§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will recall that as early as March this year the Public Works (Festival of Britain) Act, 1949, was passed with general support, and it is my hope that after we have had the opportunity of discussing this matter the Bill which is now before us will secure general agreement. When we were discussing the main Measure in the early part of the year the limitations in the size of the South Bank site were recognised on all sides of the House, but I feel that the advantages of having the main part of the exhibition in the very heart of London, and also the opportunity it provided for a commencement in the development of the South Bank commended itself to Members on all sides of the House.
But it was quite clear during those proceedings that it was generally appreciated that only a limited part of the Festival could find habitation on the South Bank, and in our Debates Members on all sides of the House emphasised the need for the Festival of Britain to be indeed a national Festival and for it to find expression in all parts of the country. As this programme has unfolded itself it is quite clear that that general desire is being very adequately met. If hon. Members are familiar with the programme of activities as it has so far developed, I do not think that they can very well challenge my statement.
There will be two travelling exhibitions, one on land and one on sea. [An HON. MEMBER: "That has nothing to do with the Bill."] It has nothing to do with the Bill but I would crave the indulgence of the House because I think it is connected in the sense that the Festival Gardens which have been provided for in this Bill fit into the general picture. The Debate on this Bill represents in a sense a continuation of our earlier discussions. I venture to suggest that our Debate will suffer considerably if we isolate it from 374 the rest of the intentions of the Festival Committee.
I trust that I shall at least have the indulgence of hon. Members opposite to enable me—I shall be very brief—to give an indication of the activities.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
On a point of Order. The Minister has indicated that in moving the Second Reading of this Bill he desires to widen the discussion to cover the whole of the activities of the Festival of Britain. For the guidance of the House would you, Mr. Speaker, indicate whether such a discussion would come within the Rules of Order?
§ Mr. Speaker
It seems to me that this Bill deals only with the L.C.C. and London. If the House generally wishes to discuss the whole matter I am in their hands, but it would not be in Order to go outside London.
§ Mr. Barnes
It is not my desire to proceed on this point. If my hon. Friends opposite persist in their objection I do not propose to amplify that particular statement.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
Further to that point of Order. The Minister must not say that it is a matter of whether we persist in our objection. It is a matter of his being out of Order. One can refer on Second Reading to what is not in the Bill, but I venture to suggest that it will result in a very discursive Debate if we are to discuss all the various possibilities that the Festival of Britain may cover, such as the visit of an aircraft carrier to the ports and the pros and cons of that. This Bill is concerned with a very narrow point—whether or not the actual site in London is to be extended by 40 acres, with a certain contingent liability on the taxpayers of this country and the ratepayers of London. With great respect, I suggest that there will be a much better Debate on this Bill if it is confined narrowly to the limits of the Bill.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
My right hon. Friend is of course in your hands, Mr. Speaker, according to the Ruling which you have given. It is perfectly true that we can have a narrow Debate on the provisions of the Bill, but I am bound to say that I thought that my right hon. Friend was 375 meeting what I understood to be the general sense of the House and particularly the sense of the Opposition. They did desire an opportunity to have a general discussion, which I thought was reasonable, but if it is held that we cannot discuss anything outside the actual contents of the Bill, and you so rule we shall of course comply. But I really thought that the general sense of the House, in the light of recent Parliamentary Questions, had been that an opportunity for a fairly general Debate was desired.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The point on which I sought your guidance, Mr. Speaker, was not related to the merits or demerits of discussing the whole matter but whether you would permit hon. Members so to do.
§ Mr. Collins (Taunton)
One of the difficulties is that this Bill deals with the necessity of providing an additional 40 acres. It is difficult to see how we can discuss that point without some reference to other matters which are proceeding as part of the Festival of Britain.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
May I submit that Clauses 6, 7 and 8 make this Bill very wide and that we can have a very wide discussion on those Clauses?
§ Mr. Speaker
As far as I read the Bill, it is strictly limited and applies only to London and to the London County Council. Of course, it is a matter for the House. If the House wants to have a wide discussion I shall not stand in the way, but if there is objection then I must hold the House to the Rules, and we must abide by the Bill and the contents of the Bill.
§ Sir Alan Herbert (Oxford University)
Does it help, Mr. Speaker, if I point out that the Preamble to the Bill says:To make, in connection with the Festival of Britain, 1951, provision for festival gardens"?Does that open out a fuller avenue for debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
The Bill does not apply to the country as a whole, and this is not a Festival of Britain Bill. It is only a Supplementary Provisions Bill.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
The first sentence of all in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum says: 376The main purpose of the Bill is to enable the London County Council to enclose not more than 40 acres of land,etc. If we had realised that the Government wanted a wide discussion we should have been quite prepared, but we consider that we should discuss only the fun fair, the narrow point of the Batter sea Park gardens. That is the point we seek guidance about. We shall have a much better Debate and a better chance of extracting information if we confine the discussion to that point.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I do not want to pursue the matter, but the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) is a little naughty. The whole purpose of the Government was to meet the wishes of possible critics in the House as a whole. So far as the Government are concerned, the Debate can be as narrow as hon. Members like. We shall get the Bill through all the more quickly. If this course is insisted upon it must be so, but I resent the suggestion that the Government were in any way motivated by their own convenience. I was actuated solely by the wish to do justice to the House.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
I am sorry. I did not make any suggestion at all of that kind. We had a discussion, as the right hon. Gentleman will confirm, and we foresaw a comparatively early end to this Debate.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Brentford and Chiswick)
May I put another point, Mr. Speaker? A number of hon. Members wish to have a slightly wider Debate than has been suggested. We should like to know, before my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport resumes his speech, whether the Debate is to be narrow or wide. Otherwise it will be very difficult, because some hon. Members will stick to the narrow issues and others will open out to the wider issues.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
Surely there could be no objection to a wide Debate, which after all would include the narrow points.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have to obey the Rules of the House. By general agreement perhaps the Debate might go wide, but if I am asked for a Ruling, then I must say that the Debate must conform to the contents of the Bill and to nothing else.
§ Mr. Barnes
I am confident that the remarks which I was going to make on the wider implications of the Bill would have been completed long before now. Perhaps I shall be permitted to say that a justification for the Bill is that if we had been able to secure a site, or if the South Bank site had been twice or even treble its 30-odd acres, there' is little doubt that provision would have been made under the original Bill for the Festival amusement gardens. The Festival Council had to look elsewhere for accommodation. Battersea Park is obviously the nearest and the most suitable place for an activity of this description. The Government are as anxious as anyone that the utmost economy should be exercised in regard to the Festival Gardens, but it would be a tragedy and very short-sighted if this aspect of the Festival were to he spoiled because of excessive economy.
Perhaps I have a vested or departmental interest in the whole idea of the Festival. Any project that will promote travel by sea or inland transport arouses my keen interest. I am confident that the Festival will attract an enormous number of people to this country from abroad, and we do not wish to put the Festival of Britain idea over in a joyless manner. It is a mistake to approach expenditure of this character by saying that it will be of no permanent value to the community.
I know that from the expenditure upon traffic facilities will come much of permanent value to London. In the Bill the Minister of Transport is seeking powers for the first time to make grants towards the provision of additional piers to facilitate and encourage river transport. In 1948, passengers on the water buses which were then inaugurated numbered 468,000. This year the water buses carried 882,625 passengers, an increase of almost 100 per cent. That demonstrates clearly one of the justifications for the Bill, that the provision of the additional piers will encourage our river transport.
During the war we recognised the desirability of maintaining the recreational interests of the community. However difficult may be our economic circumstances, no one would suggest for a moment a modification or interference with the normal amusement facilities, whether in the form of the theatre or 378 the cinema or of any other public sport. In those circumstances I find it exceedingly difficult to appreciate the argument or the criticism against Festival activities of this kind, whether on the South Bank which will deal especially with the general cultural interests and accomplishments of the British people, in the South Kensington Science Exhibition or in the East London Town Planning Exhibition.
I fail to see how legitimate criticism can be levelled at this project, which aims to provide the lighter amusement and entertainment in pleasure gardens such as are almost invariably a part of any national exhibition in this country or elsewhere. As I said before, if the main site had been sufficiently large, this provision would have been carried through automatically and I believe that it would then have passed unobserved, but because circumstances have necessitated going a short distance down the river and choosing another site, we are met with these objections. However, I do not believe that the objections can be substantiated.
I readily admit that it would always be desirable to choose some other site than a proportion of a park, but that is impossible in the centre of London. In this case every precaution will be taken to avoid damage to the amenities of the park. It is not a question of excluding the public from the use of the park. It is obvious that many more thousands of people will visit Battersea Park than would normally do so if it remained in its present condition. We are not considering any proposal to exclude the public of London or any part of the British public from the enjoyment of the amenities of Battersea Park; what is proposed is the improvement and enlargement of the present amenities and attractions and the installation of additional ones which it will be open to the public to enjoy.
The area which will be temporarily withdrawn from public use until the amenities are improved will amount to only about one-fifth of the total area of the park. Every provision is made in the Bill for its restoration to the public immediately the period of the Festival is over, either in its original form or improved by the permanent retention of facilities which have been installed if the L.C.C. require to maintain them.
379 In the personnel of the Festival Gardens Company, with which the Government and the London County Council will arrange to carry out these projects, we have a very substantial security that all the operations will be conducted in a proper manner.
§ Mr. Barnes
I should certainly expect from this body a more intelligent comment than we have had from the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). The chairman of the company is Sir Henry French. We have as one of the directors Lord Aberconway, the President of the Royal Horticultural Society and a member of the Council of the Royal Society of Arts. I have had dealings with Lord Aberconway in other ways in my Department and I suggest that it would be difficult to find any person with a wider business knowledge.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
Lord Aberconway is one of our ablest industrialists. He is chairman of John Brown, Ltd., the builders of the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth," the two greatest ships afloat. He is a Scotsman.
§ Mr. Barnes
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will agree that Lord Aberconway has turned out some very good ships. Lord Aberconway has always maintained a very direct interest in any processes leading to the beautifying of our roads and cities. It is grotesque to assume that a man like Lord Aberconway would be a party to conducting the Festival Gardens in any other manner than would conform to the dignity of the Festival and of this country.
Then there is Sir Charles Cochran, a theatrical manager and producer of note; Lord Latham, Chairman of the London Transport Executive; the Chairman of the London County Council; the Chairman of the London County Council Finance Committee—[Interruption.] Why not? There is also the Leader of the London County Council. They have a very great interest in this product. We have also the Clerk to the London County Council. I do not know whether 380 that will receive derisory cheers from hon. Gentlemen opposite, but if the Leader of the London County Council does not entirely commend himself to their judgment, I think they will at least agree that Sir Howard Roberts is an official upon whose opinion they can depend.
The proposal in Clause 1 is that not more than 40 acres, or one-fifth of the total area of the park, shall be enclosed for this purpose. The Government are prepared, and will accept the responsibility, to advance up to £570,000, and the London County Council up to £200,000. It does not follow that all this capital will be needed, but the resources are provided in case it should be. Clause 2 contains provision for the Government and the L.C.C. to enter into an agreement with the Festival Gardens Company with regard to the repayment of interest, capital and security. Clause 3 provides the safeguards for the reinstatement of the park if it is so desired. It provides that if the London County Council consider that any of the buildings erected or works carried out would be of permanent value, they can secure the benefits for the public.
We then come to a series of Clauses which provide for the Festival Gardens Company exemptions which would not ordinarily be available. Normally any person who thought that he would suffer a nuisance through this type of undertaking could take action by applying to the courts for an injunction. If such an action were permitted it would interrupt our project. While it prevents an individual from obtaining an injunction, Clause 4 does not take away the rights to damages which might result from a nuisance having been committed by the company, except that a claimant to compensation is limited as to the time in which he can make his claim, but any person who is of the opinion that he has established a claim to compensation and to whom the company had either failed to pay compensation or has paid inadequate compensation, will still retain the right of action in the courts.
Clause 5 is even more radical in its process of exempting the Festival Gardens Company in certain other directions, but the same provision was made in the principal Act. It modifies the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 381 1947, and applies it to the Festival Gardens in the same way as it applies to the South Bank site. It relieves the company of the payment of development charges; preserves the position of the London County Council and provides that planning permission is deemed to have been granted.
Clause 5 also confers upon the Minister of Transport the same powers to regulate traffic as are provided in the earlier Bill, and gives similar powers to the London County Council to make provision for car parking accommodation. About half the car parking accommodation will be provided in Battersea Park and about another half of the requisitioned car parking accommodation will be on an adjacent site.
Clause 6 exempts the company from the operations of the provisions of the London Building Acts of 1930 to 1939 and also from the provisions of Part II of the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, insofar as they relate to drainage requirements. The Clause further provides that it shall not be necessary to obtain a licence for public entertainment of the kinds specified in the Clause. It is obvious that in the time available the company could not conform to the provisions of those Acts as far as the London County Council and the Metropolitan Boroughs are concerned, and accordingly it is proposed that the buildings certified by the Minister shall be exempt from the requirements of those Acts and bye-laws which I have mentioned.
Since the buildings will not have been approved by the local authority, the Festival of Britain office and the Festival Gardens Company could not in the ordinary way obtain a licence to give public entertainment. Therefore we provide exemption from the need to obtain a licence, provided—and I want hon. Members to note this point—that the entertainment is certified by the Minister to be provided for the Festival of Britain.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)
Does my right hon. Friend include under "entertainment" the question of alcoholic refreshment licences?
§ Mr. Barnes
I do not know that I should call that an entertainment; I should call that a necessity for the vast majority of the community, if not necessarily the whole community.
382 To get back to the point of these exemptions, it is clearly recognised that this places considerable responsibility upon the Government. Therefore we have asked the Festival of Britain office and the Festival Gardens Company Limited to ensure that in all their undertakings they will adopt standards of building construction and lay-out as exacting as those required under the Acts from which they are being given exemption. We have received an assurance from these bodies that they will meet that request of the Government.
§ Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)
If it is the case that they will impose more stringent conditions, why is exemption asked for? Surely it would be better to leave it to the experience of the well qualified local authorities in this area?
§ Mr. Barnes
It is a question of time. I understand that they could not get through the procedure laid down by the London County Council and the Metropolitan Boroughs in time to get on with these works.
§ Mr. Barnes
My hon. Friend will have an opportunity of putting his point later, and there will be other hon. Members who have experience of the London County Council and the Metropolitan Boroughs who—
§ Mr. Braddock
But I should not like this vital point to pass. I can assure my right hon. Friend that there is no authority in the country, not excluding the new Festival of Britain authority, better qualified to deal with a matter of this kind than the London County Council.
§ Mr. Barnes
I am not denying that. Running through the arrangements is a clear recognition of the quality of the standards laid down. I have specifically drawn the attention of hon. Members to these Clauses because I recognise their importance. It is because we appreciate that the time factor does not enable this procedure to be followed that I have emphasised that this places responsibility upon the Government to see that those standards are maintained although there is exemption.
I would explain to my hon. Friend that we have gone further. We are making 383 provision for the expert officers of the London County Council and the Ministry of Works to be available to give the Festival authority the necessary advice. So I can asure the House that, while we are seeking these exemptions, it is not in order to evade the standards laid down by these Acts of Parliament but to gain the necessary time, and every step will be taken to see that the standards are maintained.
§ Sir Harold Webbe (Westminster, Abbey)
I believe it is contemplated that at least some of these buildings may become permanent structures and a permanent part of the amenities, or otherwise, of Battersea Park. Therefore it is clearly most important that they should conform to the standards which the London County Council demand in all other buildings under its charge.
§ Mr. Barnes
I see no reason why they should not. As I have already indicated, we are making provisions in the Bill to enable the London County Council to retain any of these structures if they feel that they are of permanent advantage to the public using Battersea Park. It follows, therefore, that the London County Council will be especially keen and active in ensuring that these buildings are erected to their standards. I can only emphasise again that we are seeking these exemptions purely on the point of time, not with any desire to evade the quality or the standard that this procedure lays down.
§ Mr. Barnes
I have no desire to avoid answering questions in presenting the Bill, but I would remind hon. Members that there will be an opportunity of putting these points in Debate, and that on matters concerning the London County Council and the Metropolitan Boroughs my right hon. Friend the Lord President is much more qualified to satisfy hon. Members than I could ever hope to be, not having served on those bodies.
In Clause 7 we are seeking powers to enable two piers to be built at the Festival Gardens site. It is proposed that the river services should be provided on a voluntary—private enterprise—basis and I hope in this direction to have the cooperation of the Thames passenger boat 384 proprietors. Discussions are now taking place about the sufficiency of suitable craft. 'We have reached the stage at which, in order to ensure that the services are provided on an orderly basis, we are seeking powers in the Clause to enable bye-laws to be made controlling all traffic using these piers, to establish standards for types of vessels which can be used on these services, and regarding the amenities to be provided and the fares to be fixed.
In order to ensure that river services to the Exhibition and Festival Gardens will not be unduly interrupted by other boat services, powers are sought to enable bye-laws to be made jointly by the London County Council and the Port of London Authority with regard to the use of these piers. Hitherto, the Minister of Transport has had no powers in conjunction with the Port of London Authority and the London County Council to regulate in any way these water bus services on the Thames. As I have already indicated, these services have this year carried well towards a million passengers, and with the added river and waterborne transport, which we desire greatly to encourage for the Exhibition of 1951, it is essential that the Minister should have at least these tentative powers to ensure that certain public obligations are carried out. That will be done in conjunction with the Port of London Authority and the London County Council.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
On the question of water transport, will the Minister devote a very short time to altering the name of these rather attractively designed river craft which ply up and down the Thames from the name "water bus"?
