§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee on Accommodation for the Redevelopment of the Palace of Westminster/Bridge Street area and, in particular, of the need for additional accommodation which is endorsed, and, having regard to the need to co-ordinate the redevelopment of the Whitehall area as a whole, invites Her Majesty's Government to pursue the necessary technical and professional inquiries arising from these recommendations, and subsequently to report to this House.Mr. Speaker, you appointed an Advisory Committee on Accommodation on 25th February this year to review, with regard to the accommodation of this House, plans for the redevelopment of the Palace of Westminster/Bridge Street area, taking into account certain matters which were specified. That Committee reported on 29th April to the effect that we thought that an extension containing 100,000 sq. ft. of accommodation should be built on an area between New Palace Yard and a line about 200 ft. to the north and that as it would enclose a third side of New Palace Yard, it should be built in the Gothic style, for the reasons stated in the Report.
Today's Motion takes note of the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, endorses its view that additional accommodation is needed, realises that what happens to the House of Commons must be related to the development of Whitehall as a whole and invites the Government to pursue the necessary technical and professional inquiries arising from the Committee's recommendations, and to report.
The terms of the Motion clear up a widely-held misunderstanding. The Committee to which I have referred was an advisory committee. We had no power to take decisions. It was not our function to examine witnesses about traffic, town planning, cost or architectural style or to pronounce a judgment.
I saw it also suggested in the Press that the Opposition would take the line that, with housing and other programmes to be completed, building resources should not be diverted to these purposes. The Committee had four experienced 850 Labour Members upon it, including the Opposition Chief Whip. The Committee was unanimous. It made no recommendation about diverting building resources. The timing of the execution of our plan, if accepted, was not for us. Regard must, of course, be paid to other national requirements, and I repudiate strongly the smear—I do not know from whence it came—that this House, or any part of it, is putting its comfort and convenience ahead of other needs.
In what I have to say, I want to deal with three separate issues: first, the need for more accommodation; secondly, if it is needed, its siting; and, thirdly, assuming that more accommodation is needed and that its siting has been decided, the style in which a new building or an extension of the present one should be built.
§ The question of the need for more accommodation has been examined upon a number of previous occasions. In December, 1944, a Joint Committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons was set up. It reported in March, 1945. In the circumstances of that time, it had to approach the matters referred to on the basis of making the best use of the premises which were then available, but it recognised that the need for more accommodation was likely to grow and that it could not be met within the existing Palace of Westminster.
§ In May, 1953, a Select Committee of the House of Commons was set up. It reported towards the end of that Session and was immediately followed by the setting up in the following Session of another Select Committee, which reported in May, 1954. Parts of those two Reports dealt with accommodation and in both it was firmly stated that only by extensive building operations could a long-term and satisfactory solution be found.
§ In this Parliament, an Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) was appointed and reappointed on two occasions. Its last Report dealt, among other things, with the development of the Bridge Street site. It made recommendations as to how 50,000 sq. ft. should be used on that site, but the Committee said that whatever should be built there should be capable of expansion.851
I have mentioned this history to show that all those who have examined the matter have concluded that more space is needed. For my part, until I became Leader of the House I had not devoted much time to these matters; I had little knowledge and no formed opinion. What I have seen and heard in the past few months has left me in no doubt whatever that there is a need for more accommodation, and that was the unanimous view of this Advisory Committee. I know that it is not accepted by everyone. The opposite view was succinctly put by Mr. Brian Osborne, in a letter to The Times on 11th May.
Is there any need for an extension of the Palace of Westminster at all? Barry's building is huge and contains quite enough rooms for the use of our pampered, overpaid, overfed burgesses.
§ Mr. Lloyd
It is imporant, however, for Mr. Osborne and others who think like him to realise that the building does not accommodate Members of Parliament only. Apart from Members of Parliament, apart from their visitors who come to see them here, and apart from those in the Strangers' and Special Galleries, there are on a normal day about 1,400 people on duty here.
Quite apart from Members of Parliament themselves, there are the staff of the House, the police, the Post Office staff, secretaries, and those who work in and for the Press Gallery. The total number of people on the premises at a busy time on a normal day is about 2,300, and that includes Members of Parliament and their visitors.
What are the purposes for which more space is required? First on the list I would put what I would describe as office accommodation. I do not believe that every Member of Parliament should have a set of rooms to himself; an office for himself, an office for his secretary. I do not think it necessary even to provide a separate room for each Member, although I think that more and more Members will want one; but I do not think that all Members will ever want one. But even so, and even with the raised line of the roof and the space there, the present accommodation falls short of any reasonable requirement.
852 In what I shall say I want to make it quite clear that I am making no criticism of those who manage our affairs—of you, Mr. Speaker, or the Serjeant at Arms, the Chairmen and Members of the various Committees, the Minister of Public Building and Works. I think that you have all done everything in your power to make the best possible use of what is available, and altogether there has been a great improvement since 1945 when the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and I came into the House. Between then and 1964 I think that great improvements have been made, and now, with the increase in roof space, there will be further improvements.
Taking the items one by one, and taking writing places, or desks as they are officially described, there are 277 allotted to individual Members, and they include Ministers, Whips, Chairmen of Committees. Of those, 167 are for Members without official positions. They include, I think, all but two members of the Opposition Front Bench. Of these, 104 are in this building and in Old Palace Yard, and 63 are in Bridge Street. In other words, about one in three of the Members of the House has the facility of his own writing desk.
In addition, there are 205 unallotted writing tables or desks strewn throughout the Library, the Division Lobbies, and elsewhere. For secretaries there are 134 typing desks and the House of Commons is 630 strong. These are in rooms some of which are rather overcrowded with no room for expansion. Therefore, I do not think it can possibly be regarded as sufficient accommodation.
For filing, Members have their lockers, reminiscent for some of us of our schooldays, and quite inadequate for any purposes of filing. In addition, there have been provided in recent years about 370 filing cabinets for Members' secretaries.
For interviews, there are nine rooms in the basement below this Chamber. For the most part the Central Lobby, the corridors, the terrace, when weather permits, have to be used for these purposes. I really think there is not reasonable provision for what I would describe as office accommodation.
The next requirement—and I am not putting these in order of priority—is for Committee rooms. I think that there 853 must be few Members who have tried to book a Committee room who will be unaware that they are far too few, that frequently meetings have to end prematurely because the rooms are wanted for the next one, and that occasionally Members have to move from one room to another.
Hon. Members will have noted a Motion on the Paper in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) and his colleagues on the Library Committee. I express no official view about it or about redefining the functions of the Library or provision of research and statistical services, or the problems in connection with the staffing of the Library.
Personally, I think that these are matters which a Select Committee in the new Parliament should investigate, although personally I am in sympathy with much that the Library Committee wants to do. It will be understood that I do not wish to detract in any way from the gratitude we owe to you, Mr. Speaker, for the surrender of the kitchen and other space in the lower regions of your house, in saying that more space would lead to efficiency and economy.
Catering arrangements: again, I think that more room is needed. There are constant difficulties over visitors and over private rooms, and, on occasion, for Members themselves and for others who work in the place; and apart from that, the present arrangements for accommodating Members and their guests, and those who work here, impose a heavy burden of inconvenience, extra work and difficulty upon the catering staff. I believe that more space would lead to greater efficiency.
A related matter is the facilities for visitors when they want to have the proverbial wash and brush up. Of these there is an almost total lack, and many complaints have been made from me about the absence of facilities, apart from the Harcourt Room, for Members' husbands or wives who come here wishing to meet them, though whether for the purposes of encouragement or supervision I do not know. However, the accommodation of that sort is quite inadequate.
The next item on my list may, perhaps, cause some doubt, or some more doubt, among hon. Members, but we did refer 854 in our Report to the need for an assembly hall, and that has caused some unfavourable comment. Whatever the merits of Westminster Hall, or of the Royal Gallery—and they are considerable for formal occasions—whatever the merits of Committee rooms Nos. 14 and 10—and I think that they are very few—I believe that we do need on the premises a modern hall capable of holding between 600 and 800 people with facilities for simultaneous translations and the modern techniques of exposition and discussion.
Then, perhaps even more doubtful, is the question of recreational facilities. I am not sure that, with advancing years, some of us feel so strongly about that, but it is said that we should do our work better if there were more recreational facilities for Members and for others who work there.
§ Mr. Lloyd
At the moment, the scope for physical exercise is limited to the Chess Room, the Television Rooms, and walking up and down the corridors or through the Division Lobbies. I realise that this is a more debatable point and I do not think that I would put it quite as high in my list of priorities as some of the others.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that for those who like it there is the blacksmith's forge in which they could take physical exercise?
§ Mr. Lloyd
No doubt that would be an appropriate place for forging the chains which certain forms of government might put upon us.
Another item is broadcasting. That is a modern need. Whether it is progress or not it is not for me to say, but Members have to appear from time to time in television programmes, in television interviews and sound programmes, and I think that it is ridiculous that we should have nowhere here for specialised facilities, so that that form of activity can be undertaken conveniently, without a lot of time having to be wasted going to studios situated, in some cases, quite a long distance away from this place.
855 Then there is a requirement of real importance—I mean this genuinely—the question of the provision for the Press Gallery. I have examined every inch—and perhaps that is the correct unit of measurement—of all the accommodation and the space allotted to the Press, and I think that it is quite wrong that they should have to work in the existing conditions. After all, they, too, are servants of the public and help in the work of the House. The best use is made of what is available, but I think that it falls far short of the tolerable, and as for the problems of modern communications, which are complicated and complex, I think that there, again, the accommodation is inadequate.
This brings me back to those whom I mentioned earlier, the 1,400 people, of whom the members of the Press Gallery are part, who work here, leaving out of account Members themselves. Their working conditions, including those of the Press, are, in my view, substandard. The rooms for the police, for the drivers who have to wait about for us here and for the staff generally are not adequate; and it must be remembered that we are dealing in many cases with people who do not work a normal working day and who may have to spend long hours here far into the night because we are sitting late. They are people whose devoted service, courtesy and good temper we all realise and appreciate. I do not think that the conditions in which they have to work are good enough.
I have listed these things at some length because I must say, with respect, that there are some of our colleagues and almost the whole of the public who take a rather superficial view of these matters and do not understand the real needs.
The contention is put forward that any attempt to improve these things will destroy the atmosphere of the House. I have never thought that to have an atmosphere it was necessary to be able to cut it with a knife. Secondly, it is said that this will pave the way for a House of full-time politicians. I quite agree that it is important not to destroy the atmosphere of the House, and that this is very relevant when we come to consider where the new accommodation should be built. As to the question of full-time politicians, my own view is that 856 it is not desirable that every single one of us should be a full-time politician.
§ Mr. D. Jones
I should like to make it perfectly clear that some of us are full-time politicians. Indeed, it is just as well for the House that we are.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Nothing that I was trying to say was meant in any way to diminish my recognition of the services contributed by the hon. Member. It is absolutely true that there are many hon. Members like him who do a great deal of hard work. My proposition was much more modest. I said that I did not think that every single Member should be a full-time Member, but that was my personal view. Almost everything that I have suggested would help the part-timers even more than the full-timers. It would help those who are not able to be here full-time and who have to devote part of their time to other services of one sort or another.
The proposed extra 100,000 sq. ft. is about twice as much as the Duncan Committee suggested, but that Committee said that its 50,000 sq. ft. should be capable of expansion. This compares with 178,000 sq. ft. now allotted to the Commons, including the Chamber and the Galleries, but as far as the actual figure was concerned we made no attempt to prepare a detailed plan. We were guided by what was said in the Duncan Report and by the advice of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works. My own view is that anything less than 100,000 sq. ft. would be tinkering with the problem and would prevent our making striking improvements in the old part of the building.
I now come to the site of the accommodation, if it is felt to be needed. One possibility is a separate building, probably on the site across Bridge Street, a building connected by a tunnel or bridge to this palace. That is an obvious possibility, but we, the Committee, unanimously did not consider it the best choice. We felt that it would divide those who worked over there from those who worked here. This Chamber is the hub of this place and everything—the Dining Room, the Smoking Room, the Library, the office accommodation—should be as close to it as possible. It makes all the difference if it is part of the same building, and 857 no one who makes a journey to St. Stephen's can really feel that he is still within the House of Commons building.
We did not favour the completion of the original Barry plan. Again, that is a possibility, but it would mean considerable interference with New Palace Yard and curtailment of open space. We thought that it would be better to put it on Bridge Street itself and the ground to the north of it. We were, of course, aware of the traffic problem. We asked the Ministry of Works to make inquiries. Paragraph 9 of the Report contains the answer to our inquiry, which is to the effect that it is feasible. I have heard it said that there might be some advantages in this. We fully agreed that detailed study is required and that is what our Motion recommends with regard to the traffic problem.
Finally, there is the question of style, the most stinging nettle of them all. The Committee, perhaps rather innocently, thought that if an extension was made to an existing building, the appearance of which is familiar to people all over the world, the extension should be in the same style as the building. The plan placed in the Library by Mr. Speaker, and prepared by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) shows how it could be done.
This suggestion has been fiercely denounced, in some cases because it was thought that it had been decided to build at once without discussion or consultation, which was quite untrue, and in other cases because some people thought that we had recommended a separate building, which we had not. But it should not be believed that the argument is all one way. I have had strong fulminations on the other side of the argument. But these are matters for further discussion and study which the next House of Commons will have to decide, I hope during an early period in its life.
Meanwhile, I hope that the House will accept the Motion and so enable technical examination to begin.
§ Mr. D. Jones
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether these developments have been associated with any approximate cost?
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I should like to thank the Leader of the House for the way in which he has moved the Motion. I have been a member of all the Committees which the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned, with the exception of the Stanhope Committee, and I can remember the various Leaders of the House, particularly during the time which has elapsed since the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) took over the Conservative Administration. We had Lord Crookshank, who never read the Stokes Committee Report, as I found out when I examined him on it. We had the right hon. Gentleman the present Foreign Secretary, who treated it with the usual casualness with which he treats these things, and we did not get much more from the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain MacLeod).
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
On a point of order. Will you inquire, Mr. Speaker, whether the microphones are working?
§ Mr. Speaker
I should be most grateful if hon. Members will let me know of sufferings of that kind which I do not observe.
§ Mr. Pannell
The Patronage Secretary seems to think that I should not be heard. He happens to be the Government Chief Whip and not the Chief Whip of this side of the House, so perhaps he will let me make my speech in my own way.
I do not want to strive after points of difference. I want to strive after points of agreement. We are now at the end of a long period of time and I am expressing gratitude to the present Leader of the House for being sensible to things which have pressed us as Members for a number of years. Little interest in this subject had been taken on the Government side of the House and by Leaders of the House until the present Leader was appointed.
I associate myself with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about the implied sneer which has appeared in the Press that we are concerned about our own comfort. These matters would not appear to press so much on the Administration because—and this applied to the Labour Party between 1945 and 1951—over 80 rooms are at the disposal of the Administration and there is a 859 tendency to think that once one is in office one is going on forever. But we are now in a twilight land. The Leader of the House was sensitive to the argument, when I negotiated earlier this year, that none of us quite know how the General Election would go and, therefore, it was better to make some sort of arrangement for the Opposition.
§ Mr. Pannell
I think that it results from the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was himself out of office for some time in the great purge of 1962 and had no place to lay his head. He suddenly became a back bencher after at those years, and he understood all that we had suffered.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has become the Chairman of a Select Committee and that is a constitutional innovation. I cannot remember the last time when the Leader of the House was Chairman of a Select Committee.
§ Mr. Pannell
It is the same thing for the purposes of the argument. It is a long time since the Leader of the House was chairman of any committee of this sort which is concerned with the well-being of hon. Members. The right hon. and learned Gentleman ought not to be so self-conscious when we are trying to tell him how good he has been at the job.
We have to consider this afternoon the need—which, I think, has been elaborated at great length by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I do not want to traverse his sphere—in respect of the site and style, and I suggest that we should consider also the question of the ultimate control. Let us not forget when we consider this matter that this is the centre of the Commonwealth. This is a prestigious building, a keystone, which might affect the whole of Whitehall.
In spite of what was said in the article in The Times, I am not insensitive to the claims of other building. I can remember being with the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) in Warsaw some years ago, when I asked Mr. 860 Cyrankiewicz, the Polish Prime Minister, why the city of Warsaw had been rebuilt in the old style, from the paintings of Canaletto. He said, "A nation has to have a shrine to live by". We have got a shrine today. We want to discuss a workshop.
One of the things that has oppressed me has been the amount of misunderstanding there has been about this project. It has brought back to my mind a quotation from Burke, who said:Those who carry on great public services must be proof against the most fatiguing delays, the most mortifying disappointments, the most shocking insults, and, what is worst of all, the presumptuous judgments of the ignorant upon their designs.On the question of the need, as I say, this should be self-evident, but there is one respect in which new Members tend to be different from the older Members, and this applies right across the House. They tend to want more when they get here. It may have been the tradition in the old days to accept the small locker, but, as I have seen during the last few months. Members who come here now go into good accommodation in Bridge Street but they have not regarded it as being "too hot". In the roof space we shall be making some improvement, with 51 rooms for Members and 25 rooms for secretaries, but much more than that is required.
There are people who seem to think that this problem has suddenly come upon us. But we should bear in mind the Stokes Committee, which had among its membership the present Home Secretary and the present Leader of the Liberal Party. It came to a unanimous decision about this need in 1953–54. Then let us consider the Waterhouse Committee, the three advisory committees and the Select Committee on Procedure which called attention to the lack of Committee room space. It seems to me that it cannot be said that at any stage we have brought a fresh mind to bear upon the subject.
The idea is that every Member of the House should eventually have a room if he wants one. All Members of the House do not want a room of their own. Some prefer to work in coteries. Some Members have said that they live sufficiently near to the House and like to do their work at home. They come 861 here for conversations and for the business of the House.
But I ask hon. Members to bear in mind that there are between 300 and 350 Members who have to give absolute prior service. I am not making a party point; it applies to both sides of the House.
There are many Members whose homes are in the North and who have to be at this place from Monday to Friday. They have nothing but bed and breakfast accommodation at a hotel or club, and, in effect, to them a room would mean something more than an office or a desk. It would bring in some form of amenity. One hon. Member has suggested that we would get over all this sort of difficulty if we were to copy the idea found in some other legislatures and build enough flats near to this place in which to house Members. I have seen this in other countries, but we are not discussing that matter today.
When some people say, or when some newspapers state in their leaders, that this House is becoming professionalised, they might remember that the House of Commons is its Members. The late James Maxton once called it the "Sentient thinking House of Commons". We cannot represent people unless the great basic industries are represented here. When people say that some of us ought to have another job, they should bear in mind that, while that may be possible for Members in the noble professions, it is not possible in the filthy trades.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow) goes away for the weekend he cannot be expected to drive the engine which he drove before he came to this House. Nobody doubts that an essential part of this House of Commons are the 30 or 40 Members for the mining communities. Nobody expects them to do a stint over the weekend. Therefore, it is stupid for people to say, as they do from time to time, that, somehow, some Members ought to get part-time jobs.
I have seen too many people in my time who have blown into this place, blown up and blown out, and then they have written suggesting that, because they are the dilettante, they bring something more to this House than do those Members 862 who give their time, two or three mornings a week, attending Committees. Let us understand that without the full-time Member this House could not "tick over" at all.
There is plenty of accommodation in the House for the Member who wants to do very little. There is one Member—I will not mention any names; he is not here and I do not think that anybody is likely to accuse me of going behind anybody's back—who went into one of the rooms upstairs and logged, hour by hour, the number of Members who used the desks, and he stated his conclusions in a letter to the Yorkshire Post in order to try to prove that the need did not exist.
We want facilities for the Press, for television and radio, and we want a better cinema than we now have in Westminster Hall. I should have thought that only a Member with the most menial view of his duties would demur from any of the things which have been mentioned by the Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I hope that in what he said a few minutes ago the hon. Gentleman did not mean that a Member who did not want a room of his own was, therefore, not a hard-working Member. That is what his words seemed to mean to me. Perhaps he would deny that.
§ Mr. Pannell
No. I hoped that I had made that clear. When the hon. Gentleman reads HANSARD tomorrow he will see that I referred to the Member whose home was sufficiently near to this House so that he could do in the comfort of his own home the sort of things that another Member would require to do in a room at this place. Then I referred to the provincial Members. I hope that I made myself perfectly clear. Incidentally, until quite recently I could do most of my work at home, but domestic circumstances forced a change. I know the difference.
A book was published recently by Dr. Bernard Crick, who would have a committee for everything, starting with Agriculture and Fisheries and working right through the alphabet. This would be a completely irresponsible idea, for no other reason than that we have not got the accommodation. We have not got the Committee Rooms. I have been on a Committee in the Grand Committee 863 Room, off Westminster Hall, and I have heard protests from hon. Members on both sides who do not like that particular room because it is unsuitable.
This is not a new problem. I looked up the Report of a Committee in 1831, which said:It is the opinion of your Committee that no such alterations or improvements could be made in the present House of Commons as would afford adequate accommodation for the Members, due regard being had to their health, to the general convenience, and to the dispatch of public business.In fact, the problem has been reported on almost through the ages.
The Leader of the House quoted a Mr. Osborne, who wrote to The Times, and who, apparently, took a rather poor view of Members of Parliament. There is always a precedent, of course. Another Mr. Osborne, speaking in the House on 2nd March, 1848, and referring to the new Palace of Westminster, said:It was not enough to say that Mr. Barry was one of the greatest artists that ever lived. … Who was to be responsible for the expenditure?.There is always someone who comes out with something else.
The site was bound to cause controversy. I have had a room in Bridge Street since February. One has a curious feeling that, when one goes away from this place, one is really away from Westminster. In some curious way, one finds oneself completely disembodied, as it were. If there is a series of Divisions, of course, one tends to stay here, not going back and forth.
Let it not be thought that the project which we are putting before the House is more expensive than going across Bridge Street. In fact, if one goes under Bridge Street and builds on the other side, with a tunnel and all the rest, it may be a quite expensive business. Great civil engineering, traffic and technical problems are involved.
I suggest that we must take a stern view of any suggestion that we should accept the argument that, somehow or other, accommodation in this place cannot be extended and that, after all these Committees have looked into the matter, we cannot find room here. We are an Advisory Committee. We looked round for accommodation and we thought that 864 the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association might move. In fact, there was only one dissentient. In reporting, Mr. Speaker, you referred to the view of "a majority" of the Committee on this point, and I do not blame you for that, but, in fact, there was only one dissentient from the view that the C.P.A. should move across to the other side of the road. The proposal was not that the Association should move over now, but that it should move over in the years to come, to a better building, with better premises in which it could work, and we so reported.
What happened? The noble Lord who formerly represented Blackpool, South and, presumably, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, made representations. This is what is said in the Annual Report of the C.P.A. Executive Committee:… the Parliamentary Committee, which was considering the use of accommodation in the Palace of Westminster, decided to recommend that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association should be moved from its present premises into an extension in Bridge Street".In fact, that is not true. We were talking about a new building.Many of us felt that it was very important that the Branch of the Mother of Parliaments should continue to be housed under the roof of the Palace of Westminster. The strongest representations were therefore made in the right quarter with the result that the idea was dropped.The idea was not dropped at all. But this, presumably, meant that influential people could go and talk to Mr. Speaker and talk to the Government, without any consultation with the Advisory Committee which had spent a good deal of time on the question. The idea was pushed on one side.
I hope that we shall not appoint any more Speaker's Advisory Committees. I hope that we shall get going on this in the new Parliament and, at least, have a Select Committee which reports to the House and which will ensure that certain influential people cannot go behind the back of the Committee and make their own representations. That was no way to treat Members, and I hope that we shall have no more of it.
Still on the theme that we can, somehow, make room in this place, I suggest that, if we were to do it, we should have to get rid of the Private Bill Office and 865 the Public Bill Office and put all the functionaries in an administrative building across the road, not put Members across the road.
The comment I have made about the Advisory Committee is implied also in the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) and other hon. Members who, presumably, feel that an Advisory Committee is not strong enough for the Library. As the Library is the life-blood of research and service to Members here, I, too, feel that, if it cannot have a Joint Committee on the basis of the recommendation in the Stokes Report, it should, at least, have a Select Committee which should be appointed from Session to --Session.
On the question of the site, I have had the same sort of "fan-mail", if that be the term, that the Leader of the House has had. I discussed these matters on the B.B.C. with Sir John Summerson, who called the Gothic idea aghastly, impossible idea, aesthetically destructive and philosophically childish".
§ Mr. Pannell
The right hon. Gentleman is never short of an unkind word, and he usually prefaces his speeches with a gratuitous insult which is much enjoyed by those to whom it is not directed. Perhaps he can tell me just what that essay in semantics means.
When I tackled Sir John Summerson, he did not seem to know. I have had conversations with two men in the world of architecture, both of whom had signed letters to The Times, both of whom had not read our Report but had only hit on the word "Gothic", and one of whom did not even recognise the letter which he had signed. I fancy that many people jumped in without ever considering the background to this question at all.
