§ 11.52 a.m.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª.
§ LORD FARINGDON moved, that it be an Instruction to the Committee to which the Bill is referred to consider whether there should be provision for the preservation of the tower, having regard to its outstanding group value, and such part of the structure and features of the church as would preserve the present view of the building from the liturgical "West"; and that the Committee have power to hear evidence other than that tendered by the Promoters. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Instruction which I rise to propose is similar in appearance to, but is basically very much smaller and less wide than, the one to which we have just listened, which was so very eloquently described by the noble Lord, Lord Molson. My Instruction is of a simpler nature. It raises no basic or fundamental principles, and I hope that 1229 your Lordships may be prepared to accept it.
§ I think I am right in saying that nearly all the Members of your Lordships' House have from time to time been caused anxiety by the way in which Bills of this kind have gone through your Lordships' House. That is because any protestant—though not necessarily anybody as emphatic as a Petitioner, because he always has his rights—who is unable to finance a Petition but who, none the less, has an objection, finds himself in a difficult position. To start with, such people are discouraged, not to put it more strongly, from raising points of this kind at Second Reading, and once the Bill has gone to the Unopposed Bills Committee it is again beyond the functioning of the Parliamentary system—at any rate, it is always very much discouraged in your Lordships' House—for people to raise points on the Report stage or Third Reading of a Bill of this type. When they raise points, they are told, as meets the case, that proper consideration has been given to the Bill in Committee and that, therefore, it should be accepted. That is not always by any means a satisfactory procedure.
§ I suggest that in Bills of this kind there are three criteria by which we might properly be influenced against a Bill. First, it may be that the church itself is of outstanding architectural and artistic importance; and the right reverend Prelate made some reference to that in which I do not wholly go along with him. But that does not arise in this case. Nor does there arise the case of graveyards which, though very small, are, owing to their situation in a thickly-populated area, of exceptional value as open space and should not, I submit, be built upon. The final criterion is the case where the church has a form and a siting which is exceptional and which is, indeed, essential to the whole appearance and amenity of an area. That is where my present anxieties arise, because St. Saviour's, Paddington, although not a church of great importance, is a church in an extremely important position.
§ The proposals of the ecclesiastical authorities make for the removal of the church, the building of another church and the destruction of the lay-out in the 1230 neighbourhood owing to the change of character of the church which, from presenting a big, handsome tower enclosing an important vista, will become a spindly little object off-centre, in a case where central siting seems to be essential.
§ I should like to say here how extremely helpful and co-operative I found the agents for the Promoters. They all but persuaded me—and, indeed, my experience is one of which I suggest the Chairman of the Unopposed Bills Committee might well take note—because after I had heard the case put by the Promoters I was three-quarters won over. It is only subsequently that I have discovered how wrong I should have been to be influenced by this persuasion—and not only persuasion, but perfectly rational explanation as well. Since then I have seen other experts who have put up, at any rate to my mind, a proposition which completely meets the case of the Promoters; that is to say, a development on which they are relying for the financing of the building and maintenance of a new church; and a parish hall and other conveniences will still be retained. The central tower, which is the main feature of the layout, would be preserved, and I am assured that its present poor condition could be repaired for the money which would be needed for the new proposed tower—a tower which to my mind, at any rate, offends against all the principles which ought to guide the construction of a tower on this particular site. It is off-axis; it is a small spindly affair—elegant enough, no doubt, in other circumstances, but quite unsuited to this large space and this rather magnificent layout.
§ I am suggesting that the Unopposed Bills Committee should call witnesses in order to assure your Lordships that what we want we cannot have; that it is not feasible to maintain the tower and to build a modern church. I have been persuaded that it is possible, and I want the Committee to hear that evidence. I believe that if they do, and if my informants are right, the Committee will find that it is possible to retain the tower and to build on to it an admirable little church as well as the other buildings wanted by the ecclesiastical authorities. For those reasons, I hope that your Lordships' House will be pleased to give this 1231 Instruction to the Unopposed Bills Committee, and that in this way we shall be able to decide whether in fact it is possible to maintain the amenity layout which I and many others, and in particular, of course, those who live in the neighbourhood, feel to be so important, so essential. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to which the Bill is referred to consider whether there should be provision for the preservation of the tower, having regard to its outstanding group value, and such part of the structure and features of the church as would preserve the present view of the building from the liturgical "West"; and that the Committee have power to hear evidence other than that tendered by the Promoters.—(Lord Faringdon.)