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
"Water bus" is a terrible name and one that is extremely offensive to any seaman. We do not talk of "air buses" but of "aircraft." I ask the Minister to alter the name. He might call them "river water transport" or something like that.
§ Mr. Barnes
I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member should direct his remarks to the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert), who is sitting near to him. I understand it was he who originated the existing description 385 of these craft, which I think is an excellent name. It would be a great mistake now to interfere with it.
§ Mr. Barnes
The only other point I wish to emphasise is that under the Bill powers will be given to the Minister to make grants towards the establishment of the piers. It is not fair at this stage that this burden should be placed wholly upon the Port of London Authority, the London County Council or any Metropolitan Borough.
I feel that I have occupied the attention of the House far too long, but I believe we have created already, in this Debate and in the interruptions which have occurred, some of the Festival atmosphere which I hope the gardens will make universal.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the hygienic arrangements for the food and refreshments to be served at the Exhibition. Those existing in the parks of London are a disgrace.
§ Mr. Barnes
Obviously, that is a matter for the Festival company. If hon. Members emphasise the need for the company to establish a standard that might become general in our parks throughout the country, they will be providing added justification for the creation of the company.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
Speaking personally, I found the speech to which we have just listened extremely disappointing, for this reason: that when I was entrusted by my colleagues with the task of dealing with the Bill today, I thought the only fair thing to do was to see the authorities at Savoy Court. I spent a considerable time with them trying to find out what they had in mind and what were the arguments pro and con. Although I started off with a bias against the fun fair proposal, I realised after listening that there were certain arguments in its favour; and my hon. Friends and I decided to listen to the arguments put forward by the right hon. Gentleman before we formed any final conclusion. I think the House will agree, however, that the right hon. Gentleman failed to adduce any new argument or to answer any of the 386 questions to which the House might legitimately expect to have an answer on the Second Reading of the Bill.
The only things for which the speech of the Minister was distinguished were, first, his delicious description—which I welcomed, although the hon. Member for Ealing, West (Mr. J. Hudson) probably did not share my joy—of drinks as being a necessity; and secondly, his unexpected confession of the results of the mass of regulations and controls which he and his right hon. Friends have imposed on the cost and speed of housing. Those are useful contributions to our general politics but not to this Debate.
Mr. Speaker—very rightly, if I may say so with respect—said that he wanted this discussion to be confined to the Bill. I remind the House that, as recently as last week, we on this side confirmed what had been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) in the Debate on 10th February last, that we were in agreement with the principle of the Festival. Whatever may be our hindsight today, we nevertheless supported the main Bill at the beginning and still, in view of the Government's commitments, support the present Bill.
The first matter about which we want to know is when the proposal for an extension of the area of the Exhibition was first put forward. That is a material factor and a fair question, because I have been looking through the speech made by the Lord President of the Council on 10th February, when his only reference to Battersea Park was to point out that it obviously was not available for the Exhibition site. Is it not a fact that the first suggestion to be put officially to the Department of the Lord President was made on either 2nd or 3rd February of this year? I am informed, on reasonably good authority, that it was and that the director of the Exhibition, Mr. Gerald Barry, in fact communicated to the right hon. Gentleman's Department on 2nd or 3rd February the suggestion, with, I believe, a member of the London County Council, that it was necessary to extend the area of the fair. The House will take note that that was a week before we discussed the main Festival Bill, namely, on 10th February, and that no mention whatever occurred in the whole of that Debate—which I have checked carefully through 387 twice—of this proposal that the area of the Exhibition should be extended and should be extended, let it be noted, to more than double the size.
The original idea was that the South Bank site should be 30 acres, but this suggestion we are discussing today is that from Battersea Park there should be 40 acres also. In other words, when the House was asked to express approval of the main Bill, there was in the right hon. Gentleman's office, I believe, a proposal to more than double the size of the Exhibition and bring in this supplementary idea of a fun fair. The right hon. Gentleman said that everyone must have his bit of fun in an exhibition, and he quoted one or two cases. I am not aware that there was a fun fair at the South Kensington Exhibition. I will come to the actual question of the fun fair later on.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
According to my recollection—whether this was mentioned I cannot say—it was known from the beginning that 30 acres were not sufficient to cover the whole Exhibition, and there was nothing completely novel about it.
§ Mr. Hudson
—I said that the question of doubling the original area was not mentioned by anyone in that Debate. He may have known it and some other individuals may have known it, but I guarantee that the vast majority of hon. Members, certainly on this side of the House, have never heard of it at all.
§ Mr. Lindsay indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Hudson
If the right hon. Gentleman when he replies says he had not been told about it, I will withdraw. All I say now is that I am told that he had been told of the suggestion and no mention was made of Battersea except that it was not a suitable place for the Exhibition. I make no further charge and obviously the intervention of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) has no relevance whatever.
What I want to know, and what I think the House and the country are 388 entitled to know, is the history of this proposal. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what happened at those various conferences he had with local authorities. Again, I am informed that in fact the original proposal was not for a fun fair for one year but for a fun fair for five years, and that it was only in response to protests from local authorities that the extent was reduced from five years to one year. Again, nothing was said to this House about it, nor was it openly discussed in council by the London County Council, but only in committee, and hon. Members of this House had no opportunity of knowing it. So far as I can trace, the first the public as a whole knew about this proposal was on 30th June in a hand-out.
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Member will have a chance later. The Minister of Transport put forward no excuse whatever for this extension except that we ought to have a bit of fun and that gardens look nice. What I want to know is, was that the only or main reason? If so, I suggest there is no justification whatever for spending this money and depriving the public of Battersea of their free access to that portion of the park which is going to be cut off for a year.
I do not think I am betraying any confidence in this, because I was told it by the chairman when I went to see them last week, but I am informed that the main reason, the most compelling reason and the only real reason the Government were insisting on it was the statement by the police that, unless they had an overspill, unless they had a place for overflow, they could not guarantee to control the crowd in a narrow space. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is no use saying "Oh," I am telling the House what I have been informed. I do not know if it is true, but I am asking whether what has been told me by authoritative people of the Exhibition is, or is not true. They informed me that the police say in effect—I do not know the exact words—that unless they had Battersea Park they could not be responsible for controlling the crowd inside the other area.
If that is true, it is a very serious factor indeed, which obviously must have very great influence on hon. Members in this 389 House. If it is true, why were we not told it by the Minister of Transport? Why were we not told it earlier? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will answer these questions. We would like to know if the police made these representations. The right hon. Gentleman smiles, but I ask him to take the position seriously.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
With great respect, I cannot see why the right hon. Gentleman is worrying himself so much with all these little things. I will tell him all about it when I reply, but he is persistently miserable without due cause.
§ Mr. Hudson
What I want to know is, if this was stated by the police, when was it brought to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, because in his speech on the main Bill, on 10th February, he was at some pains to speak at length of the difficulties of the traffic arrangements and the police. No doubt he will remember that he actually said: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 accepted at all."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1949; Vol. 461, c. 548.]Were the police making representations at that time?
§ Mr. Hudson
I am asking if since the original scheme, they came forward and said that unless Battersea Park was used they could not be responsible. If that is so, the right hon. Gentleman ought to have disclosed that fact, which was in his knowledge then, when speaking on 10th February. Otherwise he was withholding material information from this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Obviously he was withholding the information because he did not tell the House on 10th February that he was going to ask for a doubling of the area of the Exhibition. He could quite easily have made it in his speech.
§ Sir A. Herbert
If anyone had mentioned that, judging by what has happened this afternoon, the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to say that it was not in Order because it was not in the Bill,
§ Mr. Hudson
I was not in charge that day.
390 This is a material factor and should be cleared up. Is it still the main reason, and am I correctly informed that it was decided to have this fun fair and incur this additional expense because the police made representations?
The other question which we should like to put is, why was it so long delayed? People may have their own ideas of the fun fair, but the Government seem to be in considerable doubt about it. If this fun fair is to attract visitors from overseas, it is not necessary at all, because ordinary Americans will not be attracted to this Exhibition by the knowledge that they can go to Battersea Park. If, on the other hand, it is being provided because it will attract millions of provincial visitors to the Festival, it is probably a necessary adjunct, because something of the sort will be expected.
We are entitled to be told about the finances of this proposal. We have been told, not in the Bill itself but in Government statements, that this scheme might well result in a loss of £100,000, shared at the rate of £60,000 and £40,000 between the Government and the L.C.C. How has that figure been arrived at? We are entitled to ask for an estimate of what is going to be the cost of building the fun fair and the gardens. We are also entitled to ask what the Amusement Council are doing about it. For example, what charge is likely to be made and what are the hours of opening? Are they going to be open every day including Saturdays and Sundays? Are the Amusement Council going to have concessions? Is the fun fair going to be run by the Exhibition authorities, and is there any firm estimate of what the Amusement Council are going to pay for all these concessions to the Exhibition authorities?
What is going to happen inside the Festival Gardens? Is the restaurant going to be run by the civic restaurant or is it going to be let out to a concessionary? These seem to me to be questions which we can legitimately ask. I may add that if the right hon. Gentleman had given that sort of information in his speech, it would probably have allayed some of our doubts and would very materially have shortened our proceedings.
I divide my proposal into two parts. I believe that the Government ought not to subsidise the fun fair out of public money. It ought to be possible to make 391 it pay by providing concessions and by receipts from the people who visit it.
In regard to the Festival Gardens, I have a suggestion to make. I hope the House will not think I am boasting, but before the war, when I was Secretary for Overseas Trade, I had considerable experience of exhibitions and British pavilions both at home and abroad. Within a certain limit, I tried to provide something suitable. It might be possible to provide something absolutely lovely in Battersea Park, which would be a permanent advantage to the country. If half a dozen of us were given a free hand with the money we could produce something which people from all over the world would come to see.
The question arises: Is this the time to do it? I believe that what the Government ought to do is to have the whole plan recast. I was told by headquarters that they hoped to build certain of the items in the Festival Gardens of a permanent character, so that when the Exhibition is over the local authority can say, "We think that would be of permanent advantage and we will keep it." Looking at the plan, my personal criticism is that the fun fair and Festival Gardens are conceived without thinking how the individual items would fit in when the show comes to an end. Probably only three or four of them will be of a permanent character. I want to add that by the same token, the authorities are short-sighted in not providing us with more details and with more plans. One small plan is all we have.
I feel personally that the lay-out wants redesigning from two points of view. In the first place, we want to consider how the individual things are going to look when the park is restored. As an appendix to that, the right hon. Gentleman was not quite right in saying that the Bill provides for the park's restoration. It only provides for the restoration subject to the fact that the Minister of the day can put off the restoration from time to time. That ought to be deleted from the Bill and a specific time stated in which the restoration should be completed, otherwise it might drag on for years and years and the people of Batter-sea be deprived of re-access to their own open space.
392 Secondly, the whole scheme should be re-designed on a less elaborate scale, which I do not think would be difficult. The individual buildings need not be any worse. In saying that the design should be less elaborate, I am thinking that it is not absolutely necessary for the benefit of the world at large that grottos should be designed in the way it is proposed. There are plenty of natural grottos elsewhere without artificial ones in Battersea Park. The scheme ought to be redesigned to bring the cost down. Opinions may differ throughout the country as to the desirability of the scheme as a whole. I am very doubtful still if the right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that the overwhelming factor is not the statement by the police that they must have this overflow, but that the matter is considered purely on its merits.
We have to remember that the amount of men and materials which is going to be used will be considerable. It is a remarkable fact that all such estimates as I have seen—and naturally these things can only be estimates—show that the amount of timber, which after all is one of the things in shortest supply at the present moment, for this part of the Exhibition we are discussing today is actually appreciably greater than the amount of timber required for the more important main Exhibition itself.
§ Mr. Hudson
Softwood. I was not born yesterday. I do know the answer to that. The fact remains that there are millions of people who will benefit from and enjoy this Exhibition. I hope that they will. But what is equally certain is that more millions throughout the country will not have the time, the opportunity or the money to visit it. Every one of these millions—and hon. Members opposite had better bear this in mind—knows of the scarcity and the housing shortage, and knows of the recent cuts in the rate of housing which have had to be imposed owing to the reduction of capital investment, and every—
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Member had better tell that to his own leaders. Every one of these millions who do not go 393 to the Exhibition will, inevitably, feel that he might have got a house, but for the timber having been used in this particular project. Because the right hon. Gentleman has failed to put up a sound thesis, and because we on this side believe in the principle that we ought not to put up money for fun fairs apart from gardens, unless some very much stronger argument is put forward than we have heard up till now, we shall certainly have to vote against the Bill.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wilmot (Deptford)
I was somewhat astonished by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I am very relieved, as I am sure that the whole House and the country will be, that the right hon. Gentleman is not in charge of this project or has anything to do with it. It is a most extraordinary attitude to reveal towards an enterprise which his own party has supported—[Interruption]—oh, indeed, yes; Front Bench representatives of the party of the right hon. Gentleman sit beside me upon the Council of the Exhibition and they have supported it right through—in my view rightly so. So it is very difficult to know exactly what game the right hon. Gentleman is up to. Does he want to kill the thing? Or does he just want to cripple it in order that he and his friends may have the melancholy pleasure of gloating over a failure later on? Why does he not apply to this grand enterprise some of those precepts of business administration, far-sighted adventure, pluck, risk and initiative which he urges upon all those engaged in public enterprises?
The right hon. Gentleman got all his facts wrong. Nobody is proposing to turn Battersea Park into a fun fair, nobody at all. There never has been such a project, and there is no such proposal today. It is not a new idea that a national exhibition to celebrate a chapter in our great history should have, as part of the layout, some gardens, some recreation and some amusement. There has never been an exhibition of this scope which has not provided that as part of the attractions.
We are very fortunate indeed in having the possibility of a central site for this Exhibition. Those who have seen the great exhibitions in the City of Paris, where they utilise the Tuilleries and the Champs Elysees, and gardens on the banks of the Seine, enclose the quays and 394 make use of the actual river, have often wished that we in London should do the same with our wonderful city and river. How much better it is. What an immense appeal it makes to overseas and provincial visitors. How much more noble than an exhibition out at Wembley, or some far away, newly acquired, semi-suburban site, with all the traffic problems, drabness and difficulty which are bound to be associated with it.
We are very fortunate that we have been able at the same time, and to a very large degree for the same expenditure, at last to remove that horrible mess on the South Bank which has been an eyesore in London for so long—and for which the right hon. Gentleman and his party must take much responsibility. It is at last to be made use of, and to be developed into a noble centre first as part of this great Exhibition.
Unfortunately the site is not big enough for the purpose. Somehow we have to squeeze into the very narrow confines the epitome of the tremendous achievements of this great 100 years. It is not desirable that everything shall be educational, everything cultural and everything industrial. We must have some recreation. What better than a lovely garden? And after all, gardens are an essential part of English genius. Battersea Park is already a very beautiful park and in the developing of the best that is in the park into one of the finest urban landscape gardens in the world we have a worthy part of this project. The right hon. Gentleman really ought to tell the House that he has misled it, because I hope he does not want to evoke a lot of unjust prejudice against something which I thought we all want to be a success.
What are the facts? Battersea Park is 200 acres of land. Much of it is very beautiful sylvan glades, flower gardens and shrubberies. Some of it is a playing field; some of it allotments, and some of it, at the present time, is a mess, left from the war-time. Of these 200 acres, all but 37 will remain just as it is. It will be Battersea Park, open to the public, not interfered with, to be used as a park for the purposes for which it is now used. It is only 37 acres out of the 200, less than one-fifth, which is affected at all by this Bill. Could one have gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that less than one-fifth of this area is affected; 395 and further, that of those 37 acres over 30 will be devoted to special landscape gardens, enhancing the natural beauty of the existing gardens and making there something which will be one of the most lovely attractions of the whole Exhibition?
§ Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House, but in addition to the 37 acres earmarked for the purposes mentioned, there is another five acres to be taken for a car park.
§ Mr. Wilmot
I am just coming to that. I am quite capable of adding the figures together. Of the 200, approximately 160 will still be Battersea Park, a County Council park, and open to the public as before. Thirty acres will be gardens, immensely improved; I am very glad indeed that the Exhibition Council have been able to secure the services of Lord Aberconway to be responsible for these gardens. He is a gardener of world wide fame and the President of the Royal Horticultural Society. We all know that he has recently given to the nation his own gardens, the most lovely gardens in the world. In the remaining seven acres, there will be provision for car parks and other amenities and what the right hon. Gentleman calls a "fun fair." I prefer to use the words "amusement place." There will be the usual amusements. Surely, the provision of amusements in an exhibition of this kind is not a crime?
That is what is proposed. The Bill proposes to give the County Council the power to close up to one-fifth of the park and to develop it as a garden in which there will be cafes, restaurants, places of rest, places of amusement and a noble development of the river front. It seems to me that if we are to have an exhibition at all, this is a delightful and essential part of it which cannot be provided on the other site because it is too small. All this talk about the terrible dangers which will face London because of traffic congestion is sheer nonsense. If all the people are in one place at the same time, they will be much more congested than if they are in different places at different times. It is just as simple as that.
