§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Mr. Speaker, before I move the Second Reading of this Bill I should like to seek your guidance on the general scope of the Debate. The Bill is, of course, one which specifically sanctions certain public works, and on a narrow interpretation perhaps the Debate could be so confined. Nevertheless, the public works are related to the coming Festival of Britain, 1951, and I have a feeling that the House, including myself, would wish to discuss the broad lines upon which the Festival is to be conducted, in some relation to the particular proposals of this Bill and with some width of debate. I wonder if you could give any indication to the House whether or not that would be permissible from the point of view of the Chair.
§ Mr. Speaker
I hold the same view as the right hon. Gentleman. I regard this as a machinery Bill for the Festival of Britain, and I should have thought this was a suitable opportunity to discuss anything to do with the Exhibition and that Festival.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I am obliged, Sir. I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
As the House is aware, last spring the Government set up the Festival Council which had placed upon it the task of supervising the arrangements for the Festival of Britain, 1951. We thought it right to appoint to that Council a number of hon. Members representative of both sides of this House, and others with special qualifications in the fields of administration, science and the arts, under the chairmanship of General Lord Ismay. One of the first big tasks of the Council was to advise what sort of main Exhibition should be held in 1951 and where it should be located in view of the many economic and other difficulties of the country.
On account of the needs of the British Industries Fair and the export drive the Government were unable to agree that 546 the Festival should use Earls Court and Olympia; and owing to shortages of labour and of steel and other materials it also proved impossible to meet the cost in resources of staging a big exhibition in Hyde Park or Battersea Park, quite apart from the objection to the use of so much public open space for such a purpose. Wembley, the Crystal Palace, and other sites were also looked at and found wanting. The idea of finding house-room for the Exhibition in the museum quarter of South Kensington proved impracticable upon examination.
After long and anxious scrutiny the Festival Council came to the conclusion that, with all its drawbacks, the South Bank site between County Hall and Waterloo Road was the only one which was at once sufficiently spectacular, central, and in harmony with the theme of a new Britain springing from the battered fabric of the old, to be acceptable. The South Bank offered a site of 30 acres in the heart of London and promised that much of the work and all the goodwill put into 1951 would serve an enduring purpose in promoting the overdue development of the south side of the river.
I am glad that the Festival Council came to this wise conclusion. Looking at it from a different angle, it was becoming urgent for the sake of London and its people that we should make a real start on the south side redevelopment. We are doing it. There will be great difficulties, but we shall get over them, and the south side will begin to be real and to flourish. I can picture this new south side after the Festival is over. There will be a fine new concert hall, with restaurants and other amenities, right on the river bank. I shall be very glad of that, because it so happens that during the time I myself was Leader of the London County Council I finally settled with the advice of the Council's valuers the negotiations with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the purchase of a large proportion of this South Bank land, and had a hand, with others, in settling the terms. The whole idea was to get an opening on the South Bank as the beginning of a redevelopment, which I am sure will grow as the years go along. Unless we can make a beginning we might be talking about the South Bank for 50 years to come.
547 The London County Council will start building the concert hall, which is their responsibility, in a few weeks' time, and it should be ready, given a big effort by everybody concerned, early in 1951. Then there will be great Government offices: not dead single-purpose buildings, as some critics have pictured them, but buildings arranged with conference halls and other amenities, which I trust will be available for public use. There will also be the National Theatre, a separate Measure for which has just been before the House. Bigger and better water buses, running more frequently than the experimental service we saw last summer, will serve the South Bank pier and bring it pleasantly and conveniently into touch with other points in the heart of the metropolis.
The whole of this area is being laid out by one supervising architect—one of the best we have in this country—Dr. Charles Holden. The traffic improvements we are discussing today will serve a purpose and have a value in the great new development of the South Bank after the 1951 Festival of Britain is over. We hope that that Festival will break down once for all the old unreasoning prejudice which the north side of the river has had against the south side, with the consequence, of course, that the outlook from the north side has been less pleasant than the outlook from the south side. We hope that that prejudice will be broken down, and that the crowded working population of the north side will in years to come cross with relief to the modern amenities and spacious beauty of the re-developed South Bank.
From a traffic standpoint, the area round the South Bank site is really the true centre of London. Mean development and narrow streets have largely robbed it of its natural function. But with the focal attraction of the Exhibition and the traffic facilities of which this Bill provides a first instalment, we may help it to enter into its natural inheritance. It cannot be denied that an exhibition in the centre of London, attracting large crowds, will create a severe traffic problem. I do not wish to disguise that from the House. The police will be faced with a stiff job in controlling and regulating the flow of traffic so as to reduce congestion. This 548 Bill therefore seeks powers to enable the London County Council and the British Transport Commission to carry out a number of works designed to facilitate traffic moving to, from and round the South Bank site, although it may be that a traffic problem will still remain.
The provisions of this Bill represent the absolute minimum which the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and the British Transport Commission consider to be necessary to handle the additional traffic. It is based on the report of an informal working party which. I appointed representative of the Ministry of Transport, the other Government Departments concerned, the London County Council, the Metropolitan Police, the British Transport Commission and the Festival of Britain authorities, and is an agreed scheme so far as all those responsible authorities are concerned The proposed Exhibition traffic arrangements are based on their recommendations, and the powers sought in the Bill are required to carry some of those recommendations into effect. The remainder can be carried out under existing powers
I should like at this point to ask the House to spare a tear of sympathy for that hard-pressed body of men, the Metropolitan Police. The existing congestion of the Metropolis imposes on them a daily and hourly burden almost as great as they can bear, and it is no light matter for a man who holds the responsibility of Commissioner of Police for keeping London's traffic running to face the prospect of crowds of additional sightseers milling about the streets for several months on end, and bands of visitors trooping to and from an exhibition sited in the heart of London. Indeed, I admit that I had to reason considerably with the Home Secretary and the Commissioner of Police to persuade them that such risks to the ordinary circulation ought to be accented at all. I assured them that the Government would not only see that the traffic improvements in this Bill were put through to relieve the situation but would also use every effort to secure the co-operation of the public in coping with the congestion which extra visitors and traffic in 1951 will inevitably bring.
I am sure the House will support the Government of the day in ensuring that everything that can be done is done to 549 assist the police in what, for them, must be a burdensome and trying business. It will be necessary for the Government at that time, and for the traffic authorities of London and elsewhere, to seek the good will and co-operation of the citizens moving about London so that traffic can be kept to the minimum. I am sure that if we patiently explain matters to them, we shall get that customary co-operation of the citizens for their common convenience in the end.
In planning the arrangements account was taken of the estimates made by the Exhibition authorities that the average daily attendance was likely to be about 50,000, rising to 100,000 at week-ends and Bank Holidays. All this movement of people will be additional to the normal loads carried by public passenger transport, and it would saturate the existing facilities if nothing were done to expand them. For example, we expect that a good many people visiting the Exhibition will arrive at or depart from Charing Cross and Waterloo Underground stations, which already handle 120,000 and 100,000 people a day, respectively.
Before dealing with the specific provisions of the Bill, I shall outline the general traffic arrangements calculated to ease the situation. More information about traffic in detail will be given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, who is more competent to deal with that aspect of the matter. If at that point I am not in the House, it is because I have an engagement which may make it necessary for me not to be here, and I take this opportunity of making my apologies to the House. The Exhibition site is bounded by the River Thames, Waterloo Road, York Road and the County Hall Buildings. The traffic arrangements, of which the new works are an integral part, contemplate that visitors shall reach the Exhibition by six different means of approach: (a), by foot bridges over the Thames from Charing Cross Underground Station and over York Road from Waterloo main line station; (b), by direct escalator from Waterloo Underground stations; (c), by river services setting down at piers, giving direct access to the Exhibition; (d), by buses setting down near York Road; (e), by trams setting down in Westminster Bridge Road, Waterloo Road and Lambeth Palace Road, and (f), by motor cars 550 and taxis, but not coaches, setting down at selected points within walking distance.
The Ministry of Transport are satisfied that public and private transport using these approaches should be able to bring to the Exhibition as many visitors as the Exhibition can accommodate. The Exhibition will not open in the morning until the business traffic rush is over; we shall avoid the morning peak hour by seeing that the timing is such that there will not be competition between people going to work and people going to the Exhibition. The problem of preventing the overloading of public transport services during the evening peak hours will be difficult, but so far as possible special attractions at the Exhibition will be so arranged that large numbers of people do not leave at the height of the traffic rush.
The works in connection with the traffic arrangements I have outlined are estimated to cost not more than £2 million. If the House approves, so much of this expenditure as is for Exhibition purposes only will attract special grant from the Exchequer. A large proportion of the work has a continuing value, and it would in any case have been required at a later period. It will help to promote easier traffic movements after the Exhibition has closed. Some of the road improvements can be carried out by the London County Council under existing statutory powers. These include roundabout traffic schemes at both ends of York Road and the widening of York Road to 70 feet to take four lines of traffic along the Exhibition frontage.
Exhibition traffic may create difficulties, not only in the immediate vicinity of the site, but also north of the Thames. Accordingly, the opportunity will be taken to press on with the plan for the enlargement of the central island in Parliament Square by taking in part of the grassed area on which the Lincoln memorial and the Buxton fountain stand. I think the plan was accepted in principle earlier on by the local authorities, and possibly by the Government of the day. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Works is appointing a consulting architect to advise on the layout of the Square.
I will now turn to the Clauses of the Bill, with which the Minister of Trans- 551 port will deal in more detail. Clause I and the First Schedule seek powers for the carrying out of a number of works by either the London County Council or the British Transport Commission. First, there are the new foot bridges, one from Northumberland Avenue across the river, parallel with Hungerford Bridge and giving direct access to the Exhibition site, and a second, starting in the concourse or main hall of Waterloo main line station, crossing York Road and again taking people direct to the Exhibition. The cost of these bridges is estimated to be £130,000. Then there is an extension over York Road of the existing Hungerford foot bridge. At present, it ends shortly after it has reached the South Bank. The cost of this will be about £28,000, and is work No. 4, in the First Schedule. There is also provision for landing stages to be constructed on the new river wall, giving access to the new Exhibition site. We are hoping that these river travelling facilities will provide increased transport facilities and will add an amenity to London which has long been urged by the junior Burgess of Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert).
There are provisions in Clause 1 (1, c) for the railway works which I have very shortly indicated, and the cost of these is estimated to be about £150,000 for Charing Cross and £300,000 for Waterloo Undergrounds, respectively. There is provision for the re-laying of the tramways at Westminster Bridge Road and York Road because of the roundabout. It is a great pity this has to be done, because most Londoners nowadays are looking forward to the ending of the London tramways and their replacement by omnibuses. We went into this very thoroughly to see whether anything could be done to accelerate the changeover so that the resiting of the tramways round the roundabout would not be necessary. The removal of the tramways would have eased the traffic problem anyway. However, it could not be done by that time. It is a pity. Still, that will come some day, and London will be a tramless city. Whether the tramways will be missed by the munipical politicians, I do not know. Since well before 1907 London's tramways have been a source of political excitement which only terminated some time after the passage 552 of the London Passenger Transport Bill, when I as Minister of Transport, having fought for the people's trams under the county council for many years, finally got through an Act of Parliament which took them over and socialised them under a public corporation. The cost of the tramway changes will be about £46,000.
There are some other provisions which enable land to be acquired, and the London County Council under their normal powers and procedure will rehouse the householders disturbed. I think they will be taken care of. We shall do our very best to secure the reinstatement somewhere else of shopkeepers and others who are disturbed. There are also powers under Clause 4 to close certain streets. I have appealed to the county council and the Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to get their citizens together, to do all the cleaning up they can in the boroughs in various modest ways so that visitors will get a good impression of the district. That should not require much money, and a good deal of the work can be done voluntarily.
I have never forgotten that one of the first things the Borough of Bermondsey did under the inspiration of the late Dr. and Mrs. Salter after the First World War was to institute a beautification and public amenities committee which, in that very poor and not too attractive borough—from a functional point of view, though it has its attractions, and I lived in the borough when I was first married—did really fine work with window boxes, flowers, hedges, the planting of trees and keeping things clean, thus greatly improving the attractiveness of the borough. I am sure that the borough councils of Southwark and Lambeth and the county council will be able to work together with that object and by these methods improve things generally.
If hopeless congestion of streets leading to and in the vicinity of the Exhibition is to be avoided, it is essential that there shall be no parking of cars or coaches in the streets. It is therefore proposed that the London County Council should be authorised to provide, maintain and manage temporary car parks for private cars and for motor coaches and to acquire land and impose charges and make by-laws governing the use of parking places. One of the parking sites 553 for coaches is at Clapham Common near the tube stations, where facilities can be provided especially for people coming from the south, south-east and south-west. We shall provide lavatory accommodation and so on for the convenience of the public. There is a possibility that we might have to use a part of the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park in Southwark which was kindly presented to the county council some years ago by the late Lord Rothermere, but we do not want to do that and shall not do so if we can make other arrangements.
