§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking Lord Jellicoe, first of all, for giving us the opportunity of discussing this subject; 1075 secondly, for a most reasonable and helpful speech about it, and, thirdly, for his courtesy in giving me a short indication beforehand of what he was going to say. I should like, too, to thank Lord Holford for a similarly helpful speech, from someone with unrivalled experience in this sort of matter. If I may humbly say so, there were two excellent speeches, and there are other noble Lords who wish to speak. I will try to be as concise as possible. I do not propose to inflict on your Lordships my aesthetic views on any matter; I feel that the views of other noble Lords would be of more value. But what I will do is to speak in the same way as a building owner might speak if this were a case of a single building. It is, of course, not a case of a single building.
May I say something about the history of the whole business?—and it is a history of divers proposals going back over many years. What Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, the then Minister of Public Building and Works, in April, 1964, instructed Sir Leslie Martin to do as a consultant was:to ensure that the various proposals which are under consideration for redevelopment in the Whitehall area are related to each other and to have regard to the general architectural character of the area, taking relevant traffic considerations into account".The terms of reference went on to identify the area and to refer specifically to some parts of it. About a year later, Professor Colin Buchanan having been added as a consultant on traffic, the Martin-Buchanan Plan, as it is convenient to call it, was produced, and published in July, 1965. I would willingly accept and adopt two phrases of the noble Lord, Lord Holford, about that so-called Plan. It is a set of interconnected ideas—I agree. It is a framework that hangs together—I agree. I suggest that we should bear that in mind, and that we should also bear in mind the terms in which the Government welcomed the Plan.
How right they were to welcome it! To have produced such clear-sighted and inspiring Reports within about a year was indeed a remarkable achievement by the two distinguished authors. The Government—here I quote from the statements made in both Houses—regarded the Reports:as the broad framework within which the future development of the buildings in the 1076 Whitehall and Parliament Square areas should take place".The Government were in sympathy with the concept of a precinct in and around Parliament Square from which traffic not serving the area should be gradually withdrawn. The Government took the view that plans for removing traffic from Parliament Square must be looked at in the context of London traffic as a whole, and they invited the Greater London Council to give urgent consideration to two major traffic points, to which I will shortly refer, and to examine the proposal for a primary road network in Central London. The next two sentences are also important, and I quote:The Government accept in principle the proposal for a new building for Parliamentary purposes on the Bridge Street site and recognise the need to develop the remainder of the site for Government offices as a necessary part of the redevelopment of the Foreign Office site. Planning will be set in hand as soon as possible.The Martin/Buchanan proposals were well received. TheGuardianurged the Government, having welcomed them in principle, to welcome them in practice, too, It said:No doubt other planners could produce other plans for Whitehall every bit as imaginative, but there is no longer time for that. The Martin/Buchanan proposals are sensible and lucid.The paper went on to refer to London traffic problems, and the last sentence of its leader was:London cannot be left to the mercy of its traffic".The Timeswas rather more cautious, describing the Plan as "at first sight attractive", but its criticism was really confined to suggesting that there were also other important commitments in city redevelopment and urban renewal. TheEvening Standardsaw" a tremendously-exciting prospect", suggested that the Government was dragging its feet, and pointed out that the new, efficient Whitehall offices are essential. It went on:If the vision is a good one, and it certainly seems to be, let us get it into existence and enjoy it".TheDaily Telegraphoffered some bouquets and threw some brickbats, but on the whole it agreed with the welcome given by the Government to the Plan, and pointed out that its own bouquets were more numerous than its brickbats.
1077 No doubt encouraged by this welcome and by the strong general support which the Royal Fine Art Commission gave later, the Government proposed on November 3, 1965,to take firm second steps about the architectural arrangements for three main buildings which will form the first stages of development.These were the new Parliamentary building and the new Government offices on the Bridge Street and Richmond Terrace site, and the redevelopment of the Foreign Office site. They pointed out that the three projects must form a coherent development, and Sir Leslie Martin was invited to continue to work with my right honourable friend's Department as Planning Consultant for the area as a whole. They also made proposals about the appointment of architects and assessors.
Until last month, then, there had been not only a general acceptance of the Plan but a very proper stress on the need to get it started; and having regard to the original terms of reference and to the Reports themselves, starting meant full planning, followed by architectural designs for the urgent features of the Plan, as well as the consideration of some urgent traffic arrangements. Quite recently the Civic Trust, which has done very valuable work on this and on similar questions and of which Mr. Duncan Sandys is the President, brought a distinguished deputation to see my right honourable friend and sought a public inquiry. Neither at the actual interview nor in the published report of it did any of them make clear what the particular question or questions were which were to be considered at such an inquiry.
Earlier there had been a conference convened by the Civic Trust and reported in theArchitects Journalof November 17, 1965. I regard the report as somewhat too selective for quotation, but, looking at it, it does not appear as if any further suggestion was made there as to the scope or terms of reference of any such general inquiry.
§ LORD MITCHISON
Yes, but what is the question—what is the inquiry to be about? I think the noble Lord might like me to finish what I have to say upon the matter. The long and the short of 1078 it is that those who at this late stage asked for a public inquiry seemed to have in mind an inquiry of a roving character or—shall I say?—a fishing character, with no particular aspect of the matter to consider. I shudder to think at the number of witnesses, the number of counsel, the variety of opinions and the length of time which such an inquiry would involve. I am afraid that it would serve the purpose only of delaying further some matters which are really urgent and of drowning a certain nobility of the planning in a morass of divergent opinions. That is not in my opinion the right way to serve the interests of the public. I may remind your Lordships that the Abercrombie Plan of 1943, an earlier and very valuable contribution to the whole planning of London, never came to fruition. There were too man: comments and too little action. Your Lordships will no doubt sympathise with the centipede which was never able to move forward because it could not decide which foot to put first. I doubt if a public inquiry would have helped it.
Before I turn to particular aspects of the Plan, I should like to say a word or two about my right honourable friend, not only because I have known him for many years and have a personal admiration for him, but also because I think we happen to have the best possible Minister of Works for getting this project under way. He is essentially a practical man, with a healthy respect both for expert advice and for public opinion. Perhaps he has learned all that from a lifetime of distinguished service not only in the trade union movement but also in local government. Perhaps, too, as regards one aspect of this Plan, he learnt some of it by serving on the Stokes Committee, which considered the improvement of Parliamentary facilities. One of his ambitions in the world is to enable Members of Parliament—in both Houses may I say—to have tolerable working conditions, with room enough to do their job.
I turn first to three major planning proposals in relation to buildings, all three of which have been accepted in principle, and to one traffic proposal which also has been accepted, subject to feasibility. As Sir Leslie Martin indicates, the traffic proposals are parallel with the proposals relating to buildings and, in a sense, independent of them, since 1079 either series of proposals can be carried into execution more or less independently of the other.
The provision of further Parliamentary accommodation is an urgent matter. In recent years there have been no fewer than five Committees. Some of their recommendations have been implemented; others are in progress, and others have not been proceeded with. All this is therefore either being executed at present or at least under detailed consideration, and it has not been a main subject of the proposals in the Plan. Work here will continue, and due regard will, of course, be paid to some suggestions made in the Reports. There will be consultation with another place about their part of the Palace, where most work is required, but your Lordships will be glad to hear that Members of this House will get extra accommodation in the buildings opposite the entrances of the House—Nos. 6 and 7 Old Palace Yard. I may perhaps add that my right honourable friend has always been ready, and will still remain ready, to receive suggestions about your Lordships' requirements. He is really a sympathetic soul.
The second area, geographically and in point of time, is the quadrangle bounded by Bridge Street, Parliament Street, Richmond Terrace and the Embankment. Here the Government are committed to an office block on the broad lines of Sir Leslie Martin's proposals. This, however, does not include any commitments as regards the shape, exact size or architectural form of the building. As regards the rest of the block, which still contains some private property, I need say no more than that the Martin Plan will be followed in providing for the continuance of shopping, Underground railway and similar facilities, but that beyond that there is no present commitment. In particular, the Plan provides for a bridge across Parliament Street from this block to the present Ministry of Housing; but this bridge is not regarded by Sir Leslie Martin or accepted by the Government as an essential part of the Plan. I may add, in case your Lordships make any hasty assumptions, that there will continue to be a police station in this area. Where else would our friendly policemen come from?
The third committal is the redevelopment of the Foreign Office block, which 1080 includes the present Home Office, the present Foreign Office, and the other Departments in that area. Sir Leslie Martin's plans cover both this area and the adjacent area, in which are the Ministry of Housing, the Department of Economic Affairs and other departments. As regards that latter part of the area, there is no commitment in detail.
On the Foreign Office, I have two observations to make. The first is that the proposals to demolish and reconstruct the Foreign Office followed on a series of varying decisions, the first of which was reaffirmed in 1955. One after another has been considered, sometimes approved and then abandoned, and always for the same reason—that they did not provide sufficient accommodation for a growing Foreign Office in a reasonably convenient area. Finally, in November, 1963, the previous Administration announced their decision to demolish and reconstruct the whole building. That was one of their sensible decisions, and my right honourable friend, having re-examined the whole question, sees no reason to disturb it. It is therefore quite definite that the Foreign Office is coming down, facade and all. My second observation is that the plans for the rest of the area are bound to be affected by the treatment of the Foreign Office site, and accordingly the first step is to get architectural plans for that site. The previous Administration had indeed got as far as considering the appointment of an architect, but it does not follow that we shall adopt their arrangements on this point.
My Lords, these are the three most urgent proposals relating to buildings. Meanwhile, it is high time to begin to cope with the traffic problem. The broad intention of the Plan is gradually to get all passing traffic out of the precinct of Parliament Square; but not, of course, traffic that comes there on business. The Reports estimated that 40 per cent. of the traffic could be removed by a tunnel between the Houses of Parliament and the river. This would enlarge the space in front of the Houses, where the tunnel would be roofed over. This proposal obviously raises technical questions, and an inquiry is now proceeding on the matter. The inquiry is being conducted by the highway authority, the Greater London Council, with the assistance of experts from the Ministry of Transport. It involves, of course, a judgment as to 1081 the feasibility of what is proposed; but, subject to that judgment, my right honourable friend approves of the idea. No doubt the views expressed at the end of the inquiry may go beyond the strict question, the narrow question, of whether it is feasible or not.
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one second? Will the results of that inquiry be published?
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I think we had better wait and see what happens. It is an inquiry by the highway authority, the Greater London Council, and no doubt they will consider the advisability of publishing the results. But I do not think it is for me to say whether they do or whether they do not. If any Ministry were concerned, it would be the Ministry of Transport.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, may ask him whether it is proposed that the tunnel should be below the level of the river at all stages of the tide?
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I never remember exactly how high the river comes. But the proposal is that the roof of the tunnel should be level with the Terrace as it is at present, so that the Terrace could be continued out into the river. The view, which was rightly praised by many people, would then be not from just the Terrace but from a rather wider space. I think that is as far as I can go.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, may I intervene, because there is one question which I wanted to ask on this matter? If this tunnel is going to be totally submerged, surely it will interfere with the free flow of the water down the river. That is what happened with the building up of the South Bank, which I have always said merely makes the channel for the water narrower and thereby leads to flooding. Indeed, in the 1930's there was drowning of persons living on the Embankment.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, may I say at once that I welcome any intervention from noble Lords. We are not here, as I see it, to take part in a debate but to consider in common council something which concerns all of us. On that 1082 particular point, I should have thought that this was a question which the Greater London Council and the Ministry of Transport would be bound to consider. I rather hedged a little on the narrow word "feasibility", because this is the kind of question that must also be brought into consideration. I certainly am not competent to express an opinion on it.
I now turn, as succinctly as I can, to other proposals in the Plan which in point of time are likely to follow the three specially urgent projects which I have mentioned and which are not elaborated in any great detail in the Reports. Some of these projects would appear, therefore, to be suitable for public inquiries, if such inquiries are required. But I must emphasise that any such inquiries must relate to a particular, defined part of the proposals, and must therefore deal with questions relating to that part. There must, in fact, be terms of reference, as there would be under a planning inquiry of the usual local character.
