§ Lady Olga Maitland
To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what are the reasons for the increase in the cost of building the new British library; and what steps are being taken to control the budget.
§ Mr. Brooke
A former Minister for the Arts, Mr. Luce, announced to the House on 5 June 1990, that the total cost of the project would be about £450 million. This cash budget has not changed, although it is likely to be exceeded temporarily while we deal with the commercial issues arising from the technical problems encountered recently. I remain determined to bring the overall project costs back to the cash budget set in 1990.
An independent consultant carries out cost risk analyses for the Department of National Heritage at regular intervals to ascertain confidence levels that the project will keep within the overall budget and we take action, as necessary, if these raise any concerns. As a result of one such analysis during 1993, we reduced the cost of the two phases of the project, in full consideration with the British library.
Monthly financial reports are produced for the department showing, for each element of the work, the amount spent and committed against budget. Quantity surveyors value the cost of the work as it proceeds and the management contractor and independent superintending officer each certify what has been done before we authorise payment. We also exercise strict control over contractual changes which have to be carefully examined and costed before we approve them, where justified.