions in the House.

drew attention to the item of £724 per annum which was paid as the rent of the official residence in Spring Gardens of the Clerk of the Parliaments. He thought this item was far too large, especially as the residence in question was at a considerable distance from the House. He would also ask whether a more convenient residence could not be found in the House itself?

said, that no doubt the original intention was that an official residence for the Clerk of the Parliaments should be provided for him in that building, and he could give no reason why that intention had not been carried out. In point of fact, the £724 referred to did not actually come out of the public pocket, inasmuch as the residence of the Clerk of the Parliaments was Crown property, and therefore the money that was paid out of the Exchequer with the one hand was received by the Woods and Forests with the other. At the same time, he admitted that the sum charged in the Estimates was out of all proportion with the amount of the salary which the official in question received, and might be regarded as being in the highest degree extravagant and improper. In his opinion, the Clerk of the Parliaments ought to receive an allowance for house rent, and should be called upon to provide himself with a residence. The present arrangement had been in existence for seven years; but it was, however, intended to provide the official in question with a house in the more immediate neighbourhood of the Houses of Parliament, and therefore the present arrangement would at no distant day come to an end.

wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works intended positively to state that an arrangement such as he had indicated had been actually entered into. He thought the right hon. Gentleman went too far when he characterized the existing arrangement as extravagant and improper.

had already stated that the arrangement to which he had alluded was under consideration. He must repeat that an arrangement under which an official receiving £2,000 per annum as salary was provided with a house valued at £724 per annum was an improper and an extravagant one.

observed that the salary of the Clerk of the Parliaments was £4,000, and not £2,000, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman. It was scarcely the right thing for the right hon. Gentleman, holding such strong views upon the subject as he did, to place this item in the Estimates, and then come down to that House and vilify it.

said, that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works, the Committee had no alternative but to reject the item. He would, therefore, move that the item be omitted.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Item of £724, for Rent for the Official Residence of the Clerk of the Parliaments, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Mr. Anderson.)

remarked that the salary of the Clerk of the Parliaments was £2,500, and not £4,000.

explained that it was impossible to omit the item, because a house must be provided for the Clerk of the Parliaments under the terms of the arrangement with him. The Woods and the Forests having raised the rent of the residence he now occupied, an arrangement had been entered into by which a residence would be provided for him more in proportion to his salary and his position.

thought that after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works, the Committee should express an opinion that the amount of this item should be reduced. Therefore, if the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) would withdraw his Amendment to omit the item, he would move that it be reduced by £224.

could not help wondering at the sudden display of virtuous indignation with regard to a sum that was paid with the one hand and received with the other.

remarked that the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works in reference to this item was most extraordinary. The Clerk of the Parliaments had occupied his present official residence for 10 or 12 years, and yet the right hon. Gentleman had got up and made a speech which ought to require him to vote against the item he had himself placed in the Estimates.

wished to know whether, if the Clerk of the Parliaments gave up his present residence, there would still be any objection to a road being made from St. James's Park through Spring Gardens to Charing Cross? He thought the house in question was a great stumbling-block in the way of an important metropolitan improvement, which, some years ago, he had suggested might be made.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Item of £724, for Rent, &c. of Official Residence of the Clerk of the Parliaments, be reduced by the sum of £224."—(Mr. Muntz.)

asked, whether it was not possible to find for this officer an equally good house at the amount of rent proposed by the hon. Member for Biringham—namely, £500? Who in private life would think of giving a rent of £724 for a house in Spring Gardens?

said, that the improvement referred to by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) would not go in the direction he supposed, but through another House in Spring Gardens. Whether that improvement could be carried out would remain for the consideration of the Metropolitan Board of Works; or if the House liked to tale the matter into its own hands and vote money for it, of course it would be for the House to do so. But knowing what large Votes would be asked for metropolitan improvements, he advised the House not to begin that operation.

said, he had never intended that the country should pay for the alteration; but the fact was the Government had always prevented the Metropolitan Board of Works from making the improvement to which he had referred.