§ 12.3 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT NORWICH
My Lords, I think I should begin by declaring my interest. I have been a resident of "Little Venice" for seven years, and I also have the honour to be president of the local residents' association, which feels very strongly about the proposal which we are discussing this morning. That proposal, as the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has explained, is to remove the present church and to replace it by a much smaller one, and to put behind the smaller one a block of flats which will bring some much-needed revenue to the church, as well as saving it from the very large outgoings on structural repairs that are at present necessary and from the need to maintain what has become, with a seating capacity of something like 1,700, very much of a white elephant.
I and those of my friends and colleagues who feel the way I do agree entirely that something must be done; that the church is a white elephant and cannot be allowed to remain as such. But we feel extremely strongly about the tower. This tower is situated at one of the most crucially important points, architecturally, in the whole Paddington area. Most of your Lordships probably know it by sight, but any who do not know it I should be delighted to take round and show what I mean. The tower is situated at the convergence of five important roads, one of which, Warwick Avenue, broadening out from the canal 1232 more and more as it approaches the church, ends up in front of the church as what I believe I am right in saying is the broadest thoroughfare in the whole of London. It is broader than The Mall; broader than Waterloo Place. It is a magnificent sight, and at this point some broad, major, strong, vertical feature is vitally needed to close the vista and become, as it were, a focus for the whole of the "Little Venice" area. The present church, St. Saviour's, is not, we know, a work of immense architectural splendour (nobody pretends that it is) but it does serve this particular purpose extremely well; or, rather, the tower and the West Front do, and it is those that we should like to see preserved.
The Promoters of the Bill agree with us—at least, I understand so; I shall be corrected if I am wrong—that, all things being equal, it would be very nice to do this. They have been very sympathetic (and we are very grateful to them for their sympathy) to our views, but they have suggested that there are two important objections—so important, indeed, that if either of them was valid, it would be insuperable. The first of these objections is the structure of the tower, which they believe to be in such a bad state of repair that to restore it as it must be restored, and to keep it in a good state of maintenance, would be prohibitively expensive. The second objection is that in keeping the tower they would lose so much of the vital space at their disposal that if they were also to produce a smaller church behind it there would not be enough room to build a large enough block of fiats to provide the income which they need.
If either of these objections was found, on closer examination, to be justified, our case would fall completely to the ground, almost as quickly as St. Saviour's would. There would be nothing we could do, and I think I am right in saying that we should all withdraw gracefully from the discussion. But it is our view, based on such technical examination as we have been able to carry out, that in fact neither of these objections is valid. We accept the fact that the church is structurally in a very bad state of repair, but we are also advised by our architects, who with the consent of the Promoters have been 1233 allowed to examine the tower, that the tower is in fact in very much better condition than the rest of the church. It is in relatively good condition—only relatively, but still in relatively good condition—and could be repaired at far less cost than would be necessary to build any other vertical feature such as the Promoters themselves agree would be necessary.
The case against the second objection follows logically on from this. We believe that if the existing tower could be preserved, not only would it be considerably cheaper to the Promoters than building another one, but it would also enable them to build a block of flats behind and the new church, more or less on the lines which they have proposed, and would still enable them, by following certain proposals which we should be able to put forward, to make just as much money, possibly even more. In other words, they would in no way be financially the losers.
My Lords, this is not just a "crack-brained" idea by a lot of over-sensitive, agnostic aesthetes, saying, without having any of our collective feet on the ground, how lovely it would be if this beautiful thing could be maintained. This view is agreed to by three independent firms of architects, each of whom has special knowledge of various aspects of the problems involved. One of them is an architect with a life-time's experience of church building behind him; another has been involved with town planning, and in particular the Civic Trust since its inception; and the third is the architect to the Historic Buildings Sub-Committee of the Greater London Council. All of them agree that we are probably—and I say only probably—right. If I may quote the Historic Buildings Council's statement on this proposal, it says:In the short time which has been available, sketch plans have been prepared which show prima facie that the fears of the Promoters could well be unfounded, and that whilst retaining the tower a new church of adequate size to meet the present parochial needs could be built without restricting in any way the part of the site now intended by the Promoters for beneficial development".
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, the noble Viscount said that that was a quotation from the Historic Buildings Council. Would he just confirm whether that is right or not?
§ VISCOUNT NORWICH
My Lords, I am sorry. I correct myself. This is a statement made by the Greater London Council, on the advice, I understand, of the Historic Buildings Sub-Committee. I apologise for that inaccuracy.
