§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, I have it in Command from Her Majesty The Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill, has consented to place Her Majesty's prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purpose of the Bill.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY or TRANSPORT (LORD CHESHAM)
My Lords, in introducing this Bill to your Lordships for Second Reading, I do not think I need dwell for long on the fundamental reason why it is put forward. The Bill, of course, is to enable my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, to make a site available in Hyde Park for an underground garage. I think that quite enough has been said in the past—and it has been said by a number of your Lordships, particularly those who support the motoring interest—upon the point that the provision of off-street parking is a highly important factor in our efforts to battle against traffic congestion in London. I am sure that I need say no more to justify that. But while I may remind your Lordships that we regard off-street parking as a local authority responsibility, and also a field for private enterprise, I emphasise most strongly that the Government are determined to encourage the provision of these essential facilities, and I shall hope to show your Lordships that the Bill makes a positive contribution in this respect.
341 The growth of parking meters in the interest of freeing the streets of London has been a quick one. In 1958, there were 647 in operation. By the end of last year there were 4,659, and I expect that by the end of 1961 there will be nearly 12,000 in the London area. This restriction of parking, together with the charge that is made for it, has stimulated both the demand for off-street accommodation and the incentive to provide it. I think I might put in at this point that in Central London, where the problem is most acute, local authorities and private enterprise are getting on quite well with the job of planning the off-street car parks. The inner London area, the City of London, Westminster, Marylebone, Holborn, St. Pancras and Finsbury have plans in various stages, sometimes in association with private enterprise and sometimes not, for over 13,000 new car spaces. But in some areas it is more difficult; suitable sites are not very easy to find. This Bill tackles the particularly difficult problem of finding sites in Mayfair. It would provide for a garage to be in the North-East corner of Hyde Park, which is well sited for Mayfair, or most of it, and particularly well sited for the hotels in Park Lane and in Oxford Street. It will also be of service, of course, for areas North of the Park.
It was as long ago as 1951 that the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee advocated underground garages beneath the parks, but it is much more recently that the parking meter control has raised demand to an extent where it makes the idea commercially feasible. We have been taking soundings about this, and they indicate that there are now good prospects—I think "good" is definitely the right word—that a garage under Hyde Park would be a commercially viable proposition. The whole concept of an underground garage beneath the parade ground in the vicinity of Speaker's Corner has been discussed in the greatest detail between my right honourable friends the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Works, and they are both satisfied that an acceptable scheme can be devised without undue harm to the amenities of the Park or ill-effect on the traffic flow on the roads near by. The prime objective, if I may put it briefly and succinctly, is to get a good garage in being for public use as quickly as 342 possible, with, at the same time, full protection for park amenities; and to get it in such a way that it is a good bargain for the public purse.
The Bill itself is purely an enabling Bill. It is needed in this form because there are longstanding statutory restrictions on the powers of the Crown to dispose of land in the Royal Parks, whether by lease or in any other way. The Bill does not authorise specific works. It simply enables the Minister to let land within an authorised area for an underground garage with a filling station and ordinary ancillary garage activities, subject to a number of important restrictions. There is no limitation on the duration of the powers, but the maximum single lease permitted by the Bill is 99 years, and at the expiration of any lease the Minister of Transport will consult the Minister of Works about future action.
The "authorised area" is 36 acres. This provides for the whole "shooting match", so to speak, and it provides for the accesses to the underground entrance tunnels, the emergency exits, and so on, and it also gives the developer some room to manœuvre in the siting and the design of the actual garage itself. The area actually developed would be smaller, probably between six or seven acres, 'with a capacity for about 1,000 cars. The site chosen was based on the need for an open space that was free of trees, for the best situation for access from the neighbouring roads, for minimum disturbance of amenity and to be as close as possible to the area it was designed to serve. The location of the accesses for vehicles and of the filling station is defined on the map which has been presented to Parliament and has been published as a Command Paper. I have no doubt that some of your Lordships have it. These locations have been agreed with the Minister of Works and after full consultation with the London County Council and the police.
The other thing the Bill does is to allow the Minister of Transport to make regulations to control public order in the area subject to development—that is, in the garage or the accesses to it. Public control on the park surface will continue to be by the Minister of Works under his Parks Regulations. The developer of 343 the garage will have to submit his proposals to the London County Council as the planning authority, apart from any consultation between Ministers and the Royal Fine Art Commission. The developer will also be bound by all the normal fire control and safety requirements. If I am not mistaken, I think your Lordships will probably be principally interested in the effectiveness of the safeguards for the amenities of the Park, and therefore I think perhaps I had better go into that aspect in a little more detail. At this point I ought to refer to the map and explain one thing, and, I hope, make it quite clear.