dissented from the view of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), that it would be a public improvement to have a carriage way made in the locality in question. No doubt, it would be a convenience for the owners of carriages if such a way were made; but it would be extremely inconvenient to persons who liked to have that place of resort. With regard to the general tenor of the discussion, he thought it was rather unfair to the Clerk of the Parliaments to make observations about the amount of his salary, and the amount which the public paid for his residence. He remembered when that gentleman first became tenant of these premises. He thought it was at the time when Sir Benjamin Hall (the late Lord Llanover) was First Commissioner of Woods and Forests. It had been decided that the Clerk of the Parliaments in his official capacity should have an official residence. It happened that these premises were vacant, and it was suggested as a suitable arrangement that he should be lodged in them. At that period the amount of the rent did not represent the value of the house. The terms were subsequently altered, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works seemed to think that the Clerk of the Parliaments was responsible for that arrangement.

said, not the slightest disrespect was intended to the Clerk of the Parliaments in the observations that had been made. All that was meant was that the present arrangement was an extravagant one. If the Committee would vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), the First Commissioner would, no doubt, make a morn economical arrangement.

protested against a Minister of the Crown vilifying Estimates which he had placed before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner had said, in the plainest possible language, that this was an extravagant and improper arrangement. If that was so, he thought it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman not to have put this item in the Estimates.

said, he adhered to his opinion that this was an extravagant arrangement; but he had explained that it was only a temporary arrangement, and that the item ought to be voted until another residence was provided. If the Committee insisted on the proposed reduction, he would not object.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 56; Noes 85: Majority 29.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

noticed an item of £9,809 for external and casual repairs, and asked whether anything could be done to check the decay of the stonework of the Houses of Parliament?

observed that the decay was going on very rapidly, and it was important to know whether the experiment had been successful in any way.

said, the use of one kind of coating as a preservative of the stone was believed to have succeeded, but time was the only test of success. The first experiments made some years ago were not adequately recorded. No steps were taken to ascertain the nature of the materials, and the mode in which they were used; but it was now proposed to proceed in a more methodical manner. The stone which was most decayed was being gradually cut out.

Vote agreed to.

(6.) £48,000, to complete the sum for New Offices, Downing Street.

asked whether those buildings would be completed within the estimate; whether the recommendation of the Committee on Public Accounts would be adopted with respect to them; and, whether, as had been reported, they were not rectangular?

took it for granted that the important recommendation of the Committee on Public Accounts would not be adopted this year, as the Estimates had been framed before that recommendation was made.

thought the building would be completed within the estimate of £285,000. There might be one or two small contingencies, but that amount would not be materially exceeded. As to the buildings not being rectangular, they had been designed to meet the line of the street, and as Parliament Street was not at right angles with Downing Street, there was an obliquity in the face of the building as compared with the other three sides. It was not intended this year to make any change in conformity with the Report of the Committee, but the subject would receive due consideration next year.

Vote agreed to.

(7.) £11,840, to complete the sum for Sheriff Courts, Scotland.

(8.) £35,420, to complete the sum for Enlargement of the National Gallery.

(9.) £16,500, to complete the sum for New Buildings, Glasgow University.

(10.) £7,700, to complete the sum for the Industrial Museum, Edinburgh.

(11.) £24,162, to complete the sum for Learned Bodies.

(12.) £120,607, to complete the sum for Works and Buildings, Post Office and Land Revenue.

explained that the item included telegraph tables and other articles which were not permanent fittings, the outlay resulting from the extension of the service.

asked whether the sums proposed to be voted for telegraph offices were to be applied to the repayment of the money borrowed without proper authority from the Savings-banks' funds?

Vote agreed to.

(13.) £4,547, to complete the sum for the British Museum Buildings, &c.

(14.) £30,605, to complete the sum for New Buildings for County Courts, &c.

(15.) £16,773, to complete the sum for New Buildings, Department of Science and Art.

(16.) £107,210, to complete the sum for the Survey of the United Kingdom.

inquired what arrangements had been made for the sale of the ordnance maps in Scotland? He had been told that the arrangements would be complete on the 1st of April, but that was not so, although no doubt some few maps could be obtained.

asked when the survey was expected to be completed? The whole country bore the expense, but until the completion of the survey only a portion of the country reaped the benefit.

said, that it had been found impracticable to sell the maps to the public through the post-offices. A central depôt had been established in London, from which copies might be obtained through any bookseller, while agents had been appointed in the principal English towns, and depots established at Dublin and Edinburgh. The survey at its present rate of progress would occupy 11 or 12 years more.

