HL Deb 06 July 1927 vol 68 cc232-6

My Lords, I beg to ask the Lord Chairman if he can inform the House what progress has been made in regard to the Peers' War Memorial and the redecoration of the Royal Gallery. I have nothing to say about the Question, except that it is nearly nine years now since the War and I think it is high time that progress should be made.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for drawing attention to this matter. I am sure he does not wish me to understand his last sentence as a request that I should explain why nine years have passed since the War with this matter before us. Your Lordships will remember that the actual Committee dealing with this matter was only appointed in May, 1925, and I am sure it would not be in the interests of your Lordships that I should revive the controversies of the seven years before, when people took a great interest in various questions of alternative sites and so on. These questions were settled but not until after a rough passage, which resulted, as all rough passages do, in the spending of a good deal of time.

I think I can shortly answer the noble Lord's Question and bring the matter up to date if I refer to the Report of the Committee which was appointed last Session and re-appointed this Session, with power to deal with this matter of the Memorial. Therein your Lordships will see two things: (1), that the Committee have accepted a sketch model for the Memorial; and (2), a statement as regards the removal of the golden statues, which are familiar to your Lordships' eyes. It is quite true that the design for the statue has been accepted, and I understand that the larger model has made very good progress in the hands of our sculptor, Mr. Tweed. The question of the golden statues at each side of the alcove has again come up for reconsideration as the result of certain correspondence and discussion, with the details of which I need not trouble your Lordships. It is satisfactory to say that I have heard from our sculptor, who says that he does not think that whatever is decided about the golden statues affects the carrying out of his design, as that has always been in his mind. Therefore there should be no delay on that head.

That is the position as regards the Memorial. But I should also tell your Lordships that the Committee have had in preparation a Memorial Book, in which it is proposed to have inserted the names of all those with whom the Memorial is concerned. The designs for the book were approved in December, 1925. Each name appears on a separate sheet, with a record of the services, and so on. There are 243 sheets in all, and three-quarters of them are actually finished. Some more are expected next week; I do not know exactly the number. But at any rate I think it is satisfactory that, so far as that book is concerned, the matter is very well forward, and should be completed this year. The special binding for the book has been decided on, and designs for a case are under consideration, but not yet finally settled.

I think that brings the information that I have as regards the actual Memorial up to date, but the noble Lord also addresses a Question to me as regards the redecoration of the Royal Gallery. That is really more in the province of my noble friend the Lord Great Chamberlain, although, of course, I am concerned. Your Lordships will remember that the House approved of the suggestion of the Lord Great Chamberlain that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chairman, as representing the House of Lords, should be brought into consultation with him when plans became ripe enough. That time has apparently not yet arrived, because I have not yet been called into consultation with the Lord Great Chamberlain, but I have no doubt I shall receive an official communication from him when the time comes.

But I think I ought to inform your Lordships that, earlier in the year, I was in correspondence with Lord Iveagh, whose name is mentioned in the Report referred to, in connection with this big scheme in the Royal Gallery, and I think it would relieve some anxiety I have heard expressed outside—not within your Lordships' House, where these things are better known—if I read a paragraph from his letter:— I hope your Lordships will realise I am doing nothing beyond preparing a sample picture to be offered in position for the Peers to see and approve of, and the Office of Works is experimenting with an improved system of lighting. I need hardly say it is my intention, and has always been my intention, when the Lord Great Chamberlain thinks fit to call me into consultation, in conjunction with the Lord Chancellor and the First Commissioner of Works, to make it my business to see that before anything is finally decided your Lordships have every opportunity of considering the proposals and expressing your opinion of them.


My Lords, perhaps it would be to the advantage of the House if I let the House know exactly how the position stands at the present moment. On August 7, 1925, the House agreed to accept a recommendation of the House of Lords Offices Committee that they would regard with warm approval the acceptance of the generous offer made by Lord Iveagh for completing the decoration of the Royal Gallery at his own expense, under conditions that were set out in the Report of July 9, 1925. As the Chairman of Committees has stated, Lord Iveagh's proposal was accepted on the understanding that it was carried out in conjunction with the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Office of Works, and I suggested that the Lord Chancellor and the Chairman of Committees should be added as representatives of your Lordships' House, as I well knew the confidence which your Lordships have in their wisdom, and how well they would look after the interests of the House, to which they belong.

This is the present position: Lord Iveagh entrusted the responsibility of making the mural decorations to Mr. Frank Brangwyn. I may say at once that Lord Iveagh's intention was to carry out what was the original plan of the architects of this great building, and to cover the large panels with paintings, no alteration being made in the structure of any sort or description. That, I am glad to say, has had the entire approval of the Royal Commission on Fine Arts, which was called in by the First Commissioner of Works for consultation as to what the decoration of the Royal Gallery should be. They decided, I believe unanimously, that no structural alterations of any sort or kind in the Royal Gallery should be permitted, and Lord Iveagh never had any idea of the sort in making his generous offer. In addition to the mural decoration, the noble Earl most generously said that he would pay for the alteration in the lighting. The Office of Works are past-masters at that—your Lordships know the magnificent way in which the lighting of this Chamber is carried out at the opening of Parliament—and a very line scheme of lighting from the ceiling has been partially carried out by the Office of Works. I have seen one portion of the roof lit up and I am glad to say that the Fine Arts Commission were kind enough to come down and see it. They will report as to whether they would advise your Lordships' House to accept that scheme, but their report has not yet been sent in. In my humble opinion the scheme is a magnificent one and I very much hope that it will be carried out.

Mr. Brangwyn, the artist, has completed the cartoons for the pictures of the two end walls of the Royal Gallery—there are to be panels at each end of the Royal Gallery—and all details are ready for carrying forward the work on the full-size pictures. The artist hopes to have those for one end of the hall ready for inspection by your Lordships in about three months' time. I hope the House will appreciate the good work that has been done in a very short time by Mr. Brangwyn. I think the whole, when completed, will be a beautiful setting for the gem of the Peers' War Memorial in memory of those brave men who fought and died for their country.

House adjourned at five minutes past seven o'clock.