HC Deb 27 March 1911 vol 23 cc882-5

asked the hon. Member for Southampton, as representing the First Commissioner of Works, whether he could give an assurance that no alteration to the width of the bridge across the lake in St. James's Park is in contemplation?


asked (1) whether the King Edward Memorial Committee have asked for sanction to their proposal to cut a new road across St. James's Park and to build a new bridge across the lake; and (2) whether, in view of the uneasiness caused by the proposal to cut a new road through St. James's Park, the assent of this House will be secured before any such scheme is agreed to?

Captain MURRAY

asked what steps it was proposed to take to prevent the suggested erection of a wide and unnecessary vehicular bridge in St. James's Park?


asked whether consent has been given to a proposal to make a new road and bridge in St. James's Park; and whether, in view of the dissatisfaction caused by such an interference with the amenities of the park, he will afford the House an opportunity of discussing the matter before a final decision is taken?


asked whether an opportunity will be given to this House to express its opinion on the alterations proposed to be made in St. James's Park?


asked if he will take steps to stop any further developments for the construction of a road across St. James's Park and the construction of a bridge solely for the convenience of persons driving; and if he will take steps to preserve the beauty of the park and its use as a resting place and playground for the poor, especially children?


In the first place, I should like to point out that the statements which have appeared up to now on the subject of the memorial to King Edward were not authorised by the Committee appointed to deal with that matter, and are consequently liable to convey a wrong impression. It is evident that this is the case, for I observe that most of the questions suggest that it is proposed to make a new road and construct a broad bridge across the water in St. James's Park. I have the fullest authority for saying that no proposal to make a roadway and a bridge for vehicular traffic has ever been put forward, much less considered; and I can assure the hon. Members that the First Commissioner would not for a moment consent to such a scheme, which would be exceedingly detrimental to the amenities of the park. The suggestion of the Executive Committee is that a statue of King Edward VII. shall be placed on the south side of the Mall, immediately opposite Marlborough Gate; that such rearrangement of the formation of the ground as may be necessary for the surroundings of the statue shall be carried out; and that, in order to give a vista of the statue from the south side of the park in Birdcage Walk, a footpath shall be made which will be carried over the Lake on a stone bridge, which will only be of sufficient height to admit of the passage of boats beneath it, and will thus form a distinct improvement upon the present suspension bridge, which, however practicable for the purpose, can hardly be said to be otherwise than detrimental to the surrounding scenery. This suggestion of the Executive Committee was considered by the General Committee at the Mansion House this morning; and after the misapprehension caused by the reports to which I have referred had been removed, it was adopted at a full meeting with only four dissentients. I am to say that the Department which I represent would welcome any discussion in this House upon the project, as it could not fail to remove the misapprehensions with which, at present, it appears to be surrounded.


May I ask whether the hon. Member lays any particular stress upon the words "vehicular traffic," because even it a road were not made for that, does he not consider that a wide road and a broad bridge would equally destroy the amenities of the Park?


Yes, Sir, I do lay stress on that, but I must tell the hon. Member there is no question of a broad road and a broad bridge. I think all this misapprehension arose from a picture which appeared in one of the picture papers, which gave a totally wrong impression of the project.


Will the hon. Gentleman undertake that no steps shall be entered upon by the Department until plans have been submitted and an expression of opinion elicited in this House?


Certainly, Sir.


May I ask can the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking with regard to this matter as asked in Question No. 27 (put by Mr. Whitehouse) about the assent of the House?


I believe, strictly speaking, that the assent of the House is not necessary for the work. That is strictly speaking, but I should say as I have already said in my answer that the First Commissioner would welcome any discussion, and would, of course, be influenced by any general expressed desire on the part of the House.


Does not this House find the money which is expended on the parks, and has it not the right to be heard? Can my hon. Friend say when we will have the opportunity of discussing this?


I am not, of course, in a position to say when the House will have this opportunity. The House finds the money for the parks, but it does not find the money for this particular work.


Can we have the salary of the First Commissioner of Works put down as early as possible, so that we may discuss the matter?


I cannot give any undertaking as to that, but as I have already said, the First Commissioner will welcome discussion.


May I ask whether the proposal involves the destruction of the present bridge; and also whether he can see his way, for the convenience and satisfaction of Members, to have the full detailed plans exhibited somewhere in the House, so that we may all judge for ourselves?


Yes, Sir; the present proposal is to do away with the suspension bridge. Of course, before the work is undertaken, or before the plans are passed they will be exhibited in this House.