HL Deb 15 May 1956 vol 197 cc356-60

Order of the Day for the consideration of the Third Report from the Select Committee read.

The Committee reported as follows:


A Report from the Sub-Committee on the Library was laid before the Committee.

The Committee were informed that the Librarian was due for retirement in October next and invited the Library Sub-Committee to make a recommendation as to his successor and matters arising in connection with his retirement.

The Earl of Home and the Earl Attlee were added to the Sub-Committee.


A Report from the Sub-Committee on the War Memorial was laid before the Committee. The Committee recommended that the question of the site for the re-erection of the statue, which previously stood in the Royal Gallery as a memorial for the 1914–18 war, should be deferred for future consideration; that the War Memorial Sub-Committee should be dissolved and that the balance of the funds held by the Sub-Committee, after all outstanding accounts had been paid, should be transferred to a special account in the names of the Chairman of Committees, the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod and the Clerk of the Parliaments.


  1. (1) Ventilation. The Committee considered the question of the ventilation of the Chamber which had been referred to them by the House, and approved new arrangements for the use of the fans by which ventilation will be improved.
  2. (2) The Committee were informed that further experiments were being made for the exterior floodlighting of the windows.


  1. (1) Statue of Queen Victoria. The Committee expressed general approval of the proposal to remove the two supporting figures, which would be stored with a view to subsequent re-erection if at any time the House desired to restore them to their existing position.
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  3. (2) Lighting. The Committee were informed that new lighting of the pictures in the Prince's Chamber had been installed.


The Committee gave general approval to plans submitted by the Lord Great Chamberlain for improved accommodation for the Refreshment Department. The Lord Great Chamberlain was asked whether he could prepare a scheme for carrying out the work in stages according to its urgency.


The Committee authorised the increased cost of Police services for the year ending 31st March, 1957.


The Committee were informed of the return of Mr. L. A. Ketcher from prolonged sick leave. As a temporary expedient, the employment of Mr. Ketcher on the establishment of the Custodian Staff (Subhead J) on his present scale of salary as an Office Assistant was approved. The continued employment of a shorthand typist in the Lord Great Chamberlain's Office, instead of Mr. Ketcher, was approved.


The Committee sanctioned the payment of a pension and an additional allowance under the Superannuation Act, 1909, to Mr. Sydney Charles Pitt, who attains 65 years of age on 6th March, 1956.


The Committee sanctioned the payment of a pension and an additional allowance under the Superannuation Acts to Mr. Robert Calvert, B.E.M., who attained 65 years of age on 10th February, 1956.


The Committee sanctioned the payment of a pension and an additional allowance under the Superannuation Acts to Mr. Frederick George Steele, who attained 65 years of age on 5th February, 1956.

The Committee were informed that Mr. Steele is being re-employed as an unestablished Custodian.


My Lords, in the absence of the noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees, who I am sorry to say is not well, it falls to me to move that this Report be now considered.

Moved, That the Report be now considered.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now agreed to, and in doing so I think perhaps I ought to say a few words on one or two of the items. Your Lordships will have seen the Report and will know, therefore, that on most of the items little comment is necessary. However, as to item No. 2, the War Memorial, your Lordships will have noted that the three Memorial Books containing the names of those who lost their lives in the two wars have now been placed in the embrasure in the Royal Gallery, in accordance with the original intentions. That involves some further consideration of what is to be done with the statue, which was originally there, or, at any rate, has temporarily been there. As your Lordships know, the statue did not meet with universal approval in the position in which it was, and it has therefore been necessary to give that matter further consideration. I can only assure your Lordships that when some conclusions have been reached you will have a further opportunity of approving whatever is then proposed.

There is then the rather important question for us all of the ventilation of the House. That is a matter which has been the subject of comment, and indeed of complaint, during the whole time that we have been back in this Chamber since the war, and a great deal of thought has been given lo it. Eventually, as your Lordships know, the matter was referred by the House to the House of Lords Offices Committee. I am glad to be able to report that arrangements have now been, made by which the fans in the roof can be accelerated and operated from Black Rod's Box. The present arrangement is that the fans are kept working at full speed throughout the morning and reduced in speed for the afternoon's sittings. The reason for the reduction in the afternoon is that when they are working at full speed they are audible. The speed can, however, be increased during the afternoon's sittings if the atmosphere in the Chamber becomes oppressive. Your Lordships will be glad to hear that some efforts, at any rate, are being made to improve the atmosphere.

I am also glad to be able to report that the Lord Great Chamberlain is carrying out experiments in lighting the windows from the outside of the House. I do not know whether your Lordships noticed it, but one afternoon earlier in the year one of the windows was lit for that purpose. It certainly improved the appearance, and should be of great use later on in the year when it is dark earlier.

Then I come to item 5, which deals with the accommodation in the refreshment department. There have been some projected plans for improving this, which consist of the conversion of some of the rooms on the Terrace front, underneath the Library, into additional dining rooms. This idea has been considered by the Committee and has been given general approval, subject, of course, to the approval of the House. But there are other authorities who have to be considered, and it is possible that these plans cannot be carried out for some time yet. Apart from everything else, I think the present economic situation will not make it a particularly appropriate moment for spending large sums of money on an object of this kind. But there is no doubt that if and when these improvements are made they will be of great value to noble Lords and their guests.

Finally, there is one item about which I think I ought to say just a little more, and that is item 4. It relates to the Prince's Chamber, and a proposal with regard to the statute of Queen Victoria there. As your Lordships know, that statue is flanked by two other figures which are large and have often been thought rather to dwarf the central figure. They, I understand, were not part of the original design, but were brought in rather as an afterthought—at the time, but as an afterthought. Further consideration of this question, in which noble Lords with great authority and experience in these subjects took part, led the Committee to the conclusion that there was at least a case for removing these supporting figures temporarily, so that noble Lords should have the opportunity of judging how the central figure looks alone, as was the original design of the sculptor. The Committee recommend that proposal to the House in their Report.

I would emphasise that there is no suggestion that these figures should be removed from the precincts of the House. They would be taken downstairs and kept over such period as was necessary to enable noble Lords to look at the central figure without the supporting ones, and see which they prefer. I hope very much, if I may say so, that the House will agree to this proposal, which is put forward merely to give the House an opportunity of judging between the two alternatives. The House will notice one other improvement in the Prince's Chamber, and that is the illumination of the pictures on the wall by special lighting thrown from the chandelier. I think there is no doubt that that has greatly improved the appearance of the room.

These are the only comments which I wish to make upon the Report, and I should once more like to move that it be approved.

Moved, That the Report be now approved.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


I am obliged to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House for the care he has taken in expounding the Report. I know all about the matters he has so carefully put before your Lordships, and I hope that the House will adopt the Report.

On Question, Motion agreed to.