§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Stokes)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
In doing so, I am asking the House to make available to Festival Gardens, Ltd., loans not exceeding £1 million in addition to those authorised by the Act of 1949. The House will be aware of the history but the estimated requirements now amount to £2,400,000 compared with the June, 1950, estimate of £1,100,000, and the possible loss is, of course, correspondingly increased above the then estimated loss of £100,000. I say "possible loss" because it does not necessarily follow that all the extra money involved will in the end terminate in financial loss.
The short history of the reasons for the Bill is simply that the need arises from over-spending. I would say to the House that there is nothing to conceal. I have endeavoured in the White Paper, so far as possible, to make the full facts and figures available to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. As they will know, the White Paper contains the reports from two reputable firms of chartered accountants—as well as the observations of the Board of Festival Gardens, Ltd. on one of those reports—Messrs. Moores, Carson and Watson, who made a report on the commitments of Festival Gardens, Ltd., and Messrs. Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co., on the work of the contractors at site, which I would remind the House is as yet inconclusive. I would add, though perhaps it is unnecessary for me to do so, that both these reports were caused to be made by Festival Gardens, Ltd., at my request.
That being so, and as I understand that it is not proposed to take the whole of the time of today's Sitting in debating the Bill, I do not propose to go into all the details contained in the White Paper but manifestly there are some points on which the Opposition at all events would expect observations from the Minister in charge. With the facts all in print, may I say at the outset that I do not suppose that Members will expect me to castigate individuals who cannot be here to defend 1009 themselves. As is known, certain actions have been taken of which the House is aware, and I do not propose to refer, if I can avoid it, to any individual in detail.
Suffice it to say that the whole story is regrettable; I do not think that anybody can deny that. But I wish also to say at the outset that perhaps it will not turn out to be quite as bad as it first looks even from the financial point of view. I say that because, whereas in June of last year the estimated total cost was of the order of £800,000, owing to changes which will be evident in the White Paper, and to which I will presently make reference, it is quite within reasonable possibility that the capital value of the work undertaken will be considerably in advance of that, and I am advised it might well be, as a capital asset, well over £1 million.
It may be asked why I cannot say more definitely now what that figure should be. The answer simply is that it is impossible to give any really accurate figure until the whole job has been measured up, just as it is almost impossible to give with any clarity a full explanation of how the extras came to arise. I will explain a little later just what has happened in regard to Festival Gardens, Limited, in relation to the work of the contractors.
The main criticism, as I see it, which runs through certainly the first of the two reports is in regard to the delay in the start of the operation. That involved a rush job, which is always unsatisfactory. The question that naturally arises is whether that could have been avoided. Perhaps it would be best if I reminded the House of the history of this Festival adventure.
The general plan of the Festival was decided upon in March, 1947, and whatever the doubting Thomases may say now or did say then, and whatever the gloom that was cast upon the project, without any doubt whatever—I say this from some experience of having been up and down the country opening some of these great exhibitions and festivals—it has been received with acclaim by the country. I consider that great credit is due to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for having thrust the whole scheme through. That started in 1947.
In 1948 the Festival of Britain Council was formed. I would remind the House 1010 that it is an all-party Council and an entirely voluntary advisory body. It has no executive power. It worked most energetically, as so many voluntary bodies do, and I am not throwing any criticism on it today for what has since happened. The South tank project was, of course, the main item, but the site proved insufficient in area to give room for the fun fair which all parties—and there were all parties represented on the Council—thought was indispensable to a festival of this kind. So a search was made for additional room in an appropriate quarter and those two factors combined to provide a difficult problem to solve.
During the winter of 1948–49—that was after the decision to go on the South Bank—negotiations were carried on with the London County Council, having in mind the idea of a five-year plan for a fun fair in Battersea Park. This meant that all sorts of things had to be done. Arrangements had to be gone into with the police; the catering people and the transport authorities had to be consulted; and, generally speaking, there had to be a squaring up of what physical commitments would be involved in deciding on such a site before actually entering into it. Unfortunately, when the London County Council were able formally to consult the local authorities, Battersea, and Chelsea, the five-year plan proved unacceptable.
In June, 1949, which I agree is very late after the commencement of the original idea, plans had to be modified, and very big alterations made in an endeavour to recover the total outlay in one year instead of five. All sorts of projects originally suggested were cut down, and the whole thing modified in what, as it turned out to be, was really the almost insuperable task of paying back the capital cost in a short season of five or six months. The one-year plan was finally announced on 1st July, 1949, and the Festival Gardens Board was convened on 25th November. The contractors started work on 1st April, 1950.
I will go further into what happened in the sad story of the site in a few minutes, but while it may be argued that, looking at it by and large, that seemed a long time. I would say to the House that it is quite easy to be wise after the event. The project was a magnificent one. 1011 in my view, and nobody could have anticipated the difficulties, both national and local, into which those responsible ran and which unfortunately had a cumulative effect with the late start, which was perhaps one of the root causes of all the trouble.
The second criticism or question constantly put to me—quite apart from the opinion of the Festival Office and their Council and their opinion was that this fair was an essential concomitant of a festival of this nature—is why have gardens at all, and whether the gardens were desirable, and whether they could be made a commercial proposition. I can only answer that by looking round at what has happened in other parts of the world. In the light of what has happened in other cities, the answer is emphatically, "Yes" to both questions.
In the light of the experience we have had to date—and although it is not very long since the fun fair opened, and it opened late—the answer is tremendously, "Yes". This is a thing which London has needed for years, and at last we have something. How long it will stay is another matter. But we now have something available for the people which is of a most unexampled character. If any hon. Gentleman has not yet been to the fun fair and Festival Gardens, may I cordially invite him to pay a visit, and I am sure he will endorse everything I have said.
Now I come to the sad story of what happened on the site. I do not pretend to be able to give chapter and verse from the inception of the scheme, because I had nothing to do with it in its early days. I can recall the facts only so far as I know them. Undoubtedly the delay in making a start was one of the root causes of the trouble. The fact that the architects had not time to prepare their drawings, which meant that in fact tenders were done to schedules which gave the contractors or would-be contractors no opportunity of studying the full scheme—as is always desirable in these cases—made close tendering and planning ahead impossible.
As anybody who knows anything about these schemes will realise, unless one can have drawings ahead of the contract and give the contractor time and 1012 opportunity to make a close and detailed study of the plan, it inevitably adds to the cost. I am not an architect; I only know that for constructional drawing jobs. anything from six to nine months clear from the time the decision to go ahead is taken till the time the contractor is ready is both necessary and desirable. A combination of a delayed start and the fact that the drawings, etc., were not available, led people concerned with the job—not many of them having had any experience of this sort of work—to a genuine misconception of the magnitude of the task.
In the White Paper various points have been put forward as to how the extra cost arose. I do not propose to go into all of them in detail, but without any doubt whatever the absolutely exceptional and abominable weather from November to March had something to do with the result. I do not claim, as has been claimed in some quarters, that that accounts for it all, because I do not think it does. There is something worse than wet weather and that is frozen weather, but from November to March it was inordinately wet. The rainfall was 18.12 inches as against 10.11 normally, which, in a low-lying place like Battersea Park had a tremendous effect.
It may be of historical interest to the House to know that at one time Battersea Park was Cubitt's claypit for the construction of Belgravia. The low-lying land there, with the rain pouring down, made drainage a great difficulty; and the general mud and slush in which the men had to endeavour to work was, in spite of their protective clothing, exceedingly unpleasant and added to the expense. Added to that, the late start and the way in which plans dribbled on to the job instead of the whole thing being cut and dried led to the site itself being flooded with labour at the most inconvenient time, somewhere about November to January. This proved too much for the contractor, who, despite his best efforts, found the administration of 2,000 men and more quite beyond anything he had experienced before.
It is a fact that these irregularities in payments about which I shall have something to say in a moment, and to which reference has been made both by Questions in the House and in the report itself, in the most part took place 1013 during the time when the site was what I would call flooded with labour. This inevitably led to waste and inefficiency, all of which was swept to one side by those anxious to make the best possible endeavour to get the whole thing open on time and the contractors off the site by 31st March.
As there has been so much criticism of the behaviour of the labour on the site, may I say that it is perfectly true that the men got out of hand and that certain political elements in fact boasted that they were exploiting this to the limit. There was an unending series of strikes, mass meetings, go-slow movements, working to rule, and so on, and everything possible was done by certain elements to impede the job.
But, when I have said that, let this also be recognised by the House—that the job was finished, and that there were a very considerable number of faithful. hard-working men on the job, without whom it could never have been put through at all, and who were as disgusted as were some of us at the behaviour of the rest. I know that I was jibed at the other day when I asked where credit was due, and I said that I had in mind the fact that the majority of the real craftsmen on the job did magnificent work, despite the vicissitudes with which they had to contend.
Then came the turn of the tide, the details of which are set out in the White Paper. There, again, it may be unbecoming for me to claim credit for the turn of the tide at a given event in the neighbourhood of Easter. Changes were made in the administration, and a new administration took charge. I think credit is due to the present managing director, who took over the job and has pulled it together and produced what is really a first-class paying proposition, and let us make no mistake about it. He is working without pay, which is not a thing I like very much, but nevertheless he offered his services and it seemed the best thing to do to accept them, and the whole show is now a well-managed going concern. The fun fair was opened on 11th May, and the Festival Gardens about two or three weeks later.
I said at the beginning that two reputable firms had made thorough investigations, and, if it is so desired by the company, these investigations can be 1014 taken further. The irregular wages payments, about which I have heard so much, have not in the event turned out to be as serious as would have seemed to be the case at first. I admit at once that any irregular wages payments are undesirable, and it is no use claiming that they are only small in comparison to the whole. It is just as well that the House should get the matter in the right perspective.
Those people who were thinking, as the daily papers had led them to believe, that there were legions of people going round and drawing full pay and not clocking in at all, or clocking in and then going off to do another job, had a grossly exaggerated idea what the facts really were. Since the report was published, I have had a communication from the accountants who went into the costs on the site. They say that the total amount paid in irregular fashion to people who either were not there, except for the purpose of collecting their money, or who managed to collect it twice, is £800, which I agree is still £800 too much. It is 2 per cent. of total wages bill.
§ Mr. Stokes
No, I am coming to that. The 4 per cent., to which reference has been made, has nothing to do with that at all. With reference to discrepancies in the bookkeeping, again they may not have been wrong payments, but may have been payments to people but not for the right job. Although the accountants have said that 4 per cent. is not unusually high, it is too high to be proper and they would have preferred it to have been lower. That 4 per cent. was not money necessarily improperly paid out, but the total amount of the discrepancies in the bookkeeping—money which may or may not have been properly paid, and again, that cannot be ascertained until a further full investigation is made. At any rate, I do not propose to pass judgment, because I cannot do so. Festival Gardens, Ltd., can go further if they see fit, and that will have to wait until they have decided on what settlement they will make with the contractor.
That matter, in fact, is still sub judice, and probably the less said about the ultimate sum to be paid the better it will be at this moment. The difference be 1015 tween what the contractor is to be paid or is claiming and what Festival Gardens, Ltd., think they ought to pay is, so far as I am aware, a considerable one, and obviously it would not be advantageous to the negotiations which they are conducting if I were to give details of it today. I must therefore ask the House to wait until they have completed their negotiations and more facts are available.
I now want to say something about the position of the loan and the extra money for which I am now asking. The original loan authorised the payment to Festival Gardens, Ltd.. of £770,000, of which £200,000 was to be subscribed, and has been subscribed, by the London County Council. A condition of the L. C. C. loan was that their loss should be limited to £40,000; in other words, whatever happens and whatever the loss may prove to be on the whole of this venture, the L. C. C. are to be repaid £160,000 out of their £200,000, anyway. Let us be quite clear about that.
If the Gardens are closed down at the end of October, there is going to be no repayment of the £40,000 to the L. C. C., and no payment to the Treasury. If, however, the Gardens are kept open beyond that date—on which subject I shall have something more to say in a minute—after the expenditure of a sum which will be necessary to convert some of these temporary buildings into something more permanent, without any doubt whatever, from our experience so far, the whole of the loan can be steadily paid off.
The fact of the matter is that the Gardens have been universally acclaimed by all sorts of funny people whom I never expected would like them at all. I am talking of my own friends, not strangers. The most unexpected people ring me up to say what a wonderful conception and what a magnificent show it is. If public opinion turns out to be in favour of continuing—and, of course, public opinion includes all those interested in the immediate vicinity—I shall be entirely sympathetic to continuing, including the fun fair. That, however, remains to be seen. I hope that hon. Members, in making their speeches today, will give us some lead as to what they are thinking on this subject.
The House understands that the Bill authorises additional loans up to 1016 £1 million, but that sum has not yet been required, and only some £522,000 has been advanced. I certainly shall not advance a penny more than is necessary, but it would be impossible to say at this moment what will be the total sum that will be required until a settlement with the contractor has been effected. Obviously, any answer that I give would be indefinite, added to which there is the sum of £100,000 to be spent on reinstatement. Of course, the revenue is very buoyant at the moment, much more buoyant than anybody anticipated, and it could not be taken into account in my calculations in estimating the possible loss. The revenue buoyancy entirely depends on two factors, over which none of us has any control whatever. They are the public fancy and the weather. If the public fancy goes on as it has so far shown itself, we ought to be all right.
Here, may I lay by the heels one scurrilous story put out the other day that there had been a large number of accidents at the fun fair. One of the daily newspapers said that, up to the end of May, there were 1,200 or 1,300 accidents. Actually, on investigation, it was found that these figures included all those people who had turned giddy on the "Big Dipper," people who went to the nurse for an aspirin and all sorts of things. The number of people actually involved in accidents is nine, whereas over three million people have been carried on the various amusements. I think that speaks well for the various rides. [HON. MEMBERS: "What paper?"] The "Daily Express." With regard to the continuation of the Gardens—
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the question of the original loan, does not he think it a pity that Mr. H. N. Butler, F. C. A., should refer in the first paragraph of his report to the £770,000 as the estimated expenditure, when quite clearly it was the amount of the loan? That statement tends to give a misdirection from the beginning to a very fair-minded report.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am glad my hon. Friend has drawn my attention to the point. Of course, the £770,000 was not the original estimated cost at all. It was the original estimated liquid capital with which to carry the show through. That is all it was meant to be, having regard to certain 1017 moneys coming into the Company from concessionaires and having regard to the revenue they expected to collect from time to time once the show opened.
But with regard to the continuation of the Gardens and fun fair, the Government are entirely in the hands of the House and the local authorities regarding what they wish. When hon. Members criticise what has happened, as no doubt they will this afternoon, I hope at the same time they will not forget that this has been a great success to date, and that the Government would welcome an expression of opinion whether the fun fair should be continued or not.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House a rough estimate of what he thinks it might cost to make these temporary Festival buildings suitable for another year?
§ Mr. Stokes
I should be very hesitant about doing that without looking at the estimates myself. It would all depend on whether we went on for one, two or three years. It might very well be that if we carried on for one year we could patch up as we went. As I say, I should be very hesitant to give a figure. If we were to go the full five years, I should think that an extra £150,000 to £200,000 would probably be necessary to ensure the continuation of the buildings as they are.
