HL Deb 13 March 1956 vol 196 cc311-86

3.12 p.m.

LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for the expansion of the Imperial College at South Kensington involving the demolition of the Imperial Institute building and the removal of the Imperial Institute to some other site; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships may have wondered why there are two Motions on the Order Paper to-day, that of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and that of myself, dealing with much the same matter. This means not that there is any difference of view between the noble Lord and myself, or indeed the many noble Lords who support us in this House in this matter, but merely that we both, without knowing that the other was going to put a Motion down, put Motions on the Order Paper on the same day, and we thought it might be just as well if they were left there. The Government's plan for the extension of the Imperial College involves two facets. The first is the demolition of the Imperial Institute building, and the second is the suspension for an unspecified time of the Institute's work and the rehousing of the Institute at an unspecified time on a site not yet selected in a building not yet planned, the finance for which has not yet been allocated or raised.

I have no objection whatsoever to the expansion of the Imperial College even at the site at South Kensington, although on this point it is only right for me to point out to your Lordships that there are considerable differences of opinion. Only last night we had a meeting at the Kensington Town Hall called by the Kensington Society. At this meeting, which was very well attended, a distinguished American architect, one of the great authorities on nineteenth century architecture, who had himself taught for some years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came along and said, in effect, "Whatever you do, do not enlarge the school at this site because you will find in a few years' time that it is far too cramped and that you ought to have gone out into the country."


Will the noble Lord stick to the word "College," otherwise I am sure we shall be in difficulties? It is "the Imperial College" and "the Imperial Institute."


Very well. This American architect said, "You should not enlarge upon this site because, if you do, in a few years' time you will find that the site is too cramped and that you ought to have gone out into the country"— which is in fact what the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did in 1912. What I do not admit is that it is desirable or necessary to expand the Imperial College at the cost of demolishing the Imperial Institute building, or that it is necessary or desirable to do so when it involves interference with the important task in Commonwealth affairs of the Imperial Institute.

In the days when the public were interested in people other than entertainers, and in subjects other than entertainment, a memorial to Queen Victoria upon her Jubilee in 1887 was conceived, paid for and built. This building was not financed by the United Kingdom Government, or even by an insurance company; it was financed by the public and, to some extent, by the Armed Forces. An anna a brick was subscribed by the private, thirsty soldiers sweating in the hot season on the torrid plains of Hindustan. The site having been obtained at a nominal rent from the Commissioners of the International Exhibition of 1851, the present building to a design by T. E. Collcutt, was commenced. The foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in the presence of more than 10,000 specially invited spectators. This stone was a huge block of granite from Cape Colony and it stands in a pedestal of Indian bricks. In their turn, these bricks covered a specially prepared cavity containing coins of the realm and a number of public documents. These, of course, were intended by the Queen and the others responsible to be preserved for posterity. But, alas! if the Government's plans are carried out, posterity will see them a good deal sooner than Queen Victoria intended.

The building was completed in 1893, within the lifetime of many noble Lords present, and although architecture, like other arts, is a matter of taste, there can be few who have seen it without pleasure. The tower is especially admired and was recently described in a letter to The Times by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, as one of the most beautiful of its kind in existence. The building has become a landmark in the neighbourhood and, with its slightly Eastern lock, gives an air of grace and exoticism to what is otherwise a somewhat stolid and solid area of earnest study, impressed for all time by the seal of Darwin and Huxley. That it is an important local landmark is evidenced by the fact that last night, as I have said, there was this large public meeting in Kensington of people living in the neighbourhood as well as elsewhere. In these times when it is so difficult to get public meetings together for almost any purpose, no fewer than 500 people arrived at the Kensington Town Hall at an inconvenient time, most of whom were there to express their dissatisfaction at the decision of the Government, though some, of course—a minority—were prepared, presumably, to support the Government.

It seems to me that there is one difference between London and New York—perhaps it is one of many, but at arty rate it is one that struck me in the three months that I spent in New York: that is, that in New York there is very little visual sign of continuity. Mammoth buildings are erected, and long before their useful life is over they are torn down and even greater buildings are built in their place. In London, however, right from Roman times the relics of succeeding generations of Londoners are evident, and these afford an interesting and valuable record of the social history of the city for the last 2,000 years. In South Kensington, the Victorian age has left its distinctive mark from the Albert Memorial in the north, past the Albert Hall and the Imperial Institute, to the Natural History Museum and then to the Victoria and Albert Museum in the east.

As I have said, beauty in architecture is largely a matter in the eye of the beholder, and I do not claim to have any particular expert view. I should, however, like to call in evidence a member of the Government who is well respected in this House—namely, the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. We in Wales know Lord Mancroft as our Minister, who in his travels comments upon our wants and our ways with wit and wisdom. He addresses Nonconformist chapel congregations in the morning and Conservative club committees in the evening, thus serving, as it were, God and Mammon on the same day. Lately he addressed a professional body—not in Wales, because the bodies he addresses there are usually unprofessional, but it London. He was speaking to the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors, and this is what he said to them on the question of modern architecture: You might well have chosen to go and live in one of the inverted egg-boxes or beer crates which some members of the profession now justify in an unrivalled opportunity they have in rebuilding the City of London. We never seem to find sites or settings to match our buildings. The report of his speech goes on: 'Architectural faults'…in the Houses of Parliament … he said were saved by their setting. In a reference to the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, Lord Mancroft described an occasion, when he took his cousin from Malaya to see it. The cousin 'looked at it quietly, then he turned and said, "Mancroft, let us summon a cab and drive slowly to the Albert Memorial."' That was recorded in the Daily Telegraph and I understand that Lord Mancroft does not deny that statement; hence, we call him in evidence as one who is at least interested in the Victorian buildings of Kensington and who would wish at all costs to preserve them.

My Lords, I do not intend to discuss any further the merits of the Imperial Institute building or the question of alternative plans which would give the desired extra space to the Imperial College without involving the destruction of the Imperial Institute building. This will be done by noble Lords far better qualified than I am to do so. As your Lordships will see from the list of speakers to-day—a long list of well qualified noble Lords—there are many who have those qualifications to speak on this matter which I do not possess. But before turning from this aspect, I may say that I personally cannot understand why the Government decided upon these plans in secrecy, because those of us who are not members of the Royal Fine Art Commission have never yet even seen them; why they made this decision without consulting the local authorities—that is, the London County Council and the Westminster City Council—and why they disregarded the opinion of the Royal Fine Art Commission, which, after all, is set up for this sort of purpose, before making their decision.

But let us now turn to the work of the imperial Institute, which is the other aspect of this matter and one upon which I feel I have more authority to speak. The Royal Charter of 1888 declared the main objects of the Institute. These have been briefly and rather clumsily described as the promotion of the utilisation of Commonwealth products and the making better known of the life, the resources and the industries of the various countries which comprise the Commonwealth. The Exhibition galleries display dioramas, photographs and exhibits relating to the life, the work and the play of the various peoples in the Commonwealth. In the cinema, Commonwealth films are shown at stated periods daily, and the Exhibition and the cinema are enjoyed by an ever-increasing number of visitors, especially children. The other evening, when I passed (I live nearby), I saw coming out of the Imperial Institute the Queen Mother, the Duke of Cornwall and Princess Ann. They had been to see the exhibits and photographs of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on their Nigerian tour. No doubt many hundreds of other children have also been to see these interesting pictures. I often visit the Exhibition, especially to see one particular diorama. It is a lifelike representation of a street in Penang, in which for some years I had an office; and on a wet, miserable London day it is pleasant to spin away 8.000 miles and twenty-five years to this hot, colourful scene.

The Institute does valuable work and is unique in London. In 1952 there was set up a Committee of Inquiry presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir. This Committee made detailed recommendations and, as your Lordships will no doubt remember, we had an opportunity of discussing this Report and these recommendations in your Lordships' House. I think it fair to say, that, as a result of that Report and perhaps of the debate, there was a considerable expansion in the work of the Institute so far as the galleries and exhibits are concerned; and within the space allocated to them—because, of course, the actual museum part of it is not in the Collcutt building; it is in the galleries around—I should say that it is as good an exhibition as one could hope to get. If there were more space, and if it were, perhaps, a little tidier, with the galleries rather nearer together, one might get a better exhibition, but I think most of us would agree that it is a good exhibition. One of my great fears is in regard to the dislocation of the work of the Institute which is bound to take place if the Institute is moved and the building destroyed. The result is bound to be serious.

On the 21st of last month I asked a Question of the Government in regard to the Institute. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, replied to me, and amongst other things he said this [OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 195 (No. 62), col. 1126]: An alternative site has not yet been found for the Imperial Institute. It is intended that the work of the Institute should continue, either in temporary or new premises, though inevitably, of course, there must be some disturbance of its work for a year or two. When all these people in Queen Victoria's day—whether they were private soldiers, colonial peoples or whatever they were—subscribed what was a large sum for those days towards a Memorial to the Queen, they did not subscribe only for Collcutt to put up a building; they subscribed the money for the building to do a certain type of work. It was, as I have said, to make the products and the life of the peoples of the Empire, as it then was, better known in this country, and to disseminate the knowledge of what is now the Commonwealth in this country. It is quite obvious, from what Lord Selkirk has said, that there will be grave dislocation for some time in the work of the Institute. I would point out that no site has yet been chosen; nor, so far as we know, has one been sought. No money has been allocated for the purchase of the site, so far as we know; no building has been planned—or if it has, we have not been told of it; no finance has been arranged for the building, and we all know that, even with buildings where there has been such planning, where a site has been sought and obtained many years delay takes place before the building is finally erected.

Take the Colonial Office site in Westminster. I think it was in 1948 or 1949, in the Administration of my noble friend Lord Attlee, that that site was obtained and the building was planned. The plans were approved and passed by the Royal Fine Art Commission and was all ready to start work; but the building is not yet up. I do not think the basements have been excavated. Nothing has happened and the site is empty. Can anyone suggest that, with the financial stringency there is to-day, any Government is going to spend £3 or £4 million erecting a museum on some site in London not yet allocated—even if £3 or £4 million would he sufficient? It has been suggested that the new site should be on the South Bank. I believe that would be a very grave error because the South Bank is difficult to reach. I am told that the Imperial War Museum much regrets having gone there. This area of Kensington is a museum area. People know that museums of this kind are there. Transport facilities are good, and masses of children and others come in coach parties and by other means and go from one museum to another. It would be a very great mistake to move them from this area and isolate them on the South Bank which is lacking in facilities and museum tradition.

What is the answer? One answer is not to extend the Imperial College on this site. Another is to retain the Institute main building—that is the Collcutt building—to remove the galleries, and to reconstruct the interior of the Collcutt building so as to serve the purposes of the Imperial institute; and to build galleries flush against the rear (north) side of the Institute to provide the accommodation needed This would release the area now taken up by the quadrangle and galleries for the purposes of the Imperial College. I do not feel, however, that it is up to us to propose the solutions. After all, there is the building; there is the Memorial. It is doing an important job of work and is one of the only places in this country where work of this type is being done. As we all know, people who come to this country from the Commonwealth are always disgusted at the lack of interest and knowledge among people in this country about their fellow-citizens overseas. Her Majesty's Government propose for some unspecified time—it may be for all time—I to take away from London and from this country one of the only institutions where a knowledge of our fellow citizens overseas can be obtained in a peculiarly graphic form, through the eyes. I feel it is most important that we should not allow this building to go, first because it is an important architectural gem and secondly, because of the work it does. It was for these reasons that I put down my Motion. I beg to move for Papers.

3.35 p.m.

LORD MOTTISTONE had given notice of his intention to ask Her Majesty's Government what are the reasons for supposing that it would not be possible, by careful planning, to meet the needs for expansion of the Imperial College whilst retaining the tower and frontage of the Imperial Institute and whether any plans have been prepared showing how this could be achieved; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope your Lordships are in agreement that the Motion standing in my name on, the Order Paper should be taken with the. Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I wonder how many of your Lordships have climbed to the top of the centre tower of the Imperial Institute. I did so the other day and can therefore testify to the splendour of its construction. At its base, which I understand rests on a solid concrete bed 25 ft. deep the walls are 9 ft. thick diminishing to 6 ft. at the roof line from which the tower rises. It is for the retention of this edifice—the building and its towers—that we plead, The building is a long and narrow one-and occupies only a fraction of the whole site upon which the Imperial College of Science and Technology propose to build their extensions.

I can confirm to your Lordships that it is of the most solid and permanent construction, to say nothing of its esthetic value about which, even in the mind of Her Majesty's Government who propose to destroy it, there is now doubt, for they themselves have recently described it as a building of unquestioned architectural interest, its tower a well-loved London landmark. Within and without this massive structure there is to be found exquisite craftsmanship in rare and beautiful materials. The form of construction is fire-proof. It is light and airy and there is nothing shoddy about it. Neither is it old or decayed. It was completed only sixty-three years ago which, for a building of this solidity and soundness, is the prime of life. It is a masterpiece of the work of Thomas Collcutt, whose design was chosen in competition. He died in 1924 but I am happy to say that his partner, Mr. Hamp, is alive and well and has shown me the beautiful drawings of the building in his possession which Mr. Collcutt executed and which bear witness to the clear and artistic skill which he lavished upon it.

Just because the usage of to-day and the stress of economic circumstances tend to the elimination of decorative detail, it is, I believe, the height of folly to sneer at the more elaborate work of our immediate forbears which happens, at the moment, to be in the trough between the waves of fashion, particularly when, as in this case, the workmanship is of the highest order. From the top of the tower of this noble building one can see, as from nowhere else, the whole island site which is the subject of this debate and which is the "Naboth's vineyard" of the Imperial College. I think that in this case we agree that they should have the vineyard if they will only preserve the small Collcutt building which stands on the southern fringe of it—I say "small" because it is small in area in comparison with the whole site. The card I am holding represents the area of the site to a scale of 1 in to 100 ft. and this other card represents to the same scale the area of the Collcutt building. That area is less than one-tenth of the area of the whole site; so how can it possibly be maintained, as the Government have maintained, that its retention would cause the loss of one-quarter of the whole planned extension of the Imperial College? That may well be true of the particular plan that is put forward; but it cannot be an unalterable factor inherent in all ways of developing the site. It must be possible by careful and ingenious planning to compensate for the loss of one-tenth of an area such as this.


My Lords, might I ask the noble Lord this question? He speaks with great authority on these subjects. Are we to understand that he has taken the whole area first and then has taken the area of the Collcutt building and said that it is just one-tenth of the whole area? I should think that it would be very natural for an architect to make that calculation. But surely it would not be very beautiful if the whole of the other nine-tenths of the area were covered by buildings of quite different design and different character.