In the Observer, Mr. Reyner Banham referred to the proposed Gothic design—no doubt, I shall hear the cheers of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch)—ascreepy, fungoid and sub-human.Someone else, commenting on the suggestion that we ought to have something in the modern idiom—this is the 866 other side of the argument—wrote to me to say:The idiom in that spirit"—that is, the modern spirit—as expressed in the new great buildings that we see is self-assertive, aggressive, sub-Christian, lacking in love, in reverence, in sense of proportion, in beauty combined with fitness.We see that, running through all the discussion, there is very little humility and a great deal of arrogance.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
I shall try to answer the hon. Gentleman's question. The point which has been made about building in the Gothic style being philosophically childish is this: if we are to build in the second half of the twentieth century, we ought to build an honest building and not put up something with fibre-glass gargoyles which would be entirely inappropriate to the time in which we live.
§ Mr. Pannell
I would concede that to the noble Lord if we were building across the road, but we are extending this existing building. I will match the noble Lord's opinion with one from Sir Christopher Wren, when he was making an addition to Westminster Abbey. Sir Christopher said:I have made a design, which will not be very expensive but light, and still in the Gothick form, and of a style with the rest of the structure, which I would strictly adhere to, throughout the whole intention: to deviate from the old form, would be to run into a disagreeable mixture, which no person of good taste could relish.On balance, I prefer Sir Christopher Wren.
§ Lord Balniel
Surely the hon. Gentleman has quoted the one person who proves my point. When Sir Christopher Wren built in Hampton Court, he built purely in the Renaissance style. When he created what is surely one of the most beautiful complexes of buildings in this country—Trinity College, Cambridge—he adjoined a medieval court with a building purely in the Renaissance style. So I do not think Sir Christopher Wren proves the hon. Gentleman's case.
§ Mr. Pannell
I think that he does. The example that the noble Lord was speaking about was when Sir Christopher Wren extended the Abbey 100 years afterwards. There is a great deal to be said on both sides, however. These are very much questions of taste.
867 There is one thing on which I do not know how I shall carry the House. The Leader of the House did not touch on it. How are we to build this place? I suggest that the only way to build it is by means of an international competition—not a national one, but an international one. I know that the Minister of Public Building and Works does not look very kindly upon that suggestion. I think that I see him assenting; so I carry him with me on that. He thinks that we could leave it to any one of half-a-dozen prestige architects in this country. I do not agree. I believe that there may be all sorts of architectural resourses untapped, and I feel that we ought to have an international competition.
A dozen architects have written to me quarrelling with me on the general ground that architecture is, in itself, an art form. It should not be inhibited or encompassed by style. It follows then that it should not be encompassed or inhibited merely by these islands. So I would have hoped that we would have had an international competition. All the architects who have written to me seem to be a feline lot. No architect seems to have a good view of any other achitect. I suppose it is because they cannot make up their minds whether architecture is a profession or an art form.
I put it to the noble Lord: if the Committee had recommended that we build in a hybrid style, what would have been the reaction? What I note about the Committee's recommendation—here I speak for myself—is that it seems to me that Gothic is predictable. After all, it is part of the same building. Since I have seen the drawings that the gentleman from Bristol has made, he has rather confirmed me in my prejudices. It seems to me that if we are to do this—presumably it would await the international competition—it is part of a contiguous building. I still stand where I did in the Committee.
I turn to the question of the control of the building. One of the oddities about this is that if we erected a building across the road, Mr. Speaker would have command of it. If we extend this building, it will presumably come under the Lord Great Chamberlain, with all the divided control the almost fuedal control that we still have in this place. It 868 is odd that there is a Sessional Committee in the House of Lords which runs its affairs. In fact, they have rather more democracy in the running of their own affairs than this elected House of Commons has.
I still remain a keen supporter of the Stokes' proposals. It still seems to me that a body of commissioners, appointed at the beginning of a Parliament to run the Palace of Westminster, a body of commissioners of Members of the House, a sort of House Committee of which the Kitchen Committee and the Library Committee would be sub-committees, would be more consonant with the self-respect of this House than our present arrangements. No local authority would run its affairs in the curious way that we do. Anybody who has lived through this will know what a clean up there has been in staff relationships and all sorts of things over the years because of the pressure of subcommittees and Select Committees.
It is all quite ridiculous. I believe that the Lord Great Chamberlain might be glad to be relieved of his office and be confined, as the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) suggested, to the Robing Room. After all, what is the history of the office? It goes back to 1133. It was traditionally the job of the Lord Great Chamberlain to guard the Cup of Assay and the innermost garment of the Monarch, and that went on until the time of Henry VIII.
There was a claim to the title in 1559, and in 1902 the Crown disputed the title of the Marquis of Cholmondeley as the Lord Great Chamberlain on the ground that the office was wrongly awarded in 1559. But the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords turned it down on the ground that the matter could not be reopened after 343 years.
That is the present set-up, and it seems to me that it is not a set-up which is consonant with a great democratic assembly. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) will no doubt realise that this is the greatest grace and favour residence of them all. It took nearly £2 million to rebuild, and it has cost over £3 million to maintain since 1945.
One argument has been that somehow we should look to their Lordships' House for more accommodation. I should imagine that the public relations 869 officer of the House of Lords put that point in The Times this morning. It is most revealing. It gives the whole of the case away. It says:In fact, a fifth of the Lords allocation is taken by the Lord Chancellor for the administration of his judicial functions.In effect, there is a whole Government Department in that place, and that was brought in by Lord Jowitt after 1945 and the bombing. Office accommodation might have been more difficult then, but there is no reason at all now why the Lord Chancellor's Department should not come out of the place. There is no reason why the judges of the High Court should sit there. In fact, some of them have expressed the opinion privately to hon. Members that they would sooner not go to the House of Lords, but sit in other places and adjudicate. As Middlesex Guildhall will fall into disuse now that the Greater London Council has been formed, it might be suggested that they might be put over there.
There is no question about it: I do not want to settle a matter of accommodation, a great constitutional issue, by attempting to lop off a bit of accommodation here and there. I warn my hon. Friends who turn to this sort of line that the accommodation is not very suitable for us. Another point is that there are rather better people going to the Lords these days—Life Peers—and I think that they must be treated with great respect. They, too, will want a room apiece.
§ Mr. Pannell
I am not likely to lose my seat at the next General Election.
As I have said, much of this stuff will be useless. However, I want to put forward a thought for another Select Committee to consider. It seems to me that the catering arrangements of the two Houses ought to be rationalised. There does not seem to be any room for a catering concern dealing with the House of Lords merely for prestige. Everybody knows that someone who has been a Member of the Commons and goes to the Lords always comes to our Dining Room. Not only is the food better, but it is cheaper. The minimum 870 price on this side is 4s. 6d. compared with 7s. 6d. on their side.
I should have thought that we could pool the accommodation between the two Libraries, and use that great Library of the House. I do not think that we should look upon the two Chambers as unnecessarily antipathetic to each other. If there is a shortage of accommodation, and we are thrown back to this sort of proposal, these are the things that we should think about.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman made a point about a comment in the Press the other day which, to my surprise as well as his, referred to the attitude here. A great weakness of most of our critics is that they think that this will all happen rather quickly. The Great Fire of London here took place in 1834, and the House of Commons did not occupy the building until 15 years later. I have been sitting on committees for 14 years which have been saying the same sort of thing about the need for accommodation as we are discussing today. It does not seem that there will be any great hurry. It would probably take about 18 months to run the international competition about which I have spoken. I do not know how long the technical appraisal will take, but it must be an appraisal in great depth and in conjunction with the planner, Sir Leslie Martin.
I do not necessarily accept the idea that the whole of the House must be conditioned by everything which concerns Whitehall. In my opinion, the House is the keystone of the business, and it ought to have first consideration. But we are talking about a year or two to get a proper appraisal and to get a Select Committee to look at this matter. I have been through all this procedure with at least one great block of public buildings, and I know that it is not a quick business, for it involves the appointment of assessors and many other things. We are not considering a project which will happen immediately after the next General Election and which is likely to conflict with the demands of municipal building or anything of that sort. Let us not underrate the importance of this matter, or talk of it in the sense that it would impose an intolerable load on the building industry—although I would argue this in another sense.
871 We are grateful that the Leader of the House chaired our Committee. We were grateful to him then, as we are grateful to him for a most forthright speech. When he was making it I thought of that wonderful cliché of the late Clement Davies, who once referred to something as upright, forthright and downright.
We need something more than this House in future; we need the determination of the House linked with the determination of the Government. Where we run into great trouble over these matters is that our Committees are always appointed on a Sessional basis. We come here in November, and by the time the Whips have got round to dealing with the Committees, they start to meet in March, and they are wound up by July. That gives a wonderful opportunity for the Establishment to sit back again and rest. We are all put back into square one.
The argument of The Times this morning is that we ought to go back to square one, but in that case, and 15 years ago, the Stokes Committee might never have lived at all if we must wait for everything. That is why the Stokes Committee's idea of appointing a body of commissioners early in the lifetime of a Parliament, to run right through the Sessions for the lifetime of that Parliament, still seems the best way of managing the affairs of the House, and I hope that whoever comes back into power—in fact, I have no doubt about that, and I will simply say that we will look into this idea. We shall need an aggressive Minister of Public Building and Works.
This is a House of Commons matter. I want to stress that, because sometimes we have not had all the help from the Minister of Public Building and Works which we might have had. I am not speaking about the present Minister. We know full well that the previous Minister of Public Building and Works was very weak-kneed when the cuts in capital expenditure took place, because the needs of this House were among the first casualties.
I warn the House that as the General Election approaches hon. Members opposite will grow more and more enthusiastic about the needs of the Legislature. They will favour more liberal accommodation and they will favour more research—for these are 872 legitimate weapons against a Government. But I warn my hon. Friends that they need not think that if we come back as the Government the needs of the Legislature should remain dormant. The Legislature needs a life apart from the Executive. One of the great threats to democracy is the growing power of the Executive, buttressed by a ruthless bureaucracy by which everybody else is pushed aside. The small voice is not heard.
We intend to appoint an Ombudsman, we are told, if we get back in power. Hon. Members opposite may say that the country would need an Ombudsman more if we were in power. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought that I would get a cheer for that. In return, I would point to the lack of interest among hon. Members opposite in improving accommodation in the House of Commons in all the years during which they have had the opportunity. Every Member of Parliament is an Ombudsman if his office is seen properly.
The needs of the Legislature are, therefore, not just a matter between the Government and the Opposition. This is a matter of seeing that every Member of the House is as efficient as he possibly can be. We must remember that, when we ask for privileges, we are asking for no privileges for ourselves. We are asking on behalf of the 60,000 decent folk in Leeds, or Norwich, or wherever it is, who sent us here. We are a sovereign Parliament, and we should not fall behind the techniques being practised in new countries and the assistance being given there to legislatures.
In opening County Hall, King George V said, "A public authority meanly housed is too often a public authority meanly esteemed." I want to see us well housed, and I believe that a great opportunity was lost immediately after the war. It was in 1945–47 that the House decided that it would get on with its rebuilding. We have to take ourselves on further. Tributes have been paid to the House, perhaps belated. It is one of the greatest-loved institutions throughout the world. It has been greatly loved because of the associations with it. Barry finished this building about the middle of the last century.
873 Let us turn our minds towards perfecting another building which will become as greatly loved in this century, and which will house within it the Members of this House of Commons, who will be committed even more in the future than others have been in the past to those great standards of integrity which have marked this place in the history of the world.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint, West)
The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) wandered through many fields gathering posies as he went, and I do not wish to follow him in many of the interesting subjects which he raised. I want to make a short speech, because many other hon. Members have strong views about this matter and wish to take part in the debate. I was rather surprised that there was only one reference to Sir Leslie Martin's views in the two Front Bench speeches. Surely this is not something which can be decided in complete isolation from what happens in Whitehall.
On the aesthetic points raised by my right hon. and learned Friend and the hon. Member for Leeds, West, I think that Barry's Palace of Westminster was a very successful jeu d'esprit in the high Victorian manner. He was a good architect and he had classical feeling, and if hon. Members look at the facade of the Palace of Westminster from the other side of the bridge they will see that the Palace has the classic virtues of balance and symmetry. If we put an addition to the end of it which was never contemplated by Barry—and one which never could have been contemplated by him—we are doing something barbarous. It is almost as if someone added a lavatory wing to the Parthenon and said, "It is quite all right, because we intend to build it in the Doric style."
The effect of the proposal which we are discussing would be to put the Palace of Westminster and the Gothic style into Whitehall. Hon. Members may remember that there was a tremendous battle in the last century as to whether Whitehall should be sham Gothic or not—a swaying battle finally won by Palmerston in 1860. It was some time ago and it is difficult to see exactly what was in his mind then. But I suspect that he had two reasons 874 for objecting to Whitehall being sham Gothic.
The first might well have been that he thought the joke started in the previous century by Horace Walpole, at Strawberry Hill, was about played out, and the second reason, I think, is that he knew from experience of this House that when we have a Gothic building we are committed to the fenestration of a barbarous age. I have had quite a number of rooms in this House and they are very nasty to work in, for the reason that the narrow windows, to which one is necessarily committed by the style, make the rooms dark, dingy and miserable.
There are two other points about the Report that I want to make. I think that both Members who have spoken have talked about smears. I think that they have been a little cavalier about the traffic problems. If one thinks of the contortions which vehicles would have to go through when crossing from the other side of the river. I think that we are inflicting very considerable inconvenience on the public. We are the servants of the public and we should always remember it.
I think it also quite wrong that no mention whatever was made of cost in this rather slim Report. I have no doubt that we could find an architect to produce some Barry and water design. One could probably get stonemasons to do that work, but it would be a very long job. I am advised, contrary to what the hon. Gentleman said, that it would be at least four times as expensive to build in that style as it would be to build in the modern style.
In so far as fresh accommodation is required, how ought it to be provided? I think that the amount of accommodation laid down in the Report is very large and that the attentive ear can detect the shuffle and clatter of cloven hooves, because there is no doubt that many people are in favour of full-time Members; but I think that if all hon. Members were full time it would be a total disaster. They also show by their wish for more Committee rooms that they are hankering after a bastard imitation of the American Constitution—after some form of division of powers. One of the greatest living philosophers described the American Constitution as the ghost of Locke gibbering in a skyscraper. I do not think 875 that a gibbering Locke ghost would be any better in mock Gothic.
Surely the solution, in so far as we want more accommodation, would be to build on the other side of Bridge Street. What are the objections? There are three, I think. One is that it might be difficult to get along in time for a Division. Anyone who takes proper care of his waistline would have no difficulty at all. But if there was a difficulty why not have what the American senators have—a perfectly good little underground trolley railway to get about by?
Those who are lucky enough to have Division bells are very happy to get out. I think that it was A. P. Herbert who said that the House of Commons was a place where it was impossible either to work or to rest. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, Maxton."] It is a place where it is very difficult to work or to rest. I should have thought that hon. Members would positively welcome getting out of the atmosphere to the other side of Bridge Street. If they feel deprived or anxious they could come back here. In extreme cases, a positive phobia; extreme remedies would be necessary. They could even come in here and listen to a debate. It seems that there is really nothing in that objection.
There is the staggering suggestion implicit in the Report that it would be beneath the dignity of a Member of Parliament to have an office near a shop. Hon. Members will remember that when the Cabinet was sitting at Admiralty House, Ministers going in and out saw shops and commercial buildings every time, and I do not know of a single instance of anyone fainting through lack of dignity. It is breathtaking—I had better not finish that sentence—but I would say that it is an interesting aspect of the climate of opinion, in the second half of the century, of the common man and woman.
We cannot settle this today—we all know that—but I hope that the forces of order and reason will be sufficiently powerful to set the Gothic hordes to flight.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
Never did I think that I should rise in the House 876 of Commons to agree with the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), even partially. One of the fascinating features of this debate is that we are considering matters as a House of Commons, so that party lines are far less sharply drawn than on many issues we discuss. Therefore, there are a number of very important points on which we shall have to agree to differ from some of our own colleagues and agree with hon. Members on the Government benches.
For instance, I am not convinced that we need a House of Commons that would provide accommodation for all hon. Members—over 600 of us—to be full-time Members. I am convinced that the majority of Members would be doing full-time work; but although the railwayman cannot bring his railway and the collier cannot bring his coal pit, there is something to be said for hon. Members having time for thought—one can take time thinking—for reading and for travel when they might be serving the House in different ways. Some hon. Members bring to the House the refreshment of immediate contacts with writers and businessmen, and so on. So I am not convinced that, if we are to continue to be a representative assembly, it is in the interests of good government that everyone of us should be full-time.
However, what I feel strongly about is that we have only half got over the atmosphere that politics, like cricket, has a division between the gentlemen and the players, the amateurs and the professionals. When the first Labour Members came to the House, they had no payment at all. It was assumed that Parliament was a gentlemen's preserve and that anyone entering the service of the House would have an independent income.
We now have salaries for Members, but one of the embarrassing things is—and this is closely related to the accommodation problem—that many of our colleagues cannot afford to reserve even a hotel room for the whole of the Session, or the whole of the year. What they have to have is a bed and breakfast arrangement, so that, in effect, they are homeless during the Parliamentary week.
877 This is an intolerable state of affairs. Quite apart from internal accommodation for Members, every hon. Member ought to be able to afford a one-room or two-room flat within three or four minutes of the House, certainly within easy reach, or to reserve hotel accommodation where he will be properly looked after.
The right hon. Member for Flint, West spoke of hon. Members having Division bells in their houses and rather enjoying getting up in the middle of dinner and rushing across to the House for a Division and then back again. I do not doubt that they do. I used to enjoy visiting the house of a former Minister of Education where there was a Division bell. Running backwards and forwards was great fun. It was the only private Division bell I knew. But that is not the answer.
There is a feeling that if every hon. Member could have the dignity of privacy available to him within a few minutes of the Chamber, somewhere where he could go in the middle of the day, perhaps after having been on a Committee in the morning, that would be a great help. I am all in favour of every hon. Member having a private room if he wants one, but I do not want a private room to be a substitute for a place where a Member goes to put his feet up in privacy because he has nowhere else to go. A private room is an excellent idea for the Member who wishes to work with his secretary—incidentally, he must be able to afford a secretary before he can work with one—but the immediate problem in accommodation is not to supply private rooms for every hon. Member unless, at the same time, we improve the salaries of hon. Members so that we can then each make the arrangements we prefer.
When we come to consider how we are to service the House efficiently, the first step will be to relieve us from the embarrassment of the dual and triple control which my hon. Friend has mentioned. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) will not mind my referring to a document which he has got together, and with which he will probably deal at greater length, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Along with two other hon. Members, he has been playing "cops and robbers" in order to get 878 to know what the accommodation of the Palace of Westminster is and who is using what accommodation and where. Of course, he has also been on official, conducted tours.
I have been amused by his experience, because I played "cops and robbers" in my time with that very formidable person, the late "Dick" Stokes. We went to various parts of the building and it was clear that both the police officers and the custodians were under instructions to keep us out. We did not want to embarrass the servants of the House and I hope that we were not rude, but can you imagine anything more ridiculous or silly, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, than senior Members of the House, particularly, as "Dick" Stokes and I were, members of an all-party Committee trying to make sense out of our arrangements, having to go around the building at unconventional hours and practically forcing their way into various parts of the Palace?
I do not think that the Queen or the Palace ought in any way to be involved in the running of the Palace of Westminster. It is absurd. I do not believe for a moment that the Queen is so "un-with it" that she would want to be embarrassed by these matters, or to have nominal or financial responsibility of any kind for the Palace of Westminster. I hope that the first thing that will be done, especially if we get a Labour Government and an aggressive Minister of Public Building and Works, will be to bring the whole Palace of Westminster under our control, so that we pay for it, run it and really know what the accommodation is and how we can start to use it more sensibly.
At the moment, I am totally opposed to the extension of this building, either with additional accommodation adjoining the Palace, or by having another building across the way, unless two things have been done. The first essential is that we should own and control our own place of work. The second essential is that we should consider how the accommodation is now divided.
I remember when Sir William Jowitt became Lord Chancellor, when many London offices had been blitzed and when there was a great territorial expansion of the amount of space in this building taken up for legal purposes. One-fifth of the accommodation of the House 879 of Lords was used by various courts. There is no reason why the Public Bill Office, the Private Bill Office and many others should be housed within this building. Why should we not first see what work is being done there which could perfectly well be done elsewhere if it were decanted, and find out how many people are living in the building who could be looked after not only as well, but better, outside the building?
I do not want to worsen the conditions of service for any of the servants of the House; rather do I want to improve them. But if we are to keep the vitality of Parliament, we know perfectly well that we have to have our libraries and our dining rooms and our research rooms and places where we can meet to talk or to work circling the Chamber itself. It is no use expecting us to go up too high, or down too low, or to cross bridges, and so on. Frankly, such an arrangement would not work. That is one of the reasons why some of the present additional secretarial accommodation is not being used as it should. It is a bore and a nuisance to have to keep running backward and forward between one's secretary and the Chamber in that fashion.
Let us put a circle around the Chamber and make certain that we examine every inch of that area to consider how it is being used. I am delighted to know that we have been able to consider the accommodation of the Press inch by inch. Perhaps we can now examine the accommodation of the Lords and Commons inch by inch. I do not want to list them, but is it absolutely essential for the Vote Office and other offices to be in this part of the building? Could they not be a little further from the Chamber, or in another building altogether?
There then comes the rub. Not long ago, I had a letter from the Prime Minister which assured me that not only could I use the Lords' Library any time I liked, but that a policeman would make certain that I heard the Division bells. The question which arises is whether there is any House of Commons stationery over there, and the next question is whether I am to work there on sufferance or as of right. We are now living in a kind of twilight world and it is slightly ridiculous that if I go to the Lords' end of the 880 Palace I can find the Library empty, while the Commons' Library is overcrowded. Even though I can use the Lords' Library at this moment, will other hon. Members do so if they do not have that tradition and will we go there on sufferance or as of right? If we go, we go as of right, with stationery and other facilities supplied.
If we decide on a new building, that will take a long time, and if the vitality of the House is to be maintained, certain things have to be done quickly. I hope that the priority of the new House of Commons will be first to get control of its own House and then to decant many of the legal and other functions now undertaken in the building, and that we will have one Library service for both Lords and Commons, and that there will be joint research facilities and dining room accommodation.
It is no secret that I am not an enthusiastic supporter of the House of Lords. I think that we can do without it and I am not in favour of seeing it strengthened in influence or in any other way. But that reform will not have top priority, for hon. Members opposite have left us too many other problems with which to deal immediately there is a change of Government. Active Members of the House of Lords feel deprived at not being able to share with us the life of this place. They want to talk to their friends at this end of the Palace. They would be delighted to share the Libraries, the dining rooms, and other places.
I know that many hon. Members wish to take part in this debate. There is a great deal more to be said. I shall not be prepared to vote one penny for the extension of the Palace of Westminster until we achieve three things: first, control of our own buildings; secondly, the decantation of many functions which can properly be carried out elsewhere; and, thirdly, until we consider to what extent we can share libraries, dining rooms, and so on, with the Lords.
When all that has been done, it may be possible to persuade me that we still do not have enough accommodation, but it would be an aesthetic monstrosity to enlarge the House in the style of Mods and Rockers or Mods and Gothics, or whatever it may be. I am also opposed to extending this House because of the chaos that it would cause to traffic. If we 881 find that we need a separate building, not for Members of the Commons or for our functions, but for certain functions of the House of Lords which we cannot decant, we can join in the excitement of putting up a fine contemporary building. We will then not have the problem of trying to blend two styles of architecture.
I conclude by saying that to deal with this problem we must first get control of the building and have an inch by inch examination of the accommodation in it, remembering that the House of Commons exists for the Members of this House, and not the other way round. No one has a greater feeling than I have for the traditions of the House. No one is more concerned than I am to uphold its dignity, but if we cannot uphold the dignity of Members by providing them with suitable facilities for their work and life, nothing else really matters. I hope that we will put first things first. After we have dealt with the salaries and accommodation for working Members of the House, and after we have rearranged the existing accommodation, we can get down to seeing whether further accommodation is required.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I have two reasons for wanting to say a few words in this debate, and I hope that they will constitute justification for my intervention: first, a long and close interest in architecture and buildings; and, secondly, a long and close interest in the history and procedures of Parliament.
When the Advisory Committee reported, it certainly provoked sharp controversy and a barrage and counter-barrage of architectural comment and criticism. I think that that was a good thing. We do not necessarily want to recapture the fervour of, the Battle of Styles, or to emulate the fixity of view of those who took part in the controversy with regard to the style of the building of the Foreign Office in the last century; but I am convinced that it is a good thing that people should think deeply and feel keenly about the architectural style and quality of their public buildings.
