Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Fourth Report from the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) in the last Session of Parliament be now considered.—[Mr. Peart.]
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
On a point of order. You will know from correspondence, Mr. Speaker, that I have raised with you the difficult and potentially harmful situation in which we find ourselves today. It is that the Government tabled a Motion on the last sitting day before the Christmas Recess, so that no hon. Member has been able to table Amendments to that Motion. That is the rule according to our Standing Orders.
Would you confirm, Mr. Speaker, that this is the situation; that the position of private hon. Members may be harmed by the continued operation of this rule, which means the inability of hon. Members to table Amendments to Government Motions on the first day after a Recess? Would you also say whether you think that anything can be done about this situation? Would you make it clear, Mr. Speaker, that on an appropriate occasion you would not hesitate to use your power to select manuscript Amendments, should this situation arise in future?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman who had also raised this matter with me privately. The position is exactly as he has described it. Because the Government tabled their Motion on the last day before the Recess, and because hon. Members are not permitted to table Amendments during Recess time, hon. Members are, on such an occasion, precluded from one of their privileges, which is to seek to amend Motions which the Government put before the House. This is regrettable, but I can do nothing about it.
To answer the hon. Gentleman's question about the selection of manuscript Amendments, I considered the manuscript Amendment which he had submitted to me. In this particular case, I am not prepared to accept a manuscript Amendment. However, that does not mean that, in certain circumstances, I would not 56 be willing to accept a manuscript Amendment. I hope that the Government have noted what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) has said.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Considered accordingly.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
I beg to move,That this House agrees with the Committee in the said Report and takes note of the statement by the Minister of Public Building and Works on Tuesday, 3rd December, 1968, on the Whitehall Redevelopment Plan.At the request of a number of hon. Members, the terms of the Motion have been drawn in such a way that hon. Members can discuss, without incurring Mr. Speaker's displeasure, not only the question of a future Parliamentary building but also the development of the surrounding area.
The subject which we are debating today is of central importance to the functioning of this country, for we are concerned with the accommodation of Parliament and of those civil servants who need to be in close touch with Parliament to conduct the public affairs under its control as well as the physical development of a small area of Whitehall which is widely regarded as being the centre of the country and of the Commonwealth.
I am anxious not to occupy too much of the time of the House so that hon. Members may have ample opportunity to put forward their points of view. I shall, therefore, concentrate my remarks on the question of a new Parliamentary building, and for this I, of course, have a particular responsibility. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works will, when replying to the debate, deal not only with any points on this aspect, but also any points which may arise from his statement to the House on 3rd December about the Whitehall Redevelopment Plan.
The problem of extra accommodation for Parliament has been under consideration for a long time. I have been 57 in the House for a considerable period and this matter has rightly received the close attention of many of my colleagues. These days our attention is inevitably concentrated on the inadequacies of our present facilities. However, it is only fair that we should pay tribute to the rôle which has been played by the Palace of Westminster since it was rebuilt after being largely destroyed by Are a century or so ago. And despite destruction by German bombing during the last war, Parliament continued to function.
I have always regarded it as important that the facilities of Parliament, like those of the Chamber itself, should have a collective, rather than a divisive, influence on us and should bring hon. Members together rather than splitting them up. Many features of the present building—the Committee rooms, Library, smoking rooms and places of refreshment—have played a vital part in this development.
The Chamber is, of course, the heart of Parliament. I believe that we have been right to maintain this as a place where hon. Members are able to feel very much together in an atmosphere of comparative informality. Hon. Members have rightly striven to avoid being obliged to go too far away from the Chamber. We have long found it important, during the course of our business around the House, to avoid being isolated from the constant traffic of fellow hon. Members in the Lobbies and to and from the Chamber.
As the needs of hon. Members have grown in recent years, they have been met by a succession of adaptations and additions which have all been based on retaining the Palace of Westminster much as it is and on keeping hon. Members as close to the Chamber and each other as possible. There has been the construction of new accommodation in the roof space along the waterfront—a very expensive scheme, as hon. Members know, but, nevertheless, providing about 19,000 sq. ft. of extra space within this building. A new set of offices has also been constructed, very conveniently, in Star Chamber Court, without injury to the external appearance. Other minor adaptations have been made, and accommodation has been provided temporarily in adjoining 58 buildings, particularly No. 1 Bridge Street and No. 54 Parliament Street.
As the needs of Parliament for more accommodation have inexorably grown, conditions in this building are now in some cases little short of disgraceful. Hon. Members and their secretaries, and the officers and staff of the House, are working in conditions which sometimes fall below those which Parliament has itself established for employers outside.
Moreover, I believe that the problems must now take on a new dimension. Over the last generation the Government have become much more involved in the life of the country than was the case 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even immediately pre-war. I am not making a party political point; it is an inevitable consequence of the increasing complexity of our society. It must make a difference to the way that Parliament functions. As more power is given to the Executive, and to the experts in the Civil Service and other public bodies and centres of power it becomes even more important that Parliament exercises a democratic check upon their activities.
To do this effectively the secretarial and research resources available to Members should be improved. We need Members to do a more professional job. This inevitably has a consequence upon the accommodation that they will need. Hon. Members who are interested in this debate will be well aware of the succession of inquiries that have taken place since the war. However, perhaps I should set the scene by sketching briefly developments over the past few years.
In 1964, Sir Leslie Martin was commissioned by the then Minister of Public Building and Works to review various proposals for redevelopment in the Whitehall area, including new accommodation for Parliament. In his Report, Sir Leslie recommended that the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey should continue to dominate the area and should not be challenged by competing tall buildings, and that the Palace of Westminster should not be extended in any way that would change its external appearance. These recommendations were accepted by the Government, and I believe that they should still form the criteria by which any extension of Parliamentary accommodation should be 59 judged. I should say here that Sir Leslie Martin also recommended that Parliament Square should become a Parliamentary precinct, free from through traffic, and that a portion at the south end of the Bridge Street site should be used for a new Parliamentary building.
Following this Report, the new building sub-committee of the Services Committee looked again at the question of additional Parliamentary accommodation. The Committee was alarmed at the apparent difficulty of access to the Palace of Westminster from a new Parliamentary building across Bridge Street, and the prospect of Bridge Street remaining open to through traffic for some years to come. It therefore revived a proposal which was outlined in Barry's time, for constructing additional accommodation round Palace Yard. It envisaged a building stretching from the bottom of Big Ben round New Palace Yard to join Westminster Hall. Although this building would have been of limited height it would inevitably have had a serious impact on many views of the Palace and Big Ben.
So many objections were made to this proposal that the Services Committee asked my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Public Building and Works to make alternative suggestions. He advised that there were only two alternatives—either to build a completely new House of Commons to replace the present buildings entirely, on the Victoria Tower Gardens, or on the Bridge Street-Richmond Terrace site, or, alternatively, to go back to Sir Leslie Martin's proposal for a new building across Bridge Street.
The Committee rejected both forms of the first alternative. Either would mean a delay of between 15 and 20 years, and the cost would be between £20 million and £25 million, in addition to the value of the site. The Victoria Tower Gardens site is of unsuitable shape, and there are strong objections to the loss of these gardens. I know that some hon. Members do not think that these factors amount to an insuperable objection to building an entirely new House of Commons. Only today I read an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph by a colleague, who thought that we should rebuild. I see that he is here now. No doubt he will hope to catch your eye, 60 Mr. Speaker, to make his contribution. I feel that the discarding of this House, with all that it has meant to Parliamentary democracy, would be a matter of deep regret.
The Services Committee therefore decided to look again at the proposal for a Parliamentary extension on the other side of Bridge Street. Sir Leslie Martin has presented a revised plan to overcome the difficulties about access to such a new building, and with the object of making it possible, eventually, to embody such a new building as part of a new Parliamentary precinct. By slightly raising the part of Bridge Street towards Westminster Bridge it would be possible to construct a spacious entrance to the new building below Bridge Street, with access direct from New Palace Yard, and it would become obviously part of the precincts.
The Services Committee accepted this proposal and recommended, last April, approval of this revised plan for a building running along the whole length of the north side of Bridge Street. The site extends to a depth of about 200 feet from the Bridge Street frontage. This would allow for a considerable area of open space behind the building, separating it from any Government offices in the adjoining site. On this site it would be possible to provide between 250,000 and 350,000 sq. ft. gross of floor space, probably in six storeys above ground. The cost of such a building, including the construction of access below Bridge Street, might be about £5 million.
These proposals are, therefore, considered the best way of meeting the accommodation needs of the House of Commons reasonably quickly. [Laughter.] The hon. Member will no doubt have an opportunity of putting his point. I am suggesting what has been recommended. If he has a contrary view he will have the opportunity to put it forward today. This is the most important specific recommendation before the House today, and I hope that the House will express itself clearly and decisively in favour of the allocation of a site running the length of Bridge Street, from the Victoria Embankment to Parliament Street and about 200 feet in depth, for a new Parliamentary building, with access through a broad entrance direct 61 from New Palace Yard, formed by raising the level of Bridge Street at this point.
It is very important that there should be a means of quick covered access from the new building to this Chamber. Two alternative routes are suggested in the Services Committee's Report—one below and one above the new Palace Yard colonnade. Of these the Committee prefer the route running above the colonnade. What I ask the House to do today is to endorse the principle that means should be sought to provide quick covered access to this Chamber from the new Parliamentary building. The actual details of the route can be considered further with all the other details of the project. The House will, of course, have an opportunity to consider the matter again.
The Services Committee also recognises that a new car park should be constructed below New Palace Yard. The Government are acutely conscious of the difficulties experienced over parking cars within and around the Palace of Westminster and have sought by a number of measures to improve the situation. I readily recognise the need to provide proper car parking facilities in the course of the redevelopment. Means of providing more parking space must be one requirement in the detailed planning, including the possibility of a new car park under New Palace Yard.
Turning to traffic generally, the Services Committee endorses the objectives set out in the Whitehall Report of Sir Leslie Martin and Professor Buchanan on the reduction of through traffic, with a view to its eventual removal from Parliament Square. We are particularly concerned with traffic in Bridge Street, because we look forward to the time when Bridge Street can be closed to traffic, so that the new Parliamentary building can be embodied in a new enlarged Parliamentary precinct. The road schemes necessary for this purpose are currently being thoroughly examined by experts, who are considering, in particular, a riverside tunnel running from Hungerford Bridge to Lambeth Bridge to divert north-south traffic from Parliament Square.
Subject to final tests as to the effect of such a tunnel on the river and the need 62 to preserve the amenities of the Palace of Westminster, I hope that this may be found a satisfactory solution to north-south traffic. The consultants' report is expected in March and it would be wrong to express a firm opinion at this stage.
The proposal in the Martin-Buchanan Report for east-west traffic, namely, the improvement of a route over Lambeth Bridge and along Horseferry Road, has had to be rejected, mainly on ground of cost, but also because of the traffic problems it would create south of the river. Alternative ways of getting east-west traffic out of Parliament Square are being studied. Pending a solution for east-west traffic, all that can be said with certainty is that a riverside tunnel for north-south traffic would enable the east and south sides of Parliament Square, St. Margaret's Street, Abingdon Street and part of Millbank to be closed to through traffic, while the amount of traffic in Bridge Street would be much reduced, thanks to the riverside tunnel, and to local traffic management measures.
The Services Committee expresses the hope that traffic management measures aimed at reducing traffic in Bridge Street, perhaps by as much as 20 per cent., will be put in hand as soon as possible. It also recommended that detailed planning of the tunnel should be started so that construction can take place as soon as possible after the proposed new Parliamentary building.
The House will appreciate that, pending the outcome of the studies I have mentioned for dealing with through traffic, no firm undertakings can be given. But I assure the House that the Government recognise the importance of this matter and the need to take action as soon as satisfactory schemes have been worked out and circumstances permit—
§ Mr. Peart
My hon. Friend may think that it means nothing, but if he is dogmatic he will have a chance to make his point. Also, he has been a member of the Services Committee.
If the House today accepts the recommendation on the use of the site along Bridge Street for a new Parliamentary building, the next step will be for the requirements for the new building to determined in greater detail. In 63 doing this, the Services Committee, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend's Department, will examine carefully all suggestions from hon. Members and staff of the House about what accommodation and facilities should be provided. The Committee will report its recommendations to the House, and, if the House approves, it will be possible to commission the new building.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), when Minister of Public Building and Works, announced in the House on 3rd November, 1965 that it was the Government's intention to hold a competition for the design of the new Parliamentary building which would be open to achitects from all countries of the Commonwealth. I think that the House can claim, without immodesty, that such a competition is likely to attract great interest and a large entry. It would afford an opportunity for younger and less well-known architects to display their talents and could throw up some novel and exciting schemes.
The proposal for a Commonwealth competition is fully supported by the Royal Institute of British Architects, which will co-operate in organising it. The competition would be held under the R.I.B.A. competition rules. A distinguished panel of architects would act as assessors for the competition. However, I want to make it quite plain that the House will have the final say in what building is commissioned. This is important, since many right hon. and hon. Members have expressed concern about it. Although the winning design would be chosen by the assessors—and under the R.I.B.A. rules nothing can upset this choice of the winner of the competition—it will remain possible for Parliament to decide not to commission the winning scheme.
Here, I should like to intrude a personal note. I consider some of the buildings which have been erected in London during the last decade to fall far short of the standards required of a great capital city. I am often alarmed and horrified by what I see, and have made my protests. The Bridge Street site is so important that it is essential that the new building be of high archi- 64 tectural quality, and we should spare no effort to ensure this.
The time likely to be taken between the approval of the project and completion for occupation would be five or six years. In this context, "approval of the project" means approval of the design. Allowing two years or so for the approval of a design, by competition or otherwise, the House will realise that, even given approval now of the proposed site and agreement to proceed in the way proposed, it is likely to be about eight years before the new building is ready for occupation.
I have concentrated on the new Parliamentary building. The wider subject for debate today is progress generally on Whitehall redevelopment following Sir Leslie Martin's Report in 1965. I am sure that the House will not wish me to repeat what my right hon. Friend told the House in his statement on 3rd December last. Both my right hon. Friend and I shall be glad to hear the views of hon. Members on both these subjects, for they are subjects on which the opinions of individual Members are particularly important. My right hon. Friend will be able to answer questions on both subjects when he winds up the debate.
As hon. Members know, a number of drawings illustrating these matters are on exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall and I hope that hon. Members have found the exhibition helpful in preparation for today's debate.
There is a time for consideration, and a time for action. The subject of extra accommodation for Parliament has been considered and debated over very many years. I know that there are some objections to the proposal I have outlined, but there are objections to every alternative. Equally, I do not think a decision today should end all thinking on the provision of accommodation for Parliament. I am well aware that, even with the new building, it will still be impossible to provide many of the facilities hon. Members ask for. But techniques for using sites are constantly improving, and I believe that we should continually keep in mind the possibilities that technological advance opens up.
I recently saw—this is not in my brief, but I am reminded of it now, speaking 65 about new facilities and new techniques—a construction in the centre of London where, through tunnelling and underground development, there are great opportunities. But I would not be dogmatic about any techniques. These are matters for the experts. All I am saying is that there are changes going on and, therefore, we have to bear them in mind.
Nevertheless, the Government believe that the proposals now before the House represent the best and quickest means of obtaining extra accommodation in the most convenient form available, and consistent with the strategic plan for the future development of this area. The proposals meet the desire so often expressed by the House that extra accommodation should be readily accessible to the Chamber—certainly without crossing main traffic roads—and should be seen to be an extension of the precincts of the Palace of Westminster.
I would emphasise that the decision on the location of a new Parliamentary building which I now propose is independent of any decision on the means of removing through traffic from Bridge Street and Parliament Square, and without commitment to the form in which speedy and convenient access should be provided from it to this Chamber.
I ask the House, therefore, to agree that the Services Committee's recommendation in favour of a new Parliamentary building along Bridge Street be accepted and that the Services Committee be instructed to make recommendations as soon as possible on the accommodation to be provided there.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
Anyone preparing a speech for today's debate will have noted, I think rather ruefully, that there have been at least six reports in the 1960s alone which bear upon the subject we are discussing today; yet, despite that, here in January, 1969, not a brick has been laid.
It is five and a half years, I think, since a former Minister of Public Building and Works said in this House:I think it is clear that with all the processes that must be gone through, not least the acquisition of the site, we are not likely to be able to begin demolition work before 1965, or to be able to complete the Parliamentary building before 1968."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st August, 1963; Vol. 682, c. 731.]66 That turns out to have been an optimistic statement.
It must come as a revelation to those critics outside, often only too ready to believe that we spend most of our deliberations discussing our own creature comforts, to discover that we have taken so long to reach any decision which affects ourselves so closely. But I suspect that it was ever so. After all, as long ago as 1831 a Select Committee was consideringmaking the House of Commons more salubrious and less unwholesome.After that, its members had a great fire to help them.
It is, of course, for the Government to decide when the economic climate is right to proceed with what must be a fairly high priority project such as that which we are now discussing. But I hope, with the Leader of the House, that after this debate is over it will not just become another piece of research which Members of Parliament wishing to discuss the Parliamentary building in the 1970s will have to know about.
I must say, also, that my preference is for the Fourth Report of the Services Committee. However, before explaining my reasons for this, I should like to give some outline, as did the Leader of the House, of what I think should be the main considerations to be taken into account, and comment briefly on the other suggested schemes.
On accommodation, I know that not everyone supports the principle of "one man, one room", but it is widely agreed that there is a very real need for extra accommodation for Members if they are to carry out their functions effectively. Despite all the building which has been undertaken over recent years, there are still a good many hon. Members without rooms for their sole use, and there are many secretaries working in extremely poor conditions—"little short of disgracefull" was, I think, the right hon. Gentleman's description.
But to those who have rooms of their own, one of the most irritating and wasteful aspects of one's working life in this building is waiting for one's secretary to come trudging along miles of passages with a file which one wants to consult in a hurry. I hope that we shall eventually have a situation when Members' 67 secretaries are much closer to them than they are at present.
It ought to be possible, too, to move away a good many more of the administrative offices of this building out of this actual building itself, away from the Chamber, and thus release more space for Members. I agree with the Report that it is essential to have accommodation for television facilities. Incidentally, when the Minister is winding up the debate perhaps he could say whether it is really the case that we shall have to wait for the new Parliamentary building before we can get a 20th century telephone exchange in the Palace.
Anyway, the need for additional accommodation has been widely recognised for at least a quarter of a century. It is interesting to notice how during this period the demand for space has mounted rapidly. One finds that the Duncan Committee, in 1962, was considering the provision of an extra 50,000 sq. ft. Then we have Martin-Buchanan, in 1965, saying that a Bridge Street site might provide adequate space for a Parliamentary building containing at least 100,000 sq. ft.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I should like to make it clear that that was not the Committee's view. That was the indication that we had from the powers that be of what was available to us.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point. I suspect that they were all indications throughout as the progression went upwards.
The Martin-Buchanan figure was 100,000 sq. ft. Then we had the Fifteenth Report of the Services Committee in the 1966–67 Session which put the figure up to at least 150,000 sq. ft. We now have the present Report talking in terms of 250,000 to 350,000 sq. ft. I hope that we have now come to the point where we are sure we have enough. It would be a mistake to dither on this again.
I come to the architectural situation which I treat with considerable apprehension and a good deal of diffidence. After all, we are dealing with the best-known legislative building in the world and one of London's key tourist attractions. I am terrified of getting involved in the Gothic argument. I will just say 68 that I am against Gothic in this context. Equally, with the Leader of the House, I am sure, I do not want to see an all-glass, fearless expression of the modern spirit. Surely, what we want here is something that blends with rather than outshines the other famous buildings in this particular area. Certainly we would all be opposed to any new building which was not in harmony with the existing area. I welcome the suggestion in the Report that the building should stretch the whole length of Bridge Street and be not more than six storeys high. That is an important consideration.
On the subject of the competition, when the architectural competition was announced some time ago by the former right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Public Building and Works, whom I see in his place, it was then said, and it has been repeated today, that the competition should be confined to architects in the Commonwealth. We want the best, and he or she may well be within the Commonwealth; but could not we have a little more courage and make the competition worldwide?
I was interested and relieved to hear certain assurances from the Leader of the House this afternoon concerning the competition. I was very glad to hear that Parliament will have the last say in this matter and that we will not be committed to adopting the winning design. I believe also that we shall not be precluded from looking at the other designs or, if we so desire, from rejecting the whole lot.
§ The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Robert Mellish)
I hope that when we get to that stage we do not start off on the basis of saying, whoever has submitted the winning design, "It will certainly not be that one".
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I entirely accept the Minister's point. I go along with him entirely.
I now come to the traffic problems. Here it is quite obvious that the traffic problems in this area are very severe, without the introduction of any new Parliamentary building which would exacerbate it. It is this consideration which brings me partly to the conclusion which I have reached on this Report. It is also obvious that the Martin-Buchanan 69 proposals have run into certain difficulties. If they are even partially implemented, it will not be for a very long time.
Incidentally, may we be told a little more today about what is to happen regarding the problem of east-west traffic? The hon. Member for Birmingham, North-field (Mr. Chapman) got a slightly dusty answer to his intervention, and I thought that it deserved better. The question of the Horseferry Road proposal is fundamental to the whole Martin-Buchanan conception.
I come now to some of the solutions which have been put forward. First, I take the suggested erection of an entirely new main Parliamentary building. Some have felt that the building should be right outside London, that it should be at Windsor or up on the Yorkshire Moors. Others have argued that it should be constructed in Westminster, either on the present site after demolition or on the Bridge Street-Richmond Terrace site—or, for that matter, at Victoria Tower Gardens, which, as the Leader of the House said, would be the wrong shape, apart from other considerations.
The criticisims of all these schemes include, naturally, the break with tradition, the very high cost and the long period of delay. I hardly think that any of those varieties of solution will commend themselves to many hon. Members today, or that we are likely to spend a great deal of time upon them at this stage.
Next, I come to the question of—to use the horrible term—in-filling. It does not seem to me to make much sense to suggest now that there is much more infilling which we can do in the context of the volume of space which is required. Various suggestions were made in the Fifteenth Report of the Services Committee. It was suggested that 4,000 sq. ft. of accommodation might be provided in the Commons Inner Court and that a further 5,200 sq. ft. might be obtained by building over the tea rooms in Commons Court. All that may be useful as a suggestion, but now, in view of what we have done already, it would be only tinkering with the problem and, I think, not worth very long consideration. We cannot be fairly criticised from outside 70 for not having looked fairly fully at the question of in-filling.
§ Mr. Chapman
I do not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman says, but I hope that he will not be one of those wishing to close the door to building above the Tea Room. The strategic position of that site is so important, and we so desperately need Committee rooms, that we must keep that project alive even if we do no other in-filling.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I accept that. I should not close the door to that project, but, in the context of a Parliamentary building and the enormous amount of space required, I do not regard it as realistic to think about it at this stage.
Next, there have been the various contiguous building schemes suggested. One was for a Gothic building over Bridge Street. This proposal came from the Committee under my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). The Committee did some useful work, but it ran into, to say the least, a good deal of architectural criticism, and it was thought that its conclusions would create or exacerbate the traffic problems in the area. When the right hon. Gentleman the former Minister of Public Building and Works, announced the Martin-Buchanan plan he more or less "did" for that proposal, and I agree.