Vote agreed to.

(17.) £13,547, to complete the sum for Harbours, &c.

asked how it was that a further sum was to be taken for expenses in connection with the pier at Dover?

said, that the works at Dover had not advanced so rapidly as was expected, owing to alterations made by the War Office, upwards of £10,000 having still to be spent. He hoped the Vote would be considerably reduced next year. The charge upon the Government would only be £640, as the remainder of the Vote, £760, was defrayed by the local authorities.

said, there was nothing taken for Alderney, and he wished to know whether it was intended to abandon those works?

Vote agreed to.

(18.) £150, to complete the sum for Portland Harbour.

(19.) £7,500, to complete the sum for Fire Brigade in the Metropolis.

(20.) £31,353, to complete the sum for Rates on Government Property.

called attention to the state of certain footpaths connected with Government property in Leith. These footpaths had been neglected to such an extent that they had become injurious to the health of the public. The Town Council of Leith had remonstrated over and over again to no purpose, and the only alternative was to draw the attention of Parliament to the subject.

thought the Vote should be postponed. Notice had been given of the introduction of a Bill which he was told would, among other things, provide for the rating of Govern- ment property by law; and a great portion of this sum would not therefore be required.

believed, on the contrary, that whatever action the Government or the House might take in this matter, a great proportion of this sum would be required for the year.

Vote agreed to.

(21.) £3,901, to complete the sum for the Wellington Monument.

said, he wished to call attention to the very unsatisfactory state of the Wellington Monument in St. Paul's, towards the completion of which very little progress had been made. The original estimate had been £14,000; the revised estimate amounted to £21,500, but the monument as it now appeared was nothing better than a great chimney-piece. Mr. Stevens was no doubt a man of ability, but he had entirely failed to fulfil his contract with the Government, and he thought some explanation should be given why so much delay had arisen in completing what was intended by the nation to be a worthy monument to a great hero. If Mr. Stevens' health was too infirm to carry on the work, some other architect should be appointed to complete the design.

said, he did not at all wonder at the complaints which were made of the state of this work at the present moment. It had been one series of misfortunes from the beginning to the end. Mr. Stevens had been appointed by the noble Lord the Member for North Leicester, when First Commissioner, to execute this work, receiving certain payments from the Government. He was a very able artist, but not a good financier. His accounts and estimates got into confusion, and the work came to a state of almost absolute stagnation. It was taken out of the hands of Mr. Stevens altogether, and Mr. Coleman was appointed as a gentleman who should be answerable for the conclusion of the work. He was to employ Mr. Stevens to do the work required; and things went on in that way very well till Mr. Stevens unfortunately became ill—quite unable to do anything, for not only was he prostrate in health, but his mind appeared entirely gone. What the Government, therefore, proposed to do was to call on Mr. Coleman to com- plete the work. He had reason to believe the work was very near completion, and when completed it would not be unworthy of the nation or the hero whose achievements it was intended to celebrate.

said, he could not help observing that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had entirely confirmed the statement he had made last year. Mr. Stevens was totally incapable of completing the work. The part in which progress had been made was not the sculptural portion of the monument, nor had the proper casts been made. What Mr. Stevens had been employed to do he had not done, and Mr. Coleman, who was appointed to finish the monument, was not a sculptor but an upholsterer. He thought the Government should be held responsible for the proper completion of the monument, not one of the upholsterers of the metropolis.

Of course the Government are responsible, and I can only congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the prescience which he discovered last year in the statement he then made.

wished to know whether Mr. Coleman was under an obligation to complete the monument for the sum mentioned in the revised estimate?

said, he should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that on previous occasions, whenever any First Commissioner of Works pressed Mr. Stevens to go on with the models, that gentleman always fell ill. Therefore, it did not require any great amount of prescience on his part to hint that the same thing might occur again.

hoped, under the circumstances, that the Vote would be postponed until a definite statement could be laid before the Committee as to the completion of the monument.

said, it would be unnecessary to postpone the Vote, as everything which would require any very special artistic power had already been accomplished.

Vote agreed to.