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should have made this sort 396 of speech. Does he not want this scheme to succeed? Does he want it to be just a dreary waste of indigestible facts, or does he agree that amidst our present troubles, we should show the world what we can do and have done, that we are not down yet, that we are very proud of our history, and that we are going to surmount the troubles that face us today? I observe that the right hon. Gentleman is not alone in his gloom. He does not want to kill this Festival; he merely wants mortally to wound it. He wants it to limp along into a failure over which he can gloat. I see that one of our evening newspapers, the one which has the distinction of having achieved the smallest sale among London's evening newspapers, has taken up the same gloomy tale. I do not know why. I am sure that when the Festival has been, as it will be, a great success and the time comes to bring it to an end, the same people will be crying out for it to be kept open and denouncing "those wicked killjoys "who want to shut down London's entertainment. I sincerely hope that the House will pass this Bill without more ado so that we can carry on with this fine enterprise.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)
I must say that I had hoped that we should find agreement among all parties in the House not only on the Festival of Britain itself but also on the question of the Festival Gardens. One or two shots have been fired by one or two newspapers which mostly support the party above the Gangway, although their support may be intermittent and not to be relied upon. I had expected also that we should have some sniping from the back benches, but I had not expected to have the barrage that we have had from the Opposition Front Bench.
The right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) has had a little fun fair of his own. He has put up a lot of Aunt Sallys and knocked them down again. I hope it amused him. I found it rather a gloomy affair. But we are entitled to know where we stand in this matter. Does the right hon. Gentleman speak officially for his party or is he speaking merely as an individual from the Front Bench? It is remarkable that there are two representatives of his party on the Council of the Festival of Britain—the right hon. Gentleman the Member 397 for Saffron Waldron (Mr. R. A. Butler) and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). It is most unfortunate that neither of them should have found it possible to be here today.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I am the only representative of my party on the Council of the Festival of Britain. Therefore, there is a one hundred per cent. attendance. It is most important that we should know where the official Opposition stand in this matter. I hope that we shall hear more about it before the Debate ends. I have not yet discovered whether the right hon. Member for Southport wishes to abandon the project of the Festival Gardens; whether he is against the fun fair; whether he wants to cut it down; or whether he wishes as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Deptford (Mr. Wilmot) suggested, not only to cut it down but to cripple it. In a matter where it is highly desirable that we should have national unity, as is the case with the Festival of Britain, we should have all these points made abundantly clear before the end of this Debate.
As has been suggested already, there is really nothing new or unexpected in a proposal of this kind. As far as my information goes, there never has been an exhibition without a fun fair or recreational facilities of some sort. I cannot see why an exception should be made in this case unless we are to go in for what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition once called "strength through misery." It amazes me to see that what was traditionally the cakes and ale party should have crossed the Floor and become the killjoy party. My own feeling is that if there are to be no cakes and ale in this Exhibition, it will make a pretty gloomy prospect for foreign visitors, and would hardly be an encouragement to our tourist industry.
This proposal has also been criticised on the ground that the inhabitants of Battersea and South London will have their peace shattered by the screeching noises of the fair. If it is true that they will have to endure a cacophony of unmuted sound for the five summer 398 months when windows will be open and sounds penetrate with ease, it will be unbearable for them. I hope that that matter will be given very serious consideration by those who ultimately will have to take decisions upon it.
Some extraordinary statements have been made this afternoon. The impression has been given that the whole of Battersea Park is to be closed for a year so that the ground may be prepared for the Festival Gardens.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
The impression certainly has been given. The right hon. Gentleman may not have meant to do so. I may be doing him an injustice and, if so, I apologise. Certainly, the impression has been given outside that Battersea Park is to be closed to the general public for a year. We now know that that is not so, and that, in point of fact, it means that only 37 acres, or a fifth of the total area, is going to be enclosed. The impression has also been given that that will mean a great hardship to the inhabitants of Battersea, to be denied access to even this portion of the park, but we are informed that about 24 acres are devoted at this moment to allotments which are due in any case to be given up shortly. Five acres consist of playing fields, which will be replaced, and another eight acres of river frontage, partly roadway and partly grass and trees. If hon. Members take into account these facts they will see that there is a great deal of room left over in Battersea Park in which the people may enjoy its amenities.
We have also had some very exaggerated ideas about the fun fair that is to be provided there, as though the whole place was going to be turned into one vast fun fair. Is that so? What are the facts? Out of the 37 acres, only seven are to be given over to the fun fair, while the other 30 acres are to be devoted to what we are told are the quieter pleasures, such as ballet entertainments and concerts of classical music. There will be restaurants there, too, and tea gardens, and it may be of some comfort to the hon. Member opposite that there will be no alcoholic beverages on sale in this particular place. There will be a promenade, underneath the trees, and, of course, gardens.
399 There is one important point which we must consider in this connection and that is that many of these amenities will remain after the Festival of Britain is over. On the South Bank we should have the concert hall and an improved lay-out. There order will have been created out of what is now chaos. Part of the Festival Gardens will be a permanent asset to the people of London. We understand that the London County Council are considering a proposal for a tea house, a small open-air concert hall and for retaining part of the landscape gardens. We have heard from the Minister earlier today that there has been an increase in the number of people using the river. That is very good news, but we must surely all be agreed that no great city makes such poor and unimaginative use of its great river as does London.
All this development will be of immense and permanent advantage to London, and it is most important that the landscape gardens should be retained as a permanent part of Battersea Park. After all, this is a festival not only to show to the world our achievements in industrial design and technology, but also our achievements in the field of art. Here is an art in which we excel—the art of gardening. Here is an instance where we have a unique contribution to make. Why not have in Battersea Park, not just a well laid out park, for we have lots of those in London already, but something entirely different? Why not have laid out there with all its distinctive features, a lovely English garden, and when I say English I mean English; I do not mean Scottish or Welsh. I do not include, as so many do today in a slipshod way, the greater in the less.
The Minister of Transport has said that Lord Aberconway is a very competent business man. I am not so impressed with, those qualifications, but what I do think is important is that he is the President of the Royal Horticultural Society and one of the most distinguished gardeners in this country. I am therefore delighted that he is to be a member of the Festival Gardens Committee, and I hope that horticultural experts, including the best in the country, will be called in to lay out the kind of garden which does not grow in a year or two but which 400 has been evolved throughout the centuries in this Anglo-Saxon part of these islands.
I regret that we have obtained no agreement—and, obviously, we have not—among all parties on this Festival project. I deplore this attitude of lack of confidence in our future which the party above the Gangway always shows when it is not in office. One of my earliest political memories is of hearing hon. Members above the Gangway or their ancestors complaining of such a lack of confidence. In those days, a Liberal Government was in office. The country survived that Government. It has even survived Conservative Governments, and I believe that it will survive a Socialist Government. I therefore hope that we shall go forward with this project, not only of the Festival of Britain but also the Festival Gardens, with great and supreme confidence in our destiny.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mrs. Ganley (Battersea, South)
I am grateful to the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) because of the support which she has given to this Festival scheme. I think it is very disappointing that we have to listen to all sorts of charges, which are altogether wrong, about the development of Battersea Park and concerning the Festival Gardens. The question has been raised of the cost that will be incurred by this scheme, but, surely, nothing is ever achieved without some expense being incurred to begin with, and if we are to measure the value of this project only on the basis of the cost incurred, I think that will be taking a very poor view of the scheme. As the noble Lady has said, the amount of beauty which can be brought into these already beautiful gardens in Battersea Park is very considerable indeed.
I should like to refer particularly to the question of the river traffic. It is expected that there will be considerable traffic at the time of the Festival of Britain, and while the road traffic will be much heavier in any case, a great deal more traffic will be added to the river services, and, of course, the establishment of new piers will not only be welcomed by the people who use the river at present but will be of definite permanent value to the river traffic. Because of the Festival, very large numbers 401 of people will be coming into London, and the fact that increased use is made of the river facilities will indicate relief to the considerable traffic which will accumulate on the roads. This question of the intensification of traffic on our roads is one of great concern in that part of London. I happen to come from that area, where I know there are great difficulties regarding transport. I therefore welcome most heartily the present proposal to build piers for river traffic.
I am bound to say that I certainly like the name "river bus" because it so completely describes the alternative to the road bus. When it comes to the question of the river bus being made available to the Festival Gardens in Battersea Park, then very definitely it is going to be an association which will develop, as has already been said, on the lines of that kind of enjoyment. People coming to the Exhibition for the purpose of seeing what has been done, will then be able to turn to a very delightful spot in a very delightful atmosphere and will see other forms of art which, after all, can be very well enjoyed there.
The suggestion has been made that there may be a loss of £100,000 which may be shared between the Government and the London County Council. It has been asked what proportion is going to be borne by the Government and what by the London County Council. That is a question which was pressed very strongly throughout the speech of the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) and it shows a great lack of knowledge of what is going to happen and how this is going to be met. If all this lack of knowledge is expressed and if it is necessary to ask all these questions today about the expense, about the planning, and about what is going to happen, I should be very glad to know how it is that representatives of hon. Members opposite are canvassing people in Batter-sea to sign petitions against the Festival of Britain and the use of Battersea Park. Why are they telling people, as an inducement to make them sign these petitions, that this will cost Battersea 3s. on the rates?
It is an amazing thing, in view of the questions asked and the apparent ignorance expressed, that when we ask how it was known that 3s. in the rates would be put upon the people of Battersea, we 402 are told that "our solicitor has worked it out for us." Here we have a marvellous solicitor who, without any knowledge of the situation, can prepare such a perfect answer for the people who in this case, are being incited to object to something which may be very useful indeed. I am hoping that in all that is visualised for the extension of the beauty of Battersea Park, in the use of the open-air concert hall, and in the very real use than can be made of it, not only by the citizens of London generally, but by all those who come to the Festival to see the earnest, serious side of it, there will be opportunities to enjoy the real beauties which we hope may come from the use of the river and Battersea Park. For this purpose, Battersea Park is surely one of the most useful spots. It is not too far away, but it is sufficiently far away for one to be able to say that it offers an alternative enjoyment in the inspection of one of the real beauty spots in this great City of London.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)
I cannot follow the hon. Member for South Battersea (Mrs. Ganley) in all her arguments because I am sure the House will agree that she covered a great number of aspects in a comparatively short space of time. I wish, in the first place, to deal with one point in particular and then to go on to a general point which I should like to tie in with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson).
I feel that there is one power in this Bill which is objectionable to the citizens of London. In my view, it is wrong that the ratepayers of London should be made to bear a portion of a possible loss in what is definitely understood to be a national exhibition. Unfortunately, the Socialist friends of the Lord President of the Council have agreed to this procedure as far as the London County Council are concerned. I am very surprised that the Lord President, who is renowned for his close association with London local government, should have taken up this attitude, and should have advised his friends on the other side of the water that it was right and proper that the London ratepayer should bear some of the loss incurred in the carrying out of this amusement section of the Exhibition.
403 I gather that it is argued that Londoners as a whole will receive very substantial financial benefit from the foreign visitors and from our own countrymen from the provinces who visit the Exhibition. That is rather a specious argument because, quite clearly, it will affect only the centre of London—certain boroughs within the heart of the city. It is wrong to say that Poplar, Southwark or Bermondsey are going to get very much extra trade as a result of the Exhibition. The people who come to London to visit the Exhibition will visit hotels, restaurants and amusement places in the boroughs of Westminster, Kensington, Marylebone, and so on, rather than the vast number of outlying boroughs which are embraced by the County of London. Therefore, the argument that greater prosperity will come to the average ratepayer in London, and that in these circumstances it is only right and reasonable that he should bear a proportion of the loss, is fallacious.
The House should realise what the London County Council and the London ratepayer are already contributing to this Exhibition. We are completing a concert hall much more quickly than some of us thought wise, in order to fit in with the desire of the Government that this hall should be one of the main features of the Exhibition. We are also erecting a river wall, without which the site for the South Bank Exhibition could not exist at all. That is being done at the cost of the London ratepayer.
I would also point out that, from answers which have been given by the Government Front Bench, it is quite clear that considerable quantities of building materials and labour are being diverted from what might normally have been expected to flow into the pool of London housing itself. In addition, the House must also realise that we as a council are also giving an immense amount of the time of our officers and staffs. This fact, I think, substantiates my argument that it is wrong that, in addition to the contributions we are already making, this Bill should lay it down that we are to bear up to £40,000 of a possible loss.
I am delighted that as far as the London County Council is concerned, our loss is limited, but as far as this House and the national Exchequer are 404 concerned, I can see no limit to the loss supposing that it reaches a figure higher than £100,000. We have the advantage that this Bill is not sponsored either by the Minister of Food or by the Minister of Health because in the last few weeks and months we have come to the conclusion that we cannot rely very much on the estimates of those two right hon. Gentlemen. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman has something to say, perhaps he will have the courtesy to stand up.
§ Mr. Hare
I do not think I will give way again to the hon. Gentleman. I do not think he has anything useful to offer.
We are not impressed by the record of many Ministers of this Government in keeping anywhere near, in the final completion of their programmes, the estimates which were originally given to this House. Therefore, I should like some assurance from the Lord President on this proposed loss of £100,000, that he has gone into it with all care, and that he can tell us that it is unlikely that the loss will be any higher. I do not think that there should be any question of a loss being allowed. I am certain that if this scheme were recast and looked into more carefully, the whole of this activity which is contemplated in Batter-sea Park could be carried out without any cost either to the ratepayer or the taxpayer. Therefore, I support most strongly the views that have been put forward that we have not been given enough information. We cannot be satisfied on the financial aspect of the provisions of this Bill, and the Government should be asked to look into the matter again.
There is a general point on which surely all hon. Members must be agreed; namely, that in view of the financial situation in which we find ourselves we must be careful not to create in people's minds 405 the thought that we in this House are in any way being guilty of any extravagance. This must be of considerable importance because right hon. Members opposite in responsible positions have, as we all know, repeatedly appealed to people to avoid extravagance in every way possible in their own personal lives. They are more responsible than the right hon. Gentleman the former Minister of Supply who, speaking in this Debate, said "When we get out of our little troubles we shall look back on these slight differences between the two sides of the House with regret." These are not little troubles. I feel that in the public mind there is considerable apprehension that the Government are carrying out something which is unnecessarily extravagant.
If this proposition could be made self-supporting, I believe that that criticism would be removed. It is with that in view, and without any desire to sabotage this Exhibition, that we approach this matter. As my right hon. Friend has said, we as a party are concerned with its success, but we have the right to criticise these sort of details which are before us in this Bill. Personal moderation and any suggestion of Government extravagance just do not go together. It is with that feeling in mind that I appeal to the Government to adopt this suggestion of ours and see if they can make the whole proposal self-supporting.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Macpherson (Romford)
I support this Bill, which I hope will receive the unanimous approval of the House. Interest in the Festival of Britain, 1951, is growing not only throughout the country but, to an increasing extent, overseas. I am sure that millions of people who are looking forward to coming to visit the Festival will be very disappointed indeed if there is no fun fair, amusement centre, or garden festival, or whatever we like to call it. I am sorry that it has not been given its proper name. I should like it to be called a fun fair and have done with it, because that is what I hope and I am sure everyone else hopes it is going to be. I am sure that the average person visiting a great national Exhibition like this would think it a very dull affair indeed if there were no fun fair.
The object of the Festival is not only to stimulate our own people but to pre- 406 sent ourselves to the world in our true colours. The British people are not dull people. We are no more dull than we are unenterprising or decadent, as I am sure this Festival will demonstrate. Therefore, I welcome this decision to have a fun fair in Battersea Park. I should like to congratulate the Government on obtaining the services of that splendid administrator, Sir Henry French, of Ministry of Food fame, to be the chairman of the Festival Gardens Company.
I should like briefly to refer to Clauses 7 and 8 of the Bill which deal with the arrangements in connection with river traffic, the provision of additional piers and landing stages on the river. Perhaps I had better declare my interest in this matter, which is this: I am responsible for promoting and organising the present scheme for water buses on the Thames, which has been running for the last two years. I have no financial interest in the matter, directly or indirectly, but I am chairman of what is called the Thames Passengers Services Committee set up by the Minister of Transport to encourage the use of the Thames for passenger boat purposes, to give Londoners and visitors to London the opportunity of enjoying and using their own grand old River Thames.
The Festival in London will be a riverside Festival, and the police and the traffic authorities have asked my Committee to provide augmented services of Thames water buses during 1951 to assist in handling the traffic problem which a great Exhibition like this in the centre of London will create. There will also be a big volume of traffic between the Exhibition proper on the South Bank and the fun fair in Battersea Park, which is also a river front. What is more natural than that the opportunity should be taken to use passenger boats to carry the people to and from these two parts of the Festival.
Regarding the boats, I am glad to inform the House that in a most public-spirited fashion all the passenger boat owners on the Thames with suitable craft, have formed themselves into an association and agreed to pool their boats in 1951 and place them under a form of river traffic control which will be set up to give a co-ordinated service during 1951.