The areas I have in mind are, first, the Broad Sanctuary area. The phrase is not always exact, but I take it as bounded by Prince's Street, Storey's Gate, Great George Street and Parliament Square. Here, the Plan raises a number of points, some of which affect neighbouring areas. Moreover, there is a planning application in existence in respect of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' building, and some architectural plans have been prepared. There are other institutes along Great George Street. There is the Middlesex Guildhall; and someone said to me the other day, "Why are you floodlighting it if you propose to pull it down?" In the short time available, all I can say about this is that there is no Government committal and that my right honourable friend, while appreciating and following Sir Leslie's suggestions, is contemplating a special inquiry for the whole of this area. Indeed, he hopes that this may be held in the coming spring. Exceptionally, this will be rather wider than the type of inquiry I have already indicated.
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord again, but, as he says, we are in common council, as it were; and I should like to say how glad I am to hear the 1083 announcement he has just made about this special inquiry into the Broad Sanctuary area. I gathered from what he said that this would probably not include the comprehensive development area around and about Central Hall, which is the other side of Princes Street. I wonder whether this is the case, or whether it could be brought within this inquiry.
§ LORD MITCHISON
I shall, if I may, pass on the noble Earl's suggestion, but I was referring for the moment to the area which is bounded in that direction by Prince's Street and the continuation of it, Storey's Gate.
Last, in order of time (perhaps this meets the noble Earl's point), appear to be the Old Queen Street area, behind the Central Hall, and the project for what Sir Leslie calls "the South wall of the precinct"; that is to say, living accommodation in the long and large area along Great Peter Street and across Victoria Tower Gardens. I expect some comments on this part of the Plan, but the time even for its acceptance in principle is hardly yet. It will be affected, for instance, by what happens about the tunnel. All I can usefully say is that my right honourable friend will not rule out public inquiries in this sector; and I may add that those who feel the loss of a piece of Victoria Tower Gardens may be consoled by the additional ground on top of the tunnel. I am afraid that I am not going to console one Member of the House.
Lastly, I turn to a few general remarks about traffic. The tunnel is intended to deal with North-South traffic, and there are two proposals in the Reports for canalising East-West traffic, partly along the line of Lambeth Bridge and Horseferry Road and partly by a scheme of a rather tentative character further North, Professor Colin Buchanan stresses, in particular, the interdependence of traffic proposals in this part of London, and I can assure your Lordships that this is fully appreciated both by my right honourable friend and by other Ministers concerned, especially the Minister of Transport. The Greater London Council are obviously involved. I think, therefore, that all I can usefully say is that at this stage your Lordships must rely on that assurance.
1084 Perhaps I might add that my right honourable friend expects a preliminary report—and I stress the word "preliminary"—from the Greater London Council and the Ministry of Transport towards the end of this year. I hope your Lordships will take it from me, if you do not already notice it, that he has a habit of getting a move on.
My Lords, so much for the Plan, There was one point raised, as I might have expected, in the course of the two previous speeches about which I should like to say a word or two, and that is the question of the accommodation of civil servants in this part of London. I hope your Lordships will realise that the vast majority of civil servants who may be moved into this part of London will come from leased property outside the Whitehall area of London. Leased property is both expensive and inconvenient, and, without going into figures at this stage—I will give what I can if asked—it is perhaps sufficient to say that the amount of rent is considerable, and the inconvenience is, I think, obvious to everyone.
I was just a little shocked to hear a General (whether he is retired or on furlough I am not quite sure) describe his former army of civil servants as "monstrous". I am bound to say I do not so regard them, and perhaps I ought not to take the epithet too seriously. But, after all, the business of Government has to be carried on, whatever Party is in power, and it must, I suggest, be for the Government of the day to decide questions about the number and the accommodation of civil servants, subject to the proper control that one gets in both Houses of Parliament from questions and discussions.
It is then said, "What are you going to do with the buildings which have been leased and which will be vacated by these civil servants?" My answer to that is that I do not think that that is a question for my right honourable friend the Minister of Public Building and Works. It is a matter which concerns those who are planning housing and other matters in London, and, therefore, hardly a question which arises in the debate we are having today. I hope your Lordships will not feel that I am dodging anything. It is true that I am trying to save time; but these buildings, when vacant, will be 1085 much like other buildings which have been vacated, and they will have to be considered on their merits for the best local use under the quite elaborate arrangements we have for dealing with this kind of thing.
My Lords, I have said as succinctly as I can, with the terror of the Whips behind me, what I had to say. I hope that I have not expressed any æsthetic opinions at all: I repeat that mine would be quite valueless. I have therefore spoken as what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has called a layman. However, I thought it right to give your Lordships the Government's attitude on these matters and to show that, far front being obdurate or difficult, we are, in fact, proceeding in accordance with public opinion as we have had reason to sense it on the major projects, following in one point a decision that had been come to over the years about the Foreign Office; and that we would welcome any suggestions to be made, whether now or at public inquiries later.
I suggest, however, that we must move over this matter. You have only to try to get across the road-crossing outside to see the problem to-day. I do not know that the 59A buses are worse than any other buses: there are plenty to choose from. But one sees London's traffic growing under one's eyes. This is indeed a very urgent question. On the other hand, it is no use making traffic arrangements if you do not know what is to happen in the area. These are really two parallel line advances. I have indicated the position. I have indicated, too—I hope clearly—that we do not regard our traffic proposals for this particular area of London as anything but part of a general plan for London traffic, on which, of course, the primary authorities to be concerned, in a framework of authorities, are the Greater London Council and the Ministry of Transport. This is a very complicated matter. The inquiry covered a large scope. I can truly say that I am fully conscious that I have not met every possible point. I have merely tried to see what the framework is and on what points further development is possible. I feel inclined to sit down and say that we are here in common council. I have done my best; I do not think your Lordships should "shoot the pianist": I hope you will not try.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ VISOUNT ESHER
My Lords, as the noble Lord has said, this subject is closely bound up with the whole future of inner London and so typical of the problem that faces all cities, and therefore I am glad that the noble Earl has introduced this debate. Anyone who cares about architecture must be deeply concerned. One is bound to have mixed feelings about this whole problem—in my case, so mixed that I found it difficult to arrive at a consistent view. One thing, I think, is clear. Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, in appointing Sir Leslie Martin and Professor Buchanan, chose as strong a team as could be found, I would say, anywhere in the world. If they have not solved the problem, it could only be that something was wrong with the problem.
The strictly architectural aspect of Sir Leslie Martin's plan was, to my mind, the least of these problems. His brief was extremely narrowly drawn. It was—and I quote:to ensure that the various proposals which are under consideration for redevelopment in the Whitehall area are related to each other and have regard to the general architectural character of the area taking relevant traffic considerations into account.It seems to me, however, that he met this requirement handsomely. He has drawn a carefully-scaled, three-dimensional grid within which it is still open to us to keep, possibly, the St. James's Park frontage of the Foreign Office or the Middlesex Guildhall; both of which I hope we shall keep. Certainly nothing in the master design prevents our keeping both.
This great grid has a pedigree which he traces in his Report and which goes back through Charles Barrie to Wren and Inigo Jones. He has also, in a very Baroche manner, tried to tie-in his central concept with some of the other historical landmarks of London, rather in the way Pope Sixtus the Fifth did in Rome. This was a thing never done in London except by John Nash, whose great terraces—Carlton House Terrace and some of the terraces around Regent's Park—are similar in scale to Sir Leslie Martin's project. Certainly so far as the scale goes, I find nothing to be afraid of in this scheme. It seems to me eminently suited and adjusted to Westminster; nor does it threaten at all the Houses of Parliament or the Abbey.
1087 But, as Sir Leslie Martin Says,rebuilding is only one part of the total operation".It is when one begins to look at the other part, which is, of course, the traffic aspect, that the ripples begin to spread across London and, in fact, across England. It is at this point, I think, that the inadequacy of his brief reveals itself in the rather pathetic sentence:in respect of traffic the surrounding area may have to be brought into consideration.One is bound to be critical not merely of this absurd use of the word "may", but also of the fundamental fact that there were no plans into which Sir Leslie Martin could dovetail his scheme. There were Press reports of a so-called "motorway box" some miles out from the centre, but apart from this Professor Buchanan had nothing to go by except the beginning of the London Traffic Survey. There were no plans. He had to make his own assumption as to the tolerable level of traffic and, having made these assumptions, he had to imagine how Central London might be altered to carry it. His assumptions, on present traffic projections, were conservative. Even so, they included—and I mention only two of them—an eight-lane, multilevel interchange at Hyde Park Corner, a crossing of four eight-lane roads at this point, and, of course, the motorway to which the noble Lord referred between this building and the river.
We have to ask ourselves three elementary questions about operations of this kind in the historic centre of London. First, can we afford them? Second, can we face the physical process of putting them into effect? And, third, should we be happy with the job once it has been completed? First, the question of cost. In accepting the Whitehall Report, the Minister of Public Building and Works has presumably accepted in broad outline and in principle its financial implications. Otherwise, of course, it would be irresponsible to embark on this project at all. If these financial implications are acceptable, they can be programmed; the two things go inescapably together. Conversely, if we cannot programme, we are embarking on a journey which may have no ending or may end very unhappily.
1088 Secondly, there is the question of "disturbance", to use the traditional mild word for the mess and congestion that Professor Buchanan himself mentioned in his Report. Hyde Park Corner has only just begun to settle down after the last great upheaval, during which it was only just possible to keep traffic moving while the job went on. Are we prepared to face this all over again on the same spot? Are we capable of dealing with the problem of the much greater volume of road traffic we shall now have to carry while the process takes place? Thirdly, and most important of all, do we truly want the ceremonial part of London to contain—indeed, do we think it capable of containing—without the unacceptable loss of its beauty and character, these great traffic interchanges, not only at Hyde Park Corner but also at Trafalgar Square and at the points where the new riverside motorway has to make its connection with its distributor roads? It is one thing to build a motorway some miles out of the centre, in twilight areas, alongside or above railway tracks which many of us did not even know existed. It is quite another thing to introduce works of this scale into the middle of what Professor Buchanan and all of us know to be one of the great environmental areas of the world.
The road between the Palace of Westminster and the river raises these mixed feelings in their sharpest form. On the one hand I believe that all architects have an immense respect for Professor Buchanan and for the principles for which he stands—not as vulgarly thought, the building of monster, American-styled highways but the rescue of our human environment—and for which he has spoken up so often, so clearly and so movingly. If ever there was a civic space that needed this rescue, it is Parliament Square. On the other hand, the Palace of Westminster and the river have a relationship which is world-famous and equally moving. Such scenes are now becoming so rare in London that the question is whether we ought not to make the principle that we never let them go any more; that not one is let go merely in the interests of practical convenience.
My Lords, we must face these questions, even if in doing so we may seem to be adopting a purely negative position. 1089 Professor Buchanan faces them himself (when in his Report he says:We have been unable to see any clear way out of the dilemma which faces Central London; that is to say, a situation in which major works are urgently required but are apparently impossible of achievement.He does not leave it there, and, of course, nor do I. He goes on to demonstrate 'what he calls a coherent set of propositions—" no matter how difficult or costly they may be". And, of course, his propositions are one road that we could take.
But are we certain that there is no escape from this dilemma, in particular the dilemma to which I have just referred around here in Westminster? I could not, for example, find any reference in the Report to the tunnel under this building which, as noble Lords will know, lies directly in line with the Victoria Embankment. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, will be able to tell us whether this has had any consideration or whether it is totally impracticable. We must, surely, look at the thing more broadly. We must not forget that in fact we have three complementary ways of dealing with the problem of congestion in London. Here I speak of fundamentals and not of the details of traffic management which were dealt with in the debate in this House last week. The first is the road network principle of the Buchanan Report. I notice that in the debate last Week the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said:In many of our cities it will be impossible, without tremendous capital cost and a drain on the national economy, to do more than a little towards making it possible to live with the motor car."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 271, No. 18, col. 589; 13/12/65.]Of course, we can see that that is what is going on. The Hyde Park Corner improvement and the present work in Euston Road is only a little, a very little, compared with what Buchanan had in mind. But still, something can be done in this direction; nobody would question that.
