§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)
I beg to move,That the proposed new Parliamentary Building be not proceeded with, and that alternative proposals for providing additional working accommodation, which would be available sooner and at a lower cost, be considered.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have to inform the House that I have not selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard), although he will no doubt be able to deploy his arguments on the motion itself.
§ Mr. Cormack
The only disadvantage with Private Members' motions is that one has to choose one's subject even longer ahead than the proverbial political week. When I chose to debate the new building it was not possible to foresee the inhibitions that this might place upon members of the Services Committee. Still less was it possible to foresee that we would meet to discuss our accommodation and comforts on a day of such gloom and at a time when so many of our constituents are, understandably, so much more concerned about theirs.
To at least one aspect of those troubles the House will be able to turn its attention if our debate concludes in time for my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine) to introduce his motion. I hope that he will be able at least to do that. At least his chances are increased by the very difficulties he deplores. Several colleagues who had intended to be present today have been in touch with me to say that they are unable to get here. To assist my hon. Friend, I shall be a little reluctant to give way. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will bear with me in that. I know that many hon. Members wish to catch your eye, Mr. 740 Speaker. In spite of the disturbances which surround us, a full and wide-ranging debate on this subject is vital, not least for our taxpaying constituents, and it is particularly appropriate that a Private Members' problem—this is essentially a Private Members' problem—should be fully aired in Private Members' time.
The need for more accommodation has been debated many times, over many years. There was an earlier suggestion for a building on the Bridge Street site. We probably all agree that it is essential that a decision on the future of that side of Parliament Square should soon be reached and that the fate of this building should be resolved within the next few weeks.
I want to make it plain at the outset that I do not challenge the need for better accommodation for Members and, more particularly, for their secretaries. The question is, what sort of accommodation is required and how can it best be provided? Within the Palace of Westminster and adjacent buildings there is at present accommodation for 492 Members, excluding Ministers, but of these only 85 Members occupy single rooms. There is further accommodation for 220 secretaries. The picture of Members crammed eight to 12 to a room, dictating to secretaries on odd benches and in corridors, is a familiar and largely accurate one. There are, for instance, only 18 dictation cubicles on the Interview Floor, and only 10 rooms which Members can book on that floor for seeing constituents. Those rooms are in such great demand that one often has to book a month in advance, although it is fair to say that cubicles are always available for dictation.
In the House of Lords—one has to look at this matter in the context of the Palace of Westminster as a whole—there are a number of common facilities. There are workshops, stores, offices, rest rooms for the staff of the Department of the Environment, accommodation for custodians, and their security control centre. There are half a dozen rooms, for instance, for the Houses of Parliament Sports and Social Club. There is Ash-worths, the Record Office, the IPU, and so on. Except for the Lord Chancellor's Department, there is no accommodation for Members of the House of Lords outside the Palace.
741 Black Rod informed me only yesterday, in a very helpful letter, that there is at present no spare accommodation in the other place and that only about 40 peers have desks of their own—apart from the Law Lords, who have very commodious accommodation. The question raised by Black Rod's letter is one that has often been raised in the past. It was, perhaps, most cogently argued in the now famous article by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)—whom I am glad to see in the Chamber today—in the Architects Journal in 1964. He will forgive me for referring to his words of wisdom. He talked at great length about this matter. Since 1964 there has been an improvement, and he will be delighted to know, if he has not already discovered it. that the blacksmith's forge is no longer housed in the Palace of Westminster, although I am told that there is still a woodwork shop and a metalwork shop.
Although no one could reasonably challenge the general needs of the Officers of the House or the value of the various ancillary facilities housed within the Palace, it can at least be questioned, as it was questioned by the hon. Member nine years ago, whether some of these ancillary facilities could not equally be provided in adjacent buildings, in order to allow more Members to have accommodation within the Palace. The Norman Shaw South building—I will come to Norman Shaw North later—and Middlesex Guildhall spring readily to mind in this context.
Be that as it may, it is apparently true that no survey has yet been conducted by outside consultants into the use of space within the Palace. It might well be a good idea for us to see whether there could not be better co-ordination between the two Houses.
All this is not to argue that by moving a few offices out of the Palace all our problems could be solved. The modern scale of parliamentary operations means that there is not, nor can there ever be, sufficient space within the Palace for all Members. Many Members do not object to outside accommodation, although—this is an important point to emphasise—most seem to prefer the opportunity to return to the House for all essential parliamentary functions.
742 What has not been sufficiently explained is how far our office needs could be helped by a successful re-allocation of rooms within the Palace and by a thoroughly planned and careful renovation of buildings within easy reach of the Chamber. I think of the Norman Shaw North building in this context. According to a recent answer by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, whom I am glad to see here this morning, that could provide individual accommodation for at least 164 Members. If we took in Norman Shaw South as well, there could be yet more rooms and also an extension of the Library, as well as the transfer of some of the Officers of the House.
Lest it be said, as it undoubtedly will be, that Norman Shaw is too far away, it should be pointed out that it is literally only a few yards further than the building we are discussing this morning—at least, Norman Shaw North is—and it is easier of access than are the rooms that many hon. Members now occupy in Old Palace Yard.
As I see it, the case for the new building rests solely on the acknowledged need for more accommodation and the reluctance to accept anything else to provide it. However, this new building offers far more than extra and commodious office space—sauna baths, massage rooms, a television studio and a swimming pool are just some of the facilities and attractions that would be incorporated.
Would not a free-standing building with all these features—and a roof-garden, too—become in a real sense a rival parliamentary building from which there was no need to emerge save to vote? There is all the difference in the world between having an office across the road and the equivalent of the Inn on the Park.
I share an office in Bridge Street at the moment, but to eat and to see colleagues I have to cross the road to the Palace. In the new building I could live a Howard Hughes type of existence. Perhaps the next and most logical step would be push-button voting.
I see a great danger in all this, and it is one that I can perhaps best illustrate by a comparison between the facilities that we manifestly do not enjoy here and those that our colleagues in the American Congress take for granted. 743 For the last couple of years I have been lucky enough to have young research assistants spending a year with me between school and university, or university and career. The first of these left me to go to work for a Congressman friend in Washington. Although he enormously enjoyed his experience, and was somewhat scathing about what he called our filing cabinet compartments when he returned, he felt that things had gone too far in the other direction on the other side of the Atlantic. The American legislator was so cocooned, protected and assisted by secretaries and staff that he could be as remote to his constituents as the Ombudsman is to ours.
I do not want to push the analogy too far, but I see in the erection of a luxurious building away from the Palace a danger that much could be lost. I do not exactly count the new podium an adequate replacement for the Central Lobby.
Thus, perhaps the most important question raised by this debate concerns the function of the individual Member and how we see that function in the future. I think that we should beware of creating a new creature out of a natural desire to supply extra creature comforts for the old. Before we embark on a process of turning our backs on the old system we should give a thought to where we may be going, and remember, above all, that Members of Parliament are not immune from the laws of nature and of man and that for us as for others work expands to fill the space available.
To return to the new building itself, even if we accept the case for accommodation of this type, and even if we are understandably attracted by its comfort and luxury, can we possibly justify it on the ground of cost? It is always notoriously rash to give estimates. It is for my hon. Friend who will speak from the Front Bench to do this and to carry the rap. It would seem obvious that some £2 million would more than provide for the provision of extra accommodation within the Palace and the conversion of existing buildings outside.
This in itself is no negligible sum, but it pales into insignificance against the cost of this building. The construction costs alone have virtually doubled in the last two years. In a Written Answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for 744 Streatham (Mr. Sandys) on 1st March, the Minister for Housing and Construction indicated that the total cost of the new building, including the site costs, which after all are essential, would at the moment be in the region of £30 million. That is 30 times what we spend each year on restoring historic buildings. It is an interesting little parallel.
I suggest that we have come in for enough criticisms—rightly—over the prodigal expense on the car park. We are now being asked to build ourselves even more costly office accommodation. Incidentally, perhaps the most amusing suggestion I have received in the last week was from an hon. Friend who is unable to be present today because of the rail strike and who said that we should convert the car park into Members' accommodation.
I will seek to break down the cost. Accepting that there would be accommodation across the road for 450 Members in the new building, the cost per Member would work out at about £66,000. If we accept that rather more than half the space would not be taken up by Members' offices, we are still left with a figure in excess of £30,000 for actual office space.
Members of Parliament are traditionally supposed to keep a wary eye on the nation's purse and to be its guardians. If we build this building we shall not be keeping the purse; we shall be snatching the bag. Could we at any time justify offices for Members that had the advantages of a luxury hotel and a Butlin's holiday camp thrown in? In the present climate should we even be discussing this?
We have not yet even considered in this debate what many would think to be the most vital ground for objection to the building, namely, aesthetic suitability. I have deliberately left this to the last, because inevitably when one talks about buildings' merits one is being to some degree subjective. We must look at the building in the setting of Parliament Square. In this context the fact that few enthuse over the building and that I am not attracted by it may be irrelevant.
What is not irrelevant is this House's responsibility for the most historic square in the world—the heart of the Commonwealth and of English history. In 1963 745 the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), to whom we all owe a very real debt of gratitude for the provision of extra facilities and whom I am delighted to see here this morning, said:I remind hon. Members that we are speaking about something which is the heart of the Commonwealth. This is an opportunity. We need a noble building with an impressive entrance."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 1st August 1963; Vol. 682, c. 733.]No one has challenged those wise words. Indeed, the enormous importance of the site was properly recognised by the winning architects in the competition, who in a memorandum which they submitted to the Select Committee referred td the significance of the site, both nationally and internationally, saying that it presents an unparalleled opportunity to make a real contribution to London at a public level.
Does this building do that? Does it harmonise successfully with the rest of Parliament Square? These are the questions that we cannot afford not to ask and that we must—each of us in his own heart—seek to answer. It is an issue which has not been faced squarely, partly due to an understandable reluctance either to give offence to two enterprising and eminent young architects or to criticise the verdict of a distinguished panel of judges. Most of the debate since March has skirted around this main issue, so that the Select Committee recommended reducing the height of the building by about 5 ft.
I have never been more horrified than I was by the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), the then Minister for Housing and Construction, who, whilst admitting that the building was too massive, went on to say that he did not wish to push the claims of the environment beyond the comfort of the House and the convenience of Members. I prefer the more forthright utterance of the wife of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who, in a splendid, spirited article in the Illustrated London News in November last, said that if our legislators dare to sacrifice the claims of Parliament Square to their needs for offices they should never be forgiven. The new building, she said,would stand as a monument to the bureaucratic, the authoritarian, self-indulgent barbarism of the generation of Members of Parliament who allowed it to happen.746 Not for nothing is she the wife of the Member for Ebbw Vale. These are strong words.
I am not criticising the fact that this design is of the twentieth century. I am merely suggesting that it perhaps lacks an appreciation of and humility for what surrounds it.
Much scorn has frequently been poured upon the suggestion that Barry's design should be completed. Certainly no guardian of the public purse could conceivably or conscientiously suggest that at the moment. However, to suggest that one has got to be aggressively contemporary in all circumstances is, I think, to show an insensitivity which I find really disturbing. If one crosses the road—we do not have much time to do that—to Westminster Abbey and goes through that glorious nave, transept and cloister, one sees a harmonious unity of purest early English design. Yet I think the earliest part of that dates from 1387 and the style was in continuous use until 1528—a remarkable example of a pure style triumphing over fashion in the cause of architectural coherence. Any visitor to the Abbey cannot fail to give thanks to that conservatism of a previous generation.
Hawkesmoor, too, great baroque architect that he was, who provided the design for the Abbey towers, worked so well that today few details betray the fact that he was a baroque architect. When Sir Christopher Wren was considering the nature of his proposed extensions to the Abbey he said:I have a design which will be…still in the Gothic form and of a style with the rest of the structure which I would strictly adhere to throughout the whole extention; to deviate from the old form would be to run into a disagreeable mixture which no person of taste could relish.This Palace, the most famous seat of Government, does not owe its beauty or its fame to any attempt by Barry to create a style for its own sake. We, or our predecessors, respected this when the Chamber was rebuilt after the war. We have in Parliament Square two of the most beautiful and significant buildings in the world, in this Palace and in the Abbey across the road. If any building of vast size is to join them, there must surely be an attempt to blend building materials. Is the bronzed glass, depending for effect on its reflecting surfaces, 747 really going to add to the dignity and beauty of the site? One colleague has said "People who throw stones should not live in glass houses." Certainly after the events of yesterday one might wonder whether a building totally made of glass, with an enormous area underneath, is the most sensible thing. However, that is by way of interjection. But will this uncompromisingly twentieth century building add to the harmony of Parliament Square? One has only to look around London or contemplate the development of the Queen Anne's Mansions site to see the actual, or fear the potential, impact of any new development on historic areas.
I agree wholeheartedly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion when he said that he did not feel that this building was inspiring in that setting. It has real qualities and real merits, and these I do not seek to dispute, even though I may be incapable of fully appreciating them myself. I think that in a setting of Milton Keynes new town it might he very attractive, but here it would be glaringly incongruous. Perhaps this is partly because when the competition was first launched widespread redevelopment of Whitehall was planned, and since then we have had the Willis Report and the Government's welcome acceptance of the report, and the whole situation has changed fundamentally.
Since the winning design was published it has excited very little enthusiasm or support inside or outside Parliament. The agreement that we need more space has led to an almost resigned acceptance that we had better have this, but the GLC—I know the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) will seek to elaborate on this—has very grave misgivings about the project. One feels that the Select Committee's views were perhaps best conveyed by the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), whom I am glad to see here, when he said:What worries me as a layman is that it may seem all right from a diagram but as I remember the model we examined when St. Thomas' was created and I think now of the monstrosity which is arising across there on the other side along with all the other ugly monstrosities, I am rather worried because I feel that this building here will not fit in with that and there will be a tremendous clash.748 Replying to this observation, Sir Hugh Casson commented that everything looks nice in a model. Then one could quote from a letter which several of us have received from the Chairman of the Georgian Group, which said virtually the same thing, that in this setting this building did not fit. Those observations were backed by many people with wide experience.
I think all this adds up to a building which few like, although many feel we must have. Surely this is not the ground from which to embark on so massive a project. When one considers our real needs and how those needs could possibly be met far more quickly and at far less cost, could we seriously embark on this extravaganza? We must think again.
A Friday after a Thursday rail strike at the end of Budget week may, I concede, not be the best moment to have the vital decisive vote on this issue. I fully agree with what the Lord President of the Council said in successive weeks in the House on that point, but I suggest that we must think again. When we are called upon to vote can we in all conscience support this? The answer is surely the provision of as much accommodation as is possible as soon as possible, to reject this design and to leave open for further consideration the question of the future of Parliament Square. Might it not be said that it would add more to the dignity of the capital and give more pleasure to visitors and more inspiration to ourselves if we could have over there, across the road, a green and pleasant space?
§ 11.29 a.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack), who has used this opportunity to stage a debate which I think should have been initiated by the Government long since, cannot complain that he was interrupted. He asked for no interruptions and he was listened to in respectful silence. But I do not think that is a good brand of speech. Whenever I read HANSARD and I see that a speech goes on uninterrupted I always think of Nye Bevan's crack that it was probably a badly read essay in a turgid monotone.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)rose—749
§ Mr. Pannell
Mine never fall into that category. I listened in respectful silence to the hon. Member for Cannock. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) must hope to catch the eye of the Chair later. He is only a prentice hand. He came here only recently. But, as everyone knows, I have some record on this issue, and I think that I have a right to spell it out.
If I have a criticism of the hon. Member for Cannock, it is that he brings a fresh mind to bear on the subject, and he has not served on any of the long list of committees. He has not gone through all the agonies of struggle, as, for example, Mr. Speaker himself did, with me, when he was Leader of the House, in order to improve our accommodation. I think it worth while, therefore, to set out where we have come from as well as where we are going.
I remember writing an article in a newspaper soon after I came to the House, saying that this place was run by officials and Members did not matter. If someone asked at the Admission Order Office for a couple of tickets, he felt as though he was asking for a couple of passports to heaven. I had never seen a place so run by functionaries.
It took me some years of research to find out where the strings of power in this place lay. They go back to 1780, and then, later, to the great Select Committee of 1834. The trouble with the hon. Gentleman's speech was that it reminded me of the words which a young lady used to sing on "That was the Week that was" every Saturday night—"It has all been said before".
Another thought which I leave with the hon. Gentleman—it impressed itself on my mind when I heard it—is that it is axiomatic of all great art that that which easily pleases is not great art at all. I suspect that if lie searches his mind in relation to the art forms which he truly loves he will realise that he loves them only after having lived with them for a long time, and he probably did not like them, or did not understand them, when he first glimpsed them.
When I came to the House in 1949 I was struck by the fact that even Prime Ministers were pushed around under the old rules. Indeed, in the Select Committee Report of 1901 one can find it recorded that Mr. Lowther, the future 750 Speaker Lowther, was rebuked by a custodian on a Saturday afternoon and told that he had no rights in the place. That was the truth of the matter. We had no rights in this place. We did not even have a respectable tenancy until I negotiated the settlement in 1965. That is where this history begins. [Interruption.] Indeed, it does. Only since then have we had a Services Committee, and only since then has the House taken charge of its own affairs.
After those introductory remarks, which I hope the hon. Member for Cannock will take as good-natured raillery, I want to address myself more directly to the Leader of the House. It has always been the precedent that progress in these matters has followed a Cabinet decision and a statement by the Minister responsible. I go back to the statement which I made in 1965:The Government accept in principle the proposal for a new building for parliamentary purposes on the Bridge Street site and recognise the need to develop the remainder of the site for Government offices as a necessary part of the redevelopment of the Foreign Office site. Planning will he set in hand as soon as possible. In general, Government building in Whitehall will be planned in accord with the general principles set out by Sir Leslie Martin. Arrangements for execution will be made in the of the Government's policy of restricting the growth of office employment in London"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 19th July 1965 Vol. 716, c. 1118.]That is what we said then.
It did not even begin here. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), when he was Minister of Works, commissioned the Martin-Buchanan plan. So there is some responsibility right across the House for the parliamentary building. It goes further back than that, to the rejection of the Report of the Duncan Committee, of which I was a member. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham said that what was needed was a comprehensive view of the matter. Parliament has inquired, re-inquired and inquired again not only during all the time I have been here but for years before.
I have been trying to recall all the committees. Required reading on this subject is the Report of the Stokes Committee of 1953–54, of which I was a member. I never forget that, because of the memory which some of us still Nave of Dick Stokes, one of the outstanding 751 men of my lifetime. Nothing said this morning was not said then.
We had the Duncan Committee's Report. We had the Selwyn Lloyd Committee's Report. Time and again we inquired into the matter, and we finally came to the conclusion—I wish that the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham were here this morning—that we must look at the matter as a whole, that we ought to plan the centre of the Commonwealth as a whole. That is why we proceeded with the idea of an architectural competition, which I initiated, for a great Commonwealth building. In parenthesis, I can tell the House that someone said—I think it was the present Prime Minister—that it should be an international competition, but privately it was intimated to us that a Japanese architect would not go down very well with the Australians. However, that was not my reason for not having an international competition.
I can claim to have been responsible for the only new building in this place for over 100 years—the Star Court building.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
The ugliest building added to the Palace of Westminster for centuries.