My Lords, as I say, this is only provisional. We do not yet know for certain, we cannot know for certain, until a great deal mare carefully detailed plans and costings can be made. It looks on the present evidence as if it would be possible, and we should like to have the opportunity to prove that it would be. Our confidence that we can do this is increased by the fact that we have been allowed by the Promoters (and once again we are grateful to them for this) to examine their plans and costings. From these it appears that the scheme, although architecturally it will leave a great deal to be desired, will nevertheless mean that the average rent of each of the individual 45 flats which it is proposed to build will still be somewhere in the region of £1,200 a year, in order to cover the costs. I fully expect that I shall he told that this figure is inaccurate, but I think we can substantiate it.
My Lords, it is only natural in this situation, when we come into the, discussion at such a late stage, that the Promoters should wish to go ahead with the plans as they have drawn them up, and it is only natural that their architect should wish to be allowed to produce a proper plan based on beginning again on a completely clean sheet. Naturally, it cramps their style if they have to make allowance for part of an existing structure which will be of a totally different style and period from that which they have planned. We have every sympathy with this feeling. Also the site is of such importance in itself that it presents a marvellous challenge to any architect; and any architect would long to make the best use of this challenge. But it is because it is such an important site that we cannot afford to take chances if we do not think that they are justified.
If all the drawings had been completed and paid for, if there were nothing to stop the work from going ahead, we should find it difficult to ask the Promoters to stop now. But, fortunately, this is not so. We have a breathing 1235 space; because at present no-one—neither the Promoters nor ourselves, nor the Greater London Council—knows exactly what will be the extent of the site upon which this building can be erected. There are problems involving traffic control, which I understand are at present under consideration by the Westminster City Council; and until those problems have been solved it will be impossible for any of us, the Promoters, ourselves or for anyone else, to draw up the final detailed plans. We have a breathing space; we have an opportunity to think again. This is an opportunity that t hope very much we shall be allowed to seize.
Finally, I should like to echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, and say how grateful we are to the Promoters of this scheme for their sympathy to us, for the way in which they have allowed us to examine the structure, to see their plans, and to discuss their costings. They have gone out of their way to help us and I am very conscious that we have been an enormous irritant to them. For that I am sorry. But I hope that now, after the Bill has had a Second Reading, as I hope it will, and after Lord Faringdon's Instruction has been accepted, as I trust it will be, we shall be able to pay them back in some way by being able to work with them not only in such a way as to be able to see that they are not financially the losers, but also so that we shall be able to maintain the tower and the amenities, the beauties and the character of which must still make this one of the loveliest and most character-full parts of London.
§ 12.14 p.m.
My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships for the first time, I ask for your customary indulgence; but I hasten to give the assurance that my intervention will be reasonably brief. My reasons for speaking on this Motion are two-fold. I speak first—declaring an interest, as the noble Viscount has done—as an inhabitant for the past thirty years of this neighbourhood of the Regent's Canal which is now generally known as "Little Venice", a name deriving, I believe, from a chance remark by Lord Byron while on a country walk in those parts. I speak, secondly, as one who values very deeply what remains 1236 of London's heritage, not only in good architecture but in good civic planning.
For many years past, my fellow residents and others have been fighting battles for the preservation and improvement of this unique corner of London. The first major engagement I recall was in 1950. In that year, the former Paddington Borough Council came out with a plan to build a large block of council flats right at the very centre of Little Venice, down by the banks of what is known as Browning's Pool. This would have effectively blocked, once and for all, its development as an open space and a centre of rest and recreation for the people of London. Fortunately, however, the L.C.C., and finally the Minister of Town and Country Planning of that period, decided against the scheme. The result is the tranquil public gardens which the neighbourhood enjoys to-day.
Since then, we have had to contend at intervals with a series of further threats. There was a hideous project to cover up a long stretch of the Canal with blocks of flats built over it. There was another project, equally hideous, to drain away its waters and convert it into a highway for hovercraft. Only a few months ago we were threatened with a scheme for a Marina with a concourse of buildings encroaching on the Pool itself. These first two schemes, I am glad to say, were successively dropped; and it now looks as though the third may be dropped as well, or at least very drastically modified.
