HL Deb 04 July 1934 vol 93 cc324-48

LORD RENNELL had given Notice that he would move to resolve, That the monuments, historical and architectural, of the Capital City of the country are matters of national and not solely municipal concern, as would also be any radical modification of sites familiar from long association; and that, therefore, independently of the source from which funds for the purpose may be derived, no interference with such monuments or sites as may be scheduled by a Commission appointed for the purpose should be undertaken without reference to and approval obtained from Parliament.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Resolution which stands in my name is designedly of a very general character. If, as I hope it may, it should secure favour and support, much thought and careful examination, and investigation no doubt of particular interests which may be involved would be necessary before any measure could be framed to give effect to it. Let me begin by saying that such an affirmation of principle is not inspired by any desire to criticise anything that has taken place in the past, even though I may have been myself a little surprised at the almost exulting manner in which the recent demolition of Waterloo Bridge was commenced in virtue, I understand, of an old Statute of the time of George III. But I will frankly admit that it was the conflict of view of which we have had recent experience between a majority of the representatives of the nation and a majority of the London County Council which suggested to me that it would be opportune to determine with whom the ultimate decision should lie when it was proposed to modify or to demolish buildings of an historic or artistic value in the national capital.

In the first place let us bear in mind—there is no need to remind your Lordships of it—that this venerable City, which was already an important trading market as long ago as the days of Tacitus, has claims upon sentiment such as few other cities can boast. Not only is it the Capital of a great people, but it also represents the heart and in a sense the Metropolis of a greater Commonwealth of Nations whose citizens many thousands of miles away, even though they have never actually seen it with their own eyes, are familiar by tradition and illustration with its every monument, with the aspect of its streets and its squares and with the river frontage of what, after many generations, they still refer to as "home."

It would be superfluous and unnecessary in such an assembly for me to enumerate or to enlarge upon the kind of monument that I have in view. Time and circumstance have already deprived us of much that we would gladly have seen preserved. The Great Fire of London left only some seven of the City churches standing, and who will contest, that such edifices as St. Bartholomew's or St. Giles', Cripplegate, where lie buried John Milton and his father and Martin Frobisher, the pilot of the Pole, are not of national interest? I have also included in the Resolution sites which from long association have become indisputably associated with popular and national sentiment—such, for instance, as Broad Sanctuary and Trafalgar Square—any important modification in which would to my mind be inconceivable, without the national assent.

It will perhaps be contended by those who may differ from me, if there are any, that London is a very wealthy City and perfectly well able to look after itself. That is no doubt, true in that all concerns administration and the amenities and conveniences of so great a City, but there may well be obligations of sentiment which it would transcend the capacity of even a well-provided municipality to discharge, and which at the same time it would be a national obligation to fulfil. I do not wish to suggest for a moment that the Corporation of the City of London or the London County Council or any of those administrative bodies which look after Crown, State, or ecclesiastical property are in the least likely to be possessed with a wave of iconoclasm, or that they are any less likely to be zealous in matters which concern national sentiment than any of ourselves. But it is in the natural order of things that such bodies should be to some extent governed in their deliberations by material and economic considerations, and therefore the dignity and preservation of the monuments of this venerable City seem, to my mind, properly to be a trusteeship which should be ultimately controlled by the representatives of the nation.

I will give those who differ from me, as a present, the argument which they may use that it was a Resolution of Parliament which decreed the destruction and the fusion of Lesueur's statue of Charles I, and that it was due only to the loyalty and perhaps the artistic sense of the brazier River to whom the job was entrusted that the finest equestrian monument in London was hidden and preserved, to be re-erected when times were more propitious. Happily such an occasion is not likely to arise again. I should like to add, especially to-day, with very cordial appreciation, that I saw an announcement, yesterday that the present London County Council, after a long period of apathy on the part of their predecessors, have taken a decision to co-operate with private enterprise to the amount of £50,000 in saving the site of the Foundling Hospital to be an open space and a happy playground for the children of this great City. What private enterprise has done there also has been remarkable and worthy of all commendation; but the fountains of private enterprise are not inexhaustible. They are being drained to-day by over-taxation, and the calls which are made upon this self-imposed form of super-tax are increasing daily almost beyond endurance.

My experience in other countries has shown me that the course which I am advocating has found acceptance there. That remarkable leader who has for some ten years presided over the destinies of Italy some years ago laid down very definitely the principle that the status and decorum of the national capital was not solely a municipal but was a national concern, and that the cost of important works to contribute to its dignity and embellishment should, if necessary, be provided from national funds. I think that any who have seen what has been done in the last few years to increase the interest and the magnificence of Rome will admit that a most important result has been obtained, and I have met with hardly any critics except those few eccentrics who would prefer to see grass growing in the streets of the ancient capital of nations, and rows of mean houses, occupying and disfiguring sites of immense historic value. I do not think that the case which I have the honour to submit to your Lordships will gain by diffuseness. I have stated it as briefly as it admitted of. I am anxious to obtain an affirmation of that principle which is in the Resolution before you; and I therefore beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That the monuments, historical and architectural, of the Capita] City of the country are matters of national and not solely municipal concern, as would also be any radical modification of sites familiar from long association; and that, therefore, independently of the source from which funds for the purpose may be derived, no interference with such monuments or sites as may be scheduled by a Commission appointed for the purpose should be undertaken without reference to and approval obtained from Parliament.—(Lord Rennell.)