Those of your Lordships who have the map will see that the area is surrounded by a solid black line. Everything must go into that area. Inside is another quite large area, surrounded by a dotted line. That is an area which is so indicated because it is flat and open at present and it must still be flat and open when the job is completed. That is the purpose of that line. I think it is important that I should stress that point. Once the garage has been built, it will have little adverse effect on the amenities of the Park, and I can assure your Lordships that my right honourable friends have together given most serious consideration to this point. Both my right honourable friends have announced formally in another place their intention to consult fully with the Royal Fine Art Commission on the amenity effect of any proposals.
I have made the point of the parade ground being restored completely, and Clause 2 (1) (a) provides for such reinstatement to the satisfaction of the Minister of Works where there has necessarily been disturbance during the work of construction. We have then to deal with the two ramped accesses, which are shown on the map, where vehicles go into the garage. There is also the question to consider of some emergency exits, ventilation shafts and smoke vents. Clause 2 (2) (b) defines these, and I think I should be more specific about them. The emergency exits may be required—and at the present stage I can only say "may", not "will"—on the West side of the area. If they are -required, there will not be more than two and they will be either flush with 344 the ground or will be low, inconspicuous objects which can be surrounded by a screen of bushes.
There will be up to three ventilation shafts of a height of about ten feet. One proposal is that these should be sited in the cover of the trees flanking the Broad Walk, on the East side of the area, and that they should be incorporated into park shelters and so disguised. As an alternative scheme, it may be possible to incorporate and conceal them in the rebuilt Grosvenor Gate Lodge, which is one of the original Decimus Burton lodges, which is to be preserved as an architectural feature, although it will not in fact be used any more as a lodge. The smoke vents are emergency contrivances, in the form of pavement lights which are capable of being broken by a fireman's axe, and are required under the London County Council fire regulations. It is intended that these should be sited on the paths which already cross the area. If this does not give the correct regular coverage it is proposed to provide additional paths containing these smoke vents. They will have no adverse effect at all on the amenities of the Park.
It will probably be necessary to fell some trees, although I hope and believe that it will not be necessary to fell more than fifteen. Clause 2 (1) (c), in fact, provides that my right honourable friend the Minister of Works shall have close and specific control of tree felling.
§ LORD MERR1VALE
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend for a second? I am sorry, but I do so as he has left Clause 2 (1) (b). That paragraph says the Minister shall secure that:no works, when completed, protrude above the surface …".Does that also mean any static or mobile equipment with regard to fuelling facilities, whether it be oil or petrol, and that kind of equipment?
§ LORD CHESHAM
Yes, my Lords, it does. There will be nothing of that kind. I am coming on to that point now. Under Clause 2 (2) (a) the positions of the entrances and exits, and also of the petrol filling station, are closely defined. The pumps will be at the bottom of a ramp, about 12 feet down, and will not be visible from the Park. The detailed design of the filling station will have to be approved by the London County Council as planning authority, but they have 345 accepted the idea of a petrol station, in principle, in the position where it is shown on the map.
Apart from these specific safeguards, I want to tell your Lordships once again that in the general exercise of the powers which are sought under this Bill the Minister of Transport has undertaken in another place—and, my Lords, I now repeat that undertaking—to work in the closest collaboration with the Minister of Works. The Minister of Works will be consulted in particular on the proposed terms of whatever lease is granted and over the appearance and siting of whatever works will come to the surface of the Park or project above it, both during the construction period and when the garage is finished.
If the Bill is approved, the Minister hopes to conclude the building agreement and lease with the Westminster City Council provided that satisfactory terms can be negotiated. There is every hope that this will be possible; but if it is not, the Minister will seek to negotiate with the L.C.C., subject of course to the Westminster City Council's agreement, or with a private developer. When the first lease has expired, the Bill leaves the Minister of Transport free to decide how and with whom to negotiate further leases, although, of course, before doing that he would consult with the Minister of Works. The present position is that the Westminster City Council are in negotiation with my right honourable friend on the basis of the granting of a lease of this kind, so that the Council could construct the garage and let it to a commercial operator. The discussions are going quite reasonably satisfactorily, so I am told, but it is worth noting that the terms will be negotiated with Treasury approval on the financial aspects and bearing in mind the need to ensure that, if this garage does, in fact, prove lucrative, the public purse will have a share in the profits. If all goes well in this way, my Lords, and the Bill is passed, work might well begin to some extent at the end of the year, before the present work of the Park Lane scheme finishes; and the garage should be in operation by 1963.
