§ VISCOUNT ELIBANK had the following Notice on the Order Paper:—To ask His Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the great confusion and of the serious inconvenience caused to many members of their Lordships' House, and others, owing to the breakdown in the motor car arrangements after the conclusion of the Coronation Service in Westminster Abbey on the 12th May; and what steps it is proposed to take, in so far as the Houses of Parliament are concerned, to prevent a recurrence of such deplorable conditions on any important occasions in the future; and to move for Papers.330
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I regret to have to introduce what may be regarded by some as a jarring note into what was perhaps one of the most successful and epoch-making events in the history of our country. The Coronation procession of our Sovereign King George and Queen Elizabeth will go down to posterity as one of the most resplendent and stirring spectacles of our times, and those of us who were privileged to witness the religious ceremony in Westminster Abbey and to see the Coronation itself will always treasure in our memory the glorious and glittering scene there, the beautiful spirit of reverence which permeated the whole service, and, perhaps especially, the simple and touching dignity of Their Majesties King George and Queen Elizabeth at what will be one of the most moving and probably most trying episodes of their Royal lives.
§ May I, at this moment, take this opportunity to add a meed of praise to those responsible, and perhaps especially the Earl Marshal, for the perfection of the arrangements within the Abbey itself? It may in the light of this be thought somewhat strange that I should raise any question of the nature that is in my Motion, and that I should let the occurrences indicated in that Motion be forgotten in the magnificent success which, generally speaking, attended the whole of that occasion and the arrangements for coping with one of the most unprecedented traffic situations which has ever arisen in London. I should indeed on this occasion be failing in my duty if I did not pay tribute, and I do pay tribute with great pleasure and great sincerity, to the splendid and indefatigable manner in which the police, apart from the incidents to which I refer, conducted and handled the huge crowds and the complicated traffic on that momentous day.
§ If I have brought up this matter of the breakdown of car arrangements after the conclusion of the Abbey ceremony at all, I have done so for one reason at least, and that is the effect of the inconvenience upon a very large number of people who included guests of His Majesty the King, representatives of foreign Powers, delegates from overseas, and many of your Lordships and members of another place and their guests. Some of those suffered not only inconvenience but they suffered in health by having 331 to stand about for lengthy periods in the wet and the damp. Both in the Abbey and in the Houses of Parliament the last of those to get away did so somewhere about 8.30 in the evening, and many of them had had very little food or refreshments from the early hours of the morning. This picture, which I have presented to your Lordships in very broad outline, is in my opinion, and in the opinion of many others, a justification of my bringing this Motion forward. I do so especially with the object of determining who in the Palace of Westminster—that is in the Houses of Parliament—is responsible for the traffic arrangements, and, further, so that for the future we shall have some scheme devised which will prevent the recurrence of such conditions as existed on the day about which I am speaking.
§ It is not my intention to diagnose in great detail where and how the organisation failed, but we can assume from the public statement of apology which was issued in the Press by the Commissioner of Police on the 16th May—and I should like to interpolate here that I feel sure that that apology has been accepted in the spirit in which it was made—that the Commissioner of Police does at least accept a certain degree of responsibility for what happened. As I read that apology it was very noticeable that it referred especially to the getting away of the guests from Westminster Abbey, while it was quite silent on the point of the getting away of the guests from the Houses of Parliament who came here after the Westminster Abbey ceremony for luncheon. I do not propose to say anything about the luncheon arrangements, but I believe it is possible that other noble Lords may raise that matter. I think we can take it that for a variety of causes over which the police had no great control the police car arrangements did break down, not only for Westminster Abbey, but also for those guests who proceeded to the Houses of Parliament after the ceremony.
§ It was obvious to many of us who were present in the Houses of Parliament afterwards that there were contributory causes to the breakdown of the car arrangements. First of all, I understand that in Victoria Street and the vicinity, where a great many of the cars were parked, there were no loud-speaker 332 arrangements for giving instructions to the chauffeurs, or if there were such arrangements they broke down, with the resulting chaos and confusion which arose. Beyond that, in the Houses of Parliament themselves there were no loud-speaker arrangements, either at the House of Lords entrance or at the St. Stephen's entrance. The telephone arrangements, we were informed, at the House of Lords entrance had broken down, and so far as the St. Stephen's entrance was concerned they were not functioning at all. What was the result? At both entrances a sort of bottle neck was formed and individuals, both ladies and gentlemen, were trying to force their way through this bottle neck in order to find their cars. When cars actually did pass and the police shouted out the names of the owners of those cars, people inside did not receive the information in time to be able to force their way through this bottle neck, and by the time they could do so the cars had already moved on again.
