HL Deb 23 January 1951 vol 169 cc1066-89

2.41 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move that the Bill be now read a second time. It is a Bill to legalise or, perhaps I should say, to remove doubts concerning the legality of opening after 12.30 p.m. on Sundays the four main Festival of Britain Exhibitions in the County of London; the Festival of Britain Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park, also in the County of London; and the Festival Land Travelling Exhibition which, as your Lordships know, is to visit Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham. I hope that this Bill, drastically amended as it has been in another place, will now prove acceptable to all but the most strict and rigid Sabbatarians.

Before explaining the scope of the Bill, I should like to make it clear, first of all, that in so far as it confers immunities as regards Sunday observance, these are not of a character such as would enable the Festival of Britain to go beyond the current widespread practice for similar exhibitions. Your Lordships will see, for example, that the Bill expressly forbids the staging of a play, variety entertainment or circus turn, or the putting on of a boxing or wrestling display, or public dancing, in the several places which it is desired to open on Sundays. The Bill is strictly limited in its application and does not seek to extend its provisions to the many Festival events which are now being prepared all over England, Scot-land, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its purpose is to open to the public on Sundays after 12.30 p.m. five exhibitions of the Festival of Britain and the Festival Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park.

Your Lordships may ask whether legislation is necessary at all to enable these exhibitions and the Festival Pleasure Gardens to be opened on Sunday afternoons and evenings. The answer is that it is illegal to open on Sundays places of entertainment for which an admission charge is made, unless they come within the provisions of the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932. Your Lordships may perhaps know that what is "a place" has been the subject of a great deal of legal controversy over many years. The law is most complex and obscure, and exactly how these five exhibitions and the Festival Pleasure Gardens would stand in relation to the Sunday Observance Acts without this Bill is far from clear. The Government consider that these exhibitions and the Gardens should be open on Sundays just like museums or botanical and zoological gardens, the opening of which was legalised under the Act of 1932, and which have been open on Sun-days since that date without, so far as I know, any protest. Since these exhibitions and gardens are so clearly within the spirit of the Act of 1932 they have a claim to be protected from the risk of any action by a common informer. It is for those reasons that the Bill has been introduced.

Your Lordships will observe from the preamble that it is described as a Bill: to legalise, or remove doubts about the legality of, the opening on Sunday of certain places of public resort to be provided as part of the Festival of Britain, 1951. We are not concerned in this Bill with the wide questions of Sunday observance but merely with giving protection to these five Festival exhibitions and the Festival Pleasure Gardens against the uncertainty of that law. I hope that this Bill will be regarded by your Lordships as quite un-controversial. The Advisory Council of Christian Churches of the Festival of Britain, appointed by the British Council of Churches, were consulted by the Government before the Bill was first drafted, and the Council signified the opinion that, while they would have no objection to the South Bank Exhibition and the Festival Pleasure Gardens being open on Sundays, like all permanent exhibitions, parks and zoological gardens, they would object to the amusement area being given the same right of opening. As the other four exhibitions have the same serious purpose as the South Bank Exhibition, I believe it can be said that the Bill as it stands faithfully reflects the view of the Advisory Council, though it is only fair to say that they have not expressed any opinion regarding the additional features, such as the children's pony carriage drives, which were added in the course of the Bill's passage in another place after the main controversy had been decided.

I feel that I ought to give your Lord-ships a brief description of these exhibitions and of the Pleasure Gardens. The South Bank Exhibition is to be held on the South Bank of the Thames between County Hall and Waterloo Bridge. This is the main exhibition of the Festival and it is designed to tell the story of what this country has done for itself and for mankind through the arts, sciences and technology, and through their application to everyday life. The Exhibition of Science at South Kensington will deal in greater detail with some of our outstanding contributions to science. The Science Exhibition will deal mainly with recent advances in unravelling the structure of matter. There will also be illustrations of modern applications of science to industry, agriculture and medicine.

The Exhibition of Books to be held in the Victoria and Albert Museum will cover a large range of British books in fifteen sections, each grouped round a different interest—the poet, the countryman, the historian, and so on. The Exhibition of Architecture at Poplar will display our latest achievements in building, building research and town planning. The Exhibition is to be sited on the boundary of a new residential neighbourhood being developed by the London-County Council so that it can be practically completed in time for the Festival and so illustrate in a "live" form the best British town-planning and housing practice at the present time. It may be as well to make it clear that the completed houses will be occupied, and that the new residential neighbourhood will not be roped off. The Bill refers only to the small exhibition proper, sited on the edge of this neighbourhood, for which an entrance charge will be made. The Land Travelling Exhibition will draw upon the subject matter of the South Bank Exhibition, but being, of course, infinitely smaller will include only a small range of the South Bank displays.

