HL Deb 06 March 1951 vol 170 cc834-83

4.1 p.m.

LORD MANCROFT rose to call attention to the proposed reconstruction of Carlton House Terrace; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, on January 31 last a debate was initiated in your Lordships' House by my noble friend Lord Mottistone upon the subject of the proposed new building for the Colonial Office on the site of the old Westminster Hospital, opposite Westminster Abbey. A long and full debate took place, with the vast weight of opinion being in favour of some modification of the scheme. The debate was replied to by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, Lord Morrison, and he answered in his usual courteous and careful way. He held out little hope that what we wanted could be achieved. The next day The Times newspaper published a leading article, which has since attracted a good deal of attention, entitled "Lost Battles." The leader writer said: This is not the first time that public opinion, having expressed itself strongly against the proposed destruction of one of the nation's architectural treasures, and having felt with some justification that it has made out a good case for a change of policy, has found itself defeated by the official technique of letting the protests die down and then quietly proceeding almost as though none had been made. In that particular case the accusation was not wholly fair, because, as the noble Lord. Lord Morrison, pointed out in the debate, the matter had been before Parliament and we had missed our opportunity of making the protest which we were then making. The Times went on: The lesson of the latest happenings is once more that new and effective measures are needed to make sure that schemes affecting fine or famous sites or buildings are exposed for public scrutiny as soon as possible. Very shortly afterwards, His Majesty's Government, to the intense pleasure of nearly everybody, changed their minds and produced a much modified scheme which met with wide approval.

What new means should be produced for effecting what The Times requires I do not know, and will not try to imagine, but I would suggest that a debate in your Lordships' House seems as effective means as any for achieving the alteration to this plan that we seek to-day. There is no need for me to describe in any detail the proposals to which I am calling your Lordships' attention—the proposals to build a new Foreign Office building on top of the Carlton House Terrace of John Nash. They have been widely ventilated in the correspondence columns of the Press: there has been a lengthy correspondence in The Times, and there has been published an authoritative and helpful article in Country Life which I see the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, has placed at our disposal to-day. I would point out that this article by Mr. Robert Lutyens contains the only really coherent support for these proposals that I have yet read. The Government have taken some pains not to put in our hands any of the articles opposing the scheme, and I give His Majesty's Government full marks for low cunning.

It is the word "scrutiny" which I should like to bring to your Lordships' attention. Until the New Year, when the Press published these pictures, only the vaguest rumours had reached us of what was afoot with regard to Carlton House Terrace. It is perfectly true that the plans had been exhibited two years ago in the Royal Academy, but the architectural room at the Royal Academy contains many plans, some possible, some impossible, some probable and some improbable. They tend to be overlooked in the general brouhaha which the exhibition normally arouses, and this particular year I believe the Press was full of a particularly vociferous argument between Sir Alfred Munnings and some other gentleman, whose name has slipped my memory, who was maintaining that it was normal that a horse should have five legs, and purple ones at that. Therefore, one can hardly be blamed for having overlooked these plans when they were placed in the Royal Academy. There was also a Parliamentary Question in another place some nine months ago, and that had faded from memory. Therefore, when the protagonists of this scheme accuse the critics of not having sufficiently informed themselves of what was afoot, I would only ask: How is it possible to inform yourself of what is afoot? You do not know what is afoot until it is too late. I believe that that is what has happened in this case. It was not until The Times published these photographs that we realised that this scheme—I almost said "plot" but perhaps that is too strong a word to use—was afoot to bustle the arrangements through without the public really having a chance to understand what was happening.

I will not weary your Lordships with a description of the complicated negotiations which have gone on behind the scenes between the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Local Government and Planning, the Ministry of Works, the Royal Fine Art Society, the Westminster City Council, the London County Council, the Georgian Group and the person who comes out of the whole business with the greatest credit, the honourable gentleman the Member for Twickenham. It is rather of the future I wish to speak. I have put this Motion down merely to find out, in the vernacular, "what goes on." How far are these plans advanced? What is the Goverment's intention? How much money has so far been expended, and how much will be expended? Who has been given notice to quit Carlton House Terrace? If these plans are approved, when is it expected that building will begin? When will the building be completed? Will Parliament be allowed to scrutinise the final plans before the decision is taken?

May I continue to quote from The Times leading article: Not only must the question be asked how the Government, the proper guardians of our national monuments, have come to assume so often the role of their assailants; it has also to be asked why public opinion always seems to rally too late to the defence. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, is thinking of the remarks he made in the last debate, that His Majesty's present Administration are not the only repositories of vandalism; other Governments are equally to blame. If the noble Lord reminds me that the Pinchin Johnson building, which was put up in 4, Carlton Gardens, in 1933–34, was put up under Conservative Government ægis, I would have to say: "Touché." In order to escape any accusation of vandalism, it seems to me that His Majesty's Government have to answer three questions. The first is: Is a new building for the Foreign Office really necessary? If the answer to that question is "Yes," then they must answer this question: Is Carlton House Terrace the right location and area for that building? And if the answer to that question is, "Yes," are the plans which are now before us the. right answer?

Let me take the first question. Two arguments have been put forward in support of the scheme for a new Foreign Office. In 1868 the Foreign Office staff was 150, and 28,000 despatches were received in the course of a year. To-day the Foreign Office staff has swollen to 2,500, and 570,000 despatches are received in the course of a year. Is all this realty necessary? Is no economy possible in the swollen ranks, swollen files and swollen waste paper baskets of the Foreign Office? If they only want somewhere to store their despatches, could they not take over the Dome of Discovery on the South Bank when it is finished with? The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in speaking in the recent debate on the subject of the new Colonial Office, remarked sadly that as the Colonial Empire grew smaller the Colonial Office got larger. It would be dangerous to carry that simile into the realm of the Foreign Office; but I cannot refrain from saying that in 1868 we certainly had both a Foreign Secretary and a foreign policy.

The next argument is that the Foreign Office is apparently, at present, spread over six buildings. I can appreciate that, in certain circumstances, that may be inconvenient and a cause of extravagance in overheads. But during the war many Government Departments were quite satisfactorily housed in several different buildings. And is it really desirable always to concentrate all your buildings in one centre? I do not argue the point strongly; I merely ask His Majesty's Government to prove that they really need this building. They must prove it in the face of the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Badeley, in a recent debate. He spoke of the insatiable appetite for office premises which His Majesty's Government seem to possess. In July, 1950, so far as I can discover, there were 66 buildings under construction in this country for use by His Majesty's Government as offices. They occupied 3,000,000 square feet and were going to cost the taxpayer £15,000,000. Those figures do not include the proposal for a new Foreign Office and a new Colonial Office. And whilst this vast orgy of bureaucratic buildings continues, the private business-man and the private home-seeker wait. I suggest that in face of the figures I have given, the Government should, as regards the scheme for a new Foreign Office and a new Colonial Office, take their place in the queue.

And is Carlton House Terrace really the right place? Have the Government tried any other place? Is there nowhere in Whitehall where the Foreign Office could go? There are a large number of offices going up in Whitehall Gardens and other places; there is Lacon House, Charles House, Fortress House and others. Would it not be possible to move the Foreign Office into one of those areas. Or what of the South Bank? Would it not help, incidentally, in the question of dispersal if the South Bank were used? And, on this subject of dispersal, to place another Government Department in Central London is surely going to cause much more traffic congestion. The Carlton House Terrace area lies at the bottom of Lower Regent Street and near Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross and Piccadilly Circus. Is not the intrusion into this area of another Government Department, with 2,500 civil servants and all their visitors and transport, going to cause further congestion? I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, that he should go to the bottom of Lower Regent Street at about a quarter to five any evening, taking with him the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, and get aboard a bus. I will promise to go along an hour later and take them cups of tea and buns, because they will still be there. Moreover, apart from the question of traffic congestion, is it right that yet another Government Department should move into this area? After all, it is a social and residential area and I suggest that it will be completely spoilt if further Government offices are erected there.

The third question which the Government have to answer is this: Assuming that they need a new Foreign Office and that this is the right place to put it, are these plans the right answer? Here we are involved in a matter of taste, and when one is involved in a matter of taste one must go warily. I do not think there is any need to idolise John Nash. We all know what John Nash was; he was an inspired jerry-builder. But his buildings have stood up pretty well. Carlton House Terrace may have been jerry-built, but it has survived successfully the ravages of 130 years, two major wars and several Government Departments. His work is considered by the experts to be slapdash, coarse and defective in scholarship. One expert has said that the Carlton House Terrace columns are sloppily executed and that the central pediments are redundant. Anybody can see that the roof is a mess, that there are far too many chimneys. Cannot some of the chimneys be taken down? Are all the fireplaces still in use? Is there no gas or electricity? And if the fireplaces are all in use, may we be told the name of the coal merchant? We are also told that the north front of Carlton House Terrace is undistinguished, and I agree. It may not even have been designed by Nash at all. It may have been designed by a pupil or by another architect who had access to Nash's plans. I am told that even the authorship of the south façade is in doubt. That problem need no longer trouble us; after the publication of this scheme I think there need no longer be any doubt whether Nash did or did not design Carlton House Terrace: we have only to open his grave and, if he has turned in it, he did.

Taking all this for granted, Carlton House Terrace as it now stands does provide the finest piece of monumental civic design in London or in the whole of England. It forms a splendid background to our only and really effective processional way. Architecture depends upon form and proportion as well as upon detail, and I suggest that the relation of the Terrace to Wyatt's Duke of York's Column as regards measurement and outline is really successful. The whole conception is most successfully proportioned and beautifully adjusted. The proportion of the height and length to the Duke of York's Column seems to me wholly satisfactory; and the whole group behind—the four clubs: the Athenaeum, the Travellers, the Reform and the Senior, and Waterloo Place and its gardens—seem to me a very satisfactory area of great urbanity and unity, and a very strong case must be made out before that urbanity and unity is touched.