My Lords, I hope that I have said enough to explain to your Lordships that this 1,000-car garage on the site will not only be a very effective contribution in itself to the solution of the London 346 traffic problem but that it cart be done without unacceptable detriment to the amenity of the Park. It will also serve, I hope, to show that the Government's firm intention to encourage parking control, and off-street parking to go with it, is not merely a form of words. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will feel that this Bill should be read a second time. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a, —(Lord Chesham.)
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, we are obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for the pretty clear exposition he has given of the provisions of this Bill, and it will be useful as the basis of our discussion. I ought, in the first place, to tender an apology in advance, because I may not be here at the end of the debate since, like some others of your Lordships, I shall be going with my wife to the Royal Garden Party; and I am sure the House will understand.
My Lords, this is a Bill of importance. It is in the nature of an important precedent, in that a public open space is to be used for a garage and some of the public open space will be taken away entirely. Therefore we should attach importance to the Bill as establishing an important precedent which, if this goes through, may be followed elsewhere; and possibly liberties may be taken with public open spaces that ought not to be engaged in. I am sure that the Minister of Transport, and perhaps more particularly the Minister of Works., will be exceedingly careful how this work is carried out and what damage, if any, is done to the amenities of the Park. Some damage is bound to be done, but I have had enough experience of the Ministry of Works to know that they are not likely to suffer from undue tolerance of bad things happening to their open spaces. In my experience, the Ministry of Works have been a "sticky" lot: they almost frown at you if you look at an open space, let alone touch it or interfere with it. I am not complaining in principle that that should be so, because it is an exceedingly serious matter to tamper with our Public open space, of which we have much in London but of which some metropolitan boroughs are seriously 347 short. Moreover, it is badly distributed, as my noble friend Lord Latham reminds me, taking one metropolitan borough with another.
I myself have had experience of touching public open space. So have my noble friends Lord Latham and Lord Silkin, who were with me in that battle on the London County Council. We were faced with a terrific slum clearance problem in the East End of London, and unless we could make a real start somehow the period needed to clear the slums would have been enormously increased and the difficulties would have been much greater. So we decided, reluctantly—though we could not help it—to take 30 acres of Hackney Marsh (which is not as beautiful an open space as Hyde Park; it is very flat, all grass and all utilitarian) for the purpose of new housing, in flats, for the people of East London.
Having moved them into the flats, we were going forthwith to demolish the slum properties so that they should not be reoccupied; and that was done. But we had to undertake, I think, under the law as to open spaces, that we would compensate the public for the loss of that 30 acres of Hackney Marsh by providing alternative open space elsewhere, which we did. On the way we were taken to court by a friend of mine, a very good friend, a Mr. Villiers, of the Hackney Wick Boys' Club, on the ground that the open space we were acquiring was not sufficiently contiguous to Hackney Marsh; and he won. It was all done with love and kindness, but it was a nuisance, and he won. Having done that, he came back and said, "Now, Mr. Morrison, I will help you to find open space which is contiguous". He did: and the whole thing was squared up.
I do not know whether, if Her Majesty's Government get this Bill, there is, or ought to be, an obligation upon them to provide some compensating open space for such open space as is lost to Hyde Park, but I think the Parliamentary Secretary ought to deal with that point, because I am quite clear that in the case of the London County Council compensating open space had to be provided, and I am not sure that Her Majesty's Government ought to get away with this kind of thing more easily than 348 London's municipality does. So I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with that point.
I was going to ask (but it now seems to be not quite so necessary) who would be the owners and the operators of the garage and of the petrol-selling facilities in it—and presumably there will be motor repairs at the garage. I assume that; otherwise, it will be disadvantageous to the undertaking. But the Parliamentary Secretary says they are seeking to let the lease to the City Council of Westminster, and then the City Council will be free to let it on lease to some private undertaking. To my mind, it all depends upon whether this show is going to pay and be profitable or whether it is not. I know the philosophy of the Conservative Party is: if there is something which does not pay or cannot pay, nationalise it or municipalise it; but if there is profit to be made, then let private enterprise have it. My socialist bias is the other way. I am a friend of the taxpayer and of the ratepayer, which the Conservatives are not, and I would say: if there is money to be made, let public authority make it; if it is speculative and it may be that money will be lost, then let private enterprise have it. They are great people for saying that they are willing to take the risks, so let them take them.