§ Another point that is obvious to some of us is that when you have several entrances to a huge building like the Palace of Westminster, it is quite insufficient, to say the least, to use only two of those entrances when you are faced with traffic arrangements on a day like Coronation Day or upon any occasion when arrangements have to be made upon a large scale. It seems to me that there could not have been proper collaboration between responsible officials inside the Palace of Westminster and the police outside. I venture to suggest—and I do so with great trepidation of course—that no proper provision had been made inside the Houses of Parliament to cope with a situation which it was well-known would be on a scale unprecedented.
§ It is not, however, of that occasion that I am particularly thinking, but of the future. Proper steps should be taken in the future to cope with similar situations such as the opening of Parliament or any other similar function. This, in my belief, can only be achieved by first of all determining who is the responsible official or officials in the Houses of Parliament to organise traffic arrangements from within. I believe that a proper scheme of traffic arrangements should be devised for the future, and that we should make sure that there shall be in future full collaboration between responsible officials inside the Houses of Parliament and the police 333 authorities outside. I do not know how best this can be achieved, but I am going to suggest to your Lordships and to His Majesty's Government that a small ad hoc Committee should be set up within the Houses of Parliament for the purpose of going into this question and arranging matters for the future. As to how the Committee should be composed I am not in a position to say, but I venture to suggest that perhaps if that Committee were composed of two or three officials of the Houses of Parliament and two or three Peers and members of the other place, they would constitute a Committee which could deal with this subject and make proper recommendations to the Government.
§ I do not think that is asking too much. I feel that some steps ought to be taken. This is not the first time that your Lordships have, perhaps not publicly but at any rate privately, condemned and criticised the arrangements within the Houses of Parliament in connection with the traffic on the occasion of important functions. I suggest that the time has come when this question should be fully and adequately dealt with, and that in future we should not have to put up with the conditions which existed on Coronation Day. I wish once more to reiterate that I raise this question in no spirit of recrimination. I want nobody's head. I only want—and I am sure all your Lordships want—arrangements for the future that will be satisfactory, arrangements on which we can rely, and which will obviate the conditions which so many of us experienced so recently. I beg to move.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I had some feeling of doubt as to whether I should take part in this debate, owing to my recent connection with the Metropolitan Police, but, rightly or wrongly, I thought that perhaps I ought to say a few words. I have been in the fortunate position of being able to see the opening of Parliament from three angles—once when I was principal Air Aide-de-Camp to His Majesty, secondly as a member of your Lordships' House, and finally as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I took up the office of Commissioner of Police, I think, on November 2, 1931 and the opening of Parliament was on November 6. Next morning a letter was put in front of me for my signature. It was a similar letter to that which has 334 been sent for many years to your Lordships' House thanking the officers of the House for their co-operation and the success of the organisation. I received the same day a letter from a senior official of your Lordships' House thanking the Metropolitan Police for their excellent cooperation and organisation. When I sent that letter, I wrote at the same time to a senior official in your Lordships' House, to the effect that "I have signed this letter as is customary, but I have never seen anything so awful." In those days I felt that I did no good, and when I left office, the arrangements for the opening of Parliament were, I regret to say, as bad as I found them. That was one of the contributory causes perhaps of the breakdown in one small item on May 12.
We are dealing now, of course, with a much bigger event than the opening of Parliament, and that is the Coronation. I have heard and seen on all sides what a wonderful organisation was carried out, not only by the Metropolitan Police but by all concerned in the streets, in enabling the vast majority of people to get without any hitch to and from their places. I know from the hitches that I have had in the past that there were many fewer hitches this time than there have been at other events. The arrangements for the opening of Parliament, however, have a very close connection with the Coronation. I was not present at the leaving of the Abbey and so cannot say what happened there with the cars. I agree with the noble Viscount that it is not of the past that I should talk, but of the future. In my short experience as Commissioner I found that the one important thing was to keep the crowds—and it does not matter who they are or whether they are large or small—in a good temper. You cannot he in a good temper if you are getting wet through, and I should like to suggest that the first thing to do is to see that the awnings do not leak. Twice have I got wet through here. Another suggestion is that we should double the awning and put it out a little further, and let two rows of cars come up. Another means of keeping people in a good temper is to provide seats for them—or for a certain number of the more elderly and infirm—to sit on in the corridor, so that the porch can be kept clear.