The Festival Pleasure Gardens are in Battersea Park. They take in part of the river frontage and cover thirty-seven acres out of the 200 acres of the whole park. They will be laid out with flowers and shrubs, lakes and fountains, and will include tea gardens and places of refreshment, besides other features to which I will return. An amusement section will run along one side of the Gardens, but, as a result of a free vote in Committee in another place, the Bill does not permit the opening of the amusements at any time on Sundays. The Bill as it stands specifically authorises the use on Sundays of a limited number of features in the Festival Pleasure Gardens, but outside the amusement section, designed either for the entertainment of children or to enhance, in a way which I hope your Lordships will think entirely unexceptionable, tile general attractiveness and beauty of the Gardens. They are listed in Clause 1, subsection (3) (b) of the Bill. They did not form part of the Bill as it was introduced in another place, but were added piecemeal as the result of Amendments proposed by private Members, and were carried without a Division after the free vote went against the opening on Sundays of the amusement section and after the Government had made it clear that they did not wish to have the responsibility of exercising any discretion whatever in sanctioning or turning down the use in the Gardens on Sundays of features which might be held by some people to smack, even though remotely, of an amusement park.

The Bill refers only to the hour after which the exhibitions and Pleasure Gardens may open. Closing time is left to the discretion of the Festival authorities concerned. If the amusement section in the Pleasure Gardens had been opened on Sundays, Festival Gardens, Limited, the company set up to create and operate the Gardens, would have proposed shutting at 10 p.m.—an hour and a half earlier than on weekdays. Now that the amusement section is not to be open on Sundays, the company would like to keep the gardens open until 10.30 p.m. The hour of closing, as I say, is not part of the Bill, but as 10 o'clock was mentioned in the course of the Second Reading debate in another place, the Government would like to take this opportunity of seeking the views of members of this House—if they care to express them—on the proposed extension of hours of opening of the Gardens on Sundays from 10 o'clock in the evening until 10.30.

In view of the international situation I should like to conclude by dealing with the justification for proceeding as we are doing with all the arrangements for the Festival of Britain. No nation has better deserved, after these ten years of siege and austerity, to have some sort of relaxation and rejoicing. Even if the Festival were an act of rejoicing and nothing more, there would be something to be said for it. But in fact, fairly viewed, it is really nothing of the kind. The Festival of Britain is the greatest concerted effort of national stocktaking ever attempted by any great ration. All our progress in a very wide range of the arts and sciences, and their application to everyday life, is being scrutinised with the help of those best fitted to judge. The best that we can produce is being care-fully selected and displayed, and we hope that that display will prove to be an inspiration and an example. We have often heard laments about the decline in quality and in standards: sometimes, of course, those laments are well-founded. We hope in this way that we shall do something to improve the standards in these respects. Anyhow, we shall display the best we can produce in quality, and we hope thus to set new standards for years to come.

It is not to be regarded as just another monster exhibition in the capital, but it is an organised effort of modern exhibition techniques and modern organisation in the presentation of the arts which will make clear for the first time to many of our countrymen and to many of the visitors who come from overseas what the arts and sciences really mean to this country, and how much we are indebted to the work and the labour of those who have gone before us. I think this is well justified. The more that we have to demand of our people to defend their heritage, the more important it is that the nation should be fully alive to the nature of that heritage. The more our economic prosperity and our military security depend upon the general Intelligent use of advanced scientific devices, the more important it is to show the millions who have had no scientific training all that science means through the use of recently developed exhibition methods. The more danger there may be of other peoples being misled into swallowing misguided political doctrines, the more urgent it be-comes to show to the world in a simple and compelling form what the institutions of the oldest great free democracy are, and how we are attempting to solve the difficult problems of the present and the future.

The more difficulties encountered in persuading the world to develop a better sense of proportion and to solve difference's by peaceful means, the more important it becomes to enlarge the narrow horizons of the bare struggle for economic and military existence, and to ensure some better impact for the ideas and values of civilisation which might otherwise be lost to sight in the dust of immediate economic and political strife. The more we believe in the British contribution to the advancement of civilisation, the more essential it is to let our own and other people have a chance of seeing, in a readily absorbed form, how immense this contribution is. Therefore I feel that the national value of the Festival is likely to be enhanced rather than diminished by recent events. The buildings, of course, have now been erected. The exhibits are coming forward for display, and up and down the country many hundreds of local authorities have laid on simple and inexpensive, but imagi-native and stimulating, contributions to display the achievements of their own communities and to heighten the aware-ness of all the people inhabiting these Islands. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time, and I commend it to the consideration of your Lordships.