I come now to the proposal to build within New Palace Yard, a scheme which emanated from the Fifteenth Report of the Services Committee. It was very much criticised on traffic grounds and on architectural grounds, so much that the Services Committee said that itraises issues of taste which could override arguments of convenience".It certainly does raise issues of taste, and mine is against it! With probably calculated understatement, the Services Committee admitted that "many representations were received objecting to that proposal". In fact, I believe that there was an absolute flood. It was useful in pinpointing a number of facts, but it seems to me that a good many hon. Members will reject the proposal of their own free architectural choice, and some will reject it for the simple reason that it is so controversial that it would cause yet another inevitable delay in going ahead with the whole project.
71 I come now to the question of the Bridge Street building. This is similar in many ways to the earlier Holford plan. The Holford plan would tuck the building away in the south-east comer of the site and would provide only about 5(1,000 sq. ft. of additional space. The latest proposal argues that the building would occupy the whole southern part of the Bridge Street-Richmond Terrace site and it might provide anything between 250,000 and 350,000 sq. ft.
I acknowledge that the most powerful criticism of this scheme is that the building would not be part of the existing Palace of Westminster. As the Report says:Bridge Street is not only a physical barrier; it is a psychological barrier".That is true, and I think that we must recognise that that is something which cannot be wholly overcome. Nevertheless, the new entrance hall and the new corridor, so to call it, should do a good deal to overcome the physical barrier.
Incidentally, I wonder whether we can be told a little more on the question of access. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman said something—perhaps I did not fully take it in—to the effect that we should have another opportunity to come back to the question of access. It is a fairly burning issue, and I was not certain when we should have that opportunity. Perhaps we may have the point elaborated.
There is also the consideration that if eventually the Martin-Buchanan proposals, or such as is left of them, are implemented, it may in time be possible to include Bridge Street as part of the Parliamentary precinct by dismantling the wall and the railings between New Palace Yard and Bridge Street itself.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
Surely, that would not be possible if Bridge Street is to be raised and the entrance is to go underneath?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I think that my hon. Friend is wrong about that. We can go into it as the debate proceeds.
In my view, the scheme has great advantages, as the right hon. Gentleman said. The indications are that it is 72 cheaper, that it will take only about six years to bring about if we ever come to this decision, that it will give ample extra accommodation—twice as much as would have been obtained, I think, by the suggested new building erected in New Palace Yard and three times as much as would have been provided under the Lloyd Committee's scheme—and it is not likely to create any new major traffic problems. It is certainly less open to criticism by the preservationists, at least on architectural grounds, than either of the other schemes for contiguous buildings. Moreover, it has the attractions which I mentioned for enthusiasts for Martin-Buchanan.
Finally, it is the scheme which is likely to commend itself to more hon. Members and to the public at large and, because it is the least controversial, is more likely to be earned out quickly.
That is all I want to say about the new Parliamentary building, but I have one or two comments to make about other aspects of the Whitehall Plan. As I said, a good deal in this imaginative concept has already been eroded by time and certain decisions have been taken which are in conflict with it. Nevertheless, there are certain things to be said. For example, if we are to have a good deal more time, as I suspect we are, to think about it than was originally envisaged, we should consider again the question of the Brydon building which, perhaps, sends only a very few into aesthetic ecstasies but which blends so well into the corporate dignity of Parliament Square that I find it difficult to see any new structure taking its place satisfactorily. If we are to have more time, this question should be deeply considered.
Next, there is the vexed question of the Foreign Office. I know the history of the decisions which have been taken here, and I do not wish to enter upon a lyrical defence of the Foreign Office building. Many others have done that before and, no doubt, will do so again. But there are those who deeply wish to preserve the park facade which is so famous the world over, and there are many who wish to preserve some of the interior, particularly in the north-west corner of the building. For that reason, I suggest to the Government that they might well look into the suggestion made 73 to me by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), that instead of building in due course a Government conference centre on the Broad Sanctuary site, which is the present proposal, they should look into the possibility of using part of the Foreign Office building, internally reconstructed, for that purpose. I realise that that idea has a great many ramifications, but I think it well worth examination.
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. Gentleman is speaking on behalf of the Opposition. Do I take it, therefore, that the Opposition are now amending their earlier decision with regard to the future of the Foreign Office?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
No. I am putting a personal suggestion which has been put to me and am asking for it to be considered.
There are a number of other questions which I could ask—for example, why a decision appears to have been taken, which I do not say that I would dispute, to demolish the Norman Shaw building, which would be against the advice of the Martin-Buchanan Report. We should also like to have the uncertainty about Middlesex Guildhall cleared up. However, I shall not take up further time, since many other hon. Members wish to speak. All we are asked to do today is to approve the Fourth Report of the Services Committee, which I do.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
This subject gets a little tiresome. I entered this House in 1949 and have been fascinated by the subject of accommodation ever since. I am glad that we are to have a full day's debate and that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has decided to drop the Motions on Privilege, because they need a full day's debate, too.
If we are considering the sort of building in which we are to work, then we are also concerned with the spirit in which we work in it. The House of Commons is the totality of its Members. This was shown during the war. Despite the fact that its Chamber was demolished, the House of Commons carried on. Privilege Motions are not something for a snap "say so" after ten o'clock at night.
It is three years since I had to make the statement about the Martin-Buchanan 74 proposals. At that time, I pleaded for one or two firm decisions to be reached rather than that we should continue only to "resolve to be irresolute". I understand the difficulty. It is shown in the Reports of the Services Committee. I have lived with this problem for 19 years and, of course, in that time, one's mind becomes crystallised on a subject. The process is a progression of some and a rejection of other ideas in coming to a firm decision.
We have to contend with new Parliaments. I have no doubt that, when the 1964 vintage came in, they thought the world of thought had started then. When the 1966 vintage arrived, they thought that those Members who had arrived two years before were not "with it". One sees that sort of attitude reflected in the two Reports we have had from the Services Committee, particularly in the case of the Report of 28th July, 1967. This was produced by the Committee which decided that everything should go into the melting-pot and that, instead of Gothic, we should have an up-ended matchbox in New Palace Yard.
I served on every one of these Committees and I am glad to have done so. But I want to put in the clear the opinion of what was known as the Selwyn Lloyd Committee. It considered the idea—very dear to the heart of its Chairman—that we should extend into New Palace Yard and said that, if we had to do so, we should do it in the way that Barry wanted it done—in Gothic. We did not come out in favour of Gothic buildings, but said that we could not have the sort of hybrid architecture envisaged by many people. Subsequently, there was the 1967 Committee, and we have seen the admirable series of sketches which seem to me in direct conflict with the finality of its Report—indeed, reflecting a sort of schizophrenia on the subject.
But we came back to sanity with the Report of July, 1967. I have been an engineer by vocation. There comes a time, whether one is building an aeroplane or anything else, when one has to say "Enough", and when one cannot allow a first-day apprentice to throw the whole scheme into the melting-pot and say that we should start all over again.
In 1964, we on this side of the House had a great pre-election planning conference. I was reminded of it by the 75 article in a newspaper today by the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith), who is not in his place. At that conference, some of the "top brass" were present. One of my colleagues made a passionate plea to put Parliament on the Yorkshire Moors, somewhere near Harrogate—which is the best place outside London to put it; I see no point in putting it in Windsor. I brought the discussion with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) to the point by saying, "Are we to say to the country that they should send us all to Westminster and then, directly we get there, say that they should not have sent us there but to Harrogate?"
The principal burden of my speech is that I hope that we shall not have another General Election and another Minister of Public Building and Works and still more second thoughts on this matter. I have great good will for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Public Building and Works. I think that he is the 45th Minister of Works this century.
§ Mr. Pannell
There have been nine Permanent Secretaries to the Ministry, which indicates their greater influence. My right hon. Friend and I are birds of passage. Neither he nor I will reap what we have sown, and that is the difficulty all the time. A Minister of Public Building and Works does not stay long enough in office to carry these things through.
It was salutary for us to hear the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) refer to the prognostications which have been made by Ministers of Public Building and Works, including Lord Glendevon—known to us as Lord John Hope—and the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). I think that their prognostications were made about the time the Holford scheme was brought before us, which no one looks at today and which was thrown out derisorily by the House of Commons of the day. That is why it is necessary—and I take some credit 76 for this—for the House of Commons to have the last word on the subject.
I am sure that there will be no devision in the House about it, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will take the message when I say that we want a firm decision and that we do not want to have to come back to this next Session, or later, and go over the whole thing again. We want enough room for Members of the House as they see their job in at least the year 2000. It is salutary to consider the subject of the Star Court building scheme. It has been the only real addition to the building in 100 years. It has blended in very well. It was not my brainwave, although I adopted it. I think that it came from Sir Harold Emmerson, a former Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Works, and was first put before the Stokes Committee in 1953. When I took office in 1964 I recalled that scheme. That again indicates the passage of time on this subject. The Stokes Committee said, better than almost anyone else, everything necessary about this place.
Of course, extended accommodation is almost always the first casualty of any recession. Today, in The Times, Mr. David Wood suggests that the debate will not evoke much sympathy in the country. It may not do so, but it remains true that, judging by the time scale so far over this matter, present right hon. and hon. Members—though perhaps not the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon)—will not be seeing the thing through to the end. I do not think that right hon. and hon. Members have been aggressive enough as against the functionaries in this place.
We ought to resolve here and now to serve notice on the Private Bill and Public Bill Offices that they are on their way out and that they will have to go across the road. The whole idea since the Stokes Committee has been to bring Members as near to the Chamber as possible. Personnel from those offices have only to come down in a lift and they could certainly leave the building. I envisage the use of the Parliamentary building across the road as being not so much for Members as for all the staff who can be taken out of this building.
I doubt whether the House of Commons on its own can deal with this sort of problem without serving some notice 77 on the other place. We speak about reform of the House of Lords, but I speak from bitter experience when I say that we could have had far better control over these buildings but for the fact that their Lordships always consider that 1'or them it is an estate on its own.
In 1945, Lord Jowitt brought the whole of the Lord Chancellor's Department into the Palace of Westminster, the whole of what any other legislature would call a department of justice. No other Lord Chancellor since has been prepared to shift, however Left-wing he may have called himself. Lord Chancellors will die in the last ditch for the Lord Great Chamberlain. When they go along the Corridor, whether they were right, left or centre, they have another reincarnation.
There is one way in which to deal with this problem very quickly and I ask the Minister of Works to turn his attention to it—it was a live subject in my time. Middlesex Guildhall, which has been vacated by Middlesex County Council, could be turned into the premises of a department of justice. With its fine council chamber, it would be an ideal place for Royal Commissions. It could be the supreme court of the land, and it even has cells in the basement. I have never been in favour of the demolition of Middlesex Guildhall, for there is everything there for a department of justice. Sir Leslie Martin did not think very much of it, but it is on the scene and we know about it and it could be adapted suitably for a department of justice.
I do not suggest that the rooms in the Lords which could be vacated should be used by hon. Members—I want better accommodation for them. But all the rooms which are now occupied by clerks and others and for the storage of useless mediaeval information which should go to the Public Records Office could be used by all the new life peers who are to be created under Prime Ministerial patronage who could then have the sort of accommodation which we are claiming. I hope that hon. Members will not agitate—I dropped this idea years ago—for House of Lords accommodation for us. Let the Lords have it; they will need it. On the other hand, I want the Middlesex 78 Guildhall to be used for a prestigious purpose. I cannot understand the procrastinating peers, who dither about all sorts of things, not getting on with that job. I have been into this subject in great depth both as a Minister and since, and I do not understand why the Middlesex Guildhall cannot be properly used, but we do not want it.
There is no doubt that Star Court has justified itself. It is rather salutary to remember that before the 1964 election the official Opposition did not have accommodation of its own. It then got some on the Bridge Street site and, with the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), I can take some credit for having stopped the Ministry of Housing and Local Government from taking over that site. I remember my friend Hugh Gaitskell referring to the fact that Aneurin Bevan, who, after all, was a world figure while he was here, did not have a room in this place to which he could invite friends. He had to borrow rooms, and that was ridiculous.
All the polls which we have had show that only about 300 Members want rooms of their own, but Members of Parliament now want much more than their predecessors. They see their job larger. They do not regard themselves as amateurs.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
On a point of order. I find it difficult to hear the right hon. Gentleman, because of a buzzing in my ears. I wonder whether other hon. Members can hear it.
§ Mr. Pannell
An hon. Member wrote in the Daily Telegraph today that he wrote 18,000 letters in a year. I do not know what sort of staff or accommodation he wants for that, but there is no doubt that every hon. Member who wants a room of his own should have one.
The hon. Member for Londonderry said that he wanted a world competition for an architect. There was a view that there should be a Commonwealth competition for an architect. When the hon. Gentleman made that observation there was some muttering behind me that those who were not in favour of going into Europe yet wanted a world competition for an architect. I find that funny.
§ Mr. Pannell
I was referring to someone behind me. The hon. Gentleman is particularly parochial. He is not in favour of Ireland one and indivisible; he is all for the Six Counties, but I will not argue that with him now.
The decision about demolition of the Foreign Office was taken by the Macmillan Government and by this Government. I am as fond of and as impressed by the historic scene as are most people. I do not like great buildings to go down, but anybody going into the Foreign Office and regarding it as a place where people work and as a great modern Chancellery is walking into what is almost a Victorian slum. I do not believe that it is possible to refashion the inside to make it a worthwhile building.
However, the Leader of the House said that he would refer mostly to the Parliamentary building, and, as he has set the tone of the debate, I do not want to go further than to say that I hope that at some time the House will turn its attention to the whole concept of Martin-Buchanan and remember that at all the inquiries we have had and all the committees on which I have served have all been contradictory from Parliament to Parliament. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham set up the Martin-Buchanan inquiry, at considerable cost, to end all inquiries. He had hardly done so when the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) when I was Minister of Works was calling for an inquiry into the Broad Sanctuary site, an inquiry into an inquiry.
§ Mr. Pannell
I set up the inquiry. We suggested that these things might be examined piece by piece. The Martin-Buchanan proposals run right up to Trafalgar Square and right down to Victoria Gardens. They are not concerned only with how we house ourselves. They are concerned with he very heart of the Commonwealth itself, as to whether we can recreate in this place a city of great beauty, of great dignity, and of great nobility.
I am old enough to have seen how we have steadily thrown opportunity after 80 opportunity away because of the failure to make a decision. If the Abercrombie scheme of 1944 had been implemented, the Martin-Buchanan proposals would have been unnecessary and much money would have been saved. There comes a time for inquiry. There also comes a time for action. That is why all great planning throughout the world has always been authoritarian. It is not a matter for Committees. It is a matter for great architects and for emperors like Napoleon who thought they knew better than others; and mostly they did.
I am not Minister of Public Building and Works. The mantle has fallen upon somebody else. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) played a creditable part when he was Minister of Works, if it was only in stopping certain trees being pulled up; so he should not sneer at his past enthusiasms. What I am concerned about is that 20th January, 1969 should mark a moment of decision. The talking must stop. We had better get on with the job.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I find that I carry the right hon. Gentleman with me in support for an international rather than for Commonwealth competition. He may not recall it, but on 13th July, 1964, speaking on this subject in the House, he said this:I believe that there may be all sorts of architectural resources untapped, and I feel that we ought to have an international competition".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1964; Vol. 698, c. 867.]
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys (Streatham)
I am grateful to the Minister for having arranged this debate which, though it may not be of wide national interest, is of importance to the House; and it is important to those who care for what has been described as "the heart of the Commonwealth". I hope that the Commonwealth will still exist by the time this plan has been completed. The debate will enable us to discuss the specific proposal for a new parliamentary building. It will also enable us to express views about the wider proposals for the redevelopment of Whitehall as a whole. I propose to concentrate my remarks particularly on the architectural and planning aspects of these problems.
81 As to the Parliamentary building, I am in general agreement with the Committee's recommendation. I hope that there will not be undue delay in providing the new accommodation which is so very necessary to enable Members to do their job efficiently. The Bridge Street site is the right place to erect this new building. I am very glad that the proposal to erect it in New Palace Yard has been happily buried.
We must face the fact that even when the new building is erected hon. Members will still not have all the things they would like to have.
The Leader of the House referred to the wartime destruction of the Chamber. In 1945, when I was Minister of Works, I was concerned closely with the rebuilding of the block containing this Chamber, which had been destroyed by a bomb. At that time hon. Members made countless proposals as to all the amenities they would like. In addition to offices for themselves and their secretaries, they wanted rest rooms for all-night sittings, a gymnasium, a swimming-bath, and various other attractions. It was very difficult to convince hon. Members that all this could not go on to this limited site. To end the argument, I had a cardboard model made which I put in the Tea Room to show what the building would look like if we incorporated all these ideas. It turned out to be a block half as high again as Big Ben. Then hon. Members accepted that a choice must be made between the various competing demands.
Although the Bridge Street site is very much bigger, it is not unlimited. We shall still have to concentrate on those things that are the most important.
I agree entirely with the recommendation that the building should be not more than six storeys high. That its just about the right height. It must not, of course, be constructed in Gothic style—that would be ridiculous. If we were to attach something to this building, naturally that would have to be Gothic. On the other side of the road, in Bridge Street, the style must be contemporary. The facing materials, which I hope will be stone, should harmonise in general with the Palace of Westminster. Clearly, this is not the place for a glass building of revolutionary design which would 82 catch people's eyes and make the reputation of the architect for novel ideas. What is wanted is something of quality and dignity which will not seek to compete for attention, as the Leader of the House said, with its famous neighbours, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman confirmed that there would be an architectural competition. I am very glad of that. I am also glad that we were given an assurance that we would not be automatically committed in advance to adopting the design awarded a first prize by a panel of independent judges, though I agree with the Minister of Public Building and Works that we should not automatically assume that the judgment of the judges will necessarily be wrong. The final decision must rest with Parliament. It seems that all are agreed on that.
The Minister of Public Building and Works, in his short intervention, said that we must not in advance reject the first prizewinner. He appeared to assume that the form of competition would be one which would in the end produce a single prizewinner. I hope he will consider the possibility of another form of competition. The Leader of the House said that it should be under the R.I.B.A. rules. Those rules, which have been recently revised—I think they are still in draft form, but I understand that the new rules are already being applied—provide for various forms of competition. The one which I suggest that the Minister might consider is a two-stage competition under the new R.I.B.A. rules. In the first stage, only sketch plans are submitted, and provided that the full prize money for both stages is paid, it is not obligatory to go on to the second stage.
If we adopted that course, it would undoubtedly present us with a variety of ideas in broad outline from which a choice could be made. Having come to the conclusion that a particular architect seemed to have the right approach, without necessarily being obliged to accept his drawing, we would feel that, working with him, we would be likely to get the result we wanted. I suggest that the Minister should consider the possibility of a two-stage competition, possibly, though not necessarily, stopping at the end of the first stage.
§ Mr. Mellish
As I understand it, in consultation with the R.I.B.A., the competition would be run in two stages. In the first stage, the entrants would be required to indicate a solution in general terms and then a number of them, perhaps eight to 12, would be chosen by the assessors to develop the designs in detail. I would assume that a final choice would be made from those entrants. If the right hon. Gentleman is saying that he would like us to look at what emerges from what I call the number 1 stage, I will consider that. I agree with him that whatever we do we should get the very best design.
§ Mr. Sandys
The important thing is that it should be a two-stage competition. That would tend to produce more entries, because the entrants would not be required to put in a vast amount of detailed work in the first stage. Only those who got through the first heat, so to speak, would have to do all the detailed study- Since the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to consider a two-stage competition, I will not pursue the point.
Before talking about the Whitehall plan as a whole, I should like to express some views on certain detailed aspects of it. I strongly dislike the proposal to build a motorway along the river frontage of the Houses of Parliament. The most dramatic feature of the Palace of Westminster is the way it rises sheer out of the water. The construction of a wide terrace with a grass lawn on it with a public pedestrian way in the front of that in order to cover over the proposed new road would totally ruin the famous and exciting view of the Houses of Parliament from across the river.
I wish to say a few words about three important buildings which, under the plan, it is proposed should be demolished. The first is the building referred to by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), the Middlesex Guildhall. At the public inquiry which the right hon. Gentleman set up at my request, with Sir Robert Matthew in the chair, I urged that this building should be retained for two reasons. First, its Victorian Gothic architecture harmonises well with the Abbey, St. Margaret's and the House of Parliament. Secondly—and here I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman—it would provide a much needed chamber and 84 other accommodation for the House of Lords when sitting in its judicial capacity. It has always seemed to me quite unsuitable and wholly undignified for the highest court in the land to have nowhere better to sit than in a Committee room upstairs. When their Lordships are not giving judgment in the House of Lords, they sit in a Committee room on the Committee floor upstairs. That is not what one would expect for the final court of appeal.
I am glad to say that in his Report Sir Robert Matthew recommended that the possibility of retaining the Middlesex Guildhall should be further examined. It would be helpful if the Minister could say a little more about the Government's view on that matter.
Then there is the question of the future of the Foreign Office. It was already a tight fit when I worked there as a member of the Foreign Service in the early 1930s. Since then, more and more people have been crammed into the building until it is literally bursting at the seams. The right hon. Member for Leeds, West referred to it as a slum. But the fact that the building is too small to accommodate the additional staff which is now required is not in itself a justification for demolishing it; it is an argument for making a move to bigger premises elsewhere.
I realise that the Conservative Government of which I was a member and the present Government have expressed themselves in favour of demolishing the Foreign Office building. But that only makes it all the easier for both of us to change our minds. I have never liked this proposal, and I am more than ever convinced that it was a bad decision, on both architectural and historical grounds. However, I do not ask that it should be kept as a museum or monument. I suggest that, instead of constructing the new Government conference centre in Parliament Square, we should consider using the present Foreign Office building for that purpose. It would entail extensive internal reconstruction, but I believe that it would cost a great deal less than erecting an entirely new building.
While I sincerely hope that the Foreign Office building will not be demolished, I consider that the retention of the Government office block along Great George 85 Street is in some ways even more important. This is an impressive stone building designed by Brydon. It was to some extent inspired by plans of Inigo Jones for the old Palace of Whitehall. There are differing opinions about the quality of certain aspects of its architecture. But I am not primarily concerned with the intrinsic beauty of the building. My main reason for wishing to see it preserved is that it harmonises well with its great neighbours. Without being obtrusive, and without distracting attention from the Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, it provides a dignified and interesting facade to the north side of Parliament Square. It is unlikely that any modern construction could do better or as well. There is a great danger that a new building might introduce an incongruous note which could adversely affect the character of the surrounding scene; and that is a risk which we should not take.
Turning to the practical aspects of the problem, the office accommodation, may I say that I know the building well. For a number of years I have worked at both ends of the building—in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and in the old Ministry of Defence. I am sure that, provided we do not overcrowd it, there would be no cause for complaint about the working conditions.
With regard to the wider problem of Parliament Square as a whole, I believe that, with the exception of the Middlesex Guildhall, our eventual aim should be gradually to clear away all buildings from the area between the Houses of Parliament and Storey's Gate and plant it with grass and trees. This would provide a worthy setting for the Abbey and the Palace of Westminster. If this aim is accepted, there should be no question of any further new construction on the Broad Sanctuary site. A plan of that kind takes a long time to realise, but once one has decided upon it one must not allow any new development to make its realisation more difficult.
In particular, the proposal to erect new premises for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors on the corner of Great George Street and Parliament Street should not be proceeded with. The west side of this enlarged Parliament Square—that is, the frontage along Storey's Gate between the Central Hall 86 and Great George Street—should, I think, be acquired by the Government. This would ensure that it is redeveloped with due regard to the special character of this unique area. If more Government offices are needed, that surely is the place to build them.
