§ 2.30 p.m.
§ LORD COLWYN
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will arrange for the removal of the obstruction at the Spaniard's Inn, Hampstead Lane.]
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF POWER (LORD LINDGREN)
My Lords, I presume that the noble Lord is referring to the old toll gate opposite the Spaniard's Inn. Her Majesty's Government have no powers to arrange for its removal. This is a problem essentially for the Greater London Council and the London Boroughs of Barnet and Camden, as the local authorities concerned, and I understand that they will be discussing it soon.
§ LORD COLWYN
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord very much for his Answer. May I ask whether he would get in touch with the Camden Council and the Barnet Council with a view to moving this obstruction backwards, putting it on Hampstead Heath, or putting up traffic lights? At the moment it causes a terrific traffic block.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, this is a local government matter, and Ministers have to be very careful about the susceptibilities of local authorities in regard to their own functions. But I will most certainly bring this matter to the attention of the two boroughs concerned, and of the Greater London Council, and I am certain that they will take notice. As the noble Lord probably knows, one of the problems is that this is right on the boundary of the two boroughs of Camden and Barnet, and it was on the boundary of the old boroughs of Hampstead and Finchley. But, as I have said, I will certainly call the attention of all the authorities concerned to the noble Lord's Question and to his presentation.
§ LORD COTTESLOE
My Lords, is the Minister aware that this is not, in fact, a toll gate, but an old toll house which, while not by itself of any architectural distinction, forms an intrinsic part of a group of buildings that includes the 363 Spaniard's Inn and the historic 18th century weatherboard house adjacent to it; and that the group as a whole is of great interest and charm, and very much valued by people who live in the area and by many who live elsewhere? Is the noble Lord further aware that the Spaniards Road runs for half a mile along the ridge on Hampstead Heath in a unique rural setting, with unrivalled views over London, and that a widening of the road at that point, where it is already wide enough for two cars to pass, would destroy its character and change it into something of a racetrack? Finally, can he assure the House that when he is drawing the attention of the local authorities concerned to the Question asked by the noble Lord opposite, he will also draw the attention of the local authorities concerned to these particular aspects of it?
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, the greatest amenity value of this building is to the dogs which we were discussing in the previous Question. This building belongs to the brewers. The last time I passed it the roof had collapsed; and although the local lads and lasses say that Dick Turpin put Black Bess in there, to me its artistic value is nil.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, having lived in the vicinity for many years, may I suggest a practical compromise to the Minister? I can agree with the noble Lord opposite, but at the same time have sympathy for the motorist behind me. There is plenty of room to move this building back two yards. I agree that it would necessitate a little bit of work and building. Having looked at it, and examined it carefully, I think that if it were moved just two yards everyone would be happy.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, to move this building two yards would, I think, be a tremendous waste of time, effort and labour. In actual fact, the lorries going by day by day remove the brick, and if we leave it long enough it will not be there.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, before the noble Lord forms a final conclusion, will he undertake to see the toll-bar house and refrain from taking any action suggested to him by the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn? If he did take that action it would be greeted with dismay amongst the Hampstead people, and there would be a considerable sense of resentment.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, with great respect, I think we are passing away from the Question. I should not like to criticise one noble Lord on one side or another, but it seems to me that we have long since lost contact with any form of interrogation.