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

2.59 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill, in its present form, is unlikely to raise any very vigorous conflict of opinion in your Lordships' House. The one potential bone of fierce contention has been removed by a major operation in another place, and I imagine that none of your Lordships would wish to make any inopportune attempt in this House to reinsert it. Had it been otherwise, I should personally have hesitated to intervene at all in this debate. But the legal aspect, as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has said, is certainly one of immense complication and considerable uncertainty. It is there-fore right that those responsible for the Festival should be protected by a special Statute if there be any reasonable doubt attaching to the correct law applicable to this particular aspect of it. It would indeed be a grievous affair if we were to contemplate the spectacle of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Ismay, and his colleagues ignominiously paraded in the dock as a preliminary to the opening of the Festival of Britain.

As I understand the purpose and the effect of this Bill, it is to provide that visitors to the Exhibition shall be enabled upon a Sunday, and within fixed hours, to inspect the more static and improving features of the display and at the same time not be confronted with the temptation to indulge in the more dynamic and dishevelling delights which may be provided by scenic railways, "dodg'ems" and such like. That policy is carried out in the Bill by making the visitors free to frequent any portion of the Exhibition scheduled in the Bill, except such limited parts of the Festival Gardens at Battersea as are specifically defined in the provisions of the Bill itself.

There are two questions, perhaps of rather minor importance, which I should like to put to the noble and learned Viscount. The first is this. I have a recollection that in reading the literature connected with the Festival I saw mention of a peripatetic ship which was to bring instruction and diversion to the inhabitants of various coastal towns. There is mention of the travelling land Exhibition but no reference to its marine counterpart, and I rather wondered what were to be the Sunday habits of that particular portion of the Exhibition. The second question is of a much more limited character, and is designed merely to repair a reprehensible breach in my own knowledge. I wonder whether the noble and learned Viscount would tell us what an elevated tree walk, referred to in sub-section 3 (b), may be. It looks to me, at first glance, rather like a mixture between Commando training, Wendy's house, and the Bandar Log, but it may have some more relevant significance in this particular context. I confess that at first sight that significance is not very easy to detect.

My Lords, may I say this about the South Bank buildings? I have had an opportunity these last few days to inspect those buildings at close quarters. My impression—I think like that of many of your Lordships—derived merely from contemplating the buildings from Westminster Bridge or the Victoria Embankment, was one of considerable doubt, both as to the congestion of the place and the restriction of the scale in general layout. My impression after seeing the layout from the inside is that the area available is very much larger than one would expect from a distant view, and that the scale of the buildings is very much more in conformity with what one would wish it to be for an Exhibition of this character than one takes it to be when viewed from the other side of the river. I think that any of your Lordships would be deeply impressed by the very remarkable and exciting constructional feat which is the Dome of Discovery; and also think that the Concert Hall, although that is not strictly part of the Festival, since it is the one permanent building on the site, would make a similar impression.

Having said that, may I make one general reservation? When this project was introduced, it achieved the support of all Parties for its promotion; and as regards the scientific, artistic, historic and. indeed, the general informative aspect of the Exhibition, that support certainly cannot be withheld at the stage to which it has now attained. Had we been gifted with the dubious endowment of prophecy, and had we been able at that moment to foresee the present manifestations of dialetical imperialism, our views might have been different, and we might well have urged postponement and reconsideration of the project as a whole. But we were viewing the situation, inevitably, as it was at the moment, and we are all committed to supporting, so far as in us lies, the success of the Exhibition as a whole.

I find it difficult to believe, however, that any single individual will be attracted to visit the Festival by the fact that, some two miles away from the South Bank site and in Battersea Park, there is to be a Fun Fair. Given different times, given a different political climate in the international sense, it might well have been a most praiseworthy and admirable undertaking. But to-day, with the best will in the world, one cannot help feeling that it is perhaps a somewhat discordant note in the whole project which we are contemplating. The mood of this country to-day is, and ought to be, not a particularly light-hearted one. This is not a moment when people are feeling particularly frivolous or escapist; rather are they feeling serious and resolute. I find it difficult to see why this Exhibition, otherwise a dignified representative parade of all that this country has achieved, is achieving and will still achieve, should be, in a sense, let down by the introduction of this rather ill-timed effort to provide an amusement park. It seems to me so out of key with the whole of the rest of the undertaking that I hope that even now the Government may give some consideration to whether they think it essential to proceed with that part, though for the rest, as I say, we give it all the support that the Government may desire.

