HL Deb 10 March 1949 vol 161 cc277-96

4.6 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill on behalf of my noble friend the Earl of Listowel, I venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that this is non-Party and non-controversial. The Bill comes to us having gone through the crucible of amendment and criticism practically as an agreed measure. Having said that, I hope that the Bill will have a fairly quick passage through your Lordships' House. It is somewhat ironical that it should fall to my lot to move the Second Reading of this Bill in view of the fact that, as Chairman of the Crystal Palace Trustees, I fought very hard in order that the 1951 Festival of Britain should be held on the Crystal Palace site, that building having suffered two-fold destruction both from fire and by enemy action. However, it is difficult to resist the claims of the South bank of the river, and I derive some satisfaction from the fact that about twenty-five years ago, as a member of the London County Council, I brought forward the suggestion that the London University should be built on that site following on from the County Hall. I still think that had that proposal been adopted it would have been a valuable addition to the South bank. Unfortunately, mine was a solitary voice and I had no support whatever. After some years I feel a certain amount of satisfaction that at least part of the South hank improvement scheme is to be put into effect.

I will briefly summarise what has already been discussed in another place, to a large extent in the Press and by the public. The House are already aware that the Government have decided that in 1951 there shall be held a Festival of Britain to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851 as worthily as our resources will allow, and thereby to demonstrate the contribution which our arts and science:, can make to national life. The Exhibition will provide a tonic and stimulus to the people of Britain after a decade of danger, fatigue and austerity, and will be designed to provide inspiration and set standards on a scale beyond anything that can be achieved through other media.

This Bill seeks powers to enable the London County Council and the British Transport Commission to carry out certain works designed to facilitate traffic movement to and from the Exhibition on the South bank site. Other sites were considered before the choice fell upon the South bank site. Earl's Court and Olympia were obvious possibilities, but for part of the time during which the Exhibition would be open, those buildings would be required to house the British Industries Fair. It is most important, from the point of view of maintaining and extending our export drive, that this Fair should be held and, therefore, important though the Festival of Britain is, we cannot let it interfere with the British Industries Fair. The South bank site offered two advantages: first, it is a site of thirty acres in the heart of London, on which the Exhibition could be staged, and, secondly, it will provide a stimulus to the long overdue development of the South bank of the river.

The Festival, however, is not confined to London. It is to be spread over the whole country. Committees of the Festival Council have been set up by the Lord President in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There will be Festivals of the Arts at established centres such as Edinburgh, and at certain new centres being organised especially for 1951. A travelling Exhibition will visit twelve main centres. Perhaps I might interpolate here that this was carried out on the advice of the very high-powered Festival Committee, composed of members of both sides in another place, who were assisted by experts in administration and in the arts and the various sciences.

An Exhibition of this magnitude in the centre of London will be bound to aggravate the already serious traffic problem. These traffic and transport problems have been considered by a Working Party, consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Transport, other Government Departments concerned, the Metropolitan and City Police, the London County Council, the British Transport Commission and the Festival of Britain authorities. The proposed Exhibition traffic arrangements are based on their recommendations, and the powers sought in the Bill are required to carry some of those recommendations into effect. In planning the arrangements, account was taken of the estimates made by the Exhibition authorities that the average daily attendance was likely to be about 50,000, rising to 100,000 at week-ends and on Bank Holidays. All this traffic would be additional to the normal loads carried by public passenger transport and would saturate the existing facilities. For example, we expect that a good many people visiting the Exhibition will arrive at or depart from Charing Cross and Waterloo underground stations which already handle about 120,000 and 100,000 people respectively every day.

There are two groups of works: first, those that require Parliamentary sanc- tion, and, second, those that can be carried out under existing Statutes. I will recite those if noble Lords desire them, but it is a long list and probably your Lordships would rather not be worried with them. The Exhibition will not open in the morning until the business traffic rush is over. The cost of the works in connection with the traffic arrangements which I have outlined is estimated to be not more than £2,000,000. A large proportion of the work is of continuing value, and would in any case have been required at a later period. It will help to promote easier traffic movement after the Exhibition is closed. The general principle to be followed will be that the cost of any part of a project not of permanent advantage to the body concerned will be met from public funds; that is to say, it will be treated as expenditure incurred solely for Exhibition purposes. For expenditure on any measure of permanent improvement, which would save the responsible body expenditure later on, they will receive only the normal grants which would apply to such a scheme.

