§ 6.41 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN rose to call attention to the proposals for the extension of the Palace of Westminster; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion which stands in my name. I may say that I would willingly have moved it a little earlier, had the matter lain in my hands; but this matter was debated in another place a fortnight ago and I thought it proper that your Lordships, who live and work in this same Palace of Westminster, should also have an opportunity to express your views on the important subject of any possible additions to the Palace of Westminster before any final decisions are taken.
§ The Speaker's Committee in another place produced, rather to my surprise, a unanimous Report. I think that that is a matter which should be looked into, because I am not quite sure whether they are completely right—but I will go into that in a moment or two. The Lord Privy Seal said in the other place that the Government endorsed in particular the need for additional accommodation. That word "endorsed" I repeat, because I could not understand why he did not merely say that he agreed to it, or something of the sort. When I looked up the word "endorse" in the Oxford English Dictionary, I found that the Lord Privy Seal was not trying to put over "a fast one", because I find that it means, 1046 among other things, "to confirm". It bears no relation in this context to having one's licence as a motorist or as a publican "endorsed"—which means (again to quote the Oxford Dictionary) "to have a record of offence written on the back". In this case it means to confirm the need for additional accommodation.
The Motion in the other place went on to refer to
the redevelopment of the Whitehall area as a whole
and invited Her Majesty's Government
to pursue the necesssary technical and professional inquiries…and subsequently to report…
At any rate, nobody is in any way committed to anything at this stage. Therefore, this debate will provide a useful opportunity to air our views on the subject. I agree about the equal importance of the development of the whole Whitehall area: that is to say the Foreign Office, Scotland Yard, the Home Office and so on, but on this occasion I will restrict myself to the alterations affecting this particular Palace in which we sit. I do not intend in any remarks I make to go into matters of cubic capacity, accommodation or floor space, because I have no idea as to how much additional accommodation may or may not be required. The Lord Privy Seal merely admitted the necessity for additional accommodation.
§ This is a matter which some day a new Parliament and a new Government will have to face, no matter what their political complexion may be. This is not, of course, a Party matter; I am glad to say that there is nothing between us, and everybody who speaks will speak for himself. My intention is to consider solely the outside aspect of what other additions may some day be built, either additions to this existing edifice or additions built, as I shall suggest, on the other side of Bridge Street.
§ The late Mr. Oscar Wilde referred to the fact that this time of year in Parliament is a time when tempers are apt to get frayed and people get tired; and he referred to the Parliamentary troubles in July before Parliament rises as "the last rows of summer". I merely wish to say that if there are any rows here this evening it will not be my fault. I will endeavour to be brief, and one reason why 1047 I am speaking at this moment is to make way shortly for my noble friend Lord Hailes, whose knowledge of these subjects is much greater than mine. He was a Minister of Works in a recent Government, and the only reason why he is not speaking at this moment is that it will be his maiden speech and I have undertaken the task of "kicking off", so to speak. I wish him well.
§ I have three points I will try to make. First, whether one admires this building or not, the fact is that it is with us, and whatever is done to affect it or alter it in any way will be noted by an almost world-wide audience. It is not just the place where Parliament works and has its being; it is literally the heart of the Mother of Parliaments. Indeed, in a large area of the world pictures of this building are regarded as a sort of trade mark or hall mark of democratic institutions everywhere. We must therefore do nothing to damage it or its chief characteristics—and when I mention chief characteristics, I have in mind particularly Big Ben. We do not want any cucumber frames leant up against Big Ben. Secondly, in my view, if there are to be additions along Bridge Street into Palace Yard these must not square with the existing design.
§ I am not necessarily opposed to the plan produced unanimously by the Speaker's Advisory Committee. If anybody at any time wishes to see a drawing of what they propose I have one in my possession. It is very attractive to look at, but what I am worried about is the fact that it is going to block Bridge Street. I am no traffic expert; nevertheless, I know that Bridge Street carries an enormous amount of traffic which turns to the left along the Embankment to the City, or goes over the Bridge to Waterloo Station and the South. It seems to me a curious idea that it would be quite simple to divert the traffic towards Scotland Yard and then to bring it back again to the riverside, so that it would have to take a sharp corner alongside the river for a few yards and then left again over the Bridge.
§ If that is an objectionable suggestion, then my third and last point, which is the most important one—and I hope that the experts who are to consider these matters will give it serious thought 1048 —is the question of burrowing under Bridge Street. On the way some car parking places could be built, which would be of great value to Members of Parliament. If desired there could be a moving passage for those who were too tired to walk, and there could be a building in the modern style or whatever style was wanted. Lytton Strachey said of the architect of St. Pancras Station Hotel, "He built that building in a style entirely his own." So here there would be no strings attached, but of course the plan would have to be approved.
§ As regards Palace Chambers, which I used to occupy a certain amount when the Conservative Party had its offices there, I have often thought that they would do well with a new front, a new inside and a new hack. Then one comes to St. Stephen's Club, to which I sometimes used to go, and I think that that is not a very attractive edifice either. I am informed that Scotland Yard has already been sold. No doubt it is just a book entry by which the present Ministry of Works or the Home Office have bought it from the Government. At any rate, there is plenty of room over there to create a new building which need not be Gothic. As I say, I am not entirely opposed to the Committee's unanimous Report, but I think that the alternative of going across Bridge Street deserves very serious consideration and I hope it will receive it. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, we are very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, for having raised this matter in order to enable some of us to give preliminary thought to the whole question of accommodation in the Palace of Westminster. I think it must be preliminary thought, because even the Report upon which this debate is based is an Interim Report and it is, I presume, without prejudice to even the Committee itself having second thoughts.
This is not the first time that the question of accommodation has been considered. So far as I can gather, there was a Joint Report of the House of Commons and the House of Lords in 1944–45, and there have been a number of Select Committees and other investigations since then. The interesting point 1049 is that the only time when the House of Lords has been brought into the picture was in 1944–45. Since then it is only the question of the accommodation of the other place which has been considered. It seems to me a fundamental qualification for considering accommodation in the Palace of Westminster that the requirements of both Houses should be taken into account and not merely the requirements of one. I have read the Report of the Committee presided over by Sir James Duncan and the Report of the Speaker's Committee, and in both of those, as well as in the early ones, they considered the requirements of the other place.
It is interesting to note, incidentally, that as time has gone on these requirements have substantially increased. The requirement in the Report of the Joint Committee was such that possibly all the necessary facilities could, by making certain alterations, have been provided within the Palace of Westminster. But in the Report of the Duncan Committee, for instance, there was a requirement, of 50,000 square feet. In the latest Report the requirement is 100,000 square feet, and perhaps it is as well that we should settle this matter very quickly; otherwise, requirements may increase still further. My first point is that I fail to understand how we can settle the requirements of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster without considering, also, what are the requirements of this House.