§ Mr. Pannell
That is a matter of opinion. Some people might say that the hon. Gentleman is the ugliest Member of the House, but it would be just as silly. It is not an ugly building. The idea for it sprang from the Stokes Committee Report. We received a great deal of advice on the subject. I think that it harmonises very well with the building itself. A great many people have seen it, we had a great deal of consultation, and never before this morning has that sort of comment been forthcoming.
I remind the hon. Member for Cannock that we have done considerable building in the roof space. We have examined this place for every nook and cranny in which we might extend the accommodation. In my time, we took the Fees Office outside the building. I wanted to clear out the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, but there was such a revolt from the Establishment that that holy of holies must stay where it is. People are not in favour of moving it, and I can understand why.
752 I am not speaking today from the point of view of someone on the Opposition benches. I tried to do what I could when in office. When I took over in 1964, I was anxious to secure complete and unified control of the Palace of Westminster. Most of the difficulties here spring from 1945, when Lord Jowitt brought the whole of his Government Department into the House of Lords building, filling it up. That ought to be cleared out, and cleared out quickly. The sooner the better.
Everyone knows that I wanted unified control of the Palace of Westminster under the Minister of Works or some appropriate Minister. But I found, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) when he tried to negotiate the Parliament (No. 2) Bill through, that anyone negotiating with the House of Lords negotiates not with Conservatives or Socialists but with a new incarnation.
One negotiates with peers. It does not matter whether the name is Gardiner, Dilhorne, Rea, Longford or Carrington—they rise in defence and will fight in the last ditch for the mediaeval rights of the Lord Great Chamberlain, going back to 1133. There is now the absurd business where they are spending over £80,000 on extending their restaurant accommodation. It is not the House of Commons which is the best club in Europe, it is the House of Lords now. And, of course, life peerages have made that place very much more popular than it ever deserves to be. [Interruption.] Somebody said that coming events cast their shadows before them.
Had we had proper and sensible control of the Palace of Westminster, as such, the Peers' Guest Room could have been shared, particularly when hon. Members brought their ladies into the place. That proposal was put up by the Stokes Committee in 1953 and rejected by the Labour peers. In addition, we could have had a pooling of library facilities. I pay tribute to our Library, under its librarian. No one has used it more assiduously than I, but all the facilities should be pooled for the whole Palace of Westminster.
I have referred to the Lord Chancellor's Department and where it should go. I make a suggestion to the Minister, because the papers are in his Department. 753 I have put up the proposal that we should take over the Middlesex Guildhall and take all the judicial functions out of the House of Lords and establish a supreme court in the Guildhall. With Middlesex out of the way there would be a council chamber which would be a suitable place for Royals Commissions. There are even cells down below. It is all there.
If that were done the question would arise of what would happen to the accommodation vacated in the Lords. I would not ask for it for the Commons. I would ask for decent accommodation for many distinguished men and women as life peers who in some ways have even sparser accommodation than we have. The House of Lords, which is a great repository of distinguished public service, needs to treat its members—[Interruption.] I never go to the House of Lords without a tear rolls down my cheek and I think of all the great men of yesteryear at whose feet I once sat. I know that it is now a place where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest, but in their fading days they deserve to be treated better than they are.
I hope that the Minister who is to reply will consider what I have said about the Middlesex Guildhall. I know what is involved. There are two or three puisne courts, which would have to be shifted to some other part of the Metropolis. The edge of Parliament Square is no place for these courts. The building could be more intelligently used. I say only that I prosecuted the idea with all the strength I could, but successive Lord Chancellors object when they do not have their clerk to their elbow, or do not have this department or that department close to them. Well, Ministers have to get by with a room here. The trouble with Lord Chancellors is that they are all birds of passage, but their clerks are not. When I was Minister of Works. I totted up that there had been 43 Ministers up to my time this century, but only eight permanent secretaries. There must he a moral in that somewhere.
The motion does not explicitly ask for the discarding of the new building. I will not, therefore, dwell at too great a length on it. The hon. Member for Cannock permitted himself one or two digressions on his views on architecture. He seemed to think that the new building would be incongruous. I have been 754 through this before. When we sat on the Selwyn Lloyd Committee the proposal was to extend within New Palace Yard. We did not think that an up-ended matchbox would look very well in that situation, and we considered it a good idea to continue in Gothic. As a result the whole derision of the architectural Press fell upon us.
I would point out that Coventry Cathedral is hybrid architecture, with the matching of the new and the old. I spent a week in that place and I even went to a service there—which was pretty good for an agnostic—to see whether I thought it harmonised. The hybrid architecture of the outside of Coventry Cathedral is more satisfactory to me than is the inside of the building. Others have expressed that view.
We set up a competition and appointed assessors. One of the great difficulties the hon. Member has encountered is that he probably saw it on television first. But if he imagines standing at pavement level looking out from underneath the building he will probably agree that it will present a more attractive vista altogether. He mentioned the article written in the Illustrated London News by the wife of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). She deserves to be known by her own name, in her own right—Jill Craigie—and she is interested in architecture. We had a long talk on the subject, but I say no more about that because obviously I did not convince her. I believe that Members of Parliament are probably better now than they ever were. They are more articulate than they were before, and more hardworking. We no longer have half a dozen fashionable gladiators coming down and boring the House night after night.
The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke is getting very impatient but I do not intend to give way.
§ Mr. Pannell
I cannot help that. I am reminded of Joseph Chamberlain, who, when speaking on the Plimsoll Line and having started at 5 o'clock said—I think it was at 20 minutes to 8 o'clock" Having concluded my few prefatory remarks…" and went on to speak 755 until 10 o'clock. They did that sort of thing night after night. An examination of the record shows that more Members wish to speak now than ever before and if our Chamber seems to be rather attenuated it is because hon. Members are so busy in other parts of the House.
A Member now cannot succeed by blowing in, blowing up and blowing out. He has to prove himself on his party committees. A Member of Parliament has to consider how he counts in this place as well as he counts in his constituency. His duties here require constant attendance. I have been through all these things and I want hon. Members to have the best possible services.
I can only tell the hon. Member for Cannock that everything he said this morning, without any vainglory on my part, other people, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) included, have tried it all before. We have come to the final conclusion that the hon. Member himself will come to, that the only thing which finally will solve this problem is a new building. If we cast this away we will cast it away for as long a period as I have been in the House. I started this sort of business. A look at the files will show all the battles for control, and that sort of thing, which I started in about 1950. We slogged away all the time on every committee and eventually came to the stage when we said that we had to start afresh with a cleared site.
The hon. Member for Cannock may object to the building itself. He may not like it. I can only tell him that all great planning is authoritarian. Our difficulty is that we think that the Services Committee should look at the proposal and then the House of Commons should somehow consider it, but the fact is that it is not possible to choose architecture in that way.
I think that one of the great names that will stand at the bar of history for this century is Henry Moore who is associated with my city, but when talking to somebody recently I asked whether he liked the "Reclining Figure" and he replied that he had not lived with it for long enough. I know what he meant. This is true of all great art forms. One has to get accustomed to them, and there- 756 fore we should not leave the matter to be decided by a mass meating.
It is possible for someone to say that he wants No. 3 or No. 4. I do not mind that, but I have no time for the idiot who asks whether it is possible to chop 5ft. off the top after all the proportions have been worked out. I am not arguing generally. I have been through all this. I should rest satisfied with this building, having looked at it carefully, because of my past concern with the matter. I think that it would eventually become a well-loved building and a well-loved part of London.
That is purely a matter of opinion, but I should want to test the hon. Gentleman's powers of criticism of other art forms before accepting his opinion on this issue. I have lived for no less time than he has, and I can only bring to bear all the experience that I have had. I have given a great deal of study to this building, and the proposal to erect it has caused me to study a great deal of architecture. Because of that, I should rest satisfied with what is proposed.
However, for the sake of hon. Members themselves, I end with the warning note that if they shelve this proposal now and say that this is not the building they want, if they call for another competition and another lot of assessors in two or three years' time with the idea of allowing another House of Commons with a fresh mind to consider the subject, there is no certainty that those Members will do things better than their predecessors.
I could have filled my speech this morning by talking about the adverse criticisms of the Barry Building. We venerate this place and all that it stands for. This is largely a matter of association, but nothing that has been said this morning about the proposed building was not said about Barry in his time. This is the difficulty. I was trained as an engineer. We used to arrive at the stage on the drawing board when we had to decide whether to go ahead and do the job or else get back to the drawing board, at which point somebody would say, "We should not have started here at all".
There must be finality. This is a democratic assembly. I was responsible for the idea that the House should have the last word. Generally, with these competitions the final word rests with the assessors, but 757 the House is free to choose for itself. I hope that hon. Members will look at this question historically. This is a difficult morning for us all. It was indeed difficult for me to get here after a long journey. If hon. Members cast aside this opportunity, in another 20 years' time, when I shall not be here—the hon. Member for Cannock may or may not be—hon. Members will look back on today as the day on which we cast aside the opportunity to create a noble parliamentary building which was fit not only for the British House of Commons but for all the associations of Europe which might one day come here.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Paul Channon)
I hope that the House will forgive me for intervening now, but I thought that it would be wiser to do so at an early stage in order to give the House some information about costs and other matters relating to the proposed building so that the rest of the debate could proceed in the light of the full knowledge of the facts.
Like the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), I have played a modest part in all this. I have not looked up what I said in previous debates. I suspect that it would be found to be wholly inconsistent, though I do not doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has been consistent throughout on all these matters.
I remember serving with the right hon. Gentleman on both the Duncan and Selwyn Lloyd Committees. The whole House knows the right hon. Gentleman's deep knowledge and interest in the House and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) said, the great help that he has given to Members over the years in his struggle to secure better conditions for them.
I think that the House must be in the debt of my hon. Friend, because without him it might not have been possible to have this early—though perhaps not early enough—debate on an extremely important matter which calls for an important decision to be taken by the House. Not only is this a matter for the House; as my hon. Friend said, it raises far wider issues affecting everyone with an interest in and a feeling for architecture and for our whole heritage in the centre of London on what is one of the most important and prominent sites in the world.
758 My hon. Friend pointed out that the outcome of what we decide in due course will not be without significance to the taxpayers as a whole. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made it clear last week, during the Business statement—and I think that it has met with general approval this morning—that the decision to be taken about the new parliamentary building is so important for all hon. Members that it would be wiser to take it at a subsequent stage rather than today, when so many hon. Members who might otherwise wish to take part in the debate are absent. That decision has been proved to be justified by the special circumstances of this Friday adding to the normal difficulties.
My right hon. Friend is present and will wish to listen to the views expressed by hon. Members, as I shall. If any new points are raised I shall, with the leave of the House, answer them at the end of the debate, though I hope that I shall not have to do so. But I repeat that if hon. Members ask me to do so I shall try to answer points which they raise. A further opportunity of reaching a decision on this matter must be afforded to the House.
§ Mr. Channon
No, not on a Friday. In its report last July the Services Committee said that the proposed building would meet our accommodation requirements, and recommended at that stage that the House should adopt the winning design, with modifications, and the construction should be started as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Robert Cookerose—
§ Mr. Channon
Unlike the two previous speakers, I shall be happy to give way to my hon. Friend, but not just yet. I understand that the Services Committee is reviewing its recommendation in the light of the latest information. If that is so, I am sure that the House would be wise to await the advice of the Cormmittee before reaching any final conclusion.
Perhaps I may tell the House this morning how we stand on the preparations for the building and give the latest information about its cost and that of other works which, although they were excluded 759 from the architectural competition, will need to be undertaken if the building goes ahead. I am sure that the House will wish to take account of the environmental considerations in the context of Parliament Square and the view across the river.
The House will probably also want to know what accommodation might be made available pending completion of the new building—if the House decides in its favour—and what alternative arrangements could be made if we decided not to proceed with it. When my hon. Friend replied to an Adjournment debate on this topic before the Christmas Recess he said that while the decision whether to proceed rested with the House, the Department would do everything necessary to ensure that if the decision were favourable work should not be held up because necessary preliminaries had been overlooked.
Consultations have been going on with, for example, the London Transport Executive about the measures that will be needed to provide an entrance hall and ticket office for Westminster underground railway station, and the GLC is being consulted about the problem of raising the level of Bridge Street in order to allow adequate access between the new building and the Chamber. Preliminary action is going ahead to ensure that, if the House so decided, we could obtain possession of the existing buildings on the site at a reasonably early date.
These discussions are going on. Preliminary working drawings for the underground railway station are now in hand and it is unlikely that these works would be a major cause of delay should the House decide to go ahead.
The provision of access to and from the Chamber and New Palace Yard involves the raising of the level of Bridge Street by about 3 ft. As the House is aware, the GLC has raised substantial objections to the whole of the proposed design, as has Westminster City Council. They both feel that the design should not be considered otherwise than in a carefully planned relationship to the surrounding area.
As hon. Members will realise, this feeling of the GLC, the Westminster City Council and some other authorities has grown stronger in the light of the Govern- 760 ment's decision to accept the recommendations of the Willis inquiry and to retain Richmond Terrace and the Norman Shaw building, known to most of us as New Scotland Yard. The GLC has also expressed concern about the scale and bulk of the winning design and the amount of space and general facilities that would be made available to the public, as well as criticising its architectural qualities in relation to the historic buildings in the neighbourhood.
In the GLC's view, it would be wrong to adopt a building line consistent with that of the Treasury building in Great George Street. It would prefer that the new building should be set back rather further from its present line along the whole of its length to make way not only for a broader footpath but for an additional traffic lane.
That remains the GLC's general view, However, without prejudice to that, consultations have been taking place with the GLC about how best to raise the level of Bridge Street should the House decide that this is needed. A feasibility study is in hand and we should have its results shortly.
I cannot give the House a firm order of costs or say what effect this requirement would have on the completion date for the parliamentary building. In view of the magnitude of the costs that I shall later mention, however, I do not think that this item would be of enormous significance.
The House is of course aware that when the conditions for the architectural competition were compiled it was assumed that the works for the underground railway would be well under way at this stage and that plans would have been made for re-accommodating the police station at Cannon Row elsewhere on the Richmond Terrace/New Scotland Yard site. Re-accommodation is needed not only because the present police station would be affected by the building of the new ticket office and entrance hall for the underground station but because the existing building is old and operationally quite inadequate. There is an urgent need to deal with this problem, and this will have to be taken into account in our general plans for the use of the area, irrespective of our decision on the new building for Members.
761 However, one problem would arise if the new building were to be built. In that event it would be essential to adopt a solution consistent with the time scale for the new parliamentary building, and that would inevitably mean the use of an existing building on the site. Three are available—Norman Shaw North, Richmond Terrace and Curtis Green. Of those, Norman Shaw North is the only one that could certainly be adapted to meet police requirements within the time scale envisaged for the parliamentary building.
I am aware that this is different from the view expressed earlier by the police in evidence at the Willis inquiry, but our latest advice is that if the police have to move only Norman Shaw North could rapidly be adapted to meet their requirements. This would take a considerable time and would, of course, be a constraint on the completion date for the parliamentary building. I think that all hon. Members will agree that in this important part of London we need to have a well-equipped police station. This is selfevident—and perhaps the tragic events of yesterday reinforce that view.
Another constraint on the construction of the new parliamentary building would be that the winning design is still at the preliminary sketch plan stage. If it were to be adopted without further modifications, working drawings, and other necessary documents—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
In view of the date when the competition was set up and the amount of extra accommodation that would now be required for the police, I wonder whether it would not be possible to arrange the building so as to provide considerable accommodation for the police concerned with Parliament within the building itself.
§ Mr. Channon
The problem is that to deal with all the works necessary to accommodate the new building it would be essential to demolish Cannon Row. That police station would have to be put somewhere else in the interim. We have to provide a police station at all stages throughout the next few years, whether or not we proceed with the new parliamentary building. I am merely saying at this stage that if it is decided to go ahead with the new parliamentary building it will be necessary to move the police, and 762 at the moment the one building that could be adapted is the Norman Shaw North building.
Working drawings and other necessary documents could be prepared within about a two-year time scale. It is a long time, but I fear that it is essential. Work on the site could start shortly afterwards.
There is another constraint, which is that of site acquisition and the position of existing tenants on Bridge Street.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
In view of what he has said about the preliminary drawing stage, does the Minister agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) in describing the building as essentially a luxury building? Is it not in fact a capacious building, in which the interior could subsequently be disposed largely according to the wishes of the House, and that in some ways—without intending to mislead the House—by referring to things such as sauna baths, and so on, the hon. Member for Cannock was too specific about the use that could be made of the space? Is it not the case that the architectural plans are not specific about the use of the interior?
§ Mr. Channon
The interior of the building could of course be altered to some extent if the House wished it to be altered. I shall be dealing with the likely costs if Parliament decides to proceed with the building, and in those costs we have to make some assumptions about what the interior would be.
We already own most of the Bridge Street site and I think that hon. Members will agree that, irrespective of the decision on the building, we should proceed to acquire the remainder of the site so that the whole site may be comprehensively redeveloped, either now or later. Therefore, acquisition would not of itself affect the completion date of the new building.
However, it is now eight months since the Services Committee made its recommendation and assumed that the parliamentary building could be completed and made ready for occupation before the end of 1978. In the light of all the constraints, I think that that target is overoptimistic. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, West was kind enough to say that I should take the rap for it—I am not sure that I shall in 1978, but it was 763 very good of him to suggest that I might—I suggest that a more realistic date might now be the end of 1980 rather than the end of 1978.
I now come to the subject of costs. I must distinguish between those costs that relate to the new building as specified in the conditions for the architectural competition and various others that were excluded but would nevertheless have to be borne if the scheme were to proceed. In 1970 the Willis inquiry was only being initiated and it was still assumed that all land more than 200 feet to the north of Bridge Street, up to and beyond Cannon Row and Derby Gate, would be redeveloped as part of a general Whitehall plan. If that scheme had gone ahead it would have incorporated works for the underground station, a cooling plant for the new building on the site of Norman Shaw South, a new Cannon Row police station, and some shops. These works were therefore expressly excluded from the terms of the architectural competition in 1970.
Gradually, however, as the House knows, it became evident that the erection of the parliamentary building would almost certainly precede the development of Whitehall, and plans had to be made accordingly. It was decided that the most appropriate solution wound be to extend the podium of the parliamentary building to Cannon Row and Derby Gate as cover for the underground station works, the heating and cooling plant, and the shops. Some solution such as that would have to be reached, whatever the design of the new parliamentary building. That is something extra that we must now consider.
The House will remember that the general conditions of the architectural competition allowed £5.4 million at January 1970 prices for the parliamentary building itself, excluding the other items. The £5.4 million included built-in fittings, internal decoration, any special floor finishes, partitioning, air conditioning, heating and electrical distribution, lifts and all other normal internal services.
What the £5.4 million expressly excluded was demolition above the lowest floor level, professional fees, furnishings, carpeting and loose fittings, the 764 cost of the land and the various other items to which I have referred as forming part of the general Whitehall scheme. The assessors nevertheless advised that £5.4 million presented a tight target for a project of this nature.
At a meeting with the Department's architects early in February Messrs. Spence and Webster, the architects of the winning design, supported by their specialist advisers, reported an updated cost of £9.5 million at end 1972 prices. The architects subsequently added an additional 10 per cent. to take account of the unstable market conditions and the possibility of unforeseen ground conditions.
Without necessarily dissenting from these conclusions, I advise the House that in the present climate of tendering even £10.5 million could well turn out to be on the low side. Moreover, the fact that the design is not yet even at sketch plan stage presents further uncertainties. Although, therefore, £10.5 million does not at present appear unreasonable, any figure quoted now needs to be treated with some reservation.