That, in brief, is the purpose of the Bill. I will run through the various clauses in order that full appreciation may be given to all that is embodied therein. Clause 1 authorises the group of works which I mentioned as requiring Parliamentary sanction, and the detailed descriptions of the works are set out in the First Schedule. I might perhaps mention the landing stages, for which power is sought in subsection (1) (b). The landing stages will be subject to the approval of the Minister of Transport, and can be either temporary or permanent, as may be found to be desirable. Clause 2 deals with land acquisition. This clause seeks to empower the British Transport Commission and the London County Council to use such parts of the public highway, and to acquire such land as they may need to carry out the works for which powers are sought in Clause 1. Subsection (3) will enable the London County Council to acquire land to provide substitute sites and facilities for people displaced from the Exhibition site, or from other land required for the new traffic arrangements. The land to be acquired is situated in Lower Marsh and the New Cut, and consists of bombed sites which will be used to provide alternative accommodation for shopkeepers whose existing premises have to be demolished. Householders who are displaced will be rehoused through the London County Council's normal housing machinery.

In Clause 4 powers are sought to enable the Minister of Transport to close certain streets, to provide access for those who need it and to regulate vehicular traffic in other adjacent streets. Clause 5 deals with car parks. If acute congestion of streets leading to, and in the vicinity of, the Exhibition is to be avoided, it is essential that there should be no parking of cars or coaches in the streets. Therefore, it is proposed that the London County Council should be authorised to provide temporary car parks for private cars and for motor coaches, to acquire land, to carry out works to make the sites suitable, to impose charges and to make by-laws governing the use of the parking places.

Clause 6 deals with the duration and removal of temporary works and defines what is meant by the use of the words "temporary" and "temporarily"—namely, that any such work or happening shall last until the closing of the Exhibition, or such period thereafter as the Minister of Transport may by order allow to give time for clearing away temporary works. Clause 7 deals with modifications of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. The land comprising the South hank site was acquired by the London County Council before the appointed day prescribed in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and, therefore, in accordance with Section 82, first development does not attract development charges. Clause 8 would empower the Minister of Transport to make grants to the London County Council and the British Transport Commission towards meeting the expenses incurred by them in the exercise of the powers conferred on them by the Bill, and to the Council in respect of traffic improvements in connection with the Exhibition. Clause 9 deals with agreements between the Commission, the Council and others. It may be convenient, and will make for expedition, if the L.C.C. are empowered to enter into agreements with local authorities or other parties to carry out some of the works to be authorised under the Bill. In that clause, therefore, power is sought to enable the Transport Commission, the London County Council, the City of Westminster, the Lambeth Borough Council, the Port of London Authority, and others, to enter into agreements for the carrying out of the provisions of the Bill.

Clause 11 includes the usual provisions for the protection of the Port of London Authority. Clause 12 is the Interpretation Clause. Clause 13 is the, Short Title Clause. The First Schedule contains a description of the works authorised under Clause 1. The Second Schedule lists the provisions of existing enactments which are to apply to the new tramways. The Third Schedule brings together a number of ancillary provisions as to execution of works and acquisition of land which are normally included in Bills authorising the kind of work for which powers are sought in the present Bill.

I hope that what I have said is a fair summary of the provisions of the Bill. May I say, in conclusion, that this Bill is more than a provision for bread and circuses, or even to provide some outlet from the period of austerity? The real purpose of the Exhibition to be held in 1951 is to show to the world the unconquerable spirit of Britain, and to show that in spite of the difficulties we can still face the future with confidence. It will show that the British people are not easily cast down, and although they may exercise their time-honoured custom of grumbling they will still go forward with every confidence, certain that ultimately we shall rise above the difficulties and perplexities which confront us. This Exhibition is an endeavour to demonstrate that to the world. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Ammon.)

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that everyone sitting on this side of the House would wish to re-echo what the noble Lord has just said. We wish this Exhibition Godspeed just as much, as he does; and if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. The question is, since we are to hold this Exhibition in 1951, have we chosen the right time, the right place and the right way of going about it? The noble Lord has explained, with admirable clarity, this Bill of thirteen clauses and these schedules, which involves a rather prodigious expenditure of public money. I may say that I was a little intrigued when I heard the provisions of subsection (5) of Clause 1 (which deals with the making of piers) until I discovered that it did not mean that noble Lords opposite were increasing their representation in this House! Clause 3 has to do with those evicted from the place of exhibition with which we are all concerned, but the noble Lord's remarks have done much to clarify the position in that respect. In the First Schedule, Part III, we discover that further tramways are to be built—in a city that we had been given to understand was to be rendered tramless as soon as possible.

