HC Deb 24 July 1967 vol 751 cc31-2
14. Mr. Robert Cooke

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will consider meeting the annual loss of £1,000 incurred through public opening of the Banqueting House, Whitehall, by letting for private functions of a non-political character, on four or more occasions each year at £250 a time.

Mr. Prentice

I do not accept the hon. Member's implication that a "profit and loss "approach should be adopted to the use of the Banqueting House. But I am keeping the arrangements under review, and will consider all appropriate possibilities.

Mr. Cooke

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in answer to an earlier Question I put, he said that less than 100 people had visited this historic building in Whitehall on a peak day in summer? Will he consider letting it for private functions, say, four times a year for perhaps 1,000 people on each occasion? Would not this perhaps balance the books?

Mr. Prentice

The net difference of £1,000 between costs and the money taken is very modest in relation to a building of this historical and architectural importance. The building is valued very greatly by those who visit it. I am considering whether greater use of the building for functions by charitable bodies might be made. I am not, however, inclined to favour its being done on a commercial basis.

Mr. Rippon

Has the right hon. Gentleman changed the original policy, which was to allow certain functions of a non-governmental character to take place in this Banqueting House?

Mr. Prentice

No, Sir. We are maintaining the original policy. On the rare occasions when private organisations use the building for the kind of purpose the Government consider is compatible with the nature of the building, they are asked to pay for the services of custodians, the cost of fuel and light but there is no profit to public funds from that.

Sir J. Rodgers

Would the Minister look into the methods adopted by the French Government regarding similar buildings in Paris and see if we could not equally open these buildings to private and charitable organisations more than we do?

Mr. Prentice

As I said a moment ago, I am considering whether there should be more extensive use. I will consider what is done in Paris as something which may have lessons for us.