Moved by Lord Cormack
2: Clause 1, page 2, line 2, at end insert—“( ) If a planning application is submitted to a responsible planning authority for works immediately adjacent to the Palace of Westminster, the Sponsor Body must—(a) determine whether these works might impede the Parliamentary building works in any significant way; and(b) if they determine that they may impede the Parliamentary building works, issue a notice to that effect to the responsible planning authority.”
I have tabled this amendment for two reasons. First, I hope that all your Lordships agree that we want to protect and enhance this building and want it to emerge from the restoration and renewal project even more magnificent than it is at the moment. One of the greatest buildings in the world, and the greatest symbol of democracy in the world, it is at the heart of the world heritage site which encompasses the Abbey, St Margaret’s and the immediate environs.
The immediate environs include Victoria Tower Gardens. Last week, we were all exalted in a letter from my noble friend Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth to love our parks—indeed, he told us that it was Love Parks Week. I do love our parks and do not imagine that a single one of your Lordships does not love our parks. There is nothing more wonderful than to walk through St James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park and up to Kensington Gardens; it is a wonderful country walk in the middle of the greatest city in the world. They are great parks not only because of the way they are laid out, but in size. Adjacent to the Palace of Westminster is a much smaller park, but one that gives great enjoyment to those who use it. It is used on daily basis by residents, office workers, children and others. It was carefully laid out in the last three decades of the 19th century and contains the magnificent statue of the Burghers of Calais, the statue of Mrs Pankhurst and the memorial to Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, one of the great advocates of the cause that led to the abolition of, first, the slave trade and then slavery in 1833. That is something of which this country, and this Parliament in particular, should be extremely proud.
When we embark on this great programme of restoration and renewal, we have to have regard for our environs. Noble Lords will have read the amendment. There is an application for a major building project in Victoria Palace Gardens for a cause which I believe every noble Lord thinks is a great cause: to have another national memorial to commemorate the Holocaust. I tread very carefully because I like to think that no one could ever accuse me of being a Holocaust denier—one of those episodes in recent world history that has done more to deface the name of humanity than perhaps any other. Nor, as the founder chairman for the campaign for the release of Soviet Jewry, would I ever wish to be accused of having any anti-Semitic feelings. I hope that would be said for everyone who expresses a concern about building this particular memorial in this particular place.
I would like to see another national memorial, and it ought to attract people in considerable numbers. It is a memorial that should not be in any way inconvenienced by security measures additional to those which any public building or memorial in London, regrettably, has to rely upon. It should also be of easy access so that when people come on pilgrimage, as I hope and believe they will, to stand gently and quietly to remember or to instruct the young, they will be able to come and go easily and freely. On any account, building a major national memorial immediately adjacent to Parliament on Victoria Palace Gardens would mean that those criteria are not easily fulfilled. That is why I hope that the board we are establishing through the Bill will look most carefully.
Moreover, if we are to have the full decant, it is important that each House of Parliament has a reasonable temporary home that easy to access and close to other parliamentary facilities. I know it has been mentioned that the favourite destination for your Lordships’ House is the QEII Centre. I have always felt that there are many objections to that, not least the difficulty of parking. I also believe that to have to cross the road to go there is not necessarily conducive to the close contact between the two Houses which is an essential part of our constitutional and democratic structure. If the Commons is to have a Chamber built within or near Richmond House—I know that there are significant concerns on that front too, but I will leave that aside for the moment—having something on the same side of the road as a temporary structure for your Lordships and immediately opposite Millbank House and the offices that many of us occupy might be a sensible move. I say “might”, as it is something that the body that we are setting up ought to be able to take carefully into account. However, if a memorial is to be built there, that will be ruled out.
I do not intend to divide the House today. I have said many times before that I believe that our convention—it is not a rule—that we do not vote in Committee is wise, as it gives us a chance to reflect on what the Government say and it gives the Government the chance also to reflect. I believe that we will deal with this as first business when we return in September, so we have several weeks in which to reflect and consider.
There are many places where it could go. It could go to one of the great London parks, but the Imperial War Museum, which has offered a site and has adequate parking, would seem an admirable destination. It already has galleries that graphically and movingly describe the Holocaust, so that is a possibility. This afternoon I am simply saying to your Lordships that it is very important that we look at this carefully and without prejudice.