I should have thought that the body to do the work and to run it would be either the Westminster City Council or, if they were not willing, the London County Council: or, if it were preferred, the London County Council should run it in any case. I have no strong feeling as to which local authority it should be, but I should have thought that, if money is to be sunk in it, and if there is a reasonable prospect of its paying its way, it ought to be owned by public authority.
The Bill is, as the Parliamentary0 Secretary says, an enabling Bill. That was probably inevitable, and it is probably as detailed in its provisions as it could be in the circumstances of the case; but it is profoundly important that the instructions as to amenity, and so on, should be adequately and fully respected in the course of administration and management. Thirty-six acres is a pretty substantial area. It is going to take 1.000 cars. It is bigger than many of our public open spaces, not only in 349 London but in the provinces and elsewhere in the British Isles. What I am not too clear about, and what it would be useful to have information upon later on, is whether this substantial area (because to me it looks substantial on the map) is all going to be destroyed as public open space, or whether, as I should rather assume, there must be a destruction at the sloping exits up to the point that is necessary, but when you get further in you will go under the ground, and the garage itself will be underground. If that be so, what I should like to know is whether the surface cannot be reinstated over a considerable part of the 36 acres, so that there is the minimum loss to the use of the public as public open space.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I think I ought to interrupt him at this stage, because I should not like him or your Lordships as a whole to have this worry at all. The noble Lord really has misunderstood what I said. There is no question of 36 acres of Hyde Park being taken: no question whatever. It is merely that on the plan there is a 36-acre area within the confines of which these works must be carried out. While the works are being carried out there will naturally be a temporary detriment to public use, but when they are finished there will be no question of 36 acres being taken from the park. There will be only a very small area. All that will be there to be seen, as I tried to describe, is a very slight indentation at the two entrance points; three ventilation shafts disguised as something; and maybe a couple of emergency exits with bushes around. Practically the whole of the rest of the area will be just as available to the public, in very much the same form. as it is now.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I was hoping that that would be so. I thought it was so during the course of his speech, but I was not finally clear about it.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Not at all. At any rate, there is no need for the Parliamentary Secretary to get to the verge of crossness about it, because it was a perfectly innocent and legitimate 350 inquiry I made, and I am much obliged to have his assurance. I thought that would be the answer, from what he said, but I was not absolutely sure, and I thought it desirable, in a matter of this importance, that one should be absolutely sure about it.
There is provision in the Bill that they may grant a lease to some other body; and I am glad to say that there are fuelling and other facilities and services, which I hope will include repairs. It is a good thing that Clause 2 is there, which gives directions as to protection of amenities to the satisfaction of the Minister of Works, and says that there shall be no protruding above the surface when there is reinstatement. I am glad that every effort will be made to protect trees; and there are other useful provisions for the purpose of safeguarding the public interest. As to the end of subsection (4) of Clause 2, I am a little doubtful whether the fine of "not exceeding £5" is quite adequate, because people might make rather bad nuisances of themselves. I should have thought that a fine of £5 is very nominal, and that there is something to be said for its being increased.
My Lords, this Bill will provide a substantial place for the garaging of cars, and to that extent it is useful. My worry about London and London traffic is whether we can let the motor traffic of London go on growing within the county to the extent to which it has been growing in recent years. I used to drive up from Eltham to Parliament in a fairly steady, regular half-an-hour, but now it quite often takes three-quarters of an hour or an hour. The danger on the highways to pedestrians has increased and is increasing, and what I am beginning to wonder is whether society can permit everybody's motor car to cone into the County of London carrying, perhaps, nobody but the driver, or the driver and one passenger. If motor traffic is going to increase at the rate it is, I am wondering whether the Ministry of Transport have not to think about saying (I know it will want a lot of political courage to do it, because there will be an awful row about it), "We are sorry, but unless you can show very good cause you cannot come into the Central London area". In that case, there ought to be garaging or parking facilities at suburban railway stations, 351 and so on, so that people can leave their cars there and finish their journey by public transport.