I shall not go into too much detail about the provisions of the various Clauses because, as I said, the Minister of Transport is particularly competent to deal with them. A considerable amount of the work, perhaps a half, will have a permanent value and will not attract grant. There are also a number of road improvement schemes towards the cost of which only normal Road Fund grants will be made in so far as they are of general traffic value. As I have already indicated to the House, the Bill is only in part a Measure connected with the actual content of the Festival of Britain. It is mainly concerned with improving the traffic facilities of Central London, and many of these improvements would have been necessary in any case, although some of them might have been deferred and others might have taken a rather different form had the South Bank site not been chosen for the main Festival of Britain Exhibition.
In conclusion, I shall deal briefly with some of the objections which may be raised by critics. It may be said that this is no time to devote national resources even on this scale to amenities such as the Festival, though the scale in itself is fairly modest. I would reply that the Government will be proud if the Festival uplifts the spirit and stimulates the imagination of the British people after such a long spell of danger and austerity. Democracy cannot flourish except by free men and women knowing and understanding what they are striving and struggling for, and it would be shortsighted, even in economic terms, to underestimate the contribution which such a long delayed stimulus as this might give to our own national effort and how much it may contribute to our tourist and export earnings and our prestige and status among the nations of the world. 554 This is neither an abstract nor a negligible consideration. Britain must keep in the forefront or go under, and we look to the Festival as something which will play a powerful part in keeping Britain in the forefront, just as its predecessor in 1851 contributed so largely to keeping us in the forefront in the 19th century.
It may also be objected that a certain number of buildings are being torn down and their occupants are having to be provided with or are having to find fresh accommodation at a time when accommodation is so tight. That is certainly regrettable, but if we are ever to rebuild the Metropolis, we must start somewhere, and there is no spot where redevelopment will give so big and lasting a dividend as the redevelopment of the South Bank without which traffic can no longer flow smoothly, and accommodation for the necessities of Government and of business can no longer be found sites in the centre. I have myself inquired into the arrangements for accommodating dwellers and shopkeepers displaced from the site, and I am satisfied that the London County Council are doing all they reasonably can to ease the situation.
Objection may also be made against the character which the arrangements for the Festival are taking. It would not be in order to discuss and defend these full arrangements here, but the House will be aware that everything of importance that is done in connection with the Festival comes under the review of the Festival Council which, as I have already mentioned, is representative of leading members of all the principal political parties; and I am assured that there is no important difference of opinion among the eminent men and women who are supervising the arrangements and who represent a wealth and variety of experience which has rarely been found on any single committee. What I have said about the Great Britain Committee can also be said about the Scottish Committee and the Committees for Wales and Northern Ireland. No one would claim that the Festival arrangements are the best that we could have produced if our resources had been unlimited, but I am satisfied that they represent a very creditable and imaginative triumph over the extreme narrowness of the resources to which we have unfortunately had to confine the Festival Council.
555 Then it may be urged that more money should be spent in other parts of the country and less in London. Those who examine the full Festival arrangements will appreciate, however, that never before in this country or in any other has a national display been so widely and on the whole fairly distributed as between different parts of the country, instead of being monopolised by the capital.
I hope therefore that this Measure will be regarded not only as non-contentious but as one to which all parties in the House will wish to add their equal endorsement. The works provided in it will be the key to the enjoyment by vast numbers of people of a spectacle which we hope and believe will kindle the imagination of the nation and will convince the world as surely of our leadership in peace as the Battle of Britain convinced it of our unconquerable spirit in war. But beyond that, when the dust of 1951 has subsided, this will, we may hope, represent the first instalment of a series of imaginative and well planned measures which will transform the centre of our capital city into something more beautiful, more convenient and less inefficient for its purpose than it is today.
In view of the provisions of the Bill which I have explained, and the purpose of this Measure, I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading, and it would be pleasant if today we were unanimous in giving that Second Reading.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
Would it not be possible for my right hon. Friend to give a rough sketch—I know it could be no more than that—of what the Exhibition is to exhibit and what festivities the Festival is to comprise?
§ Mr. Morrison
I should not like to enter on a rather extensive survey at this stage, nor do I know how far it would be right for me to go, but if questions should be put and particular matters raised in the Debate, the Minister of Transport will be happy to get the information and to pass it on to the House.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I think the House will cordially re-echo the sentiments with which the right hon. Gentleman closed 556 his speech, namely, that we should as far as we can give this Bill a unanimous blessing without committing ourselves to more than approval of its principles and purposes, and reserving to ourselves the right to make at later stages suggestions for the improvement of the machinery to meet the technical points and difficulties which arise from it.
I am sure that the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, welcomed the Ruling of your predecessor in the Chair when he said that this Debate should be allowed latitude to range over the whole question of the Festival because, quite clearly, we are unable to judge in any sense the value or necessity of the works which are outlined in this Bill, unless we have some idea in our own minds as to whether the Festival which they are to render possible is a worthy object in itself. As this is the first opportunity the House has had of discussing the question, it is a good thing that we are allowed a certain latitude. So far, we have only had some statements made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us, and by other persons, about what is proposed for this Festival, and we have been told in the past that certain steps have been taken to which he referred, namely that a Council for the Festival has been set up under Lord Ismay. On that Council we on this side of the House are represented by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel W. Elliot) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler).
We are told that one of the purposes of this Festival is to commemorate the Great Exhibition of 1851. I, for one, welcome this temporary lapse of hon. Gentlemen opposite into Victorian respectability. We may also commend this desire on their part to acknowledge some of the achievements of the past; it is certainly a relief from their constant harpings upon its imperfections. I can well imagine, as the right hon. Gentleman said, some people being dubious about the wisdom of this proposal at a time when our own economy is so straitened, when just recently we have been presented with Supplementary Estimates of a truly formidable magnitude, and also at a time when we are, to put it frankly, so dependent upon 557 financial aid from overseas. However, I think we are wise to proceed with this project and to do our best to make it a success. It should, if successful, result in a net gain to our economy and, therefore, to the reconstruction of Europe which is the purpose of that generous aid from overseas to which I have referred.
On the financial side we can take some comfort from the fact that the 1851 Exhibition resulted in a surplus of £186,000, and when we consider the widespread nature of this Festival, which is to be held not only in London but in all the other main parts of the Kingdom, we are quite entitled to anticipate a stimulus to our trade and a welcome accretion of foreign currency. There has also to be borne in mind, in weighing up the economic side of it, that much of the proposed work—the clearing of the proposed site on the South Bank, the housing estate which is to be used as the Architectural and Town Planning Exhibition—would have to be undertaken anyhow, and will be of permanent value to the community.
Those are the material considerations. There is also a value imponderable but, no doubt, immense, in a sincere and worthy demonstration of our way of life at this time. We have come through much affliction, we are still suffering from troubles of many kinds, including right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but we may well think that by 1951, some of these afflictions may have disappeared and others will be at least mitigated, and a signal, if it can be set, of the enduring vitality and resource of the people of these islands may be an encouragement to free men everywhere with effects spreading far beyond our own shores.
Of course it is clear that this Exhibition cannot be on the scale of the 1851 Exhibition in Hyde Park, with its bewildering abundance and variety of exhibits of arts and crafts from all over the world. I have just been looking in the Library of the House at the three or four large volumes of the catalogue of that Exhibition. Any hon. Member who cares to look at it will be amazed and bewildered by the almost heterogeneous collection of articles described in that catalogue. The extent of the site proposed for this one is some 27 acres, 558 and that is to include the proposed concert hall and its approaches. This restricted area for the Exhibition involves two consequences to my mind. The first is that we must make up for what we lack in quantity by very high quality. The limitations of space and money imposed upon us should be a stimulus to ingenuity, to design and to selection. The second consequence is the importance of securing co-operation between the central Exhibition and complementary expositions in other parts of London and, indeed, in all parts of the United Kingdom. I am glad to see that those are the lines on which it is proposed to proceed.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, with pardonable patriotism, stressed the London side of this Exhibition, but we should remember that it is the Festival of Britain and that Britain is a very varied country. I hope that it will be found possible to let every region and every separate culture which exists in our island have full scope for making its contribution to the grand design. I speak not only of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where there are distinct cultures, but of other parts of England where people have contributions to make to a true picture of Britain which cannot be made by London alone.
I should like to say a few words upon the question of time. The year 1951 seems a long way ahead, but in my view, forming the best judgment I can of what is involved, the time for the work that has to be done is very short. In my experience these enterprises generally start at too leisurely a pace, and the common result is a rush and scurry at the end of the time. The Council and the Government should have before them the proverbial words, "It is later than you think," or, if they prefer something more poetical, the lines of Andrew Marvell:But at my back I always hearTime's winged chariot hurrying near.There is one other matter to which I should like to refer in particular. The right hon. Gentleman referred to what will be one of the great problems of running this Exhibition, namely the traffic that it will create in our already crowded streets. I think he dealt with that subject in a way which makes it unnecessary for me to add what I had 559 intended to say. I am convinced from what he said that this matter has been considered, and certainly it would be the wish of hon. Members in all parts of the House to give every assistance to the Metropolitan Police in their undoubtedly difficult task of securing free access to the Exhibition. I will say nothing more on that at the moment.
Another point which, it occurs to me, will be one of great difficulty is the question of accommodation for visitors to London. This Exhibition is bound to attract great numbers of people not only from our own country but from overseas, and much of the great advantage of this central site which we are proposing to use for the Exhibition will be lost if it is not, in fact, central in relation to where people have to sleep and eat. I think the Government can help in this matter if they really try, and I suggest that there should be now a close and rigorous survey of the hotels, boarding houses and hostels still held under requisition by the Government. The object should be to release the very maximum possible of such accommodation, and to release it in good time to permit of its re-equipment, repair and redecoration where necessary. I am sure that this problem of accommodation in London will be most difficult, and it can be solved only if it is tackled early enough.
As to the works themselves, much of what is necessary can be done, no doubt, under existing powers, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, they will form a permanent part of the reconstruction of London. The clearing up of the South Bank between the County Hall and Waterloo Bridge will be a gain for all time, and I hope that when the County Council have completed their wall they will sometimes gaze across the river and contemplate the three and half miles of embankment constructed as long ágo as 1870 by the old Metropolitan Board of Works, with all their faults.
This is a hybrid Bill, I understand, and I presume it will go to a Select Committee where those whose rights are affected can appear and state their case in accordance with the procedure in this House. We have not before us the deposited plans and book of reference which are referred to in Clause 2 (3) of the Bill. Subsection (3) seems to deal with the 560 point mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, the rehousing of persons displaced by the works, and it gives power to the Council to take certain lands in Lambeth for providing substituted sites for people who are displaced by the works. What I am not clear about is this: if these lands are taken for this purpose and persons are again displaced by this taking of lands, what is proposed to be done about them? I suppose the point has been thought of, and it may be that the answer would appear obvious if one had the book of reference and the deposited plans, but as we have not got them I should be glad of an assurance that this matter has been dealt with.
Then there is another little matter of detail to which I should like to get an answer—I do not mean today, but I should like it to be considered. It is quite obvious that the traffic induced by this Exhibition will require the provision of car parks. The parking position in London is always one of the major problems of its traffic. Clause 5 deals with the acquisition of sites for this purpose, but I see in Subsection (8, b) that if land is taken for this purposecompensation shall be payable as it would be under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939. …I recollect that in the Section which applies, namely Section 2 of that Act, there is a proviso which states that if a man's land is taken for a period he should be paid the sort of rent that he could get for the land immediately before the land was taken. But there is also a proviso to the effect that in computing the rent, no account shall be taken of any appreciation in values due to the emergency, as it is there described—the emergency then being the war.
This looks very much like our old friend 1939 values. The House has, by consent, moved a long way from 1939 values. Indeed, towards the end of the war they were found to be unjust. Parliament first of all made provision for certain supplements to 1939 values, and recently in Parliament, at the instance of the Government, they resorted to another basis of value for compensation which is founded upon market value for existing use. In the cases of bombed sites there would be no development charge payable for rebuilding the houses. I hope this matter will be looked at and that this great enterprise, on which we are all 561 engaging with such good will, for this public purpose, will not be marred at the outset by any suggestion of unfair treatment of those who are affected by it.
I have little to say about the proposed works themselves. They all need a good deal of study, which they will no doubt receive in Committee, but I should like to make a suggestion about one or two of them. I see that it is proposed to widen the roundabout in Parliament Square. I do not know precisely what land is to be taken for that purpose, but I hope that it will be found possible to spare the row of trees at the far end of the Square, because all these patches of greenery in our City are very valuable and are much easier destroyed than replaced; if it is possible to effect the necessary purpose and still preserve the trees, may I put in a humble plea for their preservation?
I should think, as it is almost a domestic matter, that we in this House should all like to have some further particulars of what is proposed to be done in altering the junction of Bridge Street and Westminster Bridge. I see that that is one of the matters referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum as covered by existing powers. If the Minister of Transport could tell us what is proposed to be done there, I am sure that as it lies so close to this House itself, we should all be extremely interested.