To those of my noble friends who are strongly in support of the Holocaust memorial, I say: please remember that those of us who have reservations are not against having a memorial; we are not Holocaust deniers or in any sense opposed to the Jewish community, which has given so much to our country over the last three and a half centuries since the Jews were readmitted by Oliver Cromwell in 1652. I speak as one who lives in a city—Lincoln—that had the second largest Jewish community in the country in the Middle Ages, and we honour that. Indeed, at the moment, together with Jewish colleagues and others I am planning a great exhibition to commemorate that, to be held in two or three years’ time in Lincoln.
Therefore, it is not a question of a Holocaust memorial being something that we do not want. We do want it but this is not the place, and it is certainly important that all aspects are considered carefully by the body that the Bill establishes. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am pleased to add my name to this amendment. In this most significant work for parliamentarians and indeed for the whole nation, our concerns are not only for this building and our parliamentary work, and not only for the future and the public, but for safety, security, access and the environment now and in future centuries. Quite apart from the changes in methods of working that will be taken into consideration in refurbishing this place, major concerns affect the surrounding areas. We have many more tourists and many more protests—peaceful and otherwise—here and in Parliament Square; there are more visitors, including dignitaries requiring protected access; and, above all, we are painfully aware of the vulnerability and magnetic attraction of this area to terrorists. Protestors could include parties interested in the Middle East, and environmental activists because of the underground excavation, destruction of trees and loss of green space inherent in the Victoria Tower Gardens plan.
This brings me to the concerns I have for those gardens adjacent to Black Rod’s Garden and the parking exit for our cars. Your Lordships will have heard that there is a plan to have a Holocaust memorial and learning centre in those gardens, which has not yet received planning permission. In the meantime, there has been more than one security analysis of the implications of a very large memorial and museum with concomitant visitors. It has been estimated that there will be 1 million visitors per year and 11 coaches delivering and taking away visitors every day.
The amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord King, and myself is designed to take account of the implications of this. The proposal to build on this site has avoided addressing security considerations in any detail, failing the tests set out in paragraph 95a of the National Planning Policy Framework of 2019. There will be potentially long queues of visitors waiting for security checks—the touted 20-second check will clearly be insufficient—next to children playing in the playground and the usual park visitors. Presumably, they too will have to undergo security checks because they are close by, whether intending to visit the memorial or not.
The principal threat comes from jihadi-inspired terrorists, as evidenced by the atrocities that have occurred in Europe recently, targeted against Jews and Jewish-associated buildings. The proximity of the planned memorial to Parliament, with national and international news media constantly in attendance, will make it a high-value target for those who wish to promote their evil aims with publicity. There have been many other criminal activities levelled against Jewish targets of which many of us are, frankly, fearful, and a great deal of private and public money is already spent on protection. We also have the extreme right-wing groups, white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and protestors of all sorts—bearing in mind that the memorial may also include victims of LGBT persecution, and of the Rwandan, Armenian and other massacres—who will see this location as the focus for their action.
Alongside is Millbank, a busy road with limited parking. It is difficult to see where the coachloads of visitors would be able to disembark. I envisage more anti-terrorist vehicle barriers and pavement restrictions at the southern end of the Parliamentary Estate, as well as presumably more concrete blocks, barriers and bollards to protect against a suicide vehicle crash; it would be easy enough to drive into the park with this intent, rather as happened in the attack here in March 2017. At the very least, the footpath in Millbank will have to be narrowed and security patrols will be required night and day. Graffiti and desecration of memorials are all too common, as we saw with the Bomber Command memorial and even the Cenotaph in London. There will be large queues of people waiting to enter, which provide a soft target for extremists. Objects such as bricks, and worse, could easily be thrown from across the road, or could be dropped into the well area at the entrance to the learning centre, causing disruption.
Building a memorial will require large areas around to be closed for a time, with excavation equipment and building materials, at more or less the same time that these buildings are being prepared for repair. How will the park be managed at night, and cleared, and what will the light pollution be? Our amendment refers mildly to avoiding impediments; other amendments refer to the whole of the Parliamentary Estate and the broadest meaning of access. They all deserve support, but this one is the most urgent, in that the damage to security may occur very soon. We need to protect the Parliamentary Estate and its immediate vicinity. I stand here to assure noble Lords that it is not anti-Semitic to oppose this design, in this location, as has been suggested; far from it. The trouble is that, if the plan is steamrollered through as a political football—if I may mix my metaphors—it will for ever be tainted with opposition. To build a Holocaust memorial we must do so with reverence, affection, respect and acceptance. If it has to be forced through, it is contrary to the very objectives for which it is designed.