The second fundamental cure for congestion is the use of new kinds of vehicles and an entirely new relationship between public and private transport. The third is decentralisation, a decentralisation far more radical than has so far been publicly discussed. Should we regard—to take the most fundamental question of all—as I 1090 think most of us would, the location of Parliament itself as fixed, as immutable as the location of this island off the coast of Europe? Or ought the alternatives (there are alternatives almost as historic and appropriate as Westminster) to be at least examined and evaluated? If we do decide, as I think we should and will, not to examine such ideas at all, it becomes all the more vital that we should look harder at other forms of decentralisation and be much bolder than we have been hitherto with the diffusion of the work of Government. If we are not able, or do not want, to bring the motorway into the historic parts of our cities, we have to take a lot of what goes on in those historic centres out to the motorways; the ultimate aim in every case being to get as close as we can to a balance between homes and workplaces so that far more people may walk from one to the other. The City of London with the Barbican project has taken a notable step in that direction, and Sir Leslie Martin proposes another with his flats—to my mind, not a very adequate step. If his brief had covered the whole of what has been called ceremonial London, he might have been able to make a quantitative assessment and struck a better balance.
This is only one aspect of decentralisation. There are many others. For example, there is the Port of London, which is one of the main causes of congestion in London streets. It works, as everyone knows, under severe physical handicaps. If, as seems possible from work at present going on, we could build a deep-water port and a city about the size of Rotterdam, and with the functions of Rotterdam, in the Wash, that would be a powerful agent to decentralisation. All these possibilities are, I think, relative to this Whitehall plan, and need to be stated before anyone can evaluate it properly. I know that there is something irritating about people who insist on broadening the context of every urgent decision. As Auriel said: "A man who wants to see perfectly clearly before making up his mind never makes up his mind at all"—Qui n'accepte pas le requet n'accepte pas lavie.We have to recognise that all decisions have to be made in what we used to call "the fog of war". The "fog of peace" 1091 seem sometimes almost as thick. We cannot of course look impracticably far ahead. No doubt it would be perfectly safe to make a start on the Bridge Street site which, after all, is the immediate objective. But equally urgent are these radical reappraisals of the two other and complementary means of achieving a solution to the problem of congestion, so that we can work towards a calculated balance of all three: roads, vehicles and decentralisation.
Meanwhile, my Lords, I should like to ask some questions which I think are essential. Do the Government accept that the freeing of Parliament Square from traffic is the first and fundamental objective of this whole exercise? Secondly, if so, is it accepted that the riverside motorway is the best way of achieving this objective? If so, can this work be programmed realistically? And finally, assuming that there is some difficulty about introducing the programming of this work, what other steps do they propose to achieve the objective?
My Lords, I am not sure that a public inquiry is the way to deal with this matter. Despite its name, it is not a place where questions such as those suggested are asked. It is a place where statements are made, a great many of them predictable. Therefore I would not support the noble Earl in calling for this inquiry, but I would suggest that a Select Committee of both Houses should be set up to ask the fundamental questions that I have tried to suggest and, of course, many others that must follow, and in due time to have them answered. Until this is done, until these much deeper questions than those that can be dealt with in this Report have been asked and answered, it is difficult to feel much faith in the planning context, without which nowadays no architecture has any value.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD EGREMONT
My Lords, I will be very brief. We have had animadversions from two distinguished experts, the noble Lords, Lord Holford and Lord Esher, on the question of an inquiry, and the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has gone a long way to meet what many of us were worried about in regard to inquiries. This question is one that will have to be carefully hammered out. The great thing is to avoid any appearance that whatever is 1092 decided about this great scheme has been decided by somebody in Whitehall who thinks he knows best—I am referring to Her Majesty's Government, whoever they may be at the time.
Your Lordships will remember the tale of the pobble who had no toes. When the pobble was in the water, some unidentified creatures came and ate his toes off, and when he got home his Aunt Jobiska said:It is a fact that the whole world knows,A pobble is happier without his toes.My recollection of Governments is that they are out to take away your toes, or whatever it may be, and tell you that you are happier without them. This is the sort of thing we want to avoid in this case. Otherwise, we shall denounce the members of the Government as pobbles' aunts—as Aunt Jobiskas. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has gone a long way to meet the fears of many of us. I understand that, apart from Bridge Street and the Foreign Office, the Government are not committed. There is to be some sort of inquiry into the island site and also, I hope, into the buildings alongside Central Hall; but perhaps that will be done anyway.
My second point is this. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has referred to the expensive outlay on leasehold buildings. What about the rest of the Government's freeholds in London? While we are talking about planning Whitehall and Westminster as a w hole, why do we not get on with planning the Government's freeholds in London as a whole, taking into account their aesthetic value, their usefulness and their advantages? Can we enlarge our minds beyond Whitehall, as the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, suggested?
Let me give your Lordships two examples—prisons and barracks within the London area. The prisons at Brixton, Holloway, Pentonville, Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs, the Ashford Remand Centre. Latchmere Detention Centre and Feltham Borstal are all highly valuable sites—but for prisons, I wonder? Then, think of the barracks! Of course there must be retained in the London area accommodation for soldiers, not only for ceremonial services, which we all find agreeable, but also against the possibility of civil disturbance. But do we really need all these barracks and prisons in London? Cannot we make better use 1093 of them and put the chaps somewhere else, possibly more comfortably?—I mean the soldiers, not the convicts.
I will sum up by making three simple points. First of all, we are all agreed that the future of Whitehall needs looking into: but equally, I say, so does the rest of the Government's estate in London. All these problems should be taken as a whole and not piecemeal.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Jellicoe on initiating this important debate. I propose to confine myself to a few topics, not least because of the important debate that is to follow. I, too, greatly rejoiced when Sir Leslie Martin and Professor Buchanan were appointed to report on these great matters. I do not think that two better men could have been appointed, and I agree with what has been said on that by my distinguished friends Lord Holford and Lord Esher.
What we ought not to forget is that we are concerned with perhaps the most important area in the whole Commonwealth, and we cannot afford to make mistakes merely because people think it urgent to get on with the job. I am not going to say a word against Ministers who wish to get on with their jobs, but I do not think that the urgency of a matter can be used as an argument against having adequate inquiry into projects that fill some of the most influential critics with genuine alarm. We really cannot afford to make important mistakes in this matter.
Recently, an important deputation asked the Minister to grant a public inquiry. The Minister turned down that suggestion and said he knew of no basis at present for a public inquiry into the general concept of the Reports. Let me say at once, as one with some ministerial experience in this sphere, that I quite understand what the Minister then said. I agree with my noble friend Lord Esher that an ordinary public inquiry to look into all aspects of this Plan under an inspector appointed by the Minister of Housing and Local Government would not be a practical proposition. I can understand why the Minister and Her Majesty's Government have turned down that proposal. But the turning down of that proposal does not, in my view, imply 1094 that many aspects of this great Plan do not need to be sifted before a tribunal capable of hearing evidence and argument. I do not wish to specify exactly what form this inquiry, or these inquiries, should take. If I put forward a specific proposal, the Government, I know, would find it easier to turn it down. I am therefore, asking the Government themselves to co-operate in devising the sort of examination which would satisfy a great many people on some of those issues so well raised by Lord Holford and Lord Esher. This would be, in my view, in the interest of the Government themselves.
As so often happens, the popular view has been very well stated by my friend Osbert Lancaster. It is sometimes stated by what he says or writes; it is sometimes stated in what Maudie Littlehampton is depicted as saying. Osbert Lancaster has a peculiar capacity for hitting the nail on the head and being right on some of these great issues. Although he may have appeared to ask for a public inquiry of the usual sort, such as, I quite agree with the Minister, would be quite inappropriate in this case, I should like to read what he said:It is very important that the Whitehall Plan should have public support and in order that the public shall support it the public must know about it. There is no better way of ventilating what is intended—the objections and the answers to them—than a public inquiry. Unfortunately, the arguments based on the increased convenience of civil servants and Members of Parliament lack a little cogency when presented to the man in the street. Nothing would alienate public opinion more quickly than any idea that this was a plan drawn up by Members of Parliament and civil servants for Members of Parliament and civil servants. Nothing will give wider currency to that idea than any marked reluctance on the part of the Government to hold a public inquiry.With a great deal of that I agree, though I admit straight away that the ordinary form of public inquiry, as I have already said, and as Lord Esher said, would be inappropriate.
Let me give some examples of the matters that must be further considered if profound mistakes are not to be made. This is generally referred to as the Martin-Buchanan Report, and the Buchanan part of the Report is often thought of as a mere adjunct to Sir Leslie Martin's proposals for the buildings. Actually, the two are of at least equal 1095 importance, and some people think, not unreasonably, that the question of traffic, the Buchanan part of these proposals, is even the more important of the two.
The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, gave some examples of articles that appeared in the Press on the very morrow of the publication of the Report. I am not sure that they should be considered in isolation. I think we should give at least equal weight to what has subsequently appeared in theArchitect's Journal, in Country Life,and in articles by Reyner Banham, in particular, in the New Statesman. All these journals—and I could mention many others—have raised very important points indeed, on which I believe it is vital that further evidence should be taken. We should be quite certain that we are on the right lines before even the admirable proposals of these distinguished men are carried out in Westminster.
Let me mention a few of those matters. First, there is the great concentration of civil servants in the new buildings to be erected in this immediate neighbourhood. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has given various reasons of convenience why the Government would like to have them. The noble Lord may well be right; there is great force in what he said. But then he realised that he might be accused of being evasive—and I am afraid he was—because he did not deal with the quite vital point, namely what, if all these additional civil servants are to be housed in this immediate neighbourhood, is to happen to the office buildings in which they are housed at this moment. He said that this was a matter for the planning authority, and that it did not arise at this stage. But, of course, it arises acutely if we are considering the merits of the traffic proposals, and the merits of this whole Plan.
In May, 1963, I successfully divided this House against a Government of my own Party on the question of the use of railway property for further office building in London. That Government tried to put me off, as the present Government have done, by pretending that these questions do not matter. My Lords, they matter vitally. My noble friend Lord Esher pointed out the appalling effects of traffic on the amenities and future of London. But the problem is not merely how you are going to cope with that 1096 traffic by roads, and so on. The problem is how you are going to use your planning powers to see that you do not cause unnecessary travel through commuting.
Not unnaturally, Sir William Fiske, the leader of the Greater London Council, has raised this point about what is to happen to these offices; and in my view it is absolutely vital that the Government should tell us, if they want us to approve this Plan which we are discussing this afternoon. After all, until we know the answer to that problem, we do not know one of the vital facts necessary to enable us to judge this Plan. I believe that anybody with any experience of town planning would say that I am right in this. I believe that this traffic problem, which, as we know from other debates, is wholly unsolved, is not limited to London. What is done in the South-East becomes relevant. If I may say so, the insane proposal, at present being considered in another connection, of a third airport for London is directly relevant to what is going to happen in London and Whitehall.
I do not know what is the right form of body that should inquire into these matters, but that there should be the means of having an inquiry, and that there should be people who can call for evidence, and in the light of that evidence and their own conclusions advise the Minister, is, in my view, essential if we are not to lose things of priceless value in our capital.
I have not mentioned the esthetic matters, because here I find myself in so much agreement with two noble Lords whose views will carry so much more weight than mine, Lord Holford and Lord Esher. But do not let us treat as unimportant the effect on the amenities of Parliament, and on the architectural merits of the Palace of Westminster, if we stop it rising, as it does now, from the very waters of the Thames itself. If we really separate it by this platform, or whatever you call it, we are doing something of enormous importance so far as the architectural appearance and amenities of this House are concerned.
I venture on a further prophecy. Of course, it is said that, if you do all this, you will take a lot of traffic out of Parliament Square. Yes; but for how 1097 long? At the present moment we have the amenities of the river. We are protected completely in the Palace of Westminster from disturbance on that side, though we have the traffic on the other. But suppose we do what is now proposed and separate the Palace of Westminster from the river by the roof of the tunnel, and suppose then that the traffic proposals for London as a whole prove wholly inadequate—as Professor Buchanan, of course, prophesies they will unless a whole multitude of things are done, which have not yet been attempted —the very motive for having this traffic interposed between the Palace and the river will be defeated, for the tunnel will prove inadequate, and the precinct will have to be invaded in due course. This question of the effect of the office development and the traffic problem must be considered both on their own ground and for the effect on æsthetics that the whole proposal will have.
I think most of the other points were mentioned in the admirable opening speech of my noble friend; and the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, pointed out, of course, that there will be many further opportunities of considering such matters as the buildings across the Victoria Tower Gardens. I do not profess to have studied this plan of Sir Leslie Martin and Professor Buchanan sufficiently; I have not had enough time recently to study it in detail, and I do not wish to comment on it. My noble friend Lord Esher has mentioned the terms of reference, and the rather pathetic remark of Sir Leslie himself, in the course of this debate. I think both authors have done admirably within their terms of reference. But what I say quite firmly to this House is that the inquiry that has taken place hitherto is not sufficient. Further inquiry on some aspects is absolutely essential. On those matters the public are not going to accept theipse dixitof the Minister, however high their opinion of the Minister may be.
