§ 3.3 p.m.
§ THE PAYMASTER GENERAL (VISCOUNT ECCLES)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. The Bill provides the second and last instalment of money from the Exchequer for building the National Theatre and equipping the Museum of London. It may be for the convenience of the House if I say a word first about the Museum of London. The capital cost of this most attractive project, between £4 million and £5 million, is shared equally by the City of London, the G.L.C. and the Government and is being financed by loans. The cost of the furnishing of the Museum was treated separately and for this purpose the Government agreed to give a grant of £150,000. The City of London and G.L.C. did not assume any responsibility for this item of expenditure.
Last year the Museum authorities, who are fortunate to have my noble friend Lord Harcourt as their chairman, informed us that the scale and costs of the furnishing and equipment had proved to be much greater than at first estimated. They made a convincing case but we felt that the Government could not go further than to double the sum originally promised. Accordingly the figure in the Bill is now £300,000 in place of £150,000. It may be that to do all that the Museum want to do will cost rather more; if so, I understand that there are prospects that some additional funds from other sources will be forthcoming.
My Lords, the joining together of the collections now at Kensington Palace and at the Guildhall and their display at the Barbican will enrich the City of London with a new and remarkably interesting 972 museum. Together with the theatre, concert-hall and art centre the Museum of London will form part of the most ambitious art complex in the country. I am sure that other large cities will watch to see how successful an arts centre of this size can be in the heart of a district largely deserted in the evening. What will happen there and at what time of day? I hope no effort will be spared, not just to attract some of those who now visit Trafalgar Square, or go to the West End or the South Bank but to win a new kind of user for the whole range of these facilities, including the Museum, that are in the making on the Barbican site. For instance, I would think that the peak activity in all these buildings could well he from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. so that city workers find it convenient to go straight from their office to whatever part of the centre interests them. I should think, for example, that it would be better for the Museum to open from 12 o'clock in the morning until 7 o'clock at night rather than during the normal hours of from 10 o'clock until 5 o'clock. I hope, too, that in many large offices within the city's square mile there will be found one or two, or more, enthusiasts who will recruit and run a Barbican centre supporters' club. The more new opportunities that are provided to enjoy the arts the more attention we shall have to pay to the build-up of regular large audiences. There is no doubt that within a large office building, or maybe a Government Department, where a supporter's club is enthusiastically operated one gets the hard core of a regular audience.
Turning now to the National Theatre, this is an older and more costly project; its history goes back a long way. I can remember 50 years ago first meeting Dame Edith Lyttelton and being told by her in that forceful manner that no boy could forget that we were being faithless to the English tradition of drama unless we established a national theatre. Dame Edith handed on the cause to her son, Oliver, and had it not been for the untiring efforts of the late Lord Chandos we should not be debating this Bill to-day.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide extra money so that the buildings on the South Bank may be completed without that skimping of the finishes, which, for little saving in money, has detracted from the quality of many of our post-war 973 public buildings. Your Lordships will recall that the G.L.C. gave the site for the theatre in exchange for the triangular site opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum, and out of their own resources agreed to provide extra parking. The cost of the building itself was divided equally between the G.L.C. and the Government, each undertaking to provide half of £7.5 million. It was thought in 1969 that this sum would be enough, although I must add that in order to keep within the £7½, million certain items were dropped or postponed. This was, I feel, an unfortunate decision. In the event, costs rose faster than anticipated and the South Bank Theatre Board, of which my noble friend Lord Cottesloe is chairman, and I hope he is going to intervene in the debate, came and told us that the building could not be completed, even as a shell, without a large additional sum. The G.L.C., having regard to their responsibility for the site and the extra parking, were unwilling to add more than £350,000 to the half of £7.5 million to which they were already committed. The total now required for building is £9.2 million. The Government have therefore to find £1.35 million towards the additional £1.7 million. But this is not all, because the Board and their architect very properly pointed out that some of the items which in 1969 they had been persuaded to drop from the schedule ought to be reinstated. I agreed with them and in a moment will explain why. Towards the cost of these items we are asking Parliament for £600,000, and therefore we need to provide in the Bill for £1.95 as the final instalment of Government money. Mr. Denys Lasdun the architect (and there is none better) has assured me that he can make a fine building within this maximum figure, and he knows there can be no coming back for more money.
