Whitehall Redevelopment Plan

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1968.

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Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey 12:00 am, 3rd December 1968

With permission, I will now answer Questions Nos. 37, 38 and 42.

Since the statement about the Whitehall Redevelopment Plan by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) on 3rd November, 1965, there have been a number of developments:

Studies have been made of the requirements to be met in a new Parliamentary building on part of the Bridge Street/Richmond Terrace site, and the Select Committee on House of Commons Services has made proposals in its Fourth Report for the 1967–68 Session. It is necessary that this House should consider these proposals, and I hope that an opportunity for this will be found soon. The preparation of detailed requirements and the completion of the architectural arrangements can then be undertaken.

Studies have been carried out into requirements for Government offices on the remainder of the Bridge Street/Richmond Terrace site, and a brief prepared providing also for shops, restaurants and other public facilities. The Ministry is investigating further the advantages of open-plan offices, and, meanwhile, preparing plans which will be submitted in due course to the Royal Fine Art Commission and the planning authorities, and then displayed in this House.

The programme envisages demolition work starting early in 1970 between Richmond Terrace and Derby Gate, and proceeding in stages with a view to completing the Government offices and associated development by 1975.

As stated in the House on 16th July, 1968, all three of the former Metropolitan Police Headquarters buildings will be demolished in the course of this redevelopment.

No plans or programme have yet been made for the future of the Foreign Office site.

Following the public inquiry in May, 1966, into the future of the site between Broad Sanctuary and Great George Street, my Ministry is preparing in collaboration with other site owners and interested authorities a joint brief for a comprehensive redevelopment.

A joint study is now in hand between my Ministry, the Ministry of Transport, the Greater London Council and the Westminster City Council, with the assistance of consultants, to investigate in more detail proposals for dealing with north-south traffic, including a riverside road tunnel, and the problem of east-west traffic, as the proposal for widening the Horseferry Road route, would be too costly. I expect to have a report on these further studies next spring.

The House will see, from what I have said, that the working out of detailed proposals is proceeding within the broad framework agreed following the Martin-Buchanan Reports.

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

Is the Minister aware that it is now more than three years since the last statement was made from the Treasury Bench on the Martin-Buchanan proposals? We are grateful to him for the statement he has just made, but is he aware, and, if so, will he bring it to the notice of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, that the time for questions has now long passed and that the time is now, or in the immediate future, for action on this very important project, which includes not only the whole development of the centre of the capital of the Commonwealth but particularly the extension of this House and provision of the facilities which are so much needed by all hon. Members?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I agree with my right hon. Friend that there has been an enormous delay. I hope very much that time will be found for a debate. When we have it, I hope that we shall get a decision by the House, so that we may get on with the work.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that when a debate takes place it will be wide enough for us to discuss all the aspects of the plan—this House, the Bridge Street plan, Parliament Square, and also the Foreign Office site?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that when the debate takes place—and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House assures me that he is alerted to the importance of this and we hope that it will be very early after the Christmas Recess—we shall have the terms of reference in such a fashion that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) can talk about anything.

Photo of Mr John Smith Mr John Smith , Cities of London and Westminster

Is not this taking rather too narrow a view of the matter? Is the Minister aware that the Whitehall Plan proposes to dump 10,000 civil servants into the centre of Westminster? Is it realistic to get on with building plans before debating the questions of national and regional government, which may make those civil servants more necessary elsewhere?

Secondly, in view of the large number of very important and much-loved public buildings which may be demolished, will the right hon. Gentleman have a proper public inquiry into the plan as a whole?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I should have thought there had been enough inquiries into this plan to satisfy everyone. The hon. Member will be able to express his point of view when we have the debate. As to the number of civil servants who will find themselves in this precinct, at the moment civil servants are spread all around London. It is about time that we tried to get them together. That is one of the objects of the new buildings.

Photo of Mr Brian Batsford Mr Brian Batsford , Ealing South

Is the right hon. Gentle man aware that we on this side of the House welcome his assurance that before any final decision is made this House will have an opportunity to debate the question?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two further questions? First, does he agree that the present architectural form of New Palace Yard should remain entirely undisturbed? Secondly, in consultations with other bodies on the north-south traffic route, is his aim to establish a pedestrian precinct in Parliament Square?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I am glad to have the hon. Member's support that the matter should be debated soon. If there is a Division we shall know exactly what hon. Members want us to do.