The other argument that may well be raised is: “Such a memorial has to be right next door to Parliament to remind us that democracy must and should protect against genocide”. Sadly, democracy has not proved in the past to protect against genocide. One need only instance in our current age Yugoslavia and Myanmar, and of course Germany had a form of democracy in the 1930s. Genocide comes from ethnic and religious hatred and from ideology. That is something that you combat only by educating people, not by putting up a memorial in a small park. For those reasons, I support the amendment and I hope that others will too.
My Lords, I support the amendment, although I am not sure that it goes quite far enough. I agree with everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said.
I declare an interest in that, every day when I come here, I walk through those gardens. A number of times I have seen them being dug up and changed. There is a beautiful play area for children at one end that has been dug up and changed at least two or three times and there have been various other changes, while the visitor centre has taken away a fantastic view of the building. One might argue that that has a great purpose and it is very welcome to bring more children here, but I think that the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, about the pressure of people, parking and security is really important.
We are not a planning committee but we have a duty to protect Parliament. I have been associated with these Chambers and Parliament generally for some 36 years—
One of the new boys indeed. I hope that, like me, my noble friend Lord King comes here every day and is filled with wonder and a sense of, “How on earth have I managed to get here?” It is a very special place and it is important that in the process of renewal we do not lose what we have.
We are talking not just about the building but about the environment and the immediate environs, as my noble friend Lord Cormack said. I see that park in winter, spring and summer. I see the children in their playgrounds, I see the office workers having their picnics, I see the lovers on the benches behaving quite properly, I see people doing interviews in front of that wonderful view of the tower, and it has enormous value. If we are to have 10 years of construction and disruption in this place, what on earth would possess us to add to that by having another major project, not even on the surface but underground?
We have seen the presentations and sketches of what it would look like and, frankly, I do not think it would enhance the beauty, simplicity and value of that space, which is also very much valued by tourists. I support the amendment but I hope that, at a later stage, we will have one that does more than just make this point in the way that this one does—that we have an amendment that actually makes it clear to those responsible for this project that it is not just about the park; it is about Parliament as a whole and preserving the precious heritage that we are all privileged to have the responsibility for.
I welcome and totally support everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said. My noble friend is rightly keen to argue that we want a very successful Holocaust memorial project. I think the venue that he described would be a far better one; it would involve less controversy and, I venture to suggest, it would be possible to achieve rather more quickly than will be the case given the controversy and the difficulties that we have. I support the amendment.
Over a mere 36 years in association with this Palace, I have quite often gone into those gardens for moments of deliberation and relaxation. The reason why I do so is that they contain one of the most wonderful public sculptures in the world, “The Burghers of Calais”. It is a much better location for that casting of the statue than you find, for example, in Calais. It is a sculpture of international moment and very much part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. With the other two memorials that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, referred to, there seems to be quite enough for small gardens of that size, particularly when there is another site for the Holocaust memorial available for sure on the much more capacious site of the Imperial War Museum—I will speak about that in a moment.
I am very committed to the erection of a Holocaust memorial. My sister Renata and I share a father but not a mother. We do not share a mother because her mother died in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. A framed copy of her death certificate hangs on the wall of my sister’s house in the Midlands. It does not tell the entire truth. It says she died of smallpox, when she was almost certainly murdered because she had smallpox. These events are very important to us as a family. We believe Renata’s and my paternal grandparents died in Auschwitz-Birkenau. We do not know exactly how, but it was probably by being taken straight from the train to the gas ovens.
I suspect that many people in your Lordships’ House have been to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I am afraid once was enough for me—I shall not go again. Anybody who has been there will realise how momentous, vile and treacherous those events were and what effect they have on those families, whether they be religious or secular—I am not a religious person at all. This is the history of many people in this country and indeed quite a lot of people in your Lordships’ House and the other place.
I regard this memorial as an absolute necessity, but what does it need? I have been to Holocaust memorials around the world when I have been able to. Yad Vashem is an extraordinary memorial, set in a great space. Last year, I went to the new Holocaust memorial in Warsaw, Poland. Poland has a mixed reputation for its attitude to Jews, even since the Second World War. However, if your Lordships have not been there, I have to tell you that the new memorial in Warsaw is a sensational place. It dominates a big square. You can walk around it and through it; you can go to restaurants in the streets around it. The whole of that area has been created and recreated to accommodate that memorial.