May I answer the noble Marquess? It is less than one-tenth. It cannot be necessary to crowd the whole of the rest of the site with buildings because of losing one-tenth of the area and using it for some other purpose. Actually, the one-tenth I have taken includes space in front of the Institute which cannot be built on if the Institute is retained. We fully realise the care and thought that Her Majesty's Government and their advisers have given to the problem; but have they gone far enough before coming to a decision? It is easy to say—and we do not doubt it—that long and painstaking consideration has been given to this project. But what have they been considering? How many detailed alternative plans have been prepared?—for, in a case such as this, it is the detailed planning that counts; one cannot argue it entirely on a basis of words. If ever there was a case for architectural competition—a limited one if you like—this is it. It may well be that an alternative plan or plans have been prepared. If so, why are we told nothing about them? Is there any reason for secrecy?

It is not as if any of us who plead for the retention of the Imperial Institute want to curtail the expansion of the Imperial College. Far from it. We all, I hope and believe, want to see this country in the forefront of research, and are eager to encourage the Government and the College in their efforts. But we want to know exactly why this will necessitate the destruction of a building which, in a very special sense, belongs to us all. How has it come about that this building has been put up for sale without our knowing it?—if, indeed, it is to be a sale, not just a "smash and grab"; or rather, in this case, it seems "grab" first and then "smash." It cannot conceivably be correct to say, as the Government have said, that, whatever layout is adopted, if the Collcutt building is retained the loss will be 360 students, of whom 270 will be postgraduates. No one can be expected to believe that the only place on any imaginable plan where 270 post-graduate students could be accommodated would be on the site of the Collcutt building.

I see that the argument has been advanced that to compensate for the loss of space now occupied by the Collcutt building the required accommodation for the expansion of the Imperial College would necessitate building to such a height as to destroy the æsthetic value of that which we seek to preserve. With that argument I do not agree for one moment. The site is so large that there is plenty of room for very tall buildings upon it. It bears no comparison to the crowded city or the precincts of Westminster. By careful massing of ingeniously designed blocks of lofty buildings I can imagine that the jewel-like quality of the detail of Collcutt's building might be enhanced rather than diminished. In fact, I would go further and say that the Institute, as the jewel it undoubtedly is, now suffers from its setting. I, for one, should like to see it reset with a stronger and bolder frame surrounding it. Actually, as I have pointed out to your Lordships, the Institute covers so small a part of the site that the extra height required to compensate for its preservation could not be very great.

Since the proposals were announced, an excellent suggestion has been put forward in a letter to The Times by Professor Pevsner. I suggest that it would be well worth considering this in close detail, as it would provide the spacious quiet of a college court. As a last resort, is it really so hard, as was suggested in the Government's reply to the Royal Fine Art Commission, to justify the use of compulsory powers, involving legislation, to acquire an adjoining site to the west now zoned for residential purposes, if by these means the Collcutt building can he saved?

I think the truth of the matter is this. The Imperial College of Science and Technology has got to expand—I think we all agree with the Government and the College about that. But in their eagerness they dismissed the Collcutt building as of no account and instructed their architectural adviser to consider the site as a vacant one, except for the Royal College of Music. Now they have got so far with their plan, they are loth to admit that there are other ways of doing what they want. They forgot the valued place the Institute building (as well as its function) holds for Londoners, and, indeed, for the whole Commonwealth and Empire. They trifled with the amenity societies, they forestalled the planning authorities, and they flouted the Royal Fine Art Commission. The Government forgot that it is not their building to do what they like with: it is ours. Our fathers, overseas and here, paid for its erection with £280,000—which is now the equivalent in building costs to something like £3,500,000.

As an architect, my rôle in life is more often to spend people's money than to save it, and it would not normally fall to my lot to preach economy. But, to-day there can be few of us, whatever our profession or calling, who are insensible to appeals of a very urgent and inconvenient kind to use the moat rigid restraint whenever expenditure can be avoided. What an extraordinary moment, my Lords, for Her Majesty's Government, with the Treasury in the lead, to sponsor a scheme whereby, quite irrespective of its architectural merit, a capital asset worth at least £3 million is to be jettisoned—thrown on the scrap-heap, to satisfy what is so patently a planner's fancy, conditioned by theories and visions in design which will become far more quickly out-of-date than ever Collcutt's work! On these grounds also I would ask Her Majesty's Government to apply to their own undertakings that prescription of thrift which they have ordained to be the only cure for our present monetary ills.

Have they also forgotten that this building is our national Memorial, as has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, to the Jubilee of Queen Victoria? Maybe they have forgotten, or do not know, what King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, said to his mother, the Queen, when he asked her to lay the foundation stone of this building on July 4, 887. He said: it is our earnest hope that the building, of which Your Majesty to-day lays the foundation stone, will tell to many generations yet to come the story of the long and happy reign of our gracious Sovereign. Can it really be true that within the span of one generation we are to acquiesce in its destruction and permit this dictatorial liquidation of fine architecture?

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, because I cannot speak, as he does, with knowledge of the needs of the Imperial Institute as a body, and also because, when this matter first came to my notice, I understood that it had already been decided that the Imperial Institute wished to move elsewhere and that its move was a fait accompli. Therefore I will not follow him, except on one point, a point on which I may be entirely wrong. I am told that the Trustees of the Imperial Institute building are the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Lord President of the Council. I hope that their advice on this matter has been sought. I do not propose, either, to follow the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, all the way, and certainly not up the tower. He speaks as a successful and distinguished practising architect with great authority on these points, and therefore I hope it may be unnecessary to follow him into the architectural quality of the building which it is proposed to destroy. I hope that your Lordships may accept that as not a matter in dispute in this House, as it has been accepted in correspondence in the Press with a really remarkable unanimity, by people whose views vary as widely as those of the President of the Royal Academy and the chief architect of the Festival of Britain Exhibition. That does not mean that we may not all legitimately have our own likes and dislikes. It is perfectly legitimate to dislike Victorian buildings as such and to believe in the old rhyme that Art stops short In the cultivated court Of the Empress Josephine. We may all have our tastes; we may all have our views; but are our personal tastes relevant when we are dealing with what is admittedly one of the few great monuments of London? It is inconceivable that this building would be destroyed if it existed in any other capital of the civilised world. In this case, it is particularly ironical that a Government who are trying to preserve our historic buildings by grants and legislation should feel compelled to destroy so great and noble a monument. In London we see going on daily destruction, which I think is quite unnecessary, of houses and buildings which have been allowed to fall into decay through the Rent Restrictions Acts and for other reasons, and which are then condemned and replaced by buildings which I think few would consider are of comparable value architecturally and in beauty. I think that is what is happening in the case of the Imperial Institute.

I had hoped that we were going to be shown a model of the new building to-day and I am sorry that it is not on exhibition, but I have here a photograph of the model. It is built in what the architects themselves call "slabs." It is built in a series of—I think "slabs" is the only word I can use; and the central slab of the group is an immense building 200 feet high. I did not understand what 200 feet looks like, so I made inquiries to see what it would look like compared with some building with which one is familiar. All I can tell your Lordships is that Nelson's Column is 175 feet high. This immense building will dominate the surrounding "slabs." The Royal Fine Art Commission made this comment on the quality of the building: It seems to express a great commercial concern rather than a seat of learning and research, and the Commission hopes that in the development of the design this aspect may be more securely established. I do not think that the strongest advocates and friends of this style would look upon the model as an outstanding example of contemporary work. I hope no one will try to pretend that its qualities are in any way comparable with the qualities of what is to be destroyed. In this building there may be great gains to the man in the "lab"; but to the man in the street the loss is a dead loss.

In all this matter there have been great and serious delays. They have nothing to do with the Royal Fine Art Commission, which has dealt with its duties with promptitude and, I think, efficiency. I do not know when the story began; I do not even know under which Government it began; but from the published records, the first reference that I can find is that in a recommendation of the University Grants Committee of 1950. It was not until his report of 1954–55 that the Principal of the College said: The College … should soon be in a position to consult officially bodies such as the Royal Fine Art Commission and the London County Council of which it has hitherto been forced to fight shy, through no fault of its own. I cannot help feeling that if several years ago the Royal Fine Art Commission, as official advisers to Her Majesty's Government on all questions of public amenity, and the London County Council, as the planning authority for London, had been consulted, we should have been able to produce, with the College, a solution satisfactory to everybody. All I hope and beg to-day is that the delays of past years—for which I distribute no blame; they may, indeed, all have been absolutely necessary in a matter of such, to a layman, obvious complexity and difficulty—may not result in too much hurry at the last moment. I say that because I believe that even now a satisfactory conclusion can he reached.

The difficulties of to-day are all inherent in the original arrangement by which it was settled that this great number of 3,000 students, with all their apparatus and their teaching, should be housed in a fixed rectangle. It seemed to the Commission that it would have been wiser to have chosen a place where more elasticity was possible and where expansion was easy. I felt that I knew just as much as the Provost of the College did whether expansion would be necessary in ten years' time. No one had any conception at all where this would lead, or, in this atomic age, where future developments, future expansion, future training and future teaching would be necessary. That initial mistake, made, as I say, in the dim past, is behind all our difficulties to-day. The other difficulty is the one mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone: that the imperial College has been given, as it were, a free hand to deal with this rectangle as though no Imperial Institute building was on it; in other words, as if they were dealing with a bombed site. Those are the two inheritances from the past which create the difficulties of to-day.

While it may be said that these matters are not exactly the affair of a Commission appointed to advise Her Majesty on matters of public amenity, we nevertheless felt it our duty on June 11 last to bring these matters before Her Majesty's Government, and to write, not to the College, but to the Treasury. We felt that the problems were greater than had been conceived: they were beyond our scope, and, indeed, they were also beyond the scope of the College. May I remind your Lordships that we advised, regarding the building, that: This great work of Collcutt, with its fine craftsmanship, is of outstanding significance not only to South Kensington but to London as a whole, and should be preserved. And as we had been told that the building might appear incongruous when surrounded by concrete slabs, we said: The Commission believes that the Victorian grandeur of the Imperial Institute, a scholarly and carefully considered design using materials and craftsmanship unobtainable to-day, would provide a valuable foil to the new buildings and would contribute to a sense of historical continuity appropriate to a collegiate group. Having suggested that the building should be retained, we suggested that a survey of it should be made in order to ascertain (and this seemed to us an important point) whether it could not be adapted for other use—for use for the Imperial College—and we also suggested that the development of the rest of the site could be re-designed to provide for the hulk of the teaching requirements, and that, if necessary, additional space should he found in the neighbourhood outside this rectangular site. We added another point, which I think is most relevant. We said It seems to the Commission that the long-term teaching requirements of the College … cannot he so exactly calculated in advance and that at some later date further extension outside the rectangle is likely to be required. The Government would be severely blamed for the demolition of a building of architectural and historic interest, on the grounds that it prevented essential re-development within a defined area if it were found at a later date that extension beyond the area was necessary in any case. We wrote that on Jane 11 of last year, and on January 20 we had an answer from the Treasury. I should like to ex-press my gratitude to all the Ministers who have been so patient in their time in listening to my complaints; I only wish that their generosity had been extended to understanding one tithe of the point of view I am expressing to your Lordships. However, they have taken great trouble and paid great attention to these matters, and that, I hope, will be appreciated. In the Treasury answer, however, we were told that the Government had been advised that if, as the noble Lord opposite said, the Collcutt building were retained, one-quarter of the whole planned extension would be lost. As a layman, I must say that I find that difficult to believe. It seems to me almost certain that a reorganisation of the building at the back would show a completely different set of figures and a completely different picture.

By whom were the Lords of the Treasury advised? The Commission hoped, and I think had a right to expect, that they would get a second opinion; and, indeed, surely common prudence would have demanded that, in a matter of this complexity and difficulty, a second opinion should be asked. We hoped and believed that there would be an impartial survey, but so far as I can make out the "second opinion" has been the first opinion, and the advice that has been sought has come from the College and its architects. The College and its architects are no doubt entirely competent, but clearly, a different view, a different opinion, might give a different solution. The second opinion given by the first man is, if I may say so, of little value. I do not myself believe that that recommendation of the Commission, while it has been considered with great care, has been considered in the right way or in the way in which I think we had a right to hope

On another point, the essential point of finding adjacent accommodation on the perimeter of this rectangle touching the immediate neighbourhood, the Treasury tell us that a thorough search of the neighbourhood has been made but with scant success, and that suitable sites were found to be zoned for residential purposes. We on the Commission have all along felt that, because of the mistake made in the dim ages, it was essential in any case to provide accommodation outside this rectangle. But by whom was this thorough search made? I cannot answer that question, but I can tell your Lordships that it was not made by the only competent body to make that search, the London County Council, who are the planning authority, the authority who can zone and alter zoning and who, on all these matters of planning, of density and of redevelopment, are of unequalled importance. It would have been better if this search had been made by the London County Council, because it seems to me that unless one has from the County Council the answer as to what is and what is not available, the Government cannot make their case for destroying this building, nor can the Commission make their case for saying they are right.

So strongly did we feel about the County Council that we referred to it in our first letter to the architect, and in our letter of February 25, which I asked might be made public, we suggested that the London County Council should be consulted on alternative neighbouring sites and zoning. The importance of this seems to me to rest in the fact that the only reason for destroying this building is the belief that its retention will prevent the necessary development which we all agree is both necessary and urgent. If it can be shown that this necessary development can take place while at the same time retaining the main block of the Collcutt building, as I believe can be done—surely we shall have gone a long way to meeting everybody's difficulties and to solving the problem. I think it probably true that if full use were made of a site on the opposite side, for instance, of Exhibition Road, it might well be possible not only to reduce the excessive density proposed by the Imperial College and by their architect within the rectangle, but to retain as well the main block of the Collcutt building.

A most important development took place on this point yesterday. The London County Council discussed the matter, and they gave this statement to the Press which perhaps I may be allowed to read: At their meeting yesterday, the London County Council Planning Committee had under consideration a Town Planning application relating to the development of the Imperial College of Science and Technology. Before reaching any final conclusion on the development of the Imperial College the Committee resolved that there should be further discussions regarding the manifold implications of the scheme between the architect and the Council and the developers, and it was indicated that it might well he advisable to initiate discussions at a higher level. I know that ultimately this matter is the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government and not of the planning authority, but I think it would be unwise to deny that this is a development of the greatest importance, and one which cannot be ignored. Its importance relates, in my mind, chiefly to the fact that if they find that the answer is on the lines which I have indicated; that if their examination shows that an alternative is possible, then a completely new situation arises—a situation to which no-one is committed; against which no-one has taken any line, arising out of the new idea and out of a new set of conditions. To slam the door to-day would, I think, be unforgivable. Not to follow up this matter which has arisen would be entirely unreasonable. It seems to me to provide a completely new opportunity, which it would be folly not to take, of avoiding an avoidable mistake.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, each of the two noble Lords who have preceded me described the Collcutt building in South Kensington as a monument. May I, with all diffidence, suggest that a building as large as the Collcutt building ought to be rather more than a monument, more than something to look at: it ought to be a place where people live or where they pray or where they work. May I say, again with diffidence, that probably I am one of the very few members of this House to-day who worked in the Collcutt building thirty years ago when I was Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. I will not say much of the somewhat bizarre experience of working there in the best room, twenty feet high and twenty-six feet wide, with no sunlight in it at any time. That was the room that Collcutt had provided for me. Not only did I have the personal experience of working there, but in the circumstances in which I became Vice-Chancellor in June, 1926, I was compelled to give most earnest and agitated thought to what should be done with the Collcutt building—whether we should try to develop it as a continuing centre of University activity or whether we should try to make a considerable move to Bloomsbury.