My Lords, the Motion which the noble Lord has placed upon the Order Paper is one which so far as its motive goes will command the immediate and united support of everyone in your Lordships' House. London is not so rich in beautiful things that we want to see even one of them wantonly destroyed, and therefore a discussion as to the best way to preserve them and to extend our knowledge and appreciation of them cannot be other than useful. But the Motion as it is stated creates a certain amount of alarm in the minds of those responsible for municipal administration, and I propose to deal first of all with the viewpoint of the London County Council with regard to it. I may properly say at this point that I ought not to burden my friends behind me with responsibility for the unpopularity of that admirable but suspected and harassed and unappreciated body. I therefore speak entirely for myself.

If it is true, as this Motion states, that the monuments of London "are matters of national and not solely municipal concern", it becomes of interest to local authorities to enquire what the nation's stake in these monuments happens to be, and whether the control of such monuments is to rest with the nation while their protection and their upkeep are to fall upon the local ratepayers. Is it proposed, as a matter of equity, that Parliament should bear a part of the expense, should share in the burden as well as in the benefits of these monuments scheduled as matters of national concern? Or is it proposed that Parliament should satisfy its passion for beauty in the West End of London at the charge of the ratepayers of Shoreditch and Limehouse who are rarely able to participate in it?

The London County Council, I repeat, regards the suggestion with some apprehension. The effect of the Motion would appear to be that a body not accountable in any way to the ratepayers would have the power to sterilise the use of buildings and land vested in local authorities in London for the purpose of enabling them to carry out specific statutory duties, and would be in a position to hamper those authorities, in certain cases as regards their use of such lands and buildings, while the expense of maintaining them would remain a burden on the local rates; and this is proposed notwithstanding the fact that the Motion lays it down that such buildings are to be deemed to be matters of national and not solely municipal concern. In the view of the London County Council that proposal is constitutionally objectionable, and it would in their opinion in practice prove to be unworkable. I should like to illustrate the difficulty by a reference to the County Hall on the other side of Westminster Bridge. This was built by the people of London at their own expense and, judged by any high standard of dignity and efficiency, it is a very notable structure. It is destined, as we believe, to be regarded as one of the great architectural achievements of the age in which we live. Is it really suggested that the authority that built the County Hall, and that worthily uses it, must ask the permission of Parliament, which has no financial concern with it, that did nothing to build it, and that frequently harassed the Council in the prosecution of its work—is it proposed that the Council must ask Parliament whether it may adapt that building to meet the needs of its own services?

If the question is one of efficiency, I believe that the London County Council could with some assurance instruct Parliament itself, both in regard to the character of its building and in regard to the method by which it does its work. As a workshop for the performance of certain specific duties, the County Hall is as much superior to the Houses of Parliament as for medical purposes a well-equipped clinic is superior to a draughty barn, and before this Motion is passed the London County Council would like to urge, with all the modesty it can command, that it should be the custodian of its own property. London local government is getting tired of the perpetual snubs to which it is subjected, and to which no other local authority in this country is subjected, and it objects to be put in this position of inferiority. We allege, that the powers that already exist are sufficient for the purpose for which they wore framed. We consider that to extend the control of Parliament to buildings under the control of the local authorities would be unjustified, and would, be an infringement upon their rightful authority, and that such infringement would have serious results.

The existing legislation was designed to preserve and protect monuments of general national and historical importance. Some of London's monuments are of that character and some are not. If anybody proposed to pull down Westminster Abbey I, personally, would do my very utmost to prevent him from doing so. If, on the other hand, he proposed to pull down Waterloo Bridge, or the national monument to Nurse Cavell, who is suffering her second martyrdom in St. Martin's Place, I should certainly not got in his way. But if this Motion becomes effective it will hamper local authorities in the use of their lands and buildings, which have been entrusted to them and which are necessary for the efficient performance of their duties. A national monument should be character- ised by age and historical interest. Which are and which are not monuments of that character may well be left to the local authorities to decide.

I can raise no kind of complaint as to the tone or courtesy of the noble Lord in introducing this Motion, but there was behind his speech an implied censure of the London County Council. The noble Lord illustrated what could be done by the State by what had taken place under the rule of Mussolini with regard to the Capital City of Rome. Well, my Lords, if the noble Lord will give me the powers which are given to Mussolini in Rome I will make improvements of the same character. I will see that St. Paul's Churchyard does not crowd and destroy the dignity of Wren's great masterpiece, and I will make certain other clearances upon the same terms. The fact that I should have the noble Lord supporting that work will encourage me to work harder for the return to power of a Labour Government, when we should have, I am sure, support in doing work of that character.

