HC Deb 22 June 1964 vol 697 cc6-8
6. Mr. Longden

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works when he expects the recently appointed consultant for the Whitehall area to make his first report; whether the plans for each redevelopment will be laid before Parliament before they are acted upon; and how, since there are going to be several different architects involved for whom the consultant is not responsible, the new buildings in the area will conform with each other in design.

Mr. Rippon

I expect Sir Leslie Martin's final report to be presented in the early part of next year. I am anxious that the report should be presented as a whole rather than piecemeal, but Sir Leslie will, wherever possible, report periodically on various aspects of his commission which may call for earlier decision. Arrangements will be made for Parliament to be informed before any particular redevelopment is undertaken. Such individual architects as may be appointed will be expected to produce designs that are in harmony with their surroundings.

Mr. Longden

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him is he would not agree that up to now the modernisation of London has been undertaken with an almost complete lack of imagination and sense of fitness on the part of our planning authorities; and will he give an assurance that not only Parliament but the public, before a single brick is moved in the Whitehall area, will have a chance to pronounce, because is it not the case that up to now the public seem to have woken up only six months or so after each fresh outrage has been perpetrated upon our once lovely City?

Mr. Rippon

It is not for me to comment on what other people do, but what I do will, of course, be done with great care and consideration, not least for the views of Parliament.

Mr. C. Pannell

Although we will give the Minister credit for trying to do what is best in this matter, does he not think that he would be assisted and the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, Southwest (Mr. Longden) would be assisted if in the early stages, as a kind of continuing process, a committee of this House—probably a Select Committee—of Members interested were set up, so that Parliament is not suddenly confronted with a fait accompli—a kind of Second Reading stage—and we can make a leisurely and, I hope, intelligent appraisal of this? Does not the Minister think that he would be helped in that way, rather than having the criticism at the end of the day?

Mr. Rippon

It is not for me to decide how Parliament thinks that it can best help me. Certainly I shall arrange for Parliament to be told what is proposed. I think that that one must be a little careful about this. I do not think that the modernisation of London will proceed very much faster or better by having too much architecture by committee.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

Can the right hon. Gentleman say to whom the architectural designs to which he has referred will be referred? Will it be to the planning authority and /or the Royal Fine Art Commission, or some other body? Who is to be the regulating co-ordinating authority to see that the designs that he has mentioned are in harmony?

Mr. Rippon

The architects will be expected to conform with the general plan, but I think that it would be unwise to dictate to them in any detail the style in which they build. I envisage that when they have brought forward their designs for any particular building, the House and the public will have the opportunity to see what is proposed, and it may well be that at that stage it would be right to submit the designs to the Royal Fine Art Commission for its opinion.