HL Deb 31 March 1981 vol 419 c192WA
Lord Mowbray and Stourton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To set out their proposals for the restoration of the stonework of the Palace of Westminster.

The Earl of Avon

The cleaning and restoration of the exterior of the Palace of Westminster were the subject of Select Committee reports in another place in 1978 and 1980. Following a fall of stone in New Palace Yard on 2nd March this year, thorough inspections of other areas of stonework, including the Clock Tower and the Victoria Tower, have been started. As was the case after the fall in Speaker's Green in 1979, further potentially dangerous stonework has been found after every new inspection. Since 2nd March numerous decorative pieces of stone have been taken down; some of these could have been dislodged by a slight movement. The pavement beneath the Victoria Tower has also been closed as a precaution while a canopy is erected to give protection from any stone that might fall from the upper half of the Tower before it can be properly inspected in a few weeks time. The inspections so far completed have increased my right honourable friend's concern about the condition of the stonework and, although any identifiably dangerous stones have been removed, he has decided that a start should be made as soon as possible on a major programme of repair, restoration and conservation. This is the only way in which danger and further deterioration can be avoided.

To reveal the true condition of the stonework it is essential to remove the corrosive deposits. This will also prevent further chemical attack on the face of the stone. The first phase of the conservation programme, costing about a quarter of a million pounds, will start in the recess this summer; the rate of progress thereafter will depend on the extent to which work can proceed while Parliament is sitting and on the level of funds that can be allocated to this programme in successive years. It is my right honourable friend's aim to complete the work in as short a time as possible.