I do not see this matter precisely in the context of a battle of styles. There are two aspects of a building, the 882 æsthetic quality and the functional quality, and the successful design is really that which produces the highest common factor of those two things. We have that on the authority of the high priest of Gothic architecture himself. In a well-known passage in the chapter on the virtues of architecture in his "The Stones of Venice", Ruskin wrote:In the main, we require from buildings, … two kinds of goodness: First, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it; which last is itself another form of duty.We have the æsthetic duty satisfied in this building with its imposing and picturesque exterior, and that is coupled with a rational design and layout. But when one comes to the actual functional quality, I rather agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West that secular Gothic architecture does not produce the best working conditions.
In any event, we have come to the stage when we have to find additional accommodation, and the task, therefore, of the House is to seek to resolve the right method of doing it, bearing in mind both Ruskin's precepts as to the duty of buildings, and also the great importance of this site. The Advisory Committee has recommended an extension over Bridge Street in the Gothic style. I can well understand the motives and feelings which animated that view on the part of the Committee. I yield to no one in my admiration of the masterpieces of Gothic architecture, and I can understand the Committee's views that it would be a congruous and inspiring concept to add to the existing building. But, nevertheless, as a result of my consideration of this matter I have grave doubts indeed about the wisdom and viability of the Committee's recommendations.
Three main considerations have led me to that view: first, the genesis and nature of the style of the existing building; secondly, the presumption which I think must exist in favour of a contemporary rather than an eclectic or purely derivative expression, especially having regard to the fact that in large cities one has to have an amalgam of styles and try to achieve a synthesis of old and new. The third main consideration is the requirements which the exigencies of town planning place on us today, which are different from and greater than those of Barry's days.
883 As to the first of those matters, it is primarily an accident that the Palace of Westminster exists in the Gothic style at all. Before the fire of 1834, we had here simply an aggregation of buildings of diverse styles and varied dates, just about as innocent of predetermined pattern as the British constitution itself. Indeed, if it had not been for the fire, we probably would have had today, apart from Westminster Hall, a predominantly Palladian building, because in the century before the fire there were contributions to the Palace of Westminster by way of building and design by William Kent, Vardy, and Soane, all honoured names in the classical tradition.
Further, it was really only the fortunate accident of the survival of Westminster Hall, and the unfortunate accident that its survival was unique, which introduced into the competition of 1835 the restriction that it was to be of Gothic or Elizabethan design.
As we know, the competition was won by the Tudor Gothic design of Barry and Pugin, and, according to Sir Banister Fletcher, the final selection was made by King William IV himself. That, of course, introduces a rather pleasing field of speculation. Had the fire taken place five or six years earlier, and had the same measure of selection been given to his Royal predecessor King George IV, one wonders what sort of building we should be working in today.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
Everybody does not necessarily agree with that theory. There were Parliamentary assessors. That is an opinion, but there are other opinions as to who made the final choice.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Oh, yes, I appreciate that. Of course, there was a committee advising King William IV on this matter. There is room for difference of opinion on architectural matters, and similar matters of taste. Parenthetically, I would remind the House of what Banister Fletcher said about Pugin:Son of an architectural draughtsman who himself influenced the course of the Gothic Revival through the volumes of drawings that he published, an even more superb and facile draftsman that his parent, A. W. N. Pugin was a high-strung, fanatically intense person who drove himself to insanity and death with his unremitting labours.Therefore I feel that we who are Members of Parliament owe him a double 884 debt both for his share in the noble building in which we work and for the salutary warning which he gave us against excessive and fanatical zeal.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Is not it a fact that Pugin was driven to his death, and Barry nearly to his death, by the interference of hon. Members of this House with the schemes that they were setting out?
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I have always understood that Pugin left that mainly to Barry, who is said to have had a very happy way with him in dealing with committees of parliamentarians.
Be that as it may, and I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke)—I know of his close interest in and acquaintance with these matters—the resulting building of Barry and Pugin was a masterpiece. It was not, of course, a masterpiece of orthodox Gothic. It has been variously described by critics as being a combination of Perpendicular, and Tudor, and as a Palladian composition in a Gothic disguise. Certainly, in 1835 Barry's reputation as an architect, based primarily on the Travellers and Reform Clubs, had nothing to do with Gothic architecture. In any event, we can go to the fountain head himself, because Pugin's own description is contained in his biography:All Grecian Sir, Tudor detail on a classical body.Be that as it may, what is, I think, clear about the Palace of Westminster is the outstanding quality of the two towers and their relationship together. This is testified to, I think universally, by architectural critics. Professor Pevsner, for example, speaks ofthe two principal vertical accents of the whole building which are always in the picture.Clough Williams Ellis, in quite lyrical language writes:Beginning their eloquent and moving rhythmic statement with their great Victorian Tower, they dramatically end it with their so obviously and spendidly final campanile.That being so, the basic question on the aesthetic side seems to me to reduce itself primarily to the effect that a new building is to have on this concept. On that, it seems to me, there can be no doubt mat the building, as proposed by 885 the Advisory Committee, would, unfortunately, obstruct the view both from Westminster Bridge and from Parliament Square and would diminish the impact and the stature of the Clock Tower itself.
This view has been powerfully stated in a letter to The Times by the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Sir John Summerson and Professor Buchanan:Certainly, it would damage the integrity of Barry's design and a world-famous view of Big Ben from Parliament Square.I think that this is perhaps the weightiest, though not the only aesthetic, objection to the recommendation of the Committee.
As I see it, there are really two matters of outstanding quality aesthetically in the Houses of Parliament. The first is this view, this rhythmic concept of the two towers. The second is, of course, the masonry and the ornamentation of the building. I put them in that order of priority because, whatever their strict relative merits to the informed, the view is something well known and well loved by millions, while the scrutiny and appreciation of the detail of the ornamentation must necessarily be confined to a relative few. The basic difference, surely, is that the effect on the view of the towers would be certain and adverse, whereas the chances of reproducing successfully the detail would be speculative and uncertain.
We have to consider the warning in regard to effort to do this in Professor Pevsner's judgment on the post-war reconstruction work. He writes:The decision of the Select Committee was regrettable, coming as it did in the middle of a century which had created and widely developed a style of its own, independent of the past and expressive of present … Scott thought that he could keep one without the other … Pugin knew better. People called his Gothic second-hand but he has succeeded to a unique degree in recreating a sense of infinite detail and infinite pains which the Perpendicular style needs. Once that faith in detail goes, life leaves the design. That is what has happened in the House of Commons and the Lobby. It is even more evident in their exteriors than in the interior.One does not have to go the whole way with Professor Pevsner to take that as a warning about reproduction.
That brings me to my second consideration, that we are more likely to get a living and dynamic force which is an 886 essential ingredient of great architecture from a contemporary and spontaneous impression than from one which is mainly derivative. An eminent living architect has said that architecture should be the fusion of the cultural, economic and technical spirit of the age. I think that that is the way in which we have to approach the new building to add to the Palace of Westminster. In a word, we have to seek to harmonise, but not precisely to reproduce.
Of course, great care and jealous scrutiny will be necessary to prevent injury to the existing building either by sharp contrast or crude juxtaposition. But there is nothing impossible or even markedly difficult in achieving a satisfactory result remembering in whatever we do that the area containing the Palace of Westminster will always be one of mixed styles because that diversity already exists. It is none the worse for that. Diversity can bring enrichment to the scene. If we want proof we have only to look at one of the most famous scenes in the world, right in the heart of the Ruskin country. Look at the buildings round St. Mark's, with all their stylistic diversity and breathtaking splendour.
I do not therefore see the physical conjunction of buildings as being appropriate in the aesthetic sense, and I believe that when we come to the town planning consideration that conclusion is reinforced. We cannot look at urban buildings in isolation either aesthetically or functionally. Just as aesthetically we have to look at them in the fasciculus of buildings of which they form a group, so functionally we have to look at them in the complex of the town planning pattern and the requirements of the neighbourhood.
One has only to look at Sir William Holford's Report—which has not yet been quoted today—to see all the various technical aspects which have to be brought into consideration—the height, density, circulation space, plot ratio, and so on, and, above all, the modern traffic requirements. There is no doubt that in traffic we are the victims of our own successes. Traffic today is the main inhibiting factor in the design and lay-out of buildings. The traffic case in this matter speaks for itself in the evident and inescapable 887 disadvantage of building over Bridge Street and diverting all the traffic and in the obvious advantage of following Sir William Holford's suggestion of putting a tunnel under the railway to link New Palace Yard with the north of Bridge Street.
Therefore, the right solution as I see it is to build on the other side of the bridge with such access, to build in a contemporary way but in harmony with the Palace of Westminster, and to have a building which will fit into the town planning context and requirements of the island block of which it will form a part but will, nevertheless, be a parliamentary building within that block linked in function and spirit with the Palace of Westminster here.
I have one more point to make on the subject of accommodation. I do not propose to go into detail. Like other hon. Members, I am grateful to hon. Members past and present, the Stokes Committee and the Committee of my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) who have gone with such patience and such industry into these matters. Of course more accommodation is needed. Nobody could be here for any length of time, let alone for close on 20 years, without being fully satisfied of that. While fully recognising the need for increased accommodation, I hope that we shall be able by skilful arrangement, and some self-denying ordinance, if necessary, applied to our own needs, to keep our requirements down to a reasonable minimum.
I say that not only because it will help the architects and planners—although, of course, it will—and not only because the less accommodation we need the less intractable are the functional aspects of the problem and the more we are able to concentrate on an aesthetically satisfactory solution—although that also is true—I say it also because I think it right for the House of Commons and, through the House of Commons, for the nation.
Hon. Members will know that working at close quarters as we do has disadvantages, but it has the advantage of bringing an intimacy to proceedings, a sodality to life and relations here, all of which are part of the tradition of the 888 British parliamentary system. If that had not existed we could create it; as is exists, it would be foolish to abandon it. It has, in fact, existed over the generations. Professor Pevsner described the informality of the old Parliament buildings with public houses and so on in their midst before 1834. We have only to look at the pages of Pepys' Diaries to see how parliamentarians of those days did their work almost literally jostled by the busy, bustling life of that vigorous and vital age. It was well that it was so, and it is well that it should continue to be so. It is well that we should continue to do our work in the second half of the twentieth century close to and conscious of the teeming and tumultuous life of the London of today.
All that is, I think, right. Although we need more accommodation, we do not want to lose that accessibility and visibility which enhances parliamentary institutions in the affections of the people. We can think of legislatures which, by reason of too businesslike and too executive an approach, have not grown into the hearts of their people, or are growing away from them now. That must never happen at Westminster. Here, after all, we are the cradle of parliamentary institutions, the heirs of a great parliamentary tradition and, therefore, the custodians of a great responsibility. Those who sit in this House at any one time may be but little, but the sum of those who through the generations have sat here is great indeed and by their example parliamentary institutions and the rule of law have been carried to the uttermost ends of the earth.
Therefore, when we are considering what we are to do here we are considering not only what we are to do for our own needs, not only what we are to do for our own country and our own generation. We are doing something, in the proud Thucydidean phrase, to provide a possession for all time. I am sure that that is the context in which we seek to reach a solution, and I am sure that to reach it wisely, worthily and well is the sole aim and high purpose of us all.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Sir Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I listened with great pleasure and attention to the moving, erudite and thoughtful speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East 889 (Sir D. Walker-Smith). It was the sort of speech I would have expected from him—a little better than we often had from him when he was Minister of Health. There was so much in it that I agree with that I do not immediately have to take up any particular points; they will appear as I make my speech.
It is apparent—the Leader of the House will note this—that everybody accepts what the Committee reported on, that we need more accommodation. This is accepted and no one has denied it, but there has been some difference of emphasis. I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East that we do not want to waste space. We know very well from whom the demand for space comes. We know very well who should have first priority for space.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) made this quite clear and I am sure that she was right. Men and women who come from the provinces, and who are virtually homeless, as she aptly described, throughout the week are the people who have a right to a room of their own and they should have first priority.
People like myself who live only a few minutes away—seven minutes in my car—have a very low priority compared with others. It is so easy for us to do a great deal of our work at home, as we do, and do it in comfort. In considering the question of accommodation, I hope that we are talking a little about comfort and amenity, because the quality of our work is affected by the strain put upon us in trying to do it. This is very apparent.
I remember a policeman saying to me some years ago that he always knew which hon. Members were about to die in the near future because they asked for the keys of a certain room where there was privacy and a couch. There they could have a rest and lie down. He was right, for those were the hon. Members who could not sustain the difficulty of sitting here through a long day and late into the night. They sought a couch in a room where no one would be watching them when they were feeling ill.
On two occasions a questionnaire has been submitted to hon. Members in which they were asked how many of 890 them wanted a desk of their own. It has been interesting to see how the results of those questionnaires bore out what almost every speaker in this debate has declared. Sixty per cent. said that they would like to have a desk if it was within the precincts of the Palace itself, but, when they were asked if they would want a desk if it were somewhere nearby—for example, in Abingdon Street—the figure fell to 19 per cent.
The reason for that is well understood by all of us. Everyone has mentioned it. It is that the work of the House is in this Chamber, the Library and nearby and that we need to be as near as possible. Hon. Members showed by their answers that they did not want to be across the road or at any distance away as compared with their having some place of privacy—a room—here. That is what they would like—a room. It is unsatisfactory to have a desk shared by two or three people. One hon. Member may be using a typewriter while another wishes to write. In the process, neither comes to care very much for the other. It is obvious that sharing is not popular.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater), who is not present at the moment, tells me that she has a desk in an excellent room in Bridge Street, but she says, "I use it very little, because I feel so isolated when I am across there". This is a problem that we must face and it all leads back to the important point that we need our accommodation here and as near to the Chamber as possible. That is what the Leader of the House should accept from us, because we all feel it.
We feel it to be so because we are sure that our work will suffer if we are in rooms or at desks far away from the Chamber. We should feel isolated. The right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) said that, if the worst came to the worst, an hon. Member could come back here and even listen to a debate. We all know with what levity and charm he makes speeches, but what we all feel is that, if we are to do our work without excessive fatigue, while knowing what is happening and being able to participate properly, it is not in a building in Bridge Street, however modern, that 891 we would prefer to be. We want accommodation here within the precincts of the Palace.
I think that everyone will admit that, of all the pieces of machinery available to us for our work, the Library is most important and this is where we are most hardly done by. We have not enough space. What can one do about it? Many hon. Members have considered this and I am sure that the Leader of the House has thought about it a great deal. There was a question whether Mr. Speaker's study could be thrown open to us, but we know that there are difficulties about that. I heard today—I did not know it until my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock told us—that we have a right, as it were, to use the House of Lords' Library. I think that we really must invade it and make proper use of it. It would be very useful if this right could be properly understood and facilities could be given so that we were not considered to be there by grace and favour.
There is another suggestion which, perhaps, will not be so popular with most of my colleagues on either side of the House. There is an interesting room running parallel to our Library—the Tea Room. It is little more than half the size of the Library. If we could find another room reasonably near, as good as or better than our present Tea Room—which could then be put into the Library accommodation—I think that we would solve that part, that very difficult part, of our problem. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has an excellent room. It is true that it is a little further away and it would mean going down to the end of St. Stephen's, but a proper tea room could be made there.
I am told by members of the Kitchen Committee that they are not proud of the service they give us in the present Tea Room. Nor are they happy about the fact that it is not possible to give us the most hygienic methods of washing up and of service of food. If we had another place, even if it were 50 yards or so further away, we might find ourselves solving two problems—a better place for refreshment, which would also have the advantage of being above an existing refreshment room 892 used by the staff, and enough accommodation in the Library with the present Tea Room thrown in.
There is no need for me to say very much about style, following the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East. He analysed the situation very adequately. I fully understand the difficulties of the Accommodation Committee. It felt that if we were to add to the present Palace it would be very difficult to get a style that would not be discordant with the present building. But if it is true that most of us feel that we wish to be within the precincts of the Palace and want our extra accommodation here, and that those who are not Members should be found accommodation nearby, far better than they now enjoy and where they will be able to do their work better, the question of style does not arise because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has said, we ought to have a great international competition. This is the Mother of Parliaments, and if it is intended to relate this building to the whole of the area then I think that we would get the sort of thing we would want.
Professor Abercrombie, when he looked at the redevelopment of Whitehall, suggested that there should be a precinct, and an architect, Mr. Gordon Cullen, has circulated to hon. Members a most interesting document called "The Forgotten Precinct". It contains a most interesting suggestion. I think that it might well be feasible. Certainly, it is worth examining. It would mean that Whitehall would have its own traffic and only its own traffic, and from the Cenotaph there would be steps so as to create a concourse above street level. Traffic would go where it goes now and pedestrians would be above it. Such a scheme is surely worth examining. We will never get another chance if we do not turn the whole area into a precinct. If it were a precinct, the work of the architects and of Sir Leslie Martin would be made very much easier.
I very much enjoyed the speech of the Leader of the House and that of my more aggressive colleague, the hon. Member for Leeds, West. I say to them that it is easy for us to do the sort of thing that will be applauded, but I am not at all 893 afraid—although I want priorities to be put in their correct perspective—of spending a great deal of money on the ceremonial heart of the Commonwealth. If anyone wishes to criticise that, then this is a free country and he has the right to do so. We will do the best we can for the area. We will do it in proper time and in good time.
But my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West forgot to mention that, as well as the building we are doing above the Committee corridor, we could, if we wished, roof over the Star Court. We could put two storeys there and still leave room for the cars underneath. That, also, needs consideration. This is the type of work which could and should be done immediately. If we do all these things before moving to the next stage—the three-dimensional plan for the whole of Whitehall—we might well find that we have solved most of our own personal problems.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
I listened with a great deal of sympathy to what was said by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross). I am very much in agreement with the spirit behind the hon. Gentleman's speech. I shall, however, find it necessary to disagree with him about his proposal for some form of international architectural competition as one way of solving the architectural difficulties with which we shall be faced.
I personally welcome the Report of Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee. I welcome, too, the spirit in which it was introduced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House. It seemed to me that the Report would offer us the hope of action after far too many years of inquiry. However, I feel from listening to the debate so far that we are in some danger of putting what could have been a practical crystallisation back into solution again and taking refuge once more in further inquiries before we decide to do anything.
In particular, the suggestions which have been made during the debate for what I call "bits and pieces" solutions are unfortunate. The time has come for us to look to a straight-forward and clear-cut decision which will provide us with substantial additional accommodation. Speaking as somebody who has been in 894 the House for over twenty years, who served in the House during the war, who remembers it as a Home Guard and as a fire-watcher, who got to know and love the building, I can say to the House that this is one of our great needs, both physically and for the purpose of doing our duty to our constituents.
I query the statement in the Report—it is not in fact a decision, because it is carefully left out of the Recommendations—that it is desirable to say now that any addition which is made should be in the Gothic style. I know that the arguments are strong, and it seems the obvious solution. Yet I remember, to take one doubtful point only, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott saying to us about the building in which we now are that if he had been asked to do it ten years after he was in fact commissioned he doubted very much whether he could have done it because of the difficulty of finding masons who could tackle the Gothic masonry work required. This may very well prove to be a practical limiting factor. The time taken to erect a Gothic building and the cost of erecting one may also militate against it.
I am sure that in any building it is the interior plan which should determine the elevation, rather than that the elevation should impose itself upon the interior plan. I have the feeling that it would quite unnecessarily and gratuitously cramp the freedom of the architect if we were to say to him now at this very early stage, "This is the solution we are looking for". As my noble friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) told us, in places such as Hampton Court and a number of Oxford and Cambridge Colleges there is a very happy marriage of two or more architectural styles of completely different periods. My feeling about the relationship between the House and the style of the building is that it is for the House to say what it wants in the way of accommodation, but that the architect should have the preponderating voice in the style of the building to provide what the House requires.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
Does not my hon. Friend think that we should give directions as to whether the new accommodation should be added on to the existing accommodation or be some quite separate building?
§ Sir H. Linstead
Yes. I think that at a certain stage the House should take such a decision, but I do not think that it should take that decision ahead of having seen a solution proposed by a competent and imaginative architect as being in his view the best solution to the problem. I should be prepared to put rather more faith in an architect and less faith in a committee than perhaps the House would like, because I am sure that in artistic matters, although both an individual and a committee can make mistakes, a committee is much more likely to make a mistake and, if it makes a mistake, to make a really thundering mistake, than a good artist who is a specialist in his craft.
I also believe that it will be necessary at some stage for the Minister of Public Building and Works to take a fairly tough line over the progress of the work. If he does not we shall find that the House will be perpetually nagging at the plans and the progress, imposing little modifications and additions here and there. It will require a certain strength of mind to thrust it all through.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and other hon. Members spoke about an international competition. I doubt if this would be a wise solution. I doubt whether this is a building suitable for competition. A competition is suitable where there is a standard type of building—a town hall, a hotel, or a cinema—where the general requirements are well known. A competition is, however, of doubtful value in a highly specialised building where the architect has to work for a year or so closely in contact with the users and get to understand the physiology of the building as well as its anatomy.
§ Sir B. Stross
May I make it clear that what I had in mind was that there would be an international competition for a building across the road in Bridge Street and not one attached in any way to this building?
§ Sir H. Linstead
That would decide in advance the fact that we were to solve the problem in a particular way. I am not sure that we want to take even that step until we have a first-class architect, who must be selected, must live with the users of the building for a time and then 896 produce one, or possibly more than one, solution which can be submitted to the choice of the House.
I wish to refer to the future needs and development of our Library, to which a number of references have been made. I thank you, in particular, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me as Chairman of the Library Committee and any members of the Library Committee who may be called to speak, freedom to express our own views. I was most encouraged by what my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House said about his reactions to the proposal of the Library Committee that early in the new Parliament a Select Committee should be appointed by the House to examine the whole question of the future of the Library.
I am bound to say—and I think that Committee will agree with me—that from the point of receiving support from the House the Library has not been as fortunate as it should have been in recent years. For example, some years ago we were promised two rooms which were occupied by Ministers. Those two rooms are still occupied by Ministers. I cannot help feeling that, with a little more push and initiative, perhaps, on our part, other accommodation for those Ministers could be found and two rooms that we badly need for research staff could be made available for us.
The Committee whose Report we are debating provided another example of how, unfortunately, the Library gets overlooked in discussions on accommodation. The Committe says this in paragraph 5:As the new extension would house a large number of Members, it might also require some library facilities. The views of your Advisory Committee on the Library on this aspect have been communicated to us, but we consider that it would be premature for us to comment on them at this stage.What I am sorry about is that our views were not sought at an earlier stage, so that it would have been possible for the Library Committee to have given evidence before the Accommodation Committee. It was perhaps, unfortunate that the Accommodation Committee came to its conclusions, or had reached the draft report stage of its conclusions, before it had heard the views of the Library Committee.
897 While considering the proposition of a Select Committee to look at the future of the Library, it should be remembered that that is governed by two considerations, one the physical resources of the Library and the other the functional development of it. I think that our physical needs have been well outlined during the debate. We do not feel, for example, that it would be feasible to separate the library services, some of them into a new building and others remaining in this building. There would be undoubtedly a demand for increasing library services in the new building and this would result in a divided library, with a duplication of services and probably a thoroughly uneconomic set-up.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
The hon. Gentleman is touching on one of the difficulties of building across the road. When the Committee looked into this it discovered that it could not put a large number of hon. Members in a building across the road without placing library facilities in that new accommodation. I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said earlier. The Committee had it very much in mind that if one could keep this as part of a contiguous building one could then have a contiguous library.
§ Sir H. Linstead
Even when a contiguous building was contemplated it was still suggested that library services should be hived off from the main Library into the building in Bridge Street.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
It was suggested that as a result of the Library moving some of its services and stores, better use could be made of the space remaining in this building. That is not quite the same thing.
§ Sir H. Linstead
My criticism is that by doing that one would be dividing the Library. I have been pointing out that great advantage is to be gained from concentrating the facilities of the Library in one place, rather than building up a daughter library in a separate wing of this building.
The main point in deciding the physical needs of the Library is whether it needs to expand and, if it does, should it be in a southerly direction, thereby bringing itself into conflict with the requirements of the refreshment department. If that is to happen, how far will that 898 have repercussions on the refreshment department in the other place? Again, the question arises, how far the library facilities in the other place should be amalgamated with the library facilities here? These are all awkward problems which must be discussed with another place. Before we can go ahead with substantial developments, involving new accommodation here, those problems should be examined and either solved or recognised to be incapable of solution and, therefore, having to be planned without regard to the requirements of another place.
The other need for an inquiry into our Library arises out of the fact that the House has always asked for additional secretarial and research facilities of various kinds but has never taken a decision on precisely the means whereby it wants them provided. Does it want them provided by a development of the Library or by a development of secretarial and other facilities for hon. Members in some other way? The House has never given terms of reference to the Library and we should not leave the Library without guidance from the House.
If it is desired that the Library's services should be substantially increased so that there are the sort of services available which hon. Members seem to require, a committee of the House should make an inquiry into that at the same time as it inquires into the question of the accommodation of the Library. Those two things are interconnected and, if we are to develop the Library in the service of the House, we need the guidance of the House as to the extent hon. Members require this to be done.
