Windsor Castle

Oral Answers to Questions — National Heritage – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd March 1993.

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Photo of George Mudie George Mudie , Leeds East 12:00 am, 22nd March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage when he expects the final decision on the form of restoration of Windsor castle to be made.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Secretary of State for National Heritage

I hope to make a statement of progress on this shortly.

Photo of George Mudie George Mudie , Leeds East

Does the Minister think it makes good sense to spend millions of pounds of public money on this scheme when the nation was told last week that it is so poor that pensioners' fuel bills must be taxed? Can the Minister defend that order of priorities?

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Secretary of State for National Heritage

As the hon. Gentleman knows, matters of public expenditure across the whole range are looked at individually. The commitment to Windsor castle goes back to an obligation undertaken by the state in 1831.

Photo of Mr Robert Banks Mr Robert Banks , Harrogate

I hope that a decision to start the restoration work will be made as soon as possible. Might not the Queen decide on the form of that restoration as she has to live there?

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Secretary of State for National Heritage

I join my hon. Friend in hoping that we shall be able to make an early start. The decisions on restoration would be taken by Her Majesty the Queen on advice from the Government.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

The Secretary of State has confirmed that the taxpayer will have to find between £30 million and £40 million towards the cost of restoration. Where is that money to come from? Will it really come from the hard-pressed national heritage budget? Is it to come from increases in value added tax which the poor and the old will be paying? How much money has come into the trust fund that the Secretary of State set up when taxpayers objected to the large blank cheque that he was signing on their behalf? Why did the Minister say to me in his letter of last week that no representations have been made to the Royal Household about a contribution towards the costs"? If the taxpayers are having to fork out, why should not the Queen?

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Secretary of State for National Heritage

The immediate emergency expenditure on the castle, which runs to about £1·5 million in the current year, has been met from my departmental budget. I am discussing with colleagues how we would fund the subsequent restoration. Contrary to what the hon. Lady has said, the trust fund was not set up by the Government. It is run by independent trustees, to whom she should address her questions. As for the answer that I gave when the hon. Lady raised the issue with me on 11 March—when she appeared to be ignorant of the fact that a public inquiry had been set up—the reason why I gave her that answer was that it was true.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

Will not the restoration of Windsor castle provide thousands of hours of employment for some of the best artisans in the world?

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Secretary of State for National Heritage

My hon. Friend is right in terms of the skills that will be required from craftsmen of every sort in the restoration of the castle.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

Does the Secretary of State realise that some of the greatest British architects have constructed important public buildings abroad, but have not been recognised in this country? In the context of the new opportunities for the display of the royal collection of paintings and other art works, will the Secretary of State give particular attention to the possibility of combining those challenges to provide an exciting new building at Windsor which would be representative of the best in Britain today?

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Secretary of State for National Heritage

I join the hon. Gentleman in saluting the achievements of British architects abroad, and I am delighted to say that those same British architects also design buildings in this country. The substance of his question forms part of the general debate on restoration, on which I hope to make an announcement shortly.