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Ministry Of Works

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 25 July 1961

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Empress State Building, Earl's Court

1 and 5.

asked the Minister of Works (1) for what purpose his Department has leased the 28-storey Empress State Building from City Centre Properties; and what are the financial terms and duration of the lease; (2) what will be the annual cost to public funds arising out of the use of the Empress State Building by Government Departments; and what annual saving or increased cost will result from these departments moving from other accommodation.

My Department has taken a lease of the Empress State Building at Earl's Court in order to replace certain leased buildings where the leases cannot be renewed on expiry or could be renewed only on much less favourable terms. On the question of financial terms and costs, I would refer to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) on 18th July. I can say, however, that the leasing of this large office building away from the expensive Central London area will lead to considerable savings to my Department.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he is aware that the Answer which he gave to my hon. Friend for Harrow. West (Mr. John Page) does not cover my second Question, No. 5? I asked my right hon. Friend the cost to public funds, not the lease, and whether it would, in fact, be a saving or an increase in expenditure. Could he give me that information?

I am not prepared to give my hon. Friend the information, in so far as the amount charged for the rent would emerge, for the reasons which I gave last time, but, overall, the facts are as I stated. This will result in a saving.

John Lilburne


asked the Minister of Works whether, in view of recent historical evidence of the part played by the Levellers in the establishment of Parliamentary freedom and democracy in this country, he will make arrangements for the establishment of a suitable memorial to John Lilburne and his associates within the Palace of Westminster.

Does not the Minister appreciate that the minorities of today, even the very small minorities, very often become the majorities of tomorrow? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would induce a healthy respect for this excellent truth if we paid proper tribute to the first Englishman who dared preach the doctrine of democratic Parliament?

As far as I am aware, the Levellers were primarily an extra-Parliamentary group, and I am not sure that it would be a good thing to go too wide.

The Minister is absolutely misinformed on the subject. There were quite a number of spokesmen for the view of the Levellers in Parliament at that time. When the right hon. Gentleman has examined his history and read, say, the recent book of Mr. H. N. Brailsford and got his history more accurate, would he reconsider the matter?

However accurate or inaccurate my history may be, the Answer which I have given to the House must be my answer.

The right hon. Gentleman says that he will be guided by the wishes of the House. Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to give us an opportunity to express our views, because I think that if he were so guided he would reach a conclusion such as is urged upon him by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot)?

Cholwichtown Stone Row


asked the Minister of Works why he agreed to the proposal of English China Clays Limited that they might obliterate Cholwichtown Stone Row, an ancient bronze-age monument in the Dartmoor National Park.

This stone row, which is by no means one of the best on Dartmoor, is not to be destroyed: it will simply be buried. I was satisfied that there was no other site would could reasonably be used for dumping the spoil from the china clay workings.

May I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision, because burial is usually the end of things, and will he take into account that this is a scheduled monument of anything from 3,500 to 4,000 years' old and that there are alternative sites for the spoil?

It is quite literally true—it really is—that this monument will not be destroyed by burial, unlike some other things which were in the hon. Gentleman's mind. These stones really are not by any means the best examples of their kind.

Royal Palaces (Expenditure)


asked the Minister of Works whether, in the interests of the national economy and the new need to curtail public expenditure, he will now stop the £50,000 improvement work contemplated on IA, Kensington Palace; and if he will reappraise other expenditure on Royal Palaces with a view to effecting further economies.

The Answer to the first part of the Question is "No." With regard to the second part, the maximum economy is exercised over the Royal Palaces Vote, as with all the Votes for which I am responsible.

Does not the Minister recognise that very soon now the whole nation will be asked to make sacrifices in the national interest? Why, therefore, should a very tiny, highly privileged and, in the main, useless minority —

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot ask that supplementary question. It is out of order. Mr. Fletcher.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you referring to the original Question or to the supplementary question, because, if it is to the supplementary question you refer, I would gladly withdraw—

Further to that point of order, may I have an opportunity to rephrase the questions—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]

I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman's question is out of order, so I have to go on to call the next Question. Mr. Fletcher.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that it is within the recollection of almost every hon. Member that, when a supplementary question has been ruled out of order, the hon. Member asking the original Question has been given the opportunity to ask a supplementary question which is in order, and I am simply seeking—

Order. The hon. Gentleman has, I think, some illusion. In fact, I called the next Question.

Then, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. In view of the grossly unsatisfactory nature of the original reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.



asked the Minister of Works what are his present proposals for improving the public facilities for visitors to Stonehenge.

Facilities are at present provided in three rather obtrusive structures. Because of the increased number of visitors these are no longer adequate. I therefore wish to tidy up the site and provide proper facilities in one building, which, unlike the present structures, would be invisible from the Stones. But the National Trust, which owns the land, feels unable to agree. I regret that I can make no further headway without the co-operation of the Trust.

I thank the Minister for that reply, but will he appreciate that there is increasing public interest in Stonehenge; that greater facilities are required, but that it is equally desirable that any new building should be so sited as not to destroy the natural detachment and isolation of the site? Will he do his best to continue his negotiations with the National Trust with a view to getting an agreed solution?

I will, indeed. I should tell the House that the Ancient Monuments Board for England supports my proposals as being a definite improvement of what is there now, just as I myself support the Board's long-term view that the perfect solution involves the closure of A.344 where it passes the monument. In the meantime, the Board agrees that what I propose to do is an improvement on what is there now, but I cannot go on with it until I have the agreement of the Trust.

Will my right hon. Friend set my mind at rest? I am rather afraid that the intention is to bury Stonehenge.

There is no more danger of my burying Stonehenge than that that same fate awaits my hon. Friend.

Since the closure of A.344 is the only satisfactory solution to a very intractable problem, will the Minister have urgent discussions with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to see whether his right hon. Friend cannot press ahead with this rerouteing?

I think that the hon. Gentleman will realise that this must lie some way ahead, but I certainly do not mean to lose sight of it. It is the right answer. Meanwhile, I cannot see why we should not do as well as we can temporarily, and that is precisely what I have asked to be allowed to do.