In my view, a memorial to the Holocaust needs room to view, room to breathe, room to reflect and room to police. The site for the memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens certainly does not have the room to police. The road between Lambeth Bridge and the Palace of Westminster is often closed to traffic when important events are taking place here, or on the not insignificant number of occasions when there is a suspicion of a raised terrorist threat level. It would be a sitting target for terrorists and would not be difficult to access. It would not be possible to create a ring of steel around it, which can be done on a big site in a careful, considerate and not particularly obvious way.
A memorial such as this should have space—as at Auschwitz, which is on a huge site—for coaches to bring and set down older schoolchildren who are learning about modern history, including the history of the Holocaust. There should be space for them to be corralled in an appropriate way, with time to listen to their teachers. They should be able to see the light of day. I do not understand the desire for an underground memorial. To be able to understand what happened to these people, you need light. The children’s memorial at Yad Vashem, which is a hall of mirrors with candles, is based on seeing light, not being in a subterranean space. I say to your Lordships, with the feeling I hope I have shown, because I believe in this proposition—
I was merely going to point out to the noble Lord that the memorial is indeed on the surface. The learning centre is below ground. It is important for us to be accurate in our objections.
Part of the memorial—the visible part—is on the surface; the rest is underground. Yes it is a learning centre, but if one goes to look at other monuments with learning centres, they are not concealed below the ground. I do not know of any other Holocaust memorial—
I am not going to give way again; the noble Lord can make a speech if he wants to. This is not the House of Commons. In my view, the placing of the learning centre underground compounds the points I am trying to make. This site could be put on a much bigger estate. It could be more open, visible and more easily policed. Those are the main reasons why I support the amendment.
My Lords, a lot has been said and I agree with such obvious and logical reasons that have been given. It is very difficult not to, but I want to add my views. I was brought up a Hindu—am I not allowed to speak?
Somebody was muttering. I was brought up a Hindu. Personally, I have never understood why there is such a lot of prejudice against the Jews, in Europe and in other countries. They are very clever people. They believe in education and achievement. Why is it that people do not really feel the same about Jews as everybody else?
I have stood up to speak because when I learned about the Holocaust it had a very deep effect on me. I have become an atheist as a result, because I could not accept that 6 million people could be killed like vermin and nothing happened for them. If nothing happened for them, what do I need God for? I am sure not many people think like that, but it is how I feel. I am going to Auschwitz-Birkenau in August. Of course, somebody said, “You must go to Birkenau; it was a factory”. Silly me, I thought it was a factory making something. It was a factory killing people in the most careful and planned way, just killing people. I cannot believe that we are living in this century.
My Lords, there is another amendment in this group in my name, but I am afraid it is nothing to do with the Holocaust memorial, so forgive me for changing the topic. It is about co-ordination of major programmes and projects.
At Second Reading I raised the need for clarity on responsibility and accountability for all the major programmes of work ongoing at the Palace. As we know, we currently have the roof works, there is the masonry project and Big Ben, and soon to start will be the Northern Estate. My concern is the scope for confusion and the potential for all manner of things to go wrong if there is not a single body responsible for all these separate programmes to make sure they are co-ordinated properly.
Clause 1(1) makes provision for the sponsor body and the delivery authority to be responsible for building works beyond the restoration and renewal project itself. Since the Second Reading debate, I was pleased to receive a letter from the noble Earl confirming that responsibility for the Northern Estate will soon transfer to the sponsor body, so one of those major projects will now be within the remit of this new body. That is very welcome. I have also learned since Second Reading that within the House authorities, Strategic Estates is responsible for the other projects which are expected to be completed before the decant.
None the less, I have tabled my amendment because of the scope for things to go wrong when these big works eventually commence. I would like some reassurance from the noble Earl, or from the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, that the Strategic Estates team has a formal responsibility for proper engagement with the sponsor body on all these projects; and that if there is any question that responsibility should shift to the sponsor body in the best interests of the future of the Palace of Westminster in the round, it will be considered swiftly. I would also be grateful if the Minister could let us know to whom Strategic Estates is accountable. If there was to be any change in responsibility for those major projects which could impact on the restoration and renewal project itself, which decision-making body would make that decision?