I am going to follow the example of the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, and not go into any detail as to what these respective requirements are, but any noble Lord who takes an active part in the work of this House will appreciate that there is a good deal that can be done to make the task of noble Lords who are active here more agreeable, to enable them to work more efficiently and to discharge their duties in a more effective way. I think the same kind of case can be made for this House as is being made in another place. So I hope that when we come to reconsider this matter, as no doubt we shall do in the next Parliament, the requirements of both Houses will be taken into account at the same time.
The Speaker's Advisory Committee put forward a number of proposals which, as 1050 the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Find-horn, said, were unanimously accepted. The first was that there was a need for more accommodation, and I think we should all agree, although we should not particularly want to identify ourselves with any particular area. I would suggest in passing that there are possibilities of economising in, as well as of increasing, accommodation.
One of the suggestions that I might make is that there would appear to be no particular reason why we should have two organisations for the provision of refreshments. We might do worse than enjoy something like the facilities that are enjoyed in another place. At any rate, I see no serious objection to a common Kitchen and to a number of other common services, such as the Library. I see no particular case for having two separate Libraries occupying a good deal of space. So I hope that when we come to consider the question of the facilities of the Palace of Westminster, we shall also take into account the question of whether, to some extent, we might enjoy common services such as those I have mentioned. But, having said that, I would repeat that in my view the case for increased facilities for both Houses has been made out.
Then comes the question of where the extra accommodation should he, and we have the proposals made by the Speaker's Advisory Committee. Here, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, there is a conflict between the convenience of Members of Parliament and the convenience of the general public. Undoubtedly, the recommendations which were unanimously agreed upon would cause serious dislocation of traffic. I know that the Ministry of Transport is giving consideration to the matter and they have not said their last word, but, on the face of it, it would seem that here is a main arterial road, from North to South, carrying an enormous amount of traffic which would have to be diverted if Bridge Street were actually built upon. It is a matter for very serious consideration whether it is right that the convenience of the public should be subordinated to the convenience of Members of Parliament. We might easily find our way to the new quarters, the additional quarters, by means of a subway. I 1051 have never seen the reason why that is not practicable. I have heard it said that it would not be dignified, and that you would not get the atmosphere of Westminster. I should have thought that Members would be capable of creating an atmosphere of their own, a new atmosphere, and that that would not be very difficult.
However, these are matters which ought to be considered, and I hope that, when we come to consider them, we shall not rule out the possibility of there being a subway which would connect the new accommodation with the Palace of Westminster. Many of us have lived quite outside the Palace of Westminster but within the Division Bell area. I can remember many a time, when I lived in North Court, making my way to Gt. Peter Street, running along in time for a Division. I did not feel any inhibition; and the distance from a building on the site of St. Stephen's House would be no greater—in fact, rather less—than the distance that many Members of Parliament have to travel within the Division Bell area.
The other question is the architecture, and that seems to me to be an extraordinary question even to think about before we have made up our minds as to the kind of building we want. Surely the architecture is the last thing you settle, not the first. It is assumed that, even if the new building were contiguous to the existing Palace, it must be in the same style of architecture. But, really, that must depend upon what kind of building you are going to put up. The architecture is to a very great extent determined by the height and size of the rooms and where the windows are placed. To have a Gothic style of architecture in a modern building would be completely unsuitable and false. Nor do I accept the assumption that any other type of architecture would necessarily be out of harmony with the Gothic—or should I say the mock Gothic or neo-Gothic?
One has only to go to Venice to see one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with buildings of different ages and different styles all harmonising, with no discord at all between them. There are even parts, not necessarily in the same style, added centuries later to existing buildings, and nobody going to Venice 1052 complains that there is any lack of harmony or any conflict in style between them. Even in this country, in some of our most beautiful towns, the buildings are not all of the same style or period. Even in the vicinity of Whitehall we have a conflict of styles; and, really, are you going to stereotype the one style of architecture for all time and say that this is to be the style under which we have to live for centuries? No, my Lords; I think this question must be determined by the kind of buildings we put up; and I hope very much that, when we put up the new accommodation, it will be of a modern style with rooms of reasonable height which it will be possible to keep warm, not too big for comfort and not too small. It is these which, to a great extent, will dictate the style of architecture.
My Lords, these are my provisional thoughts. To summarise, they are, first, that we must take into consideration the requirements of this House as well as of the other place; otherwise, we are not doing the job properly. Secondly, the need is established for additional facilities, but we ought also to see how far we can economise and have common facilities between the two Houses. Thirdly, I think the site should not be contiguous to this House, but should be on the St. Stephen's House site. Perhaps I have some prejudice here, because I was forced out of St. Stephen's House to make room for this accommodation. Lastly, we should keep an open mind as to the style of architecture and not necessarily commit ourselves to any particular style.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ LORD HAILES
My Lords, in a maiden speech earlier to-day the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, apologised for making his maiden speech so soon after his introduction here. This has put me on a spot, because I have to apologise in exactly the opposite sense. All I can hope is that this fault may be mitigated, at least to the extent of the five years spent a long way away from these shores.
As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has said, this is not the first time that this question of accommodation has been raised. Much time and money has been spent over the years to try to solve the need for more accommodation for Parliament. It is really the insoluble problem of trying to put a quart into a pint pot. 1053 I had some experience of this when I was Chief Whip in another place, and then Minister of Works; and, although we now hear of the alleged existence of vacant, dusty rooms, I should in my time have been more than glad to have had a sight of some of these. I remember that when the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, was out of office he asked me whether I could find some corner where he could write his letters and interview his constituents. All that could be found for him was a small cell—I can hardly call it more than that—in a pinnacle, with a long flight of stone stairs, and no lift. Although cheerfully accepted by him, as one would expect, it was not a worthy or appropriate offer.
Of course, the only way to solve the problem is to build not only for present needs but also for likely future expansion. The provision of accommodation, affecting, as it does, nothing less than the health, good spirits, reasonable comfort and efficiency of all who serve in this building, must be the first consideration; but, in planning for this, surely everything must be done to avoid doing any hurt to this famous Palace. It is on this aspect of the question that I should like to say a few but heartfelt words. As the problem concerns the crying needs of another place—and I think both noble Lords who have spoken agree with this—it would not be appropriate to discuss in detail in your Lordships' House what form such accommodation should take.