It is not with any desire to be a kill-joy that I make that suggestion, but I find it very difficult to believe that that particular aspect of the Exhibition will at this moment inspire very great joy in anybody. I know that it will probably be said that a great deal of money has already been spent, and that it would not be possible to withdraw now. But, my Lords, compared with he loss that will be incurred—and a heavy loss upon that part of the Festival is already contemplated—it might be not only more economic but also a better representation of the country's mood to those coming from outside if at least we did not emphasise too strongly that aspect of the Exhibition. Also, it is possible that many of the amusement con-tractors who embarked upon enterprises in the Park in the expectation that it would be open on Sunday, and that they would derive a very considerable benefit from that opening, may at this stage be not only willing but even eager to accept an opportunity to withdraw. In the present state of affairs. I felt bound to make that one reservation. For the rest, His Majesty's Government can depend upon it that, so far as we are concerned, having pledged ourselves at the outset to the success of the Festival, we shall not change our attitude at this stage.

3.11 p.m.


My Lords, until I heard the speech by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and the speech to which we have just listened, I thought that probably I was going to be out of order to an extent to which perhaps your Lordships would object. I will go 100 per cent. with the most admirable ideas that have been put to us by the noble Marquess who has just sat down. I was one of those, perhaps rather an isolated person, who from the very beginning was against this project—for the reasons that have already been expressed, which are to-day accentuated to an enormous extent. I want to follow the noble Marquess and ask: is it too late to alter the character of this Festival? As the noble Marquess has told us, the situation has altered a great deal.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but he said that he was following my suggestion that we should alter the character of the Festival. I made no such suggestion.


My Lords, I am sorry if I misunderstood the noble Marquess, but I thought he said that when this project was initiated it was at a time when the situation was quite different from what it is to-day. That is what I meant to say. If I did not say it, I apologise. That is my view. I notice that those who initiated this idea are in somewhat of a quandary as to what to do. Is it too late to stop the present set-up of this Festival, and to see whether we cannot make it something more in keeping with the present times which (again I am going to quote the noble Marquess) he has so admirably referred to as serious times?

There are one or two points that I want to put, perhaps more in the nature of questions. I wonder whether they have been seriously considered. In travelling about the country and speaking to all kinds of people, I find that there is a want of appreciation of the very serious situation in which the world is at the present time, and of our present situation here. People do not seem to realise the dangers. I feel that such a Festival as this, carried on in the way that apparently it is to be carried on at the present time, will to a certain extent make them feel: "Oh, well, if we are able to do all this, and we are going to do all this—fun fairs and so on—the situation cannot be so bad as some people say it is." I think that is something that one ought to consider—the public mind on this matter.

Then, there is the financial side. Your Lordships are aware that within quite a short time taxation in the United States has enormously increased. There is also a very proper, necessary and tremendous drive on rearmament. Is that going to enable the great numbers of our friends across the Atlantic to come here, spend their money and enjoy themselves at a Festival of this nature? I do not believe they will come. From that point of view, I think we have to face the fact that the possible attendance for which we had hoped may be greatly curtailed. It seems to me that, if we were depending to a very great extent on their attendance, so far as they are concerned from a financial point of view the Exhibition is going to be a "flop." What can we do if that happens, as in my view it certainly will happen? We can, so far as possible, encourage our own people to go to the Festival, to spend their money and to enjoy themselves. As I have said, I do not consider that that is a very good thing for them to do. From a public and psychological point of view, I think it is bad that they should be encouraged to do that.

What does it mean? Let us face up to this. What will it mean if that does happen? What effect is that going to have on the drive for rearmament, the drive for further exports and so on? We are encouraging, as of course we must, people to make this Festival a success, and we shall have to give them all the facilities for taking a day off in order to take the family to the Festival. I feel that that point is worthy of consideration. Secondly, while we wish everybody to save as much as he can, people are to be encouraged to spend at the Festival what little they have left after they have earned it, and have paid their taxation in one way and another. Thirdly—and this is very serious —everybody is short of coal to-day. As we all well know, we are having cuts in electricity. If we are to get the people to the Exhibition in their thousands, instead of cutting down the train services, as we are now doing, we shall have to put on extra trains. We shall have to put on extra buses. This means that more petrol and more coal will be used in order to get the people to the Festival and so help to prevent a possible very serious financial "flop." Therefore, I do most earnestly ask the Government "Is it too late to stop, and alter the character of the Festival?"

The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor referred to the educational side of the Festival in regard to science, and so on. Could we not limit it to something of that sort, and wash out the whole of the Fun Fair business? This is not the day to have that sort of thing. This is not at all a day for jollification. I wonder what our foreign friends, and particularly the Americans, will think about this Festival, having regard to the magnificent support and help that they have given us. I put myself in the position of somebody over in America who might ask himself "What are these people doing? Are they taking all this situation seriously? They seem to be so well off that they can have a thoroughly good time in these bad times for us." I do most seriously put that point of view before the Government, in the hope that they will equally seriously consider that aspect and, if possible, alter the whole character of the Festival. As the noble Marquess has said, that might entail certain loss, but in the end it would be far better to do that than to carry on as if times were very good and we were justified in enjoying ourselves and making great efforts for our people to nave a good time.

