HL Deb 28 January 1998 vol 585 cc228-30

2.52 p.m

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will hold an architectural competition for the new Scottish parliament.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel)

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has invited architect-led design teams to register their interest and is looking for architects with proven ability. As part of the selection process, a short list of three or four will be invited to produce indicative design approaches which will be put on public display. The successful design team will then be selected.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for confirming my understanding of the matter. Can he confirm that, while it is important that the parliament building fully respects the place where it will be sited, there is no particular guidance as to style for any of the architects who might wish to bring forward proposals?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, that is correct. We wish to ensure that a sensitive and high prestige site is developed in an appropriate and dignified way.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, will my noble friend be good enough to persuade his noble friend the Secretary of State for Wales to follow the same course?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, I got into trouble with the Secretary of State for Wales the other day for referring to his area as "the Principality". He told me that I should refer to it as "Wales". So I do not think I am in a strong position to influence the Secretary of State for Wales at the moment.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, will the Minister be kind enough to tell us what role, if any, the Prince of Wales will have in the architectural competition?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, Holyrood Palace is virtually next door to the site for the parliament. It is important that Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales are kept in touch as progress is made and decisions are taken. But they have no formal role in the selection process.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, how long does the Minister estimate the exercise will take?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, I will go through the timetable. The closing date for submissions will be 2nd March 1988—I am sorry, 1998. Funny things happen to you when you come into this House! Initial applicants will be sifted by the middle to end of March, 12 panel interviews will be held, which will produce a short list of three or four by mid-April. Those three or four will be invited to produce designs to brief by the end of May. There will be the public exhibition of designs by early June and design teams will be re-interviewed and the winner selected by the end of June.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I am sure we are all agreed that a building of some distinction should be erected on this prominent site. I encourage the Minister to pursue that. Can he tell us whether there are any financial limitations in place on the architects and designers of this important building? If so, what are those financial limitations?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, it is estimated that the construction costs, excluding fees and VAT, will be in the order of £50 million. That is the effective limit to which people will work.

Lord Steel of Aikwood

My Lords, does the Minister accept that those of us who wanted to see the parliament built on the Calton Hill site none the less accept that if there is to be a new building, the Holyrood site is excellent? But the building must be sensitive because of Holyrood Palace and because of the incorporation of Queensberry House. Therefore, will the Minister ensure that guidelines to the architects state that they should look at the excellent example of Richmond House in Whitehall, where modern architecture has been combined with sensitivity to the adjacent buildings?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord makes a valuable point. I shall bring it to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, who will, no doubt, bring it to the attention of those competing.

Lord Monro of Langholm

My Lords, first, does the Minister share my concern and that of many Scottish architects that they will not be able to enter the competition because of lack of a substantial design team? Secondly, can he assure me that adequate provision will be made for car parking for members, officials and visitors, without in any way encroaching on Holyrood Park?

Lord Sewel

Yes, my Lords. I wish to encourage architects from Scotland, the United Kingdom, Europe and elsewhere to take part in what is effectively a competition to ensure that we get a very high quality and prestigious building for the Scottish parliament. I wish to encourage everyone to see whether they can make a contribution.

As to the car parking, provision will be made for an internal car park for MSPs but I do not have details with me on the public car parking provision so I shall write to the noble Lord.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the council of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland is meeting to consider the issue this afternoon? Is he further aware that many architects in Scotland would like temporary accommodation to be used in order that the best solution can be obtained?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, the answer to the first part of the question is no; and no, I was not so aware. I am now, and I thank the noble Lord for informing me. The main point is that temporary accommodation will have to be used for perhaps the first year or so of the life of the Scottish parliament because the building will not be able to be constructed by the time the parliament begins functioning in the year 2000.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, is it correct that applications will be short-listed by a specially appointed advisory panel? Can the Minister say who will make the final decision as to which project will be built? I assume that the winning entry will be built.

Lord Sewel

My Lords, the final decision will be made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.

Lord Bridges

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the competition will be held under the rules of the RIBA?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, on this occasion I prefer to write to the noble Lord in reply.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

My Lords, will there be a more democratic process—at least of consultation—in the choice of design than was shown in the choice of the site?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, how ungenerous of the noble Lord. Of course there will be a democratic process of consultation. Everybody will be invited to make their views known, including political parties.