My Lords, I would like to bring us back to my noble friend Lord Cormack’s amendment. I have great respect for my noble friend, who sits beside me and advises me on the procedures of this House; perhaps he is not doing such a great job, but I thank him for that. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, talked about some Holocaust memorials that he has been to, but for me the most iconic one is the one right in the centre of Berlin. If your Lordships have not been to that one, I urge you to go because the memorial is all above ground, while its learning centre is entirely underground.
I will come on to the actual footprint of the site in a minute, if I may.
The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, raised the issue of security. I just pose the question: what does it say about our society that a Holocaust memorial is deemed a security risk? That is the sort of society we now live in, which is very concerning to me. I also take issue a little with noble Lords using this sort of amendment to the Bill to raise objections to the establishment of the memorial on that site. I know that I am northern and I like people to be straightforward. If this amendment were about just objecting to the site of a memorial, I would have preferred its wording to be clear and unequivocal in saying so. I do not know of any Jewish communal event or building that has been stopped or withdrawn because of security concerns. Thank God that in this country, measures are always put in place by successive Governments and successive leaders of the police, whether it be the Met Police here or the police in Manchester and other areas. They have always shown support and understanding by working closely with the CST—the Community Security Trust.
This reminds me of when I was the education director of the Board of Deputies back in the 1980s. I remember questioning the then president of the board, Lord Janner—he was not Lord Janner then but was subsequently made a Peer. I asked him what would happen if somebody were to daub the stone in the Dell in Hyde Park? What would happen if somebody came and put something on it, a swastika or whatever? I remember that his words to me were: “Stuart, you’ll roll up your sleeves and we’ll clean it up”. Those are important words, because it would be a great shame and sadness if a memorial such as this did not happen because we were worried that it could cause problems. I am not an expert, but surely Westminster is a heavily policed part of town, so why would a memorial at this site be an additional risk to the place we are in?
I do not want to pre-empt the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, but I hope a memorial in the learning centre will stand next to Parliament as a reminder to all throughout the nation of our responsibility to remain vigilant against intolerance and bigotry. Setting history’s worst example of the disintegration of democratic values against the greatest emblem of Britain’s aspirations for democracy will stand as a permanent reminder of the responsibility of citizens and politicians, in a democracy, to be vigilant and responsive whenever and wherever those values are threatened. The trustees have ensured, and will ensure, that all precautions are met and the relevant people consulted.
The memorial will require just 7.5% of Victoria Tower Gardens—that leaves 92.5% untouched— and, as a result, the drainage, planting and gardens will be improved. Existing paths will be replaced, the playgrounds enhanced and there will be a new café. There will be many reasons to love the park. Members of the public should be able to go about their daily lives and that includes visiting all high-profile places in Westminster.
My Lords, I have played no part in previous deliberations on the location of the Holocaust memorial. I have listened to the discussions very much for the first time. I say at the outset that I understand some of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has made. I also strongly identify with the points that the noble Lord, Lord Polak, has made. What is unacceptable about this amendment is that something as big as the location of the Holocaust memorial is not being decided by a planning authority, but by a back-door route as an amendment to this legislation. This is a national memorial at the heart of London.
By the way, it has taken a long time to set this up. It should have been set up a generation ago, but, as this is a national memorial, it is of such importance that Parliament should decide, and on an express vote. If this is still unresolved—and, from listening to the debate, perhaps the Leader will tell us that it is more resolved than appears—there should be a procedure for Parliament to decide on the location, on a positive vote of both Houses, taking account of all the issues, including those which have been raised on security and accessibility, and on the aesthetic elements by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. What he said about the Berlin memorial was interesting. This is a hugely important decision that the nation should take, from looking at what other nations have done with their memorials and how ours matches up.
If I have understood the situation correctly, construction is not going to start imminently. It sounds unlikely, given the other work that is going to happen on the site. Perhaps the noble Lord will correct me but, if that is the case, Parliament should decide what happens with this memorial. We should not leave it to Westminster City Council, by using an amendment to the Bill in this indirect way.