Now, regarding the time: I think that the Centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851 is indeed an excellent time to hold this Festival, and I agree with the noble Lord when he says that its object is to demonstrate our contribution to the arts and sciences. We live in a very strange propaganda age; if you do not make a case, nobody will make it for you, and it is assumed that you have no case to make. The time is rather limited, and this Exhibition will occupy a much smaller space than did its predecessor of a century ago. So it will have to be correspondingly more Striking to achieve the same success.

As to place, London, I believe, is the only choice. It is no longer the head of the Empire, but it is, and always will be, its heart, and that of the whole English-speaking world. I am not a Londoner myself, and I keep well away from controversy about the South bank versus the North bank, and all the rest of it. But I have a great affection, as have many other noble Lords on both sides of this House, for this part of London; and I think the site chosen will be a worthy one and that the expenditure will be worth while. I think, too, that the disturbance that will be caused in evicting quite a number of citizens and replacing them elsewhere, and the traffic and transport arrangements, are all being looked after in this Bill.

There is one thing I should like to point out. This Bill is to cost the taxpayer something like £2,000,000. Your Lordships will recall that a very successful Festival was held in Edinburgh last year. It is, of course, necessary to spend in order to attract spenders, but I would remind the Government that in the case of the Edinburgh Festival, great success as it was, all the great sums of money involved were provided by private persons; not a penny came out of the taxpayers' money. The 1851 Exhibition made a handsome profit, and I thought that I read into the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, the hope that this one also will make a handsome profit. I feel, therefore, that in the noble Lord, and in the more reasonable of his colleagues, the profit motive is not dead but sleeping. I am pleased to hear that there will be, at the same time as this Festival, exhibitions all over the country, so that the different parts of this Island will be able to exhibit the diverse variety of their different skills. Then, indeed, it will be a Festival of Britain and not merely a Festival of London. In that connection, I am glad to see such a strong Scottish representation on the Festival Committee.

There is one last point that I should like to make. If this Exhibition is to succeed, it must go hand in hand with the most careful arrangement of our transport services; and a good deal of assistance should be given to our hotels, so that they can afford that hospitality and comfort which overseas visitors are entitled to expect. However much these visitors may admire our contribution to the arts and sciences, they will take away a poor opinion on balance, if they have to deal with slow trains and a diet of dried eggs. I should like once again to associate noble Lords on this side of the House with wishing this Exhibition Godspeed. Since it is to be held in 1951, it might, perhaps, coincide with another festival, when the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, will be making his admirable speeches from this side of the House.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords. I should not have intervened in this discussion at all had it not been for the peroration with which one noble Lord finished his remarks to the House, calling such direct attention to the purpose behind the Exhibition. Because of that, I felt that any silence from these Benches might be taken as indicating a lukewarmness or indifference in regard to the purpose of the Exhibition. This is very far from being the case; we join with all Parties in the House and elsewhere in welcoming the idea of the Exhibition.

Everybody, probably, has his own ideas as to the right location, just as there were controversies as to what was the right site for the National Theatre. Those of us who are older remember Exhibitions at the White City and Earl's Court, but they were on a scale which certainly would not command the approval of a generation accustomed to the magnificence of Hollywood expenditure. There was also an Exhibition at Wembley, and I think that perhaps it taught us that absence from the more accessible parts of London was almost too heavy a burden for an Exhibition of that kind to bear. It is, therefore, an advantage that this Exhibition should be sited in a readily accessible part of London. But that, obviously, involves considerable control of the volume of traffic in that part of the world; and no doubt this Bill is necessary for the convenience and encouragement of visitors. That being its purpose, we welcome its introduction.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, this Exhibition is, I agree, a grand idea, and I hope that every one of us will do his best to support it. But in considering its organisation, we have to think out how people are going to get there. We have been told by the noble Lord that power is taken under the Bill to regulate traffic, and so on, but if this Exhibition succeeds there will be a terrific concentration of people from all over the world to come and see it. That will put a heavy responsibility on the Government, not only to help the traffic along but to make the hotel accommodation, so far as possible, keep step with the requirements of the Exhibition. The Government are still in occupation of many hotels; can the noble Lord assure us that the Government will do their utmost to try to get out, and so make these hotels available for the foreign visitors? That is a very important point. Foreign visitors will go away with a very dim view of us if they wish to stay at various hotels in London and are told that it is impossible to get accommodation—even if they try to book weeks or months ahead.

