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Class I Public Works And Buildings

Volume 218: debated on Friday 24 April 1874

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(1.) £28,630, to complete the sum for the Royal Palaces.

said, he should make no objection whatever to any expenses incurred for keeping the palaces occupied by Her Majesty in proper order; but he did, to those not so occupied, and in keeping up which the country was put to great expense. As some of the present occupants would probably gladly leave them, if they were compensated in some way, he would suggest that arrangements might be made with that object in view. If, however, the present system were to be continued, he would suggest that it would be better to convert them into commodious lodging-houses than keep them as they now were. There was Kensington Palace, for example, which cost last year for repairs £1,156, but was put down in the present Estimates for £4,656. Then, again, there were Kew and Hampton Court, and other places, as regarded which he hoped his noble Friend would make some arrangements, so that they might be appropriated to public purposes.

said, he would remind the hon. Gentleman that most of the palaces mentioned in the Vote, such as Hampton Court, Kew, Bushey Park. &c., were places of public recreation and amusement. It was necessary that a considerable sum should be expended on Kensington Palace to keep in repair the apartments formerly occupied by the late Duchess of Inverness, and which Her Majesty had assigned to her daughter the Princess Louise, the Marchioness of Lorne.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £88,266, to complete the sum for the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens.

asked what it was proposed to do with the semi-circular colonnade which had been saved—thanks to the noble Lord the now Postmaster General—when Burlington House was demolished, and which had since lain forgotten in some corner. From its beauty it deserved to be regarded as an interesting historical monument. It would, he suggested, make a handsome termination of a long straight avenue in some public park, such as Kew or Kensington Gardens.

thought the state of the drainage of St. James's Park required attention in some respects, and wished to know what had become of the statue of Sir Robert Peel, which once stood near the house that statesman had occupied, but had lately been taken away.

asked, whether the regulations transferring the care of Battersea Park from the park-keepers to the police had come into operation?

said, that the "historical monument" to which the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) had referred, was at present in Battersea Park. He believed one of his predecessors had had an idea of utilizing it as the facade of a sort of summer-house which was proposed for the use of the people. Suggestions would be made, he hoped, by persons of taste and the matter would not be lost sight of. With regard to Battersea Park, a strong feeling had been excited in the neighbourhood against the proposal to transfer the custody of the Park from the park-keepers to the police, and a very influential deputation had waited upon him in opposition to that course. The clergy of the district assured him that the utmost order had prevailed in the Park, and he had ascertained that the offences during the last 10 years had been almost nil. In deference, therefore, to the strong feeling which prevailed, he had consented to leave the Park in the hands of the park-keepers for a year, and ascertain whether they would be strong enough to carry out any new rules that might apply under the Parks Regulation Act. He was not aware of the defective drainage of St. James's Park, nor had his attention been previously called to the statue of Sir Robert Peel, but he would make inquiries upon those subjects.

asked whether certain lectures that were given to young gardeners were confined to those employed at Kew?

said, he had no information on the subject. He took the opportunity of mentioning that the right hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. Adam), his Predecessor in office, had requested him to express his regret that he was unable to attend the discussion on these Totes.

said, he saw a large item down in the Estimates for payment of the police on duty in the Parks. He was at a loss to know what the duties of the "Ranger" of the Park were. He considered the Vote for the Parks ought to be reduced much below the amount set down in the Estimates.

said, that it had been necessary to increase the force of police on account of there being a new road across the Park, which was open during the greater part of the night. An Hon. MEMBER complained of the way in which pieces of paper and other kinds of refuse were allowed to lie in the Parks.