That problem occupied me for all the years of my Vice-Chancellorship. May I say that one of the great joys of dealing with that problem was the help that I was given at the time by the father of the noble Earl who has just sat down, who, as Chairman of the Fine Art Commission, helped me in innumerable ways and, above all, helped me to find an inspired architect who could make the monument ideally suited for work as well.


May I interrupt the noble Lord, in view of the kindness of what he says, in case there should be any misconception? It was not the proposal of the Fine Art Commission to preserve the building in which the noble Lord worked, even as a memorial to himself. It was known that much of the building would have to be gutted and used, for instance, as bookstacks and other purposes appropriate to the College. We felt it was impossible to preserve the building as it is to-day.


I am profoundly grateful for that interruption because it leads so directly to the main point I want to make. A large part of my early Vice-Chancellorship was concerned with trying to discover how the Collcutt building could best he used, and I had a perfectly good political reason for trying to discover some means of making really good use of it. I had been elected Vice-Chancellor by the smallest of majorities known till then, by twenty-six votes to twenty-one; and my majority of five, I may say, consisted largely of Senators so very old that it was quite certain they would not attend regularly at future meetings. I knew that I had the tiniest majority; and not only for that reason, but because I felt that I should always like to work with both sides in the Senate, the externals who favoured South Kensington and the internals who favoured Bloomsbury, my first act was to set the University architect to tell me just how the Collcutt building should be altered and made more habitable and more useful than it was.

He made his report and I have described in a book which I wrote exactly what the effect on my mind was. I have it in so many words: The effect of the architect's report upon my mind was to decide that the policy of trying to spend money in improving the Collcutt building must be abandoned because it would not lead to anything worth the money that you would spend. That comment was made in October, 1926. I followed it up in November, 1926, by a memorandum to the Senators, in which I quote these actual words: The more this problem of turning the Collcutt building to practical use is examined, the more one becomes convinced of the extreme unsuitability of the accommodation there for office purposes, of the heavy cost of making it better and the impossibility of ever making it satisfactory at any cost. That was only my conclusion, but it was my conclusion against my desires, because it meant that, if I abandoned trying to do anything at South Kensington, I should have this solid majority of externals continually against me. I had to take that risk. I may say that, ultimately, in rescuing the Bloomsbury site I won a most critical division by three votes, which ought to have been lost except that, by accident, one of the people who usually voted against me voted for me on that occasion. I decided to abandon the attempt to make much of the Collcutt building.

May I say that that memorandum which I circulated to the Senate in those days also answers one of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore—or, rather, which was made to him by an American professor—to the effect that we ought to move our sites out of London. Nothing more nonsensical than the idea that the University of London can be moved out of its centre has ever been propounded. I have examined the suggestion in innumerable ways. The point is that the people who study in the University of London live in this enormous periphery of population all round it. If the teaching centre is put anywhere but near the centre of London, then the average time, trouble and cost to some of the students coming to it will be increased enormously. There is no place for the University of London and its great teaching institutions except in just about the places they are to-day.

I have said that I did not like the Collcutt building and did not think it could be much improved as a place in which to work. Let me just bring to your Lordships' minds a few features of the building: first, the height of the passages and all the rest of it means that more than one-third of the total capacity is not used and is wasted. The height of the storeys—21 feet, 20 feet, 15 feet—means that the rooms cannot be subdivided. This is a gloriously solid building and it is impossible to change the floors without terrific expense, and probably not without using dynamite. Then all the corridors, without exception, are twelve feet wide, and on all floors are on the south side, with all the rooms on the north side. To-day when I went to look at the use made of that building, the people who work in the Warberg Institute Library were all working by artificial light in the middle of the day. That is the Collcutt building as a library.

Somebody or other has, I think, communicated to the Government the suggestion that the building should be turned into a library. Let me say that the University of London, of which I was then Vice-Chancellor, had a most marvellous library presented to them—the Goldsmith Library of Economic Literature. Until we had our own home in Bloomsbury we had perforce to keep that library in the Collcutt building, where it was practically wasted because all the rooms in which it was lodged were being occupied. If you wanted to go and get a book you had to walk up some steps and through a long gallery which went all round every room. The whole place is utterly unfitted to be a library; and that is the fundamental difficulty. What can we do about it? I have given my impressions of thirty years ago—they are all in print, but I should be happy to send a print to anybody who cares to have it. I went to confirm those impressions this morning and I watched people trying to study in most uncomfortable rooms, by artificial light in the middle of the day, without any sunshine reaching them.

With regard to the architecture, I would suggest that architectural beauty goes with the suitability of the building as a place of work. I have been led by this study to ask how this particular design came to be accepted. The history is rather interesting. Six architects of high standing were invited to submit designs, and the report subsequently made has a most suggestive passage. It says: The designs sent in were all of a very high order. In several instances, however, their acceptance would have involved an outlay greatly exceeding the resources likely to be available. Eventually, the judges decided to accept the designs of Mr. Collcutt, being of opinion that these would provide a monumental structure"— there again, they are thinking of monuments— as well as adequate accommodation at a rate or cost falling within the warrantable limit of expenditure. It looks to me as if, somehow or other, even in those days, they had not the money they ought to have. We in the Senate decided almost immediately, first by one vote, and then by a great many votes as the Rockefeller money came in, to build the University Centre in Bloomsbury, where it now stands; but as we still had the Collcutt building on our hands, we decided to use it for the semi-human purpose of written examinations.

Your Lordships will observe that I have not said a word—and I am not going to say a word—about whether this building is beautiful. I never thought it beautiful thirty years ago, but, quite apart from whether it is beautiful, I will accept the sentiment that has gathered round it. The tower is a well-loved landmark all over that part of London. If it proved possible, I should like at least to do something to preserve the tower as a monument. I do not know whether or not that is possible. We must all realise that to-day there is for this country and for the world at large, and for the safety of all people in the world at large, an absolutely vital need for more scientific teaching. The easiest and best way of getting that in this country is through the development of the great Imperial College of Science. I suggest that if one really studies these plans, one sees that to keep the whole Collcutt building as it stands might, and probably would, ruin the full development of the site upon which the Imperial College stands, and prevent it from bringing its numbers up to the numbers which we and the Government really consider necessary and which are necessary to develop our teachings. It is impossible to make the Collcutt building really useful by any minor reconstruction.

I turn to ask whether anything at all can be clone to make anything of this absolutely genuine sentiment of the past. If I were Vice-Chancellor, or concerned with the matter now, I think I should ask an inspired architect to tell me whether he could keep the tower as a memento and gut all the rest of it—though that does not mean that none of the rest of the outside would remain. I personally would remove those parts of the outside which do their best to cut out the sunshine from the corridors. It is a most curious building, I do not know why, but there is a passion against sunshine in the Collcutt building; I would ask an inspired architect to gut all the rest, putting in new floors, which is a most complicated matter, and new staircases. There is only one staircase in this enormous building, which is a fantastic place in which to get about. That is a minor inconvenience for the building. I would ask the architect to give light and sunshine to those who have to study science and books. I should ask the architect to tell me: can you do that, while still retaining from your outside sufficient of the element of monument?

I genuinely accept all that noble Lords who have preceded me have said in favour of keeping something of the Collcutt monument. That may mean having to keep the whole front something like it is to-clay, with everything gutted inside. It may be that, if that problem were put to an architect, the answer would be a negative—that it would cost too much to do anything useful with the Collcutt building. It may be that the answer is that that would destroy the whole development of the site. To get 300 more scientific students is not a small thing: it is vital to all of us. I make that suggestion as I made similar suggestions for the use of that building thirty years ago, agreeing that it may be found impracticable. But do not, I urge, let us run away with the idea that we can keep the Collcutt building simply as a monument, just as it is, without imperilling things which are much more important than any monument in this country.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I venture to say a few words as a member of the public and from the point of view of the public. We are grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Mottistone, for bringing up this subject to-clay and giving us a further opportunity of listening to the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, and hearing again what the Royal Fine Art Commission say. It is unfortunate that the noble Viscount, Lord Hudson, is abroad and cannot be here to-day, because I understand that he is very keen to remove the work of the Imperial Institute. I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, with the greatest interest. At the end he referred to the opening of the Institute. I am old enough to remember the foundation stone and opening ceremonies. The whole force of the feeling was that this was to be something lasting. In the words of the Prince of Wales, this was to be a lasting memorial for genera-dons to come. It was in that sense and to protect the public that later Trustees were appointed. I was interested in the reference to the Trustees made by the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, for the position is interesting and should be looked at. The Trustees are there to protect the public for whom I speak; but if they get up and say anything, then, as members of the Government, they tell themselves to sit down.


My Lords, I think the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, quite unwittingly, slightly misrepresented the position to the House. So far as I know there are seven Trustees, four of them members of the Government, and three others, of whom one is the noble Lord, Lord Brand, who is here to-day. Another was the late Lord Bessborough, whom we mourn in the House to-day. So far as I know, none of the Trustees has dissented from the course which is now being recommended to the House.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene. I knew nothing about this subject until ten days ago because I was away for two months in the West Indies. On my return I was told that I was a Trustee. I became a Trustee in the dim and distant past (though I do not know why anybody asked me to become one). As a Trustee, I am afraid I have considerable responsibilities in the future; but hitherto I have not been asked to act and no plans have been put before me. I am very willing to consider that the Government's plan is the right one, but I am afraid I shall be one against a good many, for I believe I am now the only private Trustee in a position to attend meetings. Sir Alfred Chester Beattie is another, but he is very ill. I shall therefore be faced with a row of Cabinet Ministers, who will be very anxious to do something, and I shall have to consider my legal position. I am only too happy to hope I shall agree with them. I do not know whether I can go on for a moment or two.


As a speech is in progress, perhaps the noble Lord will intervene later.


My Lords, may I intervene on that point? While noble Lords are confessing to each other that they are Trustees but did not know it and have not been consulted on these matters, at any rate until the last week or two, I must confess that I am a Trustee of the 1851 Exhibition—that is to say, landlord of the Imperial Institute. I did not know that I was, but I am in the book; and I have never been consulted though I am told that some other members of that board have been, and that for the last two months they have been happily sitting on the fence, unable to make up their mind.


There seem to be more absentees than I thought.


My Lords, the point I was making is that the Trustees are, perhaps, not much support and protection to the public, as there seems to be a good deal of vagueness in the matter. The next line of defence is the Royal Fine Art Commission, and Her Majesty's Government, having demolished the Trustees, ought to pay attention to the second line of defence. Having studied the Report, I should like to put my emphasis on the remark of the noble Earl, Lord Crawford: It would he an act of vandalism unless it was proved beyond doubt that the public interest demanded it and no alternative was possible. As a member of the public, I feel that from what we have heard to-day they will never believe that no alternative is possible. We have heard what has been said by the noble Lords, Lord Mottistone and Lord Crawford, and we now have an offer from the London County Council to which the noble Lord, Lord Crawford, referred. Three hundred and sixty more students have to be accommodated: that is the first essential; we are all agreed upon that. But, as the noble Earl said, it is strange that the L.C.C. have not been consulted before, even though they were the only people who could have solved the problem. The public know that.

In view of the offer of help that has been made it is now up to Her Majesty's Government to give this matter further consideration. I have consulted an architect and there is no doubt that the building cannot be removed in one fell swoop by an explosion. It will have to come down, stone by stone, month after month, and all the time the public will be asking the question: who is responsible for this destruction? The answer must be the Conservative Government. The Lord, Lord Mottistone, made the point that Her Majesty's Government are urging us to be economical. What an example of economy, the destruction of this building! I beg the Government to give this matter further consideraion.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we have all listened with great attention and some sympathy to the eloquent pleas that have been made by various noble Lords who have asked the Government to retain—perhaps I might say to reprieve—the Imperial Institute. But, for all their eloquence, they have net shaken my opinion that it would be almost disastrous for the country if the Government acceded to their wishes. I think we are in danger of losing our sense of proportion in this matter. There is a good deal to be said for putting first things first. It is very rare for any project to be undertaken without some disagreeable repercussions on someone. What we must do is to compare the importance and the urgency of carrying through a scheme against whatever disadvantages this will entail. We must therefore consider how important it is to enlarge the Imperial College, and balance against this the harm, if any, that will ensue.

Let us first consider the importance of expanding the Imperial College. Nobody, I imagine, will deny that the whole future of our country depends upon our being able to increase productivity in manufacture, transportation and, generally, industry in all its various branches. In the economic debate last week, this was the burden of almost every speech. If our output per man-year were to be increased by only 10 per cent. most of our economic difficulties would vanish into thin air. There are only two ways of achieving this: either our people must work harder or longer hours, or we must invent new and more efficient methods of carrying out technical processes. Our prosperity, our living standards, our very survival are governed by the one brute fact that unless we can persuade foreign countries to take our exports, they will cease to send us the food on which we live and the raw materials from which our exports are made. And these exports will have to run in increasing measure the gauntlet of competition by the hard-working, highly-competent, industrialised American, Continental and Japanese manufacturers, offering their goods on favourable terms, with every refinement of selling technique, to our former customers. All that the various monetary devices which were discussed in so many interesting speeches in the recent debate can do is to divert or modify the intensity of demand inside the country in such a way that more manufactured goods become available for export or that we are induced or compelled to consume less and thus can make do with fewer imports.

All this, I think, is common ground. I should not have brought it up were it not that I wish to emphasise once again that our whole future depends upon our productivity: that is, the amount of useful and valuable output which can be turned out with a given amount of labour and raw materials. To improve this is far and away the most important problem confronting this country—apart, of course, from the need to preserve peace. Unless we succeed in doing it, in a generation our standard of living will sink to that of the people of Portugal and will harm not only Great Britain but the sterling area as a whole.

I do not think anyone will deny that the only way to improve our productivity is to increase efficiency in industry; to invent new ways of making things—I need only mention automation; to discover new materials that can be manufactured from cheaper raw materials such as plastics; to think out novel forms of machines like, say, the jet engine and so on. To do this, the prime need to-day is numbers of high-grade technologists. In the 19th century many of these things could be done by rule of thumb. England was first in the field, and our industry had no competition to fear. In the last quarter of the century, with the coming of electricity, these rough and ready methods no longer sufficed. You might have been able to form a rough idea of how thick the walls of a blast furnace should be by eye and experience. To work out the stresses in a turbine or the correct number of windings in a dynamo is a very different matter. Germany and America entered the field and, at the turn of the century, they bade fair to overhaul us.