407 It is obvious that if any material contribution is to foe made by the water buses to the Festival traffic problem, it will be necessary to have piers not only at the South Bank and Batter-sea Park but at other points up and down the river. The Port of London Authority have in the past been very good about this matter. We have the use of their regular piers, and they have also provided two new piers primarily for this service, one at Putney and the other at Charing Cross. But I want to assure the House that if we are to make any contribution towards solving this traffic problem of the Festival, additional piers will be required. Particularly shall we require piers at London Bridge, Blackfriars and Hammersmith. I hope that as a result of the financial provisions on this Bill these facilities will be provided. I believe that to the great majority of people a sail on the Thames will be one of the most enjoyable features of a visit to the Festival of Britain in London. We British people like the water; we like to be beside the water, whether it is on the river front or the seashore, and the arrangements we are making in this Bill to add the pleasure and usefulness of the River Thames to the attractions of the Exhibition, will, in my opinion, go a long way towards making it that success which we all hope for.
§ Mr. Braddock
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, if he is leaving it, and as such a lot of consideration has been given to this problem, can he tell us what the fare will be between Battersea and the Exhibition on the South Bank? How much will it be?
§ Mr. Macpherson
No, I cannot say tonight what the fare will be. We are waiting, first of all, for this Bill to pass and secondly, we shall have discussions with boat owners in order to agree on the fare. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend that the fare will be reasonable, as the fares on the Thames water buses are today. Where in the world could you get greater pleasure at a lower price than that given by the 3d. stages on the Thames water buses today? One of the by-laws which the Minister of Transport is to make will provide for control of the fares, and we shall see that no advantage 408 is taken of the great public demand for these craft which will exist.
In conclusion, a really successful Exhibition, in addition to carrying out the purposes for which it was planned, should leave behind it something of permanent and lasting value. I quote for example the great Glasgow Exhibition of 1900, which left to my native city Kelvingrove Art Galleries, one of the great architectural and cultural features of Glasgow. May I also remind the House about the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a relic of a great Paris Exhibition.
The Festival of Britain, 1951, will not only provide us with a great exhibition of British genius and culture but it will leave behind things of great permanent value to our London and the nation—the development on the South Bank, the National Theatre and the concert hall. But I hope that the Festival of Britain will do something more than that. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) here tonight. I am sure that that great champion of Thames water buses and boats on our river will join with me in hoping that the Festival of Britain, 1951, will demonstrate the popularity and usefulness of passenger services on the Thames so that water buses will in future become a permanent and integral part of London transport.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Sir Alan Herbert (Oxford University)
I thank the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. T. Macpherson) very warmly for what he said and I congratulate him, and those working with him, as I have long wanted to do, on the great enthusiasm and success with which he has followed a cause with which I messed about in vain for a long time. I should like also to recall the name of Sir Samuel Instone, who for long years worked for this cause, long before I ever began—and also in vain. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), who objected to the term "water buses" is not here now. I do not know whether he would prefer some phrase which slips easily off the tongue like "passenger transport vessel"; I gather he wanted some word with "boat" or "craft" in it. Well, he and the whole Navy will be familiar with the phrase "bum-boat" and the only thing I 409 can suggest is "bus-boat." But I think the term "water bus" is pretty good.
Apart from anything else, I am delighted to see Clause 7 in the Bill; and I hope these piers will be permanent additions to the amenities of London. On that point, Chelsea Reach, which runs alongside Battersea Gardens, is a famous reach. It was of this reach that Dibdin wrote (if my memory is correct):Then farewell, my trim-built wherry!Oars, and coat, and badge, farewell.Never more, by Chelsea FerryShall your Thomas take a spell.It is in that reach that the race for Doggett's Coat and Badge still finishes. It was also in that reach that a porpoise passed under my stern in 1938 and, altogether, it is a very remarkable reach. I hope I shall be in Order, and I hope I shall not be guilty of a breach of confidence, if I mention one other scheme which shows that this Festival will not be all "merry-go-rounds." There has been a suggestion that there should be a kind of London Regatta—not for big boats, but for the sailing dinghies which are such a great feature all round the coast. It is suggested that every London club should have its own day, as they do at Cowes or Ryde. I think that would be rather a charming spectacle for the people walking about these gardens.
I do not think I need add very much more to the excellent speeches of the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) and the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Wilmot). Like them, I am proud to be on the council. I think we all started this job in rather a lukewarm way; for we did not know what it was all about. But the more we have heard about it and the more we have seen of it the more enthusiastic we have become. As an arch-enemy of noise, I should be the last person to approve anything that is going to make life hideous and horrible for the residents of Battersea and Chelsea, but the fact is, I am told, that the councils of both those boroughs have approved of the scheme and, therefore, presumably have been satisfied about that. I know that every precaution is going to be taken in that respect.
I must say I was rather sad to hear the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) suggest that he may divide 410 the House on this matter. I hope that need not happen. The other hon. Member who spoke for the Conservative Party, the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) mentioned many criticisms, which it was quite right he should offer, criticisms which very rightly may be pressed to Amendments in Committee. I do not think the hon. Member disclosed, however, whether he would vote for or against the Bill. I hope there will be many hon. Members of that party who will find that, on the whole, so long as honest criticisms are made and are considered, as they must be, they will not vote against this Bill, so that we may present a united front of the House towards this scheme. That will be a very pleasant thing.
May I say how disappointed I am at some of the talk in some of the papers—this very gloomy talk, with petulant letters saying, "What, after all, have we to celebrate?" Surely right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House, at least, will agree that if, in 1951, we have survived five years of war and five years of His Majesty's Government, then even they will have something they will like to celebrate, to dance and sing about. "Faith," I think Mr. G. K. Chesterton said, "is the capacity to believe in that which is demonstrably untrue." If that is the only sort of confidence we have in our future, then let us have that.
I think there are other causes. I am no historian; but if the House will bear with me for one more minute, I will present another historical reason why we should celebrate, not only with the main Exhibition but with the arrangements set out in this Bill. After all. we are emerging from the murky 'forties into the 'fifties, and it has been pointed out to me by a better historian than myself that the 'forties have always been a pretty wretched sort of decade. A hundred years ago there were the Hungry Forties, with the whole of Europe in chaos and revolution, with the Communist manifesto, with crowned heads falling everywhere and rulers taking refuge in this, island, and with the Chartists massing on Kennington Common. However, after that period we emerged into what was almost the most prosperous, happy period in this country's history.
In the seventeen-forties, I think, we were at war with France, Spain—and 411 Scotland. A predecessor of mine in this House, Sir Charles Oman, records that when Charles Edward arrived at DerbyPanic prevailed in London, the King's plate had been sent on shipboard, the Bank of England had paid away every guinea of its reserves, and the citizens of London were fully persuaded that they would be attacked next day by 10,000 wild Scottish clansmen.In the sixteen-forties there was civil war and King Charles I had his head cut off. In the fifteen-forties, I see "The time was a very evil one for England." King Henry VIII was marrying too many women, executing too many men, and persecuting everybody else. I need hardly add that we were at war with Scotland, and France as well; but the historian adds, rather woundingly, that "the French War was far more dangerous." In the fourteen-forties we had a weak king, King Henry VI. We were at war with France, and we were gradually losing everything King Henry V had won. In 1431 we had burned Joan of Arc—and our publicity on the Continent was not good. In the thirteen-forties we were at war with France, and the Scots invaded the North of England. Also, a small detail, there was the Black Death. In the twelve-forties we invaded France. In the eleven-forties we were ruled by an unpleasant woman called Matilda and there was civil war all the time. In the ten-forties we were invaded by the Danes.
Now, whatever else may be laid at the door of His Majesty's Government, we are not now at war with France or Scotland or even Denmark, and I do not think that we shall be in 1951, and my hope is that in some way we shall emerge from the nineteen-forties into the 'fifties in such condition that we shall be justified in celebrating. But if not, even if we are going down, it is not the habit of the British Fleet—and again I am sorry that the admiral, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington, is not here—to haul down the ensign when about to begin a doubtful engagement. On the contrary, each ship flies two or three to make sure that one shall be seen. It is in that spirit, I feel, that we ought to go forward with this bold, imaginative, attractive scheme, and show, whether we go up or down, that we can be gracious, gallant and gay.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
I hope the hon. Gentleman the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the blacker details of our history, except to say that when this country emerges from the nineteen-forties into the brighter, happier 'fifties it will not on this occasion be entirely a matter of chance but as a result in some measure of the energies of a Labour Government.
I had hoped that this Debate today would begin with a measure of agreement on all sides of the House, at least on the basic principles of this Bill. Unfortunately, that has not been so. We listened amid an ever increasing gloom that formed over the House when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) was speaking for the Opposition; and in the course of those rather depressing remarks he asked one or two questions which, I have no doubt, the Lord President will reply to when he winds up, if he finds they are sufficiently relevant. However, I think the House will agree that the right hon. Gentleman's general reflections on the Bill were not in tune with public opinion in this country on this matter.
I want to detain the House for only a very few minutes to welcome wholeheartedly the Bill that is before us. I should like to congratulate the Government on resisting the pressure that has been put upon them to abandon this whole scheme of the Festival Gardens. I would welcome, in particular, this special amenity to which the terms of this Bill are addressed. There have been two main sources of opposition to these proposals, and, although I agree with neither of them, I think I have a certain sympathy with one source. I refer to the objection that comes from certain local interests representing people who frequent Batter-sea Park and who are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the rest and peace that they find there in a sort of rural enclave in the midst of the noise and bustle and bricks and mortar of surrounding London. However, I think it is not asking too much to ask that those people should be prepared to make some small sacrifice for a limited period of their private pleasures to the wider public interest, and I think that, as the opposition for that source has 413 largely died down, that is just what they have decided.
The opposition mainly has come from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and theirs is a form of opposition with which I have no sympathy whatever. Some of them, I gather, are opposed to the whole idea of a Festival of Britain. They think that the time is out of joint. They feel that, despite the superlative efforts this country has made, because we still have to manage to bridge the dollar gap, we should go around in sackcloth and ashes, parading as penitents before the whole world.
We on these benches, particularly the Lord President of the Council, take a very different view. We are proud of the advances this country has made in the last 100 years, and, in particular, in the last five years, and we believe that we have something to show the world, and something that the world will be glad to see. Furthermore, I think there is no question about it that this Festival of Britain, and the Gardens which are to be a part of the Festival, will make a definite contribution to closing that dollar gap, and to increasing our dollar exports both visible and invisible.
It is against this proposal that the main fire has been directed from the benches opposite. Hon. Members opposite have always referred to this proposal as a fun fair, and they have used the words in such tones as if they were describing some extension of one of those deplorable and disreputable pin table saloons in the Charing Cross Road.
This proposal is nothing of the kind. I rather thought that in the interchanges that followed my right hon. Friends' statement on Wednesday of last week that the hatchet had been well buried, although I did observe at the time that the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) again referred to the "fun fair" as one of the "frills" which he wanted my right hon. Friend to cut out. Today we have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport coming along in similar vein, complete with cold water and wet blankets.
This idea of an amusements section is traditional where great national exhibitions are concerned. I think it is a very good tradition, too. After all, if we are to 414 have a banquet, let us have the wine also. Do not let us be niggardly in the welcome we extend towards our guests. Obviously, there is no other suitable open space within reasonable access of the South Bank but Battersea Park. I am quite sure that the section of the park taken for this purpose will fill the bill admirably. When the visitor to the main Exhibition has had his fill of the more or less serious instruction he will be able to go aboard a river craft and in a few moments will be in the Festival Gardens, where he can get relaxation, and I hope, with all due deference to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson), refreshment.
I believe that the provisions of this Bill when translated into fact will make a considerable contribution to the attractiveness and gaiety of London—the London for which most of us feel a very deep affection. I hope that these proposals will play their part in enabling London once again to deserve that tribute of the Scottish poet William Dunbar, who 400 years ago sang:London, thou art the flower of cities all!
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
In this type of Debate speeches can be made very much in favour of the Exhibition and the Festival or against it, and I feel that on a matter such as this hon. Members should speak entirely for themselves. For that reason, I have avoided having any discussion with my own party on this subject and I am expressing my own views only.
I must say I thought the Minister of Transport would give us considerably more detail about what the revenue was likely to be—which surely has been worked out—and how we might come out of this financially. He hardly referred to it at all, if at all. He welcomed the improvements to transport which would come out of the Festival. Well, improvements, if thought necessary, can take place in any case. He went on to refer to the river buses. We all welcome improvements in this form of transport, and in this connection I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. T. Macpherson), whose speech was devoted almost entirely to river transportation, on the work he has 415 done in furthering these facilities on the Thames.
The Minister of Transport said that there is not to be interference with public sport. I recall that not so long ago mid-week football matches were cancelled because it was considered that people should concentrate on getting the country out of a very difficult economic situation. The right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Wilmot) spoke about our "little troubles." I am amazed that a right hon. Gentleman who has been a senior Minister in this Government should talk about our "little troubles." One of the real dangers today is that in some quarters those troubles are not sufficiently appreciated.
Obviously, this Festival is the Lord President's "baby." I have no doubt that this Bill will go through, as most Bills do, with the Government majority, and I wish it well, but I desire to place my views on record. We all know that as a general rule exhibitions lose money, and the guarantors are usually called upon to pay up. I see little reason why this Exhibition should be any exception. If it was to be a large trade exhibition, which would bring in money, I would support it up to the hilt; but I believe that the conception of this Festival at this time is quite out of place.
I do not want to stress the difficulties in my own constituency. I have heard various hon. Members refer to the housing conditions in their constituencies, and I know that many of them say there were ample opportunities to put it right before the war. However, I am concerned with the position today in the borough of Congleton, in my constituency. Last week there was brought to my notice the case of a married couple with five children living in one small bedroom. I therefore do not hold with spending all this money at this time on building to improve the South Bank when the housing programme is being cut. When hon. Gentlemen opposite say that public opinion is very much in favour of this Exhibition, I can only say that in the North-West of England public opinion is very much against it.
§ Mr. Braddock
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that before the Wembley Exhibition, which was supported by 416 his party, not only were people living in overcrowded conditions, but they were also underfed?
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
That is quite irrelevant to what we are discussing today. Conditions have gone on improving, and I hope they will continue to improve. Certainly more houses were being built between the wars than at the present time. I do not want to be diverted from my argument. The fact is that capital cuts are being made, and will continue to be made next year, and it seems quite incongruous that all this money should be spent in the next two years. A supreme effort must be made if this country is even to maintain its present standard of living, as has been indicated in recent speeches by Members of the Government.
It is agreed that less than 20 per cent. of Battersea Park is to be used as an amusement park, but I do not believe that the remaining 80 per cent. can continue as it was previously; there is bound to be untidiness, and the amenities of the park must to a large extent disappear for the period of the Exhibition. Furthermore, will the park be returned to the borough in its original condition? I do not think that Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, which was used for the 1937 Exhibition, was ever put back into its original condition. I wish this Exhibition well, but I should prefer to see the money spent on something which would bring in currency, preferably dollars, together with more houses, and not spent on this project so that the people of our country get the impression that we have money to spare for such a business. For that reason I regret it.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould (Hendon, North)
I regret this fog of inspissated gloom which pours out from the Opposition benches, merely because they know in their hearts that they will not be in power when the 1951 Exhibition comes on. If they thought they were going to be in power, they would adopt an entirely different attitude towards this Exhibition. There has been a good deal of talk from the Opposition about their not trusting Government estimates, and about the rates that are to be charged in Battersea because of the amusement park. I understand there is talk of the rates going up 3s. because of the Festival amusement park; but as the L.C.C. have, I believe.
417 decided in no circumstances to spend more than £80,000, and as a penny rate brings in £250,000, all that the rates can possibly go up is a tiny fraction over a farthing. I therefore think that we might come back to more realistic estimates for the very fine Exhibition that we are to have, and I hope, as the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) said, that the Bill will go forward unanimously, without a Division.
One thing that I am concerned about is the talk of a "fun fair," not because I do not want an amusement park, but because a "fun fair," as it is continually described, will give the country quite a wrong impression of the sort of thing the Exhibition will be. I very much hope that it is to be something like the Tivoli in Copenhagen, or the parks in Malmo and in other of the Scandinavian countries. They certainly have their fun fair side, with switchbacks, and so on; but they also have most excellent entertainment of a very different kind. The last time I was in Copenhagen, I was in the Tivoli Gardens where I saw and heard a "Midsummer Night's Dream" most beautifully produced in Danish. I need hardly say I did not understand a word of it, but as I know it fairly well, that did not matter. It was a most delightful entertainment. At the same time, there was an extremely good classical concert going on in another part of the gardens. I hope that the Festival Gardens will be used for that kind of entertainment, as well as for the ordinary amusements that we get in an amusements park.
I should like to say a word about this type of entertainment. This is to be a memorial festival showing the progress that has been made during the last 100 years in Britain. In spite of the gloom opposite, and in spite of the fact that we have been through the two greatest wars in history, we have made enormous progress in many ways.
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould
I quite agree. The progress that we have made in science, sociology and in all sorts of industrial ways will be depicted. We have also produced a great deal of very fine creative art of all kinds. We are going to demonstrate what has been happening in the past. I hope, however, that the Government will make 418 special arrangements to show the world what is being done in the present in some of the creative arts. I congratulate the Festival Committee, or whoever is responsible, on having already commissioned operas by well-known British men, such as Benjamin Britten, and on having also commissioned lesser musical works by other well-known British composers. These are all to be produced during the Festival for the world to hear what we can give in music. In addition, certain sculptures have been commissioned to be placed in the Festival Gardens in Battersea Park.