A point which perhaps your Lordships will think very small, but one which I 335 am certain is important, is this. One noble Lord who is sitting on the Front Bench had to use his voice in order to warn people that their cars were approaching. Is it not possible to ask the Commissioner of Police to have a man with a good voice to come in and assist the loud-speaker in keeping the porch clear? It is very hard to keep any doorway clear with one's own people; it is easier to keep it clear if you can bring somebody in. The door at the end of the corridor where we hang our coats could be used and enlarged to allow a larger number to get out. I should also like to suggest this: Besides using the Victoria Tower door and the Peers' entrance, if this door cannot be enlarged, could we not use the small door at the end of the corridor—that is for the Office of Works to decide and not for me—and could not the Peers go out according to the initial letters of their names, so many being allotted to a certain door? The great point is to keep that porch clear, and you will not be able to keep it clear if you do not have somebody from outside—I do not want the people dragooned, but somebody who can speak and ask the people to keep the entrance clear.
One other point I am not really competent to deal with, but I should like to suggest that more notice should be given to your Lordships when cars are approaching from some distance. I do not know which direction will suit the Metropolitan Police at the time, but if the cars pass the Victoria Tower Gardens the name might be called out when the car first gets to the Victoria Tower Gardens so that the party will have four or five minutes to get out. If the cars are going the other way, that is, coming from Parliament Square and going up Millbank, then a telephone could be put at the corner of Parliament Square, which could be a permanent one, sufficiently far off so as to give at least four minutes' notice. It is perfectly impossible for the ladies and members who are up here to get down and get out in less than four minutes. These suggestions are very small, but I feel they ought to be tried before we commit ourselves to saying that we are not to use our own cars or that we must go in each other's, or to having rows of taxicabs. I am not saying anything against that, 336 but I think that the simple plan should be tried first.
It is not my duty to shield the police, and I am certain that they want no shielding by me. They did monumental work. I would ask you to consider how easily a breakdown occurs on a day like Coronation Day. I am not saying how it did occur; I do not know; it is not for me to say; but if only one man out of the enormous numbers, the thousands in the Metropolitan Police and all the officials, gave a wrong order, say, that the cars which had an "L" on them for lunch here were to go via Victoria Street and the Abbey, then it would be almost impossible to put the error right again that day. Those are the things which happen. I know they happen, and I regret the inconvenience which I must many times have caused many citizens of London through a breakdown produced by one man, not necessarily one of the police, doing something completely wrong. But it is almost impossible, with thousands and thousands of cars, to put the mistake right the same day. I hope your Lordships will forgive my talking on these small matters, but I thought perhaps I ought to do so.
My Lords, I rise because I think it would be most unfortunate if the speech of the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion were reported in such a way, perhaps in foreign newspapers, as to make it appear that we cannot organise in this country as well as in any other country on a great occasion like the Royal Coronation. With the one exception of the delay of getting Peers, Ambassadors and others away from this House, I do not think there was any serious complaint of any lack of efficiency anywhere. You had a huge City, with everyone trying to come to this great event, and conditions were made more difficult by the omnibuses being stopped; foreigners from all over the world were here and strangers from our own Dominions; and yet the only people who suffered were members of your Lordships' House and other distinguished persons who came in here for lunch after the Coronation. That is the sum total of the trouble.
I should like to interrupt the noble Lord, if I may. He says that the only people who suffered 337 were members of your Lordships' House and those who came in here for luncheon. Those who came in after the Coronation included Ambassadors and their wives, overseas delegates, His Majesty's guests, and many others like those. My noble friend ought not to misrepresent the position, which was perfectly obvious to everybody else.