The footbridges are, no doubt, necessary, and I hope that while they are being constructed it will be found possible to give a demonstration of some of the ingenuity displayed during the war by the Royal Engineers in throwing bridges across rivers in Germany and France. It might be found that the expense would be reduced and that some of the material could be put to good use after the need for temporary bridges has gone. I would also ask the right hon. Gentleman to make sure, though I have no doubt that his answer will be in the affirmative, that full account has been taken of the problems of navigation of the river. It is very important that we should not sacrifice or impair the livelihood of those who work on the river, in order to suit the convenience of landlubbers who are going to walk across dry shod.
These are the only remarks that I have to make on the Bill. I repeat that we shall do our best to make this exhibi- 562 tion a success and a worthy example to the country to which we all belong. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his exposition. Speaking for my hon. Friends as a whole, I can say that we shall support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Naylor (Southwark, South-East)
No one can deny the importance and necessity of the Bill to which we are asked to give a Second Reading. The task, as set out in the Bill, indicates the very great problems that will be set for the Commissioner of Police. It is, in that respect, rather unfortunate that we should be obliged to choose a site in what is probably one of the most congested areas in London for traffic. That means, as the Bill shows, that a large expense is being incurred in alterations, and there is the possibility of the plans not developing exactly as we might wish.
Notwithstanding that little criticism, I am sure that the people of Southwark, Camberwell and Lambeth, and of South London generally, welcome the prospect of the Exhibition being held in their area. At the time of the 1851 Exhibition, South London was blessed with many open spaces. There were the Dog and Duck, Vauxhall Gardens, Bermondsey Park, the Temple of Flora and the Temple of Apollo. They were among the resorts of the people of that time. I compare that with the position today in Southwark; for the main point I wish to raise concerns Clause 5 (4) and (5).
My right hon. Friend has referred to the difficulty of finding suitable accommodation for the parking of motor cars. He referred to the Clause, and I was very glad to hear him say that, so far as the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park was concerned, he hoped there would be no necessity to take it over. I hope that before the Bill is passed we shall have assurances that the Ministry of Transport will allow the reference to the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park to be deleted from the Bill.
I would mention the history of this little park. It is called a park, but it is nothing more than a conventional recreation ground for the children. School children are taken there to play games and the whole area is restricted to something like 14 acres. A large pro- 563 portion of the ground is, of course, devoted to the building in the centre of the park, which houses the Imperial War Museum. I can picture the possibilities if this little piece of ground is taken over under the proposals of the Bill. If only a part of it is taken, the remaining part will stay in use as a playground. In view of the proximity of the car park there will then be a great danger to children. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to persuade the Minister of Transport to give further consideration to this matter.
I impress one aspect of this question upon my right hon. Friend, and that is that this park is named after the mother of the late Lord Rothermere and was presented to the London County Council as a memorial to his mother. A question of legality arises in my mind, although I have made no researches into the matter and my right hon. Friend may possibly know more about the legal aspect of it than I do. Whether there is a legal right or whether there is not a legal right, it does not seem to me quite the right thing that a memorial of this character should be turned aside from the original intention of the donor for the purpose merely of being converted into a place for the parking of motor cars. I would look upon it as a great infringement of the amenities of a borough which can boast of no more than a total of about 35 acres of open spaces.
My right hon. Friend will ask me what is the alternative? The answer would be that there are many areas in Southwark, thanks to Hitler when he passed by, which could provide accommodation, and they are to be found here and there over the borough. If there is any shortage of accommodation these sites might be used for that express purpose. I hope that this protest on my part against interference with the Geraldine Mary Harms-worth Park will have the effect of securing the removal of the reference in Clause 6. There is also the case of Clapham Common. The Minister has mentioned that it will be devoted to the parking of motor coaches, but I leave references to Clapham to other hon. Members.
That is all I wish to say now, except that I would like to be allowed to congratulate my right hon. Friend, with whom I have been associated for many 564 years in the progress of London. I congratulate him upon at least approaching a state of affairs on the South Bank of the Thames which has been one of the prominent objects of his policy for many years. He now finds himself in the position of being able to implement his policy. I have no doubt that in the years to come. when the Exhibition has run its course and is closed, he will be able to regard the South Bank of the Thames, the Shakespeare Theatre, the Exhibition Buildings and the improvements all along the South Bank, as his spiritual home.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
When the Lord President of the Council was telling the House the story of site-hunting, my mind naturally went back to the time when I was on the Ramsden Committee, to which the question of a permanent building for the British Industries Fair and the problem of an International Exhibition in 1951 were referred. We came to exactly the same conclusion. There were some optimists who thought it would be possible to beg the use of Hyde Park for the International Exhibition, but we told them there was no hope of that. Those of us who knew anything about these matters were certain that plenty of people in Parliament and in the London County Council would reject that proposition. Our conclusion was that the ideal site would be on the South Bank of the Thames.
Like the Lord President, I have worked in the Ministry of Supply. Looking out over the river in moments of contemplation, I was thoroughly ashamed at the ghastly sight which the view presented to us. That disgrace was frequently emphasised by my visits to international conferences in Paris, to a splendid building on the North side of the river from which can be seen its beautifully developed South side. I have always longed for the day when we should be able to tackle this problem, and I am in agreement, therefore, with the desirability of the site which has been chosen and on the value of the Festival itself.
I should like to read to the House two short sections from Cmd. Paper 6782, which was the report of our Committee in 1945. At the beginning we stated, in paragraph 3:Our recommendations have been framed on the assumption that the present difficulties 565 in connection with transport, accommodation and the supply of labour and materials will, to a great extent, have disappeared by the time our recommendations, if accepted, are being put into effect. It is only on this basis that we have been able to frame a long-term (constructive policy which will achieve the primary object we have had in view in all our discussions, namely, the promotion of United Kingdom export trade in the post-war era.I was not altogether happy about that, however, so towards the end, in paragraph 72, we emphasised these aspects:We have made our recommendations purely on the merits and advantages of an Exhibition.That was the 1951 International Exhibition.It is realised that any such exhibition must result in considerable expenditure and the diversion of labour and materials at the expense of other urgent forms of post-war reconstruction. To justify the heavy expenditure of money and the large allocation of labour necessary to make an International Exhibition a success, it is essential that in the meanwhile there must have been adequate progress made in the provision of dwelling houses, schools and other public institutions already promised, and, in addition, sufficient industrial buildings of all classes provided to enable industry to function efficiently.I feel bound to put on record that I have the same feeling about the modified Exhibition in 1951 as I had for the major project. We are still very much concerned with the question of housing. Let us presume that by 1951 the first stage will be well on the way to completion—and let us hope that we shall not be getting quite so many of the pitiful letters we receive from our constituents asking what we can do to help them to get houses. Even when we have completed the first stage, we are still faced with the second stage and the rehousing problem. In many of the great cities to which I go, just outside the shopping area there is a ring of decayed property which has to be rebuilt. In Birmingham we have half a dozen schemes to rebuild the decayed slum property which is close to the centre of the city. Those schemes have been postponed time after time until the people are beginning to feel that it is a case of the "never-never" land.
In addition to those problems, which are pressing very heavily upon us, the replacement of very many commercial and factory buildings needs to be undertaken as a result of the war. We get used to seeing these empty sites as we 566 wander about our big cities. Strangers call our attention to them and ask, "Are you ever going to build here?" We reply, "Oh, yes," and are then asked, "When?" We shake our heads. All sorts of projects are put before us for public buildings, hospitals, schools, social schemes, the administration of our public life and the rebuilding of public buildings to enable hotels to go back to their proper function. I am really getting tired of telling people, as I do sometimes, "Well, you will have to look after that; it will not happen in my lifetime."
I feel, therefore, that the plan before us is a very attractive scheme and I am entirely in agreement with it from all points of view. For prestige and for the uplift to which the Lord President referred, it will be very valuable. It will help in promoting exports and in bringing visitors with hard currency in their pockets to see us. It will start the rebirth of the South Bank. But while I am entirely in favour of these objects, I am a little uncomfortable, and should like some still fuller assurance, about the choice of the year 1951. It has been chosen for sentimental reasons. It was to be the year of the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and we thought it would be an excellent idea to show how we had recovered from the strains and stress of war by having a big Exhibition in 1951. That year, therefore, is a sentimental choice.
I want the fullest assurance that the Festival will not be at the expense of those other urgent national needs to which I have referred. The Lord President realises this difficulty, I am sure, but I felt that he was rather skating over the question. We are bound to have criticism and, no doubt, we can face up to it. The Lord President has had plenty of criticism and seems to thrive on it. We are sure to have plenty of criticism, as he knows, on the expense and labour which are being devoted to the preparation of the Exhibition. We should face the full effect of it now.
You have said, Mr. Speaker, that we can look at the whole problem and not just narrow it down to this particular detail upon which we are engaged. Supplementary Bills will be introduced and other expensive items will be put before us, and I do not want to be told, as sometimes we are, "You ought to have mentioned this question at the 567 beginning. You agreed to the principle and gave it an enthusiastic reception." I should like, therefore, to have from those who have studied the whole problem the fullest information about what it involves in terms of men, money and materials, and an assurance that the Festival will not cause the postponing to any great extent of any of the necessary schemes for which the country is waiting.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould (Hendon, North)
I welcome most heartily this great and imaginative scheme for the Festival of 1951. I do not share the views or the fears of the hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) about the harm it may cause. Of course, we shall get criticism. Nothing worth while has ever been achieved without criticism and certainly we on this side are used to it. In fact, I think we should seriously begin to wonder and ask ourselves whether we were doing the right thing if we did not get criticism. But I do not believe that the criticism of this scheme will be along the lines which have just been suggested, because the very fact that we shall bring in so much money and so many dollars from visitors and tourists will enable us to speed up all the building of which the hon. Member so rightly speaks.
This afternoon the Lord President of the Council naturally referred principally to the actual terms of the Bill. It would appear from the Bill that all roads lead to London, but that is not the position in regard to the Festival of Britain. Everywhere in the country when any local authority or any considerable group of the citizens want to do something by way of celebration, they will be encouraged to do so, and I am sure that it is intended that the encouragement given to them shall be in proportion to the size of their town or even village.
The Lord President talked of kindling the imagination of the nations of the world and I feel that the right kind of sentiment and emotion are among the most powerful of forces. If there is one thing around which sentiment is focused in this old London of ours, it is the British Houses of Parliament and British democracy, so I do not feel that any Festival would be adequate without some part of it taking place in close connection with the Palace of Westminster.
568 I wonder whether it would be possible to do something in Westminster Hall. Westminster Hall is one of the most famous, one of the oldest and one of the finest halls in the world. Everyone who visits this country and every British visitor to London is proud to be able to say that he has seen Westminster Hall. Since it was built, Westminster Hall has seen the growth of the Great British democracy which is represented by Parliament today. It is one of the most spectacular growths in the history of the world and something of which we have a right to be very proud, because our British democracy has grown out of the inherent characteristic of the freedom loving people. That is why we have a finer democracy, a more complete democracy than any other country in the world, except, possibly, New Zealand or Australia, who not only are first cousins, but whose forefathers not very long ago were British people.
The British tradition is a very great tradition and our democracy which governs Parliament today has grown up through many dramatic phases from Norman times, or at least from the signing of Magna Charta. It would be difficult to have a pageant, but I am wondering if it would be possible to have a diorama of scenes of history depicted in Westminster Hall. I daresay many hon. Members do not know what a diorama is. I did not know what it was called until yesterday afternoon, although I have seen one. A diorama shows models which look absolutely lifelike.
Possibly other hon. Members have seen the diorama in the Science Museum showing the history of British transport. If the Lord President has not seen it, he ought to see it. It shows lifelike models from the oldest type of farm cart to the latest train, or road vehicle. Why should we not have something of that kind dating from Magna Charta and going through British history, showing the fall of Charles I and showing how our democracy really started to be built after his death, and its growth through the Reform Bill to modern times, when we have a comprehensive franchise and a completely democratic government? In the last scene it could show an actual sitting of the House of Commons and give some pictorial display of the way in which the House carries on from day 569 to day, which is something everyone wants to know.
The new Chamber will be opened by the time the Exhibition is held and the Exhibition will take place, in part, during the Recess. The Exhibition is to be built on war shattered Britain and is to picture the new Britain. What could be more apposite and dramatic than the destruction of the old Chamber and a new Chamber built on its foundations? We hope that the new Chamber will see no more wars, but that in it new legislation benefiting not only democratic Britain but the whole world, will be passed. Why should there not be an opportunity during the Recess for the visitors to the 1951 Festival to see our new Chamber, which is the symbol of one of the most dramatic things that has ever happened? Let us not forget that, although our Chamber was destroyed during the war, Parliament carried on. It carried on with the business of winning the war for democracy and freedom.