3.21 p.m.


My Lords, I must confess that I had some secret and inner thoughts of doubt about the wisdom of the whole policy of this Festival, but the two speeches that have just been made by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, have completely altered that point of view. I think their speeches are very strong arguments for going on with this Festival and making it a great success. I am delighted to hear that Lord Teviot has not succeeded in his no doubt sincere attempts to make people thoroughly gloomy and frightened. The danger to-day is of over-depression. of war neurosis, "jitters," and a hysterical public frame of mind. That is the great danger that I see in all countries of the world to-day. I have had with me to-day a business colleague who has just returned from America after two and a half months there on business. He is a very level-headed man. The picture he draws of the state of nerves and excitement and general mental ill-health in the United States is frightening We do not want that sort of thing here, and if this Festival will keep people on an even keel and we are all able to keep our heads, for that reason alone the Festival will be justified. If I understood the noble Marquess aright, he objects very much to what he calls the amusement park. In that sense we ought to close down every theatre, every concert hall, every cinema, every circus and every place of amusement in the country.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but that does not in the least follow from anything that I said. All I said was that it seemed to me that a fun fair was not at this moment an appropriate adjunct to a Festival of Britain. That is an entirely different thing from the suggestion that one should shut down places of entertainment which have no connection of any kind with the Festival of Britain and which are open irrespective of whether or not there is a Festival.


Then why did the noble Marquess couple it with the international situation, and why are foot-ball matches and other amusement parks going on? I am going to direct your Lordships' attention to a historical parallel in 1939, when there occurred the centenary of the foundation of the City of Wellington in New Zealand. The New Zealand Government and people had arranged a great exhibition and festival to celebrate the centenary of Wellington. I know about it because I was concerned in it. I have no business connection with this Festival at all, but I was concerned with the centenary exhibition in Welling-ton. We built the amusement park there entirely in steel—an innovation at that time and a very good advertisement for British steel construction. We are doing nothing here in this Festival, because there is not enough steel to spare. But then came the war, and the New Zealand Government had to decide whether or not to go on with the Festival and the celebration of the centenary. They decided —I think rightly, and all New Zealanders since have told me that they thought the decision was right—to go on with their Festival. No one could travel easily. They were expecting a great influx of visitors from all over the world to that very fine exhibition, but there was very little travel possible, and the petrol allowance was cut down. Actually the financial loss was considerable; the only part of it which paid—and this is apposite to something that fell from the noble Marquess—was the amusement park, which made a slight profit.


It is not supposed to make a profit here.


Nor is it sup-posed to make a loss.


There is advertising, too.


Exactly. There was no loss there, but the rest of the exhibition cost a great deal of money. However, the New Zealanders have since assured me that they thought the decision to go ahead was right. It steadied public opinion and the loss generally would have been far greater if they had not continued. Having said that, I am very glad that we are going on with this Festival, particularly in view of the international situation.

May I address one or two questions to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor? He referred to the Exhibition of Architecture in Poplar and the new town. It may be due to my ignorance but I have not heard of the new town. What is it going to be called?




I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount. With regard to the Land Travelling Exhibition, I understand that the Scots are taking a great part in the Festival. Is the Travel-ling Exhibition confined to those four English cities, or is there a separate Scottish travelling exhibition? With regard to Sunday restrictions, I understood the Lord Chancellor to say that refreshments will be provided. Will the sale of alcohol be permitted on Sunday? I hope not. In fact, I should like to have no alcohol sold at all throughout the Exhibition; but that is a personal opinion and I do not press it.

May I have a tilt at both the Government and the Sabbatarians, of whom, of course, I am one? If we prohibit the opening of the amusement park on Sun-day, how is the spirit of the English Sunday to be observed if we allow children, the most impressionable of people, to have a free run at their amusements? There seems to be a contradiction there, and I do not quite understand the policy. If you wish to impress upon children the sacredness of the English Sunday, which I presume everybody wants to do as everyone agrees with the observance of Sunday, why exempt them from the limitation on the amusement park and give them a free run? May I ask the Lord Chancellor—I do not know whether this is a legal question—at what age a child ceases to be a child? The children's amusements will be open. Will he and I be able to go on the ponies and enjoy the marionette shows and the other things, or are only children to go on or to them? What age limit is there to the use of the underground grotto and the series of other grottoes? Most of these children will have to be accompanied by an adult—the younger children obviously must. If we are to be sensible and logical, it seems to me that this breach of the amusement park prohibition on Sunday is a very wide one indeed. But that is by the way. I could not resist having that little tilt at the Government and particularly at those who altered the clause in another place.