Now a word about the scheme which Mr. de Soissons, the architect, has produced. He has produced plans of tact and taste, the sort of plans one would expect from an architect of his proven merit and ability. I say nothing against him on that score. What I do say is that he is trying to tackle a problem which ought never to have been set. I understand that the Royal Fine Art Commission have approved the plans, but what we have not yet been told is whether they were allowed to reject the whole plans as they were with Coventry Cathedral, or whether they were merely asked whether this was the best that could be made of a bad job.

It has been difficult to get details of the plans. Until I saw the plan in the Royal Gallery I had not been able to study the layout of the back of Carlton House Terrace, the north side, as it is now proposed. With the new buildings round the sides I have no great quarrel. The existing ones are admittedly undistinguished, but what about this proposal for a traffic ramp running right through the centre? I am inclined to think the word "ramp" is well chosen. I am also thinking of another ramp, the one that goes down the centre of Kingsway. It is very unpleasant to have a traffic ramp in the centre of a street. Apparently this one is to dive down under the Duke of York's Column, and in and out of it will run civil servants' little cars, like so many beetles coming out of a compost heap. One can see that it is going to make the Duke of York's Column look absolutely ridiculous, previously standing fair and square on a broad footing but now (if I have the plans correctly) with this huge ramp running underneath the base of the Column, and the noble Duke himself poised precariously, waiting for some unknown force to topple him at any moment into an abyss. That is a most unenviable situation, and one with which His Majesty's present Government must themselves have the fullest sympathy.

Then take the south front—I understand that the total overall height of the south front is to be increased by only 14 feet, but it is my submission that by doing that the full proportion of the Terrace will be wrecked. The Terrace is to step down, towards the Duke of York's Column, instead of up, as it now does. The whole relationship with the Column will be spoilt. The proportion of height to length will be spoilt. The climax of the whole composition will be ruined, and we shall be presented, instead of with this lovely building, with a bland, expressionless building, a Government building, lifted up by this to three storeys—rather like the face of a pretty woman that has been lifted. The essential character of the whole of Nash's work is to be ruined, and this makes mockery of the remark in another place nine months ago, that the essential condition of Nash's work would be preserved. It is not going to be preserved. It is difficult to put new buildings on to old foundations.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosse, who for constitutional reasons is unfortunately unable to speak here for himself, has put the matter very cogently in a letter to Country Life and to The Times. He points out that to put a few extra feet ore to a Poussin or a Raphael and still preserve the proportion is not possible. You cannot do that. You cannot put a top hat on top of a Greek statue. In someway our ancestors managed to do this better. Three hundred years after it was built, a perpendicular tower was added to Fountains Abbey, and greatly improved the whole building. The thirteenth century architects welded their West Front with the Norman base of Lincoln Cathedral, with spectacular success. In 1745 Hawksmoor added to Westminster Abbey two towers. They are not a success. May I also mention the Victorian vandal who added a spit of a spire on to the Church of St. Peter Mancroft? That did not improve its magnificent perpendicular tower. One Bank of England is quite enough. It is an example to us of what can happen when a modern architect tries to build on his forefathers' foundations. In no other country can one imagine this sort of thing being done. Can one imagine what the French would say if the Minister of Marine, as I am sure he would like to, asked that another storey should be put on to the top of the Ministry abutting on to La Place de la Concorde?

Some queer arguments have been put forward in defence of this scheme and, since your Lordships have in your hands copies of a document which I have here, perhaps I may quote one of the oddest. Mr. Robert Lutyens says: The factual points to be recapitulated are these. First, the set-back of the proposed new top storey is so considerable that it will be almost invisible from the Mall, except when seen from an oblique angle. From across the Park it will even look like a well-designed building rising beyond an intervening street. That is far and away the oddest praise of a building I have ever heard in my life. First, you cannot see it unless you are very unlucky, and, even if you can see it, you will not think it is part of the building. It seems to be carrying to the nth point the argument advanced once by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, when he said that the success of your Lordships' deliberations was largely due to the persistent absenteeism of 75 per cent. of the members of your Lordships' House.

That is the argument advanced for this building. It is also said that in the designs which your Lordships are now looking at the trees have been omitted. If, therefore, you walk down the Mall, and you get behind a good large tree, you will find that the new Foreign Office is a very good building not to look at. I am put in mind by all this of what the learned judge in Trial by Jury said: 'You'll soon get used to her looks', said he, 'And a very nice girl you'll find her! She may very well pass for forty-three In the dusk, with a light behind her!' Mr. Osbert Lancaster has also hit the nail firmly on the head, as he usually does, in saying that the existing building is quite unsuitable for office accommodation. Anybody who walks down Bryanston Square or the Nash terraces in Regent's Park will soon discover how unsuitable Regency buildings are for Government office accommodation, how ugly they look with their naked lights and dustbins. Mr. Lancaster also points out that an enormous amount of expensive underpinning and structural alteration will be required before the buildings can be used as Government offices.

I suspect that in their heart of hearts what the Government would really like is that the whole building should be pulled down and that they should start again. If town planning, as I understand it, means anything, these proposals are a travesty of good planning. Can anybody suggest that a private member of the public, or any speculative builder, would be allowed to carry out plans like these, and get away with it? Of course he would not. It is my submission to the House that this is an unnecessary scheme, that it is discreditable, unjustifiable, impracticable and unpopular. Unless an extremely strong case can be made out for its inevitability, I suggest most earnestly to the Government that they should abandon the whole scheme and start again. It is new proposals and new plans that I should like to see upon the Papers for which I now beg to move.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, before I speak on the Motion raised by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, I should like to apologise for my temerity in speaking to your Lordships a second time this afternoon, although it is on an entirely different subject. I think I speak for all your Lordships when I say that I should also like to voice the debt of gratitude that we owe to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, for having put so extremely clearly the case against the proposed new building in Carlton House Terrace. There, again, I feel rather a personal debt of gratitude, in that he has dealt with the problem so well and so thoroughly that it does not leave me a great deal to say. and I shall not take up a great deal of your Lordships' time.

There are just two points to which I should like to refer. The first is rather one of detail, and deals with the question of the Nash façade. It does not matter whether that façade was or was not designed by Nash; the fact is that it was built with a certain purpose in mind, and had about it a certain architectural unity and conception. One can see plainly what was the intention of Nash or the architect. There were to be two pavilions at each end of the block of buildings, and there was to be a lower piece in the middle. That really formed the effect. Consequently, one did not notice that rather dark attic roof which appeared above the stucco facade. The question of chimneys has been dealt with by Lord Mancroft, and I need not go into that matter. Quite obviously, the building was designed to be seen only from some distance away. Somebody made the most extraordinary statement that the new building could not be seen until one was halfway across the Mall. It was never intended to be seen close at hand. It is impossible to see Carlton House Terrace, as it exists now, until you are more than halfway across the Mall. The building was designed to be seen from the south side of the Mall, and from St. James's Park.

Another argument put forward is that the building cannot be properly seen because the plane trees in the Mall have grown so tall. That seems to be a totally irrelevant argument, because the one part that can be seen above the plane trees is the proposed new building on the terrace. The intention was that there were to be two pavilions at the end, with the building coming down in the middle. Now, of course, the central building is in the middle, and the excuse is that it does not rise up more than fourteen feet. I cannot see that the fact that it rises one foot, fourteen or forty feet is going to make a great deal of difference. The proposed scheme means changing the essential shape of the building, and it is extremely difficult to do that without spoiling its architectural outline altogether. As an illustration of what can occur to a building when an extra storey is put on top, it is interesting to visit Berkeley Square, and to take a look at Lansdowne House. There was an eighteenth century house which, at some time between the two wars, was sold; and upon its pediment was placed a large roof with windows. It is not easy to see nowadays, because Fitzmaurice Street is a very narrow street, but from certain places one can see how the whole point of Lansdowne House has been completely ruined by trying to put this new building on top. So far as I remember, at that time the same argument was put forward—namely, that the facade was to be kept unchanged.

Another point is that one is not too sure of what this new building on Carlton House Terrace is to be made. I see in the copy of Country Life which has been given us by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, that it is to be made of some kind of artificial stone, which is being used now for some of the other stuccoed buildings in London. There is a good example of that in Belgrave Square. One of the buildings on the west side of Belgrave Square, which I think was the Imperial Austrian Embassy and is now the Austrian Legation, had a porch which was demolished by a bomb during the war. The porch has now been rebuilt with this stone composition placed on the stucco painted front, and the effect is most unpleasant. If that is the sort of thing we are to see on the top of Carlton House Terrace, the effect will be even more grotesque.

I should like to reinforce the point made by my noble friend on the question of the car park in the Mall. That will do a great deal of damage to Waterloo Place, which at present provides such an interesting architectural outlook from the steps coming up from the Mall, and at the same time from Regent Street coming down from Piccadilly Circus. One finds there this rather solid open space, with two sets of buildings on each side. There is the very big open space, with the statue of King Edward, and then the steps. If, instead of that, you come up the steps and find yourself in a car park the whole vista will be spoilt. And the same thing will be apparent on coming down Regent Street. It seems to me that if you are going to have a car park underground it would be more reasonable to approach it from the ground floor, than, as it were, from the upper storeys. I think that point should be considered. One is particularly sorry that this scheme has come before us now, because this is just the time when the Ministry of Local Government and Planning are doing a great deal of very good work in seeing what buildings should be preserved in London and various parts of the country. At the same time, it is to be regretted that Parliament, taking powers above the Town and Country Planning Act, is taking a stand about what is a fine architectural building, and I should like most seriously to support the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in his determination to preserve these two extremely fine blocks of buildings, one of the great possessions of London.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, this House is generally at its best in discussing questions of æsthetics, the preservation of beautiful buildings and the countryside. A few weeks ago we had a most effective debate upon The Colonial Office. The noble Lord who opened the debate was himself surprised at its effectiveness. Within a very few days of the discussions here, the words that had been uttered did reach the Ministry of Works, with satisfactory results. To-day I feel that the speech opening the discussion was much more concerned with using a weapon to attack His Majesty's Government than with the æsthetics of the question. Under the guise of asking a number of questions, the noble Lord himself provided most definite answers, to his own satisfaction. He asked whether the new Foreign Office was really necessary, and in asking that question he delivered—as I understand other noble Lords propose to deliver—a general attack on all Government offices. I think their view is that no Government office is really necessary, and that no Government office at all should be provided in present circumstances. I thought that was really the logic of what the noble Lord said to the House.