No, the great governing class of the Empire was there, the representatives of every foreign Power, the most distinguished gathering that could be assembled outside the Royal Family. I give the noble Viscount all that, and admit that some of them had to wait a very long time arid it was rather unfortunate. But apart from that one episode, the whole matter went like clockwork. I confess that I was a little alarmed this year about the Coronation because of the size of London, and I said to some of my friends that when another Coronation comes—I hope only after very many years—we ought to go back to Winchester, the City of Coronations, the ancient Capital. If we did that, people would know that they could not get into Winchester; but you could have a procession by motor-car from Winchester to London of the crowned Monarch. Then as many people as wished could have a perfectly good and free view along the excellent highway between London and Winchester. They could see the procession going and coming, and only the élite would be allowed into Winchester—people who had to be there, like ourselves!
If the noble Viscount had said a little more about the disgraceful catering arrangements within this House I should then have been so bold as to agree with him still more warmly. That was absolutely within the control of some person; somebody's head ought to be had for that! We paid a high price for our luncheon here, but the arrangements were miserable, and that fact may have given a very bad impression. With regard to the arrangements generally, the First Commisioner of Works at that time has now become the Minister of Education. I only say, re-echoing a part of what Lord Snell said early in the afternoon, that I hope he will be as successful at the Board of Education as he was in making arrangements outside the Abbey for the Coronation. I should really like to pay a small 338 tribute to the great office which he adorned, and to his own personal part, which I am sure was very great. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said that it was not for him to defend the police. It is not for me, either, but I am going to make an effort to do so. I have heard from people who have nothing to do with your Lordships' House—people who went to the stands in the ordinary way—nothing but praise of the tact and good temper of the police.
I must protest. I paid a very great tribute to the police at the beginning of my speech. If the noble Lord was not here to listen to it then I will repeat it in his presence.
Then we are in agreement about the police. That is good. Now what was the trouble—the real trouble? It was this, that there was this great assembly of Peers and their ladies, and of Ambassadors and high officials, and all the rest, everyone of whom had to have a separate car. If each of these cars had to take up one of these parties of two or one how could you possibly do it without delay? Does the noble Viscount realise that the number of cars which had to pick up distinguished strangers from this House covered a road way space of twelve miles? When you consider the millions of people who were trying to get away from the precincts of the Abbey can you be surprised that there was delay? If one tried to get down to one's car there were all these noble personages crowding in the passages, and it was quite impossible to get through. After I got down to the door I was accosted by a beautiful Peeress, who said: "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Your car has been round three times and you were not there." I could not get down to the doors or into the passage. I said I was very sorry. I do not know who the lady was, except that she looked her part. I thought I had to make amends, and I was the person who stood at the end and, as the police announced a car, shouted out "Lord So-and-so." I think Lord Dufferin helped me—at any rate there was another Peer who did so—to pass the word along. Of course there was room for improvement, but if we all tried to get away at the same time then congestion was bound to occur. How could o you possibly avoid it?
339 I hesitate to make suggestions. I think we have had some very useful suggestions from Lord Trenchard, and the only other suggestion which I can make is that we might try to use the river. Peers used to have State barges at one time. That is the only suggestion I can make, apart from the fact that people might really be prepared to wait and settle down here until they can conveniently get to their cars. That is what I did. I put my wife into the Whips' Room. After all this is not a bad place in which to shelter. We had food of a sort to eat, and it was raining outside. The latest at which people got away was about eight o'clock. I got away myself at seven. There was not very much hardship in that. I know the noble Viscount's intentions are admirable. He is thinking of the older people who might have suffered from fatigue. I am sorry for them, but after all I am sure these matters can adjust themselves, and I must say that I think the noble Viscount has made rather too much of this particular episode. I am sure that arrangements can be made for the opening of Parliament—I believe Lord Dufferin is replying for the Government—and I am sure that our suggestions will relieve congestion on that occasion.
THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA)
My Lords, it is not my purpose in any way, nor indeed would it be possible for me, to pretend that there is no substance in the complaint, or rather complaints, that we have heard this afternoon. I am perfectly prepared to agree with my noble friend that there was very grave confusion for many people, both at the Abbey and for those who were trying to leave the House of Lords after lunch, and I would like to take this opportunity of reiterating the apology which has already been made by the Commissioner to those members of this House, and to our distinguished guests, who were in any way inconvenienced by anything which occurred.
