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New Clause—(Central Authority To Inform The Royal Fine Art Commission Of Sites Of New Generating Stations)

Volume 439: debated on Monday 23 June 1947

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It shall be the duty of the Central Authority to inform the Royal Fine Art Com-

mission at the earliest possible date of the site of any proposed new generating station— [Mr. Keeling.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.56 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

In Committee the Minister gave satisfactory assurances that the Fine Art Commission would be consulted on the elevations of any new power station, but he raised objections to their being consulted about the site. Under the Royal Warrant which set them up, the Royal Fine Art Commission are charged with the guardianship of public amenities, and the wrong siting of a power station is just as much an offence against amenities as is bad design, because it may do irreparable harm to the surroundings. Only recently, I understand, the Fine Art Commission, who happened to know about a proposal to use a particular site for a power station, withheld approval because it was part of the green belt. A site can be wrong either because it is in the wrong place in the country or because it is in the wrong part of a town. On this latter point, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter)—and I cannot better his words—said:
"There may be designed the most beautiful power station in the world, a gem among power stations, but if it happened to be wedged up against a totally different building of totally different function, the mixture might be disastrous to both."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E.20th May 1947; c. 1101.]
I do not suggest that the Commission should have the last word on the subject, but they should have the right to put forward their views so that they will not be faced with a site already decided upon when they are asked to make their recommendations about the design.

The Minister pointed out in Committee that under their charter the Fine Art Commission have the right to take the initiative, and can even, if they think fit, send for the Minister or for one of his officials and question him about it. But, as was stressed on this side of the Committee, they cannot take the initiative unless they know what is brewing. My Amendment merely casts upon the central authority the duty to inform the Fine Art Commission, as soon as they can, of any proposal to use a particular site. In Com- mittee. the Minister said that it may be very desirable for an authority which may have to acquire land to exercise great caution in disclosing its intentions. That is perfectly true, but there is no reason why they should not consult the Fine Art Commission in confidence. After all, the Commission are just as capable of keeping a secret as a Government Department. I would point out also that not only will Government Departments know about the proposal to use a particular site, but the central authority is under a statutory obligation to inform the local authority in whose area the proposed power station is to be erected. Therefore, if the local authority can be consulted, and has to be c6nsulted, I cannot see any reason why the Fine Art Commission should not also be consulted.

This Amendment is not academic. In one of their reports, the Fine Art Commission stated that they were consulted too late about the erection of a power station near Lincoln Cathedral, and were, therefore, unable to give an opinion before the scheme went forward. Only recently a power station sprang up in Kingston before anybody knew about it, except the people of Kingston. Of course, this was not a question of putting up a power station near a cathedral, but merely a question of using a charming river front. I hope the reasonableness of this new Clause will commend itself to the House and the Minister

4.0 p.m.

I beg to second the Motion.

We discussed this question very fully in Committee. The Minister was quite forthcoming on the question of elevations and materials, but he jibbed about the introduction of the word "site" for the reason which my hon. Friend has given. This is a reasonable case. We do not ask that the Royal Fine Art Commission should be the final arbiter, but merely that they should be informed so that they could consider for themselves the question of public amenity and make what representations they think proper. The Minister of Town and Country Planning might be regarded as a proper person to be consulted in this matter, and it might be that the central authority should consult him and his Department, although I do not think that would be adequate. Those who have knowledge of these public amenity questions, of which I have a little, have gone into this matter with some thoroughness, and they feel that this long established public institution, the Royal Fine Art Commission, should have foreknowledge of what is intended. There is no suggestion, as the Minister well knows, that they should delay the matter, but they should be able to express their point of view.

I give unqualified support to the suggestion that in the provision of new electricity stations due regard shall be had to the matter of amenities. So far as is practicable, there shall be no disturbance of amenities, and that is the view which I expressed on the Committee stage. But nothing that hon. Members opposite have said has convinced me that we should accept a new Clause in this form. As the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) said, the Royal Fine Art Commission can take the initiative in a matter of this sort. They can approach the responsible authority, whether it be the Ministry or the contemplated British Electricity Authority, and express an opinion about the proposed siting of a station. Therefore, there appears to be no valid point in providing for information on this matter to be furnished to the Royal Fine Art Commission.

May I interrupt? I pointed out that at Kingston a power station was already half way up before the Royal Fine Art Commission or anybody else outside Kingston knew that it was proposed to put a power station there. The sole point of this new Clause is to enable the Royal Fine Art Commission to know what is proposed.

I do not know the circumstances of the case which the hon. Member has in mind but the power station may have been constructed before the Royal Fine Art Commission were vested with extended terms of reference.