(22.) £67,000, to complete the sum for the Natural History Museum.

submitted that a portion of the ground which had been acquired for the Natural History Museum at South Kensington ought to be set apart for the erection of a Patent Museum.

remarked that South Kensington had a wonderful power of drawing public money, and that he should have preferred to see all the Natural History collections centred in the British Museum. He commented on the magnitude of the estimate, and asked for information respecting the state the contracts were now in.

replied, that there was nothing in the estimate to prevent the construction of a Patent Museum. With respect to the financial history of the Natural History Museum, the facts were as follows:—About 10 years ago the House deliberately decided that ground should be purchased for the site, and in 1866–7 a Vote was proposed for the erection of the Museum. The matter was not proceeded with in that year, but Mr. Waterhouse, the architect appointed by the Government to design the building, arrived at an estimate of about £508,000 for its construction. The subject then came under his consideration, and he informed Mr. Waterhouse that the estimate ought not to exceed £350,000. Fresh plans were accordingly prepared, a tender was made, and the sum ultimately arrived at, with all its contingencies, was £395,000, the actual contract being £352,000, and the additional amount being required for the expense of the architect and other contingent services. They had a good guarantee that for the sum named a building suitable for the object in view would be constructed.

said, the contract was to be completed in three years from the beginning of the present year.

said, they might be seen at the Office of Works by any hon. Member who desired to inspect them. He might mention that they had been already exhibited in the Library of the House.

Vote agreed to.

(23.) Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a sum, not exceeding £9,010, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1874, for New Buildings, Maintenance and Repair of Buildings, and other Expenses connected therewith, of the Metropolitan Police Courts."

complained of the state of the Metropolitan Police Courts, and stated that the magistrates had to pass whole days in courts which were simply a disgrace to this great metropolis.

wished to know how it was that the metropolis, with all its wealth, came to ask the country to provide it with police courts at the public expense, when the provinces had to provide their police courts at their own expense?

also thought the Metropolitan Police Courts were not kept properly clean or painted.

submitted it was most important that those courts, which were maintained in the interest of justice, should be kept in good order.

said, that the building of another court in Bow Street was under consideration. There was also projected an enlargement of the police court at Marylebone. The subject of the provision by the State of the police courts of the metropolis was part of a much larger question, and he might as well ask how it was that the metropolis paid so large a share of the house duty?

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 80; Noes 65: Majority 15.

Resolutions to be reported.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a sum, not exceeding £57,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1874, for the Purchase of a Site, Erection of Building, and other Expenses for the New Courts of Justice and Offices belonging thereto."

said, he thought the Committee would like to have some information upon the subject. He would remind hon. Gentlemen that the statutory limit for the erection of the new Palace of Justice was £750,000, of which £36,000 had been expended. He had been informed that tenders had recently been sent in for the erection of the courts ranging from £700,000 to £1,000,000, and if the tender accepted should exceed the statutory limit, he wished to know how it was proposed to get over the difficulty? He also wished to know whether any estimate had been received for the building, and, if so, what was the amount of the tender which had been accepted?

replied that tenders had been received, but the lowest tender exceeded the statutory limit. He had not yet had time to go into the tenders with the architect, who was now engaged in altering the plan, and had no doubt that the building could be erected for the sum originally named.

said, it would not, he thought, be for the public interest that he should now give the particulars called for.

suggested that the Vote should be postponed until the right hon. Gentleman was in a position to give the necessary information to the Committee.

said, it should be remembered that since the statutory limit was fixed the price of all kinds of materials and of labour had risen 30 per cent. It was very undesirable that the building should be compressed so as to bring it within the cost fixed some years ago. Such a proceeding must tend to the sacrifice of the building and the curtailment of the public convenience.

said, he also thought it would be very unwise to diminish the size and capacity of the building to bring the cost within the particular sum fixed on by Parliament. He expressed a hope that the widening of Temple Bar would be carried out, for the purpose of improving the approach to these Courts.

thought that a fair case had been made out for the postponement of the Vote, and would move that Progress be reported.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—( Mr. Baxter.)

said, it should be understood that the Law Courts ought to be completed at a cost commensurate with the style of the building and the accommodation to be given. An increase of £50,000 or £250,000 ought not to interfere in the erection of a suitable building. He would recommend that the money which it was proposed to expend on pulling down and rebuilding a new Admiralty and War Office should be expended on the Law Courts.

Question put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.