HL Deb 12 April 1999 vol 599 cc501-3

2.50 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made regarding the removal of the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh from Whitehall to a more appropriate site.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, a proposal by Madam Speaker to move the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh to St. Margaret's churchyard has been approved in principle by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. In May 1997, and again in November 1998, Westminster City Council refused planning consent for the specific site proposed. The Dean and Chapter have appealed against the second refusal and a public local inquiry will be held on 6th May.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. With the amount of support there is for moving Sir Walter Raleigh's statue, does not the noble Lord think that Westminster City Council's planning committee has procrastinated long enough and if it does not like the site favoured by Madam Speaker and the Minister, why does it not suggest other sites? The point is to move the statue from its present site where it looks ridiculous.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, during previous Questions on this matter we all agreed in the House that Sir Walter Raleigh's statue is out of place on Raleigh Green outside the Ministry of Defence for no other reason than that is much smaller than the other three statues sited there. I believe that is a matter of common accord. Despite some temptation I am not sure that I wish to disagree with Westminster City Council's planning committee. It has gone through the proper procedures and the Dean and Chapter have appealed against its refusal. There will be a public inquiry on 6th May to which the noble Baroness can. of course, give evidence if she wishes.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, as Sir Walter Raleigh is a national figure of historic importance why is this matter left to Westminster City Council? Cannot the Government consider some sites away from the capital which are associated with Sir Walter Raleigh?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the location of all statues will be in the area of some local authority. We cannot get away from that by going outside London. In London the role of the Secretary of State, and therefore of the Government, is restricted to giving approval for the erection of statues under the Public Statues (Metropolis) Act 1854. That prevents the Secretary of State from taking an active role in the development of proposals. However, I am sure that all local authorities and all of those responsible for statues will take account of what my noble friend says.

Lord Annan

My Lords, is it true that Westminster City Council's excuse as regards this matter is that it would create a precedent if the statue were placed where Madam Speaker wishes it to be placed? Would it not be possible for the council to say that it could be placed there but that that should not be taken as a precedent for other statues? If that is not satisfactory to Westminster City Council, will it consider the following sites: Poets' Corner, Millbank, near which Sir Walter lost his head, and Horse Guards Road, which I have suggested before to the noble Lord, in a place between the statue of Lord Mountbatten and the statue of Lord Clive, where it would be in competition with neither?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I shall spare the House the full detail of the reasons for refusal given by the City of Westminster. It says that it is considered that the proposed siting is unacceptable in principle in that the location of the statue on the open space to the west of St. Margaret's is detrimental to the established character of the space. The uncluttered nature of this space is part of the familiar and cherished local scene. However, I have no doubt that Westminster City Council will be interested in the noble Lord's alternative proposals.

Lord Morris of Manchester

My Lords, if the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh is resited will it hasten the long overdue provision of a Whitehall site for an Anzac memorial? Meanwhile is my noble friend aware that this would be most warmly welcomed in Australia and New Zealand as well as by the all-party Anzac group of MPs and Peers, in which, as its president, I have the honour to declare an interest?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend's comment. Of course he is right in saying that if and when Sir Walter Raleigh's statue is moved there will be a space for another statue. That sounds like a worthwhile suggestion. I wish to be slightly more helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Annan. The reason for choosing St. Margaret's churchyard is that Sir Walter Raleigh is buried there. That is considered more appropriate than Old Palace Yard—our car park—where he lost his head.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, it is suggested to me that this is a defence issue. The Minister stated that to place the statue outside St. Margaret's would be detrimental to the environment. Does he consider that it is more detrimental than the hot-dog stands that are there at present?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I did not suggest that that was my idea. I read out what the City of Westminster expressed in ineffable local government language. The noble Lord may wish to make his observations about hot-dog stands direct to Westminster City Council.

Lord Davies of Coity

My Lords, in view of the outstanding performance yesterday I wonder whether the Minister would consider that when the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh is removed, we put in its place one of Neil Jenkins.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I do not know what my noble friend is talking about.

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