HL Deb 12 November 2001 vol 628 cc362-3

2.46 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the current situation with regard to the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh; and when the statue will be moved to its final destination.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone)

My Lords, the statue has been removed from Raleigh Green in Whitehall for cleaning before it is moved to the grounds of the former Royal Naval College at Greenwich. The site at Greenwich has now been prepared and the statue should be in its new home by the end of the year.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, it would probably be churlish of me to say, "And about time, too!", so I shall not say it. Am I right in believing that it was mooted that a statue of a woman should replace that of tiny Sir Walter? Has that idea been abandoned? If not, I can think of several good subjects.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, if the noble Baroness would like to suggest some alternatives and find some sponsors, I am sure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State would be delighted to consider anything she proposes. However, I want to congratulate the noble Baroness on all the work she has done to ensure that Sir Walter Raleigh is moved to an appropriate place. I also want to suggest that there might be a small unveiling ceremony at which the noble Baroness might like to appear as Queen Elizabeth. I shall ask my noble friend Lord McIntosh, who has answered her Questions in the past, to appear as Sir Walter Raleigh with his cloak for her to step on.

Baroness Boothroyd

My Lords, is the Minister aware that my predecessor as Speaker and I did battle with government bureaucracy for 15 years in order to have the statue moved from Whitehall to an appropriate spot outside St Margaret's Church at Westminster? We were united in that desire by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster and by those who take care of the fabric of the two churches but the proposal was objected to by Westminster City Council. Is the noble Baroness further aware that the statue would have been most appropriately placed outside St Margaret's Church because it would have been seen daily by the hundreds of people who queue there to go into Westminster Abbey—plus the fact that the old chap's bones are actually underneath St Margaret's Church? Can the Minister tell me whether there are any other projects of important historic connection around Westminster Abbey which Westminster City Council is seeking to veto?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am also extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, for the interest she has taken in the issue. I was aware that for a variety of reasons Westminster City Council decided not to grant planning permission for the statue to be placed on the green outside St Margaret's Church. I am not aware of any other proposals for statues to be placed on that spot, but, again, if there are any such proposals I should be particularly interested in them. However, I must add that it will be for Westminster City Council and not the Government to decide whether it is an appropriate place.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the two noble Baronesses that have spoken so far have not declared their interest? Both of them are indebted to Sir Walter for bringing in tobacco, to which they are both addicted.

Baroness Blackstone

Well, my Lords, I gather that the noble Baroness has given up. That must perhaps be a matter of disappointment for Sir Walter. He may indeed be turning in his grave.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the last time that this subject came up it was said that the reason his statue was so small was because tobacco had stunted his growth. Alas, it never stunted mine.