HC Deb 21 November 1938 vol 341 cc1342-4
66 and 67. Sir John Mellor

asked the First Commissioner of Works (1) whether any designs for the proposed memorials in Trafalgar Square to the late Lord Jellicoe and the late Lord Beatty have been approved by the Royal Fine Art Commission; and whether he will give an assurance that no design will be executed which has not been so approved;

(2) whether the designs for the Trafalgar Square memorials to the late Lord Jellicoe and the late Lord Beatty, which were exhibited in the Tea Room at the end of July, have at any time been submitted to the Royal Fine Art Commission; and with what result?

The First Commissioner of Works (Sir Philip Sassoon)

On 24th November, 1937, I informed the House that I was considering a scheme for memorial fountains in Trafalgar Square. Since that date several designs have been prepared and have been submitted to the Royal Fine Art Commission, to whom I am indebted for many helpful suggestions. The Commission were not finally so sanguine as I as to the possibilities of the latest design submitted to them, but after this design had been further developed and had been shown to Parliament, the Board of Admiralty and, through the medium of reproductions in the Press, to the general public, I considered that the decision to proceed should no longer be deferred and I definitely commissioned the sculptors and the architect to proceed with the work.

Sir J. Mellor

In view of the fact that the Royal Fine Art Commission have consistently rejected all designs similar to the present design, and in view of the fact that those designs were exhibited in the Tea Room only during the four days before the House rose at the end of July, will my right hon. Friend now arrange for the designs, or, preferably, models, to be exhibited in the Tea Room for the information of hon. Members?

Captain Arthur Evans

May I ask whether the relatives of these distinguished sailors were consulted before the decision was made?

Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter

Can we be given an assurance that these monuments will be erected in Trafalgar Square near to the monument of the greatest sailor of all time, and not in any other parts of the city?

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

In view of the fact that this House passed Resolutions in December, 1935, and May, 1936,authorising the setting-up of memorials to these distinguished sailors, does not my right hon. Friend think that the sooner the memorials are erected the better?

Mr. Cartland

Has the right hon. Gentleman received any criticisms of the scheme since it was first published in the Press?

Mr. H. Strauss

Does my right hon. Friend not think that the appearance of these portrait busts in the fountains would be ludicrous, and does he consider this the right way to treat the memory of our great men?

Sir P. Sassoon

As I have already said, I consulted the Royal Fine Art Commission at every stage of this scheme. Eventually, after a very long delay, the designs were shown in the Tea Room during four days in July. No criticism was received from any Member of this House. The designs were widely shown throughout the country through the medium of the Press, and no criticisms were received. They received the unanimous approval of the whole of the Board of Admiralty. In these circumstances I felt entitled to give the commission to the sculptors, especially after such a very long delay.

Sir J. Mellor

Was it not stated in the Press at the end of July that these designs had been approved by the Royal Fine Art Commission?

Sir P. Sassoon

Not by me.

Mr. Lansbury

Is it not a fact that the report or decision on the Fine Art Commission has been rejected on occasions by Joint Committees of this House, and that there is nothing unusual in their advice not being accepted on this occasion; and is it not the fact, also, that the predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman have been considerably worried by members of the general public who were interested in these matters, advising them not to erect any more statues in this city, where there are already too many?