Vote agreed to

(3.) £125,767, to complete the sum for Public Buildings.

thought a considerable reduction might be made in the Vote. An Hon. MEMBER called attention to the lions at the base of the Nelson Monument at Charing Cross, and complained that they were subject to be injured by boys constantly climbing up and perching on them. He thought the police should be directed to put a stop to the nuisance.

said, that great anxiety was felt for the preservation of those casts, and steps were being taken with a view of arresting, as far as possible, the action of the atmosphere upon the metal.

said, he observed in this Estimate that there were a number of small charges relating to Scotland, and amongst others was a very small item for the Royal Observatory building in Edinburgh—namely, £15. The Observatory was of very great use scientific- cally, and calculations were carried on there for the Navy. The Treasury appointed five or six local men as visitors, who were bound every year to report to the Home Secretary upon the condition of things at the Observatory, and their opinion as to whether and what improvements were required. He regretted to say that no notice whatever was paid by the Home Office to these reports. He might say that every possible degree of economy was practised in connection with the Observatory, and there was no desire to expend money for any purpose that was not absolutely required by the present condition of science.

said, he was not aware that there was a body of visitors whose duty it was to report to the Home Office as to the condition of the Edinburgh Observatory; but he would ask the Secretary of State to take care that in future due attention was paid to any communication which might proceed from that body.

Vote agreed to.

(4.) £12,058, to complete the sum for the Furniture of Public Offices.

(5.) £23,695, to complete the sum for the Houses of Parliament Buildings.

said, he hoped the First Commissioner of Works would give an assurance that the unsightly projecting lantern in the Clock Tower would be removed before long. He would also suggest that some better means, by telegraphic communication between the House and other public places, might be devised by which Members might be informed whether the House was sitting or not.

said, he must repeat what he had said on a former occasion—that it was not intended that it should be permanent. An hon. Member had said that the object of the light was to save Members the trouble of coming down to the House after it was up, as in the event of a count. The real object, he thought, was to enable Members to stay away from the House. It was, however, under consideration whether it was feasible by other means, to lot hon. Members at a distance know when the House was or was not sitting, and his right hon. Friend the Postmaster General had suggested, for the convenience of hon. Members, that measures might be taken without incurring any appreciable cost for exhibiting a light or other device at the Central Post Office at Charing Cross, which would be so displayed as to be visible at a considerable distance-while the House was sitting. A similar arrangement could be carried out, his right hon. Friend suggested, at the various district Post Offices in the West and South-West Divisions—at Padding-ton, Kensington, and South Kensington, where the notice would be displayed until 11 o'clock. They would also see whether notice might not be given of the rising of the House to stations of the metropolitan railways by telegraph up to a certain hour.

said, he was afraid that such hon. Members, himself included, as lived in far away parts, like Paddington, would only be injured and damnified by the change: for after 11 o'clock they would have to go down to Charing Cross to see if the House was sitting. He trusted, however, that something would be done to meet their case. He also hoped the noble Lord would take care that no other apartment in the Houses of Parliament would be disfigured as the Lobby had been, since it had been defiled with white paint. He should be supremely happy when the paint got tarnished and had to be scraped off.

said, he was opposed to anything that tended to idleness on the part of hon. Members, and he thought that such was the tendency of letting them know when the House was or was not up. With regard to the other observation of the hon. Member, everything so soon got soiled in London that the happiness of the hon. Gentleman would not be long delayed.

said, it was never intended that the Lobby should remain in its present state. It had been painted white, that that might be a base for a transparent coating, similar to that on the walls of the Speaker's house; but it had failed as a substratum, and would be removed, so that the stone would be restored to its pristine beauty.

expressed a hope that in any arrangements that might be come to for carrying out the object in view, the Temple district would not be forgotten.

concurred in the view that the effect of the light was to encourage absenteeism. He wished to know if anything effectual had been done or was likely to be done to arrest the decay of the stone in the buildings of the Houses of Parliament?

pointed out that in the Estimates there was an increase in the item of fuel for the Houses of Parliament, which was nearly £2,500 as compared with something over £1,700 last rear.

complained of the great cost of lighting the Houses of Parliament, which amounted to £6,510, being at the rate of something like £40 a-day for the Session.

said, these were the Estimates which had been thought necessary for the proper supply of fuel and light for the Houses of Parliament. In reply to the hon. Baronet the Member for Wexford County (Sir George Bowyer), he wished to say that constant attention was being directed to find out, if possible, what could be done to arrest the decay of the stone on the outside of the building.