I hope the noble Lord will pay attention to the question of traffic problems. Power is taken under the Bill to create car parks. Can the noble Lord give us any idea how these car parks are to be regulated? Who is to regulate them? Will it be a private concern like National Car Parks, or who? Or do the Government propose to set up a special staff of their own to deal with this matter? Can they tell us what the charges are likely to be, under the Bill, for car parking? Whose responsibility will it be to make all those arrangements? Will it be that of the Exhibition authorities, or will it be the more direct concern of the Government? Those are some of the questions that I think will be asked. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give us an answer to them.

As has already been said, it is a queer business that one of the Schedules is concerned with the making of new tramlines, although we were told by the noble Lord, Lord Latham, the other day that all the tramlines of London are to be pulled up at an early stage, and new buses and so on are to be employed instead. There is one other point I should like to submit to the noble Lord, if I may. I think I am right in saying that the area of the Exhibition will be rather limited, and accommodation will be rather more limited than was the case at Wembley, or than the exhibition area at the Crystal Palace would have been. I should like to ask this question: Will it be possible for various technical institutions of great interest to be able to take space at the Exhibition and show what trey can? Noble Lords may wonder what I mean by that The point is this: I happen to be connected with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which I think is a model to the rest of the world. Most other lifeboat services have been founded upon ours. We would like to be able to have a stand or something of that sort at the exhibition. If the noble Lord could pass on that humble prayer to the Exhibition authorities, it might perhaps carry weight with them. There are other institutions of a similar character to the Lifeboat Institution, and it would be well that they should be granted space at the Exhibition, if that could possibly be done.

There is one other point I should like to mention—that is, the question of getting to the Exhibition. As I have already said, and as is implicit in the Bill, it is likely to be very difficult to get to the Exhibition. We have a magnificent river. Is it intended to try to make use of the river, almost, as it were, for the first time?—for there never was a more neglected artery of traffic than our river. I hope that we shall make every possible use of river transport, which will help to ease the pressure on other systems of transport, such as the tubes, the trams and so on. I am sure that we all join with the noble Lord in wishing every possible success to this Exhibition. We will do everything we can to support it.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene only to refer to two points in connection with this Bill. First of all, I should like to thank the Government in no measured terms for the alteration that they made in the Bill in another place because, as it was introduced there, I felt that it would be necessary to petition against the Bill on behalf of the Port of London Authority. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, has said in introducing the Bill in this House, the Government themselves in another place have inserted Clause 11 for the protection of the Port of London Authority. I want to thank the Government most sincerely for so doing, and the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, for his reference to that clause.

I desire to make only one other point. There seems to me to be just one omission in that clause. I have no doubt that the Government are seized of it. The only material omission seems to be a provision that permanent works should be assessed as a work in the river under the Port of London (Consolidation) Act, 1920. I think the Government would probably see their way to accept that Amendment, and to insert it as an additional subsection to Clause 11. If they do see their way to meet us in that regard, may I, with some diffidence, point out that that will entail a consequential Amendment of a drafting nature, I think in subsection (13) of Clause 11. As printed that subsection reads: Any difference arising between the Council and the port authority under this section shall … and so on. Before the word "shall," I think we need the protecting words "(except subsection (9) thereof)." I desire again to thank the Government for meeting the Port of London Authority, and for protecting them in the way they have done under Clause 11.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I yield to no one in my enthusiasm for this Exhibition and for the development of the South bank of the Thames. At the same time, I would wish to take advantage of the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, to the ordinary Englishman to grumble. I would venture to grumble at one particular point which is highly relevant to this Bill. I refer to the traffic congestion which is already serious, and which will be exceedingly serious in 1951, at the north end of Waterloo Bridge, where the great flow of traffic which comes across Waterloo Bridge today intersects traffic bound for the City. Already, we have had to install traffic lights at that intersection, and the delay is of a most serious nature. I hope that such precautions as are possible will be taken to prevent any great increase in the flow of traffic over Waterloo Bridge in connection with this Exhibition; otherwise, one of the worst traffic jams of London will be established at Aldwych.