All this has happened in response, partly to local and general pressure, partly to the wiser second thoughts of those concerned in the various schemes. But it is due largely, I think, to a growing awareness on the part of the local authorities and the other public bodies of the immense amenity value of this neighbourhood, so unique in the harmony of its compounding elements of water and trees and good architecture right in the centre of London.
There are signs of this awarenesss on every hand and in every direction. To-day, the Ministry of Transport, the Greater London Council and the British Waterways Board are envisaging this Paddington Pool and its surroundings as a focal point in plans for the development of the canals as a whole for public recreation.Lately, views of the Regent's 1237 Canal have been opened up by the substitution of railings for walls and the opening of stretches of towpath to visitors. Above all, I am happy to say that the Westminster City Council has declared this to be a conservation area within the framework of a system laid down by the Civic Trust. Finally, the Church Commissioners, the ground landlords of most of this area, have shown throughout a keen sense of its architectural and aesthetic amenities. This is evident in their development and restoration and improvement of the properties in the avenues and streets which they own.
But now, my Lords, there comes—ironically enough from another arm of the Church, the London Diocesan Fund—a new threat to this area, in its own way as serious as any that has gone before. This time it is an architectural threat, compromising the entire civic plan of the neighbourhood. I refer to the threat to demolish the tower of St. Saviour's Church. As the Pool and the public gardens form the hub of Little Venice, in terms of recreation and amenity, so does, this tower form its pivot in terms of town planning and architecture.
Built in the Gothic style, the tower of St. Saviour is the commanding architectural feature of a radial layout of streets built in a contrasting classical style. It commands, in particular, the great, broad sweep of Warwick Avenue itself, which, as the noble Viscount has remarked, is one of the broadest streets in London. It is certainly broader than The Mall fringed by Carlton House Terrace (because I have paced both of them in order to check the fact) and it just about the same breadth as the foot of Waterloo Place which culminates in the commanding feature of the Duke of York's column.
St. Saviour's Church was designed rather more than a century ago as the axial point of a townscape planned and built on Church property—a kind of Victorian offshoot of the Regency plans of Nash. Remove the pivot of its tower and the whole neighbourhood falls to pieces as a coherent and unified design. Yet the Promoters of this Bill now seek the permission of this House to remove it. No one seriously contests that the church itself, behind the tower, or at least a great part of it, will have to go on account of its precarious structural 1238 condition, but the tower, although in need of perennial repairs to its stonework, is in no such precarious condition as the Promoters at first seemed to fear. An independent architectural survey has recently shown, as the noble Viscount has indicated, that it is structurally sound.
There are those who argue that this tower could be better replace by a vertical feature of similar height and scale. In theory, so it probably could; in practice, I think this unlikely. An architect of the London diocese has produced a preliminary plan, to which the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, referred, with this in view. Unfortunately it shows all too little awareness of what this neighbourhood really requires. It incorporates, as he told us, an insubstantial, tapering spire, like a spindle, and this is placed not in the centre of the access but at the side of it, while a blank wall of the church occupies the central position. It thus totally defeats the object of any such vertical feature, which must not only be centralised but must be substantial enough to hold its own and assert its focal position on the skyline in relation to the height and scale of the streets which radiate before and around it.
It is, I repeat, perfectly possible that an adequate modern tower on this scale could still be designed, but the cost, I suggest, would be prohibitive to any development scheme in which the question of cost must be uppermost, as it is in this case. For these reasons, I strongly urge the retention of the present tower of St. Saviour's Church as an integral element in any such development scheme, and the construction of a smaller church attached to and behind it. That this can be done is evident from the various independent plans with which we have been furnished aid to which the noble Viscount has referred.
One of these architects, who is highly experienced in church work, has drawn up a plan for the retention of part of the old church behind the tower instead of the construction of a new one. All these more modest plans than the plan produced by the Promoters make full allowance for the space required for the erection of a large block of flats on the site. There is every indication that when 1239 worked out in detail they will prove less costly than the plan which the Promoters of the Bill have in mind. We are thus asking the Committee to hear evidence concerning them and provide for the tower's retention. That is surely not too much to ask of the London Diocesan Fund.
It so happens, as the noble Viscount has indicated, that the exact extent of the site available is still in doubt for various reasons, and this means that the Promoters will be obliged in any case to draw up new plans for the development of the site. In so doing they should, in my submision, allow for the contingency of preserving the church tower and developing the site in this sense. The Church authorities, my Lords, have always shown themselves responsible to civic interests, especially where the Arts are concerned. In London, in particular, they have shown themselves not only enlightened but adept in the restoration of old churches and the incorporation of parts of old churches into new, always, of course, without prejudice to their overriding pastoral duties.
In this case they have an added interest and responsibility of their own since they are the owners of most of the neighbouring property and, as such, have some responsibility for the original civic layout of the area during the first half of the 19th century. I therefore devoutly hope that they will think again in this case of St. Saviour's, as other Promoters of schemes for Little Venice have thought again before them in the course of the long, slow fight which has been waged over the years for its preservation and embellishment. Speaking, my Lords, as a tenant of 30 years' standing, I can vouch for the fact that the Church are good landlords. I like to hope that in the case of St. Saviour's they will prove also to be good neighbours.
§ 12.26 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I must first congratulate my old acquaintance and fellow journalist, Lord Kinross—and how pleasant it is to do so—on his maiden speech. I hope that his sphere of interest will radiate gradually, like ripples from a pebble in Little Venice, to larger metropolitan, national and international spheres, and that he will 1240 often speak to us again. There is little that I should say from the point of view of the Government about this Bill, either. It is a preservation question—at least it is a conflict between preservation and pastoral interests. The Church of St. Saviour, Paddington, is not a listed building but it is to be included in the revised list for the City of Westminster; that is, it is to be included in the next revision as a building of special architectural interest, mainly, of course, because of its setting rather than because of its intrinsic merit. It is to be put on this list because of its prominent position, harmonising with its surroundings, and the fact that its tower provides a focal point in an area which is of itself of special interest.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, would the noble Lord tell us whether the surroundings are also to be put on this list?
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I speak subject to correction, but I should think that most of them are already on it. This is a preservation area designated in draft by the City of Westminster. It may be of interest to the House to be reminded that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is advised by a committee of the Historic Buildings Council on these matters of listing and on the attitude he should adopt to particular cases of a preservation nature; and also to be informed that this Committee, which sits under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Holford, was consulted about the proposals in the Bill before the House. Their advice was that if it was at all possible, the church tower should be retained. The Minister accordingly reported to Parliament on this Bill to the effect that he would have wished the tower to be retained, but after discussion with the Promoters he understood that they could not do it on grounds of costs.
Provided the Committee—that is, the Committee of your Lordships' House—was satisfied on this point, the Minister would not wish to object to the demolition of the tower (indeed he has no power to do so, since planning controls do not extend to churches, to places of worship in actual use as such, which this church is) this having for fifty years now been the desire of the Church of England authorities.
1241 My Lords, if I may, I will for a moment cease speaking for the Government and speak personally. If the Bill is left to the Committee, they will have to face the familiar conflict between preserving the building or its complete demolition. Every Londoner knows Warwick Avenue, and so do many other people. It is a famous and beautiful and well-planned area, and this church tower is the focal point of the whole layout. Nobody should say that the 20th century is less good than the mid-19th century, and the very reasonable solution which has commended itself to many people, and might also to the Committee, is that the whole church should be pulled down and another of a similar bulk and height built on the same place in the 20th century idiom, which I think would go as well with the classic buildings around it as the present Gothic structure. But that is going to be expensive, perhaps more expensive than the London Diocesan Fund can at present afford. That is one of the questions which will have to be examined in Committee.
§ 12.31 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I should like to join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Kinross, on his maiden speech. Your Lordships have had to wait 29 years for it, and I sincerely hope that you will have to wait far less time for the next speech of the noble Lord.
This Bill deals with the proposed demolition of the existing church and tower of St. Saviour, Paddington. This church is very large and can seat 1,700 people, although at the moment the congregation is not usually in excess of 100. The most striking feature of the church is the tower. The church and tower are not of great aesthetic significance, it is generally agreed, except in so far as they fit in with the fine piece of town planning to which they contribute. So far as the parish is concerned, the church presents a very real problem in terms of upkeep and repair. The repairs which should be applied without delay would come to some £15,000, and the cost of keeping up repair and maintaining the heating and cleaning of this large white elephant would be progressively greater as time went on. Such expense by the parochial church council would 1242 not be justified on the ground of its pastoral usefulness to the neighbourhood.