All that time, now and continuously, Parliament has been and is watched over by the most famous broadcaster in the world, Big Ben. In all parts of the world, particularly in the occupied countries during the war, people sat in cellars or in garrets risking their lives to hear a message of hope coming daily from Britain heralded by the chimes of Big Ben. This great tradition, which catches the imagination of everyone who visits this country, could be brought home to our guests during the Exhibition. I know it will mean a lot of organisation and, of course, only a tithe of the great numbers who see the Exhibition could possibly see it, but would not it be well worth while to build up scenes in Westminster Hall showing the growth of our democracy? Let people pass through there whenever possible to see the new Chamber, and let as many people as possible who come to visit our Festival and Exhibition go away with the living memory of how we really do carry on British Government for democracy and freedom.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
As I am the only Member in the Chamber at the 570 moment who is on the Council of the Festival, I do not think it would be out of place for me to say a word. Perhaps also, I might speak, in a personal sense, because I was born in South London and I was at school for 11 years in Bermondsey. I have very vivid remembrances of the rakish roofs and of the chimney-dotted land of South London, which has had very little chance compared with the West and the North. I feel in miniature what the Lord President feels so very strongly about the meaning of this for South London. It is a tremendous opportunity.
The hope of this Exhibition is that it will unite what is permanent with what is to some extent ad hoc for the Festival. It is very fortunate that a large part of the works are to remain for the glory of South London. The hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) was somewhat critical. It is difficult at any time in history to say that one should or should not do a thing. It is a question of balance. It was decided to build the Albert Hall—though perhaps I had better not mention that—but the old Queen's Hall for instance at a time when there were appalling slums in London. That has always been a difficulty. I can think of a large number of black-listed schools which I condemned 15 years ago and which are still there. Theoretically one ought not to touch another concert hall until those schools have been put right. But we must keep a sense of perspective.
This is not only a transport and traffic Bill. This is a Bill dealing with something more than bread and circuses. Perhaps it is time a word was said—the Lord President referred to it but he had to deal more specifically with the Bill itself—about the main aim of the Festival. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy) put a question to the Lord President. As I understand it, from our terms of reference on the Council, we are concerned mainly with the arts and sciences. We are concerned with industrial design as well, but primarily with the arts; music, the ballet, the theatre, films, books, galleries and museums all over the country. Anyone who has read T. S. Eliot's new book will remember how he stresses all the way through the regional cultures of Britain and, as the right hon. Gentleman who led for the Opposition said, those are 571 among the precious parts of the whole Exhibition.
We hope that Britain will literally come alive during these months of 1951 and the suggestion made by the hon. Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) will, I am sure, be welcomed by the Council. It is precisely that sort of suggestion which is being put up; I am not sure that something like it has not already been suggested. There is no limit to what can be made use of in 1951. I do not think that I am giving away any sort of confidential information when I say that we hope that every gallery and museum in the country will present its wares from the local point of view. If Norfolk, or Yorkshire, or Lancashire, has a famous collection, or if a particular collection in Birmingham or Liverpool is famous, we hope that it will not only be on exhibition but that every picture by the same artist, every work by the same composer, and every book, and so forth, will be brought in the area, so that the whole of that region, with its cultural life, will be literally on show.
This is a tremendous task in which the labours of literally hundreds and perhaps thousands of people will be employed—and when I say labours I mean a great deal of it will be voluntary labour—before this Exhibition is finished. It is an interesting example of the Government of the day, whom I congratulate on having the imaginative conception to do it, literally releasing the energies of the people to show their wares. I give one example. I happen to be chairman of the National Book League. We have a series of exhibitions normally in Albemarle Street. We had a beautiful one of French books not long ago. I am certain that we shall put our case very strongly to have not only a series of the very best exhibitions possible during those months, but also that book exhibitions will take place all over the country to show the world the skill and craftsmanship which still exists in this land. It will be the same for all the arts. I only happen to mention books because I am more familiar with it. I do not know whether that gives the hon. Member for Eton and Slough any wider or clearer view.
It is not for me to say in detail what the Council will say in the future about more specific examples of the Exhibition. 572 What I am saying is that it is definitely to cover the whole sphere of the arts. It is not meant to be an exhibition of industry qua industry. That is quite definite and when the Lord President made his first announcement in this Chamber, he made that point very clear. The exact presentation, the way this is to be done, apart from the Exhibition in London which is of course the major exhibition, is not for me to say at the present moment. As I picture it however there will be the Edinburgh Festival of that year, there will be the Aldeburgh Festival and the Cheltenham and other festivals but in a sense they will be super festivals in that particular year. In other words, they will all go on but will have a very special responsibility during that year, partly because we hope to bring large sections of the people of the world here, and the tourist traffic will be one of the material rewards, apart from lifting the spirits of the people of this country.
I hope that some step will be taken to deal with the hotels, and the question of eating and drinking. I am rather terrified of bringing a large number of people here from that point of view. I think they will see the best of our arts and science and design, and let us not under-estimate the renaissance in music and ballet, if not in certain of the other arts. I tremble to say, in the presence of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, whether that is true about the theatre. But there is a renaissance in some of the others and certainly in documentary films we have a good deal to show. But there is also this question of looking after the people when they are in this country.
I am rather alarmed at the present moment about the hiatus between club-land and fun-land. For those who go to clubs, and are members of them, there is a comfortable room, very often with a delightful library, and reasonably cheap meals. For the masses there is a good deal of what I might call fun-land amusements. But for the great masses of ordinary people in London let alone in the provincial cities there is often literally nothing. There are a few places where one can sit down comfortably and have a cup of tea between, shall I say, Claridges and Lyons. There are few places where one can take one's friends in the evening except either very expensive places or literally almost the open air. 573 This is a great opportunity to bring these and other matters home to public and private enterprise because of the needs of the Exhibition itself.
I do not believe that this will detract from any of the essential work of the country. Some of us, like the hon. Member for Edgbaston, are alarmed at the postponement of the work at Birmingham University. We hoped that the Vice-Chancellor would have a proper house and that there would be a proper centre for the university. Alas, that will not come about for the next four or five years. Many projects have to be put off because of the general need for houses and essential schools. Therefore, in that perspective, the amount of work done in the Festival ought to be completely minor in its effect on other work. I regard this as something which is badly needed.
One hon. Member asked why we should have the Festival in 1951—why not 1952 or 1953? There is not only the sentimental reason, the memory of 1851. It is high time that the country had five months of "let up." It is high time that the people of this country had the chance of working, as they will be, in a great common effort. I think that alone, especially in the sphere of the arts, will make an enormous contribution. I only hope that the Council of the Festival will as soon as possible make known to everyone more precise details so that those who will be working with the Government can feel that apart from "production, production, production," which is the cry of the moment and will be for some years; apart from the fact that it is difficult to go abroad; and apart from many other restrictions which necessarily must affect the country, there will be this other great idea for which they are working. A poet said:Greece, though conquered, held the world in chains.I say that Britain, though temporarily and economically embarrassed, has something more to give the world, and I hope that 1951 will show it.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Macpherson (Romford)
In supporting the Second Reading of this Bill, may I also express the view that the decision to hold this Exhibition and to develop the South Bank of the Thames 574 between Westminster and Waterloo Bridge is indeed a great conception. It is something about which the Government, the London County Council and, if I may say so, the Lord President can be justly proud. I am particularly interested in Clause 1 (2) which provides for piers at the Exhibition site, because I am interested in water buses. I have no financial interest, but I am chairman of a committee set up by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport which was charged with the responsibility of organising the service which we had last year and which will be resumed in the early days of April.
One of the obstacles to the development and greater use of the River Thames for passenger traffic is the lack of piers. In days gone by when the Thames was in daily use as an artery for traffic there were over 100 piers and landing places in regular use. But those have mostly all gone. I am therefore delighted to see in this Bill that a pier or piers will be provided at the South Bank. Already my colleagues and I are planning to arrange that by the time the Exhibition opens in 1951 we shall be able to place at the disposal of the authorities a water bus service of sufficient dimensions to make a substantial contribution to their transport problem. I believe that the South Bank pier or piers and the water buses of themselves will be one of the big attractions of the Exhibition. Many people will enjoy the Festival but there will be added pleasure in being able to come and go by water.
The South Bank piers for which provision is made in the Bill will be of little use of themselves in assisting with the great traffic problem at the Exhibition unless there is a reasonable number of other piers up and down the river. At present we have only eight passenger piers in use between Putney and Greenwich. Steps are being taken to provide more. On the initiative of the Mayor of Hammersmith discussions are proceeding with a view to providing a pier which will serve the people of that important riverside borough. Negotiations are in progress with the Port of London Authority and the London County Council to provide additional piers and extensions of existing structures. I wish to impress upon the Government that we shall not readily get these piers unless the Govern- 575 ment take an interest and use their influence. They should see that they are provided in good time, not only to meet the needs of the Exhibition but also to satisfy current requirements of passenger traffic on the river.
In Clause 1 provision is made for a pier or piers which may be temporary or permanent. I make a strong plea for this opportunity to be taken to provide a permanent pier at the South Bank—not merely a bit of a landing stage or a pontoon but a proper pier built into the super-structure of the South Bank which will be worthy of the site and of the service which it can give to that great district of South London. I should like to see a structure which will not only give pier facilities for people travelling by water, but which will in time become a riverside rendezvous for the people of South London so that they can enjoy the delights of our wonderful river. I should like to see a South Bank pier with cafes, a restaurant and perhaps a nearby bandstand, with plenty of seats in its precincts, where people can sit and enjoy the wonderful view of the North side—the centre of the Metropolis—and at the same time watch the never-ending and interesting traffic which passes to and fro on the river. I should also like to see these piers provided with some protection against bad weather.
This is a wonderful opportunity, and I hope that amenities like those I have suggested will be provided, and that the authorities will take steps to see that they are incorporated in the proposals before it is too late and before the plans are too far advanced. With those observations, I have much pleasure in supporting this Bill.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has been making a plea for additional piers. I think this Government should be able to handle that job very well, because they have shown us how easily they can create additional peers out of very poor material.
As a London Member, I feel that my remarks should be applied mostly to London. This is a splendid project, but I think what the Government have to watch is that they do not concentrate too much on the preparation of the actual 576 place of the Festival across the river, and fail to realise that this Festival will not be the success it could be unless the whole of London is considered as part of the general plan. I also ask them to consider that the very word "festival" reminds us of the word "festive." Therefore, something must be done to keep the Chancellor of the Exchequer out of this altogether. I agree that he has to supply the money, but he should not be concerned in preparing the Festival at all, though we should not mind if he were to be an exhibit. We must have people like the Lord President, who are showmen, with London in their hearts, and men who know and understand the crowd psychology.
I agree with some of the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last that we have almost to dramatise the river. It seems to me that the river is a great part of this plan. We might have pageants on the river. We must remember the people who will come from the outer Empire and from the United States, and who have no experience of pageantry like the English. I have always thought that the English, with all their notorious modesty, are the greatest masters of pageantry in the world. Those of us who attended the Coronation will never forget the crescendo of effect which, in the theatre, would have required all sorts of producers and directors. Somehow, that job was done superbly, and they did it again last year at the Silver Wedding anniversary. What I am afraid of is that, with the belief in the amateur—which does not apply purely to the party opposite—we shall put these things in the hands of those who are not masters of pageantry. We ourselves in the Conservative Party held an exhibition a few years ago called "Free the People." We had many good ideas, but we failed to consult anybody who knew anything at all about an exhibition.
§ Mr. Baxter
It was a flop. The hon. Gentleman does not need to point that out to me; I am confessing that it was a flop. The reason was because we failed to consult anybody who knew anything about an exhibition. I hope the Government will avoid that mistake in this case.
577 There is another matter that we should not forget and that concerns the Tower of London, with all its grim memories. I am not sure that we should not have a spectacle there, with people dressed in the dresses of the olden times. The Tower of London should be included in these plans for the benefit of people from overseas, who will also want to see the House of Commons with its Terrace lit up and the river illuminated, and do not let us forget that our visitors themselves will want to get lit up. Are there to be any relaxations of the licensing laws? There should be. The Americans, who are still a free people, do not understand our drink laws. Are we to relax them? Perhaps I am making an appeal on this point to representatives of a Government which may not be in power at that time, but at least the present Government are making the plans, and I hope they will take note of the suggestion.
I also hope that they will go a little further afield. I have in my constituency an abandoned palace, not in the spiritual sense of the word, of course, but one which houses television. Alexandra Palace could play a great part in connection with this exhibition and could bring to the enlightened district of Wood Green a great many people who would be delighted to go there.
May I also say, without having the slightest financial interest in this project, that we should consult Mr. Butlin about it? I think we should bring in Billy Butlin, who is a natural showman, and also General Critchley, who is another natural showman with great imagination. I think these men would be only too glad to co-operate and advise such eminent experts as my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), who I see is on the Committee. My right hon. Friend is a thoughtful, clever and delightful man, but I should like him to have the impact of brains of men like Butlin and Critchley who understand this kind of thing.
