HC Deb 10 May 1993 vol 224 cc483-4
6. Mr. Mackinlay

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations he has received in the last six months as regards the future maintenance and stewardship of monuments within Greater London.

Mr. Brooke

I have received various representations from organisations and individuals about the future maintenance and stewardship of monuments in Greater London.

Mr. Mackinlay

Is the Secretary of State aware of the widespread concern not only among professionals in conservation work but ordinary, proud Londoners, who see their capital city falling into decay? Will he address himself to the fact that there are 831 grade I and grade II listed buildings on English Heritage's at-risk register in Greater London? Does he accept that the Albert memorial, shored up as it is, is just a symbol of greater decay throughout the capital? What will he do about it? Does he understand that the fact that he might universally be considered a nice man is twinned with the fact that he is considered to be a totally useless Minister?

Mr. Brooke

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the cordiality of his question. I recently announced the Government's determination of the English Heritage strategy on the care of listed buildings in London. I am conscious that it decided recently to place the Albert memorial on the list of buildings at risk. It is an issue on which there is some disagreement between my Department and English Heritage, but we recognise the point that it wished to make and, as has been made clear, we will return to the restoration of the Albert memorial as soon as appropriate funds allow.

Mr. Bowis

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the comment that he just heard is not typical of the House? Most hon. Members see him as a living memorial to the triumphs of the arts and Conservative policy, and long may that continue to be the case. May I endorse what the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) said about the Albert memorial—he will know that I have taken up that issue—which is a memorial not only to Prince Albert but to the triumph of the arts and sciences during that age of British history and is precious to Londoners and people throughout the country.

Mr. Brooke

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks although, as the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) had adopted an antithetical style by saying something friendly followed by something disagreeable, I had the faintest misgiving that perhaps my hon. Friend was going to reverse the process. I have made it clear that, by definition, the Government recognise the importance of the Albert memorial. As and when funds allow—we shall approach the subject during the future public expenditure round—we will resume its restoration.

Dr. Reid

Is not it the case that Buckingham palace is the most popular, well-known and often-visited of all the monuments, memorials and historic buildings in inner London? In view of that fact, will the Minister tell us what projection the Government have made of the income that the Queen will receive during the next five years? As he has decided to issue tickets in advance, through travel operators and others, what considerations are the Government giving to the prospect of those awful west end parasites, the ticket touts, meandering their way in front of Buckingham palace? Have they considered that and would it not be a demeaning spectacle if the residence of the head of state were to be marred by those very parasites?

Mr. Brooke

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his praise of Buckingham palace as a symbol of our nation, although architectural critics have not always been so kind. The decisions about access to Buckingham palace were taken by the royal household, which will be in charge of access arrangements. As I understand it, the group tickets have already sold out and I imagine that the old-fashioned British principle of queuing will apply to people applying for tickets individually.