§ The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. HOLLIS:
§ 100. To ask the Minister of Works whether he will make a statement about the revision of the plans for the new Colonial Office.
§ At the end of Questions—
§ The Minister of Works (Mr. Stokes)
I will, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and the leave of the House, answer Question No. 100.
In view of the public interest in this Question, and the views expressed both in this House and in another place, the Government have reconsidered the plans for a building on the Stationery Office and Westminster Hospital sites. The plans will be revised so as to set back the pavilions on each side of the building facing the Abbey a further 30 feet. This means that the main face of the building 1066 will be 72 feet back from the line of the old hospital frontage, and the pavilions will be 48 feet back from that line. A model to the original design, but illustrating the set back, is on show today in the Ministerial Conference Room on the Ground Floor. One of my architects will be in attendance to demonstrate to hon. Members.
No change will be made in the height of the building, which is within the limits laid down in the Public Offices (Site) Act 1947.
About one-third of the hospital site was to be surrendered for amenity purposes. Under the new scheme over half will be so surrendered, so that the prospect of the Abbey and other surrounding buildings will be greatly improved, and it will be easier to meet possible future traffic requirements. Any further setting back would mean adding to the height of the building, which I am anxious to avoid.
I am satisfied that the building to be erected on this site in accordance with the revised plans will result in a real improvement in the planning of this important area, and that the building itself will provide a headquarters for the Colonial Empire of which we may all be proud.
§ Mr. Hollis
is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we shall go to look at the plan with the greatest interest, and that, although we cannot commit ourselves until we have seen it, I think public opinion will, in general, be very inclined to welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement? Can I get one point clear? Do I understand that the Colonial Office is going to do with a smaller space, and that nothing will be added at the back, and that Central Hall will not be impinged upon?
§ Mr. Stokes
Nothing will be added to the back. The new building will, in fact, provide about 156 fewer places than was originally intended. In regard to the plan, my suggestion is that, in addition to looking at the model downstairs, hon. Members should also go to look at the site, which is pegged out to show exactly where the building will be.
§ Sir Harold Webbe
Is it not possible for the Minister to reconsider once more the height of the building? Whatever powers the Government may have to build, surely this is a case where they should have regard to the importance of 1067 the Abbey and to the question of the close placing to it of a building as high as is at present intended, which certainly would be very detrimental to one of the most important centres of Europe?
§ Mr. Stokes
I have looked into that and have come to the conclusion that the setting back will really meet all reasonable requirements. I am very loth to interfere with the architect any more than I have done.
§ Mr. Bossom
While thanking the Minister for having gone so far, may I ask whether he will have a rough block model of the Abbey put in position in relation to this proposed building, so that we can judge the effect?
§ Mr. Keeling
Does the fact that there will be 156 fewer desks in the new building mean that 156 civil servants will have to be in a separate office, or will they be dispensed with altogether?
§ Mr. Stokes
I think the hon. Gentleman had better address that question to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
§ Sir Ronald Ross
Does the division of the site in half mean that the Minister is no longer opposed to partition?
§ Mr. Stokes
This is better than what the Royal Fine Art Commission asked for, and I do not consider it necessary to put the question to them, but I am, of course, advising the Commission of the changes.