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould
I do not know who they are by, but I know that they have been commissioned as representative of good art by men who are living today, and I suggest to the Government and to the Festival Committee that there are other kinds of creative art which should be represented. There is architecture. A number of struggling young architects are finding very special difficulty today in getting their feet even on the bottom rung of the ladder. This is due to the fact that it has been necessary to cut out a great deal of building, apart from houses to let and council houses which do not need separate architects. These young architects are not getting any opportunity to show what they can do.
The same thing is true of the visual arts. This is because of the economies necessary and because of the dollar difficulty which is running through the whole of British life. It is very difficult for young artists, men or women, to obtain a footing. I suggest that two things could very well be done. One is that young, struggling architects should be commissioned to submit plans for some of these temporary buildings, and show the world what they can do. It might be possible to have suitable competitions for them.
The same thing could be done in connection with the visual arts. I suggest that there might be competitions for murals to be placed in these temporary buildings; or better still, pictures that would not be actually painted on the walls, because that would mean their destruction when the temporary buildings were destroyed at the end of the Festival.
419 It should be perfectly possible to get pictures put up which would be like murals and which could be in the temporary buildings during the Festival and afterwards be put up permanently in public buildings. In this way, the Government would be able to show the world what young architects and young painters could do. It would give them a chance to create, either temporarily or permanently, works of art which would start them forward, and which, at the same time, might well be dollar earners.
Americans will come over here—and I say Americans especially because their money is so valuable at the moment—to see artistic productions, just as much as they will come to see our industrial achievements. They will give orders because they will want to have exhibitions in America, and this will be a very good way to help earn the dollars which will cut down any deficits there may be. I urge that creative art by living people should be fully represented, as well as that which has been produced during the last 100 years. Most of all, I sincerely hope that we shall go forward with our fine plans for this great Exhibition which will show the tremendous advances that we have made in the face of all difficulties during the last 100 years, and especially during the last five years.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
It will be readily understood that I rise in a very chastened spirit this afternoon. I still bear indelibly printed on my personality the marks of the rebuke administered to me by the Lord President the other day, when I ventured to ask him who was really in favour of this Exhibition. He then implied, quite rightly as I recognise, from his totalitarian point of view, that to hold any opinions on this Exhibition other than those of the right hon. Gentleman was entirely illegitimate.
I have pondered the Lord President's observations, as I always do any observations that fall from his lips, with the result, which is a tribute equally to his persuasiveness and my openness of mind, that I have progressed, if I may put it so, from an atheist position to an agnostic position, and there is no knowing where I may end. I think that I have pene- 420 trated a little way into the Lord President's mind. I must say that I was surprised at some of the things I found there. I realise, I think, what it is that has commended this Exhibition to him. The "News Chronicle" took occasion this morning to remind its readers very forcibly that it was in the "News Chronicle" office that the conception of this Exhibition took place. I can quite understand the right hon. Gentleman with his almost ungoverned admiration for anything connected with the Press, adopting this idea undigested and swallowing it whole. Then, by one of those rare coincidences which often interest the House, the late editor of the "News Chronicle" being available for employment, employment was made available for him, with the result that, in the classic phrase of the right hon. Gentleman himself, a good time was had, if not by all, at any rate by some. The upshot of all this is, as I have tried to indicate, though I am always open to conviction, that I still remain a little unconvinced.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) that there is some lack of evidence of a wide public demand for this Exhibition, more particularly outside London; there is a strong feeling that the cost is such as should not be expended at a time like this; but my guiding principle being, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, a profound conviction that in the last resort the Government must be right, I can assure him that I shall not be guilty of any aggressive opposition to this project.
To the speech of the Minister of Transport I will make no reference, except to say that I was a little startled by the way in which he announced an almost seismic constitutional revolution, when he spoke, almost in passing, of the creation of additional "peers" by private enterprise. That, of course, immediately took my mind back to 1911—
§ Mr. Wilson Harris
I am extremely gratified to know that, as my mind had been gravely disturbed.
Let us return to the subject of Batter-sea Park, in regard to which atheism and agnosticism are having rather a hard 421 struggle in my mind. I am impressed by the argument put forward particularly by the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) in regard to Battersea Park. Like many other Members, I have a great affection for Battersea Park as it is, and it is a little difficult to be convinced that it is to be greatly improved by the changes projected. I cannot help feeling that if people are exhausted by their efforts as spectators below the river, they would be better refreshed in the sylvan glades of which the right hon. Member for Dept-ford (Mr. Wilmot) spoke so eloquently. However, if we are to have these recreations, then let us know what they are to be. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not associate himself with anything but pure, clean fun, and therefore we can be satisfied that all these amusements will be of an immaculate purity, at whatever sacrifice to attractiveness.
I do not wish to detain the House long, but, as it behoves one to make a positive contribution to a Debate, I will commend one suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. It will be remembered that some portion of Battersea Park was devoted last year to rather problematic statuary of different kinds. I would suggest that in order to provided a fitting emblem of that universal amity which the Government have been so successful in establishing, the right hon. Gentleman commission someone, preferably Mr. Henry Moore, to provide a statuary group of the Minister of Health embracing Lord Horder. That would have two advantages. It would attract all the innumerable friends and admirers of the Minister of Health, and it would attract all the innumerable friends and admirers of Lord Horder. If, moreover, the sculptor could recall to some extent the famous statue of Laocoon, and subtly suggest the idea of the Minister of Health struggling with a serpent—or conversely Lord Horder struggling with a serpent—the cup of public enjoyment would be filled to overflowing.
I still remain a little unconvinced about Battersea Park. I wish that the people who go on Wednesday to see the Exhibition down the river would take their recreation, as they well could do, on Thursday in some larger atmosphere than that of Battersea Park. At the same 422 time, I am convinced by some arguments which have been adduced in this Debate. I agree with the only other junior burgess present that it would be a pity if a Division were taken, if only because I should have to make up my mind into which Lobby to go. Therefore, having expressed regret that Battersea Park is not to be left to its sylvan glades, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am in the sort of frame of mind that he would be glad to reduce me to.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) has spoken about his convictions and has thrown doubt upon the proposals that are now before us. I do not gather very clearly where his enthusiasm lies after listening to the proposals he has made. It looked to me as if he were trying to pronounce his swan song on behalf of the university he represents, although I should be very sorry if judgment on the value of university representation had to be made on the contribution he has just made. There have been better occasions, and I would rather think of those better occasions when the hon. Member has made a more valuable contribution.
For myself, I am wholly convinced of the necessity for this Festival of Britain and of making it not too serious an affair. I agree that people must have their amusements, and that they will find their amusement in ways in which I should not find mine. I cannot lay down a rule as to what other people should do, although their practice, so far as I am concerned, may be a little unfortunate. Members will guess that there is one aspect of the matter to which I must make some reference. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. T. Macpherson) has told us that the British people like to be beside the water. I agree. Last year they spent £762 million in their efforts to be beside the water—a water infused with alcohol—and I should imagine from their complaints that it was not so much alcohol as water.
Instead of the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) complaining about the expenditure on this Exhibition because of the dreadful homes he mentioned needing attention, he should join with me in my protests about the tremendous waste that 423 goes on in reference to alcoholic beverages. I gather that the noble Lady the hon. Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) is under the impression that I am quite wrong in assuming that there will be many alcoholic beverages in this so-called fun park. I can only find guidance on the point from certain arrangements that have already been published. Although the Government have not had any forthright opposition from me to the provision of such entertainment as people desire, I hope they will take into account the fact that there is general agreement, not only among teetotallers like myself, about the necessity for caution. They should be more cautious about the provision of alcoholic drinks than the Minister showed signs of being when I interrupted him a little while ago.
My right hon. Friend is under the impression that this provision is necessary. If he thinks that, I have no doubt that he will rush headlong into such provision, but we should be extremely careful. We have been advised by many Parliamentary committees and Royal Commissions to proceed with the greatest caution in this question of the provision of alcoholic drinks. I should like to know whether the licensing restrictions on the sale of alcohol in this so-called amusement park will be the same as those applied in connection with other forms of entertainment? I rather gathered that no deep thought had been given to this question. I do not know whether the opinion of magistrates has been asked about the provision of more intoxicants, when such provision already exists close to Battersea Park.
Recently, the Home Secretary quashed a provision which had existed for years in Kensington as a result of the expressions of opinion of Kensington magistrates, who said that drinking facilities should end at 10 o'clock at night. After he had been told about the journeyings across Battersea bridge—precisely where the new fun fair is to be—he found it necessary to take away from Kensington the facilities they had secured for themselves, so that Battersea people would be persuaded to get their drinks in their own area. It would be a retrograde step if the Government were to assist in the provision of more drinking facilities in that area.
424 I have no desire whatever to cramp this excellent scheme. I think we have the right to rejoice about the progress which we have made in recent years. I, personally, rejoice also at the great progress made in the last 100 years, during which the temperance movement has been in existence. The gin palace is not as universal as it was and the evils associated with drink are not as bad as they were. But there can be mistakes and carelessness and it is because I do not feel that the Minister has a proper understanding of the situation that I have addressed to him these few cautionary remarks. I hope the company which will be responsible for this scheme will watch this matter with the utmost care. In spite of all the glory of this scheme, which I want to see in all its fullness, any carelessness will turn it into something far short of its high expectations.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
Hon. Members opposite and the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), who spoke one hundred per cent. for the Liberal Party, have been telling us all the afternoon that we on this side of the House are intent upon killing the joys of the people. That is far from being the case. The Minister, because of his wholly inadequate speech, put us in an intolerable position and it was right of my right hon. Friend to say that we could not determine whether we would carry our opposition to a vote until we had been given further and more satisfactory assurances. Only as the Debate has developed has the House been given any information at all about this project.
I listened with interest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Deptford (Mr. Wilmot). I almost wished he was a Minister again, as his expository powers were far greater than those displayed by the Minister of Transport. The Minister gave no estimate of the number of people who would come to this Festival from abroad or the Provinces or from London itself; he produced no plan or layout; and we do not know what services are to be given. It was only as the Debate developed that we began to hear that there is something attractive about the scheme. I take the view that the Festival must be treated as a whole, and that if 425 we are to spend a large sum of money on its architectural and exhibition side, we must cater for the lighter side of public life.
I am only too willing to see the Bill passed if we can have the assurances we require. After all, it is the constitutional duty of the Opposition to test Government projects from the point of view of finance and on other grounds. We are not being killjoys; we are performing our constitutional function. I should like to ask the Minister who is to reply, whether we can have more detailed information about the finances of this project. The other day the right hon. Gentleman, in adumbrating some details of the main project, said that its capital cost would be written off in three years of Parliamentary Votes. I will not speak about that tonight, because we are on this narrower issue, but is that really the case, or are we to have a properly financed capital project amortised year by year out of current expenditure? If it is the latter, it will be a much lighter burden on the taxpayers. But I rather fear that the Government, who are very loose about money, will provide this loan expenditure out of public money in the first year or two and trust to luck that there will be something coming in at the end out of the amusement park and whatever is to be established there to refund the amount.
I should like to see some token reduction of the whole project made to meet the situation which undoubtedly exists with regard to our finances, the grave shortages in our economy and the appalling conditions under which many of our people are living. It appears to me that the architects of this project have been given an absolute carte blanche and have drawn up plans and presented the Government with an estimated financial sum which has been put in the Bill and brought before the House of Commons. I wish to be assured that that is not the case and that considerable cuts have already been made by the Government before the sums mentioned in the Bill were fixed, in order to satisfy the people in the country who feel greatly disturbed about this project.
§ Mr. Wilmot
As the noble Lord is making such a constructive contribution may I remind him that a few days ago the Lord President of the Council came 426 to the House and explained in great detail the reductions in the estimates which had been made as a result of the economic situation?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
That reduction related to the main site. It is not clear that the same has been done in regard to these Festival Gardens. I should like to have an assurance that the same principle of making a suitable cut to meet the circumstances of the time, runs right through the whole project. If we can be told that that is the case, I am sure the House will feel more satisfied that it has done hitherto.
There are one or two other matters to which I should like to refer. Considerable exemptions are laid down in Clauses 4, 5 and 6. I will not go into them in detail, but I wish to have an assurance from the Government that these exemptions will not be used to give what one might call an undue preference to these Festival projects. For example, will the licensing laws as regards drink be relaxed for the Festival project? I am sure that the hon. Member for Ealing, West (Mr. J. Hudson) will be interested to know. Will Entertainments Duty on certain of these amusement features be relaxed so that other concerns in London competing in the same field will be forced to compete disadvantageously? I should like to know whether there is anything in Clauses 4, 5 or 6 which gives the Festival organisation any undue preference in trading. If there is, it should be justified to the House.
I should also be grateful for an assurance that the fun fair part of the Festival Gardens will not last longer than a year. There is some doubt about that. In some places these more amusing features have been put down on exhibition sites and have been allowed to remain for a considerable time beyond the projected period. I should like to have an assurance that such features will be removed and that the gardens will be restored as they were, subject to the permanent buildings, which many of us agree will be an attractive feature, remaining after the Exhibition closes.
With reference to the re-designing of the gardens, like my right hon. Friend I hope that the buildings that are to be put down on the site will be sited in accordance with a plan which fits into the ultimate design. I imagine that will 427 be quite easy to do. If the architects have in mind an ultimate plan for these gardens, it will be quite easy to site the restaurants and permanent buildings where they will be in the ultimate plan, and to fit in the amusement section accordingly. I gather that the amusement section is to cover only 20 per cent. of the acreage. If that is the case, it may mean that the permanent buildings will all be concentrated in the remaining four-fifths. I should like to know whether that is the case and whether those buildings will be sited with the long-term plan in mind?
The only other comment I have to make is that agreement to this project can be obtained in this House only if it is to commemorate a hundred years of British industrial life. If it is that, it may be a great feature to be classed with the 1851 Exhibition and may even transcend the Wembley Empire Exhibition of 1924. But if hon. Members opposite are to go around the country claiming that this is in any way a commemoration of the last five years of their disastrous Government, then they will not get all-party agreement and they will not get the country to appreciate it in the non-party spirit which is required.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Sargood (Bermondsey, West)
The Debate has ranged over a wide field and has covered most of the points that could usefully be made, so I shall not weary the House by repeating any of them. I feel, however, that some reply should be made to the statements made by the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare), who I regret is not here. A reply should be made to him if only because he takes a very active part in the affairs of London. Therefore, I should like to make it clear to the House that he does not speak for the London County Council, who have clearly indicated that they support this scheme and are enthusiastically backing it. Only yesterday, they again had an opportunity at their meeting to test feelings, and they again indicated that they were behind the Government in their efforts to make this Festival a success.
The hon. Member does not speak for the Battersea Borough Council. They have indicated very clearly that they are supporting the proposals which have been made, particularly in relation to Battersea 428 Park. Although I know that great political efforts have been made to reverse that decision, nevertheless the Borough Council have clearly indicated that they are supporting this scheme.
The other people on whose behalf we are entitled to speak are the whole of the people of London. The Festival of Britain was made an issue in the recent L.C.C. by-election in North Kensington. It was made a very fierce issue there, and the people, as represented by the electors of North Kensington, made it clear that they support the Government in their proposal to go on with this scheme.
The hon. Member made a great point of objecting that the L.C.C. should be called upon to perform work on behalf of the Government, and he instanced the building of the Embankment wall and the reclamation of the foreshore. The House should appreciate that that scheme was envisaged long ago, and it was in any event the intention of the L.C.C. to do that work as part of their South Bank scheme. They are merely anticipating, by doing that work in conjunction with this Festival.
There is one other very serious challenge which should be met and answered. I am glad to see that the hon. Member is now in his place. He made a point of the great need for housing and of the fact that we are using building labour and housing material for the purpose of this Festival. That is a challenge that we ought to meet. I propose to indicate first of all that, as is well known, a quantum of building labour and material has been earmarked for buildings other than houses. It is not desirable that we should devote all of it to housing, however great the need may be, because there are other types of building which are necessary. The amount required for the Festival of Britain will be taken from that which is earmarked for purposes other than housing.
I could have found it in my heart to have a greater respect for the expressions of opinion of the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) and his hon. Friends, in their concern for housing, if they had protested about the use of building labour and material for luxury building. No objection has been raised to the use of building labour and materials for that kind of luxury building 429 that we see around the West End of London and elsewhere.
I remind the House that this matter of housing in relation to the Festival of Britain was an issue in the North Kensington London County Council by-election. The Conservative opposition took full advantage of the opportunity to sway public opinion against the Labour candidate, but the people clearly indicated by the way in which they cast their votes that they were behind the Government in this proposal. I hope that the Government will go on with their scheme and make it as attractive as possible. The Opposition have expressed great fear about the Festival of Britain, but the real fear they have is the one to which they have not given tongue—that the project will be a very great success.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I do not intend to detain the House for very long, but there is one matter to which I should particularly like to call attention, and which ought to be borne in mind. It is that the finances of the scheme require considerable scrutiny. It is the duty of the Opposition, while being quite friendly to the general principles of the scheme, to point out where they think money is likely to be lost. Money is bound to be lost, and is apparently being budgeted for as a loss, in connection with the fun fair at Battersea. I regretted to hear my noble Friend the Member for Southern Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) say that he wished to see the Government shut down the fun fair gardens at the end of one year. I believe that is entirely the wrong thing to do.