I think it is a splendid idea that London should take more care of its South Bank. How much Paris makes of its river, compared with what we have done with the Thames. I agree that the Thames has on its South Bank that monstrosity the London County Council building, very utilitarian, but making it very difficult for any other kind of architecture to 578 sit down beside it. There is the semi-ruined St. Thomas's Hospital and then the strange battlements of Lambeth Palace. It is truly time that we did something across there, and I am delighted to think that it is going to happen.
Finally, we must not forget the arts. We should not forget the festival which will be going on at Stratford-on-Avon. Shakespeare means more to the Americans than does this Government, and all the Opposition as well. The Americans feel as if they own Shakespeare, but may I say that the arrangements at Stratford-on-Avon are unimaginative and not very good. Even on the opening day, the trumpets were inside the theatre and not outside it. Somebody in Stratford needs waking up. The arts must play a very big part in this Festival. There is at the present time in London a golden era of acting, though not of writing, I am sorry to say, and I only wish as much could be done in finding writers as has been done in discovering actors. We have Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud, who are national assets. So far as I am concerned, as a London Member and as one who was born in Canada, I rejoice at the very prospect of the dramatisation of this, the greatest city in the world. I wish good luck to the Festival.
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)
Is not the hon. Gentleman a Middlesex Member, rather than a London Member?
§ Mr. Baxter
When speaking in Middlesex I am a Middlesex Member but, down here, I become a London Member.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
As a member of the London County Council of some years' duration, I welcome this Bill, and I believe that in so doing I am echoing the views of all my colleagues of every political party on that council. This Bill will help to provide an improved transport service which is needed, not only by the Festival of Britain Exhibition, but which would have been needed in any case by the development of the South Bank. For that reason, we in London especially welcome it. It must be remembered that the extension of the embankment which is just being started will increase the area by four and a half acres. Whether that land is laid out entirely in the form of 579 gardens or not, people will have to reach it. Some will come by boat, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. T. Macpherson), but others will come by road and train. Instead of having several acres of derelict property which is very little used at present, we hope, in time, to have on the South Bank a concert hall, a National Theatre, and many important public buildings. All these things will involve increased transport facilities, wider roads, and more facilities for access.
I hope that in this development everything possible will be done to retain the natural beauty of the site and its historical monuments. As I passed along the embankment yesterday, I saw one of the red lions of the brewery being taken down to be repaired and repainted. But what concerns me much more is the Shot Tower. I hope that this tower will remain permanently on that site and not only temporarily as is proposed, because it is a monument of the industry of the past and seems to me an essential part of London as I have always known it. In this connection, I would strongly support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould). She pointed out how important a knowledge of the Government of this country and some explanation of the history and work of the Mother of Parliaments is for the education of all those who visit the Exhibition. I hope that those concerned with the Exhibition will very carefully consider what can be done in an exhibition so near the Palace of Westminster to show people, or at any rate to explain to them, the democratic form of Government which we have in this country.
There is one more thing with which I should like to deal. I trust that people will not think that the London County Council is, so to speak, cashing in on the Festival of Empire just to get things done which would not otherwise be done. I would remind the House that the London County Council had a scheme for the development of the South Bank fairly fully worked out as early as 1935, and that in the General Powers Bill of 1939 a definite scheme was proposed which would have been carried out long ago had it not been for the war.
Finally, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Southwark 580 (Mr. Naylor) that more ought to be done to provide parking facilities. It seems a little absurd, as suggested in this Bill, that people coming to London by car and coach in order to visit the Exhibition should have to park their vehicles as far away as Clapham Common. Cannot bombed sites nearer to the Exhibition be used, or is it not possible to obtain other accommodation? It is a long way from Clapham Common to this area, and I suggest to the Minister that he should carefully consider the provision of parking factilities more amenable to the needs of the people visiting the Exhibition. With these few remarks, I strongly commend this Bill to the House, and on behalf of the London County Council thank the Government for its introduction.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)
While listening to the Debate, I was particularly impressed at the absence of any definite criticism either of the Festival itself or of the proposals in this Bill. It is quite clear that what the Lord President hoped for has happened. This Bill has, in fact, the support of both sides of the House.
I was particularly impressed with what the hon. Gentleman the Senior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) had to say about this being a festival, and one not confined to London, but one in which the arts all over the country were to be given a chance of being displayed with full lustre and beauty. He mentioned Edinburgh as having during the past two years started festivals of this type, and he hoped that in 1951 there would be a particularly superb Edinburgh Festival. He also mentioned a festival at Aldeburgh, which is in my constituency. It is a very small town. What they did last year was a most interesting accomplishment. By getting people to subscribe small amounts they managed to run a small festival of great taste and refinement which attracted nationwide attention. That spirit can be kindled in other parts of the country, and I think that this 1951 Festival will give the nation a chance to think more of its culture than, perhaps, it has been in a position to do for some time.
The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) is a member of the London County Council. I also happen to have that privilege, and I think it must be admitted that in this Bill very definite 581 responsibilities are going to be handed over to that council. A number of hon. Members, and, in particular, my right hon. Friend, who spoke after the Lord President, have shown concern about the time factor in the projects which we have been discussing this afternoon. They are anxious that the great task which has been handed to the various authorities shall be accomplished in time, because, if they are not, all the high hopes we entertain about the success of this Festival will be greatly endangered.
I wish to stress this question of time. The London County Council has to make very detailed traffic arrangements and is to be responsible for the erection of piers and river bridges. It is also to be responsible for acquiring land for car parks and for running those car milks. In addition to that, I do not think it has been generally appreciated that the London County Council is to be responsible for the building of a concert hall. I think the Lord President did mention the fact. It is to be responsible for the building of a concert hall which, as I understand it is to play a very big part in the London side of the Festival of Britain in 1951.
The London County Council have said, as they say in all these things, that they wish to co-operate with the Government to the utmost of their ability. They have gone so far as to say that in addition to those responsibilities which are being imposed upon them in this Bill, they are prepared to finish this concert hall by 1951. I think some hon. Members know probably better than I that the building of a concert hall is not a project which should be lightly undertaken because the question of acoustics raises a complicated problem. We have had the experience of the Albert Hall which disappointed those who were interested in its construction by being anything but perfect when it was finished, so far as acoustics were concerned.
I am told that if the London County Council is to complete this concert hall by 1951 there is a grave danger that the acoustics may not be as perfect as they could have been if a longer period had been taken to complete the hall. That, it may be said, is a risk which is worth taking, but I feel that it is a risk in which the Government should take some share, because this concert hall will be provided 582 out of the pockets of the ratepayers of London and not from the general taxpayer. If, through the willingness of the London County Council to finish this concert hall in time, risks are run and extra work is necessary at a later date to rectify some of the mistakes made through speed, then in fairness to Londoners, the Government should be prepared to go to the London County Council and say, "We are prepared to contribute some of this extra expense to which you have been put because you tried to do us a good turn." I think that is a reasonable point to put to the Minister and I want him to take it into consideration.
I join with all other hon. Members in wishing this Bill and the Festival, Godspeed. I think it is time that we in Britain had a chance of displaying our goods to the world in our own time and in our own fashion. I believe the world is going to be a considerably happier place as a result of what we are going to do in 1951, and I am also confident that we shall be a happier race by being give the chance to carry out this project.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Brentford and Chiswick)
I have listened to the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) with great interest and I am sure all of us in every part of the House will join with him in the general welcome which has been given to this very dramatic project for making a new British shop window to the world in 1951. I want, if I may, to revert for a very few moments to a point I have raised in this House once or twice recently. In doing so, perhaps I may say that I have been somewhat surprised and shocked by the fact that although the Exhibition of 1851 was held in a park and was very much related to open spaces, there has so far been no mention either in the Bill or in Ministerial statements of making use of any of the great open spaces of the Greater London area. When I am speaking of Greater London I naturally include parts of Middlesex in which my own constituency lies and other places which are technically not part of the administrative county of London.
We have in this capital of ours probably the finest open spaces and the finest public gardens of any capital city in the 583 world I should be the last to criticise the excellent project for the development of part of the South Bank of the river Thames. It has two great virtues, one of which is that it will provide a magnificent temporary exhibition site and the second is that it will enable work to be carried out which should have been carried out long ago and which will have a permanent value.
For a moment I want to refer to the (question of the extension of part of the Festival of Britain to the grounds of Chiswick House which lies in my constituency. There are, I believe, a number of special reasons for choosing that particular place and I will mention them briefly. As I am sure my right hon. Friend knows, Chiswick House is one of the few surviving and probably one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in this country. A few months ago, by the generosity of the local authorities concerned, the Borough Council of Brentford and Chiswick and the County Council of Middlesex, that building was presented to the nation, and we have been given an assurance by the Minister of Works and other persons concerned that they will put in hand the work of restoring this building to a fine state of preservation. I was grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning when, on 28th January, he told the House he would consult with the Minister of Works to see whether these repairs can be speeded up so as to be completed in time for the Exhibition of 1951.
But the repairing of Chiswick House itself is only part of the reason why I hope it will be possible to make it and its grounds one of the features in Greater London of the 1951 Exhibition. Another reason is that the house is surrounded by publicly owned gardens in a most beautiful state of preservation—I believe it is one of the finest open spaces in London—and they could be easily used for purposes like open air dramatic presentations, open air musical events and a great number of other open air activities which obviously cannot take place in the part of the South Bank of the Thames which we have been discussing. This kind of activity could be produced in the grounds of Chiswick House with greater ease than in a number of other open spaces which are normally devoted to uses which make 584 it difficult to undertake their sudden transformation in time for 1951.
Although we have heard rather depressing news about the use to which some open spaces are to be put in South London—the conversion of some small parks into places for the storing of motor cars, for instance—I hope it will be possible for the Minister to say something about the possibility of developing Chiswick House and its grounds into an attractive and useful part of the Festival of 1951. This is a matter which has been discussed locally, and which has the full support of the local authorities, and the local people, and I think its adoption would be not only to their advantage but also to the advantage of Greater London as a whole and to many thousands of foreign visitors whom we shall be happy to welcome in 1951.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
When I received a copy of this Bill I must say my heart rose because I was greatly encouraged by its title, "Public Works (Festival of Britain) Bill." Since glancing at its contents I find that is rather a more generous title than the contents seem to warrant. This is not a Public Works (Festival of Britain) Bill; it is a Bill for the purpose of providing footbridges, stages, escalators, subways and stairways, tramway works, road improvement schemes, public parking places and a number of other amenities for the London County Council.
I come from a local authority of a more stubborn and independent character, the local authority of the City of Edinburgh, where we have hitherto managed our own affairs without reverting to special pleadings of this description to provide our roads, parking places and other amenities. Some kindly references have already been made to the Festival of the City of Edinburgh. It may not be within the knowledge of the House that in the first instance the festival of the City of Edinburgh was entirely paid for by private persons. Some tens of thousands of pounds were raised from citizens, great and small, in the City of Edinburgh for this important enterprise.
What disappoints me and surprises me, in these days of financial stringency, is that the Public Works (Festival of Britain) Bill should, in fact, be a demand upon the taxpayers of the whole of the United 585 Kingdom for the support of the London County Council. The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) very properly pointed out that the London County Council has not been wholly unaware of its responsibilities in this matter. Out of its enormous budget of, I think, some £40 million—it gets some £20 million by grant—it has £20 million to spend upon the growing and expanding population in its area and amenities for them. In 1925 the London County Council had an elaborate and satisfactory plan. [HON. MEMBERS: "In 1935."]
The hon. Gentleman protested because his conscience—he is a tender and kindhearted man—prompted him not to want anyone in this House to think that the London County Council was cashing in on this project and getting things done. His suspicions were right. I must admit that, dull though the Scots are normally, that impression was made on my mind. I will admit it. It occurred to me that it looked like—and I think the public at large will think it looks like—London's cashing in on the taxpayers of the other parts of Britain for things which London, if I judge it rightly, can well pay for itself.
I think a great capital city and a great council such as the London County Council should think twice before giving its support to this Measure. I cannot think of humble boroughs—Royal and humble boroughs—which would come forward with such a proposal. We have run festivals in other parts of the country. The borough of Aldeburgh and the Royal City of Edinburgh have been able to do it without making any demand upon the general public purse. Yet this great metropolis, the great wen which has sucked in the wealth and intelligence of the whole of the United Kingdom for 300 or 400 years, is coming cap in hand round South Wales, round the mining areas of Scotland, round Birmingham and Liverpool, all these battered, tattered towns and cities—the great County of London is coming cap in hand and begging for a couple of million pounds for its proper public works. I am not objecting to it, but I am pointing out that it may seem in the minds of some, possibly not so acclimatised to the English atmosphere as I am, a mere piece of impertinence if these 586 public works are to be developed by the Treasury.
