Westminster Abbey

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 8th March 2004.

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Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet 2:30 pm, 8th March 2004

To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make a statement on the timetable for removal of the temporary builders yard adjacent to Westminster abbey.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

The dean and chapter are working closely with English Heritage and Westminster city council under guidance from the Westminster Abbey Fabric Commission to reduce the size and area of the masons yard, which is required for essential restoration work.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

As this House appears ready to permit Parliament square to be used as a junkyard for largely unattended protest placards, this question might appear a little churlish, but the last time I did a recce of this particular corner of Westminster abbey—arguably one of the most historic ecclesiastical buildings in the world—I discovered that the yard is no longer used by masons, whose trade is honourable and whose work is essential, but is being used as a storage yard for, as far as I can see, vehicles and other junk from Westminster city council. Will the hon. Gentleman please take that message back to the commissioners, with a view to having the area cleared in time for the tourist season, so that it can be used as a proper facility?

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

I shall certainly check out the use of that space. Ever since Henry III knocked down the Norman abbey and started again in the 13th century, we have appreciated the abbey's magnificence, its daily worship, its splendid architecture, its fine musical tradition and its significance for visitors—to which the hon. Gentleman referred. It brings us joy, but that has a price, and the price is the burden of maintenance. We shall certainly check out whether the city council or the abbey is responsible.