The British people, I believe, include as large a proportion of individuals with an original and inventive turn of mind as any other nation—indeed, very likely larger. Given equal opportunities, I am sure we can hold our own. But our people are not given equal opportunities. In almost every other industrial country there exist great technological universities in which all the various branches of technology are taught, starting with the scientific fundamentals and branching out to include the latest developments in all the various fields. One need not remind your Lordships that engineering is only one of the many branches of technology. That, I am sure, was in mind when the Imperial College at South Kensington was founded. But I do not think it developed in the way people had hoped.

Russia has 300,000 men and women studying in technological universities. They have a five to seven years' course, and turn out brilliantly trained technologists who can cope with any novel problem, such as problems of nuclear energy, with confidence and efficiency. In addition, they have about 1.6 million in so-called Technicums, which correspond to the best of our technical colleges. That is their assessment of what is required to build up a strong industrial State. In America there are about half as many, in this country less than one-twentieth. With all deference, I cannot believe that everyone is out of step except John Bull.

Why is it that we have nothing to compare with these great technological universities in this country? The main reason, I fear, is because we suffer from a most lamentable type of intellectual snobbery which causes the majority of our so-called educated people to look down on science and technology as some form of menial intellectual activity, on which civilised, cultured people need not embark and indeed are better without. I am not sure that traces of it have not survived even to this day in this House. I well remember—admittedly it was a good many years ago—mentioning to a Member of your Lordships' House a relative of his, the great Lord Rayleigh, certainly one of the six greatest physicists in the world. His comment was: "Oh, yes, he is a little odd, isn't he?—interested in chemistry and that sort of thing." That was what he said of one of the greatest physicists this country has known. It is to that attitude of mind, which has by no means died out, that many of our troubles are due.

One of the difficulties is to interest people who are not professional scientists. Anyone can talk about art, and make a high-sounding sort of speech without mentioning matters that can be tested by any known criterion. But science is rather more difficult. A few months ago the columns of The Times were deluged with letters debating how we should educate our scientists. I have said before, and I repeat it with more conviction than ever, that I have never met a scientist so ignorant of subjects normally classified as arts subjects—history, literature, law, music, painting, even theology—as arts men are of science. Every scientist in the world knows what is meant by a phrase like "Parliamentary government" or "delegated legislation." or the difference between epic and lyric poetry. I wonder how many of the distinguished Peers who have spoken today, apart from those who are professional technologists or scientists, know what is meant by equally fundamental and elementary scientific terms, such as electro-magnetic induction or entropy or valency. For more than twenty years I have been trying to get technological universities created in Britain, but it is very hard to explain to people ignorant of the rudimentary vocabulary of science and technology what is required. They are all too apt to think that a man who can mend a motor car or who knows when to top up the accumulators is a technologist. To try to explain to them the sort of problems that have to be solved when a new process is being developed is like trying to explain about genes in the chromosomes which determine the Mendelian laws of inheritance to a group of charming and amiable witch-doctors. They just do not understand the language.

Perhaps I may give your Lordships an example. Not long ago, a distinguished arts man said to me, when we were talking about carbon 14 dating—the extremely interesting process, with which no doubt your Lordships are familiar, by which the, age of bones and wood can be determined—" I always wanted to know what is carbon." I said, "Well, it is the principal constituent of coal and very likely of yourself." "But I want to know what it is" he replied. I said, "Do you want me to tell you about the atomic structure or what?" He replied, "No; I want to know what carbon is." "Well," I said, "it is an element like hydrogen and oxygen." As I might have foreseen, this provoked the arts man to the inevitable incantation, "Oh, I know, H2O, H2O." This seems to be the usual rather exiguous and transparent fig-leaf which many who claim to be the most civilised and cultured members of our community vainly hope will hide a very large area of intellectual nakedness. I have told your Lordships this perfectly true anecdote to illustrate the difficulties of explaining to our rulers—I will tactfully leave undetermined exactly to whom I am referring—the true import of technology.

Whatever the cause, no one can deny that the shortage of scientists and technologists is acute. The "situations vacant" columns in the newspapers provide convincing evidence. Everybody is crying out for them—universities, Government Departments and industry, not to mention schools looking for masters to teach science. At last the Government have really decided to build up a high grade technological institution. It is nearly four years since it was decided that the Imperial College should be developed and expanded so as to take its proper place in our system of training engineers and the like. It has been delayed and held back by one thing and another ever since 1952. At last we have obtained this decision, and I beg the Government not to let it he thrown into the melting pot, to start all over again and waste another two or three years.

I am not in a position to argue whether the expansion could be effective without interfering with the facade and tower of the Imperial Institute. To do this with any semblance of authority, it would be necessary to study the plans in detail of the existing building and of the layout of the proposed new departments. But I think that the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has given us a good idea of what is the true position. I can well imagine that a building erected primarily as a sort of museum might well be quite unsuitable for the teaching of technology. As to the cost, I am certain that the eagle eye of the Treasury would prevent any costs from being incurred unless they were absolutely unavoidable. Be that as it may, your Lordships will realise how disappointed I am now, when it seemed that at last a start was to be made in giving us at least one technological institution of proper size and rank, to find it hampered and obstructed for the sake of saving the façade of the Imperial Institute.

I know that to-day there is a vogue for Victorian art. It began, so far as I remember, because some people took seriously a comic character in one of the early works of the daughter of one of the Members of your Lordships' House, in which was portrayed a man with a passion for Victorian art. Well, of course, de gustibus non est disputandum, or, if it is necessary to put it in more up-to-date language, Jedes Tierchen hat sein Plaisirchen. All my life I have been taught that all connoisseurs of art ridiculed the Albert Memorial. Now I expect we shall be told that it is the eighth wonder of the world. Soon, I suppose, we shall be pressed to hang up reproductions of Landseer's Monarch of the Glen in our rooms, to decorate them with aspidistras and perhaps even (though this, I believe, was a moral rather than an artistic extravagance of the Victorians) to put trousers on the legs of our tables. I am sure that this vogue is only a passing phase.

After all, unless we can keep abreast of other countries in productivity we shall go to the wall. No nation is so vulnerable as we are. Yet we seem quite unable to comprehend the seriousness of our situation. Of course, if we could afford it, it would be very nice to keep the Imperial Institute as a monument, or as some might think, "ein abschreckendes Beispiel" for the delectation, or otherwise, of later generations. But if this means that we shall go short of technologists and, as a result, that we shall not be able to compete in the export markets, it will be little consolation to the unemployed man or his hungry family to remember that, after all, they can go and admire the facade of the imperial Institute. Many other treasures of the past have been allowed to disintegrate. Great country houses, which used to be the glory of Britain, have been turned into Borstals, and even lunatic asylums. Parts of them have been pulled down to escape the incidence of taxation. It does really seem that we are making an undue fuss about a building which very few people had even glanced at before it was proposed to pull it down and put the space to a more important use.

Unless mankind manages to destroy itself with the potent means now available, historians in future centuries will probably look back upon the Victoria era as we look back upon the age of Antonines, 1,800 years ago. But, with all its merits, so far as I recollect, that happy period did not produce great works of art. And much as we may envy the people who were lucky enough to pass their lives in the century between the Napoleonic Wars and the First Great War, it may well be that the monuments of that fortunate age of comfort and progress and confidence will not be held, in the verdict of history, to compare favourably with those erected in previous centuries. For these reasons, and because I have a very clear sense of the urgency of the situation, I hope that the Government will not be deflected from the plans which they have so carefully worked out for expanding the Imperial College. We simply cannot afford any more delay.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I confess that in this matter I feel myself torn in two directions. I agree with all that has been said on the side of amenities but, at the same time, I have been closely connected with the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, of which many of your Lordships here to-day are members, and have, indeed, had the honour of being its President for four years during the war and afterwards. And during all that time the principal feature in the policy and programme of that Committee has been the urgency of a great expansion in the facilities for the training not only of technicians but of technologists. To that view I still adhere, and I agree with all that has been so eloquently said by the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, about the urgency of this matter.

I was one of those who, with the other members of that Committee, most warmly welcomed the pronouncement by the Government some time ago that they intended to make this question of the expansion of the means for the training of technologists an immediate item in their programme. We had the pleasure and honour of initiating one or two debates in your Lordships' House on this subject, and nothing gave us greater pleasure than that announcement the central feature of which was that there was to be a great expansion of the Imperial College of Science and Technology in Kensington. If I were convinced that it was essential for the success of that enterprise that the Imperial Institute building should he pulled down, then on the whole I should probably be willing to put aside æsthetic considerations and sentimental considerations of historical origins, and even, to some extent, finan- cial considerations, in order to carry through a great project which is absolutely vital to the industrial and commercial prosperity of this country; and indeed, I should put aside such questions as those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, as to the value of the work of the Imperial Institute and the importance of keeping it, if possible, where it is. On that I express no opinion, as I am unacquainted with the merits of that proposal one way or the other. But I do not feel convinced that it is impossible to carry out, fully and urgently, the plans for the expansion of the Imperial College and at the same time preserve certainly the tower, and possibly a great part of the building of the Imperial Institute.

I say that I am not convinced of it—although I have no right to speak on the technical merits of the proposal—because I remember vividly three controversies in recent years in which the conflict was between, to put it shortly, technics, on the one hand, and amenities on the other. The first was about ten years ago, when it was necessary to build a great number of electric power stations all over the country with the utmost speed. One of the plans was to erect a power station at Lincoln. The various authorities accepted plans that were made which would have seriously prejudiced the magnificent views of the great cathedral of Lincoln, whose exterior is one of the architectural glories of this country. There was opposition to this scheme from those who wished to preserve the beauties of England, but we were told that it was indispensable to build the power station there, precisely on that site, because there were overwhelming objections to every other. Nevertheless, the objections proceeded, and prevailed. The authority about to build the power station were told that they could not build it where they wished to and must find another site. What happened? They immediately found another site, with practically no difficulty at all, and the view was saved. The Royal Fine Art Commission had taken an active part in that opposition.

At about the same time another of these projects was proposed at Durham, where there was an even more magnificent view of the great Norman cathedral which is familiar to us all. There again, precisely the same course of events occurred. In the first place, the authorities charged with the duty of providing power stations had made elaborate plans and said they could not alter them; that that spot and no other must be the one where the power station should be built. The Royal Fine Art Commission protested. The protest was at first pushed aside; but again the objectors prevailed: the builders of the power station were told to look elsewhere, and they moved their site a little to the right or a little to the left, and the power station was built with no damage to the views of the cathedral.

With the third case I am even more closely familiar—that is, the famous case of the gasworks at Oxford. The gasworks at Oxford have been for generations a hideous outrage upon what might have been one of the most beautiful river prospects in the country. About four years ago it was proposed to spend an immense sum of money—if I remember rightly, it was about £200,000—not in order to keep the gasworks there permanently, but, it was alleged, for temporary and urgently necessary expansions; and it was said that later on the gasworks would certainly be moved away. Fortunately, that matter had to come before a Committee of your Lordships' House. Legislation had been passed which would take away the authority of Parliament in these matters and leave it in the uncontrolled discretion of the Ministers. At that time the Ministers were in the hands of the technicians. They had given their assent, and the question was in its later stages. Happily, there was just time before the Statute expired to bring the proposal before your Lordships' House, and a Committee at once considered the matter and, after hearing the evidence quite briefly—because the case was obvious—unanimously threw oat the Order. What has happened? Exactly the same as in the other cases. The gas consumers in Oxford have not been inconvenienced; the Oxford gasworks on the river are to be pulled down, and at once new provision is being made from elsewhere to make good the supply.

I am not at all sure that this is not the fourth case. Again, the Royal Fine Art Commission have intervened, and again it is said to be absolutely inevitable and vital to the whole of the scheme for the Imperial College of Science that this building should be pulled down. Nevertheless, it might not be so, and if other plans were adopted for enlarging the accommodation — for instance, Dr. Pevsner's scheme for closing the road in between, which would make available a considerable additional area on the site—at least the tower could be saved, and probably, or possibly, either the whole or a great part of the building itself. As to the style of Collcutt's building, and whether this is really almost a unique treasure of nineteenth century art, I do not profess any right to speak. It is a question of taste. Personally, I prefer simplicity to ornament, and if I heard that the Ministry of Works proposed to build along Whitehall a number of new buildings as nearly as possible in the style of the Imperial Institute, I should be the first to protest. I feel sure that if any architect of the Ministry of Works were to suggest that, he would be torn to pieces by wild architects. But I feel that each age in architecture and art in general should produce its own in its own way. One only hopes that his own will pay some regard to grace and beauty.

As to the tower, the pleas made on behalf of it are very cogent indeed. The sky line of a great city is one of its most important features. One can see that in Venice and, on a smaller scale, in Oxford and in many other places in the world. There are a couple of fine lines of George Meredith: Man builds the soaring spires That sing his soul in stone. A skyline of domes, spires and towers is majestic and aspiring. When we have what is undoubtedly a fine spire, which has become one of the features of the London skyline, it would be an outrage to pull it down. Remember also that this building, as has been mentioned, is a gift to London and to the people of Britain from India and the Colonies, subscribed largely as a memento to the British Raj, which has now gone but which did great work and deserves to be remembered. What does London do with this gift entrusted to it as a memorial? It is proposed to pull it down. For all these reasons, and not least on the ground of finance, it seems to me necessary that the matter should be reconsidered. I do not know what public opinion would say if, at a time when everyone is called upon to economise, especially in building expenditure, a building which we are told on authority would cost to-day about £3½ million to build afresh, should be a scene at which hundreds of workmen are set, at immense expense, to pull down. I think public opinion would be gravely offended. For these reasons I would urge that the planners and the architects should think again.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, I wonder whether it would be convenient if I said a word or two at this stage If I may say so, on the whole this debate has been on a moderate style—we have been called vandals only by one noble Lord. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, has yet to speak, and I understand that he was presiding at a meeting last night where it was said that the best thing about the Government was that they were not necessarily barbaric apes.

I should like to start by saying three things. First of all, the Government are determined that the development of technological education shall go forward. Secondly, they are determined that there shall be no delay and no reduction in the numbers of students to be provided for by the Imperial College; and, thirdly, they consider it necessary that the Imperial Institute should be moved to new and, we hope, much better premises for its purpose. It is fair to say, of course, that the development scheme was submitted by Imperial College to the London County Council planning authority yesterday. No official communication as to their deliberations has been received from the London County Council, but I have taken note of what the noble Earl, Lord Crawford and Balcarres, has said about the matter. I also understand the Royal Fine Art Commission have accepted the invitation of the Financial Secretary to meet him in the near future.

Perhaps I may here say a word or two about the Imperial Institute itself. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was concerned about three things. He talked about the need for reconstruction and the interference in its work. I want to try to reassure the noble Lord on the points which he has raised. It is perhaps worth noting that they have little to do with the Collcutt buildings. I believe I am correct in saying that the Imperial Institute occupies probably less than one-eighth of the useful space in the Collcutt building, so there is really only a small connection between them. The Collcutt building is unsuitable for the Institute itself, for reasons graphically and forcefully put by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge—and I can only say that I agree with every word the noble Lord said: he gave a perfectly frank description of an impossible interior. The Tweedsmuir Committee some time ago held out the rather plaintive hope that it would be possible to move the Institute. I am told that the Board of Governors warmly welcome the opportunity of going to more favourable premises. The High Commissioners who are, of course, members of the Board, are fully informed of what is happening, and the Government have no reason to doubt that their proposals for the future of the Institute will be acceptable to the Commonwealth countries. It is of course true that this building was a gift.