A minor matter connected with the development of the Library is that we have been fortunate in the Library in serving as an advisory committee to yourself, Mr. Speaker. Like us, you will be extremely conscious of the fact, Mr. Speaker, that this sometimes involves us in difficulty, when we find that we cannot take a certain action without involving you and your office. I do not think that that is a satisfactory position. Therefore, apart from the necessity for creating a Select Committee to inquire into the Library, I think that the House must face the decision whether the control of the Library—I still hope under 899 Mr. Speaker, within his Department—should be in the hands of a Select Committee, able to report direct to the House and able to make its own recommendations without involving the Chair. This I am sure is, in the long run, the right solution. It may be, as the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) said, that such a Select Committee might be a subcommittee of a larger Select Committee which would be responsible for all the functioning of the House. If so, that would fit in with the remarks I have made.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
As the hon. Gentleman knows, because he has great courtesy in discussing these matters with hon. Members, I went to see the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) when he was Leader of the House to discuss the question of science advisers and helpers for the Library. Would this be a convenient moment in the hon. Gentleman's speech for him to confirm or deny that this request has been refused by the Treasury, through the Staff Board—the institution which, I think, he referred to as being responsible for advising Mr. Speaker?
§ Sir H. Linstead
Provided you will turn a deaf ear to what I am going to say, since it goes beyond the question of accommodation, Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the hon. Member's question. It is true that the Library Committee has made an application for the appointment of two additional library clerks with science degrees to help hon. Members with research and scientific problems. I am happy to say that it is not true to suggest that that request has been refused. The request is going through a very slowly moving, indeed antique machine. Such a request has, first, to go to the Library Committee. From there is goes to Mr. Speaker. It then goes to the Staff Board, which looks at the repercussions of such appointments in relation to other staff of the House. From there it goes to the Commissioners for regulating the Offices of the House and from there it goes sideways, so to speak, to the Treasury for its comments. Only when all those hedges have been cleared is it possible for additional appointments to be made. I am grateful to the hon. Member for his intervention, although I suspect that 900 we are both slightly out of order, because it also enables me to indicate another reason why the Library Committee considers that it is time that a Select Committee had a look at the accommodation and method of appointment of staff to the Library, both of which matters are unsatisfactory as they now stand.
I have spoken for longer than I had envisaged. I thank my right hon. Friend for the sympathetic reaction he has had to the proposal of the Library Committee that there should be an inquiry. I hope that whoever is responsible for setting up Select Committees in the new Parliament will appoint such a committee at an early stage. I hope, too, that it will be able to make a fairly quick report and that its report will be made in time for proper consideration to be given to it while the planning for the new accommodation goes forward.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
Although every other speech usually seems too long on a day such as this, I can assure the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) that his speech did not seem too long, because it was so thoughtful and packed with valuable information. There was, however, just one passage in it in which it seemed to me that there was some slight implied contradiction. He spoke of the individual architect and the committee, and the habit that committees have of making mistakes. I quite agree with him that there is that risk, but then he said that he was against the international competition that had been proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross); and it is an idea I certainly support.
The hon. Gentleman was against that idea because he thought that it would be better that a first-rate architect should be appointed and allowed to get on with the job. But, of course, that first-rate architect—and I hope that he would be first-rate—would almost inevitably be selected by a committee—
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
Why should he be selected by a committee? Surely, it could be done as was the selection of the architect for this particular Chamber; with the Minister of Public Building and 901 Works choosing from a short list, say, of five architects recommended by the Royal Institute of British Architects. That is the best way of doing it, I think.
§ Mr. Driberg
Recommended by a committee of the Royal Institute of British Architects—precisely; that makes my point. Whether a Select Committee of this House or an committee of outside advisers to the Minister—whoever it is—I should have thought that it would be a committee that would choose that single first-rate architect; and my fear would be, not so much that the committee would make a mistake, as such, as that it would tend to play safe and would automatically appoint one of the outstanding names in the architectural profession of today—which would mean, of course, that our new building would be 30 years out of date as soon as it was built—
§ Sir H. Linstead
I thank the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) for his courteous references to my speech, but my criticism was not of a committee as a means of choosing an architect. We are bound to need a committee to choose an architect—I do not see how else we can choose him. My criticism was that if a committee begins to decide on architectural features, such as Gothic, and the like, one has a greater likelihood of reaching the lowest common multiple than if one has one artistic man making a choice, even if there is a risk of his making a mistake.
§ Mr. Driberg
I agree that certain decisions will have to be taken by this House, though at a later date—it is not for us today to have a Division on Gothic or anti-Gothic, or something like that, and no one proposes that we should. I take it that we shall all agree to the carefully-worded Motion on the Notice Paper, and I do not think that the Gothic and anti-Gothic dispute that has featured fairly prominently so far in the debate is necessarily the most important aspect of the whole problem that we have to consider. I shall, however, have a few words to say about that later in my speech.
First, I should like to talk about a couple of points that have been mentioned by several of my hon. Friends, and the first is this reference to Commons control of the Palace of Westminster. I entirely agree with my 902 hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, West, and for Cannock (Miss Lee) about that, but I would make this additional point. So far, I think that that proposal has only been made from this side of the House; and I did not notice any very enthusiastic support for it from the other side. But I would put it to hon. Members opposite that this is purely a House of Commons point; it is not a party point at all. I well remember, a good many years ago, that very staunch Member of the Conservative Party, the late Lord Winterton, making exactly the same point with great fervour and great vigour in this House, and saying that it was absolutely ridiculous and outrageous that there should be this divided control of the House, and that the Lord Great Chamberlain should have all these powers. So I hope that this will not be felt to be in any sense a party point.
On the question of style—this Gothic or non-Gothic business—I confess that I was one of those who were rather shocked by the Committee's Report, which in other respects I thought excellent. I could not quite understand the logic of the sentence in question.… it should be built in the Gothic style, in order to harmonise with the buildings on the other sides, and also to emphasise the fact that it is an integral part of the parliamentary pre-ciinct and in no sense 'annexe'.The word "annexe" is in rather contemptuous quotation-marks. I do not quite see why "annexe" should be thought necessarily to be a pejorative word. I suppose it could be said that, in a sense, many of the rooms in this present building, other than this Chamber, are annexes to the debating chamber—the libraries—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
To understand the word "annexe" one has to look back to the other scheme we had on the other side when, using a rather pejorative term, we referred to Sir William Holford's project as an annexe. We speak, in this context, referring to an earlier report, and say that we do not want something like that.
§ Mr. Driberg
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for clarifying that point. On the other hand, I do not in the least mind using an annexe to do my work in, if it provides better facilities than we have at present in this House. It may well be, 903 as my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock and other hon. Members have said, that there is a great deal more accommodation that we could have and use within this actual building. At the same time, I do not agree with my hon. Friend when she says that we ought to wait until we have, as it were, the constitutional issue settled before we go ahead at all with our plans for the new building or the extension. She herself added that she thought that it would be necessary to have some more accommodation, anyway: it will be, not years but decades before we get into the new building if we wait to start on it until we have settled the constitutional issue between ourselves and the Lord Great Chamberlain. I hope, therefore, that we shall really press on.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, about the single room, and the hopeless situation in which three or four hon. Members, trying to do different things, have to share a room, huddled together. It is most inconvenient; it is quite impossible. However, I thought that my hon. Friend slightly confused the issue when he spoke of our reluctance to go across the road. I was probably one of those Members who said that I did not want a desk across the road, and I said it for two reasons. I do not want a desk—I want a room. And I think, as has also been said, that every Member who wants a room—which does not necessarily mean every Member of the House—should be able to have a room. I want a room—not a desk.
Secondly, I do not want a desk or a room "across the road". That is to say, it is an awful nuisance going over to Old Palace Yard or Abingdon Street, and having to cross the road at a point at which the Minister of Transport obstinately refuses to put a zebra crossing and at which the traffic usually goes rather fast. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would put a zebra crossing there; I cannot think why he does not. But that difficulty would not arise either with the extension proposed by the Committee or with the alternative scheme we have heard of, for a separate building with a subway connecting it with the existing building.
Mention has been made of Division bells. If people can get back, as they 904 can, from dinner in Smith Square and the streets around it, when they have division-bell houses there, I should have thought that they could get back by a subway under Bridge Street. The other side of Bridge Street is not nearly so far as Smith Square. Moreover, the subway would be equipped with what I would call "moving walkways". Somebody also spoke of trolleys. A very interesting feature in the Guardian on Saturday, by an architect and a civil engineer and my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) used—I hope this was not in my hon. Friend's contribution—the revolting word "travelators". They would whiz us over in no time, and there would be no difficulty about a link.
If we had that sort of link and left Bridge Street where it is, or perhaps dealt with it in the way suggested in this interesting feature in Saturday's Guardian—although I thought that the drawings were rather inadequately reproduced, to put it mildly—then the row about Gothic or non-Gothic would not arise. If the Committee had been able—I know that it went into this very thoroughly—to accept the idea of a separate building, not to be despised as a mere annexe but a building of dignity in itself, I am sure that it would never suggest that that separate building on the other side of Bridge Street would have to be in the Gothic style. It clearly would not be.
I should like to make one other point clear, on the question of style. I do not like, any more than the Gothic advocates do, those absolutely hideous, blank, characterless slabs which have been going up all over the City of London and various other places in the last few years. It is not necessary that what one calls a contemporary building should be just a dull, featureless slab. In any building set up in close proximity to the Palace of Westminster, we want some contrast; but it must also complement the Palace in some way. We want to be able to recognise at a glance that it is a modern building, built in the second half of the 20th century; but we also want an element of fantasy in it. This is one of the reasons why I favour the international competition idea. With all respect to our native architects, I think that some of them are lacking in that quality which, for instance, the late Frank Lloyd Wright 905 had in such outstanding degree—the quality of imaginative fantasy.
There is also the problem of the Royal Fine Art Commission. I think that I should be out of order, Mr. Speaker, if I went at length into the composition of the Commission, but one great difficulty about it is that it is overloaded with architects. Of course, there should be a few architects on it, but they should not be in the majority, as I think they are at present; because, despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West, said about feline jealousy in the architectural profession, inevitably they tend to back up and approve, and pass, each other's work, when it comes before the Commission. It is almost impossible for them, as a matter of etiquette, not to do so.
However, that is not strictly relevant to this debate, except in so far as whatever building is eventually designed will presumably have to go before the Royal Fine Art Commission.
§ Mr. Driberg
Indeed. I must be extremely careful about what I say. Of course, Mr. Betjeman is the soul of discretion and would never breathe a word of anything which had taken place at a private meeting, but I should be very much surprised if he did not agree with what I have just said. There should be more people like Mr. Betjeman and the right hon. Gentleman on it—what one might call people of widely cultivated taste, not architectural and engineering specialists, although a few of those are needed as well.
May I make one more point about this Gothic business? My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West found an apt quotation from Wren about the Abbey, but I must point out to him that one of the greatest jewels of the Abbey—the Henry VII Chapel—although it is Gothic, is a totally different kind of Gothic from the main part of the building.
On the question of architecture of different periods harmonising well, many—I should say most—of the great historic buildings of this country—the cathedrals, the castles, the country houses, and so on—have been added to 906 and, somehow, are a seemly and harmonious whole, even though the later builders and architects have not copied the style of earlier centuries.
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
My hon. Friend will recognise that the nave in the Abbey was built 200 years after the choir and was built deliberately in the same style in order to match and give unity to the building.
§ Mr. Driberg
I accept that. I concentrated only on the Henry VII Chapel, which my hon. Friend will agree is in a totally different style, yet fits in very well. There is a much newer example, only two or three minutes' walk further on: the new Guards' Chapel in Wellington Barracks, an impressive and attractive modern building which fits in well with the background of the barracks and Birdcage Walk generally. In order not to weary the House, I will not quote but merely mention the excellent leading article headed "Good Neighbours for Gothic" in today's Guardian.
I feel, however, that style is less important than scale and proportion. This is what the architect who is eventually chosen, by competition or otherwise, for this immensely important work will have to consider, and it must be considered in relation to the redevelopment of Whitehall as a whole. Which has priority is extremely difficult to determine. Although we are told that an irrevocable decision has been taken to pull down the Foreign Office, I feel that the decision should not be irrevocable until we get the plan for the whole of the Whitehall area, so that all can be seen in the one context. I am still not convinced that it would be impossible to move some of the departments of the Foreign Office to the south of the river or somewhere else. We all accept that the Foreign Secretary and his immediate staff must have close access to Downing Street, but I do not think that that can be true of every department of the Foreign Office.
Finally—and I, too, apologise for going on so long—my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West, spoke about "threats to democracy". I believe that to build an extension of this Palace in anything but an instantly identifiable 20th-century style, which would be harmonious in scale with the surroundings, would be an insult to Parliament and Parliamentary democracy—as much an insult 907 as it is to the Christian religion to build a church now in mock-Gothic, suggesting that Christianity is an affair of the Middle Ages only, irrelevant to our times.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Sir James Duncan (South Angus)
I have a little difficulty in supporting the Motion for one reason only. The House is discussing a Motion:That this House takes note of the recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee on Accommodation … and … invites Her Majesty's Government to pursue the necessary technical and professional inquiries arising from these recommendations".Which recommendations? If they are the recommendations of what I might call the Lloyd Committee, I must perforce oppose the Motion, but if it means recommendations generally made by the Committees, say, over which I presided or over which the late Mr. Stokes presided, I should be happy with the words of the Motion. For reasons which I will give, however, I cannot support the words of the Motion if it simply refers only to the recommendations of the Lloyd Committee.
For roughly the same reasons, we should not come to a decision today on the site or the architecture of the proposed new building as is recommended by the Committee. If it is to be on the side proposed by the Committee, in my view it must be Gothic. I do not see how any architect could make a building contiguous to Big Ben and extending along and altering the original design and, at the same time, make it other than a continuation of Barry's design. I do not see how any architect could get away with anything different or how any Committee of the House or the Royal Fine Art Commission could approve of any other design than Gothic.
I have been Chairman of Mr. Speaker's Committees on Accommodation more than once. I hove looked at the building from top to bottom with my Committee. It is a rabbit warren and a headache to alter. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) said, the windows are small. They are constructed with heavy intervals between the glass and they are impossible to alter because of their elaborate Gothic construction. The Committee of my right 908 hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal said that it would be possible to build the new Gothic addition to bring it into line with the existing lines of the building. That would mean the same difficulty with windows and heights of buildings which cannot be altered. What is possible with certain forms of architecture is to put in two floors where the cealings are very high. That could not be done with this Gothic building and it could not be done with the extension.
In our search for extra accommodation, we thought of all sorts of ideas, as the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) will remember, to try to halve the heights of some of the buildings and to give adequate light. Some hon. Members may know of a floor which some hon. Members are using and where they look down through half a window where it has already been done. For these reasons, it seems to me that if we are to build on the side it must be Gothic. That is my strongest object to building on the side.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Committee's proposal would involve a perfectly satisfactory series of floor levels on all the sides except the river front, where one would be stuck with the high floors for a few rooms which are, in fact, needed?
§ Sir J. Duncan
As I understand it, there is nothing to show that in the Report of the Committee as disclosed in HANSARD of 4th May.
My only other point is the question of need. The Report of the Lloyd Committee tended to overlook the Reports of the Committees over which I presided and thought that those Committees had not gone far enough in meeting the needs of the House or of Members of the future. That may be so, but I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that we were restricted in our terms of reference. We had at our disposal 40,000 sq. ft., not on the road but across the road, which subsequently was increased to 50,000 sq. ft.
On the whole, I do not think that we did a bad job in our recommendations, because in one Report or another we put fifty-one Members' single rooms in the roof space and extra accommodation was made on the south side of 909 the cloisters for a Members' room which, I am happy to think, is welcomed by the Members who use it. The Members for whom this accommodation was provided are chiefly Members who do not use secretaries and who like to write their letters quietly in the morning. We made accommodation also for 280 in the New Bridge Street building which we proposed. That amounted to a total of 339 Members. In addition, there were facilities in the Library, in lobbies, in basement rooms and in the old Fees Office, and we recommended that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association should be removed to give us more accommodation there. Unfortunately, that suggestion was not accepted.
The total of 339 Members is roughly half the membership of the House. One must always remember that today there are a great many Ministers. Judging by Questions in Parliament from time to time, the demand is always for more Ministers. There are now over eighty of them, and there are, in addition, their Parliamentary Private Secretaries. One could quite well reckon that none of these people wants rooms in the House. They have them already and they do not want extra accommodation in the House of Commons. We can reckon them as totalling 100.
I entirely agree with those who say that the House of Commons would be a sorry place if we were all full-time Members and did not have among us journalists, doctors, chartered accountants, stockbrokers and businessmen generally who very often would want to do their business in their offices outside this place and who would come in either whole time or part-time, however one likes to put it, and from time to time offer their words of wisdom from their experience in the outside world. There must always, I hope, be a very large number of those Members in the House who would not want the full accommodation that other hon. Members want.
We were allowed 50,000 sq. ft. which, we reckoned, would house half the membership of the House, allowing 100 Members as Ministers and another 200 who would not want the full accommodation. I repeat that there is still the Library, the basement and the lobbies on either side of the Chamber and other places where those who do not want the 910 full accommodation could accommodate themselves if they wanted to write letters, not in their offices, but in this House.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal now wants 100,000 sq. ft. for Members. I hope that he will justify this figure. In our Committee we had to be content with 50,000 sq. ft., and that enabled us to house half the Members. One hundred thousand sq. ft. means doubling the accommodation for Members, which would provide for more than the total membership of the House. I am quite prepared to admit that my right hon. and learned Friend wants a large hall, which might take a lot of sq. ft. I should like a clearer explanation of how much space would go to Members and how much would go for the hall before I could be convinced that 100,000 sq. ft. is the right figure to go for or to ask the architect to go for to meet the needs of Members.
As to everything my right hon. and learned Friend said this afternoon about the needs of the Press, the staff, the policemen—everybody—it would be lovely if those needs could be met, but, of course, they could not be met there: they would have to be met here, in this building. There is one thing I have never been able to get settled, though I wish I could. It arises out of a great mistake of the Committee at the building of the new building. It is a mistake in the provision of accommodation for the staff of the Press Gallery. It is totally lacking, as Members of the old Committees will remember—totally lacking. The waiters and waitresses have to sit down at the same table as the members of the Press Gallery after the members of the Press Gallery have had their meal. There is no separate dining room for them. These are the sorts of needs which have got to be met here. We cannot send waitresses over to the new building; they have to be accommodated adjacent to where they work. Similarly, we cannot send policemen to a rest room over there; they have to be fairly close here. So, without going into more detail today, I should very much like to see this Committee's Report worked out in much more detail.
There is one other thing which, I know, has been mentioned already, and that is on the question of the siting of the building and the traffic. As I walk to 911 this place most days and do not come by car I am appalled by the weight of the traffic going round Parliament Square. As everyone appreciates, it must be one of the busiest crossings in London. I have tried to step the 200 ft. I think 200 ft. is the figure mentioned in the Lloyd Report. I have stepped it from the edge of the pavement—with some danger to my life—outside, where we walk out, and I have stepped 200 ft., as near as possible 70 yds., coming to the Cable and Wireless office, which is now closed, in Whitehall, to the first bus stop one meets. I could not step it on the other side because there was an obstruction to prevent one from walking straight. I ask hon. Members to go and look, go to the Cable and Wireless office, which is not there now, but the name is still written on it, between the two bus shelters, and to envisage that this new building on this new site recommended by the Lloyd Committee will extend as far as that, and then to envisage the traffic and what will happen. The traffic would be negotiating the corner of Whitehall, negotiating round again if it wants to go over Westminster Bridge, going on to the Embankment, negotiating round to the right again and the left again.
It is stated in the Lloyd Report that the Ministry of Public Building and Worksalso informed us that the Ministry of Transport considered that such a road offered the least objectionable substitute for Bridge Street'.That must be the understatement of the century.
I am only sorry that my right hon. and learned Friend did not get the Minister of Transport to say that—if he would, because he is a different man from his officials. I think that if he had been brought before this Committee and had been given this plan with this terrible traffic problem in Parliament Square he might have taken a different view, for it will make traffic so much worse, with a left-hand turn, and a right- hand turn, and then another right turn and a left turn, before getting on to Westminster Bridge—and this when the Minister of Transport keeps on saying, "No right turns". I really believe that this approach to the bridge is the worst possible from the traffic point of view.
I hope, therefore, that if we have no Division on the Motion tonight it will 912 not be thought by the Government that we all agree with the proposals of the Lloyd Committee. I am sure we do not. I do not, and I think that the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) does not, and that a whole lot of other Members who have spoken do not, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West. We agree that more space is needed. Indeed, I recommended it in my previous Report. We agree about co-ordinating the development of the Whitehall area. We agree with that, and we agree to invite the Government to pursue the necessary technical and professional inquiries—but on a very much broader basis, for the whole future of Whitehall, and the future of the country, and the future efficiency of the Members of the House of Commons.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
I agree with practically everything that has been said this afternoon, except for the reference to Mr. Speaker as being an antique machine through which things must be put; at this point the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), as Chairman of the Library Committee, was talking about the Library and the needs M.P.s have for the services of the Library. I should like to make a brief reference to this in reply to the question which the hon. Member asked, namely, What do Members of Parliament want? There is not the least doubt that hon. Members want a development of the research facilities provided by the Library which do not at present meet all their needs.
As evidence of this I would quote from a very interesting survey carried out by Mr. Malcolm Shaw on behalf of the Hansard Society. He wrote to 32 Members of Parliament chosen on a nearly random basis and asked whether they would make use of the services of personal research assistants if they were provided. Twenty-two Members replied to this questionnaire, and 16 were in favour of personal research assistants. Only five were against and there was one "Don't know". For what it is worth, the majority of the Members on both sides of the House would use such research assistance but the majority was rather stronger on this side of the House, being ten to one on this side as against five to four on the other side. It is 913 quite clear that there is a very strong desire for a much more professional, well-informed approach to our business here.
To back this up I would quote some interesting figures given by Mr. Bernard Criek in his recent book on the reform of Parliament. These figures were taken from the Civil Estimates 1963–64, and show that £2,686,000 went on the House of Commons and £5,624,000 on the Treasury. Now at once the answer will be given that these are not comparable figures. Well, let us consider the number of people in the Treasury of the rank of Assistant Secretary and above, and there is nobody who will object that a Member of Parliament should rank below the rank of an Assistant Secretary. There are 117 people of the position of Assistant Secretary and above in the Treasury. There are 635 Members of Parliament—five times as many, who are served by one half of the annual expenditure on the Treasury. It is, therefore, appalling that there should be any doubt at all that a very large increase in the services of the House and the resources at the disposal of Members is justified.
On the question of reallocation of accommodation, the fact that I and other hon. Members have not dwelt on it should not be taken as indicating a lack of feeling on this matter. We regard it as most urgent and essential. My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) quite rightly pointed out that there are people in this building who do not need to be here and should not be here. I would point out however that these would release only 20,000 sq. ft. which would not give the 100,000 sq. ft. recommended by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the House and his Committee.
I think that every hon. Member of the House—I would invite, in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who have given such very long and patient attention to the problem, to do so—would acknowledge that the overwhelming feeling of the House is that the proposal for a Gothic extension contiguous to St. Stephen's Tower is not the wish of the House as a whole. This is an important question, particularly for hon. 914 Members on this side of the House, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) has been in an extremely difficult position defining the attitude of a Government formed of hon. Members from this side of the House if there is any real difference of opinion on this. I think that the debate has amply demonstrated that there is no difference of opinion at all.
I would quote a remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West in the debate last year:I do not know whether I want a traditional type of building. … So do not ask what I want. I am just a layman like the rest of us. I want something worthy to bequeath to our successors, and so I think does every other hon. Member."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st August, 1963; Vol. 682; c. 739–40.]No one who knows my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West can doubt that the one things that he wants is a resolution of this problem and early and immediate action.
In dealing with misgivings about the Gothic proposal, I do not want to pile consideration on consideration when I think the position is already clear, but one or two points have not been mentioned The first is that the proposal to attach the new building to St. Stephen's Tower does not bring the furthest corner of the building any nearer than it would be if the building were across the road connected by some opening up under Bridge Street. It is clear that a long walk through rather dismal, green-carpeted, stuffy corridors to the far end a long way up Whitehall would be much more tiring than a quick translation—I wonder whether I dare mention any word at all in deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg)—by some form of mechanical transport, followed by a short stroll through a much shorter corridor at the other end.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
The hon. Member may be lucky and even have the corridor, which may not be very long or dismal, air-conditioned. If these proposals were carried out, is he aware that he would have easy access to every floor? That is the point of the Committee's recommendation.
§ Dr. Bray
I think the hon. Member will agree that movement from floor to floor with modern lifts is not a problem, 915 but horizontal movement in modern buildings is much more of a problem.
Furthermore, on the question of blocking Bridge Street, I believe that the Leader of the House is right. The traffic problem in Parliament Square is a nightmare anyway. It would not be made all that terribly much worse by the blocking of Bridge Street. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may be right. What grounds he has for saying it, I do not know. But if we combined the traffic going up and down Whitehall with that going to and fro along the Embankment, we would make it absolutely impossible to cross Whitehall on foot. There would be a continuous stream of traffic along Whitehall and across by the end of New Palace Yard. This would mean that anyone crossing from Downing Street, the Treasury or the Foreign Office to come to the House of Commons would have to go underground. Perhaps this is a good idea, but I would feel that it was diminishing the undoubted interest that there is in walking in all directions along Whitehall today.