I cannot see that happening. According to the terms of reference of the Royal Fine Art Commission, they have to be consulted in the matter of design, and clearly if they had to be consulted in the matter of design about a proposed electricity station they would be made aware of the fact that a station was about to be constructed, and then they could take the initiative in ascertaining where the site was to be. There is another reason why I think it undesirable that we should accept this new Clause. We have to be cautious in the acquisition of land for an electricity station site, because if there is much publicity it may have the effect—I do not say it will, but it may—of increasing the cost of the land to be acquired. While the hon. Member for Twickenham is of opinion that the Royal Fine Art Commission can maintain secrecy, we have to exercise the greatest caution in a matter of this sort.

Finally, we must pay due regard not only to the question of design or amenities but to the very important and vital question of strategy. It may be undesirable, for a strategical reason, to acquaint any outside body with the Government's intention with respect to a proposed site for an electricity station. It seems to me that we have gone as far as we can possibly go. I can give hon. Members this assurance that, having taken note of the proceedings on the Committee stage, and of what has been said by the two hon. Members opposite, the Ministry will take all reasonable measures to ensure that the Royal Fine Art Commission, wherever practicable—I must use those cautionary words—will be made aware of their intentions. Having given that assurance and indicated the reasons why I am unable to accept the new Clause, I hope the House will agree to allow the matter to pass.

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's reasons were very compelling. He said, first of all, that the Royal Fine Art Commission would have the chance of taking the initiative when the design and elevation were submitted to them, but the point of the new Clause is to ensure that the Royal Fine Art Commission should be informed of the proposed site at the earliest possible date. They do not want to be told, "We have decided that an electricity station shall be sited at X; here is a suggested elevation." It might well happen that the Royal Fine Art Commission rightly hold the view that there ought not to be an electricity station at all in that particular spot whatever its elevation may be, whether good, bad or indifferent. They do not want to be put in the position of being told that the question of the site has already been decided and that all they have to do is to say what would be the least offensive elevation. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's answer does not cover the point made by my hon. Friend.

The second reason the right hon. Gentleman advanced was that if information got about that an electricity station was to be erected, there might be a substantial increase in the cost of land. As the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, or should know, the Government have ample powers to prevent that happening. They will have still greater powers under the Town and Country Planning Act, and there is no shadow of substance in that argument. The right hon. Gentleman said that wherever practicable, the Royal Fine Art Commission would be acquainted with the Ministry's intention. There can be no reason why the Royal Fine Art Commission, a body of responsible persons, should not be told during the very early planning stages when it is proposed to settle the site. It may be that they would have objections, and they may be overruled, but at least they should have a chance of expressing an opinion whether this or that site is the more desirable. The right hon. Gentleman has not even attempted to meet the argument.

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Minister has really faced the point. He told the House just now, as he told the Committee upstairs, that the Fine Art Commission had the right to take the initiative. That is perfectly true. But how can the Fine Art Commission take the initiative when the scheme is at the formative stage and entirely unknown to the Commission and to the public? The power to take the initiative is valueless unless one has the information upon which that initiative is based. Really, the right hon. Gentleman is, I think, being a little obstinate in denying to this responsible public body the information necessary to the performance of its functions. His argument as to strategy is one of the most extraordinary arguments heard in this House. After all, the strategic value of a power station before it is built is precisely nil. So soon as it has been started all the people concerned in building it and everybody in the neighbourhood know that the power station is being built. At the stage we are concerned with it has no strategic value. So soon as it has been started there is no possibility of keeping the information private. The right hon. Gentleman has not faced up to the question of site, which is every bit as important in the case of a power station as is the question of design; and the Royal Fine Art Commission is abso-

Division No. 268.]


[4.13 p.m

Amory, D. HeathcoatGeorge, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)Nicholson, G.
Astor, Hon. M.Grant, LadyNoble, Comdr. A. H. P
Baldwin, A. E.Gridley, Sir A.Pickthorn, K.
Baxter, A. B.Grimston, R. V.Prescott, Stanley
Beechman, N. A.Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O
Birch, Nigel 'Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir CRaikes, H. V.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)Hinchingbrooke, ViscountRamsay, Maj. S.
Bower, N.Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Rayner, Brig. R.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'h'rgh W.)Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.Keeling, E. H.Ross Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. WKerr, Sir J. GrahamSavory, Prof. D. L.
Buchan-Hepburn, P G T.Lancaster, Col. C. G.Spearman, A. C. M
Bullock, Capt. MLegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. HStanley, Rt. Hon. O
Byers, FrankLindsay, M. (Solihull)Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Channon, H.Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Clarke, Col. R. S.Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)Sutcliffe, H.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Mackeson, Brig. H. R.Taylor, Vice-Adm. 6. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O. EMcKie, J. H. (Galloway)Thorp, Lt.-Col RAF
Darling, Sir W. Y.MacLeod, J.Touche, G. C.
Digby, S. W.Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)Wadsworth, G
Dodds-Parker, A. DMarsdan, Capt. A.Walker-Smith, D.
Duthie, W. S.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Eden, Rt. Hon. A.Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)Wheatley, Colonel M. J
Elliot, Rt. Hon. WalteMellor, Sir J.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Galbraith, Cmdr T. DNeven-Spence, Sir BMr. Drewe and Major Conant.