Some years ago we made the great mistake of pulling down the old Waterloo Bridge, I recall that this House discussed the matter at some length, and that one noble Lord (I am glad to say that he is still with us, although he is not here to-day) pointed out the grave effect which the creation of a new and enlarged Waterloo Bridge would have upon the traffic flow at that point. An airy reply was given from the Government Benches—I think there was a Socialist Government in power at the time—to the effect that, if necessary, we would create a traffic circus at that point. Any such creation would be fantastically expensive. But if it is proposed to make any great use of Waterloo Bridge as an access to the new Exhibition, I suggest that that expedient will have seriously to be considered. I leave that problem with the Government. I have no doubt that it has already been considered, and I only hope that the expert advice which must surely have been tendered to the Government on that point has not been overborne.

I pass to two smaller matters. In the first place, I understand that it is proposed greatly to enlarge the traffic roundabout in Parliament Square. I do not know whether the noble Lord can tell me this; I am sorry that I have not been able to give him notice of this question. A little while ago, a scheme for turning Westminster into what town planners now call a "precinct" was exhibited at the Tate Gallery. In that scheme it was proposed that traffic should not go around Parliament Square, but that it should proceed along the north side of the Square and join Victoria Street at a new spot. I hope that that scheme has not been finally abandoned. I understand that much time must elapse before it is possible to put that most attractive project into operation, but if Parliament Square is to be made into a greatly enlarged traffic roundabout, I presume that we are facing the probability of a large increase in the flow of traffic proceeding at a much greater speed. I would express a very strong hope that the effects of this traffic flow upon the foundations of Westminster Abbey and of St. Margaret's will be carefully considered.

Finally, my Lords, I would urge that some street works should be undertaken which would have the effect of making Lambeth Bridge a more useful method of crossing the Thames. To-day there is great need for completing the scheme for an improved access to Horseferry Road, and I would strongly urge that this matter also should be considered and, if possible, that action should be taken before 1951. I am well aware that traffic problems have been present to the mind of His Majesty's Government and that consideration has been given to them. At the same time, I would point out that any failure to make proper provision for trans-river wheeled traffic will have serious consequences. I understand that extra foot-bridges across the Thames have been suggested, and I trust that every effort will be made to accommodate the convenience and comfort of the public in that respect. At the same time, it must be remembered that the use of footbridges from the side of the Exhibition tends merely to transfer the traffic problem from the Exhibition site to the already overcrowded locality of Charing Cross.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, when Lord Ammon introduced this Bill he indicated to the House that one of the main reasons for holding the Exhibition was to show to the world that we were still a great Power. I agree that the Exhibition ought to do much in that direction. It will be publicised in overseas countries to such a degree that undoubtedly a very large number of people will come from abroad to witness the Festival of Britain. They will come here in such large numbers that we must make sure that when they arrive they will get the comfort which they will expect. It is all very well to talk about traffic jams and the difficulties of arranging the traffic so that visitors can get to and from the Exhibition with ease; but, believe me, we must provide other comforts for visitors, in addition to seeing that they can travel with comfort. If we give dissatisfaction to the large number of people who come here, we shall not be doing the slightest good by holding the Exhibition. In fact, I maintain that by holding the Exhibition and giving discomfort to overseas visitors we shall be doing more harm than good; and we shall certainly not, as Lord Ammon indicated, be showing the world that we are still a great Power. I have had a little experience in publicising Britain in overseas countries, and I repeat that as a result of this Exhibition and the publicity that it will receive there will be a very large influx of people who will be spending their money here, doing a service to this country and helping us very materially in our economic recovery.

