§ 3. Mr. Skinner
To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage whether he is now able to give a formal estimate of the cost of the Windsor castle fire; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Brooke
As I said in my statement to the House on 29 April, early estimates suggest that the reconstruction will cost £30 million to £40 million over five years. That is the estimate which I gave to the hon. Gentleman on 22 February.
§ Mr. Skinner
There have been estimates of up to £44 million in the newspapers recently. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that it has been alleged that the fire was caused as a result of criminal neglect, because of the removal of fire service cover? Why is it that they do not call upon the Queen to pay the lot and foot the bill, because they were responsible at the beginning? Why should there be one law for the Queen and another for the rest of the 481 British public? Why is it that they have got the gall to charge people for going into Buckingham palace to pay for the fire and to pay for her taxes? They are just a bunch of cheapskates.
§ Mr. Brooke
I take it that in his initial remarks the hon. Gentleman was referring to the Berkshire fire service report, which was made available within government on 19 April but which saw the light of day two days before the county council elections, which some may think was a remarkable coincidence. That report, as the chief fire officer has said, has been selectively quoted by others. As for the financing and maintenance of the royal palaces, the hon. Gentleman knows from our long-running dialogue that this was settled in 1831. Many hon. Members would welcome, as he did not, the Queen's decision to open Buckingham palace to the public and to make sure that the contributions are given to the restoration of the castle.
§ Mr. Jessel
As we have the finest Queen in the world, who is hugely admired and respected by the vast majority of people everywhere, will my right hon. Friend totally repudiate the unrepresentative view of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) Can my right hon. Friend give a forecast of how much money the opening of Buckingham palace is likely to raise towards the Windsor castle repairs?
§ Mr. Brooke
My hon. Friend, as the Member of Parliament for Hampton Court palace, does admirably in terms of his expressions of loyalty. I absolutely endorse what he says. The ticket sales for Buckingham palace will reinforce the ticket sales for Windsor castle. It is expected that that revenue will provide the clear and vast majority of the funds necessary for the restoration.