HC Deb 30 July 1913 vol 56 cc677-83

(1) The sum of six hundred thousand pounds applicable under Section nine of the Finance Act, 1908, for or in connection with public offices on land at Westminster may, so far as not required for that purpose, be applied to the extent of one hundred and forty-five thousand pounds in defraying any expenses incurred by the Commissioners of Works in erecting buildings and executing other works for or in connection with the museum, office, and college mentioned in the Schedule to this Act, and the said Section nine shall have effect accordingly.


I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words, "Provided that the designs for the proposed new buildings which are not completions to existing blocks shall be thrown open to fair public competition, and that the choice of the selected designs shall be decided by the First Commissioner, with the assistance of a body of persons equally competent to adjudicate upon architectural questions of the kind, and that the architectural staff in the employment of the Office of Works shall be permitted to compete on equal terms with other competitors."

At this late hour I must ask the indulgence, even of this smiling House, while I appeal to every Member of every party to give undivided support to this Amendment. I have no desire to throw any difficulties in the way if this very reasonable Amendment is accepted. The justification for it is too obvious to require explanation. We have only to use our eyes to see the indubitable necessity of the Amendment and the principles which it involves. By this apparently innocent little Bill it is proposed to spend £145,000 of public money upon public buildings. But in the Estimate which has been prepared so far no vestige of any design whatever of elevation or of style of architecture has been presented either to this House or to the Department which is responsible for the spending of the money. It is perfectly true that upstairs it was hurriedly suggested that the designs of these public buildings, costing the State a vast sum of money, should be left to the permanent staff of the Office of Works. But what are the reasons which are adduced for this very peculiar state of things? The only reason given is that the permanent staff is a singularly expensive staff and the head of that staff is a very amiable and very estimable public official. Although there are Members here who jeer, yet the public will treat this question more seriously than they do. An enlightened public opinion, supported by an unanimous Press, demands that our future public buildings shall be more worthy of the capital of the Empire and more worthy of the great Department which is responsible for building them.

I ask every Member of this House, even at this moment of levity, to support this Amendment. You may go to any part of London, you may go to any town and see public buildings of which every Englishman who understands anything about architecture is absolutely ashamed. I do not want for one moment to blame the present Government any more than to blame past Governments. You have only to look at the pepper boxes, as I believe they were called, on the top of the National Gallery, or, to come down to mid-Victorian days, at the Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial. There is not an hon. Member who does not remember the remark made by an eminent German statesman when he was being shown round London and was asked what he thought of its buildings:— Yes, yes. Very good, but why not place the ornament upon the top of the cake? The time has come when we should insist upon every design for great public buildings being thrown open to competition. It may be said, with perfect truth, that where that has been done the results have not always been satisfactory. We know that was the case with the Admiralty Buildings. It was not because those designs were thrown open to competition that we were given that ridiculous block of buildings, but because there was no proper body to judge the designs when they were sent in. I believe that if the First Commissioner of Works would only combine with the Institute of Architects and the Royal Academy, he would easily be able to bring together a body of men who would be able to adjudicate fairly and squarely between the different designs sent in for competition. Although I cannot expect at the present moment to obtain the serious attention of the House, I hope every Member will agree that in future, so far as public buildings are concerned, the designs shall be open to competition, and judged by an unbiassed and competent body of men. Upon these grounds I hope that the hon. Gentleman who is responsible for the Government in this particular matter will accept the Amendment, and that we shall not have reason to be so ashamed of our public buildings which are erected in the future as we are of those which have been erected in the past.

Mr. MacVEAGH rose—


Does the hon. Gentleman rise to second the Amendment?


Yes, Sir, I beg to second the Amendment, because as far as I could hear his arguments I should be inclined to agree with them. But I am not convinced that I see my way to support him in the Division Lobby, because I do not agree with the methods which he and his Friends have adopted to secure a majority in the Division. I have here a copy of a document in the following terms:— Private and confidential. Please come—


That has nothing to do with this.


It is a circular inviting Unionist Members to be here this evening.


It has no relation to this Amendment.


It does not say so.


I will call on some other hon. Member to second it if the hon. Member does not take it seriously.


May I submit that this document does not state for what purpose—


That is quite irrelevant.


I beg to second the Amendment.

This proposition deserves some consideration, and I believe the Office of Works may be disposed to accept it in view of what has happened in relation to this question in Scotland. The Office of Works refused for some time to consider the question of throwing open to competition the designs of proposed new buildings in Scotland, but under considerable pressure, both inside and outside the House, they agreed that open competition would probably result in the selection of better designs than the Office of Works itself would produce, and in consequence of that decision I believe my hon. Friend who represents that Department may be not unwilling to accept this reasonable Amendment.


I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment. These are not very big public buildings, and they are not very expensive buildings, and although it is the practice of the Office of Works to throw open to public competition large and important buildings, they also retain a staff of architects for the purpose of designing and carrying out smaller buildings of this kind. The objection I have to the Amendment is that it is unnecessary and would involve considerable expense.


I am of opinion that the course pursued by the hon. Gentleman is the right one, and I could not vote for the Amendment. I believe a considerable sum of money is saved for the State by the methods which are pursued by the Office of Works, and I shall be obliged to support the Government.


I am inclined to support the Amendment because everyone who is acquainted with the public buildings in London knows their deficiencies not only in regard to outside design but inside accommodation. I am assured in regard to this palace in which we are met that six hon. Members opposite have been

forced to-night to make use of one bathroom.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 90; Noes, 244.

