§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, this Bill, the Adelphi Estate Bill, is an enabling Bill which has received a good deal of attention in the Press, mostly of a hostile character because it is largely founded upon misapprehension. I should like to emphasise the fact that it is an enabling Bill only. The principal object of the Bill is to remove restrictions with regard to the height of buildings on what is known as the foreground; another object is to widen streets; and the last object is to construct two new roads at separate levels, one of which it is proposed should pass along what is now the Adelphi Terrace, and it is upon that particular point that the real opposition to this Bill arises. I am not sure whether I am technically correct, but I am practically correct in saying there is no Preamble opposition to this Bill, and that all the points raised are really Committee points. I should like further to add that the Promoters propose to hand over 800 square feet of their property to the public, and that this represents a very considerable sum, amounting,I believe, to something like £60,000, £70,000, or £80,000. There are other provisions in the Bill, but I do not propose to deal with them, because they are purely Committee points.
Now, my Lords, I think it is just as well that I should at once remove the misapprehension which is widely held with regard to the nature of this Bill. There are many people, possibly some amongst my audience, who are under the impression that this is a Bill to enable a man to pull down Adelphi Terrace. As a matter of fact no Act of Parliament is required for that purpose. The Adelphi Estate and the Adelphi Terrace are private property, and the owner can pull them down whenever he likes. He can set to work to-morrow if he can settle 1192 with his tenants. There is nothing to prevent it, and this point has been clearly established by the answer given in the House of Commons by the First Commissioner of Works on February 7.
It is necessary for me, in order to explain this somewhat complicated measure, to deal for a moment with the past. The Adelphi Estate was, as many people are aware, originally laid out by the Adam brothers, and the Adam brothers in 1771, in conjunction with other owners, amongst whom I imagine were the predecessors of my noble friend Lord Salisbury, promoted a Bill with the object of embanking the river. They succeeded in their attempt. The river was embanked, and what is known as the foreground was vested in these owners, and a provision was inserted that no building of a greater height than 20 feet was to be erected on this foreground. The river continued to abut on the Adelphi Estate property, or the property of the other owners, until the year 1862. In that year the Thames Embankment Act was passed, the Adelphi Estate and the other estates lost their river frontage, the Embankment Gardens were constructed, and the co-called foreground remained in the possession of the owners, but with the restriction which I have already referred to still in existence. In the years 1868 and 1871 Acts were passed enabling the other proprietors— that is to say, the predecessors of my noble friend Lord Salisbury— to obtain the repeal of this restriction, and the result eventually was that the building known as the Savoy Hotel and what is now called the ShellMex building were erected.
What the present proprietor of the Adelphi Estate is asking is to be allowed to do the same as his neighbours have been allowed to do, which does not seem to me to be on the whole an unreasonable request; but when he brings forward this request in the shape of a Bill he is told that in no circumstances can he be permitted to do anything of the kind because, on his property, there is a building of artistic value, and there are many people in this country, including certain societies, who strongly object to interference with it. In other words, this owner is to be penalised because he happens to have on his estate a building of artistic value. If you prevent a man from developing his property as he desires, and if, in short, you prevent him 1193 doing what he wants to do with his own, it seems to me that he clearly has a right to some form of compensation. Perhaps I am wrong, but at all events he possesses, or ought to possess, this right, that he should be allowed to put his case before an independent tribunal in the shape of a Parliamentary Committee. Yet the ordinary privilege that is granted, I may say without. exaggeration, to almost any criminal is going to he denied to him on the action of a noble Lord opposite if his proposal to reject the Bill is carried. It seems to me that it is hardly, an exaggeration to state that a procedure of this kind is as near adopting the principle of confiscation, or what you may choose to call land nationalisation, as anything you can think of.
After all, the position of this owner is very much the same as the position of any individual who happens to own a valuable work of art— a picture, or building, or even a piece of land which has artistic value. What happens in a case of that kind? In the case of a man who wishes to sell a valuable picture there is at once a tremendous outcry in the Press and elsewhere, and in artistic circles, and in the end, the Government having refused to find any money or the local authority not being in a position to find any money, an appeal is made for subscriptions, and those who have the preservation of these objects very much at heart subscribe, and perhaps get assistance somehow or other from other sources, and eventually the possession, whatever it is, remains in this country. It seems to me that this is a case in which, if you are not going to allow the man to make any stand for his own right, if you are not going to allow him to be heard at all, the opponents should do something to find the money themselves by applying to their friends for assistance. This may sound an impracticable proposal in view of the value of the property, but at all events it is more equitable than taking away a man's property and not allowing him to state his ease in the ordinary way.
London landlords are a very unpopular class. There is no getting away from that fact. To be a London landlord is, in the opinion of many people— a large section of the population — to be ipso facto a criminal, and against this 1194 particular landlord already various charges have been made. He is charged, in effect, with attempting to filch away from the public three of what I may call the essential elements. First of all, he is accused of attempting to steal the land of the people in the shape of wishing to build upon the so-called foreground. That is a charge which has been withdrawn, because obviously there was absolutely no foundation for it. Then he has been charged with depriving the public of water in the shape of their view of the Thames, and, as a last resort, the accusation has been made that he is attempting to rob the public of their air. Air is an impalpable form of property. I do not know whether it has ever been decided to whom the air absolutely belongs, but surely the provision of air for the public is the province of the local authority, and if there is any question of depriving the public of their air surely they would have intervened before now, whereas, as a matter of fact, they look upon the proposals of this Bill with a favourable eye.
The real offence of this man is that he is the owner of the Adelphi Terrace and it is in his power to pull it down should he choose to do so. I am sure that no reasonable person desires to pull down the Adelphi Terrace if it can be avoided, any more than anybody desires to see another Shell-Mex building erected in its place. I at once repudiate in advance the charge that will be made against me that I am a vandal for advocating this Bill. I repudiate that charge. I am a member of some of the societies which are opposing this Bill. I use the present tense, because I think it quite possible that after this discussion I may be expelled from them for the part which I have taken. But I confess that the impassioned pleas, and the sort of imperative demand made from various quarters that in no circumstances must the Adelphi Terrace be allowed to disappear, do not carry very much weight with me. I observe, for instance, amongst the arguments for preserving the Adelphi Terrace, that in, of all papers, the Church Times, it is urged that it should be preserved because Emma Lady Hamilton once lived there. Nothing would have surprised Emma Lady Hamilton more than to think that after her death she should be recognised as a kind of saint. Then in 1195 other quarters we are told that the Adelphi must not be allowed to disappear because it would hurt the feelings of American tourists. I am under the impression that if you took the ordinary, common variety of American tourist and tried to talk to him about the beauties of Adam he would think you were referring to the Garden of Eden, and it would never occur to him that the Thames Embankment had anything to do with it at all.