Of course, the question of the surrender of some of your Lordships' accommodation to another place has often been raised, and still seems to be with us. I am not at all sure that I myself have not been guilty in this sense in former times, but, even if that is so, I hope I need not present myself at this time as poacher turned gamekeeper, first, because in my time it was not a question of a new building; and, secondly, because it is quite unrealistic to pretend, whatever arrangements may be made, now or in the future, which are mutually convenient to the Houses of Parliament, that the basic need of another place can be satisfied, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, by redistribution of the present accommodation. We are credibly informed that the provision of 100,000 square feet of usable 1054 office space is what is necessary for all purposes and, because of the extent of new building this implies and no less because of the highly controversial proposals contained in the Interim Report of Mr. Speaker's Committee on Accommodation, it is only right that this matter should be raised in your Lordships' House following the debate in another place, for any proposals which would radically alter the well-known form and outline of this Palace must be a matter of real concern far beyond the confines of your Lordships' House or of another place.
From an architectural point of view, the building proposed in the Interim Report, which is a large high addition, connected at all floor levels to the present building and running northwards across Bridge Street and then down over Bridge Street to Parliament Square, would radically alter in my opinion (as anybody can see from the plans and drawings) the appearance of this Palace, planned as it was to stand as a complete and balanced whole; and it would effectively destroy what was so well described in an issue of Country Life asthat noble conception of a great mass of building anchored north and south by two mighty towers.It is true that Sir Charles Barry did prepare a design for an addition to be built in the area of New Palace Yard, but if it had ever been built—and I am glad that it was not—it would not have destroyed the noble conception to which I have referred. After all, an architect does try to avoid doing that sort of thing to his own masterpieces. However, the relevant point for us is that this addition was never built.
So this Palace, ever since it rose again after being destroyed by fire in 1834, has retained throughout the last hundred years—perhaps the greatest in our history—the form that all have come to know and love. And it is not only we who know it. As my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn said, the splendid view of the Palace of Westminster, particularly from across the river, is known all over the world. But perhaps even more revered is the picture of the almost free-standing tower of Big Ben. I do not want to overstress sentiment; but I do not have to remind your Lordships of what those deep tones meant to millions of people in their 1055 darkest hours, those tones which miraculously were never once stilled during the whole of the war. It is the picture of the apparently free-standing tower of Big Ben which still remains, in so many minds abroad, as a symbol of that freedom which so many people felt it represented in the war. Therefore, for many reasons, I support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn. Surely, my Lords, the answer is a separate building in Bridge Street connected with the Palace of Westminster by an underground passage.
From the practical point of view, I should like to refer to some of the suggestions in paragraph 2 of the Interim Report of Mr. Speaker's Committee. In the first place, I cannot understand why it is considered necessary that the new building must be part of the Parliamentary precinct and must seem to be so, as the Report says; which it certainly would be. The new addition, wherever it is built, is not, as I understand it, to contain anything of high national or symbolic importance, no Ark of the Covenant, but simply an assembly hall, conference rooms, rooms for Members of Parliament and their secretaries and so on. Of course, if communication by an underground passage would mean a serious sacrifice to convenience that would be a great mistake. But would that really be so?
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, touched on this point. The Palace of Westminster is so vast that one can easily find oneself within its own walls at a greater distance from the two Chambers and the Lobbies, which you may call the heart of the business, than would be the case from Bridge Street, with the aid of an underground passage. In fact, I wonder whether communication from a Gothic addition, built over Bridge Street, as proposed by Mr. Speaker's Committee, would in fact be any easier. Nor does one suppose that the underground passage would be a cold and dark tunnel, calculated to make honourable ladies in another place feel nervous or lonely; but something well-lit, well-aired and, I hope, attractively decorated, so that it could seem to be just another passage in a great complex of buildings.
Nor do I understand why it is thought necessary to build over Bridge Street. We know that practically the whole 1056 area (except for New Scotland Yard), bounded by the Embankment, Bridge Street, Parliament Street and Richmond Terrace, is to be rebuilt for Government purposes. And of this area the necessary 100,000 square feet can be found, leaving sufficient room for a large Government building as well—and all this without building over Bridge Street and so, incidentally, creating those traffic problems to which the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, referred, and to which other noble Lords may refer later.
I have not so far mentioned the burning question of architectural style. If the proposals by Mr. Speaker's Committee to build in New Palace Yard and over Bridge Street were unfortunately to be adopted, I think the only thing would be to try to build in imitation of Sir Charles Barry's Gothic. But if so, then this is a further argument against these proposals, for we know that such a building would cost at least four times as much as a more simple building of the same size: and with all the intricate carving, and so on, it would take an infinitely longer time to build. I have the very unpleasant feeling that if the proposals of Mr. Speaker's Committee were ever to be adopted, we should in the end, when it was too late to say "No", be asked, because of the great expense and the time factor, to settle for the worst thing possible—"modified" Gothic. A building on the other side of Bridge Street, however, would not have to be executed in such a style. Indeed, it could be a building in quite a different style.
This raises another matter which is not just the simple one rather repulsivey referred to as "Mods versus Goths". It is foolish to think, as some people affect to do, that contemporary architecture is all bad. New materials and techniques are forming an architecture which at its best is original and exciting, although I do not think we have as yet achieved the best of this in this country. But we do not want to be aggressively avant garde in this matter unless we can be sure of producing a masterpiece, or at least a building of exceptional quality. I trust that what is eventually built to provide additional Parliamentary accommodation will be neither a feeble imitation 1057 nor a second-class contemporary building or extravaganza, but something of sufficiently high standard to conform (and this fits in with Lord Silkin's remarks about Venice, because "conform" is the operative word) with the varied group of buildings which lie in the very heart of our national life. I am glad that we have been given assurances that no proposals for additions to the Palace of Westminster will be seriously considered until Sir Leslie Martin has reported on the whole Whitehall scene, including the future of the Foreign Office site. That, of course, is entirely right, and no doubt the noble Earl who is replying will confirm that this is still so.
I have a feeling that the suggestions of Mr. Speaker's Committee on accommodation may already be dead or dying; but while it may seem rather mean to flog a dead horse or kick a Report when it is down, I do not think anybody who feels strongly should be prevented from stating his or her view on these matters before it is too late; so that when the time does come for the serious consideration of all these proposals the views expressed in your Lordships' House, in another place, and out of doors, will be clearly on the record.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hailes has made a most admirable maiden speech, on which I know the whole House will wish to congratulate him. We all know that he is an informed lover of the arts, including architecture, and he has shown that by his choice of this first opportunity to address the House. We all recognise that he had every excuse in absence abroad for the postponement of giving us that pleasure. I intend to be brief because, like many others, I am looking forward to the maiden speech that is to follow my speech.
The need for extra accommodation for the Commons is, of course, not disputed. Though the extent of that accommodation may be a matter of controversy, I do not think it is a controversy in which it would be profitable for this House to indulge. I think we can safely leave that to the Members of another place. But the location of the new accommodation of the Commons is a 1058 matter which does not concern the Commons alone, nor, indeed, does it concern Parliament alone. It is the business of everybody, including Parliament, to study and respect the need for town planning.