Before the noble Earl leaves that point, which is, of course, a vital one, can he give any assurance as to when the new building will be erected? Because although it is true that only a small part of the Collcutt building is occupied, in fact the proposals of the Government are to sweep away all the outer works, the galleries, in which the work of the Institute is largely carried on.


I hope the noble Lord is not going to put in a plea for these galleries. That is going too far. These galleries have got to go in any case. As I have said, the point has been made that the Collcutt building was a gift. No doubt one always looks a gift horse in the mouth, but from the point of view of the Treasury this has been an extremely expensive gift. Only six years after it was opened it went into bankruptcy, and at that time it cost the Government something like £55,000 to keep it as a going concern. Since then it has been substantially supported by public funds. If I may go to the point the noble Lord has in mind, I am glad that he emphasised the recent activities of the Institute which are of tremendous importance and which have received a great impetus from the forceful leadership of the noble Viscount, Lord Hudson, who I am sorry is not here to-day. The Institute is to-day playing a useful part, which I know the noble Viscount hopes will be extended. We have no illusion about that, in both range and quality of its activities.

May I now say a word about the finance of the Institute, because it is relevant to this matter? The Institute has an endowment of some £5,000 a year. It gets a certain amount from lecture fees, and receives a grant in aid of £24,000 from the Ministry of Education. It obtains free services of somewhere in the order of £50,000 a year from the Ministry of Works. All those have to be taken into consideration when it comes to moving the Institute. The first step, of course, will be for the Government to find a suitable location. We believe that this will not present too great a difficulty if the search is extended beyond South Kensington. I noted the noble Lord's remarks, and I should not like to comment on them at the present time, but I think a more suitable site is felt to be desirable. What will be provided at Government expense will be the same space as the Institute now occupies. As I have said, the Institute will be compensated for any consequential loss of income—that is to say, free services and income from sub-tenants. This will be adjusted by the grant in aid which the Institute receive from the Ministry of Education.

I am given to understand that the Trustees of the Institute have been consulted and have agreed generally to the proposals put forward. This is the information I have received, although the noble Lord, Lord Brand, is going to speak. What the Government propose to do when they have found the site is to introduce legislation which will authorise the transfer of the Institute to the new building. Concurrently—and this is the important point the noble Lord is raising—action will be taken so that the planning of the new building and the working out of details are timed with the imperial College. The Imperial College have undertaken to do this—that is to say, the timing will be so phased that the Imperial institute can continue its work. It is recognised, of course—and I do not think there is any doubt about it—that there will be some disturbance of the work of the Institute. That is inevitable, but the Governors regard such disturbance as quite worth while if they are to receive a building which is more suitable for their purposes. There will be no major disturbance affecting the Institute's premises until 1958. It is the Government's firm intention that the Institute shall be able to carry on throughout at a worthwhile level, so that there should be no question of suspension of its activities.

To turn to the other side of this question, the expansion of the Imperial College, which is a quite different point, I do not think I need add much to what the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, said about the importance which is to be attached to that. Anyone who cares to read the speech of my noble friend the Lord President on December 7, 1954, will see clearly what this means. Education in technology and applied science is a matter of life and death to this country. A beloved skyline is very nice, but it loses its point if one is hungry. And that is what lies in front of us if we are not able to compete in this modern world with the problems which the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, has so admirably described. I do not think we can misconstrue the fact that even in the last two or three months not only the Prime Minister but also his predecessor in office, Sir Winston Churchill, have particularly emphasised the extreme importance to this country of this particular form of development.

If I may pass from that, I would ask: Why has the development taken place on the island site in Kensington? Of course, I could say it was because the instructions to the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners were to use their resources to increase the means of industrial education and expand the influence of science and art upon productive industries. It is quite interesting to think that those words are now over 100 years old. The real answer to it is that in 1952 the Government asked the University Grants Committee: "What is the quickest and best way to get development in applied science and technology?" The answer was: "The best thing is to concentrate on the existing Imperial College between the Prince Consort Road and the Imperial Institute Road." That is why that point was taken: it was the best site on which to get a start made at an early date. That was quite natural, because already the nucleus was there. The Royal School of Mines, the City & Guilds Engineering College and the Royal College of Science are already there, so that there was a beginning from which this development could take place.

I should like to say how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who speaks with great authority on university subjects, for emphasising the need for a central site. In this University of London it is quite impossible, I am sure, to think that one would have a useful development somewhere outside the suburbs. It is not practical politics to think in those terms; nor, I think, in a college of this sort, is it practical to consider widely separated departments. They must be together because (and I should like to emphasise this) one is here dealing with, shall I say, scientific training at its highest level. If it is not at its highest level then it has very little purpose indeed. Those were the reasons which were advanced.

One objection was voiced which I confess I was a little sorry to hear—I refer to the lesson that was drawn from the recent economic debate in this House and the suggestion that to develop the Imperial College showed a lack of thrift and no proper sense of economy. I am slightly paraphrasing the words, but that is substantially what the noble Lords, Lord Mottistone and Lord Kinnaird, said. I am afraid that it is a severe reflection on myself that anybody could possibly have drawn that conclusion, that in the present crisis we could afford not to expend capital on essential development such as education, and particularly technological education. If we want to save money, we can stop investing money in the coal mines. We spent about £100 million on coal mines development last year. If that is the sort of economy to be developed at the present time, no doubt that could be done, but it is the type of development which flows directly and obviously from the discussions we had last week on economies.


I cannot allow what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, is saying to pass without a comment. I did not raise any objection to the money being spent on development. I merely said that the destruction of the old building costing £3 million would be criticised by the public as a waste of good building.


No. In the case of a building which has no useful purpose and, as the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has told us, can have no useful purpose from the functional point of view, it cannot be wasteful to remove it for an extremely valuable building.

The next step in the development was that the Government said on January 29, 1953, that they had accepted the proposal which the University Grants Committee had made and had invited the College to submit plans, based on the assumption that the College were to have first claim on other parts of the area concerned—that is to say between the Prince Consort Road and the Imperial Institute Road. It was that basis on which the plan developed. It is, of course, a very big plan, costing some £15 million. It is not to be unexpected that it should run into some difficulties of one sort or another. The Imperial Institute problem proved rather more difficult to resolve than had been anticipated.

I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, can say that it has been done without anyone knowing it. I found, for instance, in The Times of December 15, 1954, the clearest possible indication that this might well involve the destruction of the Collcutt building; so this has been a matter which has been very well known. Certainly, the London County Council had knowledge of this, apart from informal discussions to which I will not refer, rather over a year ago. The scheme was submitted to the Royal Fine Art Commission, who were consulted just about a year ago. As a result of that, they sent their letter of June 11, as the noble Earl Lord Crawford and Balcarres has said. From that letter (this is the point I should like to make) the recommendation arose that No. 170 Queen's Gate should be retained. That was immediately accepted. But a further question arose in regard to the incorporation in the scheme of the Collcutt building itself, and particularly to its use as a science library.

I had a number of things I was going to say to your Lordships about the internal structure of the Collcutt building, but after what the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has said, there is no need for me to add anything on that aspect. I will say this to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone: that if he thinks it is worth £3 million and is prepared to offer it, I should be glad to communicate that offer to the Treasury. The difficulty of the building is its extremely unutilitarian character which makes it extraordinarily difficult to fit it into any scheme of almost any sort or kind. That, of course, brought in a second point. If we kept it, it would inevitably reduce the number of students.

I was rather surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who I understand is an architect, did not refer to what I am sure he knows far more about than I do—that is, the problem of plot ratio; that is to say, the ratio between the actual area you build on and the floor space of the buildings which you put on that area. Because the area on which the Collcutt building stands is, of course, not the whole question. There is the height of the building to be considered which will govern the development which can take place in the area. To put it quite simply, the higher the building the further away other buildings have to be in order to provide for the ordinary rules of daylight. That is a factor which severely restricts the optimum use which can be made of the whole area so as to make the fullest floor space available for University purposes. It is this consideration, not simply the area itself, which cuts the development by 25 per cent. My Lords, if this development were to be cut by 25 per cent. almost the whole of the purpose would be destroyed; it would be an extravagant development for a much smaller number of students, and it is an absolute essential to the scheme that the full 3,000 students or thereabouts should be capable of education in the University.

One other point has not been mentioned to which I might perhaps refer. The Royal College of Music has been spoken of once or twice. Apart from difficulties, the reason why we are not making a suggestion to move the Royal College of Music is that if we incorporated it into the Imperial College we might get as little as 30,000 square feet—in other words, a quite insignificant area. There would also be the problem of finding an alternative home for the Royal College of Music, besides, of course, an alternative site for the Imperial Institute. In the circumstances it was thought not worth while asking them to move out. A good deal has been made of alternative sites. It must be remembered that this is a proposal put up by the Imperial College, who have no compulsory powers, and if they were to be given compulsory powers it would require a special Act of Parliament. I am not saying that these things cannot be done, but I am saying that it would be an unusual step to take. A further search has been made, but I am bound to say that this is not a particularly easy area in which to start a search, because it is almost entirely surrounded by a residential zone area, and when we are deliberately trying to improve the quality of our town and country planning it seems a pity to start a by completely disregarding it in one of the best planned areas in the whole of London. There are also a number of pieces of equipment which will be required in some part or other of the Imperial College—items such as compressors and wind tunnels, which would not be regarded as satisfactory neighbours in residential areas.

My Lords, I do not propose to say anything about the value of the architecture of the Collcutt building. The noble Earl, Lord Crawford and Balcarres, always tells us that vogues change in these days, so that what we think is good at one moment may be bad at another. What I should like to say, however, is that the development of the Imperial College is the first big instalment, among certain others, in the development of technological education which we regard as a matter of first-class importance to the whole future of this country. It is really no good pretending that other things do not matter; it is of absolutely first-class importance, and the Government cannot consider anything which would reduce the number of students who can be taken there or which would cause delay in the provision of these facilities.

The Government have considered most carefully the representations made by the Royal Fine Art Commission, and at the Government's request the College and their architect went to the greatest trouble to find alternative areas which might preserve the Collcutt building. But, frankly, this could not be done without losing both time and a substantial number of places. The noble Earl, Lord Crawford, suggested another architect, but it is not fair to the College—who, after all, are responsible for their own building—to make them use an architect not of their own choice; their requirements are of a specialised character.

As I have said, the Royal Fine Art Commission have accepted an invitation to meet the Financial Secretary, when it will be possible to go into much more detail in regard to some of the other technical problems to which I have made reference. The Government will be glad to listen to any comment which the Royal Fine Art Commission care to make in regard to the proposed programme of development, but I must make it clear that the Government have been unable to find any other way of proceeding with this essential national development on which so much depends. They will, however, be glad to hear the views of the Royal Fine Art Commission and to hear any suggested alternative which might meet the essential requirements of the College. But, as I have also said, from the information which they have at present, the Government do not believe it possible to achieve the required results in any other way. I am sure it is right that the Fine Art Commission should be as fully apprised as possible of the nature of the problem with which we are confronted, and that the Imperial College—or, if you like, the Government—should have the best advice they can get. As has been mentioned, the London County Council were examining this problem yesterday, and it may be (I do not know) that a point which the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, has raised may produce further alternatives.

To conclude, I must emphasise, as I did at the beginning, that the Government cannot consider anything which would either reduce the number of students or the speed at which this technological development of the College can be made available. I hope that the House will accept that point of view.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the Government for the line they have taken on the importance of technological education at Imperial College. Speaking on behalf of the Governors of that College, I may say that we have, of course, considered this matter in great detail over the last three years. We were first approached by the Government some three years ago and given a definite instruction that we should increase the number of students by up to 3,000. At the time that instruction was given the student population was 1,650. This, of course, meant a great upheaval in the College affairs. The Governors at once set up an academic committee to go into the whole question of the academic requirements to meet this big increase in technological educa- tion. The matter was most carefully studied, and the conclusion come to was that it required 1,800,000 square feet to accommodate these 3,000 students. Of this 1,800,000 square feet something like 1,400,000 square feet would have to be on the central site.

I was interested to hear what Lord Beveridge said about the importance that the development of the great London Colleges should be in London, and as near the centre of London as possible. We gave great consideration to the question whether we should go outside and develop an entirely new site for this purpose, but everything pointed to the fact that the historic home of this great scientific institution was South Kensington, which has built up a great tradition. It was convenient for students, there being an underground station close by, and it also has the great merit that it is close to the centre of London, and highly qualified professors and lecturers are able to get to the centre of all the great learning institutions in London within a relatively few minutes—an extremely important factor in these days.

I am glad to hear that the Government are determined to go ahead on this matter. As has been said far better than I can say it in the course of the debate, it is absolutely essential, if we are going to exist as a great nation, that we should be foremost in the scientific and engineering processes, and that if we allow ourselves once to fall behind we shall never be able to catch up. There are thousands of clever people in other parts of the world learning these various subjects, and once they get ahead of us we shall never be able to regain our position. Russia has been mentioned, and some of your Lordships may have read an interesting report issued the other day by some scientists and engineers who had the privilege of going to see what was being done in Moscow. Members of that Committee reckoned that 150,000 students are taking a five-year engineering course in Moscow—a wonderful achievement in a short time. As we know, immense developments are also going forward in the United States of America, Switzerland, Holland, Germany and elsewhere. There can be no slowing up in this important matter.

A great deal has been said about the Collcutt building, and the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has emphasised the extreme unsuitability of that building for any purpose one can think of. We have been told that it would be very costly to pull it down. Nobody who suggests going outside the site has mentioned the immense value of the buildings already on that site. In the Imperial College and in work at present in progress there is something like £1 million worth of building going on. From the economic point of view it is utterly impossible to move the College from this site. I submit that the question of the Collcutt building and tower is a trifling matter compared with the vast sums already expended on the site. I should like to say how glad I am to hear of the Government's determination, as I hope, to go full speed ahead on this proposal. Already three valuable years have been spent in discussion. Let us go forward as fast as we can and get a great new technical college in operation in South Kensington at the earliest possible moment.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I think your Lordships will have been disappointed that the model which was promised has not been forthcoming. I certainly get the impression that the model is so frightful that Her Majesty's Government are reluctant to allow us to see it. I hope we shall not allow the Government's invitation to the Royal Fine Art Commission to "knock the stuffing" out of this debate; for I got, from that invitation, no indication that they were to make any concession. The very controversial issues involved have been widely ventilated and discussed. There has been correspondence about it in The Times newspaper and your Lordships have listened to a careful and detailed exposition from some noble Lords of the merits of this building. The Royal Fine Art Commission which was set up to deal with questions of this sort has given its opinion with no uncertain voice. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, which has always fought to preserve the best and most beautiful buildings of all periods, and The London Society, whose business it is to guard the interests of this great city and finally, The Royal Borough of Kensington itself, in which this building is situated, are all aflame with indigation at the intention of Her Majesty's Government to destroy it. Yet the Government are obdurate. They have not the patience to try to find an alternative and they have not consulted leaders of the architectural profession. Like Pharaoh, they harden their hearts and will not alter their determination to destroy this fine historical building.

