Victoria Tower

Oral Answers to Questions — House of Commons – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th July 1991.

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Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 12:00 am, 15th July 1991

To ask the Lord President of the Council when he expects the cleaning of Victoria Tower to be completed; at what cost; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that some years ago we could have had Victoria Tower cleaned for £3 million? It is sad that the cleaning will now cost £7·5 million. Will he ensure that when it is cleaned, the Union Jack that flies proudly on top of the Tower is always a clean one. Sometimes we have a dirty flag.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee

On my hon. Friend's second point, I shall ensure that his request is noted. On the first point, of course the cost has increased, partly because the scope of the work has changed and partly because of noise problems. However, it is a major undertaking: for example, the scaffolding weighs more than 700 tonnes, the bars measure about 70 miles and the piling had to go down 21 m. It is a major undertaking and by far the largest phase of the project of cleaning the Palace.

Photo of Mr Bruce Grocott Mr Bruce Grocott , The Wrekin

Do not the towers of this building represent some of the last few unused wasted spaces? I refer in particular to the tower above the Central Lobby which would be an ideal location for a central control room for television cameras. Now that cameras are an integral part of our democracy, should not the location for television crews and for the House's own facilities be somewhere central within the Palace of Westminster?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee

That question goes wider than the cleaning of the Victoria Tower, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the issue was discussed by a Committee on which we both served and it will come before the Services Committee this week. Speed and cost must be considered in relation to whether that part of the Palace should be used for the central control room for the broadcasting of the House, as he knows, but I agree that it is right to make full use of every available space in the Palace.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

Does the Leader of the House realise that the restoration of Victoria Tower will mark the completion of the fundamental and far-reaching changes instigated by the late Sir Robin Cooke, many of which have been hugely to the advantage of hon. Members, of those who work here and those who merely pass by? Does he accept that the changes are comparable to the work done by Harcourt which has been commemorated by part of the Palace being named after him? Does not the Leader of the House think that it would be appropriate for the work of Sir Robin Cooke to be given similar recognition?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee

I agree that the outside and the inside of the Palace have been vastly improved and I think that the improvements are widely welcomed by all hon. Members and by those outside. I also agree that the work of the late Sir Robin Cooke deserves the highest praise for the improvements that it has achieved and which we all enjoy. I shall bear in mind the point that my right hon. Friend made in the last part of his question.