Finally, I come to the question of the Gothic architecture. One has to face the question of æsthetics. I have always had a soft spot for Pugin. He renovated the choir-stalls in the chapel of my college at Cambridge—Jesus College—and I have always enjoyed his style. But where would one get any view of this building from a Parliamentary extension stuck on to Big Ben? From no window in the new building would one be able to get a view of the Palace of Westminster. We should be cutting Members off from the enjoyment of the very thing that we are trying to preserve. If we placed the building discreetly back on the other side of Bridge Street, as was suggested in The Guardian, we should give every hon. Member on the two fronts of the building a splendid view across to Parliament and the Thames, which would add to the enjoyment of the building and its architecture, which I very much like.
One has also to look at what a building says. What would a Gothic extension to Parliament say? If we examine the drawings of Barry's proposed extension, we find that it ends up in a tremendous climax in a gateway at the corner of New Palace Yard, combining the exuberance of the St. Stephen's Tower and the 916 Victoria Tower and bringing an explosion of fantasy almost down to pavement level. This is an interesting idea. It might well have been a sensible idea at the time the proposal was made. But if the Speaker's Committee does not feel that that is on today, it is clear evidence that no Gothic extension is on at all. We do not want a kind of diluted, mere death's head which would portray merely the cosmetic virtues of this building, as an architect friend of mine put it.
It has been suggested that the design of any Parliamentary extension should be the subject of competition. The Minister of Public Building and Works should recognise that this is inevitable. If he nominates an architect, there will be, whoever the architect is, a dozen other architects in the country who will submit free-lance schemes of their own, and there are ample means of publicity in this country to make sure that they are considered along with any officially selected version.
It would help the architectural community if the House explained why it has this feeling on the matter. The reason is that the Holford proposal was a Parliamentary bloomer on a grand scale. There has been an extraordinary lack of consultation. I do not see how that proposal could have been made by an architect who had discussed the matter with a number of different kinds of Member of Parliament and got the feel of the House in any way at all.
I am afraid, too, that I have some misgivings about the proposal to leave the outline plan to Sir Leslie Martin. I hope very much that we shall have an opportunity to meet him. However, I am not aware of any approach that has been made to any individual Members of Parliament to discuss this scheme. I am sure that Sir Leslie would be only too happy to discuss it if we made an approach to him, and it has been perhaps an omission on our part. It seems to me that the outline plan for the bottom end of Whitehall, as well as the design of particular buildings will inevitably, from the nature of the thing, have to be a public exercise and will, therefore, inevitably be the subject of competition, official or unofficial.
I would refer briefly to the kind of thinking that we tried to put across in The Guardian on Saturday. We were not seeking to put forward a definitive 917 solution; we were seeking merely to suggest a possibility.
The most important consideration is the question of what one is trying to portray. What is the idea of Parliament in this age? What are we trying to get across? I think that undoubtedly the idea is that Parliament, as compared with the Parliament of a hundred years ago, is today completely open to the people. It is the idea that the whole life of the nation, as has been said, is reflected here, with people passing in and out freely. We should consider Bridge Street and Westminster underground station as a positive virtue to be integrated into the site, opening up the Palace and extending the precincts into Bridge Street for the enjoyment and participation of the public. This is a magnificent area and if we could get an architect fired with imagination I believe that this concept would be possible. We could have a large Parliamentary precinct enclosed by big buildings. This is broken up into a smaller scale domesticity with one court opening into another, using the overpass of the roads to create these courts.
Most important of all at the moment is not the particular architectural treatment but that any architect—whether appointed, whether submitting a design of his own accord, whether entering a competition—should think very hard about the symbolic place of Parliament in the life of the nation. This place is greatly alive. It is not perhaps as inefficient as some of us sometimes suggest that it is. But I am sure that it must become more closely linked with the life of the community if it is to play its part in the vastly more complex activities of Government in the future.
Like so many, I look forward to a change of Government. If that comes about—and if right hon. and hon. Members opposite later return to Government, they will find too—administration will be much more complex than it is today, just as it is more complex today than in 1945. We must accept that it will be that much more complex in 10, 20 and, indeed, 100 years' time and that it is that for which we shall be building. Therefore, in the interests both of efficiency and of the strengthening of this place in the heart and mind of the country, we shall build, I believe, a worthy extension.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)
The comment with which the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) concluded his speech was on entirely the right note except for one slight political lapse for which he may readily be forgiven. He said the right thing in pointing out that Parliament is becoming increasingly important in the life of the nation.
Some of us remember the Chamber which once stood on this site. Those who have been here since before the war realise that at least we have completed the first half of our service in the House, and it is encouraging to note that younger Members are keen to see that the new Parliament should be designed not so much to meet the wishes of those of us who have spent many years in its service and who have in some ways got accustomed to the difficulties and the awkwardness, but to meet the needs of the age.
I have my responsibilities as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee and I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House for his reference to the problems of the Refreshment Department. My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), who gave his name to the Committee whose report has been widely quoted, drew attention in that report to the needs of our Department. As a result, the Ministry of Works, as it was then, provided some improved accommodation for the staff. The present Minister of Public Building and Works has been most kind to us in his approach to our problems but the fact remains that the subject needs to be re-examined in the light of the needs of modern catering, modern hygiene and modern service.
I do not feel that we want increased accommodation for the serving of meals. My right hon. and learned Friend spoke of the difficulty of securing rooms below in which functions should take place, but I am bound to say that, however many private rooms are provided below, we will always have pressure on them and rooms will not always be available for hon. Members at the precise time at which they want them. If we allow too much increased development of catering at which an hon. Member can be host—whether of a political club, or an old 919 boys' reunion or a meeting of constituents—then I believe that the eyes of the Refreshment Department will be taken off the main job, which I am quite satisfied is to provide for the comfort and convenience of Members and Officers of the House and those who are required to be in this Palace. Therefore, I do not want to see the accommodation for catering increased too much.
I would certainly like to see improved accommodation for the staff—better changing rooms, waiting rooms, greatly improved facilities for washing, for changing overalls and for all those other things which make hygiene easy rather than difficult. It is extremely difficult to do this in a building more than a hundred years old.
There is a further point which arises in view of the difficulty of the Kitchen Committee in making ends meet. Some concentration would be of inestimable advantage in terms of economy of manpower, supervision and, of course, money. At the moment, while I am on my feet, in no fewer than five places under the control of the Kitchen Committee hot meals are being cooked and served. In six places tea and other light refreshments are being prepared. I have a feeling that any modern catering establishment would concentrate those facilities and the supervision and would provide a much more co-ordinated service.
The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) suggested that the House of Lords, which also has catering arrangements in this building, should share them with us. I agree that there should be maximum co-operation inside the building, but I understand that the only practical result of its sharing these facilities would be to add two more kitchens and two more bars.
My right hon. and learned Friend referred to the accommodation of the Press Gallery and I am grateful that he did so. The accommodation of the Press, particularly its facilities for refreshment, is extremely unsatisfactory. My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus spoke of the fact that waitresses on duty in the Press cafeteria have no place in which to eat, and after changing into uniform have to proceed to their duties through the open air. It is also the case 920 that it is about five minutes' away for managers to exercise any supervision. It is also a fact that, because naturally the Press Gallery is a closed corporation, it is quite impossible to provide a satisfactory service in any way except at a most substantial loss. I believe that all this could be avoided if the accommodation could be centralised.
I hope that I do not get a little out of order, but I should say that I am coming to the opinion that in future hon. Members will not be able to expect hot meals served to any hour at which the House decides to sit after a certain time. If it were decided to sit regularly until 5 a.m. every day there would be no difficulty in providing staff or arrangements. There is no trouble in making arrangements up to a fixed hour. But in 1964 it is almost impossible to engage people unless one is able to tell them not only at what time they are expected at work but at what time they may expect to finish.
While we are talking about accommodation, and while we put in pleas for people, or for square feet of space, or for amalgamation with the Lords or for depriving the Lord Great Chamberlain of certain of his powers, I make a more modest request which I believe could be gratified without damage to anyone. I refer to the old Serjeant at Arms accommodation at the Lower Waiting Hall, commonly known as the hot room. That is a strange room at the present time, a mixture of library, club room and dormitory. Many hon. Members who use it at the present time have intimated that they will not be standing for reelection. I believe that if that room were placed at the disposal of the Kitchen Committee it would immeasurably help hon. Members. It could be used as a waiting room and annexe for Members, who with their wives or their friends are going to have a meal in either the Strangers' Dining Room or the Strangers' annexe, and from where they could be summoned by the waiters in charge, and in particular it would provide a room where coffee could be served after the service of a meal, thus freeing tables much more rapidly in the dining rooms.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Committee in 1960 made this precise recommendation but nothing whatever has happened?
§ Sir H. Butcher
I was very conscious of this, but I equally appreciate that there is a time for everything to take place. I believe that in 1960 we might have inflicted some hardship on some hon. Members which the House as a whole would not have wished to inflict, but I believe that in a new Parliament it might well be that that accommodation should be reallocated.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that it is called the hot room, because it is kept a degree or two hotter for hon. Members when they feel ill, and it: is next door—I do not know whether one should call it a surgery—to the room to which Members are taken when they are indisposed. It is not a simple solution and I never agreed with the original idea.
§ Sir H. Butcher
I do not feel that on the question of one room in the House it would be proper to take too much time in a debate of this kind. I would say, however, that it is a room which, in my view, could be placed far more at the disposal of the majority of Members of this House, rather than of the limited number of hon. Members who are in the habit of using it now and who will be Members of the next Parliament. So far from it being annexed to the—we do not know what to call it—surgery, I think it is rather astonishing that in a building of this kind in which about 2,300 persons are employed including some people of importance—we do not have the services of at least a fully qualified nurse.
It would be wrong for me in my capacity of trying to serve the House as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee to sit down without making it clear that I do not speak for my colleagues, each of whom has his own view. I believe, however, that the views that I have put before the House, with the possible exception of my observation on the Lower Waiting Room, would secure general acceptance, and, I believe, that one would, too.
I do not think it right to enter into a debate on whether it should be Gothic or modern, except that I hope very much that the silhouette of this House as seen from the river, which is engraved in the minds of all of us, will remain. Should the House in its wisdom decide that modern architecture is to have its chance, 922 I would accept that, hoping, however, that there might be a new crop of architects from whom to choose.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
This has been a very interesting debate to have in the dying weeks of this Parliament. I think that it is two weeks on Thursday or Friday that we go away for ever never to return, at least not in the form we now are. One gets a very interesting view of Parliament as it has emerged from the speeches that have been made.
One is the view of Parliament as a shrine, and the other is the view of Parliament as a workshop. I am all for aesthetic qualities and for taking care about every detail to the fullest extent, but this place lives or dies according to whether it does its job properly. It is a workshop. As I take children and visitors around the House of Commons—and at this time of the year they are all here—I point out the little features, the unusual gargoyle and Mr. Speaker's silk stockings. But that is not why we are here. These are only additions, historical survivals. Anyone who ever allows this idea of Parliament to interfere with our daily work here would be doing this House a great disservice.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) is a pioneer in this field. All those who have come out now with what they would like to think are new ideas are only repeating what my hon. Friend and others like him, on both sides of the House, have fought for over the years; the right of Members of Parliament to have the facilities to do their job.
This is a scandalous place in which to work. That has been said many times. Hon. Members are scattered round the place like so many passengers at a great railway terminus which Beeching has closed without telling them about it. We are all trying to work in little corners.
I am all for the collective life of the House. Of course the Smoking Room, the Tea Room and the Library are places where Members gather. That is all right for the collective life. What is wrong is that the hard choring work of Members which is not a part of our 923 collective life has to be done under collective conditions. One has to divide the work of a Member into the individual administrative work, the clerical, routine and research work which ought to be done privately, from the collective camaraderie which we all feel when we are in or around the immediate area of the Chamber.
There is the misery of the telephone call in this House. One cannot get an in-coming call. Years before the present Serjeant at Arms came to his office I tried to persuade the then authorities to allow us all to have a little buzzer, such as are used by doctors. After weeks of inquiries and correspondence I was told that it could not be done because it was thought that many hon. Members would not want to receive incoming calls. Maybe they would not, but let the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) tell that to his constituents.
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Member has missed the point. It is for the hon. Member to decide whether he wants the in-coming call by deciding whether he carries the little buzzer or not. There are many hon. Members who have to hover around the telephone rooms hoping that the in-coming calls that they want will come at the times they want them. There is also the question of the outgoing calls. For a simple call one can go anywhere, but for a longdistance call one goes somewhere else and pays in cash. It is not as easy as all that to get one's normal business work done. There is, of course, the answering of correspondence by hon. Members. The Postmaster told me today that there were about 27,000 letters in and out of this place each day. If we divide that by some 630 Members we get an idea of the work generated by constituents rightly using 924 their Members of Parliament as an instrument of Government.
It is all very well for the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) talking about the good old days before 1830 when Members were jostled and the whole thing had the camaraderie of the market place. But in 1832, only 2 or 4 per cent. of the people had the vote. People did not matter at that time, but we are now an instrument of the popular will.
The ancillary services here are squeezed—the Press, radio and television. Whatever hon. Members may think about television, does anyone seriously think that the cameras can be kept out of this Chamber in the next Parliament, or in the Parliament after that? Of course it is all coming, and we know it is and we had better think about if if we are building for the future.
There is then the humiliation of visitors, the humiliation not only of the distinguished visitors, who are not all that well served, but the petitioners, those who come to speak to their Member and who can be seen sitting about in the Central Lobby, and the schoolchildren and others whom we take round. We have all experienced bringing schoolchildren to the House. One has to write to 30 Members who are getting tickets on that day. I have written for my group on a Wednesday and then found that 10 other Members have done the same. All we want is a place where they can walk slowly past the Gallery, or see the Chamber on closed circuit television.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) said, we have to see Parliament in its national context as a place which visitors and others naturally wish to visit and where they wish to hear us and to tell us things. We must preserve our own area safe from the lobbies, but I am all for a consumer's view of Parliament, for Parliament is essentially a place which must reflect the mood of the community.
If we look ahead into the technical society which we are approaching, we see that the work of a Member of Parliament is becoming infinitely more complicated. Nowadays, the choice of the 925 individual Member is to concentrate on an area so narrow that he can be as expert as the Minister, or to have a wide variety of interests, which inevitably means that he will find himself at a disadvantage relative to the Minister who is backed by a great Department.
Not only the great Departments are well staffed. The pressure groups are very clever. They do not try to buy us with money. They know that they can get at us by briefs which are designed to prove their point of view and which they know we cannot get for ourselves. The way to win Parliament to one's own point of view is to put a couple of postgraduate research students on getting the facts which appear to show that this or that project is in the public interest. Every pressure group in Britain has tumbled to it. When we go to the Library we find that excellent services are provided, for it is a very fine Library, but it is simply not equipped to give us the information we need.
What I want passionately is a strong Government after the election—I hope that it is the Government made up of my right hon. Friends—and, secondly, a strong House of Commons to watch over them. The centralisation of power in a modern society is inevitable, and the best check of a strong Executive is not for us to take over some of the Executive's functions but for us to be equipped to do properly the job which we are elected to do. That would do more to restore the balance of the Constitution than anything else.
What does all this mean in terms of accommodation? I recognise that not all Members can be full-time and that if there are those who are in business, or who are lawyers, or something else, that is all very well. What I want to insist on is the right of every Member who chooses to be full-time to have the facilities to be a good full-time Member. That means higher salaries—some are not full-time Members because they cannot afford to be—secretarial assistance and research assistance. It is incredible to have to spell it out, but I want a room, I want a desk, I want a telephone, I want a typewriter, I want the sort of equipment which if I were the humblest civil servant anywhere in Whitehall I would have in the public interest. Why in all conscience should I not have 926 them? Why should I not be equipped to do my job like anybody else? This is the demand which is now coming at the end of this Parliament and which will be renewed one hundredfold when the new Members come in, on whichever side of the House, after the General Election.
I want to have a Library where it will be possible for me to have a man who has some knowledge of the subject with which I am concerned and who can be at my disposal for an hour or two, or a day or two, so that when I put my Question to the Minister, even if it is a Minister from my own party, it will be a Question which he will have to think about when he gives his answer. Then he will know that my pre-prepared supplementary question will be as good as the answer to it which he has pre-prepared. One day I intend to say that "in view of the length of my supplementary question I propose to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT".
We have to consider the Library in another way. Those experts in librarianship know that the retrieval of information is one of the most complicated technical subjects today. It is easy to accumulate information, but to retrieve it is incredibly difficult. Library computerisation and retrieval of information for the benefit of hon. Members would be an enormous advantage. I know that the Library is thinking about the possibility of doing this for HANSARD, so that a Member can find out what the Foreign Secretary has said about a particular subject throughout the Session by the use of punched cards. This will be a great advantage, but the Library Committee needs to be given terms of reference which will enable it to get on with the jobs of modernising and expanding and extending the Library facilities. It is a great pity that there has been negative criticism of the Library in the past.
I should like to say something about refreshment facilities. As I have followed the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher), I can say that we are all concerned with this subject, not only from our own point of view as users, but also with the staff. Perhaps the time has come not only to have common technical services for catering, but also to have some common catering 927 facilities which can be used by everybody who works here. It is absurd to have separate catering for Members, the Press, visitors, policemen, waitresses, cleaners, telephone operators, male and female—it may not be as bad as all that—but the hon. Gentleman knows that it is almost as bad as that.
Why should we not have a place where we can all eat together? We are all part of a great family in this Palace. We all work here. What I like about the Strangers' Cafeteria is that there I meet everybody. When we are thinking of refreshment reorganisation, I should like to think in terms of a place where we can all go and where all the members of this family can have the opportunity of eating together.
§ Sir H. Butcher
I do not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman is saying, except that I am sure he would be against the feeling of the House in this respect unless he were saying that there should be at least some accommodation where Members could discuss among themselves in perfect frankness with nobody other than Members present, although at the present time we have the benefit of the presence of the Officers of the House.
§ Mr. Benn
I am all in favour of Members eating together, and we must have a Members' dining room—although I remember visiting a great hospital in Tel Aviv and finding the professor of neurosurgery and the girl who mopped up the kitchen pushing their trays round and eating together in the cafeteria. Eating together is a rather pleasant business and makes for a new sense of community, and I should like to see a little more of it.
Now we come to the question of how, if all these things are required and if it means an enormous increase of space, that space is to be provided. I do not want to enter into the Mods v. Goths argument. In Washington, whenever they have wanted to extend the Capitol building, they have done so in the classical style an inch here or two inches there, but they have provided a separate Senate office building and a House office building and a Library of Congress for the purposes which we are now particularly discussing. I must say that when I consider the difficulties of accommodation 928 in this place I sometimes think of the Guy Fawkes solution for the Palace of Westminster. It might be better to start again; but we cannot do that.
However, if we are to have a new building, let us build it separately to provide the sort of facilities which Members need as individuals. The office of a Member is quite different from the needs of a Member circulating around the Chamber. Let us divide the individual work from the collective activity.
We cannot do these things without first dealing with the immediate problems of the control of the Palace. This is important because we shall not have the new building in the next Parliament. Two issues are raised which must be faced. One is the relative importance of the two Houses of Parliament.
There can be no doubt whatever that in this existing building the House of Commons is increasingly important relative to the House of Lords. This has become even more evident since the passing of the Peerage Act last July, because on 31st July, this year, every peer sitting in the Lords will sit there by choice—this will be a voluntary body after 31st July—and will not have to be there unless he has chosen to stay. The Lords therefore cannot grumble if those who are elected edge them a little further in that direction. This is a very important point because the House of Lords has diminished. Although accommodation is needed in the Lords, and the problem of bishops with gaiters makes the provision of a special lavatory necessary, I wonder whether they have not got more accommodation than they need.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the vast majority of accommodation in the House of Lords would be unusable to anybody else? I am thinking of the ceremonial rooms like the Royal Gallery, the Robing Room, and so on. Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that in spite of the sad loss to the other House of his self, there are still more noble Lords than there are Members of this House?
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Gentleman's capacity for missing the point is unrivalled. The reputation which he built up for that on the corporation in Bristol he has brought here and developed and extended. We are the elected Chamber, 929 and we have work to do in relation to constituents which Members of the other place do not.
The second balance to be achieved is between the staff and members of each House within each House. I cannot for the life of me see why the Crown Office, which is a Government Department, should be there. As my hon. Friend said, the Crown Office busies itself with sealing up things which could easily be done somewhere else.
Next there is the question of the residents. How many people live here? How does one find out? I have had four attempts at it. Some are listed in the accommodation report. I asked the Home Secretary how many of them he would be prepared to evacuate in the event of a nuclear attack. The right hon. Gentleman did not give me a number and, as it was not an Oral Answer, I could not ask how many he anticipated would require evacuation.
One can look at the electoral register, or ring up the telephone operator, to get the information, but it seems that 19 or 20 people live here. Are they all necessary? If we are to take advantage of the existing accommodation in the short run, we have to do something about existing occupants.
§ Mr. Dalyell
There are 19 people on the electoral register. In the Lord Chancellor's residence there are at least 27, and probably 29, major rooms. Further, in the Lord Chancellor's office there are 24 rooms which could be taken over by the hon. Members of this House.
§ Mr. Benn
My hon. Friend has taken the words out of my mouth. I am glad that I gave way to him. It is not very often that an intervention shortens an hon. Member's speech.
This question raises the whole point of the control of the Palace. Nearly 100 hon. Members have joined me in tabling a Humble Address to Her Majesty praying that control be taken away from the Lord Great Chamberlain. I have never met him. I believe him to be kind and cordial, but he is a grotesque anomaly, and he has to be removed. If he did not exist, who would think of inventing him? If we planned to erect a building in Bridge Street, would somebody say, "Let us 930 give it to a hereditary functionary so that he can run it for us"? This is fantastic.
This power must be removed from the Lord Great Chamberlain by this House exercising its right of access to the Monarch by a Humble Address. If I win a Ballot I shall put down such a Humble Address. If it is carried, it will be presented, and constitutionally it will have to be accepted, for it is a mandatory piece of advice from this Chamber to the Monarch.
This is a very urgent matter. Like some other hon. Members, I was worried when I read in the papers on Friday that the solution of this problem will have to await the solution of the housing problem and the other things which will press on the next Government. I believe that such a view of the priorities is wrong, because of the rôle of this House. We are the instrument of the very people who need new schools, new houses, and new hospitals, and they must be able to look to us and feel that in a Britain which they want to see modernised there is a modernised instrument for doing it.
This House is in its dying days. It will last for only a few more days, but one legacy which we can leave to the new Parliament, and, even more important, to the electors which it will serve, is the legacy of a firm decision to provide us with the tools that we need to tackle the job.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) struck out at a large number of targets, and in spite of the fact that I did not like some of the things that he said, he certainly hit some of them. I am with the hon. Gentleman in his earnest desire to do something, and quickly, for the real needs which we all find ourselves facing.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) made, as usual, a most entertaining speech. Indeed, I had heard most of it muttered at me as he passed me in the corridors during the last two or three weeks. I think that my right hon. Friend lives in an age which is very different from ours. We no longer live in an age when one 931 lunches at White's in St. James's and then strolls down to the House on a sunny afternoon to sack a Prime Minister or two.
§ Mr. Cooke
That sort of life is for the few. I thought that my right hon. Friend was a little hard in his strictures. We heard plenty of sarcasm, but very few suggestions for solving our problems.
Many misleading points have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and if I were to answer them all my speech would be even longer than it inevitably will be, because I shall endeavour to explain the Committee's proposals in architectural terms and to do something to redress the balance of the debate. This is no reflection on the Chair, but we have had a most unrepresentative selection of speakers. We have not had the views of a substantial body of Members who are not at Westminster today.
§ Mr. Cooke
I would go on to use that to emphasise my point that the Members who are not here today should be treated on equal terms with those who are, and that their views should be taken into account.
It would be as well if I were not to continue to try to answer the points made by hon. Members, because I might stray into a running battle with the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) who, when he finds himself defeated on a point, merely says that the Member on the other side has missed the point or has misrepresented him, and I would be reluctant to say anything that would bring the hon. Gentleman to his feet yet again.
In many ways this is an historic occasion because this debate is taking place at the end of 110 years of debate as to how the accommodation needs of this House should be met. This is the first time that any committee has come forward with a definite and comprehensive proposal to meet the existing needs, and indeed to foresee the needs for 50 932 years ahead and probably more. We have been accused of being lavish in our proposals. We deliberately included enough room for manœuvre over perhaps the next half century and more.
Some hon. Members have made much of the fact that they have only just discovered, or it has only just been discovered, that there is a great deal of spare room in this building, and a great deal of misappropriation of space. This has been examined by many committees in the past—committees on which I have had the privilege to sit—and in my earlier years in the House I had a great deal of spare time at my disposal waiting for Divisions late at night. I, too, went on my tours of inspection, but I did not find myself repelled by the Officers of the House of Lords when I wanted to know what went on in a particular place.
