HC Deb 20 March 1962 vol 656 cc190-1
14. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Works when he now expects the reconstruction of 10 Downing Street to be completed; and to what extent its cost will exceed the original estimate.

Lord John Hope

The contract period for this work has now been extended from August, 1962, to February, 1963. The current estimate for Nos. 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street is £600,000. This is an increase of £100,000 over the original estimate, owing to unforeseen structural defects and to additional labour costs.

Mr. Lipton

Will the Minister say why the Answer to this Question, which appeared on the Order Paper last Thursday, was released to a special Press conference on Sunday? Apart from this affront to the dignities and established conventions of the House, will the right hon. Gentleman admit that this is one more example of Government bungling, waste, extravagance and all-round incompetence?

Lord John Hope

The answer to the second part of the supplementary question is "No, Sir". The answer to the first part is that the Press conference was arranged long before the hon. Gentleman tabled his Question.

Sir C. Osborne

Is this work being done on a cost-plus basis?

Lord John Hope

Yes, it is.

Mr. Mitchison

By adding the extra £250,000 which is now being incurred on the Treasury buildings part of the same job, we get an overall increase of 28 per cent. First, does not the Minister know that all that is being found now was disclosed by the Report of his own Committee, which appears as an appendix to the Crawford Committee's Report? There is nothing new in this. Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the labour disputes were taken to the London Regional Joint Disputes Commission, which referred to the extent to which the client, by which it meant the Minister, was responsible for the basic difficulties on this contract? What has the right hon. Gentleman done about this other than make an offer which was not to be negotiated at all and which did not appeal to those concerned?

Lord John Hope

In answer to the last part of the supplementary question, there is a statement by the contractors in The Times this morning which explains the situation perfectly well. I do not think that it is for me to interfere in the matter between the two sides now. In answer to the first part, it is untrue that nothing new has been found since the Crawford Committee reported. In fact, a great deal has been discovered after stripping. In other words, whole walls—by that I mean the brickwork—have had to be taken down and renewed. No one could tell that they were in that condition until they were seen.

Mr. Grimond

Is it not true that the trouble has been dry rot in the fabric of 10 Downing Street? Even if this is true, is not £1-million odd an astonishing sum? Could not the whole façade of the old Treasury building and Downing Street have been rebuilt for this sum, or, in fact, could not the whole block of buildings have been rebuilt from scratch for this sum?

Lord John Hope

No, Sir, I do not think so.