Vote agreed to.

(6.) 34,730, to complete the sum for the new Homo and Colonial Offices.

said, while these buildings were being erected regardless of expense, they were charged with a load of ornament which was perfectly useless, and which deprived them of all simplicity and true beauty. Somerset House, on the other hand, presented a noble simplicity, and there was no ornament whatever upon it. But in those now offices each story was a different building, and did not combine with the story above or below it.

said, he would not, in the presence of his hon. Friend who had just spoken, enter into the domain of taste lest he should say something which would shock him; but he wished to ask whether his noble Friend could give any idea when those buildings would be finished, and in use, and when the space in front would be laid out? He must add that it would be a disgrace to the country if the petty nests of small streets between the New Offices and Great George Street were allowed to remain permanently as they were. The former Conservative Government had proposed to place public offices on this site; the succeeding Administration abandoned the notion; and after abortive attempts to build them on the Embankment and elsewhere, left the matter where it found it, and in the meanwhile, of course, the value of the ground had immensely augmented.

said, he wished to speak very highly of the way in which the late Commissioner of Works had discharged his duties.

wished to know, when the roadway in front of these buildings would be open to the public?

said, that without venturing to arrogate to himself any amount of superior taste, he respectfully dissented from the severe criticism which the hon. Baronet the Member for Wexford (Sir George Bowyer) had passed on the work of Sir Gilbert Scott. The design, as now erected, was not the same as that which had proceeded from the pencil of Sir Gilbert Scott, who had been obliged to alter it to suit the requirements of others. Sir Gilbert Scott had intended the elevation to be terminated by towers, the drawings of which he had himself inspected, and which, if erected, would have relieved the building from that weight of ornament which had drawn down the censure of the hon. Baronet. He was positively assured that the new offices would be ready for occupation by Michaelmas next. He regretted that there had been a delay in removing the hoarding in front; but it had been owing to the necessity of opening the roadway for laying down telegraph wires for the use of the public offices. He quite concurred in what the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir George Balfour) had stated with reference to his Predecessor in office. Since he (Lord Henry Lennox) had held the appointment he had had access, of course, to all the Papers, and they showed him that the right hon. Gentleman seemed, while in office, to have had but one object in view, and that was an earnest desire to do his duty.

explained that he had meant nothing derogatory to the reputation of Sir Gilbert Scott in the remarks he had made in reference to those Offices. He simply thought Sir Gilbert was less conversant with the Italian style than with the Gothic.

said, that as Chairman of the Committee which satin a former Parliament on that question of the Foreign Office, he wished to observe that the Committee went very closely into the competition for the Foreign Office and for the War Office, and reported that Sir Gilbert Scott was the only competitor who was a prizeman for both those Offices. Accordingly, the then First Commissioner gave him the work of erecting the Foreign and India Offices. The circumstances attending the competition had been so complicated as to make it impossible to carry it out literally.

Vote agreed to.

(7.) £12,016, to complete the sum for Sheriff Court Houses, Scotland.

(8.) £25,000, to complete the sum for the National Gallery Enlargement.

asked for an assurance as to the speedy completion of the National Gallery. He trusted that rapid progress would be made with the work, and that a façade would be erected so as to combine the old and new structures into one. After the catastrophe at the Pantechnicon, he thought they ought also to receive some assurance that the new building would be really or approximately fire-proof. The present National Gallery was very far from being so.

said, he had every reason to hope that in the spring of next year the Galleries would be thrown open to the public;, and the national collections in Trafalgar Square and at South Kensington both safely housed in them. The office over which he presided and also the Home Office were fully alive to the necessity of increased vigilance against the possibility of fire., and as far as science enabled them to go in that direction the new National Gallery would be rendered fire-proof. He could make no promise with reference to the facade, as it rested with the custodians of the public purse, as he had before explained.

Vote agreed to.

(9.) £4,000, to complete the sum for the Industrial Museum, Edinburgh.

(10.) £9,131, to complete the sum for Buildings at Burlington House.

