HC Deb 17 June 1968 vol 766 cc699-700
33. Mr. Strauss

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works when he intends to commence the building of the British Embassy in Brasilia; and if he has decided who the architect for this building will be.

Mr. Mellish

I have agreed with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that further preparations for a permanent scheme in Brasilia should be deferred for at least two years. We reached this decision because of the timing of the move of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, and the need to keep down public expenditure, particularly overseas. The architectural arrangements will be decided when the question of proceeding with the scheme arises again.

Mr. Strauss

On the latter point, is my right hon. Friend aware that foreign Governments are commissioning their leading national architects to build their embassies? Can we have an assurance that we shall do the same? Without committing himself, can my right hon. Friend say what his present attitude is to the design by the Smithsons which his Ministry asked them to undertake in 1964 and which has been highly commended by the Royal Fine Art Commission?

Mr. Mellish

Peter and Alison Smithson were commissioned to prepare sketch plans for this permanent residence. They are first class architects and the abandonment of the scheme is no criticism of them in any way. But the Brazilian Government decided that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would not be moved for two years and we therefore decided not to build until we were sure where that Ministry was to go. But I can give the necessary assurance that when we build we shall build well.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Now that the right hon. Gentleman knows what went on with the Rome Embassy, will he instruct the firm of architects he is to employ that they should lay down the specification that British equipment must be used in the new embassy in Brasilia?

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. Because he says something about the heating and ventilation plant in Rome it does not necessarily mean that it is true. I must find out for myself.