HL Deb 11 May 1964 vol 258 cc3-5

2.39 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, when considering the proposals for an extension to the Palace of Westminster, they will bear in mind that the architecture of the new building should reflect the century in which we live.]


My Lords, the design of any important and prominent building is a matter of great public interest and requires very thorough consideration. Her Majesty's Government will take into account the views expressed both inside and outside Parliament on the design of any new building which may in due course be erected for Parliamentary purposes.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply. I should like to ask him whether he agrees that this is a matter of enormous public concern and that its discussion and debate in this House and elsewhere is a matter of the greatest urgency at the present time?


My Lords, I would of course agree, if the Sunday papers are any guide, that this is a matter of great public concern, and I think, indeed, that it is. Quite clearly, of course, the matter of debate in this House is one to be considered through the normal channels; but, if I may express a personal opinion, it is that this is the type of subject on which your Lordships are known to excel.


My Lords, would the noble Earl not agree that there are many considerations in this scheme other than the architectural one which has received so much prominence? May I ask the noble Earl whether the Government will consider the whole scheme, and whether the proposed scheme will produce what is required for Members of both Houses in the most efficient way?


My Lords, I would, of course, agree with the noble Lord that there are many factors to be considered here, of which the purely architectural and stylistic is only one. I am sure that these are all factors which will be fully debated in another place, where a debate has been promised, and possibly here, and these factors will doubtless be considered by Her Majesty's Government when a decision is being taken.


My Lords, in strongly supporting the noble Lord who asked this Question, may I ask Her Majesty's Government two questions? First, am I right in thinking that the proposed development could not be carried out without legislation? Secondly, am I right in assuming that the instructions to Sir Leslie Martin to prepare an outline plan for Parliament Square, Bridge Street and Whitehall, still stand and are quite unaffected by a proposal recently emanating from a Committee of another place?


My Lords, I think that my noble friend is right in his first supplementary thought. The legal position, as tends to be the case with legal positions, is a little obscure, I understand, in this particular respect, but I gather that it is almost certain that the scheme as recommended by the Speaker's Committee would require legislation. My noble friend is quite right in his second assumption that the terms of reference given to Sir Leslie Martin stand.


My Lords, can my noble friend say whether he thinks all the features of the present century should be reflected in any new building?


My Lords, I can quite confidently reply to my noble friend in the negative.


My Lords, in view of the fact that there is concern in regard to the Foreign Office and in view of the proximity of the Foreign Office to Whitehall, Parliament and the necessary rebuilding, can the noble Earl say whether consideration will be given now to having some kind of uniformity so that we do not have this hotch-potch which appears to be characteristic of London's architecture?


My Lords, it was, of course, with that aspect very much in mind that my right honourable friend the Minister of Public Building and Works recently asked Sir Leslie Martin to consider the Whitehall area as a whole.