Adams, Richard (Balham)Colman, Mist G. M.Guy, W. H.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Comyns, Dr. L.Haire, John E (Wycombe)
Alpass, J. H.Cove, W. G.Hall, W. G.
Attewell, H. C.Daggar, G.Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.
Austin, H. LewisDavies, Ernest (Enfield)Hannan, W. (Maryhill)
Barstow, P. G.Davies, Harold (Leek)Hardy, E. A.
Barton, C.Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Harrison, J.
Battley, J. R.Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)Hastings, Dr. Somerville
Bechervaise, A. Deer, G.Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)
Benson, G.Diamond, J;Herbison, Miss M
Berry, H.Dodds, N. N.Hicks G
Beswick, F.Dugdale, J (W. Bromwich)Hobson, C R
Blyton, W. R.Dumpleton, C. WHolman, P
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Dye, S.House, G
Braddock, T (Mitcham)Edelman, M.Hoy, J.
Braddock, Mrs. E M. (L'pl. Exch'ge)Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Bramall, E. A.Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Brown, George (Belper)Farthing, W. J-Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Fernyhough, E.Hynd, H. (Hackney, C)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Foot, M. M.Janner, B.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Caitskell, H T. NJay, D. P. T
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Ganley, Mrs. C. SJeger, G. (Winchester)
Chamberlain, R. AGibson, C. W.Jones, D. T (Hartlepools)
Champion, A JGilzean, A.Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)
Chater, D.Glanville, J. E. (Contett)Keenan, W.
Chetwynd, G. RGooch, E. G.Kendall, W D
Cluse, W. S.Gordon-Walker, P. C.Kinley, J.
Cobb, F. A.Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Layers, S.
Cocks, F. SGriffiths, JO. (Rother Valley)Lewis, A W. J. (Upton)
Collindridge, F.Gunter, R. J.Lipton, Lt.-Col M

lutely hamstrung on the question of site unless it is given the information which this new Clause would give it. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman sees fit to oppose this new Clause, does, I think, make it perfectly clear that the Royal Fine Art Commission will not get this information at the only stage when its initiative on the subject of site can be of the slightest value to anybody.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 78; Noes, 178.

Longden, F.Popplewell, E.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
McAdam, W.Porter, G. (Leeds)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
McEntee, V. La T.Ranger, J.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
McGhee, H. G.Rees-Williams, D. RThomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Mack, J. D.Reeves, J.Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
McKay, J. (Wallsend)Ridealgh, Mrs. MThorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
McLeavy, F.Robens, A.Thurtle, Ernest
Macpherson, T. (Romford)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvenshire)Tolley, L.
Mainwaring, W. H.Rogers, G. H. R.Usborne, Henry
Mallalieu, J. P WRoyle, C.Vernon, Maj. W. F
Mathers, G.Sargood, R.Viant, S. P.
Mellish, R. J.Scott-Elliot, W.Walkden, E.
Middleton, Mrs. L.Sharp, GranvilleWallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.Shinwell Rt. Hon. E.Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Moody, A. S.Silverman, J. (Erdington)Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)Simmons, C. J.Westwood, Rt. Hon. J
Moyle, A.Skeffington-Lodge, T. CWhiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Naylor, T. E.Skinnard, F. W.Wigg, Col. G. E.
Neal, H. (Claycross)Smith, C. (Colchester)Wilkes, L.
Nichol. Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)Wilkins, W. A.
Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Snow, Capt. J. WWilliams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Noel-Buxton, LadySoskice, Maj. Sir F.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Oldfield, W. HSparks, J. AWills, Mrs. E. A.
Orbach, M.Stephen, C.Woods, G. S
Palmer, A. M. F.Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)Wyatt, W.
Parkin, B. TStrauss, G. R (Lambeth, N.)Yates, V. F.
Paton, J. (Norwich)Stross, Dr. B.Young, Sir R (Newton)
Peart, Thomas F.Swingler, S.
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Daines.