In a few moments I will try to explain to your Lordships as best I can how the confusion arose, but I would first like to remind my noble friend, if I may, that the problem of picking up and setting down at the House of Lords and at Westminster Abbey was by no means the only problem 340 which confronted the police on that day, although, as the noble Viscount has said, it was the only problem with which they were not able to cope perfectly satisfactorily. Quite apart from the management of a crowd of a magnitude unsurpassed in history in these streets, the police, in order to get away the guests from the Abbey, had to dispose of nearly two miles of Procession—a Procession which on no account could be halted because if the Procession were halted the Royal Coach would also be halted. They also had the problem of the dispersal of the troops who lined the streets, and of course the dispersal of the crowds from the stands and pavements. I will only add that the problem of getting eight thousand people away from the Abbey was vastly complicated by factors which must be taken into account.
If I may I will briefly state the arrangements which were made, and what happened to them. So far as the setting down of guests at the Abbey is concerned the estimated time for doing that was two hours thirty minutes, and the actual time taken was two hours twenty-seven minutes. Every guest was in his place on time. So far as the parking arrangements of the cars after setting down at the Abbey were concerned every car except two was in its appointed place at the appointed time. Therefore you see that so far the arrangements worked remarkably well. Now we come to the arrangements for taking up. It is quite obvious of course that the problem of taking up must take much longer than the setting down, because it involves two variables, the car and the person. It may interest your Lordships to know that under the most elaborate scheme that had been devised the time allowed was still four hours. The idea was, of course, that certain blocks in the Abbey were to be released, and at the same time the police would release equivalent blocks of cars, which would then come up, be announced by loud speakers, and the guests would get into the cars and depart. For the first half hour or so that scheme worked well enough, but then delays began to occur.
The first reason was that, for various causes, the cars were themselves slower in getting from the parking places to the Abbey than had been expected. The second reason—and a very important one 341 —was the rain. The original plan involved the conception of sixty cars at a time alongside the awning outside the entrance, that is to say that sixty couples would be getting into their cars at the same time, and be moving off more or less at the same time. Of course, when the rain came the awnings leaked—as indeed I think every awning known to man has so far leaked. The guests would not stand getting wet, and insisted on getting into the entrances. The result was that, instead of sixty cars at a time taking people away, there were only six. That again congested the doorway, and all the troubles to which the noble Viscount has so urgently called attention occurred. People's cars came to the door, their names were called, but there were twenty Peers and Peeresses who were away and who were unable to force their way through the crush before the cars disappeared. Moreover, each car in turn managed, by some ingenious way known too chauffeurs, to re-introduce itself into the stream of moving traffic and came round again and again, thus causing further confusion. Therefore, as far as the Abbey is concerned, I think the reasons I have given for the confusion are fairly clear. In point of fact, the West Cloister Door was cleared at a quarter to six, the Great West Door was clear at six o'clock, and Poets' Corner at half-past five. It was only at the North Door where great confusion occurred owing to the great crush of cars and people; it was not cleared till 8.39 p.m.
So much for the difficulty of taking up from the Abbey. But of course that was greatly complicated by the fact that a large number of people were going to have lunch over here, and those people were going to leave this House in no prearranged order which the police could foresee. Accordingly a very elaborate scheme (which I have seen) was devised to remove the cars of those having lunch from their parking places during the ceremony, and to re-park them down Mill-bank, from whence it had been arranged to have them called up as the guests required. That scheme broke down because, when it came to removing the cars, it was found that a great number of chauffeurs—many of whom, I would remind your Lordships, were hired for the day—were not there, either because they had misunderstood the orders of the police, or because they failed to comply 342 with the arrangements that the police had made. In fact, I think I am right in saying that only about twenty per cent. of the chauffeurs of the lunch cars could be found. It was therefore decided, in these circumstances, that the cars should be left in their parks, and should be removed to Millbank later on, when the same arrangements were to be carried out.
Again, two further complications occurred. I am sorry to pile Pelion on Ossa all the time, but I want your Lordships to realise what little things can wreck complicated schemes. It was suddenly decided that, instead of the guests who were going to lunch over here remaining at the Abbey until Their Majesties had departed, they should cross over here during the pause directly after the ceremony. A further complication was that, impressed no doubt by the solemnity of the occasion, your Lordships exhibited a frugality in your repast which to me, and to the Commissioner, was quite inexplicable. The lunch was over far sooner than anyone had any reason to expect. The combination, therefore, of the early crossing to the House of Lords and your Lordships' lack of appetite meant that the cars were required over here far earlier than anyone had expected, and before they had ever been parked in Millbank at all. The result was that the chauffeurs naturally made the best of their own way up here without discipline, without order, and indeed with only one intention—that of finding their own particular masters and mistresses. Hence the confusion for which I have already apologised.