§ Mr. Stokes
For the immediate financing, yes, but I have not the slightest doubt whatever—let us be quite clear about this—that this scheme has such tremendous revenue-bearing possibilities that the whole of the loan can be paid off. I would reckon that within four or five years the sums already expended could be written off out of profits or margins on the right side, or whatever one wished to call them, on the operations of the Gardens and fun fair jointly. But it is always a dangerous thing to anticipate that revenue is going to run at a regular level. It is going splendidly at the present time, and, provided the weather holds and the public continue to like it, as they appear to do at the moment, I see no difficulty whatever in 1018 paying off the whole of the loan in four or five years, and, indeed, that is what I am advised.
I want to end my short remarks by saying that I am in no way trying to excuse what has happened. I am only trying to explain briefly why it happened. In my own opinion, the over-riding faults were twofold. First, having had some experience of boards of directors, I do not think any of them are of any use at all unless they have a competent managing director. One can provide the most magnificent board, but unless there is a good chap running the show, the board cannot do anything about it. I have never yet met a board who knew anything short of what the managing director told them.
I am not casting any aspersions on the managing director who took office. Nobody more appropriate could be found at the time, and it is always difficult on these short-term jobs to get hold of good men. The gentleman in question took the job and did his best, and the fact that he was not totally suited for it was not his fault, but just sheer hard fact. In my own opinion, whatever the necessary extra cost turns out to be in the light of additional buildings or more substantial buildings and the like, I am quite certain that the extra cost that might be attributed to the mishandling of labour, weather conditions and the like, would have been very materially reduced had a contractor of substance been in charge of the whole show. The amount in the tender was only of the order of £160,000; the rest was going to be by sub-contractors, and so on, but the persons responsible did not think fit, in their wisdom, to employ one of the bigger contractors.
Whatever the past may have been, the future prospect is bright. I do not mind in the least what the gloomy pessimists may have said in the past. This, without doubt, is the biggest success in the history of public entertainment in this country. I hope it will be so recognised, and that, given the good will of all, we may find a permanent way of offering to Londoners a possibility of enjoyment of which they have had far too little in the past, and for which, I am sure, they will always have a need in the future.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)
I am sure that we can all share with the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal the satisfaction that the fun fair and Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park are undoubtedly going to give a great deal of enjoyment to many people in London; but that is not really the issue we are debating this afternoon. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman, following the pattern of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence, devoted a good deal of his time to matters which were not strictly pertinent to the question under discussion. He also avoided quite a number of issues to which, I think, this House has a right to an answer before being asked to vote further money for this purpose.
This Bill arises from the simple fact that the project in Battersea Park is going to cost about three times the amount quoted to this House when the original Bill was introduced, and I shall have something more to say about that a little later. Let me say straight away that, of course, no blame whatever attaches to the Lord Privy Seal in this matter. He told us a few minutes ago that there had been changes in the higher management of the company which had led to improvements.
I think we are all very pleased that there has been a change in the higher management of the Festival on the Government side as well, and I think I may say that we feel there have already been salutary results following the replacement of the Foreign Secretary by the Lord Privy Seal on this job. The right hon. Gentleman blushes—
§ Mr. Stokes indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Sandys
Anyway, he is blushing now. We recognise that since his appointment, the right hon. Gentleman has done everything that is humanly possible to clear up the Augean stable which he inherited from his predecessor. We are also indebted to him for the frankness with which he has treated the House, a frankness to which we were not altogether accustomed on this particular question. Perhaps it is easier to be frank about one's predecessor's errors than about one's own. The right hon. Gentleman has done his best today to make such excuses as could be made for his right hon. Friend's earlier 1020 administration. I think he must have felt a little like a barrister who was briefed to defend a company director whose business had gone off the rails and whose only defence was to plead that he had been so neglectful of his duties that he did not know what was going on.
The Government appear before us today not exactly in a white sheet but in a White Paper. It would be certainly superfluous for me to try to adduce any new facts or criticisms that are not already contained in the very clear and objective report which results from the inquiry instituted by the Government themselves. All I need do is make a few observations upon the most serious aspects of this case and try to show where the responsibility lies.
One of the first things that strikes one in reading this report is the absence of any serious criticism of the contractors. Considering the difficulty and confused conditions under which they had to work and to which the right hon. Gentleman himself referred, that really reflects great credit on this firm, more particularly since it is not one of the very large building firms in this country.
I must be forgiven for criticising the then Lord President of the Council, the present Foreign Secretary, when he is not here, but I assume he must know he would not get nothing but bouquets during this debate. He attributed the increase in expenditure to three causes, in a reply which he gave to this House on 19th March. These were the bad weather, labour troubles and a tight timetable. On the question of the tight timetable, let me say—and I think the Lord Privy Seal has borne me out by his remarks today—it never need have been tight. The reason for its being tight was that the Government were exceedingly slow in making up their minds and even slower in introducing the necessary legislation.
The decision to hold the Festival of Britain as a whole was taken in 1947 and the Foreign Secretary has told us specifically that from the very beginning it was always envisaged there would be an amusement park. This was envisaged from 1947 and yet it took two years before the Government introduced the necessary legislation to enable the job to begin.
§ Mr. Stokes
That is not quite right. If I gave the right hon. Gentleman that impression, I was wrong. The Festival Council were appointed in 1948 and it was not necessary to have a Bill to form Festival Gardens, Limited. Had it been thought advisable the fun fair could have been proceeded with under the Festival Office. It was a mere difference of thought. What happened was that the fun fair got left to the end. There were bigger projects involved. If blame is to be laid, it was not my right hon. Friend's fault; it was the fault of the Festival Office for not getting on with the job quicker; but I do not wish to lay that charge at their door. It was their responsibility.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman said a late start was at the root of the trouble. He says the responsibility was not that of the Foreign Secretary, the then Lord President. He says it was the responsibility of the Festival Office. As I understand it, that office is part of the Department of the Lord President and I cannot believe that the Foreign Secretary, if he were here, would wish to shelter behind the Civil Service in his own Department.
§ Mr. Stokes
It is an all-party Council on which Members of the Front Bench opposite are represented.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman is not correct. The Festival Office to which he referred is a Civil Service department, part of the department of the Lord President. It is quite a different thing from the Council of the Festival.
§ Mr. Stokes indicated assent.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman agrees that is correct. It is perfectly clear that if the start had been made even six month or nine months earlier, the company would have had a much better prospect of getting itself organised and drawing-up its plans so that the job could start in an orderly fashion. As it was, the contractor was obliged to go onto the site and start work with nothing more than preliminary layouts. The plans were fed out to him piecemeal over a long period of months and, as the report says, some of the final plans of the buildings only reached him quite recently.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, that is undoubtedly one of the root causes of all the trouble, and from that followed 1022 many other troubles and many very expensive remedies. As for the weather, blamed by the then Lord President of the Council and blamed also, though perhaps a little more mildly, by the Lord Privy Seal today, it is I think true that whenever the Government are hard up for an excuse for something that has gone wrong they always blame the weather.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member says it is ridiculous, but does he not remember that when we had a fuel crisis, we were told—
§ Mr. Sandys
We were told that the fuel crisis was due to the exceptionally cold winter. When we had a cement shortage last year the Lord Privy Seal, as the then Minister of Works, said it was due in large measure to an exceptionally warm winter.
§ Mr. Stokes indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Sandys
Certainly he did. Now we are told that the over-spending in Battersea Park was due to the exceptional amount of rain.
§ Mr. McAllister
The right hon. Gentleman said the report of the accountants was an objective report and I think that is fair comment. On page 2 of that report he will find that in paragraph (g) of the list of reasons given by the accountants—who were very experienced—they said one of the main reasons was the exceptionally heavy rainfall during the winter of 1950–51.
§ Mr. Sandys
If the hon. Member had not interrupted me I was about to say that, of course, the rainfall was exceptionally heavy last winter. But it is no good the Government planning on the basis of statistical averages. An average is merely a half-way mark between fluctuating variations in both directions. Like the average family which consists of 4.2 persons, the average winter is something which just does not exist except in the minds of the gentlemen in Whitehall.
In any case—and this is my reply to the hon. Gentleman—this argument about the weather is not a valid reason at all, because—and the Report bears me out—most of this work never ought to have been done in the winter at all. If the 1023 job had been started in time, all the heavy site work, and in particular the roads, would have been completed during the normal building season. As it was, the summer was frittered away arguing about access to different parts of the site and waiting for plans. As a result, out of a contract of over half a million pounds only some £80,000 worth of work was completed by the autumn. All the rest was left over to be done during the winter.
As for the labour troubles, I do not believe that they would have been nearly as serious if the job had been started earlier. With a fixed opening date and with the whole work far behind schedule, it made it all too easy for the subversive elements, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, to exploit the situation and to adopt tactics which could have been resisted if there had been more time in hand.
A little while ago I asked the right hon. Gentleman at Question time whether the Government accepted responsibility for the actions of the company. He said that I had better wait for the Report and for the debate on it. I had hoped that he would enlighten us on this point; I hope that whoever is to reply will deal specifically with this question. It would be altogether unfair for the Government to try in any way—and I did just notice a suspicion of it in one or two of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman today —to shelter behind Festival Gardens, Limited, as though it were an ordinary commercial firm over which they had no control.
This company was formed by the Government to carry out a Government plan. The Government and the L.C.C. hold all the shares. They put up all the money. When the money was overspent, the Government advanced more money out of the Civil Contingencies Fund. The Government drew up the articles of association. The Government nominated the directors. The company is linked directly with the Government through the appointment of civil servants from the Lord President's Department on to, the board of directors. In fact, it is quite clearly a puppet organisation in which the Government hold all the strings. Therefore, I hope that, in fairness to all concerned, the Minister who replies will make it quite clear that the Government accept responsibility for the actions of this company which has been 1024 created by them and which in every sense they control.
It is clear from the report that one of the sources of weakness throughout has been the structure and composition of the board and the management of the company. The board of directors contains men of great talent in certain fields, but I think any unbiased person must feel that it is a thoroughly unbalanced team and one utterly unsuited for the job in hand. The original chairman was a retired civil servant of distinction who is now connected with the cinematograph industry. The other directors include two permanent civil servants from the Lord President's Department, three Socialist politicians, a journalist, a former advertising agent and four personalities from the entertainment and theatrical world.
Although there were as many as 14 directors on this board, there was not one single person on the board who had any knowledge or qualifications in the field of building or civil engineering upon which the greater part of the company's money was going to be spent. The Government have subsequently very belatedly recognised this mistake by the appointment of General King, the former Engineer-in-Chief of the War Office, to replace Sir Henry French as the chairman, but that did not happen until April of this year when, of course, all the damage had been done.
I think the House will agree with the opinion expressed in the report by Mr. Butler, the accountant, on page 1 in which he says:It appears to me…that the conception and organisation of the Board itself was unsatisfactory‥‥The organisation of such a company would normally include a director responsible for construction, a director responsible for operation, a director responsible for finance, a managing director to co-ordinate their work, and such part-time directors as may be desirable for particular purposes.Not only did this company have no full-time directors at all with special responsibilities, but for seven whole months it never had a managing director at all. Even the secretary of the company during the whole of that period was employed only part-time. It is a fantastic story. It was not until June, 1950, that a managing director was eventually appointed, but by that time all the main contracts had already been placed and all the most important decisions of policy had been taken.
1025 Even so, even at that late date, I believe the situation might have been partially retrieved if a managing director had been appointed who possessed at any rate some of the qualifications which were required for the job. However, the board took the extraordinary decision of appointing to this important, responsible executive position a man who possessed virtually no experience in the particular fields in which the company would mainly operate.
It appointed Mr. Leonard Crainford, of the Festival Office, to be managing director. Mr. Crainford for the whole of his life had been in the theatre world. He had held important positions as producer and manager in a number of theatres in different parts of the country. He had organised the play tours of the C. E. M. A. during the war. He was a director of numerous dramatic societies. He was a lecturer and adjudicator for the British Drama League. He is undoubtedly a leading personality in the sphere of the theatre and drama, but I submit that those are hardly the qualifications and experience required for a managing director whose main job was going to be to supervise large engineering and building contracts.
§ Mr. Porter (Leeds, Central)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the board of this company ought to have known all about building before starting the functions of the company?
§ Mr. Sandys
I am suggesting that experience of the theatre, circus, journalism and advertising, which are all represented on the board, were not perhaps the most important qualifications needed for this particular job.
§ Mr. Sandys
A theatrical producer, in my opinion, does not seem to be the best person to run this particular type of organisation.
§ Mr. Popplewell (Vice-Chamberlain of the Household)
What about Lord Aberconway?
§ Mr. Sandys
He resigned almost at once. He was brought in in his capacity as President of the Royal Horticultural Society.
1026 Commenting on this appointment of the managing director, the board themselves admit on page 21 of the report that they were not satisfied with the choice which had been made. They say:We were…unable to find a candidate whose qualifications and experience measured up to the standards we felt to be desirable.That is a deplorable statement. I really cannot believe that with all the interest centred on the Festival of Britain, with the full backing of the Government, that it was impossible to find in the whole of Great Britain a man with suitable qualifications who was willing to accept this important and interesting position. I ask the Minister specifically to tell us, when he replies, whether the Government were consulted about this appointment of Mr. Crainford as managing director, and whether they approved; and, if not, whether it was approved by their two representatives on the board.
There are one or two other matters about which I should like to have an explanation. The first concerns the original estimate. The original estimate made by the Government, before the company was formed and announced to this House when the Bill authorising the loan was brought before the House of Commons. was a total estimated expenditure of £800,000. During the right hon. Gentleman's speech there was a query about a figure of £770,000, and he said that that was not really the total expenditure. The figure given by the then Lord President of the Council was £800,000, and I therefore hope that that is a correct figure. We have had certain figures that did not turn out to be correct. Was it the difference between £770,000 and £800,000 which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind?
§ Mr. Stokes
I tried to explain that the £770,000 was liquid capital necessary to finance the scheme. The total constructional cost was estimated at £800,000.
§ Mr. Sandys
The figure of £800,000 is correct, then. I just wanted to have that confirmed. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us the basis for that estimate of £800,000. How were those figures calculated? Will he also tell us how it was that only four month after the Bill had been passed, only four months after the then Lord President had given the House the figure of £800,000, the estimate of expenditure had climbed up from 1027 £800,000 to £1,168,000—in other words, nearly 50 per cent. more than the figure given to this House—before even the contract had been placed, before a single sod had been cut? That requires some explanation, and I hope that we shall have it.
It seems to me that there are only two possible explanations. It is no good telling us that it was because of rising prices. Even under a Socialist administration prices do not rise by 50 per cent. in four months. There are only two possible explanations. One is that the original estimate was completely at fault, and the other is that the scheme was materially enlarged. I submit that in either case it was the duty of the then Lord President to tell the House that the basis upon which it had voted this money had been completely and radically changed. He could have done it before the contract was placed, before the money was spent, and I think that it was his duty and obligation to inform the House on that point. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman lo tell us why we were not told.
