HL Deb 30 January 1951 vol 170 cc5-10

2.44 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL, OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clause 1 [Sunday opening of exhibitions and gardens]:

VISCOUNT SIMON moved, in subsection (1) after "Sunday," where the word occurs a second time, to insert "in the year 1951." The noble Viscount said: I have put down this Amendment to Clause 1, limiting its operation to the present year, 1951, largely in order to ask for information on what is contemplated after the Festival is over. I believe that there are expressions in the Statutes that have been passed which suggest that the Festival should last for six months. As we know, extensive alterations are being made—constructions of various kinds—in preparation for the Festival. I am more particularly concerned with what may be intended in the future in the part of Battersea Park which is being taken over for the Festival, including the Fun Fair. It is one thing to take an area in Battersea Park and make alterations for those purposes if they are to be only temporary, but quite another if it is intended that the new constructions should then remain and be used after the period of the Festival is over.

There is no more beautiful park, certainly south of the Thames, than Battersea Park: it has a charm and quality of its own. But we agree that for the time being some forty acres should be considerably altered for the purposes of this celebration. I learn from more than one quarter that there are people who are much concerned to know what it is intended shall be done with these constructions when the Festival is over. On looking in the Act of Parliament, I do not find any clear indication about the matter. The original Act was not made to cover only a temporary period; on the face of it, the provisions are permanent. Of course, if under some arrangement there were to be a continuance of the Fun Fair, whatever that fun might consist of— switchbacks, roundabouts, and so on— the character of the park would, to say the least of it, be considerably interfered with, and I believe that many people living in the neighbourhood would feel most anxious.

I am sure the Lord Chancellor when reading the Daily Herald this morning-— which, of course, every good Socialist does before breakfast—will have noticed that on the front page, in addition to the information about defence, there is a well displayed article: "Two Bears Shot at Fun Fair." Apparently a bear named Stalin, a forty-stone Russian bear, and his mate got loose at Huddersfield and ultimately had to be destroyed. If I lived in a building overlooking Battersea Park and it was contemplated that these new constructions were going to be continued in the spirit of a Fun Fair, I should feel a little concerned. I do not think it is a case where I need disclose any personal interest, but I may tell your Lordships that when I was a young mart and I was first married I lived in a flat facing Battersea Park, and many times have I wheeled my eldest child in a perambulator in those sylvan glades. Therefore, I have a sort of nostalgic-interest in this matter.

What I should like to know—and I feel it would be in the public interest that it should be stated—is what is contemplated as to the future of the considerable constructions which are being made in connection with the Festival and, more particularly, the Fun Fair in Battersea Park. I appreciate that I may not be strictly within the rules of order, but I am more within those rules than I should be if I had not put down this Amendment. I would point out that 100 years ago when there was the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, all signs of it were removed from Hyde Park after the Exhibition was over, although the main structure, as we all know, was moved to Sydenham as the Crystal Palace. I do not desire to do more than secure such information as the Government are prepared to give. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 6, after ''Sunday" insert "in the year 1951 ".—(Viscount Simon.)


I am not sure that the learned Viscount is strictly in order, but we lawyers have a doctrine which we call the cy près doctrine, and I think we can fairly avail ourselves of that doctrine in this case and assume that he is in order. The noble and learned Viscount is concerned to know what is the position with regard to the year 1952. There are no present plans for the continuance of the Exhibition in 1952. Of course, the whole situation is so uncertain and so obscure— we see through the glass so darkly at the present time—that I am not in a position to assert positively that the Exhibition will not be open in 1952, although I can say that there are no present intentions so to open it. But it is possible, of course, that the Exhibition will be such a success in 1951 that a popular clamour may arise, and the noble Viscount may be pressing me—or whoever is Lord Chancellor in those days—to continue the Exhibition in 1952.