My Lords, I am participating in this debate as one of the four Members of your Lordships’ House on the shadow sponsor body. I speak from that perspective, but I am not speaking for them. I hope that distinction is clear. I am certainly not commenting on the location, or desirability or otherwise, of the Holocaust memorial. I want to reflect on what this debate shows about the extent of the powers of the shadow sponsor body. As far as I can tell, there is no real master plan for the whole world heritage site. Decisions are made in a slightly piecemeal way, involving major players such as the city council and so on, but in so far as there is co-ordination between them, it has always been the authorities of both Houses of Parliament who do it. If under this amendment that locus was taken away from the parliamentary authorities and handed to the shadow sponsor board, I suggest your Lordships would need to reflect on that.
The role of the shadow sponsor body is, fundamentally, to do what Parliament instructs. Therefore, if Parliament wanted us to take on this role, we would obey. However, as a parliamentarian, I would be quite nervous about handing over an important contribution to the overall planning process to the shadow sponsor body, which has been set up for an entirely different purpose: delivering the restoration and renewal of the fabric of this building.
The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is a thoughtful person who might take away that point and reflect on it, because it is entirely possible for the thrust of his arguments to be fulfilled, but perhaps not by the shadow sponsor body. In many ways, the amendment tabled and spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, is another example—it will not be the only one today—of an interesting relationship between the work of the sponsor body and that of the parliamentary authorities. For me, as both a member of that body and a parliamentarian, what is important is clarity. It is less about who exactly is doing what than being absolutely clear about who is doing it, so that, as decisions are made, we know how they have been made and by whom. The lines between some responsibilities are a little blurred, which makes it quite difficult for us.
We need to be careful not to use this Bill in a way that muddies those waters and makes it less clear where such responsibilities lie. At the end of the day, the shadow sponsor body and the sponsor body when it becomes substantive have their role to play, but the parliamentary authorities and Members of Parliament will also continue to have theirs.
My Lords, the noble Baroness said that the sponsor board was set up to manage the renewal of the Parliament building, but Clause 1(3)—we have talked about it many times—covers all the buildings that Parliament might sit in, even temporarily. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, is concerned about the possible management roles of, and interaction between, the different organisations, as are many of us. It would be useful if the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, could clarify that.
I am very pleased to. This is something of a moving picture. When the shadow sponsor body was first set up, it was not envisaged that it would have management of the Northern Estate programme, which has emerged. The Bill provides a framework in which Parliament could decide—to be honest—to ask the shadow sponsor body to do anything it liked, but just because it can does not mean that it should. There has to be reflection always on whether a particular task really sits within the skills and parameters of the sponsor body, which is why I have some concerns about the amendment effectively asking the shadow sponsor body to engage in the planning process on behalf of Parliament. If Parliament wants that, we will do it, but I am a little nervous about it and think that role sits more comfortably with the House authorities.
Amendment 2 is in the name of my noble friend Lord Cormack, for whom I have enormous affection and respect. This Bill, on the restoration and renewal of Parliament, is hugely important; we all know that this project must be pursued. However, I would like to give an alternative perspective.
The memorial that is the subject of this amendment is not, as far as I envisage it, about war. Suggesting that it might be more appropriately sited in the Imperial War Museum suggests that it is about something other than what I believe it is intended for. The memorial is about democracy and the horrible consequences of the disintegration of democratic values. The site for this memorial was specifically chosen for its historical, emotional and political significance and is a reminder of the government-approved murders of millions of innocent citizens. It will symbolise our country’s commitment to remembering the men, women and children, whether they were Roma, gays, disabled people or Jews, who were murdered just because of who they were, not for anything they had done wrong.
I declare an interest, as my father was born in Vienna and my mother in Berlin. Both fled here in the 1930s while most of our family was killed in concentration camps. I am enormously grateful to this country for providing a safe haven for them. I am also grateful for the work carried out by so many people, including noble friends on these Benches and others outside Parliament, who wish to build a lasting memorial to the horrendous consequences, the damage that can be done, when democracy crumbles. The current trend towards Holocaust denial—
Can the noble Baroness explain how, while democracy has spread across Europe since the Second World War, and Holocaust memorials, hundreds of them, have gone up in Europe and America, anti-Semitism and extremism are on the rise? They are not achieving their purpose. It is a worthy gesture but it needs much more thought.
I understand the noble Baroness’s concerns, but I do not think there is a causal connection between memorials sited in other places and the aims of this particular memorial, and what it is intended to symbolise. The trend towards Holocaust denial, revisionism and the rise of anti-Semitism and intolerance, even permeating, it seems, mainstream political discourse in this country and elsewhere, is a frightening reminder of the very reason why the memorial should be built precisely where it is currently planned. As we have heard in your Lordships’ House today, the memorial has many opponents and I understand the concerns raised, but I urge noble Lords to consider the fundamentally important reasons for it to be sited next to our Parliament.
