HL Deb 24 March 1882 vol 267 cc1794-7

asked Her Majesty's Government, Whether any deci- sion has been come to as to the site and plans for the new public offices?


The Government have given the most anxious and careful consideration to this question, and have decided to use the site of the present Admiralty and Spring Gardens for new buildings, in which the War Office and Admiralty will be concentrated. It is proposed to purchase a few houses fronting Charing Cross, and to take over from the Office of Works the whole of New Street, Spring Gardens Terrace, and one side of Spring Gardens, and to pull down the existing Admiralty. By this means space will be obtained for a large quadrangle between the Horse Guards and Spring Gardens, on which both War Office and Admiralty can be built. This scheme has the great advantage of bringing the War Office and Admiralty under one roof, and of placing the War Office next to the Horse Guards. It will give about 59,000 square feet to the War Office, and about 52,800 square feet to the Admiralty, which is considered to be ample. The noble Lord complains that land will be taken from the Park. It is true that a small piece of land will be taken from the Park; but, on the other hand, the much larger area of the gardens in Spring Gardens Terrace will be thrown into the Park and given up to the public. As regards the cost of the site, it is estimated that the private property to be purchased and Crown land will together amount to something under £500,000. A large portion of this sum will be merely a book transaction between two Departments. This estimated amount might be very much reduced, if thought desirable, by the sale of property already purchased in Great George Street and by Winchester House, and also by giving up all the houses in Pall Mall now rented at £7,500 per annum. The cost of building these Offices, taken roughly, will be about £670,000, which would be spread over a number of years. Next year the large amount of £160,000 a-year now spent on erecting public buildings will cease, owing to their completion; and the Government think the time has arrived when this great improvement, so long delayed, may fairly be undertaken. The noble Lord, who was Chairman of the Committee which sat in 1877, and who has always taken great interest in this subject, will at once perceive that, while giving the accommodation required, this plan will be carried out at a very economical rate. The noble Lord complains that this site has been adopted contrary to the recommendations of all the Committees which have ever sat. He must remember, however, that the Committee over which he presided had a proposal somewhat similar to this before them, only in a more expensive and extended form, and that it was one of the three suggested schemes embodied in their Report. The noble Lord must also remember that that Committee, after sitting a great many times, were unable to come to any definite decision, and merely submitted the proposals, throwing the onus of determining what was best on the Government. A Bill was introduced last night by the First Commissioner of Works in the other House for acquiring the necessary lands; so the noble Lord will have further opportunities, when the Bill comes up to this House, of discussing the question.


expressed some disappointment that it was not proposed to continue the public buildings to the end of Parliament Street, thereby securing a fine, wide, handsome approach from Charing Cross to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. He had, more than 30 years ago, advocated the purchase of all the freeholds between Downing Street and Great George Street, the interests of the occupiers to be dealt with from time to time as new offices were to be erected. Many of the houses were those of a poor description, and, consequently, the cost would have been comparatively inconsiderable. The opportunity had been neglected, those buildings had been replaced by new ones, and the whole property had greatly increased in value.


urged that one of the first duties of the Government was to elevate the character of our public Offices.


asked whether the Government had determined to take any steps with a view of relieving the block of traffic at present experienced at Hyde Park Corner; and, if so, if they would state what was the nature of their scheme?


said, he was sorry he was unable to give the noble Earl any promise as to the plans being submitted for inspection; but he believed it was usual to lay similar plans on the Table of the Library, and he would make further inquiry. As regarded the Hyde Park Corner question, he was unable, without Notice, to give the noble Earl any information about it, as the whole matter was still under consideration. In respect to the Question of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees, as to Great George Street, he was afraid he had been misunderstood. What he said was, that if thought desirable to sell it, the sale of the property purchased on the Great George Street site would meet, to a very large extent, the cost of the new site; but he did not say that it had been so decided.