I shall not repeat the arguments but I want only to emphasise the strength of our opposition. Noble Lords will remember the sense of outrage which many of us felt against a similar act of barbarism—the destruction of Waterloo Bridge, a double-barrelled attack on the traditions of 1815 and Rennie's masterpiece. Old men do not feel very much. They regret the decline of their capacity for emotion, but so far as I can feel I passionately protest against the destruction of this building. We have behind us everybody who knows anything about architecture, firm in their belief that this is a national monument. Her Majesty's Government should recognise the intensity of our opposition to their policy. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, has made it perfectly clear that in their view we are a bunch of starry-eyed highbrows, obstructing for purely æsthetic reasons the practical and patriotic plans of a row of hard-headed statesmen who have grasped the meaning of our scientific future. To my mind, this flattering picture is a false one. A large proportion of those who support us are not highbrows but people who think we should not forget the origin and foundation of the Imperial Institute, and that its traditions and usefulness can and should be brought forward for the benefit of the Commonwealth.

Nor are we standing in the way of science. There is plenty of room for science if trouble is taken to find a place for it. The noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, drew a vast and momentous picture of the vital necessity to England of scientific development. We do not at all deny that; but we say that he has drawn an exaggerated picture about something which it is comparatively simple to solve; that if the Government, instead of pulling down the Imperial institute, were to pull down the Royal College of Music and at the same time spread across on to the other side of the road, they could easily provide the additional accommodation they require.

We assert that it is the business of the Government to build the future without destroying the past. In our view they have given little evidence of their powers to create and a great deal of evidence of their eagerness to destroy. I think noble Lords will agree that things are not going very well in England just now. I am afraid we have declined considerably from our finest hour. We are facing an obvious recession, both in wealth and power, and it has been found necessary to break down the edifice of full employment and prosperity that has made our people so happy of recent years. What have we then to be proud of?—two things: the Commonwealth, and the beauty, dignity and character of this ancient land. Both are attacked by these proposals. As with the Waterloo Bridge, it is a double-barrelled attack on our traditions and our artistic inheritance; and even though we expect the Government to persist in their destructive determination we must make our protest. Surely after the fresh information given by the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, this afternoon, Her Majesty's Government should stop this debate by saying that they will invite a practical reconsideration of the whole question.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with what has been said by the noble Viscounts, Lord Esher and Lord Samuel. I should like to correct a statement made just now by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, that I used the word "barbaric" in reference to Her Majesty's Government. I did not use that word.


My Lords, I realise that. I think the noble Earl made a mistake. The word was used by Sir Hugh Casson at a meeting at which the noble Lord took the Chair. It was not used by the noble Lord himself.


That, of course, I cannot be held responsible for. The words I did use on that occasion—and I should like to mention them—were to the effect that, in view of the great historical interest attaching to the Imperial Institute, the demolition of it would be highly improper. Those were the worst and the strongest words that I used. I regret—and I think that others of us on this side also possibly regret—the course that this debate has taken. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, I understood was going to wind up the debate, and he has now done so half way through it. I wonder whether it is any good speaking now. I am going to do so, all the same, for I have one or two specific points to make.

The noble Earl, it seemed to me quite deliberately, slammed the door in our faces. Before I finish I hope to say something which may possibly make him a little more open to reason. We all agree about the urgency of this business. But do let us have urgency without panic. It looks extraordinarily like panic at the present moment. We in this country are still suffering, I think, from being too rich. We are too fond of demolishing our buildings and erecting new ones in their places, instead of making use of the old ones for new purposes, as is done in many instances elsewhere. Some Continental countries, for example, have been forced to do that for many years past.

There is a certain side to this question which has been dealt with very slightly, chiefly by Lord Mottistone, and that is the side relating to the interior of the Imperial Institute. I, personally, I may say at once, am frankly in favour of retaining Collcutt's main building—not the side pieces which are frankly not part of it. Admittedly it faces north. I do not know whether that is not an advantage for the preservation of books, if there is some suggestion of establishing a library there. I should think that probably it is an advantage. It is a disadvantage from the point of view of the shadow it casts. But I cannot believe it is beyond the wit of a really sympathetic and ingenious architect to make full use of that building in any new scheme. That is an opinion which is strongly held by those of us who are members of the Royal Fine Art Commission. We feel that that should be explored to the utmost; and we are certain that that is where a compromise ought to be, and I hope sincerely will be, arrived at. I speak with all sincerity on that matter and with best wishes for the Government in the particular dilemma in which, no doubt, they find themselves.

I would warn the Government that the feeling in the country upon this subject is stronger than I believe they realise. The Imperial Institute is not merely a landmark in Kensington and London. Not only has it an interesting historical background, but, as Professor Hitchcock said last night when he addressed the meeting which has been mentioned, there are not many fine buildings of this period. He speaks with authority on Victorian architecture and he has written about it. He is, by the way, an American. He said that there is only one really fine building in England of this period, and that is the Imperial Institute. There is nothing else so good as the Imperial Institute in this country, and there are only two in America as good. He puts it as high as that. He is a man who can speak with great knowledge of these things and his opinion is greatly respected. I hope the Government will take note of his opinion, for I believe it is worthy of their regard.

To return to the interior economy of the Institute. I have asked one or two architects who "know their stuff" about this matter, and they say it should not be difficult to convert the interior of the Imperial Institute for a new purpose, particularly if it is to be for a library. I went over it a couple of days ago to see what the economy really was. What impressed me most was the harmony and the order of the arrangements. The rooms are lofty, but that can be easily remedied by putting in a false ceiling so that not so much fuel is consumed for heating them. I do not see any objection to the size of the rooms. They are of all sizes. There are big conference rooms on the ground floor. Above that the rooms are, I should have thought, of extremely convenient size. I saw nothing whatever in the interior economy that a reasonable architect could object to if he were called upon to make the adaptation which has been suggested. But he must be a sympathetic architect if he is going to marry the old building with the new project.

One point net touched upon—and, as a painter especially of architectural subjects, I hope you will not mind my mentioning it—is that when one goes into the Imperial Institute, after passing through the first hall one passes into a second out of which leads the grand staircase. If Palladio took the Roman temple as a model for his palaces, in the same way, no doubt, Collcutt used the inside of a church as a model for his second hall. He took, I should say, a Renaissance church, with the nave and on each side the aisles, which are divided by classical pillars with Roman arches. I do not think I have ever been more deeply impressed by an interior—or more unexpectedly impressed. It is hardly the thing one would expect to find in a building of this kind. To destroy it would be really going a bit too far—that is the way I put it, though I find some difficulty in expressing myself on this point, as I want to use Parliamentary language.

I think it would be wrong to destroy a building of this character. It derives very largely from the French Renaissance. The tower, according to Collcutt, was inspired by the cathedral tower at Loches. I make no apology for mentioning that. I hope that as the outcome of this controversy the Treasury and the Royal Fine Art Commission can get together and work out a reasonable compromise, which I certainly think a sympathetic architect would say could easily be done. I wish that meeting every possible success.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, the problem which faced the late King Solomon on a famous occasion was child's play compared with the difficulties which confront the Government in connection with this matter. King Solomon had to deal with two contesting claimants. The Government have to deal with three, and the trouble is that they are all very deserving and they all make a very good case. I should have felt a good deal more sympathy for the Government had they not dealt with this whole matter in an atmosphere of Olympian silence and even ineptitude. I feel that we are handicapped in discussing this matter to-day, because one gets the impression that the whole thing has been settled and that anything we may say this afternoon will have little effect. I understood that in the light of this debate we should have had before us a model of the scheme. I believe that model is available, but it has not been presented to us. A further example of the way this House has been treated over this matter is the fact that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who was down to reply to the debate has been elevated, and unless the noble Marquess the Leader of the House is going to take his place and reply later, it would appear that no other Government spokesman will take part in the debate, and anything we may say here will have little effect. I do not know whether the noble Marquess is going to say something at the conclusion of the debate.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak unless there was absolute need for it. I think my noble friend Lord Selkirk intended in his speech to give some guidance to the House on the attitude of the Government. If the House does not feel that enough guidance has been given, of course, I shall be very ready to speak; but my noble friend thought he had made the position for the Government fairly clear. If your Lordships want me to speak, I shall do so.


My Lords, I hope the noble Earl did not mean to give the impression of slamming the door in our faces; it looked like it.


No, my Lords, that is not the case.


The dilemma is that there are nine speakers following the noble Earl, and if there is to be no Government reply it would appear that those nine speeches might just as well not have been made. I should like to make clear the position of my noble friends. We are not speaking in a political sense at all and are free to disagree with one another on this matter. I want to say at once, also, that I do not take entirely the same view as my noble friend Lord Ogmore.

There are three claimants for this site. One thing is certain: that they cannot all have it. It is not at all certain that even two can have it, certainly not if one of them is to be the College. I should like to say a word about all three. The first is the Imperial Institute, because I think their position is the easiest to deal with. They are occupying this site of about seven acres, but they would have sufficient floor space for the excellent and essential work they are doing in a two-storey building on a site of one or one-and-a-half acres. The problem of finding a site of one-and-a-half acres is a very different one from finding a site of seven acres. So far as I can gather, the Imperial Institute might even welcome the opportunity of reorganising the work they are doing on a smaller site and doing it in a more convenient way.

I want to say to my noble friend Lord Ogmore and to everyone else interested in the Institute that nobody wishes in the slightest degree to interfere with the excellent work that they are doing. But I have come to the conclusion that the Institute could be moved without any damage to their work, though, of course, great care would have to be taken in finding a suitable site. A large part of their work consists in attracting school children, who come from all over London. Therefore, it is important that the new site should be central and accessible to the children. Like other noble Lords, I have taken the opportunity of looking at the work they are doing and I went there within the last few days. I was immensely impressed; and if this debate does nothing else, at least it will publicise the work of the Imperial Institute and will induce more noble Lords to go and see for themselves the work that is being done.

Let me next say a word about the Imperial College. It is not an issue in this debate that the expansion of the College is not urgent and essential; we all accept that it is. Nor is there disagreement with the size of the scheme. We all agree that it is essential to provide facilities for some 3,000 students. I think nobody would dispute the amount of space needed for dealing with that number of students which the noble Viscount, Lord Falmouth, gave us. My own question to the Government would be: are they certain that this site is going to be large enough in future? My experience of all building conceptions is that they are too small. You start off by believing that you have everything you want; and before the building is finished you find you have other requirements and need some other buildings. One need only take the experience of building town halls to see that that is so—and I have had a good deal of experience of that. I wonder whether the Government are really satisfied that this site is big enough, not only for present requirements but also for future requirements, because, if it is not big enough, then it would be wise to look around for somewhere else. Nobody knows better than I the difficulties of finding a site of more than seven acres in the centre of London. It can be provided only by pulling down a large number of existing buildings. But this is a point, and I suggest a very important point, that should be considered.

It has been suggested that more space could be found by closing up Imperial Institute Road. I saw that road, which is not very important to traffic. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, shakes his head and says at once that it is impossible, but it certainly has been canvassed, and if it is not a good idea and is not feasible, why does not the Government say so?


My Lords, I tried to explain the position about that road. It is a question of the plan ratio between the area of the building and the total floor space, taking into account the height. The area will be occupied partly by the building of the subway and also by the proposed building on the north side, so that there is nothing in the sense of a vacant space which is not being used.


I thought the noble Earl was making that point in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who asked, since the Collcutt building occupies only one seventh of the area, why one quarter of the accommodation is lost. On that point I think the noble Earl is right. I fully agree with him that you cannot build right up against the building. But did not take his statement as an answer to the possible closing of Imperial Institute Road and the using of that road by building across it as an extension. Since this has been canvassed in responsible circles, it is a pity that the Government do not deign to give a considered reply to it. If it really is impossible, and so impossible that it can be rejected out of hand, it would be just as well to say so, to give the reasons, and bring that objection to an end.

I was not entirely convinced by the noble Earl that it is essential that the College should be on this site. I can see the advantages of it, and I admit that if the site were feasible, and there were no objections to it, it would be the best conceivable site. But in view of the difficulties, is it, in fact, the only site that can be considered? Have the Government given consideration to any other site? The noble Earl has explained how it was that this site was entertained, and it looks as if the Government have not taken a great deal of trouble to consider alternatives. Is there really no possible doubt that this is the only conceivable site on which to build the College? On the assumption that it is—and I should like to be further satisfied on this point—then I think the noble Earl is right, and it does not look feasible to retain the Collcutt tower.

I would associate myself entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has said in his criticisms about trying to make use of this building. I went over it, and the first thing that struck me was that people were working in artificial light. That does not sound to me to be a very useful start. One should not try to adapt a building where, of necessity, people have to work in artificial light. Then there were the high rooms. I saw the board room, and again it struck me that it would hardly be possible usefully to have meetings in that room—though I know that meetings are being held there—of a committee consisting of people over sixty, because they would be bound to miss half of what was being said. The room is so lame and lofty that it is almost impossible to hear across it. It is certainly not the right kind of building for the uses to which it is at present being put, and I do not think there are possibilities of adapting this building to modern uses.

What are we left with? Supposing that, in the last resort, this is the only site for the College, and that it is not possible to adapt the Collcutt tower to any modern purposes, do noble Lords who have taken such a strong view about the æsthetics of the case still say that, in spite of that, the Collcutt tower should be preserved? I think that question needs an answer. In other words, do they attach such a high degree of priority to this tower that they would sacrifice—and they have to face up to the fact that it may mean a sacrifice—the possibility of erecting a College?


What I said was that, having consulted one or two architects who know the difficulties, they said they would have no difficulty whatever in adapting and changing the interior to suit, say, the use of the building as a library, or for whatever use it may be wanted. They said it would not require a genius to do that.


The noble Lord is really not facing up to the situation. He has to take into account the fact—which I think the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, made clear, and which certainly I accept—that the use of this building, apart from the fact that, even if it is adapted, it will be very much a second best, would mean the loss of a quarter of the site, which renders the whole scheme unworkable. I gather—either it is a fact, or it is not—that by insisting on the retention of the tower you are really making the scheme impracticable. Noble Lords must face up to that question.


Perhaps I might intervene to say that the trouble is that we do not know enough about what is required to go on the site. That is the whole point. We cannot speak about plot ratio, and those things, because we have never been told what it is proposed should go on the site. I am sure in my own mind that one could compensate for the loss of the Collcutt building; but we cannot prove it, because everything has been done so much in the dark. I do not see any reason why it should be in the dark; we are all on the same side.