This Motion suggests, however, that only in the reverent and intelligent hands of Parliament are these national monuments safe. Let us test that by reference to the past, and enquire who have been, the vandals in these matters—Parliament or the local authorities. Let us test that by one or two illustrations. There was the celebrated case of the Painted Chamber. That could have been rebuilt and preserved. It came within the ambit of these matters. It was of national and historical importance. It was familiar from long association, and the old pictures show that it could have been preserved and restored. Yet Parliament not only did not protect it, but swept it away. That was not done by the Labour County Council, but by the Tories and Whigs of the early nineteenth century.

There was the case of St. Stephen's Chapel. There were, in that, two parties concerned. On the one hand there was the Gothic-minded section, who wanted the Chapel rebuilt, and on the other hand, there was the dominant party that perpetrated these buildings in which we meet. So we have these buildings, which are neither historical nor suitable for the purpose for which they were built, and their present piebald condition suggests that Parliament did not even know how to re-build what had been destroyed. That takes away from Parliament, I suggest, the very last claim it has to be regarded as a satisfactory guardian of these great treasures. And instead of St. Stephen's Chapel we have now St. Stephen's Hall, in which innocent visitors indulge in prolonged and impatient meditation on their way to the Strangers' Gallery. That was not clone by the London County Council. That was done by Parliament, into whose hands the noble Lord would entrust these treasures. Then there was the case of the Holbein Gateway, built by Henry VIII, leading through Whitehall Palace. It was removed in 1757 as part of a scheme for improving the approach from Charing Cross to Westminster. Again the London County Council was not responsible. There was the case of the old London Bridge built in the reign of King John—which, like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, was one of the sights of the world. It was removed in 1831, long before the London County Council was created.

Then there was the case of Temple Bar, a Wren structure built in 1670, and removed in 1878 and 1879—because it obstructed traffic, if you please! The stones of it were left lying derelict in a stoneyard for ten years, Parliament was not in the least concerned, and it had to be rescued by private people and erected in another place. I need not continue, but there were other cases, such as Christ's Hospital, Northumberland House, the Whitehall Tennis Court, and the outrage upon Carlton House Terrace. I personally tremble to think of what would happen to the monuments of London if they were taken from the loving care of the London County Council and entrusted to Parliament, which has been guilty of frequent and flagrant and futile vandalism from one generation to another.

The noble Lord dealt implicitly with the case of Waterloo Bridge as being the occasion, if not the real motive, for bringing this matter before your Lordships' House. I do not desire to avoid discussing that incident, and your Lordships will perhaps expect me to do so, but I ought to say that in this matter I cannot speak for the London County Council as a whole, because, as in every other assembly, some persons are not in favour of any particular policy adopted, and therefore I must not associate the whole of the Council with what I am going to say. But I suggest to your Lordships that the purpose of a bridge is to enable the people to cross a river, and not merely to decorate it, and I would suggest that Waterloo Bridge was not a national monument. It was not built in honour of the Battle of Waterloo, and it did not serve the purpose for which it was built. The Americans have a great word which I wish your Lordships would allow me to use to you—it is the word "debunk." They say that when a thing has got into such a state that it is necessary that the buncombe attached to it should be taken away. The æsthetes have been able to "put it over" that Waterloo Bridge was a great triumph of architecture, that it was unique and irreplaceable, a sanctified monument, a supreme example of great architecture, and that the ghost of Rennie would be disturbed if it were removed. I feel that it is time someone had the courage to say a few plain words concerning it.

I personally have no kind of technical training which entitles me to pass judgment upon any work of architecture, but I did learn to love, and I hope know, beautiful things at the feet of William Morris, the greatest artist and the greatest Socialist that I have ever known, and I believe that Waterloo Bridge was not a great architectural triumph. It was, at its best, a straightforward piece of engineering. It is not vandalism to remove it, and it is not impossible to build a better bridge in its place. Then again Rennie was not an architect at all. He was an engineer. There was a ghost architect somewhere attached to this bridge and Rennie has been wearing his crown—if ghosts do wear crowns; I am not sure—for some time. And it is precisely those parts for which Rennie was responsible that have become derelict. The Battle of Waterloo was fought on June 18, 1815, and the bridge had been begun many years before that time. It was called Waterloo Bridge as a profit-making device of the promoter, who wanted to use the outburst of patriotism at the time to increase the number of tolls that he would be able to take.

In this matter the language of artists is even more imaginative than many of their pictures, but the language of the bargemen who are in danger of being sunk as they pass underneath the arches of Waterloo Bridge has a quality of penetrating, blistering efficiency and a sustained fluency which is in itself a great work of art. Now I always enjoy listening to artists when they give themselves the pleasure of yearning and sighing over works of art. It gives them great comfort, and it supports their belief that they are not as other men; and when the occasion to indulge in these sentiments coincides with the opportunity to goad and defame a Labour Council the theme is absolutely irresistible. I would suggest that when this matter came before Parliament the issue was not dealt with on its merits. I do not want to submit proofs of that, though I could do so if necessary, but on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo Bridge it may be said that there was again a sound of revelry by night And England's Parliament, had gathered then All her bigotry and drivelry. I apologise to the spirit of Lord Byron in passing, but I felt I would just like to say that because I did not want to sit down under the reproach that the position that the majority of the London County Council took could not be defended.