I have put one or two questions which I think should be of general interest. As I have indicated, I have had my secret doubts about the whole policy, but we have gone ahead with this project and I hope it will be a success. I hope it will convince the world that we in Britain, at any rate, are keeping our heads and not suffering from this ridiculous form of excitement, this war neurosis, which it seems to be the object of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, to encourage—with the best intentions. I am sure.


The noble Lord is completely wrong in his diagnosis of what I have in mind.


The noble Lord should realise that people are not all as depressed as he is about the general situation, and he is wrong in thinking that they do not understand it. It seems to me that he is trying to depress people still more than they are already depressed. I do not think there is any need for him to follow that line. Our people are sensible and they are capable of taking a sane and sober view of the world situation. They know that in that situation there are certain dangers; they know that the worst could happen. But they are going about their business calmly, and they are entitled to a little amusement and distraction as well as the usual amount of work. Whether men are engaged in mining coal or in producing munitions or whatever it may be, if they have the chance of taking their families to the Exhibition it will be a very good thing indeed for themselves, their families and their country. I hope that Lord Teviot and his friends will not do any further mischief by trying to discourage it.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid that my speech will seem very commonplace after the stimulating contributions we have just heard, which have certainly ranged over a large field. I shall resist any temptation to discuss international affairs, and confine myself to domestic matters. I had hoped that from these Benches one of the Bishops who has been intimately connected with this whole matter would speak, and as I happen to be the only Bishop present at the moment perhaps I should express the views of this Bench, so far as I am able, and say that we support this Bill as it stands and offer no kind of opposition to it. I think that the House of Commons were right in omitting the clause dealing with the so-called Fun Fair. I wonder whether there would have been quite so much agitation if a different title from that of Fun Fair had been used. A very large number of people—not only Sabbatarians—have been in considerable difficulties, not only on religious grounds but on other grounds also, about having that part of the fair open on Sundays.

I have sympathy with those who felt great hesitation about having the Festival at all. I felt that very few people were really enthusiastic about it. But I am sure that it would be a grave mistake on the part of the Government to act upon the advice given to them by Lord Teviot. If the Government were now to abandon the Fair, or if they drastically changed its character, I think that something like panic would spread. Their action would be interpreted as an indication that the Government felt that war was inevitable this year. In the circumstances, it would be quite wrong not to go ahead now that we have gone as far with the preparations of the Festival as we have—though for many reasons I wish that the Festival had not been arranged as it has. But large sums of money have been spent on it, a great deal of advertising has been done in connection with it, and I think we ought to give it all the support we can.

There are, of course, one or two points concerning which I feel special anxiety. I hope that adequate arrangements have been made for the safety of the traffic going to and from the Exhibition along the South Bank of the river. Some of those who are much more familiar with that subject than I am have expressed great fear as to what may happen. They think that there may be considerable congestion of traffic. I can say only that I am thankful that during these coming months my station will be Kings Cross and not Waterloo. This is a matter which does need—and no doubt has already received—very serious consideration. I hope that the Festival will deal not only with the past and with the present, but also with the future; that it will express the hopes which we as a nation have for the future of our people. There is sometimes a tendency, especially in foreign countries, to look upon Great Britain as a country which has a great past, as a sort of magnificent museum piece. I hope that we shall stress in this Festival our confident and hope for the future, as well as express our thanks-giving for, and our pride in, the past.

There is just one other point which I feel bound to make. In the North, a certain amount of feeling has arisen. There is a tendency to think that the Festival is becoming the Festival of London, rather than the Festival of Britain. Not long ago a statement was made —I forget who made it. but it was someone connected with the Festival— that it would be a very good thing if English people went abroad for their holidays this summer, so as to make more room in London for the people coming here for the Festival. In the North I heard people saying: "Here are we in York and elsewhere spending large sums of money. Why cannot people come up to the North instead of going overseas?" I do hope that in the advertising in connection with the Festival too great stress will not be laid on London exclusively, so that the claims of the North are forgotten. With these reservations and slight anxieties, I give my full support to this Bill and to the Festival.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words to indicate how cordially I agree with what has been said by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and how greatly I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, in the rather gloomy and, if I may say so, out of perspective view which he took of this subject. It happens that this year is not only the year when we are to have this great Festival in Britain. It is a year when festivals will be taking place in other countries also. In Scotland, as the noble Lord no doubt knows, there are to be the Five Hundredth Centenary Celebrations of Glasgow University. I hope that he does not want to damp them down. There is also to be celebrated in the United States the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Yale University, which event I do not suppose will be postponed on account of any darkening clouds over the international situation. I was extremely glad to hear from the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor the very interesting and, I thought, stimulating account which he gave of the scope and the purpose of the Festival. So far from believing that we are out of date in this country, or going into decay, I believe that it will be shown by the Festival that in science and in the arts we are taking a leading place in the world, and that we are laying foundations on which a great future will be built.