The most shocking part of the proposals of Mr. Speaker's Committee, in the view of many of us, is their complete dismissal of all considerations of town planning. In the debate of the 13th of the present month, in the opening speech by my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons, we find a sentence to the following effect—I am not quoting the whole sentence, but paraphrasing it, because of the convention in dealing with speeches in the present Session in another place. He said that it was not their function to examine witnesses about traffic and town planning.
That may be. But if it was not their function to examine witnesses on these subjects, it is surely somebody's function to consider these subjects before any decision of any kind is made about where the location of the new accommodation is to be. I find it astonishing that any body of men should assume that they were entitled to close Bridge Street for their own convenience. I find that an astonishing proposition. Nor, in my view, is any defence to be found in paragraph 9 in the Report, to which my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons referred, which states that after they had decided that what they would like would be a great building on the site of Bridge Street joining on with the present Palace, then, for the first time, they consulted some of the Ministries concerned, not to see whether this was desirable or a good thing, but to see whether it could be done.
Let me read some of the actual words:Having formed this preliminary view of the site and nature of the new accommodation, we invited the Minister of Public Building and Works to discuss our proposals with us. The Minister informed us that in his view it would be"—note the word—feasible to make available for Parliamentary purposesthe area which I have described. It would be feasible—it could be done—it would be possible. It was not said 1059 that it would be a good thing or desirable or that the values destroyed might not be infinitely greater than the benefits the House of Commons might derive. So much for their consultation with that Minister.
What about the consultation with the Minister of Transport? The Report says:The Minister also informed us that the Ministry of Transport considered that such a road offered the least objectionable substitute"—I am not joking—for Bridge Street.That was the utmost that could be obtained from the Minister of Transport.
Unless Parliament has gone mad, is it conceivable that we should decide great questions of town planning in a historic part of our capital city on the footing that the House of Commons say what they would like and then Government Departments, which ought to consider the requirements of town planning, consider whether it could conceivably be done and whether something is less objectionable than something else? It really is not good enough. I am delighted to find that I am not raising points which were not raised by honourable and right honourable gentlemen in another place. Remarks nearly parallel to what I am saying were said, at the beginning of his speech, by the honourable Member who sits on the Socialist Benches and represents Dagenham. What would be said by either House of Parliament if any outside body were to suggest that they would block one of the main arteries of traffic for their own convenience? It would be recognised at once that it was quite intolerable.
The noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, asked a Parliamentary Question on May 11, shortly after this Report had been received. I ventured to ask a supplementary question, because I was interested to know the position of Sir Leslie Martin's inquiry. Shortly before Mr. Speaker's Committee reported, he had been instructed to prepare an outline plan for Parliament Square, Bridge Street and Whitehall. I asked my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, who had answered the noble Lord's Question, whether legislation would be required to carry out the proposals of the Committee, to which the answer was, "Yes". Then I asked 1060 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol.258 (No. 73), col.4]:Secondly, am I right in assuming that the Instructions to Sir Leslie Martin to prepare an outline plan for Parliament Square, Bridge Street and Whitehall, still stand and are quite unaffected by a proposal recently emanating from a Committee of another place?To that, again, I got a satisfactory answer from my noble friend Lord Jellicoe. He said:My noble friend is quite right in his second assumption that the terms of reference given to Sir Leslie Martin stand.I hope that they still stand.
Now I will come at once to the point that causes me some alarm. I want to be assured—and I think the House wants to be assured—that Sir Leslie Martin is going to advise, not whether the closing of Bridge Street is feasible, but whether it is desirable. That I regard as absolutely vital. The reason why I was somewhat alarmed was the remark in the final speech of my right honourable friend the Minister of Public Building and Works in the debate the other day. This is what he said:Some solution of the traffic problem wider than the closing of Bridge Street may have to be adopted.I find those words alarming. What they suggest to me is that the closing of Bridge Street may not itself be sufficient and something wider may be required. I hope, on the other hand, that my noble friend Lord Jellicoe will be able to assure the House that it does not mean that, and it means that Sir Leslie Martin will be entirely free to say, what I believe is the conclusion of every serious town planner who has considered the matter, that the closing of Bridge Street would be a crime against town planning.
I wish to speak mainly, as I say, on the complete ignoring in this Committee's Report of the requirements of town planning, as was pointed out, I am glad to say, by several honourable and right honourable Members of another place. I wish to say a few words on the aesthetic matter that has been raised. The most pathetic and extraordinary feature of this whole Report is that the members of the Committee recommended a Gothic building on this site, in order, as they thought, to show respect for the work of Barry and Pugin. They really thought they were helping Barry 1061 and Pugin by completely destroying the balance of their building and making something which was described in an admirable letter to The Times, on May 8, as "something ludicrous in appearance". It would be completely ludicrous in appearance. Here I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Hailes. If one, in fact, built on this site, one might have an almost insoluble problem as to what the architect could do: because there is nothing he could do which would not destroy such value as the present group of buildings has. But, as my noble friend said, that is another argument against putting a building there.
As has been suggested by all the speakers who have preceded me—my noble friends Lord Stuart of Findhorn, and Lord Hailes, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—the right place for the development is the other side of Bridge Street. The letter in The Times was signed by Sir Robert Matthew, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects; Colin Buchanan, who is not only a traffic authority but the President of the Town Planning Institute, and by John Summerson. You could not get a more influentially signed letter. The letter pointed out that architecture, town planning and the preservation of an historic building all had claim to our respect. Every one of those considerations is destroyed by the proposal of this Committee.
All the points I have raised—and especially the architectural points—will, I know, be much better put by my noble friend Lord Esher and others. But I beg the House to realise that, while the need for increased accommodation for the Common s is not challenged, while the amount is not a subject which we wish to discuss in this House, the location of the new accommodation concerns us all, concerns the British public and concerns the future of our capital city and the self-respect of the nation.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ESHER
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships would have wished, as I do, that my father could have spoken in this debate. I think it is the sort of subject that would have suited him. Lord Chesterfield advised thatthose who possess wit should wear it like a sword in its scabbard and not brandish it to the terror of the whole company".1062 My father never had much regard for that recommendation, and I doubt whether he would have had much this evening.