Would the noble Baroness and other noble Lords accept that this is not fundamentally a debate about the desirability or the location of this? I genuinely recognise all the passions that people feel, but this amendment is about the extent to which the shadow sponsor body should act to engage with the planning authority.
I understand the point being made, but I think it is important that alternative views are expressed, having heard so many noble Lords who have put their perspective very powerfully. Of course, the noble Baroness is right—
I strongly encourage the noble Baroness to continue with her remarks, because the objections of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, to this location ranged far wider than the text of the amendment, which says that the sponsor body should have regard to whether the works,
“may impede the Parliamentary building works”.
The noble Lord’s objections about security and desirability, and the other objections raised, ranged far wider. I think it is completely inappropriate that this amendment should be the means of deciding where the Holocaust memorial goes.
I strongly endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and respectfully request that I put some alternative views to the House. I take the noble Baroness’s point that this is about the renovation and restoration of this Parliament, but this amendment having been put down, I think it is important that the House hears a range of views. Otherwise, an amendment of this nature, which would undermine the important purpose that is intended for a site right next to our Parliament, may pass automatically.
As my noble friend Lord Polak said, the project would take up just 7.5% of Victoria Tower Gardens, and it is intended to offer substantial improvements to the gardens. It will link the existing memorials to historic battles against injustice, and the Buxton memorial to the abolition of slavery will be preserved. The project provides for new pathways and playgrounds and has carefully looked at protecting the trees in the gardens.
I am hugely grateful to the Government and my party for approving the construction of this memorial, and that it will be situated in such a powerfully symbolic location. I hope that the concerns of noble Lords, which have been carefully and respectfully expressed, can be overcome with further discussions about the plans already in place and the careful consideration of the design, which is intended to avoid disruption. Disruption is inevitable whenever restoration is carried out, as will be the case with the restoration of Parliament, or, if one is building a Holocaust memorial and museum on any other site. However, I understand also the concerns of local residents, and that there are strong reservations.
I urge noble Lords to consider whether this particular amendment to this particular Bill is addressing the correct issue at the correct time, and whether we should have a broader consideration of the merits of the Holocaust memorial as it is currently proposed.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend. The noble Baroness opposite will like this, because I want to speak to the amendment itself.
Among the traditions and conventions of this House is a long-standing one that we do not impose retrospective legislation, and I know that my noble friend Lord Cormack has not attempted to do so. The result of that is that the existing planning application, which went in earlier this year, would not be affected by this amendment. Therefore, it matters not whether my noble friend wants to press it to a vote or wait until after the summer holidays, when the decision may well have been made, because this will not affect the decision regarding the location of the memorial learning centre one jot or iota.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, wanted an explanation of where we are. A planning application has been submitted to Westminster City Council, which is going about this in a diligent and thorough way. It has some experience, because most of the larger developments that government wants are within this area, so there is probably not a city council within the country better placed to do this. We could well have taken the decision to place this memorial and learning centre by a resolution of the House, overturning the planning of Westminster City Council. However, I have a soft spot and a lot of respect for local government. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, read out the National Planning Policy Framework; I like that, because I helped to write the section that she read out. It is important that, whether you are the Prime Minister, the Queen or some massively important person in the City, you are still subject to town and country planning. I found the experience of working alongside Westminster City Council useful, and I anticipate that we are likely to get a decision in early September.
My noble friend is the epitome of civilisation and reasonableness; absolutely nobody would feel that he was anti-Semitic. I did feel a number of times that my noble friend was carefully carving a paper tiger in order that it be destroyed, but let me be clear: you can object to this location without being anti-Semitic in any way. My noble friend spoiled it a little when he said that he wanted to preserve all the grass, the dicky birds and flowers but then said that actually, it would be quite a good place for us to build a temporary Chamber over the top. I suppose that the flowers and the dicky birds could then go take a hike.