The major item now restored to the schedule is the completing and equipment of the third auditorium. I believe that Sir Max Rayne, who succeeded the late Lord Chandos as chairman of the National Theatre, and Mr. Peter Hall, the director-designate, have in mind that in the smaller of the two large theatres which form the core of the new building there will be seasons of drama on some particular theme or of some particular author's works, while in the larger of these two theatres the company will play their classical repertoire. It follows, or at 974 least it seems so to me, that a third and smaller theatre—say, 200 seats—would not be a fringe frivolity but an absolute necessity. Here all the new techniques in the theatre can be tried out, and as your Lordships know new ideas in this aspect of drama come forward nowadays hot and fast. Obviously, this experimentally equipped theatre is not going to be a cheap project. The electronic and other modern devices which should be provided must be expected to cost a lot of money. With the additional £600,000 it will be possible to do the job well and at the same time not to skimp the equipment and finishes in the rest of the building.
My Lords, it may be that the professional men of the theatre are thinking mostly of new equipment and new ways in which plays can be produced for a live audience, and we all wish them well in keeping the National Theatre ahead in these modern developments. But for my part, I think also of how to televise the exceptional talent in the National Theatre Company in productions that will reach millions of viewers who never, by any stretch of the imagination, could visit the South Bank and see the plays live. Of course one expects that as a result of a larger National Theatre Company having three auditoria at their South Bank base the National Company will do more touring in the Provinces and overseas. But for the very great majority of the public here at home, in the European Community and beyond, the touring of the future will be by television, direct, by cable or on cassettes. For this reason, I gave it as my opinion that the National Theatre building should contain an auditorium which from the first could be used as the equal of the most modern television studio.
The professional artists, who are the recipients of the ever-growing subsidies from the State, I believe realise that as the contributions from the taxpayers increase so the obligation increases to return to the general public more of the fruit of their respective arts, and they are showing that they are ready to do this. We can see already that the link-up between our great national companies performing in the heart of London and the television networks is providing both a means to reach a much larger audience and an additional source of revenue. I 975 do not know how many of your Lordships saw the Independent Television screening of the Glyndebourne production of Verdi's Macbeth. I thought it was marvellous music and well worth doing; but I wondered whether, if it had been produced for television, certain scenes like that concerning the witches would not have come off much better. I have dwelt on this aspect of the National Theatre because I wanted to tell your Lordships that the money which we are asking for in this Bill (and it is a large sum) is not only for the benefit of a small section of the public, but will result in better theatre for all. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Viscount Eccles.)
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I am sure the House is grateful to the noble Viscount for explaining the provisions of this Bill. I am rather surprised that he dealt with it the wrong way round, in what I may describe as rather an Alice Through the Looking Glass manner. I think there was a character in a play by Samuel Beckett—one of our most interesting playwrights—who used to like to read books backwards. Possibly the noble Viscount is such a person. I am afraid that I have a more mundane mind, and I should therefore like to deal with the Bill in the order in which it is printed. Nevertheless, as I say, we are grateful to the noble Viscount for explaining the reasons for it. I think that probably he wanted to lead us into it gently, starting with the small sum first and leading up to the much greater sum. This is an important Bill. It is of course a Money Bill, but it enables us to make some general remarks about these two important institutions, and I am glad that the noble Viscount touched on one or two points in the general arts field.
The noble Viscount paid tribute to one or two people in the early days. I should like to pay a tribute to my noble friend Lady Lee of Asheridge, who I am glad to see is here to-day, for the great part she played in these two projects; also to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who was then Chairman of the Arts Council, and to the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, who I am pleased to see is going to speak this afternoon and who is of course a distinguished former Chairman 976 of the Arts Council and the present Chairman of the South Bank Theatre Board. I am sure that we shall all listen with the greatest interest to what he has to say. I also do not forget the late Lord Morrison of Lambeth for the major part that he played in opening up the South Bank. Many of us remember the time when this area was covered with industrial warehouses and are able to compare it with what it is now.
