HC Deb 04 March 1981 vol 1000 cc267-8
10. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what works or repairs are currently being carried out on the Palace of Westminster; at whose recommendation; and at what cost.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

I have authorised essential structural repairs to and repainting of the roof of Victoria Tower at a cost of £80,000 after receiving professional advice from the Property Services Agency. A further £ 11,000 is likely to be spent in the current year as part of a continuous programme of replacement of the weathered statues around the colonnade.

Mr. Janner

Do the Minister's plans include the repair of the masonry around the Members' entrance, part of which collapsed this week? If not, will the hon. Gentleman be less selective in the dangers that he perpetuates and arrange for some of the masonry to fall outside the public entrance as well? Is the hon. Gentleman waiting for a by-election, the recess, or the death of all qualified stonemasons before the Palace is put into proper order?

Mr. Finsberg

I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman does not wish to exaggerate. We have already removed the potentially dangerous coping stones and string courses. We have brushed off all the spalling stone surfaces. We have spent over £105,000 on making sound the stonework above doorways. At some time during the Summer Recess we propose to start the replacement of the stone copings. As I have had to indicate to the House before, there is a major problem. With the best will in the world, we cannot, in a limited time, repair the weather ravages of a century or more.

Mr. Stokes

When will work start on cleaning the whole of the outside of the Palace of Westminster? Does my hon. Friend agree that it badly needs doing? Would it not be far cheaper than giving aid to the nationalised industries?

Mr. Finsberg

I shall not allow myself to be drawn into the subject of aid to the nationalised industries. We are still trying to decide how best to allocate the limited funds available, bearing in mind that, as hon. Members will have seen in the Select Committee's report, the total cost is about £5 million.

Mr. Jay

Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government have no plans to privatise the Palace of Westminster?

Mr. Finsberg

This side of the Chamber has no such plans.