In my submission, there can be no possible doubt in the minds of any noble Lord who examines the question objectively that a new Foreign Office is necessary. How can you defend a situation in which the Foreign Office of the British Commonwealth of Nations is scattered over nearly a dozen different places? Some of the officials are housed in wooden huts, a portion of the Foreign Office is close to Waterloo Station, another part is in Petty France, and various other bits are to be found all over the place. How can effective administration be secured when it takes a quarter of an hour or a half an hour, possibly, to get in touch with an official whom you may wish to see urgently? I am sure that if this had been a private scheme for the benefit of a private commercial firm, which wanted to get the whole of its administration under one roof, it would have been justified by every noble Lord in this House. The noble Lord referred to there being 2,500 members of the staff of the Foreign Office. I think his figure is exaggerated; there are not so many as that. In any case, it is not proposed to put large numbers of additional people into this place.

If the unsatisfactory traffic conditions which have been mentioned do exist—and I do not dispute that they do—it is surely not because of the Foreign Office or because of any new persons being brought into the area; it is because for so long the traffic conditions have remained unimproved, because they are, to a large extent, much as they were in the days before the internal combustion engine came into general use. But that is a separate problem, and if the noble Lord had stood up in this House, and had raised the question of traffic conditions, I should have been very much with him and should have done my best to support him in pressing upon His Majesty's Government the need to do something in the matter. So I am satisfied myself—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, who is to reply to the debate will satisfy the House also—as to the need for a new Foreign Office. The noble Marquess who spoke last week in the Foreign Affairs debate suggested that at this moment we were without a Foreign Secretary. If the noble Lord who opened the debate to-day had his way we should also be without a Foreign Office, or without an effective one in both places.

Now, as to whether there is any alternative site. In the last debate a suggestion was made that we could use the place where Doulton's Pottery Works formerly functioned for a Colonial Office. But even the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has not suggested that as a suitable site for the Foreign Office. Nor did he suggest any other. I wish that he would tell us what he has in mind.


Perhaps as the noble Lord has said that, he will allow me to interrupt him. I do suggest the South Bank of the River, and now that the noble Lord has put the idea of Doulton's Pottery Works into my mind I must say that it seems to me a very good idea, and I suggest it back to him. If I may continue interrupting him, may I say that the figure of 2,500 with which he differed must not be blamed on me? I extracted it from an answer given in another place by the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Works. The noble Lord must take up that quarrel with him.


On that last point, may I say that it is not proposed to put 2.500 persons in this particular building? I am sorry if I have put unsatisfactory ideas into the head of the noble Lord, but would he seriously wish to place the Foreign Office in Doulton's Pottery Works or on the South Bank? Does he really think that those are satisfactory sites for the Foreign Office of this not unimportant nation? Does he not think that the Foreign Office ought to be situated right in the centre of this capital city, and not relegated to some unimportant spot on the other side of the River?


Next to Lambeth Palace.


Well, even so, is it really suggested as a satisfactory site? In fact, it is essential that the Foreign Office, which is visited by large numbers of representatives of foreign countries, should be right in the centre of things, and there is no alternative site that I can think of. I know of no alternative site, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, will be able to satisfy the House that he knows of none either. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, may ridicule the number of despatches and the number of boxes which are brought to the Foreign Office, but they come from all over the world, and it is an indication of the increasing importance of this Department. I see nothing to sneer at in this connection, or any justification for the suggestion that these documents should be put into some place where they would not be regarded as mattering very much. The Foreign Office is our most important. Government Department, and, as such, should be housed on a site which is worthy of that Department, a site which is convenient and where it can do its work efficiently.

I should like next to say a word or two about the esthetic side of this question. I am glad that the noble Lord who opened the debate did not put that first. His main contention, apparently, was first, that a new Foreign Office was not necessary, and secondly, if it was it need not be set up on this site. On the aesthetic side, I feel that the Government are entitled to some credit for having attempted to preserve this ceremonial way and the very fine composition of John Nash—or whoever it was—and for not taking the easier course of destroying them. Obviously, in preserving this architecture there has had to be some compromise. If the Government had tried merely to build on to this facade without any alteration whatever, then they could not have put up such a building as was necessary. They would not have been able thus to provide for even their minimum requirements. If, as I think I have established, this is the only available site, and if a Foreign Office really is necessary, then the only choice for the Government would be either to pull down this fine historic piece of architecture and build an entirely new building on the site, which I am sure this House would have deplored, or to do what they are doing—trying to use the facade to the best advantage and accommodate the maximum number of people in the new building consistent with the broad preservation of this piece of architecture. I know that the plans for the new building do not preserve the facade in its entirety. Some alterations will be made.

Incidentally, I would say to the noble Lord that he and those who support him have rather dragged their feet. Instead of the resolute, determined, speedy action which has been enjoined upon His Majesty's Government, they have taken a long time to make up their minds. The excuses which the noble Lord put forward for not having seen the plans in the Royal Academy three years ago. when they were exhibited to the public, and presumably advertised, are not an indication of the extreme vigilance of himself, or of the Georgian Society and the other pundits who have now come forward at this late hour of the day. If they are so much concerned about the beauty of the structure, they might have discovered it two or three years ago. To say that, the Royal Academy was overloaded, and that therefore they were not able to discover the plans in the architectural room, is rather thin.

I could not help feeling that the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Amulree, made rather heavy going with the adaptation which will be necessary to secure an efficient building. It is a"difficult, intricate and challenging piece of work to preserve the facade and put up a modern building inside it. and I think that Mr. de Soissons and his associates are to be congratulated on the very fine job they have made. It is a real architectural triumph to have achieved this with the minimum amount of modification suggested. I could not help feeling that the noble Lord was inclined to brush aside the views of the Royal Fine Art Commission, who after all are a statutory body, appointed by Parliament to examine plans of this kind and to report upon them. They have examined these plans, and to say that they were not asked the right question, and therefore could not give the right answer, is somewhat disingenuous. In my experience the Royal Fine Art Commission have always been willing to come forward and say that they think a building should not be in a certain place. Here I am perhaps standing in a white sheet, for I believe that they said something of the kind about the power station on the South Bank. Whatever the question put to them then, they did not hesitate to say that they did not think a power station should be there at all. If the Royal Fine Art Commission had thought there should not be this new building, it seems to me rather an insult to them to suggest that they would not have said so. They are in favour of this building. They have made their comments and certain suggestions. They have accepted the principle of the additional fourteen feet.

They made some suggestion about the pediment, and the Minister of Works has accepted that suggestion, which was that the pediment should not be pulled down until the building was complete. Subject to that, the statutory body appointed for the express purpose of advising the nation on matters of this kind have recommended that building should go forward.

While, of course, it is open to this House to challenge it, I suggest that they should do it rather gently, and should pay proper respect to the views of the Royal Fine Art Commission. What is the criticism? Æsthetically, the criticism comes under two heads. The first is that fourteen feet will be added to the height of the existing facade, making something like 100 feet in all. It is true that it may alter the appearance of the facade; and it may alter the view from the Mall. But it may alter it in two ways: it may improve it or otherwise; and it is an open question whether it will improve it or not. In my opinion, for what that is worth, it will improve it. It will get rid of the broken and rather unsightly skyline with its chimneys, and will provide a much more pleasant top to the building. After all, when one looks at Carlton House Terrace, and I submit to the House that it has never been looked at so much as it has been in the last few days—


Nobody has tried to spoil it before.


Nobody noticed it very much before. During the last few days I have spoken to architects who work in London, and who have not been at all familiar with the fine points of this facade. Is it not a matter of habit? The noble Lord quoted Gilbert's words. I think there is a lot of truth in them. I think we do get used to something and come to like it because we have become used to it. Some months ago I was speaking to a famous modern painter and asking about some of his works. I asked him to explain something which seemed to me to be rather unintelligible. I asked him what a picture meant, and what there was about it that was charming and attractive. He replied that he could not tell me, but that if I would hang the picture in my room for three months, at the end of the three months I should enjoy it. That may or may not be, but there was considerable wisdom in what he said. I am certain that if this additional fourteen feet had been on the building as Nash planned it and there had been a proposal now to pull it down, the noble Lord would have made the same kind of speech in opposing it as he has made this afternoon. I would challenge the noble Lord on a Gallup Poll of the architects of this country. If they really understood the alternative plan, I believe that we should find that the majority of architects, and other people who understand something about architecture, are in favour of these plans as against retaining Carlton House Terrace as it is.