That would, of course, be additional to the proposal to build new Government offices on the site between Bridge Street and Richmond Terrace. I fully support that proposal and should be interested to know how the planning is progressing. Perhaps the Minister can tell us. Will Parliament have an opportunity to comment on the design before a final decision is taken?
I understand that the architecture is in the hands of the Ministry of Works, and I am very glad of that, because there is a tendency to belittle the ability of the architectural department of the Ministry of Works. My experience of that Department is that it does a very good job, a much better job than it is credited with. I remember, when I was Commonwealth Secretary, going to open a block of offices designed by the Ministry of Works in the main square in front of the Parliament building in Ottawa. I assure the House that it met with immense praise. I believe that given the chance, which it all too seldom gets, the Ministry of Works architectural department will be well able to do a job which is worthy of this important site.
In that connection, I should like to ask about Scotland Yard. As has been mentioned, Sir Leslie Martin recommended the retention of this building, which is an unusual example of Victorian architecture. Everyone was, therefore, somewhat surprised when the Minister in reply to a Question last July, let drop that it was the Government's intention to demolish this building. As far as I know, we have not so far been given any explanation for this change of plan and we would be glad if the Minister would say something about it when he replies.
Sir Leslie Martin has said many times that his Whitehall Plan must be looked at as a single entity and that, subject to modifications of detail, it must be accepted or rejected as a whole. In fact, the Whitehall Plan, as a comprehensive scheme, has already ceased to exist. 87 Various Government decisions and other developments have shot it to pieces. I will mention only the more important changes.
The proposed Government office block at the corner of Bridge Street and Parliament Street has now been shifted to make more room for the new Parliamentary building, and its shape has been further altered by the decision to incorporate into it the site now occupied by Scotland Yard. Since there will now be a Parliamentary building and not a Government office block at the corner of Bridge Street and Parliament Street, presumably the proposal to link that building with the Government offices on the other side of the road will also be dropped. The suggested bridge was, in any case, open to serious criticism on the ground that it would obscure important views in both directions.
Sir Leslie's proposal to construct a large block of flats extending from Great College Street across Millbank, which would have involved building over a substantial part of the Embankment Gardens, has been strongly condemned by the Westminster City Council and others and is also likely to be abandoned. The wisdom of demolishing the Foreign Office and the Government office building in Great George Street has been so widely challenged that it is clearly necessary to review these decisions. I hope that we may have confirmation on that point from the Minister tonight.
The whole scheme for the redevelopment of the Broad Sanctuary, including the proposal to demolish the Middlesex Guildhall and to construct a new conference centre, is being looked at afresh in the light of the inquiry by Sir Robert Matthew.
But what is much more crucial is that the Government—this was referred to by the Leader of the House—have, on financial grounds, rejected Professor Buchanan's plan to create an enlarged motorway along Horseferry Road to carry east-west traffic. Meanwhile, the Greater London Council has shown itself reluctant to accord more than low priority to the costly proposals for road tunnels along the river running north-south.
The concept of a Parliamentary precinct has always, to me, been a most 88 attractive idea. But it presupposes that it is feasible to divert a large part of the traffic away from Parliament Square. In rejecting the proposals for the Horse-ferry Road motorway, the Government have called in question the basic assumption on which the entire scheme rests. At the same time, they are planning to introduce an additional 10,000 civil servants into Whitehall, which will inevitably generate still further traffic. We must, therefore, recognise that, until an alternative diversion route can be found—and this will not be easy—we are building castles in the air.
In the course of my remarks, I have recommended the retention of several buildings which are threatened with demolition. As the House knows, I am not just a preservationist. I am not opposed in principle to modern buildings or high buildings. I like them. For example, I support the imaginative and exciting new scheme for Piccadilly Circus. But a building which is a thing of beauty in one place may be an eyesore in another.
I do not underrate the importance of equipping our Government offices with the most up-to-date facilities. But that is only one consideration. It is a question of priorities. In different places the priorities are different. In this case, I have no doubt that our first duty is to protect and, if possible, enhance the dignity and beauty of this world-famous scene, which is so much a part of the life and history of the British people.
Having said that, I see no reason why the Parliamentary building should not be considered separately from the rest of the Whitehall Plan, and I hope that the necessary decisions will be taken so that it can go ahead as soon as possible.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
Before I come to my main remarks, I should like to say a word about what the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) has said. I hope that the Government will look at what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the future of Parliament Square. This is a very sore point with many of us.
I immediately refer next to what gave me cause to interrupt my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council. He seemed to be saying in his opening 89 speech that the possibility of closing Bridge Street—I almost felt that this was being echoed in the possibilities for the tunnels for the other traffic—was already receding. Indeed, my right hon. Friend seemed to be asking for approval for the present scheme without the condition that these things will eventually take place.
I would not want to give approval today to the scheme if the possibility of closing Bridge Street is being steadily abandoned. I would not want to give approval if the possibility of the tunnels is being abandoned. I disagree here with the right hon. Member for Streatham. This is a price which we have to pay. The right hon. Gentleman does not like harming the river frontage, but the price of having a free Parliamentary Square is having harm to the frontage through construction of the tunnels. I accept that price. I hope that, in replying to the debate, my right hon. Friend the Minister will make absolutely clear the position about Bridge Street and the tunnel; otherwise some of us will feel reluctant today to vote for the Motion.
I am one of those who believe that we should be building a new House of Commons on the Bridge Street site between Bridge Street and Richmond Terrace. However, I do not propose—and my right hon. Friend may be glad to hear it—to deploy that case today. I take this view because of a very particular agreement that I have with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), that the time has come for somebody to get on with something. I felt exactly the same about the reform of the House of Lords. While we are all busy putting up pet schemes, somebody has to get on with what we can achieve within a reasonable time. Therefore, I am prepared to have the present scheme for the building in Bridge Street, and I have sat on most of the Committees in recent years when we have hammered it out.
I want today to examine the price that we shall now have to pay for this decision.
§ Mr. Chapman
No, the price we shall have to pay as Parliamentarians for accepting that we do not have a new House of Commons and have to make do with what we have now planned in Bridge 90 Street. I also want to make one compromise suggestion which I hope the Minister will consider favourably. Indeed, it would have been in an Amendment on the Order Paper if the Government had not outsmarted me by their Motion today.
§ Mr. Mellish
Let me get this on the record now. The Government had no intention of putting the Motion down as a matter of tactics by which to outsmart my hon. Friend. I do not wish to hurt my hon. Friend, but I must tell him that at the time we were not even thinking about him.
§ Mr. Chapman
I accept that, but as a result of my right hon. Friend's action we now have to speak to the Motion without having been able, as is customary, to put our views in an Amendment on the Order Paper.
However, to come to the point, what is the price that we have to pay for not having a new House of Commons? At the present moment our main problem in this building is that we want accommodation for more Members near this Chamber. Indeed, I will tell the Minister something which he ought to know—I am sure he does know—that even the present rooms in the roof space are unpopular with Members, who are almost not prepared to go as far as that from the Chamber for their accommodation. We are up against the problem that we could do with a great deal more accommodation round the Chamber; but do we concede how impossible it is in any circumstances to provide it?
We have about 100 rooms for private Members in this building. In addition, we have about 77 Ministerial rooms. Therefore, our present accommodation for private Members in this building, some of it remote from this Chamber, is limited to 177 rooms. All the Committees have tried various questionnaires about how many Members would like private rooms. The figures show that if we extrapolate the curve of recent rising demand, then by the time we get to the year 2000 pretty well every Member will want a private room—not only because he wants to work there but because by then he will have a secretary or personal assistant—and will regard that room as his base headquarters for his Parliamentary activity, and quite properly so. So 91 we shall have a demand for about 450 rooms: we have 177, we need 620. We need at least 400 rooms as accessible as possible to the Chamber. Moreover, I hope that they will be of substantial size in the new building which will be provided.
The next question is—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West raised this—can we achieve anything like that accommodation for Members near the Chamber by clearing out some of the people who at present inhabit the building? The answer is, unfortunately, "No". The Committees have been into this in great detail. I will give my right hon. Friend the answer. We calculate that if we move out all the residents—that is, the Serjeant at Arms, the Deputy Serjeant at Arms, the Clerk and all the rest—and if we move out all the parts of the various Departments which could possibly be moved away from the Chamber, the net result would be that we should clear away enough space to be able to provide not the present 100 Members' rooms near the Chamber or in the building but the magnificent total of 130 rooms. As I say, we have been into this in great detail, taking Department by Department, considering their functions, consulting them as witnesses, having them all carpeted before us and asking, "Which of you can be moved from here?" So the possibilities of clearing out do not exist to make a contribution of any size towards solving the problem that we are facing.
Then we come to a further problem. Even beginning to consider accommodation near the Chamber, it is not the case that Members of Parliament have absolute priority for it. For example, I do not know whether hon. Members realise that the present demand on the Committee Rooms is so phenomenal that we are near crisis point. I give the figures. They are simple. In 1964 there were 445 meetings in Committee Rooms—meetings of Select Committees and Standing Committees alone. Last year it was 880. The number has doubled in four years. Frankly, we have to have more accommodation in this part of the Palace of Westminster for Committee meetings of various kinds.
Additional to that, in this part of the building there is the Library. The 92 Library accommodation is ridiculous by any modern standards. Does anyone believe that in the year 2000 a modern Parliament will stand for the kind of library accommodation that we have today? We need possibly even to double the amount of library accommodation in this building, and certainly we can say that we need 10,000 sq. ft. for the Library as soon as we can get it. So the possibility of increasing from 100 to 130 the rooms for private Members near the Chamber, in my view, begins to disappear, even allowing for a certain amount of building over the Tea Room, and so on.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
The hon. Member said that the number of Committee meetings had doubled in the last four years. Will he concede that if the whole scale of Governmental activity were reduced, and if the scale on which the State interferes with individual rights were reduced, we should not need all the accommodation for which he is now asking?
§ Mr. Chapman
I have no comment to make on that. I regard it as irrelevant. If Parliament is to go on checking all this Government's work or that of any other Government, we shall have to double yet again the number of Committee meetings, and quite properly so.
We come to the next point. If we cannot create the accommodation near the Chamber by clearing out, can we do it by further in-filling on this site? I do not think we can. We have been into this exhaustively. The only piece of infilling I pleaded for—and it was on this point that I made the interruption in the speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark)—was over the Tea Room, where we could build more Committee Room accommodation; but there is nothing else one can do on a scale of any magnitude whatsoever.
§ Mr. Mellish
Will my hon. Friend allow me—because my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) is not here, I think, and therefore not able to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker? Of course, there are proposals by a man called Libby. These proposals are being investigated. I shall be referring to them in my winding-up speech, 93 if I have the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Chapman
I thought they had been dismissed. I shall be glad to hear what my right hon. Friend has to say about them. At any rate, the present indications are that there is not much chance on this site.
So we come back to the Bridge Street site and the price we shall have to pay in accommodation if we go ahead with this plan and do not have a new House of Commons complex between Bridge Street and Richmond Terrace. We have to face the fact that 400 Members will be accommodated in private rooms over there. There is nothing else we can do about it. Whatever may be done about the passages above the colonnade and all the rest of it, I simply say to my right hon. Friend that we shall still be in danger of having over there a building which will be only partly of value, partly because of its remoteness from the centre of activity, which is the Chamber. I hope that we shall reach a compromise on the lines which I shall outline in a moment.
There is, however, one further and final consideration that I want to put forward. All we have been doing so far is considering the needs of the House of Commons, but what about the needs of a reformed House of Lords? The present House of Lords has no accommodation of any size for any one of its individual Members. Do we believe that if we reform the House of Lords on present plans and have full-time legislators they will accept in the year 2000 the rump of this building that they now have, with no possibility of individual rooms for Members? We could not possibly envisage that.
I began to ask questions about this, and I found that all the possible infilling that could be done in the House of Lords area would provide no more than one-third, or perhaps one-quarter, of their minimum requirements if it is to become a second working Chamber. Does my right hon. Friend realise now the price that we are paying for pushing ahead? I agree we must push ahead somewhere with the present scheme, but it means that within a short time the House of Lords will be breathing down our necks telling us that we have not 94 thought what to do about the rest of the Palace of Westminster, and asking what we are going to do about them and their individual rooms, with no possibility of expanding at their end of the building. At the same time, 400 Members, at least, will be banished to the other side of Bridge Street, with tenuous links with this building and no sense of community with what is going on immediately in the Chamber.
I come to my compromise. It would have been an Amendment and I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the spirit of it. Instead of his reserving, as he has at the moment, the present amount of land beyond Bridge Street, he should get ahead with the present building, and the Services Committee should be instructed to report on any further extension that could be foreseen towards the end of the century on the remainder of the site behind Bridge Street. This is an opportunity which will not occur for another hundred years. This is the first time for a hundred years that we are able to do any major rebuilding, and we may even now be planning too short-sightedly. We should ask the Services Committee to look at several possibilities.
One possibility would be that, although we had this Chamber as it is now for our current debates, pretty well all our Committee work should take place in a new subsidiary complex on the other side of the road, so that as the House expands its Committee work we shall not be so rushed for accommodation round the Chamber. We should reserve that side of the road as a centre for the Committee work of the House of Commons, with the 400 Members' rooms attached to it. This would then require more than the 250,000 sq. ft. in the plan. If 400 rooms for Members are provided, that will take 200,000 sq. ft., and 50,000 sq. ft. will be required for television rooms, Fees Office accommodation and all the other bits and pieces included in the Committee's Report as being suitable for the other side of Bridge Street. Briefly, I suggest to the Minister that while he is getting ahead on the first stage of Bridge Street we should now begin to look at a possible second stage in which there is a subsidiary part of the House of Commons, perhaps even more self-contained than we had originally envisaged, between Bridge Street and 95 Richmond Terrace. This will enable him to have authority to get ahead with something. It will have a second advantage, on which I know he feels strongly, that we should not abandon this Chamber and have a totally new Commons complex somewhere else. It will also meet my feeling that, unless we do something of this kind, in the years 1990 and 2000 we shall be regarded as having been utterly short-sighted in the light of what a Parliament of two working Chambers in the year 2000 can be expected to need in terms of accommodation.
§ Mr. Mellish
I want to give serious consideration to any suggestion made by any hon. Member, and so I should, as Minister, since this is a matter for individual Members and we must have their collective views. Do I understand my hon. Friend to say that he would abandon the idea that any part of the Richmond Terrace-Bridge Street site should be used for Government offices? If he is saying that, will he state it clearly?
§ Mr. Chapman
I should not want to go as far as that, because I do not know. I am suggesting that the Services Committee should be asked to report on what more of that site Parliament could be envisaged as needing by the year 2000. In the light of that and in the light of the considerations which I have set out we would then decide how much should be left for Government buildings and how much ought to be reserved for the time being. I do not envisage its being reserved year in year out for another decade. I envisage that, following the decision that we are giving the Minister today, within two or three years we should say conclusively whether we want any more building on the Bridge Street site as a second stage. I would not want him to do any more than hold up for a stated limited time his present plans for office building on that site.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
As someone on the periphery of this matter, I am surprised that the Libby scheme has not been more fully explored, since the intention of the scheme is to meet exactly what my hon. Friend is saying—namely, to keep us within the proximity of the Chamber. Is it not important that the Services Committee should in the 96 meantime also be examining this scheme, as it has evidently not done so for?
§ Mr. Chapman
It clearly is, but this will come out of the Minister's speech, if he will give us a lead on this scheme. I am speaking only within the limits of the knowledge made available so far to the Committee. Within those limits I say again that I do not see any chance of sufficient accommodation on this site. Will the Minister in winding up tonight therefore give an assurance that he will not rush ahead with his plans for the rest of the Bridge Street site until the Services Committee has had a chance to make a further report on a possible subsidiary Commons complex on the Bridge Street site—as opposed to the rather small building by the standards I am talking about proposed in the present report? If he will give that assurance, as a good compromise I will certainly say "Let us get ahead with the present scheme", as I fully understand his reasons for pressing us to do so.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
Before I come to what I have planned to say this afternoon I should like to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman). I hope that the Minister, in considering his answer to what was suggested, will think about the possibility of designing a new Government office building in the region of Richmond Terrace complementary to the new Parliamentary building which we are talking about on the Bridge Street site. If at the end of the century it becomes necessary for Parliament to use the whole of this area, it would be very much easier for Parliament to move into a building which is complementary to the building which we are now planning than to move into one planned for a different purpose and with no provision for adaptation, or to join up with a building separated by a great gulf from the one which we are now planning. If one is to wipe out everything on the whole site, I am sure it makes architectural sense that whatever is planned should be planned to be used as a complete unit in the future, if it becomes necessary.
This debate, largely, is about better conditions for Members of Parliament of both Houses, apparently. But better 97 conditions in which to do what? Surely we should aim to get our paper work done as easily as possible so that we are freed from the drudgeries of office work as much as possible, have more time to think, are able to get out of this place and meet people, and have more contact with the world outside rather than less. To be office bound as some hon. Members wish to be, apparently, has great dangers. Sitting in an office leads to the multiplication of paper work, some of which might even be of a political and not a Parliamentary kind. One thing leads to another, and there would be no end to it.
No one has referred yet to the outside interests of hon. Members. Business interests ar2 regarded by a large number of hon. Members opposite as being not quite nice, but it should not be forgotten that it is the world of business which can earn the wealth that politicians in this House delight to spend.
I am never entirely happy when I find The Times in total agreement with me. Today, by a few hours, it anticipated what I had planned to say about the total membership of this House. I believe that Parliament could work with about 400 Members of the House of Commons. It is a solemn thought received in absolute silence by the present House. But, with regionalism becoming more important, with all the talk of independence for Scotland and Wales in the Parliamentary sense, with more local decision making for Scotland and Wales, surely it is possible to do with fewer Members at Westminster. Some highly unfavourable comparisons have been made between the British House of Commons and the House of Representatives of the United States of America, which seems to manage with fewer members and deal with the problems of a large part of a sub-continent. While we would not be prepared to accept the axing of a third of our Members at one go, perhaps we should plan for the future by accepting that we should endeavour to reduce the number of Members of this House by easy stages at each succeeding General Election. I leave that thought with hon. Members, including those who are not here today, because much of our problem of accommodation and administration stems from the fact that there are too many people in this building.
98 I am afraid that I must again refer to The Times. I look forward with interest to reading the article by my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) in the Daily Telegraph, which I regard as an equally valuable newspaper. One of my hon. Friends complained in The Times and on television that there were too many demands from our constituencies and not enough time to spend at Westminster. But, again in the context of this discussion, we should remember that one can never spend too much time away from this place. Members of the House of Commons are the last remaining personal links between the citizens of Britain and the mysterious "they" in Government and in Whitehall, who have all too much influence on our private lives.
We are asked to think about new buildings for Members of Parliament and for civil servants. Many people say the fewer civil servants, the better. If there are fewer civil servants, it may be that they will be even better civil servants. Better and better civil servants mean that we shall need fewer of them. It is a case of Parkinson's Law in reverse. There may be something in the theory that with all the new machinery at man's disposal we shall need less manpower and, accordingly, some of the accommodation which we seek will not be needed in the end. But we are asked to plan for the future. In that connection, we should remember that we are but birds of passage. The phrase was used by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). He was a Ministerial bird of passage, but back bench birds of passage apparently survive for little more than one Parliament. All hon. Members have about that sort of average life. We have to remember that we are thinking about the lives of those who will come after us in great numbers fairly quickly.
Even in my limited lifetime here, immense changes have occurred. I was told 12 years ago that I was lucky to get a locker on the upper row, and there was also a key. Then I was put on a Committee under Sir James Duncan. We did a lot of planning and produced some conclusions. I have been on every Committee since, except the "concrete" Committee which produced the hideous 99 scheme for a building in New Palace Yard. I put that on record because, as the Report is printed, it rather suggests that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) and I had something to do with that horrible proposal.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
As my hon. Friend has referred to me, does he not think that the Leader of the House should consider that when a sub-committee makes its Report hon. Members should be able to discover which of their colleagues were members of the sub-committee?
§ Mr. Cooke
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I raised the same point too late to be exonerated with him from blame for this "concrete" proposal. However, when I found my name on the Report of the Kitchen Committee, with all its losses and other deficiencies about which some of us feel strongly, I was able to get the rules altered. In future, sub-committees will be responsible for their doings, and the names of members of sub-committees will appear on their reports.
All along the theme has been that we must first improve our conditions from within. Accordingly, we looked at this Palace. It was not very easy at the beginning. Indeed, I was rebuked by a former Chief Whip of my party because I was reported as having been seen in some part of the building at which I should not have been looking. I fond a great deal of space there. Eventually, it was taken over for the use of the House of Commons. Perhaps I set a bad example because, as the result of the rather militant activities of some hon. Members opposite, the House of Lords "put up the shutters" and has had the frontiers drawn so that we can no longer go in that direction. But there is not much Lords' territory which would be of great use to us. Indeed, it is interesting to see hon. Members now looking for more space to help a reformed House of Lords. A year or two ago the House of Lords had few friends in this place.
We did what we could to improve our conditions from within. No doubt a little more can be done. Then we had to look at the possibilities of expanding outside. Among the members of the 100 Lloyd Committee were the right hon. Member for Leeds, West, the Minister of Works to be, and the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). They came down in favour of the great Gothic extension which anticipated Martin Buchanan by blocking up Bridge Street. That was rejected by all the aesthetes, and on cost grounds. But the Committee's remit was for accessible extra space. The Committee thought that it should be accessible at every level and, hence, attached to this building. The architectural style followed from that. The proposal was supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), who said that if we stuck something on to this building, it ought to be in the same style.
That has been rejected by this House, and we come now to the present proposals. They are not the result of some obscure sub-committee rubber-stamped by the Services Committee; they are the proposals of the whole Services Committee which examined them in considerable detail and produced this Report. A detached building with an underground link and an impressive entrance hall between the catalpa trees in New Palace Yard is envisaged.
We are told to look at the proposal for access from the Chamber of the House to this new building, and a corridor is suggested along the top of the colonnade. I am glad that the Leader of the House said that this proposal was not put forward in any detail, because it is not as easy as it sounds. A corridor along the top of the colonnade would block all the windows in the Prime Minister's, the Foreign Secretary's and other Ministers' rooms. If the passage is to be sunk into the colonnade it would destroy all the stone vaulting and leave a very low covered way beneath. So this is a difficult problem.
Concerning public access to the new Parliament building from the Central Lobby area, how are people to get there without going into areas reserved for Members only? It would indeed be difficult for Members rushing for a Division to have members of the public mixed up with them very close to the Chamber. That will have to be gone into in great detail, and the Committee will have to work out the details.
101 I hope that hon. Members will tell the Committee what to do. The Services Committee does not aim to reach its decisions behind locked doors. The more pressure there is from hon. Members to make sure that their representatives on the Services Committee make sense, the better. I was delighted to find that some of my hon. Friends had been meeting and getting together some very useful ideas which came before the Committee. There was no secret about that. I was only sorry that the proceedings were rather formal. Perhaps a more informal influence from the Committee in future might be even more helpful. Our aim must surely be that the Services Committee should reflect the views of the House. Some of the Committees which have sat in previous years have not done that.
I now refer briefly to the Whitehall plan, and Whitehall in general. I hope that the slab across the end of Whitehall as envisaged in the plan is crossed out for all time and that there will be no question of blocking up the end of Whitehall. I am glad that the Brydon Treasury building has many friends. I hope that it will be complemented by the new building that we are discussing and that those two buildings at the beginning of Whitehall will complement each other.