We are not the only people in trouble in matters of that kind. America is in trouble just now about the alteration of the White House, a national monument familiar to everybody, and the President only last week used these words: Architects and builders were men of common sense, and knew how to blend new with old. It is this combination of the old and the new that makes orderly and peaceful progress, not only in building buildings but in building government itself. Well now, the London County Council also loves beauty, and it loves efficiency, and if it has taken a course in regard to a structure which was neither ancient, nor historical, nor perfect in architectural quality, it did so under a stern sense that a certain duty had to be performed. We want beauty to be extended and not restricted, to become a general inheritance and a delight, and we believe that the artists of our own day are capable of interpreting the spirit of our age just as efficiently as artists in previous generations interpreted the spirit of the days in which they lived. Nevertheless we welcome the discussion of this matter as introduced by the noble Lord, and I have ventured to put before you—inefficiently, I fear—a few inquiries and criticisms which I hope will not be entirely disregarded.


My Lords, I feel that the noble Lord must have thoroughly enjoyed himself. I have been wondering all through his speech which phase would in the end predominate, the inferiority complex or the arrogance. On the whole, I think, the arrogance has taken the lead. I am sorry he should have introduced so bellicose a note. It was hardly provoked by what was said by the noble Lord below the gangway. I am sorry he should have gone out of his way to cast ridicule upon those who do believe—against his view—that Waterloo Bridge was a great historic entity in London. We have too few national monuments in England, many too few in our Capital, and the glee with which he and others contemplate the loss of something which he knows—he must know—is dear to untold thousands is, I think, frankly regrettable. But still more regrettable is the deliberate manner in which he ignores this fact, that the destruction of Waterloo Bridge, which is already paralysing the road transport of London, which is still more going to paralyse the water transport of London, and which is going to inflict all kinds of costs and inconveniences on the community as soon as it is found out that the temporary bridge is ceasing to be safe for traffic, is going to inflict the gravest injustice upon South London by putting an absolute stop to its development. I cannot help profoundly regretting the way in which he ignored that fact. The London County Council, without spending more than a day or two in discussing this question after its return to power, did not realise the reactions upon the whole of the far greater problem of Charing Cross.

Let me, before I come to the substance of what Lord Rennell said, deal with one other analogy used by the noble Lord opposite. He asked what right had Parliament to speak on these things—Parliament which in 1757 allowed the gateway in Whitehall to be destroyed? He said, in effect: "London County Council can instruct Parliament in these matters. Look at the building over the road and compare it with this building here. How infinitely superior is the London County Council building." I should hope so. It was built one hundred years after this building. The whole thing has changed since then. Again, he mentioned the Painted Chamber. The Painted Chamber is almost destroyed, and in 1834, if that is the date when it was destroyed, Parliament was not thinking about these things and neither was the local authority. Nobody was thinking about these things then, and it is only because of our great carelessness and oversight in the past that Parliament is interesting itself in these things to-day. As for saying, as Lord Snell said, that the idea proposed in the Motion was wrong and technically was unworkable, he ought not to say that unless he knows how these things are regulated in Paris, in Rome, in Venice, in Berlin, in Brussels, or in Madrid, where this very alliance between the municipality and the State in the Capital Cities is far more intimate than it is in this country and far more effective in consequence. If Lord Snell makes it a personal point and always goes off the deep end, then he is going to injure the interests of the Metropolis for which he is almost as much responsible as the Government.

At the same time let me make one point quite clear. Perhaps it is Lord Rennell's fault for not having defined his Motion more clearly. In technical parlance a monument is something of considerable age and the London County Council building, in my opinion, is not technically a monument. It is a great building, a handsome structure, on the whole commodious. I knew the architect very well indeed who built it, he was a friend of my own; but it is not a monument in the technical sense of the word or in the sense Lord Rennell means it. Nine out of ten of the buildings which Lord Snell mentioned as being possibly potentially threatened have nothing to do with him. Westminster Abbey can be destroyed to-morrow without the London County Council being asked their view. All through his speech he seemed to think that because these buildings are in the area of the London County Council, therefore the London County Council are responsible. Not a bit. I am thinking of really national monuments in the broader sense and at the same time in a more technical sense. I said just now we have got very few in London. No great Capital in the world has got a smaller schedule of monuments in its area of acknowledged international fame and distinction than London. What have we got? Greenwich, the Tower of London, Somerset House, Waterloo Bridge, the Palace of Westminster, and, at the other end of London, Hampton Court. We have got the Palace of Whitehall, and we have got the two great churches and Chelsea. That is under a dozen anyhow. In none of these except Waterloo Bridge are the County Council remotely concerned.

