HL Deb 12 May 1989 vol 507 cc861-2

Lord O'Neill of the Maine asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they propose to carry out restoration work on the Victoria Tower in order to bring it up to the standard of the rest of the Palace of Westminster.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Hesketh)

My Lords, the work on the Victoria Tower and the south elevation, overlooking the Victoria Tower Gardens, will form the next phase of the stonework restoration programme. Work is on schedule to start early in 1990 and will take about two and a half years to complete.

Lord O'Neill of the Maine

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that reply. However, I sometimes wonder whether the Government appreciate that this magnificent building is at the heart of the Commonwealth. Are the Government aware that tourists are surprised to see a black tower emerging from a beautiful honey-coloured Gothic building?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, we hope that shortly, within the two and a half year period, the black tower will become a compatible honey-coloured tower.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

My Lords, as the lower House is now externally in pristine sparkling form, is it not fitting that the House which is first in dignity should not lag behind like a dowdy dowager but should be speedily restored to its youthful splendour? Can the Minister assure the House that the commercialisation of the PSA, welcome as it is, will not delay this further?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, like great wines, its great beauty may take a little longer to be forthcoming.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am delighted to learn that the Victoria Tower is the next phase, but can the Minister tell the House why there is this substantial gap between the completion of the last phase and the phase now proposed?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, one of the reasons why the Victoria Tower is slightly behind schedule is the damage sustained during the October storm, which resulted, I believe, in the tower above the Central Lobby requiring work earlier than scheduled.

Lord Gibson

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the sub-committee on works of art in this House has on more than one occasion drawn the attention of Ministers to the ill effects of this delay? Has the Minister also observed the hoardings outside the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I understand have been erected to pay for its face lift? Will the Government counsel the Mother of Parliaments to take such a course?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, that is a matter which I shall obviously have to draw to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, will the noble Lord ensure that the timetable will be adhered to? Otherwise some of us may never see the completion.

Lord Blyth

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House when the ceiling in the Lobby will be visible again? I have never seen it and I am worried about the passing years.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, nor have I, but if the noble Lord would like to table a Question I shall be more than pleased to provide an Answer.

Lord Morris

My Lords, can my noble friend assure the House that the Victoria Tower's most important incumbent is in no way inconvenienced in the course of the work?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I believe that great attention will be paid to all the Bills which reside in the Victoria Tower. For that reason, when the work is carried out it will be done by air blasting rather than water blasting to ensure that no possible damage can occur.

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