Therefore, I make no excuses for what happened. I only say that there were other factors involved in the breakdown, or rather the confusion as I prefer to call it. There was also our own temperament. We as a nation are not very amenable to discipline, whether we are Peers or whether we are chauffeurs, least of all if we are Peeresses; and we certainly are not in our best tempers, or most amenable to discipline, when we are wet, or hungry, or bored. The earlier move to the House of Lords and the short duration of the lunch worked against all the elaborate arrangements which the police had made, and, in fact, perhaps almost rendered them useless. But, even allowing for these unfortunate factors, which I do not think anyone could foresee, the problem is: Can this question of getting 343 large numbers of people away from very narrow entrances, all of whom depart at the same time, be solved? I was extremely glad to hear the various views that noble Lords expressed on that problem. I would ask them all to remember that the problem of the party, the rout, or the reception is an entirely different one from the problem of getting people away on this occasion, because at a party the departure of the guests is spread over three or four hours, whereas this is a problem of getting people away all of whom desire to depart at the same time, and the difficulties are vastly increased when the exits are very narrow, as they are in this House, and there is no modern arrangement for the approach of the cars. The result is almost bound to be a crush at the door, which prevents people being able to take advantage of their cars when they arrive.
The only practical solution as it seems to me is probably for every vehicle to take up someone when it arrives at the door. Human nature being what it is, I doubt whether the suggestion that one might pool all the private cars would really work in practice. I am not at all sure—and I only throw this out as a suggestion—whether the real plan would not be to park all the private cars, after they have set down their people, in some convenient place, such as the Horse Guards, and then for the guests to be taken away as rapidly as possible in long streams of public vehicles, such as taxicabs, and taken to their cars, where they would disembark and be removed as rapidly as possible. I am not at all sure that the suggestions, interesting as they were, made by my noble friend Lord Trenchard, would really be sufficient to meet the case of a place like this, with its very narrow doors, its very narrow entrances, and it slightly undisciplined population. I am very glad indeed that this debate has taken place. I can assure my noble friend that it is the intention of the Commissioner to take up the whole matter afresh with the officers of your Lordships' House and in the light of the suggestions he has made, and I hope very much that the unfortunate results of which we have heard to-day will not recur.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, if I may intervene for one 344 moment to supplement what my noble friend has so well said, it would be merely to deal with the point raised by the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches with regard to the arrangements at the opening of Parliament by His Majesty. That was gone into after the last opening of Parliament in November, when there was again a very heavy fall of rain and again great congestion. I discussed the matter as First Commissioner of Works with the then Lord Great Chamberlain, and we eventually came to this scheme which will be put into operation during the course of the long Recess. At the end of the Peers' Lobby, where the hats and coats are, there is a double door with a sort of wooden partition on each side. We propose to take away these doors and partitions so that we may get the advantage of the full width of the archway leading into the outer Lobby. That will prevent some congestion as Peers go out of the House.
A second point I have always had in mind—and I have been a member of the House for thirty years—is that there is not enough room for Peers outside to stand and wait for their cars. Your Lordships may remember that there is a sort of little island outside the portico at the Peers' entrance. We propose to put down a covered roadway up to that island and bring a sort of triangle back on each side of it until it joins the pavement against that wall. It is hoped that this will enable about six cars to draw up at that part so as to allow Peers to get in simultaneously, and it will also widen materially the general awning at that spot. What we hope to do later on, after the facade of the Houses of Parliament has been repaired—all the stone work will have to be done in the next three or four years—is to bring the wooden pavement in line with the island, a matter of about 180 feet, which will involve the width of the awnings being doubled. Although my noble friend says that awnings always leak, I hope we may be able to find something that does not leak. Personally my part of the awning did not leak at all except where it joined up with other parts. As a result of these arrangements the then Lord Great Chamberlain hoped that we might find a partial solution of the trouble whenever there is a wet day at the opening of Parliament.