The Middlesex Guildhall has found many new friends today. But the Great George Street complex of chartered surveyors and the other learned bodies at present there does not seem to be such a happy proposal. The Government's idea of a composite redevelopment in partnership with these organisations has considerable dangers. I heartily agree with my right hon. Friend in hoping that all these buildings will be wiped out and that we shall have an open space there including Broad Sanctuary.
The other end of the Martin-Buchanan proposals envisage a horrid new block of flats in front of the Church Commissioners' building across to the edge of the river blocking out part of Victoria Gardens. I hope that the Church Commissioners' building will be retained and that we shall have no slab architecture there. I know that I carry with me a large body of public support. Indeed, we have had much in this House today.
I had not intended to say much about the Foreign Office, but the Foreign Office 102 is gaining friends. It must be said that the Foreign Office has created, involuntarily, its own slum within its existing building. It cannot help it, because it is so overcrowded. But very little effort has been made to improve conditions since the announcement that the building was doomed. I saw a newspaper photograph of the Foreign Secretary's room in which his desk was surrounded by half a dozen electric fires with trailing flexes and various other forms of heating. That really is not necessary. Indeed, if the building was cleared of half its inhabitants it could be made perfectly habitable and could go on being the Foreign Office with an adjoining office block across the road on part of the site we are discussing. I hope, too, that the old streets near the Church Commissioners' building will be retained.
The House is being asked to consider a new Parliament building on the Bridge Street site, and Government offices are envisaged further down. This may be what the House will decide. But if the House were not to decide that, I suppose it would be possible to develop the whole of that site piecemeal and to keep Richmond Terrace, though it is somewhat worn out and out of scale with the adjoining building, the Welsh Office building, which many people feel is of some quality, and the original part of Scotland Yard, a building of splendid proportions when viewed from a considerable distance, but it contains a vaste waste of space and it is doubtful whether it will be very useful. But a kind of Downing Street scheme could be done with this block, preserving the best and fitting in other little bits here and there. I would not advocate it, but it could be done.
On the whole of the Bridge Street site and the Government offices site we could build what I think my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster will suggest is a completely new People's Palace, as it were, to take the place of this building.
Architecture frightens Members of Parliament, but in architecture we get what we pay for and also what we ask for. I was very glad that we got out of the Minister the fact that the wishes of Members of Parliament were to be taken into account, and that, should the result of 103 the competition prove to be unacceptable, we should be able to reject it. I very much hope that it will be a world-wide competition. Many distinguished British architects have worked in other lands. Indeed, some of the best architecture in Czarist Russia emanated from this country.
Before leaving Whitehall—I know others wish to speak—I feel I ought to say something about traffic. We have seen the plans upstairs for the riverside route and for the tunnel passing along the Terrace. I hope that if this is ever constructed—and here I have many people with me—it will be sunk right down in the river bed so that it will not be visible even at low water. In other words, I hope that it will in no way alter the character of the river front of this building.
Another matter of grave concern to our deliberations is the statement on 3rd December in which the Minister of Public Building and Works said that the Horseferry Road route had virtually been abandoned as a means of getting traffic out of Parliament Square. If we cannot get all the traffic out of Parliament Square, and most of Whitehall, too, a great opportunity will be lost and the whole of the Martin-Buchanan proposals will have come to nothing. I leave the House with that thought, because that has a very considerable bearing on the long term.
In conclusion, I think that this will have been a most useful debate, because we shall have had every point of view. I hope that the House will always have the benefit of the Services Committee, which will not be allowed to do its work secretly away from view.
We are asked to agree on a new Parliament building. I hope that it will be part of a well-designed group. The details of what goes into it can be argued by the Committee, but it is to be borne in mind that the views of hon. Members will matter more than any Committee's. I hope that we shall largely leave this Palace undisturbed.
Mr. Libby's proposals should be considered very carefully. I believe that they are based on a pre-war plan of this building before reconstruction of this Chamber and that there is not sufficient space 104 to do what Mr. Libby envisages. If half the inhabitants of this building were moved to a new one, we should leave this building undisturbed—indeed, enhanced—and no longer the overcrowded, badly heated, badly ventilated and unhealthy place that it now is. The air conditioned parts of it are those which are mostly seen by the public. They are quite comfortable. But many of the places where hon. Members must work are far below the standard which we give to Government servants elsewhere.
When it was built more than a century ago this Palace was one of the wonders of the modern world, and it has remained the best known and best loved building in Britain in modern times. We are asked today to rescue it and give it a new lease of useful life, in partnership with a new building, so that Parliament will be provided with what it needs in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I trust that the House will approve the Motion and that we shall have action as a result of our decision.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the House that a goodly number of hon. Members still wish to take part in the debate. Mr. Howie.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Howie (Luton)
I was somewhat shaken by the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) that we should spend more time away from this building, this being our first day back after an absence of four weeks. We have quite wide opportunities to visit our constituencies and to do what needs to be done in them. I believe that, on the whole, hon. Members who spend much of their time in this building have good reasons for doing so.
I am rather sorry that the debate is so wide. I would have preferred the question of a Parliament extension to have been separated from the general argument about Whitehall. I appreciate that the two matters go together, but I fear that discussing them together has widened the debate too much. Like other hon. Members, I intend to concentrate my remarks on the question of a new Parliament building; and, if possible, I will restrict myself to mentioning the wider scheme, important though it is, only in passing.
105 The disadvantages of this building have been aired sufficiently well in the debate to lend support to the idea that the best proposal of all is to shift Parliament to another site. The Committee considered this and rejected the proposal, partly because of the delay which might be occasioned and partly because it might become difficult to find room for Government offices. However, since this is, I believe, the best solution, I suggest that it should not, even at this stage, be rejected.
The choice of site becomes important and the two sites which have been considered are: in the general vicinity of Bridge Street-Richmond Terrace and at the other end of the Palace of Westminster, in the Gardens. However, one site which is conveniently near should, I suggest, be considered. It is the site of the Foreign Office building which, by an odd chance of fate, is almost the same size as the Palace of Westminster site.
§ Mr. Channon
Is the hon. Gentleman aware, if it is the same size as this site, that it would be unsatisfactory because we are arguing the need for a larger site than this one?
§ Mr. Howie
I appreciate that. Nevertheless, the Foreign Office site is, in length and width, roughly the size of the present Palace of Westminster site. It would not be an exact fit, but it would not be far out. It is conceivable that we could build on that site and in the process retain the only feaure of this building which I consider to be highly desirable; namely, the relationship between this Chamber, the other Chamber and the Central Lobby. That could be reproduced on the other site and I have in mind a building akin to that occupied by the United Nations, in which the offices and everything else are accommodated in a tower building. I should like us to adopt the idea of a tall tower, but I appreciate that there is a variety of objections to that course being pursued in this case.
It is important that we should seriously consider the Foreign Office site and the alternative use of it because there has been a tendency to regard it as a monument which should be retained merely because it is there. Virtually everyone agrees that it does not fit its purpose. The only positive suggestion for making it a useful building is that 106 half the staff who now occupy it should be ejected and housed in another building on the other side of the road. Since that building is not suitable for occupation by the Foreign Office, an alternative use should be found for it—and I suggest that a new Parliament building could be erected there.
There are obvious objections to such a sweeping proposal. For example, one might ask what should be done with the present Parliament building. I suggest that nothing much could be done with it, certainly from the point of view of the public parts of the building. Those parts would have to remain, rather like the Tower of London. The office pans could continue to be used by Government in the most useful way.
The cost of a new Parliament building would be extremely large—many millions of £s—and this might result in public objections being raised to such a step. Bearing this in mind, and should the suggestion which I put forward be considered impossible, then (we must, having agreed that further accommodation is undoubtedly required, consider what we need and where we can find it.
In recent years prodigies of ingenuity and tact have been employed in this building to do infilling and to find means of making the place more suitable. Some of the new offices in Star Court are somewhat spartan, but at least they serve a purpose and provide accommodation where none existed before. I understand that about 360 hon. Members—I believe that the number includes some Ministers—are accommodated within the House of Commons part of the building, plus about 80 secretaries, and that, in addition, a number of functionaries and offices such as Thomas Cooke & Sons are accommodated here.
The very first thing to be done is to move out everyone from our part of the building who is not an hon. Member, as far as this can be done. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I had not thought of moving you out. Perhaps there is a certain amount of residential accommodation in the building which is not quite as necessary as is Mr. Speaker's House. We accept that Mr. Speaker must live on the site immediately adjacent to the Chamber, but I am not sure that the same can be said of some of the others who live within the building.
107 In looking for an alternative site, the Committee suggested building in the Bridge Street—Richmond Terrace area. There is much to be said for this, as long as that accommodation is not used for hon. Members—or is used for hon. Members only as little as possible—but is used to accommodate functionaries and people like the Clerk of the House, secretaries and even such organisations as the I.P.U. and C.P.A. They could move to Bridge Street quite readily and so release a marginal amount of accommodation near the Chamber.
When considering the need for hon. Members to be accommodated near the Chamber, the Committee said of the accommodation in Star Court and the roof area that it was inconveniently far from the Chamber, which it described as the centre of Parliamentary life. It proposed that hon. Members should be accommodated in Bridge Street, but I remind hon. Members that that would be further from the Chamber than the very parts of the building which the Committee described as being inconveniently far from the Chamber. Indeed, when these proposals, or somewhat similar ones, were debated in 1964 in this Chamber, the Bridge Street proposal of that time—which was nearer the present proposal since it was attached to the Clock Tower—was described as an annexe, and my right hon. Friend, now Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity, remarked that the sheer time-wasting going backwards and forwards would be intolerable—and we know that she is one of the most tolerant of women. If she found it intolerable how would the rest of us get on with it?
We should also recall that the device of providing a foyer or entrance hall—spacious and lavish as that might be—underneath Bridge Street does not, of itself, bring the Bridge Street building into the Parliamentary precinct; it merely looks on the plan as though it does. All it does is to move the doorway nearer than it would be if it were on the other side of the street. Nobody would argue that because a spacious foyer connects us with the underground station at Westminster, that underground station is part of the precinct. It is further away from the building, but the argument still remains.
108 We should therefore look closer at hand for the new extensions. A closer site can be found—the site recommended by the Committee in its Fifteenth Report, in our last Session, to which the Committee refers in the opening paragraph of its present Report. That site would be the area round the uncompleted sides of New Palace Yard. That is not a new suggestion. As my right hon. Friend said in opening, that exact proposal was made by Sir Charles Barry, one of the architects of this building, more than a century ago.
Apart from any delay which might be occasioned by its being a controversial proposal—which I do not think it is—it would be the quickest means of providing the extra accommodation, because the new building could be done round the two sides of New Palace Yard without the necessity of demolishing other buildings, which would have to be done in respect of the Bridge Street site.
What would be lost if we built round the two remaining sides of New Palace Yard? I do not think that it would make much difference to the view of the Palace of Westminster, because the best and most popular view—the view which we find on postcards and Christmas cards—is the view from the other side of the river. The real view of Parliament, much loved, would not be affected by building around New Palace Yard. No complete view is now available of the west elevation of the Palace. For one thing, there are too many churches in the way. The only loss would be the loss of the familiar view of the Clock Tower, the Members' car park, and a corner of Westminster Hall, which in any case spent many years in the middle of a quadrangle. It has spent longer in a quadrangle than out of it.
The loss of the Clock Tower would not be disastrous in itself because the building proposed by the Committee in its earlier report, round New Palace Yard, would still permit people to see the clock, which is what the Clock Tower is really for. We know that it is an attractive picture, but it is not a necessary feature of Parliament, to be set against the accommodation of Members and the functioning of Parliament.
On the other hand, what would we gain by building round New Palace 109 Yard? First, Members and others would be at the nearest possible point to the Chamber and to the Library. From a town planning point of view, perhaps, at long last Parliament Square would become a real square. At the moment it is not. If we think in our minds of Parliament Square we see that it starts with a car park, and moves on to the grass adjacent to Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's. Then come two buildings which are, perhaps, not totally compatible with each other—Middlesex Guildhall, which is Edwardian Gothic, and the Surveyors' building, which looks like a piece left over from the Prudential building next to Gamages. It is not an attractive building. The next side of the square is formed by half of Brydon's office building. This building is built on a long, fairly symmetrical elevation, half on Parliament Square, and half running along George Street.
We need to complete the square by removing the car park and New Palace Yard and putting a building there. If building is done in New Palace Yard, adjacent to or stuck on to the existing building, the architectural style becomes important. This question disturbed the House at the time of the 1964 proposals. A qualified suggestion was made, and was repeated today by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), that if building were to be done in New Palace Yard it would have to be in the Gothic style. In my view that is quite wrong. Any Parliamentary building built in this century must be clearly and obviously the product of this century and of no other. For that reason it cannot be a Gothic building.
The Palace of Westminster is not a Gothic building. When Pugin, who was one of the architects, was going down the River Thames in some kind of boat, he remarked to a friend when passing the Palace of Westminster, "All Grecian, Sir: Tudor details and classic body." In other words, the existing Palace of Westminster is a stylistic "phoney". It is a very pretty building, but it is a stylistic "phoney". It has a classical plan which works rather well, covered with a screen of Tudor decoration. The only real Gothic in the place, apart from Westminster Hall, is the cloisters which, when rebuilt, were rebuilt not as a Victorian pastiche of Gothic but as a replica of 110 the sixteenth century design which was destroyed in the fire.
Pugin designed buildings which were appropriate 100 years ago. They were Gothic, because Gothic architecture is a system of structural engineering and the Victorian age was an engineering age. Also, in its decoration and fantasy, it offered some kind of escape for Victorians from the industrialism and materialism of their age. It was also felt to be the architecture of religion, and therefore respectable. It also fitted the romanticism of the Victorian age, because when this building was being rebuilt Sir Walter Scott was at the height of his popularity. I am glad to say that his popularity has since waned.
But although a case could be made out in Victorian times for Pugin's designs, they remain "phoney". We have only to look round the building that we are in at the moment to see how "phoney" they are. An ideal Gothic building consists of pillared aisles and vaulted roofs. Our Chamber, quite properly, is a square box. Up through the screen above the side gallery there, one can see a series of columns which cry out the name Dorman Long, saying quite clearly that this is a structural steel building with an overlay of very poor Gothic decoration. So we have compounded the "phoniness" of this Chamber and it would be wrong to compound it in an external building.
If we do not build in Gothic, however, and yet build in New Palace Yard, attached to the Palace, what are we to do? This was the question which I believe forced the Committee's hand. Faced with this question, I think that they ran away and decided on Bridge Street, where they could escape from the Gothic and build a modern building rather than an artificial one.
They were wrong to do this. There are numerous examples in this country of buildings containing a mixture of styles. Even this building itself contains a mixture of Gothic styles. Westminster Hall is different from the cloisters and they again are different from Pugin's designs, and the 1950 designs of this Chamber and the Members' Lobby are different again, although possibly they are within the same family. But there are many buildings, like Hampton Court, 111 which marry styles, Tudor and Renaissance, and function perfectly well without causing aesthetic offence to anyone—[Interruption.]—except, perhaps, the hon. Member for Bristol, West—
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
The hon. Member mentioned Hampton Court. Has he not looked at the place in Hampton Court where the two styles come together with the most horrible results?
§ Mr. Howie
I have seen it, and I just do not agree. I look at these matters with different eyes from those of the hon. Member.
There are numerous examples, on a smaller scale, admittedly, of Victorian buildings having been married successfully with the international architectural style of today. I can think of no example off-hand on this scale, but on the smaller, domestic scale, the two styles have been married perfectly well. I think that the new building should be clearly modern and contemporary and must represent our age. My own preference would be for a very severe kind of extension such as might be designed by Mieis van der Rohe, in which the severity and stark-ness of the design would contrast with the over-decoration, as I find it, of this building.
However, if the Committee decided that it wanted something more decorative, it could still be done in the modern style. There are a number of architects who could produce something modern for them in pre-stressed concrete. I merely mention Yamasaki and Nervi. Nervi could produce a totally modern building in pre-stressed concrete which would meet the desire for decoration of any Gothicist and yet be in keeping with the modern age and harmonise with the existing building.
None of the architects that I have mentioned, however, is a Commonwealth architect—this is a fluke—and for that reason I think that the competition should be totally international. To be frank, I do not believe in the competition at all. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), who thinks that this kind of think is best done by a Napoleon. The 112 Minister should select his architect and give him his remit.
We must build nearer at hand than on the other side of Bridge Street. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) proved the case, because what he was really saying in effect was that the amount of accommodation which Parliament will need in the next 50 years will require the Bridge Street site but also a great deal more. It seems to me that the appropriate place for building additional accommodation to what can be provided in Bridge Street is not the Richmond Terrace end, but in New Palace Yard. For that reason, we should not support the Motion.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. John Smith (Cities of London and Westminster)
We are trying to deal today with two debates—one on the Whitehall Plan as a whole and the other on the future of this building, whether it shall be improved or replaced or have an annex built on the Bridge Street site. These two subjects overlap but they are not really a single subject. I will deal first with the Whitehall Plan and then with the future of this building itself.
The great drawback of the Martin-Buchanan plan is that it is inhuman in scale. This is suitable in a way, since many people think that Government itself is inhuman and in erecting buildings on an inhuman scale we should mirror our times in architecture. I would point out to the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) that one cannot avoid mirroring the spirit of one's times anyway in architecture. It does not matter if a building is built in a contemporary style or in a style derived from the past; before 20 years have passed, anyone will be able to date that building exactly. One cannot escape from one's own times.
The authors of the Whitehall Plan have equally failed to do so and are proposing something inhuman in scale. There is, for example, no reference to human beings in Buchanan's very lengthy terms of reference. In addition, too much is to be rebuilt over too short a period. The spirit of Whitehall, indeed, the spirit of what we do here, is a spirit of organic growth which is reflected, or has been up to now, all over England. Any high street in any provincial town 113 contains buildings of many different periods, which is what makes such streets so pleasant.
But we now have to rebuild too much over too short a period. The pace of change has overtaken us. Indeed, there should have been a great deal more recognition in the House today of the accelerated pace of change. People have been discussing facings of stone, styles of architecture and delays of eight years—or fifteen years in the case of a new building. Any scheme, it seems, is to proceed with geological slowness. Whatever building we erect and wherever we put it, it will be out of date and taken down long before people have begun to fuss about its facings or the style in which it is built.
However, because we are now faced with doing too much too quickly in too small an area round here, it is essential not to demolish those buildings which are in the human scale. I would mention briefly the buildings which we must make a great effort to keep if what we do is not to finish up by being inhuman. These are the Middlesex Guildhall, a building which I greatly admire and which is neither Victorian nor Edwardian, as has been said, but Georgian—built under George V, it is the final, ultimate building to be put up in Arts and Crafts Gothic—and Richmond Terrace, which has few friends but which, if it were in any provincial town, would not be pulled down in any circumstances. It is a fine and complete survival from the 1820s. I would have thought that whatever is done on the Bridge Street site, Richmond Terrace could be kept as a screen to the new building. It would act as an admirable foil to the buildings on the other side of Whitehall, and to Gwydyr House up towards the Banqueting House.
All planners inevitably have temptations, and one of the great temptations to which they are subjected is that of the clean sweep. It is very attractive and is a temptation to us, too. But I hope that when dealing with this area we shall not succumb to that temptation but keep those few small buildings which are in the human scale.
There are two other temptations to which we must not succumb. There are the opener-uppers. Such people think that a good building looks better if everything around it is pulled down—a 114 great fallacy. Very often its shortcomings are exposed. Then there are the beauty-spotters, people who say, "This building is good and must be kept, but that building is not so good, therefore it can go". Both those fallacies leave us with a few good buildings which, as I think Sir Hugh Casson said, will look like diamond rings in the spaghetti.
There is also a risk that the Whitehall Plan will produce something which is inhuman in a different way. There is a risk that this area will end up as a necropolis of Government offices, that it will end up like the City of London on a Sunday. I am sure hon. Members opposite do not want that. There are to be 10,000 more State employees in the area—not, as I thought, 10,000 but 10,000 more. This was said by a Government spokesman on 19th May, 1966, reported in HANSARD at column 1737. Surely, before we commit ourself to that, we ought to study the effects of decentralisation of what goes on here. No matter how much regional government we have and how much we devolve to other people—this applies to companies, with which I am more familiar, as well as to Governments—one can fill any office building, no matter how large, and decentralisation is never pleasant; it is never pleasant to want something and to find that it is in Richmond and that much time passes before one can get hold of it. But decentralisation is often cheaper; and when one does the human sum it is also often better.
This is not quite the same point, but there is a great risk that we shall create here a thing like new Delhi. I think it was Parkinson who said that when an organisation starts to rebuild itself in toto it is a very bad sign because it means that it will shortly pass away.
The Government spokesman in the Adjournment debate in May, 1966, said—and this may be the real reason why all these offices are to be put here—We like to build new offices on Crown property because it is the cheapest way of doing it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1966; Vol. 728, c. 1737.]I hope we can get away from that ridiculous fallacy. The price of something has no connection with who owns the site. The site has value if one owns it, and if one builds on it one loses its 115 value for one s sell. What one wants to do is to put the buildings in the best place, and if we do not use one of the sites we own we should sell it. It was said in the House of Lords on this subject that the Government estate in London as a whole needs looking into to see whether certain sites are not too expensive for the purpose for which they are used, and whether if they are they should be sold.
§ Mr. Mellish
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that recently a Select Committee of this House comprising Members from all parties severely castigated my Department for not pursuing far more vigorously a policy of buying its own sites and building its own offices because the leasing of property on behalf of the Government was, so it was thought, financially wrong and in some respects a disaster? How does the hon. Gentleman link his remarks with the views of a Select Committee of this stature which went into the subject so thoroughly? What am I as the responsible Minister to do—listen to the hon. Gentleman or to the Select Committee?
§ Mr. Smith
The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my point, no doubt due to my own clumsiness. I am suggesting what he has just said, namely buying sites.
I do not want to say too much about the Whitehall Plan because it is a great mistake that the Government should be able to say that the matter has been fully discussed in this House and that there is no need for a public inquiry. A short debate here is quite inadequate to settle the matter of the Whitehall Plan. Indeed, we are inadequate. There are very few of us in this House who are in any way qualified to deal with matters of planning of this complexity. If we were qualified we probably ought not to be here. I doubt if there are many here who know the names of the architects of all the buildings involved.
This matter has been very little dealt with in Parliament. There are continuous rumours of modification to the Whitehall Plan. Indeed, in April, 1966, the Minister said that the scope of the subject was too wide for a public inquiry but that there would be inquiries into particular aspects. But piecemeal inquiries 116 are the absolute negation of the Martin-Buchanan plan, which is a comprehensive plan. That is what it was meant to be. Lord Silkin said that the problem was one for the people of this country as a whole, if not for the people of the Commonwealth.
I think it would be a great mistake for us, and it would lead to delay, if we went on in too Napoleonic a manner and tried to push the Whitehall plan on the public without giving the public the opportunity of letting off steam and airing their views at a public inquiry into the scheme as a whole.
I now mention traffic as it affects the Whitehall Plan. I think we have got to accept that if we have a tunnel along the terrace outside this building—and I believe we have got to have it—it will irretrievably alter the character of this building, just as Somerset House in the Strand has been irretrievably altered by the building of the Embankment. That building was built with its feet in the river, and now it has the Embankment in front of it, greatly spoiling it. Exactly the same will happen here. I mention that because I hope that the recognition of an irretrievable change for the worse in this building may soften the hostility of hon. Members to what I may say later.