My Lords, I understand, as the noble Viscount has said, that this extra money, nearly £2 million, is to be provided by the Exchequer as the G.L.C. are not willing to give any more. Do the Government really think that this will be enough? The noble Viscount mentioned in connection with the Museum that some private donations were expected; but the much larger sum will be provided to the Theatre, and remembering the astronomical rate of inflation that we have had in recent years, and more particularly, I think, in the last two years, I hope the Government feel that this will be enough. I must also ask whether there will he sufficient funds for decoration, and particularly for the small experimental theatre and studio which the noble Viscount mentioned. I was interested to see that in Clause 1(1) the Bill refers to "the cost of erecting and equipping" as far as the theatre is concerned, but subsection (2), relating to the Museum of London, refers to "the cost of furnishing and equipping". I wonder why the word "furnishing" has been omitted from subsection (1).
The noble Viscount also referred to the old site at South Kensington, originally chosen for the Theatre in the 1930s. I remember very well the outcry it caused. People said, I think rightly, that this was quite the wrong place for a theatre to be—that is, in museum land. Nevertheless, the foundation stone was laid and I believe it is still there behind the hoardings. I should like to ask the Government what plans they have for this site, because it would be a pity if the property developers got hold of it. They always seem to like island sites and we do not want to wake up one morning and find another Centre Point shooting up. The site must also be a very valuable one, and perhaps the noble Viscount would tell us whether there is some money coming from it.
977 I should like to raise the question of the Old Vic Theatre after the National Theatre Company leave for the South Bank. I believe the Royal Shakespeare Company proposes to go to the Barbican in 1977, and presumably would not need to use the Old Vic as an extra theatre. It has been suggested that the Old Vic should be used by the English Stage Company, who I think need a larger theatre than the Royal Court in Sloane Square, where they are doing such splendid work. Although I realise that this is not the direct responsibility of the Government, I should like to ask the Minister what ideas he has for the future of the Old Vic and also of the Young Vic—because we really must have something worthy of the memory of that great lady, Lilian Bayliss.
I believe it is generally accepted everywhere that London has the best theatre in the world. It must be the responsibility of all concerned to see that our National Theatre has as fine a home as we can possibly give it. Much more needs to be done to make the South Bank less arid. The buildings look beautiful from across the river, either in the winter through the grisaille which Monet loved so much, or on summer nights when the lights are shining; but it can also be a very forbidding place, particularly in the winter. Buildings are, of course, built for people. I am glad to see that the G.L.C. are planning to plant more trees, particularly between the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery, which is at present a very barren prospect. I welcome this and I am also glad to see that the National Theatre will be surrounded eventually by trees, shrubs and grass. Of course, what we need to achieve in the future is something more like the river at Twickenham, rather than a concrete desert.
Turning to the Museum of London, which is to be part of the Barbican scheme, as the noble Viscount said, I understand that the intention is to move the London Museum from Kensington Palace and combine it with the contents of the Guildhall Museum. It is surely right that the Guildhall Museum should be in the City itself and that it should be part of a new centre. The Museum was housed originally in Lancaster House, and after the War was transferred to Kensington 978 Palace—a transfer for which His late Majesty, King George VI, very generously and readily gave permission. I should like to ask the noble Viscount what future is planned for these rooms in Kensington Palace after the Museum has moved. Here again, I very much hope that the extra sum in the Bill will be sufficient. I am glad to hear of the generous donations that have been promised and which were mentioned by the noble Viscount. We need, and must have, a Museum which is worthy of our great capital city.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ LORD COTTESLOE
My Lords, perhaps I might be allowed, as Chairman of the Board which is building the National Theatre on the South Bank—a Board that will draw upon the moneys which this Bill will make available—to welcome the Bill and to thank my noble friend Lord Eccles for all that he has done to provide this most welcome subvention.