I often wonder whether the people who write these letters and the people who are so much agitated over the question have ever been to the Adelphi or whether they even know where it is. I wonder how many of the noble Lords I am now addressing know the Adelphi and how many of them have been there. There is a Motion on the Paper in the name of my noble friend Lord Dickinson with regard to maintaining amenities. Well, I have been pointing out that the Adelphi Terrace is not a place where people resort for the purpose of enjoying the magnificent view, in the same way as, for instance, people make use of the Terrace at Berne and the Pincio at Rome. I have taken special pains to study this question and recently I have paid frequent visits to the Adelphi Terrace. On not one occasion have I met a single individual who was there in search of amenities. If a man did succeed in penetrating through the Terrace the amenities are very hard to discover.
The Adelphi, everybody will admit, is a fine specimen of eighteenth century architecture. It suffered severely in the Victorian period but it has suffered still more severely from recent developments to which I will allude presently. Let us take the case for the Terrace. If you make your way to the Terrace you find that it is a car park. It is a small place which is congested with motor cars, and it is with great difficulty that you can make your way to the parapet at all because there is a railing interposed to prevent you getting near it. If you do get to the parapet there is nothing whatever to see. I have here a photograph taken years ago, long before there was any intention of promoting this Bill. In that photograph there is absolutely nothing to be seen but the foliage of trees. That is perfectly correct. You 1196 can see nothing whatever. Even at the present moment, when there are no leaves on the trees, it is almost impossible to see the river at all. You cannot see the river from the Terrace, and you cannot see the Terrace from the river because there are no boats on the river, and you cannot see the Terrace from the Embankment on account of the trees I have mentioned.
What you can see is precisely what any sensible person would like to avoid seeing — that is, a disgusting space which is used as a car park, a flat, muddy space covered with rubbish, orange peel and paper, and dotted about with huts and buildings of a most ignoble and repellent character. In fact, the whole of this foreground, which as I say is only a car park, is so unattractive that a bank has been built in the Embankment Gardens and planted so as to prevent any view of it at all. That is what you see if you go to the Adelphi Terrace. I observe that my noble friend the Earl of Crawford, in a speech he made a day or two ago, said that the view from the Adelphi was just as much his property as the property of the owner. I am not quite sure whether my noble friend is right in his law— he can easily ascertain that from some of the legal authorities here— but what does strike me is that his right, if it is a right, is of extremely little value. These uncomplimentary remarks which I have made with regard to the Adelphi Terrace relate of course only to the exterior. I have no fault to find with the interior. Everybody knows that the interior contains admirable decorations. But there is no reason why these chimney pieces and even the ceilings should not be preserved and utilised in some other building. I am sure that in a matter of that kind every assistance would be given by the Promoters of this Bill.
I have said nothing about the other provisions of the Bill. The other provisions relate to such matters as compensation, the question of access to cellars, and some points raised by the Royal Society of Arts, who complain that if the road which runs by their building is raised or lowered a few inches it will necessitate acrobatic performances on the part of their members to get into their building at all. Those are purely matters for a Committee upon which it 1197 is unnecessary for me to speak, but I would like before I conclude to throw out a word of encouragement to those who are opposing this Bill, in the event of the Bill passing. What I would like to remind them is that, as I have said before, this is purely an enabling Bill. The Promoters do not bind themselves to do anything at once, and if they do nothing in ten years their powers will lapse. For my part I think it quite possible that nothing will be done at all. In fact, being a pessimist, I think it is more than likely that no result will happen.
It would not be honest of me if I did not confess to the House before I sit down that I have no particular enthusiasm for this Bill. I do not in the least desire to see another Shell-Mex building spring up on the Embankment. I was unacquainted with the Promoters until a week or two ago and I really do not know why I was approached on the subject, unless it was because they could not find anyone else to undertake what appeared to be a disagreeable task. I notice that people when they have anything unpleasant to do are rather fond of coming and asking me to act for them. As I say, I feel no particular enthusiasm for this Bill and I do not really very much care whether it comes into effect or not, but what I do feel very strongly is this— and that is why I consented to take up this case— that men in the position of these men have a clear right to be heard by a Committee, and heard by a Committee without any hampering restrictions such as are proposed to be imposed by the noble Lord, Lord Dickinson. It is contrary to the ordinary practice. I submit that these trustees of the property are entitled to the same treatment as anyone else in a similar position and I trust the majority of the House will take the same view of the question as I do. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a— (Lord Newton.)
§ VISCOUNT ESHER had given Notice of an Amendment, That the Bill be read 2athis day six months. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the noble Lord in moving the Second Reading has made one of those humorous and interesting speeches with which he is accustomed to plead for lost causes in your Lordships' House, but 1198 in doing so I do not think he has completely explained what it is that the Bill proposes to do. That is not surprising because it is a very difficult Bill to understand unless you have a map of the site. Your Lordships will remember that the Adelphi consists of a great central block. On one side of the block is Adam Street and on the other side is Robert Street. Behind is John Street. Under the Bill that central block will be pulled down and Adam Street, Robert Street and John Street, instead of being the charming eighteenth-century streets they are, will have low eighteenth-century buildings on one side and high modern buildings on the other side; the elevation of all three streets will be, from the artistic point of view, ruined.
§ In addition, under the Bill the Promoters are enabled to raise John Street three feet or lower it three feet, and I dare say your Lordships have seen a letter from the Chairman of the Society of Arts in which he says how the effect of either the raising or lowering of John Street would be to ruin the façade of the Royal Society of Arts, which is one of the finest examples of Adam buildings in this City. That is the effect on the streets. In front of the Adelphi is the famous Terrace and when the block behind is pulled down the Promoters propose to build in place a still larger block which will come out right over the present Terrace and over the foreground in front, so that what is now the present Terrace will be a tunnel running underneath the building which they propose to erect. I need hardly tell you that when you once begin to play about with a piece of town planning of this sort it is certain the rest will go— that is to say, the Royal Society of Arts and the other buildings, which now look as if they are escaping, must eventually disappear if you begin to play about with the site.
§ We have not been told what sort of a building is going up. We know it is to be a very high one on modern Shell-Mex lines. In the case of Carlton House Terrace Sir Reginald Blomfield had vanity enough to show us the monstrosity he was proposing to place there by putting a sketch in a newspaper. Here we have not yet seen any sketch of what building the Promoters are proposing and therefore, in a sense, your Lordships in passing this Bill will vote for a pig in a poke. Nor are we told what this building 1199 is going to be used for. We do not know whether it is going to be an hotel or offices. Clearly it is up to those who propose to destroy the Adephi to tell us whether they are going to erect an hotel or offices and whether in either case hotel or offices are needed in that part of London— whether all the hotels and offices there already are so full that it is essential to build others.
