HL Deb 23 October 2000 vol 618 cc3-4WA
Baroness Jeger

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Who was responsible for the use of imported French stone in the south portico of the British Museum when Portland stone had been contracted; and what action is being taken and at what cost to rectify this mistake. [HL4110]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Trustees of the British Museum decided to continue constructing the south portico in French oolitic limestone after receiving the results of petrographic tests, from which they concluded that the French stone was fit for the purpose and that it was within the original specification: "Oolitic limestone—Portland stone from the basebed or similar." That specification and the subsequent use of the French stone were approved by English Heritage, which gave further advice on the steps to be taken to improve the colour match with the surrounding stone by washing away the embedded dust. The washing has now been completed. The trustees remain fully confident that their decision was right.

The museum has withheld payments under the contract amounting to £300,000. The cost of washing away the dust is estimated at £15,000.