HL Deb 14 November 2000 vol 619 cc126-30

2.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What powers they have to influence the choice and location of statues in central London.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, under the Public Statues (Metropolis) Act 1854 the consent of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is required to erect a public statue in a public place in central London. That is in addition to the usual consents required under planning legislation. The Government have no other powers to influence the choice and location of statues in central London.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. There is no reason why military figures should predominate. However, is he aware that careless remarks about Generals Havelock and Napier could inadvertently damage English/Scottish relations? Both commanded soldiers in Highland regiments in very successful operations, and the statues were paid for by subscriptions, many from ordinary soldiers. Does the noble Lord know whether mayoral scrutiny has yet extended to Waterloo Place where there is a statue of Field Marshal Sir Colin Campbell, the first Lord Clyde, who, in case a reminder is necessary, commanded the Thin Red Line of 93rd Highlanders, later known as the Argylls?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Mayor of London has performed one service in the sense that he has obliged me to mug up on Havelock and Napier, about whom, I must confess, I knew very little until the controversy arose. The removal of statues from Trafalgar Square is not a matter for the Government; it is a matter for the Mayor of London. However, because—I believe I am right—the statues are listed buildings, the Mayor would have to seek consent from both Westminster City Council and English Heritage before moving them. He would also have to decide where they were to go and obtain planning permission for that as well.

I believe that the same answer applies to the noble Lord's question concerning the statue in Waterloo Place. I hope that nothing relating to the public appearance of London will damage Anglo-Scottish relations.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, rather less controversially, is my noble friend aware that plans to erect a statue of David Lloyd George in Parliament Square between Field Marshal Smuts and Sir Winston Churchill are going very well and that a final design should be settled by March next year? I declare an interest as a member of the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Will my noble friend express the Government's support for that excellent project?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, Ministers have already expressed their support for the concept of a statute of David Lloyd George in Parliament Square. I am delighted to hear of the progress that is being made. I understood that we did not yet have a design or, indeed, the full subscriptions that would be necessary in order to erect a statute. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Faulkner for keeping me and the House up to date.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the implication of the remarks of the Mayor of London is that statues should, at any given time, be easily recognisable by a majority of the public at large; in other words, somewhat like Madame Tussaud's? If the Mayor is right and if the Government have any influence over these matters, in future will the noble Lord consider making statues portable or even disposable? Indeed, if they were disposable, perhaps they could be disposed of every five years and a ceremony could be held over the New Year period.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the whole experience of the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square goes some way in the direction which the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, would wish us to go. As he knows, the fourth plinth has been empty since it was first erected and it has only recently been used. At present, it has a statue by Bill Woodrow which will be replaced next year by a statue by Rachel Whiteread. I presume that that is the kind of disposability to which the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, refers.

Lord Bridges

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree with the comments made in the press recently that the interest of the statues which now decorate our capital lies not so much in their current relevance as in the importance they had in their time? Therefore, it is part of the historical record.

I remind the noble Lord, in case he does not recall it, of an interesting correspondence which occurred in the columns of The Times in, I believe, 1951. A reader wrote in to ask whether anyone could explain the relevance of the two statues which stand in front of the National Gallery—one of King James II and the other of George Washington. A few days later, a letter from Trinity College Cambridge arrived at Printing House Square from Professor G. F. Trevelyan saying that he had thought long and seriously on this matter and had come to the conclusion that there was only one possible answer; namely, that the first was a statute of the king we got rid of and the second a statue of the president who got rid of us.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I was a reader of The Times in 1951 but I am afraid that my memory does not go back that far. I should take the opportunity to make it clear that although the Secretary of State has responsibility under the Public Statues (Metropolis) Act 1854, we take the view that that Act was necessary in 1854 because of the absence of proper planning procedures. When and if a legislative opportunity arises to repeal Section 5 of the 1854 Act to restore responsibility for statues in central London to London government, we shall take flat opportunity.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, perhaps as Lloyd George's land girl, I should declare an interest. When is this ridiculous saga about moving that tiny little statue of Walter Raleigh going to end? I am well aware—and I wonder whether the Minister is—that the site favoured by the former Speaker of the House of Commons and myself has been wiped out because the inquiry has concluded that it will not work. But surely by now Westminster City Council has found an alternative site which is more suitable for that very small statue.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I wish I knew. The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, is right that the proposal to move the statue to the grounds of St. Margaret's, Westminster, did not find favour. New sites are now being sought. A number of sites are being investigated by English Heritage. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that it seems to be taking a very long time and that it is inappropriate to have the small statue of Sir Walter Raleigh next to three very much larger statues of 20th century generals.

Viscount Slim

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that my father's statue is next door to that little statue and that he would be very proud to be alongside a pirate?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, yes, I am well aware of that. I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, is right to say that, if we are thinking about the character of Sir Walter Raleigh. But it is not the character that is the issue here; it is the scale of the monument.

Lord Puttnam

My Lords, is the Minister completely comfortable with the present cultural and social mix of the statues in central London? Is it not a fact that they do not in any way represent the richness of this country because, to the casual observer, we are a nation obsessed by militarism or politics? Does my noble friend agree that it should be possible, in the 21st century, to do something actively to ensure that scientists, writers, artists and others who have contributed enormously to the life of this country are adequately and properly represented in central London?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, as a citizen, since I have made it clear that I do not believe that the Government should have a formal view on these matters, I agree entirely with what my noble friend Lord Puttnam said. I believe that there is far too much emphasis on the military and politics and far too little on the other strands of our public life and culture. Unfortunately, I am afraid that it is true that the vast majority of the population of this country and visitors pass by statues without ever looking at them, let alone looking at the names on the plinth.

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield

My Lords, does the Minister agree that Westminster Abbey, although in the City of Westminster, is in a sense in central London and that there are within Westminster Abbey a very large number of statues and memorials to poets, artists and musicians? Therefore, does he agree that it would not be quite true to say that the statues in central London are chiefly military or fit some of the other descriptions that have been used?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am not being critical but a tourist does have to pay £5 to get into Westminster Abbey.

Lord Acton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that those of us who live just off Whitehall take the greatest pleasure every morning in walking past the statue of Lord Slim and thinking of the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, and then walking past the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh and bowing and thinking of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington? But surely this Government can do something to move Sir Walter Raleigh. Can we not at least speed up the process?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I have made it clear that it is the consent of the Secretary of State that is required and not the mere motion—and I use the words in the Writ of Summons.

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