If we want this venture to be a success, as I think we all do, we must look at the finances. We are to spend £637,000 upon an amusement park. Nobody outside Bedlam could imagine that we should ever get a return of that expenditure in the very short period of an English summer. It is utterly impossible, if we consider the financial side of the matter. Let us not bind ourselves to pulling it all to pieces at the end of 12 months. I believe that a great many people, provided that the amusement park does not make noises, will find a great deal of interest and amusement in it. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who said that the history of every exhibition was that the amusement side usually carried on afterwards.
430 Of course it does, because people are amused by it. If the thing is badly run or stupidly conceived, it will not be a success. If it is properly run the people will like it. It will not do any harm and the taxpayer will not lose money. We have to be sensible about it.
We do not want an extremely stupid financial scheme, but I believe that this is a stupid financial scheme. I believe that the Government are trying to get the best of both worlds. They can never do that. If they are going to shut the amusement park down at the end of 12 months they will lose £350,000 for an absolute certainty, money which I believe could be regained if the life of the place were spread over three years. My own feeling is: Do not let us be too emphatic about shutting it down. Let us see whether it is useful. If it is going to create a nuisance to the people living in the district, it will have to be shut down on those grounds, but if the Government and the exhibition authorities are to be successful in maintaining this amenity they will have to make it attractive. Do not let the taxpayer suffer. Let him get a return for the investment.
My grandfather happened to be concerned in the 1851 Exhibition in a somewhat intimate way. I was looking up some of his papers, and I found that all the arguments which are being used about taking up a bit of Battersea Park are exactly the same as those used in those days about Hyde Park. [An HON. MEMBER: "They did move the place afterwards."] Not at the time. The original buildings were put up on a site exactly opposite Knightsbridge Barracks. They were afterwards moved to Sydenham.
Our forefathers were rather cleverer than we are. The contractor who had the job of making and laying the floor it was done by private enterprise—came to the management and asked whether the space between the boards could be increased by 1½ inches. In those days ladies did not wear the sort of heels they do now and they would be able to walk about on this floor, although the cracks in it were considerable. The exhibition authorities agreed to the suggestion, on the understanding that they could let, by contract to another firm, at a very advantageous rate, the right to keep anything which fell through the cracks. So much fell through the 431 cracks at the Crystal Palace that it actually paid for the whole of the timber of which the floor was made. I do not think it would do so today, when timber is much more expensive.
In regard to the gardens I should like to emphasise what the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) has said. I trust that the floral aspect of the gardens will be in very good hands, as I understand it is. I ask the Government to consider whether it would not be advisable to arrange definitely for a pier at Kew. Kew Gardens are unique and are famous throughout the world. We cannot produce in Battersea Park what we have at Kew. If we could have a boat service running at the right state of the tide from the Exhibition to a properly made pier at Kew, that trip would be not only profitable, but educational, and it would do a good service to Kew.
Equally, downstream, I trust that steps will be taken to bring the Maritime Museum into the picture. It is one of the finest museums in the country. It has had a great struggle to get going, and the people in charge of it have done all they can to make it into an exhibition. It has more British history enshrined in it than almost any other exhibition. It has recently acquired a great many relics of naval successes and explorations. I see no mention at all of facilities to be given in connection with such matters, and I beg that steps should be taken to help the public to have access by water, upstream to Kew and downstream to Greenwich. Nothing would give foreigners a better impression of Britain than that kind of thing.
In conclusion, I enter one plea about these boats on the river. I know a little about the steamers of the river. Some of them are very suitable for this sort of business and some are not. Some are extremely cranky. We do not want to run any risks. The whole success of the scheme depends upon the sort of summer we are going to get. We shall not make a very great deal of money outside the amusements, but at any rate we can convey people without their getting soaked, if we pay proper attention to the type of vessels which are licensed. It will be a great disaster if vessels are licensed which are what we 432 call "cranky" or liable to capsize, or ship a great deal of rain. This can be avoided if the boats are properly hooded. We must remember that we get difficult currents and breezes on the river, which make coming alongside very difficult unless the boats are properly designed. The Minister of Transport may remember that in connection with the French Exhibition on the Seine, there was a disaster due to the fact that the type of boat used was not particularly good, and that it had to be rectified.
I wonder if the attention of the Lord President can be directed to a promise which he gave me months ago in regard to Queen's Hall. Queen's Hall has a great position in the concert world. I was very anxious from the inception of the South Bank scheme that the erection of the concert hall there should not be allowed to stop the reconstruction of Queen's Hall. Queen's Hall requires a similar amount, and if the amount to be spent on a concert hall and other things will stop that work, I hope the Minister will reconsider it.
I believe that the Exhibition will attract people not only from the United States, but from the whole of the British Empire. If that is so I hope that one thing will be borne in mind in connection with the restaurants. We should remember that our system of feeding may not be exactly acceptable to those who are good judges of food, and, leaving aside the question of drink, it is of the very utmost importance that we should really try to cater for people who have good taste so that they do not go away saying, "It was all right, except that the way they cook cabbage in England is appalling."
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)
Like many other hon. Members, I have had a very open mind about this Bill, but since hearing the Minister of Transport this afternoon, I am convinced that it is our duty to vote against it. If the Minister could have told us that by losing perhaps £100,000 on the project in Battersea Park we should thereby gain millions of pounds in increased takings at our cinemas, cafes, theatres and so on, or that we should gain enormously increased trade through attracting industrialists here, he might have convinced some of us that it was worth while spending the money. But he did nothing of the sort.
433 I am not one of those who have lost confidence in the country, as the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) suggested some hon. Members have done. I believe that we shall pull through all our troubles in spite of the Socialist Government, but unless we "pull in our horns" seriously we shall make the crisis last very much longer. The noble Lady must realise that we are living in very exceptional times. Gaiety does us a lot of good and we shall do our work better if we are gay, but if the noble Lady were on the verge of bankruptcy she would not organise a dance in her own house—she would say, "No, I have to seek my recreation somewhere else." In these hard times when the country is on the verge of bankruptcy we should be content with other amusements which we already have.
There is no doubt that in spite of what has been said from the other side, the people want houses more than they want switchbacks. This is a sincere thought of mine. People will be very sore if they think that they could have had houses when the Government were building fun fairs or amusement parks on which the Londoners can spend their money. I do not believe that the Battersea Park arrangement will attract the foreigner, but it will attract scores of people from all over England and from Scotland and I am not so sure that we want all those people. The Minister of Transport wants them to swell his railway receipts, but I am not sure that the railway carriages, the theatres, the hotels, and so on can stand it. I believe it is a great mistake to encourage the British people to crowd the capital when I do not believe it will encourage the foreigners who are coming over for the industrial side.
I would not oppose the Bill so much just because it is possible that we would lose £100,000 on the enterprise, but I oppose it because £770,000 is being spent on it and it is using cement, steel, timber and labour which should be used in these hard times for other purposes. An argument that has been put forward is that Battersea Park is necessary in order to divide up the crowd and that the police need an overflow from the main Festival, but I believe that having a fun fair in Battersea Park will make the crowd problem ten times worse because hundreds of thousands more people will be coming to London and overflowing from the fun 434 fair into the main Exhibition, thus making the problem worse.
On looking through a little booklet about the Festival of Britain, I notice that there are all sorts of committees for architecture, art, films and industry, but as yet there is no committee for the fun fair itself. Perhaps the Minister will explain why that is so, or whether there will be one a little later on. Clause 1 (1) says:The County Council may enclose any lands in Battersea Park not exceeding in the aggregate forty acres in area.They can also execute works thereon. I hope the Government will not pull down trees or alter shrubs in connection with building operations.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. James Callaghan) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Williams
I see that the Government do not intend to do so and I will not continue with that point, but I should like to say some more about trees and shrubs. It is a tradition that Englishmen love their flowering trees and shrubs, and I hope that the county councils will carry out the suggestion of the Government to plant trees and shrubs all over the country. Trees and shrubs are far better than bunting. They are an investment which brings in dividends in the yearly bloom and has a certain capital appreciation through the annual growth which is made.
I was interested to hear the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) that Kew Gardens should be added to the Festival. That has been in my mind for some time and I have been particularly anxious to speak about it tonight. Nothing is more akin to the tradition and heritage of the English people as garden lovers than Kew Gardens. Other countries have cathedrals and pictures, and no doubt the people who come to this country will look at our cathedrals and pictures, but no country in the world has such a wonderful panorama and exhibition of trees and shrubs, such as rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and cherries, as Kew Gardens. Adding it to the Festival programme will involve no expenditure whatever. It is all laid on there, even the turnstiles and the refreshment places: no building will be required, no 435 alterations will be necessary and not a penny of expenditure will be needed It will be the right time of the year because the rhododendrons will be at their best, and we shall be proud for the foreigners to see not only the trees and the shrubs but also the naturalised flowers and the wild flowers for which Kew is also famous.
I make the proposal that we should have a Festival of Horticulture. Horticulture has been one of the proudest achievements of Englishmen throughout the centuries. It is only a few minutes more upstream to Kew in the water buses. Running the water buses there will help to solve the problem of the crowds. Kew can hold hundreds of thousands of people. If Kew took a section of the crowd, it would help to solve the crowd problem and at the same time we should be proud that the foreigners could see the history of England in horticulture, nobly achieved by generations of Englishmen. I sincerely ask the Minister to bring this about.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Brentford and Chiswick)
I am sure the House will have listened with attention to the speech, particularly to the last point, made by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) and I would like later to say something which bears on the same point. Had it not been for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I should have wanted to mention a number of other connected matters which are not specifically mentioned in the Bill, but, in view of your Ruling, I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes.
I must start by saying that, of course, my enthusiasm for this project would have been a little greater had the county mentioned been Middlesex and not London and had the park been Chiswick Park and not Battersea Park.
I turn now to the more serious side of the Debate, and say quite frankly that I have been very much shocked and surprised by the dismal gloom coming to us from the benches opposite. I hope that at least the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), when he winds up for the Opposition, will do us the favour of telling us precisely what is the policy of himself and his colleagues on this matter. We are 436 getting used to the idea that they do not have clear views on major issues, but we felt that on this issue at least they might speak with a united voice.
Is the policy of the Opposition that which we heard from the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson), that he approves of the Festival, but disapproves of the Battersea Park scheme? Is it represented by the views of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) and the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot)—and may we ask why they are not present at this Debate? I understand that as members of the Council of the Festival of Britain they have made no objection whatever to the scheme we are discussing at present. Is their absence explained by the fact that the right hon. Member for Southport warned them of what he was going to say and that they thought it wiser and more discreet not to be here?
Or is the policy of the Conservative Party that of the hon. Member for Wood-bridge (Mr. Hare), who wants this scheme but not in its present form, or of the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) who wants a Festival of Britain, but of an entirely different kind from that which we have been discussing in this and previous Debates? Finally, is the policy of the Conservative Party that which we have heard very often from the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers)—who is absent and has been missed in this Debate—who has persistently said he does not want any Exhibition, or Festival, or any celebration at all? We might be told by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames precisely what is the official view of the Opposition on this question.
I was interested in some of the criticisms in the speeches from hon. Members opposite, because they remind one very forcibly of many of the things which were said 100 years ago, when the Prince Consort and his friends had critics of the Exhibition held at that time. One hon. Member, who sat on the benches opposite 100 years ago, complained about the holding of the Exhibition in Hyde Park and said that people living in the areawould be well advised to keep a sharp look out after their silver spoons and the forks … and their maidservants437 and went on to make a number of violent complaints about the way in which the tone of that area would be lowered. The criticisms were so extraordinary that the King of Prussia apparently took fright and wrote asking the Prince Consort whether it would be safe to allow his relatives to visit the Exhibition. The Prince Consort replied as follows:Mathematicians have calculated that the Crystal Palace will blow down in the first strong gale, Engineers that the galleries would crash in and destroy the visitors; Political Economists have prophesied a scarcity of food in London owing to the vast concourse of people, Doctors that owing to so many races coming into contact with each other the Black Death of the Middle Ages would make its appearance as it did after the Crusades; Moralists that England would be infected by all the scourges of the civilised and uncivilised world; Theologians that this second Tower of Babel would draw upon it the vengence of an offended God.The Prince Consort finished his letter by saying:I can give no guarantee against these perils, nor am I in a position to assume responsibility for the possibly menaced lives of your Royal relatives.I hope that when my right hon. Friend replies he will be able to give a slightly more encouraging answer to some of the criticisms levelled today than the Prince Consort was able to give to the King of Prussia a hundred years ago.
Turning to the Bill itself, I am sure that, the great majority of Londoners and the great majority of future visitors to the Exhibition will welcome both the gardens and the fun fair. I hope the gardens will be of the very highest quality we can produce in this country. I think it is clear from the names of those who are to supervise the work that they will be. I hope they will be an encouragement to boroughs, organisations and private people all over England to vie with the gardens at Battersea in brightening up their own parks, their own streets and their own gardens. I hope something of the work done all over England and in relation to the landscape gardens in Battersea Park will brighten some of the drearier parts of this country for many years to come.
Perhaps because I have not reached the age and discretion of some hon. Members, I also hope that the fun fair will be a very good fun fair. I hope there will be big roundabouts and switchbacks which run at great speed and "dodgems" and other 438 things which I enjoy and which I am sure many other people, having seen the more serious exhibits on the site on the South Bank, will also want to enjoy. Although it is only to be a small feature, I am sure some of my hon. and right hon. Friends, whom I once saw disporting themselves in a similar establishment, will share my point of view.
I was interested in the points made about Kew Gardens by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), to whom I always listen with very great respect, and the hon. Member for Tonbridge. I would put in a local plea, although it is not only local, that if we are to have piers higher up the river, there should be one at Chiswick. I dare say some of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench have heard me express the hope before, but I repeat now that I hope that Chiswick will play a part in the Festival of Britain. I am sure my constituents would welcome an extension of the river bus service up the river and I very much hope that a pier will be provided for them. Might I also suggest that if the water buses are to run up the river past Battersea Park, it would be well worth considering extending the service down the river so that visitors should not only be able to see the Maritime Museum, but also have an opportunity of making tours around the Port of London. The Port of London is unique in the world, and is a very vital part of our life and economy; and such a facility would be welcomed by many visitors, not only from foreign countries, but from other parts of Great Britain as well.
In this Debate, a great deal has been said about the financial aspects of the Festival. The hon. Member for Ton-bridge could probably, if he had reflected, have answered most of the questions he put, which I expect will be dealt with by the Lord President of the Council. It is quite clear that the Festival, and the particular part which we are discussing now, are not going to show a profit; but it is equally clear that it will give a stimulus to the tourist trade, and should also give stimulus to our export trade which, in the end, will make this venture a very sound financial effort. After all, it has always been the purpose and achievement of exhibitions of this kind in other countries to give a great stimulus to industrial and business activities of the 439 countries concerned. Concerning the finances of the Festival Garden in Batter-sea Park, may I ask my right hon. Friend to think again and, if during 1951 this venture is a great success and looks as if, if it were extended for another 12 months or so, it would recover the losses, to consider keeping it open for a few more months. It may be that visitors to London will have become used to the new amenities of Battersea Park and will enjoy them, and that an extension of the fair for another year or two might help to meet the deficit which is expected.
I am sure that the great majority of people in this country welcome not only the proposal we are discussing but the great effort of which it is a part. We look forward to a time when we can not only show the rest of the world what we have achieved during the past hundred years, but when we can look around and enjoy ourselves a little also. I do not believe that the charges of extravagance which have been made can be sustained, and I am sure that when the Exhibition is over, the critics who have today been attacking my right hon. Friends will feel very much as the critics who attacked the Prince Consort a hundred years ago felt, after the overwhelming success of the first Great Exhibition in 1851.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
I am sure that the House admires the adroitness with which the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) succeeded in introducing into a discussion on the subject of certain works to be done at Battersea a discussion about certain works which are not to be done at Chiswick. That adroitness will entitle him to be acquitted, as certain of his hon. Friends certainly cannot be acquitted, of a failure to understand the Bill which we are discussing.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
The hon. Member is perhaps a little unwise in talking about works which are not to be done at Chiswick. I should advise him not to be too sure about that.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The hon. Member may have information on that subject, but there is no authorisation for those works in this Bill. The hon. Member must not be so sensitive when I seek to convey, 440 I assure him, a perfectly sincere compliment on his adroitness in Parliamentary manoeuvring. I conveyed him that compliment because I felt it was clear from that adroitness that he, at any rate, had appreciated as certain of his hon. Friends certainly had not appreciated, the limited scope and character of the Bill.
The Ruling which you, Sir, gave from the Chair at the beginning of the Debate was that we were here concerned not in general with the Festival of Britain, not even with the general doctrine whether cakes and ale were a good thing or a bad thing or whether they had been put in larger or shorter supply by Governments in the past; the only issue with which the House on this Bill is directly concerned is with regard to the proposed addition to the general scheme for the Festival of Britain which the Bill would authorise in Battersea Park. I propose to address my remarks to that limited issue.
The hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick sought to elicit what was the view of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the whole wider question. I do not know whether the hon. Member was in the House when my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) a few days ago clearly stated the position of himself and his right hon. and hon. Friends. He then made it clear, as I know the Lord President will recollect, that we favoured the continuance in all the circumstances of the Festival of Britain in general, but that we reserved our right to criticise individual and, if it so appeared to us, excessive or extraneous items. It is in the spirit of that statement of the point of view of my right hon. and hon. Friends that I hope the remaining stages of the Debate will continue, and I hope that the Lord President will not be tempted to stray into wider and, perhaps, more ebullient discussion of the whole issue of the Festival of Britain.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
What is the hon. Gentleman getting so sticky about?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am not giving way again. The noble Lady the Member 441 for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) when speaking, as she informed us, on behalf of, although in the complete absence of, her hon. Friends—I imagine they are going about the country seeking to dissuade their candidates from standing at by-elections, which no doubt accounts for their absence—indicated that she regretted that anybody should criticise and attack the Bill, on which she thought there should be national unity. I do not know whether the noble Lady thinks of national unity as involving the servile acceptance by hon. Members in all parts of the House of each and every proposal that is put forward on behalf of the Government, however extravagant or inappropriate those proposals may be. I do not so regard national unity, although it is fair to the noble Lady to point out that her hon. Friends during the years 1929 to 1931 gave a pretty good performance of national unity as so described. [Laughter.] It ill becomes hon. Gentlemen opposite to express ingratitude for those favours which they had in the past and which one day they may want in the future.
The noble Lady's theme of national unity simply will not bear examination unless hon. Members are prepared to accept that whatever is put forward, however inadequately presented by Ministers of the Crown, must be accepted without criticism and without demur. I am certainly not prepared to accept that attitude, even if this proposal had been clearly described and argued by the Minister of Transport. It certainly was not, and in the course of my remarks I shall draw attention to several notable omissions from the argument of the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the Bill. I would like at this point to say a word about one or two of the specific provisions of the Bill itself.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I have already given way once to the hon. Member and in view of the character of his intervention then, I do not think there is any necessity for me to do so again.
When the House considers Clause 4, to which, it is fair to say, the Minister of Transport did make some reference, it will be seen that the individual citizen who happens to have the good or bad 442 fortune to live in the neighbourhood of these proposed works is thereby deprived of a very large part of his legal rights. The right hon. Gentleman gave no studied argument in favour of so doing, but I should have thought it was a generally accepted proposition that the individual rights of the individual citizen should not be taken away without good cause being shown to the House of Commons. The right to obtain an injunction is taken away from the injured citizen and all that is left is the right to proceed for damages for any loss suffered.
I do not understand the reason for this proposal. The House will be aware that the judges of the High Court never in practice grant an injunction where damages would be a sufficient remedy; that is the accepted rule. Therefore, what we are doing, if we pass Clause 4, is to deprive without compensation citizens who may well be injuriously affected of certain of their legal rights. It is important for those of our citizens—and they are many—who live in the immediate vicinity of these proposed works to appreciate that they will be deprived by the Bill of the right to secure an abatement of a nuisance from which they may suffer, although other citizens affected by other works done by private companies will still retain those rights at law.
It is interesting to note that Clauses 5 and 6 exclude most of the law as it affects the ordinary citizen who desires to build. It is a little singular that when this Government are seeking to do something in which they are really interested, their first step is to sweep away those planning restrictions which they have imposed upon the private individual and the private citizen who desires to build. While I do not quarrel with them in the necessity for so doing, I hope they will bear in mind that, if it is necessary for them to do so in this case, it is some indication of the hardships and handicaps which in other cases they impose upon the individual citizen and the individual builder.
I desire, however, to take up this matter on a slightly more important basis than the mere removal of rights from the citizen—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I must confess I should be surprised if hon. Members opposite regarded the removal of rights from the individual citizen as a matter of such triviality as 443 not to merit discussion in the House of Commons. I have so far wholly failed to understand how the proposals of this Measure can be fitted—or, to use the fashionable word, integrated—into the policy of His Majesty's Government.
There has been speech after speech from the other side, such as that of the hon. Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) pointing out how nice it would be if various things could be done, for instance, if artistic endeavour could be stimulated, if lovely flowers could be laid out, if elaborate roundabouts could be installed. That is an easy line of argument because it does not pass the capacity of any hon. Member to outline many proposals which would be beneficial and which would give pleasure. Hon. Members, however, are only too well aware from the frequent observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that that is not in these days the only criterion which can be applied. It seemed to me not without significance that the Minister of Transport made no reference either to the financial proposals of the Bill or as to how those proposals could be fitted into the declared financial policy of His Majesty's Government.
Indeed, the Minister went further. In an interesting observation he indicated that he thought it desirable that travel inside this country should be stimulated. No doubt he had in view the parlous position of the Railway Executive, but is that a declaration of the policy of His Majesty's Government? We have heard again and again in this House, and on the B.B.C., appeals by Ministers of the Crown to private citizens to limit their expenditure as far as possible, and to put into savings the money thereby not spent. That is what I understood to be the policy of His Majesty's Government. Is the indication which the Minister of Transport gave today, that His Majesty's Government desire to stimulate and increase pleasure travel or unnecessary travel, a declaration made on behalf of His Majesty's Government? If it is, I hope the Lord President will deal with this matter.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I want to go as wide as I am permitted, but the hon. Member is provoking me to go into the economics 444 of the railway system after he and his hon. Friends have insisted on this being a narrow Debate. One rule for the Opposition and another for the Government is not so good.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I never thought there was any grave danger of being unfair to the Lord President and he will no doubt recall that one of the arguments adduced at that Box by his right hon. Friend in favour of this Bill was that it would encourage people to travel. Therefore it is legitimate to ask whether that is or is not the declared policy of His Majesty's Government; whether they desire to stimulate travel inside this country by the people of this country or whether they desire them to continue to limit their expenditure to the maximum and to put all they can save into National Savings. Now that I have succeeded in relieving the mind of the Lord President on that point I hope he will be able to deal with the matter when he replies.
The Minister of Transport did not deal with the financial side of the scheme in its direct aspects, but surely we are entitled to hear a good deal more before this House parts with the Second Reading of this Bill? First we must hear some argument as to why it is necessary for His Majesty's Government to shoulder some financial responsibility for the conduct of what, in deference to the sensibilities of the Lord President, I will call the amusement section. Was the issue seriously explored of leasing such activities to private concerns at their own risk before the decision was taken to incur financial responsibility on behalf of the Government? Surely in these times, before the House agrees to any item casting direct or contingent expenditure upon the Exchequer, we are entitled to hear from the Government the reasons for the decision to do that, and whether alternative methods of dealing with the same matter which might have avoided that liability were properly explored.
It seems to me that the financial issue of this Bill goes further. Not only if we pass this Bill are we authorising direct public expenditure of a sum which admittedly in these days does not loom relatively large against the swollen flood of Government expenditure but is still a considerable sum; we are also authorising the expenditure of a sum in excess of three quarters of a million pounds by 445 way of capital expenditure. It is upon that aspect that I would press the Government further. We have been told again and again by His Majesty's Government that capital expenditure must be cut. Only last month the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:We have to do our best to prevent goods from being kept out of the export field by the pressure of home demand, and we must, therefore, keep down that demand whether in respect of personal consumption, capital goods or Government expenditure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 26th October, 1949; Vol. 468, c. 1333.]Before it was decided to authorise capital expenditure on this scale I should like to know whether the issue was seriously considered whether the expenditure of this large sum was really necessary. Hon. Members will appreciate that for the provision of pleasure gardens with certain amenities £100,000 of capital expenditure even in these days would go a long way. What is the justification for authorising capital expenditure on this scale in present circumstances? I would draw the attention of hon. Members opposite who have accused hon. Members on this side of the House of desiring gloom and who pose as the exponents of gaiety to the fact that throughout our national economy things which make for the amenity of life have been suspended or postponed. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) gave an example earlier this evening of the Queen's Hall. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) on Thursday was pressing for repairs to a theatre in his constituency which were refused by the Minister of Works on the ground that capital expenditure had to be held in check.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
May I correct the hon. Gentleman? It was not in the constituency of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. H. Fraser). The matter has been properly discussed in the quarter of the Government responsible, and progress is being made.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The hon. Gentleman may have information not available to the Minister of Works—that is more than likely—but he will recall that the Minister of Works in this House on Monday expressly refused the request of my hon. Friend that this work be carried out. When that is so, we are certainly entitled to look with a critical and analytical eye upon the proposal to authorise capital expenditure upon what, 446 after all, is an amenity rather than a necessity. We have not had detailed figures or estimates, and it is no use, as was suggested from below the Gangway earlier this afternoon, saying that we should wait for the Committee stage, because hon. Members will have noticed a Motion on the Order Paper in the name of the Minister of Transport under which this Bill, which is a hybrid Bill, is to be committed to a Select Committee. Therefore, it becomes more important at this Second Reading stage to satisfy ourselves that capital expenditure on this scale is really justified.
We must look at the background; it is a fact that only two days ago the Ministry of Health issued their circular to local authorities suspending completely the issue of licences for the private building of houses. It is going to be a little difficult for hon. Members to explain to their constituents, who are living, as so many of our constituents are, in grossly overcrowded premises—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
If the hon. Member opposite who interrupted disputes that statement I shall be glad to accompany him to homes in my own constituency in which families of four or five are living in one or two rooms, and where whole families are living in the half-way houses provided by local, authorities under poor conditions. If hon. Members opposite who interrupted me would familiarise themselves with similar conditions in their own constituencies they would appreciate that in. many of their divisions the same state of affairs exists as does in mine.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I have given the hon. Gentleman a certain amount of latitude. He is now very wide of the Bill indeed.
§ Mr. K. Lindsay
I only want to put one point, because the hon. Member is advancing an argument which everyone had to consider, especially those of us who are on the Council. When Wembley was proposed, which was a case of vast Government expenditure, if it had been said, "No, we cannot go on with this scheme because housing conditions are pretty bad," that exhibition would never have taken place. That argument can 447 be used always. It is not an argument which can be advanced especially at this moment, and it seems now to have no force at all.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The hon. Member's intervention displays his failure to appreciate the profound difference which exists between the time of Wembley and now. The reason for its applicability to this Bill is that at the time of Wembley there were no legal restrictions upon anybody who desired to build a house. Within the last 48 hours the Ministry of Health have issued definite instructions to local authorities on the question. How in those circumstances the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) can suggest that there is any similarity between a situation in which there is freedom to build and one in which on economic grounds the Government have refused all freedom to build, I leave to the Combined Universities, if such a constituency continues to exist, to deal with.
The issue is this—most hon. Members want this Festival to be a success. It cannot and will not be a success if it does not carry with it the good will not of a temporary Parliamentary majority, but of the general body of opinion in this country. Despite the indiscretion the other day of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), I know that the Lord President appreciates that that is true. I put it to hon. Members opposite that if they leave in the minds of substantial sections of people in this country the feeling that material, labour and capital, which might have housed them, are being used for a pleasant and agreeable but less essential purpose, then this Festival of Britain will not command the universal assent and support which it requires.
Therefore, I make this appeal to the Lord President of the Council. I know that more than any man in this House his heart is in the success of this Festival. I ask him to believe that there are others, who, while they agree with him upon the desirability of this Festival and will try in their sometimes humble ways to assist him in its success, think it is quite wrong to drive through this House by an automatic Government majority a Measure 448 not essential for the major project of the Festival, and which, in the mind at any rate of some people—be they a majority or a minority. I do not know—involves the giving to the amenities and pleasant features which it is proposed to instal in Battersea Park a priority which is denied to homeless millions.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
As I understand the position of the Opposition in this matter, it is that on the broad issue of the Festival of Britain they are not opposing the venture. On the contrary, they give it their co-operative support, but they have grave doubt about the proposals in respect of the Festival Gardens at Battersea Park, including the amusement section. I quite agree that this Bill is mainly concerned with the Festival Gardens at Battersea Park, but that having been the attitude of the Opposition, as was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) the other day, I cannot complain if on the Second Reading of this Bill there is some examination of the position, even though I am bound to say I disagree with the point of view that has been expressed in a number of speeches and the feeling which is behind it. But this is a free country, and everybody is entitled to say what he or she likes about the Festival Gardens at Battersea Park.
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said that I have my heart in the Festival of Britain, 1951. That is perfectly true. I have, and I have got a lot of heart, and have had for a long time, in making a hole in the South Bank of the river to start to clean it up, so that there can be a dignified London on that side as well as on the other side. I had a hand in purchasing that land, and I have had a hand in Waterloo Bridge. I am glad that the London County councillors are now to have a hand in making a big hole in the South Bank with a view to redevelopment in that part of London.
As the years go on, Londoners and others from other parts of the country will be as proud of that development as we are proud of the development on the North Bank—the Victoria Embankment, which is one of the few monuments still remaining to the memory of the late but not too heavily regretted Metropolitan 449 Board of Works, which existed a long time ago. Therefore, the hon. Member is quite right; I am keen about it, because I think that this will be a good proposition for London, for the nation and for the people.
There can be two views of a park. I admit that directly one touches a park one is asking for trouble. I have had plenty in my time. When we took 30 acres of Hackney Marsh to start the slum clearance of London on a big scale there was a big row, but we dealt with it in the end. It is quite right that the public, politicians, and other people, should be sensitive about parks. I am not complaining about that. As I said, there are two possible views about parks. One is that they must all be places of quietness, of greenery, with nice seats where one can take a book—that is one of the most innocent enjoyments I can think of—and study and read and now and again listen to the birds, and look at the trees, and hear the breeze coming through the leaves. That is a very proper view. And a park is a very pleasant place in which to walk about.
At the other extreme there is Hampstead Heath on an August Bank Holiday, which is a most interesting place with a lot of interesting people in it. When I went to the Soviet Union some years ago, I saw some of their parks in Moscow. They called them, "parks of rest and culture"—which is just the sort of thing that class-conscious revolutionary Bolsheviks would do. But I have never seen anything more like Hampstead Heath on a Bank Holiday than those parks of rest and culture in the City of Moscow. There are some people—I am not saying that this is true about hon. Gentlemen who have taken part in this Debate—who are a little stuffy about parks. I am all for there being adequate park provision for quietness, leisure, rest, recreation and sport.
But we ought to include other things in our parks. A little fun and games in some of them will not really do us any harm. After all, there were Vauxhall Gardens years ago. I am not proposing to make the Festival Gardens exactly like Vauxhall Gardens. But if we take the continental use of parks, in a great many of them there is happiness and good cheer without vulgarity and excessive noise. I suggest that the partial use of some of our 450 parks for that purpose is a perfectly legitimate thing.
That is my approach. In short, I am the friend of everybody—that is my business. I am the friend of people who want to be quiet and reflective, with peace and culture and all the rest of it; and equally I am the friend of the coster-mongers and hobbledehoys who go to Hampstead Heath on a Bank Holiday and kick up an awful row, but have a good time and are happy in their own way. We must use parks according to the purpose in hand.
I will deal with some of the detailed points raised by the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) after my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport had so ably expounded the Bill—[Interruption.] He would have expounded the whole Festival if he had only been allowed to do so, but his style was cramped and he had to go back to those more mundane things. The right hon. Gentleman put a number of points arising out of the speech of my right hon. Friend, or as he would say, not arising out of the speech, because the information was not there. One of his questions was: When was the idea of the expansion of the Festival Gardens first put forward?
The answer is that we never thought of holding the Festival of Britain without an amusement section. The hon. Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), together with the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and others who serve on the Festival Council—I am much obliged to all the hon. Members of this House for the co-operation they have given—would agree that right from the very beginning there was the assumption that there would be an amusement section. I cannot remember an exhibition held anywhere in the world, however serious that exhibition might have been—and this is an exhibition of a fairly serious character—where there was not some fun and games, and which did not have its amusement section.
The idea is not new: it was there right from the beginning. Various sites for the whole show were contemplated. It was considered whether the whole business should be at Battersea Park—the 451 serious exhibits, the pleasure gardens, the amusement section, and everything. Crystal Palace was considered. Hyde Park was mentioned but the Minister of Works was so shocked that I did not pursue the matter. Wembley was mentioned—all those obvious places—and right at the beginning there was the idea of opening up an absolutely new place which would have cost a large sum of money.
§ Mr. Morrison
No. I am always very fair in relation to my constituency's interests. In the end we came to the conclusion that the site for the Exhibition had better be on the South Bank. I admit that there are disadvantages about it: it is cramped; the site is limited. On the other hand, it is in the heart of London, and I like the idea of that. I do not like to think of millions of people having to travel to the outskirts for these things. I admit that the central site will create traffic problems, and the police are very conscious of that. But it will be in the heart of London, it will be on the side of the River Thames, which is the finest river in the world. It will also open up the river traffic and will be a great thing for the redevelopment of the South Bank. Therefore, in co-operation with the London County Council, it was so arranged.
We found that we could not have the amusement section there, because there was no room. We considered various places where we could conveniently have it, and we thought that Battersea Park, which had been considered before for the whole thing and rejected, would be suitable for the amusement section. The London County Council examined the matter; indeed I think they made the proposition; and we went forward upon that basis. We shall not ruin the park as a whole. People can get there by water bus from the County Hall or nearby, and there will no doubt be an extension of the river traffic. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. T. Macpherson) is very active in this matter. That is an additional attraction. The more we can get the river into use the better it will be.
That is how it happened. At the time of the Second Reading of the earlier Bill 452 to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, the idea had only just cropped up. There were many discussions to be carried on with the police, with the London County Council, with the Port of London Authority and so on. Therefore it was natural that it should not have come up on that Bill, and of course it would have been outside the scope of that Bill, equally as my right hon. Friend was alleged to be getting outside the scope of the Debate today.