Of course, it may be that the Government just did not know. It may be that they did not bother to keep themselves sufficiently in touch with the company to know what was going on. One cannot help getting the impression from reading these papers that, having set up an unworkable organisation, having appointed unsuitable men to run it, having devised a financial plan which had no basis of reality, and having got Parliament to vote the money, the Government then washed their hands of the whole business and let everything rip. That is the impression that one gets.
In the debate in November, 1949, the then Lord President said:If a Minister of the Crown tries to handle every detail in these matters, he will only get himself into a mess."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 23rd November, 1949; Vol. 470, c. 452.]The reason is, not that they interfered too much in detail but that they failed to exercise any control or supervision over the expenditure of the money voted by Parliament. It seems that the then Lord President—"Lord Festival" as he liked to be called—was far too busy bathing in the sunlight of his own publicity, and in having himself photographed embracing Festival "Queens," so that he had 1028 no time to keep his eye on the less glamorous figures of public expenditure.
Even so the right hon. Gentleman must have known very well for a long time that things were going wrong. For example, on page 13 of the report it is made perfectly clear that in November last a revised estimate was sent to the Lord President. This revised estimate of expenditure provided for a figure of expenditure of £1,600,000—in other words, exactly double the figure which had been quoted to the House by the Lord President when the Bill was passed. This same estimate showed an expected deficit of no less than £600,000, as compared with the figure of £100,000 quoted to the House by the Lord President.
Again, I say that represented a fundamental change in the situation, and I submit that it was the duty of the Lord President to inform the House as soon as he received that information. Instead he kept that information to himself until 6th March of this year, when my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), happened to ask a Question on this subject. The Lord Privy Seal said in his speech that the Government had nothing to conceal. I ask him to tell us, when winding up, why it was that this information, this November estimate, was concealed from the House for so many months. Will he tell us that?
There is another matter about which I should like information in connection with this Question on 6th March. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how it came about that the then Lord President of the Council gave the House such a totally inaccurate reply. In the reply he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon he said:on the best figures with which the Board have been able to provide me I understand that the total expenditure is likely to be about £1,625,000.I ask the House to note that he said:on the best figures with which the Board have been able to provide me.He then went on to say:the revised revenue estimate now given to me"—"now given to me"—by the company is 1.1,053,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 27.]Surely the impression that must have been given to the House by that statement was that the right hon. Gentleman 1029 had consulted the board and obtained from them the latest figure, which he then incorporated in his reply and communicated to the House. That was the impression—the natural impression—formed by what he said; but it is now clear from the report that the figures he gave in his reply were, in fact, the old ones of the November estimate. On 6th March he was giving figures which had been sent to him in November. The result was, as we know, that a fortnight later the then Lord President had to come to the House to explain that he had made a mistake and that the deficit, instead of being £500,000, as he had said on 6th March, was in fact going to be in the neighbourhood of £1,500,000.
The figures in themselves are extremely disturbing, but I believe that the most disturbing feature of that incident, of the mistake on 6th March and the correction on 19th March, is that it shows that the then Lord President of the Council was completely and totally out of touch with the company and with what was going on, and that in March he apparently did not appreciate that there had been a radical deterioration in the whole situation since the previous November. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us a full explanation of that point which, I know, has disturbed many hon. Members.
The Bill today results from a fantastic increase in expenditure over the estimates originally given to Parliament. The original cost, as I have already said, was to be £800,000, with a possible loss of £100,000. Now, instead of £800,000, the total expenditure is going to be £2,500,000 and the estimated loss may be anything up to £1,500,000. I submit to the House that this is not just an increase. This proposition which is now being put to us is a totally different proposition from the one which was approved by Parliament in 1949.
I go further. I say that if these figures had been known in November, 1949, if it had been known in November, 1949, that the probable loss was going to be, not £100,000 but £1,500,000, not even This Government would have had the face to present that proposition to Parliament, and that if they had there would have been no doubt that the Measure, instead of being unanimously adopted, would have been a hotly contested 1030 Measure in the House, and that it would have been a subject of controversy throughout the whole country.
Without Parliament being consulted, without Parliament being informed, we are now told that the money has already been spent—or, at any rate, that commitments have been entered into which amount to the same thing. In order to keep this company out of the bankruptcy court we are now asked to note a further loan—if we can describe as a loan money which, we are told in advance, we shall probably not get back. There can, of course, be no question of dishonouring commercial debts which have been entered into by this company which is sponsored and controlled by the Government. In one way or another the money has got to be found; but the fact that it has to be found, and that it has to be found in these humiliating circumstances, is a very grave reflection on the Government, on the Ministers concerned. and in particular on the Foreign Secretary.
The Festival of Britain, 1951, was inaugurated to commemorate the Great Exhibition of 1851. There is one important difference between the two Exhibitions. The Exhibition of 1851 was planned by private enterprise to produce a profit, and the profit exceeded all expectations. The Exhibition of 1951—the Festival—was planned by the Government to produce a loss, and the loss is exceeding all expectations. The story of the Festival Gardens is just another chapter in the book of Socialist muddle. It is just another example of the Government's inability to plan to organise anything efficiently. It is just another example of their total failure to protect the public purse.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
The House seemed to follow with rapt attention the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), although I think we all thought that it was rather a laborious and tedious study, not going very deeply into the matters involved. At any rate, it was a speech characteristic of the party opposite in relation to the Festival of Britain since the Festival was thought of—a veneer of co-operation veiling absolute detestation of the whole scheme because it was not their scheme and because the right 1031 hon. Gentleman's father-in-law was not at 10, Downing Street.
§ Mr. McAllister
It was a little unfortunate for the Opposition that they chose to put up the right hon. Gentleman to open for them in this debate, because his whole case today has been that the Government started off to do something which is costing a lot more money than the Government expected. That is characteristic, he says, of a Socialist Government. But, at any rate, the Government have produced something. They have produced the Festival Pleasure Gardens. I remember, during the war, when the right hon. Gentleman was at the Ministry of Works, where I spent a little time myself, in a much humbler capacity, the pipe dream that oozed from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman and was blared over the radio—and not only to the listening public here but to the listening public in America—about the Portal house.
§ Mr. McAllister
The Portal house was produced by the Coalition Government, certainly, but, very fortunately, no right hon. Gentleman on this side of the House and of this Government had any connection with it. We had the late Lord Portal; we had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham; we had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who was then Prime Minister; but no Labour Minister was in any way attached to the Portal house.
§ Hon. Members: Mr. George Hicks.
§ Mr. McAllister
Yes—a former Member of this House. Anyhow, it is a new 1032 doctrine about Government responsibility to suggest that a Parliamentary Secretary takes full responsibility for what his chief does.
That was the gravamen of the right hon. Gentleman's charge today—that the Government had envisaged an expenditure of money on the Festival Gardens and that that expenditure, for various reasons—and he thinks the Government are to blame in this regard—has enormously increased. He rejects the three reasons given to us by the then Lord President of the Council for the increased cost. Yet he claims that the report of the accountants is an objective report—and I think it is an objective report—which gives these three reasons and several others as being the reasons for the additional cost.
One thing was interesting in the interchange between the right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, and that was their different conceptions of the responsibilities of company directors and boards of management. When my right hon. Friend, who has much more experience in these matters than I have. said that it was no use putting responsibilities on managing directors, it reminded me of that handbook of industrial management, "How to run a bassoon factory," in which the author starts off with the definition of the managing director as the director who actually knows where the works are situated.
§ Mr. Stokes
I said that it was no use relying on boards of directors and that one must rely on managing directors.
§ Mr. McAllister
I think that is precisely the point my right hon. Friend was making, and in "How to run a bassoon factory" the managing director is the director who actually knows where the works are situated.
I think that the board that was appointed is a board which would command respect from any reasonable body of people and from this House as a whole. Sir Henry French was not only one of the most distinguished civil servants that this country has ever had, but he was the man who built up the Ministry of Food; he was the man who gave Lord Woolton all the reputation that Lord Woolton has today for that project—a man of great capacity for detail and for organisation over a very wide field. One would have 1033 thought that with Sir Henry French in the chair of any company that was a prima facie case for guaranteeing that the company would be well-managed. But if an attempt were made to place the whole blame on the managing director, then I think that the House would be unkind and unreasonable. The right hon. Gentleman detailed some of the features of the career of Mr. Leonard Crainford, his work in the theatre and his work as a producer, but he did not mention his very fine work as the director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Memorial Theatre.
I think that the first point to observe is that Mr. Leonard Crainford did not want to be appointed managing director of Festival Gardens, Ltd. He had been acting as Secretary of the Festival as a whole. His responsibility as Secretary of the Festival was to stimulate Festival activity in every town and village throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain. The things that are happening all over Great Britain today under Festival auspices are proof that Mr. Leonard Crainford did an extremely good job as Secretary of the Festival. The board was appointed in December and Mr. Leonard Crainford was not appointed managing director until June; therefore, I think that it is quite clear that the responsibility devolved on the board of directors and not on Mr. Leonard Crainford.
There seems to be unanimity on one point in the debate, and that is that the Festival Gardens are a great success. They have added an amenity to London which London has long lacked. In the Second Reading debate on the original Festival Bill, I made the point that one of the features of the Festival ought to be a pleasure garden such as the Tivoli in Copenhagen. One cannot create pleasure gardens of that kind without bringing into the initial stage men of great imagination and artistic sensibility, who have not only the knowledge of what the public want but a knowledge of how to give the public something even better than they want.
I think that in the actual result of the Pleasure Gardens, we must give the credit to Mr. James Gardner and the team of designers who work with him for the magnificent results they have produced. To go to the Pleasure Gardens when dark- ness is falling and to see the lights come on and the absolutely fabulous beauty that comes over Battersea Park at that 1034 moment is one of the thrilling experiences of our time, and, fortunately, hundreds and thousands of people are realising that and tracking to the Gardens in a way that the most optimistic sponsors of the Gardens never imagined would be the case. I cannot imagine that result was achieved without the managing director providing a stimulus here, there and everywhere.
My right hon. Friend is the new Chairman of the board of directors. I have no doubt that he deserves praise. I have no doubt that the reconstituted board have managed to do great things in the short time they have been appointed, but, nevertheless, we have to keep a sense of perspective in this matter, and it is to the original board and to the original managing director that must go the real credit for the great success of the Gardens as they are today.
We must keep two things quite separate. One is that the Pleasure Gardens is an enterprise catering for the public and for the delight of Londoners and thousands of visitors from all over the country and from overseas; and the other is the actual financial question itself. These are two separate questions. It is really too early to talk about a financial loss. It may very well prove that the Festival Gardens do not produce a loss to the British taxpayer, but are, in the end, not a great but a slight revenue-making asset.
When the Gardens were envisaged and the work started, all sorts of difficulties which later arose were not anticipated. No one anticipated the continuing deluge of rain which lasted from the early part of last autumn until the Gardens were almost due to be opened. The right hon. Gentleman said, "We always blame the weather." He was most unfair. If he looks at the report he will see a detailed case giving the actual rainfall at Battersea contrasted with 1935. In only one month was the rainfall at Battersea less than the average for the 1935 year average. In the last month, it was two inches or 1.5 inches above the average for the time of the year. That is a most serious matter. If the right hon. Gentleman went to Battersea, as I did, while the work was in progress and saw the sea of mud everywhere, the miracle was not that the Gardens were a few weeks late but that they were ready so quickly.
1035 I think that the poor quality of some of the labour was a very serious matter. It is one of the misfortunes of full employment that when we have all our industries geared to capacity and all our labour utilised, and we embark on an extra special enterprise of this kind, we have to take the labour that is available, and sometimes it is not the best labour. I can recall going to Battersea one Saturday morning. There were some 2,000 men there, but the number of men who were actually working was very small indeed. I think it was a reflection on some of the men and on the Communists who had unquestionably been given their marching orders with regard to Battersea and were deliberately trying to bring further disrepute upon the Government and upon this country by the normal tactics of the Communist Party.
These are things over which no one has very much control, but the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), who is in the building industry, knows that there is nothing that can add so quickly and so overwhelmingly to the cost of any work in progress as additional overtime costs—time-and-a-half, double time and special bonus payment for special results. That can add to the costs enormously, and I have not the slightest doubt that was one of the main factors in the rising costs.
There was some talk of long delays, and, of course, long delays occur. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham said that they were unnecessary, and that there was no need for negotiations. Is that really so? Is it not a fact that the Company had to negotiate with the Loudon County Council, the Chelsea Borough Council, and the Battersea Borough Council, and that it took a very long time indeed to get the agreement of these three Councils before the work could begin at all? That was an important factor in the delays which occurred.
The accountants' report is very fair on the whole. It spotlights all the points of criticism, including the exceptionally low labour output, the exceptionally heavy rainfall, the changes in the basis of the contract and the lack of a suitable managing director. Let me emphasise again that Mr. Crainford would far rather have gone on in his original job than take over the responsibility for the Festi- 1036 val Gardens. There was the general failure of the Board of Directors to specify a date. That, clearly was the failure, not of the Government, but of the board, because the right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. It is the continual and sustained charge of hon. Members opposite that Socialist Governments interfere too much with private enterprise and with the activities of boards of directors.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member does not suggest that this is private enterprise. The company was formed by the Government, everything was decided by the Government, and all the shares were held by the Government. Is that private enterprise?
§ Mr. McAllister
It is not private enterprise, but surely the right hon. Gentleman follows the argument—that hon. Members opposite are continually accusing this Labour Administration of what they decribe as bureaucratic influence. Here was a board appointed and a loan granted. Let us be fair about the loan which was granted. It was approved not only by the Government, but by the House as a whole, and it was left to the board to administer that loan and to get on with the job. It would have been intolerable if the then Lord President of the Council or any other Minister had interfered in the day to day or week to week conduct of the board of management.
§ Mr. Orbach (Willesden, East)
Is it not a fact that all the work at the Festival Gardens was, in fact, done by private contractors working under the board of directors?
§ Mr. McAllister
That, of course, is entirely true, but I would agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham that the contractors are not at fault in this matter. There is no criticism of them in this report, and I myself would have hesitated before accepting a tender of a company which was not one of the great companies in the constructional and engineering field.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman. Do I understand him now to be in favour of employing one of the monopolists?
§ Mr. McAllister
The contract went out to tender, and the company received a number of replies. They accepted the 1037 lowest tender, which I do not think is always the wise thing to do, but it is the habit in public administration.
The lowest tender was that of a company which is not among the first dozen or even 20 leading building firms in this country. I myself would have thought that for a job of this magnitude the company would have been better—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that even one of the biggest building companies in this country is a monopoly, or is he suggesting that there is nothing in the nature of a building ring?
I do not want to pursue this very much, but if one looks at the three tenders quoted in the report on page 27, it will be seen that one is for £535,000, another is for £525,000 and the third is for £524,000. I would be the last person in the world to suggest that there is any collusion in the matter, but the coincidence in the size of the figures is quite remarkable, as the right hon. Gentleman will agree.