(11.) £113,467, to complete the sum for the Post Office and Inland Revenue Buildings.

complained that the district letter office in Fleet Street, just below Temple Bar, was not large enough for the amount of business transacted there, and that much inconvenience resulted in consequence.

promised that the subject should be inquired into, with a view to the defect being remedied if possible.

Vote agreed to.

(12.) £4,545, to complete the sum for the British Museum Buildings.

(13.) £40,823, to complete the sum for County Court Buildings.

(14.) £8,106, to complete the sum for the Science and Art Department Buildings.

(15.) £110,000, to complete the sum for the Surveys of the United Kingdom.

wished to know, upon what principle the different districts were selected for the benefit of this expenditure? He thought Montgomeryshire had been hardly used in the matter.

asked whether it would not be possible to sell the ordnance maps at a cheaper rate than at present, and yet cover the expense of their production?

complained of the delay which had taken place in some districts in regard to the geological survey. It was most desirable that the results of the surveys should be speedily disseminated throughout the country.

said, he would inquire into the matter without delay. He was not able to express an opinion as to whether the price at which the maps were sold was reasonable or not.

Vote agreed to.

(16.) £7,103, to complete the sum for Harbours, &c. under the Board of Trade.

(17.) £130, for Portland Harbour.

(18.) £8,300, to complete the sum for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

(19.) £30,061, to complete the sum for the Rates on Government Property.

In reply to General SIR George Balfour,

said, that a Supplementary Es- timate would be laid on the Table in reference to the rates on public property.

Vote agreed to.

(20.) £400, to complete the sum for the Wellington Monument.

said, he wished to ask the First Commissioner of Works whether any progress was being made with the work in question? It was a painful, and in some respects a discreditable, fact that the completion of a work of so much public interest should be so long delayed. That delay was occasioned, he regretted to say, by the ill-health of the sculptor; but it was clear that the monument must sooner or later be finished, and the design of Mr. Stevens ought, if it were possible, to be carried out by Mr. Stevens. When and how that was to be done had hitherto been an insoluble mystery. He hoped his noble Friend the First Commissioner of Works was in a position to throw some light on the mystery.

thought that if, unhappily, Mr. Stevens' health prevented his completing the work, some one else ought to be associated with him for that purpose, He would be glad to know where hon. Members could obtain some idea as to what the Monument was to be like; and where the designs were to be seen. For his part, he feared that the work in question would share the fate of most public works of an ornamental character—namely, that no one knew anything of them while they were in progress, and every one decried them when they were finished.

said, he was not at all surprised at his hon. Friend rising when it was announced that a sum of £500 was to be asked towards the completion of the Wellington Monument. He could assure his hon. Friend that the first or second day he was in office his attention was directed to the most unfortunate business. He was told by those who knew what were the difficulties of the case that he ought to let it alone, so many of his predecessors had failed in bringing it to a successful issue, and trust to chance to do SO. That idea, however, he did not fancy at all, and he determined to take a particular course, because even if he failed, he should do so while walking in the footsteps of better men than him- self. It was perfectly true that the distinguished sculptor to whom the work was originally intrusted had been for some years in grievous ill-health, but at times rallying so much as to induce him still to incline to the hope—a very natural one—that he might put the final stamp of his genius upon the work he had commenced. He had recently placed a gallant Friend of his and another gentleman distinguished in art, in connection with Mr. Stevens, and he asked the Committee, so to speak, to pass a short vote of confidence in the First Commissioner of Works. They would not, he was sure, require him to advert more specifically to the means he intended to adopt with a view to try and bring the matter to a successful issue. The hon. Baronet asked where he could get an idea of what the Monument was likely to be. He wondered it had escaped his notice that a Blue Look had been published in which were given copies of the various drawings and also the details of the expenditure, He hoped soon to be able to make a satisfactory announcement on the subject to the House of Commons.

Vote agreed to.

(21.) £65,000, to complete the sum for a Natural History Museum.

(22.) £10,443, to complete the sum for the Metropolitan Police Courts.

complained that while in the metropolis these expenses were paid out of the Imperial Exchequer, in the provinces they had to be met by local taxation, and expressed a hope that next year, when the question of the re-adjustment of local taxation was brought forward, this matter would be set right.