The next question was: is it true that the need of the police for a place to which the crowds could be diverted is the only real argument for the gardens? I think the answer I have given on the earlier point really answers that as well. It is, from the point of view of the police, an advantage that public congestion will be broken up into two centres. But the main reason was that it was not physically possible to put the Gardens on the South Bank, otherwise it is probable that that would have been done. As matters have worked out, it is helpful to the police that there should be this break-up of the assemblies of people.
I have been asked whether the Festival Gardens should be redesigned; what are the council doing; what will be the hours of opening, and so on. These questions are really for decision by the Festival Gardens Company and no doubt they will be taken into account also by the Council of the Festival of Britain, upon which all parties in this House are represented. The Government have gathered together the best brains they could find for the job. Indeed, had they not refused, the Opposition—that is to say, the Conservative Party on the London County Council—could have had a seat on the board of directors of the Festival Gardens Company, but they preferred not to serve. It was competent for them so to decide; otherwise they would have been there.
We have got the best available business and creative capacities that we could find and, having done that, I think that my best course is to let them get on with the job. If a Minister of the Crown tries to handle every detail in these matters, he will only get himself into a mess. I do not want to interfere with all the details of the Council of the Festival of Britain. As long as they carry on in a sensible and able way, as they are doing, it would be wrong if I were to interfere.
453 Anyway, I have enough to do interfering with other people without interfering with them.
The next point was about the restoration of the park. There is an obligation to restore the park in principle and so far as that is desired. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport really fell into a difficulty here. It may be the case, as he and others have said, that people may ask that some of these features should become permanent. I would not be a bit surprised if, when the six or 12 months is up and it has been a great success and people are feeling happier then they have shown themselves to be in this Debate tonight—more cheerful and bright—the London evening newspaper which has been carrying on a campaign of misery against this idea, with a most depressing thing on page 2 in the leader column and more depression on page 6, or whatever it is, about "A Streetcar named Desire "—
§ Mr. Morrison
I read about that yesterday. I would not be a bit surprised if at that point they did not suddenly wake up. It would not surprise me if this very same newspaper which seems to have an extraordinary grudge against Londoners—and it is published in the City—started another campaign and said, "What? Stop this happy Festival Gardens in Battersea Park? What an idea! Typical of the miserable people who run this country." I throw out that idea to the editor. I would not be a bit surprised if it does not come off.
The answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that we have an obligation to restore. On the other hand, if by agreement with the authorities concerned there are certain things which people do not want restored, we will co-operate. The points made by the right hon. Gentleman are met under the Bill and under the policy attitude which His Majesty's Government would adopt towards it. I hope that that meets the right hon. Gentleman's point.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
I do not think it quite meets the point. I agreed that it was desirable that if the Battersea people or someone else wanted to keep one of the items, they should be allowed to do so. What I queried was the statement of the Minister of Transport that the Bill 454 contains a specific provision that unless something was wanted it would come to an end in a certain time. The Bill enables the appropriate Minister to extend not only in a case where it is sought to retain something, but in a case where people want it cleared away. That seems to be a danger.
§ Mr. Morrison
I follow the point, but I think it is right that the Bill should provide that in principle there is an obligation on us to restore. That is not an obligation to restore if the general consensus of opinion is that we should not do so.
§ Mr. Hudson
The Lord President will remember that we asked for some outline of the finances on which this set-up was based, and that raises the question of Sunday opening.
§ Mr. Morrison
That really is a matter for the Council of the Festival of Britain and the Festival Gardens Company. There are some points which they have under consideration. The Gardens will be open throughout the week, including Saturdays. I am not sure about Sunday opening; these matters are not yet settled. I do not propose to go into detail on the estimates, because I am not trying to hold strictly to each detail. We get into trouble if we do, because that is their business as long as they keep within the overall limits required by the Government.
The total estimated expenditure is £800,000. That will be partly capital expenditure proper. For example, it will include the construction of piers. It will be partly for maintenance costs and partly for meeting deficiencies if they occur as the work goes along. These moneys will be voted annually by Parliament on the best possible basis that we can estimate. They will be advanced as loans to the Festival Gardens Company. There is estimated to be a revenue, from concessionaires in the amusement section and others. The concessionaires in the amusement section will pay a rental or a contract fee, and then take their own risks as to whether they make money or lose it. There will also be gate money which the public will contribute and other sundry forms of income. These are estimates and it will be appreciated that I cannot be bound by them; but the estimated income is £700,000.
455 That leaves us with a net deficiency of £100,000. It may be that we will be lucky and that there will not be a deficiency, or it may be that we will be unlucky and that the deficiency will be greater. I have no doubt that the English weather will have something to do with that, but I think that that gives the right hon. Gentleman a broad picture of the finances. We hope that there will be between 30,000 and 70,000 visitors daily. I think I have dealt with the various questions which the right hon. Gentleman, quite legitimately, put to me.
I was very much obliged for the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Wilmot), who spoke with considerable knowledge and who has worked very hard on the Festival Council. I was exceedingly grateful also for the kindly action and the generosity of my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey who came to my defence after she thought that there had been a rather excessive attack upon the general idea of this proposal. I always listen to her with great admiration. She certainly made a very able speech. She asked whether the noise in the Festival Gardens amusement section would be checked. I can assure my hon. Friend that everything possible is being done to minimise the noise. In fact, it is thought that there will be no nuisance to the people in the locality—at any rate, nothing material. This will be the most polite and gentle fun fair—if I may descend to that coarse description—that has ever been known. The greatest trouble is being taken about that point of noise.
The hon. Lady hoped, and I agree with her, that some of the amenities should remain, where there is general agreement, because they may constitute permanent improvements to this great London park. I agree with her entirely that it is most desirable that the landscape gardens should be lovely, and that they may well be made permanent also. It was important that the views of my hon. Friend the Member for South Battersea (Mrs. Ganley) should be heard, and I was very glad she made her contribution, because she represents a constituency which is partly concerned. I was glad to hear that she gave her blessing to this scheme, and I know that she has herself been very active in seeing that the interests of her 456 own constituents are not damaged by this important venture.
The hon. Member for Woodbridge said that the London ratepayers were going to have to bear up to £40,000 of the loss on the Festival Gardens. That is what the hon. Gentleman really meant. Well, they do undertake such a risk, but it may be that they will not be called upon to bear a loss. I have been Leader of the London County Council and have had a lot to do with London local government. I have been as daring as any municipal leader in trying to wring money out of the Government on various occasions, and I dare say that the game is still going on and that London is still at it. Indeed, London is probably carrying on my good ideas, but I am now in the Government and on the other side of the counter. While I do not blame London for trying to get a bit of money out of the Government, neither do I blame the Government for seeing that London does not get too much.
I think we have been quite fair as between the London County Council and the Government. I know that some folk at County Hall have been saying that they should not pay a penny because this is a national affair. We must remember that London will get a great advantage out of this. This Festival will bring a lot of trade to London, and the ratepayers of London will be gaining in many respects. London must also remember that there are others in the Provinces who are watching this affair very closely. There are some of our friends and others in Scotland and in Wales who are looking at this scheme and saying, "What are we going to get out of it?" It is perfectly true that the capital must play a prominent part in it, but, if the L.C.C.—and I say this as a friend of that body, as a former Leader of the L.C.C. and as one who has a great love for it—takes the advice of some of the members of that Council and gets over-aggressive and over-greedy in saying "We will not pay anything; let the Government pay," London will be the worse off; but I do not believe that they will be so mean, because London is a generous and kind-hearted city, which looks after the public interest.
Next, it is said that we must not do this at the expense of housing. So far as I know, there is really no interference at all 457 with London's housing, but I must point out that, if we had followed the logical application of this principle, it would have meant that nobody—neither Government, private individual nor private company—would be permitted to touch a brick unless for the purpose of building a house, in which case there would be a considerable degree of inconvenience to various civilians, and not always the working classes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romford talked about additional piers on the river, and we have that in mind and we will see how we go. I thank the hon. Gentleman the Junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) for a charming speech which I did not hear but the notes of which I have in front of me now, and I can well imagine that speech being delivered. The Junior Burgess went through the forties which always seem to have been a bad time, although I think the present forties are pretty good. I can well imagine him delivering that speech, and while I am exceedingly sorry to have missed it, I am grateful for his support. Of all the people who are entitled to talk about the Thames and movements on the river, certainly the hon. Gentleman is. He is the one who has worried me most for years, including the days when I was Minister of Transport, to put boats on the Thames. Now we have got them, and the hon. Gentleman is quite right. He told us something of the history of Chelsea Reach; and he expressed the hope, which I share, that the Opposition will not vote against the Bill. I shall be happy if the Division does not take place.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. K. Robinson) for his support. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) also referred to housing, on which subject my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) also made a comment. The hon. and gallant Member would have preferred a trade exhibition. Well, one of the events associated with the Festival will be a Board of Trade Fair. I think an exhibition of a different kind from sheer trading is quite a good thing in helping to show the cultural and scientific side of the life of the British people over 100 years, but I must not say too much about that, because I am getting away 458 from the programme. Of course, he was against the Festival Gardens, and I shall watch with interest to see whether he starts up a campaign in Manchester for the abolition of Belle Vue. If he does, I must ask him to give me notice before the General Election, so that I can send a tip to my Manchester people to tell them what is coming.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, West (Mr. J. Hudson) put his views about liquor consumption, and I can assure him that his views, as well as those of ministers and others, will be kept in mind. I know with what sincerity he speaks on these matters, and he always does it with a cheerful face, which is another good thing. We like his spirit, even if he does not like the spirits against which he campaigns. My hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) made a valuable contribution on various aspects of this proposition, and I can assure her that her points will be noted.
I still have hopes of the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris), who has moved from atheism to agnosticism. Who knows?—I may make him into a good Christian before long. It is true that the idea of this show was partly influenced in the first place by that great newspaper the "News Chronicle." We disagree sometimes, and at other times we do not, but they saw the vision and they had their share of the influence. It was a curious coincidence that the editor of that paper, Mr. Gerald Barry, who no doubt had a hand in promoting the idea from the "News Chronicle," should have departed from the "News Chronicle" by mutual arrangement and quite independently of this. There was no trouble about this idea, but, by sheer change of circumstances, he became the Director-General. I think he is a very good Director-General and that he is going very good work there. However, I have hopes that, when the Festival Gardens open, the junior Burgess for Cambridge University and the junior Burgess for Oxford University may go to the Festival Gardens and have a jolly good night out.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris
Would the right hon. Gentleman arrange, whenever that takes place, that I shall still be the junior Burgess for Cambridge University?
§ Mr. Morrison
I cannot promise that, but we will see what we can do with what is left of the City of London.
The noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) asked whether the money would be borne on the annual Votes. It is not proposed to amortise the capital so far as State expenditure is concerned. It will be paid out of revenue as we go. Therefore, presumably it can be challenged on the Estimates in some way or another. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bermondsey (Mr. Sargood) said that he thought the people of London were behind the idea. I think they are. It is awfully difficult to be sure, because the people of London are a quiet people. They do not make a great noise. But my judgment is that they like the idea and support it. I hope for their voluntary co-operation in many ways to assist in the work of the Festival.
The support of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) was very welcome. I think I have answered the points that he raised, including his suggestion that the Festival ought to continue for a long time—something like five, six or seven years, which we originally thought of—largely on financial grounds. I cannot promise that, because there has been an awful row about the period of six months. If it is to be six months, it must be six months; but it may be that by the time it comes we shall be able to judge public feeling better as to whether or not the Festival should continue. I do not want to break faith. We have cut down the time, in association with the two borough councils of Battersea and Chelsea, and I should not like to break faith with them.
The hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) suggested that Kew Gardens might be added to the Festival. I do not know. I had better swallow this piece of territory first. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. F. Noel-Baker), who is always looking after the interests of his constituents with greatability, would like a pier at Chiswick. We will take note of that. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) mentioned the point about nuisance and the right of getting an injunction in the courts, which I agree, under the Bill, we have interfered with. We had to do that, as he will appreciate, in order that the money expended should 460 be protected; but, on the other hand, I can assure him that any complaints which are made by the people in the vicinity, whoever they may be, will be taken into the most serious account by the Festival authorities and we will do everything we can to meet them. But we did feel that there ought to be legal security, because actions of that kind could be a very great trouble, although the local borough council authorities of Battersea and Chelsea have agreed about it.
I have answered the point about the concessionaires. The real answer is that they will pay a sum, and then carry on at their own risk. There is no undertaking that we shall pay deficits. I have also answered the point about capital expenditure, upon which information was requested; I have given the information in the course of my observations. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick said something about a rormer Member of Parliament, and he quoted a part of what he said, which is a great pity because I also looked up what the gentleman said. I will give a longer quotation than my hon. Friend gave. It is extraordinary how history repeats itself, and how the argument which we have had today occurred in part in connection with the 1851 exhibition. I must say that although some people, including the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey and others, thought that the right hon. Member for Southport was perhaps a little bit rough on us, he was indeed mildness itself compared with the hon. Member from whose speech I am now going to quote.
The speech was made in this House on 20th June, 1850, and it was in relation to the Great Exhibition of 1851, of which this will be the centenary. As I have said, somewhat similar observations were made then. One hon. Member on that occasion suggestedthat there was another locality equally convenient with Hyde Park, and one which the public would far more desire to see selected. He referred to Battersea-fields, a mile and a half from Hyde Park …which he saidwould admirably suit the purposes of the Exhibition.We have now taken this advice, perhaps a little belatedly, but even Labour Governments come on in due time. I hope we have done it at least with the approval of Sir De Lacy Evans, then 461 Member for Westminster, who vainly presented a petition against the choice of Hyde Park, and also Mr. T. Alcock, the Member for East Surrey—which curiously included Battersea in those days—who later said that a site of 35 acres—only two less than we are taking—might be procured in Battersea-fields by tomorrow morning if necessary.I should like to conclude these historical references with one or two quotations of what an hon. Member said nearly 99 years ago—and this was good stuff. A report of one hon. Member's speech read:The parks were the property of the people … and he asked for what were they to be cut down—for one of the greatest humbugs, one of the greatest frauds, one of the greatest absurdities ever known—he meant the intended Exposition of 1851. For such a thing as that, the Government were about to be guilty of the crime of demolishing public property of the most valuable kind, and all for the purpose of encouraging foreigners who would only laugh at the English for their folly. All the bad characters at present scattered over the country would be attracted to Hyde Park as a favourable field for their operations, and to keep them in check an immense body of police must be constantly on duty night and day. That being the case, he would advise persons residing near the park to keep a sharp look-out after their silver forks and spoons and servant maids. The public Press "—you see, the public Press again—The public Press had condemned the selection made of Hyde Park for the site of the Exhibition, and pointed out other places more suitable for the purpose.Now, what he wanted was the appointment of a Select Committee. We have not thought about that. The quotation continues:Now, what he wanted was the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire whether this absurd Exhibition should take place at all, but he had been informed by one of the most eminent practical men of the day that it could not be completed for less than £200,000. Where the money was to come from he knew not, unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to be called on. He must say that a more wild goose chase, a more undefined scheme, a more delusive or dangerous undertaking never had been attempted by any man, and who was to pay for it all? John Bull.Those were the sentiments of Colonel C. D. W. Sibthorp, the Member for Lincoln. Apparently Orpington was not represented in that House. These historical reproductions go on, yet history records that that Great Exhibition of 1851 was an enormous success which did 462 much to consolidate the prestige and leadership which our country enjoyed in Victorian times. That Exhibition left many profitable legacies. I hope that will be so in this case.
We have had the Debate. The right hon. Member for Southport indicated at the beginning that if the Opposition were not satisfied on the way things went they might find it necessary to divide. I have done my best, I think courteously, but with a bit of good cheer as I went on, to satisfy the Opposition on the points they raised. Of course, they are perfectly free to divide if they wish to, but I should be a little sorry because I want this to be kept out of party divisions if possible, and if they let the Bill go they will, of course, have further opportunities to check us on expenditure and things that are done. If there are things they do not like, by all means they can raise them; but this is a great effort of the nation and it will, I think, be a great expression of the best feelings of the British people. Although we shall not be hurt and the Festival will not stop if there is a Division, I would be more pleased, in the interests of the spirit behind this, and particularly for the sake of the staff who work at the Festival offices, if the House would be so good as to give this Bill a Second Reading without a Division.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
By leave of the House, perhaps I may say one word. I venture to think that if the speech of the right hon. Gentleman had been made at the beginning of the Debate it would have shortened the Debate very materially indeed. We are grateful to him for what he has done. It is quite clear from what he says that he believes and that the Festival Committee believes that without this extension in Battersea Park it is not possible to carry on the Festival successfully, and, while we still do not like the idea of budgeting for a loss of public money in this way, we certainly shall accede to the right hon. Gentleman's request in the interests of the Festival itself, and let this Bill go through unopposed.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Select Committee of Six Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Two by the Committee of Selection:463
§ Any Petitions against the Bill deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than the fifth day after this day to stand referred to the Committee, but if no such Petitions are deposited, the Order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee to be discharged and the Bill to be committed to a Committee of the Whole House:
§ Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents, to be heard against the Bill provided that their Petitions are prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of this House, and Counsel to be heard in favour of the Bill against such Petitions:
§ Power to report from day to day the Minutes of the Evidence taken before them:
§ Three to be the Quorum.—[Mr. Barnes.]