I have spoken much too long, but I think I have made out a better case than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham. I hope when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) winds up for the Opposition he will be more generous in his appreciation of the work which has been done, of the results that have been achieved, and of the great addition to the amenity of London and Great Britain which Festival Gardens has brought to us.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I am sure the House will be in sympathy with the Lord Privy Seal in having to make the excuses here for so many faults for which he has not the least responsibility. We all have some knowledge of him personally, and some of us directly in his business capacity. I am quite sure that of all the jobs he has ever done he must have hated today's job more than any other.. It is not a matter so much of personality, but trying to deal with the situation as we find it today and to see how the taxpayer is to be saved from very grievous financial loss.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted a reply that I received to a Question I put to the then Lord President of the Council, but he did not quote a previous Question which led me to put down the second. 1038 I should like to draw the attention of the House to the one I put to the then Lord President of the Council as long ago as 27th July, 1950. It will be remembered that the contractor got on to the site only on 1st April, 1950. As I had rather an interest in this matter, I happened to go down to Battersea and it was quite obvious to me then that, starting as we were without any plans or drawings, the possibility of the thing at that time being ready was extremely slight. Therefore, I asked the then Lord President of the Council whether, under the financial circumstances, he would consider postponing any further expenditure on the Festival of Britain scheme. I quite expected the answer he gave, which was:I am not disposed to consider any such postponement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 97.]The reason I quote that is that it ought to be noted that there was an opportunity as long ago as July, 1950, to review the financial position and to consider what chances there were of carrying the scheme through. The last thing anybody who believed in the Festival of Britain wanted was that it should be a flop. Everyone interested in the project wanted it to be a success. There is no doubt at all that for one reason or another there was this most unfortunate delay, which was partly due to the misconceptions as to what was going to happen.
The first mistake that was made was in thinking that the limited site on the South Bank could possibly accommodate what is now wanted to be put in Battersea Park. The site on the South Bank is quite close to this House, and somebody might have measured it up and presented the details simultaneously with the plan being presented to Parliament. All that was done was to set aside an area for the location of the Festival Gardens. That led to long negotiations with the London County Council.
One matter which the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with is that the London County Council wanted certain buildings erected in permanent form and one other building in semi-permanent form. They put some ties on it as to the date by which the site had to be surrendered back to the care of the L. C. C., the responsible authority for Battersea Park. The London County Council had no business, strictly speaking, to give a 1039 grant for a Festival Gardens or fun fair which seeks to exclude the public from access for more than a certain time.
In my view, once the British public go to Festival Gardens they will want them to be permanent. I believe in them, because I think we have need of every amenity possible to cheer the people up. People are being asked to work very long hours on re-armament and to strive their utmost in the export drive. I cannot see what is wrong with providing people with a public place where they can go and enjoy themselves. We have debated all this before, but I hope that hon. Members will not condemn Festival Gardens unseen and unheard. I say "unheard" especially to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble).
At the beginning of Festival Gardens one of the great difficulties was the extraordinary idea that the noise made by the Battersea amusement park would keep Cheyne Walk and Chelsea awake at night. I have gone around on the North Bank trying to hear some noise emanating from the Battersea fun fair.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I understand that so strong were the representations made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea that the public are only to have fireworks on two days a week instead of four. That will decrease the number of fireworks but may not increase the sleep of my hon. and gallant Friend's constituents and, on the whole, I think they would rather have had the fireworks. It is a matter which the weather will decide rather than a Member of Parliament. After all, damp fireworks are not much good.
We cannot overlook the fact that there was a most gross muddle, which Parliament cannot allow to pass. It was a muddle which was quite inexcusable. I want to say what I believe went wrong basically with this plan, for which Parliament is wholly responsible. When the Act was passed it was in such a form that the Estimates Committee were quite unable to deal with the matter during the progress of the work. The Public Accounts Committee can deal with a 1040 matter after the work has been done. They do most valuable work in that way. They carry out a kind of post mortem examination. The money has been spent, and the corpse is there. If the Estimates Committee can examine a plan as it is going forward it can keep Parliament informed from time to time how the money is being spent.
There is a habit of including in Bills powers for people who are not responsible to Parliament directly to have the spending of the taxpayers' money without any Parliamentary control. It is a habit which is increasing, although it is directly against the old tradition that this House is responsible for expenditure made on behalf of the taxpayer. That is the reason why the House of Commons, in its good sense, has set up those Select Committees for the very purpose of acting as a check upon the expenditure of public funds, no matter what the cost may be. That was the first mistake, that this expenditure was not put down upon the ordinary Estimates so that they could have been checked and kept in hand.
The other point is the misuse of the word "loan," which is creeping in far too much. This is not a loan; as it stands it will be a loss to the taxpayer. Unless we keep Festival Gardens open for two or three years, they will be a dead loss. We can make them into a profit and recoup the taxpayers' money, as well as give the people of London and the country a wonderful example of what can be done by modern art. Mr. Piper has done a very fine job. The architecture generally is something light and unusual, and well worthy of our time. We can have all these things, or the taxpayers can lose money; but let us not call it "a loan" if we have the restricted period. It is not a loan. It is going to be extracted from the taxpayers, who will face a loss of not less than £21 million, a dead loss, unless this exhibition is allowed to go on so long as to pay its capital cost and repay its operating costs.
§ Mr. Stokes
Does the hon. Gentleman really mean a £2½ million loss? Is he not ignoring revenue of £1½ million?
§ Sir R. Glyn
I know about that, but I call it a loss of £2½ million because I have every reason to believe that there will be charges in connection with London Passenger Transport and other matters to 1041 be borne by the taxpayer which ought properly to be among the costs of the exhibition. I only hope that I shall be proved wrong and that the loss will not be £2½million. It certainly will not be so much if we keep Festival Gardens open long enough to make them pay, as well as to pay for some of the money lost on the South Bank. Festival Gardens will be a real money spinner.
There is another aspect of the matter where there ought to be severe condemnation of the methods adopted. I am sorry to say that I have had some experience of the lack of security in Government establishments, certainly in my constituency. I happened to find out that one well-known Communist agitator had, happily, left North Berkshire and had gone to Battersea Park. I wanted to find out why he had gone there, and I did not have to wait very long. He had not been there more than a fortnight before he was able, because of his previous links with the Amalgamated Engineering Union, to start trouble at once.
I want to support what has been said, that undoubtedly there were a number of people there who did very good work, but the whole House knows the tragedy under which we are suffering today. There is a very small minority of determined people who can undo the discipline of any decent trade union.
§ Mr. Pannell (Leeds, West)
The hon. Member has referred to a well known Communist whom he links with the Amalgamated Engineering Union. I take it that he is not making an allegation against the union itself?
§ Sir R. Glyn
Certainly not. I am certainly not against the union, but I say that the properly elected representatives in some of these unions are not getting the support they should get from the bulk of the membership. They allow a very small minority of agitators to do a great deal of harm which brings contempt upon the union as a whole.
§ Mr. Pannell
I did not think the hon. Gentleman would do so. I am one of the Parliamentary representatives of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. I should like the hon. Gentleman to know that the union is not Communist-controlled, because of a long process of hard work and disenchantment that was carried out. They are solidly behind the Labour Government today.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I am delighted to hear it. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I fully appreciate all that he and his colleagues have done to eliminate the Communist influence.
All I can say is that one of the results of full employment is that we get some very curious people applying for work. I am not convinced that there was a sufficient sieve to ensure who was employed at Battersea Park, otherwise these people would never have got in. That was due to bad management and bad labour supervision, and it was against the interests of the men themselves. I spent several days there in appalling weather conditions. Luckily they lent us gumboots to walk about with, but one was well over one's ankles. Some of those men were working under the most deplorable conditions.
In a situation like that, it does not take many firebrands to make a thing a failure, and the Communists were determined to make this scheme a failure. They knew exactly what they had to do. They claimed for "dirty work" time: they put every obstacle in the way. The right hon. Gentleman put Lieut.-General King in as soon as he could, and he is a most efficient manager. If there had been an efficient manager earlier who understood building, and if there had been proper support from the security side, I think that the work would have turned out differently.
At any rate, we can learn a lesson from all this. It is that it ought never to be said again, as it was said to me by the Foreign Secretary in this House, that one must not criticise Battersea Gardens because that is private enterprise. I immediately told him that I did not call it private enterprise, nor was it. This was a company nominated by the Government. It was not a limited company, and there was no sense of responsibility by the board of directors to the taxpayer, as there would have been if the directors had been responsible to shareholders. That is the difference.
I am perfectly happy about the future now that the matter is in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal. I only hope that all hon. Members will share my satisfaction that he is now in charge. If they share that satisfaction, let the House decide that the taxpayer 1043 shall not lose money unnecessarily, but that the working people of the country shall have a place where they can go to enjoy themselves.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)
The House has had the benefit of the views of the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister) and the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and now I want to speak as a Londoner. The hon. Member for Rutherglen made a speech which may give satisfaction in his constituency, but I assure him that it will not be much enjoyed by Londoners when they read it tomorrow. He said that, at any rate, the Government have produced something. Any of us can produce great results if we can have virtually unlimited amounts of public money to play with.
What we have to do this afternoon is to give our attention to a lamentable large-scale failure to control the spending of public money. I cannot help seeing this problem against the background of the other public work which has been going on in London in these last two or three years. The London County Council has received repeated communications from Government Departments that its plans for this, or that, or the other new building must be drastically cut or indeed eliminated, because the Government had not got the resources available in men and materials to enable the work to go forward.
Hon. Members can see at Lansbury a fine new school built by the London County Council, but the London County Council is no longer allowed to build schools with all these amenities because the cost per head has now been cut by the Government. When plans for health centres are put up by the L. C. C., the Ministry of Health say, "No. We cannot sanction these." Traffic improvements are delayed. People who wish to get to the South Bank Exhibition and Battersea Park—good luck to them—are delayed in traffic jams, because the Government have said that no resources in men and materials can be expended in London at the moment on urgently needed road improvements. So on it goes over the whole field. Nursery schools are banned. For the schools meals service, no further building is allowed.
1044 The hon. Member for Rutherglen put up a defence of what has happened in Battersea Park which appeared to me to be entirely based on the fact that the Festival Gardens were most enjoyable. Ought they not to be, when they have had over £2 million of public money spent on them? We surely should have learned by now that in these days of straitened economic circumstances we have to balance one need against another and decide what we want most.
Perhaps I can assist the House most by going back to my own experience of the early days of the planning of this scheme. I first heard about it at the end of 1948. I heard, as a member of the London County Council, that there was a possibility that something on the lines of the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen might be embarked upon in Battersea Park. I am one of those who want to see the amenities of London improved. I was never opposed to some plan of riverside gardens if a successful scheme could be worked out and—I stress this—if the resources were available without withdrawing men and materials from other quarters.
I heard nothing more of this suggestion until some five or six months later, at the end of May, 1949. What was happening during that period I do not know, and those who have prepared the White Paper do not seem to know either. I believe that it was on 1st June, 1949, that a conference was held at County Hall of representatives of the London County Council and the two borough councils intimately concerned. A plan was laid before the conference. It was what is now referred to as the "abortive plan"—the one for a five-year scheme. Some 37 acres of Battersea Park were to be withdrawn from public use for five years, and rather more than £1 million were to be spent. It was indicated that, over the five years, the whole of that expenditure might be recouped.
We inquired how the period of five years came about. It appeared to have been arrived at not on any intrinsic merit of a quinquennial period, but simply because it was thought that five years would be required in which to get the money back. That plan was most unfavourably received by all the local authority representatives, regardless of 1045 party. There was unanimous criticism of those 37 acres of Battersea Park, including the riverside walk, being withdrawn from the enjoyment of the general public for a period of five years, for the sake of a scheme about which, frankly, very little could be told us in detail at that stage because the details had not yet been worked out.
Then came a sudden transformation. I want to stress the shortness of this next period of time. Twenty-four hours elapsed between that meeting and a subsequent meeting at which the then Lord President of the Council was present, and at which a new plan was put before us not for a five-year occupation but for a one-year occupation. We were told that it was believed that on the basis of a one-year occupation the previous cost, which had been estimated at something like £1,250,000, could be reduced by £500,000, and that the new cost figure which we should take into consideration was about £750,000.
That seemed to everybody to be a much more acceptable plan. Indeed, I think that general agreement was reached on that occasion by the local representatives present that, if something on those lines could be worked out, it was likely to receive support from the local authorities. Obviously, nobody could pledge his local authority without having had opportunities for wider consultation. I cannot help suspecting that inadequate thought had been given by the Government and the Festival authorities in those 24 hours to the practical possibility of knocking £500,000 off the expenditure, and in the light of after events I find it very difficult to accept that at that time, when we agreed to the £750,000 plan, anybody from the Government or the Festival could have produced a water-tight scheme which would give satisfaction and win approval and which, at the same time, would cost only £750,000.
§ Mr. Pannell
But presumably the hon. Gentleman and his friends from the local authorities accepted it.
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not follow the hon. Gentleman. The great difficulty with which all the local authority representatives were faced at that time was the paucity of knowledge, because nobody could sufficiently assure us what the new 1046 gardens were expected to look like and what was to happen in them. It was a general and vague idea. We were fully convinced—especially those who work in the neighbourhood of County Hall—that there would be gross overcrowding in the South Bank Exhibition if no alternative attraction were created in London to try to draw the crowd away, and I think that may have influenced many of us.
From 2nd June, 1949, there was another lapse of some four months, and it was not until 25th October that any definite proposal on the matter of the Festival Gardens came before the London County Council. What work was done by the Government and the Festival authorities in that interval I do not know, but it strikes me that either I must be right in suspecting that on 2nd June plans were in a very sketchy and immature state or, alternatively, there must have been waste of time in the interval and the scheme should have been brought forward in specific form to the London County Council and to this House much earlier than October or November.
I need not dwell on the London County Council debate. The principal point of issue there was that the Lord President of the Council, as he then was, was pressing the London County Council to make a financial contribution. The majority of that council committed what I think was the great mistake of agreeing to the London ratepayers putting £40,000 into this pool, which has subsequently proved to be a bottomless one. We were told that Festival Gardens Ltd. was to be formed, and the London County Council were given the opportunity of suggesting three names of persons who might be appointed by the Government to the company. I refused to sit on the board, and I did that for two reasons—partly because I wholly disagreed with the spending of ratepayers' money on the Festival Gardens, and partly because I did not wish my name to appear on the prospectus of a company which, from the very outset, announced that it would make a loss.
At that time I was not a Member of Parliament. My responsibility was as a member of the London County Council to the ratepayers of London, and I am quite clear that I should have done wrong had I agreed to serve on the board. High opinion as no doubt I have of myself, I can hardly believe that had I served on 1047 the board I could have altered the figure of £2,500,000 back to £750,000.
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. Gentleman raises a hypothetical question which I do not feel disposed to answer.
As to the board itself, undoubtedly a number of able men served on it. I cannot acquit them of failure. Quite clearly, they did not exercise sufficiently close supervision over the spending of money. I do not know how it happened; I do not know how the mistakes at the board arose. It is quite true that most of the members were busy men, but they had accepted office—and an office which carried, with it what sometimes seems to some of us to be the heaviest responsibility of all, the control over other people's money. Yet they failed to control.
