HC Deb 17 December 1963 vol 686 cc1026-7
12. Mr. Driberg

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works if, before proceeding with the demolition of the Foreign Office building, he will set up an inquiry into the present and future requirements of all the Government departments whose offices are situated in or near Whitehall, so that accommodation maybe re-allocated, those departments whose immediate proximity to Parliament and Downing Street is less essential may be rehoused elsewhere, and such of the existing buildings as are of considerable architectural merit may be preserved.

18. Mr. Worsley

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will set up an inquiry into the present and future accommodation of Government departments in the immediate Whitehall area, bearing in mind both the requirements of efficiency and the architectural importance of the group of buildings in this area.

Mr. Rippon

I do not think that a special inquiry is called for, but I certainly accept that plans for all new building in this area should be related to each other and have regard to the general architectural character of the area. The policy is to house properly in the Whitehall area those staffs who have to be at the centre while dispersing those who can be moved without loss of efficiency.

Mr. Driberg

While accepting most of what the right hon. Gentleman says in his reply, may I ask him—since it is rather difficult to go into the detailed arguments on this by way of Question and Answer—whether he himself would welcome the debate that was suggested a little earlier by my hon. Friend and, if so, whether he would make representations to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House with a view to securing that debate? Is he also aware that such a debate would be largely meaningless if the right hon. Gentleman has finally made up his mind about the demolition of the Foreign Office, and will not he wait until after that debate has taken place, to hear the opinions of all hon. Members on all sides?

Mr. Rippon

The Government have made a firm decision about the future of the Foreign Office, but, of course, it is always open to the House to debate anything which the Government propose and the problem as a whole.

Mr. Worsley

Does not my right hon. Friend understand that in the opinion of many people this is too big an issue for one man, even himself, to decide and that this affects many of the most historic buildings in this country, buildings which admittedly may be a little out of fashion but which are representative of our greatest period? Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be better if a high level inquiry were to look into the whole question and help him to make the right decision?

Mr. Rippon

I do not think that a high level inquiry would be appropriate. What I believe is necessary is that we should look at this area as a whole. Certainly the proposals should be brought forward not just piecemeal but in relation to the rebuilding of Whitehall as a whole. That we will do at the appropriate stage.