Leaving aside for the moment those works which would originally have been included as part of the general Whitehall scheme, there are also a number of supplementary items solely related to the new parliamentary building which were expressly excluded from the competition. These were the demolition of of existing buildings, raising the level of Bridge Street and the provision of access to and from the Palace of Westminster and New Palace Yard. Those items would probably cost £1.75 million at current prices, although we cannot be sure until the Bridge Street feasibility study is complete.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
As the site possibly contains the old Tudor Palace of Whitehall, among those items is there provision f or archaeological investigation in the preliminary stage—not that I think it would cost a great deal, but I should like an assurance that the provision is there?
§ Mr. Channon
I give the hon. Gentleman an unqualified assurance that it is.
A more significant addition is, of course, that we have to take account of 765 the other works which must be completed before construction of the new building can begin, even though they were previously regarded as part of the Whitehall scheme.
These are the provision of ventilation and strengthening for the underground railway line, together with a new ticket office and entrance hall for the station, the additional podium and the reprovision of Cannon Row Police Station. I am dealing only with rough orders of cost rather than precise estimates, and our figures assume that an existing building could be made available to rehouse the police. Even on that tentative basis, the total cost comes to about £9 million, and it may prove to be more when all the details have been resolved and we are ready to go to tender.
In any estimate of the full cost of providing ourselves with this building we must include a reasonable figure for professional fees, furniture and the cost of the land. Again, on a very rough basis we estimate that these would come to between £9 million and £10 million.
We therefore have an overall cost of about £30 million at current prices, two-thirds of which represents such items as site acquisition, furniture, professional fees and other works which would have to be undertaken before work could begin on the parliamentary building. Clearly, the House will wish to think very carefully before reaching a decision to spend a sum of this magnitude on providing a new parliamentary building.
We shall have to redevelop much of the site at some future date, and it would be misleading to suggest that the cost then would be any lower. On the other hand, the requirement might be quite different, and it is impossible to say at this stage exactly what the outcome would be.
§ Mr. Sydney Chapman (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I notice in the 1973–74 estimates the provision of £4.8 million for the cost of site acquisition. Is the House right in thinking that already some of that money has been spent and that, even if we decide not to proceed with this scheme, money has already been spent which should not be included as part of the cost of the scheme?
§ Mr. Channon
That is perfectly fair. Some money has already been spent on acquiring buildings on this site, and a 766 further sum of money must be expended to acquire the remaining buildings on the site whether or not a decision is taken to go ahead. My hon. Friend has raised a perfectly fair point, but I hope that he will not press me to give exact details of how much money would be necessary, because negotiations may have to take place with the people involved. Nevertheless, I think I am right in saying that the overall cost is £30 million. It might be fairer, as my lion. Friend says, to deduct a proportion of that for the cost of acquisition which would have to take place in any case.
§ Mr. Cormack
The £30 million is the present-day cost. Whilst it is fair to offset the figure mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman), by the time the building is built in 1980 the cost could be much nearer £50 million than £30 million.
§ Mr. Channon
I hesitate to put a figure to it. The cost of acquisition will remain constant. It would be unwise of me to forecast the final cost of the building, but the £30 million is at current prices.
§ Mr. Raison
Is it fair to include the money that has already been spent on purchasing part of the site? Surely, if we do not build the new parliamentary building the money will be recouped? It is not money that is irretrievably lost.
§ Mr. Channon
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) was arguing that it was unfair to include the acquisition costs because we shall acquire the site whether or not we have a new parliamentary building. We should have to redevelop the site at some stage, and during the interim, before redevelopment, the site would have to be used for other purposes. It is far too early for me to tell the House this morning how it would be used. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) is right in saying that the site would be used. It would be wrong for us to dispose of it, and I think it will have to remain in the Government's ownership.
I move on to the question of the general shape, size and design of the building and whether or not it will be a good neighbour to others in Parliament Square and Whitehall. There are widely 767 differing views on this. They have been expressed forcefully by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock, who takes one view, and the right hon. Member for Leeds, West, who takes another.
The Royal Fine Art Commission approves the scheme, and there is much professional opinion that also likes the scheme. The GLC and many others are hostile to the scheme, and so are the amenity societies, to which my hon. Friend referred. Here hon. Members will have to make their own judgment on which advice they wish to follow. It would be wrong for me to express a view on that at this stage. It would be a purely subjective view and one on which I do not think the House would wish to place any particular value. [Interruption.] Perhaps my view is just as entitled to be heard as others, but it would be rash of me to express it.
The House will also wish to consider what alternative accommodation exists or could be found if the new building did not proceed. There are various possibilities. Now that the Tea Room scheme is completed, we can accommodate about 500 Members, including Ministers, and 83 secretaries within the House, although this involves a considerable amount of sharing, only 143 Members having single rooms and many being provided only with desks in large rooms and corridors which are unsuitable for this purpose. It is common ground between hon. Members who are in favour of the new building and those who are against it that the conditions in the House for hon. Members have for many years been very bad.
It might also be possible to provide another 93 rooms by maximum infilling by the Summer Recess of 1977. However, there are strong architectural, environmental and historical considerations against this course of action. I hope that I shall have the agreement of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) on this point, in view of his deep solicitude for the Palace of Westminster. It would create a tunnel effect in the inner courts and great inconvenience during construction. Sharing would also be needed if all Members were to have some kind of working space in the Palace.
768 On a single room basis, the infilling proposals, together with existing rooms, would probably provide for rather more than 300 Members in all, plus 83 secretaries, but if it were done in isolation on only a single room basis some shared rooms would have to become single. This would offer very little improvement for Members and secretaries on what they have at present.
We have also at present accommodation in Abbey Gardens, Old Palace Yard and Dean's Yard. This amounts in all to 34 rooms for Members and 26 for secretaries, which accommodate a total of 91 secretaries. In Bridge Street there are 41 rooms occupied by Members and 16 by secretaries.
The Bridge Street buildings would, of course, be demolished if the new parliamentary building were approved, and it might then be necessary to make do as best we can with the other accommodation in the Palace and elsewhere which is currently available.
However, if the building did not proceed, there are two other suggestions. It might be possible to provide further temporary accommodation elsewhere on the site between Bridge Street and Derby Gate, including Norman Shaw South, for about 350 Members, all in single rooms, and for 380 secretaries.
§ Mr. Channon
That would be a matter for the House to determine. I am only giving a possibility for hon. Members to consider.
§ Mr. Cooke
This sounds all very splendid, but the House would then occupy some decaying buildings whose future is uncertain. If the House occupied Norman Shaw North, which could last for 100 years, hon. Members would be safe, and the Government could then decide what to do with the decaying buildings on the rest of the site.
§ Mr. Channon
I have not omitted the possibility of Norman Shaw North; I am coming to that. All that I am setting out now is what would happen if the House preferred to use the Bridge Street site. If it did, despite my hon. Friend's objections, 350 Members in single rooms and 769 380 secretaries could be there accommodated, which would be in addition to the Members who could be accommodated in the Palace, either with or without the infilling scheme. I personally would hope that it would be without such a scheme. The provision would, of course, be less luxurious than in the new building, a full survey would be needed before reaching firm decisions, and the cost would depend to a great extent on the demands of Members.
There is one advantage to this proposal, and that is that hon. Members would still be relatively near the Chamber, and that factor will weigh with some hon. Members. [An HON. MEMBER: "Cost?"] I cannot give the cost of that, but if the House wishes, we can examine it in considerable detail and come to a cost. It will, of course, be much cheaper, naturally, than building a new parliamentary building. If I had to hazard a guess, and if the House would promise not to hold me to it—I am speaking off the cuff—it would probably be between £2 million and £4 million.
§ Mr. Dalyell
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) asked about the Lord Chancellor's Department. Is it not a fact—it certainly was in 1964, at the time that I wrote the article to which the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) referred—that there are 26 rooms for the private use of the Lord Chancellor and 28 for the Lord Chancellor's Department? In fairness, without prejudging the issue for or against, should not that accommodation be added to the list, if it is going to be assessed?
§ Mr. Channon
As I understood the right hon. Member for Leeds, West, he was saying that even if that accommodation became vacant he would offer it to Members of another place and not to Members of this House. If that were the view of Parliament—it would be for both Houses to decide—I am not sure that necessarily, even if one accepted the hon. Member's demand, this would be a great help to the House. But these are deep waters for me. It is not for the Minister for Housing and Construction to determine where the Lord Chancellor's Department should go or how we should arrange the accommodation in another place—
§ Mr. Channon
I can try to give the hon. Gentleman all the facts which exist about that matter.
I turn now to the proposal that hon. Members might take over Norman Shaw North. This might accommodate, if that were to meet the wishes of the House, about 110 Members in single rooms and almost as many secretaries. If, on the other hand, it was thought appropriate to have shared rooms in some cases, considerably more could be accommodated—nearly 200 Members and 132 secretaries. That would be in addition, of course, to the 250 rooms in the Palace.
Provision could also be made for a conference room and a few small interview rooms. The cost of this accommodation would be governed by the standards required, but, with minimum adaptation and redecoration, the building could be available by about the begining of next year on a sharing basis. On a single Member basis, the work would take more time and would obviously cost more. I understand that the basement area could be adapted to provide catering facilities and that the roof space is already racked for storage of records. If the House favoured that solution, the Government would certainly give it careful consideration.
§ Mr. Maclennan
On a simple point, could the Minister tell us how long it would take Members to get from Norman Shaw North building to the Division Lobbies?
§ Mr. Channon
A major disadvantage is that the first floor of the building is five minutes' brisk walk from the Chamber along the Embankment and through the subway. I had it timed carefully by an active member of my Department. If hon. Members would care to join me in such an exercise, they would be welcome to do so.
There is a passage from the basement to the west-bound platform of the underground station, but, while we are looking further into this matter, it is difficult to adapt this for direct access to New Palace Yard. There are possible solutions, however, and it would not be too expensive. It may be possible to adapt it, but I would not wish to raise too many hopes. If the 771 House would like this proposal further examined, that can be done. I hope that it might be possible, although I cannot say at this stage.
There are three choices before us. First, we can go ahead with the building, at a cost of £30 million. This will cause considerable inconvenience to some hon. Members and will have great benefits to hon. Members at the end of the day if we were to ignore the environmental and aesthetic considerations, about which hon. Members' views will vary. It will be difficult to make interim arrangements. There will be extreme difficulties about accommodating the police and other requirements while the building is going on.
If we do not proceed with the new building, a great deal more thought will be needed about the future of the whole site. But Norman Shaw North might be made available in the not too distant future for Members and would accommodate 110 Members in single rooms or nearly 200 on a shared basis, and a number of secretaries as well. There would also be 250 rooms in the Palace, and more if the House favoured infilling. Alternatively, one could use the existing buildings on Bridge Street, which would provide rooms for about 350 Members, all in single rooms, and 380 secretaries.
So there are several alternatives. What my right hon. Friend and I want to do is listen to this debate and await the further report of the Services Committee. In the end, the House must decide whether to spend this £30 million to go ahead with the new parliamentary building or to adopt the cheaper solutions which would provide a substantial amount of accommodation in other ways and could be available more speedily to hon. Members, although obviously not to the standards which would be available in the new building.
§ 12.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Dick Leonard (Romford)
I am extremely glad that the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) chose this subject for debate today even though I found myself in disagreement with a very high proportion of the hon. Gentleman's speech. It is scandalous that the Government have not long ago provided the time for this matter not only to be debated in the House but to be decided. 772 Last July the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) recommended that we should go ahead as quickly as possible. Repeatedly during last autumn, and after Christmas, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, and his predecessor, assured the House that the matter would be debated shortly, if not next week.
The delay is only part of the long story of procrastination and hesitation which has surrounded the discussion of the use of the site since 1960, when it was first decided to acquire it and when the Government announced that a parliamentary building would be a possibility on the site. Since then the present proliferation of ugly, impracticable and scruffy buildings has continued to disfigure the area and each year they look more forlorn and more inappropriate to their surroundings. There was a sad comment in Official Architecture and Planning last March, which commented:…proposals for the Whitehall precinct have a habit of fading away under a cloud of procrastination, in-fighting, inquiries and general aimlessness.I suggest that it is the duty of this House to give the lie to that comment. It is our duty to make a decision as soon as possible on this matter. We have a right to expect the Government to enable the House to make that decision without any further delay.
The proposed new building is the result of an architectural competition. I received within the last few days a letter from the secretary of the West Essex Branch of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which covers my constituency. The letter says:As you know, the winning design was the result of an International Commonwealth Competition for which about 1.000 British and Commonwealth architects from all over the world entered, and from these 245 entries were developed and eventually seven schemes were exhibited in the House: there was certainly no shortage of schemes from which to choose.The competition system is highly respected by architects throughout the world, not only because it frequently produces new ideas and a very fine building, but also gives younger architects, as in this case a chance otherwise denied to them to display their skill. Unforfortunately this country already holds fewer competitions than many of the other European countries.It is worth recording the assessors of the competition. They were four of the most distinguished assessors that the House 773 could have obtained namely, Sir Robert Matthew, Mr. Eric Bedford, Mr. Denys Lasdun and Mr. John C. Parkin. The assessors wrote of the winning design:This is a solution of outstanding merit.It must be emphasised that that was the unanimous decision of the assessors. The article by Jill Craigie in the Illustrated London News, which was widely quoted at the time and which has been mentioned twice today was—as one would have expected, Jill Craigie being the wife of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot)—a lively and hard-hitting one but it was, unfortunately, extremely inaccurate in at least one respect. In her article Miss Craigie suggested that Mr. Denys Lasdun was unhappy with the choice of his fellow assessors and that he preferred the second prize winner to the design of Mr. Spence and Mr. Webster. I understand that Mr. Lasdun wrote to the predecessor of the Minister for Housing and Construction saying that that was untrue and that the decision of the assessors was unanimous. That should be put on record.
§ Mr. Raison
I appreciate the points which the hon. Gentleman has been making about the advantages of competition. Nevertheless, it is a weakness that we picked three or four architects of the greatest distinction, including Denys Lasdun, whom many people would have picked to design the building, to act as assessors. The drawback of such a competition is that while it encourages the younger architects, there is reason to believe that a lot of top architects do not compete, partly, in this case, because they happened to be assessors.
§ Mr. Leonard
The competition was open to any architect in the Commonwealth. The architectural profession undoubtedly strongly supports the institution of such competitions, which have led to buildings of outstanding merit being erected in many countries throughout the world. Although there are pros and cons about the winning designs in various competitions, the institution of a competition in this country for a major public building of this type was generally welcomed at the time it was announced.
It is rather late in the day to cast doubt upon the wisdom of that decision. People who are better qualified than I am, or even perhaps the hon. Member 774 for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison)—namely the members of the Services Committee—considered thoroughly the assessors' report and examined a wide range of expert witnesses. The Committee, which has behaved with great responsibility in this matter, reported to the House last July as follows:Your Committee are satisfied that the proposed new building will meet the accommodation requirements of the House as specified in the Third Report of the Committee of 1968–69 and that the House should adopt the winning design, with modifications, and that construction should be started as soon as possible.Against that background I should have thought that the House would now require extremely weighty reasons to overthrow the unanimous recommendation of the assessors and the Services Committee.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
The assessors may have been unanimous, but it was not the unanimous decision of the Services Committee that the report was made to the House.
§ Mr. Leonard
The hon. Gentleman is right. It was a majority decision of the Committee. Nevertheless, that was the recommendation which it made to the House. It would be the height of irresponsibility, after the care, effort and expense which have gone into producing the proposals which are now before the House, lightly to set them aside. The effect on the architectural profession would be catastrophic if the result of the competition were to be overthrown.
What are the objections which have been advanced against the recommendations of the Services Committee? They are, in my view, flimsy in the extreme. The building has some critics on aesthetic grounds. The hon. Member for Cannock made reference to that this morning. However, that is true of all buildings which are projected and those in existence. Taste is not a matter of unanimity, thank God. Whatever proposal came from the competition, we can be sure that there would have been aesthetic criticism from some quarters, in the same way as there was extreme criticism of the Barry building when it was designed more than 100 years ago. The great weight of architectural opinion is on the side of the proposed building. I could quote chapter and verse to back that assertion, but I do not want to take up too much time.
775 The hon. Member for Cannock made some play with the assertion that it is difficult to tell from display models what a building will look like when it is built. I agree with him. When I saw the model displayed in Westminster Hall I had only a hazy idea what to expect from the building. However, hon. Members have had the opportunity of hearing the merits of the building explained to them by the two architects, with the aid of photographs, slides and plans. That gave us a much better idea of how the building will appear, and brought out a fact of which I was not aware, that there will be a large public space—it will be as large as Leicester Square—which will be available to the public, the people of London and tourists. That is a facility that is greatly needed in this area. It will add greatly to the amenities which the public enjoy.
This factor came out strikingly in the demonstration which the Leader of the House was good enough to arrange for the benefit of hon. Members. I very much regret that although there was a sizeable audience for this demonstration, relatively few hon. Members were able to attend. A number of servants of the House were present, but only a small number of hon. Members turned up. This was highly regrettable, because the demonstration was the best evidence we are likely to get on which eventually to base a decision.
§ Mr. Lipton
It is true that only a small number of hon. Members attended the demonstration, which gave a lot of additional information, but even after the demonstration some hon. Members who attended did not like the whole scheme.
§ Mr. Leonard
That may be true, but I can merely give my own testimony. I was immensely impressed by the imaginative nature of the building shown at that demonstration. I thought that this was true of other hon. Members who attended, although obviously not all.
It has been said that the Greater London Council has objections to the proposed new building. These have been of a peculiarly niggling and insubstantial nature. They have been answered publicly by the architects and, in my view, they have been answered effectively. The GLC's view on this matter should not carry any more weight than the view 776 of hon. Members. Hon. Members of this House are as well qualified as are members of the GLC to form their view about the building. Therefore, I hope that although the objections by the GLC will be seriously considered, they will not be given more weight than they intrinsically deserve.
But I do not believe that the real objections to the building have anything to do with its aesthetic merits, and it became clear from the comments made by the hon. Member for Cannock that the aesthetic question was at best an aside. The substantial objections to the building are based on two other factors; factors which I believe to be either irrelevant or ill-founded.
The first is the effect of the car park decision on the frame of mind of a number of hon. Members. Many of us have a bad conscience about the way that decision went through, and I am as culpable as any other Member in this respect. I did not subject that proposal to any careful scrutiny when it came to the House and went through on the nod, and I am ashamed that I did not examine it closely. Indeed, I believe that we hon. Members should be collectively ashamed of ourselves.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
I always take the opportunity to put facts on the record, and I must tell my hon. Friend that when there was an opportunity to examine this subject both my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) and I scrutinised this proposal and found it wanting. What went wrong was that on Friday 30th July 1971 the effective decision was tabled at 9 a.m. and was taken on the nod. That was the time when it was important to act and it was the Government's responsibility that nothing was done.
§ Mr. Leonard
I absolve my two hon. Friends from the general condemnation which I made of myself and of other hon. Members. Not all hon. Members were irresponsible in this regard, but many of us were, and certainly the Government must carry the prime responsibility.
Although this was a bad and ill-considered decision, it must not be allowed to prejudice consideration of a different problem that affects the new parliamentary building. Nor should the allegation 777 that no proper archaeological inquiries were carried out on the site of the car park influence our decision concerning the new building. The Minister has today given the House an unqualified assurance that proper archaeological explorations will be carried out on the Bridge Street site. Although this affects the frame of mind of hon. Members, it is basically irrelevant to the decision we shall have to reach.
