HC Deb 01 April 1981 vol 2 cc277-8
8. Mr. Anthony Grant

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will ensure that all major Government building developments should be the subject of architectural competitions.

15. Mr. Steen

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to ensure that in future all major public building development shall be subject to architectural competition with the private sector.

Mr. Heseltine

I have already announced my intention of holding many more architectural competitions for Government buildings and I have asked other public sector bodies, and private developers, to hold competitions wherever possible. Not all schemes are suitable for this treatment, and I do not think that legislation would be justified.

Mr. Grant

Is it not ridiculous that town halls throughout the country are knee-deep in highly qualified architects, who are sitting around doing absolutely nothing except waiting for jobs from other local authorities? Would it not benefit ratepayers, the public and architectural standards if local authorities cleared them all out and gave the work to private firms?

Mr. Hesetine

My hon. Friend's heart is in the right place, although as an act of policy he may be inclined to go further than I would, all at once. I support his suggestion that there should be a greater emphasis on the use of the private rather than the public sector.

Mr. Steen

Will my right hon. Friend advise local authorities that, when they are about to embark on new building contracts, they should bring in private architectural firms rather than use their own in-house staff, especially as many provincial urban areas have as many as 300 architects in their departments? If the private firms were brought in, there would be much less standardised design, it would be far more exciting and it would boost private enterprise.

Mr. Heseltine

I support what my hon. Friend has said. I am doing everything that I can in the Department to show, by example, the possibilities which exist.

Mr. Hardy

Given the likely absence of good architectural taste among Conservative Members, may we have a guarantee that the right hon. Gentleman will not choose the judges of such architectural competitions? For example, will he appoint the splendid judges who in Rotherham recently selected a public building in Sunnyside in my constituency, the architect for which is employed in the public sector?

Mr. Heseltine

It may be a relief to the House to know that I am unlikely to make many of these decisions. When one looks at some of the decisions which have been made in the public sector over the years, one could well believe that one has a small contribution to make.

Mr. Chapman

I refute any suggestion of a lack of architectural taste among Conservative Members, and I declare an interest as a non-practising architect. Is my right hon. Friend aware that architects welcome his desire for more open architectural competitions? However, if they are held, public sector architects as well as private sector architects should be able to compete.

Mr. Heseltine

The House will recognise my hon. Friend not only as an expert in architectural practice but as a living embodiment of Conservative architectural taste.

Mr. Pavitt

Ancient monuments.

Mr. Heseltine

In trying to open up the architectural sector to more competition, there will be a wide opportunity for both public sector and private sector architects.

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