I would like to support what was said by Lord Howe in regard to hotels. We must give proper accommodation to the people who come here, and we must make them as comfortable and as satisfied as they would be in their own countries. I would beg Lord Ammon and the Government, before they proceed further with this measure, to assure themselves that comfort will be meted out to the people who come here, for I am certain that the harm done by one dissatisfied customer in tourism is far greater than the good done by a hundred or a thousand people who are satisfied. Out of every thousand who tray come, nine hundred may be quite happy, and, being happy, will not tell the r friends in their own country because they desire to have the opportunity of coming here again in comfort. But the one hundred out of the thousand who are unhappy and uncomfortable will tell all their friends and advise them not to come to this country. So, in giving what support I can to this measure, I would beg the Government to give the greatest consideration to the question of the comfort of the visitors from overseas who come to attend the Exhibition.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, when this project was first mooted at the headquarters of the Fine Arts Commission eighteen months ago, I opposed it. On that occasion it was mooted by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and I opposed it on two grounds. The first was that it was keenly desired to hold it in Hyde Park. I live quite close to Hyde Park and therefore I was very much against it. I found that the mover of the proposal that it should be held in Hyde Park was the President of the Royal Society, and he lived in Edinburgh. Fortunately, that project has been changed, and the Festival is now to be held on the South bank of the Thames which is, I think, the best possible place for it. We shall undoubtedly get some value out of the æsthetic and practical improvement of that very slummy district, and out of the traffic improvements for which the noble Lord asks in this Bill. To that extent my opposition to the project has ceased.

But it does seem to me to be a duty to call attention once more to the very dull fact that this Bill involves considerable extra expenditure. Every penny counts in these days, although one would not think it, to judge by the operations of the Government. I take a very pessimistic view of the economic outlook. I think that if the present economic and financial trends in administration continue, the year 1951, far from being a year of festival, is likely to be a year of commercial and industrial gloom; and the only way to avoid that is to endeavour to reduce taxation. The level of taxation at present suffered by industry in this country is overwhelming. Although this is only a little Bill, involving perhaps £5,000,000 or £6,000,000—the noble Lord, I know, asks for only £2,000,000 for his roads and traffics—large buildings are to be raised, an embankment is to be made, and so forth, and very heavy expenditure will be incurred which will result in a loss.

I was very interested to hear from the local Lord below me that his exhibition in Edinburgh resulted in a profit. We know that Scotsmen are quite capable of making a profit out of almost everything; but surely I am right in saying that they did not build anything in Edinburgh, that they made use of their existing buildings and, therefore, were not put to the heavy capital expenditure which is envisaged in the present project. The noble Lord, Lord Ammon, in his opening speech, said that we could not use Earl's Court and Olympia because we might interfere with the British Industries Fair. I wonder whether that is a good argument. After all, what is one of the chief objects of this Exhibition? No doubt, it is designed to spread culture, and so on, but is it not also intended to promote the sale of exports? Why cannot the British Industries Fair and this Exhibition be combined for one year? Why not make use of the two huge exhibition sites which already exist in London—Earl's Court and Olympia—one or other of which is almost always empty? Why not improvise, instead of everlastingly erecting expensive buildings?

I know that nothing is more unpopular than preaching economy, and nothing is pleasanter than spending money, especially when it is other people's money; hut, if I am right in my view, it will be found necessary to cut down expenditure in every direction that one can think of in the course of the next three years. If I am wrong, no one will be more pleased than I shall be to stand up and admit it. In the meantime, however, it seems to me to be a duty to call attention to the situation. Why is it that money can always be found for such projects as this, for such things as the gamble of £5,000,000 in bolstering-up the fag-end of British film production, and for a National Theatre which we are told is to cost another £1,000,000? The money is being found, too, for a £30,000 game of "put-and-take" with the Henry VIII wine cellar—taking it out and putting it in some place a number of feet lower down.

There is always money to spend on that sort of thing, but there is no money for the Army, the Royal Air Force or the Police Force. When we have really important debates in this House, or in another place, and the Service chiefs attend and tell us that we want a Regular Army, sufficient and efficient, a Regular Air Force and a Regular Police Force, both sufficient and efficient, it always seems that there is no money for such things. Why are those Forces not at their proper standards? There is only one reason—you will not pay them enough. You have always money for the kind of thing which we are discussing now. I feel it my duty—though I know that I may be making an extremely unpopular speech—to say this. While I hope that the Exhibition will be extremely successful. I must say that I think it is a great pity that so much money is to be expended on the erection of buildings for it.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, may I thank your Lordships for the very cordial reception which you have given this Bill. We sha;1 not, I trust, be thrown into a mood of pessimism as the result of the speech made by the noble Lord who has just sat down. The theme of his remarks is one upon which we have heard him expatiate before. One can only hope that matters will not turn out as he thinks they will. If, happily, they do not, I am sure that no one will be more pleased than the noble Lord himself. The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, was anxious for a speeding-up in the abolition of tramways. Unfortunately, we cannot get the abolition completed in time. It is our firm intention to abolish trams as soon as possible, but they will have to remain until the Festival of Britain is over, because it will be impossible to get the necessary work done in time. Lord Tweedsmuir also raised a question about the expenditure of £2,000,000. Not more than one-half of that expenditure will fall on public funds, and much of the work will be of permanent value—that is to say, its value will remain after the Exhibition is over. To that extent, therefore, the expense is minimised.