We have lost in the last twenty or thirty years great buildings either through destruction, like Newgate, or through alteration, like the Bank of England, and this country ought to realise the position and not treat the problem in the flippant and sour manner employed by Lord Snell. What we ought to do is to see how we can ensure that what is left is properly preserved to posterity. A good deal is being done in the matter, of course in a rather general fashion. I happen myself to be the Chairman of the Royal Commission which schedules national monuments in different parts of the country. We spent four years in scheduling the national monuments of London. We now know from the historical point of view every national monument in London. We have a full technical description of each of them; we have a plan of every single one, and where photography is possible we have got the prints. Our date, it is true, does not permit us to deal with the national monuments erected in our own time—that is to say, no modern building is included. We have that body of information and 'at the same time we have the powers conferred by the Ancient Monuments Act, which Lord Snell completely ignored.

I do not know why, when talking of his love of beauty and all that, he made no allusion to these two things which reflect the interest and concern of Parliament for forty years. It must be twenty-five years since I myself passed a Bill through Parliament to extend the Ancient Monuments Act. Under that Act, subjected as it always is to limitation of finance, the Government have tremendous powers to prevent the demolition, and in certain cases to prevent actually the bad restoration, of existing ancient monuments. I fear it is no good talking about giving greater power to the Government in these matters, because they always come back to us and say: "Well, go to the Treasury and see if they will give you a quarter of a million." So let us extend the powers we have already got. The Treasury on the whole have treated us very well in the matter. We have got between 3,000 and 4,000 monuments actually scheduled in this country—3,000 to 4,000 which nobody has a right to touch if the statutory authority set up by Parliament says they have to be left alone.

What, I should like to do would be to persuade the Government—I have been talking about this for thirty years ineffectually—to realise how much could be done by maintaining this patrimony of historical monuments. Thousands of people go abroad in order to see the historical monuments of France, or Italy, or Greece, or Spain. Thousands went every week in the old days. The assumption is that we have got a relatively small number of monuments in this country, and it is lamentably true, so far as London is concerned, that while we offer incomparable attractions, in that respect I am afraid our attractions are rather limited. But that is no reason for inaction. On the contrary, there is every reason why greater efforts should be made to maintain what we have got both here and in all parts of our country. I would, therefore, very strongly urge my noble friend below me who replies for His Majesty's Ministers to give us a sympathetic answer, to tell us that the Government are anxious to extend the protection which already exists, are anxious to make it possible for the Ancient Monuments Board, the Office of Works and so on, to do more in taking over monuments, and thus to extend the life and usefulness and, in spite of what Lord Snell says, the beauty, the honour and the dignity of this country.


My Lords, the noble Earl who has just spoken, I think, seems to have lost his sense of humour on this occasion, because he described my noble friend's speech as bitter, bellicose, sour, and flippant. I think it was a model of very graceful banter and that the noble Earl failed to meet any of the arguments which my noble friend put forward very cogently, fairly, and with great moderation. I do not want to be led into the Waterloo Bridge controversy again, as I took part in it two years ago when there was a debate in your Lordships' House, but I must take exception to the declaration of the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, that Waterloo Bridge was dear to untold thousands. I really think that is the language of gross exaggeration. You can only see the full expanse of Waterloo Bridge if you can get on the other side of Charing Cross Railway Bridge, or below the Waterloo Bridge from the lower side of the river.


I do not want to interrupt, but you cannot see the full expanse of any bridge in the world from any single point of view any more than you can see the full extent of the Coliseum or Buckingham Palace or any other monument you like to mention.


I would take exeception to that in the case of Waterloo Bridge. I dare say the noble Earl has walked across the footpath of Hungerford Bridge, and from the centre of that footpath you can see the full expanse of Waterloo Bridge. I often cross there from Waterloo Station and have seen the full extent of Waterloo Bridge from there. But very few people see that beauty, and, although it may be in conformity with the architecture of Somerset House and form a very pleasant whole, this adoration for it, I think, is entirely exaggerated. I feel very often that the way to get support for anything is to declare that it should be demolished, then support comes quickly enough. My noble friend Lord Snell simply expressed some doubt as to the advisability of superseding the local authority, and he did not in any way suggest that there should not be an alliance between the local authority and Parliament.

But, there is no question about it, Parliament is not a suitable body to govern the aesthetic or historical monuments of this City. I should rather like to turn the debate from this very vexed question of Waterloo Bridge to the suggestion made in a more general way by the noble Lord who introduced this Motion. I cannot help feeling that a Commission is not required for the preservation of our monuments so much, because I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, that under the Ancient Monuments Acts there has been an extension which has brought to light a very large number of these beautiful buildings. Through the influence of the Office of Works they are admirably preserved, and an enormous advance has been made in that way not only in their preservation but in making them accessible to the public. That might be further extended possibly. It may be advisable that it should be for the sake of the real ancient monuments which in this City are so few. But I should like to see a Commission set up, not for preservation, but for the demolition of some of our ancient monuments. The noble Lord who introduced this Motion referred to equestrian statues. We have an enormous number in London, and only one good one.