The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, mentioned some points of detail. He mentioned a public inquiry that was to take place, and in a useful intervention by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe he was asked whether another part of the land concerned could be included in the inquiry. I understood from the noble 1098 Lord, Lord Mitchison, that he would consider that, and that the area of the inquiry had not been definitely decided. So far as I can see, if that extra land were included in the inquiry which the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, himself mentioned, it would be a useful improvement.
I think nobody has mentioned to-day another matter which arises out of a more recent statement of Lord Mitchison about the actual architectural proposals—the choice of architects, for the three building projects on which the Government have already made an announcement. I do not wish to enlarge my speech this afternoon by dealing with that, except to say that I think it may be necessary for Parliament as a whole to maintain its control of this matter. That is to say, I very much doubt whether it can be assumed that Parliament will accept the result of a competition automatically, if they are not allowed to express an opinion or to judge it in any way. I do not wish to enter on that this afternoon. I merely want to say that we are dealing perhaps' with the most precious and important part of our whole Commonwealth, the very heart of our City, and we cannot really afford, by absence of inquiry, to risk making a mistake simply on the plea that we must do something.
I remember years ago as a boy reading H. G. Wells. He rather ridiculed in a book certain people, I think it was in the Socialist Party, which he generally supported, but with which he was having at the moment a quarrel. He called them the "God-sakers", the people who said "For God's sake, let us get on with the job!" irrespective of whether the way it was proposed to get on with the job was foolish or not. I am at least as eager as any Member in this House to get on with the necessary jobs, but I want to get the priorities right. I say that this House, and the country, will be making a fantastic mistake, which future generations will regret, if they accept a plan which does something to try to appease the traffic demands, but appeases them unsuccessfully.
There are certain traffic proposals and certain traffic problems in London which have to be solved before we can judge the merit of this plan at all, and among the matters which arise at once is the question of this enormous increase in the 1099 concentration of civil servants in this area, coupled with the absolute uncertainty as to what is to happen to the office buildings which they at present occupy.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I say that I have been listening to him alluding to an occasion on which he claimed to have successfully divided the House against a previous Government on the subject of railway property development. That he divided the House is indisputable, but would he agree with me that whether it was successful or not is a matter of opinion, and one of which history will be the judge?
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I am most content that history should be the judge. My Amendment was admirable, and on that occasion the House carried it, I am glad to say, with the support of the Opposition, the Party which is now the Government. The Government of which my noble friend was a member, but I was not, withdrew my most useful new Amendment and substituted their own version of what they wanted, which is now in the Act. They themselves have taken pride subsequently in the new clause in the Act which was directly due to my Amendment. I am willing to be judged by the merit of the Amendment which I carried, and I am absolutely happy that planners to-day, and in the future, will only criticise my Amendment, if they criticise it at all, on the ground that it did not go far enough.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I do not propose to intervene in this internecine dispute, but I would begin by thanking the noble Earl for having introduced this Motion, and for having done so with a stimulating, informed and, I think, objective speech. This is not a Party matter, and I certainly do not propose to deal with it in any partisan spirit. I believe that the redevelopment of this part of London is one of the most important pieces of redevelopment to be undertaken for more than a century. I feel very strongly about it, as one who has lived my now fairly long life in London.
I was born in London, and I have lived in London all my life; my sons are living in London, and my grandsons, and 1100 I look at this redevelopment of London not as a matter for Sir Leslie Martin, with all respect to him, or Professor Buchanan, or even Mr. Pannell, but as something which affects all of us—all of us who are living here and all those future generations who are going to live in London, and all the people who are coming to visit London from the Provinces and from the Commonwealth and abroad. While I am not suggesting that people abroad, or even from the Commonwealth or the Provinces necessarily should have any voice in the determination of what is to take place in London, nevertheless I do feel that it is a matter for the people of this country as a whole.
Arising from that, I think we ought to understand what is in the Plan. We ought to understand what is proposed, and we ought to have an opportunity, once we understand it, of expressing our views about it. I want to say, quite frankly and honestly, that I have read the Report—I think I have read every word of it. I have even studied the pictures and the diagrams. I think I understand the pictures; but I do not understand the diagrams, though I tried very hard. I may be stupid, but I do not understand them; and there is a good deal of the Report, too, that I do not understand. And to impose on a public a Report which is unintelligible to some people—and I do not imagine that I am the most stupid person in this country (I think that would be taking it rather far)—is not good enough. If people like myself, with long experience in public affairs, deliberately give up two week-ends to study a Report, and then, at the end of the day, find that we still have not fully grasped it, that is not a firm basis upon which to impose a Report upon the general public.
Yet we are told that the Government have committed themselves to the recommendations of the Report as the broad framework within which the future development of buildings in the Whitehall and Parliament Square areas should take place. In these circumstances, it sounds monstrous that the Government should be prepared to commit themselves to this development as the broad framework. Have the Government had any encouragement to accept these proposals as a broad framework? Judging by the Press comments and criticisms, certainly not: there 1101 is a good deal of conflict among the Press themselves about this scheme. Judging from the comments to-day, certainly not. There is not one of the proposals in the Martin-Buchanan Report which has not been the subject of some criticism in this House to-day, with the possible exception of the Bridge Street development. I am not even sure about that: we have not yet heard all the speeches, and criticism of that may come along.
I am not going to keep the House very long, but may I illustrate one or two of my own personal difficulties in understanding the Report? They are only illustrations. We are told that by means of the two road proposals, the tunnel and the Lambeth Bridge-Horseferry Road scheme, we shall get rid of 70 per cent. of the through-traffic. I am not going into the question of how this figure has been arrived at. No doubt there are ways and means of discovering what is through-traffic and how it would react if these alternative proposals were available. But what is to happen about the other 30 per cent. of the through-traffic? Nothing is said about that at all.
Then, if we are to create a precinct and try to keep traffic out of Whitehall and the area of Parliament Square, what is to happen to the 30 per cent. of through-traffic which will not react to the new roads, together with, of course, the local traffic which obviously cannot be diverted under these proposals? There may be a very simple answer, but that answer is not available in the Report itself; nor has anybody yet given us the answer.
The other question is one that was put by the noble Earl, and, with great respect to my noble friend, who usually faces the batting quite courageously, it was ducked by him—I mean, what is to happen to the offices which are at present occupied by the Government and which would be vacated under these proposals? Are they to be re-let?
§ LORD SILKIN
My noble friend said that that has nothing to do with the Minister of Public Building and Works. I do not know—I have not studied his terms of reference—but they are certainly something to do with the Government, which are concerned with ensuring a 1102 reduction in the office population of London. It surely must concern them, and I think we are entitled to know what is to happen.
These are just two illustrations, of matters which call for inquiry. Surely, if you get a scheme to which the Government want to commit themselves, and in respect of which every individual item has been the subject of criticism, there is a case for an inquiry. Surely the public ought to have an opportunity of expressing their views? With the powerful hacking of the Civic Trust, a body of most important individuals, members of all Parties, advocating an inquiry, it seems to me most reprehensible that we are being fobbed off with an offer of a series of individual inquiries about individual proposals. We want to examine as a whole this broad framework to which the Government want to commit themselves; and, as I have said, we want first to understand it, and then we want to be able to comment on it.
My noble friend is afraid of the difficulties that might be involved in such an inquiry, and in delay. I think he is quite right to be afraid of that, but the Government have never up to now been afraid of inquiries of this kind. The County of London Plan was the subject of an inquiry that lasted for many months. And it took the Government several years to make up their minds about it.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether the County of London Plan was ever carried out?
§ LORD SILKIN
I am not talking of the County of London Plan by Professor Abercrombie. I am talking of the County of London Plan as prepared under the 1947 Act. And we have had similar inquiries all over the country which have taken months, with many counsel appearing, at great expense, with decisions taking months, if not years, to be arrived at. This is a general problem; it is not a problem which would be related to this particular inquiry. If the Government are concerned about inquiries of this kind, why do they not do something to ensure that these inquiries are 1103 streamlined and conducted in a sensible way? I should be quite content if the Government were to say no lawyers will appear at the inquiries, although I should be very much out of pocket. That would be a comprehensible position. It might curtail proceedings or it might not.
However, the Government are doing nothing about it: they are accepting the position that inquiries are bound to take time and bound to be expensive. But, surely, in a matter which, as I have said, is going to affect the lives of future generations, the way in which they are going to live and work and enjoy their recreation, it really is worth while having a full-scale inquiry, letting everybody who has any comment to make make it, even if the comment is stupid. But at the end of the day, have a person, not an official of the Ministry but an independent inspector, to try and draw together the observations of the various persons who have given evidence at the inquiry and present to the Minister a comprehensive report showing what is the trend of opinion and what kind of case has been made.
I hope that the Government will have second thoughts about this matter and not dismiss it as lightly as my noble friend has done hitherto or as the Minister has done. It is something in which democracy is involved. This is something we do not want the Minister to decide for us, and I feel that at least at the end of the day he ought to have before him the views of the public as a whole after the fullest opportunity has been given for those views to be stated.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder if he noticed a statement I proposed to mention which strongly supports the general argument he has put forward. It was an article in the Economistlast week, December 11, which starts:By refusing the Civic Trust's demands for an inquiry into the development proposals for Whitehall and Parliament Square, the Government could be making a disastrous mistake as well as appearing unnecessarily arrogant".
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, on most occasions I find myself in very considerable agreement on all planning matters with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, but 1104 to-day I can go very much further than he in giving praise to this great conception and approval to the general spirit of the Government in accepting its outlines. This is the joint work of a most distinguished architect planner and of the foremost thinker on traffic. This is the first opportunity to apply in practice the new doctrine which Professor Buchanan laid down in his great reportTraffic in Towns.
Let me begin by setting out quite briefly what I believe to be the great merits of this scheme. First, it establishes in this part of London a precinct, by the exclusion of through traffic. Secondly, it aims at the preservation of historic buildings in a specially designed framework. Thirdly, it proposes the addition of further monumental buildings of modern design, which should be a monument for future generations to see of the best architecture of our generation. Fourthly, it imposes a ban on high buildings. And, fifthly, it says that there should be no disfiguring annex appended to this Parliament of Westminster. When there are five great merits of that kind, it is in general outline a fine scheme which we should adopt.
If I go on now to express criticisms and doubts, I shall do so in as constructive a spirit as I can. No one should dogmatise in matters of taste. That is one of the great arguments in favour of there being appropriate inquiries into the proposals. In the first place, I cannot think it desirable that there should be this great mass of Government buildings covering the whole of the area, not only the Foreign Office but also the other Great George Street buildings, connected by a bridge over Whitehall and covering the whole of the Bridge Street site. I think it would be quite disproportionate to the rest of the precinct. I know that the Pyramids are a great block of masonry and have been admired for thousands of years, but at any rate they have a great desert as their background. Anyone who looks at the bird's eye view which is set out in the plan, the bird's eye view of these future Government offices, must surely be reminded of a similar bird's eye view of great car assembly plants in the United States of America. Is it really necessary to have such ponderous buildings for the assembling of files?
1105 Anyone who looks from St. James's Park, who looks, as people will, from the bridge across the lake, where at present there is one of the most sublime views in all London, will see, as this plan indicates, a vast pile of masonry, ponderous, dull and menacing. I have dissociated myself from my amenity friends in the past in asking for the preservation of the Foreign Office or even of the façade. I said, "Let us see what it is proposed to put in its place and then we will decide whether it is desirable to keep what we have". When I see what it is proposed to put in its place I am quite sure we should preserve what we have. That fine Victorian façade of the Foreign Office could be kept there, and I am sure it would do much to add variety and interest to a building which otherwise, I fear, would be far too heavy.