But the fundamental trouble lay elsewhere. The fundamental mistake was the mistake of the Government in setting up a board of that kind. This Government, who, in other fields, have so often attacked the part-time director, and expressed a strong preference for a board of full-time men, on this occasion adopted the completely part-time structure. I hope that one lesson we can learn from this is that the strongest board of directors to look after a business affair is, in general, one which is composed partly of full-time men giving their professional skill to the company and partly of part-time men, amateurs so far as that company's business is concerned but bringing with them wide and well-recognised ability and experience in other fields.
But ultimately, if we are to pin-point anything as the main cause of the loss of all this money, it was delay—allowing time to slip away when urgent decisions were not taken. In connection with the Festival of Britain this is but one example where money has had to be spent unnecessarily because the original decision to do that particular constructional work was left too late. When we see the finances of the South Bank, I have no doubt that that fact will again emerge. Hundreds of thousands of pounds could have been saved in connection with the Festival of Britain if the then Lord President of the Council had managed to get 1048 decisions out of his Cabinet colleagues months and years earlier than he did. I have every sympathy with the directors when they say. on page 20 of the White Paper:Had it been possible for us to be appointed a few months earlier, the work would have been greatly facilitated and many difficulties avoided.There is only one further point. Some hon. Members this afternoon have rather lightly indicated that we can get out of the financial side of these troubles by keeping the Festival Gardens open indefinitely. Let us take any such decision in the light of informed and experienced public opinion on the matter, not simply because it is offered to us this afternoon as a way of getting some money back. Originally, when the slate was clean, the local authority representatives who were consulted said they did not like the idea of a long-term occupation of that part of Battersea Park.
It would be quite unfair to those elected representatives in London if this House were in any sense to try to over-rule them simply because a great deal more money has been spent than was intended. We have to keep the balance between public enjoyment of the Festival Gardens and the numerous other urgent needs which the open spaces of London can alone provide. I should be much more content about the riverside gardens being permanently open if I had not to go in the next few weeks to distribute prizes at various schools in Central London and to hear, as I shall on those occasions, that it is impossible for boys to get a game of cricket because there are no open spaces on which they can play.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
I did not intend to take part in the debate, but I have been prompted to do so by the remark of the Lord Privy Seal that a very easy way out of the financial troubles in this matter would be to continue the Festival Gardens and fun fair for up to four years. Other hon. Members seem to be supporting that view. I do hope that we shall be very careful how we approach any decision to extend the period during which Battersea Park will be used for this purpose.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) has said, this was gone into very carefully with the 1049 London County Council and the two other local authorities, and if they had not agreed with the second plan, having turned down the first one, it might well have been that the Lord President of those days would have had to have gone somewhere other than Battersea Park for the Festival Gardens and the funfair.
I will quote what the Lord President said on the Second Reading, when hon. Members raised the question of Battersea Park being taken over for a much longer period. He said:We have cut down the time, in association with the two borough councils of Battersea and Chelsea, and I should not like to break faith with them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1949; Vol. 470, c. 459.]I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that he will not break that faith with the London local authorities.
I see in this a very great danger that the Government might try to bludgeon them in the near future by saying, "We have spent so much more money than we should have done that unless the project continues for three or four years there will be a very large loss to the taxpayer. Surely you would not want that to happen?" I ask the Government to say that when they make any approaches the views of the local authorities will be given the most serious consideration, regard being given to the local point of view and the local amenities particularly, instead of to the profit and loss account.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Gibson (Clapham)
Like the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke), I am a member of the London County Council, and I am also in close touch with what the London ratepayers think about this, and in particularly close touch with the ratepayers who live in the district; but I have not met the violent criticisms and objections in the areas surrounding Battersea Park which the hon. Gentleman seems to imagine. Londoners are enjoying themselves a very great deal in the Festival Gardens. Many of them would like to see the arrangements carried on for very much longer, quite apart from the attempt to recoup some of what appear at the moment to be huge losses.
It is wrong to assume that there is an overwhelming urge among London ratepayers to scrap the project altogether and that they are worried at the apparent losses about which hon. Members are now 1050 talking. The truth is that throughout a section of political opinion in London has damned the fun fair with very faint praise and has not co-operated in trying to make it a success. This is a glorious opportunity for that section to make party political capital in the hope that it may be remembered when the next London County Council elections take place.
I have no difficulty with my constituents in dealing with questions relating to the Festival Gardens. That is not to say that they are not critical of some of the things which have been done. Let us be fair about it; let us not get into the habit of blaming everything on the Communists. I have no room for Communism. I was fighting it and all it stands for long before most hon. Members were in this House and long before the Communist Party of Great Britain came into existence.
It must be remembered that if huge masses of men are put to work in the conditions which existed in Battersea Park during the winter of 1950–51, there is bound to be discontent. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) referred to the mud which he found when he visited the site. Every civil engineering job in the winter is disagreeable, uncomfortable and miserable, but unfortunately the nature of the land in Battersea Park made it a particularly bad spot for workmen, and it would have been a miracle if there had not been a good deal of grumbling and criticism.
Nevertheless, most of them worked loyally all the time, and the trade unions, including the engineers' union, did their utmost to keep the work going without any undue stoppage or hindrance. It is true that grievances were found and that they were exploited. They were exploited very unfairly, and some of the men who fell for the agitation were "led up the garden path." In the end the men realised that they were making a mistake and they then made every effort to get the work done at as early a date as was humanly possible.
One of the troubles was that there was no adequate estimating before the work was started. There hardly could have been adequate estimating, because the plan was expanded while the site was being developed. Changes were made as the work continued, and changes in any construction job must lead to increased 1051 expenditure. There is no doubt that one of the factors in the very high cost of the Gardens was that it was impossible accurately to estimate at the beginning and that only a spot estimate or guess could be made, and—it is no use boggling at it—the guess was a very bad one, as it was at least £1 million out.
If Tivoli Gardens were wanted in London at that time, building them was bound to be a very expensive proposition. Now that the people have seen the Gardens and fun fair they are visiting them in record numbers, and many thousands of people from London and the provinces are seeing for the first time what well-built and well-laid out gardens can be like, and they are getting some fun out of life.
I have known Battersea Park since I was a small boy. I regret that some of the gardens are built on the cricket pitches where I have spent many happy hours. It is doubtful whether we shall ever see the cricket pitches again because some of the permanent buildings now stand on them. However, we have in Battersea Park a type of public pleasure ground that we have never seen before in London, and we ought not lightly to relinquish it when the time comes to close the Exhibition.
I agree with the hon. Member for Hampstead that a tremendous mistake was made about the type of company which was established. I know most of the gentlemen who were placed on the board; all were very active in public life and all had very great ability, but it is obvious that none of them had any responsibility for any part of the work. It is also true that there was nobody on the board who had building experience or civil engineering experience, and that resulted in a looseness of control which no doubt contributed to the great additional cost.
It ought to be made quite clear that the London County Council have cooperated as fully as possible with the Government in trying to make this venture a success. They will be able to take some credit for it when, later on, people boast of the wonderful Exhibition and Festival Gardens we had in London, during Festival year. It is true that they deliberately limited to £40,000 the 1052 amount of loss they were prepared to pay. They did that with their eyes wide open and there has been a good deal of public discussion in London about it. Except in one or two quarters which are not very important, I have not found any serious objection to the London County Council making that provision in its loans to the company for setting up these Gardens.
It has been suggested that in order to recoup ourselves for the extra million we might keep the Gardens on for five years. Frankly I am dubious about that. I should not like to see the fun fair kept on for five years. I am not sure that Londoners would want that. However, I should like to see a good deal of the Festival Gardens retained as a permanent feature of our London parks. The layout around the fountains and many of the buildings ought to be kept, for these would add to the enjoyment of Londoners when they visit Battersea Park in the future.
Having said all that, the fact is that, judging by the numbers who are visiting the Gardens, the people of this country like what they have been provided with. We can only hope that as they are visiting the Gardens in much larger numbers than were originally estimated, the result will be some diminution of the cost. What I am about to say may be used against me later in the election campaign, but I say it was worth while spending money on producing in Battersea Park the finest pleasure ground this country has ever seen, even though there is a net loss at the end. The effect on our people will be great. Not only will they enjoy it, but they will regard it as one of the highest spots in their lives and in the lives of their families in the days to come. I hope, therefore, that the House will give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Marples (Wallasey)
After the last three speeches it is quite clear that the Pleasure Gardens cannot continue after the closing date unless there is adequate consultation with the local authorities and that, in addition, no pledge made by the new Foreign Secretary, then Lord President, should be broken. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal, in opening the debate, asked individual Members what they thought about keeping the Festival Gardens open.
1053 Subject to the two qualifications I have made, I would not shut my mind to continuing these Gardens for a reasonable period of time. I visited them several times during construction and also on completion, when I had a most agreeable and enjoyable time. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman himself has been round since completion and seen some of the sideshows. If he goes, I can recommend him to look at the attractive young lady who gets into a block of ice. For the small sum of one shilling, he can see that agreeable and admirable spectacle.
The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) posed the following question at the beginning of his speech: we must accept the situation as it stands, but how can we save the taxpayers a loss? With respect to my hon. Friend, I should say that we must go further than that. We must analyse the mistakes which have been made in this venture to see how we can prevent further losses to the taxpayer on future Government ventures. That is what I propose to do this afternoon.
I propose to look at this from the point of view of the contractor on the site. I can make my best contribution to the discussion by doing that. Another reason for that approach is that all errors made by the top management, all errors made by the professional architects, and all errors made by the contractor reveal themselves on the site and on the site only. Generally speaking, it is the unfortunate contractor—I speak as one—who is blamed for all the errors, although they may be the fault of the heirarchy above him.
Before I proceed any further, may I make one point clear? On page 9 of the White Paper it will be seen that the lowest tender was from Dowsett Engineering Construction, Limited, and the second lowest tender was from Kirk and Kirk,. Limited. I used to have an interest in the latter company and, in order to avoid misunderstanding on the part of ill-informed persons, I want to make it clear that I had no interest in Kirk and Kirk, Limited, at the time they tendered for this job.
Having said that, let me say that if a contractor is to build speedily and efficiently there are certain contractural principles which must be observed. I shall take two of those principles this afternoon and find out. first, what ought to have been 1054 observed; secondly, what was actually done; and thirdly, how we can avoid it in the future. The two principles are, first, pre-planning, and secondly, and by far the more important, the psychological factor.
Pre-planning was stressed by the Working Party on the Building Industry and also by the Report of the Anglo-American Productivity Team. What must a contractor do to pre-plan? He must prepare a time and progress schedue which shows the order of carrying out the operations. He must show the operations in detail, the dates they are to be started and the dates they are to be finished. He has to fit together in that time and progress schedule all the pieces in the jig-saw puzzle. From that time and progress schedule each department of the contractor picks out its own duties and sees that they are carried out. For example, the labour department will decide how many men are wanted at the beginning, how many men are wanted at the peak, and how many at the end, both skilled and unskilled. They decide how many supervisory staff are needed to look after and to select the men.
What must a contractor know in order to pre-plan and prepare his time and progress schedule? He must know the volume of work and then he must have some information about the site, as well as having access to it. What actually happened in this case? The volume of the work increased from just about half a million in rough figures to almost one and a half million. Therefore, the time and progress schedule, even if it had been prepared by the finest contractors in the country, would have been based on so many false asumptions that it would have been valueless and useless in the early stages.
I regretted that part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which was fair apart from that one exception, in which he said that if the contractor had been larger it would have been easier. That is not so. Whoever the contractor had been on that site, he would have been in difficulty from the word "go" because his time and progress schedule would have been based on wrong assumptions.
The second thing the contractor should have if he is to prepare an efficient time and progress schedule is some information about the site. We heard a great deal of inarticulate noise from below the 1055 Gangway when we came to the question of it being a wet winter. But what was more important than that was the nature of the soil and its proximity to the Thames. No bore-holes were sunk to find out the nature of the ground, yet every Londoner knows that the ground is absolutely waterlogged. The right hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) knows what it is like in Poplar. All along the Thames the land is wet and difficult to deal with in winter.
An elementary mistake was made in not sinking bore-holes. It is no use blaming the bad winter because, even if it had been a fine winter, the result would have been the same. Whether bore-holes were sunk can be found from this: that the schedule of items which was sent to contractors asking them to tender, allowed for hard core to be put down on the site up to a depth of nine inches. In fact, hard core up to a depth of five feet was put on the site, and as they put it down it disappeared before their very eyes.
§ Mr. Porter
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the three contractors who made firm estimates for the work they were to do did so without seeing the sites and without understanding the fabric on which they were to work?
§ Mr. Marples
The hon. Member has a complete misconception of how it was handled. Had he read the White Paper, he would have found how it was done. The authorities—that is, Festival Gardens, Ltd.—sent out to all contractors a document in which were certain specific operations which had to be carried out. Each contractor was required to put next to each operation a price. He had to do the work for that price. In the document sent out by the authorities planning this operation, they said, "Hard core up to nine inches. How much will it cost?" The point was that they did not realise that it was going to take hard core "in spots" up to five feet. Therefore, the contractor was putting down a price on an operation which, in fact, was not going to be carried out.
We ought to go further and see how we can avoid this type of thing happening in the future, not only on Government 1056 ventures, but throughout the building industry as a whole. In fairness to the Government, it must be said that this type of muddle frequently occurs in civil engineering and building work, It would occur less frequently if planning and construction in the building and civil engineering industries were under the same roof and under the same functional control.
For example, in the motor industry, Austin's will plan and design their car and they will then produce it. In the building industry, an architect, who is divorced from and remote from the contractor, will do the planning. He will send the details to the constructional firm who will carry out the construction. If the contractor gets the wrong details from the architect, he is scarcely likely to make a great deal of trouble, because if he does he will not be put upon the tender list by that architect next time. [Interruption.] That is at least a possibility. If the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. McGhee) had read the Anglo-American Productivity Team's Report, he would have found this point brought out.
In the building industry in America, there is closer liaison between the architect and the contractor. In the civil engineering industry there the civil engineering contractors employ their own civil engineering consultants for design purposes. That rarely happens in this country. I should like to see more of a marriage between the designing of the site and its construction in the industry as a whole. I should like the minds of architects, civil engineers and builders to move on those lines, and perhaps to make an investigation to see how far it would be possible to merge the two functions.
Now I come to my next principle of successful contracting, which is the psychological factor. The psychological factor is by far the most important in building. The Anglo-American Productivity Team said:The greatest factor for American superiority was the psychological factor.To get a good psychological climate on a site, two things are necessary. First, we must get a flying start. If a job does not start right, if it does not get its rhythm in the early stages, one never gets a successful job. The second thing is that the duties of individuals must, if 1057 possible, be clear and defined in writing, because no servant likes to serve two masters.
Perhaps I may be allowed to elaborate. What happened over the question of a flying start? Eighty-six thousand pounds worth of work was done in the first six months on a contract of £500,000—and they were the summer months. That was not, therefore, a flying start—it was a crawl. Over £1 million worth of work was done in the last four months. In other words, £1 million worth of work—twice as much as was originally tendered for—was done in one-third of the time; and so the right hon. Gentleman's strictures on the contractor were not quite fair if all these factors are taken into consideration.