There is one other point that I should like to put before the House. What is the alternative future of Carlton House Terrace itself? Here you have a number of separate buildings of which the facade is fine. But what about the back? That is just a jumble of single houses, put to rather miscellaneous uses, most of them being used as emergency Government offices. They have attics at the top, which were regarded even in the last generation as quite unsuitable for occupation by domestic servants, but which are to-day being occupied by a number of civil servants. The noble Lord, who obviously does not like civil servants, may say: "Serve them right."But the fact remains that one cannot get the best kind of work from people who are housed in conditions of that kind. There is no really satisfactory alternative use for these houses. They are extravagant in upkeep, and the rooms are inconveniently large. The time will inevitably come when they will have to be pulled down, and we shall then be faced with exactly the same position as that with which we are faced to-day. I submit, therefore, that in this case the Government are doing the wise, the sensible and the prudent thing in making the best possible use of this site, largely preserving the facade (and in so far as alterations are being made, I believe they are for the better) while at the same time securing a new Foreign Office on the most appropriate site that they can find. And thereby, I believe, they are providing for the people of this Commonwealth an improvement in the ceremonial way and a pleasure to the eye of future generations whenever they have occasion to come this way. Therefore, I hope that on this occasion the Government will not give way, but will go on with their proposals, which I feel are in the public interest. While obviously the last word has not necessarily been said on the details of the plan, I hope that, broadly, the Government will accept the proposals that have been put forward by Mr. Louis de Soissons.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, from what we have already heard it is plain that we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, for raising this question, whatever view we may take about it. The noble Lord has become almost the watchdog of the country in matters of this kind, and very little escapes him. At this point I would turn aside to say something to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who has just spoken. He accused the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. and I suppose those of us who support him, of treating this as a political question, and as a stick with which to beat the Government. I am sure the noble Lord said what he did sincerely, but I can assure him that there is not a word of truth in it—that is not the basis on which we approach this matter. Indeed, I thought the noble Lord rather fell into the same error himself when he said that, if private firms had been concerned, the attitude of ruble Lords on this side of the House would be quite different. So in accusing the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, it was really a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said—and I must say that it made me sceptical of the whole of his aesthetic argument—that he had not noticed Carlton House Terrace very much; that a lot of his friends had never noticed it; and that he had talked to some architects, and they had not noticed it either. That to me is very queer, if he will allow me to say so. Most of us have always noticed it and admired it as a great public monument, whatever may be said about the details.


If I may interrupt the noble Marquess, what I said was that they had no. appreciated the details. Of course, you cannot help but notice Carlton House Terrace.


Perhaps I may amend my words: they did not notice the beauty or monumental character of the building. Most of us have noticed that. Those of us who live in London have seen it every day; we see it practically each time we come to this House. To those of us who are Londoners it is not an exaggeration to say that it has become part of the fabric of our lives. Therefore, I do not think it is surprising that we should be perturbed by the news that it is to be fundamentally altered.

It is true—I believe the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said it—that most of us in this country, whatever our politics may be, have an element of conservatism, with a small"c", in our make-up, and dislike change in matters of this kind unless the changes are well justified. That is not confined to the Party to which I belong. It undoubtedly has some general advantages: it is what makes us, on the whole, an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary country. But I would agree with the noble Lord that this small"c" conservatism might on certain occasions unduly prejudice or warp our judgment. I would equally agree with the noble Lord that in a matter of this character it is most necessary that we should keep such instincts under control, and try, so far as we can. to look with an objective mind at these plans which have been put forward by the Government. I have tried to do this, and I should like to offer to your Lordships, with all deference, some observations, which I hope will not be regarded as too violently biased on one side or the other.

The first thing I would say is this. I feel that we must all fairly face the fact that the arguments are not entirely on one side. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said that in any case there can be no question of confining the Foreign Office, as it is at present constituted, within the original building. That, to my mind, is absolutely true. Indeed, long ago the Foreign Office spread its bounds, and at present, as I think the noble Lord indicated, it sprawls all over the West End of London. That has the additional disadvantage that it involves a certain measure of extra expenditure, as some of these buildings have to be hired and rents have to be paid for them. It is also said, by those who are directly-concerned, to be most inconvenient. These are in fact, material arguments on the side of doing something about the matter, which I hope that I have put fairly.

Nor is there, apparently, any immediate question of returning Carlton House Terrace to its original use as private dwellings, unless it can foe sub-divided into flats; for practically no one, in modern days, is rich enough to live in these very imposing mansions. That, as I understand it—put briefly—is the Government's case. They hope to kill two birds with one stone: they hope to make use of the Carlton House Terrace site, and also to provide a new Government office. No doubt there is substance in that contention, and I would not wish to deny it. On the other hand, I submit that there are weighty arguments on the other side, to which it may seem to many of us the Government have not attached sufficient importance. These arguments have already been stressed in the debate by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, and by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, and I do not want to traverse again at any great length the ground they have covered.

As I see it, the criticisms to the proposals of the Government fall under two heads—one aesthetic and the other financial. I should like to say a word on both of them. On the aesthetic side, I myself cannot pretend to be a great expert, and I am certain that others will speak with far more authority than I do. But I confess that I have been entirely unconvinced by the letters and articles of architects and others who in the public Press have been good enough to give their sup-port to this scheme. Indeed, I found some of them so Olympian as to be somewhat irritating. They seem to think that no one who is not himself an architect has a right to hold any opinion of the matter at all. I really cannot accept that. One might as well say that no one who had not made a lady's hat had a right to have any opinion about such a hat: but we all hold very strong opinions on that subject. Moreover, the arguments which have been raised by these experts appear to me largely to contradict each other. At one moment they say: "Nash was in any case a rotten architect. These buildings were jerry-built and ill-conceived. They had the wrong capitals over the wrong pillars, and they were made of cast-iron at that." The next moment they are saying with pride that the new plans incorporate nearly all of the old work. These arguments appear just about to cancel each other out.

If Nash is really such a bad architect, why preserve any of his old work at all? Moreover, it is patently untrue to say that Nash was such a bad architect as all that. He is probably far better, from the purely scenic point of view, than any architect alive to-day, and comes, I should have thought, in the first rank of British scenic architects in the whole of our history. The Nash terraces in Regent's Park (which were saved only by the greatest of good luck from the maw of the Government) are a perpetual joy to the beholder, and the destruction of Nash's Regent Street, I should have thought, was now widely regarded as a major disaster. Nor is it true to say, as has been pointed out by Lord Mancroft, that to incorporate the majority of the old work necessarily produces the same effect. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, talks about a compromise, but it is quite possible that compromise in design will ruin the beauty and historical interest of a building. All these things are matters of opinion; but I would point out that many of the greatest experts do not share the view which the noble Lord expressed.

In its present form, to me. one of the merits of Carlton House Terrace—whether it was built by Nash or one of his pupils I do not care—is that it is instinct with the spirit of the Regency period, with all its flamboyancy, and perhaps a certain element of tawdriness. The new design—at which I have looked, as have other noble Lords—with the pediments re-moved, and nice, neat penthouses added on top, is not Regency at all. It has, if I may say so, an element of a mongrel, no doubt a very elegant mongrel, but still a mongrel. It was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that the Fine Art Commission had approved this new plan and, therefore, if I understood him aright, none of us had any proper reason or right to say any more on the subject. I cannot accept that view. With Lord Mancroft, I assume—unless the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will tell me definitely the opposite—that the question which was put to the Fine Art Commission, as is usual in these cases, was not whether they preferred the original Nash or the new design, but: "Here is a new plan. Do you like it, or can you suggest improvements? "That is the usual question which is put to the Fine Art Commission. No doubt the Commission very properly suggested amendments and improvements, and I feel sure that the design has greatly benefited from their advice. But I should greatly doubt whether they all thought it a definite improvement upon Nash. From the purely aesthetic point of view, therefore, in spite of all the powerful advocacy of architects in support of this scheme, I cannot feel that the case for a change has been completely made up to now.

Nor was I convinced by the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that there is no alternative site. How far have the Government looked for an alternative site? If it be of any assistance to the Government, I can suggest one. Opposite the House of Commons, on the other side of Bridge Street, there is a mass of small, rather mean houses, most of them converted into shops and not a bit worthy of the position in which they stand—a great corner block stretching down to Scotland Yard. Have the Government considered that site? If not, why not? In one respect, it is far more convenient than the one they are now considering. I have worked in the Foreign Office: I know that it is above all important that the Foreign Secretary should be in close contact with the Prime Minister: and this site is far closer to Downing Street. I have suggested one possible site, and I have no doubt that other noble Lords could suggest others.

Nor am I happy about the financial aspect. I really feel that the time has come when Parliament must consider this vast and increasing expenditure on Government building. How much can we afford to spend in these times? There is already a huge new edifice in Whitehall, either on the site of Montagu House or opposite where Montagu House was; and another one appears to be going up at this very moment. Then there is the Colonial Office, which we discussed so fully a few weeks ago; and finally there is this new design for a Foreign Office in Carlton House Terrace. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, will tell us what these three or four schemes are going to cost—I do not mean to a penny, but the provisional estimate for the Montagu House Scheme, the Colonial Office Scheme, and now for the Carlton House Terrace Scheme. I should also like to ask the noble Lord to tell us for what purpose the present Foreign Office is going to be used, If the Government build this great new building in Carlton House Terrace which I understand is to house practically the whole of the Foreign Office—indeed, the whole point of the scheme, according to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is that the staff should all be under the same roof—then the present Foreign Office will have to be vacated and presumably, nature abhorring a vacuum, civil servants will flow in from somewhere.

My Lords, there is a. fact we must not forget—I do not say this as a Party political point, but just as a sober fact. The country is more and more heavily taxed with every year which passes; and we are now threatened with most formidable new burdens to pay for our rearmament. There is a limit to what any country can stand. We have already been warned by the Government that there must be grievous sacrifices by all sections of the population. We have already had hints that the ordinary housing programme may have to be cut, or at any rate postponed. Is this really the time-to embark upon such vast expenditure on Government offices? It seems to me that the contrast is almost too glaring. I fully appreciate that this projected building in Carlton House Terrace and the other new buildings which the Government are proliferating will be much more convenient for the administration of Government Departments: and I agree that full weight has to be given to that fact. But we are all living under conditions of the maximum inconvenience at the present time. Why should Government Departments alone be exempt?

Such are the thoughts which have been arising in my mind as I have studied this question. This obviously is an occasion for balancing conflicting considerations, but I should have thought—and I suggest this very diffidently—that it would be far wiser to go on as at present, at any rate over the height of the present emergency, using Carlton House Terrace, as it is being used to-day, for supplementary Government offices. If and when things get better, and we have broken the back of rearmament, then will be the time to start with these larger plans, when circumstances are more appropriate. By that lime, possibly, another Nash will have arisen—perhaps even a Nash who does not use cast-iron for the capitals of his columns—one to whom can be entrusted the replanning of this most import- tant site. I appeal to His Majesty's Government most sincerely, having regard to the times in which we live, to give to the course which I have suggested their serious consideration.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, on the last occasion when a debate of this kind took place in your Lordships' House—on the subject of the Westminster site—the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, having given way, with his usual grace, to the opinions expressed, rather deprecated the intervention of what he called"voluntary advisers."I think he must have had his fill of them to-day. The answer, I think, is a simple one: where the advice of the professional advisers to the Ministry runs counter to the wishes of a great number of the public, the public have an old and constitutional right to have their views aired on the floor of either House of Parliament. That, I think, has been fully vindicated in the present instance.