I do not think it is practicable to expect that we can get the east-west traffic out of Parliament Square. Indeed, I do not think it is desirable. I think this space is far too large for a pedestrian precinct. As a precinct it would again be inhuman in scale. It would be like certain of the open spaces created by Mussolini, and it would be too lifeless. A bit of traffic in Parliament Square will be nothing but a good thing.
Lastly, on the subject of the Whitehall Plan. I turn to the Foreign Office. On 3rd December last year the Minister saidNo plans … have yet been made for the future of the Foreign Office site".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1968; Vol. 774, c. 1249.]from which I assume that it is still the intention to demolish it. I am not in favour of demolishing the Park front. I am not concerned with the rest of the building. I start from the assumption that people who work in the Foreign Office, like people who work here, must have proper conditions to work in. People 117 cannot work satisfactorily in that building today. Therefore, those who work in the Foreign Office must work in another building. But it need not be a building on the same site. There is nothing sacred about the Foreign Office site. It would cause appalling inconvenience in the work of Foreign Office people if the building were demolished all round them, and a new one were put up, and they had to make two moves. It is not as though all Foreign Secretaries were buried on the site.
I suggest, therefore, that we put out of our minds the idea that a new Foreign Office building requires the demolition of the old building. There are many uses to which that building could be put. All buildings have a life—a declining life, if one cares to put it like that. They cease to tie useful for one purpose but they then suit another. It is proposed to demolish the Foreign Office building and at the same time to put up a new international conference centre across the road. But, as has been very sensibly suggested several times today, why could not the new international conference centre be incorporated with the important parts of the old Foreign Office building? More than that—this is where the two debates overlap—the proposal is that there should be a new international conference centre, but no new conference centre for us. We are to stay in our conference centre here. After all, that is what it is.
I shall not dwell on the inconveniences of this building and of our lives here, which are well known to all readers of today's Daily Telegraph. The point is that it is not our convenience which is at stake. Hon. Members have talked today as though it is a question of comfort for Members. It is not our convenience which is at stake; it is the quality of work which we are able to do for Great Britain. I have been appalled at the parochial nature of this discussion. Is it to be supposed that a little more expenditure should rule something out of court when a little more excellence in our conduct here could save thousands of millions of pounds to the country, and not only save pounds but alter and improve the whole future course of our history? If we are doing anything useful here—which would be a third debate—each of us is spread much too thin: 118 we must have facilities to get our paperwork and our office work behind us.
Our attitude to this building is extraordinary. For example, there are no plans of this building. I like to get the hang of a place, and, when I first came here, I tried to obtain a plan of it. There are no plans. There are plenty of plans of designs which were rejected when the building was constructed, and they are displayed in public places such as the Interview Floor. If one follows those, one is not greatly helped. Not withing to display my ignorance, and trying to find a way out, I used to open doors and find myself in closets full of brooms or in quiet Gothic parlours occupied by courteous officials. In the end, I was able to obtain a copy of the heating plan of the building, a plan which, interestingly enough, reveals that it is still every bit as easy to blow up the place as it was when the last attempt was made.
I have said that it is not our comfort which is being considered. Similarly, we must consider not only our own convenience but that of the staff. I have not made great inquiry into this, but a trifling example will serve. We sit here late. The HANSARD staff have to sit late with us. They have to sit beyond the time when public transport stops. But the HANSARD staff who have to remain here till any hour of the night with us and who must use their motor cars to return home cannot bring them closer than the other side of the river. Is it really worth paying the sort of sacrifices we are asked to pay for the sake of tradition?
I come now to the Report which we are discussing. It is interesting to note that more than a third of those who signed this Report of April, 1968, signed the Report of July, 1967, too, which said:Any building on the far side of the road is unlikely ever to be regarded by Members as an integral part of the Parliament buildings. … Bridge Street is not only a physical barrier; it is a psychological barrier. … The Sub-Committee are therefore of the unanimous opinion"—It is interesting that the Sub-Committee is unanimous, since more than one-third of the members who signed the April Report were members of the Committee which produced the Report in the previous year which said the exact opposite.
§ Mr. Channon
I think that my hon. Friend has fallen into some confusion. The earlier Report was the Report of a sub-committee of the Services Committee. The later Report is the Report of the Services Committee as a whole. I was not a member of the sub-committee although I was a member of the full Services Committee at the time of the later Report. The later Services Committee was not unanimous; in fact, it rejected the plan. There is a great difference here which is, I think, explained by the fact that the earlier Report was by a sub-committee.
§ Mr. Smith
It shows how confusing these matters are. The sub-committee must have been comprised of members of the main Committee. It said—and I agree—that it wastherefore of the unanimous opinion that the scheme … for building a large Parliamentary building on the other side of Bridge Street is founded on a false premise. Members require more accommodation and better working facilities, but they require these not just anywhere but as near to the Chamber as possible and in a building as near to being in one unit as possible.
§ Mr. Chapman
May I explain what happened? Members of the Sub-Committee were later shown the possibility of raising Bridge Street and allowing more effective entrance to the new building. Under protest, I think—I cannot speak for every member of the subcommittee—we then said, "All right; if the main Committee wants to go ahead, this does at least alter the situation a little".
§ Mr. Smith
But their words, which are words of general principle about the situation of the building, are not vitiated by anything which has happened since, and they go on to say:If the proposed building were constructed, it might well prove to be a waste of money.Then they mention the possibility of moving the House of Lords into Black Rod's Garden, another of those charming nooks of fairyland we have here but which I had not heard about. It is interesting to note, also, that the 1967 Report expressed the view—this is indicative of our attitude—that Members would mind a long walk for a Division more when they were at dinner than when they were at work. It was suggested that it was more 120 important that Members should be able to go to a Division quickly when they were eating than when they were working. The latest Report says that the Bridge Street sitewould admittedly be some way from the Chamberbut it would beless inaccessible than some of the existing accommodation".In my view, the scheme is imperfect from the start. It will do enormous damage to the future of government. It will lead to all sorts of further wrong decisions. It will lead inevitably to building in New Palace Yard because the building will be inadequate almost before it is up.
I wish briefly to examine the steps which, apparently, led up to this decision. The proposal for a new building was dismissed because it would cause a delay of 15 to 20 years. All I can say is that, if the Government feel that they cannot do it within 15 to 20 years, any private enterprise firm could do it for them. There is no shame in letting a private enterprise firm build a new House of Parliament or, indeed, own it, in the same way as there is no reason why Westminster should own its own City Hall—which, as a matter of fact, it does not.
The Victoria Tower garden site is ruled out—and I myself do not wish to see any building there—but it was ruled out because it might be worth £10 million. I do not know why a garden should be worth that, but in earlier statements we heard that the Government like to build new offices on sites which belong to them.
Next, the Committee considered that Bridge Street would provide ample accommodation to meet the needs of the "foreseeable future". I have never known any organisation correct in that assumption. I do not understand the meaning of the words "foreseeable future". How much can one foresee? Where does one draw the line between what one can and what one cannot foresee? I cannot foresee the future at all. The Star Chamber Court extension was thought to be "inconveniently far from the Chamber"; and, finally, there was the argument about getting here in the dry. The Leader of the House mentioned 121 "quick, covered access". I was irresistibly reminded of the song in "Oklahoma":Everything's up to date in Kansas City,They've gone about as far as they can go.With every kind of comfort every house is all complete,You can reach the privy in the rain and never wet your feet.There is also the question of the "psychological barrier". The right hon. Gentleman said that it was important to bring hon. Members together and not split them up, and I agree. There are rooms in this building for Ministers and members of the Shadow Cabinet. If we put up a new building in Bridge Street, we shall have prefects in the House of Commons and ordinary boys in Bridge Street. It will increase the likeness to school of this place. School, which this place greatly resembles, is fine—but is not for going back to. Indeed, for an institution which is so very hard on the public schools, this institution resembles them surprisingly closely. If we get hon. Members over to Bridge Street, it will be like lodging too far from one's university—and a lot of us know what that feels like.
I miss not being here in the mornings. I should like to be here then, when I can meet people in the passages and get to know what is going on. Again, what is going to happen while the present Bridge Street building is being demolished? At the moment, it houses a large number of hon. Members. What is to happen to them while a new building is being constructed? In short, if hon. Members are to lead the life they do, if we are to run 630 separate citizens' advice bureaux, we cannot do it in a disused club. There is no escape from that. We must have a new building.
Of course we do not want to lose this most wonderful building. It is a privilege to be allowed in it. But we are not our own masters. Events are our masters—indeed, in many more ways than we think, which is fortunate, for otherwise we should all shoot ourselves. In this case, events are definitely our masters. Whatever we decide tonight, we shall find ourselves rebuilding this House, and rebuilding it again and again. Can we not face this problem now?
I will not go into the arguments about costs. I have the costs here but they are 122 a trifling element in our thinking. In fact, a new building would be much cheaper to run—cheaper in more ways than people think. For example, I have to work out, and therefore charge my expenses against my salary. If I worked in, I would pay taxes on my salary.
I will not press my own choice of site. I am solely concerned with getting Parliament into an efficient building; but I would like to explore the site behind Middlesex Guildhall, which is available for the first time for centuries. If we can build a new international conference centre there, then we could surely put up a new national conference centre there for us.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that many other hon. Members are anxious to take part in the debate.
§ Mr. Smith
I recognise that, Mr. Speaker, but, as ill luck would have it, this matter not only drastically affects my constituency but also my own future; and it is a subject in which I am very interested. I have worked all my life for various people who may or may not have been satisfied, but it is impossible for me—and other hon. Members will find this later on—to do my job properly in the way I should like with the facilities offered here. That is inescapable.
I want briefly to mention delay, the time scale. One of the troubles of Parliament is that, when it comes to dealing with its own physical surroundings, it cannot act as others do. We had a report on the telephone system, for example. It took us six months to agree to implement it. In an ordinary firm, a committee would have been set up to look into the matter, a decision would have been taken and a start made the next day. We are now discussing a Report nine months old. We are told that there is to be a two year period to organise the designs, followed by a report to the House and a debate—which will no doubt take place after another nine month interval.
After eight years, our needs will be totally different. Whatever building we put up in Bridge Street will be out of date by the time it is erected. We must accelerate the process. I do not agree with building in Bridge Street, but if we put up an all-purpose building there and it 123 does not suit, the Government can always sell it. It is better to take a wrong decision and implement it quickly than to take no decision at all.
Mr. Speaker, I have spent all my life in trying to preserve things. Apart from my name and the fact that I was not in the Brigade of Guards, every detail of myself and of my outlook is tremendously traditional, conventional and square. But I have worked all my life in commerce and industry and I know that we are here making a decision disastrous for us and for the country. The use of tradition is to advance into the future fortified by the past, not hampered by it.
At the bank where I worked for so long, we went about in frock coats, which made us look respectable and made customers think that we could not run too fast. But that bank has the best computer system in the banking business. The Brigade of Guards does not go to war in brass and scarlet. Such things are the sheet anchors of our society, indeed. This building restrains its wilder spirits, no doubt. But we should be fortified, not hampered by tradition. This building influences all that takes place in it and it is essential that we should move out. We should regard this building as the marvellous chrysalis of the old Britain from which we have at last emerged. We must regard tradition as the shadow—a valuable shadow—but not as the substance.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Coe (Middleton and Prestwich)
I am glad that the debate gives the opportunity to consider the proposed new building in relation to the Martin-Buchanan plan. I shall not follow the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) in all the ramifications of his speech. At times I was not sure whether he was being traditionalist or modernist or a combination of the two. He was a little confusing. Perhaps when I read his speech I shall be able to sort it out.
The debate also enables us to take stock of existing accommodation and the services provided in the Palace of Westminster in order to gauge what accommodation and services will be required in the proposed new building. In respect 124 of this second point I would like to mention that about 66 per cent. of right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House completed a questionnaire sent to them by the Labour Parliamentary Reform Group, which asked about existing accommodation and services and improvements in this building or any other which they would like to see implemented. Those who completed the questionnaire represent about a third of the total membership of the House, and in the course of my speech I shall mention one or two figures which are interesting and I think relevant to the debate.
I should like to say at the outset that I am not traditionally or emotionally attached to this building. I like this Chamber and I like the appearance of the Palace of Westminster, but if the present accommodition prevents Members of Parliament from doing their job efficiently, I should not be averse to constructing a completely new Parliamentary building which would cater for all our needs and include a new debating Chamber and so on, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) suggested. However, such a proposal would involve considerable delay. The hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster said that it need not be 15 or 20 years, but it would still be considerable, and because of that I have concluded that the Services Committee's suggestion is preferable.
It also has the positive attraction of being part of an imaginative plan which would centre all our Parliamentary buildings and most of our governmental buildings round Parliament Square in a fairly traffic-free area. However, I have been disappointed by one or two hon. Members opposite who are apparently prepared to see a new Parliamentary building and who talk about having a new and modern style of architecture and so on, but who also say in the same breath that we must retain the Foreign Office and the Great George Street site. To retain these would destroy the whole object of the Martin-Buchanan plan. The intention of the plan is to look at this as an entity planned in a modern form. If we are to have a new Parliamentary building going the length of Bridge Street, it is only sensible to follow that down the side of Parliament Square so that 125 there is a oneness about it and a recognition that this is the architecture of this period. I was therefore disappointed by the reasoning of some hon. Members opposite.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield has reminded us, once we accept the plan, we shall in effect be saying that this is the end of any suggestion of a new Parliamentary building, because the essence of the Martin plan is to incorporate the present Parliamentary building into the new complex.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
If the Richmond Terrace—Bridge Street area were not completely occupied, the plan would not rule out having a new Parliament building in future.,
§ Mr. Coe
I entirely agree, but it is likely to do so. We have to make a decision fairly soon, and I doubt whether we should then get a completely new Parliamentary building.
If we are to agree to this proposal, we have to be satisfied that the services and accommodation which would be available in the new building would enable us to do our job properly and Parliament to function effectively. I was concerned to find that in the Martin plan and in the Services Committee's Report the basic assumption seems to have been on providing X square feet of accommodation rather than clearly analysing the needs and then making sure that sufficient space was available to meet such needs. For example, on page 6 of its Report, the Services Committee points out that a new Parliamentary building in Bridge Street might provide anything from 250,000 to 300,000 sq. ft. gross of floor space which it considersample to meet the needs of the foreseeable future".I am a little; concerned about what it means by "the foreseeable future" and how it reached that conclusion because on page 7 it says:Your Committee have not yet made detailed investigations into the types of accommodation which should be provided.It points out that much space will be needed for individual offices for Members and their secretaries and that some of the administrative offices in this building could go to Bridge Street. That is all well and good, but what disturbs me 126 about the Report is that there is no detailed analysis of what accommodation is required by Members of Parliament, and yet this analysis is fundamental.
Is it suggested, for example, that every hon. Member should have an individual office with extra office accommodation for his secretary? If the calculations of my hon. Friend the Member for North-field are right and most of the accommodation would be taken up simply on that basis alone, the Committee's idea of what is ample for the foreseeable future and my idea differ.
It depends on how we look at the functions of a Member of Parliament. I do not believe that we can any longer maintain the fiction that this place is operated on a part-time basis. We must therefore provide the sort of accommodation for M.P.s and others which any self-respecting business manager would expect as a matter of course and, more important, as a means of efficiency.
It is interesting that 71 per cent. of those who replied to the questionnaire wanted individual offices, and I suspect that a poll of hon. Members opposite would produce very much the same result. It is not just a matter of accommodation on a personal basis. The work of the House is likely to evolve more and more into the Committee system and I should like to be assured that in the new building, alongside the space in this building, there will be adequate Committee Room accommodation—it is obvious that there is not enough in this building at the moment. There is also an urgent need for better photo-copying facilities, catering facilities and research rooms. Can we be assured that all these needs will be met in the new building?
We must also consider the supporting services which are usually ignored when we discuss the facilities available in Parliament. For example, more than half those replying to the questionnaire would like medical facilities to be available somewhere in the building. This is normal in large concerns, and it is quite wrong that medical attention should be left to be provided by doctor M.P.s who happen to be on the premises at the time. More than half the Members who answered the questionnaire felt that facilities for the families of Members 127 were insufficient. Has any provision been made for them? There was a considerable demand for recreational facilities and, in view of the static nature of our job, that is not an unreasonable or frivolous request.
Finally, 58 per cent. thought that residential facilities should be available. The Martin Report suggests that that would come at stage 8, but various hon. Members opposite have said that they would like that part of the plan to be abolished. If they do not want the residential accommodation which the Martin plan suggested, are they keen to have some form of residential accommodation available, and, if so, where do they think it should go?
Those are some of the considerations to be taken into account. I agree with the outline plan and I am prepared to support it, provided that I can be assured that this sort of thinking is going into the planning of the new building. What worries me is the fact that each time this sort of exercise has taken place the amount of space which Members require has been increased. We have heard about 100,000, 200,000, and now 350,000 sq. ft. I should like to be sure that the figure which is finally agreed is a realistic one.
Therefore, I would ask the Minister carefully to consider the compromise suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield. We shall need more space for the sort of things I have mentioned, and this is likely to be more than we are to get with this proposed parliamentary building. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will consider holding back any development of Government offices in the site from Bridge Street to Richmond Terrace for a litle longer so that it can be carefully considered and so that the Services Committee can analyse the amount of space required in relation to the needs of Members and the services involved. From the figures which have been provided I cannot be sure that this has already happened.
It is not just the problems associated with the new building. It is not merely the problems of the future. We are concerned about the problems of the present. A number of things will have to be done to cope with the situation which will exist before the new building is 128 complete. There is, first, the problem, which has been referred to a number of times, of fully utilising the space available in this building. The figures have changed since 1965, but it appears from the figures given by Martin that there is very little difference between the amount of space available for the Lords and that available for the Commons. If we are serious about reforming the House of Lords, we must ensure that the allocation of space there is properly done. Perhaps we shall not get the benefit of it, but at least let us be certain that the space in the other half of the building is properly used. Martin suggests that thought should also be given to some of the residences, which take up about 46,000 sq. ft., being sited elsewhere. There is also a need for a searching examination of the organisations which use this building to see if they can be accommodated elsewhere.
Considerable adaptation can go on now, and it should be planned in conjunction with the new Parliament building. The needs of the present demand a rapid expansion of supporting services. I want to pay public tribute to the many improvements which have taken place in the last few years. There have been considerable improvements in photo-copying, extra office space, and so on. The present Government deserve some credit for having initiated many of these things, but from a business efficiency point of view they are still pitifully inadequate. For example, only 19 per cent. of the Members we polled have individual offices. Just over one-third of them have secretaries' offices sited conveniently in relation to their own. There are the eternal problems of research facilities, telephones, photo-copying and so on. All these things need to be examined now even before the new Parliament building is erected. The facilities available here compare very unfavourably with those available in overseas Parliaments.
It has been suggested that there will be little public sympathy for this debate. Perhaps the public are not desperately interested. But they recognise that Members of Parliament should have the facilities to enable them to do their job effectively. The pay of M.Ps is one thing, but the public have considerable sympathy when told that Members of Parliament do not have proper office 129 equipment and facilities. We should not be afraid of going ahead with the provision of these and demonstrating to the public that by the erection of new Parliament buildings we are enabling ourselves to do our job more effectively, which is what they sent us to Westminster for.
I join others in urging the Government to push ahead with this scheme as quickly as possible and I hope that they will consider the compromise suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for North-field. And I hope that the combination of these things will produce a far better range of facilities; something which has been necessary for many years.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
I hope to follow the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Coe), both in his brevity and in the train of his argument, certainly the last few sentences of it, to which I shall return.
I suppose that the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) would describe me as a junior apprentice. I would certainly accept the appellation. I have no views to give on the Whitehall scheme as a whole, not because I am not interested. I have listened with fascination to the many knowledgeable, interesting and entertaining speeches which have been made. I have greatly envied the ability of the House to affect the character and style of buildings which will go up in this historic part of London, since we are not able to protect the City of Edinburgh from the ravages of the Edinburgh City Council. As a Scottish Member, I will not intervene on the broad subject. What I want to talk about is the provision of better Parliamentary facilities and the Report.
I want to take up a point made by the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith). The last sentence of the Report reads:The sooner a decision can be reached, the sooner can plans be put in hand and the building begun.Immediately underneath follows the date—9th April, 1968. In other words, nine months elapse before we even have a debate on the Report. As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, six months elapsed before we even passed—formally without a debate—a Resolution to give 130 us a better telephone system. If we make this sort of progress in matters immediately under our control, I have little hope that we shall make better progress with the provision of the more fundamental facilities that we need.
I understood the Leader of the House to say that the Commonwealth competition will take two years to organise. Is this correct? If it will take two years over and above a straight commissioning of a design of a building, I am against it. Eight years is far too long to wait for the provision of better facilities. The Government must now accept that there is great urgency to press ahead with the provision of better facilities for Members.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) rose to the defence of the Report of the New Building Sub-Committee, of which I was a member. I regret that this Report was so hastily buried with gross indecency and never even discussed. It was simply squashed effectively by the main Committee and has been abused ever since.
The sub-committee went with great care into the question of views from different angles, the question of the limits of height to be placed on the building, and the fact that the basic design would have to follow the modules and sizes of the original Gothic. Provisional drawings were made by the excellent Architects Department of the Ministry of Public Building and Works. I disagree with those who say that if we tacked something on to this building it would ruin it. The Palace of Westminster is not a homogeneous architectural entity. It has been contributed to over the centuries by different ages and at different times. I see no reason why the late Twentieth Century should not contribute another part to the building. We should have made a straight choice between having a new building completely or tinkering with the present building. I fear that the proposals before us tonight are a very unhappy compromise.
I stick by the view expressed by the New Building Sub-Committee that to operate across Bridge Street is most undesirable for all the reasons outlined in the Report. I would not have minded if our proposal for a building round New Palace Yard had been turned down on 131 the modern architectural point and if it had been claimed that it would have to be in Gothic. However, I think we could have gone ahead far more quickly with the scheme than we shall be able to with the new scheme. Admittedly we should have provided far less accommodation, but the scheme could have been proceeded with immediately.
That not being possible, we should have taken a more fundamental decision as to who is to have the Palace of Westminster—the House of Lords or the House of Commons. That decision having been taken, the "loser" should have moved out. This building as a whole could have been used by one half or the other. Either we should stick in it and add to it, or the reformed House of Lords should have the whole of it and we should move to a new building. That would have been the correct decision in the long run. As it is, we are left with this proposal before us tonight.
The hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster questioned why some of us had our names apparently attached to both Reports. The answer is simple. As a member of the subcommittee, I supported its Report. In the main Committee we were defeated and were left with the Report which is now before us or nothing. I have now reached the stage where I think that it is vital that we should get something. Although I do not particularly like this proposal, I intend to support it, because I think that it is important that we should get on and have new facilities.
I believe that the advice of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) should be followed. Care should be taken to leave sufficient space at the back of the new building for future extensions when, as will inevitably happen, it will be found to be too small.
I say that it is important to press ahead with the provision of facilities because I think that the Government—and, indeed, all parties—made a great mistake in 1964 when they put the emphasis on increasing Members' salaries. This was unpopular with the public and is still misunderstood by it. Members of the public imagine that we have large net salaries and all sorts of tax-free allowances. We should be much better off as Members, and it would be 132 much more publicly and politically acceptable, if the Government were to switch policy now and concentrate on the provision of adequate facilities to enable us to do the job. Most members of the public think that we have these, anyway. Those who learn that we do not have them are absolutely horrified.
Some hon. Members are already agitating for an increase in salary. I do not support them. An increase is certainly justified on paper. The cost of living has increased tremendously. The cost of telephone calls, postage, Selective Employment Tax, secretaries' wages and living accommodation in London leaves us with a very small net salary. I do not think that the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster would mind my mentioning the fact, which is well known, that he is a man of substantial other financial means. He has indicated that he gets round his difficulties by using presumably most, if not all, of his Parliamentary salary to provide himself with office facilities outside. But we should not have to rely on such financial means so that we may have the facilities which we need.
I object strongly to a system whereby a Member of Parliament who, like myself, has no private means is forced to undertake as much outside work as possible to subsidise his public work as a Member of Parliament. That is a thoroughly bad system. Those hon. Members with distant constituencies who choose to spend most of their time in the House and on Parliamentary work find that they have a built-in productivity disincentive in that the more work they do the less they are paid for it because the more they spend in doing it. I should like to see a new building in which there is some form of hostel accommodation for Members representing distant constituencies who wish to use it. This is done in a number of Commonwealth Parliaments and is accepted practice.
The room which I used to work in, the desk room, in which some of my Liberal colleagues now work, does not comply with the terms and requirements of the Shops and Offices Acts which we impose on other public buildings. The basic facilities in a new building must be designed to provide each Member with a room and an adjacent room big enough to take a secretary and personal assistant. 133 The Secretary should be supplied with the job, together with a telephone and typewriter. I found it significant that among the new provision made for us in the short time that I have been in the House was a new cloakroom. Attached to the coathangers were delicate pieces of pink ribbon. When I inquired about their purpose, I was told that they were provided for each Member so that he might hang up his sword when he entered the building. This is symbolic of the thinking which goes on about the provision of facilities in the House.
I am astonished when I go round the country and see the offices of nationalised industries or Government Departments. Admittedly, some are overcrowded, but many of the executives in the public service and Civil Service enjoy facilities, to which they are certainly entitled—I make no criticism of that—but which are far superior to that which we enjoy here.
The reason why we are campaigning for better facilities and why some of us have been talking to our constituents and other bodies about our facilities is not that we: want our lives to be more comfortable for purely selfish purposes, but that over the years under Governments of all parties the growth and power of the Government have increased. This is an accepted fact. Parliament has reflected this in the change in balance between part-time and full-time Members. There is a place for part-time membership of the House, but the balance must be changing inevitably to full-time membership, and there should be a corresponding increase in the power and capacity of Parliament to check the growing power of the Government.
Unless Members are adequately equipped to do their job, we shall not have that power and the Government will get more out of control. We should put it fairly and squarely to the public that they would not employ a watchdog for their house and then put it in a cramped kennel so that it grew mangy, suffered from ill-health and was grossly inefficient for the job for which it was purchased. I do not think that the public would accept that that was sensible. We are the public watchdogs over the Government; our conditions are: intolerable, and the result is that Parliament is not as effective as it should be.
134 It do not particularly like the proposals. However, they are the only proposals we have, and, therefore, for heaven's sake let the Government get on with them.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
I would disagree with very little in the speech of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel). He was right to draw attention to the need for modern, up-to-date facilities to enable hon. Members to do their work. While I would not follow him in his disquisition on salaries, the general tenor of his argument on that matter, too, would command my assent.
Unlike a number of hon. Members, I have no particular affection or regard for the Palace of Westminster as a building. It is ugly on the outside, and my experience of it in the past three years is that it is extremely ugly and inefficient on the inside. With the sole exception of Westminster Hall, the most ancient part of the building, I do not believe that it has any particular architectural attraction and it would not grieve me if it ceased to exist. The only part of the building which has any attraction for me aesthetically is this Chamber, which could be easily reproduced, rebuilt and transferred to some other place without serious loss.
I would not demur if the proposition were to come before us that we should have an entirely new House of Commons or an entirely new Parliament building. I would go further. I should like to see Parliament transferred from the centre of London. London is far too over-weighted in terms of commerce, industry, economy and the seat of government. We shall not have any sensible correction of the imbalance in the economic and population problems of this country until we shift the seat of government from the centre of London. Unfortunately, that is likely to be far too radical a proposition for this Government or any foreseeable Government, and I recognise that nothing like that is likely to happen. Therefore, we must deal with the proposition before us or with possible alternative propositions which do not involve a radical shift of the seat of government from the City of Westminster.
I would take it as axiomatic that any proposition for redeveloping any part of 135 London, certainly of Central London, should aim at reducing the density of building and of occupation. Nearly all the planning and economic problems of London—noise, traffic, dirt, over-crowding—derive from the high density of building. These problems are as much to be seen in this part of London as anywhere else. I am horrified that buildings to house 10,000 civil servants are to be erected on the site between Richmond Terrace and Bridge Street. In view of the Government's known commitment to decentralisation and the dispersal of Government offices, I regard this as an absolutely fantastic proposition. It is utterly ridiculous to preach to private industry about reducing office activity in the London area and then solemnly put forward a proposal to house no fewer than 10,000 Government servants on a site in an area already grossly overcrowded.
I am extremely attracted to the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) that we should leave sufficient space behind the proposed Bridge Street building, first, because it is a sensible planning decision in itself, but, secondly, because it would leave open the possibility for future generations and future Houses to expand the facilities of Members if it should be required by leaving ground for new buildings adjacent to or as extension of the proposed Bridge Street building. My hon. Friend's proposal that the building envisaged across the road might contain Committee rooms and other facilities in addition to or, to some extent, instead of private rooms for Members should be carefully examined. I do not see why this new building should not to some extent be a self-contained working building in which Members certainly would have private rooms but in which, at the same time, other forms of Parliamentary work such as Committee meetings could be carried on. There is no inherent reason why the building across the road should not have its own voting lobbies with suitable telecommunications across to the main Chamber, so that people need not scurry across a bridge or under the road to come and vote over here.
We are far too conservative on the question of the physical action of voting. The Minister of Public Building and 136 Works should give serious consideration to sufficiently sophisticated telecommunications from the proposed new building to this building, so that voting and other activities of Members can be conducted without Members scurrying to and fro, either under Bridge Street or over it, to carry on the essential parts of our procedure.
I believe that the primary aim in the reconstruction should be to prevent to the maximum possible degree traffic from coming through to this area. We do not want to make provision by raising Bridge Street or creating tunnels for traffic to come through. Tunnels and underpasses attract new traffic as meat attracts flies. The more these things are provided, the more traffic pours in and we are as badly off in the end as we were in the beginning.
Although I have no technical expertise on these matters, I am very dubious about the ultimate effect of the vibration of a mass of traffic flowing to and fro under tunnels close to this building. I would have regarded that as a dangerous proposition which should be looked at carefully from a technical point of view. I would be wholly opposed to the proposition of the north-south tunnel.
Every effort should be made to limit or inhibit, or even prevent altogether, the existing east-west flow along Bridge Street. For my part, I would shut Bridge Street immediately. I strongly counsel my right hon. Friend to get the Minister of Transport by the scruff of the neck and say, "This has got to be shut down and the traffic must be diverted elsewhere." There is no inherent reason why traffic over Westminster Bridge should flow both east and west. I would not be prepared to say off my tod whether it would be better to have simply a westward flow or an eastward flow. On balance, simply a flow to the west might be better. Certainly, it is not essential. There are bridges quite short distances north and south of Westminster Bridge which could accommodate counter-flow traffic. There should be no great technical difficulty in closing Bridge Street immediately and diverting traffic over Westminster Bridge but reducing it to a one-way flow. I would regard that as essential.
There would be another advantage, because if Bridge Street were shut 137 immediately and if it were possible to pass and repass at ground level, the highly expensive business of creating a quasi-underground access to the new building from New Palace Yard would be unnecessary, because there could simply be a ground level colonnade or cloister running as a continuation from the Big Ben end of the Palace of Westminster across to the new building at Bridge Street. There would be no need for the complicated bridges, underpasses and what-have-you which are envisaged in the Report. A vast amount of expense would be saved. I do not see why the proposition that Bridge Street should be closed to traffic now should be regarded as so difficult or outrageous. Likewise, the minimum should be done to attract new traffic to the Parliamentary precincts.
Therefore, on balance, I would be against the spending of £¼ million on an additional car park. I recognise that there may be special difficulties for the staff, and, indeed, there are difficulties for hon. Members who have to remain in this building until late hours, although we are beginning to remedy that problem. On balance, however, I would think it unwise, by the provision of a considerable amount of extra parking space, to encourage the use of the private car to and from this building or to the new building. More attention should be paid to the possibility of special arrangements for providing alternative forms of accommodation when staff and Members must work here beyond the hours at which public transport operates.
My general approach to the problem is that what is required is an entirely new, modern Parliament building. It seems, however, that this is something that we are not likely to get. Therefore, I very much hope that the Government will firmly and now abandon the idea of putting a massive block of Government offices on the Bridge Street—Richmond Terrace site and that they will leave that area open as a useful and attractive open space until such time as it may be necessary to extend the proposed buildings.
I would be in favour of going ahead with the building proposed in the Report but have in reserve this area, clear and properly laid out, so that if, as almost inevitably will happen, 10, 20 or 30 years from now a new House finds that the facilities thus created are still inadequate 138 for the essential purposes of Parliamentary government, there will be space either to build a completely new building, using the new Bridge Street building as a nucleus, or, alternatively, to extend further the kind of facilities we need. That should be the way forward. It means that we can do something positive and constructive now in getting on with the implementation of the Report, but it also means that future generations of Parliamentarians will have scope and freedom in which to build for their needs, whatever those needs may be.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate, because it is worth putting on record that only 14 hon. Members served on the Select Committee whose Report we are considering and, therefore, there are many back benchers other than myself who have not had an opportunity of expressing a view on this important subject before today. I could not agree with the proposition put by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), but I am pleased to agree with at least part of his speech in saying that the prospect of 10,000 civil servants coming into this area simply appals me. That is an aspect of today's discussion which might be looked at again.
The first of the points which I wish particularly to make is that nobody could disagree with the proposition that the existing building is wholly inadequate to the present Parliamentary procedure that it contains. I am, however, one of those who hope that there will be certain alterations in Parliamentary procedure which might considerably improve that situation. When I hear people talking about the year 2000, I am amazed that they never link the probability of reaching the year 2000 with, at least, dramatic reforms in our present Parliamentary procedure.
We must be sufficiently realistic to link the question of architectural merit with the importance of Parliament as a world centre. We must recognise that there are not tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world who come to this centre, and they expect to see a certain recognisable tradition as we have grown to recognise it today. I see great difficulty 139 in accepting a viewpoint which would sweep away this great centre of democracy, apart altogether from the sheer architectural merit of the buildings which are under consideration.
As to traffic, I think that it would be highly desirable to close Bridge Street, and on this I am in agreement once more with the hon. Member for Heeley. There is, however, a difference between being enthusiastic about that proposition and the unfortunate position of the Minister, who has to recognise that if he persuades his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to close this road to traffic he must find somewhere else for the traffic to go. It is unrealistic, with the modern development of numerically increasing traffic, to expect that by closing a major route in London the traffic will conveniently vanish. I would put to the Minister the possibility—I agree that it is no more than a possibility—of closing the precincts of Parliament at certain times. I should like to see this experimented with, and I think the Minister might well see whether there could be some weekend project which could be tried out for this purpose.
I should like to make a plea for Whitehall not necessarily as it is but at least a Whitehall which is recognisable as the unique centre for fulfilling the world rôle which is expected of it. I do not think this can be achieved by a grandiose display of uniformity, which in my mind is conjured up by a great many concrete "match boxes" standing on end and with glass windows, such as we have heard described earlier today—concrete blocks which we, above all, ought to know about. We are beginning to regret, as I have noticed from many hon. Members' comments, that instead of looking across the river to the varied facade of old St. Thomas's Hospital we are looking at a series of concrete blocks. There is, maybe, a good functional reason for having to endure that across the river, and one might argue that there is a good functional reason for having to endure it here, but the two situations are not comparable, because of the traditional aspects of our centre here. I certainly think that we should look across the river before we make any judgment whether we should put up with concrete blocks for ourselves.
140 There has been put forward this afternoon an argument about the need for concentration. Personally, I do not accept it. It seems to me that the Government buildings in Whitehall were put up in an age when exchange of view was very much more difficult to achieve than it is today. I do not look at the necessity for such a centre in London in the terms which must have been required when many of the buildings we have been considering today were erected.
I should like to mention one or two buildings which interest me. I support those who want to see the Middlesex Guildhall retained. I certainly think there is a very strong case for at least another look at the Foreign Office. I spoke a moment ago about the talk of need to concentrate civil servants in Whitehall. The Foreign Office is an obvious example to use, because, as was said by my right hon. Friend, in any building we get an unacceptable situation if it is over filled, and that situation has to be rectified. Do we not know that in the social context? Whenever I have been in the Foreign Office I have always been struck by the fact that here is this great facade and there is being made almost a slum within. The fact that we have to tackle the workings of the Foreign Office is not synonymous with believing we have to pull the Foreign Office down. So I would make a very strong plea for the Foreign Office.
The only other building I shall refer to tonight is Richmond Terrace. I am very worried about Richmond Terrace and I have been for a long time. I walked along it the other day. It does not seem to me beyond the wit of man to envisage a completely new design for the whole of this area now under discussion and yet maintain the facade and the design of Richmond Terrace. I have no doubt that if I were to look in detail at its structure I might be slightly shocked. Richmond Terrace is a Government property which has been going to be demolished for so long that it may be that there are not even slates on parts of the roof. We know about the tenement property in Glasgow, and I was tempted to relate that to Richmond Terrace the other day. I hope I am wrong. Nevertheless, there is an architectural case for looking very closely at Richmond Terrace. There is no other building of this 141 order in the heart of Whitehall. It is a very good example of its own particular form of architecture.
The Leader of the House made a point which I thought of very great importance when he said it was his personal view that some of the new buildings erected in London left much to be desired. I do not want to repeat what has been said about design. What has been said this afternoon gives promise for hope. This is as it should be.
Having said that, I wonder whether we have really considered some of the most recent buildings in London. I wonder whether the Minister has had a really good look at Euston Station. Perhaps he would like to change constituencies with me for a while so that he would become a regular user of Euston Station. It is the biggest waste of valuable space this century. In interpretation of design, it is absolutely appalling, and in practical terms it is already hopelessly out of date. It cannot even accommodate the taxis used to take people to and from their train.
This is very undermining of the confidence of those who, like myself, believe that if we accept the proposition before us today we shall have a building both good to look at and good to work in on the Bridge Street site. I make very special reference to this because I think that Euston Station really must have been designed to provide maximum inconvenience to the people who are to use it, and it is very depressing to find that that is so in 1969. So I draw the Minister's attention to that—and I very much suspect that the economics do not bear looking into, either.
I wonder whether we have made the best possible use of the accommodation provided for us here in this House in recent years. We have made some substantial alterations and we have spent a considerable amount of the taxpayers' money. While it is true that a few people have been provided with better facilities with which to carry on their jobs, are the additional rooms we have been provided with in recent years really used? I wonder. A lot of them seem to me to be empty as I pass by them. This, too, should turn the Minister's mind and the minds of others to the fact that, if we accept the proposition before us today, we should hope that we shall con 142 struct not a "Euston Station" but something which will be used and will prove useful.
Finally I would make a point that connects with the point I made at the beginning. I see Parliament in the future—I hope I am right—with considerably fewer Members, and I see decentralisation which will be effective and which will take a great deal of the burden of our present work away altogether. If that be so, then I am less gloomy than the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) as to the future possibilities of making a realitisc contribution to our efficiency by accepting the proposition before us. I take the view that by accepting the proposition that there will be fewer Members, by making very serious endeavours to move civil servants out of Whitehall and not into Whitehall, would by determining to make the best use of buildings rather than destroy them, we shall make a contribution acceptable to us all.
Therefore, I am one of those who believe that we should preserve this building with all its great traditions. The Minister always gets his opponents to like him by saying things they accept. I do not think it is very long since the Minister said, "I love this place, and I want to see it continue". So do I and I hope most sincerely that we shall be able to keep it and enlarge it to a building which will still achieve an additional degree of efficiency.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Ben Whitaker (Hampstead)
Hon. Members will be pleased to hear that I intend to speak only for four minutes because I do not want to delay a decision in this matter which has been hanging fire for far too long. I think that it would be both easier and, in the long run, cheaper if we had an entirely new building planned on rational lines, and converted the Palace of Westminster into a museum for Victorian art for which it is admirably suited. It is essential that we should take a decision tonight and start work at the earliest possible moment to provide a building which is planned on professional O. and M. lines, so that we can serve our constituents and the country to the best of our ability. We must also consider, in view of the impending legislation, the needs of a resuscitated House of Lords. It is no use 143 asking them to perform a function in the modern world without giving them the tools for the job.
First, I would commend to my right hon. Friend what I thought was a sensible and sensitive report by Mr. Nicholas Taylor, the architect for the Victorian Society. Hon. Members may have read this report. It is not the report of a blind preservationist, but of a man who has attempted to evaluate the buildings to see what is worth preserving and what is not. Opinions may vary on the merits of Norman Shaw, but this House is not the place where we should try to set ourselves up as aesthetic experts. I would commend this report for perusal by hon. Members. It argues, for example, that one part of the Foreign Office should be preserved but not other parts of that building.
My second caveat is that I strongly favour architectural competitions, because—unless we have a Sir Christopher Wren in our midst—they enable new architectural talent to emerge, I question whether this competition should be restricted to the Commonwealth. Whatever the virtues of the Commonwealth may be, its boundaries were purely historical accidents. What we need is a building of the finest design that can be created rather than a monument to sentiment.
Thirdly, it has been said in the Press and elsewhere that the public will be worried by our authorising expenditure, particularly at this time. Those last three words will apply whatever the time. There will never be a time when anyone in Parliament will dare to suggest that there is plenty of money available to give away. As an ordinary member of the public and looking at this matter through a voter's eyes, I feel that the public should be far more worried by a Parliament which has been unable to make up its mind on such a comparatively simple and basic issue for more than 20 years.
The conditions endured by the staff in the Palace of Westminster and some civil servants within a quarter of a mile, including some in the Foreign Office, and the conditions in which hon. Members work here have to be seen to be believed. I cannot believe that these conditions have not contributed to the premature 144 deaths of some hon. Members whose absence is very much regretted on both sides of the Chamber. Such announcements are unfortunately being made with increasing regularity. No one other than a masochist would wish us not to take this urgent decision and implement it much more quickly than did our predecessors.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I endorse everything said by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) on the question of whether the public feel that Members of Parliament are justified at this time or any time in suggesting a necessary reform of the structure of the place in which we operate. A person entering employment today tends to be critical of his place of employment. If he is a rising executive in industry he will seek to ensure before he joins the company that he has the facilities necessary to prove himself for the job which he has been taken on to do.
Anyone taken on to do a job today as a Member of Parliament would hesitate to suggest that the conditions of work here are conducive either to performing an efficient task for his constituents or to thought and the development of ideas. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) so rightly said, it is no longer possible to feel satisfied that a Member of Parliament can perform this service efficiently. When we speak of an expenditure of even £25 million or £30 million, we are talking about making a place where we can legislate efficiently for this nation, and where we can give better thought and consideration to the great volume of legislation which a modern Parliament and a modern Government of necessity produce.
We on this side often criticise the Government Front Bench for the great weight of legislation which they force through this House at greater and greater pace. It is the duty of the Opposition to criticise being pushed and burdened with this rush of legislation, but we also know that such is the involvement of Government in our society that we are not able to look forward to a time when there will be less legislation; rather must we imagine that, of necesity, we shall see more legislation, no matter what party sits on that side of the House.
145 I am sorry that the Leader of the House is no longer in his place. I listended with interest to his opening speech this afternoon. He and I have often exchanged words across the Chamber on the need for the reform of this House. I am not speaking so much about architects and design, bricks, stone or Gothic; I confine myself to the urgent need for the House to take some steps, even if they are only half steps, forward towards the reform of the function of the Houses of Parliament, the Commons and the other place.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster perhaps overstepped the time he gave himself to speak in the debate. I would willingly have forgone the time that I am now taking to allow him to continue. He spoke not just from his heart but from an understanding of what this place can and must do in the mid-twentieth century. He is not a man who is looking back in nostalgia to those great days in this Chamber in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of course, we remember them with great pride, and we attach great importance to the atmosphere that lingers in this place from the great people who have dominated the Chamber and who have brought great wisdom to our government and to the decisions made.
I do not want us to be hamstrung in this Gothic splendour for much longer. Time is not on our side for reform. I believe that we have now to consider the building of a complete new centre for the functioning of our Parliamentary democracy. What I want to preserve is not so much the Gothic splendour as the proper foundation for a twentieth-century model to protect our Parliamentary democracy so that people outside will see that we are efficient in serving their interests as their elected representatives.
I am concerned to see that we provide offices for hon. Members and that we cease the practice of trying to conduct our business in corridors. As soon as possible, each hon. Member must have a room to himself. At present, I occupy a room on th2 second floor with five other hon. Members, four of whom sit on the benches opposite. It is not that I am on bad terms with them, but there are certain matters which I do not wish them to hear when I speak into my dictating 146 machine. In any event, it is impossible to bring my secretary into that room. Such is the malfunctioning of this place that I have to find somewhere else before I can carry out the important tasks of dictating to my secretary, making notes in dictation form or writing letters to my constituents. Even assuming that what I had to say was not confidential or did not result in the disclosure of any party feeling which I would not want hon. Members opposite to hear, it would be irritating for them to have someone speaking aloud in our room. One hon. Member per room must be our aim.
My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) said that some of the rooms in the new accommodation in the Star Chamber Court were not always used. She is right, of course. It will take time before we realise the value of the services which this House should and will be able to provide for us one day. The answer to her questioning of the need for a room for each hon. Member is that an individual hon. Member has to be in many places at once. I remember speaking in the House last Session and reminding the Leader of the House that, while we were debating in the Chamber, there were 15 other Committees sitting, such as the pressure of our legislation. The result is that we shall not always be able to get into our offices. However, if I can get to mine only for an hour a day, providing that I can be sure of being on my own, I shall be able to think more clearly and dictate to my secretary without interruption.
The House is well aware of the problems under discussion. Earlier today, the hon. Member for Birmingham, North-field (Mr. Chapman) made a very constructive and helpful speech, in the course of which he gave a number of facts and figures. He is in favour of a new building altogether. If we cannot have it, he says that we should regard a new building on the Bridge Street site as the first stage in the redevelopment of Parliament's buildings. I agree with him, and I support the Government's proposals. In doing that, of course, I concur with my colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench, who have given their blessing. However, I repeat my own view that we are not discussing architects or designs, but the reform of the structure of this 147 place to enable us to perform and be seen to perform more efficiently.
There is much to be said for retaining the great atmosphere of the past, but today we are considering with some urgency the remodelling of the centre of our practice of Parliamentary democracy. In the middle of this century, that practice requires more than a great debating Chamber. The real function of Parliament is still the debate in this Chamber, but we know that, with the growing amount of legislation and executive action from Whitehall, as distinct from Westminster, this place also has a very important function in putting a check on that legislation and causing Whitehall and Ministers responsible to pause and think about moves that they propose even before coming to the House with a White Paper or a Bill.