What is even more deplorable, from the viewpoint of the men and the technicians on the site, is that the plans were all received late. One hundred detailed plans were received in the month following the completion date. In other words, after the completion date, 100 sets of drawings were sent to the site. How can a contractor carry out his work if he is not told what to do? How can a carpenter carry out his work unless he is given details of the work he is supposed to do?
§ Mr. Porter
Surely the small amount at first expended by the contractor is due to the fact that only manpower and machines were used in that period, with no cost for materials.
§ Mr. Marples
The reason for lack of progress in the early stages was that no plans and no information were available. I have seen the correspondence that has passed, and I assure the hon. Member that the reason only £86,000 worth of work was done in the first six months was that no instructions were given as to what had to be done.
§ Mr. Porter
For the ordinary process of this type of job, it is usual for the contractor first to prepare the site. This work is often given to a different contractor from those who are to put up the superstructures when the preparation on the ground has been done.
§ Mr. Marples
That is very interesting, but highly irrelevant to this particular point, because if the plans were not received the contractor could not do the 1058 work. He must be told how he is to prepare his site and what he is to do. In this case, however, he was not even given any instructions. The detailed plans are being received now, and he is at this very moment working on detailed plans given to him one or two months after the date fixed for completion; so that he can scarcely be blamed for not keeping on time if he is not told what to do.
How can we get more clarity between the relationships of the firm and the relationships of different individuals? Hon. Members opposite will agree that the relationship between human beings is far more important than putting masses of machinery on a site. We can never get good relationships between human beings unless each person knows what are his specific duties, what he is responsible for, and to whom he is responsible.
In this particular case, the contractor is in charge of the men, but Festival Gardens, Ltd., approached the men direct and had a meeting at their offices. If that happens, the contractor has lost his discipline straight away and has no hope of success. It is exactly the same with a child. If a child cannot get from its mother what it wants, it collars father on his way in before he has seen mother, and the child asks him. If the child gets what it wants from father, then of course mother has lost her discipline over the child.
The method of avoiding this in the industry—again, this happens on many sites—would be for the building industry itself, plus architects and civil engineering consultants, to appoint a joint committee to have an intensive study of site administration. They could give definition of duties in writing, especially a definition of duties of the building employer, because it is most important that people who order architects, quantity surveyors and civil engineering consultants about should have a good idea of what their duties are if they are to have efficient building.
I should like to make one constructive suggestion which should apply to this site in particular. The Government have made an awful muddle of the construction and the right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate admitted as much frankly. I appreciated his contribution and commisserate with him on having to make both the opening and closing speeches in a 1059 post-mortem on a constructional muddle. But why not let us plan the reinstatement of the Gardens as a perfect operation? These Gardens will have to be reinstated and if the right hon. Gentleman has not yet started on that he ought to do so at once and call all the local authorities together to find out what features they wish to retain. Get the L.C.C., Chelsea Council and Battersea Council together to decide what features are to be retained and give them a date by which they must make up their minds. He should then prepare the plans and this time send out full detailed plans with a full specification, and get tenders. He would then get an efficient job carried out very cheaply. If he has not started that now, he should start at once.
Who was to blame for this? Festival Gardens, Ltd., in my opinion, had no chance from the beginning. I have been round the Festival Gardens and enjoyed the fun fair. The design of the gardens and the fun fair is quite brilliant in its conception. Certain parts of it are most attractive and to my mind it has a better layout and has a better line, design and perspective than the South Bank Exhibition. From the point of view of running it, I believe the present board are admirable. It is going splendidly and they know their job. But, from the point of view of constructing the site it was appalling because they violated every principle of successful contracting.
The main blame must fall on the Foreign Secretary. Festival Gardens, Ltd., was his creature and he made the appointments. The company was formed to have a life of about 18 months, and 12 months of that time were spent in construction and six months in running the fun fair and amusement park. Not one single man had any constructional experience, and it is no use saying that a managing director could not have been found.
If the Foreign Secretary had approached the President of the Institute of Civil Engineers, or the President of the Federation of Building Trade Employers, he would have got all the advice he wanted free of charge and suggestions for a managing director as well. There is no excuse at all. He talked of planning and we have had from him a string of glib platitudes on planning, but in fact he is almost incapable of planning.
1060 I feel that there are two lessons which all of us, and the Government in particular can learn from this. Most human beings learn by experience. Wisdom is the child of suffering, as the ancient Greeks said. The only difference is that in the Socialist set-up the suffering is not endured by the people who make the mistakes. if that were so and if the money of the Foreign Secretary were involved, he would be a much wiser man than he is now. It is the taxpayer who pays the bill.
The two lessons are, first, not to be in too much of a hurry to do things. We can construct things in a short time if we are prepared to pay the price, but if the time is cut down too much, we shall not get the job done. I remember how in the war criticism was levelled at Congress on armaments and a story was told in Congress of a surgeon who said of a hospital in New York, "This is the finest hospital ever constructed, with great X-ray equipment and the finest physicians, the finest surgeons and the best gynaecologists in the world, but it still takes nine months." That is the first lesson this Government must learn; that they cannot be in a hurry always unless they are prepared to pay the price.
The second lesson is that they come to this House with an idea virtuously expressed in terms of money and they think that a money allocation and a virtuous object are the sole ingredients for success. That is not so at all. I did not think I would ever agree with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) in anything, but I agree in part with his criticism that the Government never consider the difficulties of translating money allocation into men, materials and construction. It is a sorry story, but out of the muddle lessons can be learned, and I hope that the appalling loss and waste of the taxpayers' money will make some impression on the consciences of hon. Members opposite.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Pannell (Leeds, West)
I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) because he speaks with specialised knowledge in a field of which I have no knowledge, except to say that he seemed to give a lecture on certain fundamentals of building and that he was rather being wise after the event. 1061 I do not want to suggest that it was useless because, of course, we are holding an inquiry or, as I suppose he would say, an inquest.
My only experience of large-scale building has been in connection with transport, and if there were any criticism I would make, it is that every lorry should come in and out of the same gateway in order to prevent a lorry coming in with the same load many times over. When I was in the trade it was one of my obligations to guard against that. Warning voices have been raised and not all from the other sick, of the House.
If I were asked to appoint an hon. Member who has had experience of exhibitions, I would suggest my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) who has staged many, including international exhibitions. He said from the beginning that it was useless to attempt to stage this Exhibition of 1951 on the basis of a single year. I was, therefore, rather amazed at the contribution of the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke). He told us how the representatives of local authorities met the Lord President of the Council and the Lord President indicated that if this scheme were put on the basis of five years it would pay for itself, and that in 24 hours they met the Lord President again and it was suggested that the initial cost could be cut down by £500,000 if the show ran only for 12 months. I think the rather simple-minded people on the local authorities took that hook, line and sinker and, presumably, agreed to it.
I think that the hon. Member for Hampstead in his speech this afternoon re-created something of the attitude of many back bench Members opposite all through—the suggestion that somehow this thing would not work. I am not going so far as to say that they did not want it to work, but they have damned it with criticism in this House and by hostile questions ever since the Festival was first envisaged. The hon. Member went on to refer to the fact that we were planning this Festival and having this discussion at a time when there had been a reduction in the cost per head of places in schools and when there were no health centres being built, when there were traffic jams in London and nursery schools were barred.
1062 I thought it was a desirable thing in itself to cut down the cost per head of school places in so far as it had been done by more efficient architecture and by the use of the best brains in the trade, referred to by the hon. Member for Wallasey. The best architects have been brought together and have found that school places can be planned at a much cheaper price than in 1945 and 1946. That has nothing whatever to do with the Festival of Britain but it indicates the sort of approach which is brought into the discussion. Nursery school places have been barred and never allowed since the Education Act became law. They have nothing to do with the Festival. We might just as well discuss this sort of thing on its merits. Health centres have not received the blessing of Government Departments and I do not suppose they will yet awhile.
I want to address myself to the question whether we should allow the Festival to continue. The hon. Member for Hampstead said that he hoped the local authorities would not be overruled. I have a great respect for local authorities; I have been a member of four of them; but I hope that they will not dominate what happens in what, after all, is the capital city of the Empire. There are considerations in London which overrule what some people in Chelsea might think about certain noises and—
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich, South)
Does the hon. Member realise that on the Second Reading of the principal Measure, which enabled Battersea Park to be taken over for this purpose, and which contained in itself specific provisions for the reinstatement of the park after six months, the Minister of Transport said that every provision was made in the Bill for its restoration to the public immediately the period of the Festival was over? There were also specific pledges to the local authorities. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that, the Measure having been obtained on those assurances, those assurances should now be disregarded.
§ Mr. Pannell
I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman has made a fair point, and I will come to it in a moment.
I would point out that at the time when the local authorities were cogitating whether this project should be allowed 1063 or not, they were, at the meeting to which the hon. Member for Hampstead referred, in the main without experience of what the Festival would be like. Now that they have seen the Festival and its enormous success, it is reasonable that the local authorities, without breaking any pledges, might reasonably be asked to give some sort of reconsideration to this matter in the light of the financial circumstances with which we now have to deal. When the local authorities said "No" they had no experience.
I travel up to this House every morning from Woolwich to Charing Cross. I do not travel up with the sort of people with whom I used to travel when I earned my living with tools—we travelled earlier then. I travel up with the more sedentary sort of people. When this project was under construction and we were passing this spot day by day, one could reflect on what was happening from the conversation in the railway carriage. Generally speaking, that conversation reflected the prejudices of hon. Members opposite, at the beginning. Those people thought that the venture would be no good. Then they began to be curious, and then enthusiastic. Now they are really enthusiastic.
Most people who travel up to town with me on the Southern Railway day by day are now really interested and think the Exhibition is a truly wonderful affair. The Lord Privy Seal has referred to all kinds of funny people whom one would have thought would never become enthusiastic about the Festival. I do not know whether he would regard Lord Kemsley as a funny person, but from that most unexpected quarter praise has been given to the South Bank Exhibition. It has awakened a great deal of pride, public spirit and admiration among people about whom we were doubtful.
Do not let us try—and I am not trying—to excuse the Foreign Secretary's responsibility in this matter; but if we are preparing an indictment let it be reasonably balanced. This idea, I believe, was started by Mr. Gerald Barry in the "News Chronicle." It happened to be one of those ideas that struck the Foreign Secretary as desirable. No one would deny that my right hon. Friend is a good Londoner or the fact that in all his public life he has desired to restore 1064 the South Bank. If we have made something of what was a total slum on a noble river, that is something to his credit. I am speaking of the reclaiming of the South Bank. We must at least concede to the Foreign Secretary the idea and drive to bring about the South Bank Exhibition; but for him there would have been no South Bank Exhibition or Festival.
My right hon. Friend asked us for our opinion whether this kind of project should go on or not. I speak as a Londoner by birth who represents a northern constituency. I have an enormous postbag from people who want to come to the South Bank Exhibition; everyone is enthusiastic about it. For whatever my advice is worth, I say that I hope that the Exhibition will be kept on for a sufficient length of time for Londoners to recoup themselves and for the national Treasury to recoup itself and give as many people as possible the opportunity of seeing something which I believe is a credit to the country.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
There is one general observation which I hope I may be allowed to make upon the position in which we find ourselves today. I trust that in making this reflection I shall not be thought guilty of any disrespect to you, Sir, or of any breach of the canons of good taste. I suppose that it would be reasonable to suppose that there is no one of us who has not, at some time or another, fallen a victim to that peculiar state of moral and physical depression which follows normally and inexorably on the morning after some excessive or at least imprudent jollification the night before.
There may, of course, be exceptions. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), is one of them.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Yet even in his case, for all I know, present austerity may well be the penalty for past dissipations. In any event, whether such an experience is but a vague and shadowy recollection of early youth—as one must hope—or whether it arises from some more recent mischiefs, we probably all know the symptoms and recognise the significance 1065 of that particular pathological state commonly called a hangover.
Today we are enjoying a great national hangover. The Festival Gardens and the Fun Fair have certainly been a very good party, a fine party. To use a favourite phrase of the Foreign Secretary, whom I do not see in his place, "A good time has been had by all." Now—in every sense of the word—we have to pay for it. For this is not one of those parties where the bill has to be settled in cash. That sometimes acts as a moderating influence. This party has definitely been "on tick."
It is true that somebody made an estimate at some stage of what the cost was likely to be. Somebody signed the bill both for the original amount and the extras. Charge it up to the Civil Contingencies Fund. That has served to postpone the evil day. There might be an Election before that time. Now, at last, when the bill is sent in, here it is, and—my word—it is a staggerer. It is difficult to know what to do. In such a predicament, there are really only two things one can do. One can go and see the head waiter, or better still the proprietor, and try to get some reduction—to have some of the more extravagant items knocked off the bill. The other is to go to an indulgent parent or friendly bank manager and hope to get enough accommodation to pay up.
So far as I can see the Government are proposing to adopt both those measures. They, or rather the so-called independent company, of which they and the London County Council own all the shares, are trying to get some adjustment of this outrageous account. I wonder whether the Treasury would call that an independent company if it belonged to the right hon. Gentleman in another capacity? I think it would be called a subsidiary so far as Profits Tax and Income Tax were concerned. I doubt whether at this late stage the saving will amount to much. Still, it may be worth trying. Now they have at last, after intolerable and almost contemptuous delays, come to the House of Commons and owned up.
Meanwhile, this company has behaved in a very peculiar way. The Lord Privy Seal observed, in a sort of obiter dictum, that none of them had ever had any experience of this sort of work. Why then were they appointed? From its incor- 1066 poration in November, 1949, until the end of June, 1950, although it had 14 directors, nobody seemed to have had the bright idea of appointing a managing director. Nor does anyone seem to have thought it necessary to arrange for any adequate accounts or records to be kept—I quote from the Report—or of presenting the board with even the simplest form of weekly or monthly statement of commitments. That again is in the Report.
Even today there seems to be a complete divergence of opinion between the board and the contractor as to whether the work is being carried out on a cost-plus basis or not. Of course, everybody has been quite nice about it; they have just agreed to differ. So far as I can understand the situation, it is cost plus a fixed fee of £57,500. However I may be quite wrong, because the position is very obscure and this is only my guess as to what the contract might possibly be held to mean.
If the board of directors are to blame so also, I think, are the Government. Apparently the Government, right from the start at the beginning of 1948, had assumed that there would be what is called an amusement section of the Festival; and I should think so too, because from my experience of such exhibitions the fun fair is the best part. That was agreed in the beginning of 1948. Why then did they wait until November, 1949, nearly two years later, before the company was incorporated? The board of directors observed, with some justice:It soon became apparent that, had it been possible for us to be appointed a few months earlier, many difficulties would have been avoided.It is the same story as with everything else. First dilatoriness and delay; next, hurry and confusion—in a word, "Planning."
I understand from what the Lord Privy Seal has said today that there is now talk of opening the Pleasure Gardens for another year. The Lord Privy Seal has thrown out some hints, and they have been received with varying degrees of enthusiasm from different parts of the House. There was originally, unless I am mistaken, a proposal for a five-year plan—ominous phrase! I personally am not out of sympathy with going on. I think there are great arguments for and 1067 against. But I am told that the buildings are of a temporary nature and not very suitable for a long period. And of course, as we were reminded, such a project could not be promoted without the agreement of the local councils primarily involved.