The National Theatre Act 1969 made available for this purpose—a purpose of which many aspects, such as the design of the auditoriums, and so on, are highly controversial, but which is politically a non-controversial, all-Party purpose—a sum of £3¾ million from the Exchequer, it having been agreed by the Greater London Council that they should find an equal sum to make up the total of £7½,million, which at that time was the estimated cost of the project. The Greater London Council most generously undertook also, as my noble friend said, to provide the superb site on the South Bank opposite Somerset House and alongside Waterloo Bridge—a site of which the present value is estimated at £7 million—in exchange for the old National Theatre freehold site in South Kensington, the size and value of which can be no more than a fraction of those of the South Bank site.
I will not go back into the early history of this project, which began in 1848. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has referred to one or two of the people who were actively concerned in putting this on the map, perhaps for the Record I should say that the whole of the South Bank complex, of which the National Theatre is the culmination and completion, owes more to Sir Isaac Hayward than to any other single individual; and it would be quite wrong 979 that we should debate this subject without his name being mentioned.
The long history of this project was slightly touched on in the Second Reading debate in 1969, and a fascinating story it is. But it was not until 1962 that the Government finally took the plunge and set up the two boards necessary to bring the National Theatre project to fruition. These were the National Theatre Board, with Oliver Lyttelton (later the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos) as its Chairman, to create and manage a National Theatre Company, and the South Bank Theatre Board, to design and build a National Theatre, of which Board I was appointed Chairman. The latter was, by any ordinary rules, a peculiar assignment—a Board with no funds and two paymasters: the Government and the London County Council, each of which require us to prove everything at every stage. In these circumstances it is not surprising that it took some little time for the plans to mature—and if they had matured more quickly the building would have cost a great deal less. But the circumstances were unusual and it took some little time to secure the approvals that were necessary. It was not until 1969 that we were in a position to go to tender.
It was at that time estimated by our architect that the building would cost £7½ million, and a rather curious comedy ensued. The figure of £7½million was the estimate of costs at tender stage, informally accepted by both the Government and the G.L.C. But neither had made a firm commitment when there was a change of management in the Greater London Council, and the new Leader, Mr. Desmond Plummer (as he then was) found his Council faced with an appalling load of capital commitments. He had, moreover, a chairman of his Finance Committee who openly avowed his belief that the whole project was more expensive than could possibly be justified, and was out to kill it. In these circumstances, the G.L.C. might well have contracted out altogether, and we are immensely indebted to Sir Desmond that he stood firm and carried his Council with him in making the commitment to find the G.L.C.'s half-share, £3¾ million. But he could do so only on the basis that that was a maximum 980 figure—"£3¾ million, and not a penny more", as the phrase ran, "whatever the ultimate cost might be".
It was then the Government's turn and they said, in effect, "We always knew that over a four-year period of building there would be price rises that would increase the cost as between tenders and completion. We were quite prepared to accept our share of the increase. But fair is fair, and if the G.L.C. will not do so, neither will we". My Board were therefore faced with the necessity, at the final stage of design, of planning within a figure of £7½ million, not at tender stage but at completion. It was necessary to create, within the estimated figure of £7½ million, a reserve for inflation that it was agreed between the Government and the G.L.C. ought to amount to £600,000, and the designs had to be cut down by that amount.
It was a dreadful task to have to impose on our architect, Mr. Denys Lasdun, at that late stage. It was necessary to jettison the small experimental theatre that was an essential part of the requirement. It was necessary to jettison the restaurant, no less essential, though the design still allowed for their inclusion at a later stage if that were found possible. It was necessary to cut down on the quality of the finishes, and to omit some important items of the stage equipment. There was much anxious heart-burning, but the deed was done. Tenders were obtained that sought the prospective total of cost, after allowing the reserve of £600,000 for inflation, within the ceiling figure of £7½ million. The contract was let, and on November 3, 1969, Lord Chandos and I, with Miss Jennie Lee (as she then was) and Mr. Plummer started the work. We could not cut the first sod on a site where there was no turf to cut, so we shovelled cement into some shuttering as a symbolic act and set the work going.
