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I beg to ask leave, Mr. Speaker, to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
the decision of the Secretary of State for the Environment not to list a building of architectural and historic interest—the Jubilee Building in Covent Garden.
It was built at the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee as part of Covent Garden market and was recently converted into a sports hall.
The future of the site of the building is about to be determined by the Greater London Council, which wishes the building to be demolished and replaced by offices. To list the building would ensure a public inquiry before this sports hall, used by my constituents, could be demolished.
A report in The Guardiantoday states that the Department of the Environment inspector, exercising his professional judgment, recommended that the building should be listed. This recommendation was set aside following representations by the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment—the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg)—that the issue should be dropped, or it would still be around, and very tricky, for the 1981 GLC elections.
The listing functions of the Secretary of State are semi-judicial in nature and should not be subject to short-term party political considerations. For these reasons I submit, Mr. Speaker, that this matter is urgent, specific and particularly important, as it goes to the heart of the discharge of quasi-judicial functions by the Secretary of State and would also provide an opportunity to save from vandals and property speculators a useful building of architectural importance.
The hon. Gentleman gave me notice before 12 o'clock noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,
The interference by the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment on political grounds in a quasi-judicial process of determining whether or not to list the Jubilee Market building, in Covent Garden.
I listened with care to the argument advanced by the hon. Gentleman. I have no doubt at all that to him and to his constituency this is an important matter, but as the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the Order, but to give no reasons for my decision.
I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order. Therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I totally accept your ruling on my hon. Friend's application under Standing Order No. 9, but as the Secretary of State for the Environment is here and as a most serious allegation has been made—that a quasi-judicial act has been set aside for party political reasons—would it not be helpful if that were dispelled by the Secretary of State's standing at the Dispatch Box now and making clear whether that is true or not?