I must confess that when this Report of the Speaker's Committee was read by most architects and planners their reaction was that it could not be taken seriously. With the passage of time, the joke has worn thin and ceased to be particularly funny, and I shall try this evening, so far as I can in a short speech, to take it as seriously as I believe one should. I shall take it, first, as a planning problem, and secondly, as a problem of architecture. As a planning problem, this is in miniature the problem of London as a whole. Cities grow in two ways: they grow by extension, and they grow by thickening up in the middle. One can see this thickening-up process in its early stages in any primitive African or Asian village, where family compounds increase and begin to impinge on one another. In London, this has been a worry for centuries. I believe that in the time of Queen Elizabeth I Parliament tried to nut a stop to the congestion in Central London, but without success. The Third Schedule of the 1947 Planning Act, by which people were allowed an extra 10 per cent. of the volume of the buildings already on their sites when they rebuilt, was a sort of latter-day recognition of this ancient and, by now, obsolete principle of growth.
Only recently have planners come to realise that it must stop. I think it is true to say that any business or industry in Central London that must expand has only three ways of doing it. The first, of course, is to move right out; the second is to decentralise partially; and the third, if it can afford it, is to buy more land and develop close by. The one thing that we can no longer tolerate in Central London is that expansion should take the form of the eating up of amenities, open space or road space. Yet this is what Mr. Speaker's Committee in fact proposes to do.
We cannot prejudice the report of the consultants, but it seems impossible to believe that the proposal to place a building across the approach to one of the busiest bridges in Central London will commend itself to Professor Buchanan as a helpful contribution to 1063 the traffic problems of the Metropolis. It seems so obvious that in these circumstances one keeps one's fighting troops in the line, and one pulls out one's administration, one's ancillary units, whatever they may be. I am not naïve enough to suggest which they should be. The essential point is, as the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and other noble Lords have said, that Parliament must fit in to a rational pattern for Central London, and must not itself break the rules it imposes upon other people.
I come to questions of architecture. When people argue about the style for a new project, it generally means that something is wrong either with the arguers or with the project. Your Lordships will remember the fuss about whether the chimney of the Bankside power station should be designed as a campanile because it was embarrassingly close to St. Paul's. This question arose, of course, because a power station should never have been placed in such a position. The famous argument about the style for the new Foreign Office could be said to have been not a question of a bad project, but of something wrong with the arguers.
The Speaker's Committee, having settled for a bad project, a bad scheme, finds itself advocating, and having to dress it in, a dead style. Now I dare say a group of ancient pensioners could be gathered together at great expense to carve the stone, or maybe what Sir Basil Spence calls regurgitated stone would have to be used. Has anyone considered the interior? The insides of buildings and their outsides must have some relationship. They have to share the windows, for one thing. Is the interior to be in Puginese? Are the desks and furniture to be what most of us hoped never to see again when we said goodbye to our headmasters in their studies? But, of course, we were wrong. What a spectacle for the Mother—or should one say the Grandmother?—of Parliaments. It is true that Barry had plans for extending the Palace of Westminster. Barry also had plans for demolishing St. Margaret's. Great architects make great mistakes. I should perhaps add that one should still consult architects about buildings—having first made sure that they are still alive!
1064 So far as living architects are concerned, I think we all accepted Mr. Speaker's Committee's Report as a useful indication, not of how the problem should be solved, but of how strongly the Committee felt that it should be solved in a handsome and imaginative way. We saw it as part of the build-up of the brief now in the hands of Sir Leslie Martin. Many of us also accepted it as an implicit and deserved rebuke to the kind of dehumanised architecture of which we have seen too much recently in the centre of London. We accepted appeals made in another place for a bit of fantasy in the same spirit. We accepted all this. We welcomed it. What we could not accept was that the Speaker's Committee should not merely state the problem, but seek to solve it. What we could also not accept was a slight tone of arrogance in the individual statements of one or two members of the Committee, as though the interests of Members of Parliament had some sort of priority over the interests of the man in the street outside. In a matter of this kind Parliament has unique powers to act in a dictatorial fashion. It follows, I suggest, that it has a unique responsibility not to do so.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, it is my pleasant duty to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, on a most interesting and knowledgeable maiden speech. We all remember his noble father and the contributions he made to our debates over the years, mainly on the Arts, and we are very glad to know that there is still a Viscount Esher who has contributed so nobly this afternoon and, we hope, will continue to speak in this House on many future occasions. We have also heard a most interesting maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Hailes, who, in addition to Lord Esher, speaks with specialised knowledge of these matters. We hope that he will also contribute to the debates on many future occasions.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, said at the beginning of his speech, this is really an exploratory debate, as no decisions seem to have been made. We are indebted to him for raising the subject and for giving this House an opportunity to say something on it, because, as my noble friend Lord Silkin said, it is a matter which concerns both 1065 Houses of Parliament and not just the Members of another place. The general opinion of this debate seems to have been—and it is an opinion with which I agree—that the suggestion that has been put up by Mr. Speaker's Committee that the Palace should be extended over Bridge Street is one that is not acceptable. In fact, it seems to me such an extraordinary suggestion—I say this with every respect to the Committee—that I cannot really believe that it has ever been made. It seems like some extraordinary kind of nightmare, the kind of thing that one wakes up and thinks about in the middle of the night and then when one comes to the daylight one realises that it is just some fantasy of the small hours.
It seems to me absolutely extraordinary that the Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has said so rightly, should really suggest blotting out one of the main arteries of London's traffic, one of the main roads across one of the most important bridges. And why? To suit the convenience of Members. In other words, because it appears that Members may find it undignified to walk under a subway, the convenience of the public and of the traffic of London is to be prejudiced, and any consideration of town planning, as the noble Viscount, Lord Esher has said, should be swept away. One hopes that this crazy plan will never come to fruition. It seems to me to smack of arrogance. It takes no account of the feelings or convenience of the public; in fact, I should not have thought that it would encourage respect among the public and the electorate towards the Mother of Parliaments.
This plan is not only arrogant, but, like so many arrogant assumptions, it is also barbaric, because it takes no account of the aesthetic design of the Palace. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, said, the original design of the Palace was very carefully considered by its architects. The facade was planned around the two towers, one at each end, with Big Ben forming the corner of the eastward end. If this plan to extend the façade goes through it will mean that Big Ben, instead of being at that end, will be in the middle of the façade, and so will lose, I think, a great deal of its grandeur. That seems to me a very high price to pay for the convenience of a few Members who wish to work in the House.
1066 I believe that there is a lot to be said for the other suggestion made by the most noble Lords in this debate, that any extended building should be constructed on the other side of Bridge Street. I see no reason why, if this plan is finally accepted, such an extension should not he connected to the main block by a subway. I cannot see what the objections are to subways. I spend a great deal of my life, and so do the the vast majority of people, in subways. We go down subways to the Underground, and we go along a fine subway under Hyde Park Corner in which there are some very attractive murals. It seems to me not to be beyond the power of ingenuity of modern architects to build a subway worthy of the Houses of Parliament. So if the subway is the main objection, it is one which I feel could easily be overcome.
