HC Deb 22 January 1930 vol 234 cc190-2

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether in view of the opposition, not only in Edinburgh but throughout Scotland, to his proposal that only one design, that of the chief architect of his Department, should be submitted to the Scottish Fine Art Commission, he will consent either to hold an open competition or himself to appoint an architect, after consulting the Commission, the Edinburgh Corporation, and representative bodies interested in the architecture and amenities of the city?


The decision to entrust the design of the building on the Calton Jail site, Edinburgh, to the chief architect of my Department, was taken nearly two years ago, and I am not prepared, at this late stage, to reverse that decision either in favour of an open competition or an independent architect. I should like to point out that the policy of selecting an architect for important national buildings by open competition has been adopted only in four cases during the last 150 years. In only one instance has the successful design been carried into execution. The appointment of an independent architect would not appear to meet the objection to the consideration of only one design to which the hon. and gallant Member refers.


Is it not the fact that evidence was given before a Committee of this House that, in the case of buildings of great importance, an official architect was not insisted upon by the right hon. Gentleman's Department; is it not also the fact that, although this decision may have been come to, as the right hon. Gentleman says, two years ago, it is only within recent months that the public have become aware of it, and that very strong feeling has developed upon it in Scotland; and will not the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, give the question further consideration?


I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is really misinformed on the matter. There were considerable negotiations many months ago with the Edinburgh Corporation on this subject, and, at the end of those prolonged negotiations, an agreement was arrived at by which the work of preparing plans and so on was to be proceeded with. The plans are to be submitted to the Scottish Fine Art Commission for their advice on them—not for their approval, because they are only an advisory body—but there is also an agreement with the Edinburgh Corporation that these drawings will be submitted to them, and, if they are not approved by the Edinburgh Corporation, either the Government accept that disapproval or they go to arbitration. I do not think that any fair-minded person would want us to go back on that position.

Major WOOD

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a very exceptional site, and that arrangements made with regard to other buildings should not and do not really apply to this particular site?


I have read this matter up at very great length, and I would like to assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that all these considerations were taken into account before the agreement which I have mentioned was come to; and I would like again to assure Scottish Members of this House that the Office of Works and their officials have no intention whatever of injuring the amenities of the City of Edinburgh.