The House of Commons must give itself the opportunity for better consideration of what is happening up the road. In other words, I am a supporter, as the House well knows, of continuing to pursue the reforming act of developing the more positive action of our new specialist and Select Committees and that such committees must be given space, time and employed specialist staff to serve them. All this will require more and more room.
I was interested in the observation by the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) about a possible site for the rebuilding of Parliament, because we cannot put up ideas without some positive thought about where we could go. The hon. Gentleman suggested using the site of the Foreign Office. I have always been a great admirer of the architectural facade of the Foreign Office. It fits very well into the scene and it represents a part of that Victorian development, based on the Italian style, which I like very much. I should be sorry to see the building go. I am talking purely about the outside facade.
If we have to find a site for the rebuilding of a centre for Parliament for discussion and activity, where are we to go? If we are to go near the river, we are told, quite rightly, that we present massive problems on communication because of the increasing flow of traffic. Whenever we consider a river site, whether from Bridge Street down to Richmond Terrace or Victoria Gardens, we are still beside 148 the river and still beside this enormous complex of traffic flowing beside the river.
I think that the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Luton is not an unwise one. I hope that the Government will be prepared to consider it bravely against all those protectors of great buildings, because we are or should be considering today the erection of a great building of the twentieth century. If we have no space here, there might well be a place there. It might mean losing that building, but not the site. The hon. Member for Luton, who is a structural engineer mentioned that perhaps we could develop something on the lines of the United Nations' building. I gather he meant a long low building with two chambers and a central lobby and a tower block to handle the administration and functional side of Parliament—offices, committee rooms and so on. It was an interesting idea, and there is a site there. Other sites have been mentioned by previous speakers such as Broad Sanctuary and elsewhere. However, I hope that the Minister will bear in mind that we are not asking that he should necessarily have the site by the river if he has to find a new site, because we recognise his problems there.
I think that we tend to overdo the importance of the nearness of office accommodation for Members. We are jealous about being on top of this place, but many Members are not here at this moment. This is often the way. If it is a matter of having accommodation such as I have described for Members a little distance away in Bridge Street but connected conveniently to this place, I am prepared to be that far away to enjoy the luxury of more efficient accommodation. I am now talking about the first stage, the development in Bridge Street, which the hon. Member for Northfield has commended to the House. We should not worry too much about complaints that it will be too far away from this debating Chamber.
I ask the Minister: what action do we take now? We must do more than just consider the Report and show how worthy we have been on our first day back. When will a start be made? I am not asking for £25 million; I am asking for £5 million. When will a start and further studies be made? Can the Minister give us some positive details 149 about the approach to the structuring of the competition? I should like to think that we will not be dependent on the Bridge Street plan and lose a lot of time while traffic plans and studies are produced, and I hope that we will not be delayed because of other building plans in the Whitehall Redevelopment Plan. I hope that he will bear in mind what other speakers have mentioned, keeping an option on the site adjacent to the new Parliament buildings, between the Bridge Street site and Richmond Terrace. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) said, if a Government Department building was built there, we might want it some day. That should be borne in mind in any such development—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
My own view about that is that, once a Government Department moves in, it is lost for ever. Let us say quite bravely today that, in this matter, the needs of the Legislature override those of the Executive and leave it at that. Once this is given to Government—Government, with Whips and everything else—it means another establishment altogether. I have a very strong view and much experience of this. It should be laid out as an open space until it is wanted.
§ Mr. Crouch
I am interested in those observations, because they are not contrary to my own. I was trying to help the Minister, and the right hon. Gentleman has asked for more than I would ask. He is probably right and speaks from experience of the same Department as the Minister. I accept what he says, but was not asking for so much.
I would ask the Minister to bear in mind that the Leader of the House said that these things would be done "as soon as circumstances permit". This is a rather ominous phrase from the Government and I hope that he will comment on it. I hope that he will take the tenor and atmosphere of the debate today as evidence that we are asking urgently for steps to be taken.
I said that I did not want to speak about architects and designers, but I have one thought about the competition. I hope that the judges will include some representatives of the House or the Services Committee. There is a functioning requirement in such a building and I 150 have found from experience of working with architects on industrial and other buildings that they do not always readily understand what specialist people require. I hope that some of the collective wisdom of this House can be represented on that Committee or at least that some Members could be called as specialist witnesses to advise the judges. When the successful architect is chosen, I hope that he will plan his detailed work in conjunction with the Services Committee or a sub-committee, working, of course, through the Minister's Department.
Parliament this afternoon and from now on must consider the reforming of Parliament, and what building is required by Parliament, in a revolutionary manner. We should be starting to plan now for a complete set of new buildings. But I still welcome this short and economical step forward, to build the first stage to enable us to show some earnest of our intent for the future reform of this House.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)
I apologise—because I have been on Committee since Question Time—for speaking at this late stage, but I have some observations to make. I would also like to leave time for another speaker to make his contribution.
The first rule which we must accept about the proposition in this Report and the many discussions connected with it, as well as the related reports and all the evidence, is that the priority is for this LegislatuRe. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) has said, this is a matter of which he has had considerable experience over many years. Whatever is done—and the way in which it is done—is a question for this Legislature, and not the Executive to decide.
I have the benefit of a very nice room with private office facilities in Star Court, but I have experienced in contrast, the lesser facilities provided for new Members and even older Members. I therefore know the benefits that derive from having better facilities. I am often astounded to think of the many active Members of Parliament who do not possess the simple facilities of a desk, a filing cabinet and a telephone, and such normal amenities of an office. One hon. 151 Member has already indicated that some of the deaths that have occurred recently among Members have been due to the strains and stresses involved in working here.
It is unfortunate that the general public do not know how many hours hon. Members have to spend in this place from early morning until very late at night and, at certain times of the year, all through the night, or for the greater part of it. They are not aware of the amount of work involved. There is a common feeling among members of the public that if a Member is not in the Chamber he is to be found having a cup of tea or a quiet chat. This is sometimes true, but the amount of work that has to be done on Select Committees, Standing Committees, Specialist Committees, the many study groups, the inter-Parliamentary groups, and the wide range of other commitments which devolve upon hon. Members emphasises not only that Members have to spend a great amount of time in this place but that the pressure of work during that time places tremendous pressures upon them.
I realise that London Members, and those who repreent Home Counties constituencies, have their problems, but a specially difficult problem falls upon provincial Members, who sometimes have to travel over very long distances to get here. Many hours are tied up in travel.
Those who have to come to a decision about the nature of the proposed new Parliamentary building on the Bridge Street site, its size and the amount of accommodation involved, should address themselves primarily to the question: Will it help a Member of Parliament to do his work more efficiently? In my opinion much accommodation in this building could be made available to Members. Some administrative rooms could be moved into a new Parliamentary building, making more accommodation available here.
During the Labour Government that had a majority of three, I was accommodated in Old Palace Yard. The Division bells used to ring several times in the early part of the evening and far too often after midnight, and I well remember the race that used to take place over the small distance between here and Old Palace Yard. It became a very 152 heavy physical exercise. Many Members who had served in the House for years had to contend with the difficulties not only of age but of illness, and some of them found it almost impossible to travel even that small distance.
One hon. Member has said that he would not be unhappy at the prospect of having to travel such a distance, but I suggest that the pressure of work upon Members is such that in any reorganisation or provision of accommodation arising in connection with the erection of a new building priority should be given to accommodation for hon. Members within this building, and that as far as possible the administrative offices should be moved from here to the new building.
It has been suggested that a tunnel to link this building with one nearby would cost £20 million. For this reason I do not believe that such a tunnel project would be a starter. Not only would it be many years before such a project was completed, but it would probably be as many years before it was even started. I hope that a comprehensive survey of traffic flow will be undertaken to ensure not only that the matter is looked at, as it has been in the past but that a fresh approach is made so that the new Parliamentary precinct is not hampered by a traffic problem. If we examine the matter in this way the tunnel idea may not be an important element.
Let us get started on this project as a matter of priority. Let us complete it from the point of view of giving priority to the well-being of hon. Members. Let us not allow the cost factor of approximately £5 million to deviate the Government from pressing on with this important task as quickly as possible.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) for resuming his seat in time for me to add my voice to the debate. As a relatively new hon. Member, I hesitate to tread on ground which has been so difficult and controversial for many years, and I apologise for not having been here throughout the debate.
I hope that the Committee's proposals will receive widespread support from hon. Members, not only now but in future, 153 and that we shall support the Minister in proceeding as urgently as possible with the job of putting the proposals into practice. Anyone coming new to this place as an hon. Member feels immediately the dilemma of, on the one hand, becoming quickly fond of the place and, on the other, of being quickly impatient to improve hon. Members' working conditions.
I agree that we should make no apology for devoting most of the day to discussing our working conditions, for they obviously have a great effect on the quality of our work and the service we give to our constituents. We spend much time lecturing the nation about productivity. If one thing is absolutely plain, it is that our productivity in this place is nothing like as high as we want it to be. This is part of the whole problem of improving the standing of Parliament in the country.
I have found the working conditions better than I was led to expect before coming here, and this has been due to the hard work and pressure of other hon. Members in the last few years. They are, nevertheless, obviously nothing like satisfactory. I join hon. Members in paying tribute to the way in which the staff of the House manage to do their work, often in just as tiresome conditions as we must endure.
I recoil from any proposal to do away with this building entirely, since the element of historic continuity which this building represents is important. It is still a central part of the London scene. Its attractiveness to visitors lies very much in its historic associations, which would largely be lost if we replaced it by an entirely new building. This building is suitable enough for the side of our work which is, so to speak, exposed to public view—the debates in this Chamber, our Committee debates, meeting our constituents singly and in deputations, but I agree with what the Committee says in the Report, that we have practically reached the limit of infilling in this building.
We come back to the problem of the inefficiency which the present building imposes on the other side of our work—our research work, dealing with correspondence and that kind of thing. The rooms that have been provided by im- 154 provisation inside and outside the building, the desks and so on, are all very valuable to Members, but they are surely only a temporary expedient until adequate accommodation can be provided. I am conscious of the waste of effort during the average day and the unnecessary movement from place to place, and I am also aware, as my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) mentioned, of the lack of privacy. It is intolerable to have to dictate letters either about constituents' private affairs or matters of confidential party policy virtually in public, in corridors and in odd corners. The sooner that is stopped the better.
I should like to mention three points of relative detail about the new building, assuming that the House agrees to the Report. First, with regard to the secretarial and research facilities that we ought to have, I believe that our secretaries are the real heroines of Westminster for the way in which they manage to keep our day-to-day correspondence and paper work going in conditions which would never be tolerated in any normal office in the rest of London or in the country.
As to research work, I pay tribute to all that the Library does for us, but again I feel that still more is necessary. I have had a feeling during my few months in this place of having to express views on subjects without sufficient research for my personal satisfaction. Certainly I support my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury and say that "one Member, one room" is the least objective that we ought to set ourselves in this new building. We should like our secretaries to be close to us but, of course, not too close, and we should like, if possible, private rooms for them also.
At the same time, I should like provision to be made not exactly for a research assistant per Member, although I think that is an ideal that we ought to achieve as soon as possible, but something at least on those lines in addition to the central services which the Library provides.
I hope the Minister will set out to make this building in Bridge Street a model of office efficiency in the country, paying proper attention to the siting of the central services like the transport department and the Post Office, so that 155 Members and secretaries spend a minimum of time in having to move and consult.
There is a third point which I do not think has been mentioned much today but which is important. I refer to the setting aside of some space in the new building for physical exercise. It may be a lot to ask for a swimming pool, but I do not see why one or two squash courts and perhaps a gymnasium cannot be fitted into the place.
I end with a plea to the Minister and the Services Committee. However quickly we make our decision and get on with this building, it will be several years at least before we can be in occupation of a new building on the other side of Bridge Street. I hope the fact that we have decided to do this will not lessen the efforts being made to improve our conditions in this building in the intervening period. If there is one matter which I would stress, and which is not tackled urgently enough, that is the question of the telephone service. I end with this urgent plea to the Minister and the Committee—to keep on improving this building, even if we are beginning to set our eyes on the building on the other side of Bridge Street.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
I agree entirely with almost everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), and especially with the tribute which he paid, as others have, to the work which the staff of the House do for all hon. Members in spite of the extremely difficult conditions in which they have to work. We all agree about that.
There has been a slight difficulty today—it is the fault of no one in particular—in that we have been discussing two subjects in one. But the question whether we should have a new Parliamentary building or an extension of the existing building is one which can be considered, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) pointed out, in isolation from the generality of the Whitehall Plan. I shall try to deal with some of the points which have been made.
All hon. Members who have spoken today have agreed that something must be done. My hon. Friend the Member for 156 Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) stressed how essential it is that we should make a decision and get on with the urgent work which must be done. Most hon. Members also, though there is a largish minority to whom I shall come later, are in broad agreement with the Minister's statement of 3rd December, although, naturally, many questions arise out of it.
The first question to be asked is whether there is any reason to do anything. Why should we not leave the whole of this precinct untouched and do nothing? Do we have to launch out into the Whitehall Plan? Is the only reason for launching into it just to increase the size and amenities of the House of Commons in order to give Members a little more luxury and provide some civil servants with somewhat better working space? Is that the only reason we have for changing a well known and well loved area? Is this vast operation, which will extend over many years and cost millions of pounds, to be embarked upon for the sake of Members of Parliament and a few civil servants?
That is the criticism which Mr. David Wood in his article today says that the general public may well have of the proposals which are put forward. In my view, it is unjustified. Whether or not we extend the Parliamentary building, it will be impossible to imagine the whole of the Whitehall area remaining untouched for very long. The area covered by the Martin-Buchanan Report is used for many different purposes. Sir Leslie Martin described them in the earlier part of his Report. First, there are the State occasions such as the opening of Parliament. There are the State visits, when so many roads in the area are closed. I often think that State visits cause more ill will rather than good will towards the visitors owing to the inconvenience caused in central London during the visits.
Apart from the State occasions, there are all the Government uses. I hope that the Minister will tell us more about these. When the Martin-Buchanan Report was written, there were 2 million sq. ft. of Government office space in Whitehall, and 3 million sq. ft. of leased premises in and around Victoria Street. That was in 1965. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what the figure is now. I 157 hesitate to suggest that under this Government it may have risen by a few million square feet. We do not know, and it is relevant to this debate to know how much is being used by the Government in this area now and whether it is necessary—several hon. Members have asked this question—to increase it still further.
Apart from Government uses, there is the public use of the whole Whitehall area. Every year, about 5 million people visit Westminster Abbey. All hon. Members know, for example, of the large number; of peope visiting the House of Commons and the House of Lords during the summer months when conditions have become absolutely appalling. There are no facilities for coach parties in the area. There is terrible traffic congestion in all this part of London, as anyone who has driven round Parliament Square at about 5.30 p.m. knows. I suppose that one could say that traffic conditions in Parliament Square now are still just, but only just, tolerable. They are getting worse fast.
In the last 20 years traffic around Parliament Square has trebled. In the next ten or 12 years it will double again. Parliament Square is one of the most important traffic junctions in London. What frightens me also is that, so far, car ownership in Britain is comparatively small compared with many other countries. We have only 172 cars per 1,000 people compared with France, which has nearer 200, and the United States with about 400. Many experts think that car ownership here will approach the American level in the foreseeable future.
If we build the Channel Tunnel, goodness knows how many extra cars we shall have in the centre of London. Only 9,000 foreign tourist cars came to Great Britain in 1967. In that year France had 15 million. If we have large numbers of foreign tourist cars coming here, I am prepared to lay odds that a large proportion will go through central London and this particular part of it.
§ Mr. Channon
Well, of course, they will be going around a one-way square, so perhaps that will not be such a great disadvantage.
158 Conditions in the Palace of Westminster are appallingly bad. Many right hon. and hon. Members have made this point. There is no need to itemise those conditions. We know them all. They have been debated time and again. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) suggested that we could reduce the number of hon. Members. I have long thought that a sensible idea, but I suspect that he and I are alone in that view. I would not want to be personal because any hon. Member attending this debate is obviously the sort of hon. Member we should encourage. However, we must base our premises on the probable fact that we shall not reduce the number of hon. Members.
We must dispel the illusion which may exist outside that we want a new building just to provide better conditions for hon. Members and a more comfortable life for them. We shall be failing in our duty if we are not equipped as efficiently as we can be to do the job we were sent here to do—that of controlling the Executive, of whichever party it may be.
The volume of work has risen enormously in this House. My hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) in his article today showed what an extraordinary burden some hon. Members have to bear. In the long term—certainly if we are planning for the next half century or so—it is ridiculous to imagine that we shall not wish to provide offices for all or at any rate the overwhelming majority of hon. Members, although even now not all hon. Members want them. We must impress upon the public that we want these changes not because we want to live in luxury but in order to do properly the job they sent us here to do. If hon. Members are given the right facilities to do their job, it will not be extravagance but may well lead to a great saving of public money. I agree with my hon. Friend on that point.
I think that most hon. Members agree with most of what I have said so far. Having got so far, what are we to do? It has been suggested that we should leave the present building altogether and move somewhere else, perhaps out of London. Windsor is one suggestion. Another suggestion was that we should 159 go to Harrogate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden), when I asked him about it, did not greet that proposal with great enthusiasm. But undoubtedly a number of hon. Members are in favour of moving out of London.
I am against that. I believe that it would be appallingly gloomy. I have a phobia against the fake capitals which exist in the world—the Washingtons, Bonns and Ottawas. They are often beautiful cities but I believe that a capital city should be a real capital and not just somewhere where one puts a Parliament building and government life. It would be a very expensive business and the result would be ghastly.
A proposal which has had more support today is that we should move out of this building but stay in London. A large number of hon. Members were in favour of that proposal, which I think is the issue, if those hon. Members who have spoken today are really representative of the feeling in the House. The view that we should move into new premises in London is the only serious view which has been put forward this afternoon in opposition to what the Government and the Services Committee propose. My hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster, the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie), the hon. Member for Birmingham, North-field (Mr. Chapman), the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury and others would like us to do that, preserving the Palace as it is, perhaps using it for State occasions, letting in tourists, or using it as a Victorian museum, as the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) said.
We know that the cost of building a new House of Commons would be between £20 million and £25 million, plus the cost of the site, but if it were right to do so, it is not the extra cost which would be such a material factor as the appalling delay, and that is the conclusive argument against moving out altogether, quite apart from the historic arguments which I share and which most hon. Members share, although there is a large minority who do not. I should be extremely sorry if we left this House, 160 but at any rate I find the argument of delay conclusive. I should be in favour of moving away if an improvement in or near the Palace were totally impossible, but I do not think it is.
I think we come down to the two alternatives which were put in the Fifteenth Report by the sub-committee of the hon. Member for Northfield—the New Palace Yard site and the Bridge Street site. In an intervention, the Minister also mentioned the proposals of Mr. Christopher Libby. They are interesting proposals, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will talk about them later, but no hon. Member has taken up the points made by Mr. Libby and I suspect that the majority want a decision to be taken tonight, and we shall have to choose between New Palace Yard and Bridge Street.
§ Mr. Channon
The hon. Gentleman is the king of the New Palace Yard idea and it was he who invented it. Other hon. Members have put forward the idea again tonight, although he was not among them.
Nothing is easier than to be destructive of any proposals of this kind, and we should be grateful to the Chapman subcommittee for having put forward the serious objections to the Bridge Street site that do exist. I do not like the New Palace Yard idea, and, although what I think is comparatively unimportant, the overwhelming majority of hon. Members are against the idea, as is the overwhelming majority of outside opinion. One of the weaknesses of the scheme is that there would still need to be a smaller building on the Bridge Street site, and that seems to make no sense. If there is to be any building at all on the Bridge Street site, we might as well have the Bridge Street scheme. I therefore firmly come down against the New Palace Yard idea, and I think that most hon. Members do. The choices are therefore reduced to a new House, or development of the Bridge Street site.
Of course the Bridge Street site is not ideal. There are many defects. Distance from the Chamber is an important problem, and access is also very difficult. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West 161 mentioned the difficulties of the colonnade, and the Leader of the House mentioned access and the colonnade. The sub-committee of the hon. Member for Northfield dealt with the problem of moving all the dining rooms to the Bridge Street site. I do not know whether this suggestion is a starter. It would be appallingly inconvenient, and I hope that that proposal has died a natural death.
If we are to build on the Bridge Street site, what is to happen in the interim? What do we do while the site is being developed with hon. Members who have offices there and with staff who have offices there? I hope that the Minister will deal with that.
I hope that the Minister will also deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Northfield and by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury about making the whole Bridge Street/Richmond Terrace complementary, so that if the House of Commons should ever have to expand further than is at present proposed the difficulties would not be so overwhelming as to defeat the purpose. The right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) implied that once Government offices were on the site it would be impossible to get them out. That will not be a battle that he and I will have to fight. I think that the buildings should be complementary. The style should be the same. I hope that the Minister will deal with the valuable points made by these two hon. Members.
§ Mr. Mellish
I take the hon. Gentleman's point about the buildings being complementary, but is he saying that no Government buildings should be erected on the Richmond Bridge-Bridge Street site?
§ Mr. Channon
That would be a matter for discussion. A paramount consideration in the construction of the building should be that perhaps these two hon. Members are right and that extensions will be necessary in 30 to 40 years' time.
There are problems in regard to Bridge Street and in relation to the whole plan. The new proposals for reaching the Chamber—the lifting of Bridge Street— 162 will make some difference. I believe that we must go ahead with the scheme. I think that most hon. Members here, and, I suspect, the silent majority who have not been with us today, will be in favour of going ahead on these lines.
When the right hon. Member for Leeds, West was Minister, I and others continually pressed him to make the competition an international one. He was not keen at the time, though he had been a year earlier. The hon. Member for Luton mentioned a list of distinguished architects, none of whom came from the Commonwealth. Other hon. Members suggested that the competition should be international. It is probable that a British or Commonwealth architect will win, but in the case of a building so important as this the competition should be international.
I hope that the Minister will consider the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham for a two-stage competition, particularly as it comes from an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and, therefore, comes with special distinction.
I want to quote this crucial phrase from the Services Committee's Report:It is essential therefore that it should fit into an overall plan.I would like to get clear from the Government whether this scheme does fit into an overall plan and what exactly is happening. When the Whitehall plan came out originally, a great conference was held by the Civic Trust, presided over by my right hon. Friend, at which Sir Leslie Martin outlined his proposals. I do not have the time to quote all that Sir Leslie said. He described how some minor modifications could be made to his plan, and then said that if any individual element of the plan was changed beyond a certain extent the balance of the whole plan would be altered: that would not be a modification of the plan; it would be another plan.
I suspect that the Government have reached the stage where we are no longer discussing the Martin-Buchanan proposals, because there have been so many alterations. I recognise that there are great difficulties for the Government. Everyone puts his case. The case has been advanced for preserving the Guildhall, the Brydon Treasury, the Foreign 163 Office and the Norman Shaw building. I agree with the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) that it is not for any individual Member to be the aesthetic arbiter. I hope that the Minister will deal with the fate of some of these distinguished buildings.