Two good ones. But some of our equestrian statues, by the exigencies of traffic, have been driven further and further west into Kensington, and I do not think the demolition of one of these would cause any great grief to any one who has any artistic feeling. At the same time there is no doubt that if you suggest that one of these statues should be removed there will be correspondence in the newspapers, and there will be many a protagonist who will declare that they are of great and high artistic beauty. I have always advocated that no statue should be erected in this great City of ours until ten years after the subject has died. We should have far fewer statues than we have to-day if that had been the rule, and I think if such a rule was adopted by the County Council or Parliament it would be very effective in preventing the large number, especially of equestrian statues, which continually crop up, which have no sort of artistic merit and which in time to come will perhaps have very little historical significance.

The motive behind the noble Lord's Motion is undoubtedly one with which everyone will have great sympathy. He foreshadows a Commission. I think the Historical Monuments Commission and the Office of Works are sufficient. I think that when a building can be scheduled it will be preserved in that way. As to the principle of the extension of Parliamentary control, I agree with my noble friend Lord Snell that that is quite unadvisable as Parliament by itself is not an authority that is capable of dealing with matters of this kind. But as the whole motive apparently of introducing this discussion has been the decision with regard to Waterloo Bridge, I cannot help feeling glad that your Lordships should have had the opportunity of hearing a defence of the decision from the Chairman of the London County Council, who can not only speak with authority, but who, as all who know him will realise, has a very great and high appreciation of the artistic and historical monuments of London. I do not know if the Government are going to reply sympathetically. I dare say they will. The general idea is good, but the practical working out of it, if it amounts to a complete divorce of the municipal authority from any control over matters of this sort, I think would be undoubtedly a very great mistake.


My Lords, it is with some hesitation that I intervene in this discussion, but inasmuch as we have here a noble Lord who has been described as the Prime Minister of London I should like, in view of a certain sentence which has fallen from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, to make an appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Snell. Is it really too late to suspend the operations which have been begun? I venture to believe—I may be wrong—that if some of that imagination which is supposed to belong to artists, of which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, spoke a few minutes ago, had been applied to the question, and if, after the House of Commons in its wisdom or unwisdom had rejected the application for funds, the Prime Minister of London had come back to Parliament and said: "Well, if you are not prepared to make this contribution to the process of demolition, will you contribute over the next twenty years £10,000,000 for the reconstruction of the centre of London?" that he would have got it.

I believe if you bring a large programme to Parliament, embracing the whole Charing Cross area, it will capture the imagination of the citizens of London and this country, and that you will get from Parliament funds which you would never get for a small scheme or for a scheme which is mainly one of demolition. I ask the Prime Minister of London whether it is yet too late because of the remark which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that demolition might be the best way of attracting atten- tion and possibly getting a reversal of a decision. So I understood him to say. If that is true, is it too late for the London County Council to come forward with the general scheme and come back to Parliament and say: "We do not want £1,000,000 or £1,500,000, or whatever the sum is, but give us £10,000,000 for a scheme which will include the whole Charing Cross area"? I would like to put forward that suggestion in the hope that possibly it may receive attention.


My Lords, I do not feel inclined to allow this debate to conclude without some other member or late member of the London County Council saying a word on the subject. After all, the present London County Council has only been in office four months next Monday and the doings of those four months can hardly be said to represent what the County Council can do. Personally, I am very jealous of the reputation of the London County Council. The Motion before your Lordships' House rather emphasises the fact that there should be co-operation between the municipal and Parliamentary authorities. No reference has been made to Section 17 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. There powers are given both to the municipality and to the Ministry of Health to protect ancient monuments. For both authorities the main bugbear of the whole business is £ s. d. As has been already suggested this afternoon, if a Government Department went to the Treasury to try to preserve an ancient monument the chances are that the Treasury would make it very difficult. It is just as difficult in the case of a municipal authority for the committee concerned to get the sanction of the finance committee.

But I am not so concerned with Waterloo Bridge, although I have known views on that. I feel that it is very largely a matter of town planning, for the preservation of what exists of ancient monuments and what exists of suitable buildings to be regarded as monuments in the future. I would urge that His Majesty's Government through the Ministry of Health should encourage all local authorities, whether in London or elsewhere, to exercise the powers given by Section 17 of the Town and Country Planning Act. There you get a com- bination of Government Department and municipal authority laid down. If only the Ministry of Health would encourage local authorities in this matter I feel sure that a very great step forward would be made. I have nothing but praise for the Office of Works in regard to their management of ancient monuments. I happen to be the owner of an ancient monument, and just after the issue by the Ministry of Munitions of an Order forbidding all building during the War, I got a demand from the Office of Works to put my ancient monument in order forthwith. Needless to say, I took no notice of that demand because it would have been contrary to the Order of the Ministry of Munitions.