However, this is really not what we are discussing today. This is not a project for a new flotation. This is apost mortemon a bankrupt business. Really, we must not mix up what the new company—as has so often happened in these affairs—having written off all the cost, might be able to float at a lower rate at another stage. That is not what we are here to discuss. The one great thing which has happened today is that the Lord Privy Seal has been reasonably frank with the House. The House likes frankness.
I have heard it said somewhere, or have read somewhere, that if an hon. Member were to stand up after Questions and, having obtained your leave, Sir, to make a personal statement, were to say that he wished to make a frank disclosure to the House, trusting to the sense of fairness and consideration of his fellow Members; that he had to confess that during the previous Sitting, which had lasted all night—and was one of many recent all-night Sittings—he had been irritated beyond all reason by the loud snorings of a fellow Member in the Library; that, after several vain attempts to stop this intolerable nuisance, he had lost control of himself and sloshed this hon. Gentleman on the head with a poker, that he had unfortunately cracked the hon. Gentleman's skull and the hon. Gentleman had succumbed under the blow; that although the incident had not yet been noticed, as the hon. Gentleman was only one among many still recumbent figures —though no longer snoring—he had thought it right, at the first opportunity, to make this personal explanation and to ask for the sympathy of his fellow Members in this misfortune; it has been said that if an hon. Member were thus to confess his fault fairly and frankly, and, as it were, ask leave to withdraw the blow, then, in accordance with the best traditions of the House of Commons, his statement would be received with general, if subdued, applause from every part of the Chamber; and after suitable remarks from the Leader of the House, from the 1068 Leader of the Opposition, and, of course, from the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), the incident would be regarded as closed.
Well, I think that the Lord Privy Seal has adopted somewhat similar tactics in his difficulty today. But, of course, the truth is that this particular misdemeanour of the Government does not stand by itself. It is not a singular misfortune or miscalculation. It is one of an immense series. It is not just one muddle, it is one more muddle. Of course, with so many competing masterpieces in this genre it cannot claim to be among the greatest performances. It cannot, for instance, compare either in a massive size and boldness of conception, or in breadth of execution with a really fine Strachey, or a Webb of the best period. It is on too limited a scale for that. Still, in its way, it is, if not outstanding, at least of a very high order.
Moreover, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), has pointed out in a most admirable and informed speech, it reproduces, on a restricted canvas, all the characteristic mannerisms of the really great artists of this school. After all, even a difference on, I think, an Exchequer share of the original estimate of half a million, to get to a million-and-a-half, is a very respectable margin of error. It is therefore, if I may repeat or adapt a famous phrase, a little gem of mismanagement; a cameo of incompetence, a perfect little miniature of muddle, which will long hold a treasured place in the esteem of all true connoisseurs or collectors.
It is symbolic, if further signs were needed, of the whole character of Socialism, and, from this point of view, the comparison already drawn by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), between the Exhibition of 1851 and the Festival of 1951 is not without some interest. The Exhibition of 1851 was financed by private subscriptions and guarantees. It was built in record quick time. It made a substantial profit the interest on which, after investment, has been distributed and is still being distributed to various deserving causes.
The effort of 1951 was guaranteed and financed by the State; it was, at any rate in certain parts, constructed in record slow time, and is expected to stand in as a 1069 charge to the taxpayer to the tune of many millions. The evolution from the reactionary conceptions of the 19th century to the bolder influences of the 20th is, I suppose, to be regarded as a triumph of planned progress.
Amid so many disappointments and disillusionments, we are destined to suffer still another. I understand that the Lord Privy Seal, not content with opening this debate, which he did admirably, intends also to make the closing speech. How strange. This is indeed "Hamlet" without the ghost. What can have happened to his predecessor? All through this report, I keep reading about agreements and contracts between—they are all down on page 4—a gentleman whose office is always printed in capitals, called the Lord President of the Council (hereinafter called "The Lord President"). Pages four and five of this report set out, in splendid legal language, all this grandee's rights and obligations.
What has happened to him? Is he ill, that he cannot tell us his story? Or is he so modest that he prefers to leave the limelight to a colleague? Does he still exist, this great dignitary? Perhaps he has been liquidated, or translated, like Elijah, leaving his mantle, but precious little else? Or can the Foreign Office have run out of white sheets? They should really get in a store. They will soon need them again.
Of course, we did not expect him to answer in regard to details, but we thought that he might have been here today, because this, after all, is his show. This is the great inquest, if not the funeral, and he should come as the chief mourner. Whatever the explanation, I must say one thing about the right hon. Gentleman who has succeeded to this property, such as it is. The whole House will be as forbearing as possible to so disarming a penitent, but I do wish that the real sinner, who takes credit for all the fun, had been personally in charge, at least for one stage, of the Government's corporate act of confession and contrition. I think the Foreign Secretary ought to take the kicks; after all, he has had the ha'pence.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham and others of my hon. Friends have made so forceful and detailed an attack on this long story of muddle that 1070 I should risk falling under your displeasure, Sir, and be guilty of tedious repetition if I were once more to go through all this melancholy story. I think that pages 2 and 3 of the Interim Report summarise the matter better than anything I can say—no proper plan; no expert building contractor on the board; no delegation of specific duties; no suitable managing director; exceptionally low labour output, and subversive influences anxious to ferment trouble.
I think there is one thing that must be said. The Lord Privy Seal made some reference to it. It is intolerable that the public should have to bear this large burden, and no redress or penalty exacted, if it should be found that there are serious defalcations and serious errors which ought to be punished. I think the right hon. Gentleman told us that these investigations will be carried further, and I hope they will be.
I will end by saying that we are all enjoying the Festival. We particularly enjoy the Festival Gardens, and especially the fun fair. I hope I shall not be thought too controversial if I say that perhaps the best feature of the Festival itself is to be found, not only and certainly largely on the South Bank, but in the various efforts made, in the towns and villages throughout the country, to make their local contributions to the general theme. In many instances, this has resulted in the creation of great beauty and the revival of some of the forgotten glories of the drama, music and poetry of our country.
We are enjoying the Gardens, too; so I suppose we must pay for them. We have had the party; so we must "cough up the ready," but we may also do well to remind ourselves that, in this sphere, there has been the same gross mismanagement and confusion as prevails in so many other fields. It was said of a great man, "He touched nothing that he did not adorn." I think it will be said of this Administration, "They touched nothing that they did not muddle."
As I have said, we have got to pay the money, under one heading or another of the national accounts. Nevertheless, we must mark our censure of the Ministers responsible. We shall, therefore, divide against the Second Reading of this Bill. In those circumstances, all that we can do is to underline, both in the House and 1071 the country, the lessons to be learnt and to be applied. There have been days, when fashions and customs were different, when the Ministers responsible for such great losses would have thought seriously of tendering their resignations. That we cannot insist upon, but this I am sure of —that, when they are given the chance, the electors will not rest content with the fall of one or two Ministers. They will decide to "sack the lot."
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes
It is only by leave of the House that I can speak again, and, while what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. Macmillan) has said is perfectly true about my having that intention, I hope I may have that leave to try to wind up the debate.
In its opening phases, the debate did not seem to arouse a lot of interest. I thought on reflection, as the benches emptied, that perhaps it was evidence of the real appreciation by the majority of hon. Members that the project is really a tremendous success and that they were not really interested in scoring political points. Be that as it may, the speeches that followed, and they were many, contained many critical and helpful points, and I will endeavour, as I promised I would, to answer the criticisms, although I do not suppose for a moment that it will be to the satisfaction of the people who made them. I suffered from the same trouble myself for many years when sitting below the Gangway.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) opened his speech in a somewhat caustic manner by welcoming the change which had occurred in the responsibility for the Festival, in that it had been transferred from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to myself, but I want to repeat, to a fuller House than we had when I opened the debate, and at the risk of repetition, that but for my right hon. Friend the great success which the Festival has attained would never have been achieved at all. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) to scoff. The fact is that up and down the country people are enthusiastic about the whole scheme, and it was largely due to my right hon. Friend that the matter was ever brought to a final conclusion.
1072 The right hon. Member for Streatham asked whether the Government accepted responsibility for Festival Gardens Ltd. The Government must do that, but let me say at once that the whole idea of forming Festival Gardens Ltd. was to relieve the Government of direct active responsibility in matters of this kind. It was even suggested that meddling with fun fairs was not, possibly, a suitable Government activity. Therefore, a board was got together, and, whatever may be said about that board, contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman said, it certainly is well-balanced.
The board has every kind of representation. It is full of the most intelligent, ingenious and well-informed people. The criticism which I made of it in my opening remarks was that all boards of directors, however skilful and however full of well-informed people, are not much good unless they are topped up by a managing director who can boss them. I have always said that.
It is unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman dragged Mr. Crainford's name into the debate. I tried to keep it out, because he has suffered enough. I entirely support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister), that Mr. Crainford made a most useful contribution, not only to the fun fair and the Festival Gardens, but to the South Bank as well. He is an admirable man for what I would call the festive side of the job, which is very important, because there are all sorts of features.
The fact is that few people—I have not been often enough, though I used to go two or three times a week when the job was under construction—have been to the Festival to see how much depends on the performance of those who have to be brought in from outside. It all has to be planned, though I know that the word "planned" is to hon. Members opposite like a red flag to a bull. But there it is.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me to give an explanation of why these costs had soared. Had he listened to my opening speech attentively and had he not done what so many of us do, written his speech beforehand, he would probably not have asked me to do that. I do not mean that offensively. I did try to explain that until this job is costed up and analysed, it is impossible to explain in detail how the 1073 increases occurred for the various sections of the project. I could enumerate all the ones listed in the White Paper to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred, but that would not really be giving the facts.
One of the matters which added considerably to the cost was that in the original suggestion there were sponsored items, amounting to something like £125,000, and undertaken by outside people, which were thrown back on to the company who had to do them themselves. The total overall figure was just under £2,500,000. To make assurance doubly sure that my right hon. Friend would not have to come to the House and ask for more, a considerable increase—more than a quarter of a million—was made in the contingency items. If we look at page 12 of the report we see that the contractors themselves have set out sums adding up to £360,000, which they think should rightly be reimbursed to them.
§ Mr. Sandys
The point I was asking the right hon. Gentleman to clear up was how the estimate of £800,000 for total expenditure given to the House in November, 1949, had risen, by March, 1950, to £1,168,000 before any contract had been placed and before any work had been done. That suggests that the original estimate was not based on firm reality. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how that came about, and why the House was not informed?
§ Mr. Stokes
If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the White Paper, he will find that the £800,000 was the original cost, and that the £1,168,000 included running the show for six months.
I shall explain in a moment precisely what happened about the Question to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. What added to the extra expense were changes in design and improvement which, if the Festival Gardens go on for more than a year will lead to an ultimate cheapening of the initial cost. Both right hon. Gentlemen opposite complained about the absence of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. With great respect, they cannot have it' both ways. I happened to be abroad a short while ago and asked my right hon. Friend to answer a Question on this matter for me. He was imme- 1074 diately chastised by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) for attending to trivial matters instead of concentrating his attention on foreign affairs. If there was ever a day on which my right hon. Friend should be concentrating on foreign affairs, I consider it is today. It was very churlish of the right hon. Gentleman, in an otherwise humorous and agreeable speech, to have castigated my right hon. Friend for doing what we and the whole Opposition consider to be his prime job.
The right hon. Member for Streatham asked whether my right hon. Friend was kept informed. Here I am in some difficulty, because with this rather unusual set-up it is extremely difficult to arrive at a real conclusion as to who did what. [Interruption.] I am not conceding a point on this at all. My right hon. Friend, with the approval of the Government and through the support of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, agreed to the formation of this company which was to take the responsibility for carrying through the work. They were to report to him from time to time, although they did not always report as regularly as I would have thought they should have done.
This rise from£1,100,000 to £1,600,000 was reported to my right hon. Friend at the end of last year. He immediately wrote back to the company and said, "Does this mean that you want extra loans to see you through, or can you finance yourselves and pay for it out of your revenue?" As is shown in the White Paper, the categorical reply received by him was, "We require no extra loans. We shall be able to see the job through."
It was not until the middle of March, when it was found that, in fact, the cost would be extremely in excess of that figure, that my right hon. Friend, when advised, immediately came to this House to tell it and to take the necessary steps to set the whole thing in motion. The result is that we have this Bill today. He challenged the company about extra money, and he was told that they did not want it. That being so, I think it unfair to say that he deceived the House or did not inform it at the earliest possible moment of something about which it should have been informed.
1075 Now I come to the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) and by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke).
§ Mr. Sandys
Is the right hon. Gentleman going to explain the incident of 6th March and how the Foreign Secretary came to give a completely inaccurate statement to the House showing that he was completely out of touch with the company?
§ Mr. Stokes
Yes, I think I can do that from memory also. What happened was this. The estimate of November, £1,600,000, was the only figure in the possession of the Lord President when he answered the question on 6th March. As far as I can elucidate it from the company, in the early days of the year they sensed that things were not going quite as well as they had hoped. [Laughter.] No, this is serious. They immediately asked the quantity surveyors to go into the matter again. They did so and produced a larger figure on, I think, 10th February but reported on 28th February. That was not communicated to the Lord President because the chairman of the company did not accept it. He turned it back to the quantity surveyors and said he was quite sure there were mistakes. He was then under the false impression that he was not on a cost-plus contract, but that is another question altogether.
The only figure in the possession of the then Lord President was the £1,600,000 of the November costs. It so happened that on 8th March the quantity surveyors came back with a slightly enhanced figure over the estimates in February and thereupon the whole thing was brought to the notice of the Treasury in detail. The whole situation was examined and finally a figure of £2,400,000 odd was put down as the figure of possible eventuality, some of which I hope will not be needed.
§ Mr. Sandys
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us quite definitely whether the figures given by the Lord President to the House on 6th March were obtained from the company or did he merely take the figures he received in November, because the answer he gave indicated that he had obtained them from the company?
§ Mr. Stokes
They were figures obtained from the company. Although the 1076 officials of the company had knowledge of the increased cost as estimated by the quantity surveyors, they were not prepared to pass it to the Lord President as a new figure because they were satisfied that that figure was wrong, and that the matter should be re-examined. It may seem odd, but that is precisely what happened and those are the facts. My right hon. Friend was not in possession of any other figure when he gave his reply on 6th March.
§ Captain Waterhouse (Leicester, South-East)
I am chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and that Committee has now laid a Report before the House. Within one week of this declaration being made by the Lord President in the House the company told us they knew these figures were quite erroneous and based on the estimate of November. Are we really being asked to believe they did not indicate that to the Lord President one week before?
§ Mr. Stokes
Astonishing as that may seem, that is so. [Interruption.] One does not ask every day whether the price has gone up. It is absolutely so. I do not know whether I am allowed to say this or not, but on 8th March the chairman of the company appeared before the Committee of which the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse), is a Member two days after the Lord President gave the answer to the House, and on 6th March the Lord President was not aware of that figure. [An HON. MEMBER: "He ought to have been."] He could not have been aware of it because the company responsible did not tell him and my right hon. Friend had something more to do than to go round asking whether there had been a change in the front.