Another case is now before your Lordships. It seems as if there were all over London utilitarian architectural ideas which have little in the way of taste and no veneration for the past. It is said that Homer sometimes nods; and one cannot help wondering whether the Fine Art Commission is not suffering from an attack of drowsiness. The daily and weekly Press has been full of articles and letters on the subject of the Carlton House Terrace scheme. To "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest "all the comments that have appeared in the various papers would be difficult indeed, but I have done my best. One fact certainly emerges clearly, and that is that there is a strong body of public opinion opposed to this scheme; and so long as that opinion exists it has to be taken into account.

One point which I must refer to again, although I have spoken of it recently, is the growth of the Civil Service. I must, in fairness, admit that, since I had a talk with a noble Lord opposite, I have had some reason to doubt that I was right in my supposition that the Civil Service was still growing. He told me that the graph of the numbers of civil servants shows a steep decline—unlike that of local government officials, which was showing a rapid rise. I only hope that the former of these statements is correct and also that before long there will be a vacating of the numberless hotels, houses and other buildings which have been tenanted by branches of Government Departments, and that there will be a return of these buildings to their original use and owners.

I do not, personally, feel qualified to speak on the merits or demerits of Nash's architecture, other than as a man in the street. I get a good deal of enjoyment in the Terrace and in Regent's Park. I have studied the various drawings and I must say I cannot see that any improvement will accrue from the proposed scheme. It seems to me a very bad argument to say that the roof line is untidy. After all, people do not wander about staring at roof tops without a good deal of risk to their own persons. Surely it would be possible for the roofs to be tidied up without much trouble or expense. It is the frontage on the Mall side which is really in question. Some of your Lordships may have seen recently in the Spectator an interesting article by Mr. Harold Nicolson, in which he warns people not to talk too much about the northern elevation—and I rather agree with him. The house at the end does not appear to have much to be said for it. What we are concerned with is the frontage which overlooks the processional route. I do not see any need for change in that, and I hope that no change will be effected.

We are told that the Foreign Office needs further accommodation. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has said that some of the members of the staff have to work in wooden huts. One only hopes that working in wooden huts does not affect the mentality of those responsible for our foreign policy. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has suggested an alternative site. Perhaps I may be allowed to suggest another. There is a vacant space adjoining the new building in Whitehall: the building to be erected there might take the overflow from the Foreign Office, a stone's throw away, and any new Government Department might be housed on the Doulton's Works site on the south side of the river. There is already one Ministry there—the Ministry of Works—and Lambeth Palace would be a respect-able neighbour for them.

Carlton House Terrace can no longer be used for private residences. In-comes nowadays are more commensurate to a flat and a "daily" than to a house and a staff of liveried servants. There is no likelihood that Carlton House Terrace will be used again for great residences. Surely it would not be a matter of great difficulty to provide homes for some of our museums there. The London Museum, for instance, has been homeless since Lancaster House has been occupied: the United Services Museum night be transferred and the Banqueting Hall could be used in all its beauty. The building in Carlton House Terrace certainly need not be wasted.

I come back to the question asked by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York on a previous occasion, and again by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, to-day: Is all this really necessary? There is such a strong volume of public opinion against the scheme that I am tempted to ask, perhaps resuming for a moment the mantle of my former official post, whether it would not be well to stretch the rule applied to proceedings in this House: that is to say, when votes are even nearly equal and no good reason for a change has been shown, let matters stand as they are.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to add my voice, as an ex-Minister, to the expressions of grave anxiety about this scheme. I desire, first, to put in an urgent plea to the Government not to move the Foreign Secretary and his Department from Downing Street. Before the War the quadrangle of the Prime Minister's house and the Foreign Office, the India Office, the Colonial Office and the Home Office was sufficient for those four important offices. On the other side was the Treasury. I am perfectly certain that for the day-to-day working of government it is vital that the senior staff of the Foreign Office should be close to No. 10, Downing Street and that it should occupy, if necessary, the whole of that quadrangle The Colonial Office has already gone. The India Office has ceased to exist. The Home Office, illustrious by reason of seniority, is much easier to house away from there than the Foreign Office. I put in an urgent plea as a matter of policy to keep the Foreign Office in Downing Street in the building that was built for it, designed for it and which in every way has been its home since the present buildings were erected.

As to Carlton House Terrace, when I went to the Office of Works in 1934 as First Commissioner, the building known as the Pinchin Johnson Building at the corner of Carlton Gardens was just beginning to rise. However, I asked about it and I was informed that it was nothing to do with the Ministry of Works; that Carlton House Terrace and Carlton Gardens belonged entirely to the Commissioners of Crown Lands. The Commissioners of Crown Lands were, for the most part, Treasury officials whose first job was to get the maximum of rent—they are, of course, the most notorious rack-renters in the world, as we know from Regent Street—to swell the Exchequer. That is why the posts of Commissioners of Crown Lands are manned by Treasury officials. But they are answerable to Parliament through the Minister of Agriculture. It so happened that hardly had I arrived at the Office of Works when the then Minister of Agriculture had to go with many of his most senior colleagues to the Ottawa Conference, and I was asked to take over temporarily the administration of the Ministry of Agriculture as well as that of the Office of Works, which I proceeded to do. Here was my chance to find out what was going on. The Ministry of Agriculture knew nothing about it, of course, but I got in touch with the Treasury officials concerned, as I had to answer for them in Parliament. They showed me Sir Reginald Blomfield's design for an entirely new Carlton House Terrace. Then I got busy. By then, the Pinchin Johnson building was complete, but we heard no more about the other scheme and Carlton House Terrace was saved.

Admittedly the arguments raised to-day for drastically reorganising the interior of Carlton House Terrace were fairly urgent then. It was designed for the use of ambassadors, for the great landlords—the Lord Lonsdale of the time always lived there, one of the last of the Mohicans. The late Marquess of Curzon also occupied a house there. Those days are gone for ever. The trouble to-day is that the Government are asking your Lordships' House and Parliament to approve a compromise, a hybrid. I cannot believe that it will succeed. One thing I am not going to stand for is the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that because we have a Royal Fine Art Commission and they have approved the scheme and recognise it, none of us ought to say a word on these matters. It is intolerable. The noble Lord says the Commission have statutory authority to express the final view. I say that every member of either House of Parliament has an absolute right in any public matter like this to differ from the Royal Fine Art Commission, if he does differ; and on this occasion I differ from them profoundly. Either have Nash or do away with Nash altogether and, as the result of a free and open competition among the younger architects of to-day, get an entirely new building for the great processional site in the Mall.

With reference to the putting of "pepper pots" on the top, I ask noble Lords not to be misled by the drawings in the Academy and those which have been displayed to us outside this Chamber to-day. I have had to study so many of them. One can make almost anything of a sort of vista of what the building will look like when it is finally erected. If you have had considerable training, and can see the architect's drawings, the elevations, dimensions and structure, without any attempt to picture trees, decoration, sky and so on, then you can get an idea of what the building will look like. But drawings of the sort which have been displayed are misleading. I am convinced that the attempt to put additional storeys and other architectural features on top of the existing Nash façade, taken as a whole, will be absolutely disastrous; and if any of Nash's work is retained, you will be left with the appalling problem of how to deal with the interior walls and the interior building.

I say, keep the Nash building as a national monument. Make it into a museum, or two museums—and I want to say a word about that in a moment—or pull the whole thing down and build Government offices designed primarily as offices and functioning as offices; and, above all, build them of Portland stone. When I was at the Office of Works I was insistent that no major building built by the Government should be erected in London that was not clothed with Portland stone. The new big building on the site of Whitehall Gardens, though it has a seal of concrete and yellow brick, was designed to be clothed entirely in Portland stone. If we stick to Portland stone, it is only a question of time before we get another Horse Guards, because the climate of London in the course of time converts Portland stone into the most beautiful building stone in the world. I think the idea of having these Nash columns stuccoed, painted, and with cast-iron capitals, and then these "pepper-pots" and all the rest of it, is a mad one, if you destroy the proportion of the present design and fiddle about with it. You had much better have an entirely new design. In the long-run, it will be cheaper, from the point of view of office accommodation. Rather than adapt the insides of these houses for office accommodation, it will be more economical in the long-run to design the building as office accommodation. I am sure that that is the right thing to do.

My alternative suggestion has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Badeley. The museums problem is acute. The wretched London Museum has never had a proper home. Lancaster House was made into a most unsuitable museum. Museums are things that have to be de-signed for their purpose. To convert these houses you would have to take the whole of the inside out of Carlton House Terrace, but the facade is much more the shape and size of a good museum than of a single, high block. In a museum only two floors are required; it is most unfortunate to have many floors. The top of the museum should have skylights, and the lower floor should have artificial lights and side lights. Quite apart from the homelessness of the London Museum, the congestion in our museums is getting worse and worse. The British Museum is notorious. It has the most wonderful collections in the world but only a fraction of them can be shown. All sorts of proposals have been made to deal with the examples of Indian and Oriental art which are in store and belong to the museums of this country, but there are no places in which to put them. There are vast masses of treasure in packing cases, in the basements of London houses, because there is no museum space. By making two floors and constructing large galleries in the existing buildings that state of affairs could be remedied. If that is not done. I agree that the days of Carlton House Terrace are numbered, and it would be far better to have the courage to pull the whole thing down and hold a competition for a really good new design by a young architect, provided the new structure is to be built in Portland stone.