Since that rather memorable day, three years ago, there has been good progress. The theatre, as your Lordships may see from Waterloo Bridge, or across the river from the Victoria Embankment in front of Somerset House, is now two-thirds built, and the work goes forward well. But your Lordships know also that there has been, and continues to be, a violent inflation in building costs, inflation at a 981 rate that no one could have foreseen in 1969. The sums provided for at that time are now quite insufficient. That the building should be left incomplete and without a roof is quite unthinkable, and we had to go to the Government and tell them that to be certain of completing the existing contracts it might in the event be necessary to provide an additional sum of possibly as much as £1,700,000.
My noble friend Lord Eccles, after discussions with the G.L.C., agreed that the Government would, with a contribution from the G.L.C., make available the sum necessary. But he went further, as he has told the House; and we are particularly indebted to him and to the Government for providing in the legislation now before the House funds that will suffice, in addition, for the reinstatement of the experimental or studio theatre (though not to the full extent originally planned), and for the equipment of the restaurant; for improving the finishes of the building, which will effect savings in maintenance cost; and for incorporating important stage equipment that will much increase the scope for production to the best modern standards. This will also save substantially on production costs and, no doubt, in the future, on the annual subsidy to the National Theatre Company.
This great National Theatre complex, with an arena auditorium to seat nearly 1,200 and a proscenium auditorium for 900, with a studio theatre, workshops and paint shops, dressing rooms and offices, and all the rest of it, will be completed next year, though it will not, I think, be formally opened until 1975 after a period for the National Theatre Company to "run it in". Those theatrical experts who have seen the building and the designs have, without exception, expressed enthusiasm for them. Theatrical ideas and techniques are constantly changing, and I warned my Board at their first meeting that we had better recognise from the outset that whatever we do would he wrong; and there will no doubt be criticisms when the building is completed and handed over for use to the National Theatre Company. But I can confidently assure your Lordships that this will be a theatre complex that is unique in scale and in quality, and altogether 982 worthy of the finest dramatic company in this country, and that is to say in the world.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ BARONESS LEE OF ASHERIDGE
My Lords, this is a matter which is entirely non-controversial. I have been looking carefully around the House and I do not see a barbarian in sight, and I do not think anyone is going to object to the additional money that we are being asked to agree to. I want to thank and congratulate the Paymaster General and the Government on doing what was the only civilised thing to be done at this stage in the proceedings. I suggest that when the National Theatre opens, if we want it to start on a really exuberant and merry note we might commission some young playwright to produce a musical comedy setting out the whole story of what we have all gone through in getting this project off the ground.
The noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, has told us quite a lot this afternoon. We are indebted to his stubborn and devoted tenacity in holding on, often in a difficult situation. Listening carefully to him one might have discovered or detected that a certain element of blackmail operated throughout this whole business, because no one in his senses believed that we were going to build the National Theatre for £7½ million, particularly when the Government of the day were asked to adjust their contribution from £3¼ million at the point of contract to £3¾ million at the point of completion. This was—to use a term which an old collier friend of mine was very fond of using—an "impossi-bloody-bility".
Obviously, we were already working in a market where prices were rising. I had responsibility as a Minister at the time, and I did not think that it was a sensible contract, such that one could stand up to say that we could be definitely committed to a price at the point of completion. Our Board was put to endless trouble, and in order to meet the figure every kind of device was used in cutting back on all kinds of things that they should not have been asked to cut back on. But of course, as the Government of the day have discovered, the London County Council under present management are "tough cookies" to deal with. We had simply to accept that they 983 were willing to pay their share at point of completion but not at point of contract; and the only thing to do was to get started, because we knew that after all the long delays if we got to a certain point it would be impossible for us to leave this as a kind of ghost in mid-air. So I think we can look forward now with confidence to this project's going ahead.
I should like to add just this. We have inherited a great deal from the past and there is surely something so squalid and so blind if any one generation says, "Well, it was all right for past generations"—who also had their poverty problems and their employment problems and all kinds of other problems—" to have given this nation great institutions and great buildings, but don't ask us to do it!" Surely, we are doing no more than a modest share in making certain that there will be a great national theatre in London. I hope, too, that there is going to be a great opera house in Edinburgh, but I do not want to widen this debate.