I sympathise with that view, because I feel that we are suffering from a lack of knowledge. However, I am taking the statement of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, coupled with that of the noble Viscount, Lord Falmouth, as to what are the requirements, and I am making the assumption that those requirements can be met only on a site of this size. I still express doubt as to whether it is big enough for the future. But assuming that—and I ask noble Lords to make that assumption—do they still say that, if there is no other site, and this site must be used to the fullest extent, the Collcutt tower should be preserved, even at that price? They do not answer, and I do not blame them.


I say: Yes, certainly.


It should still be preserved at that price?




Then I can only say that few people in this country would agree with the noble Lord. It is the answer I expected, but I doubt very much whether that is a price that most people would be prepared to pay. After all, it is not a first-class building. It is attractive, and it is worth preserving if it is possible to preserve it. But I would not say—and I do not think the public as a whole would—that this is something that has got to be preserved at any price, which is really what the noble Lord is saying.

I was interested in the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. He gave three examples of power stations which would have been built on certain sites but for delay and further pressure. I should like to quote an example the other way, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, has already referred—namely, Waterloo Bridge. It so happens that I had some personal responsibility in the three decisions mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and I also had some, in another capacity, for Waterloo Bridge. I am completely unrepentent about Waterloo Bridge. The point about Waterloo Bridge was this. There was Rennie's great masterpiece, and nobody denied that it was falling down. It would have cost an enormous amount of money to underpin it to make it safe. But apart from that, it had four lines of traffic only, and it was felt that it was essential, in order to help London traffic that there should be six lines of traffic across the Thames. We had exactly the same sort of argument: that the old bridge was a wonderful bridge and quite irreplaceable; that even at the risk of the bridge falling down, we ought to preserve it. With great heart-searching we eventually came to the conclusion that we had to pull down that bridge and erect another one. I should like to ask noble Lords, who I am sure were prominent in the agitation to preserve Waterloo Bridge, what they think of the new bridge.


I think the new bridge is beautiful but that it was an absolute crime to pull down the old one. The new bridge should have been put where Charing Cross Bridge is, and the old one should most certainly have been preserved. But I do admire the new bridge.


That is a great concession from the noble Lord, and I am glad to have it. But it is an indication that, when you destroy something which is old and has outlived its purpose, it does not in the least follow that you cannot build something beautiful. Whether it is equally beautiful or not, I do not know; it will no doubt long be a matter for argument whether it is or not. But many of us admire the new bridge, much as we admired the old. The new bridge has the additional advantage that it is useful and is not likely to fall down.

I feel that the Government have still to make their case. I do not think they have made it up to now. I go so far as this: that if they can prove conclusively that there is no other site available (I do not mean, of course, an inconvenient site; it has to be a site which is suitable for the purpose; I see all the advantages of having it in that area, but in my view the onus is on the Government to prove that), then I, for one, would support their using this site and even, if necessary, demolishing the Collcutt tower, so long as they provide an adequate and satisfactory alternative home for the Imperial Institute. I still say that it is a great pity that we are in this state of uncertainty about the exact nature of the Government's plans. In the light of this debate it would have been advantageous if we could have had a model before us this afternoon.

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, I came down to the House this afternoon to say a few words on the subject of the Imperial Institute, but as a result of the intervention in the debate of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, my words will be even fewer. I thought it appropriate to say a word or two, as one who was Chairman of the Committee which went into the reviewing of the aims and functions of the Imperial Institute. The Committee was set up by the Socialist Government in 1950, and we reported in 1952. I think the controversy that has taken place and is taking place in the country about this matter, has given many people the idea that the Imperial Institute is a building only, and not an organisation. I am taking no part in the architectural controversy of any sort or kind. I am not addressing myself to the virtues of the massive shell of this oyster, but rather to the pearl, or one of the pearls, inside it.

After a short time, those of us who worked on that Committee came to the belief that not only was the Imperial Institute doing a remarkably good job, but that, with certain greater resources, it could do an even better one. It has gained a most powerful momentum largely owing, among other things, to the forceful chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Hudson, and the no less forceful directorship of Mr. Kenneth Bradley, to which must be added, giving honour where honour is due, that for the financial period 1954 to 1955, Her Majesty's Government stepped up their contribution by 50 per cent., and the Governments of almost all the Commonwealth and Colonial countries did likewise. I say that without the slightest disrespect to those who handled the affairs of the Institute in the past. They had to do their job with not much in the way of resources, and even less in the way of sympathy.

Since I have sat in this House there have been debates on the Commonwealth, in which noble Lords on all sides have deplored the ignorance of what goes on in the Commonwealth and the Colonial Empire, particularly in this country, where, after all, there is the least excuse. The Imperial Institute is probably the only body in this country that addresses itself wholeheartedly to that problem. It is impossible to get the 1955 Report, owing to the printers' strike, but I can tell your Lordships that in 1954 no fewer than one million young people, students and schoolchildren, received some lessons in Commonwealth understanding from the instrumentality of the Institute; and this last year past no fewer than 500,000 people have been through the galleries there.

It is well to bear in mind that the work of the Institute has still a long way to go, because quite a large number of countries—some of them are supposed to be friendly—make efforts to vilify and travesty the Commonwealth and Empire which are based and calculated on a much more spectacular scale, and they do not rest. In the summary of conclusions of our Report we said this: Though the work of the Institute would be more effective if the site was in a more central position, it is not practical to consider a change of location at the present time. So I and my Committee would accept the premise put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in that respect. Now we have been overtaken by circumstances, and a move is mooted. I had prepared a speech which built up to a question of the Government, and I have been able to expunge great swathes of notes because that question is now answered. I welcome the information and the assurance given by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. It will have done much to clear the uncertainty of those who have to plan the work of the Institute for years ahead. I understood from the noble Earl that exactly the same amount of space in the new site would be available as at present, and, of course, if that space were laid out specifically for our purposes, we could do a great many times more work. There will, of course, be dislocation, and serious dislocation, in moving the Institute to a new and more suitable and permanent place; but that is a thing I think we should all be prepared to accept. I am obliged to the Government for their assurance, particularly that contained in the last line, that they will be able to carry on their work during all these times at a worthwhile level.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to mention two matters in regard to this debate. Those of us who serve on the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee have done all we can to press forward the claims of the Imperial College. Anything that is done to delay the work there would be unfortunate, and I think everybody agrees about that. I agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and others. My belief is that in a decade, or even less, the area which is being considered at the moment, the so-called rectangle, will be quite insufficient to meet the purposes if the desires of the governing body of the College are carried through, because I think there will be a tremendous surge and demand by people to take full advantage of the facilities of the modern College.

There is one other matter which I think we should bear in mind, and this was mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Crawford. An entirely new situation has arisen in the last few hours from the fact that the London County Council are now willing to step in as planning authority and, presumably, go through the existing plans and make suggestions about future plans. Quite obviously, nothing could be done without the consent of the planning authority. If it were possible to close Imperial Institute Road, as has been suggested, and work out the accommodation that could be provided for the Imperial College on that site, keeping the large quadrangle there and having ample space for development, I am quite sure that in the end that would be more economic from everybody's point of view.

Everybody knows the delay that takes place in building to-day. Nothing should interfere with the progress of the work that is now going on on the site of the Imperial College in accordance with the plans that have already been accepted. That does not mean that consideration might not be given, with the London County Council, to the still further development of land in that vicinity so that it could be convenient for the underground railways and the accommodation that is necessary, because most of the students who work at the Imperial College cannot find accommodation in the heart of London. Many of them have to move out. It is of the utmost importance to see that transportation is adequate for their requirements.

There is one other thing that surely should be mentioned. Everybody agrees that the work of the Imperial Institute is too great for the building which at present houses it. That is a matter of the utmost importance. I have no idea where it is going. Some people say that it is going to the South Bank, but I suggest that, if it is possible to acquire land in the neighbourhood of Imperial Institute Road and develop it there, there is no reason why the new building for the Imperial Institute designed for that specific purpose should not be there, in the neighbourhood of the tower. Then, possibly, further consideration could be given to sparing the tower from demolition. The cost of demolishing the tower will surprise noble Lords because it is a very solid building. It will take a great deal of money and time to get rid of it, whereas, if we worked on a new site by Imperial Institute Road, I believe that quicker progress would be made, which is essential for the purposes of the College. Work could be done at a far cheaper rate. If the London County Council were willing, as the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, said, to reconsider the whole thing on the lines of the proposal of the Fine Art Commission, while it would not necessarily mean any delay in the progress of the Imperial College, it would make a great many people far more happy; they would feel satisfied that more consideration had been given to the whole project, not only for present requirements but also for what will be necessary in the future.

6.43 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great interest to this debate. I agree with almost every noble Lord who has spoken and with the noble Lords who wish to retain the Imperial Institute on æsthetic grounds. I also agree fully with the noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lord Beveridge and the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, who have stressed the vital importance of technology to the future of this country. It is with this in mind that I have taken particular note of what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has said. He has appealed to the Government to see whether they cannot find another site for the Imperial College. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, says that they are looking for another site for the Imperial Institute and he has every confidence that one will be found. I hope that the Government will look with equal alacrity for another site for the Imperial College.

I wonder whether the policy of expanding this College accords with the Government's policy of decentralisation. For instance, why is it not possible to move the whole College outside London? There are various precedents for this which have occurred since the war. Christ's Hospital has moved out to Horsham, the Merchant Taylors' School have moved out to Moor Park, and Charterhouse has gone out to Godalming. A week or two ago the Minister of Housing and Local Government at the annual dinner of the Town Planning Institute spoke about some of the problems that are facing the Government to-day. I should like to quote a few words from his speech because I think they are relevant to this question of the expansion of the Imperial College. According to a report, the Minister said: The biggest town planning problem which confronted Britain today was that of reducing the fearful congestion in London. As the Minister responsible for planning, that was undoubtedly his biggest headache… While the number of people who slept at night in London was going down, the number of these who worked in London by day was going up …. They must, therefore, by one means or another, see to it that as people moved out of London, employment moved out with them…. It might be asked, what were the Government themselves doing about this? He would claim that the Government had clearly shown that they intended to practise what they preached, and a fair start had already been made…. In all, some 25,000 civil servants, who would otherwise be adding to the congestion of Central London, were now working in offices outside; and they had a programme for moving out a further 14,000…. So it would seem that the Government (not, I fear, for the first time) are not speaking with one voice. On the one hand, they are planning to move out large numbers of civil servants and encouraging employment to move out as well; on the other hand, they are proposing to move in large numbers of students.

The other point I should like to make is that of the expense of the removal of this Institute. My noble friend Lord Mottistone, who speaks with great authority and with much more experience in these matters than I can command, has said that the walls of the tower are nine feet thick. The noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, I think, pointed out to your Lordships that the building will have to be taken down stone by stone. Therefore it seems to me that it is going to be an expensive business. Last July I asked the Government whether they intended to remove that simply hideous structure behind the Admiralty which is called the Citadel. It makes me shiver every time I pass it. The noble Earl, Lord Munster, replying, said that they would go into the question but they thought that the removal of that structure would be very expensive. In other words, there is no money to remove that hideous structure and yet there seems to be money to remove a beautiful building like the Imperial Institute.

Between the wars we saw a great deal of destruction of our finest architecture in London—more, I believe, than was ever destroyed by German bombs. We saw the destruction of Adelphi Terrace, Berkeley Square and so on. The Georgian Group was set up with that in mind—I believe the noble Marquess is the President—and it has done a great deal of work to arrest this destruction of some of London's finest architecture. Since the war, there has been a much better trend. During the time of the Labour Government there was a suggestion put forward by one of the Ministries that the Nash Terraces surrounding Regent's Park should be destroyed. I believe, largely due to the intervention of the Prime Minister of the day, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee (Mr. Attlee, as he then was), those beautiful terraces were saved. Now once again official vandalism has reared its ugly head. I hope, therefore, that the Government will go carefully into this question of an alternative site, because I feel that if they destroy this beautiful building, not only will they destroy something that we can never replace, but also they will not really solve the problem of the expansion of the Imperial College.

6.51 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened most carefully to the speeches this afternoon. There have been various arguments put forward in regard to this matter. A number of noble Lords have expressed the fear that the work of the Imperial Institute would be interfered with or possibly ruined if it had to be moved. After the speeches that we have heard, I think that that argument will not hold water. I was particularly impressed with what the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, said, and I feel that, provided a suitable site can be found and a suitable building built or adapted for the purpose, they will probably find more satisfactory quarters than exist in the present Imperial Institute building.

I am not quite so happy about whether every effort has been made to find another site or to extend the site possibly into Imperial Institute Road. I should like to mention a site near to the one we are discussing which I do not think any noble Lord has mentioned this afternoon—namely, the site which I believe is known as the National Theatre site, and which is only a few hundred yards away from where it is proposed to build the Imperial College. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked whether noble Lords were prepared to retain the tower and the façade of the Institute building at any price. I think the answer to that must be "No," but I think it is the greatest pity if the tower has to go. I personally am not happy that all the alternatives have been thoroughly considered, in particular in conjunction with the planning authority, the London County Council. Therefore, before making a final decision on the matter, I appeal to the Government to look at every possible alternative or modification. If they do that and then tell us quite frankly that there are no alternatives, I think the majority of us would be satisfied; but at the moment I do not think we feel that every alternative has been considered.

6.54 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to complete in two or three minutes the sentences that I gave your Lordships in the middle of the debate. As a private citizen, I agree generally with the Government's plan, although I, too, hope that perhaps the London County Council aid may help to modify or strengthen it. I am quite ready also to agree to the island site, because I have no competence to suggest any alternative, although I feel sure that the island site will soon be too small. I had the opportunity a month ago to go over the site of the West Indies University, at Kingston, where they have miles of space; they have a wonderful prospect in front of them. Here we have to put up with other things, and I feel sure that soon the site will be too small.

As a Trustee of the Imperial Institute I, like other Trustees, am bound by the Act of 1925. As a Trustee of the Imperial Institute, I cannot agree with the whole plan until I know that the Institute will receive full compensation. I must therefore wait for the Government's plan. If full compensation is assured to the Institute, I assume (I do not know) that lawyers will advise the Trustees that they can agree with the plan. This might be the case particularly, I think, because I have good reason to believe that the Imperial Institute authorities hold the same opinion about the inside of the Collcutt building as does Lord Beveridge, and would be only too glad to hand over these internal arrangements to some other authority. If all this happened I, as a private Trustee, do not think one is concerned with the æsthetic side at all: that will be a matter for others to decide, not for the Imperial Institute, which will have lost all interest in it. I would merely say that I agree with Lord Beveridge in his remarks about the inside of the Collcutt building. As regards the outside, I very much agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said. As to whether it is possible to keep the tower and nothing else—heaven knows! I certainly do not.

6.57 p.m.