The parochial church council urgently require a smaller church, the upkeep of which they could support. They have therefore devised a plan whereby the church would be demolished and a smaller church built, the cost of these two projects being paid for by the development of flats on the same site. Noble Lords who have spoken today have paid tribute to the parochial church council for having been sensitive to the feelings and wishes of local residents on this matter. During the whole time this project has been under discussion they have been open to suggestions from anyone who could produce a solution which would preserve the tower and at the same time enable them to pay for its upkeep, for building a new church and for demolishing the rest of the old. For reasons of population density and for aesthetic reasons, this solution has been impossible to find. Indeed, the pro-motors are still convinced that it is impossible to find such a solution. Any plan which could show how the cost could be met would be diligently studied by the council, who have been looking for one for years. Unfortunately, until yesterday nobody had come forward with a plan, and certainly at no stage has anyone come forward with the offer of a grant which would allow this to be done.
I cannot accept some of the remarks which have been made today about the expense of keeping the tower. Of course, we cannot argue in detail, and I may be entirely wrong, but I believe that it can be preserved without a considerable expenditure. The question of the demolition of the tower was referred to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who reported to parliament. That report has already been quoted. I agree that if the tower could be maintained it would be a good thing. The Historic Buildings Sub-Committee of the Greater London Council was brought into this in October and the present scheme which has been put forward by them arrived only yesterday. In the meantime, a dangerous structure order was served on the tower and repairs were done at a cost of £600; and I think that more in the same way might have to be done in the near future. The slower 1243 we go on, the more the cost and the less likely will be the finding of a reasonable solution.
I am a little at a loss at the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, to my intervention, because I understood that when this matter came up in another place a representative of the Minister said that there were no plans for preserving the surrounding area, and it is to fit in with this area that we wish to keep the tower.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, perhaps I could clarify the situation. If no plans for keeping the surrounding classical buildings have been made and they are not on the statutory list, that is doubtless because it is only now that the Victorian buildings throughout London are being surveyed for the first time. That does not mean that this will not be altered in a year or two's time when the survey has been completed. One noble Lord has told us that this part of London is among those under consideration by the Westminster City Council for designation as a conservation area.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I am delighted to hear that, because it would be ironic if we managed to save the tower and the surrounding area fell. Plans have been drawn up for a small church with a verticle feature rising to the same height as the present tower. This has come in for a certain amount of criticism in your Lordships' House and elsewhere. I do not think that this criticism is all well founded, but I should like to emphasise that any proposed church would be subject to the normal planning formalities and that the present church is not going to be demolished until approval has been given for the new one.
As regards the alternative plan which has only just been mooted, the Promoters' experts have loked at it and think that it is open to a number of objections. They do not think it would be as financially viable as the people who prepared it think. It has an unacceptable density of flat development in the area, and they think it is open to aesthetic objection from every point of view except from the view looking down Warwick Avenue. But the parochial church council is willing to look at this.
1244 The Promoters have no objection to the present Instruction which has been moved in your Lordships' House; nor have I. If any solution to this problem can be found, everyone is willing to consider it, but the fact remains that up to yesterday no method had been found of showing how the tower can be preserved. The church is left with the alternative of proceeding with the plan put forward in this Bill, or of letting the church fall down. I am delighted that the alternative is to be looked at again in Committee. I hope that it will be an Unopposed Committee, because this does not seem to me to be a very complex matter. I understand that in an unopposed Committee noble Lords can go in and speak on the matter.
I have one last point (I do not know whether it comes into the area of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet), which is that if we find some way of keeping the tower, perhaps some way could be found of making London Transport put the extremely ugly flue, which spoils the whole view at the moment, inside the tower. That is one possible way of dealing with what I think is an eyesore in a fine piece of town planning, and I hope that this may be done.
§ 12.41 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I join in the congratulations offered to the noble Lord, Lord Kinross, on his maiden speech. It was not an uncontroversial speech but it was an exceedingly well-argued speech, and one could disagree with a great deal of what the noble Lord said. But I have never accepted the convention that every maiden speech must be non-controversial. My own maiden speech, made a great many years ago now, was exceedingly controversial, and I have never regretted it. I am not sure whether a noble Lord who delivers a controversial maiden speech is really entitled to ask for indulgence, but I am sure that the noble Lord neither needs nor desires any indulgence at all.
But it is not my purpose to controvert what has been said on either side in this controversy. The day before yesterday, I paid my second visit to Warwick Avenue. I stood on the bridge over Regent's Park Canal, and I thought that if I were an inhabitant of Little Venice, 1245 if I were a little Venetian (if that is the right term to be used; or should we follow Disraeli, and speak of "the Venetian oligarchy"?) I should very much object to the destruction of this beautiful tower. On the other hand, the aesthetic arguments are not all on the side of the preservationists. To my mind, it is always most unfortunate when there is a lack of proportion between a church and a tower which is attached to it. I take it that the right proportion between church and tower is about one-to-two. It looks well if that proportion is observed; it looks ill if the tower is either too short or too tall.