There are two things I should like to add before I resume my seat. One is that this is an act of faith in the future. We must make it as easy as possible—not an obstacle race—when people want to go to the South Bank. One of the schemes I cared about a great deal we have here the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, who at that time was Leader of the London County Council—was designed to ensure that one should be spared the ordeal (I wonder how many of your Lordships have experienced it) of trying to cross from the North to the South Bank in open air. What do you think it does when you have had a "hairdo"? What do you think it does if you are lame? What do you think it does if you are taking your best girl out for the evening and you want to put up a good show? This is unthinkable. I made myself a nuisance with my friends of the Greater London Council and with my colleagues in the Government because I wanted a travelator across the Thames, from which one could have travelled from Charing Cross or Trafalgar Square. You did not need to bring your car in; you could do the whole journey without going into the open air at all. If a travelator is too expensive, at least I wanted to see the possibility of getting 984 a covered way. It could be made very elegant and glamorous, and would make it so much easier for all kinds of people of modest incomes, not only to get to the South Bank—and that is difficult enough, but you try getting away! It is all very well if you have a driver, but without one a car is a bit of a problem. When we are looking ahead we must remember that we are making it too difficult for too many people to enjoy those great national assets. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, when he speaks about the importance of projecting great occasions on television. Of course that is important, but there is no substitute for the living concert hall and for the living theatre. We want to do both.
In addition to making it easier for people to participate, I would also hope that the Government will pursue the hint that was given this afternoon by Lord Eccles when he was speaking about opening hours of the Museum of London. Not only the Museum of London, but all our great galleries and museums, ought to have a look at the hours at which they open and close. Far too often as soon as father is coming home from work, and the children are coming home from school, we close the places. We know why this was so in the past. This is one of my failures, I confess. We had an experiment with the Victoria and Albert Museum. We got it open on a Sunday morning—and I tell your Lordships this. The Treasury was no difficulty; the Treasury was willing to give the money at that time; I had no difficulty with the senior members of the unions involved, and Pope-Hennessy eagerly co-operated. The public were turning up in great numbers on a Sunday morning. But the custodians said, after an experimental period of six months, that they were not willing to go on working on a Sunday morning any longer.
I say just this to your Lordships. We cannot run a society if all of us refuse to work at the weekends. We must keep our railways going and our hospitals going; all kinds of projects must be kept going. We must come to terms with those who are working in our great museums and galleries because they must accommodate themselves more to the true needs of the public. They can have "double time" if they want. So far as the Victoria 985 and Albert is concerned, we suggested we could close it on a Monday because it is at the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, when most people have most opportunity to go to museums or galleries and the theatre. However, my Lords, I do not want to speak at any greater length. I just want to say that this is a wonderful story. The noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, has been fairly discreet; he told you quite a lot, and there is a great deal more we could tell. But the important point is that nothing can now stop the National Theatre from going ahead. I congratulate the Government on the money they are producing to-day, and look forward to the further money which I hope we will all agree in producing, because it is nonsense to say that we can give a final figure at this moment.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships for more than two or three minutes. I should like to add my congratulations to those that have been expressed already in your Lordships' House on the courage and imagination which have enabled the noble Viscount to grasp this particular nettle and provide the extra amount of finance desirable. But we have heard from the lips of the Minister and also from the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, a harrowing story of a continual fight against the ravages of inflation. I do not wish to expatiate at length on the general economics of the subject, which was sufficiently discussed in your Lordships' House yesterday, but I have a modest suggestion which I would urge the noble Viscount to put to his friends at the Treasury; namely, that when they say, "Not a penny more. We grant you this increase and no more", they should add the words, "at constant prices"; alternatively, that there should be constructed a special index number of prices relevant to Government undertakings of this kind, and that Treasury grants should be given in real terms having regard to that index. What is the conceivable objection to that? The very hoary one that no Government are prepared to legislate on the basis of their own incompetence. I ask your Lordships whether the experience of the last 15 years justifies that attitude.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