I have a set of plans of the entire building. I have had it for four years. I assure hon. Members that the suggestion that people can be turned out to provide accommodation for Members of this House is a complete red herring. I am only surprised that it is suggested by hon. Members who, apparently, wish to solve the problem. Were it suggested by hon. Members who wanted to do nothing, it would prove a splendid way to go on wasting time more or less indefinitely.
Nor would I accept any of the harsh strictures which have been placed upon the Lord Great Chamberlain. He and his staff, and the Serjeant at Arms and his staff in this House, so far as I have been able to discover, work together in a perfectly cordial fashion. Indeed, hon. Members will see that this week in the all-party notices there is information about increased public viewing in this building, a facility which we have wanted for some time. The obstacle to this new facility was not the Lord Great Chamberlain or the Serjeant at Arms, but a Department of this House, under the direct control of the will of the House, which refused to produce the money. In other words, the sort of Commission called for by hon. Members was the body which prevented us from having this facility. It is a complete fallacy to suggest that by running the Lord Great Chamberlain into the Thames would 933 necessarily result in any better co-ordination in this—does the hon. Member for Leeds, West wish to intervene?
§ Mr. C. Pannell
I only want to get the thing clear. There is no Commission extant comparable to the Stokes Committee kind of Commission we propose to set up. The only Committee at present is that of the Secretaries of State, whose officers were extant in 1834 under the chairmanship of Mr. Speaker. The Committee usually means the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Cooke
I do not wish to get involved in a technical argument. My point—I think it a valid one—is that it was not the Lord Great Chamberlain who on this occasion denied hon. Members a service which they required. Had we had a Commission it would have found itself in the same difficulty.
There are some hon. Members—not a large body of them, and their number is getting smaller each year—who argue that there is no need for any extension of accommodation. They would like to live in an amateur age—an age to which I, too, would like to return. They live—or they would like to live—in an age which cannot be recalled. In the light of that, the Committee came to the conclusion that a definite and reasonable proposal had to be made.
It is suggested that if we provide extra space, these extra rooms, hon. Members will hide themselves away from the hub of activities and will seldom be seen in the Chamber, in the Lobbies, or in the Smoking Room. There are hon. Members who do that now. I could give a list of at least half a dozen hon. Members of my own party whose existence here would not be known to the vast majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, or on the other side, because they choose to pursue their Parliamentary activities by correspondence from little rooms which some of them have in various parts of the building—unpleasant little rooms, hidden away from the view of other hon. Members. I do not believe that by providing more rooms we should necessarily find that more people would hide themselves away. People have made their choice about that already.
We have heard a lot about the danger of getting ourselves involved in a congressional system like that of the United 934 States of America. Surely there is no parallel, because the American Legislator has an enormously larger constituency and more to deal with. The American system of government is very different. The American legislator often has to introduce private relief legislation for individual citizens, something which we never have to do. America has less highly developed social services in many respects and the congressman has to provide services. It is possible to ask him for a book on bee-keeping or how to grow rhododendrons and he will send it free of charge by return. That sort of thing would never happen in this country, and it is not envisaged.
One of the merits of the Committee's proposal is we should not have a great office block standing beside the Palace of Westminster and detracting from the importance of this Parliamentary building. Precisely because that was felt to be a very real danger we came to a decision in favour of an attached additional building. Quite apart from all the other considerations, this additional building would contain space for better accommodation for Ministers. So far as I can remember, they have not yet been mentioned. Many Ministerial rooms are nothing more than burrows in the bowels of the earth. How anyone can be expected to prepare a case to present to this House in such conditions—with no natural lighting in many cases—I can hardly imagine.
Hon. Members could do with more space for Committees, translation rooms and television broadcasting; all that has been mentioned. I can also visualise a certain amount of tug-o'-war between the Library and the Refreshment Department. That has been brought out in the debate. I submit that no amount of reorganising within the existing shell will stop that tug-o'-war going on. My hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) mentioned the case of a particular room which we all wanted—or the vast majority of hon. Members wanted—for a particular purpose. Four years ago the change was suggested, and it still has not happened. If it is to take four years to deal with one room, how many centuries will it take to get the whole thing sorted out, during which time circumstances will have 935 changed? That is why in an accessible addition to the building we could do a great deal to improve all these facilities.
The Committee gave a great deal of thought to the question of access. We did not lightly dismiss the idea of lifts, railways and things of that kind. But at the end of the day, after we had given great consideration to these matters, we came to the conclusion that no proper access could be obtained unless it was on every floor and the additional building was attached to this building. If our proposal were carried out, we should have direct access from behind Mr. Speaker's Chair along a new corridor straight into the new building on this floor, on the Committee floor above, and, indeed, on the floor above that. One could get from rooms in a matter of moments to this Chamber or to the Members' Lobbies, or any of the other important parts of the existing building. We did not feel that it was at all possible to have that access were the building detached. We knew that the accessible accommodation had to be attached, and it should, in our opinion, be in the same style of architecture.
I hope that I shall not weary the House by giving my views on this architectural problem. It has been lightly dismissed by previous speakers, and there was an enormous amount of prejudice against the proposal simply because we mentioned the word "Gothic". These prejudices are built up because people have in their minds a very imperfect idea of what is Gothic architecture. They have heard of Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill; or William Beckford and Fonthill Abbey, which collapsed. They have seen Brighton Pavilion, which has some vague Gothic leaning, and the strange architecture of Batty Langley in the eighteenth century. They know about St. Pancras Station and the Keble College of Butterfield with his "sadistic hatred of beauty" as has been said. They have heard of William Burgess who built Cardiff Castle and Professor Water-house, not forgetting Ruskin and the University Museum at Oxford. His practical knowledge of the subject was somewhat lacking. He built one pillar in the Museum which immediately collapsed.
All this history has had a damaging effect on the ideas which people have of 936 Gothic style. It has damned Gothic style in their imaginations. This building is not about any of those things. This is a free adaptation of Tudor domestic Gothic architecture. It is a very fine building in itself and a workmanlike building. It was complained earlier in the debate that it is bad work within a Gothic framework and the rooms are ill-lit and insanitary, even those above ground level. It is interesting to reflect that a short while ago the curtains in this Chamber had to be drawn because the sunlight was streaming through on to the Opposition's benches, so that the suggestion that fenestration presents some insoluble problem in the addition amazes me.
§ Mr. Cooke
I am indeed aware of the fact that we have the lights on. If we had had the curtains drawn back and the sunlight pouring in, we would not have needed the lights on. I do not want to be drawn into digressions.
This building came to be what it is because Barry and Pugin combined to produce what hon. Members of that day found entirely satisfactory. The building was not produced by some long-haired architect who said, "This is my idea of the building you should have." It has been suggested that we should throw our problem open to competition and accept whatever is given to us, or that we should nominate the architect who should design a suitable building and then we should put ourselves into it. The modern outlook, if one is commissioning a building, is to say what we want. We could say, "We would like you to work out the building on these lines".
As the hour is late, I do not want to go into the Gothic detail of the Committee's proposal at great length on this occasion but simply to say that it certainly merits a much more thorough investigation than it has yet received. I take it that if the House takes note of the Report, as it has been asked to do today, our proposal will be worked out in some detail by the Government so that we can assist them more effectively and so that perhaps some of the critics of the scheme will become less critical.
Barry's original scheme for building round the courtyard has been rejected. 937 It has been rejected because it would not provide enough space, and rejected, I think, by many of us on aesthetic grounds because it would engulf the Clock Tower, obliterate the catalpa trees, cover up the outside of Westminster Hall and remove the Cromwell statue, although that would not worry me. Although it would improve the Palace in the view of the original architect, it would not provide us with what we want.
Hon. Members have had their attention drawn to certain drawings which Mr. Speaker allowed to be displayed in the Library. I think I should explain how those drawings were produced. When I discovered that as a result of our original Report there was a lot of rather wild criticism, I thought that as an individual Member and as a member of the Committee it would be a good idea if our recommendations could be translated modestly into architectural terms so that that they could at least receive fair consideration.
I drew up a plan on a large piece of blotting paper and an architect friend translated it into a measure drawing. It forms the basis for discussion and gives a substantially accurate and reasonable idea of what we proposed. I had thought that it would be a good idea to describe it in greater detail, but, in view of the fact that no doubt later we shall be having a debate on the subject, I shall leave that until then. I simply make the point now that much of the criticism of our proposal is that it does some terrible damage to the visual effect of the Clock Tower.
A great deal of thought and care went into the proposal to see how we could avoid damaging the view of the Tower. It will be seen from the drawings that from the river the Tower would still be seen in its entirety from top to bottom. It is true that buildings would range across the road, but the whole of the Tower would still be seen. It would merely be flanked by buildings on either side. We were at great pains not to engulf the Tower. The Tower will still be seen in its entirety from Parliament Square, flanked by this new building.
In trying to plan an attached addition to the building, we were at great pains not to do violence to the view of the Clock Tower. I think the House will agree that if an attached building should 938 be the solution, this is the best way of avoiding any serious damage to this most attractive and important feature of the building. I ask the House to remember that Sir Charles Barry himself stated, when he was proposing his scheme, thatthe irregular, disjointed and incongruous character of the present building on the land side would be removed. …So the architect of the original building was far from happy at the appearance of the Palace as he left it.
There has been a great deal of informed criticism here today and a great deal of uninformed criticism outside. I tried to collect the views of members of the public, and when I had explained the proposal to them I did not find any great hostility. There was one very interesting old lady who thought that perhaps Gothic was rather High Church. Another hon. Friend prodded with his pipe at the drawing which is in the Library. Pointing to New Scotland Yard he said, "I suppose that is the new extension". It would appear that the principles of Gothic architecture are not perhaps so widely disseminated as they might be.
Lastly, on the question of aesthetics, I must say a word about lost vistas and what people say about blocked views. What is a vista anyway but a view of something? Just a great hole in the landscape looking to nothing can hardly be described as a worthwhile vista. It is suggested that the vista from the bridge to Parliament Square would be lost, but one should stand on the bridge and look towards Parliament Square. All that one could see is a horrible jumble of buildings in Great George Street. Perhaps that might be put right, but my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley)—who is not now present, so I must not be too hard on him—was in favour of the building of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, a vastly revolutionary erection going up on that site.
§ Captain John Litchfield (Chelsea)
Is my hon. Friend aware that from Westminster Bridge one can look through to St. James's Park and that, far from that view being curtailed, I should like to see it widened and extended?
§ Mr. Cooke
My hon. and gallant Friend has a point there. I suppose 939 that if we demolished the new Treasury and cut all the trees down in St. James' Park one could just see the front of Buckingham Palace, which dates from Edward VII. There are two points of view. From Parliament Square, what does one see in the other direction? One sees the half-finished slab of St. Thomas's Hospital, and from another place one gets a view of the Shell building. Surely there would not be a great loss if our scheme were carried out.
I do not want to prolong the discussion endlessly, but I think I must quote some remarks from The Times of today. The Times throughout has been hostile to the Committee's proposals. It has run a series called, "In the Gothic Style", attempting to ridicule our suggestions. It has a leader today which surely must be challenged on points of fact in several places. The Times suggests that we should have another Committee to examine the better use of space within the Palace—the inappropriately used rooms, and so on. Hon. Members will be satisfied from what has happened today that all that has been gone over ad nauseam. The Times says that this isa sad example of amateur tinkering with a highly technical problem with too little understanding of the principles of design.The Committee's proposals were borne out of the experience of hon. Members on both sides of the House trying to live and work in this building and to provide themselves with the better facilities which they need for their job, and it was not without a certain knowledge of that situation that we came to the conclusions in the Report.
The last paragraph of The Times article suggests that the view of St. Stephen's Tower would be ruined by a building being built in front of it. They did not even study the plan to see that there is no question of putting a building in front of the Clock Tower, either from the New Palace side or from the river. The building would be alongside it and in the same style.
This criticism is pure partisanship on the part of the newspaper. Alongside the article there is published a rather murky photograph of the Palace of Westminster, perhaps to suggest that the great building is cross with us all! The photograph, as far as I can see, was 940 taken from the roof of County Hall, a view which no member of the public is likely to enjoy. From the classic view of the Palace, from Lambeth Palace, which appears on all Christmas cards and posters, the proposed addition cannot be seen at all. Indeed, one would have to walk half-way along the front of St. Thomas's Hospital before one even saw this modest addition peeping out from round the corner and set well back from the river.
We have had an enormous amount of advice and ridicule. I am not sure which is advice and which is ridicule, but there has been a great deal of it. I do not feel that the debate has done justice to the Committee's proposals on the architectural side. Perhaps this is not the moment at which to elaborate that point, except to say that it would be most unfortunate if the proposals were to be laughed out of court purely because no one had taken the trouble to answer any of the architectural arguments.
I should be prepared to debate with the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects or any other high-powered architects in this country the merits of the Committee's scheme, and I would gladly welcome the opportunity of answering some of the wild and uninformed criticisms which have been made in the Press. I hope that as a result of the House taking note of our Report today, in the next Parliament our proposals will be worked out in some detail, and I venture to prophesy that they will find more favour in the new Parliament than some of our ill-informed critics of today imagine
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
I agree strongly with the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) in what he said about the proposed building of this new extension in the middle of Bridge Street, blocking the whole of the traffic to and from Westminster Bridge I feel strongly that if any other body were to propose any such thing this House would be the first to criticise such a proposal and to offer opposition to it. I cannot think that public opinion outside would be satisfied if we decided to do this kind of thing.
I take the view that in the proposed extension to the existing building we are 941 simply providing additional accommodation, a hundred thousand sq. ft., to try to meet present needs, when we ought to be looking further ahead. We cannot tell exactly what role the House will play in the next 20 or 30 years, but I hazard a suggestion that the role of Parliament will increase and that the amount of our work will increase, for, despite the criticism of the American system of Government by the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), I am certain that there will be a development in the House much larger than at present in Committee work of one kind or another.
Not only do we need a meeting hall and facilities for television and broadcasting, but we also need a good deal more accommodation for the meeting of these various Committees than can possibly be provided in the present House. We need to provide in the immediate neighbourhood of the House enough individual rooms for Members, for the Library services and for the other immediate services which they want. I suggest that we should take the view that the whole of the area from Bridge Street right down to Richmond Terrace should be reserved ultimately for the work of the House. For the immediate use of the House we may need to develop only part of that area, adjacent to the House, but whatever other buildings are erected on that site should be erected with the idea that they could be taken over and used by the House at a later stage if the House so desired.
I understand that arrangements have been made to purchase and put in the possession of the Crown all the property as far as Richmond Terrace. Most of it is already Crown property, and I believe that arrangements have been made for taking over the rest of it. That is very wise and proper foresight. I feel that when we are deciding whether to extend the present building or to provide an extension on the other side of the road, the balance comes down in favour of an extension on the other side of the road for practical reasons, for only by doing that can we provide for the work which the House may be required to carry out in the years immediately ahead.
On the other side of the road could be placed many of the restaurant services 942 which Members may wish to develop further. I do not think that it is desirable to encourage the kind of development of which the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) spoke—the misuse of the services of the House by which many hon. Members foster dinners for outside organisations which have no connection with the work of the House. But it is necessary to provide these facilities for some of the Committees of the House. For example, I am Chairman of the British-Yugoslav Parliamentary Association, and we wish to entertain the ambassador and some members of the embassy at least once a year, but when it comes to making arrangements it requires six months or more before we can find a date on which we can arrange such a function.
An adequate number of small rooms should be available for that kind of entertainment to be offered by hon. Members in connection with work of the House. I do not see how we can do that unless we provide bigger restaurant facilities on the other side of the road. It is not a serious inconvenience for hon. Members to go over the road for dinner or lunch and then to return to the House later. I suggest that we should reject out of hand this suggestion of expanding the existing building and should develop the site on the other side of the road.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
What my hon. Friend said is of great importance and rather original. Would he, for instance, extend that principle to embrace the idea of there being a division of function between the old and the new buildings so that the Parliamentary work was done in the old building and the amenity provisions were provided in the new building?
§ Mr. Parker
I would not draw too rigid a line. Most of the restaurant services could go over the road, but not the restaurant facilities for Members when they are not entertaining guests. I feel that we should keep the Library services, in the main, close to the House, although the storage of books could be elsewhere; many of the books in the Library could be stored over the other side of the road. I welcome the suggestion of the Leader of the House that we should have a meeting hall in addition to the present rooms which are available. That could be over the road, as 943 could the television and broadcasting facilities. On the whole, I am in favour of putting many amenities over there while keeping near the House those services which Members need for their own use.
§ Mr. Roberts
I would include the Library and the Library facilities together in the old building, because they are essential and a major part of purely Parliamentary work. I would not like to think of transferring the Library to the new building.
§ Mr. Parker
I quite agree, but the storage of books is a different matter. Many of them could be stored over there. It is common for libraries to have books stored some way away. If the books can easily be obtained, if they are not too far away, that is satisfactory.
One or two features of the Holford Plan, which have been attacked in this debate, had merits in them. I personally believe that the lower part of the building along Bridge Street should have shops. I do not think that this House should wipe out all shops from this area. This matter is of importance not only to Members of the House. We have been told that nearly 3,000 people work in this building. A large number of civil servants and others work around Whitehall. They want services, such as shops, in the area. It is not only that they want to eat in other places than their canteens. They want to buy medicines and all sorts of things in the lunch hour and when going to and from work. There are already an inadequate number of shops in the Whitehall area. Therefore, it is highly desirable that in rebuilding the site on the other side of the road we should keep a row of shops there.
One of the best views of the House is from the St. Stephen's Restaurant, on the first floor. Guests of Members who look out of the windows there get a very fine view of the Palace of Westminster. I believe that it was from there that the Christmas Card was drawn last year which Members circulated to their constituents. Some part of the restaurant facilities there should be available to the public. I do not see why parts should not be available to both the public and to Members, with Members having first call on them, but 944 with the public having the right to use them at other times, particularly when the House is not sitting. We should think of the public as well as of Members of the House when we decide how to rebuild the area opposite.
I turn to the question of style. A new building need not be in the Gothic style of this building. There is a strong case for having any new building in the modern style. However, I should like to answer one or two points which have been made about the possible extension of this building. I strongly agree with the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) that if the present building is extended it is difficult to see how anything else can be done except build it in the Gothic style.
The Guardian, the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), and others, have made the point that there are many places—Oxford and Cambridge colleges have been instanced—where attractive buildings are in many different styles. I heartily agree. That is not what we are arguing about. The Barry building is a complete entity in itself. It was designed to surround Westminster Hall. It is as complete a unit as a Georgian square. It would be quite wrong to add a modern piece to that. It would stick out like a sore thumb. It would be a very ugly addition. If this building is to be added to, as it is a complete unity it should be in the same style.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
The hon. Gentleman has referred to The Guardian. Perhaps he saw the leading article today, which made great play of the fact that Members from Oxford and Cambridge had a majority on the Committee. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Christ Church, Oxford, which was the college of two Members of the Committee, has buildings in the Gothic manner which were erected in 1525, 1664, 1682 and 1870? Yet Tom Quod is a harmonious whole.
§ Mr. Parker
I am not arguing about the question of a building of many different periods and styles. If the old Palace of Westminster had not been burnt down—it was already in many different styles by different architects—there would have been a case for adding a different style. It is true that there is a mixture of styles in some Oxford and 945 Cambridge colleges. I am not arguing about that. My point is that it is not proper to add a completely different style to a building which is of a unified style. One would not add in a different style to St. Paul's Cathedral. At the present time baroque furniture of one kind and another is being put in there to replace Renaissance furniture on the ground that the Italian Renaissance pulpit, and so on, did not fit the baroque building. If the Palace of Westminster is added to, it should be in the same style, because the building is a unity.
I must make it clear to the House that I do not want to add to this building. I want a new building. A new building should be in a modern style. The question is: what kind of modern styles do we want? We do not want a conventional "funk" building. We do not want the kind of 1950 building of which so many examples exist—such as the Shell building. We want a building which will be a bit further ahead. We want to avoid the clichés employed by the right hon. Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) about a mid-twentieth century building for the mid-twentieth century. We are all tired of the clichés of the architectural schools and the architectural journalists in The Times, The Guardian, and so on, who keep preaching to us that we want functional buildings with no decoration. Such buildings have a sort of Puritan, excessive, austere zeal with nothing to appeal to people in the way of decoration of any kind.
Mr. Pevsner has been mentioned in the debate frequently. What Pevsner has said which is of great interest is that English people do not like blank spaces. If they see a blank space, sooner or later they want to fill it up. That is true of the great mass of English people. The reaction which is already under way against the excessive architectural Puritanism of the 1940s and 1950s is already leading to a desire for more decoration. Why should we not have more decoration on buildings? Decoration has been achieved already in some cases by putting pieces of coloured glass along the sides of buildings. This is not a highly attractive form of decoration. Cladding, which is what the outside of a modern building has, should not only clad, it should also decorate. I hope that in any new building designed, the architects will have, as 946 my hon. Friend the Member for Barking said, a little fantasy in their design.
I myself do not see why we should not have fantasy with a Gothic motif. After all, some of the finest modern American buildings have pointed arches and pointed decorations somewhere or other. One can have a Gothic motif quite as twemtieth century as Georgian Gothick is eighteenth century. I am not saying that we should necessarily have a building with a Gothic motif, but I should have said that taking the whole of Parliament Square—Westminster Hall, Barry's work, the Abbey, and that rather attractive art nouveau Gothic of Middlesex Guildhall—another Gothic motif in the area would be quite attractive and would set off the existing Gothic buildings. It could aesthetically be a Gothic building. There must be some attractive form of decoration. I do not say that it should necessarily be Gothic, but I do not rule out the possibility that it could have a Gothic motif.
That is what is desired. We must not on any account have a building which is like the Shell block. One sees that type of "funk" building so frequently in the City of London nowadays. We must move forward to the 1960s and 1970s in the form of design, with the decoration swinging away from the austere Puritanism of the earlier period of this kind of modern building.
Much has been said about having desirable proportions for the building. On the whole, I agree, but there is a very great danger in compromise buildings. A compromise modern building usually means Georgian proportions and mock Victorian sash windows. I should have thought that such a thing should be absolutely ruled out for the site over the road.
In my opinion, the Palace of Westminster is a very important part of the whole mystique of Parliament to the general public. Members over the years have been very hard-working taking people round the buildings. Members talk then not only about the work they do. They talk not only about the little points of history, which may or may not be of interest to visitors. They have also managed to impress upon the public the fact that this building is important and interesting and is an essential part 947 not only of the history of Parliament but of the present-day life of Parliament. Anything we do to this building must be done with a view to maintaining in the public image the fact that it is a fine building. The extension must be a fine building. It must be a worthy extension. We must not in any way damage the building as it is at present, but we must make it workmanlike and efficient.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
At the end of his speech the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) referred to the beauties of the Palace of Westminster. As in all the speeches today, one theme has run through them; that sooner or later hon. Members have come to love this place. That has been the theme underlying all speeches and, as the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) aptly put it, this is our workshop.
As time passes hon. Members may come to love the traditions and ceremonies of this House; Mr. Speaker's procession, Black Rod, or the rather decorous ways in which we refer to one another; hon. and learned, hon. and gallant and so on. They may, likewise, value the friendships which they make, remembering that friendships extend right across the Floor of the House. However, this building has an effect on all of us and I vividly remember in 1944 the debate about the rebuilding of this House in which we are now sitting, in a mood of great optimism—this at a time when Operation Overlord had not been launched and when Hitler was still the master of Europe. In that debate my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) referred to the influence St. Stephen's Chapel had had on the development of English Parliamentary procedure and he said, "We form our buildings and afterwards they form us." How true that is today in our work.
The story of this place each day is a varied one. It is true that life centres around hon. Members, who come here to collect their letters, write their speeches in the Libraries, attend Committees, speak on the Floor of the House or talk on topics of the day in the tea and smoking rooms. But perhaps we tend to forget the great many other people who every 948 day come here. I refer, of course, to the staff who clean, the people who cook our meals, the Press, who spend long hours in the Gallery upstairs listening to what we hope is our wisdom, and the police who guard us.
I wish to say a word, first, about the Press and their accommodation. Other hon. Members have referred to the restricted space given to them. Like other hon. Members, I have gone to see some of the rooms where members of the Press must compose their stories and dictate them to their newspapers. The only description I can give of those places is that they resemble the heat and noise of one of those remarkable pom-poms the Navy used at the beginning of the last war to shoot down low-flying aircraft. The Press cafeteria, particularly at busy times, resembles the congestion in a scrum at a rugger international at Twickenham. The lodging of the Press demands greater space in this building.
Then there are the people who must be fed here. My hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher), the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, referred to some of the difficulties of cooking in this place. I wonder how many hon. Members realise that there are four kitchens here, one which cooks for hon. Members and strangers, one for the Press, one for the cafeteria and one for those who eat in Westminster Hall—the police and other members of the staff. I gather that this creates many difficulties and that those experienced in cooking know that one kitchen, apart from Westminster Hall, would facilitate the preparation of food throughout the building, if that could be centralised and organised.