Since 1920, however, some splendid work has been done by the Office of Works in regard to ancient monuments. I think too much praise cannot be given for the work done. I hope they will continue to do that work, and that there will be co-operation with the Ministry of Health as well, to encourage local authorities to schedule under Section 17 ancient monuments which are not already within the Ancient Monuments Acts. I feel that by co-operation more can be done for the maintenance of monuments and the beautifying of our country than in any other way. Instead of evoking vituperation between different Parties, I should have thought that as a matter of fact this was really a matter in which, there was no Party at all. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, referred to the noble Lord, Lord Snell, as the Prime Minister of London. I must say that I should feel much more happy if he were the Prime Minister of London instead of the individual who is the actual Prime Minister—namely, the leader of the majority Party in the London County Council. But be that as it may, I hold that no matter what our politics may be, ancient monuments ought to be under the guardianship of every Party and of every individual who is proud of his country, and nothing can be done better than by co-operation in a matter like this.


My Lords, I listened with every care and attention to the remarks which fell from my noble friend Lord Rennell in introducing this Resolution in your Lordships' House. I was equally interested in the remarks which fell from other noble Lords who have spoken in support of the Motion. Let me say at once that so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned they believe that all the monuments, historical or architectural, which are situated in London, are matters of national interest just as much as they are matters of local interest, and indeed it is their intention, as it always has been the intention of successive Governments, to give every help they can give to have the monuments of London safely guarded. But I could not help thinking that my noble friend Lord Rennell, when he made the remarks which fell from him, was under a misapprehension, perhaps because he was unaware of the various Acts of Parliament which have been passed and the legislation which affects local authorities in the fulfilment of their duties as regards monuments of historical and architectural importance.

Perhaps I might deal quite briefly with three forms of property, Crown property, Church property and private property, which are situated in London. The first, Crown property, about which I hardly think I need say very much, is naturally well protected, for Parliament has to find sufficient funds for any alteration or improvement that may be necessary. Any improvements are referred to the Royal Fine Art Commission, while the newly-appointed Crown Lands Advisory Committee exists to guide the Commissioners of Crown Lands on the management and development of their estates such as Carlton House Terrace, Regent's Park, and others which my noble friend will probably call to mind. Before passing from that to Church property I may mention that the squares and gardens of London are equally strongly protected by the very stringent provisions of the London Squares Protection Act.

As regards Church property, I would venture to suggest, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, that if Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral were to be wantonly destroyed or demolished by some individual or by a body of persons, there would be a very strong and indignant feeling on the part of the public. Parish churches, which were mentioned in my noble friend's speech, are under the control of the Bishop's Chancellor, who has the assistance in architectural and archæological matters of the Diocesan Advisory Committee and of the Central Council for the Care of Churches.

I now come to the third form of property—namely, private property. I refer here to what my noble friend describes as monuments, which I take to include all large houses and modern buildings which certainly are of architectural interest, and such-like buildings and property that we know of. Owners of places such as Chesterfield House, Holland House, and what I may describe as the late Dorchester House, and other buildings in private ownership in London, which are or should be of historical or architectural importance, are in no way bound by any legislation at all. Such buildings can, however, now be protected by Section 17 of the Town and Country Planning Act, which was referred to by the noble Marquess behind me, Lord Aberdeen. That section of that Act gives power to the local authorities, after they have prepared a plan for the town-planning of that particular district, to present their scheme to Parliament and to have the scheme duly ratified. My noble friend will recollect that under that section the local authority is empowered to buy out the private owner of the property and compensate him. It will be readily appreciated that the payment of very large sums of money would fall upon the London County Council if that Act were put into effect in the case of a building of gigantic size, for the value of property in the West End of London amounts to many pounds per square foot.

Having dealt with those three forms of property, and I hope shown the noble Lord that the only one that I have mentioned up to now over which the local authority has control is that dealt with in Section 17 of the Town and Country Planning Act, let me pass to the statues of London. An Act which was passed in 1854 placed the public statues in the Metropolitan Police district under the control of the Commissioner of Works and Public Buildings, and no statue can be moved without his authority. From that let me pass to the latter part of my noble friend's Motion, which declares that no interference with such monuments or sites as may be scheduled by a Commission appointed for the purpose should be undertaken without reference to and approval obtained from Parliament. As I read that, and indeed as my advisers have also read it, that Commis- sion would be appointed by Act of Parliament with perhaps the greatest and most autocratic powers which have ever been given to a Commission, for after they had declared that a particular monument should be scheduled as of historical or architectural importance, the matter would have to come before Parliament in the form of an Order or Private Bill, which I should imagine would be either accepted or rejected but could certainly not be amended. From that Commission there would be no appeal. They would declare one particular monument to be scheduled and the owner would have no appeal to any Court or other body. If that became the law, there would still arise the question: who is going to pay the compensation? Up till now I have heard no suggestion from any noble Lord who has spoken as to where this money should come from. Indeed, I have no suggestion to make.