I pass to a planning requirement without which this scheme should not be accepted. It has been mentioned before. We should have from the Government an assurance that this is not going to mean a net increase in office accommodation, or a net increase in the number of civil servants in London. I think the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, evaded this point. It really is not quite good enough to say that that is not the responsibility of his right honourable friend the Minister of Works. In this House questions are addressed to the Government as a whole, and certainly Mr. Jay, who grudgingly issues licences for the buildings of new offices in London under the legislation which we passed earlier this year, and Mr. Crossman, who is concerned about not having too large a congregation of inhabitants in the South East, are affected by this issue; and it would be completely wrong and most improper to have a proposal put forward by the Minister of Public Building and Works which resulted in the Government's adopting a policy which they are doing all they can to prevent other people from following.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, may I intervene for one moment? The reason I referred to my right honourable friend the Minister of Public Building and Works is that what we are considering is a Report made to him about matters within the purview of his Department.
§ LORD MOLSON
Yes, that is, of course, quite true; and what the noble Lord was doing was not only discussing the Report but also telling us what the Government's attitude was towards it. In most matters I regard the Government's attitude as being extremely satisfactory—indeed, I am glad that the noble Lord was able to make the speech he did this afternoon. I am pointing out, however, that this is one of the most important of planning considerations, and on that we have not yet had a satisfactory answer. And while any—if he will not mind my using the word—brief prepared by the Ministry of Public Building and Works can hardly take those considerations into account, it clearly is a matter which the Government, in its corporate capacity, will have to consider and will have to deal with on satisfactory lines.
§ LORD MOLSON
I apologise to the noble Lord. He says that he wrote his own speech. The happy, literary tone of it indicated to me that he had actually written it himself. He will hardly deny, however, that the facts and figures upon which it was based were necessarily prepared by the Department of the Minister primarily concerned.
The third point is that there must be no bridge across Whitehall. I think Sir Leslie Martin is a little obsessed by the idea of bridges. There is to be not only a bridge across Whitehall; there is to be another bridge across Great George Street, in order that those working in the Government offices can get to the recreation building without going out of doors. And there is to be another one, far more objectionable, from No. 10, Downing Street to the office building which is to take the place of the Foreign Office. No one who remembers the bridge that connects part of Hertford College with another part of Hertford College at Oxford, an imitation of the Bridge of Sighs, and which spoils the view of New College, will have any great sympathy with these bridges across roads.
The fourth point is the proposal for a monumental building on the Broad Sanctuary site. I take a special interest in this, as it was in my time as Minister that it was decided that in the redevelopment of the old Westminster Hospital 1107 site the line should be drawn back, in order, as we thought, to give a better view of Westminster Abbey. I should doubt whether it was desirable for there to be too large a building on that island site. I do not object to the building being monumental, provided that it is not too massive.
When this matter is being considered —and I was glad to note the promise of the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, that there would be an inquiry into this matter before the redevelopment of the island site is carried out—I hope the Government will go a little further, and there will also be an inquiry into the redevelopment of the area on the other side of Princes Street, behind and along the Central Hall. I am inclined to think that legally it would be necessary under the Town and Country Planning legislation for there to be an inquiry.
§ LORD MITCHISON
No. I will give the noble Lord, if he would like, the detail of what I said, or I will read it out again.
§ LORD MITCHISON
What I said was:Last in order of time appear to be the Old Queen Street area"—and then something about the South wall of the precinct. ThenI expect some comments on this part of the Plan. but the time, even for its acceptance in principle, is hardly yet."—that is the South side, particularly.All I can usefully say is, that my right honourable friend will not rule out public inquiries in this sector."—and then I added a comment which applies particularly to the Southern side. It was intended to refer to both those, the last parts of the general Plan. I used the word "inquiries"—in the plural.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, of course it is naturally satisfactory to know that the noble Lord's right honourable friend 1108 does not rule it out. It would be more satisfactory to have an express promise that his right honourable friend will see that there is a public inquiry, and I ask him to pass on that request to his right honourable friend.
The fifth point is that I cannot help doubting whether it is desirable for there to be the contemplated enlargement of Parliament Square. This matter was considered by the Government of that time, and there was a proposal greatly to enlarge Parliament Square. After careful consideration we came to the conclusion—I am not saying it was necessarily the right conclusion—that the effect of enlarging Parliament Square would be to dwarf the Abbey and Westminster Hall and to detract from their general attractiveness. That is again the kind of question about which no one should dogmatise but on which I think it really would be a good thing to have an inquiry at which expert, æsthetic opinion could be expressed. I do not know what other noble Lords feel, but I always feel that the Place de la Concorde in Paris is too large, and I should not want to see anything of that kind here in London.
One matter upon which I do not think there is any need for a public inquiry—it is the sixth matter that I want to criticise—is the proposal for a block of fiats over Victoria Gardens. I think that to reduce the existing open space, even if there is going to be an extension as a result of the tunnel, would be a most unfortunate thing to do at the present time. I always greatly admire the view of the Southern front of this Palace from down at Lambeth Bridge, and equally there is a most beautiful view down the river from Victoria Gardens. Anything of that kind I think would be completely wrong.
I do not intend to say much about the architects and the architecture of this Plan, because the schemes, the pictures and the diagrams are not intended to deal in detail with the particular form of architecture to be chosen. I want to say only this: that the experience of the Ministry of Public Building and Works has been that public competition for buildings has in fact practically never been successful. Over the last one hundred years I think only one prize-winning composition has ever been built, and that was 1109 the present Defence Buildings, designed by Vincent Harris when he won a competition as a young man in 1911 or 1912, and they were in fact begun after two World Wars. I hope there will be no undertaking that the prize winner for the Parliamentary building will necessarily be given the opportunity to build it. It is essential that the Government should keep a completely free hand in the matter, but I believe that there are some restrictive covenants which are applied by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
I will now turn briefly to the traffic proposals. These should be carried out simultaneously with, and preferably even before, the rebuilding operations. Parliament Square is one of the six busiest intersections of London, and whatever may be necessary elsewhere, as the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, has said, we must begin somewhere; and in this great historical area that, obviously, is the place to begin. The riverside tunnel at present is stage five. I am very glad to know from the Minister that an inquiry has already been put in hand, because obviously this is one of the first things that requires to be done, if it is practicable. I am sure that it will have to be on a larger scale than is provided for in the Report. The tunnel will have to pass under Lambeth Bridge; traffic will have to be able to go over Lambeth Bridge and to go in the opposite direction.
I would draw the Government's attention to the fact that when Covent Garden has been transferred to the Nine Elms site there will be a great increase in the amount of traffic from that part of London to the centre. Therefore this is a matter which really brooks no delay. I do not want to commit myself to the exact form of inquiry which should take place. I do not want an inquiry into whether this plan shall be carried out: I want an inquiry as to how some of its applications are to be put into operation. I believe that the Minister accepts the principle of it; I congratulate him on his enterprise and foresight. But paragraph 167 of the Report says that the order of the works can be changed, that some stages can be carried out concurrently, and that road proposals can be re-phased. Those matters, and the actual development of particular sites, are all matters which should be inquired into in order that 1110 expert and public opinion may be taken into acount.
Most of the suggestions made in this debate to-day have been constructive. They need examination. I know that when the Minister addressed the conference organised by the Civic Trust he turned down a proposal for a general inquiry. The Minister will only enhance his reputation by listening to the helpful and constructive suggestions made by those of us who wish him and his enterprise well.
§ 6.15 p.m.
My Lords, this remarkable Report gives rise in my mind to certain disquietude. There are, in fact, four grounds on which I am doubtful or alarmed, but they have all been mentioned by other Members of your Lordships' House to-day, and therefore I will not repeat the arguments. My first anxiety is in regard to the net increase in the number of office workers brought into the central area—a result which seems inevitable and which has been dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and by my noble friend Lord Silkin.
The bulk of the proposed new building on the Foreign Office site has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and I agree with him entirely. I cannot share the indifference of the noble Lord, Lord Holford, nor his welcome of this particular monster. The Victoria Gardens building has also been mentioned by Lord Molson. I personally regret this proposal on quite another score than the one given by the noble Lord; I refer to the destruction of the small houses in the little streets between the Abbey and Smith Square which would be entailed by this proposed new building.
My fourth objection is to the destruction of the Foreign Office. A great many people have regretted its proposed destruction, but some of them, including, I feel, the noble Earl who initiated the debate, have been a little pusillanimous about it. Frankly, the building is a Victorian building of first-class importance. I suggest that it is a part of the London background which is familiar to all of us. It is a part of the background of the London way of life, and I am convinced that every conceivable measure should be taken to preserve it, and also 1111 Richmond Terrace—though nobody seems to have had a word to say about poor Richmond Terrace. These matters have all been mentioned by other speakers and I am not going to expatiate on them. On the other hand, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, when he comes to wind up for the Government, to say whether he does not agree that the priorities in this scheme are wrong. Nobody would deny part one, the Parliamentary necessity. As to part two, I should like it to be up to, and not including, Richmond Terrace. I hope that it may still be possible for this singularly elegant terrace to be preserved.
Then we come to the Foreign Office, which is the crux of the argument. On this question one finds considerable opposition. I know nobody who views the destruction of the Foreign Office with equanimity. Since the reason for its destruction appears to be the need for additional office space, I cannot help wondering whether it would not be possible for the destruction of the Foreign Office (a step which Lord Mitchison said was inevitably tied up with phases one and two) to be postponed until the open space in Broad Sanctuary has been filled and the rather disreputable area behind Westminster Hall redeveloped. It might then be found to be possible to house all the workers needed. It might be nice to do it, but I see no reason for building a vast building on a large site for conferences. If something must go, let this proposed conference building go, and let the additional accommodation, which is given as the reason for the destruction of the Foreign Office, be built and used for those purposes. My Lords, I said that I would be brief, and I have been; and I hope that my suggestion is a helpful one.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ LORD CACCIA
My Lords, as time is short I shall restrict myself to the point of special interest to me, which I confess is the Foreign Office. I should like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, straight away that in me, at least, he has one wholly satisfied client; satisfied because, since I joined the Foreign Office in 1929, the interior of the building in which that Department is working has become more and more shabby and disreputable to carry on the business of 1112 representing us to the foreigners who call upon not only the Secretary of State—who, properly, has a dignified room—but the many other officials with whom they have to do their business.
Even in 1929, when I joined the Foreign Office, it was necessary to interview many people of importance, whether foreign representatives or business people who came in, on horsehair sofas in the corridors. The American Ambassador, who sometimes had to come to the department in which I worked, and had to take the lift, was heard to observe to the liftman," I would have you know that in my country trees grow faster than your elevator." That was the situation in 1929.
After the war, in 1945, the then Foreign Secretary, Mr. Bevin, who had a very sharp eye to administrative problems and the impact they had on the smooth operation of his Department, appointed me as his Assistant Under-Secretary of State to look into the question of a new building which he thought then, in 1945–46, to be a crying requirement. It was decided upon; plans were made; an architect was appointed, and the scheme was approved by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It had to be shelved, for reasons that had nothing to do with the desirability of the building; but of course because of shortage of money and other such considerations.
I returned to the Foreign Office in 1954, and once again the problem was raised of the building which had then run down even further than in 1945, let alone in 1929. Once again the decision was taken, as the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has reminded us, that something must be done. Once again, for reasons of finance and building, nothing could be done.
I came back to the Foreign Office again in 1961. Once more the problem was raised, and once more a decision was taken by the last Government that something must be done. May I say how much I welcome the fact that this Government have also undertaken so categorically that now something shall be done, because I read what the Minister of Public Building and Works said in another place on December 20, that firm decisions have been taken on the Foreign Office. But I was not quite clear what those decisions were until I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, had to say. Therefore, may I repeat that I am one wholly 1113 satisfied client? To take the phrase of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, of course if this entails that the view from the bridge across St. James's Park has to go, I shall, like anyone else, regret it. Perhaps I shall regret it more than any of your Lordships, because this is a view that I have carried with me all my working life, at home and abroad. But, of course, as the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, reminded us, "Qui n'accepte pas le regret, n'accepte pas la vie", and I would prefer to accept life.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he is of the opinion that it would be impossible to improve the Foreign Office inside without destroying the present outside?
§ LORD CACCIA
Yes, my Lords. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, could speak with more authority, but that question was gone into very carefully before the Government made their decision in 1963. The answer is that you would spend many millions of pounds, and you would end up with something which would be patchwork, last for about twenty years, and be grossly inefficient at that.
My Lords, before the noble Lord finally sits down, could this pusillanimous Peer ask him a question? Does he feel that it is absolutely essential that the future Foreign Office need necessarily be accommodated on the existing Foreign Office site?