I think I can give him this satisfaction, however. Before we did anything in that connection, both Houses of Parliament would be most fully consulted. I think I can go further than that. I think I am right in saying that legislation would be necessary to open in 1952, because, not under this Act (which is merely an Act dealing with Sunday opening, and mitigates the rigour of the Sunday opening laws in certain respects) but under the principal Act, with its complicated provisions about an approved day and an appointed day, the buildings in Battersea Park have to be removed within a certain time. If we sought to continue in 1952, we should have to seek the appropriate powers. The position relating to the Gardens in Battersea Park, is laid down in Section 3 (1) of the Festival of Britain (Supplementary Provisions) Act, 1949, which requires these to be reinstated as part of Battersea Park "as soon as may be after the appointed day," which is defined as six months after their opening. As regards the rest of the Festival, the position is not clear, but that is not a part in which the noble and learned Viscount is interested.


I had looked at that section. The noble Viscount quoted subsection (1), but subsection (2) goes on in this way: If it appears to the County Council that it is desirable that any buildings or works erected or carried out for the purposes of the gardens should be retained for the benefit of persons resorting to Battersea Park, the Council may agree with the Company (upon such terms (if any) as to payment as may be specified in the agreement) that the buildings or works shall be so retained. My question really was not addressed to the issue whether or not the Festival will be continued, but whether or not the Government contemplate that the constructions which are being made will remain to be used after the Festival is over, with the idea, I suppose, that they might provide some form of pleasure or interest. If that were done to any serious extent it would entirely change the character of that part of Battersea Park, and to my knowledge the matter is one which greatly concerns some people living in the immediate neighbourhood.


I am sorry I have not the Act before me. My recollection is that there is another section also which deals with the matter. All I can say at the moment is that there is no present intention, and if it is felt hereafter, in the light of other circumstances—which, Heaven knows, is quite impossible to foresee at the present time —that it is desirable to do something of this sort, then both Houses of Parliament will be fully consulted before we decide.


I am obliged to the Lord Chancellor for giving this information. I put down the Amendment for the purpose of asking for such information as could be given. Although I think the matter is still rather obscure, and some people may be left in a rather anxious state, probably the better course for me would be to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, after subsection (4) to insert as a new subsection: (5) For the purposes of the Shops Act, 1950, the place where any exhibition above referred to is being held, and the festival gardens so referred to. shall be treated as falling within the description 'gallery, museum, garden, park or ancient monument under the control of a public authority or university' in sub-paragraph (I) of paragraph 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the said Act (which sub-paragraph relates to the sale on Sunday at the places therein mentioned of guide books, postcards, etc.).

The noble and learned Viscount said: I am sorry to say that there is a clerical error in the Amendment as printed on the Paper. Some of your Lordships may have noticed it. In the last line but two there is a reference to sub-paragraph (b); that should be sub-paragraph (I). We recently passed the Shops Act, 1950. That Act contains a Fifth Schedule, and as we have so recently passed it, I have no doubt that all your Lordships bear it in mind. It provides that, for the purposes of the Shops Act, 1950, you may have a limited sale on Sundays, notwithstanding the provisions of the Sunday Observance Act. The sale permitted is of guide books, postcards, photographs, reproductions, photographic films and plates, and souvenirs. Now where may these things be sold under the Shops Act? First of all at any gallery, museum, garden, park or ancient monument under the control of a public authority or university.

Secondly, they may be sold at any other gallery or museum, or any place of natural beauty, or historic interest, or any zoological, botanical or horticultural gardens, or aquarium, if the local authority certify it to be desirable.

It is certainly the fact that we do desire to sell on Sundays guide books, postcards, photographs, reproductions, photographic films and plates and souvenirs, as we could under the Shops Act if the festival gardens were a "gallery, museum, garden, park or ancient monument." To make the matter perfectly plain, therefore, we propose to insert this Amendment, which is to the effect that For the purposes of the Shops Act, 1950, the place where any exhibition above referred to is being held … shall be treated as falling within the description 'gallery, museum, garden, or ancient monument.…'

The effect of this Amendment is not to enable us to sell all sorts of things, but to enable the authorities to sell guide books, postcards and so on. To clear up that obscurity I beg to move this Amendment the effect of which, as I have said—and I want your Lordships to understand it—will be to make it possible to sell that limited range of articles on a Sunday, notwithstanding that this is not strictly a museum or exhibition of that sort within the meaning of the Shops Act. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 39, at end insert the said subsection.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed.