HC Deb 19 February 1992 vol 204 cc325-6
12. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when county hall and Battersea power station were last inspected by English Heritage as his advisers on historic buildings matters.

Mr. Yeo

Both buildings were last inspected by English Heritage on Thursday 13 February.

Mr. Banks

How very convenient! Is it not disgraceful that two of London's most conspicuous and well-known landmarks—county hall and Battersea power station—stand empty, forlorn and in an increasingly derelict state? Does the Minister recall that a shyster developer was going to turn Battersea power station into a theme park? The building now stands in grave danger from the weather, derelict and in ruins. Is it not a fitting monument to 13 years of shyster Tory Government?

Mr. Yeo

The only thing that stands between county hall being put to good use is the Labour-controlled Lambeth borough council, which is squandering charge payers' money on increasingly desperate but unsuccessful attempts to prevent the sale of county hall and its productive use for hotel and residential accommodation. The consequence of those legal manoeuvres is to deny other London boroughs a massive capital receipt which could have been put to good use on behalf of charge payers. That attitude exposes the fact that Labour's posture on capital receipts is totally fraudulent. If the Labour party were in power, there would be no capital receipts. The hon. Gentleman's question was interesting in that it linked county hall and Battersea power station, making it clear that the Labour party's plans for a reborn Greater London council are not the reassuring slim-line version that Labour spokesmen have been peddling. The Labour party plans a vast and sprawling bureaucracy which will need not just county hall, but Battersea power station, to house the thousands of officials required to carry out the wishes of Labour's public sector trade union paymasters.

Mr. Bowis

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Member representing Battersea has kept in regular touch with English Heritage, from which he has received confirmation that everything that needs to be done to protect that building has been done? English Heritage pays tribute to the work of Wandsworth borough council in ensuring that, if the owner of the building has not done the work, the council has done it and billed the owner. Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to English Heritage and to Wandsworth council for protecting that building?

Mr. Yeo

First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) for his interest in the matter. It is true that English Heritage has carried out frequent monitoring. Both that institution and Wandsworth borough council have demonstrated their concern about the fabric of Battersea power station and have stepped in from time to time to ensure that, while the present owner obtains the refinancing required, essential works are carried out to prevent the building's condition from deteriorating. The excellent work by Wandsworth borough council and by my hon. Friend will be rewarded, as the key to the increased majority in Parliament that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will secure later this year lies in the fact that many London Labour-held marginals will fall as a result of the lingering effect of the loony London Labour party.

Mr. Gould

How can the Minister justify the attempt to sell off into the private sector, just a matter of weeks before a general election, what most Londoners rightly regard as the proper seat of London's government? Is that not merely a last act of spite by a Government who still bear a grudge against London? Will the Minister tell us whether he agrees with the chairman of the Tory party that a citywide administration is needed for London? If he does agree, what form should it take?

Mr. Yeo

The verdict of Londoners on whether London wants a Labour-led Greater London council reborn will be seen when we judge the results of the general election in the London constituencies. I am confident that those results will pass a crystal clear judgment that people are afraid of the Labour party in London. They can see what it is like in Lambeth, in Southwark, in Hackney and elsewhere. They will further pass judgment that the Government want to see that enormous capital asset across the river sold for hotel or residential accommodation, and a huge capital receipt—probably more than £100 million—distributed to the old London boroughs for productive use in their areas. If the Labour party continues to promote the idea that London wants a new Greater London authority, with powers over the police—a policy which strikes terror into the heart of every law-abiding citizen in the capital—it will get its come-uppance when the general election comes.