The other type of objection which has been advanced is based on the expense of this development. This was made much of by the hon. Member for Cannock. I believe that the Department of the Environment has been indirectly responsible for creating the impression that this is an utterly extravagant project. an exercise in self-indulgence by sybaritic, lotus-eating Members of Parliament; that it is being pursued only for our own convenience, and that our attitude is one of "Damn the public and damn anybody's else's interest". Quite erroneous estimates of the cost of the building have appeared in the Press, and they appear to have emanated from the Department of the Environment. The Minister today gave a breakdown of the estimate of £30 million which had not previously been given but the Press seized on the figure of £30 million as representing the cost of the building. This figure has misled the House and the much wider public outside the House.
In line with the specification for the architectural competition, the building was required to cost no more than £5.4 million and the architects' winning design kept within that specification. However, as a result of inflation—and the disproportionate inflation which has taken place in the construction industry in the last two or three years—by the time the Services Committee came to consider the recommendations of the assessors the cost had already risen to £7 million. The Minister told the House this morning that the architects now put the figure at £9.5 million—an increase of 75 per cent. since early 1970.
The figure of £30 million that is being bandied around by the Department of the Environment apparently includes several other improvements which are not integral to the provision of the new building. These improvements relate to the provision of shops, the upgrading of 778 the underground station, the provision of heating for the whole of Whitehall and the raising of the level of Bridge Street. Therefore, the public has been given an exaggerated idea of the likely cost of the scheme. But if hon. Members are concerned to economise they should decide to get on with the scheme as soon as possible. Every month that it is delayed adds £115,000 to the final cost of the building itself.
When we consider that we are building for posterity and that this will be the first major parliamentary building to be constructed in 130 years, the probable cost is modest indeed, and it is extremely unlikely to have a perceptible effect on the national economy.
The hon. Member for Cannock said that the overall cost of 30 million—which, as I have said, I believe to be an exaggerated estimate of the cost directly related to the construction of the building—is 30 times as much as is spent on the preservation of historic buildings in the country at large. The lesson we should draw is not that this is an extravagant proposal but that we spend a scandalously low sum to preserve our historic buildings. We have only to consider the proportion of national income spent by other European countries, such as Sweden, in preserving their historic buildings to realise that our expenditure is something of which we should be ashamed.
I do not propose to discuss at any length the alternative proposal put forward by the hon. Member for Cannock. I believe that the development of the Norman Shaw building, the details of which were given to the House by the Minister, will prove to be a complete white elephant—too far away from the House, not likely to be used to any great extent by hon. Members, and hideously inconvenient in its present state. It would cost a great deal of money to adapt that building, and it would leave the problem of the Bridge Street site unsolved.
If we do not go ahead with this proposal it is not we as Members who will be the losers. We have the worst facilities of all Members of Parliament in Europe, but it is not we who will suffer from this; it is our constituents, those whom we are sent here to represent. We cannot meet them in proper conditions when they come to the House. We cannot give them 779 the service which we ought to give them and which they rightly demand. If we value our system of parliamentary democracy, which is the true glory of this country, if we feel that the job of a Member of Parliament is worth doing, and if we have any self-respect, we should equip ourselves to do the job properly.
I am convinced that the provision of this new parliamentary building is a necessary condition for doing that. We shall be letting down ourselves and letting down the nation if we do not make provision for its construction in the shortest possible time.
§ 12.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has left the Chamber. He said that he would introduce a note of good-humoured, good-natured raillery. Had he still been present, I might have indulged in a bit of that. I must say one or two things about what he said before coming to what I want to say.
The right hon. Member made great claim about what he had achieved as what he once described as the House of Commons' shop steward. But if he studies the record he will realise that by getting rid of the Lord Great Chamberlain he managed to construct a frontier between Lords and Commons which no one can cross, leaving many vital services on the Lords' side of that frontier. I am glad that at the end of his speech, when the right hon. Gentleman seemed to pave the way for his translation to the other place—we would all wish him well when he got there—he said that whatever happened there it would be their invigorated Lordships who would require any space that became available at that end of the Palace. Hon. Members of this House who become noble Lords, either by inheritance or by creation, become far more fierce defenders of the other end of the Palace than anyone else.
The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard), in his interesting speech, said that the architectural profession would scarcely recover from the turning down of the new parliamentary building—at least, he implied that that would be a great disaster to that profession. I do not believe that that is so. If the hon. 780 Member looks back through history he will remember, as he mentioned, the troubles that Barry had, eventually constructing a building which was very different from the original Barry design. But greater and lesser architects have survived disappointments worse than that.
The House has had ample time to look at the model. Even if all hon. Members did not have the pleasure of meeting the two young architects, the model has been available here for many weeks and can be available for many more weeks if necessary. I refer to the amended model, showing all the suggested improvements.
I pay tribute to the architects, who have made themselves readily available not only to the meeting chaired by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House in the Grand Committee Room, Westminster Hall, but for meeting, on occasion and in private, other Members who are interested. A number of such meetings have taken place, one of which I arranged this week. The architects have done everything they can to inform Members about the details of their scheme and to meet the suggestions of the Services Committee for improvements.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) who initiated the debate, has supported me in much of what I have been trying to achieve for the wider area of Parliament Square. I am glad that he agrees with what I said in the two previous debates in which we have taken part. It is certainly a measure of his dedication, as one of the new Members, that when he won the ballot he sacrificed what could have been a great political opportunity to raise a subject of much greater national concern. Many of us, in many years, have never won that ballot.
In the minds of many, this is doubtless a domestic matter for the House of Commons, but I believe that there are wider issues, already touched on by other hon. Members. We cannot make light of the greatly increased costs, of which my hon. Friend has informed the House today. There is also the much larger question arising out of the reprieve of the Foreign Office, the Home Office, the Treasury, Richmond Terrace, the Curtis Green building, alongside Richmond Terrace, and Norman Shaw North—all reprieved by my hon. Friend in his answer to me 781 in the House not very long ago. None of that had been decided when the competition for the proposed new building was launched. Now we are faced with the prospect of the exteriors of the whole west side of Whitehall remaining there undisturbed for the foreseeable future. The Parliament Street side is not now to consist of the massive Government office building, the details of which were published some time ago. That cannot now be built, because Richmond Terrace is to remain together with Norman Shaw North and Curtis Green. None of that was known when the competition was launched. The new parliamentary building proposal had to be designed without regard for what would be its neighbours. That is a very important factor.
The House has also learned that the whole character of Parliament has been subtly changing due to some of the things we have done to make Members' lives easier. There is no doubt that by providing a lot of rooms where hon. Members can hide themselves away, something has been lost of the quality of parliamentary life. Although the hon. Member for Romford talked about having a place in which to meet his constituents and to work with his secretary, he will realise that much of his service to his constituents lies in influencing other Members to take up the point of view of his constituents. In this House, alone one is nothing but with a group of Members anything can be achieved.
§ Mr. Leonard
There is some substance in what the hon. Member has just said. But if the alternative is to go to another building which is further away and less convenient—the Norman Shaw building —I should have thought that it would cut us off infinitely more from communication with hon. Members in the Chamber than would be so with the construction of the new building, without giving us the facilities adequately to serve our constituents which the new parliamentary building would give.
§ Mr. Cooke
It is not as far away as all that. It is just far enough away for that building to be used as offices for the office work which we all have to do—many of us can do that in the mornings, with the afternoons, the evenings and long into the nights—and spent with our 782 colleagues here in this building. One of the arguments against the new building proposal was that it would have been a competing centre of power, which would have affected this place still further.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
On that point, it would seem from what my hon. Friend has said that he is very fortunate, and does not have a particularly heavy constituency mail. If he can get all his work done in the mornings he is very fortunate. I have to hike backwards and forwards from Old Palace Yard regularly for Divisions, and I find it highly inconvenient. It does not assist me in helping my constituents.
§ Mr. Cooke
I am glad that my hon. Friend was able to say that. He will not have to make a speech in the debate. It will all be in the local Press. Perhaps the local Press will also refer to the fact that I have to answer 100 letters a week, employ two secretaries in the country, and spend all my time here in London—as much as possible when I am not trying to safeguard Parliament Square, Whitehall and all the other things outside this place—in communes with my hon. Friends. I learn a great deal from them and it does me a lot of good. Anyone with the independent type of views that I have is done a lot of good whenever some of this is rubbed off and knocked into shape by other Members.
I voted against the Services Committee's report on the new parliamentary building, in company with a number of other hon. Members—some of the most significant members of the Services Committee—because the report does not fully reflect the evidence we heard. I shall not read it, but on the first page of the Committee's proceedings hon. Members will see that I proposed an amendment at the bottom of the page. There it is—a great slab. That amendment put together all the significant objections we had heard from learned bodies, city councils, and so on. I would not be doing a disservice to those who voted in favour of the report, and, therefore, in favour of the building, if I said that they were so anxious to get on with this scheme that they were prepared to ignore the other objections. I was not. That is why I voted against the report.
It is also a criticism of the proposed building that it will certainly be out of 783 date when it is built—if it is built. Even now it has been overtaken by events. I do not believe that we can now embark on such a scheme for the prime benefit of ourselves despite the public open space benefit. Even the virtues of that have been challenged. For security reasons, it might have to be shut off from the general public most of the time.
I grant the point that, if we put every related loss in, it will necessitate a mammoth expenditure. The parliamentary building must be the major result of spending all this money, at a cost which could amount to about £50 million. If I had £50 million to spend for the benefit of the public I should use it for other purposes.
Conditions have indeed changed even since some of us who have not been here long came to the House. Sixteen years ago this very weekend, when I arrived, Members were paid £1,250 a year. We were allowed three Oral Questions every day, if we wanted them. The Prime Minister came on at Question No. 45 and was often reached. There were no life peers. The Lord Great Chamberlain was still there, and somehow life went quite happily on, despite what the right hon. Member for Leeds, West said.
Much very good work was done here, although one had only a small cupboard in which to keep all one's personal possessions. I was very lucky. I was obviously a very promising young Member because I was given an upper, as opposed to a lower, cupboard—so that I could see into it, I suppose. Very soon afterwards I lost the key. I was then given another one. I lost that. I left the door open. Every time I left it open, one of the custodians snapped it shut, so I could not get into it.
During the last 16 years I have managed quite well with the various desks which are common property throughout the building and with the advice of my helpful colleagues. There is a message in that for hon. Members. However, some do not want to live and work like that. We have made immense strides. I give the right hon. Member for Leeds, West credit for some of those strides. though I stick to my view that Star Court is the ugliest building added to the Palace of Westminster in its history. The real 784 point, even if one cannot agree about its ugliness, is that it is monstrously wasteful of the available space. A building of a different kind could have provided much more space accessible to the Chamber.
Even if we can manage with something less than the ideal, we must seek to improve conditions for those who serve the House as staff regularly and for the secretaries who work for Members. The secretaries have to work from nine to five, Monday to Friday. This is not the case with Members, who could not possibly bear work in offices during the same hours as secretaries.
We have a problem to face. My hon. Friend went into some detail on the question of infilling. The latest result of it is the Commons Court building over the Tea Room. My figures can doubtless be challenged, but as a result of infilling we have got, if Ministers are excluded—they are not necessarily regarded with friendship on this matter by back benchers, because it is taken for granted that they will all have a room-100 extra rooms created by successive Governments under the wing of the Services Committee. One could provide 100 more, with care.
My hon. Friend said that he was against the idea of further infilling on the whole. He said that he did not like the proposals. He is right about that. I believe that some of them would be very damaging to the building. However, there are some which are worth serious consideration.
Hon. Members might like to consider a fresh suggestion here. The Commons Court building has much wasted space in it because of staircases, lifts, plumbing and so on. There are places were we might build open plan accommodation which would have more than one use. I leave hon. Members to work that out in their minds without my going into the specific argument. There are places where we could create more floor space which could be used for a variety of purposes greatly to the benefit of hon. Members in their various tasks and for the benefit of the public who come here to see us. I hope that this suggestion will be considered.
785 If we can achieve a more substantial extra usable place near the Palace, or reasonably near the Palace, and satisfy the needs of many hon. Members who are now crowded together in rooms here, something magical happens. Those formerly crowded areas can be reallocated and there is a substantial bonus of accommodation which can be made available, ideally for the use of individual hon. Members. The log jam is suddenly released. We can greatly benefit from that.
I have spent a great deal of my life in the Palace of Westminster. When one is waiting for Divisions in the middle of the night on various Bills one can wander about and look round. I know that I should not be allowed to have carte blanche to dispose of who goes where in this building; and I do not want it; I am not looking for the job. But I know that with the help of my friends on the Services Committee and all the Members who are giving us advice all the time we could do much more, given this useful space close by to re-use what we now have.
Coming on from that, there are many services and functions that go on in the building which could well take place in an adjacent building, if we had one, which we knew was permanent and which we knew was satisfactorily constructed.
I maintain that Norman Shaw North, about which I want to give the House a little more detail than my hon. Friend did, can be the answer to many of our problems for the foreseeable future. I speak here for a large number of hon. Members. A number of hon. Members opposite have signed an early day motion asking for this very building, and they must have considered it. There will be others who have not signed but also favour it. On our side of the House there is a large number of hon. Members relying on me to persuade my colleagues on the Services Committee to press for this building and get it for the House of Commons. This is why there is not an early day motion down from our side of the House.
My hon. Friend made a point about a possible difficulty in giving this building to the House of Commons. I must make it clear to him. He will remember that I have had two Adjournment debates on this subject in the last 18 months, and in 786 the very first one I endeavoured to stake the claim of the House of Commons to this building. It was under sentence of death at that moment, so nobody could have been promised it for the future. Before my hon. Friend replied reprieving the building, I said that the building was wanted for the House of Commons and would he please not give it to anyone else. Knowing him, I do not believe that he has given it away to anybody else.
My hon. Friend is now being pressed by the police to let them have the building. Even that is a complete change round in their attitude. Paragraph 44 of the Willis Committee's Report shows that the Assistant Commissioner for all Operations in the Metropolitan Police, although he said that he was not speaking as an expert—I think he meant as an architectural expert—described the Norman Shaw building in most unflattering terms and went on to say:It would not be feasible to adapt Norman Shaw (North) as a replacement for the Cannon Row police station.Nothing could be more definite, even if the police have now changed their ground. Anyone who is prepared to change his ground on a matter so definite as that could easily be persuaded to change his ground on to something else.
I recognise that the needs of the police are most significant. If my hon. Friend will examine the police pattern in this part of London, and consider the various other stations and installations, some of which may not be known to the public, he may find that we can satisfy them without curtailing their activities. Certainly, we must do that. But it is not the job of the House of Commons to find another place for the police station. I am afraid that that is the job of my hon. Friend.
Norman Shaw North is the original building, designed by that architect, lying between the little addition—the half block—called Norman Shaw South and the grey stone—Portland Stone, I suppose—Curtis Green building beside Richmond Terrace. Norman Shaw North is adjacent to the site of the proposed parliamentary building. My hon. Friend produced the interesting fact that the subway which leads from there came out on the down platform of the underground railway. Subways can sometimes be diverted, and, in view of the condition 787 of the buildings in the way and the part existence of a subway I do not believe it is beyond one's ingenuity to get the subway constructed so that it reaches straight to this building. That is an access point which is important.
The building itself was immensely well built, about a century ago, of Dartmoor granite quarried by prison labour on Dartmoor, Portland stone quarried by prison labour at Portland, and where they got the red brick from I do not know. The Willis Report says that it would last for 50 years if put in good order, and it is in pretty good order now. I suggest that as it is a listed building, as it has been reprieved, and as we are going to keep it as part of the Whitehall scene almost indefinitely, it could be put into a state suitable for our use at minimal cost, and, indeed, much of it could be put into good order at once. If a really good job were done as a matter of urgency, we could be in there by the end of this year.
As to the scale of the building, there are 42,500 sq. ft. of good office accommodation. That is what it says in the Willis Report. There are rooms of various sizes. It is difficult to understand square footage in layman's terms, but when I say that there are 273 good sized windows in that building, not counting the basement and the sub-ground floor, or, indeed, the attic, one realises that it has great possibilities for us.
I think it was the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard) who said that it was inconveniently planned. I think that the hon. Member for Romford should look again. He would find that the disposition of the rooms is very similar to that of the proposed parliamentary building surrounding a courtyard and a series of individual rooms. There are various estimates as to how many Members they can accommodate, and this is dependent on how we go about it. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that not all Members will want the same. There are many Members who are happy to share with a colleague, or perhaps even three in some of the fine rooms. Certainly, there are some Members who would rather have one fine room overlooking the river, sharing with one or two other 788 colleagues, than in a single partitioned cell. This can be arranged to suit individual Members. I am sure that we can fit our colleagues in there to their great satisfaction.
There is ample storage space for all kinds of things which clutter this building but have to be fairly near. There is a good deal of working space for people who have to work in pretty filthy conditions in this building. Having moved those people out of this building there would be a lot of space which could all be made useful for hon. Members who often have to work in the middle of the night when a window is not important as all that, and we could spread our wings a little more here.
The attic contains enough steel shelving, which used to house the criminal records under conditions of high security, to house all the EEC documents from now to the end of the century. If that is not the winning argument, I do not know what is.
Then I come to the question of access to the building. There is straightforward accessability; at least, it is much nearer than Dean's Yard. Dean's Yard is not as useful as some may think. It is a charming house, but the Dean shuts the yard at a certain time at night. We could not have a Division bell there because it would wake up the choir boys next door. So, although it is a charming house, it has disadvantages. I have measured the distance. I have not taken a stop-watch out and cantered along, but Dean's Yard is a great deal further away than Norman Shaw North. I would challenge what my hon. Friend said about the five minutes' brisk walk from Norman Shaw, but we can, no doubt, have a bit of fun and try it out if we can ever find the time. We must think carefully—
§ Mr. Channon
When we test the timing from Norman Shaw North we must do it not only in good conditions but in bad. We must envisage a situation on a rainy night during the rush hour when there is a Division on the Finance Bill.
§ Mr. Cooke
My hon. Friend has given me a point there. The proceedings in the House have been so altered in recent years that there are not that number of occasions when an unexpected 789 Division will occur, when all hon. Members are closeted in their rooms in Norman Shaw North or in Dean's Yard, although one might be locked in by the Dean over there. It is not as bad as some would think, and it is good enough for most of us. No doubt we can go into further details later.
As to the effect of having this building for our use—it is to be retained, anyway —what will be the repercussions? The new parliamentary building site, largely purchased already, must be kept under parliamentary control. The other buildings on the site may well have a temporary use, although I would hesitate to recommend to hon. Members that they should fall for that one. This sounds rather an unkind thing to say, but it is being dangled in front of us that this would be the solution, that we can have all the rooms we like in those buildings over the shops in Bridge Street. In fact, we would be mere birds of passage. We would never quite know what would happen next; the buildings might be very expensive to maintain on an indefinite basis and would restrict the freedom of what we did with the site. I wonder whether on that site we are right to contemplate a vast building at all. My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock suggested that it should be an open space. Perhaps it is an expensive use of such a site, but not so expensive when one thinks of all the millions who would enjoy it.