I turn to the question of ourselves, the hon. Members of this House. I have previously said that I have been fortunate in being perhaps one of the few hon. Members to have a flat nearby. I have long discovered that what Gladstone or someone else said about this being a place in which one can neither work nor relax is quite true. I come here primarily for information, to listen to speeches or to take part in Committees upstairs. I find it extremely hard to compose a speech here and only upon returning to the silence of my flat am I able to do so properly. Thus, 949 I understand the position of hon. Members, particularly those who come great distances and who have nowhere save their bed-sitting rooms, rooms in lodging houses or lobbies or lounges in small hotels in which to compose their speeches. These hon. Members in particular need more space in which to work and to prepare to make their contributions to our debates.
I submit that the argument I have put forward in regard to the Press, the staff and ourselves is an argument in favour of the greater extension for which we ask in our Report. Where is this extension to be placed? Obviously the ideal solution is to have an enclosure within the Palace of Westminster itself, where hon. Members can go at their ease and compose speeches and letters and be not so far so that in the event of the Division bell sounding they are able to reach the Lobby quite easily.
There is, too, the psychological aspect of working in the one building, for it is rather like sitting around the same table. As I say, this is the ideal solution, but I also appreciate that one question needs to be answered; that of traffic. We were advised by the Ministry of Transport in our Committee that the least objectionable solution would be the construction of a road between Scotland Yard and the addition. It may be that in future, if the traffic becomes absolutely appalling and if, as we are told, we will have 17 million vehicles on our roads by 1970 and 30 million by 2000, the traffic of London may prove an insuperable problem—and this must be judged not in terms of isolation for Westminster but for London as a whole. I repeat, therefore, that a precinct is the ideal solution, if traffic permits it to be so.
I turn, finally, to the question of Whitehall and I wish to argue for the retention of the Foreign Office. Though a fine building, it is obvious that the Foreign Office does not have the grace or elegance of our great eighteenth century buildings. Nevertheless, it represents the heyday of the Victorian era and I believe that the principle we should follow is this; that as public taste changes, an attempt should be made to preserve the best building of every century and generation. For this reason, I plead that the Foreign Office should be retained in its present form.
950 Whenever I go by the Foreign Office or walk over that bridge in St. James's Park and look at its silhouette, I cannot help recalling the first time I handed my passport in to the authorities at Calais. It read:I, George Nathaniel Curzon, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Aairs, Member of the Noble Order of the Garter …That marvellous phrase must have had an effect on the gerdarme studying my passport. It conjured up the picture of an imperious gentleman covered with decorations like the sacred image in a Mexican church. The majestic phrase no doubt made the French official studying my passport consider that he had been presented with a broadside from a battleship.
The Foreign Office building should be retained. It is vitally important, if Whitehall is to be rebuilt, that it should be rebuilt not piecemeal but as a whole. The history of Whitehall is important in the history of the nation. Hon. Members who went round the new Treasury building the other day were impressed by the retention of the remains of the Tudor Palace. From Tudor times onwards Whitehall has been the centre of government. Charles I came down Whitehall to arrest the five Members and stepped out of the window of the Banqueting Hall to his execution. Here Walpole had the amiable habit of opening letters from his gamekeeper before State dispatches. Here the Elder and Younger Pitt with silver tongues defended England in her hour of need. Here came Disraeli and Gladstone and finally my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir Winston Churchill). Whitehall must have a unified development.
It may be that in a future generation, someone will travel down Whitehall and say, looking at the glass boxes on either side, "I wonder which civil servant is getting on and which is fighting to the death like Siamese fighting fish?"
But, whether glass box or no, it must be on a unified plan. If it is not so, if some future Minister of Works will not agree to this, I give warning that I shall return to this place as a poltergeist; the Minister will find important papers suddenly scattered from his red Dispatch Box, ink pots whistling at his head in 951 "No" Lobby, and anonymous notes falling on the Cabinet table accusing him to the Prime Minister of horrible crimes. Whitehall must be developed as a whole.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
I do not intend to debate whether the development should be in the Gothic, the neo-Gothic, or any other style. Quite frankly, I agree heartily with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) that this place is our workshop, and the country will expect us to see that the development gives precedence to the efficiency and effectiveness of Members of Parliament over any questions of architectural design. I admit quite frankly that I know very little about architecture—and it is not my custom to pretend—but this place is our workshop; it is here that we legislate for the country and do business in relation to the nations of the world, and it is on that basis that we should form our views.
First, we should see to the improvement of our library facilities. These are now totally inadequate and give a margin of advantage to the Minister—any Minister; this applies equally to a Minister in some future Labour Government. The lack of adequate library facilities gives Ministers a tremendous margin. We back benchers, who are proud to work here every day and who do so uncomplainingly, want to make our voices much more effective and our criticism much more informed so that we can keep any Government on their toes. If we fail to do that, we fail the nation.
There are those in this House who serve it loyally, day in and day out, and who have received very little mention in this debate, who, when they read tomorrow the very tedious expressions of some hon. Members about Gothic architecture, etc., etc.—the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) went to very great lengths to give his own particular views on architecture—will read with intense disappointment.
I was approached by certain of our staff to look at the conditions in which they work. Before I did so, I sought permission, which was freely given to me—indeed, I was given a guide. I found that our own postal facilities are almost totally inadequate. What has 952 been said about the restricted amount of space for the Press may be correct, but I have seen the Press accommodation, and the facilities there are far better than anything our own postal people have. Their accommodation is very cramped. I was told that it was very cramped in 1950, and that since then there has been a 10 per cent. increase in the amount of mail. These people are definitely restricted in the performance of their tasks which, with the coming of the second-class mail which they are now expected to handle, are becoming heavier and heavier.
The young telegraph boys—young juniors—perform a very good job, but we should all do well to look at where those young lads have to work, and listen to their description of this place. It would not be at all complimentary, nor should it be. These are some of the factors we must have in mind. These people serve the House well and, because of that, are entitled to be served just as well.
Then there are the repair shops, the workshops, and so on. Reference has been made to certain rooms that have natural light only at certain hours, but are hon. Members aware that in some of our workshops the people who supply our light, our heat and all the conveniences that make it possible to work here in congenial circumstances, are below ground every minute of every day?
These are some of the things which I should like to see dealt with first. I say that with all due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East, who said that we all want personal rooms. That might be necessary for some, but I think that I work as hard as the average back bencher and, at the moment, I can manage without a room of my own. But whether or not that is a matter of debate, the point is that there should be a system of priority, and first priority should, in the main, be given to the people to whom I have referred.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does my hon. Friend see any objection to many of the staff for whom he is rightly sticking up moving to, for instance, the old Board of Trade building?
§ Mr. Jones
I should not mind where they were housed, but I hope that my 953 hon. Friend will bear in mind that all these developments and modifications must take time, money and building skill. Before using money, building skill and building materials on improving our own conditions, which are tolerable, we should deal with the people who serve us.
I refer now to the Vote Office store. Again, this place is underground. Its only access is a rickety-rackety staircase. This is where our records are kept. If a fire broke out, it would be a death trap for the people there. If an hon. Member goes to the Vote Office seeking information, the people there have to gallop down this little gallery—it can be better described as a rabbit warren—to obtain that information. My view is that that place, which means so much to hon. Members, functions only because of the intimate knowledge of the people who work there. In short, if the existing team were taken away and another team were put in, it would be unable to do the job. These are some of the things which need attention before we talk about adequate facilities for hon. Members.
Let me turn to the question of hygiene. I have seen a garbage van less than five yards from our cooking houses. While I was there last week with other people, I saw refuse tipped into it and all the dust floated, apparently, into the kitchen. I had Aberdeen in mind. At the time of the Aberdeen typhoid outbreak, we talked a great deal about hygiene. It is about time that we realised what was happening in this place and put our own house in order. I am given to understand that the supervisors know about this and that they have plans to ensure that it is cured. I hope that there is no question of denying the money when these people put their suggestions to the correct authorities, because at the moment there is no doubt that what is happening is a danger to health.
I should like to say a few words about the girls who serve us by taking dictation, doing typing and providing essential services. I wonder whether hon. Members are aware that one of these girls collapsed with sickness and, fortunately, was attended by an hon. Member who is a member of the medical profession. However, when she wanted 954 rest she was compelled to lay full length in a ladies' toilet. If that happened in any industrial factory, there would be a strike immediately, and justifiably so.
We see the importance of these matters only if we consider how we should feel if it were our own wife, mother or daughter who was placed in that undignified and dangerous position. I cannot understand for the life of me why a room cannot be provided in this building with a State-registered nurse in attendance so that these girls could obtain sound first aid at moments like the one to which I have just referred.
Are we admitting that while we want Gothic or neo-Gothic changes, or all other kinds of architectural opulence for this place, we cannot provide such a room for those people, without whom this place would grind to a halt? I strongly suggest, therefore, that when it comes to spending money, we should see that the first claims upon our time and upon building skill and materials are given to the people to whom I have referred.
I am aware that other hon. Members wish to speak and for this reason I have streamlined what I intended to say. I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher), who is Chairman of the Kitchen Committee and who referred to what should be done for his staff. I have a reference to this in my notes but will not use it because the Chairman of the Committee has already said it. I reinforce his remarks by saying that the contributions of hon. Members must be listened to, because the staff of that department also are poorly housed and shabbily treated.
Those people serve the House remarkably well. The House would grind to a halt without them. Consequently, before adding to our own facilities, however much improvement might be needed, we should serve the people who serve us so well and treat them before we treat ourselves with any time, material and money that is available.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Captain John Litchfield (Chelsea)
I warmly support the views and feelings 955 of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. D. Jones) about the importance of making proper provision for the staff of this Palace. It may be a little presumptuous for a comparative newcomer to express views on the subject of the Motion and particularly to express disagreement with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee. I am, however, the first Member representing a Central London constituency to be called tonight and the proposals which we are considering are of great consequence for Central London.
I also represent a constituency which has a renowned association with the arts. Furthermore, I have a small personal interest in this matter, because I live in a house within a few minutes' cycling distance of this place from which I remember my great uncle, when I was a small boy and he was a very old man, telling me that he had witnessed the flames of the Old Palace of Westminster when it was burning down in 1834.
It is implicit in the recommendations for the redevelopment of the Palace of Westminster and the Bridge Street area that this redevelopment should be co-ordinated closely with the replanning of Whitehall as a whole. With this I agree very much indeed. Similarly, it follows that the redevelopment of the part of Whitehall which is to be replanned should be dealt with as a whole and not piecemeal.
I am entirely in agreement with my hon. Friend that the Foreign Office should not be dealt with as a single unit without co-ordinating the whole redevelopment. On that aspect, I particularly hope that at least the St. James's. Park façade of the Foreign Office will, if possible, be preserved, and particularly those splendid rooms which my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal knows so well. I recall the ambassadors' waiting room there, which, as those who visited the Foreign Office a few weeks ago will remember, is dominated by a huge portrait of the fourth Earl of Sandwich dressed as a Turk on horseback, which brought forth the comment at the time, "Good God! Hinch in fancy dress."
The form and site of any extension of the Palace of Westminster will clearly have a dominating effect on the replanning of Bridge Street and the Parliament 956 Street area of Whitehall, not only from the point of view of architectural co-ordination but also from the point of view of available site boundaries and traffic replanning. This House is clearly going to get what it wants when it has made up its mind in terms of any extension, in one form or another, of this Palace, and it is, therefore, I submit, the addition in one form or another to this building which ought to be the starting point from which all other considerations should proceed.
For the moment, therefore, whether this extension or annexe or whatever we may call it is Gothic or in some other style seems to me to be irrelevant. The design and style of any new Parliamentary building will certainly be influenced very considerably by whether or not it is physically integrated with the existing structure or is a separate building; and whether it is an extension of this Palace physically, or whether it is a separate building, of course depends on just what the requirements are.
It is quite clear, and accepted, I think, by everybody—I think there has been no disagreement on this point today—that very many Members would like to have private rooms to themselves, and, indeed, many of them really need them. I will not go into the question of all the additional facilities which have been discussed tonight. I just want briefly to go into the question of private rooms for private Members, because that is the governing consideration in whether we build on the other side of the road, or stay on this side of the road.
This requirement for private rooms—I think, again, we are in agreement—does not apply to every Member, nor is it ever likely to apply to every Member of this House. Some hon. Members, like myself, are lucky enough to be able to do most of their correspondence in their own homes; others, perhaps, are able to do it in offices not far away. Nevertheless, many Members would be glad to have accommodation within the Parliamentary building, and that means either inside or closely alongside this one. The question is, what is really the essential use of these private rooms? If we can clear our minds on this point it will be very much easier to see now necessary it really would be that these additional rooms should be closely adjacent to this Chamber.
957 Surely these private rooms are essentially required as havens in which hon. Members who have not other facilities in their own homes or offices can conduct their paper work, in most cases, probably in the mornings, or later in the day when there is no debate of interest taking place or no Division imminent. I have some experience because, as I have said, I work in my own house not very far away from this building, only a few minutes' bicycle ride from here, and I do my paper work there. I do not find it inconvenient to come over here in the afternoon and sign off the results of last night's work, or this morning's work, in the Library or one of the writing rooms or in the Lobbies. Therefore, I myself very much question the strength of the argument that if Members are to have private rooms, they must necessarily be within this Palace or within some physical extension of it. There is not time to go into all the details that could be raised on this point, but I must go on record as saying that I am far from convinced that they must be, so to speak, within these four walls.
Not only is it unnecessary to have the rooms within the structure of the Palace itself, but I see many objections, many of which have been already mentioned in the debate, to providing a large number of private rooms for private Members inside this Palace. I have not been long in this place, but I have been here long enough to understand that this is not just, or even primarily, a place of work. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Burnley would agree with this, but although we sit on opposite sides in the Chamber, we are a community with many common bonds and traditions and loyalties that are outside party allegiances, and our enjoyment of one another's company is not divided along party lines—far from it. All this seems to me to depend on sharing a great many common facilities even if some are not awfully convenient. We share Lobbies, the Smoking Room, bars, libraries, writing rooms and so on. I do not think it would necessarily be an advance to encourage hon. Members to stuff themselves away in little private dens too conveniently just round the corner. It might adversely change the whole character of our Par- 958 liamentary life and weaken in some respects the sense of belonging to a single community, which we feel at the moment. We might then tend to come together only in this Chamber, where it may well be said that the better sides of our characters are not always necessarily uppermost.
If these thoughts command some acceptance, does it not follow that a new and separate Parliamentary building on the other side of the road might adequately meet essential needs? This would immediately introduce a very great simplification and easement of the controversial architectural problem, into which I will not venture tonight. Furthermore, it would render it necessary to think further about the proposal to build a new arm of the Palace slap across Bridge Street, to which as a London Member I must declare my opposition. Frankly, I consider that to put a new building, whether it is Gothic, Roman, Perpendicular, Tudor or any other style, right across the end of Westminster Bridge would be an act of extraordinary vandalism, and I could never support it, in any style.
The first sight of the Palace of Westminster with a corner of the Government building at the end of Whitehall beyond it, and a glimpse of St. James's Park with the greenery and trees behind, the whole prospect dominated by the Clock Tower rising sheer from ground level—this is really one of the impressive sights of London, and it is something that we should be careful and jealous to preserve. Moreover, it is the first prospect which many foreign visitors driving up from the coast have of central London, as they cross Westminster Bridge.
§ Mrs. Evelyn Emmet (East Grinstead)
As my hon. Friend has mentioned the point, I feel that one cannot let the discussion go without quoting:Earth has not anything to show more fair:Dull would be he of soul who could pass byA sight so touching in its majesty ".I was hoping that my hon. Friend would give that quotation.
§ Captain Litchfield
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for supplying that quotation. It is very appropriate.
In the Committee's recommendations, it is proposed to block this prospect by 959 erecting a solid wall right across the end of Westminster Bridge. Not only would this entirely block the view beyond the end of the bridge which my hon. Friend and I admire so much, but it would introduce not one but three right-angled traffic turns between Westminster Bridge and Parliament Square. There is no time to go into this traffic angle tonight, but we are all only too familiar with the chaotic state of Parliament Square at the moment, and the situation at the end of Westminster Bridge, and I cannot think of anything more disastrous from the traffic point of view than to complicate it still further.
Instead of blocking out the present glimpse of St. James's Park, which is so pleasant from Westminster Bridge, I hope that in the replanning and redevelopment of Whitehall and the new Parliamentary building it will be possible to open up still further that view, of the Park. Although it is a little outside our subject, I hope that my right hon. Friend will take an opportunity to inspect the small brick building at the corner of the park opposite the Ministry of Defence and that he will have it removed here and now. At present it is an obstruction in the present view. In all these things, the extension of this place will influence the replanning of the Government buildings in Whitehall.
May I, therefore, summarise my feelings. First, while some internal changes are obviously desirable in the present Palace to improve the existing facilities, not only for hon. Members but for the staff and guests, the main requirement—for additional rooms for hon. Members—should be provided in a new building not forming an integral part of this Palace, and that should be across the road.
Secondly, the approach to Parliament Square and beyond from Westminster Bridge, far from being interrupted by a new wall across the end of the bridge, should be opened up by substantially setting back the building line of the new Parliamentary building and the new Government buildings in Whitehall, so as to open up a new and wider prospect of St. James's Park.
We have an opportunity in this Parliamentary generation which comes very rarely. We all recognise the importance 960 of the convenience of hon. Members and of the staff and of officials in Whitehall. But these are not the only consideration. I hope that my right hon. Friends will take equal account of the aesthetic considerations which arise in this replanning.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Westlothian)
It is not a question of stuffing oneself away. The trouble that many of us find in coming here for the first time is that routine work takes three times as long as it should and expends three times the volume of energy it should. It is for this reason that many of us would like to see what can be done now, not only in the precincts but around the Chamber itself.
I must ask why it is necessary for the Serjeant at Arms to have 17 rooms within easy walking distance of the Chamber. Could he not live at St. James's Palace? If the argument is that he must live in the Palace, why cannot the same thing be said of the Government Chief Whip and the Opposition Chief Whip? I must also ask why the Deputy Serjeant at Arms has to live quite so close, with four rooms and two extra rooms that could be converted for hon. Members?
A number of my hon. Friends and I put down a Motion to amend the powers of the Lord Great Chamberlain not only on principle. Our charge is that the Lord Great Chamberlain has failed to do the job he should do. That job is to exploit every nook and cranny in the Palace. Not 110 steps from the Bar of this House I can show any hon. Member three completely unused dusty rooms. Down St. Stephen's Hall, opposite a room used by the staff and up a staircase, there are three unused rooms which could easily become offices. Why is it that the Parade Room, with 690 square ft., is unused? I discovered there a man pressing his trousers. Is that right? Is it right that one of the most beautiful, elegant rooms in this Palace should be used for this purpose?
Earlier on, I returned to the subject which was raised by the Leader of the House. Is it really necessary that there should be not merely mammoth workshops and woodwork rooms but also a forge in the Palace? Those of us who have gone round believe that an architect of experience in converting slums in 961 Sheffield, Leeds or Glasgow could very easily convert enough rooms in this Palace for use by hon. Members. In addition if the rooms used by the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords, the Examiner of Private Bills, the Examiner of Local Acts, the Crown Office, the 29 rooms in the Lord Chancellor's private residence and the 24 rooms which he occupies for his office could be taken over, there would be 140 rooms at a minimum calculation available for Members of Parliament.
I believe that we should serve an eviction order on all those who are not elected Members of Parliament and that the appropriate day on which this eviction order should expire would be Thursday, 5th November, 1964.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has had to curtail his interesting speech, but in typical fashion he has made his points pithfully and pungently and got in more in one minute than most of us do in an hour.
I think we would all agree that this has been an excellent debate. It is one of the best attended debates on accommodation that I have experienced. I admit that the Chamber is a little empty at the moment, but that is because I am speaking; no doubt the House will fill up before the Minister of Public Building and Works rises to his feet. The interest that has been shown by hon. Members on both sides of the House and the eagerness to take part in the debate show how right we were on Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee to come to a firm, courageous and provocative decision.
Obviously, the word "Gothic" concentrates the mind wonderfully. It even inspired the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) to take part in an accommodation debate, which is an innovation in our affairs much to be welcomed. Although for a time he served as Minister of Works, he has not to my knowledge ever asked a Parliamentary Question about the facilities of Members of Parliament or shown any interest in their working conditions up to now. By including the word "Gothic" in our Report, I anticipated that we had given him an opening for 962 his wit, and, sure enough, he had a great deal of fun at our expense. I cannot hope to emulate his wit, but listening I was reminded of a poem of Browning with which he may be familiar. Of him I would say, heFound the one gift of which fortune bereft usLost all the others she lets us devote.We shall have to go on devoting ourselves to the problems of M.P.s facilities no doubt in the future without his help.
The recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee have inspired a vivid reaction in the Press. One gentleman, I think an architect, wrote a letter in The Guardian saying:We have heard of the vandals, but who are these Goths.These Goths are Members of Parliament who have succeeded in doing what no other Committee on accommodation has succeeded in doing in the past. We have stimulated widespread public interest and debate in the working conditions of M.P.s. We have been treated to leading articles in The Times and The Guardian today on these problems. This is something on which we should be congratulated.
I want to thank the Leader of the House for the spirited speech with which he introduced the debate. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) that this is the sort of lead which we have been waiting for on this accommodation issue and which we have certainly not had from any other Leader of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not only the Leader of the House but has chaired one of the advisory committees and, in doing so, has identified himself with the rights and needs of back bench M.P.s. Up to now he has been the only member of the Government prepared to spell out the rights of Members in terms.
Most of the initial outcry about our proposals, as much of the debate today, has been about style. Style is the least important aspect of our recommendations. It was quite ancillary, following from other important matters of principle. Our proposal to build a new arm to the Palace of Westminster in Gothic style was only a way of highlighting the choice which this Parliament has to-make.
963 The debate has not even been about the accommodation of Members. It has been about something much wider. The issue has always been much wider than that ever since the Stokes Committee, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West served with such distinction, first blazed the way. What the debate is about, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. D. Jones) pointed out, is the failure of Parliament to adapt the physical provision for Members to the new tasks which they are, or ought to be, performing. It is also a debate about our equally important failure to provide working conditions for the officers of the House, the staff of the House and the Press in tune with modern standards.
Some hon. Members have said how shocking it would be and what a bad lead from Parliament it would be if we were to have a new arm in the Gothic style, but would it not be a worse lead to the country for Parliament, which is always telling other people to modernise themselves, to fail to modernise itself and to be content to trundle along with archaic facilities for doing its own job? Here we are in the age of automation and Parliament does not even provide Members with typewriters, secretaries or individual desks. What kind of lead is that to give to the country, or to the business community to whom we are inclined to preach?
It is farcical that at a time when we are mechanising everything from coal mining to clerical work we still have Members writing letters in longhand on borrowed tables in the Library or in the interview rooms. It is against that background that our Report must be discussed. The Report is merely the climax to a long series of reports in which a number of us have persisted for years in an endeavour to educate the Government and Members of Parliament themselves about the sort of place which Parliament ought to be.
If we believe—and I understand that some hon. Members do—that Parliament's check on the Executive ought to be amateurish and ineffectual, we 964 will not take the subject of accommodation seriously. We will stick by the status quo which some hon. Members seem to suggest would be satisfactory. But if we want to restore the authority of Parliament in this country, then only a root and branch solution of the problem will do.
I detected rather an alarming note of complacency in some of the speeches. Some hon. Members seemed to be saying: We get along all right. We do not want to spoil the character and atmosphere of Parliament. But are they sure that the public outside have such a high esteem of us as we operate at present as they seemed to imply? Are they sure that Parliament is not under severe criticism for clinging to the age of the amateur in the age of the scientific revolution?
My former right hon. Friend, Hugh Gaitskell, spelt out our attitude in the debate in 1960 when he said:The real choice before us is this. Are we to go on tinkering with this problem, or should we really try to find a permanent solution?".He added:I have no doubt about what the answer should be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1960; Vol. 620, c. 1570.]Successive Committees have reinforced the view expressed by the Stokes Committee, which said:Only by extensive building operations can there be a long-term and satisfactory solution of the problems of providing facilities and services equal to those enjoyed by Members of Parliament elsewhere in the Commonwealth.I hope that that is the view of the majority of the House, because I agreed with the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) when he said that a bits and pieces solution would not do any more.
The Stokes Committee discovered a second point. It was that Members not only want more accommodation but they want that accommodation to be accessible to the debating Chamber. That Committee considered that the facilities for Members should be the central focus of Parliamentary life and of the arrangements of Parliament. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross) who referred to this, but I think that it 965 is worth repeating. The Stokes Committee sent a questionnaire to Members asking them what further facilities they would like, and 60 per cent. said that they would make substantial use of an individual desk. That is all that we were aiming at then. So low had we set our sights that 60 per cent. said that they would make substantial use of an individual desk if they could get one, but only 19 per cent. said that they would want to use that desk if it were not in the Palace but in what we like to call the immediate vicinity.