§ The arguments which are used, and are likely to be used, for the Bill are, I think, only two. One is the argument which the noble Lord, Lord Newton, used, that a man has a perfect right to do what he likes with his own property— that we have no right to put restrictions of any kind; and there is implied in this the knowledge which everybody has that the owners of the property have a perfect right to pull down the Adelphi at any time they may want to. The threat is used that they will in any case pull it down. If that is the case we cannot help it, but if we agree to this Bill we become an accomplice to the crime. I am prepared to argue from these Benches at any time that you have a right to put restriction upon property. If I happened to be by chance the owner of Stonehenge and proposed to turn it into an ice-cream parlour for American tourists, the State would have a perfect right to say that I ought not to do so. The policy of the registration of public monuments is not in the least a new one. The very Act we are discussing this afternoon, the Act of 1771, was a restriction on private property and was passed long before Karl Marx was born and before the French Revolution; it shows that the idea of restriction in this way is not socialistic and has always been part of the policy of the State. What I do not quite understand is why the noble Lord should feel that that is an argument in the case of this particular Bill, because it is not the public that is trying to get something out of the owners, but the owners who are trying to get something out of the public. We are not trying to prevent the owners from doing anything with the property which they now own, but only trying to prevent them from seizing property which has belonged to the public since 1771.
The Preamble of the Bill gives us the premiss on which it is built and I should like to read a paragraph on
page 3 which gives, I think, the case for the owners:
And whereas it would conduce to the better and more advantageous use and development of the Estate and the promotion of public welfare convenience and amenity if building were permitted upon the Adelphi foreground free from the restriction contained in Sections 3 and 4 of the Act of 1771 and no public need now exists for the retention of those restrictions and it is therefore expedient that those restrictions so far as they relate to the Adelphi foreground should be repealed.
It seems to me that the operative word in that paragraph is "whereas." have always been given to understand that that word is the lynch pin of the law and that if you removed it from the English vocabulary the whole of the British legal system would collapse. This paragraph contains nothing but assertions which are unproven and, in our opinion, unprovable, but by placing the word "whereas" there the paragraph is given dignity, importance and verisimilitude. We who oppose the Bill hope to prove that there is no truth in the paragraph I have quoted.
§ Turning first to æsthetics, I am quite prepared to admit that the facade of the Adelphi was ruined in 1872 to an extent, but not irreparably, because it could be put back into its original condition; but the Adelphi Terrace contains houses with very fine interiors, finely decorated ceilings, and mantel-pieces which will not look at all the same when put into a, museum. The whole lay-out of the Adelphi is a charming and delightful piece of eighteenth century town planning— the only one that we have left— and in addition to the beauty of the place there is the historical interest on which the noble Lord threw such contempt. The Adam brothers lived in the district themselves, and a whole succession of people, from Garrick to Bernard Shaw, have lived in the Adelphi. The view has always been famous, and we are not likely to be satisfied with the two little holes at the end of Robert Street and Adam Street, which the Bill proposes to give us, instead of the wide expanse which we now enjoy.
§ If your Lordships have read the letter in the newspapers from the Curator of the Soane Museum, you will see that he says it has been his experience that foreigners coming to this country make a point of visiting the Adelphi, because of the interest in it, and it seems a pity 1201 that when there are so many parts of London which can be pulled down, the Adelphi should be selected. I have not seen any agitation to destroy Pont Street. If there were, the various societies which we represent in this House would not take any part in opposition. It is always the lovely things in London which are attacked, while those parts of London which could be done away with, with the greatest pleasure to everybody, remain solid. There is not only the aesthetic point of view. There are many other points of view. I do not believe the traffic question has been considered. We have not heard from the noble Lord how many extra people are going to be put into these buildings, or how many extra vans and lorries are going to come into the district after the building has been erected. I can see, very shortly after it is built, a controversy between my noble friend Viscount Buckmaster and the Earl of Plymouth, on this question, in which once again we shall have to destroy the Ministry of Transport. It is clear that there is only one exit from this district into the Strand, and although the Bill widens Adam street at the river end it leaves the Strand end unaltered, so that traffic must come through that narrow exit to the Strand. I do not think that that matter has been considered by the local authorities, because they cannot tell how many people are going to be put into the building.
Another argument which can be used against the Bill is the argument of town planning. Here we are presenting to a private syndicate a vast amount of air space and light, and we have not any indication of whether experts in town planning have ever considered this question at all. It is clear to everybody who has read the letter of the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects in the newspapers, that a private syndicate of this sort has no right to erect a high building in a public place of this kind. It is the whole essence of zoning that you should have low buildings in front and get higher as you go back. This is absolutely piece-meal development and it is a curious fact that the Promoters of the Bill brought it forward in March, while the Town Planning Act comes into operation on April 1. This is obviously a case for a town-planning scheme. Let me read to your Lordships an extract
from a letter in the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects:
While the Act could not be used to enable the whole of London to be replanned and zoned, it will enable the public authorities to prepare schemes for extensive areas where development is likely to take place.
This seems to me exactly one of the areas intended to be dealt with under the Town Planning Act.
§ I should like to point out that the Adelphi is quite close to Charing Cross, and that as it is inevitable that Charing Cross bridge must be rebuilt in the next twenty years, it is desirable that nothing should be allowed to be built on this site which could conflict with any re-planning of the whole district of Charing Cross. If I, personally, had to deal with this site it is quite obvious, and I think it would be to anybody who took an interest in town planning, that the proper thing to do here is to get voluntary societies to replace the facade of Adelphi Terrace as it was before it was altered in 1872, and for the local authorities to buy up the foreground. They would be able to do that very cheaply, so long as the Act of 1771 remained in force. They would then be able to sweep away the car park, to which the noble Lord objected, and take the Embankment Gardens right up to the Adelphi facade. You would be able to see the whole facade as Adam originally designed it, with the arches below and the Terrace above. You would get, quite close to Somerset House, another building almost as fine.
§ We are told that the local authorities are in favour of this Bill. Personally, I have found that local authorities are not entirely to be trusted in these matters. Your Lordships will remember that the Government themselves were not to be trusted when it came to dealing with Carlton House Terrace, and only a little before that the London County Council showed that they were not to be trusted with regard to Waterloo Bridge. I suspect that the local authorities approve because of the increase of rates, but such would come from any operation of this sort. Take the Squares of London. If they were built upon it would obviously increase the rates which would be collected and only a little way down the Strand you have an example in the Temple Gardens. If the owners could build upon those Gardens they would gain enormously financially, and 1203 obviously the local authorities would also gain.
§ I think myself that it is very fortunate that this Act of 1771 enables your Lordships this afternoon to prevent this thing being done and to preserve this open space. What in effect you are going to do by preserving the foreground of the Adelphi is to prevent the building line from being advanced. Technically speaking, of course, that is not true, because you could always build on that foreground up to twenty feet; but in effect the Act of 1771 has prevented building taking place on the foreground, and if you remove the restriction you do, in effect, advance the building line. In 1931 the Government had a great scheme for building in Whitehall, and they endeavoured to advance the building line towards the Embankment. Their Bill was beaten in Committee in the House of Commons, and they had to withdraw it because the House of Commons would not allow them to advance the building line. The Government, I understand, are going to bring in that Bill again, and they have agreed this time not to advance the building line in Whitehall towards the Embankment. If the Government are not allowed to advance the building line, why should private citizens be allowed to do so?