§ LORD CACCIA
My Lords, the quick answer is that it should be somewhere near the heart of Government, because the Foreign Secretary will wish to go and see the Prime Minister on urgent matters, and it is a great advantage if he can do so on foot. So the present site is an ideal site, but if you could start afresh, if it were atabula rasaand you could just choose—which I do not think is a possibility—then I suppose you could say that, so long as it is within so many hundred yards, it would not matter if it was overlooking St. James's Park or overlooking Whitehall.
But I, in fact, proffered a suggestion to the noble Lord —I thought it was an admirable one—and that was the Palais Gladwyn in 1114 Northumberland Avenue. Permanent Secretaries are very agile and athletic, as we know, and if this site were called the Palazzo Caccia, for example, then surely the noble Lord would accept that this would be within reasonable walking distance of Downing Street.
§ LORD CACCIA
My Lords, I would accept that. But I would also have in my heart the leaden feeling that this would once again be another reason for postponing something Mr. Bevin wished to do in 1945, which should have been done perhaps in 1929, and which might not in fact be done until I do not know when.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, in this very interesting exchange between the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, I am afraid that I am entirely on Lord Caccia's side. I fear that if any change were made now the scheme just would not happen at all. Sir Leslie Martin and Professor Buchanan's ears must have been burning a good deal this afternoon, but I must confess that I am a little in sympathy with my noble friend Lord Silkin. I found this Report a little difficult both to handle and to understand. I hope that when we have another of these Reports it will not be of this size or this shape. It would be so much easier if it were printed like an ordinary book, and in ordinary type. Architects have a love of sans serif, which is extremely difficult to read. Architects, I also understand, do not read: they only look at pictures or draw pictures. In consequence, they always use this sans serif type. It is disgusting stuff, and I would appeal for decent printing, better presentation and much clearer diagrams.
Some of these diagrams are quite incomprehensible, and I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Mitchison to explain to me what on earth the diagrams on pages 106 and 107 mean. Across the first of these there runs a series of small circles, transected by a line exactly like a London Underground sign, and in the second diagram, on page 107, they follow the route of the Underground underneath Parliament Square. In the first picture on page 106, the lines pursue most extraordinary courses, and I have a suspicion that they must on this occasion represent the Underground. But there is no explanation of what they are representing. 1115 Can my noble friend, perhaps, explain what they mean?
§ LORD TAYLOR
I do not think he has a clue. I certainly do not, and I very much doubt whether anybody who seriously looked at the Report would know.
§ LORD TAYLOR
The explanation does not make sense. It does not mention what this diagram is supposed to mean. One might have thought that in a traffic-free precinct there would be no buses; but, so far as I can see, turning to page 160, figure 33, there is a flow of buses through this precinct. I do not mind, but I should like to know what the diagrams mean.
Time and again, one cannot follow the traffic explanations. I cannot discover where one gets into or out of the tunnel; how one gets off Westminster Bridge in future except by turning to the right whether there is, in fact, any flow into Parliament Square at all; what happens at the end of Whitehall; where the traffic ceases in Whitehall, or, indeed, how people are to get to all these great new Government offices. All this is extremely hard to follow, though the designs themselves are fascinating and, I must confess, very good.
I should now like to come to the actual hard facts, the actual buildings that are to be got rid of. First, there are the Bridge Street buildings. Apart from New Scotland Yard, the buildings have no merits whatever; the sooner they are knocked down, the better. They are a ghastly collection of buildings. Secondly, there is the Ministry of Housing—Dame Evelyn Sharpe's Palace, as the noble Earl said—in Gt. James Street. Externally that has a certain magnificence: internally it is absolutely abominable, without any virtues whatsoever. The whole of the Treasury Building and the Ministry of Housing is absolutely disgraceful, and the sooner it is bulldozed the better. It contains inside it two courts and seventeen wells, on to which people, or 1116 corridors, look, and where unfortunate civil servants have to work. It is a disgraceful environment; a terrible working environment. I would have no regrets, and I am sure your Lordships would have no regrets, in seeing that building go, despite its not unattractive exterior and the great strength with which it is built.
Now the Foreign Office building, The Foreign Office—Home Office—C.R.O. —India Office Building is really a problem. This, in fact, is the only building in the whole scheme that presents a major problem. "Palmerston's sumptuous Renaissance Palace" it has been called, and I agree: it takes part in one of the most grandly picturesque urban landscapes in Britain. But I see no reason whatever why it should not be equally grand and picturesque when viewed from the Park. It is a delightful skyline, and there is nothing very peculiar in the Foreign Office skyline, except for a little square tower, when viewed from the Park; the rest of it is very largely obscured. But inside it contains some magnificent features and some remarkable features which have to be seen to be believed. The Secretary of State's rooms and the Permanent Secretary's rooms are finely proportioned, one can say. The grand staircase of the Foreign Office, with murals by the late Sir Sigismund Goetze, done in 1920, are remarkable. I have never seen anthing more grotesque or horrible in my life. The only treatment for them is a spraygun, and I should recommend that treatment in the interim, before the place is pulled down. It is really terrible. If this is what people, Ambassadors and the like, think Britain is like when they get here, it is a bad outlook.
The rest of the building, as the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, knows so well, consists of great suites of rooms —wonderful rooms originally but now, alas! sub-divided. These suites of rooms culminate in a wonderful place called the India Office Durbar Hall, which is a court in the building roofed over with glass and ironmongery, where Durbars used to be held in the very early days when it was built. It now contains a hut underneath this great roof. It is all watertight, but there is the hut. I do not know what it is used for, but the thing is amazing. Digby Wyatt's 'India Office staircase really is rather good; it is quite nice. There is the old India Office 1117 Boardroom, which contains Georgian chimney pieces from East India House, and these are worth saving. That is about all. Apart from these things, you have about "had it".
How could the Foreign Office be used? If one really wanted to save it, if one was absolutely convinced one had to save it, the only thing to do, again, would be to convert it into a ceremonial building; to make these halls what they are—ceremonial halls for the signing of great treaties and the holding of great parties. But we already have the Banqueting Hall, we have Marlborough House and we have Lancaster House. I do not think it is really needed. These halls are an anachronism. As for using it as offices, its present condition is absolutely disgusting. I speak only from intimate knowledge of the Commonwealth Relations Office. The working conditions of the staff there are simply terrible. The lavatories would, in my opinion, be condemned by the sanitary inspector were it not a Government building. It was designed for 80 desk officers, and I think it has now got 1,500 in it. Whatever happens, in my opinion it needs £100,000 spent on it now. Even if it is only going to last five years, I should say it was worth spending this amount. The place is simply terrible. This Government have an interest in office working conditions, and this is the place where they ought to be setting the best example. It is just terrible.
If one did want to use it as an office building, one fundamental decision would be needed. The only answer would be to slice through every Government Department working there, transversely, as it were, at the level of Assistant Secretary, and to say that everybody over Assistant Secretary is going to stay in Whitehall but everybody under that level is going off to a new "Whitehall" somewhere else. This could be done. I do not say it should be done, but it could be done. It is quite useless to move bits of the existing building out. Already in the case of the Commonwealth Relations Office 400 out of 900 have moved out, and they are in seven separate buildings scattered around London. I have no doubt the Foreign Office is even worse in this respect. This is insanity: it is quite insane. There is a case, if you like, for a planned decentralisation of all the lower levels in Whitehall, and for keeping only acorps 1118 d'éliteadjacent to the Cabinet and Downing Street.
I can see that working, and there is something to be said for it, particularly with modern methods of electronic closed-circuit television communication. It would, however, mean that every Assistant Secretary would have to work in two places. He would have to work in Whitehall, where he served his superiors, and he would have to work in the new "Whitehall", where he looked after his inferiors. This is not impossible, and it is the sort of decision that every office faces when it is told to decentralise out of London. As I say, it could be done. That is the only way in which I can conceive of making the Foreign Office, the C.R.O., the Home Office and the India Office work. But I do not for one moment think it will be done, because everybody will resist having their Department cut in two.
There are two things to be said for it. First, it would force out of Whitehall a great deal of the paperwork, and would entail the intake and analyse of material, as well as the execution of policy, being done somewhere else, and would leave simply policy formation to be done in Whitehall. Secondly, I think one has to remember that Government Departments are Parkinsonian; that is to say, they tend to grow, and, whatever buildings we have ultimately in Whitehall, they will still overflow, I am afraid; and one might therefore plan on this basis from the start. Something else that is just worth remembering is that this plan is going to be tremendously expensive. I would make a "pot-shot" at £150 million; most of which would be for subterranean roadworks and communications. That is my "pot-shot" at it, but I may be wrong on this. I hope my noble friend Lord Mitchison will correct me if I am wildly out. It is not too much to spend if the decision is right; but if one cared to move Whitehall to the Elephant and Castle and to build a new Whitehall at the Elephant and Castle, one would probably do it for £25 million, and then reconstruct. But I do not think it will happen. I think, on balance, the Martin plan will go through.
I want to say one thing about the buildings themselves. I think they are first class, and that they are first class 1119 because they are based on two principles. The first principle is that a unit of about 20 people constitutes a working office. I think it was the Foreign Office that produced this admirable idea, and it is about right. A 20-person functional unit, with an Assistant Secretary or whoever it may be in charge of it, is a very sound functional unit; and the whole establishment is built up cellularly on this basis. Incidentally, it is built up so that all the people who work in it get a remarkable amount of fresh air and light, and it is not one of these awful monoliths with either closed-in walls or all the offices artificially illuminated.
The second factor about it that is so good is that it is extremely flexible. It inevitably happens that Government Departments go up and down in importance.
§ LORD TAYLOR
And this is right. This is as it should be. They move in or out towards Downing Street or away from it. The Ministry of Health, for example, has moved out from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government building, first to Savile Row and then to the Elephant and Castle. This sort of thing has been going on through history. I have no doubt that there may come a time when economic affairs or something else will be dominant and they will want to move in or expand or contract. This great building is eminently flexible. I think the bridges add to its flexibility and I hope they stay in. There is one thing which is absolutely out: that is, to do nothing. That would be a ghastly situation. For people to have to go on working in the buildings in Whitehall is just terrible; to go on with the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the other Departments scattered about all over the place is just silly.
The sooner we get going on this the better. Although I dare say the Greater London Council will understand the transport proposals, I certainly do not; although I presume the Government understood them before they approved them. But, given the situation, the sooner we start seeing things happen the better: the sooner the Bridge Street site is developed, the better; because it will 1120 be essential to decant out the Foreign Office and the Home Office into the Bridge Street site when the Foreign Office is being razed; and the same thing must happen with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Treasury. Chaos will reign inevitably for, perhaps, five to seven years; it might be even longer. But the sooner we start, the sooner it is done and the sooner we shall have a first-class organisation for our machinery of government.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, I regret to hear that the work of Mr. Sigismund Goetze made so little appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. But I am sure he would not justify pulling down the Foreign Office on that ground alone. If I should appear to be critical of these proposals to-night, I hope it will not be thought that I have failed to recognise the great achievement and genius of this plan. Indeed, I join with my noble friend who introduced this debate in acknowledging the great work which Sir Leslie Martin and Professor Buchanan have undertaken.
Much has been said about the traffic aspect of these proposals. I think we cannot disregard the warning which has been given so plainly by Professor Buchanan. I hope that it may be possible to carry out the traffic proposals, or perhaps some of them, before we undertake the architectural proposals that Sir Leslie Martin has suggested. In some cases, I suppose, the architectural proposals are dependent on the traffic proposals. I think that is not so in every case. I hope that we may start with the traffic proposals without delay, and certainly without any unnecessary delay caused by linking them with the architectural proposals.
My Lords, I wish to say something about the architectural aspects of this plan. I should like to know why it has been decided to entrust the design of these new buildings to three architects. The new Parliamentary building is to be carried out by an architect who will be selected by competition; the Government offices in Bridge Street are to be entrusted to the Ministry of Public Building and Works; and the Foreign Office is to be entrusted to a distinguished private architect. I should have thought that if ever there was a scheme which called for 1121 uniformity of treatment, these proposals for redesigning Parliament Square was that scheme. Co-ordination, even by Sir Leslie Martin, is not likely to produce the harmony and uniformity of treatment which this scheme seems to demand.
I do not recall that when Sir Edwin Lutyens was building New Delhi, his work was made subject to the co-ordination of another architect and with the work of other architects. If that proposal had been put to him I think I know how he would have answered. His answer would certainly not have been suitable for repetition in your Lordships' House. "Co-ordination" is one of those expressions, like "integration", which arouse my deepest suspicions, because they are always employed when no one has seriously thought out what it is that is to be done. Co-ordination is an acceptable alternative to compromise. Compromises are not, as a rule, successful. They are particularly unsuccessful in matters of planning and architecture.