Let me urge that some part, at any rate, of the money to be spent or granted should be spent in other areas. I want the whole of this country to be festive. I want it all to be gay and joyful. I am reminded that Stratford is having its share, and other places, but I have yet to see anything of this in this Bill. There are other important parts of the country which should have their part in what is after all, a British Festival If we are to have public works paid for by public funds for the benefit of London I do think we should expand the list of places to benefit. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) points out to me that there are certain entrances into the county of London which could be improved. There is St. Pancras station and King's Cross with which we are familiar. Why subways and stairways at Charing Cross Underground station are to have special advantages from the Government I cannot think—unless it is that they are more familiar to Ministers travelling to and fro on their lawful duties. In the scheme I hope some consideration will be given to these other places.
I have only one other observation to make. I should not like anyone to think that any part of the country is unenthusiastic about the project. London is a great city. There is no city in the world like London. It is, even to a Scotsman, as Dr. Johnson reminded us, the destination to which that high road travels which so many fortunately seek. Do not let there be any disparagement of it. However, let hon. Members for London constituencies and London itself have in mind the wider implications of their great, grand scheme. Do not let them narrow it down too much. London has enjoyed Socialist direction for a score of years. It ill becomes a Socialist county council of all councils to come forward cap in hand for this project. It has had wide opportunities during these many years to expand its amenities, and that it should come in this year of grace 1949, begging other municipalities for support is not creditable.
I conclude by saying that this £2,000,000 will be gladly spent and well spent if it is part of the expenditure on a Festival for all Britain. To narrow it 587 down and limit it to capital assets which are to be presented to the London County Council, and which will remain capital assets of theirs, is, I think, a distortion of public finance to which I would take very serious and grave exception. I would add that there must be in London many thousands of wealthy men and women, even supporters of the Government, who would like to associate themselves, not as taxpayers or ratepayers, with this project, who would, as the citizens of Edinburgh did, open a subscription list, and with their £10,000, or £5,000, or £1,000 or smaller gifts, subscribe to this admirable scheme. I am sure that would contribute to the greater success it would enjoy.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Gibson (Kennington)
I do not think the House will expect me to follow the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling). We have listened to a piece of Scottish humour, and we can let it pass at that, because the whole of the hon. Gentleman's case was completely wrong. The London County Council was asked by the Government to come in on this, and with very great pleasure it agreed to come in on it. As a London ratepayer I do not think we shall make any money out of it.
§ Mr. Gibson
Some of us for many years have been trying to get an improvement along the South Bank of the Thames, and we shall get that improvement. Speaking as one who represents Lambeth on the London County Council, I am very glad that one of the propaganda points that I have had to use against the Opposition is now to be lost to me by the cleaning up for good and all, of the horrible mess on the South Bank of the Thames.
§ Mr. Gibson
At a cost to London ratepayers, in the main. In doing that, we can obtain a Festival of Britain which will show the world what Britain is doing, and that, I think, is in itself well worth doing. Therefore, I support this Bill wholeheartedly, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) did, I can assure the House that, so far 588 as the London County Council is concerned, the Government will have all its support in making this Festival a really national festival for the whole of Britain. I think the natural place for such a Festival of Britain is London.
§ Mr. Gibson
I may be biased, being a Cockney, of which I am not ashamed, but I think it is the natural place. I think the part of the Thames which was associated with Shakespeare in the past, and associated with the very grand work of the old Vic in developing the love of culture, is just the place where such an exhibition ought to be held. I hope the Exhibition will be a great success. In so tar as I represent part of the Borough of Lambeth and part of the Borough of Southwark, I can assure the House that I have already received expressions of their keen interest and their desire and determination to help in the utmost in making this Festival, so far as they are able, a great success. I have not heard of any complaints yet from people in those boroughs with a political persuasion similar to that of the hon. Member for South Edinburgh. I have not heard any of them object in any way to the public expenditure which will inevitably be incurred.
I am glad the Exhibition is to be something more than the formal type of exhibition we have had in the past. I have seen the exhibitions in Paris, and I think that one of their great attractions was that they were on the river bank. On this occasion we shall be able to use the Thames in a way which I hope will result in it being used much more in the future than it has been in the past, and that we shall be able to have boats running on it for the use of Londoners, Scotsmen, and people from all over the world, who will be able to see the many fine things which can be seen from the Thames. The more that we use the Thames, the better for London and Britain. I hope that the proposal for developing the river service will be a great success.
As part of the scheme it is proposed to have a live exhibition. By that is meant the reconstruction in the East End of London of London's bombed boroughs in order to show the world not only what London went through—and it must be 589 remembered that London suffered a terrific battering during the war with great loss both of people and property—but how we have recovered from that battering. In the borough of Stepney, there is to be a huge re-development which will not only show how we are re-housing our people in modern homes, but how we are building amusement places, churches and community centres, and—what I am extremely keen about—providing in that part of London open spaces for people to play in and enjoy themselves where none exist at the moment. The scheme for the development of a large area of Stepney and Poplar as part of the great Exhibition is one, I am sure, about which everyone will be enthusiastic, particularly as it is proposed to take people from the Exhibition by river to the site of the new development.
A point which I wish to stress, and on which I hope the Minister can give me some assurance, is that which was touched upon by the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare). We are up against the time factor. It will be extremely difficult to get the rebuilding of not merely the concert hall but of the East End of London, which is to be part of the Exhibition, in time. I hope that the Minister and the Government will make a big effort to cut down the time which it takes to get through the legal machinery for any building project of this kind. At the County Hall we are doing our utmost in this respect, but we are afraid that unless the necessary legal steps which have to be taken can be speeded up, we shall not be able to build sufficiently by 1951 to provide a complete and comprehensive exhibit for people from abroad to see.
I hope that the Minister will be able to say that some assistance will be given to the London County Council and the other London boroughs who are interested in this and other projects connected with the Exhibition, to beat this time factor. It would be a tragedy if in 1951 we were unable to have a complete exhibition showing not only the work and life of Britain but the great efforts that are being made to reconstruct our battered London. The Government should be able to help us in that connection.
Finally, I believe that this is a chance to show the world that Britain has 590 recovered from the battering which the war gave her; that the ordinary common people of this country can produce something well worth seeing; and to show the world not only what the British way of life means but the arts and crafts and all that goes to make life sweet and beautiful in the "great wen." We shall do all that we can to help but the time factor is seriously worrying some of us because we want to see the exhibition a great success.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Howard (Westminster, St. George's)
Bearing in mind the important position which the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. Gibson) holds in the London County Council, there is no need for me to stress the importance of timing. That clearly must be in the mind of the Minister. Two matters have been stressed on both sides of the House—quality and comfort. The quality of the Exhibition itself if of vital importance. I shall not add my ideas to those already expressed on the particular ways and means by which that quality can be assured. The question of the comfort of those who will, we hope, visit the exhibition is equally important. The provision for visitors and guests which London, and particularly the South Bank, is able to make today, falls far short of what we hope it will be able to provide in 1951.
A point which I particularly wish the Minister to make clear, because I am a little alarmed by some of the remarks made, is which of the public works are to be temporary and which are to be permanent. I am alarmed because the Bill makes provision for many hundreds of yards of new tramways. It has been the hope of many of us in London to see tramways abolished completely, and I believe I am right in saying that the London County Council share that view. It would come as a great shock to me if I found that, as a result of this Bill, instead of reducing the number of tramways on the South Bank, we were to add to them as a permanent feature.
Concerning traffic arrangements generally, the London County Council have admirable designs for the future. The present arrangements are largely improvised in order to deal with the particular traffic problem which the Metropolitan Police can see will arise in 591 connection with the Exhibition. I ask the Minister to make it as clear as possible that there is no intention to use these admittedly temporary improvisations in any way to hamper the London County Council or the other authorities in making those better permanent improvements which are already envisaged. A considerable sum of money is to be spent, and there is bound to be a tendency at a later date to say that, having spent so much money, surely we are not going to spend more in order to make changes The position of the further-ahead future should be safeguarded today by a very clear statement, and an appreciation by all Members of this House that part of this Exhibition must be of a temporary nature and that only part of it will be a contribution to the permanent improvement to the South side of the river.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Hanley)
I am not a London Member but I welcome the Bill. I feel that it is inevitable that London should be the stage for such a vast enterprise. None the less, I had some sympathy with the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) in voicing another point of view. Some part of this money will have to be subscribed by us all, wherever we live. There is a feeling throughout the provinces that London not only gets a great deal but sometimes has it all. That is a feeling which ought to be dissipated, because it is possible for some of our citizens to visit the greatest city in the world and to take advantage of the amenities that are displayed here. But other constituents say: "How often can we go to London? What chance shall we get of going to enjoy the Festival of Britain? What opportunities will there be for hotel or lodging accommodation, even if we were able to afford it?" Certainly, very few workers, like miners or potters, will be able to come down. They will see some of it on the shadow screen of their picture houses and that is as far as they will get.
The provinces also argue like this: Before the war we had 17 great national collections in museums and art galleries. Of those, 13 were in London. To support them, £1 million came directly from the Treasury. Except in the case of Cardiff, which had a little from the rates of that city, the 700 provincial galleries and 592 museums got nothing from the Treasury. The total amount of money which they had at their disposal was less than £500,000 a year, and it had to come from the rates and private benefactions. I hope that as time goes on the Government will recognise that the provinces have a right to express grievances when the opportunity comes.
There is a further reason why I am very glad that we are having the Festival, and I agree that it must be in London. It is that I see enormous benefits coming to the provinces. The reason is roughly like this: In North Staffordshire, in the Potteries, and also in South Staffordshire. Wolverhampton and many other parts of the country, the London scheme has awakened a determination that we shall not fall behind London and that we shall have our own festivals. We know that we shall have to pay for them ourselves and that not so very many people will come to us because we cannot accommodate them. We are willing to accept them for a day, and for day after day, to come in by road and train. We have not enough hotels or living accommodation for crowds of visitors in our provincial towns, but we have good will and we shall be able to show our visitors what our own native genius has to proffer.
In North Staffordshire we do not expect to send our best pottery to the festival in London. We intend to keep a great deal of it on show ourselves in the Potteries. If anybody finds it difficult to go to London they can come to us, and we shall gladly show it to them. We recognise that our miners and potters, 50, 60 or 70 years ago, learned how to sing in community together and in co-operative fashion to keep their hearts up. Out of that sprang our great tradition of choral singing. We intend to offer our best choral singing in the festival. North Staffordshire is not afraid to compete against the Welsh, or the Czechs who are also great choral singers. I give an open invitation to hon Members on both sides of the House. If they want to hear new works performed they will find it best done in my constituency of Hanley, in a hall with excellent acoustics. They will be able to hear those works properly produced, particularly those which are novel and new.
I welcome the Bill as a step forward It is the first real step towards offering 593 patronage of the arts. It will be an encouragement of the arts and of all the arts. It is making patronage by the State possible. We must have a direct interest shown by both the State and the municipalities in the arts and in fostering the arts, as well as in science and industry. The 18th century was in some respects the most glorious of our history, because there was then a great aristocratic tradition of patronage. There were men who had both money and taste and it had taken a very long time to breed them. They were a very small percentage out of that class and they were useful to us. Our furniture, sculpture, painting, pottery and literature generally were magnificent. In the next century we had a new class of people after the Industrial Revolution. They had more money and no taste at all. We suffered so considerably that we have scarcely recovered yet.
Today we have not only a redistribution of income but a redistribution of good taste. Good taste has been widely diffused among our people. There is a greater hunger and a greater demand for the good things of life than ever before by millions, literally many millions, of people. We see it everywhere. Our young folk crowd our great concert halls in the provinces to hear great orchestras like the Hallé. They have been taught as children in the schools to appreciate them. We now find that 40 per cent. of our audiences are boys who have scarcely begun to shave and girls who have only just put up their hair. In every aspect of our lives we see that a renaissance is now possible. There is less money, however, in the hands of private individuals for patronage. All the more reason then why the Government, having taken a step like this, on which all sides of the House congratulate them, should take further steps without fear or favour so that our arts and sciences may live and thrive under our economy.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Reeves (Greenwich)
All who are aware of what London has contributed to British history will feel that it is proper that this Exhibition should be held in London. Those who were born in London and who have seen it develop during the last quarter of a century or so will feel that it would have been impos- 594 sible to find a more suitable site than the South Bank of the Thames. Those who have been engaged in local government, as have many of us in this House, have always felt ashamed that that South Bank should present such a sorry spectacle. It is a disgrace to our capital. Now comes an amazing opportunity to clean it up and to take it, as it were, from one extreme to another.
I was born in South London, in Camberwell. I have lived in London practically all my life. I left school at 13 years of age and I continued my education at Morley College along the Waterloo Bridge Road, next door to the Old Vic. This is almost a sacred spot to many of us. Now we are going to see it glorified, as it should be most properly, having regard to its place in our history. It must have afforded my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council great pleasure to introduce this Bill, because he is a great Londoner and has contributed very greatly to the improvement of London. I was visualising this Exhibition, with that magnificent semi-background of Waterloo Bridge for which my right hon. Friend was largely responsible. To him we owe a very great debt of gratitude for his foresight in those earlier days. Although the Exhibition is to be geographically confined, there is no reason why it should merely be an exhibition on this particular site. London offers many facilities for extending it.