What is the alternative? There is a continuous demand for more highway improvements and new highways, and in the big cities it is a very costly business for the local authorities to provide these highway improvements. It is true that the Ministry give substantial grants which, on a Class I improvement, will usually he 75 per cent. That is a material grant, and it helps them out, but it means that the Treasury has to bear a very great cost. The worrying vision I have about London is that if we go on widening and widening and making new roads, there will arise the issue which was put to me by a former valuer of the London County Council, Mr. Frank Hunt. He was an exceedingly able man who understood London values very well. I was rather praising the late Mr. Lloyd George's road 'improvement schemes, about which he was enthusiastic. He said, "There is a lot to be said for it, but be careful. If you do not look out, this will be a city of roads, and there will be no rateable value left."
That is an exaggeration, but there is some point in it, and I do not know that we can go on for ever making the roads fit the increasing traffic, not only of motor cars but of motor cycles that seem to be multiplying out of all reason, and can be a great nuisance both in traffic and in regard to noise. They really are terrors up the Old Kent Road. I have shouted at them sometimes. Sometimes I have been heard, and stopped them, but directly afterwards they go off up the road as before. Some riders get a "kick" out of making the maximum noise they can. Of course, this is the liberty of the individual on the Queen's highway, and all that, but I am not sure that we can go on letting motor transport grow, with the result that we have to spend enormous sums on improving existing highways or building new ones, and possibly depreciating capital values.
There is another thing I do not understand about the policy of the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Transport. He seems to love not only to land on the road as many commercial transport vehicles as he can, but to let them have as many trailers as possible. 352 One sees them with one trailer, or sometimes two, monopolising the highway, often carrying merchandise that ought to go by rail. It would be a good thing for the railways if it did, though that cannot always be done. That, however, is another cause of claims for increased expenditure on highways.
My Lords, I thought I would chance my arm on this rather risky proposition. I have mentioned it because I felt sure the public, the Press, the Government and Parliament must begin to think about it, for we cannot for ever go on letting motor traffic increase relentlessly in the built-up urban areas of our country, without control. Taking this Bill as a whole, and subject to the points for which I have asked the Parliamentary Secretary for further consideration, I believe the House would do well to give it a Second Reading.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down would he not agree that if private cars were prevented from coming into Central London, public transport services could not carry the traffic?
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, public transport can carry a lot more. For example, the buses are in financial difficulties because they are not carrying nearly enough passengers. On the Southern electric railway they are at times unable to do so at the peak hour. It may be that some additional tube facilities (which I know are costly), such as the Victoria-Walthamstow line, may have to be considered. That is a point which has to be kept in mind.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, is it not a fact that motor car manufacturers are able to manufacture noiseless, or comparatively noiseless, motor cycles just as well as they can manufacture almost noiseless motor cars, but cannot sell them because these youngsters want noise and will not buy any machine that does not give them noise?
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I am not the Minister in charge of the Bill but I believe there is a lot in what my noble friend says. On the whole, we are successful in making motor cars noiseless, and manufacturers can make motor cycles almost noiseless. But my grumble is with the Minister of 353 Transport whose regulations are not stiff enough, or, if they are stiff enough, are not enforced as much as they should be by the Ministry and the police. There is a lot in what my noble friend says about youngsters getting a "kick" out of making maximum noise. Sometimes they are frightening to quiet, decent, well-behaved motorists when they race along causing this row. I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that there is a responsibility to see that all this noise is stopped. We are much obliged to him, in advance, for whatever action may be needed.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, if I might be forgiven for butting in, I should like to say a few words about the Bill. I do not want to waste your Lordships' time by repeating what other noble Lords have said, but I should like to repeat some of the things I myself have said in the past—which is quite different. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister was right in drawing our attention to the fact that this garage under Hyde Park cannot be taken in isolation. It must be regarded as only one of the solutions to the London traffic problem and as something to be taken in conjunction with the other schemes he has enumerated—meters, one-way traffic schemes and off-street parking in newly constructed garages. All are part and parcel of the same problem.
I am glad to see that the Hyde Park scheme, at Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch, is forging ahead, and I believe that it will provide real relief when it is completed. I was glad to hear my noble friend tell us of more meters being put up. I should like to congratulate him and his right honourable friend on the success of their one-way traffic scheme which is just getting into its stride in Central and Northern London. Having an office in Tottenham Court Road I have first-hand experience of this scheme. Tottenham Court Road is now like the M.1. Traffic goes up it like a bomb, and it is quite impossible for anybody to cross Tottenham Court Road, except at traffic lights; and that is absolutely right, for that is the correct place for pedestrians to cross. We put a clause in a Bill to this effect a little while ago, but so far the necks has not reached the pedestrian. Going northwards the one-way system is 354 fine. Going south is more difficult because of the wideness of the diversions. I have not yet found a way of coming south from my office in Tottenham Court Road to your Lordships' House without going through the outskirts of Wolverhampton, but no doubt in due course I shall learn how to do so.