Another suggestion, instead of building on the other side of Bridge Street, would be to extend along New Palace Yard northwards—I believe that that is part of the original design which was envisaged. It seems to me that this as an alternative plan would be preferable to building over Bridge Street. If the buildings were kept low they would not spoil the view from Parliament Square. In fact, I think it would be rather attractive to have a quadrangle in the middle and to do away with the car park.
I wonder whether consideration is being given to the construction of an underground car park beneath Parliament Square, where there are not many trees. That would make an excellent place for a car park, and would mean that cars did not have to be parked in New Palace Yard. At present, the car park outside your Lordships' House is becoming so full that it is getting very difficult to get to the House at all. My taxi-driver this evening could not find a way in, because there were so many cars in the car park. I think that not only Members of the other place but your Lordships also need a car park.
My Lords, wherever the new extension is built the question of design is most important. As other noble Lords have said, I hope that this will not be merely a reproduction of the old Gothic style. I happen to be one of those who admire the Palace of Westminster enormously. I regard it as one of the most impressive buildings in London. I happen to 1067 admire St. Pancras Station, too, which I think is a very lovely building, as was said by noble Lords who spoke earlier. It would be a great mistake if we were to attempt to build an imitation of the Victorian neo-Gothic. After all, every architectural style should mirror the taste and aspirations of the age. The neo-Gothic eminently mirrored a great deal of the civilisation of the Victorian era, and they built in that style very well; but I think it is a style which, if we tried to follow it, would really be dead. I think a pastiche of what is, after all, a pastiche, although rather an attractive one would be absolutely intolerable. I see no reason why a dignified contemporary style should not match well with the neo-Gothic of the main façade. After all, we had that same kind of problem with Coventry Cathedral, and I think that most people agree that the modern building harmonises very well with the Gothic ruins of the old cathedral.
Those are the only points I wish to make, and we shall be very interested to hear whether the Government have made up their minds about any of these points. One certainly hopes that reconsideration will be given not only to the question of the design, but also to the siting of the extension. What we build now will, we hope, stand for many years to come, and therefore we must ensure that any decisions made now are the right ones, not only for the next decade but for many decades ahead.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, I should like to intervene very briefly in this debate, and I am encouraged to do so by the tenor of the speeches which have been made, speeches with which I have been entirely in agreement. I must confess that I hesitated to take part because of my own ignorance of architecture, but having listened to these speeches I have come, rather rashly perhaps, to these conclusions.
The plan is very Philistine in that it ignores the present buildings of historic beauty and wishes to add on to them in the old style. The plan is utterly inadequate, I think, because, since I have spoken to one or two people who know more about this than I do, it seems to me that it does not give enough space 1068 to Members of Parliament, and Members of Parliament need much more space than they have asked for. The plan is utterly unpractical because of the traffic in Bridge Street. I think that the members of the Committee should have tried to cross Bridge Street, let us say, two or three times during the day while they were meeting, and they would then have some idea of the amount of traffic, both cars and pedestrians, that passes along this street.
The plan seems to me to be an absolute affront to our modern architects. Not all of us may like a great deal of modern architecture, but we cannot exclude or ignore the whole of modern architecture. We have some extremely good architects and I think this is really an affront to them. It seems to me that we are losing a really great opportunity to have a modern building across Bridge Street, one of grace and dignity and much more full of the amenities that Members of Parliament require to-day.
§ 8.0 p.m.
My Lords, it seems to me that there is one avenue which we have not explored; at any rate, it does not seem to me to have been explored in another place, and I have not heard anyone mention it here to-night. We want 100,000 square feet, and we have under our feet 8 acres. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, I do not want to spoil the opportunity of putting up a really splendid modern building on the other side of Bridge Street, but if this proves unpractical for various reasons, cannot we examine the possibilities of going underground? There is no reason why modern engineers, with modern air conditioning and modern lighting and decoration, should not provide all that is needed under our feet. Again, with modern lifts one can get up and down very much more quickly than one can move horizontally. It seems to me this is an aspect which could be used in conjunction with a very good modern building on the other side of Bridge Street, or could take its place. I should be very interested to know from the noble Earl who is to reply whether any explorations of this field have been made.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, this debate has been notable in a number of 1069 ways, not least for the fact that I have never heard two ex-Chief Whips from another place speaking here in the same debate. The noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailes, having been silent so long—permitted to say only "To-morrow" or whatever they are allowed to say in another place—have both been very eloquent, and it is quite clear that the House is in general support and very grateful to the noble Viscount. I think it was a rather courageous thing to bring such a hot subject before the House. We have had two maiden speeches which we have obviously very much enjoyed.
If I may say so, without wishing in any way to sound patronising, I think we were all struck by the depth of the feelings of the noble Lord, Lord Hailes, feelings with which I think we are all very much in sympathy, even though some of us may hesitate to express ourselves as clearly and strongly as he did. Of course, in regard to the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, everybody is obviously sitting comfortably back and saying, "Well, deeply though we regret that his father is not with us, we are going to get the same sort of quality of speech from him", and his speech was both wise and enjoyable. In fact, they have been two very notable maiden speeches.
The striking thing is the degree of agreement there is in the House on this subject. My noble friend Lord Silkin unfortunately was not very well and had to leave, but I think most noble Lords—in fact, all noble Lords—would agree with his view. Broadly, we are against the Advisory Committee—indeed, not merely broadly. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, objects to the word "broadly", in any event, and I was interested to hear that he had to correct his own English in the course of his speech, which was satisfying. Noble Lords are in fact definitely against the proposals of the Advisory Committee. I should like to say something in defence. I think we took something a little heavily, and I would only say—and I do not want in return to be heavy—I think it is not conducive to good relations between the two Houses to talk about arrogance. I say no more on that. Honourable Members in another place as those noble Lords who have been there will agree, are always under tre- 1070 mendous pressure, and we must be sympathetic; and the really rather desperate efforts they make to break out of this place have led to proposals which were well worth while making, because we have been able, I hope, to dispose of them, and I hope we have disposed of them once and for all.
Of course, if we were going to build an extension to the Barry building, it would, I think, have been logical and consistent with what has been done, particularly in Oxford quads, whether Christ Church or Magdalen, to go on with the Gothic. But we who have to spend so much time in a Gothic building—and the interiors are at times more distressing than the exteriors—would be particularly allergic. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, is going to refer to Peckwater Quad.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I was going to say that Christ Church is about to build but will do nothing of the sort suggested.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am sure we are agreed at the present moment that the solution of the particular Gothic style is one that is not "on". But, against this, I am not too happy about the idea—I obviously bow to the views of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. It is extra-ordinarily difficult to join different architectural styles. I think of Hampton Court, between Elizabethan and William and Mary. It happens to be a place where I live, and I am deeply fond of it, but at times one is worried about it. In any case, it is quite clear that, for perfectly sound planning reasons, which every noble Lord has given, this particular Gothic extension must be ruled out, and that the extension of Parliament must come on the other side of Bridge Street.