My Lords, much as I might be tempted 986 to follow the noble Lord, all I wish to do is to set the Record right. It is not correct that the South Bank site was made available by the Greater London Council. It was made available by the London County Council, and I am very familiar with the circumstances because I was the Chairman of its Finance Committee at the time, and the Leader of the Council then was the late Lord Latham. That was when the site at the South Bank became available in exchange for the site in South Kensington, a site of very much smaller value which the London County Council agreed to take in exchange.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, for setting me right. Of course it was the London County Council and not the Greater London Council who did the exchange over the site. Going backwards (I know that that is not how the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, likes one to take these matters) and answering my noble friend Lord Robbins, I agree with him in general about having some phrase such as "at constant prices", but in this particular case we arc near the end of the contract. I cross-questioned Mr. Lasdun rather closely and I think—nothing is certain in this world—that £1.7 million to complete the building is not an unreasonable figure. Of course, if my noble friend Lord Robbins would like to murmur his doctrine at the Treasury in relation to the new British Library I should be exceedingly grateful. Large sums of money are needed for that project, tied to a cost price index.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, for the way he spoke about this Bill. So far as I know, there is sufficient money to complete the South Bank Theatre satisfactorily and, as the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, said, to go a long way towards completing the equipment of this small experimental theatre. We shall have to see how we get on, but at any rate this will make it possible to achieve most of what is needed.
Turning to the South Kensington site, of course a decision about that site rests with the owners; that is, the G.L.C., who accepted that triangle. I think it is a plague pit, and it is not very attractive to build on a graveyard of victims, however long ago the plague was. My own 987 personal hope is that that open space opposite the Victoria and Albert will remain an open space, but clearly this is not a decision for the Government.
The future of the Old Vic also is not a decision for the Government. It is in the hands of the governors and, as the noble Lord said, they arc discussing with the English Stage Company a proposal that that company should take over this theatre which has, for anyone interested in the London drama, a great emotional appeal—and none of us would like to see it "fold up". If the terms of such a proposition are settled, then I suppose they will have to go to the Arts Council and discuss the financial consequences of whatever arrangement they fix up. It does not lie with the Government to decide this, but we shall watch with great interest what comes forward.
I heartily agree with the noble Lord that the South Bank needs more greenery, but my experience of growing trees in London is that you have to be patient because they grow very slowly. I think the G.L.C. now has a very good planting programme and within a reasonable number of years the South Bank ought to look much more agreeable than it does now. Still on the subject of the South Bank, I noted with interest what the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, said about making it easier to travel from one side of the river to the other, and I suppose the G.L.C. are the right people to talk to about a covered way. Anyhow, it is a good suggestion and I will see whether it can be taken up.
I also agree with the noble Baroness that the hours of opening of museums, and indeed the opening times of a great many of our artistic activities, should be looked into, because the habits of the public are changing. The extension of the public who would like to participate in these experiences has brought in people who are essentially workers and therefore the old hours, which were really designed for people who did not have a great deal to do in the middle of the day, may need looking at. I will keep that suggestion in mind, too, although of course it is for the Trustees of the various institutions and for the theatre managers to decide when they open their museums or put on their performances.
988 Finally, there is the problem of Kensington Palace. Kensington Palace is a Royal palace and, as the noble Lord said, it was the late King who graciously offered it to the London Museum, and when the London Museum moves from there it will be for Her Majesty to decide what should happen to those rooms. I understand that the total of the collections at Kensington Palace is considerably too great for them to be shown in the Barbican. Therefore, there is likely to be a quite important residue. My noble friend Lord Harcourt and his board are now considering this problem. When they have formulated some proposals, no doubt they will acquaint us with them but the final decision as to what happens to those rooms in Kensington Palace rests with Her Majesty.
Before I close I should like to say that I am sorry I forgot to say a word about Sir "Ike" Hayward. I knew him very well; when I was Minister of Works he was the Leader of the L.C.C. and we had many extremely fruitful forms of co-operation.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª: Committee negatived.