Certainly it is going to be difficult—and that is why the proposal has so many enemies—to find a building which will complement the Treasury. There are lessons to be drawn from other buildings, notably in Cambridge where we have King's College Chapel and the Senate House side by side, Gothic and Classical. The Classical of the Treasury is just far enough away from the nineteenth century Gothic of this Palace for both to live happily side by side. Of course, what happens on the site between must not be allowed to dominate the scene.
It might be advisable to think of a number of buildings, related in scale but not all the same style—our modern architects could have their say and their way there—fitted into the new landscape which will be created by keeping some of the old buildings. This is a thought 790 which the House could consider. Perhaps a great mass dominating the scene is not the answer.
We have talked enough about our domestic problems. Although we have to put our own house in order—we have tried hard and we have had some successes—we must think now about our neighbours in Parliament Square and about the public in the heart of the Commonwealth. I am glad to use that phrase "the heart of the Commonwealth". I think that it takes us back even earlier than the time when the right hon. Member for Leeds, West began his great interest in these matters, but, of course, we all know what it means. We have a world-wide responsibility to preserve and enhance this area. I know that the Minister understands what I mean by that.
There are aspects of Parliament Square today which barely justify the dignity of its name. The Abbey, which we admire from within and on which fine work has been done to restore the interior, presents a grimy, almost semi-derelict, appearance outside. St. Margaret's, recently deprived of the trees which hid its exterior from view, badly needs attention. The Abbey gateway could do with a clean.
Abbey House, just opposite the Hawkesmoor towers that we have been talking about, is to be demolished next year. What replaces it will have to be carefully considered. We must not have another Queen Anne's Mansions fiasco there. Central Hall could well do with a clean.
The remainder of Storey's Gate should be scheduled for rebuilding. Perhaps one might allow the new building there to go high enough to hide the view from the Square of the now emerging Queen Anne's Mansions. Sir Basil Spence gave it as one of the merits of his proposal that it would be largely invisible, so perhaps we could take that opportunity to close yet another view of it.
All the buildings along Great George Street, starting from our end, from the Chartered Surveyors through the other institutions, should be demolished. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, because we should then have the prospect of the sparkling clean great Treasury building, the last great Government building constructed in the traditional manner. 791 Bryden's Treasury would then be seen as a whole on that side of Parliament Square.
Middlesex Guildhall will be preserved and put to wider public use. We can argue about that. Let there be nothing at all on Broad Sanctuary. Let it be open space.
Let the new parliamentary building site be carefully considered. It must not be a dominating building. Perhaps, when the site is cleared, we may think again and conclude that open space as an element here has strong claims, although the view across the river, now that the GLC has put up its concrete dinner plates and St. Thomas's has been such an architectural disaster, might incline one to approve of something which shut off that view. I leave the House to think about that.
The Palace of Westminster is to be cleaned, if the Committees of both Houses approve, and I do not doubt that they will. Let us remember that 1975 is to be European Architectural Heritage Year. This is the area where we should begin, but with a greater Parliament Square as a reality. That is why I talked about demolishing the buildings along Great George Street, because if one did that, and dealt with all the buildings in the way I have suggested, we should have a Parliament Square worthy of the heart of the Commonwealth. Here, the right hon. Member for Leeds, West and I are completely in accord.
There is one stumbling block, the traffic which tears its way through the square now. The unloved car park, which we have touched on today, has a bearing here because it could form part of an underground complex which could help to remove—indeed, could completely remove—the service traffic to the buildings surrounding the square. The through traffic may well be diverted elsewhere if the GLC, the other councils and the Government get their thinking right. Clearly, traffic has to be removed from Parliament Square.
I was delighted to receive an answer on this matter from my hon. Friend only this week. I asked what meetings had taken place recently between his Department, the GLC and the Westminster City Council with a view to the 792 eventual removal of the traffic from Parliament Square, and he replied, after referring to the technical difficulties, which one understands, thatthe matter is closely connected with the new parliamentary building, and I hope to report further when a decision has been reached about that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March 1973; Vol. 852, c. 99]It is good news that at least it is being thought about.
Once we can decide on the proposed building, perhaps we can get on with that, so that before not all of us are dead we shall have created something really worthy in this historic area. On a greater Parliament Square we should be prepared to spend many millions of pounds, not for our benefit but for the many millions who come here now and will come here in the years ahead.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
I am delighted to speak immediately after the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), not only because he made a most distinguished speech but because, from working with him over many years on Mr. Speaker's Art Fund Committee, I know how keen he is on all matters connected with the arts and architecture and how passionately he feels about the beauty of this building and the preservation of the other historic buildings which surround the Square. I am also glad to tell the hon. Gentleman that I agree with a great deal of what he said.
We are indebted to the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) for raising this matter today, but some of us are happy to think that we do not have to come to a final decision now, since a great deal of additional information has been given to us this morning. A good many hon. Members—I am among them —are not prepared at this moment to decide the matter finally one way or another.
I disagreed with only one argument put by the hon. Member for Cannock. He urged that we should hesitate before embarking on a scheme which would involve a cost of about £60,000 per Member. That is not a good argument. We hope that the building, whatever it is, will last for a century or two. If a similar calculation had been made at the time when Barry designed this building, what the estimate would have been I do not know. 793 If we are to have a building adequate for the purpose it will cost a lot of money. We ought to face that fact now.
From my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) we had a speech at his sparkling best, full of fascinating historical information. It was as outspoken as it was forceful and witty. We were given a good idea of the struggles which he had when he was a Minister—and which he overcame—in his fight to preserve the rights of Members of Parliament. He reminded us how he launched the competition for the new building and ensured that the final decision should rest with Members. When he was Minister of Public Building and Works, as it was then called, he did an enormous service to Members, which should go down in the annals of this House.
The Minister gave us an immense amount of invaluable information which we had not had before. If for no other reason, the debate is fully justified by that. For the first time we are able to judge, with some of the facts and figures before us, what the alternatives are, what the costs are likely to be, and what the advantages and disadvantages will be. I thank the hon. Gentleman for givng us so much information about the costs of the proposed second building and the alternatives. We are now far better equipped to come to a final judgment on the matter, although, as I have said, I am glad that we do not have to do so today.
In giving my view of the matter I speak entirely for myself. My right hon. and hon. Friends hold differing views. I have tried to take an opinion poll to find out how many were in favour and how many were against. I found that those against felt passionately on the subject and those in favour felt keenly, too. I do not know how they are divided. I found that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have the same feeling as I have; they want to give the matter further thought, and have not reached a final decision.
There is, however, general agreement that Members of Parliament must have far better facilities and accommodation than they have at the moment. There is strong feeling about that. It is shameful that Members have to do their work for their constituents, prepare their 794 speeches, write their articles and do all the other things that they have to do in the conditions which exist here today. There is a desire not only that facilities should be improved, but that they should be improved at an early date.
There should not be any procrastination, which will result in a long continuation of the existing bad conditions of work. There is no division of opinion on that, and it is true, as some hon. Members have pointed out, that the situation is likely to get worse. Members will have more and more work to do in the coming years. As one who has been a Member of Parliament for a long time I say that not only is the work likely to increase but the type, character and background of MPs will be such that they will require increasingly better accommodation to do research work, and use assistance from outside to study and overcome the problems which confront them.
The question, therefore, is not whether further accommodation should be provided but whether it should be in the form of the proposed building. I shall speak on only one aspect of the matter—the aesthetic aspect, which has been dealt with at length by previous speakers. No doubt functionally the building will be more than adequate. It will be exceedingly good. It is a brilliant piece of work. But I and others are worried whether its design will harmonise with the surrounding architecture or impair or even possibly destroy it. It would be terrible if, in this historic centre so full of associations, we did anything to damage the aesthetic appearance of the buildings. If we did that we would be condemned by generations to come for vandalism. We must avoid that. I am honestly not sure whether what is now proposed is not going in that direction.
When the designers were asked to make their design they were not aware what one of the neighbouring buildings would be. They knew that Parliament would be on one side but they did not know what would be on the other side of Whitehall—whether the Treasury building would remain. They made their design blind, so to speak. If they had known that the existing building would remain they might have done something different. That is an important factor to bear in mind.
§ Mr. Maclennan
My right hon. Friend is speaking from the Front Bench and I know that he is always very cautious in matters of personal taste, but I wonder whether he is not straying a little into a subjective judgment about aesthetic qualities. I wonder whether he has borne in mind the view expressed by the assessors, particularly by Mr. Denys Lasdun, in his evidence to the Select Committee. He spoke of the building providing a very satisfactory and fitting element in the total architectural conception of Parliament Square. That was his assumption, and I think the other assessors made the same assumption, on the basis that Parliament Square would remain as it is.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for referring to a passage that I intended to quote. There will now be no need for me to do so. I am expressing my own personal fears and doubts which I know are shared by some of my hon. Friends. Perhaps I am voicing the opinion of the minority. We know that the views of the architects have differed and that the comments of respected architectural critics have varied. The majority of the architects are much in favour of the scheme but perhaps I may quote from some of the published comments made in respectable journals. The Guardian, in March last year, was all enthusiasm larded with whimsy. It said:London has the chance now to recreate in a contemporary idiom a meeting place where leisure, chat and wit could combine in an atmosphere of politics.That all sounds very pretty and charming but the Daily Telegraph, a very respectable paper with a very respectable art critic, spoke of a shining glass box—a little short of calamitouswhich wouldmake a disastrous impact on the whole character of this historic area.As my hon. Friend has quoted, the assessors—distinguished people including Sir Robert Matthews, Mr. Lasdun, and others—have given contrary evidence suggesting that the design will add to the dignity of Parliament Square. They may be right. The Royal Fine Art Commission reported to the Services Committee that the new building would be a good neighbour to the existing one. These people are experts and therefore 796 the layman hesitates—certainly I do—to come to a quick judgment on this matter. Therefore, I still have an open mind. I think, however, that we may be influenced to some extent by the fact that in recent years leading architects have been responsible for putting up deplorable buildings all over the place. They have put up big buildings which are heavy, dull and lifeless, and devoid of all grace and elegance. Such buildings have been erected in London and in most of our provincial cities, and it is a national tragedy that in this period when so much of our old cities is being pulled down—some of it inevitably and some of it due to a mistaken passion for large-scale urban redevelopment—the quality of our architects who are designing replacement buildings seems to be so poor.
I have a fear that this age will become known as one of architectural vandalism, in which a great deal of old and interesting building was pulled down and our architects were capable of putting up only mediocre, dull and featureless buildings, whose only quality was size. So, while one respects the views of architects like Sir Robert Matthews and Mr. Lasdun, one is worried about the general climate of architectural criticism and ability. We wonder whether the views of the Royal Fine Art Commission were coloured to some extent by the type of heavy, big building which is so fashionable today.
We have to come to our own decision and say whether we think the building is right, and whether it will enhance or damage this historic area. I am worried about this and have spent some hours looking at the model upstairs and attempting to come to some judgment. It is a fine model, which shows clearly what the area will look like from some distance. But it is impossible to see from it what Parliament Square will look like from inside the Square. One can see what the new building will look like from a distance—from half way across the bridge and from half way down Great George Street—but not what it will look like for those walking in Parliament Square, as tens or hundreds of thousands of people do every day. To these people the new building will, I fear, look like a heavy structural chunk out of harmony with all its neighbours. One is unable to judge that on the model upstairs. But there is 797 one big photograph which gives a picture of the new building, taken almost from Parliament Square, which to me is rather frightening, as it looks very heavy and does not seem to blend at all with its surroundings.
This is a personal view, and I hope that I am wrong. I hope that after further consideration, and perhaps with some modifications a building will be erected which in time will blend with its neighbours. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) said, often buildings are put up which, in their early stages, are condemned as being inappropriate but later on people get accustomed to them and it is found that the views and imagination o' the architects were better than those of the layman critics. That may be the case here.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
I could have used the whole of my speech to quote adverse criticisms of Barry but, in the end, as in this case, it was a Select Committee of the House which chose Barry, and who is to say now that its choice was wrong?
§ Mr. Strauss
The Select Committee was right, and I am much influenced, and will continue to be, by the fact that this whole question was considered carefully by a Select Committee of the House, that there was an open competition at which anybody could submit a design, and that the assessors were such distinguished people. The design is no doubt the best that could be produced by the Commonwealth architects. It is the best design that we have. If, therefore, we turn this proposal down, for aesthetic or other reasons, we shall be left in a vacuum. Is will mean having to wait for another 10 years for another competition, without any assurance that the result will then be any more satisfactory. Meanwhile, hon. Members will have to continue working in intolerable conditions and the building over the way will continue to deteriorate.
It is an unfortunate prospect. Bearing all those factors in mind, and bearing in mind, too, the views of the GLC and of the amenity societies, I can come to only one conclusion, namely, that it would be wrong to delay a decision for long. Having had all these investigations, having considered the weight of archi- 798 tectural opinion, and having taken into account the fact that our Select Committee has come down in favour of the building, we must either say that we shall carry on with it or turn it down and get on as quickly as possible with the alternatives which the Minister has put before us.
One day a decision will have to be made, and I shall reserve my position until that occasion arises. All I can say at the moment is that I am unhappy about the situation. I am worried about the effect that the new building will have on this historic area but if, in spite of my worry and that of others, the Select Committee and the architects advising on the matter come to the conclusion that the building is aesthetically desirable, we must accept the decision and support the Government in carrying on with the job.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Chapman (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I count it a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss). He is worried that this era might become known as the "age of architectural vandalism". He may be right, and I agree that there is no unanimity of view about modern architecture, but he may be able to console himself by knowing that that has been said about every new style of architecture through the ages. It was certainly said by the mediæval clergy about Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral.
Perhaps I should begin by declaring an interest as an architect. I have no financial interest in the winning design. Before I was associated with it, my firm was one of 246 unsuccessful entrants in the competition. Whether I should have joined the firm earlier I leave to the imagination of the House.
There are three categories of opposition to this exciting winning design. There are those who say—I do not deny them the right to say it—that we should have no new building at all. There are those who say that we should have a new building, but not at the cost that we shall have to pay. Finally, there are those who say that we should have a new building but they do not like this one. I suppose they would call themselves the aesthetic lobby.
799 I dispute all three. The view of some that it is a good thing to rub shoulders in musty corridors as that is the spice of parliamentary life may have been true of the Victorian age. It may be a bad thing that the days of the so-called club atmosphere are no longer with us, but the role of a Member of Parliament is changing. Whether I like it or not, I find myself turning into a cross between and a combination of vicar, doctor, social worker and personnel manager of a large works.
This is a difficult thing to discuss, but it is happening. I am a very junior Member of the House, but I say with the greatest sincerity that my work is being inhibited by the conditions under which I have to work. I may be an exception. but if we take this Chamber as the hub of our work and the hub of the Palace of Westminster, I must point out that I am fortunate to have a desk which I share with five other Members in a building about one-fifth of a mile away across a main road. My secretary is ensconced somewhere which I hope to find out one day, but I know that it is in a diametrically opposite direction. I have a cubby hole, as it were, between those two points, and the other facilities which I think we are entitled to enjoy are on the other point of the spectrum.
I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) when he said that if we had a building with super facilities, some of which we may not really need, it would tend to keep people out of this part of the Palace of Westminster. But it is just as valid to say that because we work under appalling conditions they tend to drive us out of the Palace of Westminster whenever the occasion arises. Some hon. Members have good offices, but many others have to work in conditions in the Palace of Westminster, Abbey Gardens, Old Palace Yard and Palace Chambers which I do not think come up to the expectations or satisfy the conditions of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act. It is a good thing that the Palace is excluded from that Act, otherwise we should all be in trouble.
§ Mr. Spearing
I made a specific inquiry about the Act and I was assured, in genera I terms, that the conditions for 800 both Members and their secretaries come within that measure.
While I am on my feet perhaps I may ask the hon. Gentleman whether he would like to correct a slip. He said that he shared a desk with five colleagues. Does he not mean a desk room?
§ Mr. Chapman
I accept the hon. Gentleman's correction. It was a slip of the tongue, but I think that all Members understood what I meant.
The next point is whether we should spend what will probably amount to £30 million, and perhaps more. I think that we should go into this a little more deeply. As my hon. Friend said, the structure of the new building will cost about £9½ million with the 10 per cent. contingency sum that is always added for any building because of unknown hazards and factors. Another £19½ million will have to be spent on site acquisition, plant, the necessary alterations to the underground station—building a ticket office, installing ventilation and so on—demolition of the buildings on the site and the raising of Bridge Street. Some of these expenses are bound to be incurred even if we do not go ahead with the new parliamentary building.
It is, therefore, totally misleading the public to suggest that the alternatives are to build the new building and spend £30 million, or not to build it and save £30 million. Apart from what I have said, on the other side of the ledger there must be added the cost of Abbey Gardens, where some Members have to work, Old Palace Yard, Palace Chambers and Dean's Yard, to which the Fees Office has recently been moved, and the cost not only of maintenance but of the periodic alterations that have been, are being, and doubtless will still have to be made to those buildings.
We must also include the cost of the House of Commons and the Palace of Westminster. Inevitably there will have to be more building work in the Palace if we do not have the new building, and, although I cannot confirm it, I should think that it is a conservative estimate to say that the building over the Tea Room will cost about £500,000. Lastly there is the great cost of converting and 801 renovating New Scotland Yard, part of what I suppose we must now call old New Scotland Yard, the Norman Shaw North building, if it is proposed that that building should be used for accommodation in the near future.
As an architect with some experience of these things, I should think that the cost of renovating, modernising and converting that building would be heavy. Whether or not it is within six minutes of the Chamber when the Division bells go—and I speak without fear of contradiction when I say that the vast bulk of the rooms are certainly not within six minutes' walk—we shall have to use the building and there will have to be a new subway and possibly a travelator, and that cost has to be set against the £30 million that would be spent if there were a new building.
We have to put the projected cost in perspective. It is interesting to observe that the 1973–74 Estimates for House of Commons accommodation say that maintenance, furniture, fuel, lighting and so on for this present building cost more than £3½ million annually. We are therefore talking about a cost that is merely —I use that word relatively—10 times what we spend on ordinary maintenance costs within the existing precincts. As the proposed building itself would cost £10 million in round figures, that represents only three years' routine expenditure on the present Palace and, as I said earlier, we have probably already spent £5 million of the £30 million on site acquisition.
If the new building goes ahead, it will involve expenditure over a period of at least eight years. The Minister has already said that, even if we decide in favour of the building straight away, it is extremely unlikely to be completed before 1980. Without going into too many parochial details, I must say that a builder does not get his final account settled until six months after the date of completion, and so we are talking about an expenditure of £30 million over at least an eight-year period. That works out, depending on exactly what is included, at about £3 million to £4 million a year. In other words, it is a sum almost identical with the existing cost of maintenance, about which we do not bat an eyelid.
802 My final comment on the economic financial argument is that even if the building were approved next month the initial monthly payments to the successful contractor would not be for at least two years, and the Minister confirmed that earlier. Hon. Members who are worried about committing themselves to this kind of expenditure at this juncture in our counter-inflationary age might be reassured by that.
I am very much in favour of the building. My view, like that of other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock, is subjective. It is not more or less valid because I happen to be an architect, surveyor and town planner. Equally, I support the assessors, and I think that the building would be a distinctive and distinguished contribution to the north bank of the Thames. I do not believe that it will be uncomplimentary or uncomplementary to the Palace of Westminster.
It is my view—I repeat that it is only a view—that it will be a harmonious link between the Palace of Westminster and the buildings on the other side, and the old Treasury buildings on the other side of Whitehall, and it will certainly open the glorious façade, as we all agree it to be, of the old Treasury building to the Embankment, and it will create an interesting open space between the new building and whatever is to the north. In a sense, there would be not only a new building but a much freer space for the public to enjoy.