On the present architecture of this House, the hon. Member will know there have already been proposals to have other buildings put inside this Palace and that they have been rejected by the Services Committee. We shall see whether the House endorses that. Personally, I hope that it will.

In reply to the hon. Member's second question, a traffic feasibility study is going on, linked with the possibility of a tunnel by the river bank outside the Palace. Studies on whether this is a practicability are going on.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the speed with which he delivered his answer and the lack of decibels which accompanied it made it difficult to follow what he was saying, particularly for older and deafer hon. Members such as myself? Is he aware that before there is any question of the commercial letting of offices or shops to which he alluded, or of satisfying the growing hunger of Ministers, no scheme will be satisfactory to hon. Members until every hon. and right hon. Member has proper office equipment and premises in which to do his job'?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I know that the Liberal Party has many difficulties and problems, but I did not know that deafness was one. I read the statement rather quickly because there is another statement to be made for which the majority of hon. Members are waiting. I thought that it was in the interests of the House that I should read it in the way I did. We are looking forward to anything the right hon. Member may say when we have the debate.

Photo of Dr David Kerr Dr David Kerr , Wandsworth Central

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that there is no overlap and perhaps no conflict between the work of his Ministry and the work of the Services Committee, and also whether there will be an opportunity to look at schemes other than the Martin-Buchanan scheme, in particular, the interesting work of Mr. Christopher Libby? Will he see that these proposals are available in the Library?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

When the debate is held, if I am fortunate to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I shall refer to Mr. Libby's contributions. I hope that hon. Members will express their personal views on the facilities they want in the future.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that as it will be six years before the buildings across the road are demolished this will not be used as an excuse for holding up provision of better conditions for those who work in these obsolete buildings at present?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I am glad that my hon. Friend has referred to conditions because the conditions, not only of hon. Members but for the staff of the House, are very bad indeed. It is about time that we made up our minds what we intended to do. Let us get on and do it.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

Will the right hon. Gentleman make available to the House all full details of what he has announced today in the way of offices, shops and so forth in advance of the debate, so that we may have a full discussion? May I ask two detailed questions? Does he envisage demolition of the Norman Shaw part of the Scotland Yard complex and is it a fact that the Brydon Treasury building is not affected?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

It is our intention to demolish the Norman Shaw building. If the hon. Member has doubts about the wisdom of that, I ask him to look inside it, never mind the outside.

So far as demolition of offices is concerned, consideration of hon. Members' facilities will be taken care of by transferring them elsewhere if demolition takes place.

Photo of Mr Will Howie Mr Will Howie , Luton

In regard to the architectural form of New Palace Yard, if a car park can have one, is it not time to refer to Barry's original scheme for building over New Palace Yard?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

That is a matter of opinion, but I hope that we shall not build inside the Palace. It will be a matter for hon. Members. Decent conditions for the staff will be the first consideration of building across the road in Bridge Street. The way to do that is by an archway under Bridge Street. We think this a good solution, but I hope that all hon. Members will read the Services Committee's Report before they make their comments.

Photo of Mrs Anne Kerr Mrs Anne Kerr , Rochester and Chatham

Has my right hon. Friend considered the idea of asking the House of Lords simply to move out of this building so that we can have modern office equipment and the staff of this House may have proper quarters in which to work and this place may become a real House of Commons, not a place for a lot of hangers-on?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I have enough trouble at the moment without saying what we ought to do with the House of Lords. Let us have this debate first and clear away some of the arguments.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

Is it not clear that the services required by hon. Members cannot be provided at reasonable cost unless the new House of Commons is built on the site from Bridge Street to the Ministry of Defence? Is this not to be done merely because the Foreign Office wants to use the site?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

That is a personal view, and we are all entitled to a personal view. Any suggestion that there should be a brand-new House of Commons, and that this one should be discarded, I, for one—I love this place and have been here for 22 years—would very much regret.