I made a suggestion which I should have thought the noble Earl would have received with enthusiasm.


If my noble friend really believes that the finances of the country are sufficient to allow that Commission to schedule various monuments in London and order Parliament to buy them up with large sums of money, I fear that he and I would never agree. Now I come to one other point which I rather want to make clear, and it is this. Parliament in its wisdom, From time to time during the last 125 years, has transferred to the London County Council, by legislation, various responsibilities which they have been asked to bear. I have from my short experience of that body seen Acts of Parliament passed by the Labour Government, and indeed by the National Government, which have not received the support of the local authorities; but after an Act has been given the Royal Assent I can definitely say, and I feel that Lord Snell will support me, that the London County Council have carried out the obligations imposed upon them in the proper spirit of a local authority.

I hope I have dealt with the questions which Lord Rennell addressed to me. He will see at the moment, from summing up the arguments which I have stated, that the only point which affects the London County Council at the present time is Section 17 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. That is the only power they have to deal with monuments of this kind. As Waterloo Bridge has been mentioned, and I need not weary your Lordships with my views again, or even antagonise Lord Crawford with the views I have upon this subject, let me say quite definitely that an answer was given in another place on Monday afternoon by the Lord President of the Council, in which he said that His Majesty's Government were not prepared to open up this question again. But I would point out to your Lordships that under Acts of Parliament dating back at the earliest to 1803, the London County Council have powers, duties, and responsibilities, of maintaining London bridges in a proper working condition. They have, as I read it, and as I am advised by the officials of the Council, the absolute right, when they like, of pulling down a bridge, rebuilding a bridge, or altering a bridge in any way they see fit, and Parliament, again be it noticed, has imposed this legislation upon them and given them powers over these bridges, which I believe myself they have carried out in a proper spirit.

My noble friend Lord Crawford asked me whether the Government were still in favour of putting into further effect, and enlarging the scope of, the Ancient Monuments Act. I am advised that the scheduling of an ancient monument is done on the advice of the Ancient Monuments Board, and my noble friend, from the position he has occupied, will know the procedure that has to be adopted on these occasions. From a book issued by the Office of Works I should like to read a, very short statement that is made by Sir Patrick Duff, in writing the preface to this book. He says: The present enlarged list of monuments cannot be regarded as covering in a systematic way the whole of the more important ancient monuments of Great Britain. Much yet remains to be done before this aim can be achieved. In compiling the lists, the Commissioners have to rely to a large extent on the voluntary assistance of local archaeologists, to whose labours they are greatly indebted. The collection of the necessary information is often attended with difficulties, but the progress made cannot, in all the circumstances, be regarded as unsatisfactory. The present list contains the names of over 3,600 monuments, in all parts of the country, and I have no doubt that from time to time this list will be enlarged. As I have said, it receives the full sympathy of His Majesty's Government.

But, my Lords, I cannot say from my own point of view, and indeed from the point of view of the Government, that the Motion on the Paper is in any way going to help to solve the difficulty of the fear of the destruction of ancient and historical monuments. At the moment the London County Council have power only over one particular section—namely, bridges. They have power imposed upon them by the Town and Country Planning Act, and other ancient monuments situated in London are either the property of the Crown or of the Church or of private individuals, and with each category I have dealt to the best of my ability. I hope, in the circumstances, and in view of the case I have made out, that my noble friend will see fit to withdraw the Resolution on the Paper.


My Lords, I can only feel grateful for the attention which has been given to the Resolution which I have brought before you to-day. I thought I had most carefully avoided saying anything that could be considered a criticism, either directly or impliedly, of any action of the London County Council. I might have had a deal to say about Waterloo Bridge, but I avoided the matter deliberately, and therefore I am a little surprised that we should have had such a warm and controversial defence of what, so far as I was concerned, was a case which had never been raised. I am afraid I cannot altogether accept all the contentions of my noble friend Lord Snell. I do not feel that it is any argument to say that it would have been better to leave such a thing as old London Bridge in the hands of the County Council, because that case happened before the Council had ever been dreamt of. But I think we have passed away from that.

We have been assured that sufficient powers exist to safeguard all monuments except that relatively small number which has been transferred to the control of the London County Council. In bringing forward this Resolution I had conceived also that some provision was required for the administration of these buildings and monuments. It is possible that that matter can always be raised in Parliament, and therefore that control would be there, but I cannot altogether abandon the point of view from which I started, that matters of national and historical sentiment are essentially a trusteeship of the highest authority in the country, and I know of no higher authority in that respect than Parliament. That was the reason why my Resolution was drafted in the manner in which it was. In view of the assurance which has been given us that the situation is fairly safe, I do not know that I have any option to-day except to withdraw my Resolution. I am glad, however, that the matter has been discussed, and I think the principle that matters of national interest and national sentiment are also matters of national and not of municipal concern has been accepted by a majority of your Lordships' House.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.