§ In this case it seems to me that all the people who are really disinterested are on one side, and the commercial interests are the only ones on the other. All these societies which really take an interest in London— the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, the London Society, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Society of Arts, the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society, the Carlton House Terrace Committee— are unanimously in favour of this Bill not being passed, and the only people who are in favour of it are the commercial interests. The noble Lord, I think, rather seemed to insinuate that these societies have no right to interfere in these things and that people ought to be allowed to do what they like with their own, and no voluntary societies like these should interfere. That is all very well, but I think we are perfectly justified. The noble Lord comes down here in the guise of Esau to sell the birthright of the nation for a mess of 1204 pottage, and I think we have a perfect right to try to prevent it. There are some people who seem to think we ought to allow this Bill to go to the Committee stage and not decide the issue on the Second Reading. I am all for compromise. I believe that compromise is the foundation of the British system of government, and as a rule I think it is a very admirable thing to try to arrange a compromise; but there are some things which cannot be compromised, and I think this thing is one of them. You are either going to pull down the Adelphi Terrace or you are not. You are either going to allow private owners to advance the building line over an area of public property or you are not. I think the issue is such a clear one that compromise is not possible, and that the question should be decided on the Second Reading. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Leave out ("now") and at the end of the Motion insert ("this day six months").—(Viscount Esher.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, I venture to hope that you will permit this Bill to go to a Committee. Of course, I know that your Lordships in the past have upon occasion rejected Private Bills upon Second Reading, and I will not disguise from your Lordships the fact that I have on one occasion at least supported such a proposal, though it was not, I may add, when I was occupying the post which your Lordships have done me the honour to entrust to me. During the last ten years or so the most noteworthy cases (in fact, I think they are the only cases) in which you have rejected a Bill on Second Reading are The Whitgift Hospital (Croydon) Bill and the Stoke-on-Trent Bill— that, of course, was rejected twice. These two Bills were simpler, I think, and presented more clear-cut issues than the one which is now before your Lordships, and therefore they lent themselves more readily to discussion upon Second Reading and for decision at this stage. But this Bill is of a considerably more complicated character. The noble Viscount who moved the rejection told your Lordships that it was very difficult to understand the Bill without a plan or a map or a model or something of that kind, and I quite agree. It is very difficult indeed, When I read the Bill first I found it almost impossible to understand it, and 1205 I had to have it explained to me with a map and a plan before I could really comprehend it.
And so I venture to hope that your Lordships will think fit to allow the Bill to go upstairs— without, of course, any prejudice as to what your Lordships may do at a subsequent stage— so that it may be thoroughly well considered and thrashed out by a Committee. Because I think that the noble Viscount admitted that there were several aspects of the Bill, including one to which he alluded— namely, the question of traffic— which he thought had not received proper consideration. From what I see in the Press and hear in conversation I do not think it is exactly understood by everybody what the Bill proposes to do and what the owners of the property can do without any Bill at all. The noble Viscount said that if your Lordships vote for this Bill now you will be voting for a pig in a poke. Surely your Lordships will not be voting for a pig in a poke if you allow it to go to a Committee. There will be a Report by the Committee, which may disapprove of the Bill, and then you can throw the Bill art on Third Reading. That is, of course, a course that is open to your Lordships and will really give your Lordships every opportunity of deciding upon the issue.
There is one point to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. The Act of 1771, which permits the owners of the Adelphi to build over the open space which abuts upon the Embankment Gardens, only allows them to do, so up to a height of 20 feet, and no higher. I do not know whether any of the Petitions against the Bill will necessarily oppose the removal of the restriction in the Act of 1771. If they do not, I should think it my duty, unless it was brought before the Committee by a special Resolution of your Lordships' House, to direct the attention of the Committee to that point and to ask them to examine it carefully, because it is one, I think, of no inconsiderable importance. That is a course which is usually followed when a particular point is not petitioned against in a Bill. The proposal of my noble friend Lord Dickinson makes it an instruction to the Committee to amend the Bill so as to provide that existing restrictions on the Adelphi foreground shall not be removed, that is to say, to maintain the provisions of the Act of 1206 1771 in this particular. It may be— it very likely is— that your Lordships think that this is a desirable provision to maintain, but I venture to suggest that it really would be fair to the Promoters of the Bill to allow the matter to receive the careful consideration of the Committee without giving a prior instruction to the Committee from your Lordships' House.
There may be reasons which I do not know— I have a great deal of sympathy with what was said by the noble Viscount — why a modification of the Act of 1771 might be made, and this, I think should at least be allowed to come before the Committee for consideration. But there is a difficulty in this which I ought to mention to your Lordships. There may not be a Petition against this proposal to raise the height of the buildings and, if there were not, the Committee which is considering it might have a difficulty in getting the case for keeping the restriction of the Act of 1771 put before the Committee. I need hardly say that if this were to occur I would do all I could to secure that the matter be properly put before the Committee and that the other side should be heard in Committee in every way. I think it is the general rule, if your Lordships consider that these Private Bills should go to a Committee where they can be thoroughly well considered, with the assistance of Counsel and witnesses, that it is desirable also that Committees of your Lordships' House should be able to exercise their judgment quite free from any prior instruction. I think that is the usual practice. But of course their Report will come before your Lordships' House and your Lordships will be able to deal with it in any way you see fit, and will be able to take the action recommended by the noble Viscount equally well on Third Reading as you can on Second Reading. Therefore I venture to hope that your Lordships will allow this Bill to go to Committee.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, it is an act of considerable temerity to question any Bill which is commended to your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, whose independence of mind, charming candour and humour of speech we all constantly admire. I fully admit the very great responsibility that anyone 1207 takes when he tries to prevent the legitimate desire of the owners of a great Estate to develop it and increase its value. Moreover, I fully admit the force of the plea addressed to us with very great authority by the noble Earl who has just spoken— and he speaks with special authority— but I am constrained to support the noble Viscount who moved the rejection of this Bill, and I hope some of your Lordships at least will follow the example. As at present advised I think the issue is one so clear and simple that it would be well to have a decision upon it straight away. Certainly if a certain number of your Lordships follow the noble Viscount who put his case so forcibly before us, even if they are defeated, it will be an indication to the Committee that is to be appointed of the very strong feeling that many members of this House entertain upon this proposal.
I dislike seeming to interfere with the desires of the owners of this Estate to develop it for what must seem to them, and may seem to others, sentimental reasons; but, after all, that is the argument which has been used in the past for sacrificing things of historical interest and beauty which we would fain retain, and which have now been lost for ever. These things, my Lords, are imponderable. They are things of the spirit. Their value cannot be measured in pounds, shillings, and pence. In the life of the individual and in the life of a great city or village they are in the strictest sense of the word incalculable. It seems to me that in the case of a great City like London only some over-riding public advantage or necessity can justify the setting aside of their claim to be protected and preserved. The question is whether in this case there are claims on the part of history and beauty which entitle us to set aside the legitimate claims of the owners of this Estate.