Let me conclude by saying how much I agree with noble Lords on this side of the House, who are increasingly of the opinion that to-day the efficiency of government is greatly impeded and Ministers are seriously handicapped by having far larger staffs than they can possibly control. The growth of paper matter, a great deal of unnecessary routine, tea ceremonies and all kinds of things that are growing up with these enormous offices of to-day, are really defeating the efficiency of government. I believe the Foreign Office is far better run by a Foreign Secretary and about a hundred first-class civil servants, with fewer clerical and first division people, than by having thousands of advisers on this, liaisons on that, departments of cultural relations, and all kinds of frills. It seems to me that one of the perils of government to-day is that the Minister, busy with Parliament and with the political life that he has to lead, is being choked by ever-growing masses of personnel in Government Departments—by growing masses of circumlocution, of "passed to you," of endless minutes, not, as in the old days, signed by two or three people, but with signatures running into double figures. The task of government is becoming absolutely hopeless. Government takes the form of administration as well as of politics, and I say that a drastic reduction of the staffs in Government Departments is one of the paramount needs of the body politic in Britain to-day.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, I think that my noble friend Lord Mancroft has rendered a really valuable service in bringing this question of Carlton House Terrace to your Lordships' attention this afternoon. My feelings on this matter are similar to those expressed by him and by many other noble Lords on these Benches—that is to say, I admire Carlton House Terrace as it stands and I think that the alteration and the pro-posed additions would destroy a fine building. In this view I realise that I may differ from some other noble Lords who have much greater knowledge of architectural matters than I have. If it were a question only of taste and knowledge I should be hesitant about putting forward my opinions this afternoon, but I feel that something more than a mere matter of taste is here involved. I suggest that there are two important matters of principle.

In the first place, I cannot help feeling—I hope the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, will agree with me—that a good architect should be regarded as much an artist as is a good painter, musician or writer. If that be so. clearly Carlton House Terrace is a work of art by an artist known as John Nash. Some people may regard it as a very indifferent work of art, and as one which ought to be entirely demolished. Such a view is I think mistaken, but it is a perfectly understandable and logical view. In fact the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, said exactly that. Others think that it has merit and should be preserved, and that also, I think, is a perfectly logical point of view. But what is entirely illogical and unjustifiable is the attitude of those who want to tinker with Nash's work. If it were suggested, for example, that some of the old masters in the National Gallery should be touched up by a modern painter there would be a general outcry; but because a place is lived in, and therefore serves a utilitarian purpose, a great many people seem to be prepared to do to it things that they would not think of doing to pictures and other works of art.

Of course, the modernisation of the interiors of buildings is inevitable, and it is not undesirable provided that it is carried out with proper discretion and sense. But it is quite another matter to change the exterior of a building so that the architect's original conception is entirely lost—and that is what I suggest is being done in this matter of Carlton House Terrace. I cannot believe that any contemporary architect would like to contemplate his own best work receiving such cavalier treatment from future generations. I am more than surprised when I see contemporary architects doing what I should always imagine they would not wish to be done to them. For that reason. I sincerely hope that we shall keep to the original intention of the architect, and that we shall not have pinned upon it some "variations on a theme by Nash, arranged by the Ministry of Works." That is one principle.

There is another principle bound up in this matter, and perhaps it is the most important of all—namely, that it is not Carlton House Terrace alone that is involved. Personally, I have no extravagant attachment for the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947, but if it did little else it certainly maintained the great advance towards the preservation of buildings of historic and architectural interest which was marked by the Act of 1944. I have always felt that up to 1944 we did not do nearly enough in this direction, and I am certain that we have never taken anything like the interest in our great buildings that the French for so many years past have taken in theirs. Nevertheless, the efficiency of Sections 29 and 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act in preserving our finest buildings must depend to a very great extent upon the enthusiasm engendered and the example set by the Government of the day.

There are two reasons why I think this must be so. In the first place, by that Act planning is decentralised, and lies almost entirely in the hands of local authorities, who are not elected because of their artistic knowledge or merits but for other reasons and who, therefore, cannot be expected to have either the enthusiasm or the knowledge to preserve what needs to be preserved. Secondly, although the Minister is compelled under the Act to compile a list of buildings which ought to be preserved, the local authority are not compelled under the Act to issue a preservation order for all or any of these buildings unless they so desire. As a result, while in some cases the local authority take a keen interest in these matters. and in many areas I think the situation has greatly improved, elsewhere buildings of great architectural merit are being allowed to be damaged or demolished by their owners; and in some cases they are actually being destroyed by local authorities themselves. I heard the other day of a dreadful case concerning a small but beautiful Vanburgh house which was acquired by a city council five years ago. No repairs were carried out during those five years, and the general decay of the house was hastened by hooliganism. Then, at the end of last year, quite suddenly, on the pretext that the house was now unsafe, it was demolished almost overnight.

Nor is this simply a matter of actual preservation; much damage can be done by the erection of unsuitable buildings next door to beautiful houses. For all these reasons, I say that it is essential that local authorities should be made to feel that these things really matter, that it is very important that our architectural heritage should be preserved. Local authorities should be given every assistance by the experts in the Ministry and by the expert committee which was set up for this purpose by the Minister of Town and Country Planning, and they should be urged, whenever they are in doubt, to seek advice before allowing old buildings to be demolished. If this is essential, I think the Government must set an example. I do not see how the Government can expect local authorities, with the kind of example that they now have in front of them, to follow the right course in this matter. I do not know, in this case, to what extent the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, as it then was, was consulted by the Ministry of Works, or if, indeed, there was consultation at all. If there was not consultation there should have been. If the former Ministry were consulted, and they approved this scheme, then I think they have set a very bad example to local planning authorities. A great deal has been said about accommodation for the Foreign Office. In my view several noble Lords on this side of the House have given very satisfactory replies on that question. Certainly, even if new accommodation is necessary for the Foreign Office I do not believe that it should be provided at the expense of Carlton House Terrace, or in a manner which, in my opinion, is entirely contrary to the spirit of Sections 29 and 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, if you will allow me to say so, I believe that at all costs the Nash facades should be saved. There is no question in my mind, and I do not think there is any question in the minds of the vast majority of those who love the artistic heritage of this country, that these façades are beautiful. They should be saved; they can be saved. But I do not feel that at this stage in the debate I, as an architect, should argue about what should be done behind the facades of the buildings, and who should occupy them. A great many noble Lords have put forward some admirable suggestions, and I will not add to them, except to say that I am certain that we must try at all costs to save the Nash façades. We should not even consider, as Lord Harlech has suggested, pulling them down and erecting a new building. We must take all the trouble we can to save them—and I am sure that we can do so. With regard to what may go behind, may I say that I wholeheartedly endorse Lord Badeley's suggestion about the Banqueting House? That is a step which most certainly should be taken; that most beautiful of all buildings should be cleared, so that it can be used for its proper purpose as a banqueting house and not as a museum. Perhaps the United Services Museum could go into a bit of Carlton House Terrace if that is not used for a Foreign Office.

There is one thing, in particular, which I should like to ask His Majesty's Government. I do not know whether or not a model is to be exhibited. I think that a model would help us all if it could be set up at the right height, so that we could see the place as it would appear from the ground. Lord Silkin mentioned that a number of architects do not look at buildings such as Carlton House Terrace. I know that we are all very busy in these days and it is difficult to find time to study beautiful buildings of the past as we should like to study them. But as a matter of fact I think that the majority of architects, if asked, would say of this project that at all costs the Nash facades should be saved, and the original pediments retained. If that can be achieved well and good. With regard to the question of looking at buildings like these, I should like to mention that I myself, as a humble architect, have been watching Carlton House Terrace very closely for a long time. I noticed that, just after the war, wire guards were being put about the capitals of the columns. I wrote to the Ministry of Works and pointed this out. They graciously agreed with my view, and gave instructions that the wire guards should be immediately taken down. We can now see this façade as it should be, without wire guards. So someone has been looking at it.

May I just say this about the façades? The South side is the side which I and most of us care particularly about. I want to make one special plea for the sloping roofs and the two great pediments. I think they should be retained in any alterations that are mace to the Terrace. The roof is part of the building. If it is a sloping roof it should remain sloping. I do not know why it is suggested that this should be taken off, and that in future the roof should be flat. If your Lordships look at the plans you will see, as we all know, that the proposed upper storeys are set far back—approximately seventy feet—so there is plenty of room for the original sloping roofs in front. Even if, regretfully, the high back has to be pulled down, I see no reason why a great flat terrace, seventy feet wide, should be built at the top. There is an enormous terrace down below for the inmates to play about on—they cannot need the other, as well. I think that if the roofs can be tidied up and improved—they must be tidied up; I agree that the chimneys are in a shocking state—as the Ministry have so excellently tidied up some of the roofs in the Regent's Park Terraces it would be a very different thing. I should like to pay a tribute, which I think is overdue, to the Ministry of Works for the wonderful work they are doing in Regent's Park. I hope that they will continue it and finish it: it is splendid. At least those buildings are now being seen as they once were.

With regard to the pediments, some people have suggested that perhaps they are not necessary, or are not even part of Nash's design. I should like to point out that the pediments and the roof are one. If you look at the eastern pediment you will see the roof comes forward on to it. The western pediment, which I think is the one most people look at, has no roof behind it because that has been destroyed. Therefore, although it looks like a plaster affair, it is really part of the roof. Mr. Robert Lutyens refers to it as a plaster addition, and not of much consequence. But the pediments are of great importance to the general design of the building. They are magnificent in themselves, and they are part of Nash's original design—I say "Nash's" advisedly. The buildings were designed by Nash, and the man about whom I think some noble Lords are thinking is Sir James Pennythorne. He was Nash's adopted son, and he worked in his office. As a matter of fact, he was what we should now, perhaps, call the "job supervisor" of Carlton House Terrace; he saw the work through. The whole design, however, emanated from Nash's office. I should like to finish by stressing that both the pediments and the roof are essential to the whole composition, and they should undoubtedly, be retained, repaired and tidied up.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but there are two matters to which I feel that I should like to draw attention. In the first place, I do not think that the Government have had a fair deal in this debate to-day, because nearly all the speeches have not given them the credit they deserve. The Government have saved Carlton House Terrace, although there was every reason why they should pull it down. They had all the excuses necessary for a Government to commit such an atrocity. They could have said that, as they had decided not to make use of it, and as no alternative use could be found, the building would be pulled down. They could also have used the excuse that was used for pulling down Nash's Regent Street, that the interiors were ill-adapted for modern life. It would have been easy for the Government to destroy Carlton House Terrace, and it is most discouraging for a naturally unæsthetic lot of people like a Government Department, when they do try to do the right thing, to receive no credit for it from this House.