It is particularly unfortunate that London is being rebuilt at a time when the standard of architectural design is not high. The design of a modern building has ceased, to a very large extent, to be determined by the architect: it is determined rather by the steel construction of the building, which is in the hands of the structural engineer. And to that extent, architects have lost something in their status. The success of the architect is no longer measured by the merits of his design; it is measured rather by his ability to induce the planning authority to accept his plans—in other words, to persuade them to do something they ought not to do. Nevertheless, I do not despair that we shall find an architect who may he equal to the magnitude and, indeed, the majesty, of this great task and, I would add, that we may well find him in a Government Department. It is always easy to say: "Let us have an architect in private practice; then we shall get a good building". But some very good buildings have been erected since the war by architects, not in private practice but employed by the public authorities. And if we have competitions for these buildings, let us at least allow those in the public service to take part in them.
My Lords, I desire now to make a protest against what seems to me to be 1122 the ruthless fashion in which we are prepared to sweep away existing buildings of architectural and historic interest. Scott's Foreign Office is to be swept away with hardly an apology or a tear of regret. Indeed, its departure will be hailed with delight by the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, who has spent so many years there. I would say, first, about the Foreign Office building, as the noble Lord has told us, that it has been under sentence of death for about twenty years, and when a building, particularly a public building, comes under sentence of death, and one Minister after another says that it must be taken down and something else must take its place, not very much is spent on the comfort and convenience of the interior. I think that before we part with Scott's building, we ought to be quite sure that the Ministry of Public Building and Works, which does this work so well, is unable to make the Foreign Office a more comfortable place than it is at present.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I have done my best with this Report, but I cannot find in it any reason why these buildings should be swept away. The Foreign Office is a particularly unfortunate building. This proposal for its destruction has come at a time when its merits, and the style and aesthetic appreciation which created it, are, I suppose, at their lowest ebb in public estimation. That, unfortunately, is the fate which overtakes every building. When it reaches a certain age it passes through a phase in which it is without friends anywhere. The danger is that at that moment it will be destroyed, and people will not be conscious that something has been destroyed which was worth preserving. That happened to many of the eighteenth century buildings in London. They were swept away because they ceased to appeal to public taste. To-day the wheel has gone full circle and they are recognised as one of the great achievements of English architecture. So it may well prove to be with these Victorian buildings. When another generation takes our place we shall be regarded as the vandals who destroyed these works of merit because of the inconvenience of the interior, or for some other reason of that kind.
My Lords, I wish to make a few observations about Richmond Terrace 1123 which, oddly enough, was built in the early years of the nineteenth century. It is a remarkable extension of the classical taste of the eighteenth century into the nineteenth century. Richmond Terrace is a neat little terrace with classical features very pleasing in its general character. There has been some slight alteration to the parapet since it was built, but otherwise it presents the same aspect to-day as it has always presented. It contains some fine, handsome rooms for which I should have thought a useful purpose could still be found in the public service. It has had many distinguished visitors, most of them connected with Parliament. Huskisson once lived there and so did Quintin Hogg, the founder of the Polytechnic I so did Thomas Tooke, one of the earliest scientific economists who wroteThe History of Prices,which, I believe, is still read by students of economics. It seems to me that unless some strong case can be made out for destroying this handsome little bit of old London architecture, it ought to be left as it is.
So far as I can see from my study of the plan, the only reason why Richmond Terrace has to go is the desire of the architects for a bigger building on the Bridge Street site. Here I think the planners have fallen into a major planning error. I believe that the idea that the number of administrative civil service staff who have to be accommodated in the new building should be very much increased is completely mistaken. What will be the result of concentrating 25,000 (I think that is the number) administrative civil service staff in these new buildings? Inevitably it will overload the streets with public transport; it will be more difficult to get on the Underground trains or the buses than it is to-day.
It is not really a question whether the Government are proposing to increase the number of civil servants working in London. The proposal is that their number should be increased substantially at a certain point within a very limited area. This may bring consequences almost as unfortunate as a general overall increase inside London. My Lords, that is a major planning error, and I hope that it will be corrected. I think that the noble Lords who have done so were right to point out that the offices from which their staff will be taken will 1124 inevitably be used again for office purposes, and so the number of persons employed in Central London will undoubtedly increase. Most of the buildings in the City, or in different parts of the West End, which are occupied by Government Departments are unfit for any purpose except for use as offices. It would seem that once a Government Department has moved out, the planning authority must give consent for the buildings to be used again for office purposes; there is nothing else which may be done with them.
I hope that eventually this plan will be accepted and that, when it is, we shall be able to carry it out within some measurable or foreseeable period of time. Nothing could be worse than to undertake a plan of this sort for reconstruction of a certain area, carry out parts of the work, and then say, "The rest of it must be postponed for twenty or twenty-five years."
We have had some unfortunate experiences in London of that method of reconstruction. The Quadrant of Piccadilly Circus was re-laid out at the end of the First World War on these lines. The Fire Insurance building and Swan & Edgars were intended to set the pattern to be followed all round Piccadilly Circus. Very much the same thing happened on the South Bank. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will correct me if I am wrong, but I think the present County Hall was a competition building. When County Hall was built it was anticipated that the redevelopment of the South Bank would proceed on the same lines and in the same style architecture as County Hall. County Hall. it was expected, would set the pattern to which the redevelopment of the South Bank would be carried out. Twenty years later, public taste had completely changed. The methods of building had completely changed and imposed upon its an altogether different design, with the result that the original intention that County Hall should be the prototype of the buildings on the South Bank had to be abandoned and something entirely different took its place.
In the case of this plan, I hope that we shall not make this mistake again, and that we shall not begin to carry it out until we are satisfied that we can complete it before standards of taste and architecture change again and we have to do 1125 something which is entirely inconsistent with the work that has already been done.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, moved this Motion in a speech of such charm that it was difficult to realise half way through that he reminded one of the mediæval picture of the smiler with a knife in his hand, and that before he had finished he had emasculated and dissected the whole of the plan. When he ended with a request for a public inquiry of some kind, it suggested to me that this way of discussing a plan of this kind is not necessarily the best way. When I asked myself why there is a demand for a public inquiry now, I was puzzled, because piecemeal development has taken place around Whitehall, particularly in Victoria Street, and there has never been a demand for a public inquiry for any one of the commercial buildings that have gone up. Only now, when we have a comprehensive Plan, does everybody suddenly become aware of the problem and say that a public inquiry must be instituted.
It seems to me that the sort of public inquiry with which we are most familiar is just about the worst administrative way of dealing with an architectural and planning problem of this kind. Every interested party puts forward their objections in the most intransigent form possible. Learned counsel are briefed and argue to their briefs with great fervour and accuracy. Therefore, if the object of a public inquiry is to produce a consensus among the interested parties, this is the worst possible way of trying to do it. Learned counsel make it perfectly clear that by the end no one interested party is on speaking terms with another interested party. In Cambridge, in the last decade, £100,000, or more, has been spent on public inquiries. The result is that the City, the County and University are on the most strained terms whenever any planning problem comes up for discussion. What the situation is in Oxford I am not prepared to say.
The cost of all these inquiries is enormous, and the time taken is lengthy. When one building was discussed in Piccadilly Circus, the public inquiry took twelve days. If a public inquiry is designed to inform the public, it seems to me that there are far better ways of doing it. If, on the other hand, a public 1126 inquiry is designed to bring out the objections to a plan, it seems to me that the objectors have themselves to submit to cross-examination, not by counsel or other interested parties, but by the architects and planners who have produced the plan. In fact, if they are more than individuals or interest groups, if they purport to represent aesthetic or town planning considerations, then they have to be prepared to put forward alternative solutions.
I have great sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, when he says that he found parts of the Plan extremely difficult to understand. . I must admit that I also found this the case, and particularly pages 50 to 55, dealing with plot ratios. This is a highly complicated matter, and it is not only this that is difficult. Very technical problems are being dealt with. When Sir Leslie Martin came to consider the kind of buildings which ought to be put up in place of the Foreign Office and the Great George Street office, the building which the noble Earl referred to as a "Ziggurat", he was faced, when he made his calculations, with 60,000 possible choices. He put these variables through a computer and got an answer. It may be the wrong answer, but if we are going to attack that answer, it must be attacked with the same kind of technical expertise as Sir Leslie Martin was using at that particular point.
It may be that another architect, aided by another traffic expert, could produce a better answer. It may be that on a matter of such importance as the planning of this Great central Government site a second opinion should be obtained, but it must be a second opinion from experts as expert as Martin and Buchanan. It may be that another team should be commissioned to work over this problem, but I find it difficult to follow the arguments of the Civic Trust, for example, that all that is required is a public inquiry; that you simply let the dogs out into the arena, they fight with each other, and that is bound to produce light. What it will produce is heat; but it will not necessarily produce light. What is more, if the Civic Trust opposes this scheme, it must take the matter more seriously: it must not just call for a public inquiry, but must put forward alternative solutions, or at least use these sophisticated techniques which Sir Leslie Martin and 1127 Professor Buchanan are using. Otherwise, it is bound to produce an ill-informed opinion on the Plan as a whole.
The Martin-Buchanan Plan is a Plan of the kind which I understand the Prime Minister had in mind when he called for a modernisation of our outlook towards these problems in which technological considerations come so much to the forefront. I am afraid that some of the criticisms made suggest that the object which people have in mind is simply to attack individual parts, and then to say, "We can leave the rest as it is, but just alter this little part." The point about a plan is that it hangs together as a whole. By all means adopt another plan, if you like; but do not think one can lop off, emasculate or dissect a plan and expect it to work in the end.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, thought that the total cost of the plan would run into something like £150 million. That may be so, but the Bridge Street building, which was to have accommodation for 300 cars under it, came to only £11 million. I say "only", because it seems to me that this is a small cost compared with the cost involved if the Foreign Office were to be preserved. I have always believed that it was the preservation of No. 10 Downing Street, rather than anything the previous Government had done, which led to an autumn Budget last year. For such a historic building the cost of that operation was entirely justified, but after what the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, has told us this afternoon, I think that the preservation of a broken building like the Foreign Office, although it has great charm, particularly on the skyline, cannot be justified.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, it is not a building which is structurally unsound in any way, as was No. 10 Downing Street.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, it is structurally unsound, surely, in the sense that the interior of it is unable to fulfil any function which it is now required to fulfil. If I may apologise for this Philistine view, that this noble monument should go, I would say this: when we think of the skyline from St. James's Park, the Foreign Office is one enchanting part of it; another is the flats at Whitehall Court, but when we look at those 1128 towers, I do not know if anyone can say that that building should be preserved in perpetuity. This is the difficulty we run into with preservation.
If I might make one last defence of Sir Leslie Martin's "Ziggurat", it seems to me to be an extraordinarily humane building. Unlike American modern architects, who simply say: "Office people work in artificial light; therefore, why give them windows at all?" and who rationalise the whole of office life to a degree which de-humanises it, Sir Leslie Martin's Plan is, I think, a most ingenious way of getting an extraordinary amount of people, offices and facilities on a site without having to build high. Also in regard to the question of the bridge going across Whitehall, one must take into account the whole idea of the precinct, almost a walled medieval precinct.
What I like about this Plan is that it strikes a good balance between the modern and the past. It is not romantic about the past in trying to preserve the unpreservable; but, at the same time, it has a passion and a feeling for the past. Nor is it romantic about the future, and putting enormous great traffic flows right across Parliament Square. It seems to me to have this beautiful balance. I entirely sympathise with the wish of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that it should be exposed to more criticism and more examination, but I hope that this will be done within the structure of Government. Therefore, I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, will assure us that we are not going to have to face the full panoply of the public inquiry on this matter.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ LORD SHERFIELD
My Lords, I wish to intervene in this debate for the sole purpose of firing a second barrel in support of the line which the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, took in regard to the accommodation of the Foreign Office. It is true that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, discharged a blunderbuss ahead of me, but as he failed to demolish the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, and even the noble Lord, Lord Annan, did not finish him off, perhaps I may be allowed to make a further comment.