I welcome the noble Lord's comments on off-street parking in garages other than this Hyde Park scheme. I hope that one day we shall see it enacted that no large building may go up anywhere in Central London which is unable to consume its own transport. I understand that we are about to put up a large skyscraper on the old Portman House site, at the end of Montagu Square. It is essential that that building should be able to consume its own transport. One has only to move a few yards north to see what happens where that lesson has not been learned, for there one can see what happened when no underground parking facilities were provided for Wyndham House. As a result, the whole of that area is now cluttered with large cars.
At the risk of shocking your Lordships, I would say that I should like to see this Bill carried further; I should like to see underground parking facilities under Horse Guards Parade, under large areas of Green Park (where that could be done without affecting amenities) and under Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk. I heartily agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that we must be careful on the subject of amenity. We are rightly jealous of our Royal Parks, and rightly resent any intrusion on our amenities there. But my noble friend Lord Chesham has now set at least my mind at rest that Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to this. I should like him to tell us, if he possibly can, what is to happen to the trees. When we launched the Hyde Park scheme we lost nearly 80 trees. That was sad but inevitable. How many shall we lose eventually under this scheme? I understand only about 15 or 20; but I should like to have my noble friend's views on that an due course, because it is important that we should watch this carefully.
There, is one other point that I would ask my noble friend and that is in regard to the timing of this scheme. If I understood him aright, it is going to take us 355 nearly two years—that is, if we have a dry summer. If we have an English summer it may take longer. Am I right in thinking (or am I being unkind) that we in this country take an awfully long time with our public engineering works? In the past I have seen, as your Lordships no doubt have done, such things as the construction of that great overhead road system in Brussels and other great public works, in particular in Montreal and New York. They seem to go very much faster than ours. I know, of course, that places like Hyde Park Corner present real difficulties of their own. If you dig too far in the north you drown in that wonderfully named "King's College Scholars Pond". If you dig too far in the middle, you disconnect half the telephones in Europe; and if you dig too far to the south you will find yourself clinging to the 8.33 "All stations to Uxbridge".
I wonder if it is not possible to accelerate the progress of this tolerably simple task of digging a hole in the middle of Hyde Park. I listened with interest to what my noble friend said about the timetable. I should have hoped that, without constitutional propriety being impaired, negotiations could have been advanced so that when this Bill received the Royal Assent we should pretty soon be able to hear the clang of bulldozers from Speakers' Corner. I very much hope the noble Lord will do all he can to accelerate negotiations, so that we do not have a long delay after the Bill is passed.
Another fear haunts me. I have said this before, and I will say it again. I know what will happen. The moment the last stone is put back in its place in the Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner scheme, the very day it is put back, along will come Messrs Holland & Hannen & Cubitts, Taylor Woodrow, and "old Uncle McAlpine and all" and tear the whole thing up again—because that is part of the British way of life. I hope that the noble Lord will do all he can to accelerate both the negotiations and the construction of this garage while Hyde Park continues to look as it does now, like a dress rehearsal for the Day of Judgment.
I think this is a bold scheme and is a major step forward towards solving a very difficult problem. But I hope that the noble Lord and his colleagues will not stop there. I do not believe that this 356 garage will encourage the wrong people to come in. If your Lordships look at the map, you will see whom it will serve. This map, incidentally, was published in 1961 and depicts the Marble Arch Pavilion, which was demolished nearly five years ago. The Ministry of Transport, like the mills of God, grind slowly; and judging from the print on this map, they "grind exceedingly small". It will be the big hotels all around Park Lane and Marble Arch, and the flats and offices, which will use the garage for the cars of their tenants and workers. At the moment, these cars are cluttering up all the streets around the area.
I should like the Minister to consider whether it is not possible to introduce some scheme as that in New York, where such hotels, flats and offices have special arrangements made for them in such garages, including direct telephonic communication—all the facilities laid on so that they can use them. It is their cars that we want off the side streets around Park Lane. I think that if some arrangement could be made, it would be all to the good, and we should be serving the people we want particularly to clear off the streets in that area. I congratulate the Government on bringing forward an imaginative Bill. I hope that they will not stop here, but will go forward and think of Horse Guards Parade. Green Park, and elsewhere. I wish this Bill a swift progress.