Secondly, I was appalled by the advocacy of chaos indulged in by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech. No one has a greater admiration for your Lordships' House than I have. I am one of the few people who think it so perfect that it cannot be improved. Nevertheless, I feel that if we are going to set ourselves up as a committee of taste we should do so in the earlier stages, when a useful and informative debate such as we have had this afternoon would have had some effect on the results. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, says he could not be expected to notice the fact that the plans were put before the Royal Academy. If a plan is put before the Royal Academy, surely it is the business of people who take an interest in these things to find out that it is there, and when they do find out it is there, to raise the matter in your Lordships' House at an early stage, before the plans have been made and all the bodies concerned have made up their minds about the matter. I consider that both the debate on the Colonial Office and the debate this afternoon have been held much too late in the process of implementing these plans.

I do not deny for a moment that any one of your Lordships has the right to give his opinion on these questions. I have no desire to prevent the disagreement that invariably arises from these debates. But ultimately somebody has to decide these questions. In the old days the decisions were perfectly easy. When it came to pulling down Regent Street, commercial ideas were supreme. The business people thought that the buildings were not adequate: no question of æsthetics arose and purely commercial considerations decided that the buildings should be pulled down. But in these days, when we consider ourselves to be more enlightened, someone has ultimately to decide these questions, and that task is put upon the Royal Fine Art Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, has a perfect right to disagree with the Royal Fine Art Commission. I think he was on it once.




Well, you ought to have been if you were not. The noble Lord has the right to disagree with the Royal Fine Art Commission, but they have been appointed as the statutory body for making these ultimate decisions. I have the greatest confidence in the Royal Fine Art Commission. If noble Lords have no confidence in them, they should agitate for people in whom they have confidence to be put on the Commission. In a question of this sort, where æsthetic and artistic opinions differ to such an extent, it seems to me that a body of this kind is absolutely necessary, and when, after infinite debate, a decision has been made, that decision should be accepted. Rightly or wrongly, the Royal Fine Art Commission have accepted this design, and I think we cannot at this late date ask the Government to alter the plan which has been accepted by the statutory artistic authority.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, if I may begin at the end, instead of at the beginning, I should like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, for his spirited defence of the Government's policy in this matter. I should also like to say to him that while we have received several severe blows during this debate we are not unduly dispirited thereat. It is common for noble Lords in every part of the House to attack the Government, and I have every sympathy with it, because I was brought up in a school which taught me that the proper line for a politician to take was, "When you see a head, hit it." I make no complaint whatever. I do not think anyone can complain that this debate has lacked variety. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, last week your Lordships spent two days in a discussion on Foreign Affairs, a debate which seemed to me to be largely concerned with the question of whether a new Foreign Secretary was necessary. To-day we are discussing whether a new Foreign Office is necessary; if it is necessary, whether it should be in Carlton House Terrace; and, if it is in Carlton House Terrace, whether the reconstructed building will detrimentally affect the exterior beauty of the Terrace as seen from the Mall. That seems to me to summarise fairly our discussion.

I hope, therefore, it may suit the convenience of noble Lords if I do not make detailed comments upon each of the excellent speeches, which would take me a long time, but confine myself to a broad statement covering the three points I have mentioned—namely, the need for a new Foreign Office; the reasons why Carlton House Terrace site is suitable; and, finally, why it is a practical scheme which will preserve for posterity the architectural beauty of Carlton House Terrace. I am optimistic enough to hope that noble Lords will find that in my statement most of their questions have been dealt with.

I am sure it will be admitted that the Foreign Office is a Department which the country cannot afford to have working under a handicap. The noble Lord gave some figures, and I am not going to repeat them. The handling of the nation's foreign affairs needs a building specially designed and equipped, incorporating the numerous improvements in office organisation and machinery which have been evolved in the last few years. A building internally designed in the style of 1868 could never be made really suitable for the Foreign Office of 1951. It may be suggested that the Foreign Office could be rebuilt on its present site. That has been one of the numerous suggestions made in the course of this debate, but there are two difficulties about this.

First of all, in our present financial position we cannot afford to spend money on pulling down and reconstructing buildings which, although admittedly not ideal for Foreign Office purposes, were none the less constructed as Government offices and have a good many years of useful life left in them. I think it will be agreed that Sir Gilbert Scott was no jerry-builder and that the present building is very solidly constructed. The second difficulty is that the proposal would mean rehousing the Foreign Office in the immediate future for a number of years, and I know of nowhere where we could do this adequately. When the present building is vacated by the Foreign Office (this answers a question of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury) it can be used in a number of ways, but no decision has been taken on this matter, because it will be some years before Carlton House Terrace is finished, and times change. One obvious way would be to enable the staffs of the Home Office to be concentrated under one roof, instead of in ten buildings as at present.

I hardly think I need occupy much time in this House to justify the growth of the Foreign Office, to explain the causes of the increased work, or the fundamental reasons for the increase of staff. As examples of the increasing points of contact between Governments and between peoples even since the war, I need remind noble Lords only of the vast and complex development of the United Nations machinery, the European Recovery Plan, the Brussels Pact, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and numerous conventions on social welfare and cultural matters. Since the second half of the nineteenth century world politics have become much more difficult and complex; politics and economics have become in-separable and the scope of foreign affairs immensely widened. It is estimated that the present work of the Foreign Office is approximately nineteen times as great as it was in 1868, and two and a half times as great as in 1938.

Perhaps at this point I may answer one or two questons that have been put to me, and, incidentally, give some information on one that was not put, which I am sure will be of interest to noble Lords. I took the trouble to find out how the figures, to which my noble friend Lord Mancroft referred rather disparagingly, of the so-called horde of bureaucrats employed in the Foreign Office com-pared with those for the United States of America, with whom we are doing our best, under certain difficulties, to keep in step. The figures I have are that the staff employed on foreign affairs in the United States Department in 1913 was 267; in 1937, 948; in 1940, 971; and in 1950, 8.595. As to Lord Mancroft's remark about the "vast orgy of bureaucratic building," I want to tell him that the Foreign Office will take its place in the queue, along with others. All Government buildings now going up are solely to enable requisitioned property to be released. Is the noble Lord not in favour of that? If he is not, I have very much mistaken his line. I presume that he sympathises with that end. The noble Lord asked whether the Royal Fine Art Commission were allowed to reject the whole scheme. The answer is that the Commission suggested the whole scheme, and Mr. de Soissons was asked to plan according to their recommendation.

The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, asked how far the Government had looked for an alternative site, and proceeded to suggest one. I do not think his was a very fortunate suggestion, if I may be bold enough to say so, particularly as it came soon after Lord Mancroft had been making our hair stand on end (those of us who have any) with stories of the tremendous congestion that would ensue if the Foreign Office were moved to Carl-ton House Terrace. Lord Salisbury suggested the site immediately opposite the House of Commons. The answer to that is that it is at present fully occupied by private lessees, whom we do not propose to expropriate, and who have long leases. I am sure that the noble Marquess would be on the side of the Ministry of Works in not desiring to disturb people who have long leases on their present property. I would also point out that if the Foreign Office were put in the corner that he suggested it would create a far graver traffic problem than that which would be created in Waterloo Place.

Perhaps I may now answer Lord Mancroft's question about the cost of new buildings. He asked for the cost of the new Whitehall Government offices, and I am advised that it will be about £5,500,000. The cost of the new Colonial Office, I am advised, will be approximately £2,500,000, and of the new Foreign Office between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, spread over several years. While I am answering questions perhaps I may answer that put by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, as to whether there is to be a model. I think the easiest way to answer his question is to quote a reply made by the Minister of Works in another place on Tuesday, January 23, in which he said: A model of the proposed reconstruction of Carlton House Terrace has not yet been made, but I propose to have one made and to exhibit it as the honourable Member suggests. I understand that it will take a considerable time to construct the model, but meanwhile I will arrange for the architect's drawings to be exhibited in the Members' Tea Room. We are concerned not only with the problem of rehousing the Foreign Office but also with the problem of what is to be done with Carlton House Terrace. I have listened to every speech that has been made this afternoon, but I have not heard one practical suggestion of what we arc to do with Carlton House Terrace. This extremely valuable site, which is the property of the Commissioners of Crown Lands, was in danger of becoming a net loss to the taxpayer even before the war. In 1932 the Commissioners of Crown Lands were advised that it would be very difficult to re-let any of the houses as houses when the present leases fell in. Leaving the houses empty hits the taxpayer in two ways. First, of course, there is the loss of rent; but even more serious are the ever increasing maintenance charges which have to be met from the land revenues of the Crown. This wasting process would go on until a site which was, or should be, a national asset became a heavy liability. At one time or another the Commissioners of Crown Lands have considered all possible uses for these buildings. As private residences they are out of date, and practically unlettable. The possibility of finding enough clubs to occupy the whole Terrace is remote, since most clubs at present have club houses, and, moreover, some are (so it is rumoured) in financial difficulties. To have two or three of the houses occupied by clubs would militate against any sensible policy for the use of the Terrace as a whole. The same thing applies to Embassies.

