§ 29,400l. were proposed for the expenses of the British Museum.
said, upon Easter Monday there were 23,985 persons who had visited the Museum, and upon Whit-Monday 30,000 and odd persons had visited it. He was happy to observe that no damage was done, notwithstanding the great attendance.
said, like the preceding speaker, he could not allow the vote to pass without noticing that it was not among the working classes, but the aristocratic classes, the Iconoclasts were found. He appealed to the public papers, and the records of the courts of law, to show that it was not the working classes whom it was dangerous to admit within the wind of a public monument. He could 1738 not also avoid noting the grievous injustice of taxing the working classes among others for the support of the British Museum, and then cutting them off from the use of it on the only day they had leisure to enjoy it. As the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire had given notice of what he would do in another Parliament if he found his way there, so he (Colonel Thompson) hoped it was competent to him to say, that if he was not among the dying swans, so many of whom had sung to-night—he trusted to be able to give some assistance towards relieving the working classes in the metropolis from this crying injustice.
§ The vote was agreed to.
§ On the question that the Chairman leave the chair,
§ Sir F. Pollock
wished to call the attention of the House to the losses sustained by the late Speaker and the officers of the House from the fire in 1834. The amount of the losses they had suffered altogether did not exceed 6,000l. or 7,000l. This was a claim on the justice of the House. The fire had originated through the gross neglect of public servants in a distant part of the building; and by the common law of the land, where a fire occurred through the neglect of any one occupying premises, or his servant, or his guest, or even a stranger, the occupier was responsible for the damage done. This responsibility had been done away by the statute of George 3rd, except as to any of the Royal palaces, or any house or building in possession of the Crown, for the use or service of the Sovereign. But he did not think the House would in a case of this nature be guided by the strict law of the case, but would be inclined to take a liberal view of the matter; more particularly as in all previous fires in Royal palaces those persons who had suffered loss had been fully indemnified. If it was stated, that those persons ought to have insured, then he would meet that statement by saying, that they were not bound to insure, and that they had a right to look for protection from without, and that they ought not, therefore, to suffer from the negligence of others. He would venture, too, to say, that if the late Speaker had insured his property there was not an office in London which would not, under the circumstances, have refused, and justly, to make good the loss sustained, He would, however, put the case to the liberality of the House, and not 1739 on its strict legal merits; and he trusted the House would not refuse to sanction the just claims of those who had suffered so seriously from no negligence of their own.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
did not wish to argue the matter in an adverse manner with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, and only wished to explain the principle upon which the Government had acted. The claim had previously been made, and the Treasury had pronounced upon it; but the Government had felt, that they could not have justified themselves to the public had they paid the amount of loss sustained. The Treasury had not, however, heard of the claim of the late Speaker till a considerable time after the fire, and he had never heard of the claims of any other persons till they were brought forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman. He, however, admitted, that the same rule which was applied in the one case ought to be applied to the other; and if compensation was granted to the Speaker, the loss which had been sustained by others should also be made good. When the claim of the Speaker had been brought forward, the Government did not know of any precedent which would have justified them in compensating the loss; for the case of the fire in St. James's was not in point, as there the losses sustained were paid out of the privy purse, and not by the Woods and Forests. But although the Government had felt that they would not be justified in paying the claim which was made, the House might deal with the matter differently, and sanction the payment of the loss by a vote of that Committee. With respect to this case the Government had learned that the late Speaker had, up to a late period previously to the fire, insured his furniture, and that in fact his property in the house, which had been consumed, had up to the time when he first determined to resign the Chair been com-completely covered. When that determination was formed he had discontinued his insurances, but he had afterwards from the representations which had been made to him of the importance to the public service of his continuing to fill the chair, been induced to change his resolution, and to continue Chairman of that House. Against his own wishes he had consented to resume his duties as Speaker of that House, in deference to the wishes of those 1740 who desired the House might have the benefit of his great experience and talents. But when he returned to his duties at the general request of the House, he had not renewed his insurances, and it was after he had sacrificed his own wishes for the public good that his property had been consumed. It was when considered in this point of view that the case of Lord Canterbury would have great weight with the Committee, and he thought that when so considered his claim was entitled to the most favourable construction. When the fire broke out, his Lordship was not the permanent Speaker of the House, and only held it for a short period for the public good, and at the earnest and pressing desire of the House. The only reason the Government had for refusing payment of the claim was, that they were afraid to establish a dangerous precedent, but he was sure that it would be more gratifying to Lord Canterbury to have his loss made good, after a discussion in that House, by a vote of the Committee; and if the Committee decided that compensation should be granted, he, for one, would be much gratified by such a decision.
§ Mr. Warburton
thought the House ought to be on its guard; and he did not believe that any insurance office would have refused under the circumstances to make good the loss.
§ Mr. Bannerman
considered the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir F. Pollock) unanswerable in a legal point of view; but he trusted the House in this case would not confine itself to the legal merits of the question, but act upon principles of liberality and common sense. He hoped there would be no party feeling mixed up with the question for he was convinced that if the present Speaker were to suffer a similar loss, hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House would be the first to propose an indemnification for that loss. Lord Canterbury and the whole of those who had suffered were fully and justly entitled to compensation, and he hoped the House would not refuse its sanction to the payment of what had so strong a claim on the favourable attention of the House.
was sure the people of England would applaud the House should it sanction the payment of those claims. The people of England would consider that they had only discharged their duty in making good the losses sustained by a 1741 man who had with the greatest ability filled for eighteen years the chair of that House.
§ Mr. Grote
thought, that should the present Speaker, neglect to insure his property in Carlton-terrace, there would be no good claim upon the House to pay any loss which he might sustain by fire. He did not think the House was called upon to pay the claim which had been brought forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ The House resumed,