It has always seemed to me that those who oppose the demolition of the present Foreign Office building can never have 1129 worked in it, although it is true that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is an outstanding exception. Having myself worked for four years in a small plywood box erected in a corner of the old Locarno Room, I can assure noble Lords that the Foreign Office is as about as inefficient and inconvenient a working place as could be imagined, and that the India Office is, if anything, worse. Moreover, the accommodation available in the two buildings is insufficient to house the Foreign Service, which spills over into other buildings in London. It was only yesterday that we had a debate in which much stress was laid on the need for an efficiently working Foreign Service. Conversion behind existing walls has I believe been looked into on a number of occasions and has been considered to be impracticable.
The Foreign Office is one of two or three Departments which must be close to Downing Street, the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury. In the absence of any obvious alternative, there must be a powerful case for rehousing it on its present site. There is, of course, a body of opinion that feels that the Foreign Office should be preserved—it has been most forcibly voiced this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, and others—and that some delaying action, such as the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry, should be taken. I am, by inclination, and without claiming any expertise in the matter, a conservationist in respect of buildings of every age and style. Indeed, it would be most agreeable if the façade with which we have all lived all our lives could be preserved. But some reasonable balance has to be struck in these matters, and I find it difficult to believe that the Foreign Office building is of such artistic merit as to outweigh the compelling reasons for which it ought to be demolished and rebuilt at the earliest possible moment. In saying that, I am prepared to face the wrath of noble Lords who have said the contrary.
What we, who have an interest in the welfare and efficiency of the Foreign Service, have most at heart after twenty years is that there should be some certainty about the future. I am glad that to-day we have been told of a firm decision on this matter. In final comment on what the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, said, I trust that there will be no reprieve.
§ 7.16 p.m.
LORD SAYE AND SELE
My Lords, may I remind your Lordships, to begin with, of a saying which often comes to my mind when I think of pulling down old buildings:We think our fathers fools, as so wise we grow".Our sons in turn will no doubt think us so. This may be the case, but I hope that if it ever comes to getting on with this building affair, you will avoid the presence of your sons. The other point that I want to draw to your Lordships' attention is that the only person who has made any reference to the amount of mud and mess that is made is my noble friend Lord Esher. At this moment I have a little job with builders going on at my back door, and I have to put on my Wellington boots every time I go in and out. I rather fancy that it will be the same in your Lordships' case, but I shall not be here to see it.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, this has been an interesting debate, and I draw one consolation from it: there is hardly anything in the proposals which has not been criticised by somebody, and there is hardly anything in the speeches of any noble Lord which has not been criticised by another noble Lord. This illustrates, I think, the dangers of a public inquiry of a roving or fishing character. This is exactly what we should get. We should get people expressing widely different points of view. It would be far more complicated and elaborate because it would be a kind of public inquiry, and things would just be held up.
I quite agree that there is a question of balance in all these things. There is a balance between standing still and doing nothing whatever, and doing something and taking the risks involved. The best way, I suggest, that one can deal with a complicated problem like this is to find out what the problem is, to get expert advice—on broad lines first—and then to see what ought to be done and to do it by stages with reasonable expedition. That is really what is happening in this case. I feel that the spirit of my pet centipede has brooded over all our proceedings to-day. In case some of your Lordships were not here, may I remind you of the animal? He 1131 was in the difficulty that he could never move because he could not decide which foot to put first; and I think we were disposed to agree earlier that a public inquiry would not have helped him. I think that is the case here.
I think that the order in which we begin this matter, at any rate, is dictated by questions of real urgency. The first one is the need to give Members of Parliament in both Houses more room in which to do their work properly. It is plain, simple, working conditions. The same goes for a lot of civil servants℄I will give a little more detail in a moment.
First of all it is really impossible, so far as I can understand, for anybody other than a few people at the top to do their job properly in the Foreign Office building as it is. It was not intended for its present purpose. The character of the Service has undoubtedly changed, and the volume of opinion℄and, if I may say so, the opinion of people who live there and work there most of their lives is surely worth hearing℄is quite definite about this. It is no good trying to adapt the Foreign Office. Attempts were made earlier, as we were told to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, and they were abandoned.
Then there was the proposal to move the Office to somewhere else some way away, to Carlton House Terrace, I think it was, and that was abandoned. One way or another every alternative has been tried, and here I stand defending a decision of the last Administration. I am always doing it. I was here the other day defending the decisions of Mr. Duncan Sandys and Mr. Enoch Powell from savage attacks by other Conservatives. I think this business of public splitting in Opposition℄of which, after all, the Labour Party has had some experience℄has been carried a little too far, and I am sorry that I should be called upon again to defend what I am sure was a sound decision at the time. That is two things.
The third one is the broad general question: what is to be done on the Foreign Office site? I am not going into the merits of this question. I am simply going to say as regards that proposal℄and the noble Earl opposite can call it a "Ziggurat" or anything else he likes℄ 1132 that it had a vision in it. It had an appreciation of the realities, and I can say now, what I was a little reluctant to say at first, that this is rather a great Plan by these two distinguished gentlemen. I think I have a good deal of support from some people well qualified to know better than I do, and I take it in that spirit. There are the questions of urgency.
Then I turn for a moment to the question of traffic which was raised. On the traffic question, it is perfectly true that I have dealt, as I think the Minister has dealt from time to time, with the building proposals in the first place and, in the second place, with the traffic proposals. But my right honourable friend has made it clear, notably on July 19℄I hope made it clear; it is certainly clear in the Reports themselves℄that neither Sir Leslie Martin nor Professor Colin Buchanan consider the proposals like the traffic tunnel, the way across Lambeth Bridge and the Horseferry Road proposal, as anything but part of a scheme for dealing with London traffic as a whole. Your Lordships will remember that the present inquiry into the tunnel, if I may so describe it, is being accompanied, or followed by, the inquiry into what I think is called the central network. That has appeared in a public announcement.
I can assure your Lordships that, difficult though these traffic problems are, and although they cover a far wider area than the proposals of Sir Leslie Martin, we fully recognise that the London traffic problem is one problem, and that it is not to be solved by doing the little bits, and little bits only, without regard to what is happening in other places. I feel, therefore, that this question of traffic, which disturbed the noble Viscount, Lord Esher℄to whose speech I listened with great attention, the more so because he had been very courteous to me and let me know beforehand what he was going to say℄is a perfectly real one, but it is a larger and a longer-dated question, and is bound to be, I am afraid (I am not neglecting its urgency), than the particular point we have been considering to-day which arises in the Whitehall area. I hope I have made myself perfectly clear: I do not for one moment underrate the importance in all this of traffic considerations. They are perfectly vital. I do not 1133 for a moment suppose that traffic considerations can be treated as quite separate matters; but I do say that, like the centipede, one must make up one's mind where to move first. You have to begin somewhere.
I want to say one more word about the Report itself. I said that I thought it was a great Report. I was a bit puzzled, I confess at once, by some idiograms in it. I find these a little difficult to follow. But I think your Lordships must remember that a Report of this kind is not merely directed to the lay student or politician; it is also directed to people who have particular knowledge and who will find it much easier to follow. I did not feel at the end of the day that I was in any real doubt as to the broad purpose of the Report.
I return for one moment to two other questions, and then I have a word to say about civil servants. One is money. The process of buying a pig should always involve seeing the pig first. If you buy it in a poke it is notorious that you may pay too much. This particular pig has not quite enough shape yet to put a price on him, and his lack of shape is partly a lack of contour, if I may put it in that way, and partly a question of how long things are going to take. After all, if we are going to look ahead, it is notorious that building costs ten or twenty years ahead are not easy to estimate, and it would not be much help to estimate them at to-day's prices if you could.
If you take the three urgent proposals I had in mind, the highly provisional time we are considering is something of the order of up to 1977 for those three urgent things alone, and the others come later. This reconstruction has to be proceeded with with determination, and nobody supposes that it can or should be a really rapid process. For one thing, there is the business of decanting, and I would say to my noble friend Lord Taylor that while I hope the chaos will not by any means be as bad as he supposes, the price of trying to avoid the confusion that might otherwise be caused may he to take the plans a little more slowly. You must strike a balance here between throwing everything upside down in an attempt to do things rather too quickly, or giving yourself a reasonable time to get on. The essential thing is that the proposals should 1134 have public support. I believe they have. I read the passages in the papers to indicate that.
I turn from that finally to the question about civil servants. The figures have, I think, been considerably exaggerated. Mention has been made of 10,000 new civil servants coming into the area. That figure is arrived at, however, by extending the boundary beyond the limits of the Martin Buchanan Plan to include a good deal north of the present area. The actual figure is about 7,000 new arrivals ℄provided that you do not take into account the present position of clerical workers in part of the area, the Bridge Street area. If you do, the increase is probably about 5,000. But if we take 7,000 for a minute, the corresponding figures I have here are much larger than that. At present, of headquarters staff, excluding the Post Office, there are about 72,000 in Central London, 13,000 in the rest of London, and 30,000 outside London. It is intended to push more people outside London. This is, as your Lordships are aware, Government policy. The result of that would be to reduce Central London staff to 64,000, in the rest of London the number would be much the same at 14,000, and outside London there would be 37,000. The total in both cases is 115,000; and, therefore, while the movement involved in these proposals represents a substantial addition to the monstrous army of civil servants, which inspired the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to criticise them, the number is not really monstrous in size, and certainly not so having regard to the needs of modern Government.
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but since he has taken me up twice on this phrase I thought he should realise that I said it with half a smile.
§ LORD MITCHISON
I hope the criticism came with half a smile; it was certainly intended to. I was not for a moment suggesting that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, really thought all civil servants were monstrous. One may jest occasionally.
My Lords, I have not tried to answer the detailed comments that were made, but I can assure noble Lords that it is part of the purpose of this discussion and of the attempts we have made to 1135 arrange it℄because we tried very hard to do so℄that everything that has been said here should be carefully considered. I am sure your Lordships would agree that it would also be right for this matter to be discussed in another place, and in this way we shall get a great deal of informed comment and lay comment, both of which will be valued highly. I sit down, saying again my very real thanks, not only to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, but to all the noble Lords who have contributed from their varying points of view℄indeed, every conceivable point of view, I think℄in discussing this matter.
May I add just one small point? There are some houses at the back of the Broad Sanctuary, in the area round about Princes Street, and I have been asked to say something about them. What I propose to do is to see, as it were, in which inquiry they could best be included. I think I covered the ground fairly well as regards inquiries, and if it is desired to include them, and I understand there is reason for doing so, I will suggest to my right honourable friend℄I suppose I can hardly pledge him℄that they should be so included. The object of these inquiries is not, of course, to examine the Plan as a whole; it is to examine particular parts of it and specific questions arising in those particular parts.
§ 7.33 p.m.
My Lords, your Lordships are about to embark upon an important discussion, and I do not propose to stand between you and that discussion for more than an instant or two. I, too, should like to thank all noble Lords from every quarter of your Lordships' House who have taken part in our discussion on this really important matter this afternoon, and I would particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison. I think he has added quite considerably to our knowledge of what the Government have in mind as regards this Plan, and in many ways I have found what he had to say reasonably reassuring. As I understand it, the Government are at this stage finally and firmly committed only to three aspects of this: the principle of the Parliamentary precinct and what goes with it; the Bridge Street site, and the destruction, regretted by some of your Lordships' House, of the present Foreign Office building.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I might just acid that we are also committed to the tunnel, subject to the qualifications I mentioned about feasibility, and so on, and of course to the Plan as a whole, as a framework.
Yes, I fully understand that. In my mind the Parliamentary precinct embraces the tunnel. I am particularly glad to learn that the Government intend to mount an early inquiry into the Broad Sanctuary project, and I was grateful for what the noble Lord had to tell your Lordships' House just now about including in some inquiry the area proposed in the Plan for comprehensive development West of Princes Street.
No, I understand that. I would suggest to the noble Lord that the inquiry it best marries up with would be the Broad Sanctuary one, but I understand he will be looking into this question with his right honourable friend later.
I was a little sorry that the noble Lord was not able to say that the Government were undertaking and mounting an early study of the northern end of Whitehall, as both Sir Leslie Martin and Professor Buchanan have drawn attention and emphasised the extreme urgency of dealing with this comprehensively, and I should have thought the centipede could get to work on that particular inquiry fairly soon. I only hope℄and I am encouraged by what the noble Lord has said℄that the Government, too, may find some of the suggestions which have been made useful in their further study of this subject. With those words, my Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.