Vote agreed to.

(23.) £65,800, to complete the sum for the New Courts of Justice and Offices.

said, that this was the most remarkable instance of mismanagement in the history of the country. Many years ago the ground was purchased, and all the buildings upon it cleared off. The interest upon the money had been lost to the country since, and it had also lost the rents of the houses. It would be interesting if a Return could be obtained of the total actual loss incurred up to the present time. He recollected that when he was in Parliament some rears ago a design for the New Courts had been exhibited in the Library, in which utility seemed to have been completely lost sight of, and the picturesque and ornamental aimed at, without, however, the attainment of any beauty of design. There were what appeared like two rows of almshouses on each side, with numbers of chimneys and buttresses, and he should very much like to know, whether that design, which met with no approval either from the press or the public generally, was to be carried into effect? For his own part, he should infinitely prefer a plain, business-like building, such as Somerset House or the Law Courts in Dublin. The designs were all too ecclesiastical in their character. There was plenty of time to reconsider the question, and he trusted that the present Government would distinguish themselves by adopting some economical plan which would give us a business-like, simple, and noble structure, instead of the one which he feared was to be followed.

said, he would not follow the hon. Baronet into the question of taste, upon which they might possibly differ. The design selected, however, was the design of Mr. Street, to whom the judges had awarded the prize. A prize had also been awarded to Mr. Barry; but as that gentleman had the erection of the National Gallery on his hands, he preferred that the matter should be left entirely to Mr. Street. While, he was happy to tell the hon. Baronet that it was far too late for the First Commissioner to attempt to reconsider the decision arrived at, even if he had the audacity to attempt it, he agreed with him that great loss had already accrued to the nation and the Treasury by the delay which had occurred; and that being so, he did not see how matters would be mended by holding the matter still further in abeyance and breaking a contract which had already been signed. The total sum which it was expected the new Courts of Justice would cost, was £826,000.

said, he had not suggested any lengthened delay. He believed that three weeks or a month would be sufficient for all that he contemplated.

disapproved perpetual change, and hoped that now the work was in hand it would be prosecuted forthwith.

Vote agreed to.

(24.) £630, to complete the sum for Ramsgate Harbour.

(25.) £8,300, to complete the sum for the New Palace at Westminster acquisition of Lands and Embankment.

(26.) £145,760, to complete the sum for Public Buildings, Ireland.

asked for an explanation of the increase on one item, of £20,000 for public buildings in Ireland. He wished also for some explanation as to the new buildings for houses for warders, and for a Roman Catholic chapel at Spike Island.

said, that these new buildings were rendered necessary in consequence of some works which had been carried out at Spike Island. In reply to Mr. WHITWELL,

said, that he would take care that proper accommodation was afforded for the Coast Guard in Ireland.

Vote agreed to.

(27.) £15,300, to complete the sum for Lighthouses Abroad.

(28.) £72,214, to complete the sum for British Embassy Houses and Consular and Legation Buildings.

recommended the Government, as a measure of economy, in view of the gradual increase in rents in nearly all cities abroad, to extend the plan which had already been partially adopted of purchasing residences abroad, not only for the Ambassadors, but for the British Consuls at Foreign ports, and congratulated them on that policy being carried out at Vienna and Washington.

said, he did not concur in the recommendation of the hon. Gentleman, and thought he was justified in doing so, by the heavy charge which had been thrown upon the country, by the destruction by fire of the Embassy House at Constantinople. He asked for an explanation as to the sums already expended, and what amount would yet be required for the new Embassy House at that place?

said, he should be glad of a similar explanation with regard to the Embassy House at Washington?

said, that nearly £30,000 had been expended on the Embassy House at Constantinople, and the total cost would be about £40,000 or £42,000. The cost of site, building, and furniture of the Embassy House at Washington was originally estimated at £31,000. The expenditure this year was estimated at £11,000, and that for next year at £12,000, which would complete the building.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.