I do not know whether I shall be contradicted by anyone, but I think there never was a time when the future prospects of this country—I do not mean necessarily for the next two or three years —were brighter than they are at present. And this is because of the tremendous amount of work which is being devoted to the sciences, to art, to literature, to education, and, generally speaking, to the building of new avenues of life which will make it possible for our country to be greater than it has been in the past, although, as history shows, its past has been very great indeed. I was very much astonished when I heard the view ex-pressed by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, that these exhibitions should not be opened because at this time there ought not to be relaxation. I used to be a doctor—I suppose I still am, because once a doctor, always a doctor—and I well remember one thing connected with my doctoring. This is that it is always at a moment of strain that one needs a reasonable possibility of relaxation. No one, I think, can deny the truth of that, and anyone who has ever served in dangerous conditions in time of battle knows well that then it is not the people who say, "Damp down everything," but those who radiate around them calm and confidence, and who believe in a certain amount of relaxation, who get good results.

I believe that the talk about the dreadful situation in which we are is greatly exaggerated. I believe there are many gleams on the horizon at the present moment, and that we may look forward to this Exhibition being of the greatest possible help and stimulation to us during the year. Let us not forget that it takes place 100 years after the great Exhibition of 1851, which left a splendid legacy in the world of learning in scholarships and fellowships. I hope that our Exhibition of 1951 will leave a similar legacy to the future. I believe that on the foundation of the great work now being done in this country, especially in the sciences, we can look forward with confidence, whatever comes, to a future greater than anything we have seen in the past.

3.41 p.m.


My Lords, it is not my intention to intervene in this debate for more than a few moments. There is really no reason why I should do so, for there is no advice which I should seek to give my supporters. Even if there had been a difference of views on the Bill, it would no doubt have gone to a free vote. I understand that, as the question of the opening of the Fun Fair on Sunday has now been settled in another place, this Bill is entirely non-controversial in its actual provisions. The most reverend Primate has just confirmed what I understood, that the settlement which has been reached and the Amendment which has been made in another place make the position entirely acceptable to the Churches, and I do not see why in this matter we should be unwilling to agree with them.

If I rise, it is because I should like to say a word in support of what was well and wisely said by the noble Marquess. Lord Reading, with regard to the question of the Festival as a whole. I recognise that this goes rather beyond the ambit of the Bill, but I am in good company, for it is a course which has been followed by every speaker who has preceded me. I would emphasise to your Lordships that in what I say I speak in no controversial or Party sense: that would be most inappropriate. But, as the noble Marquess has already said, and the point was made by other noble Lords, we must all recognise, in whatever part of the House we sit, that our national situation has greatly changed since the scheme of the Festival was originally approved by Parliament.

Then it may well have been supposed that, as a result of the best labours of the British people, things would slowly but steadily improve. Unhappily since then, as we all know, as the result of events in Korea and of what I am afraid we must regard as a steady deterioration of the international situation as a whole, that is no longer true. We are faced to-day with a position of great gravity and we have already been warned by the Government themselves that new and severe sacrifices are likely to be demanded of us. I hope, therefore, that in these circumstances the Government will take note of what the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, has said, and, even if they are unable to go so far as he suggested and close down the more "junketing" portions of the Festival, they will find it possible to indicate publicly and at an early date that although it may be their full intention to proceed with the Festival —and I am not concerned with that—they do not themselves wish the British people to embark on useless or extravagant expenditure in connection with it. I do not go quite so far as the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, though I sympathise a great deal with what he said. In any case, I imagine that it would be far too late now to cancel the Festival.

Moreover, and this is only a personal view, anything that tends to increase our knowledge of and our pride in our country, and to increase the knowledge of other countries of our history, of our past achievements, and of our present great efforts, would prove, I should have thought, not only justifiable but valuable in the present emergency. But, with all deference to what the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, has said about relaxation, this is clearly not the moment for any- thing of the nature of an unqualified "beanfeast" or even of the light-hearted rejoicing to which the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor I thought rather optimistically referred. To suggest such a thing as that is entirely to misapprehend the mood of the British people, who are not really able at the present time to emulate the gay insouciance of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and are genuinely worried, for instance, about the use of many materials which they know to be in short supply and which could be used for other more valuable and permanent purposes. I am certain that the Government need not fear that advice from them to avoid extravagant or inappropriate expenditure would induce a feeling of panic or depression either at home or abroad, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, feared. On the contrary, from what I have heard, and heard on all sides, it would be warmly welcomed as an evidence that at any rate we are taking our present problems seriously. With all deference to the most reverend Primate, I do not believe that that would be regarded as panicky or—


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess, but I was referring to the abandonment of the Festival or to a complete change in its form.


