HC Deb 13 December 1989 vol 163 cc979-81
4. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to ensure that the war memorial and inscripted marble in county hall, London SE1 will be safeguarded in the event of redevelopment.

Mr. Chris Patten

I understand that, as part of their proposals for the development of county hall, the London residuary body and the County Hall Development Group are prepared to provide for the restoration of the memorial and inscripted marble.

Mr. Banks

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. Is he aware that the great majority of Londoners still find it most offensive that county hall, which was built with ratepayers' money to be the headquarters of the old London county council and then of the Greater London council, should be turned into something as wholly inappropriate as a luxury hotel? Will the Secretary of State take a message from this House to the spivs who propose to build a luxury hotel that the place will be taken back by the people of London for the government of London and that the Opposition will ensure that that happens?

Mr. Patten

My impression has been that most Londoners are able to contain their misery and despair a t the abolition of the GLC within the bounds of public decorum. The capital receipts from the sale of county hall will, in due course, be used for the benefit of Londoners—would that all the money which flowed through county hall in the past had also been used to the benefit of Londoners.

Mr. Hanley

Talking of war memorials, may I thank my right hon. Friend, his Department and the Property Services Agency for at long last illuminating the cenotaph in Whitehall? It is now a site of remembrance worthy or those who died for all of us and one of the most attractive monuments in London.

Mr. Patten

I note what my hon. Friend has said, and I agree with him about the importance of what has been done and about the attractiveness of the result.

Miss Hoey

Will the Secretary of State tell the people of Waterloo what direct benefits their community will derive from the conversion of county hall into a luxury hotel, and especially what the benefits will be for people sleeping in the nearby bull ring?

Mr. Patten

As the hon. Lady knows, one proposal for the development of county hall is before an inspector at the moment and another is before the courts, so it would be injudicious for me to be drawn into too much detail in responding to her question. I am sure that one result of the development of county hall which would benefit the hon. Lady's constituents would be the creation of more jobs.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many people will be glad to hear that the war memorial is to be preserved and properly presented for the benefit of the people of London? Does he also accept that, whatever one thinks about the structure of local government in London, county hall will not be needed again by any body that is established? Will my right hon. Friend take care about answering questions from the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) because when the hon. Gentleman sees valuable things lying around county hall they tend to end up lying in his loft?

Mr. Patten

There are many places that I would like to visit, but I have never included the hon. Gentleman's loft among them. I accept what my hon. Friend said about the government of London. I also agree that it is important to protect the interior of county hall and, whatever our disagreements, that is a point on which the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and I agree.

Mr. Allan Roberts

Is the Secretary of State aware that if the Government allow the demolition of any part of county hall it will be seen as an act of vandalism motivated by political spite, and as an attempt by the Government to prevent the next Labour Government from re-establishing Londonwide regional government based at county hall? We shall not be deterred. County hall is as much a part of our heritage—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."] I am asking a question.

Hon. Members

What is it then?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Allan Roberts.

Mr. Roberts

Is the Minister aware that county hall is as much a part of our heritage and of the Thames skyline as the Houses of Parliament? It is not surprising, however, that the Government refuse to intervene to protect the former workplace of Ken Livingstone, given that they refuse to intervene to protect the former workplace of William Shakespeare.

Mr. Patten

The hon. Gentleman is right that the building in question is part of our heritage, but I have never regarded the GLC as part of that heritage.