Let us look at the main features of this Bill. First of all, there is the question of the Adelphi Terrace itself, the street and the buildings. You have been reminded of the history of this block of buildings built by Robert Adam, one of the two brothers whose genius and skill have done so much to enrich the buildings of this country. The Adelphi, with John Street. Adam Street, and Robert Street, which are all involved in this 1208 Bill, constitute, as we have been reminded, the crowning achievement of these famous brothers in design upon a large scale. It is true, as has been admitted, that the actual Adelphi Terrace has been since 1872 stuccoed and partly defaced, but still I would submit that in its quiet grace, its delicate balance of surface and ornament, it is "a thing of beauty" which is entitled to be kept as a "joy for ever."
You have been reminded of its historical associations— No. 5, for instance, where Garrick lived, and which was a place of constant meeting with Dr. Johnson and Boswell; Gibbon is also closely associated with it. I will not go beyond the eighteenth century and make any reference to the association of the Adelphi and Lady Hamilton. I am bound to say that if I could think of the shade of that engaging lady still moving about the Adelphi I should welcome it on, I need scarcely say, strictly historical grounds. But so far as the building itself is concerned, it has been truly called "the last beautiful eighteenth century building in London." Approach it, my Lords, from the noise and bustle of the Strand, and you at once breathe the spirit of an age more secure and tranquil than our own. View it from the other side of the river or from Westminster Bridge, and you will notice a contrast with the great Shell-Mex building— in itself, I admit, a fine building— but the contrast between it and the modesty, the reserve, the quiet dignity of Adelphi Terrace makes a very real appeal. I would venture to say: "Destroy it not, for there is a blessing in it."
I allude here to the Motion which has been put down by the noble Lord, Lord Dickinson. I am bound to say I cannot but agree with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that I think it is rather strange to give an instruction to a Committee at the outset to knock the bottom of the Bill out, and I think it would be much better to deal with the matter in the simple and straightforward way suggested by the noble Viscount who moved the rejection of the Bill. But beyond that, Lord Dickinson's Amendment deals only with the thoroughfare of the Adelphi and not with the buildings themselves. I notice it is said— it has been said here this afternoon— that the rejection of the Bill would not necessarily prevent the demolition of the Adelphi and of the 1209 block of buildings of which it is a part, that the owners have a perfect right to do so without any restraint by any Act of Parliament. I know that the preservation cannot be secured, but inasmuch as the main prospect of the Bill is to secure the erection of large and high buildings which require a new roadway behind them, if we prevent the erection of these large buildings by declining to remove the restrictions in the Act of 1771, I doubt whether it would be worth while to demolish the existing buildings. If we cannot make their preservation secure, at least we car make it more probable, and that brings me to what is the main point in the opposition to the Bill.
It affects the use of what is called the Adelphi foreground; that is to say, the ground between the Adelphi Terrace and the river, formerly part of the bank of the river itself. The Act of 1771, as we have been reminded, forbids any new buildings being erected upon that foreground higher than twenty feet above the high water mark. Clause 4 of this Bill repeals these restrictions, and gives the trustees power to use and build upon this foreground as they may think fit. Beyond question that means the power to erect on the foreground a large building, I suppose of the type with which we are familiar in the Shell-Mex building next door. What is the value of this foreground? The answer is, that it gives a unique view of the river. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, was most amusingly sceptical about the value of that view. My conscience is at least clear. I have seen it. I have often seen it. I rejoice in it. Even now, with the defects of the Charing Cross Bridge which may be removed and of the temporary structure on the Waterloo Bridge, it does give a very unique view of the river, and who shall estimate the value of that view?
The City of London is justly proud of its great river. The view from Westminster to the Tower is, I suppose, beyond question one of the finest views in any city in Europe. How long will it be preserved? Already it is menaced. The great buildings at Mill-bank, fine as they are in themselves, dwarf and indeed crush the proportions of that picturesque group of buildings in which we meet. There abides that standing affront to the dignity and beauty of 1210 London which we call the Charing Cross Bridge. There are sinister rumours of the possibility of buildings being erected further down the river, no doubt for excellent reasons from the point of view of the owners, which would obstruct the view of St. Paul's from the river and, I think, it is beyond doubt that the view of St. Paul's, rising above the houses on the riverbank, stands throughout the Empire as the symbol of everything that London means. But even now, with all respect to the noble Lord, it is a noble view, and what may it not be in the future? Suppose Charing Cross Bridge removed and something more worthy of London substituted for it. Suppose buildings on the other side of the river worthy to be neighbours of the London County Council Hall. Suppose Waterloo Bridge restored to something like its old beauty. Suppose the view of St. Paul's preserved as it rises with the great river bending round. Then, indeed, it will be one of the very finest prospects in the world, and the only place from which the public has an unrestricted view of that noble prospect from a higher level is this Adelphi Terrace.
It may not be used much at present. Taste is improving in these matters. We have to think of the value of that possession in the days that are to come. We are told, I know, that there will be two narrow points from which it will be possible to see it, at the end of Adam Street and at the end of Robert Street, under the reconstruction proposed by this Bill. But what are these narrow restricted corners to compare with the open, unrestricted space which now commands the whole of that prospect? Here, perhaps, I might refer to the words used last Tuesday by the President of the Royal Academy:One could see from the plans of Wren, Adam, Chambers, Wilkins, Nash and others that the requirements of foreground space in preserving the views and vistas of the city were continually kept in view, but now we seem to allow any one to upset these plans and to build anyhow and anywhere.I hope that will not be done now. If the restrictions imposed in the Act of 1771 go, then that view, unique in London for all who choose to avail themselves of it, will go also and go for ever and can never be restored. That is the main issue which has to be determined. 1211 Lastly, may I stress the special responsibility of Parliament in this matter? In the past the annoyance caused by the removal of these things of history and of beauty from the face of London has been due to the fact that there was no power which could intervene between private interest and the public advantage, but here, as your Lordships have been reminded, an Act of Parliament is necessary. There is, therefore, laid upon Parliament in this matter a special and direct responsibility either to permit or to prevent what is proposed in this Bill. Parliament is the supreme trustee of the public interest, and I cannot but hope that in this particular matter Parliament will intervene to fulfil that trust. If so, it will be of value not merely in preserving these buildings, or rendering it more probable that they will be preserved, but Parliament will be asserting a great principle, true in itself but constantly menaced, that these things, which are at stake in this Bill and in the decision of your Lordships' House, are not sentimental trifles but things that concern the very life of the City and of the country. It therefore rests with your Lordships to decide whether you will destroy or preserve for future citizens of London a valuable, and, indeed, in the strict sense of the word, a priceless part of their inheritance.
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, after the very eloquent speech of the most rev. Primate I am afraid you will find my words rather cold. I wish to approach this matter from two points of view— the point of view of the preservation of the building itself and the point of view of the local authorities. As regards the building, about which so much has been said, and with so much of which I agree, I wish to remind your Lordships that the owner can pull it down if he wishes, and the only way to preserve that building in its present form, as toe noble Viscount, Lord Esher, suggested, is that it should be purchased by some of the learned societies interested in the matter. As my noble friend Lord Newton told you, it was stated in reply to a question in another place that there is no power under the Ancient Monuments Acts to preserve the building. I would also point out that this is an enabling Bill. It gives the owner ten years in which to carry out his plans.