When the Diocese of London rebuilds this church they will certainly build a much lower church than that which at present exists. And how right they will be! How often I have sat and shivered in a great Victorian Gothic church, with the pointed arches soaring up to Heaven, and all the heat soaring up to Heaven with the arches and passing out of the clerestory windows: and I have wondered why the contributions which I make to the heating fund go so largely to heating the Angels in Heaven and not myself. I hope, therefore—and I think we may take it for granted—that the new Anglican church will be much lower than the present church, as well as smaller; and in that event we must face a grievous lack of proportion if the tower is preserved. This wail not affect the inhabitants of Little Venice, who will not see the church—or will barely see it, unless they go to the extreme length of attending it. But it will affect the inhabitants of Warwick Gardens, who live very close to the church. They will be offended by this lack of proportion every time they look out of their windows to the North.
I do not want to argue the case. I merely ask your Lordships to believe that on esthetic grounds there are two cases, one to be weighed against the other. No doubt, as things are, both will be considered, along with the financial questions, on which there is so much uncertainty, by the Select Committee of your Lordships' House. But I venture to refer to a very powerful and well-argued speech delivered by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark on a previous occasion when we discussed one of these ecclesiastical Bills. I am very doubtful 1246 of the arrangement under which any proposals to alter the boundaries of an Anglican parish, any proposals to deal with an Anglican collar consecrated church, must come before Parliament, though the Church authorities can do as they like if the church is not consecrated but merely dedicated. But all these proposals have to come before both Houses. That is the law, and we must submit to it. But I hope very much that the law may be phased, and that the Anglican Order may be saved the great expense of promoting a Private Bill every time they wish, in the exercise of their pastoral responsibilities, to make some changes to their own buildings.
I suppose I shall be told that this is a part of the Establishment, and that it is wholly wrong for me, who am not an Anglican, to interfere with the matter of the Establishment. I can only reply that there are in this United Kingdom two Established Churches. The Established Church of Scotland, I presume, occasionally may want to change their parishes, pull down their churches, and make all the arrangements which changing conditions necessitate. But they do not have to come to Parliament; they do not have to promote Parliamentary Bills when they wish to effect some changes. I belong to a Church which is not Established, and I am not bound by these stringent laws which require the Anglican Church to obtain Parliamentary approval for its ordinary day-to-day administrative actions.
I beg that this matter may be taken into consideration. Your Lordships' House is heavily occupied at the present time. We have devoted enough to the consideration of these matters. Your Lordships' Committees are hard worked. There is not much more time for them to go really fully into this difficult question. I hope that some change in the arrangement may be considered early next Session, and that more appropriate machinery may be set up.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lord, I should like to join other noble Lords in the congratulations they have offered to the noble Lord, Lord Kinross, on his maiden speech. I am not surprised that he, as an old Balliol man, like myself, is appearing in your Lordships' House as a champion of aesthetic 1247 values. I hope we shall hear him again on a subject which is obviously close to his heart and one that always has a sympathetic audience in your Lordships' House.
I will, if I may, again say a few words on the procedural aspects of this Motion for an Instruction on the Bill. If the Instruction is agreed to, I will undertake to study with the utmost care what has been said by noble Lords on both sides of the House in the course of this afternoon, and in the light of that study I will decide whether or not I should report to the House that the Bill, though unopposed, should be dealt with as an opposed Bill and referred to a Select Committee, or, alternatively, should be dealt with by the Unopposed Bills Committee. I should like to assure your Lordships that in either case, to whichever of these Committees the Bill is referred, any noble Lord can avail himself of the procedure under Standing Order 58 which would enable him to attend the Committee and to speak. This procedure may be particularly useful in a case of this kind, in which many noble Lords, by the speeches they have made this afternoon, have shown a very keen interest. I entirely agree with Lord Beaumont of Whitley's interpretation of procedure about the Unopposed Bills Committee. The Motion also asks for power for the Committee to hear evidence other than that tendered by the Promoters, and again, for the same reasons as I gave on the last Instruction, which I will not repeat, I would advise your Lordships to accept this proposal.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Bill committed to the Committee on Unopposed Bills.