HC Deb 28 July 1930 vol 242 cc27-31

asked the First Commissioner of Works what decision has been reached regarding the employment of men on the work of his Department in Edinburgh; and whether he will take into direct employment those workers who have been engaged through contractors on that work?


I regret that it has not yet been possible to arrive at a decision, but I will not fail to advise my hon Friend when the time arrives.


asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he has now reached an accommodation with the Corporation of Edinburgh regarding the design of the building to be erected upon the Calton Gaol site; whether the Fine Arts Commission or the corporation will have the deciding voice upon the present or any modified plans; when the erection of new buildings on the site will commence; whether he will state definitely if the Sheriff Court House will be included in the scheme; and if the last-named building will be capable of housing a Scottish Parliament?


asked the First Commissioner of Works (1) whether he will make available to Members of this House the report of the Fine Arts Commission on the plans of the Office of Works for the Calton site, Edinburgh;

(2) whether he will make available to Members of this House and to members of the Scottish public photographs of a model of the proposed buildings on the Calton site, Edinburgh;

(3) whether, having regard to the division of opinion in the Edinburgh Corporation as to the proposed plans for the Calton site, Edinburgh, as shown by a vote of 32 to 17, with 22 abstentions, he will reconsider the attitude of his Department with a view to making the provision of plans for the works open to full competition?


In view of the lengthy nature of the reply, I should like to circulate the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the fact that this is one of the last chances the House will have before the Recess to raise the matter, that we should have the announcement in full now?


I will read the reply: Within the last two days it has been represented to me that the corporation of Edinburgh approve in principle the first scheme prepared by my Department for Government buildings on the Calton Gaol site, Edinburgh. The corporation consider that the Sheriff Court House should be erected in the vicinity of the High Street.

It is quite clear that no other site but that of the Calton Gaol can be acquired within a reasonable time and, as it is essential that the Sheriff Court House shall be erected as early as possible so as to free the site of the present building at George IV Bridge for the extension of the National Library, the Government has decided that there is no alternative to putting the new Sheriff Court House on the Calton Gaol site.

From the previous report of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland, I came to the conclusion that no scheme for a Sheriff Court House and for Public Offices containing sufficient accom- modation for the staff for which it is necessary to provide is likely to meet with the approbation of the Commission. In view, however, of the representations of the Edinburgh Corporation, I am asking the Royal Commission whether, on reconsideration, there is, in their opinion, a reasonable prospect of obtaining a satisfactory architectural scheme on the lines of the original scheme and, if not, for their views as to the design and siting of a Sheriff Court building. On receipt of a reply it will be necessary to consider whether the proposal to erect Government buildings on the Calton Gaol site shall be proceeded with.

My Department is under covenant to obtain the approval of the Edinburgh Corporation to the plans, etc., of any buildings on the site in question, and will, in the future as in the past, avail itself of the advisory services of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland in the preparation of the scheme. I am not prepared to make the designs of the buildings the subject of open competition.

The plans and model of the scheme now under reconsideration were prepared at a very early stage and represent merely the preliminary ideas. If they represented a finished design I should have been prepared to make them available to the Members of the House and, probably, to the public generally, but I have come to the conclusion, after careful consideration, that the publication of the designs and of the report of the Fine Art Commission would only be misleading. I can give the House an assurance that, in the event of a finished design being prepared, full publicity will be given to it at the stage when the plans are submitted to the Edinburgh Corporation.

I regret that, in the circumstances, I cannot state when the buildings will he commenced, but no avoidable delay will occur. I am not in a position to express any opinion as to whether the proposed Sheriff Court House would be capable of housing a Scottish Parliament.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the illustration that is published in an Edinburgh newspaper, a copy of which I now hand to him, is a fair representation of the proposed new building that has received modified commendation from the Edinburgh Corporation, and if he thinks that this building is in keeping with its surroundings?


I cannot add anything to the answer I have given. As to the pictures that are being handed round, I do not know where they come from or anything about them.


Before any final decision is taken to erect a building on modified plans, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that it will be in Session, and that no decision will be taken before we meet again at the end of October?


I am not sure that I am entitled to give that assurance. The answer to the hon. Member is that the late Government entered into an agreement with the Edinburgh Corporation that no buildings should be erected on that site except with their concurrence and approval. The present Government, through the Office of Works, have confirmed that agreement, and to that we hold. As to whether we should hold up any proceedings between now and the time when Parliament reassembles is a matter for consideration, on which I should not like to give an answer offhand.


The right hon. Gentleman seems to object to these photographs. Is he aware that his Department refused to allow photographs to be taken of the actual model in the anteroom of the corporation buildings, when the decision was taken, and that therefore those who desired to let the public know had no option but to make sketches? Will the right hon. Gentleman now, in view of the great public feeling about this matter, in relation to this very important site, pledge himself that the Department will take no definite decision to build on plans until this House has had an opportunity to express its opinion?


I am not responsible for the imagination of people. I think the hon. Member cannot have heard my reply. The reason, and the only reason, why we have not published any photographs of the drawings is quite simple; they are not complete, and they are being modified. When there is an agreement, we shall be only too pleased to hang them up in the Tea Room and also to publish them broadcast.


I beg to give notice that, at the end of Questions, I shall ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the decision of the Government to erect unsightly buildings on the Calton site, Edinburgh.


On a point of Order. The Government have decided on no buildings at present.



As the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) has given notice that he intends to move the Adjournment, we cannot pursue the matter further at the moment.



Mr. Mathers.