My Lords, as your Lordships know, I had not intended to intervene in this debate unless it was necessary, because your Lordships already hear far too much of me in any case. But I feel that I must say something, in view of the suggestions made by Lord Silkin and Lord Methuen, that possibly the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, had been guilty of some discourtesy to them in rising to speak earlier in the debate. I am sure your Lordships will believe me when I say that that was the last thing that Lord Selkirk intended. His purpose in rising was to give some guidance to the House, but if the House wants still more guidance from me I will do my best to give it.

This afternoon, in this long debate—I think I have listened to practically the whole of it—the Government have been subjected to criticism from two quarters and on two grounds. First of all, there was the criticism which was to be found in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, which dealt mainly with the functions and purposes of the Imperial Institute; and then there were the criticisms which were visible in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who was concerned rather with the æsthetic aspect of the Government's proposal for pulling down the existing Collcutt building, using the site for an extension of the Imperial College and rebuilding the Imperial Institute elsewhere. I should like briefly to deal with both those lines of criticism.

First, greatly daring, I should like to say something about the æsthetic aspect. I do not suppose there is anyone in this House who has not the highest respect for the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, for Lord Mottistone, Lord Esher, Lord Methuen and others who have put in so passionate a plea for the Collcutt building. But if they do not think it impertinent of me to say so, I rather wonder whether, on this particular occasion, they have not tended to overstate their case. We have heard an absolute pæan of praise for this building this afternoon. From what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone said, one would have imagined that it was one of the architectural glories of England. Mr. Betjeman, who is not a Member of this House but has been a protagonist in this controversy, even went so far, in a meeting last night, as to mention it in the same breath as St. Paul's. Then Lord Esher was even more vehement. He said that "everybody who knows anything about architecture is on our side." When I heard that remark I felt a little as Melbourne felt about Macaulay when he said I wish I were as certain about anything as Tom Macaulay is about everything. I have been a little surprised, even astonished, that this "gem", to quote the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has remained so long in our midst and not a soul has drawn attention to it until now. I have been at some pains to consult works of reference in an effort to find something which would describe its merits and beauty. References to it are extremely difficult to trace. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, was more successful than I, for he did find one or two references, while I was able to find only one—in a Penguin edition which lists all the buildings in London. That gave it a few lines of rather tepid praise.

That was extremely disappointing to an earnest inquirer; but, undeterred, I went next to the Dictionary of National Biography which, as your Lordships know, is an extraordinarily comprehensive work. It includes, I suppose, everybody who has made any important contribution in any sphere to our national life and heritage and runs to twenty-eight large volumes. I went right through the Dictionary of National Biography and tried, next, the first and second Supplements. Finally, I went to the latest volume which came out in the past year or two. I felt sure that there I should find some assessment of this outstanding monument of Victorian art. I looked up Collcutt but I am very sorry to tell your Lordships that he is not included at all, either in the main work or in any of the Supplements. I suggest that if this building was of the architectural importance which is now suddenly attached to it, it is inconceivable that the architectural world would not have made certain its creator was included in the Dictionary of National Biography.

What conclusion are we to draw from all this? Frankly, I can see only one. I do not believe that the building has all that importance which now, so suddenly, has been wished upon it. How often, before this agitation was "stoked up" (if I may use that expression) have even Members of the Royal Fine Art Commission themselves turned aside in their peregrinations through London to spend an hour or two feasting their eyes on the beauty of the Imperial Institute? We all do that at times—St. Paul's; the Horse Guards; in later days, the Nash Terraces, to which reference was made just now, even the Albert Memorial, are all places to which we go, and most of us go with great enjoyment and profit. But, until the last few weeks, I have never heard of anyone making a pilgrimage to the Imperial Institute, on purely architectural grounds. I shrewdly suspect that many have never given it a thought all these years until now. Though I am open to contradiction, I do not believe it is a great national monument. I can well believe that it is architecturally interesting and characteristic of the period in which it was built; but I do not believe it is a great monument or will ever be regarded as such. Having said that, I do not wish to stress the point further, because the last thing I want to argue is that the fact that a building is not first-rate is, in itself, a reason for pulling it down. None of us would argue that. I say only that the fact that the building is not outstanding alters, to some extent at any rate, the balance of the argument on a difficult question of this kind, where other factors have to be taken into account.

That brings me to the second aspect of the problem with which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was principally concerned: is it in the interests of the Imperial Institute that it should be moved from its present place and housed elsewhere? I have myself little doubt that it is in its interest. I submit that though the Collcutt building is large and imposing it is by no means a suitable building for the work which the Institute was created to perform. It is long and narrow, and to provide accommodation for the exhibits to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred, as we all know, temporary sheds of a completely unworthy character had to be erected outside. I am told that the Governors of the Institute are strongly in favour of moving to a more modern and convenient building elsewhere; and I am sure that had the noble Viscount, Lord Hudson, been here, he would have advocated that course. They will do far better in a building more modern and suitable than they now have. As your Lordships have been told to-day, the Treasury are prepared to provide such a building; and I would stress that it will be the business of the Trustees, of whom temporarily I am one, to see that they do provide it.

What is the essential problem? Here I come back to the Collcutt building. Surely it is the primary purpose of every building to be functional in the broadest sense of that word. It must be built for some purpose, and, if it is fully to justify its erection, it must continue to be usefully employed, either for that or for some other purpose. I believe that would be true even with such buildings as St. Paul's, the Houses of Parliament and even the Albert Memorial, which was built and remains as a memorial. It is true that there are some buildings so beautiful that they justify being kept in existence for that reason alone; but, however beautiful they are, unless they are used, they remain poor, dead things, ghosts of their former selves. We know of great houses, now uninhabited, empty, with great echoing corridors and chambers, through which people move, but which have no life in them. That is true of any place not used for its functional purpose.

The difficulty with the Collcutt building is that it is not what is really needed, either for the Imperial Institute or for the Imperial College. Many ingenious and tortuous suggestions have been produced, this afternoon and on other occasions, to try to find some use which can be made of it. The noble Lord, Lord Methuen, almost tied himself into knots trying to find something which could be done with it. But, even so, he suggested practically nothing, except to leave it as it is. Even such suggestions as leaving it as it is and treating it as an object of beauty and nothing else are horribly wasteful of space. The noble Lord, Lord Methuen, went into absolute ecstacies over a chamber which resembled a Renaissance church. That is a beautiful thing; but the difficulty is that a Renaissance church is not what is required in a technological college. It would be a "cuckoo in the nest."


Surely that is a matter of opinion.


I will back my opinion against tae noble Lords's before a board of technologists. In this matter this House and all noble Lords in it must make up their minds where the interests of the country lie. Again and again, we have been pressed to speed up progress on technological education. Personally, I fully share with the noble Lord, Lord Falmouth, the anxieties of our experts on this question. In the harshly competitive world in which we are now moving, it seems to me to be vital that we should maintain our position in comparison with other countries, and that is going to be quite hard enough. Parliament has approved a proposal, as your Lordships know, to "step up" three technological colleges, and of these three the Imperial College is one. In this new College it is proposed to accommodate 3,000 students. I would remind your Lordships that this is a constantly rotating number. They pass through the College. It is not just 3,000 students who are going to be trained. It means that here is an organisation through which vast numbers of scientific and technological students can be trained and sent out to fulfil a practical vocation in life. Is it really now suggested that all these plans, which have been prepared with such care, must necessarily be scrapped to preserve a building which I fully appreciate is possibly of great interest to architects, but which cannot, I believe, by any stretch of imagination, be claimed as one of the greatest national monuments?

I am told that in the list which has been referred to, the list which has been compiled under the Town and Country Planning Act, it comes in Grade 2, not in Grade 1. I do not want to see this building pulled down any more than do other noble Lords who have spoken. I think it is a sad thing to see any building destroyed, on the design and setting of which so much effort has been expended. But surely it is not right to throw the weight of the argument all on one side. Many of the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate so passionately and sincerely on this question, if they will forgive my saying so, never appear at all in this House except on occasions when we are debating those subjects which are of special interest to them. They came for the National Gallery Bill. They came for the Tate Gallery debate. They are here to-day. I am not complaining. All I am saying is that it accounts for the fact that they were unable to be present—so far as I am aware—for most important debates on the scientific and technological needs of the country, on which this House has lately been engaged.

I may perhaps be allowed to speak fairly strongly on this subject because, as your Lordships know, as Lord President of the Council I am concerned with all questions of science and technology; and the hard fact is that we have simply got to have more technologists in order to keep abreast of our competitors. If we do not we shall fall behind in the race. If we fall behind, the Imperial Institute will soon represent nothing bat a mere cenotaph—an empty memorial to something past and gone. It is all very well to say, as has been said to-day, that it would be much better if the Imperial College had not been put where it is; that it would have been much better if quite a different site had been chosen. If quite a different site had been chosen, perhaps outside London, how much better that would have been! That is quite possibly true. But that decision was taken, as Lord Crawford has said, in the dim past; the Imperial College was set up, and vast sums have already been spent on it. It is futile to suggest that we should now uproot the whole of the Imperial College and put it somewhere else. To go back on that decision would mean an indefinite delay in a matter which at the present time brooks no delay.

There was no question in the past, when the Government first put up these plans for expansion of the College, of there being any other area available in the immediate vicinity. All the surrounding blocks, as your Lordships have been told, were zoned as residential. That was the decision of the London County Council, and there was no reason why it was likely to be altered. I know that, because last year, when I first began to interest myself in this subject, I made that very inquiry, just as other noble Lords have made it this afternoon. That was the information I received. To-day, for the first time, we have heard that the London County Council may be considering the matter further—I take it, with a view to a possible re-zoning of the neighbourhood of the College. At least that would appear to be implicit in the information we were given. If this is true, it introduces a new factor. But I do not know whether it is true; the Government have, as yet, had no official intimation on the subject. If it proves to be true, then of course the matter will have to be, and ought to be, further considered. Therefore, if noble Lords want guidance or information, that is the guidance and information I am able to give them, and it is as far as I can go at the present time.

At the same time, I urge the House, even in these circumstances, to attach thee maximum importance they can to the need for speed in this matter of technollogical education. The very fact that the Government have pressed forward, and continue to press forward, with this particular project, even in these days of deep economic anxiety, when we are all being asked to pull in our belts and make sacrifices, shows how vital the Government believe this matter to be. If I then say, as my noble friend Lord Selkirk has said, that the Government are very ready to consider any new factors which may enable an agreed solution to be reached, we must never forget—and I hope noble Lords in this House and the Fine Art Commission, will never forget—that there are other considerations besides those of æsthetics, and even of history, which must be taken into account. Unless we do remember that, there is nothing that this House can do to preserve our cultural heritage; and nothing that we do will save us from disaster.

7.18 p.m.


My Lords, we have had an interesting and long debate, and I do not intend to delay your Lordships for more than a few moments. I think it is only right, first of all, to thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, whether they have agreed with my Motion or not, because it is most important in a debate to get all views, not merely the views on one side. I think that the views that are held on this subject have now been fully put; and that this has been a valuable debate for more reasons than one. It has been valuable in that it has produced that last speech by the noble Marquess which, if I may say so, was quite brilliant, very witty and in his best vein. In fact, if I may say so quite sincerely. I think he is the finest debater I have ever heard in my life—and I have heard a good many. I know it only too well because very often, of course, he is against me. We have been against each other when I was over on that side of the House and he was here, and since I have been here and he has been there. You can only appreciate a foeman's steel properly when you feel it—not when you merely look at it.

So far as the work of the Imperial Institute is concerned, I have been, to some extent, if not altogether satisfied, at any rate placated by the speeches of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and of the noble Marquess. They know of my interest, which has extended over many years, in this Institute. They know how anxious I am that its work shall be extended. So far as the aspect of disturbance is concerned, the guarantee which they have given to-day—it was given principally by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk—that there should be no suspension of the work of the Imperial Institute, and that the phasing of the new Imperial Institute shall go on at the same pace as the expansion of the Imperial College, seems to be satisfactory.

The only point that remains is the question of the site; and that is a very important question indeed. I know very well that many of those who are concerned with the Institute think that it ought to go to the South Bank. My view, however, is that it would be a fatal mistake to go to the South Bank. I hope that the noble Marquess, not only as an important member of the Cabinet but also as a Trustee, will resist that suggestion. The difficulties of transport are great and I do not think that the Institute ought to go far from the museum area if that can be avoided at all. The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, referred, to his valuable Report, which did a great deal for the Institute, but he did not quote one sentence in it, in paragraph 4, where the Committee said: The present site is not regarded as ideal by all witnesses, but it is close to a number of the main London museums and is in an area where a large number of students from overseas and Commonwealth countries are living. Those are the points. It would be dangerous to the future of the Institute if it moved away from the museum area.

No satisfaction was given to those who wished to retain the existing Collcutt building. I think that they will go away with rather heavy hearts, except for the ray of light, if it was a ray, at the end of the noble Marquess's speech. I did not understand what he meant by his allusion to the London County Council, but perhaps he did not understand it either, because the decision of the L.C.C. is not at all clear.


My Lords, we have not had any official intimation of any kind, but, clearly, if a large area which had previously been zoned for residential dwellings was now to become free for institutional purposes, that would make a difference—that was what I meant.


My Lords, at all events, those noble Lords who are particularly interested in preserving the building do not feel at all satisfied with the decision which has been announced to-day: that the Government are determined to go on with this destruction.


My Lords, I think we should all be clear about this matter. I feel that the noble Marquess's statement meant that if the words read out proved to be official (and, of course, I cannot say whether they are or not) and the L.C.C. are prepared to enter into discussions and perhaps zone a sufficient area to make the necessary expansion available to the Government, then the Government would consider that provision. If the noble Marquess meant that, then I would disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. I think that the Government have gone as far as they possibly can to meet at any rate the point of view that I have expressed.


No, I do not think the noble Earl has understood me correctly. I cannot tie the Government in any way. I cannot say that if such-and-such a site proved available, it would be accepted. I cannot do anything of that kind at this stage. But it would create a new situation, which the Government would be very ready to Consider.


My Lords, I think that is valuable, and I am glad the noble Earl intervened and got that reply from the noble Marquess. All I can say on the second point, which is not necessarily interlocked with the first, is that we had better reserve judgment because of the statement we have had, though I am not at all sure what it means. I should like to have an opportunity of considering what is meant by this reply from the noble Marquess, though, of course, I cannot commit the noble Lords, Lord Mottistone, Lord Methuen and Lord Esher.

I should like to say one word about Professor Hitchcock, because I think it is due to him. I thought he was treated in rather a rude manner by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. After all, he is a distinguished American, who was asked to speak at a meeting. What he said there was that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at which he was a teacher, decided not to develop the Institute in the middle of Boston but to go into the country, and he thought there was a lot to be said for that plan. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, described that as "non-sense." I do not know that he has any right to describe it in such a way. I think that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology deserve better treatment from us in this House than to describe something they have done as "nonsense," I felt that I should say this in the interests of international amity. Having said that, I beg leave of your Lordships to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, with-drawn.


My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships because I do not really know the procedure of the House, which is rather unusual to me when two Motions are taken together. I want to thank your Lordships for having listened to me.