One of Lord Mancroft's questions was whether anybody had been given notice to quit. The answer is that no one has. The occupiers are leaseholders. They have been warned that re-development is intended, and negotiations have been offered for early surrender, but only one lessee, the Union Club, has actually been bought out. Again it has been considered whether the terraces could be converted into blocks of residential flats. Here, however, we are up against the floor levels, which were appropriate in the days of great receptions, rich aristocracy and plentiful servants. The position of the windows would raise insuperable difficulties in the way of an economic scheme for converting the existing building into flats. It has even been considered whether the existing buildings could be converted into a hotel or two separate hotels, but here again any conversion which was economic would involve a reconstruction quite as radical as that involved in the conversion into offices. The only specific proposal of this kind which has been made in recent years involved the complete demolition of the existing buildings, of which I understood the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, to be in favour.

Even in 1939 the Commissioners of Crown Lands and their lessees had been driven to the conclusion that the best hope of keeping the existing buildings lay in allowing them to be used as high-class offices, but anyone who is acquainted with the interior of the houses will realise how inappropriate they are for office use. It can scarcely be suggested that they should be used for offices for all time, as they stand now. The Government's proposals, therefore, are designed to solve two problems: the Foreign Office accommodation problem and the problem of Carlton House Terrace. A report of the Royal Fine Art Commission in 1945 recognised that at any rate partial reconstruction of the terraces would be necessary for any modern use, but suggested the retention of the Mall elevation. The report said: The Commission recommend the adoption of this scheme with the retention of the south and end elevations and the return wings to the north as shown on the plans so far as is practicable, having regard to the disturbing factor of the Pinchin Johnson Building at the end of the western Terrace. This recommendation is, however, subject to the approval by the Commission of the new north elevation to which the Conmissioners attached considerable importance and such other details as may be prepared which have not yet been submitted. It appeared possible, within the terms of this recommendation, to evolve a scheme which, while retaining the essential character of Nash's work, allowed a proper use to be made of the site.

The Ministry of Works therefore consulted the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects as to a suitable choice of architect for tarrying out such a scheme, for which it was recognised that special qualifications would be needed. In accordance with the advice given, the Minister decided to appoint Mr. Louis de Soissons, A.R.A., a recognized authority on Georgean architecture and a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission. Mr. de Soissons was asked to replan Carlton House Terrace on the basis suggested by the Royal Fine Art Commission, and the result is the proposal which we are considering to-day, and which has been approved, in general without qualification, by the Royal Fine Art Commission. I fear there will always be those who regard any form of modernisation or addition to fine old buildings as anathema. People who hold this view are unfortunately often the worst enemies of the buildings they seek to preserve. We cannot convert the centre of London into a sort of museum, containing buildings which at one time or another may have had their uses but which are now almost entirely ornamental. By reconstructing Carlton House Terrace the Government would give a new lease of life to the best part of Nash's work—the elevations facing the Park, which would be preserved for posterity.

What is the alternative? The buildings were put up by speculative builders, and every year they become more expensive to maintain. There is no use for them which is is not wasteful and uneconomic, and in the end they would inevitably—as the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, forecast this afternoon—have to be pulled down, just as Carlton House, which occupied the site before them, had to be swept away because it was shabby, inconvenient and unsafe. I only wish some of the noble Lords who have taken part in the debate this afternoon had been with me one day last week when I spent several hours, not looking at the view from the outside in the Mall, but going through the houses from the inside and seeing the state of dilapidation into which many of the houses have already fallen. It seems to me that the true friends of fine architecture are surely those who, by combining a modern use with the least possible change, arrest the progress of decay which ultimately must lead to demolition. The reconstructed building would house 1,560 staff, which would just take the main Foreign Office, excluding the Passport Office and excluding also the German Section, which it may be hoped will have come to an end by the time the new premises are ready. The Government have already spent approximately £100,000—again this is in reply to the noble Marquess—on buying leasehold interests in Carlton House Terrace, and if the scheme were not proceeded with this money would probably be wasted.

Now may I very timidly venture a few words about the architectural issue? In matters of aesthetics it is notoriously difficult to arrive at final truth, and it is also noticeable that one architect is seldom found praising wholeheartedly the work of another. That is why the Royal Fine Art Commission was set up, so that we could have some impartial and authoritative body to which these matters could be referred. A layman, if he is wise, does not venture too far on this delicate ground. But in view of the many misleading statements of fact which have appeared in the Press, I think it would be useful if I were to recapitulate a few of the more important facts. The appearance of Carlton House Terrace from the Mall will be unchanged. From further back the upper storey on the Carlton Gardens side will be visible and will take the place of the present untidy skyline, with its jumble of chimney pots and attic windows. It will rise only 14 ft. above the existing roof in the centre of the Terraces, and is set back 78 ft. from the front. The end pavilions will remain as at present. All these facts were excellently set out and illustrated in a recent article by Robert Lutyens in Country Life.

One of the features of the present controversy which has caused me some amusement is the appearance recently in the Press of accusations—which, to my surprise, the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, appears to have fallen for—that this has been a hole and corner business; that the scheme has been hatched out by "back room boys" behind locked doors and has suddenly burst upon the world with all the appalling suddenness of an atom bomb. May I be allowed to quote a few words from the Sunday Times? It says: The 'news' that the Foreign Office is to be rebuilt in Carlton House Terrace is not new. The plan has been under consideration for some time. Like other plans it will, with our depleted resources, be a long time before it reaches completion. Even lovers of the old building must admit that the reform is badly needed. In case noble Lords find something a little surprising about the tone of the extract, I should add that it appeared in the Sunday Times on May 25, 1947. And lest it should be thought that the Sunday Times affords only a limited publicity to this furtive plot of His Majesty's Government, and as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has referred to the Royal Academy, noble Lords may care to hear another extract from the Daily Express of May 20, 1947, over three and a half years ago. This is what they said: Carlton House Terrace, as Royalty, Society, Diplomats and Club men have known it for over a century, is to go. On its site, just off Pall Mall, overlooking the Mall and St. James's Park and on either side of the Duke of York's Steps. Britain's new Foreign Office will be built. That is an extract of three and a half years ago, and the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, comes down to your Lordships' House this afternoon and says that this has been sprung upon the public and that nobody knew. That is not very complimentary to the Daily Express.

But I am not going for one instance to blame the Daily Express, because I am going to show you now that those responsible for newspapers in the same offices apparently do not themselves read their main paper. Newspaper ownership has always been something of a mystery to me; almost the only thing I know is that the Daily Express and the Evening Standard belong to the same noble Lord. Therefore, your Lordships can imagine my surprise and bewilderment to read in a leading article in the Evening Standard of only eight days ago: … the whole business has been conducted in an atmosphere of hugger-mugger and security…. I did not learn the word "hugger-mugger" when I was at school, so I looked it up in my dictionary and I find it defined as "secrecy." I am left wondering whether the left hand of the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, knows what his right hand has been up to. May I add, as another glaring example of the secrecy mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that a drawing illustrating the proposals was exhibited in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1948?

The present plans show a vehicle access to the loading bay in the basement of the new building down a ramp from Waterloo Place. For reasons of internal communication, it is important that mail bags and so on should be delivered at a central point; and the present proposal, which is tentative, is to do this by having a ramp in Waterloo Place. The Athenaeum have expressed concern about this proposal, as have other clubs in the neighbourhood—the United Service and the Travellers'. We are examining alternative ways of providing a vehicle access. The question will probably turn on expense, but the Government are in no way wedded to the present proposal. There is also a proposal to widen the roadway in Carlton Gardens, which would mean diminishing the area of the Gardens. Here again, the present proposals are not yet entirely firm, and we have promised to consider any points which are raised. We are not yet in a position to put firm proposals to the interested authorities, which include the Crown Estate Paving Commission.

To sum up: a new Foreign Office is badly needed. I hope that I have been able to prove that, if it is to be placed within reasonable distance of Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster—as. for reasons of efficiency, it must be—the only site available for it is Carlton House Terrace, which is also handy for Embassies. Nash's buildings were not, unfortunately, built to last, and they have reached the end of their natural life. In addition they are, as they stand, a white elephant, instead of yielding, as they should, a substantial revenue to the tax-payer. The Government's proposals, which are based on recommendations of the Royal Fine Art Commission and have received the Commission's unqualified approval, preserve the best of Nash while making a fully economic use of the site. The present position of the scheme, therefore, is that preliminary sketch plans have been prepared by the architects and approved by the Royal Fine Art Commission. Some expenditure on securing vacant possession has been incurred, and consultations with the planning authorities are proceeding. It had been intended to make a start with the reconstruction in 1952, but owing to the necessity to restrict capital investment in the interests of the defence programme, it is unlikely that work can be started until 1954. When they do start, the cost of the building operations will be between £3,000,000' and £4.000,000, spread over several years. I hope that I have said enough to assist the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in deciding to ask leave to withdraw his Motion.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure you will agree that we have had a most interesting and useful debate, and I think you would wish me to thank the noble Lord, Lord Morrison for his trouble and care in giving us an answer which, if it does not satisfy everybody, has at least cleared up many of our doubts and answered many of our questions. I should like, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, to make it clear that I had no intention or desire—as I am sure that anybody who listened to me with a sense of humour will realise—to raise this matter as a political stick with which to beat the Government. I made it clear that the Conservative Party had committed many crimes of this nature, and that if Lord Morrison chose to raise them I should plead guilty. I am beginning to have great faith in the noble Lord and his colleagues at the Ministry of Works. I think they are promising well—and that is why I was so disappointed in this scheme.

I would not have Lord Silkin believe that I wish to level any attack on civil servants. Civil servants are a good thing—but one can have too much of a good thing. My argument was. not against them at all. Nor did I suggest that civil servants should not be comfortably housed—though no more so than the next man. That was the gist of my argument. Lord Morrison is stirring up trouble when he gently chides us for not laving read our papers carefully, or looked sufficiently closely at pictures in the Royal Academy. When the Royal Academy opens I am going to take the noble Lord and some of his colleagues with me into the Architectural Room; and I shall threaten him with a debate on every one of these plans which I see and which I do not like the look of, however probable or improbable it may be. I am not entirely happy, helpful though Lord Morrison has been. He knows there is uneasiness in this House and in the country. He must therefore forgive me if, whilst I ask leave to withdraw my Motion, I say that this is not the last he has heard of this matter. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.