This was an international Commonwealth competition, and approximately 1,000 individuals and firms expressed an interest, and 246 entries were made. The assessors then invited seven to go into the second stage and make more detailed drawings, and the final verdict was unanimous. We should pause before we necessarily say that this is the wrong way to go about organising a competition and choosing a building of this importance for this historic site.
The right hon. Member for Vauxhall mentioned the model in the Upper Waiting Room. I believe that it does not show adequately two features that I regard as important. The first is the open area that will be created at ground level, and that I believe to be of vital importance. It will open up an area between 803 the Thames and the old Treasury building, while the very fact that we have the building on the corner of the site, which is exactly where it should be, will preserve the line of Whitehall and Bridge Street. Secondly, the model does not show that the building would have reflective qualities that will give it a softer impact in Parliament Square.
All I will say about the public attitude in the controversy—there would be something wrong if there were not a controversy about a building on this site—is that I firmly believe that the public attitude and our attitude will develop as did the public attitude to the new Coventry Cathedral. At first there was open hostility. People just could not understand it and thought that a new cathedral should be built in the old Gothic style. But they gradually came to accept it, and now most of our citizens regard it with open admiration.
If this building is rejected ultimately by the House, untold damage will be done to the whole system of architectural competitions. It would be a devastating blow against the encouragement of young architects and the need to improve modern architecture.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
I apologise for not having been here for most of the debate. Does my hon. Friend, who is obviously a fan of the architecture of Giotto, really believe that were this building to be accepted the aspect would be improved if the whole area were eventually planned in the same way?
§ Mr. Chapman
I am saying that if the building is accepted and built it will make a distinguished contribution and improvement to Parliament Square. I am not saying that every other building around Parliament Square should be pulled down and modern buildings erected in their place.
If we reject the building, I do not think that we shall ever agree on any subsequent new design. Even if we did, and a subsequent new building were put on the site, its cost would be far more than the cost of this building.
Finally, whatever alternative accommodation is used and whatever modernisation schemes may be introduced with alterations, extensions and renovations inside the physical limits of this building 804 or by making use of odd scraps of floor space elsewhere, the cost in the long run will be more than the cost of the new parliamentary building. I ask the House to raise its eyes, and I hope it will accept the building. If it does, I believe that it will be proud to have done so and that the public will be proud of the new building when it is built.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
I yield to no one in my desire for better accommodation for Members, but we should learn a lesson from St. Thomas's Hospital. The new buildings were sold to hon. Members by attractive models and plans and were advertised as being a wonderful trendy piece of modern architecture to contrast with the Houses of Parliament across the river. Now we see that a monstrosity has arisen there. In a few years' time, if we build this new parliamentary building as designed, hon. Members will feel exactly the same about it as they now feel about St. Thomas's Hospital.
The great majority of our constituents regard not only the Houses of Parliament but the whole of Parliament Square as an essential part of the mystique of Parliament. In choosing the design of the new building we are choosing a building that will be there for at least 100 years, if the IRA permits it. We should, therefore, consider how far it fits in with the surroundings, and I do not think it does. It is unsympathetic to the surroundings, even with the alterations that have been made to the original plans.
I am not a great admirer of the Corporation of the City of London, but in the redevelopment of the area around Guildhall a certain amount of imagination has been used by the architects concerned who have attempted to fit in the new developments to the historical buildings there.
One of my greatest complaints against the new building is that the lines are all wrong. We have in Parliament Square Barry's buildings, Westminster Abbey and the art nouveau Gothic of the Middlesex Guildhall, all of which are different from each other, yet fit in together. We do not want a copy of any of these buildings; but we do want something that picks up the character of the area. I suggest that the main lines should be perpendicular, not horizontal, however 805 we design the building internally for the use of Members. The building should also be built in a material sympathetic with the surroundings.
The design of the proposed building is a design for a developer's block, an attempt at a legislative factory for a South American capital. That is not what we want in Parliament Square. We want something that fits in with the surroundings. The design might be the "trendy" of the 1950s but not of the 1970s. It has the "clean straight lines" that junior lecturers in architectural colleges put over as the idea 20 years ago and that are still being used in so many blocks throughout the country. We want variation, not a monolithic block.
§ Mr. Dalyell
We can be certain that my hon. Friend is not arguing for a revival of the Gothic revival?
§ Mr. Parker
I am certainly not arguing for a Gothic revival. I am suggesting that we should attempt to fit the building into the surroundings. In suggesting that it should have perpendicular lines I do not mean that it has to be a copy of the Perpendicular architecture of the 1500s.
We are told that the building is to be functional, and I hope it will be. The plans show four towers built to cover the railway station. Why are not the towers used as part of the architectural design to set off the building and avoid the monolithic slab appearance? How the towers should be set off would be a matter for discussion. On looking at the building from the outside one does not know that the towers are there. The building is, therefore, not strictly functional but disguises its functionalism.
In the design of the building the architects are still following the reaction against Victorianism. Victoria has been dead for more than 70 years, and it is time that we moved away from reaction to Victorianism. Buildings with no decoration are dull and the new generation is coming to feel that. Most of our buildings in the new towns are dull because they lack decoration. I am not suggesting that we want the kind of decoration that is applied to some modern buildings which looks like mud pies in concrete, but we need some imagination in decoration to make new buildings attractive. I set out these sug- 806 gestions not as rules but merely as ideas for providing a building on that site which is more exciting and interesting than the dull building proposed.
I think there should be attractive shops along the front of the building. There should be restaurants on the first floor which will be open to the public and from which the Houses of Parliament can be seen. However we design the interior of the building, there should be shops. This area is a great tourist centre and the shops should be not hidden away behind but along the front. That is a defect in the present design.
I trust and hope that we shall reconsider this. I do not want the decision put off. I agree with my right hon Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) that an early decision should be taken. The building could be modified or altered if we decided to go ahead with it. After all, as has been said already, great architects have had to give way to their clients more often than not and accept their ideas and suggestions. I suggest that we should tell the architects what we want and have the building redesigned, at least externally, to meet these needs.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) for not having heard his speech, but, knowing his interest in this subject, I can imagine what he said.
I want to take a slightly different view from every other speaker so far. Before we propose a new parliamentary building at all, we should review to ourselves what on earth we are doing here. The right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) was patronising enough to say that in his view we were a slightly more intelligent lot than our predecessors. Unfortunately, the tendency has grown up among these slightly more intelligent people to go off into a little room and beaver away at paper work for a very questionable advantage to their constituents.
Many hon. Members who have spoken today have propounded the need to serve their constituents, and have metaphorically beaten their breasts as they said it. But let us just consider the post we get. Fifty per cent. of it is to do with local government grouses. If the local government of this country were put on a proper 807 footing and the local government officials and elected members did their jobs properly, Members of this House would find their postbag reduced by 50 per cent. or more.
Another change which has come over this House in recent years is that we are moving more and more into a specialist era. Each of us genuinely wants to beaver away in some quiet corner at the thing which interests him most, and in which he specialises. Some hon. Members will know that I have a passing interest in horticulture, and I want to have somewhere that I can go to prepare the things I mean to say, think about the subject and do my reading. But I can do it at a desk in the Library perfectly well.
Some of the most distinguished Members of this House, who offer some of the finest and most valuable contributions, work at a public desk in the Library which is set aside for Members. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is perhaps the most distinguished and internationally best-known Member of this House. Does he disappear with some secretary bird into some cubicle at the back of beyond? Of course he does not. He is at his place day after day for any hon. Member who agrees or disagrees with him to confront him and to debate with him. He is available.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke)—a young Member but one who has been here a long time—to the best of my knowledge works away at his appointed place. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] One frequently sees him sitting there in the Aye Lobby, writing his letters and gossiping to those who pass. [Laughter.] Some of my hon. Friends say "Hear, hear" and others laugh in a good-humoured way. But this is what this place is all about—gossiping with those who pass.
In a long, pompous, platitudinous speech, the right hon. Member for Leeds, West—[An HON. MEMBER: "He is not here."] He could be here, but he is not. It is his own fault that he is not in his place. He used a phrase about hon. Members who "blow in, blow up and blow out". I do not know where he has blown to—
§ Mr. Wells
Yes, I know that he is in the Dining Room because I have just come from there myself, but he could be here.
It is the essence of this place, if we believe in our parliamentary democracy, that we should have gossip and interchange of ideas among our colleagues and ourselves. My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) hit on a most happy phrase when he mentioned some obscure American recluse and said that we might copy him and disappear over the road and never come here again except to vote—and then he used a most sinister phrase to which I draw the attention of the House, all 16 of us—that is, until push-button voting in the future.
The greatest jewel that this Parliament has—and it has many jewels—is the certain knowledge that on Monday night the entire Government will be in this Lobby or that Lobby and that I can speak if I wish to the Prime Minister of England and tell him precisely what my constituents think of him. I can see any and every one of my colleagues, and if I wish to see the Leader of the Opposition I can nobble him outside the Lobby: he will be here. This is a great right of every hon. Member. The moment that we move over there, it will not be long before push-button voting and total disappearance become the order of the day.
I have been critical of the right hon. Member for Leeds, West, but I wish to be fair. He has done a great deal for the cause of hon. Members. But, contrasting his speech with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West, one sees that the right hon. Gentleman did nothing but say what a good boy he was, whereas we know that my hon. Friend—though he spoke at length—is a man who has also done a great deal for the needs of back-bench Members.
So I open my remarks by posing the question: what are we here for? Traditionally, we are here to redress grievance and to vote Supply. I repeat: to vote Supply. Look at them—all four Members of the Opposition present on a Supply Day. What do they do? They hold up their hands metaphorically and yak on about something which is dear to 809 the Labour Party. What do we do when we are in opposition? We hold up our hands about voting Supply and yak on about something which is dear to the Tory Party.
What is the effect on the country? It is simply that our profession, our proud and honourable calling, is viewed as being the next worse thing to being an estate agent. I should be proud to be an estate agent if only I could have passed the surveyors' examinations. But I am too stupid, so I am in here.
The fact remains that it is the attitude of the two great parties on Supply Days to go in for "did-didn't" politics—"I said in 1928; you said in 1874." This is the sort of to-and-fro rubbish that goes on between the two great parties and is the greatest failure of our political system at present.
The Liberal Party, the "Taverne independents", the Irish this and the Irish that—I forget what they are called: where are they? There is not one of them here today. Is this not a tragedy? This concerns the minorities, the rights of that empty Liberal bench there.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. I think that we had better return to the subject of the debate. Mr. Wells.
§ Mr. Wells
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention, which indicates that he is man with an independent mind. I know about his desk arrangements. I am trying to address my remarks to the fact that the parliamentary system is undergoing a radical change. Back benchers are shutting themselves up and doing useless paper work for most of the time. It is self-generating paper work: 810 the more that hon. Members do the more they will create
§ Mr. Wells
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head in dissent. I respect him above all other hon. Members because he is one of our few colleagues who amass volumes of bumpf and still do something about it. The great majority of us collect acres of the stuff and do not do anything about it or throw it away. I know the personal habits of the hon. Gentleman regarding his paper work, and I respect him enormously for his application to that style of parliamentary life.
The fact remains that this place is changing and has changed for the worse. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), who appeared in a very bad photograph over an article which he wrote in the Evening Standard two days ago, made great play of the weakening of this House vis-à-vis the Common Market. He asked why faceless men in Europe should dictate the age at which young people should drive motor cars and motor cycles. The fact remains—my hon. Friend, despite his opposition to the EEC, knows this perfectly well—that the decision-taking process within the EEC countries is far more open than it has ever been here. They have democracies of a different style. Their democracies are based upon a written constitution. Our democracy is based upon the evolving pattern of this House and of the parliamentary Government which we have enjoyed.
However, we are now part of Europe, and this House is changing. It is changing in that it is weaker. On 1st January this year we became less important people in the world than we were on New Year's Eve. Our successors, despite their addiction to research and other matters, will be smaller men.
I fundamentally oppose the proposed building. It is totally undesirable and I shall oppose it at every turn. The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard) put forward some of the most absurd arguments. He seemed to think that if we did not go ahead with the building the entire architectural profession would be offended. Does he buy a motor car because he might offend the designer? I have never heard such rubbish in my life.
811 The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) was making extremely good progress with his speech until he was interrupted and told that he should have no opinion and that he should have made a typical Front Bench utterance. As least we was speaking slightly robustly.
There are people who work in this place with no sustenance and comfort: first, the permanent staff—that is Mr. Speaker's staff in all its manifestations and from the Clerk of the House to the humblest cleaner on the staff of the Serjeant of Arms—who are having a raw deal in the accommodation that is planned for them. We could get adequate accommodation in Norman Shaw North if all the extraneous bodies were moved out. One of the wise words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, West was that the Lord Chancellor should be requested to transfer his Department to Middlesex Guildhall, a similar place such as a modest building on the parliamentary site, or even into part of Norman Shaw. If that were done more accommodation could be found here for our secretaries and the permanent staff.
If hon. Members look round at the various people present, including HANSARD reporters—I know that it is out of order to refer to the gallery—they will see more officials present than there are hon. Members. There are twice as many civil servants present as there are hon. Members. These people must be properly provided for. These people must be here at every hour, including the small hours of the morning, whereas we can pair or slip away unpaired. We have seen the great three-line Whips of last week. Where were the Members of the Labour Party? They were seeking to bolster up Chesterle-Street and Lincoln.
§ Mr. Wells
What an extraordinary intervention. Something must be done to assist our permanent officials and our secretaries, who are, of course, our personal employees. I went to a thinly-attended meeting two nights ago at which some good ideas were put forward about how our secretaries should do their work, but they forgot the camaraderie—"I shall look after your Member tomorrow if you look out for mine when I am ill", for example, or "When you go to the dentist 812 I shall see to the letters." But if they are shut up in boxes that will not be able to happen.
We must have further accommodation. There must be sleeping accommodation for the Officers of the House who have difficult journeys home. These are the things that must be found. Some room must be found for some of our secretaries. Copying machines have been one of the great advantages. They have greatly helped hon. Members who do not have secretaries. There have been great improvements, but let us keep a sense of proportion. Above all, do not let us go forward with this present footling scheme.
§ 2.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
I am grateful for being called after the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells), who gave me an unexpected accolade. Perhaps it was not altogether unexpected, as we share some joint endeavours in this House. I note that the direction in which the paper goes is rather towards me than towards him. However, I am grateful for his remarks.
One matter in the hon. Gentleman's speech was extremely germane to our debate. The many aspects of the work of an hon. Member drive him in two directions; there is the important work of digging out facts, writing letters, reading and answering them, and the machinery that goes with it. As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, there must be co-operation between the secretaries who help us. My next point is that within the few corridors and rooms around the Chamber some of the most important things take place. In those corridors and rooms we can find people. It is in those rooms where matters of fundamental importance are discussed. That is where the work of Parliament is conducted. It is done not in this Chamber but outside.
There have been many remarks about the aesthetic merit of the building which we are discussing. I shall not go into them at great length because I do not happen to like the aesthetics. I wish to concentrate on the function. That is in the end more important, because there can be a lay-out within a building which can vary greatly and yet the architecture outside can remain the 813 same. These two aspects have become confused in our deliberations. I hope that future consideration will be given by the Government to separating those two aspects. If they are not separated our arguments will become crossed.
I have an interest in that I am a member of the Environmental Planning Committee of the Greater London Council, which has made some comments on the proposed building. I am also a Londoner, and, although Parliament Square may belong to Parliament in one sense, I would remind the House that it is also part of London. Often when I have walked around these precincts and the Square I have thought how important to political London are the shops, restaurants and cafés in this area. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) mentioned this point. There is a wide variety of shops for everybody and not just expensive ones. This is an important part of Whitehall and the Parliament Square precinct, and I am sorry that the Services Committee did not seem to understand that aspect in putting forward its recommendations.
Many hon. Members have mentioned the underground station. The plans will put the booking office further away both from this House and from Parliament Square. The plans which we now have before us have a number of disadvantages for the people of London compared to the not particularly satisfactory situation which now exists. The Services Committee also mentioned the important matter of siting a branch of the Stationery Office in this area. Is it not quite ridiculous that when people come from across the world to Parliament and its precincts nowhere in this area can they pop in and buy a copy of HANSARD?
There is now a shop run by the Department of the Environment just around the corner, and I hope that Her Majesty's Stationery Office will take over the shirt shop, which I understand is to be closed. I hope that that shop will offer a good selection of HMSO publications, many of which are excellent value in explaining the different functions of Government and the way in which we conduct our public business. I am sorry that nothing like this has come to this area earlier, for it is certainly long overdue.
§ Mr. John Wells
I go the whole way with the hon. Gentleman in what he says about the shirt shop. It is a disaster that it should be closed. When occasionally an hon. Member has to go out to dinner and cannot get away from the House to go home to fetch his bow tie, he can at least now go to the shirt shop to purchase one. Even though it may be a made-up job, he can always afterwards pass it on to his son.
§ Mr. Spearing
I was not referring to the shirt shop in that sort of context, but the hon. Gentleman has a point. The point I make is that if there are shops in the area one can take the opportunity to pop out to buy a few handerchiefs or a new collar. This is the sort of point that tends to be forgotten in architects' plans. Shopping facilities of some description are very necessary in this area.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rom-ford (Mr. Leonard) said that we must be equipped to do our job. A room, papers and a desk are all part of the equipment we use and the tools of our trade. The Services Committee said that we should treat its recommendations as a matter of urgency. However, I question the degree of urgency for this particular scheme. I understand that within the precinct and just outside there are more than 600 desk places at present available for hon. Members. The idea that we should have one room for every Member is a long-term concept, and is not necessarily a matter of immediate urgency. I am quite content to share a room with three or four other Members as long as I can be near the House and near the Chamber. I regard accommodation nearby as greatly preferable to accommodation further away across the road.
What is a matter of urgency is to do something to assist Members' secretaries, and this point was emphasised by the hon. Member for Maidstone. It is our secretaries who have to stay in a room for most of the time typing, opening or reading letters, and Members are able to move around the building rather more than do their secretaries. The accommodation for secretaries at the moment is far more urgent than is the problem for Members. Paragraph 6 of the Select Committee's report of 21st May 1969 made this point about secretaries:Each secretary should be allocated a minimum of 75 sq. ft. of space in accommodation 815 which should be flexible in relation to providing rooms for one, two, three, four or more secretaries because many secretaries prefer to work in company with at least one other. It is important that the structure of the building should be such that the size of the rooms is flexible and above all that the rooms are soundproof.Let us look at the plan for the proposed building. It may surprise hon. Gentlemen to know that there are virtually no rooms in the plan for secretaries. They are placed outside Members' rooms in the podium around the court in open plan accommodation. In addition, there are 24 identical Members' rooms and 24 identical cubby-holes in the rather widened corridor for secretaries. I regard that as inferior accommodation—certainly inferior to the accommodation which my secretary has at present. One does not need much imagination to realise the sort of din that 24 typewriters would create when clacking away in the same corridor.
The imaginative exhibition which was held upstairs showing the new building demonstrated each room as containing three pieces of paper per desk. We all know that life in this building is not like that, and one can only leave it to the imagination to realise what the conditions would eventually be like. It might be said that it would have been easier to allocate rooms for secretaries separately from the Member concerned by having a smaller room for Members, but the architect did not adopt that idea. In my view, they did not conform to the terms of the competition.
§ Mr. Wells
I apologise for intervening twice in the hon. Member's speech, but I believe he is under a misunderstanding. I met the architects only two days ago, and I understood from them that the secretarial/Members accommodation is interchangeable; the precise location of the partition between Member and secretary is very important. I am not saying that I am in favour of the scheme at all, but I am intervening merely to tell the hon. Gentleman that he is wrong.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I was unable to attend the meeting with the architects, but I certainly understood that the plans and illustrations did not show the rooms as being flexible. If they were made flexible there would have to have fanlights. The 816 plans did not provide multiple rooms in line with the specification, which would have been most desirable.
I wrote to the Committee Clerk on 12th September 1972 drawing attention to what I regarded as an apparent breach of the regulations and asked him whether he would draw this matter to the attention of the Committee when it next met. He wrote to me on 24th November last in these terms:The Services Committee will not be giving any further consideration to the new Parliamentary building until after the House has decided whether or not to agree to their recommendation that it should be built.I put that matter on record because I consider the way in which secretarial accommodation is being dealt with as thoroughly unsatisfactory. The architectural aspects of the building have overshadowed quite improperly the functional aspects which are of less importance to hon. Members than they are to those who work for us.
I turn to deal with the additional facilites which have been suggested for the new building. I agree that they are not an integral part of the plan, but I question some of the more luxurious parts of the plan, particularly the swimming pool. I do not say that there should not be a small gymnasium or even a squash court for Members, but since in 1961—the date of the last Census—3.678 houses in my constituency had no baths, it is surely wrong for us to approve accommodation of that sort.
The places in which hon. Members work are varied. They have individual work places, sometimes in the Library and sometimes in offices, and sometimes even in centres outside the House where we read and look up papers. We also have to come together and meet each other. Anything which would detract from the way we can easily move around within the few square yards around the Chamber would reduce the efficiency of this House. If there were any building, certainly the one proposed, which would in some measure be a counter-attraction in regard to facility centres, that would be to the disadvantage of this House. If there must be accommodation—and there ought to be—let it be of such a nature that it is auxiliary to what goes on around these buildings.
817 Quite apart from the matter of costs, the building suggested would not meet these criteria. The site could well be used for further accommodation for Members or their secretaries. But there are also the other servants of the House. As I understand it, some of them were not very well dealt with for accommodation even on the plans we have. That site is an important one, but it should be developed in a way which meets a number of different needs. It should be available there with enough facilities for Londoners and others who come to Parliament Square to have shopping facilities, HMSO facilities and other things on that site. That was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham. There should be facilities for visitors, for hon. Members, for those who serve this House and for the secretaries who serve hon. Members.
It would not be impossible to produce a building, perhaps over a phased development, on the Bridge Street site in which all these needs could be met—not at once, perhaps—and in a way which would be flexible over the years. The proposed building would not do that. The GLC believes that the podium design would mean a draughty, concrete-waste sort of place. I tend to agree.
I hope that we do not approve the proposition before us. The Select Committee did not pay sufficient attention to the functions of Members of Parliament or to the important work of the secretaries who make our work possible. I hope, therefore, that all hon. Members will prevail on the Government not to go ahead but to think again and produce a scheme which meets some of the needs which I have tried to outline.
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
We are shortly to celebrate European Architectural Heritage Year. During that year everyone will be looking at their great items of historic architecture. In doing so I fear that they will find all sorts of modern monstrosities alongside them. I hope that people will then start to appreciate the terrible vandalism taking place in this century by putting new buildings too close to what is old and beautiful.
A new building may well be beautiful, but that does not mean that it may not be a bad neighbour. If we put what may 818 be a beautiful building in the wrong position we shall do untold damage to this very historic site. We recognise now that monster buildings are poor neighbours. We do not want them near the Royal parks or near St. Paul's Cathedral. Equally, let us not have them around Parliament Square and in Whitehall. Let us try to have something which is acceptable.
Here we come to the matter of style. Some people have said that it is perfectly legitimate to introduce a further style into the area. My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) described the length of time for which the Gothic style continued. Equally, the Palladian style was in vogue from the 16th to the 19th century. Since then we have had a whole series of conglomerate styles. Thank goodness that they have been very ephemeral. The danger is that we introduce a new style and then, perhaps, drag in what we see on the other side of the river, which is what we do not like.
Parliament Square is the meeting place of the Gothic, spreading from the south, and the Palladian, spreading from the north. It cannot accept a further style coming in and trying to merge. At the same time, however, the need for a new building exists. There is great congestion in this building and something more must be done. We have heard that any new building would not be constructed before 1980. Clearly we cannot last for the rest of this decade in our present cramped circumstances. Therefore, we need the Norman Shaw North building.
Now that the decision has been made to conserve the Norman Shaw North building, let us be the first to grab it. It has been described in rather glowing terms by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke). I did not recognise it as the same building which I have looked at, in rather a gloomy way. The windows did not let in very much light. It is a Victorian building, and much of it looks on to the inner courtyard and is not very attractive. I felt that this accommodation, which is unfit for civil servants, was, therefore, possibly highly suitable for Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
If my hon. Friend will accompany me next week—perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will be happy to let us have a proper look—he will 819 realise that the superficial judgment which we both made on our first visit, when we did not find it easy to gain access, will be reversed. I have had another look and I think that my hon. Friend will agree with me if he sees it again, perhaps next week.
§ Mr. Allason
I believe that it is necessary to have something, but not necessary to take a very early decision. Some people have said that if we do not now take a decision to build the Spence and Webster building we shall never get anything. That is wrong. It is perfectly reasonable for us now to see whether a better design is available for the Bridge Street site. There are architects who may not be in the first line of fashion but are capable of designing which fits in well with the existing surroundings. They do not always ask for a cleared site. They say, "I understand what is already here and I can design something which will fit in." We do not want an exact copy of a Palladian building, or anything of that sort, but let us have something which at least is not utterly offensive to existing buildings.
My plea is for good manners. We still have time to think of good manners.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) has offered the House what may be a will-o'-the-wisp—the possibility of re-opening the question of the design of the new parliamentary building by a further architect or, presumably, re-opening it to another competition and going through the whole procedure which has been conducted so lengthily. That procedure was well described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). The arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead in support of that view were basically that in his aesthetic judgment the proposal which had won the unanimous approval of the assessors and the support of the majority of the Services Committee was essentially a matter of personal judgment.
A number of speeches have reflected differing views about Parliament's function. In considering the role of Members of Parliament and how they work we are doing what is necessary to assess the 820 merits of the building. The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) adduced some slightly conflicting arguments. He said, on the one hand, that Parliament had come in for great contempt because of what it was and, on the other, that Parliament should not change from what it was, which was, as he put it, a place where Members could gossip with each other around the neo-Gothic corridors of this building. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman's speech was the light-hearted interval in our debate which helped to lighten the seriousness with which the subject has been treated.
I will now advance my views as to the need for this building, first, from the point of view of Members. Those of us who have been here for any time at all have quickly become aware of the pressures under which Members and their secretaries operate within the limited confines of the building. The sheer accumulation of paper grows enormously year by year, and it looks as though it will continue to do so. People consider this accumulating paper seriously not because they are academics manqués delving in Arcana for delectation, but rather because they believe that if they are to take on the business of controlling a complex society and the growing expertise of the executive arm of Government they need to be properly informed and properly serviced by secretaries and research assistants, by the growing staff of the Library, and by the expanding—perhaps too slowly expanding —services of the Clerk's Department.
All these growing but necessary facilities put an enormous pressure upon the resources of the House. This tendency is not likely to be reversed. It will, rather, be accelerated. Consequently, I do not think that we can hope to solve Parliament's problem simply by providing a slightly better makeshift arrangement than we have at present.
As the Minister said in his helpful and most factual contribution, alternative arrangements could be made which would provide some help towards fulfilling Member's basic needs, but I do not think that even the Minister would suggest that these would be adequate arrangements, or arrangements which would in any sense be comparable with the facilities which could be offered 821 within the confines of a new parliamentary building on the other side of Bridge Street. They would be a very poor second-best to a new building. If we are to go for a very poor second best we should not deceive ourselves about what we are doing.
Almost every speaker has agreed that the present arrangements for Members are hopelessly inadequate. One of the most unattractive and difficult features is the fact that Members are scattered all over a very large area around Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster.
The impression could perhaps be drawn from the contributions of one or two hon. Members that by transferring 450 Members to a new building, where they would all be capable of working together, we would be transferring them to some kind of cloistered monastery, where they would have no contact with each other and would be like Trappist monks in cells.
That is far removed from the conception of the building of which we have had outlines. Its very proximity to this building will make life much easier for many Members who at present have to run from Abbey Gardens and various other far-flung parts to reach the Division Lobbies. It is somewhat illusory to think that Members succeed in completing their written work when Parliament is not sitting and that when Parliament sits everyone rushes into the immediate environs of the Chamber to converse or, as the hon. Member for Maidstone put it, gossip with his fellow Members about the great issues of State.
The needs for Members to be accommodated within the new parliamentary building are matters which in many respects can be worked out if, subsequent to the parliamentary building's being approved, the disposition of the space is—as it has been described in the evidence to the Select Committee—a matter over which there can be considerable flexibility. It is wrong to suggest, as the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) suggested, that it needs to be used in a luxurious way.
As I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) listing all the needs which should be accommodated in a new building on the Bridge 822 Street site I was struck by the fact that the proposals provide for many of the things my hon. Friend asked for and which he believes should be provided in the Bill—some of them for Members, some for their secretaries and some for the public. This design will permit account to be taken, from time to time, of the changing needs of Members. Within this framework considerable flexibility is possible.
The public has a considerable interest in this matter, because of the historic importance of the site. The building, which has been approved by the Select Committee, offers the public a great deal more than the public at present enjoys in this vicinity.
I think it was the hon. Member for Cannock who suggested that a sort of green park between the Norman Shaw building and Bridge Street might be a more acceptable use of the space for the public. I doubt this. Such a use would not provide an enormous amount of open space and it would certainly be incompatible with many of the other public requirements to which other hon. Members have given expression such as the provision of offices, outlets for the Stationery Office, shops and other methods of providing for the needs of constituents and tourists who visit Parliament.
Perhaps the unique feature of this design is the fact that it provides, encompassing all these other requirements such as shops and so forth, a great open space which I think someone said would be the size of Leicester Square, where the public can congregate and which will open up a new view to the public underneath this parliamentary building—which in itself has been overlooked by some of those who on aesthetic grounds have attacked the concept of the building as being too bulky.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) asked what the building would look like from street level. The fact is that, as he said, this cannot be brought out in the model. But from street level, as I apprehend the situation, one will be able to see right through and feel no sense of confinement because of this openness. This is one of the most imaginative features of the building.
823 Turning briefly to the quality of the building itself—and I must be brief because on aesthetic matters one can only speak of one's own opinion, and others have done this too—this is bound to be a matter of dispute because there are such widely ranging opinions, and taste can never be conclusively settled.
I should like to draw attention to what I consider to be some of the aesthetically attractive features of the building. My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) referred to the absence of decoration in the building and said it was in a sense a reaction against Victorianism. Not all architecture has to be decorated in the sense of having decoration added to it, and I think that where this building has a certain unique quality is in the beauty of the glass, which is an extremely modern material, and in its use in this building it is rather sensitively conceived.
§ Mr. Fellrose—
§ Mr. Maclennan
The hon. Member has come into the Chamber very late and he should not interrupt other people's speeches.
§ Mr. Fellrose—
§ Mr. Maclennan
Some of us have been sitting here listening carefully to the debate, and the hon. Member should do the same.
As I have considered this, it seems to me that something of the external surface quality of the building would be not unlike that of one of the most distinguished buildings in New York—the Seagram building, by Mies van der Rohe —both in colour and design. This building would have a delicate quality, and by virtue of the subtlety of the colour of the glass could provide a very interesting foil to other buildings in the Square. Certainly the architects who were the assessors for the building were conscious of the need for the building to harmonise with the rest of the Square. My point in intervening in my right hon. Friend's speech—which I was reluctant to do—was simply to draw attention to the fact that the architects had given this point consideration. It would be disastrous if we had no building at the end of Whitehall. Whitehall and Parliament Square would be incomplete with- 824 out a building. I regard this as the most serious aesthetic objection to the proposals of the hon. Member for Cannock.
In sum, I believe that Parliament ought to seize a unique opportunity in our generation to provide a major new public building, not to satisfy its own narrow requirements, important as those are, but to meet the need to redevelop this outstanding site in a way fitting for this area as the heart of the Commonwealth and for this place as the Mother of Parliaments.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I seek your help and guidance? So far the House has spent the whole day in an interesting debate, discussing its own future convenience. It will not be lost upon you and hon. Members that the next motion relates to the inconvenience, hardship and suffering being caused now by the rail dispute to tens of thousands of people outside this place. Through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I appeal to the generosity and good sense of hon. Members to curtail their speeches so that the Minister who is here, signifying by his presence the importance of the matter, may have an opportunity to say something about it?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
That is not strictly a point of order. I quite understand the feelings which the hon. Member and others may have. I can only discharge the rules of the House as best I may. Until the House itself decides to do something about it, there is nothing I can do.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Since the hon. Gentleman appeals to the generosity of the House, may I say that some hon. Members might have felt more inclined to be generous had it not been for the vituperative nature of his motion.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
Although I am still a relatively new Member, I am pleased to make a brief contribution to the debate, much though I respect the experience of those who have been here far longer than I have. I 825 emphasise at the outset that I am a strong supporter of the new parliamentary building. I agree with much of what was said by the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard), and with all that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman).
I ask three questions regarding the new building. First, is it required? To that, I give a categorical "Yes". I shall deal with this aspect of the matter on a personal basis. My office is in Old Palace Yard. I share that office with seven other Members. The size of the room in which we work is 27 ft by 18 ft. Each Member, as we know, is allocated one desk, one chair, one filing cabinet and one telehone. If more than two or three Members are in the office at the same time, it is virtually impossible to concentrate on research, on speech-writing or on the telephone calls which one makes to one's constituency.
What about accommodation provided for my secretary? She is in Palace Chambers, eight or ten minutes' walk from my office, and the journey, of course, is subject to all the rapid changes in our English weather. Until recently there were 10 secretaries in that room, which measures 30 ft by 12½ ft. Again, for each secretary there is one desk, one chair, one filing cabinet and one telephone. Having been to inspect the place, I can only say that if the factory inspector had seen it I am convinced he would have declared it illegal. I am pleased to say that recently, because one girl has left the service of the House and another has been moved elsewhere, the number in that room has been reduced to eight.
Is the new building necessary? It certainly is. Whether we like it or not, the job of a Member of Parliament has changed dramatically in recent years. Whether it is a good thing or not, we have certainly become local government ombudsmen, welfare officers and social workers. We carry out all these functions for our constituents, and until the system is changed and until local government becomes more efficient we shall have to do these jobs, and we should have the facilities in which we can do them properly.
The second question is whether the proposed building is functional. I believe 826 it to be functional in every way. It provides 450 individual rooms for Members of Parliament so that they can carry on their work in privacy. They can hold confidential telephone calls, and they can carry out their research and get their speeches ready in privacy. Very close to those rooms will be space for 450 secretaries. They can be grouped as they would wish to be grouped, either in open plan or, as we have heard, in single units, close to their Members of Parliament. When constituents come to London they will not have to meet their MP in the crowded Central Lobby or crowded passageways. Instead, Members can take their constituents to their office to discuss private and personal matters, and the secretaries can act as receptionists.
One aspect of the building which has not been touched upon by many hon. Members concerns the physical amenities which will be provided for Members. I refer to the sporting facilities—the swimming pool and the gymnasium. One thing that has shocked me since I came to the House has been the appalling physical condition of many hon. Members. [Laughter.] The only facility provided in the House is a shooting gallery somewhere down in the basement and there is no exercise in shooting. We need a gymnasium, a sauna bath and a swimming pool.
§ Mr. Raison
Why on earth should we treat ourselves to a sauna bath, a swimming pool and everything else when virtually no other office in the country provides these facilities?
§ Mr. Winterton
There is a progressive company further up Millbank—ICI—which provides excellent facilities for its employees.
§ Mr. Winterton
I believe that the physical condition of a Member of Parliament also affects his mental condition.
§ Mr. Winterton
I explained that I was speaking for myself. As a new Member coming here I found atrocious conditions in which to operate and to serve my constituents. When I intervened earlier in the debate my hon. Friend the Member 827 for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) dismissed the point I made about atrocious facilities as being aimed at seeking publicity, but in answering me he stated that he had two secretaries. Perhaps there are other hon. Members who, like myself, cannot afford to employ two secretaries.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Perhaps I could make clear that I keep one permanent secretary here and one part-time secretary in the country, and I find that that works out perfectly well. We must all have our own style of operating. My hon. Friend is an energetic Member who has not been here very long and has seldom supported the Government since he arrived on these benches. But that is his affair.
§ Mr. Winterton
That is absolute nonsense. In voting the way that I have, I have often proved to be truer to the Conservative Party than many of my hon. Friends who have voted in another way, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West. I do not wish to detain the House very much longer.
§ Mr. Winterton
One thing I will say before I end is that I consider it amazing that the House—and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine) will agree with me on this—has laboured so long on a subject like this when there are so many more important things to be discussed. We are talking about £30 million, but because of industrial action outside many hundreds, perhaps thousands of millions of pounds are being wasted.
§ Mr. Winterton
A further question which arises is whether the new building is architecturally and aesthetically acceptable in the context of Whitehall and Parliament Square. Personally I do not wish to get involved in that aspect of the debate, but I believe the building to be functional. The Royal Fine Art Commission says that it is acceptable, and I believe that its height and line would suit both Whitehall and Parliament Square. I hope that the House will make a posi- 828 tive decision to proceed with the building at an early date.
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, North-West)rose—
§ Sir Bernard Braine
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I take it that my appeal has fallen on deaf ears, and that Parliament cannot even for a brief moment attend to the problems of commuters, tens of thousands of whom are now suffering daily?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
It looks very much as though the hon. Member is right. His appeal has fallen on deaf ears.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not your remark a little unfair, inasmuch as it is the normal practice on a Friday when private Members' motions are before the House for hon. Members to spend such time as they choose discussing the important matter which has the benefit of being the subject of the first motion to be drawn out of the ballot? Is it not almost an impertinence for the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine) to suggest that he, the second person in the ballot, should receive special consideration? It is wrong that he should make that appeal to you and, if I may say so with the greatest respect, your remarks did, in my view, fall slightly below the normal impartial judgment which we expect from you.
§ The Minister for Transport Industries (Mr. John Peyton)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not rather a novel view that an hon. Member is not free to appeal to the generosity of the House so that he may ventilate a problem which is deeply vexing many thousands of his constituents? What we have been discussing this afternoon is very interesting, but it is concerned purely with the convenience of Members of Parliament, and that is a consideration which is not always uppermost in the minds of those who are conscious of nothing but being subjected to intolerable inconvenience in their daily attempts to try to travel to work.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps the request by the hon. Member for Essex, 829 South-East (Sir Bernard Braine) would have been more understandable and would have fallen on less deaf ears had it not been for the vituperative terms of the motion. If the hon. Gentleman chooses to use words such as "selfish" in his motion—
§ Mr. Dalyell
Perhaps not, but he cannot then expect us to agree to an action which some of us think would make worse and not better the situation for the tens of thousands of commuters referred to by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am pleased to be able to reply to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). I can see that he might have read into what I said some degree, shall we say, of not quite the impartiality which the House expects. I assure him that it was not meant in that way. It was really meant to say that what the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine) had said, namely, that his appeal had fallen on deaf ears, was correct, which we can see it has done. There is nothing that I can do, or that the House can do. Unless the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Greville Janner), whom I have called to speak and who has the Floor, is prepared to sit down, and other hon. Members on both sides of the House are prepared to take no part in this debate, we cannot proceed to the next motion.
§ Mr. Fell
We shall be in an awful fix in future debates on a Friday if we create a precedent by allowing to be debated matters which, in the minds of some members of the public, are more important than others which are down for debate earlier. Such matters may be second or third on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
We cannot profitably consider the matter further by means of points of order. Unless the steps are taken as I have said, to achieve what the hon. Member for Essex, South-East is seeking, we must proceed with the debate. I call Mr. Janner again.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I fully recognise your 830 sentiments and those which have been expressed from the benches opposite. As the Leader of the House has said that this is not the only debate that we are to have on this subject, surely there ought to be some means by which we can move to the next debate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
What should be and what is a fact are two different matters. I have to administer the orders and rules of the House as they are at present in force, and the only way in which I can do that now is by saying "Mr. Janner".
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I am sorry to appear at such an unpopular moment. I do not regard this, as the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine) does, as a matter of pure personal convenience for hon. Members. I regard the fact that we serve about 100,000 people as a matter of considerable importance to those people, and it is equally important that each of us should have reasonable facilities in which to work and in which properly to perform our parliamentary duties.
It is also important that the building should be aesthetically satisfying. It is a matter of importance, whether we are on one side or the other, that the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) should have raised it. I disagree with him, but it is right that he should have raised it and it is right that we should have had the opportunity to debate it.
I shall not cover ground that has been covered by others. I believe that we shall never agree about the aesthetic qualities of any building that any architect ever produces. It is a miracle that we can ever reach agreement on such a subject among three of us, and agreement among 630 of us would be an utter impossibility. All that I have found amazing about the debate is that I have agreed with so much of what was said by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). If he had not added one or two final sentences it would have been a world record.
We shall never all agree completely, and if we wait until we are all agreed we shall never have a building. In that case, by the time most of us have left this building there will still be no proper 831 places for Members to work—and not only Members, but their secretaries, the staff, research assistants, and so on. In this respect we are not as some others, because we work ungodly hours and the staff have to work ungodly hours with us, and it matters to the staff and it matters to our constituents. I therefore make no excuse for continuing the debate.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
Would my hon. and learned Friend explain how he comes to have a staff? I have part of a secretary—and the Government pretend to be generous when they provide me with £1,000 for part of a secretary—when I have to serve tens of thousands of people. I have to work in unsatisfactory accommodation with only part of a secretarial staff to do it.
§ Mr. Janner
My hon. Friend is right. I was referring to the staff of the building, and there are some hundreds. As my hon. Friend has said, some hon. Members have half a secretary and some have more than that; some have research assistants and some do not; some work here all the time and some do other jobs. Everybody operates in his own way.
I enjoyed the witty speech by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) about gossip being the purpose of being here, but that is not my purpose. It is important to be able to meet people in the corridors and lobbies, but it is equally important to have somewhere to work.
§ Mr. Janner
The hon. Member wastes far more time with his interventions than my speech would have taken.
There is a factor that concerns me personally as much as it concerns other lion. Members. The hon. Member for Cannock said that when we were planning the new building we should have some regard to security. I was in the Old Bailey yesterday when it was blown up and I was blown down. The answer to the security problem is not that we should have a building without glass, as the hon. Member for Cannock suggested. The only people in the Old Bailey yesterday who were safe were the prisoners, and they were in the cells.
832 It does not make sense to have a building without glass just because someone may sabotage it. We should plan the building as a unit with proper security arrangements. Buildings cannot be planned as fortresses without glass on the basis that lunatics may try to blow people up, as they did some of us yesterday. We must plan the proper security arrangements such as were not made yesterday.
We have to concern ourselves with the new building and we have to concern ourselves with the old. While the new building is going up during the course of the next 10 years, we must concern ourselves with getting proper facilities for those who work here. We must concern ourselves with proper security arrangements for this building while the new building is going up, and not wait for something ghastly to happen before we come to life.
§ Mr. Winterton
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that security is built into the proposed building and that grills can be dropped down between the four pillars to prevent any member of the public going into the central part?
§ Mr. Janner
I am aware of it and I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to it. It is no use having security arrangements unless they are put into operation. Yesterday, when the order was given for the building to be evacuated, instead of the occupants going out through the centre and the back of the building which would have been safe, they were shepherded out to the glass front as a result of which more than 100 people were injured and one person was killed. The building must be properly secure and the security arrangements must be adhered to.
We must somehow try to come to a conclusion. I am satisfied that the Select Committee has come to the right conclusion. I happen to like the proposed building, others happen not to like it. It is no answer to suggest that we should wait. We have waited for a long time and we cannot wait indefinitely. The facilities are needed. The building is adventurous, exciting and different and will, I believe, blend in. We do not want another pseudo-Victorian or pseudo-Gothic building.
833 I was at the University of Cambridge, where the colleges are an agglomeration of different styles, each one of a different period. Every time a new building was put up there was disagreement about it, and suggestions that it would destroy the beauty of the existing colleges. By the time the new building had been there for 50 or 100 years, although there were sometimes discussions and arguments, it was generally agreed that it blended in with the scenery which is as beautiful as it is varied.
The new building should go ahead as quickly as possible, and we are fortunate to have had the opportunity of this debate.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine) for intervening. To debate for the next quarter of an hour or 20 minutes the plight of millions of commuters would be an insult to them. It would be ridiculous, particularly as my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) has so wisely and cleverly managed to introduce a debate on the new parliamentary building.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
The Minister was in attendance and ready to make a brief intervention which would have been relevant to a situation which is causing grave concern. The debate need only have been short. If my hon. Friend would curtail—
§ Mr. Fell
I humbly bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure you are right, and, therefore, my humble bowing to you is from conviction.
834 I was rudely shot down by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) in that he did not allow me to ask a question when he said that glass was a new medium. For Heaven's sake, has he read no history? Does not he understand that glass is one of the oldest media?
§ Mr. Fell
Glass of all sorts. Just because the stained glass at Chartres is better than the stained glass in Notre Dame does not mean that the stained glass in Chartres is older than the stained glass in Notre Dame.
My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East, with his typical generosity, has just walked out of the Chamber saying, immediately behind me, that what I am saying is a complete waste of time. Anything that my hon. Friend raises in the House, from his enormous experience here, which is so much longer than mine, is of the greatest importance, and it would be vulgar in the extreme for me to raise anything which might keep him out of his position for more than five seconds. So I will try my best not to keep him out for longer than possible.
Glass, of course, as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, on thinking of the matter more deeply, will realise—I am not trying to needle him—is one of the oldest materials used for decoration that the world has known.
§ Mr. Maclennan
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, particularly since I did not give way to him. I was referring not to the novelty of glass as a medium but to the novelty of its use in this way, where its quality is partly as a reflecting surface which would accommodate the other buildings in the environment.
§ Mr. Fell
With respect, the use of paint in the way that Sutherland has used his paint in his latest paintings, which are eulogised by all the art critics of London, is a new way of using paint, but I have more regard for the uses of paint by the older school than by some of the modern school, who, through their gimmickry and the floating of their ideas on an ignorant public early in their lives, have managed, some of them, to create 835 an impression which is a fleeting one and which will disappear quickly.
The report on this building says:The Royal Fine Art Commission stated that the winning design was the best of those submitted and that it would be a good neighbour to the existing buildings.Why on earth do we suddenly think that it is a wonderful thing that the Royal Fine Art Commission has approved of this? Who were the members of this Commission? Was Kenneth Clark one? I do not know, but if he was not, people who were his students or who are of his ilk were members. In one of his wonderful series of lectures on the world of art over the last 1,000 years—
§ Mr. Fell
Although he dealt summarily with Greek art, he concentrated mostly on the early Renaissance art and onwards. One of the things he said was that David was one of the great artists of the world. Anyone who can say that after spending his life studying art is not frightfully reliable in his estimation of the arts of the world. It is incredible that a man of such eminence should say this of David.
§ Mr. Neville Sandelson (Hayes and Harlington)
Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell the House what possible relevance what he is saying at the moment has to the matter with which the House is concerned?
§ Mr. Fell
The hon. Member is always so kind to all hon. Members that of course I will try to enlighten him as to what I am talking about. I had referred, as he will know, since he has been here throughout the debate, to the Royal Fine Art Commission and its statement that the winning design was the best of those submitted. I then said, through sheer ignorance, that I was not sure whether Lord Kenneth Clark was a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission. If he was not, he is certainly someone who is more important, probably, than all the rest of the members of the Royal Fine Art Commission put together. I said that our ideas and views on art are transitory. I then said that Lord Kenneth Clark's opinion that David was one of the great artists is a view to be taken lightly.
I do not wish to take up the time of the House. I am grateful to my hon. 836 Friend the Member for Cannock, contrary to the extraordinary speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell), who was so extremely but characteristically rude to my hon. Friend. My position is one of slight humility. I do not pretend to know what future generations will say about the extraordinary building at which we have looked in the Lobby. However, I know that it offends everything that is within me from the point of view of beauty and architecture.
I know nothing about architecture—
§ Mr. Fell
The hon. Gentleman says "What about Sutherland?" in order to needle me. I do not pretend to understand Sutherland's latest pictures. I have looked at them. I have tried to understand them, but I have not succeeded. It may well be that I am ignorant and that I do not know anything about architecture. However, I have studied something about the architects who have stood the test of history, which is more than a lot of hon. Members have done.
When I look at the architecture of the new building I am appalled and horrified. That is not because it may not serve the purposes of hon. Members. I know that the present provision is bad enough. On the other hand, I have the greatest admiration for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells), when he said that this funny old place—he did not use that phrase; his words were more elegant and had much more to them than mine—serves its purpose after a fashion. I have been here, with the exception of when I was thrown out in 1966 until I came back in 1970—
§ Mr. Fell
All right, so we all make mistakes. The hon. Gentleman is saying that my constituents have made mistakes. They made a mistake in 1966, but they did not in 1970. Perhaps I may try to say something without taking too much time. I have been in this House, except from 1966 to 1970, for 18 or 19 years. I have not counted the years.
§ Mr. Jennings
We all know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is in order to refer to an hon. Member as an hon. Gentleman, but to put before that phrase the word "little" in a derogatory way is out of order.
§ Mr. Fell
I am grateful to you for your kindly and generous protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which after my long time in this House is pleasant to have. I have managed for some time to get by, in spite of remarks by the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher)—at least I think he is honourable.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I move, going back to a precedent from the last century, that the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) be no longer heard. He is drivelling.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that is the procedure in another place rather than here. The hon. Gentleman will have to wait until he gets there.
§ Mr. Fell
Perhaps one of the most pleasant things to be suggested to an hon. Member is that he should be a member of another place. It so happens that, unlike certain hon. Friends of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), this hon. Gentleman is unlikely to go to another place. I have been here for some years and I have managed to survive—despite the fact that only recently, after some 18 years in the House 838 on and off, I have ben awarded an office. I have found the office which I have been awarded to be of great use, but at the same time the House of Commons faces an enormous difficulty. If the House seeks to widen the facilities to such an extent that every Member has his own office, his own research department, and everything else, the net result will be that hon. Members will spend no time in using the normal friendly fraternisation places of the House.
§ Mr. Winterton
Would my hon. Friend not agree that if we are provided with better facilities, we shall be better able to serve our constituents? I can assure my hon. Friend that, even though I have been here for only 18 months, I quickly came to the conclusion that I could do a considerably better job with better facilities.
§ Mr. Fell
There was a time when the Smoking Room of the House of Commons was crowded before and after lunch with Members of Parliament, but in these days the Smoking Room is almost empty. This emptiness has coincided with the awarding of offices to Members all over the Palace, and now we are talking about providing Members with even more offices. The danger is that the House of Commons as a working organisation will change to an inordinate degree and that this will do nothing but harm to the workings of the Palace of Westminster.
Since I am reminded by my hon. Friends that there is little time left, although I have much more to say I shall sit down straight away.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Neville Sandelson (Hayes and Harlington)
Much of what the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) said was more by way of a divertissement than a serious contribution to the debate. The hon. Member referred to the Smoking Room. Some hon. Members may share my view that what he had to contribute to the debate might well have been said there rather than here. I felt some sympathy with the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine), who at least had some serious matters to put before the House. I now wish to leave time for the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) to say someing further on the present subject.
839 A Government supporter said a little earlier that now that Britain had entered the European Economic Community, Britain and Parliament were no longer very important. I reject entirely that somewhat astonishing proposition, my view—and I hope that of many other hon. Members—being that our entry will mean an accretion of power to Britain and a very much wider franchise in which this Parliament will operate.
The question is whether the Government should, without further delay, take steps for the construction of the new parliamentary building. This debate in regard to the building goes back many years, and was resolved, one had hoped for good, by the approval given by the House four years ago to the Bridge Street site. I appreciate that a decision to build cannot be taken today, but is there sufficient reason for the Government to drag their feet as they appear to be doing in the provision of new facilities?
§ Mr. Channon
I must make it perfectly clear that this is a matter for the House of Commons to settle, not for the Government. The Government will do what the House of Commons wants.
§ Mr. Sandelson
I appreciate that remark, but it was for the Government to have initiated this debate and not to have left it to be discussed on a Friday on a private Member's motion. I hope that the Government will note the strong views that have been expressed; and what I believe to be the majority feeling in the House that construction should start without further dragging of feet.
As it is not quite two years since I became a Member I am not yet inured to the intolerable conditions in which we work, nor am I blasé about the need to overcome them. After all this time I have only this week been allocated a desk in the House itself. I am grateful for this, but it is a desk in a small and overcrowded room. As a London Member I have many individual constituents and many representatives of organisations coming to see me here. I encourage them to do so, but I am not permitted to take them to this small and overcrowded room in which I have my desk. I have to wander off with them from the Central Lobby in search of any nook or cranny that happens to 840 be available. As has been said, one cannot have one's secretary in this room for dictation or to do her typing or use the telephone. It is a ludicrous and bizarre situation and one which must be resolved without further delay.
We are sent here to do a job and there can be only one central issue in the debate. Are we equipped with the necessary tools to do that job as well and as efficiently as is expected of us? The answer is unchallengably "No". Therefore, all other arguments for delay merely distract from that essential point.
I do not have sufficient time to answer some of the objections raised. It is said that this is not the right time. When is the right time? When is there not a time when public expenditure runs high and social priorities must be taken into account? If a head office is not efficiently organised, that is bound to be reflected in the rest of the organisation. So it is with the House and the country.
It is said that the building will cost a great deal. Of course it will; large buildings do. The Bridge Street building will occupy, as we all recognise, a most prestigious site. But it will cost a great deal more, for certain, if construction is delayed for very much longer. There has been much discussion about the aesthetics of the building and its design. I happen to like it, and other hon. Members share that feeling. Equally, I respect those hon. Members who dislike the design. It is certain that it is solely a matter of individual taste and that there will inevitably be many different points of view.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) said that it could be left to a Committee of the House to resolve such questions as will inevitably arise in regard to the internal arrangements of the new building, they are entirely flexible, and that this is a matter which can be dealt with in due course.
Some hon. Members have mentioned that we should use what they choose to call, somewhat euphemistically, the Norman Shaw building, by which I take it that they mean the old but now discarded Scotland Yard. To my knowledge, that is a rabbit warren, unsuitable as a CID headquarters and equally unsuitable for our use. It would be an utterly false economy for us to attempt to 841 convert that building or any other building for modern usage.
The Government are right to press on with the construction of the car park, although I regret that adequate time was not provided for archaeological exploration. The country will think that the Government are right to put the machinery of the House on a modern basis by going ahead with the new parliamentary building.
We do not ask for mollycoddling or luxury. I do not care whether the building has sauna baths and the massage facilities that go with them nowadays, or whether the building has a shooting gallery. What we require are adequate modern facilities with which to get on with our job and to do that to the best of our ability.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
I should like two assurances from the Minister, which I think he can give. If we go ahead with the new building, will there be a preliminary investigation on which an informed decision on the archaelogical importance of the area will be taken? What action will be taken in advance of the destruction by modern development, and will this be phased so that the archaelogical work can begin at least a year before the main construction? May we have those assurances?
§ Mr. Channon
I cannot at this stage commit myself to a definite time. I have already told the hon. Gentleman that plans for the archaelogical work are well advanced. Some preliminary surveys have been carried out. This will be an important factor if the House decides to go ahead with the modern building. I cannot go into this question at five minutes to 4 o'clock without notice, but if the hon. Gentleman cares to table a Question I shall do my best to answer it.
§ Mr. Dalyell
In view of what happened over New Palace Yard, we want conditions where negative evidence can be established.
Finally, we need, above all, the new Ancient Monuments Bill which is in draft form. Only finding time in Parliament prevents the measure from coming forward.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Cormack
With the leave of the House, and with grateful thanks to the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) and West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)—who, I know, had far more to say than they have said—I will say a few words and then seek leave to withdraw the motion.
This has been a very helpful and wide-ranging debate. I expressed the hope earlier that it would be so. It has been rather more wide-ranging, particularly in its latter stages, than I thought it would be. We have had the opportunity to discuss a very important question. I am sorry that we have no chance to get on to the next motion. I expressed the hope earlier that we would be able to do so. However, it is right that Parliament should decide what it is to discuss on any particular day.
I was fortunate enough to win first place in the ballot and I am delighted to have been able to afford the House an opportunity to discuss a matter of vital importance to Members of Parliament, their constituents, the British taxpayers and the whole philosophy of British democracy, for it concerns the function and future of a Member, and how he can best fulfil that function in the future.
It is still my hope and belief—despite the eloquence of the speeches, my mind has not been changed—that the building will not be erected.
§ Mr. Cormack
I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), who has enlivened us with his presence, to desist for a moment. I accept that this is not a representative House. That is not the fault of hon. Members. Today of all days has presented difficulties for hon. Members to get here. Friday is not the best day for a decision of this fundamental importance to be taken.
I therefore urge my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, for whose presence I am very grateful, as I am for that of my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction, to provide a very early opportunity, before Easter, when we can have a definitive debate and a vote. It is essential that the future of this project should be settled beyond doubt before the House rises for 843 Easter. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do his best to arrange that.
My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction has asked me to convey to the House his assurance that all the points that have been raised for and against will be carefully considered by himself and by his right hon. and hon. Friends so that a further statement can be made in our next debate.
With that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion be withdrawn?
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I want to make one or two points before the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) gets the leave of the House to withdraw the motion.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am sorry that I was not here for the opening part of the debate, although I heard the bulk of the speech by the hon. Member for Cannock.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The hon. Member for Cannock expressed views on a matter about which he feels strongly. He must appreciate, as I think he does, that some of us feel just as strongly the other way and with a far greater experience of the squalid working conditions which we have had to suffer in this place for far too long. Whether we get a new building or not, it will be a considerable number of years before we get it. Therefore, whatever the decision and whenever the debate takes place we should concentrate immediately—
§ Mr. Hamilton
I should like to see the House of Lords put out completely, into the Palladium, so that the House of Commons could take over this building completely. That would solve at a stroke—
§ It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.