HC Deb 22 July 1970 vol 804 cc513-4
8. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is his policy on and timetable concerning the building of the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre.

13. Mr. Barnett

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the proposed National Exhibition Centre.

15. Mr. Sheldon

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will undertake a re-examination of the site of the National Exhibition Centre.

Mr. Noble

Her Majesty's Government have reconsidered—in the light of the substantial progress made by Birmingham and of further representations made by the Greater London Council—the undertaking given on 28th January to support the proposal for a National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham. I have already announced the Government's intention to support the Birmingham project.

Sir G. Nabarro

Can my right hon. Friend say when the project will actually commence, what period of time will be occupied by the building, and in what year he expects the new exhibition to become operational?

Mr. Noble

I wish I could give my hon. Friend all the information for which he asks. The selection of this site for the centre was very much influenced by the fact that it was likely to be far the soonest in operation: I regard that as important. The problems of building time and of obtaining planning permission and so on are for the National Exhibition Centre Ltd. However, I am visiting this organisation on 31st July to encourage it to do everything it can to speed up the process.

Mr. Barnett

Has the right hon. Gentleman done any more research than his predecessor did to satisfy himself that this centre will not be a vast white elephant? If he is satisfied that it will not be a white elephant but a commercial success, does that mean that there will be no Government intervention?

Sir G. Nabarro

It was the only sensible thing which the Labour Party did.

Mr. Noble

I studied with great care the research which my predecessor did. A great deal of work was done. Whether my predecessor saw it or not I cannot say, but I saw it. I have discussed the problem with the Greater London Council and other interested parties to make myself as familiar with the matter as it is possible to be at the time.

Mr. Sheldon

But did the right hon. Gentleman discuss this matter with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services who has pointed out that the trade associations and main exhibitors were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the present site? Did he take that into account, or does he not speak to his right hon. Friend about these matters?

Mr. Noble

On the contrary, I speak regularly to my right hon. Friends. The fact that most people in the exhibition world would prefer it to be in London does not necessarily mean that London is the only possible site. I believe passionately that some things should be developed outside London for this and many other reasons.

Sir G. Nabarro

A very good answer.

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