May I thank the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, for his unexpected and encouraging speech? With regard to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Earl Howe, I have already indicated in my opening speech that there is in existence a high-powered committee of technicians who are concerned with the movement of traffic. The committee includes representatives of the Ministry of Transport, the London County Council and other bodies whose business it is to handle traffic. This committee will be dealing with traffic questions, and I think there is good ground for hoping that their efforts will be successful and will result in the traffic being handled expeditiously and kept on the move.

With regard to hotels, I am sure that both the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, will be glad to know that there is an interdepartmental committee at work on this matter. Their work will be devoted not only to the improvement of hotel accommodation during the Festival but also to its continued improvement afterwards. They are entrusted with the task of doing all they can to see that better hotel accommodation is provided in the country generally. I am sure the outcome of their efforts will be eagerly awaited, and that they will reach a successful solution of the problem. Car parks will be under the general control of the London County Council. This will mean that the fixing of charge: will be on a scale which will not be unduly expensive, and will certainly be well within the means of those likely to use these places. These car parks will be controlled under by-laws to be made under the powers of this measure and with the approval of the Ministry of Transport.

Endeavours will be made to make far more use of the River Thames than has been made heretofore. This will mean attention to the provision of fresh steamers and encouraging the development of those which are already upon the river. We trust that the public will take the fullest advantage of the facilities for river travel, as this will mean taking a considerable burden off both the roads and the railways. I am sure that people will find it a great advantage to use the wonderful artery which the river constitutes in this city of ours. I repeat that everything possible will be done to encourage its use.

The suggestion that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution should have a place in the Exhibition I will certainly bring to the notice of those responsible for carrying out the arrangements. Naturally, this suggestion appeals to me. I remember an excellent exhibit which the Institution had at the Glasgow Exhibition. I know that it had great popular appeal, and I have no doubt that a similar one would be a considerable draw in London. If there is any difficulty in establishing an exhibit on the site of the Exhibition, it might be possible for the Institution authorities to arrange something on the river nearby. I am sure that they would receive the fullest co-operation from those concerned.

On the matter of traffic problems, to which the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, has referred, I need hardly say that they have been borne very much in mind. I expect those within whose province they come have had these problems with them both sleeping and waking. The noble Earl's proposals were largely concerned with what I might call long-term policy. So far as is possible, all arrangements are being made, and all precautions are being taken, in this connection for the duration of the Festival. May I interpolate at this point that I do not altogether agree with what the noble Earl said concerning Waterloo Bridge? I think it is probably one of the most beautiful bridges which span the Thames, and that it certainly justifies anything that took place long ago. But I must not stray into controversial matters of that kind.

As to Parliament Square, one of the suggestions made is to bring the two green spaces together and thereby make some enlargement of the roundabout. This will undoubtedly facilitate the movement of traffic and make conditions easier than at present. I can assure the noble Earl that all matters concerned with traffic are having the closest and most careful consideration for, obviously, if anything went wrong in this connection there would be a general breakdown and the whole project might be ruined. The noble Earl need have no fear. So far as human ingenuity and industry can ensure it, nothing will be left undone which can make for efficiency in this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, raised a point concerning the Port of London Authority. I am happy to tell him that an Amendment is already in draft to meet his point.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him to tell us something more about the interdepartmental committee which is to be concerned with hotel accommodation? Apparently, the work of this committee will ensure more comfort for people using hotels. Will the noble Lord tell us which Departments are responsible and which Departments are represented on the committee—though perhaps it is rather unfair to put such a question at short notice?


My Lords, at the present moment I cannot tell the noble Lord anything, beyond the fact that I am advised that there is a committee. Perhaps he will ask again on Committee stage and I will give him an answer. If there are any other questions to which I have not been able to reply, if they are put down, I will give the required information.

On Question, Bill read 2a.