1212 The local authorities— I speak on behalf of the Westminster City Council— have very carefully considered this matter. As regards the traffic, sooner or later the lower road will have to be widened. The road now goes from the Savoy Hotel past the Shell-Mex building, and then you go along the lower ground in front of the Adelphi buildings, which, is unpaved, which has on one side of it those horrible low buildings and the car park, and you end in a cul-de-sa By the pro. position that is made these streets will all be widened to a width of forty feet, and by taking a very small corner of the Embankment Gardens you will get an approach to York Buildings which is the most westerly street and the gradient of which is not very steep, and you will get a round-about thoroughfare which will be of great service not only when the new Charing Cross Bridge is built but also to facilitate traffic at the present time. The owner is giving up about 8,000 square feet and that will be a great advantage to the locality.
I may say that, if the present building is preserved with the arches, you could not load and unload in the public street in the way you can in the private road which now exists. I should like some of your Lordships to go and see what there is below the Adelphi Terrace. At the present moment it is an absolute disgrace to London. There is a horrible car park which is private property. There are a lot of very old derelict buildings, and the whole roadway is paved with ancient cobbles and is not particularly clean. By this scheme you will get rid of that and you will get widened streets for the benefit of traffic. Now I come to the question of the view, because it was on that that the most rev. Primate based his most eloquent appeal. The length of Adelphi Terrace is about 300 feet. According to the plan which I have seen, Robert Street and Adam Street will be widened to forty feet. Therefore you will get a width of forty feet at each end of the present Terrace and there will be preserved for the public a width of eighty feet from which to see the view.
Then there is another way of seeing the view. Suppose the contemplated building is erected and you get a flat roof on the top of that building, access might be provided for the public to go and see the view from there. That would give a much better viewpoint than 1213 exists at present. I went myself to the Terrace the other day and I found that. there is really very little that one can see. Even in the winter time the trees obstruct the view almost entirely. No doubt many of your Lordships have been to visit friends in the Adelphi and from a first floor window, no doubt, the view is much better. But if you do look across the river what do you see? You see on the right of you Hungerford Bridge, which is not a very pretty erection. Then you see the Lion Brewery, with a great lion on it. Its tail has not been twisted even by the Soviet Government yet. Then you get the Shot Tower and the wharf for London wastepaper; then you come to Dewar's Tower and another wharf, and finally there is the aspect of Waterloo Bridge which, propped up as it is at present, is not very lovely. I cannot see very much beauty in the view from the Terrace, but there are possibilities, as I say, o the view not being taken from the public.
The local authorities will gain because of the 8,000 square feet of land which is to be given to the public and which is estimated to be worth something like £40,000 or perhaps more. Sooner or later in connection with the Charing Cross scheme these roads will have to be widened. If the Bill passes it will be of great advantage to traffic into and out of the Strand and Villiers Street. The Westminster City Council are very jealous, not only of the utilities but of the amenities of the central part of London over Which they have jurisdiction. We protested the other day against any higher erection in Carlton House Terrace, which is now only seven storeys high, and we hope it will be limited to that because it does not spoil the existing facade. We are strongly of opinion at the Westminster City Council that something should be done to prevent inartistic buildings going up in London. On behalf of the Westminster City Council, I approached the Promoters of this Bill and told them that we are very averse from any bargain with them unless they agree to submit the design of their new buildings to some impartial body. I feel quite certain that they will be willing to submit to a clause being inserted in the Bill when it goes before the Committee providing that the design should be submitted to some impartial body— 1214 perhaps not to the Fine Art Commission, but to the new Committee which is to be set up to deal with buildings on Crown land. I understand that the Government are going to set up a Committee of that kind and it would be composed, I presume, of people of expert knowledge who will decide questions affecting future buildings in London on Crown land. It seems to me that if the promoters are willing to do that it would remove a great deal of the objection to the scheme.
The noble Viscount who moved the rejection of the Bill spoke of town planning and said that very high buildings should not be in front but should be at the rear. May I point out that that is not going to help the society in which he is interested because the high portion would be right opposite the society's premises? A good deal has been said about the question of John Street being raised or lowered three feet. I am told that that is only put into the Bill to give a little play in regard to raising or lowering the street. The local authorities in London are not quite so stupid as to see their ratepayers inconvenienced by having access to their buildings made impossible or by having a roadway with a hump in it. That provision is only put in the Bill to allow of certain deviations. Then with regard to the London County Council gardens, with the exception of a very small portion of land which must be used to make the curve of the roadway to York Buildings, the amount of land to be taken is only about the size of the Chamber in which your Lordships are now meeting. As I have already said, both the London County Council and the Westminster authorities are in favour of this Bill because of the traffic facilities which it would give, and because they are getting a very large grant of road space from the owners of this property. On the other hand, we know perfectly well that if this Bill is riot passed it will cost a great deal of money to carry out these improvements.
Lastly, it must be remembered that if the Bill does not go through the owner can pull down this property if he pleases. There are still ten years for the matter to be decided and at the end of ten years, if the owner has done nothing with the property the time lapses and the restrictions still remain. I earnestly hope your Lordships will allow this Bill to go before 1215 the Committee so that the whole thing may be thoroughly examined. The offer of the owners to submit their plans to this Committee which is about to be set up by the Minister of Agriculture can be thoroughly considered and then your Lordships will have an opportunity when the Bill comes back to see if you are satisfied.
§ LORD OLIVIER
My Lords, I feel considerable diffidence in opposing a suggestion of the Chairman of Committees that this Bill should be allowed to go to a Committee upstairs, but on general grounds of principle which are raised by the Bill I feel bound to support the Motion for rejection. I place my objection to the Bill on broad grounds. In the eighteenth century public authorities and London landlords had become inspired with some sort of feeling for decent town architecture and noble planning and the result was seen in many buildings in London and notably in the Adam Street proposition, the Terrace and the restrictions upon the foreshore. They said very reasonably at that time: "If we concede certain portions of the bed of the Thames and the air above it— to which the noble Lord, Lord Newton referred— to these Promoters they shall not be allowed to build higher that twenty feet except for the purposes Adelphi Terrace and the Adelphi buildings." That was a reasonable and well inspired decision taken by those who knew what they were doing and what they intended to do for the appearance of London.
The noble Lord said that he very much doubted whether many of your Lordships were familiar with Adelphi Terrace.I have been closely familiar with Adelphi Terrace for more than fifty years and 1, and most men of my acquaintance, have always been impressed by that little oasis as an immense relief to the general vulgarisation of the City that was going on. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully of the Salisbury Estate. When it parted with its foreshore rights it appeared to have obtained some compensation in the liberty to concessionaires to put up higher buildings, and nobody who knows the Savoy Hotel or the defunct Cecil Hotel can pretend that they were an improvement to the general aspect of the Thames. There still remains this little oasis of Adelphi Ter- 1216 race which almost all visitors to London admire and say is one of the dignified and beautiful features of London architecture. That was definitely reserved by the town planning authorities of that day.