Division No. 238.] AYES. [11.30 p.m.
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Gardner, Ernest Mount, William Arthur
Archer-Shee, Major M. Gibbs, George Abraham Neville, Reginald J. N.
Baird, John Lawrence Gilmour, Captain John Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Baldwin, Stanley Glazebrook, Capt. Philip K. O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Goldsmith, Frank Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Gordon, John (Londonderry, South) Perkins, Walter Frank
Barnston, Harry Goulding, Edward Alfred Pollock, Ernest Murray
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Gretton, John Ronaldshay, Earl of
Beach. Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Gwynne,.R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight) Sanders, Robert Arthur
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Hall, Frederick (Dulwich) Scott. Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Hamersley, Alfred St. George Spear, Sir John Ward
Bigland, Alfred Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham) Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Starkey, John Ralph
Bridgeman, W. Clive Helmsley, Viscount Staveley-Hill, Henry
Cassel, Felix Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire) Talbot, Lord E.
Castlereagh, Viscount Hills, John Waller Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)
Cator, John Hill-Wood, Samuel Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)
Cautley, Henry Strother Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)
Clive, Captain Percy Archer Horner, Andrew Long Thynne, Lord A.
Clyde, J. Avon Hunt, Rowland Tobin, Alfred Aspinall
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Tryon, Captain George Clement
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Lewisham, Viscount Walker, Col. William Hall
Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Lloyd. George Butler (Shrewsbury) Wheler, Granville C. H.
Dalrymple, Viscount Locker-Lampoon, G. (Salisbury) White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Denison-Pender, J. C. Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Wills, Sir Gilbert
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott MacCaw, Wm, J. MacGeagh Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Fell, Arthur Malcolm, Ian
Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. Markham, Sir Arthur Basil TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.Bennett-Goldney and Mr. Whyte.
Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Flavin, Michael Joseph
Acland, Francis Dyke Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood) France, Gerald Ashburner
Adamson, William Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson
Addison, Dr. Christopher Cecil, Lard R. (Herts, Hitchin) Gill, A. H.
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Chapple, Dr. William Allen Gladstone, W. G. C.
Agnew, Sir George William Clancy, John Joseph Glanville, H J.
Ainsworth, John Stirling Clough, William Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Condon, Thomas Joseph Greig, Colonel J. W.
Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R. Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)
Arnold, Sydney Cory, Sir Clifford John Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)
Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Cotton, William Francis Hackett, John
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Hancock, J. G.
Ballour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Crumley, Patrick Harcourt, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Rossendale)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Cullinan, John Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy) Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton. Beds)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)
Barnes, George N. Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)
Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)
Barton, William Dawes, James Arthur Hayden, John Patrick
Beauchamp, Sir Edward De Forest, Baron Hayward, Evan
Beck, Arthur Cecil Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Hazleton, Richard
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Devlin, Joseph Helme, Sir Norval Watson
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George) Dillon, John Henderson, Arthur (Durham)
Bentham, George Jackson Doris, William Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)
Bird, Alfred Duffy, William J. Henry, Sir Charles
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley) Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)
Boland, John Pius Edwards. Clement (Glamorgan, E.) Hewart, Gordon
Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Hibbert, Sir Henry F.
Booth, Frederick Handel Elverston, Sir Harold Higham, John Sharp
Bowerman, Charles W. Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Hinds, John
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Hodge, John
Brace, William Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Hogge, James Myles
Brady, Patrick Joseph Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson Holmes, Daniel Turner
Brunner, John F. L. Ffrench. Peter Holt, Richard Durning
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Field, William Howard, Hon. Geoffrey
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Hughes, Spencer Leigh
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Fitzgibbon, John Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus
Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Norman, Sir Henry Roe, Sir Thomas
Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Norton, Captain Cecil W. Rowlands, James
Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) Nuttall, Harry Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Joyce, Michael O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Sandys, G. J.
Kellaway, Frederick George O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Scanlan, Thomas
Kelly, Edward O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.
Kennedy, Vincent Paul O'Doherty, Philip Sheehy, David
Kllbride, Denis O'Donnell. Thomas Shortt, Edward
King, Joseph O'Dowd, John Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook
Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton) O'Grady, James Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.) Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Lardner, James C. R. O'Malley, William Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Larmor, Sir J. O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Stanier, Beville
Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West) O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)
Levy, Sir Maurice O'Shee, James John Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert O'Sullivan, Timothy Sutherland, John E.
Lundon, Thomas Outhwaite, R. L. Sutton, John E.
Lyell, Charles Henry Parker, James (Halifax) Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Lynch, A. A. Parkes, Ebenezer Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Parry, Thomas H. Tennant, Harold John
McGhee, Richard Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Phillips, John (Longford, S.) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South) Pointer, Joseph Verney, Sir Harry
Macpherson, James Ian Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Walters. Sir John Tudor
M'Callum, Sir John M. Pringle, William M. R. Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Pryce-Jones, Colonel E. Waring, Walter
Manfield, Harry Radford, G. H. Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.
Marks, Sir George Croydon Raffan, Peter Wilson Webb, H.
Marshall, Arthur Harold Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel White J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Mason, James F. (Windsor) Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields) White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)
Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Meagher, Michael Reddy, Michael Wiles, Thomas
Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrlm, N.) Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix) Redmond, Wiliam (Clare, E.) Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)
Molloy, Michael Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.) Williamson, Sir Archibald
Montagu, Hon. E. S. Rendall, Athelstan Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Mooney, John J. Richardson, Alblon (Peckham) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Morgan, George Hay Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Morrell, Philip Roberts, George H. (Norwich) Wing, Thomas Edward
Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs) Wood. Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Muldoon, John Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall) Young, William (Perthshire, East)
Munro, Robert Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford) Younger, Sir George
Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C. Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)
Needham, Christopher T. Robinson, Sidney TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.
Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Nolan, Joseph Roche, Augustine (Louth)

Question put, and agreed to.