345 One proposal put forward was that there should be an additional entrance immediately opposite the stairs that go clown to the place where the hats and coats are kept. The trouble with that is that if you get a bad wind blowing you would have a draught that would strike into the Lobbies and into the House, and it was felt by the then Lord Great Chamberlain—and I agree on that—that it would require an outside Lobby destroying the whole aspect of that frontage, or an inside Lobby, which would make for greater congestion in the hat and coat place than under present conditions. One suggestion made was that Peers should be asked to leave the House by two separate doors according to their initials. I shall not tell your Lordships the reason why that proposal was not accepted. It was not entirely complimentary to some of your Lordships. It was felt that some Peers would almost certainly go out by the wrong door!
May I thank the noble Lord opposite for what he said in regard to the work of my late Department during the Coronation? I was extremely fortunate in having the assistance of an efficient and enthusiastic staff, and we are rather proud of our achievements. It may interest your Lordships to know that there were 1,200 yards of awning put up round the Abbey and around this side of New Palace Yard. Counting the seats that we erected outside Government Offices, there were 96,000 places to dispose of. Every one of these seats was sold by the night before the Coronation, and although there were different numbers to the seats in each row and different numbers in each stand, so far as I know there was no case of wrongly numbered tickets and no case of tickets being issued twice for the same seat. The only complaint I heard was from an individual who had been allotted a place in Victoria Gardens. He said that because of the four rows of chairs he saw no better than he would have seen had he been on the pavement, and on that account, although he had seen the procession twice over, he did not think fifteen shillings was a proper payment to make but that it ought to have been very much less. I am afraid that my late office replied to him more politely than I should have liked to do. I am grateful for what was said, and my late office will be grateful to the noble Lord for what he said. We are glad to 346 have had the opportunity of doing that service on such a great occasion.
§ VISCOUNT ULLSWATER
My Lords, I would just like to say one word with regard to the prospective arrangements which the late First Commissioner of Works has indicated as being in contemplation outside the House. I hope he will bear in mind the King George V Memorial which will probably occupy some of the space which is now open to the public. It will probably extend over some part of the road which is between the statue of Richard Coeur de Lion and the Chapter House. Therefore, in making any prospective arrangements, it would be well first of all to keep a close watch upon the schemes which are proposed by the King George V Memorial Committee and then see whether some arrangement could not be come to with them to leave plenty of space at this spot.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, if I may again speak, I was a member of the Memorial Committee and so I do know something about it. The scheme has of course not yet been drawn in detail by the architect, but I can assure my noble friend that there is no proposal to take in a great part of the roadway at that point. The idea is that the bend that comes in on the other side shall be brought out so as to make an angle of it rather than a big bend as it is now. There will be no question of impinging seriously up the roadway. In fact there was a hope amongst some of us that we might be able to widen that piece of roadway where it begins to narrow going towards Lambeth Bridge.
My Lords, I understand one of the proposals was that a very good sit-down luncheon should be provided on any future occasion which would induce your Lordships to rest and not want to go away so quickly afterwards.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I think the noble Viscount has read more into my remarks than my words warranted.
My Lords, it is not always popular to raise an awkward question, and I felt during the past week that this issue which I have raised would not be generally popular with some of my fellow members. But actually now, after the debate we have had, and in spite of 347 what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said in the course of his remarks, I think it was very necessary to raise this question. We have had a highly profitable debate. We have had a debate which has shown that there is a great deal of uncertainty still as to how it is possible to deal with the situation in the future. My noble friend Lord Trenchard made some very valuable suggestions in that connection. The noble Marquess, replying on behalf of the Government, said that he thought those suggestions might be valuable, but he was not certain about it. I feel that the reply of the Government that they propose to hand this subject over to the officials, whoever they may be, of your Lordships' House to deal with, may not secure the results which this debate warrants. I should like to urge upon the Government, with some experience in administration myself, that it might be advisable, without saying that they are going to do so now, to appoint a small Departmental Committee, if I may 348 put it so, within the House of Lords to examine this subject and take the whole of these points into consideration and see if they cannot devise a definite scheme. Merely to hand it back to certain officials—we do not know who they are; we have not heard who they are—who have been responsible, as far as we know, for what happened the other day does not seem to me to carry it as far as it ought to be carried after what we have heard in this debate. But I am not going to press the noble Earl to say anything about that at the moment. I am only going to urge the Government to look at it from that point of view, and if, after further consideration, they come to the conclusion that it may be dealt with more competently in that way, to adopt it. I beg to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past six o'clock.