From inquiries made since then, and from subsequent debates, it is clear that Members' demands have been growing. Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee sent out another questionnaire in 1960 about facilities. Replies were received from 285 Members, and about 78 per cent. said that they wanted more accommodation. If, or should I say when, we get a proper financial settlement for Members, and we recognise in financial terms the need to provide such things as secretarial facilities, the demand for this accommodation will increase enormously.
We have heard today, and on previous occasions, that Members not only want an individual desk and a room to themselves, or part of a room to themselves, but better Library facilities. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Putney. The Library has not received enough support from the authorities in the House in the past. The situation cannot remain as it is. Apart from our wanting a higher standard of service from the Library translation service, and other facilities of that kind, the Library Committee has warned us that its present 9,000 sq. ft. is inadequate for the normal development of facilities. It has estimated that by 1984 it will need a minimum of 5,000 sq. ft. We are warned that storage space is running out and that it will be exhausted in ten years' time. We have to provide for these things.
I endorse everything said by hon. Members. Some of us do not believe that we are being given, through the Library, the facilities that Members of Parliament must have today. That is through no fault of the staff but because the staff provided is not adequate. The United States Congress has a legislative reference service with a staff of 190 966 qualified people. Even after all the agitation of some of us for increased facilities in the Library, all we have today is one Librarian and 13 library clerks who are fully trained graduates. That is all we think that our Parliament requires, and, of course, it will not do. When we ask for more research facilities, as the hon. Member for Putney was right to point out, it will involve considerably enlarged Library accommodation. If we get research assistants, presumably they must have rooms and access to the information they want. We have seven research workers including statisticians for the whole of the inquiries of a House of Commons of over 600 Members of Parliament. If that is thought adequate, someone is not doing his homework.
One could go on. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, facilities for the Press are pretty near a scandal. I have here a report which the Press Gallery has put in about the present accommodation in which members of the Gallery have to work. It is fantastic that we should expect them to tolerate it. We find that within the whole Gallery there is only one working room which meets the minimum conditions laid down in the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act. They complain that the heating is erratic; that the ventilation is inadequate; that the premises are shabby and rarely painted and often inadequately cleaned. There are frequent complaints about the lighting. Can we wonder that some of the reports of our proceedings are a little critical?
That is the need. Let us look at the arithmetic of space. We know that when the roof scheme is completed we shall have an additional 19,000 sq. ft., 51 rooms for Member of Parliament and room for 25 secretaries. The difficulty which we have to face is that we have outgrown the present site. It is not good enough for The Times to say, as it does this morning, and as some Members of Parliament have said in this debate, that if we went through the existing accommodation with a toothcomb we could find more space. Some of us have been doing that for years. This is where I agree with the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan). We have traipsed this building and we know. It is impossible to say that the problem can be solved within the existing premises in that way.
967 We have two alternatives, to build an annexe across the road or an extension to the Palace. The key question is, if it is to be an annexe, who is to occupy it? The cry that rings through the House is not so much, "Who goes home?" as "Who goes across the road?". It is extremely interesting, and here again this has been the experience of our Committee, that we are told it is no hardship for us to go across the road, but whenever we suggest that officers or other facilities should go they have powerful reasons why they should not move. "Oh", says the Fees Office, "We cannot go, it would be so inconvenient." And, "Oh," says the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, "we cannot go, we do not wish to be divorced from the heart of Parliament." If it is not good enough for them, why should it be good enough for Members of Parliament?
Whatever excellent work officers do, at least they do not have Divisions to attend. When I am told that it is perfectly all right, we can get on roller skates and go under the subway to Division Lobbies, I think of my experience. I have a room temporarily on the Bridge Street site. Even with roller skates and a lift which works instead of the one which does not at present, no one could afford to go over there to do work if Divisions were being called every half-hour or so. The sheer time-wasting of going backwards and forwards is intolerable.
That is why the Committee has recommended a new arm to be attached to the Palace as an integral part of it. If we accept that, it is no good underestimating the stylistic difficulty. We were arguing about the functional problem. That was the basis of our approach, the functional, not the aesthetic approach. The whole point was that we wanted to end the bottlenecks caused by lifts. We have some modern lifts between this floor and the interviewing floor. Many of us have to run up and down stairs because the lift has been snatched by Ministers on the Ministers' floor. There is a catch-as-catch-can every time the Division bell goes. If we have to do this ten times a day on top of our other work, why should we have to run up and down the stairs?
968 Direct internal access to the existing buildings should be provided at all levels. The whole point of having an arm attached to this building is that the floor levels would be followed in the extension. As hon. Members have pointed out, this affects the elevation and the style. This restricts us in the approach to the problem. It seemed to follow logically that as the floor levels were to be the same then the architectural style would be followed automatically. If we can get over these difficulties and get a stylistic fusion between the existing building and a more modern style, all well and good. No one wants to die in the ditch for Gothic, but one thing we shall die in the ditch for is adequate accommodation for M.P.s, that accommodation to be accessible to the Chamber and for hon. Members to have priority.
What we have to decide tonight is simple. Do we need at least 100,000 sq. ft. to give hon. Members the facilities to do their job properly and to give the staff who wait on them conditions appropriate to the modern age? I warn the House that this is a revolutionary approach. Under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for South Angus we were not allowed to decide what our needs were. We were given hand-outs from time to time and often they were taken away again.
One of the reasons why we objected so bitterly to the old Bridge Street scheme was that we were told, "The Government will take six acres for Government offices, police stations, shops and pubs and you can have 40,000 sq. ft. Aren't we kind?" We could not work out the arithmetic in democratic terms. We had to have a kind of major constitutional row to get the Government to agree to 50,000 sq. ft. That is why we objected to the last scheme, but when the right hon. and learned Gentleman became a Member of the Committee he said, "This is nonsense. We shall begin by saying what we need in modern terms and let the planners plan round that." I should have thought that was the only modern idiom in which to approach the problem.
The second principle on which we ought to decide tonight is that M.P.s should have priority in getting the accommodation which is accessible to 969 the Chamber. If this principle is accepted, I do not care whether it is an extension or an annexe. By all means let us study the technical implications of our proposed extension before we make up our minds. But I warn the House that if those technical considerations rule out an extension on classical grounds or grounds of architectural suitability or grounds of the planning of the area as a whole, my hon. Friends and I will fight to the death against M.P.s being sent over the road. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West said, if anybody has to go over the road, let us make it an administrative block, if we want to turn our backs on Gothic. Let us send their Lordships over the road.
The debate has revealed one thing very clearly—the need for continuing control by Members of the House over their own accommodation. If the Gothic style is anachronistic, how much more anachronistic is a Gothic form of administration? That is what it is. I was amused to note that some of our critics object to our creating a Gothic myth architecturally but have no objection at all to the House continuing to perpetuate the myth that this is a Royal Palace, when it ceased to be a Royal Palace in Tudor times.
Let us start with the things which really matter. Now is the time for all good modernists to stand up and be counted, and this is the issue which will test their modernity. Why on earth should we not, in the second half of the twentieth century, petition Her Majesty the Queen to hand over this former Royal Palace to the control of a commission of the people who occupy it? Why not? I cannot see why not. It could either be a House of Commons Commission, as the Stokes Committee suggested, which would be created for the lifetime of each Parliament and which could hand over to their Lordships the running of their section of the Palace through a sessional committee; or it could be a joint body. I do not mind, as long as we bring our ideas up to date in the things which really matter.
We shall not be able properly to plan this future additional accommodation, which will cost a lot of money, by a series of Select Committee or ad hoc advisory committees to Mr. Speaker, whose recommendations 970 may be ignored whenever the Government like and sunk without trace, as so many of our recommendations have been.
We have had some bitter experiences of this. I remember how the Advisory Committee in May, 1961, unanimously recommended that the roof scheme should be proceeded with in that Summer Recess. Mr. Speaker had to read our report to the House. A Question was tabled for Written Answer by our Chairman to the Minister of Works, and it elicited the Answer, just as we were rising for the Recess, that the Government had decided to postpone the scheme. There is the example of a central dictation room. We could save space in this place, as I have argued many times, if there were a system whereby an M.P. could go to a telephone booth, lift up the receiver and dictate a letter to a central dictation room. We circularised M.P.s about it, and 176 said that they would like to try the system. We unanimously recommended a pilot scheme. Nothing more has been heard of it.
We had the shocking instance given by the hon. Member for Putney tonight in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian pointing out that his request for two new library clerks to be appointed with science degrees was still going through what the hon. Member for Putney called very slow-moving and antique machinery. Does not the House think that this is the sort of thing which brings us into ridicule more than anything else?
I hope that the debate will mark a turning point in the history of Parliament. The Leader of the House has made an important break with the past. He has taken a revolutionary step forward in the democratic rights of M.P.s. I ask him tonight to follow through the logic of his own conversion and to join us in demanding the administrative changes which will enable the Members of the House to control their own working facilities.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
I am sure that all Members of the House will agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) that we have had a worth-while and interesting debate, 971 to which, I might add, she has made a characteristically lively contribution. I am sure that most of us are modernists who are willing to stand up and be counted with her, presumably in Gothic numerals.
As the hon. Lady said, in recent years there has been a series or reports and debates on the necessity for improving the accommodation and facilities available to the House. There are now very few hon. Members on either side who would dispute that they, their secretaries, the many other staff who work here, and the Press are for the most part working in substandard conditions. Within the limitations imposed by the existing building, my predecessors and I have endeavoured to introduce improvements in accordance with the wishes of hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) was a little unfair in suggesting that nobody had taken any action up to now.
§ Mr. Rippon
The hon. Gentleman did not make very kindly observations about Leaders of the House and others.
§ Mr. Pannell
I said at the beginning of my speech that I was commending the present Leader of the House for going further than anybody else. I named three previous Leaders of the House who had not been noteworthy for their assistance. In case the right hon. Gentleman wants his Leader praised, I will say that he has been rather more intelligent than his predecessors and rather more helpful.
§ Mr. Rippon
I myself am delighted by that intervention but still think a kindly word should be said about Leaders of the House who have gone before and who have helped to bring about very considerable improvements over a number of years.
The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) suggested, as did other hon. Members, that we could make better use of existing accommodation. But there is no hope of meeting all the reasonable requirements of legislators in a modern democratic assembly within the present structure. We certainly ought to be alert to the possibilities of 972 making better use of what we have, but I think that the scope for this is only marginal. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) pointed out that most people have known for a long time the difficulties and limitations.
I do not think that the suggestion by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that we should serve an eviction order on anybody who is not an elected Member of the House is a very practical one. It is rather selfish to think that we must be provided for but that others must be driven out. In any event, I do not think that we would much like the self-service conditions which would then operate.
§ Mr. Dalyell
As I had only four minutes in which to develop the argument, the Minister will be chivalrous enough to accept that perhaps I was at something of a disadvantage. Might not priority be given to those of us who serve on Standing Committees, the Estimates Committee, the Public Accounts Committee, and the Committee on Nationalised Industries and, if you like, special priority given to those who have served in the past year most on the morning Committees of the House?
§ Mr. Rippon
I have dealt with the point which the hon. Gentleman made in his speech. I cannot go further than to say that we can always look at ways in which we can improve our use of existing accommodation. But we certainly cannot deal with the problem as a whole simply by adjustments of that kind.
I agree also with the hon. Member for Blackburn that this must not be thought to be a private matter in which we are just considering the convenience of ourselves. Parliament is the basic institution of our national life and it has to be enabled to do its work properly. I agree with the attitude of the hon. Lady, and I think most Members of the House do, towards Parliament and the importance of its work. The hon. Lady said this in the debate on 31st March, 1960:… a House of Commons which meanly esteems its own work will be meanly esteemed by the public it seeks to serve."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1960; Vol. 620, c. 1547.]The hon. Lady put the matter very well then, as she has done tonight.
It has been envisaged for some years that additional accommodation should be 973 provided on part of what has become known as the Bridge Street site. But before detailed planning of any kind can take place it is essential to define the requirements with as much clarity as possible. The Report of your Committee on Accommodation, Mr. Speaker, is, therefore, welcomed by the Government as a statement of the current needs of the House of Commons for additional accommodation.
The Committee on Accommodation under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), which reported in November, 1962, was charged with the task of considering how best an area of 50,000 sq. ft. of additional accommodation could be allocated. That imposed a limitation on that Committee's recommendations, although it recommended that we would have to make provision for an extension. We all express our gratitude for the work which that Committee did in laying the foundations for the further recommendations which have come forward.
In the light of those requirements, as then stated, Sir William Holford prepared a preliminary outline plan exploring the development possibilities of the Bridge Street site. I should like to pay tribute to Sir William's work, which directly assisted in our understanding of the problem. It should be remembered that his proposals were also circumscribed by his terms of reference and it was in no way his fault that, during the debate we had on 1st August, 1963, dissatisfaction was expressed with the amount and location of the accommodation then envisaged.
The present recommendations call for the provision of 100,000 sq. ft. net of accommodation for Parliamentary purposes, and the Government accept this in principle. Within that area I estimate that the proposals put forward by both the Committee chaired by my right hon. Friend and that chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus could, in general, be implemented; and I am sure that all hon. Members welcomed his remarks.
Although he asked for a detailed breakdown of the 100,000 sq. ft., it would probably be a mistake for me to go into too much detail at this stage. This figure would allow for the extension which is envisaged and enable us to make provision, before it is too late, for the necessary extra Committee 974 Rooms, the accommodation for T.V. and radio and, perhaps, an assembly hall and additional library space.
Then there is the recommendation put forward by the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus which envisaged 35,000 sq. ft. for hon. Members and their secretaries. With 100,000 sq. ft. we might provide about 60,000 to 70,000 sq. ft. for hon. Members and their secretaries.
There are now 630 hon. Members, of whom 241 are already accommodated in the House and 51 are to be housed in the roof space. Only 338 hon. Members will, therefore, be without any kind of accommodation when the roof space scheme is finished. In assessing the number of hon. Members and their secretaries who could be accommodated in individual or shared rooms, the Committee under my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus assumed that an average of 140 sq. ft. would be needed for an hon. Member and his secretary. On this basis, and with, say, 60,000 to 70,000 sq. ft., we would be able to house about 480 hon. Members and their secretaries.
A large proportion of the hon. Members at present accommodated in the House are, however, sharing rooms with three or more hon. Members—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ten."]—I said three or more. It might be six or seven. In any case, as many as possible of these should be given individual rooms in the new building. This should result in the release of some space in the House of Commons for other purposes.
Much sympathy was felt for my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) in the difficulties of the Kitchen Committee, as well as for my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), who dealt with the problems of the Library.
Some hon. Members directed their attention to the control of accommodation, but as this has been argued before in this Parliament, I do not think that I can usefully add anything—
§ Mr. D. Jones
Before the Minister leaves the subject of accommodation, will he deal with my question about some priority being accorded to the staff?
§ Mr. Rippon
I quite agree that all those who live and work in this House and who 975 serve Members of Parliament so well must be looked after. The fundamental question we have to consider is the accommodation we require for this purpose—not so much how to control it when we have it. That, no doubt, can be arranged.
Assuming agreement on the amount of accommodation required, it only then becomes possible to consider in more detail the siting and the style in which the new building, or the extension to the present one, should be built. Not unexpectedly, this has been a matter of some controversy in the House today. Hon. Members may not have agreed with every point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) in his mordant and witty speech, but I am sure that most of them will agree with what he and a number of hon. Members said—including my hon. Friends the Members for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) and Putney—that regard must be had to the replanning of the Whitehall area as a whole. That is implicit in the Motion now before us.
As I informed the House on 20th April, I have appointed Sir Leslie Martin as consultant to ensure that the various proposals under consideration for redevelopment in the Whitehall area are related to each other and have regard to the general architectural character of the area, taking traffic considerations into account.
§ Dr. Bray
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the point as to whether the technical and professional inquiries are to relate to all proposals that have been made, even where more than one proposal has been made for the same point; in particular, that the inquiries will relate both to an extension and to an entirely separate building.
§ Mr. Rippon
I think that we shall have to look at the matter as a whole in the light of the Report of the Committee, and what the Committee has recommended, and the views expressed in this debate.
I might add that Sir Leslie Martin's terms of reference provide specifically that in connection with the provision of new accommodation the consultant should hold himself available to assist Mr. Speaker's Committee on Accommodation, 976 and he is specifically charged by his terms of reference to advise on the relationship of a new Parliamentary building to the present precincts of the Palace of Westminster, including, in particular, the question whether Bridge Street should be realigned. My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus was amongst those hon. Members concerned with this matter.
The House will have noted that in this connection I have appointed Professor Colin Buchanan to advise Sir Leslie on the traffic problems concerned. Some solution of the traffic problem wider than the closing of Bridge Street may have to be adopted. This, for the time being, is primarily a matter for the London County Council and, in due course, for the Greater London Council. Sir Leslie Martin's terms of reference therefore require him to consult the Government Departments and other authorities concerned—including the Westminster City Council—and allow him in respect of traffic to take the surrounding area into account.
I expect Sir Leslie's final report to be presented in the early part of next year. Meanwhile, I would have thought it inadvisable to attempt to determine too precisely the style of architecture to be adopted, and I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), in his interesting and erudite speech, illustrated very well some of the difficulties we face in this respect—
§ Mr. Driberg
Since the Minister speaks of an interim period while awaiting various reports, does he regard the decision on the Foreign Office as irrevocable?
§ Mr. Rippon
The Government have taken the firm decision that the Foreign Office should be rebuilt, but, as I have said, there will be opportunities for Members of Parliament and the public to see what is proposed.
§ Mr. Rippon
Recently, the Victorian Society was kind enough to present me with a copy of its excellent book, "Victorian Architecture". It was not particularly kind about the Foreign Office. It thought that St. Pancras railway station was very much better.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Did my right hon. Friend also receive from the secretary of the Victorian Society a brilliant solution by which most of the Foreign Office could be saved if a certain amount of rebuilding were to take place behind the facade?
§ Mr. Rippon
Every solution which I receive is brilliant; not all are practicable.
This was an excellent book which I received with delight. It was no doubt intended to prevent my incursions into industrialised building from leading me to be entirely a supporter of the glass and brass school of architecture. But I hope that the Victorian Society will be pleased to know that I agree with the conclusion in the book that Barry's Houses of Parliament were his greatest work and one which inevitably earns him a place among the great architects of history. But I noted also the verdict that even in the case of the Houses of Parliamenta deterioration of taste is apparent in the proposal, in 1853, to enclose New Palace Yard with two additional ranges of buildings, joined by a diagonally placed gateway at the corner, surmounted by a conical roof of almost grotesque design. Fortunately the extension was never built.There has been little support here today for the Barry extension plan.
However, your Committee, Sir, has taken the view that there are other possibilities for a Gothic-style extension apart from Barry's proposal. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West developed this aspect. All that I would say is—and this is a personal view—that we must be careful not to seek to do something which only a dead architect could do.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West that we have to pay, in due course, some attention to cost. The Commissioners in 1836 recommended that Barry's design be accepted since it was grand, beautiful, practicable, well-arranged, and, above all, cheap—or so they thought. Even in those days there was often some discrepancy between the original estimate and the final cost. I think that my right hon. Friend is quite right in saying that a Gothic building adjoining the Palace of Westminster would cost about four times as much as a modern building of comparable floor area. Judging by past experience, it might be more.
§ Mr. Rippon
It would depend on whether it came within the precincts of the House. One of the arguments for closing Bridge Street, whether there were an extension or new building on the other side, is that the building might come within the precincts of the House. But these are technical and constitutional matters on which I should not dream of pronouncing judgment off the cuff.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
We have had the official answer on that. I think that it came through the Chair. If we build across the road, the Lord Great Chamberlain would have nothing to do with it. If we extended the present building, he would. It is as simple as that—and as ridiculous.
§ Mr. Rippon
I shall be glad when we are in a position to determine that issue—that is, when the building is completed.
The question of style is a difficult one, but I think that it is a good thing that we faced up to it at an early stage. It would have been disastrous if we had gone a long way in talking about the requirements without thinking about the style.
The hon. Member for Leeds, West said that service on the Committee had confirmed him in his prejudices. He is being rather less than just to himself, because in our last debate he said:Not everyone likes the Gothic style of this building".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st August. 1963; Vol. 682, c. 739.]He professed the belief that the finest group of modern buildings in the London area was to be found in the Borough of Walthamstow.
§ Mr. Rippon
I accept the amendment.
What the hon. Gentleman wanted was a building which would have been a reflection of the taste of this generation. Of course, he has been influenced, perhaps rightly, by the suggestion of the Committee about an extension of the 979 present building. No doubt like my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), the hon. Gentleman would regard his thoughts as a continuous and harmonious process. They may change again.
For my part, I believe, as I have said all along—and I think that this view is probably generally accepted—that the architectural character of the Palace of Westminster should influence the design of the new building. That is a safe enough thing to say and I would not want to go very much beyond that statement tonight. What is obvious is that we cannot have a new Parliamentary building here which does not take account of the architectural feeling of Barry's masterpiece.
The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross) and other hon. Members have stressed the need to keep our accommodation as contiguous to the Chamber as possible. This was one of the attractions, if it was possible, of closing Bridge Street. The hon. Member for Leeds, West said that he felt disembodied when he was in Bridge Street. That seemed to me to introduce into our proceedings just the touch of fantasy that the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) wanted. I would think it just as unlikely that the hon. Member would be disembodied as that I would succeed in my efforts to work myself to the bone.
I think, however, that we all understand what the hon. Member meant. This is really the point which was made more eloquently than I can make it by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford in the debates which took place during the war on the rebuilding of this Chamber, when he stressed all along the need to preserve the intimacy of our surroundings.
On all these matters, however, we will be able to pronounce a better judgment when Sir Leslie Martin has reported.
The method of appointing the architect for the Parliamentary building is another matter to which further consideration will have to be given. The hon. Member for Leeds, West spoke of an international competition. Even if we had a competition, one would wish a building of this kind to be characteristically British. The hon. Member for Barking favoured 980 a competition for this modern building with a flavour of fantasy. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney and other hon. Members are not so keen oh such a competition. For my part, I have already expressed to the House on various occasions my doubts about the merits of architecture by committee and also by competition. The results of these competitions are frequently unsatisfactory.
The House will recall the competition which took place for the new Law Courts in 1866, when there was a jury consisting of the First Commissioner of Works, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Lord Chief Justice, the Attorney-General and a Member of Parliament, plus two architects, who were consulted not about the architecture, but about whether there had been compliance with the set conditions. They eventually chose the plan submitted by one architect and the elevation submitted by another, George Street. They dismissed Street's collaborator with the promise that if the National Gallery were to be rebuilt, he would have that commission. It was not rebuilt, which was just as well, because he went on to build the Charing Cross Hotel.
Whatever the merits of those buildings—and I do not want to enter into any more controversy than I need—I do not believe that one normally gets good architecture by committee.
It is at least my fervent hope that we will be able to avoid the interminable wrangles and interference that so delayed Barry's rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament and led ultimately not only to the establishment of a number of Select Committees—that might have pleased hon. Members opposite—but also, finally, to a judicial arbitration and a Royal Commission. Those disputes arose largely from a failure to determine the original requirements or to consult either House adequately. I lay great stress upon the consultation of the House. It was because of those failures that there was delay.
Some people have suggested that we should deliberately delay. They forget the delays which take place in the ordinary course of time. The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn was a little unfair in suggesting that the Duncan Committee's recommendation on the roof space scheme should have been brought into operation at the drop of 981 a hat. It is not possible to do these things without a measure of delay. We have many problems to go through before the building will begin to go up.
What I am sure we should do on this occasion is to avoid introducing artificial complications into what must inevitably be a complex undertaking. Certainly I have reiterated that Parliament, and so the public, will have the opportunity of considering any major proposals which come forward for the development of the Whitehall area and of seeing any new designs before they are implemented. This, I feel, is really the answer to many of the anxieties which people have expressed not only about what we do in building for this House but what we do in regard to the Whitehall area as a whole.
A number of hon. Members have referred in this debate to the rebuilding of the Foreign Office. It is not really the matter which we are discussing tonight. I can only reiterate the views which I have expressed on a number of occasions and my assurance that they will see what is proposed. I think Sir Leslie Martin will have reported before any action is taken in regard to rebuilding the Foreign Office. I think I have made it perfectly clear that his appointment was on the basis that the Government had taken their decision though he himself is not personally involved. It may be that we shall have a good many opportunities to deal with this and other matters.
All I would say now is that if this Motion is accepted, as I have no doubt it will be, I shall then be happy to pursue the necessary technical and professional inquiries arising from the Commitee's recommendations and to take into account also the many points raised in the debate, and then report further.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee on Accommodation for the Redevelopment of the Palace of Westminster/Bridge Street area and in particular of the need for additional accommodation which is endorsed, and, having regard to the need to co-ordinate the redevelopment of the Whitehall area as a whole, invites Her Majesty's Government to pursue the necessary technical and professional inquiries arising from these recommendations, and subsequently to report to this House.