In the last ten or fifteen years there has been a revival of a strong feeling in favour of maintaining decent principles of architecture and of town planning. Not only in London, but all over the country, we are having county and town committees formed to try to preserve the decent principles of town planning and noble architecture to which effect was given by builders and architects in the eighteenth century. Surely your Lordships are all in sympathy with this national movement for restricting the defacement and disfigurement of our towns, and surely it would be a most unfortunate thing at the present time to say that because a private owner wishes to develop his estate we will throw away what the wisdom of our forefathers achieved by these restrictions for the beauty of the Metropolis. I think we should not go back on the good work done by our forefathers.
I must say I think this Bill is a most audacious and impudent one with its proposal not only to take away that restriction on which the foreshore is granted, hut also a little bit more of the Embankment Gardens. I say we should resent a Bill in this form and throw it out, saying: "If you wish to bring in a Bill bring in one with some consideration for modern principles; the idea that owners or even the Crown should he allowed to deface architecture has been superseded; we have the Town Planning Bill next month; take back your Bill and bring in another with the objectionable features of this one removed. Then you can argue your case as to whether you shall take down Adelphi Terrace or not." I leave that question to be dealt with by more competent authorities, but on general grounds of principle— on the ground that this is an audacious and impudent Bill, brought in to overthrow principles which I hope are established in our national good sense, I feel we should throw this Bill out, not trusting to modifications which might be made upstairs— modifications which can be made in another Bill brought in with these fundamentally objectionable 1217 features omitted. I certainly strongly support the Motion of the noble Viscount for the rejection of the Bill.
§ LORD DICKINSON had given Notice that if the Bill were read a second time he would move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be referred, to amend the Bill so as to provide that existing restrictions on the Adelphi foreground shall not be removed, and that the public thoroughfare known as Adelphi Terrace shall be preserved with its outlook across the river unimpaired, together with the air space and other amenities which the public now enjoy thereon.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have ventured to put down on the Paper an instruction, which I believe is entirely in accordance with precedent, to the Committee to which this Bill will be referred if your Lordships give it a Second Reading, to preserve all the public rights and amenities which are at present enjoyed. That raises a rather new question as to what are public rights and amenities, but I was anxious that the Committee should have this instruction so that the Bill shall not deprive the public of any of its rights at the present moment. of course I do not know what line this House will adopt regarding the Motion which is at present before us, but I am entirely in support of my noble friend Lord Esher in opposing the Bill. I cannot help thinking that your Lordships would be wiser to throw out this Bill and let the matter have further consideration from those various bodies whose attention has only just been called to this particular problem.
§ Two noble Lords, Lord Newton and Lord Jessel, both explained that they supported the Bill because it was only an enabling Bill, but it is for that reason that I venture to oppose it. This may or may not be carried out in ten years, but it will undoubtedly have the very important result that it will give to the owners of the property between the Estate and the Embankment Gardens a value which they certainly have not got at: the present moment. They come to this House for the purpose of obtaining that enhanced value which will be given to the land if we withdraw the restrictions. That is a very serious matter. I believe, and it has been already suggested by another member of this House, 1218 that the best thing that can be done would be to retain the line of Adelphi Terrace and throw this mud flat, as described by Lord Newton, into the Embankment Gardens. The whole line of buildings from that point on to Charing Cross will be affected if by this Bill we allow the Adelphi Estate to bring its building line forward. Of course, it is impossible on this occasion, without plans or map before us, to explain exactly what will take place, but lately I have very often been to this place— I have no doubt others of your Lordships have been there, too— and I am convinced that if we allow this Bill to pass there will grow up immediately a high building on the same line as the Shell-Mex.
§ Now the Shell-Mex, I believe anybody will admit, is an atrocity. I will not say it is an ugly building, but it dwarfs everything in the neighbourhood, including the Adelphi. I do not see why we should repeat that mistake with another which will effect the whole of the frontage between the Adelphi and Charing Cross. As has been said by one noble Lord, it may seriously affect the question of. Charing Cross Bridge. When the Adelphi Terrace was laid out, as you may see if you study the old prints, the idea of the Promoters was to keep a high terrace, on the level of the Strand, right along from Wateloo Bridge on one side to Charing Cross on the other side. The whole idea was magnificent. It was not carried out altogether, but what was carried out was that when the Promoters of the Act of 1771 came before Parliament for the purpose of an Embankment and using it as wharves, Parliament allowed them to embank on the understanding that nothing but twenty feet walls should be built there. The foreshore is part of the River Thames. It may be that the property in that particular ground is with the owners of the Adelphi Estate, but it has always been an open public air space. It is part of the River Thames, and I believe that that was part of the reason why restrictions were put of in 1771, and it is because we attach so much importance to these air spaces in London that we have taken the only course we could take, of raising the question on the Second Reading.
§ It has been suggested that this Bill should be sent to a Committee in the 1219 ordinary course. I know it is very difficult to resist such a proposition in this House, or in the House of Commons, be-cause it seems to be the only fair thing, but I do not see how any fair and proper inquiry could take place before a Committee of this House. Lord Onslow has pointed out that in the ordinary course there will be no opposition. There cannot be any inquiry because, I understand. the London County Council and the West, minster City Council— both of whom I think have neglected their duty in this matter— will not be there. There will be no one to raise the points we have raised, and no society can get a locus. There is no petition, so far as I know. and the matter will go by default, by reason of no evidence or argument being given against the plan of the Promoters. I quite appreciate the offer which was made by Lord Onslow, and I am prepared to say that if that really can be made effective, and we can have tin views of various societies fairly put before a Committee of this House, it would make a great difference in my asking the. House to agree to or reject my instruction. But it does not in the least prevent me from thinking, and urging this House, that we should reject this Bill.
§ I do not want to repeat the arguments in favour of that course, especially those of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He put the case exactly as I would like to put it, and far better than I could. We have been going through a process of uglifying London. For years we have found ourselves faced with the development of private property on lines not approved by the public. There is the case of Devonshire House, and numerous other cases could be cited where the local authorities have failed to look after the amenities of London. We feel that this will be another example of the same process, and that we shall find, if this Bill is passed, that there will grow up another most objectionable row of very high buildings along a part of the Thames which we ought to keep as open as we can.
§ I do not know that I can say anything more, except one thing. My noble friend Lord Jessel has stated that the London County Council and the Westminster City Council have approved this Bill. I do not know that they have exactly approved the Bill, but I believe that they have resolved to do nothing. The reason for 1220 that is, as I understand from my noble friend, that they have been pacified by the gift of a road which on the plan looks an extremely useful road. It is not. It is a perfectly useless road. It is not on the level of the terrace, but away down below, and it will result in no public advantage. They have got the Promoters to make a road which they ought to make at their own cost, and they withdraw their opposition to the Bill. The very fact that they have withdrawn their opposition puts us in this position, that when we send the Bill to a Committee, unless special arrangements are made our case will not be heard, and there will be no opportunity of forming an unbiased opinion on the Bill. I therefore respectfully ask this House to throw out the Bill on Second Reading, and allow us and the local authorities to give it further consideration.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, may I answer the question of the noble Lord with regard to locus? If you refer this Bill to a Committee, and there is any particular body who wish to be heard, you can direct the Committee to hear that body. In that way I think the difficulty mentioned by the noble Lord could he got over.
