HC Deb 01 August 1966 vol 733 cc7-8
10. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether, in order to release scarce building labour and materials for more essential purposes, he will now order a standstill on all work currently being done on Royal Palaces.

Mr. Boyden

A general standstill would lead to heavy claims from contractors and delay essential maintenance work. However, we propose to defer two major schemes—the office reconstruction in Stable Yard, St. James's Palace, at an estimated cost of between £130,000 and £140,000, and the reconstruction and restoration of the roof of Apartment 9, Kensington Palace, at an estimated cost of £42,000.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend aware that that news gives a little measure of satisfaction? Is he also aware that I am concerned just a little at the fact that he talks about deferring the scheme for St. James's Palace? Why not stop it altogether? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it conflicts with the Government's policy on office allocations in London. Can my hon. Friend assure the House that the Ministry will not stop at cutting this quite extravagant expenditure of £800,000 this year?

Mr. Boyden

The scheme will be reviewed in a further six months' time. I would point out to my hon. Friend that St. James's Palace is of considerable historic significance. The facade was probably built by Sir Nicholas Hawkesmoor. At the moment the site is derelict and its reconstruction would provide much-needed accommodation for the Royal Household staff, which at the moment is in very overcrowded conditions and in hired premises.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I do not agree with what the hon. Member has said. Why should the work be stopped on these buildings when the Government see fit to spend hundreds and thousands of £s on furnishing and renovating houses for Ministers?

Mr. Frederic Harris

Does not the Minister recall that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) the other day was complaining about sniping at bureaucrats? Is it not about time that the Minister assisted us by stopping his hon. Friend from sniping at the Royal Family?

Mr. Boyden

The general policy on many of these historic buildings is that the country wants them to be repaired because they are part of our heritage, and it is sensible to make use of them. It is better to put people into them rather than have them left as museums.