As this is to be largely a cultural Exhibition, I see no reason why we should not use the adjacent parks for extending the work. There is St. James's Park and the great Battersea Park. It would, of course, be very improper for me to mention parks without also referring to Greenwich Park, which is of great historic significance. There we have the famous Wren buildings on the banks of the Thames—the great Naval College, the Maritime Museum and Queen's House. If we visualise the Exhibition in this way, it will assume larger proportions than those visualised up to now. I know that we speak of the Exhibition under a great disability, because this Bill deals only with road and transport facilities and so on, and we do not know what the Exhibition will be like in its final form. But it is to be a cultural exhibition.
I remember visiting Moscow many years ago and seeing the parks of culture 595 there. The Continental peoples use their parks very differently from us. Many thousands of people go into the parks on the Continent every evening. The parks are beautifully lit, and all manner of activities, such as open-air theatres, cinemas and concerts are carried on there. There is no reason why we also should not use our parks for these purposes during the summer months. It would not mean despoiling the parks, because we should not have to erect large structures but could use the parks themselves as the amphitheatre. Similarly, we could use our parks for the other purposes of this Exhibition, and I hope those responsible for the programme of the Exhibition will bear that point in mind.
We must also consider the matter of lighting. I want to see London magnificently lighted during the Exhibition. We have had sufficient austerity in this respect. I was in Brussels a few days ago, and when I went to the Royal Opera House to see a performance of "Faust" at night, it was almost like daylight. London is a very dull city these days compared with many Continental cities. We should flood-light all our best buildings. We want to have the the spirit of May Day, as it were, after the period of dullness and austerity through which we have passed. If we can conceive of the Exhibition in these terms, I am sure it will put new heart into our people. This will be a period of rejoicing, because by then we shall have solved some of our problems, although, by no means all of them; we have already scaled the foothills and by then we should be moving towards the peaks, and we shall want to have a period of rejoicing. For instance, the fountains in Trafalgar Square ought to be lighted, and we want the neon lights back. I know all this may cost a lot of money, but it will present London as it should be presented, the London we knew before the war, but beautified and made resplendent. I am sure that such a London will make a great appeal to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who are coming over here.
The senior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) has referred to the festivals that are to be held. I hope that we shall have a films festival, a music festival and a drama 596 festival, and that we shall use the theatres of London as they have never been used before. We have more theatres than any other city in the world. We want to present the works of representative English, Scottish and Welsh writers, and to let our visitors see what we have done in the past and what we are capable of doing in the present. I was in Prague some time ago, where I saw an open-air film exhibition. Some people might think that such a festival is impossible, but the festival in Prague was most interesting, particularly in the way it had been worked out. The whole history of the film was told by graphs and pictures, and in the evening some of the finest films were thrown on the screen in the open air. We too should think on those lines.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) mentioned that the Palace of Westminster will be challenging all those who visit the Exhibition. The visitors will not be able to miss it; it will be calling them all the time. We shall have thousands of visitors to the Palace of Westminster, and we must prepare for them—that must be part of our plans. I suspect that Mr. Speaker and all those associated with him will have one or two headaches on that score. The Palace of Westminster is a historic building, which is in a way a counterpart of what is happening on the other side of the river. It is an ancient institution which will beckon people over from the other side of the river. I like the idea of using Westminster Hall. It is an amazing place. I am sorry that it is in such a condition just now, and I am longing for the time when we can see it in all its glory, for it is an ancient hall and represents much in our history. I may have spoken too long, but I feel strongly about this. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) may feel jealous, but he must not forget that he has the magnificent Princes Street with its delightful vista and that Edinburgh is a beautiful city for an exhibition in Scotland.
§ Mr. Reeves
A little, perhaps, but the main part will be provided by Londoners and maintained by them in the days to come. I am sure that the whole House will give the Lord President of the Council every support with the Bill.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Jenkins (Southwark, Central)
I want to deal briefly with a very limited aspect of the Bill. I should like to reinforce what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor) when he spoke about the proposal in Clause 5 under which the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park might be taken over for use as a car park during the period of the Exhibition. I assure the Minister of Transport that the people of Southwark feel very strongly indeed about the proposal. The Lord President of the Council said he hoped that the people of Southwark and Lambeth would co-operate in order to brighten up those areas and provide fitting surroundings for the Exhibition. I believe they will co-operate in that way, but I assure the Government that the enthusiasm of the people of Southwark for the Exhibition will be very much greater if we remove this provision under which they can be deprived of the use of a very important open space.
Southwark has only 34 acres of open space for a population of 97,000, which is just over one-third of an acre for each thousand inhabitants. The park is 14½ acres, representing more than 40 per cent. of the total amount of open space in this very overcrowded borough. If the people were denied the use of the park for recreational purposes for a substantial number of months, as they might be under the Bill, it would be a very great misfortune for them. Under the Clause the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park is coupled with Clapham Common, which can also be used for this purpose, but in the case of Clapham Common the area which can be taken over is specifically limited to eight acres. There is no limitation at all in the case of the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park. The whole park can be taken over—and that in an area where there is a very much greater shortage of open space than around Clapham Common in the Borough of Wandsworth.
598 The Lord President suggested that the Government might not need to use this space as a car park. I hope that is so. However, the people of Southwark will feel very much happier if they have not merely an expression of hope that the area will not be needed but an assurance that the provision will be deleted from the Bill. There are alternative areas. There are many bombed sites—I have here a list of seven which I can give the Minister, and there are many others—which could be used for the purpose of car parking. I hope that the Minister will look at this again and see if it is possible to delete this provision so that this extremely important open space in one of the most crowded areas of London can be left for recreational purposes during the period of the Festival.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen. North)
I was surprised and disappointed at the speech of the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling). It was unworthy of him. It was a narrow and carping speech, and it contrasted with the excellent welcome given to the Bill by the hon. Member's leader the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison). As it came from a representative of the beautiful and noble city of Edinburgh, famous in story, legend and picture and famous for its own Festival, it was astonishing to find the hon. Member damning the Bill with faint praise:willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.Perhaps his explanation and excuse can be found in the fact that London is all over the Bill and, indeed, all over the Debate. Very little has been said of the fact that the Festival is a national festival rather than a mere ward tea party, as the hon. Member for South Edinburgh seemed to think it would be. The Bill should not be approached in a party manner, and I am glad that most of those who have already spoken have approached the subject in the correct way. This is an idea which one would expect to be discussed in the grand manner, not, I am afraid, by me, because I have not the power to do it, but by great and experienced leaders of this nation both in the House and outside. The idea of the Festival is a Brand and noble idea calculated to benefit the whole country industrially, intellectually and 599 aesthetically. The Bill is designed to further this great and noble project.
The Festival will be held at a time in the nation's history which is very appropriate. Already we are overcoming the losses of the war and we are repairing the devastation in every field. This is admitted by all who are not inspired by a purely party spirit. Instances are to be found daily in the newspapers and in our statistics. Lord Balfour of Burleigh, chairman of the Midland Bank, moving the report of that bank up to 31st December the other day——
§ Mr. Hughes
No, Lloyds Bank. I am obliged. I am glad to find that the hon. Member for South Edinburgh is correct in something. Lord Balfour of Burleigh pointed out that we are overcoming our national inflation, increasing production and checking the raising of prices. Lloyds Register up to the same date pointed out that we are producing one-half of the world's shipping. Our national statistics show that the nation is enjoying full employment and is on the upgrade. I therefore submit that next year will be a particularly appropriate time for this Exhibition which will depict in pictures, figures, diagrams, song and drama what has happened since 1851 when the last great Exhibition was held here. I take it that it will depict the history of the years of mismanagement between the two wars and this post-war period. I therefore submit that next year will be a most appropriate time to hold this Exhibition and that this Bill is a most appropriate way in which to take steps to provide for it.
I hope it will not be regarded as too high falutin' if I say that 2,000 years ago Pericles said to the Athenians:There is a time, O Athenians, when it is fitting for us notionally to take our stand upon a little hill and survey the beauties of Athens, realise her achievements, regard her traditions and rejoice in her victories and so seeing and realising these things, love her all the more.I venture to say that never in the history of this country was there a period, and perhaps never will there be a period, when it would be more appropriate to hold the Exhibition which will be held next year——
§ Mr. Hughes
It is a small point and I thank the hon. Member for making a small point in a small way with a small mind about a noble idea. It does not make the slightest difference to the argument I am presenting to the House.
§ Sir W. Darling
Before the hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, will he tell the House what his constituency in North Aberdeen will think about the escalator at Charing Cross Station? That is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Hughes
That also is a petty point which does not make the slightest difference to the large national idea and to the argument which I am presenting to the House. I began by saying that this is a large and national idea, which should be approached in a large and national way, and not in the small and petty way which the hon. Member for South Edinburgh sought to do, and the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Skeffington), who interrupted me with regard to the year when the Exhibition is to be held. The right hon. Member for Cirencester said that we could not emulate the grandeur of the Exhibition of 1851. We can try, however, and that is the object of this Festival. Its value will be that it will be a stimulus to national effort. It will attract large numbers of people from abroad, it will encourage a spirit of emulation, it will attract needed capital and it will promote international understanding. The cost may be great. It will immobilise large stocks of goods for the period of the Exhibition. It will absorb great numbers of workers and perhaps divert them from production for the period, but it is all well worth while. It will be an encouragement to good will, and, in my view, this Bill is a good one and makes proper provision for the great national effort that will be made in the year 1951.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
I shall not traverse the ground so forcefully and eloquently covered by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes). Far be it from me to run the risk of incurring his indignation over anything that I may have to say in connection with 601 the Bill now under discussion. I am afraid that I shall have to strike a rather more mundane note after the flights of eloquence to which we have been treated in this Debate. Unlike most of the hon. Members who have taken part, it is not necessary for me to stake out a claim. Some hon. Members seemed to suggest that the Exhibition should also take place in Hanley, Edinburgh, and a number of other places. It will perhaps be some consolation to my right hon. Friend who is to reply, that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Aberdeen did not stake out any claim for that city and that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) is not in his place at the moment to stake out a claim for that part of Great Britain.
I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the following point. A problem arises in connection with the South Bank scheme which will of course add considerably to the amenities of Lambeth, one of whose Members I have the honour to be. I was reminded of it when, during the Second Reading Debate on the National Theatre Bill, the Financial Secretary held out the possibility that the National Theatre will not be liable to rating, although he made it clear that the position was still uncertain. This is perhaps an answer to the hon. Member for South Edinburgh and to other hon. Members who seemed to think that the Borough of Lambeth or the London County Council will be gaining great advantages in respect of which they are not incurring any liabilities.
It may well be, however, that despite the substantial additions made to the amenities on the South Bank, the local authorities concerned will not enjoy any increase in their rateable values. Let me put this point to the hon. Member for South Edinburgh. When 50,000 or 100,000 people come along every day, there are bound to be thousands of tons of rubbish to be carted away. That will be the job of the Borough of Lambeth, and I hope it will not impose an undue burden on the ratepayers. That is a point which perhaps my right hon. Friend will bear in mind when considering the extent to which grants can be made besides the public works and road improvements set out in this Bill.
602 I reinforce the point previously made by hon. Members on the subject of parking. It is quite clear that Clapham Common will be most inconvenient on account of the distance. I ask my right hon. Friend to consult with the local authorities concerned—the Southwark Borough Council and the Lambeth Borough Council—both of which may be able to suggest to him alternative sites nearer the Exhibition which, without great expense, could be made into suitable parking places. As I have said already, it is quite clear that this project may—I hope it will not—involve the local authorities concerned in various forms of additional expenditure. I hope that such liabilities will have the sympathetic consideration of the Government Departments concerned when they are deciding what to do with such moneys as may be placed at their disposal. Like all other Members who have spoken in this Debate I cordially welcome the scheme, which, I have no doubt, will prove a landmark in the history of London and of this country as a whole.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
I am sure that whatever warmth has been engendered in the Debate by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes), the House will agree that two Members from the East of Scotland should speak. I, too, would like to speak as representing a Scottish constituency, because this is a Bill dealing with the Festival of Britain and we want it to be a Festival of Britain and not a Festival of London. Nevertheless, I have had the honour to live in the great hospitable City of London for quite a long time, and I feel that in some ways I am a Londoner too, having gone through the whole of that long period of blitzing during the war. People, whether indigenous Londoners or Londoners who have come to this great city, develop, if they do not have it instantaneously, a great and deep affection for a very great city.