Let us be quite clear that there is no question in my mind of trying to bludgeon the authorities to agree to an extension of time merely on the financial issue. The House can extend the time if it likes. That is a matter for the House and the Government are perfectly prepared to agree if the House so decides. My opinion is there is little doubt that public opinion will have something to do with it and not merely the question of cost. My view is that the public has taken this thing to its heart.
As to the complaint of the hon. Member for Hampstead about the workings of 1077 Festival Gardens, Ltd., I can only say that the London County Council were fairly substantially represented on the board, as he himself said and even his party, whatever they call themselves, had the opportunity to have representation, but they refused it.
I am not going to join issue with the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) on criticism and advice with regard to civil engineering and building. I hope civil engineers throughout the country will read his speech and that all builders will read what I read into it. I know we are agreed on some of these points on how to maintain a site, but they are hardly germane to the discussion today. It is hardly likely that we shall see an occasion similar to this in our lifetime, at any rate not arising from the same reason.
I have nothing to say to him except on the question of demolition. I am not entirely sure about this, but I will call the attention of the Festival Gardens, Ltd., to his suggestion. I may add that I hope we shall not need to demolish and that ways and means will be found to keep the Festival Gardens and fun fair going.
I was glad to find the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) wholeheartedly in favour of keeping the fun fair and gardens open as a permanency and emphasising the need for people to have enjoyment and recreation at a time when extra effort and skill are being asked of them to meet defence and similar needs. I will certainly see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer catches sight of and bears in mind the hon. Gentleman's comments on procedure, that is, as to what should be done with regard to matters of this kind.
Finally, I come to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). May I say to him, first, that this cost-plus story is a most extraordinary one. It is quite evident that the contractors as from November-December last year were under the impression that they were on cost-plus. It is quite evident that the board decided that that was the case when they passed the minute of 22nd March, 1951. It is equally evident that some members of the board did not seem to know that was the case. I cannot explain that. I only know it to be a fact, and here cost-plus 1078 is not a cost-plus in the true sense of the term but cost-plus on a fixed fee of £57,500.
The right hon. Member for Bromley asked me to explain the delay in appointing the board, but I spent about five or six minutes in doing that in my opening speech today. I tried to explain why it had not been possible at first to take a decision as to where the Festival Gardens and the fun fair should be placed. When it was decided that the Gardens and fun fair should be in Battersea Park, the board were appointed within a few months, but as everyone goes away lock, stock and barrel for a considerable period at that time, there was difficulty in getting a board together. I do not criticise the board. I think it was well balanced and I have already met the criticism that it did not function successfully.
There really is no use in bleating over spilt milk, more especially if one can pick up the milk again if one really wants to do so. The Festival undoubtedly is a huge success. I would go so far as to suggest to those people on the benches opposite who have not yet been to the Festival Gardens, to the gloomy lady, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), who broadcast on Saturday, to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham, who is in so much doubt about the whole show, and to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that I should be very glad to accompany them if they will all come for an evening to the fun fair and see how much better they will all feel when they return home.
In conclusion, to the right hon. Member for Bromley, who I think delighted everybody by his speech, even though most of us do not agree with him, I would say that I ask leave to withdraw the blow and let the baby live, because I am sure it will wax and flourish and be a great and permanent success, which is what all the people really want
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I thought the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) expressed a view which was widely held on both sides of the House. This is a great national institution. It has suffered a good deal in the past from the sort of criticism to which it has been subjected to night from the party opposite. As one who has been to both sections 1079 of this great Exhibition, I speak of it with unstinted praise. Whatever was said in the past, I should have thought that by now we have reached the stage when we could accept this as a very great symbol of British initiative, workmanship and ingenuity, and an indication that Britain has something that it can still show to the world—something of the craftsmanship, workmanship and joy of its people. I agree sincerely with the hon. Member for Abingdon in his expression of hope that both sections of the Exhibition will become a part of our national life.
This is a very simple Bill designed to reimburse certain losses or over-expenditure incurred in connection with the Festival Gardens. I have failed to understand some of the speeches which we have heard suggesting how we should deal with this very difficult problem. The persons who are on the board were not criticised at the time of their appointment. The appointments were not a matter of controversy. These people were chosen by the Government to perform certain functions; it is regrettable that we should be discussing at some length whether they performed their duties with thought, discretion or ability, but certainly nobody criticised them at the time.
They were performing these duties on behalf of the Government. They were carrying out the provisions of a Bill which had been passed by both sides of the House, and it seems to me incredible that it should now be suggested that there should be a Division on this matter —a Division designed to prevent the expenditure of the money, amounting to a vote of censure on public servants who are unable to defend themselves here, after the fullest investigation and after the fullest facts have been given to the House by the Public Accounts Committee, in the White Paper and in every sort of information which can be put forward.
There was uncertainty about the Festival Gardens, which lasted for several months during the passage of the previous Bill. There were delays here. There were occasions here when we did not know whether the Festival Gardens would open on Sundays or not, whether or not the fun fair would open on Sun- 1080 days, how the space would be allocated, and so on. That of itself meant considerable delay. It held up at the most vital moment in the summer the work which might well have succeeded. The facts are well known to every Member of this House. It is not fair to talk about December and January in the same terms as one can talk about June and July. Of course, if work had started in the summer, when the work could have been done faster, the ground could have been laid out and the building operations would have proceeded in the winter. It is too bad of hon. Members opposite not to accept their own share of responsibility in this matter, because in the early stages they did not co-operate.
We have not been told in the course of this debate how many Members opposite have taken the opportunity of visiting the Festival Gardens and seeing the interesting spectacle and magnificent organisation. Some time the whole history will be written of how these beautiful gardens have been enabled to flower so early in the year after all the tremendous difficulties with which the Festival Gardens Committee had to contend. Any night now when any hon. Member opposite cares to go down there he will see at least 20,000 people enjoying themselves innocently, deriving benefit from the cultural, horticultural and agricultural sections and taking part in something which really ought in some way or another to become part of our national life.
We have already heard speeches dealing with the cause of the delay, and I do not wish to refer to it in detail, but I would say this. Everyone can understand the reluctance which was voiced by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke)—who has the privilege of representing more Members of Parliament than any other Member of this House—and I can sympathise with his views. Everyone can understand that no London authority would willingly forgo an acre of London parks without consideration. There was a celebrated occasion when, I think, Queen Charlotte asked what was the cost of constructing a passage through Hyde Park and Sir Robert Walpole replied, "Two Crowns."
Any effort to restrict the use of London's parks is a matter of grave consideration to every local authority concerned. It was reasonable and right that 1081 they should examine the proposal with care and almost with reluctance. It was reasonable and right that, in considering this matter, they should have regard to the necessary amenities of the people of London, and no one will blame them for that. All I wish to say is that this matter has been fully discussed. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal presented it with moderation, and, indeed, no one could have more frankly admitted that mistakes had occurred. In those circumstances, I hope the House will not find it necessary to divide.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
I have been assisted in my attempt to take part in this debate by the allusions which were made to me by the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). He referred to "a hangover," and said that everybody who knew what a hangover was would agree with him in his diagnosis of the situation. I had to tell him that I did not know very much about what happened when men suffered from hangovers, although the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that I might have been involved in situations which would have enabled me to understand these things.
I have not at any time been in a position which has enabled me to describe exactly what takes place in such circumstances, but I can guess from the situation in which the Opposition find themselves that they are suffering very badly from a hangover induced by the long process of nagging suggestions not merely that this was too expensive a scheme but that it was a scheme on which, in these days, we ought never to have embarked.
What has emerged clearly from this debate is that the Festival of Britain has proved to be a roaring success. The difficulty is, of course, that the Opposition, remembering their past, cannot roar. They have engaged in bitter diatribes against its wastefulness; they have gone
§ a good deal further and suggested that in view of present international difficulties we should never have attempted such a thing at all. They have never grown weary of suggesting that in a country with a housing shortage such as ours the people who needed the houses would not give their consent to the expenditure of building labour upon what has been accomplished both on the South Bank and at Battersea.
§ Mr. Speaker
We are not discussing the South Bank. We are discussing the Festival Gardens and Battersea Park.
§ Mr. Hudson
I wish only to emphasise a point which has emerged very clearly tonight—and I took my part in the early discussions when the late Lord President of the Council introduced this scheme to the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "The former Lord President."] Well, the ex-Lord President; I supported vigorously what he then proposed. The Conservative Party have called all the attention they possibly can to what I would admit to be the financial failures in control which have accompanied the details of the work done in connection with the Festival.
The general result of the work is of such a character that I am quite certain that the people as a whole will be very glad of the part which the Government have played. Although the Opposition seem to have made up their minds to submit this to a Division this evening, I am certain that later they may have reason to regret having done so, because the final judges will be the mass of the people who are very well pleased with the great experiment and are glad that the work has been done which has produced the Festival.
§ Question put, "That the Bill now be read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 235; Noes, 228.1083
|Division No. 149.]||AYES||7.35 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Benson, G.||Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)|
|Adams, Richard||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Bing, G. H. C.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Blenkinsop, A.||Brown, Thomas (lnce)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Blylon, W. R.||Burke, W. A.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Boardmam, H.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.|
|Baird, J.||Booth, A.||Callaghan, L. J.|
|Balfour, A||Bottomley, A. G||Castle, Mrs. B. A|
|Bartley, P.||Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Champion, A. J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Chetwynd, G R|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Clunie, J|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hughes. Hector (Aberdeen, N)||Rankin, J.|
|Coldrick, W||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Rees, Mrs. D.|
|Collick, P.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reeves, J.|
|Collindridge, F||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Cook, T F.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Cooper, Geoffrey (Middlesbrough, W.)||Jay, D. P. T.||Rhodes, H.|
|Cooper, John (Deptford)||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Richards, R.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jenkins, R. H.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Ross, William|
|Daines, P.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Royle, C.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Keenan, W.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Kenyon, C.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Kinley, J.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Deer, G.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Slater, J.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Smith, Elk's (Stoke, S.)|
|Diamond, J.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Snow, J. W.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Donnelly, D.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Logan, D. G.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dye, S.||Longden, Fred (Small Heath)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Edwards, John (Brighouse)||McGhee, H. G.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mack, J. D.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||McLeavy, F.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Taylor, Robert (Morpeth)|
|Field, Capt. W. J||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Finch, H. J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Thomeycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Follick, M||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Foot, M. M.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.||Tomney, F.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mayhew, C. P.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mellish, R. J||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Ganley. Mrs. C. S.||Messer, F.||Vernon, W. F.|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Mikardo, Ian.||Viant, S. P.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mitchison, G. R||Wallace, H. W.|
|Glanville, James (Consett)<>||Mceran, E. W.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Monslow, W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Granville, Edgar (Eye)||Moody, A. S.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morley, R.||West, D. G.|
|Grey, C. F.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham. S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mort, D. L.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Murray, J. D.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Gunter, R. J.||Neat, Harold (Bolsover)||Wigg, G.|
|Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Wilcoak, Group Capt. C. A. B|
|Hale, Joseph (Rochdale)||O'Brien, T.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Oliver, G. H.||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Orbach, M.||Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)|
|Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Padley, W. E.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Hardman, D. R.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'lly)|
|Hardy, E. A.||Pannell, T. C.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Pargiter, G A||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Tipton)||Parker, J.||Wise, F. J.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Paton, J.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Hobson, C. R.||Pearson, A.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Holman, P.||Popplewell, E.||Yates, V. F.|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Porter, G.||Younger, Rt. Hon K.|
|Houghton, D.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hoy, J.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Proctor, W. T.||Mr. Bowden and|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Mr. Kenneth Robinson|
|Aitken, W. T.||Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bennett, 'Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth)||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Birch, Nigel||Browne, Jack (Govan)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R (Blackburn, W.)||Bishop, F. P.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.|
|Astor, Hon. M. L.||Black, C. W.||Bullock, Capt. M,|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Boothby, R.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J M.||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Burden, F. A.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Butcher, H. W.|
|Banks, Col. C||Bracken, Rt. Hon. B||Butler, Rt. Hen. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)|
|Baxter, A. B||Braine, B. R.||Carson, Hon. E.|
|Channon, H.||Hylton-Foster, H. B.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W S.||Jeffreys, General Sir George||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Roberts, Maj. Peter (Heeley)|
|Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmouth, W)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Robertson, Sir David (Caithness)|
|Colegate, A.||Kaberry, D.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Cooper, San. Ldr. Albert (Ilford, S.)||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Lambert, Hon. G.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Russell, R. S.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Langford-Holt, J.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D|
|Crowder, Capt. John (Finchley)||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip— Northwood)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E A H||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D|
|Cuthbert, W N.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Savory, Prof. D L|
|Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Linstead, H. N.||Scott, Donald|
|de Chair, Somerset||Llewellyn, D.||Shepherd, William|
|De la Bère, R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (King's N'rt'n)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Donner, P. W.||Low, A. R. W.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Lucas, P, B. (Brentford)||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Dugdale, Maj, Sir Thomas (Richmond)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Stanley, Capt. Hn. Richard (N. Fylde)|
|Dunglass, Lord||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Eccles, D. M.||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||McKibbin, A.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon W. E||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maclean, Fitzroy||Studholme, H. G.|
|Fletcher, Walter (Bury)||MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Fort, R.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Foster, John||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Macpherson, Major Niall(Dumfries)||Taylor William (Bradford, N)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Maitland, Cmdr. J. W.||Teeling, W.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Thomas, J. P. L.(Hereford)|
|Galbrailh, T. G D (Hillhead)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thompson, Lt.-Cmdr, R (Croydon, W.)|
|Gammans, L. D.||Marples, A. E.||Thorneycroft Peter (Monmouth)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col C N|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)||Thorp, Brig R. A F|
|Glyn, Sir Ralph||Maude, Angus (Ealing S.)||Tilney, John|
|Grimston, Hon, John (St. Albans)||Maudling, R||Touche, G. C.|
|Grimston, Robert (Westbury)||Medlicott, Brig. F||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Mellor, Sir John||Turton, R. H.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Molson, A. H. E.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Monckton, Sir Walter||Vane, W. M. F|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hay, John||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir Cuthbert||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Heald, Lionel||Nabarro, G.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nicholls, Harmar||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. G|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W W.||Nicholson, G.||Watkinson, H.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Webbe, Sir Harold|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, G. R. H||Whealley, Major M. J. (Poole)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Oakshott, H. D.||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Odey, G W||Williams, Charles (Torquay)|
|Hopkinson, Henry||Osborne, C||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.||Perkins, W. R. D||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt Hon. Florence||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Wills, G.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Pickthorn, K.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Pitman, I. J.||Winterton, Rt Hon Earl|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Powell, J. Enoch||Wood, Hon R|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. Robert (Southport)||Price, Henry (Lewisham. W.)||York, C|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig O.|
|Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J||Profumo, J. D.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hurd, A R.||Raikes, H. V.||Mr. Drewe and|
|Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N)||Rayner, Brig. H||Brigadier Mackeson.|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M||Redmayne, M.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House for Tomorrow. —[Mr. Kenneth Robinson.]