I am not even sure that the proposals that the Committee have put forward are architecturally sound. I have talked to one or two of my friends, and I am not quite sure whether they would not run into the gravest difficulties when they started examining the proposals. I am not quite sure how this easy connection, certainly at ground level, is going to take place. I am not quite sure how one is going to walk through Big Ben, which one might have to do at certain levels.
1071 In any case, the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, said the problem of windows—the fenestration argument, I think someone in another place called it—is really decisive. I think we must await the proposals of Sir Leslie Martin. I think it was shown reasonably satisfactorily by Sir William Holford in the study he did—and it was no more than a study, and therefore any suggestion that it has been rejected is a little premature—that it was feasible to provide the necessary accommodation the other side of Bridge Street; and now the Metropolitan Police are moving there is ample space for all that is needed.
I am very sympathetic, and I hope other noble Lords will be, as to the need for extra accommodation. It has been suggested that they are really rather overdoing it in asking for T.V. studios, and things like that, but the fact remains that in the future Ministers and Members of Parliament will frequently have occasion to go on television, and it is sensible for reasonable facilities to be provided. My only feeling—and this is a purely personal one—is that I would very much rather we moved to the other side of Bridge Street and had a decent building to work in, so that we did not have little notes passed round telling us the temperature is over 70 in the Chamber; I can never understand why we do it. And I like the vision of the other place, on the summons of Black Rod, standing on a moving staircase, proceeding to listen to the Royal Assent being given to Bills. Since the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, looks a little worried, let me assure him this is not a serious suggestion. It is a fact that the House of Lords must remain where it is for all sorts of constitutional reasons, and I feel it would be desirable that some thought should be given at some stage to our convenience also.
The proposed extensions, even if they were to go North of Bridge Street, would be most expensive, costing several million pounds. It is just conceivable (I hope that this remark will not be conducive to bad relations with another place) that one might "do a deal" with Members of Parliament and suggest that their pay was put up in return for saving the money on the extra accommodation, which, if I may say so, is a much more urgent and much more pressing need. 1072 But, quite clearly, we have to wait for Sir Leslie Martin's Report. Here I think that the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, might be a little reassured when we see that Professor Colin Buchanan is advising Sir Leslie Martin on the traffic aspect. None the less, I share his anxiety. The fact is that another place did pass a Resolution and, so far as we know, the Minister of Public Building and Works is now busy pursuing the necessary technical and professional inquiries arising from the Committee's recommendations. So presumably the Government are getting on with the job of seeing how they might put these particular proposals into effect.
It may be a delicate matter for the noble Earl to say that these inquiries will not go too far. But I think that what the House is asking for is a quite definite assurance that we shall look at the whole of this area of London as one piece; that the proposed good planning, comments on which have certainly been expressed strongly to-day, will be applied most necessarily to all of this particular area of London.
If we look too far ahead it is doubtful whether it is going to be easy to design buildings that will last as far into the future as some of the buildings of the past have done. I think that possibly architectural and scientific developments may present a quite different picture, but I hope that at least the necessary planning considerations will be predominant, and that proper consideration (I will not go into the question of the Foreign Office, which has also been heavily discussed) will be given to this whole matter. I think that is what your Lordships' House has tried to say, and indeed has said, with one voice. I feel that the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, can be satisfied with the results of his initiative.
§ 8.14 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE FOR THE ROYAL NAVY (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, I am sure we are all glad that my noble friend put down this Motion to-day. First, and not least, I am personally glad because I know that the whole House was glad that this Motion has given my noble friend Lord Hailes the launching pad from which to project himself into his first orbit in your Lordships' House. It was, as I am sure all your 1073 Lordships will agree, a faultless first flight—a case, I think, as the horrible jargon goes, of "Hailes, all systems go." I am glad, too, that my noble friend has joined that small but select trade union of former Chief Whips who have migrated to us from another place, and that even more select, and even smaller, trade union of former Ministers of Works. I am certain that all your Lordships will wish to witness many more oratorical flights by our migrant and far too often mute maidens.
Likewise, we are all equally glad that this debate has given us the first opportunity to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. Like many other noble Lords, I well remember his father in your Lordships' House, his wisdom and the shafts of gaiety and wit which he used to throw into our debates, sometimes upsetting them quite considerably. I am glad that we have heard the noble Viscount making his maiden speech in this House. I think we all knew that he would say something significant and add something significant to this debate. He did not disappoint us, and I am sure we wish to hear him often, because he will be a powerful reinforcement to what I would call the "Conesford-Conesford axis"—the planning, amenity and architectural lobby in your Lordships' House. But I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for saying that there was one phrase which touched me on the quick—namely, when he spoke in a slightly different context of thickening up in the middle. For those of our Lordships who are perforce on a diet, I found this much too evocative and painful a phrase.
We are also indebted to my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn for ventilating this important subject in your Lordships' House this evening. I think the future plans for this Palace of Westminster are a matter of great public concern, and I also think that it is right that they should be so. I myself believe that it is not fanciful to suppose that the character of national Assemblies can be quite powerfully influenced by their physical environment. The Greeks were right—and so were the Romans: I will not add to the list—to lavish a great deal of care on their public buildings, and I am sure that we shall be right to continue to lavish care on this building.
As this debate has gone on it has shown that the proposals we are 1074 discussing not only affect this Palace of Westminster but may well affect also the whole character of the Whitehall scene. Greater changes are afoot, or planned, in Whitehall than at any time since 1857, when Charles Barry produced his scheme, which was abortive, for refashioning the whole Whitehall scene. In my view, it is right that public opinion should be exercised about these proposed changes. It was right that they should be debated in another place recently, and again I feel it right that your Lordships should have given such close attention to this matter this evening.
It was the noble Lord, Lord Silkin (he has kindly let me know that he has had to leave your Lordships' House) who called our minds to the fact that the proposals which we are discussing have a long pedigree. There was the Stanhope Committee of 1944–45. There were the Select Committees of another place in 1953 and 1954. There was the Advisory Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir James Duncan. There were the Holford proposals which flowed from that Advisory Committee's Report. There was the criticism of those proposalsߞnot of Sir William Holford, but more of his terms of referenceߞin another place last August, before the other place broke up for its summer holidays. Following that there was the appointment of this particular Advisory Committee, and the appointment last April, by my right honourable friend the Minister of Public Building and Works, of Sir Leslie Martin as a consultant for the whole Whitehall area. Then, later, there was the twin appointment of Professor Colin Buchanan to advise Sir Leslie Martin on the traffic implications. These, I think, are the backcloth against which we have this evening discussed the specific proposals of the Advisory Committee.