No one coming to London can fail to contrast the dignity and splendour of one bank of the river with the poverty of a large part of the South Bank. Here in this Festival the Government are taking the opportunity of reconstructing a large part of the South Bank of the River 603 Thames, a part that came under very heavy bombardment from enemy fire, and the ruins of which are still there for everyone to see. All that will be cleared away, and instead a new and splendid area will develop as a great contribution to the architectural wealth of London. I am glad, incidentally, that in all the plans to make bridges and develop subways and pathways and so on, it is proposed to preserve the Shot Tower, because that is a great London landmark which most of us would be sorry to see disappear.
I do not think the hon. Member for South Edinburgh need have had quite so many fears about this Bill, even though it deals only with the London part of the Festival. After all, Scotland is well represented on the main Council of the Festival. There is the Right Hon. Thomas Johnston, a former Secretary of State for Scotland; Sir Frederick Stewart, a great West of Scotland industrialist; the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot)—another former Secretary of State for Scotland; and my hon. Friend the Member for North Lanark (Miss Herbison). That, I think, is a weighty and imaginative representation of Scotland on the Council which, under Lord Ismay, controls this great Festival.
While I think the whole Council has been well composed, I would draw the attention of the Lord President of the Council to what appears to be one omission in the composition of the Council. The field of music is well represented by people like Sir Malcolm Sargent, and the theatre in its more serious aspect is well represented by Mr. John Gielgud; Mr. Gerald Barry, the Director of the Festival, with all his wealth of experience; and Mr. Leonard Crainford, with his special experience as the Director of the Stratford-on-Avon Shakespearean Theatre, will make vigorous and imaginative contributions to this great undertaking. But why, with all this imagination, has the lighter aspect of entertainment been completely omitted; and why has it no representation on the Council. I think there are dangers in forcing people to be too highbrow too quickly.
This is a Festival of Britain, and a festival of the people. We ought to cater for the people not only in their more serious moods but in their more frivolous 604 moments. An hon. Friend of mine has suggested that much would remain of permanent value to London. I hope that will be so, but I would like to see not only in London but in every large town in the United Kingdom something on the same scale and with the same imagination as the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, which seem to me to be a model to the world of how to combine high art and seriousness with the perfectly normal satisfaction of the more frivolous instincts of mankind.
The Festival of Britain will indeed be a great historical feat. Nobody on one side or the other wants to make any party capital out of this. We are commemorating the Exhibition of 1851, which was a turning point in British history. It started all sorts of movements which have not yet reached their end, in industry, architecture, music and drama. Great world festivals have always had that effect, and I hope this one will also add enormously to the spreading of knowledge, culture and, above all, joy and gaiety in this rather depressing century.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)
My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, who I know has persisted in advancing this project in the face of many difficulties and disappointments, will be very gratified at the warmth of the reception of this Bill in all quarters of the House.
I feel rather guilty in that I am the author of those parts of this Bill in which I find hon. Members have not been particularly interested. There has not been a great deal of discussion about my roundabouts or subways or Bailey bridges, but I have been comforted by the knowledge that this machinery Bill, as Mr. Speaker described it, has provided an opportunity for Members to express their views and make their contributions on this important project. These have ranged far and wide, and I think at one stage in the discussion the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) advised me to try to keep the Chancellor of the Exchequer out of this project. As I listened to hon. Members, I came to the conclusion more and more that the Chancellor had better be very much in the consideration of this Festival, because many of the proposals 605 would carry us far beyond the expenditure to which so far we have limited ourselves.
So far as I gather, at this stage we have only made the decision that a Festival of Britain should be held in 1951 Various bodies are concerned. As the Minister of Transport, I am interested in the traffic arrangements; then there are the police authorities; the London County Council, the British Transport Commission; the Port of London Authority, and bodies of that kind The decision to hold the Festival on the South Bank was the theme which raised the problems we are considering here tonight.
This is an appropriate point at which to answer the views—I would not call them severe criticisms—expressed by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) It is quite wrong to accuse bodies such as the London County Council and the British Transport Commission, who have become involved in this project or are responsible for road and traffic arrangements, of trying to secure these improvements at the expense of the taxpayer. As I see it, they are under an obligation to carry out a national project. I do not hesitate for one moment to admit that immediately I became concerned with the transport arrangements—and I think there is a sensible and practical consideration which will appeal to the hon. Member for South Edinburgh—my desire was to see that if public money was to be spent, as much of it as possible was spent for permanent national advantage and improvements.
The London County Council, because of prevailing circumstances which affect private institutions and individuals and limit their opportunity for development, has a magnificent site which is not only of value to them as a public body, but is of importance to the whole commercial life and the amenities of London itself. If that site is chosen for an exhibition of this kind, then I think that the London County Council, like everyone else, is entitled to turn it to practical advantage. It is desirable that I, as the Minister replying for the Government, should repudiate any suggestion that any of these bodies have "muscled in" on this project for the purpose of their own limited advantage.
§ Sir W. Darling
They are getting the money. Whether they are "muscling in" or not, they are getting the £2 million.
§ Mr. Barnes
It is quite wrong to say that they are getting the money. The cost of any part of the project not of permanent advantage to the body concerned will be met from public funds that is to say, expenditure incurred solely for Exhibition purposes. For expenditure on any measure of permanent improvement which would save the body concerned expenditure later on, in road improvements or similar matters, they will get only the normal road grants, for example, which apply to every road improvement scheme.
Although these decisions will force the British Transport Commission to undertake certain alterations and new construction which they would not have undertaken, and would not have considered undertaking, at the present moment were it not for the decision to hold the Exhibition, if the alterations and constructions are of permanent value to the British Transport Commission, they will get no grant. It is only the unremunerative proportion which arises solely from the Exhibition needs, which will attract any public assistance. It is very desirable that that should be clearly understood.
The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), who I was glad to note supported the Bill, put one or two cogent and legitimate questions to me. I propose not so much to answer the general Debate, which was favourable to the project, as to answer the specific questions put to me. Probably the most important point the right hon. Member made concerned the compensation payable to persons suddenly inconvenienced and ejected, or whose lives and businesses are interrupted by a national project of this sort.
He is quite right in saying that the compensation provisions are determined on the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, values; but it is that plus the additional 60 per cent. of the amending Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. We must have decisions on these matters so that we can get on, although I would not say that they are arbitrary decisions. We think that that is the best and the fairest method of dealing with this problem. As the right 607 hon. Gentleman knows, this Bill is likely to go to a Select Committtee, and such issues can be thoroughly examined by those interested. If a case is made out, it will always be possible to have the matter reconsidered; but at the moment this appears to be the best basis on which compensation can be based.
The rehousing of or replacement facilities for displaced persons will be largely the responsibility of the London County Council, and I understand that land on the Lower Marsh and along the Cut, not far removed from their present habitations or businesses, will be used for rehousing the displaced shopkeeping and business elements; I also understand that householders will be dealt with within the general housing facilities and provisions of the London County Council. That is their responsibility, and I am sure they will do their best in that respect.
I relate the Parliament Square lay-out to the previous consideration of how to turn this national project to advantage. Parliament Square, with its roadway dividing the green spaces, affords an opportunity for improvement to traffic facilities in the area. If we are to hold this Exhibition on the South Bank, then the traffic pressure on Parliament Square is bound to increase, and a scheme has been agreed to: the middle roadway will be eliminated and the two green verges will be brought together; the roundabout will be considerably enlarged, which will enable a greater flow of traffic round Parliament Square. The scheme will add to the attraction of the area, and represents a permanent improvement in our road facilities in Parliament Square.
The right hon. Member also asked about the alteration of Westminster Bridge Road and Bridge Street. That alteration is largely a matter of re-aligning the islands dividing the traffic. In view of the increased volume of traffic, we shall alter the sites of the islands, possibly having one island instead of the two as at present. That will mean an alteration in the siting of the islands, which is not a structural alteration in the other sense. As to questions of accommodation, feeding and extension of licensing facilities, I am informed that the Festival authorities are holding discussions with the British Tourist and Holidays Board 608 and other appropriate bodies. As plans for the Exhibition take shape, all relevant matters will be gone into with the organisations directly concerned.
I can well understand the concern of the hon. Members for Central Southwark (Mr. Jenkins) and South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor) that the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park might become involved in the arrangements for car-parking facilities. Perhaps I should explain briefly the proposals which the Bill contains. We anticipate that about 1,000 coaches daily may be coming from the Southern area alone. They must, of course, be provided with the necessary parking facilities. It is quite out of the question that coaches should be allowed to unload passengers at the entrance of, or anywhere near, the Exhibition.
The two sites on Clapham Common are intended chiefly for these coaches. This will not mean any curtailment of the amenities of the Common, because these two sites are at present merely refuse dumps. I have taken the opportunity of visiting all the proposed sites so that I may satisfy myself whether our proposals are justified. But for the requirements for the Festival, it is doubtful whether these huge mounds on Clapham Common would be removed for many years. The two sites, although separated, are adjacent to both Clapham Common and Clapham South stations and facilities will be provided to enable passengers, on leaving their coaches, to travel direct to the Exhibition. Hon. Members who have seen the plan of the transport arrangements which I have circulated, will have noticed that, on arrival at Waterloo, passengers will be able to use a short subway and escalator and thereby gain direct access to the Exhibition site.
Arrangements for coaches on the North side of the Thames have yet to be made. Although it is desirable for us to have these powers in the Bill, so that the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park may be used if the need arises, I can assure my hon. Friends that we are very sympathetic towards their views. Discussions are at present taking place, I understand, with Lord Rothermere, and I should not like at this stage to commit myself on whether or not this park will be required. We expect that something like 4,000 private cars daily will use the Exhibition area. A survey of all the bombed sites and possible parking facili- 609 ties within half a mile of the Exhibition site is being undertaken. Not until that survey is complete shall we be able to say with certainty whether the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park will be needed.
§ Mr. Barnes
That is an open question. I have visited the park and am aware of its difficulties and limitations. I noticed, however, that even today one section of it is covered by a certain amount of debris and obviously is not being used for recreational purposes. As I have already said, I cannot at this stage commit myself. We cannot, however, afford any further delay, and it is necessary for us to take these powers in the Bill, whether we need to use them or not.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rom-ford (Mr. T. Macpherson) referred to the question of piers. We anticipate that one of them, which will provide direct access to the Exhibition, will be a permanent structure. The position regarding the others is not yet certain. I cannot at this stage give any final indication of the number of piers that may be necessary for river traffic. It is, of course, essential that the congestion of road traffic should be relieved wherever possible, and I will give sympathetic consideration to the building of piers for river traffic, if by so doing we can facilitate the transport problem as a whole. The more people we can transport by river, the more we shall be able to ease the strain on the roads.
§ Mr. Barnes
We are providing facilities in that direction, and I will not interrupt the political harmony prevailing here tonight.
I regret that I was not present when the senior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay), who is a member of the Festival authority, made his excellent contribution to the Debate. I understand he laid stress on the arts, industrial design and matters of that kind. 610 Those aspects have, I think, been rather over-emphasised in some of the speeches today. I should not like the outstanding scientific achievements of this country to be overlooked. Advances in the technical branches of industry, in constructive design and in production have been remarkable features of the progress of our life in modern times and must undoubtedly be displayed and interpreted by the Festival. It would be a mistake for the impression to go out from this House that we are more interested in the arts, drama, entertainment and things of that kind and do not appreciate the important contribution of science and technology in every sphere of our economic and social advance.
I have already emphasised that the works to the bridge at Charing Cross will not attract any financial grant as far as they represent permanent improvements. It is necessary, in a project of this nature, to provide facilities to enable Underground passengers to Waterloo to gain direct access to the Exhibition site. Time will not permit of the booking hall which will eventually be there being put underground. It will be put overground, but if by any chance, it is later put underground, that is the kind of expenditure for which we should have to compensate the British Transport Commission. I use that as an illustration. I do not think there are any major points of interest which I have overlooked——
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the navigational aspects of this temporary bridge over the Thames have been considered?
§ Mr. Barnes
Certainly, I can give that assurance. They will be examined before the bridge is built. It will be a direct Bailey bridge from Northumberland Avenue and Charing Cross Road to the Exhibition site. Under the Bill, power is given, but all points of that character will be thoroughly examined before the bridge is actually erected.
§ Mr. J. H. Hare
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the point put to him about the concert hall which the L.C.C. are erecting and which is to be ready by 1951? I asked whether the Government would consider compensating the L.C.C. if in the speed of the erection of the work, questions like the acoustic properties have to be reconsidered.
§ Mr. Barnes
I cannot give an assurance of that character in a Debate of this kind. I understand that the L.C.C. will be represented, like every other body which has come to its decision and accepted these obligations. They knew the time period involved, and it represents the same kind of difficulty to the L.C.C. as to the British Transport Commission, myself and everyone else who has to carry out any work in dealing with traffic proposals. On behalf of the Exhibition authorities, I certainly cannot give any undertaking in regard to the concert hall, for which I have no responsibility whatever. The only other point is in regard to the little controversy which has developed between provincial centres and London. I always consider that London does not belong to London but is a possession of the whole British people.
§ Committed to a Select Committee.—[Mr. Collindridge.]