§ LORD DICKINSON
Of course, there is another difficulty in the way of the societies, and that is the difficulty of funds. To appear before a Committee is, as your Lordships know, a very costly matter, and not altogether a thing which we could jump at.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, in rising to speak on behalf of the Bill I want to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, for the extraordinarily able way in which he convinced me, and I have no doubt a great many other people, in every word he said, that this Bill must go to a Committee of this House. From start to finish everything he said pointed to the fact that it was necessary that it should go to a Committee of this House. He said, as many others of your Lordships have said, that this is a Bill which is rather difficult to understand unless you know the place. I do not know how many of your Lordships do know this place in relation to this Bill. Speaking entirely personally, I always desire, if I can, to know something about what I am talking about before I begin to talk. I therefore took the trouble 1221 yesterday to go over the whole of this site with the owner of the site and his agent, and the plans were explained to me. I have come to a very definite conclusion as a result, but I am perfectly certain that it is very difficult for anybody to come to a conclusion unless he has taken the trouble to do that. Your Lordships cannot be asked to go there en bloc, but if the Bill goes to a Select Committee, the members of that Committee will know what it is they are talking about.
May I give one example of that? Since I saw this Bill and was asked to take any interest in it at all one thing has struck me. It was a point to which the noble Viscount called attention but about which he did not seem to have made sufficient inquiries. What would be the effect of this alteration with regard to possible future plans for a Charing Cross Bridge, especially the approaches to a Charing Cross Bridge? That occurred to me at once. I therefore thought that the best thing to do was to enquire, and I got my noble freed Lord Ashfield to go into the whole question for me. He has convinced me that this Bill would not in any way affect any possible scheme that has been put forward for a bridge at Charing Cross. That may be perfectly all right, but there may be an answer to it. I do not suggest that nay noble friend Lord Ashfield is necessarily right, although I lave no doubt he has taken a very great deal of trouble; but that is eminently a point upon 'Which evidence should be heard by the Select Committee. The next point is this. There are certain portions of the Embankment Gardens that ought to be taken away from the public gardens in order to go into this scheme, and there are certain portions of land that ought to be given back. That, again, is a very important matter to be gone into in order to see whether any harm would be done to the public. I came to the conclusion yesterday that it would obviously be good for the public interest, and not bad, because it would be making a curved road into a straight road.
The noble Lord who has just sat down suggested that it might be better that what was called the mud flat should go into the Embankment Gardens. He did not suggest who was going to pay for it, because that is private ground and belongs to the owner of this estate. Does 1222 he propose that the Government should pay for it? If not, who should pay for it? It is easy enough to say this may be taken into the Embankment Gardens, and I notice that the noble Viscount opposite talked about the division of people into two classes, one being the commercial class. I do not know what the noble Viscount means by the commercial class. He is asking to keep something which is not his because he likes seeing it, to the detriment of the owner. He is not paying anything for it, but the owner is not to get the proper value of it because he lacks the asthetic sense. Is the noble Viscount a commercial person or not? It strikes me as one of the most commercial propositions I have ever heard put forward.
Several noble Lords have said something which everybody seems to forget as soon as it is said. The owners of Adelphi 'Terrace can pull it down tomorrow if they wish to do so, and nobody can stop them, and they can put up another building which may be, and very likely will be, even more commercially profitable to thorn than the present Adelphi Terrace, and you cannot stop it. When I heard the most rev. Primate say that it is for your Lordships to say whether you will prevent this being destroyed, that is not the fact. I may be attributing to him something that he did not say, but what I thought he said was that you must either destroy or preserve, or, if yon cannot do that, at least you can punish the man for wanting to destroy because you can make it less profitable for him to do it. I do not think it is our duty to make a thing less profitable to a man who has a perfect right to do what he likes with something that is his, unless there is a real reason for doing so.
Not only did I walk over the place yesterday, but I. also had a good look at the view. I dare say the most rev. Primate was right. Perhaps the noble Viscount was right, too— it is a matter of taste. But I quite agree that from the Adelphi Terrace you really get the best view of the æsthetic lines of Charing Cross Railway Bridge. I know no point from which you can see to better advantage those wonderful and graceful lines. But do we particularly want to? A suggestion has been made that you might get just as good a view if there was a flat roof 1223 where the public could go. At the Croydon aerodrome a few years ago an hotel was built, and it was thought that the public might like to get a view of the air liners coming in and a general view of the flying. That flat roof was made. A special staircase was made outside the hotel for the public to go up. It is crowded every day. You can have a place like that where the public would really like to go, and from which they would see far more than they would from the Terrace of the shipping going up and down the Thames. But, quite candidly, I do not believe there are very many people who care very much about this particular view.
Then we are told that there is also a view of the Adelphi Terrace. When did this suddenly become so obvious to everybody? The Terrace has been allowed to
|Saukey, V. (L. Chancellor)||Bertie of Thame, V.||Ellenborough L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Wellington, D.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Goschen, V.||Harris, L.|
|Bath, M.||Hailsham, V.||Hillingdon, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Mersey, V.||Irwin, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E. (L. Steward.)||Aberdare, L.||Loch, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Alvingham, L.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Ancaster, E.||Annaly, L.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Beatty, E.||Annesley, L. (V.Valentia.)||Newton, L. [Teller]|
|Breadalbane and Holland, E.||Ashfield, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Halsbury, E. [Teller.]||Bradbury, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Brancepeth,L.(V. Boyne.)||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Camrose, L.||Ormonde, L. (.M. Ormonde..)|
|Malmesbury, E.||Carson, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clan william.)||Rankeillour, L.|
|Morton, E.||Riddell, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Clinton, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Munster, E.||Clwyd, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Darling, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Desborough, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Ebbisham, L.||Wharton, I,.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed: the Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection1224
§ be overgrown in front with trees till you can hardly see it in the winter, and not at all in the summer. Yet nobody complains. Why has this suddenly become the one thing that must be preserved for London? And preserved for London without any idea of who is going to pay he unfortunate owners who are not allowed to develop the land. I think I am right in saying that there is an overwhelming case here, not for passing this scheme, but for allowing it to go to a Committee of your Lordships' House, which would hear all the points for and against anti then report to this House whether the Bill should go through or not.
§ On Question, Whether the word "now" shall stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided:——Contents, (64; Not-Contents, 27.
§ LORD DICKINSON
My Lords, I understand from my noble friend Lord Onslow that facilities can be given to the associations concerned in this question to put their case before the Select Committee, and that steps will be taken as 1225 far as possible to achieve that result. On that understanding I will not move my instruction.