I am sorry if I misinterpreted the most reverend Primate. I do not think that such advice as I have suggested would be regarded as panicky; it would more likely be regarded as realistic. Therefore, I urge this course most earnestly on the Government. Let any contribution they wish to be made either by London or the Provinces be uplifting and if possible en-during, instead of reckless spending on ephemeral enjoyment which would be quite out of keeping with the spirit of the times and would be rightly reprehended by all reasonable sections of the population.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, if I may speak again with your Lordships' permission, may I say that it says much for the institutions of our House that practically all the speeches so far have been entirely out of order. including my own. The object of this Bill is to get rid of the difficulties which may arise from the Sunday Observance Act and to authorise certain parts of the Festival, with regard to which everybody, with the exception of the noble Lord. Lord Teviot, is unanimous, to be open, notwithstanding the provisions of that Act. It is not proposed to open the Fun Fair on Sundays, and the Bill has nothing whatever to do with it. The Fun Fair is as far from this Bill as Timbuctoo. Notwithstanding that, we have all discussed that aspect of the matter as though the Bill were in some way concerned with it—and it is fair and right that we should. I agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that the circumstances of to-day are such that any needless or reckless extravagance is obviously to be avoided. I certainly think that is right. On the oilier hand, I agree with what the noble Lords, Lord Haden-Guest and Lord Strabolgi, have said. I believe relaxation is a necessary part of getting a job done. I do not like this doctrine of gloom which, not for the first time, the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, is advocating—and I believe for its own sake. I can well understand the attitude of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. In the circumstances of to-day he did not like the idea of the Fun Fair being, as it were, hitched up to the Festival of Britain. But the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, goes much further. He bases it on the necessity to avoid the danger of people taking a day off; the danger of having to run extra buses; the danger, as he sees it, that people are not going to come; and, if that proves wrong, the danger of congestion if they do come.


It is a curious thing that I can seldom get on my feet without the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack accusing me of being gloomy. What I like to do is to face up to the realities of the situation. My opinions to-day are based entirely on what has fallen from highly responsible Ministers of the Government who have tried to tell us in no unmeasured terms the dangers of the economic and military situation.


The noble Lord can quote no better authority, and I hope that he always follows the advice that he gets from those quarters. But he did tell us that he had always been of this opinion.


Against the Festival of Britain.


It is not a new found faith which he has adopted as a result of recent observations by Ministers. It seems to me logical that his argument would lead to the closing of cinemas, theatres and all places of enter-tainment.




Defi-nitely it would. I believe that it would be a disastrous policy. I would go so far as to say that I personally believe that if we closed down the amusement fair we should be doing exactly what the Communists would like us to do; there-fore I will not do it.

I have been asked a number of specific questions, and I will endeavour to answer them. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, asked about the Festival ship. There is to be a ship—the "Campania," I believe. She is a converted escort carrier which has been taken on loan from the Admiralty. She is to visit various ports in the country, and will contain an exhibition based on the theme of the South Bank Exhibition. The possibility of opening the ship on Sundays has been considered, but it would probably prove impracticable to do so. The noble Marquess also asked me about the elevated tree walk. I am informed that the tree walk will run round the branches of trees within the pleasure gardens, and will lead to a platform from which there will be an excellent view of the gardens. That is probably a pastime that will be indulged in by the children rather than by adults. However, I hope that no one will fall down and that special care will be taken not to damage the trees.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also asked some questions. I am afraid I do not know what definition I should give of "a child." I feel that I should retort: "Someone who is not a grown-up." but more than that I could not say. The noble Lord asked about the sale of alcoholic drinks. It is proposed that there shall be a restaurant in the Exhibition and the Gardens which will sell alcoholic drinks, but they will be subject to the normal licensing laws applicable to Sundays. However, they will sell soft drinks, and there will be other places, to which the noble Lord can resort, where only soft drinks will be sold. So far as Scotland is concerned, there is to be a special exhibition of industrial power at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. There will be two book exhibitions, one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow. There will also be an exhibition on architecture and traditional crafts in Edinburgh, and although it is the fact that the Land Travelling Exhibition is not visiting Scotland, yet the Festival Ship "Campania" will visit Glasgow and Dundee.

I entirely agree with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York that the Exhibition must deal with the future—indeed, it is called "Past, Present and Future." But it is difficult to have exhibits of the future, because, ex hypothesi, they are not there. On the other hand, by showing what has been done in the past and what is being done in the present, one can try to stimulate the imagination to show what can be done in the future. I am grateful to your Lordships for the support and criticism you have given me in regard to this Bill, and I beg now to put the Question, That the Bill be now read a second time.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.