HC Deb 09 February 1998 vol 306 cc9-10
7. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

What estimate he has made of the cost of the dilapidations at the royal naval college. [26101]

Mr. George Robertson

A sum of £11.1 million to cover the backlog of repairs at the royal naval college has been agreed with the Greenwich Foundation by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and my Department.

Negotiations are proceeding on the quantum of other elements of a dilapidations settlement, which could add some £5 million to that amount.

Mrs. Bottomley

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the buildings are some of the most illustrious and distinguished of our architectural heritage and, to use his words, it would be "tragically ironic" if at the time of the millennium they were little more than a derelict site? It is vital that negotiations should be completed, a timetable announced and proper funding arrangements set in place so that those buildings can play a part at the millennium. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has pickpocketed the national lottery for his own purposes, to pay back and make sure that there is a fair settlement at Greenwich.

Mr. Robertson

There are great issues involved, so I shall be as gentle as I possibly can with the right hon. Lady. After all, I am trying to make sense of the arrangements that I inherited from the previous Administration in respect of that valuable site. Of course, the right hon. Lady was one of the two Secretaries of State involved in those arrangements. I make no criticism—[Interruption]—of that particular fact, but the issues are complex, and several parties with differing interests are involved in the negotiations. The new arrangements need to be secure to safeguard the magnificent site at Greenwich. It is worth reflecting that it will be only the second change in occupation in the 300-year-long history of the royal naval college site at Greenwich. If the right hon. Lady had listened to my reply to her question, she would have heard that I have already made available £11.1 million—not money left behind by the previous Government—to make sure that one of our great national treasures is maintained in the form in which it should be maintained. We shall continue to work hard on all the arrangements to ensure that by the millennium there is another great attraction in Greenwich to mark the turn of the century.