We no longer have the Martin plan, because there is to be no widening of Horseferry Road. What is to happen to the east-west traffic? This is almost the important point in the Martin-Buchanan plan. The Government say that they are now undertaking studies into an alternative to the Horseferry Road scheme. What will happen if they do not find an alternative? Is one likely? If they do not find one, we shall not be able to have a traffic-free precinct. It will still be worth while, if the aesthetic considerations can be overcome, to go ahead with the north-south traffic in the tunnel, but we shall not have the Martin-Buchanan plan. The Broad Sanctuary site has been changed. Will consideration be given to the suggestion made by by right hon. Friend of having grass and trees up to Storey's Gate, or has the pass already been sold on that after the Matthew Committee's Report?
What about the Foreign Office? Is that decision final? I remember showing hon. Members round the Foreign Office when I was P.P.S. to the Secretary of State. I took them into all the unpleasant rooms to show them how disagreeable conditions were. They were appalling. No one suggests that the Foreign Office could continue to exist on its present site. Hon. Members have put forward suggestions for getting round the problem. It would be interesting to hear the Government's views about it.
The real question is this: Do the Government say that they still accept in principle the Martin-Buchanan plan? If so, how do they justify their position? I claim that so much of the plan has been changed that they are dealing not with an overall concept but with a piecemeal series of projects throughout the area—an Acropolis of Government offices, as one of my hon. Friends called it. Up to now there has been far too much indecision about this matter. This debate is long overdue. We had the then Minister's statement in 1965. Very little has happened in the past three years. 164 I accept that questions of finance are for the Government to decide when they can afford to deal with them, but we cannot afford another three years of dithering, as we have had since 1965.
I should like to ask a question about the tunnels. Are they still a viable proposition? It is difficult to decide whether one should be in favour of them on aesthetic grounds, but, on traffic grounds, if we are to make reductions in traffic in Parliament Square, they are inescapable. What about the dangers of flooding? Is the Minister optimistic about that matter? Is it possible to disguise the tunnel scheme in such a way that it will not be the nightmare that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham and many other distinguished people fear it will be? The Minister will have to convince the House about that matter—if not now, then after the consultants' report—because it is very important. I hope that he will be able to do so, because I do not see how else we can get the north-south traffic removed from Parliament Square.
We must have from the Minister some idea about the possible timetable. If the House decides, as I suspect it will, to support the Government's Motion and the Services Committee's Report and take note of the statement of December, what happens? How soon can we proceed? The Leader of the House said that it will be about eight years before we can hope to see the proposed building erected. I hope that his forecast will turn out to be more accurate than many forecasts of his predecessors. I suspect that unless a great spirit of urgency is injected it will not be very accurate.
It is vital that we should know the timetable, not only for the area covered by the statement of 3rd December, but for the rest of the Whitehall proposals. As many hon. Members have said, this is a vital area, not only for this country, but for the whole Commonwealth. Throughout our history the really important decisions have been taken in this small portion of London. Throughout many centuries this has been the hub of this country and for a time, of a great Empire, and now it is the hub of the Commonwealth. The destinies of Britain and of many other countries have been shaped by what has been decided in the House and in the centre of London. This 165 is one of the most important, most famous and most beautiful sites in the world.
It is lime for the House to make up its mind to stop tinkering with the problem, to ask the Government to get on with what has to be done and to make sure that we do not do what we are in grave danger of doing, namely, of wasting any opportunity which will not readily recur. If we do that I am sure our successors will not readily forgive us.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Robert Mellish)
I hope that the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) will not think me patronising when I say that I welcome almost everything that he said. His closing words, asking me in particular as the present Minister for action on this matter, embodied a sentiment which I readily endorse. Whatever views we may have, for goodness sake let us get this part of our efforts off the ground.
I listened to the debate with great interest. It has been a wide-ranging debate covering many aspects of the future development of the Whitehall area. A speech to which I should like immediate y to refer is that of the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith), who also wrote an article today which I read with great interest. He is a very busy Member—70 letters a day and two secretaries. I do not know whether every Member of Parliament has that problem. If the hon. Member says that, of course, I respect it. If every hon. Member had that problem, we would be in serious trouble. I do not know how we could cater for a House of Commons in which every Member had two secretaries available. I mention that in passing because it seemed that the hon. Member was particularly asking for a brand new Parliamentary building. If that was what he wanted, he was asking for something which the majority of the House would not accept as being necessary.
In the time that is available to me, I will try to deal in detail with as many of the points which have been raised as possible. I wish to emphasise at the outset that most of the matters which have been raised here today do not call for decisions at this moment. That does 166 not, however, absolve me from the right of expressing the Government's view. I speak also not only as Minister, which means a great deal to me, but also as a Member of the House. I should, however, get on the record the Government's thinking at this moment of time.
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) was quite right in pointing out that Ministers of Public Building and Works come and go with great rapidity. I do not expect to be Minister for the next six, seven or eight years. I have no doubt that there will be a change of Minister—mind you, they will do a lot worse when they get rid of me. The fact is, however, that whatever we say here tonight, it is almost certain, if anything in this world can be certain, that the decisions will be made by another Minister of Public Building and Works. I hope, therefore, that he can refer back to this debate to know what the Opposition and the Government have said.
Without being in any way patronising, I thought that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) made a tremendously helpful speech. What he said, and the way in which he said it, can only be of encouragement to all of us who want to see the new Parliamentary building and to try to deal with some of the problems that the right hon. Gentleman raised.
I join the hon. Member for Southend, West in expressing my delight that the recommendation of the earlier Report of the Services Committee, which spoke of a proposal for an extension in New Palace Yard, has been abandoned—I hope, once and for all. I hope that we do not hear of it again. Had that scheme been allowed—there are some who still favour something like it—the grandeur of the Clock Tower would certainly have been diminished and many well-known views of the Palace would have been lost.
I confess frankly—and this is where the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster and I part company—that this House means a great deal to me personally, and I shall not be party to any attempt to build a brand new House of Commons and somehow abandon this one. The hon. Member may not like that point of view but that is my view. That is why I am one of those 167 who say that unless the House is prepared to accept a significant change in the external appearance of the present buildings—and I want to say something about Mr. Libby's proposals, too—I know of no way in which the extra accommodation on the scale required by the Commons can be provided within the existing precincts.
§ Mr. John Smith
Does not the Minister realise that, first, none of us wants to go? Of course, we do not—of course, we feel just like he does—but events will force us. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman does not like building in a New Palace Yard, but does he not realise that to put up a compromise in Bridge Street instead of a new Parliament House makes it absolutely certain that we shall have to build in a New Palace Yard as well?
§ Mr. Mellish
I do not accept that. The hon. Member spoke for 34 minutes, in only five minutes of which did he make any argument which was convincing to me. However, I shall settle for that.
When, after we had the arguments about New Palace Yard, I was asked by the Services Committee for my suggestions, I said that given that Parliament should stay in the general Whitehall area, there seemed to be only two alternatives: either to build an entirely new House of Commons on Victoria Tower Gardens, or on the whole of the site of Bridge Street, Parliament Street, Richmond Terrace and the Embankment, or to build an extension to the Commons on part of the Bridge Street site. They were the only two alternatives.
I had to advise the Committee that I could not recommend the first alternative, for a number of reasons. There was the enormous cost of £20 million to £25 million in addition to the value of the site, which is valued at about £10 million. Secondly, there is, and it cannot be ignored, the long delay in the provision of such a building, which would take anything between 15 and 20 years. Thirdly, in the case of the Victoria Tower Gardens, such a loss of valuable amenity would be much resented by the general public. It has always been intended that a large part of the Bridge Street site should be used for making good the acute shortage of 168 Government offices in the Whitehall area, and the use of the whole of this site for the House of Commons would, therefore, result in a major setback of the Government's plans for remedying this shortage.
I want to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) and to others who have said that somehow we should defer the building of Government offices here that if we were to accept this, if the House finally decided to do just that, it would be a grave problem not only for this Government but for Governments tomorrow. What are we going to do with the staff of the Home Office, the staff of the Foreign Office? I am not talking of the existing buildings. I am talking of accommodating staffs in decent conditions. I say frankly that I could not advise this House to agree that we should not build Government offices as such, though I take the point made by the hon. Member for Southend, West that it is important that the buildings we put there should be complementary to the Parliamentary building, and we should have that in mind when building them. Perhaps other sites will become available for Government offices. We do not know. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster was the only one who talked about the year 2000 with any confidence. I have enough to do, I must tell him, to predict to 1975, so far as these arguments here are concerned, and to get something realistic.
§ Mr. John Smith rose—
§ Mr. John Smith rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) must keep his seat.
§ Mr. John Smith
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman attributed to me remarks which I did not make. Far from mentioning the year 2000 I said I could not foresee the future at all.
§ Mr. Mellish
Perhaps the hon. Member in his speech of 34 minutes did not mention the y ear 2000. He mentioned everything else, anyway.
I want to deal with some of the important issues which were raised in this debate, and first of all the Norman Shaw building lo the north of the site of the new Parliamentary building where we want to build Government offices and certain public facilities, such as shops, restaurants, etc. Mention has been made of the decision to demolish the ex-Metropolitan Police building designed by Norman Shaw. I want to assure the House that this was no lighthearted decision. We gave very full and careful consideration to the arguments for preservation put forward by such bodies as the Royal Fine Art Commission and the Victorian Society. The Government decided in the end, nevertheless, that the building should not be retained because investigation showed that, even after other expenditure of a considerable sum of money on improvements, only about one-third of the building would provide reasonable office space, and even this could not be regarded as acceptable in the long term.
Furthermore, retention of the present Norman Shaw building would mean losing the opportunity of providing modern offices and achieving an economic development, as well as considerably impeding and adding to the cost of surrounding development. This question of economy cannot be ignored here. We were faced with an investment of several million pounds if the building were refurbished to accommodate about 250 people, with no certainty how long it would remain acceptable, as against replacing the building with new offices to house neraly 1,000 staff and at no more than twice the investment for refurbishing. I would invite hon. Members who talk with great affection of the Norman Shaw building—and I am certainly not one who wants to go in for demolition just for its own sake—I would invite them, and I will make arrangements for them so to do, to see the appalling conditions there and what we would have to do and have to spend to make decent accommodation for 250 people. The conditions are there for all to see.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government was very 170 much involved in this decision. It is he, of course, who would have the final say in the case of any private developer in the same position as my Ministry. The consent of the local planning authority is required before a building listed as being of special architectural or historic interest can be demolished, with an appeal to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Listing does not prohibit demolition but merely requires the private developer to get the sort of consent that I have to secure.
We consider that the Government offices must be fully worthy of this important site and, as Sir Leslie Martin proposed, the general height level of these buildings should be kept down to that of the buildings opposite and the whole of those buildings should be complementary to the Parliamentary Building to which reference had been made. I thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham for what he said about the architects of my Department. I am Minister of a Department whose image is not as good as it might be. A great deal of the work it has done and is doing, particularly on design, is not given full marks and for the right hon. Gentleman to say publicly what he did is a great help to me. We designed the Post Office Tower; we designed the Royal Botanical Gardens, and very few know about that. A great deal of design work is done in furnishing, and I am glad to say that my Department has won awards for this work.
The design of these Government buildings will be done by my own architects but Sir Leslie Martin will be retained by my Department as consultant. I can assure the House that hon. Members will have the chance to see the design for these buildings. They must be designed so that the Parliamentary building is part of the precinct. I give that assurance to the right hon. Gentleman and to others who were concerned about this matter.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that many of us hoped to see the Norman Shaw building preserved, but if he will make the interior available to hon. Members, when they have seen the impossible conditions inside, they will agree with him that the building could not be converted for modern use.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving that assurance. I shall be pleased to arrange for any hon. Members who would like to visit the Norman Shaw building to do so. There will be no guides; hon. Members will be able to see it for themselves and let us have their views later.
§ Sir D. Glover
Will the Minister make sure that the two buildings which are part of the same complex are in sympathy with each other, as they should link up with each other rather than with Parliament?
§ Mr. Mellish
I hope the hon. Gentleman has seen the illustrations which are in the Upper Waiting Hall. Our plan is that there will be the Parliament building, then there will be an open space and then the Government buildings. They are designed to be separate but there will be shops, restaurants, and so on, between. It is important that we do not simply disregard the architecture of the Government buildings; there must be a link with the Parliamentary building.
Much has been said about the Foreign Office building. A decision about whether the Foreign Office building is to be demolished is not being taken now and is not likely to be taken for some little time. The right hon. Gentleman has conceded that a previous Government took a decision that the Foreign Office building should be demolished, and the present Government have also agreed that the building should be demolished. The pleas for preservation to a large extent have related to the wing of the Foreign Office building facing St. James's Park. As I see things at the moment, work would start on the Foreign Office site in about 1976 following the completion of the new offices on the Bridge Street-Richmond Terrace site. Therefore, it will be some years before serious planning starts in relation to the Foreign Office itself. There will be a possibility of looking yet again at the arguments in favour of retaining part or whole of the present Foreign Office building.
In this context, the timetable as regards the Brydon building is even further into the future. I do not want to get bogged down tonight in considering whether we shall retain that building. However, it will be recognised that Foreign Office staff cannot remain in 172 their present appalling conditions for very much longer.
§ Mr. Sandys
Does that mean that the Brydon building is in a different position from that of the Foreign Office as regards a decision, and that no decision in principle has been taken to demolish the Brydon building?
§ Mr. Mellish
I can give that categorical assurance. As for the future, if there were to be consultation about the Brydon building, it would not take place until the 1980s. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and I are still here to see what the Government of that day decide.
I turn now to Broad Sanctuary. Across Parliament Square from this House lies the Broad Sanctuary site. In accordance with the recommendations of the public inquiry in 1966, we propose to redevelop that site to a comprehensive scheme in conjunction with the other two principal site owners, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Institution of Civil Engineers, to provide a much needed Government conference centre, with the two professional bodies providing new accommodation for themselves. Currently, we are drawing up a joint brief in conjunction with the other site owners, the local authorities and interested Government Departments as a preliminary to commissioning an architect to carry out a feasibility study into the best way of planning the redevelopment. Planning will then proceed in consultation with the planning authorities and the Royal Fine Art Commission. When a design is available, arrangements will be made to exhibit it to the House. The House will have a chance to see it, and no doubt will want to express its views on it. We have gone a long way with it, and many details have been finalised already.
As regards the Middlesex Guildhall, there was never any intention to demolish it. I do not know why that possibility came up in the debate. There is nothing in our minds about demolition. Indeed, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor will read the whole of the debate, especially what my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West said about the possibility of the Law Lords using the Middlesex Guildhall. It sounds a very intelligent 173 proposition. If the idea was adopted, no doubt it would mean that a good deal of additional space could be found for Members of the House of Lords.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
My right hon. Friend asked how it was that doubts arose about Middesex Guildhall. I am charging my memory now but I rather think that Sir Leslie Martin was a trifle disparaging about it and did not consider it as being of any special worth. It may be that my memory is tinged with what passed in a conversation that I had with him. It was due. to that that I expressed the view at the time that it ought to be preserved.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am a little sad to think that the Government are committing themselves definitely to further building on the Broad Sanctuary site. Is there no chance of looking at it again and considering the possibility of making an open space in the area?
§ Mr. Mellish
The right hon. Gentleman will understand that it would be wrong for me to say glibly that I will do what he asks. There are these two very important professional bodies who own the site. A public inquiry has been held, decisions have been made, a joint brief has been drawn up, and there is now to be a feasibility study. The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I find myself in grave difficulty about this. Sir Leslie Martin recommended a Government conference centre. In that sense we are carrying through a great deal of what Sir Leslie Martin wanted.
Concerning the principles of the Martin-Buchanan proposals, we are trying not to depart from all of them, as I hope to show, but we shall have to depart from some. For instance, Sir Leslie said that the Middlesex Guildhall would be demolished. That does not follow. However, we shall adhere to the general principle.
On Parliamentary precincts and traffic proposals, it is important that we be clear about terminology. The Martin-Buchanan Report recommended removal of through traffic from Parliament Square. It was never envisaged that Members should be unable to reach the House by car. The main possibility about the removal of through traffic has always rested on the concept of a north- 174 south tunnel. Professor Buchanan estimated that this would divert 40 per cent. of traffic from the Square and a further 30 per cent. would be diverted by a new east-west route. The Government are still pursuing these possibilities. As has been explained, the prospect of diverting the north-south traffic looks very promising. This will enable us to get some way towards the concept of a precinct by closing the southern end and the eastern side of the Square to through traffic.
Reference has been made to the proposed tunnel. We are hoping in March to present more details. I am advised that it is feasible to have this tunnel. I am also advised that if it is achieved in the way that our experts hope, it will be the biggest central London area land gain improvement since the South Bank, because we should reclaim from the river about 10 acres of land. There are to be hydraulic tests on the way in which this tunnel could be bored. We propose, and hope, to turf the surface of the tunnel from Hungerford Bridge up to Westminster Bridge so that people will be able to walk along that part which is now river.
We hope to take the Terrace out above the tunnel, which would give us a larger Terrace. The tunnel would not be a danger to our amenities. There will be a report in March, and every Member will be advised of it. I shall use all facilities, including the Vote Office, to enable Members to be informed. I hope that this tunnel will be of great help to us.
§ Mr. Mellish
The right hon. Gentleman will not be surprised if I say "No". I am the Member for Bermondsey. If we did that, I should have no work at all. The right hon. Gentleman is concerned about it. I am speaking from a brief supplied by experts, but I hope that what I have said shows that the diversion of traffic is an important aspect, at the same time providing a good amenity for us.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am worried about the disappearance of the main feature of the Houses of Parliament on the river side where it drops straight into the river. If this proposal is carried out we shall have a platform outside.
§ Mr. Mellish
I accept that that feature would be lost. The idea of a tunnel running alongside the Terrace was thought to be appalling. One way of doing it was to have the Terrace over it. This is the beginning of the story, not the end.
§ Sir D. Glover rose—
§ Mr. Mellish
The idea of a tunnel has an aspect which can bring us a great land gain and a great amenity.
Turning to the point about the Palace—and this is a matter which our experts would have to look at separately—whether this can be done I do not know. However, the boring of the tunnel and where it will be placed will be a great determining factor on how much we can do with the Terrace.
§ Sir D. Glover
While I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, I am worried about the idea of cutting off Parliament Square from traffic since this is the biggest tourist attraction in London and people do not want to travel such great distances on foot. If Parliament Square were cut off from commercial traffic, but left open to limited forms of traffic, we might have the right answer to the problem.
§ Mr. Mellish
I assure the House that I shall return to hon. Members on this subject. I am attempting tonight to give the House some assurances about our having gone into this matter very deeply. This has not been an off-the-cuff investigation. Indeed, it is going on now and, as I said, there will be a report in March.
Much has been said about the Commonwealth competition in this matter. I thought that the hon. Member for Southend, West put it well when he properly said that this Parliament, this Palace, is the hub of the Commonwealth. The Government decided that there should be a Commonwealth competition because we wanted this to be a British design. Perhaps I am being too patriotic and too British in saying this, and I appreciate that there are those who want the competition thrown open to the world, so that a German or American architect might perhaps win the competition. However, our whole concept has been that it should be a Commonwealth competition.
176 With this in mind, we have secured a panel of assessors who are Commonwealth-based and I will announce their names. Professor Sir Robert Matthew, a former President of the R.I.B.A., has agreed to be chairman. The other members will be Denys Lasdun, Robin Boyd of Australia, John C. Parkin of Canada and Eric Bedford, who is the Chief Architect in my Department. This is a panel in which the House can have the utmost confidence and I thank the members of the panel for making their services available so readily.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I am sure that it is an excellent panel and I congratulate the Minister on having appointed its members. However, because it happens to be Commonwealth-based does not preclude us from having an international competition.
§ Mr. Mellish
It is a matter of view. Whatever one does in this House one will never secure universal agreement among hon. Members. I would have thought that all hon. Members can have the utmost confidence in the panel which has been selected.
Indeed, I am advised that it is expected that the number of entries from the Commonwealth will be enormous; and this is why we shall run the competition in two stages. The R.I.B.A. proposes that entrants will first be required to indicate their solutions in general terms and that eight to 12 of them will then be chosen by the assessors to develop their designs in detail, so that the final choice will be from among those entrants.
I do not expect the competition to add significantly to the time scale of the project. I estimate that we shall need six months to complete the statement of requirements and prepare the necessary competition documents. Nevertheless, the bulk of the work would still have to be done, even if we were not holding a competition, and it is estimated that for the selection of the winning design and so on we should allow about 18 months. As I say this is not really a waste of time because the winning architect will already have made some progress in working out his design and will be in a position to produce his final design in less time than would be the position if he had to start from scratch.
177 I give an assurance that the House will see what is promoted by the panel and that it will be the House which, at the end of the day, will decide the winning design from the point of view of the final design that is to be adopted. I hope that the panel will not believe, from what has been said today, that the winner will almost certainly be the one who will not get his design accepted.
Reference was made in passing during the debate to Mr. Libby's scheme. I have seen the scheme. Mr. Libby came to my office and discussed the matter with me and I thought it right that the scheme should be sent to the Royal Fine Art Commission. His scheme would build over one of the courts here and would provide a great deal of space. I therefore sent it to the Commission for its views. The Commission believes that it is a scheme which should be further investigated, and I am agreeing that this should be done.
It must be worked out in detail because there is the possibility in the scheme that a great amount of artificial lighting and air conditioning would be required. I would not want to say anything now which might prejudice the scheme. In due course the Commission will give us its views and we will then see whether or not Mr. Libby's scheme is a starter. I should mention that Mr. Libby is only a student. I admire his ability in having presented the scheme and I understand that he will be qualified at the end of the year. It will mean an addition to what we are trying to do in the Parliamentary building across the road, and not in substitution of it. I agree with the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster that with two secretaries and 70 letters a day he needs at least two offices.
I now come to the time table for the new Parliamentary Building. On the assumption that the House gives approval this evening to further planning, as my right hon. Friend has told hon. Members it will be eight years before the new building will be completed and ready for occupation. I have already explained about the Commonweath competition. The first two years of this period will be taken up in completing the statement of requirements and organising and holding the 178 competition. From the date of approval of the winning design it would take about another two years to complete detailed drawings, invite tenders and appoint the main contractor for the construction of the building. There are certain technical problems to be resolved in connection with the underground railway station, the entrance of which will be resited. It is therefore difficult at this moment to assess accurately the time required for construction, but on the advice available to me I would estimate it to be about four years.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West put the matter very well, and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) reminded the House that it is now 24 years since we started talking about what should be in this House of Commons of tomorrow. I am asking for a decision tonight. I want the authority to acquire the whole of that site across the road, to get on with the competition to which I have referred, and to get on with planning for those who are yet to come.
I said earlier, rather facetiously, that I hoped that I should be around and involved in this. At any rate, I hope that those who follow us will come to decisions which will allow for the completion of the building. We know that a great deal of this is for them, and not so much for us, but for goodness sake let the House give me at least the authority to start. I ask for no more.
I repeat the undertaking that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House gave, in his capacity as Chairman of the Services Committee, that he will arrange for this Committee to resume its consideration of the whole problem, including the question of the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Table Office, the Research Department of the Library, and all the other places that there should be in the new House of Commons. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) referred to the need for a gymnasium. This question will be taken into account by the Services Committee, but it will not be decided tonight. Let us get the decision to start first and then talk about what shall be in the new building when it is erected. I hope that in the light of what I have said and the assurances I have 179 given the House will give me the approval for which I seek tonight.
§ Question put:—
§ The House proceeded to a Division:—
That this House agrees with the Committee in the said Report and takes note of the statement by the Minister of Public Building and Works on Tuesday 3rd December 1968 on the Whitehall Redevelopment Plan.