I think that it is true to say that this discussion has shown a large measure of agreement in your Lordships' House on certain basic principles. For example, we are all agreed that another place has a crying need for more accommodation if those who work there are to work in anything approaching modern conditions. The Government certainly accept that something of the order of 100,000 square feet of additional space is required by another place. It is needed for more office accommodation. The present provision, or lack of provision 1075 is quite unworthy of the dignity of the Mother of Parliaments, and, equally important, it is not conducive to its efficiency.
There is a need for more Committee space. More room is required for catering. Visitors to another place need better provision made for them. There may well prove to be a need for some form of assembly hall with really modern facilities. There is certainly the need for adequate on-the-spot broadcasting and television facilities for members of another place, for Ministers, and indeed for those Members of your Lordships' House who feel like taking to the air or to the screen. Far better arrangements are required in another place for the Press; and last, but by no means least, the cribbed, cabined and confined conditions in which so many people so faithfully support the infrastructure of another place need radical improvement. All this is agreed. It is certainly agreed, or should I say endorsed, by Her Majesty's Government.
I think, too, we all accept the point made by my noble friend Lord Hailes that we cannot gain this extra and essential elbow-room by merely juggling with the available accommodation in the Palace and trying to gain a square foot here or a square inch there. As to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, I am not, I am afraid, up to date about the extent to which we have considered burrowing. I will inquire about it and get in touch with the noble Lord. I see no reason why it should not be considered. In any event, we are faced with the problem of an overall shortage of accommodation, and the only way in which the situation can be radically improved—and it needs radical improvement—is by new building. Moreover, and I think your Lordships will be agreed on this, the new building must be situated very close to the present seat of Government.
I am inclined to think that the area of agreement disclosed this evening is wider than this. I feel that all of us are at one in thinking that this tricky problem of Parliamentary elbow-room must be considered not in isolation but as a very important feature in the future planning of the whole Whitehall/Westminster area. This is the true 1076 measure of the significance of the appointment of Sir Leslie Martin. He is required to make certain, among other things, that the various proposals for redevelopment in this whole area are related to each other and have regard to the general architectural character of this vital area, the kernel of our capital city. He is asked specifically to advise on the relationship of the proposed new Parliamentary building to the present precincts of this Palace. I can therefore give the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the definite assurance for which he has asked, that all this will be considered as a whole and not in isolated fragments.
Finally, your Lordships probably are also agreed that the future plans for the Palace of Westminster, and indeed for the Whitehall area as a whole, must take account of the need to bear traffic considerations in mind. That is why my noble friend has appointed one who is by general consent reckoned to be a leading, if not the leading, expert in this field in London, Professor Colin Buchanan, to assist Sir Leslie Martin in his work. Clearly, this great area must never be a slave to traffic; but, equally clearly, it must be planned with traffic considerations in mind. We all know how wide the repercussions of a traffic jam in Parliament Square can be. We have all had experience of it, whether we have been Peers going off to a party in Paddington (if there are any Peers who go there), or stockbrokers hurrying home late for their suppers in Sussex. That is why the Government feel it is very important that the traffic aspects of this area must be borne clearly in mind.
I should like to come to the point on which my noble friend Lord Conesford was particularly concerned, and that is how Sir Leslie Martin's terms of reference and responsibility now stand on the Bridge Street question. On that I would merely say that these terms of reference are perfectly clear. A prime issue on which he is required to report is whether or not Bridge Street should be realigned. Those terms of reference have in no wise changed. On that I can repeat the assurance which I gave my noble friend some little time ago. That means that Sir Leslie Martin is perfectly free, if he so wishes, to advise against the proposed realignment of Bridge 1077 Street. To that assurance, which I hope my noble friend will find satisfactory, I would add only this: that my right honourable friend the Minister for Public Building and Works has undertaken that Parliament will be consulted before effect is given to Sir Leslie Martin's recommendation. That is the only qualification I would place on that assurance to my noble friend.
So much for the area of agreement. There is possibly less agreement on what is the best scheme for this Palace in particular, and how best that scheme could be fitted in with the plans for Whitehall as a whole. Judging by what I have heard in this House this evening, there is a fair consensus of opinion on what could be one of the worst schemes. But I do not think we have gone very far—and this is understandable—towards a solution of this particular problem. Your Lordships have made clear what you do not think would be a good solution to this particular problem. On that there is little I could say. Sir Leslie Martin is due to report early in the New Year, and his report will clearly affect the whole question of the best site for the new Parliamentary building. I am sure we should be wise to reserve our judgment on the question of the site, whether it should be attached, detached or semi-detached, until Sir Leslie Martin's report is received.
The same, I would suggest, applies, though more so, to the question of style. I do not myself wish to come down on one side or the other this evening, and it would not be right for me to do so on the question of style, as I should be expressing only a personal preference. But I should like to throw out these observations. I feel (and I suspect your Lordships agree, judging by what has been said this evening), that while the style of the new building is important, its scale and proportions may be even more important. Again, we should all agree that the architectural character of this Palace must have some influence on the design of a new Parliamentary building. But this does not, of course, necessarily mean that a new Parliamentary building, wherever it is built, need have a Gothic façade. Also, in considering this matter we cannot entirely ignore the question of cost and finance, to which my noble friend Lord Hailes drew our attention. I suspect that 1078 these observations are entirely trite and entirely non-committal on this particular point—at least I hope they are—because I feel that at this stage it is very much a question of "waiting for Martin".
That said, my Lords, I would merely wish, in conclusion, to repeat to your Lordships the very definite assurances which my right honourable friend has given: that before any "go-ahead" is given on this matter, whether in whole or in any significant part, Parliament will be consulted and will have a full chance of seeing and discussing whatever may be proposed. By the same token, my right honourable friend will in the meantime wish to weigh, and to weigh very carefully, the advice which he has received, in another place recently and this evening in your Lordships' House.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, may I just say that I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Jellicoe for the trouble he has taken and for the speech which he has just delivered. I do not think any of us expected anything very definite to be stated by the Government or by other speakers. My objective—and I hope it was a useful one—was to provide an opportunity for Members to express their opinions before definite decisions are taken. So I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part, and I hope that it has been a useful debate.
I have nothing else to say, my Lords, except to add my congratulations to the two noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches here this evening: they were most interesting and valuable contributions to our debate. One or two noble Lords referred to Lord Esher's father, whom I also remember here. But I can go one better than that, and tell the noble Viscount that I remember the occasion when, 52 years ago, his grandfather came to have tea with me at school on a very hot July afternoon. To my surprise he refused to eat either very hot sausages or eggs—and I had spent most of my savings on them. But that was just too bad. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.