This site was announced in January 2016. I know that the announcement was made in secret—it was made by the Prime Minister on the Floor of the House of Commons, so one would not necessarily expect everyone to know about it, but I would expect Members of this House to know. Not only was the site announced; we then announced an international competition, and all the top architects in the world put in a bid. We had an exhibition in Westminster Hall, which Members of this House could have looked at; they could even have submitted a card saying whether they liked the design. It was then selected by a jury, which included the Chief Rabbi and Holocaust survivors. Two international architects with experience in Holocaust architecture were selected.
I understand that my honourable friend Lord Forsyth, who is no longer in his place—no doubt he is a busy man—said that he does not like the design. Fair enough: not everybody likes it, but it won an international competition. It has been selected to appear at the international design centre. It is regarded as a thoroughly intelligent piece of work.
Even the people who put together the landscape have just won the competition to landscape the trees and grassland surrounding the Eiffel Tower. The French are notoriously pernickety about design, and I cannot help but feel that we have managed to get the best. I give way to the honourable lady, Baroness Deech.
I just wondered whether the noble Lord would remind the House that the winning design is identical to the one that the two architects produced for a competition in Ottawa, which they lost. The Ottawa setting was huge and concrete. They simply brought the same design over to London, hardly tweaking it.
I have no idea whether that is true and—I hope that the honourable Lady will not mind me being blunt—I do not care. It was a winning design. It is an attractive design. I know that she does not like it but, frankly, I prefer the choice of a competition and an international jury to her particular whims.
We are almost following a standard. The honourable Lady mentioned Ottawa. Ottawa and Washington went through—
I remind the noble Lord that it is “the noble Baroness”, not “the honourable Lady”. We address our fellow Peers as the noble Lord or Baroness, rather than the honourable.
I thank the noble Baroness. That is very helpful.
Ottawa and Washington went through exactly the same process. They said, “We don’t want it here. We think it’s a marvellous thing but we don’t want it in this particular location. Just put it somewhere else”. They then produced a security assessment saying that it somehow adds to insecurity. We have worked closely with the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, and the Metropolitan Police. This morning, my office checked with them to see whether the security report produced by Mr Adrian Tudway changed their assessment in any way; their answer was no. I must say, Mr Tudway is a remarkably honest person. In his assessment, he says:
“I assess the risk of such an attack as falling within the ‘moderate’ band (using Low, Moderate, or High Risk)”.
That seems extremely sensible to me.
I do not know an awful lot about security; I just take advice. We have had the advantage of the Community Security Trust offering advice on this issue. It says:
“We look at the threats, we mitigate as best we can and then we lead our lives as we have every right to do. Police and Government and everyone else takes exactly the same approach. Further to the above, I dislike, on a point of principle, the notion that anti-Jewish terrorism means that we cannot have Jewish things in public as easily as we can have other things. Then there is the fact that the memorial would be in such a heavily policed part of town anyway. I’m not entirely sure why the memorial would be at such additional risk, relative to other parts of Westminster, so as to render it unfeasible on security grounds, whereas everything else in Westminster is basically fine and within acceptable risk levels”.
The noble Lord is absolutely right. I apologise to the House; I forgot that I was in the Lords, not the Commons. I should say that I am co-chair of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation and vice-president of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust; I am also on the commission for Auschwitz, the concentration camp in Poland. All those posts are unpaid. I also attend other events. If I have left anything out, I apologise to the noble Lord.
Why this location? We have heard suggestions from other noble Lords as to why it is appropriate. There are two reasons. First, we want the people who have visited the learning centre, and listened to the lessons of the Holocaust and the genocide, to leave, look towards the Victoria and Elizabeth Towers and these two Chambers, and recognise that Parliament is the final bastion—the final protection against tyranny. Secondly, we want people working in this Chamber and in the other place to understand that they always have a choice: they can protect or they can oppress. It was a compliant legislature that introduced the Nuremberg laws. I look forward, in the not-too-distant future, to taking my noble friend Lord Cormack, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and other Members on an exclusive guided tour of the new memorial. When it is finished, I am sure that the honourable gentleman will feel that we have done him and this place proud.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, who speaks with great authority on this matter. As he rightly declared, he is deeply involved in and knows an enormous amount about what is proposed. But I pick him up on one point he made. Whether or not the application here is out of time for this amendment, I would have thought that nobody in your Lordships’ House would disagree that both this amendment and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, are eminently sensible. It must certainly be right that the sponsor body takes an interest and is informed, as this long restoration and renewal process goes on, of any issues we need to know about; the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, made that point.
There are so many different angles. I will instance one that has not been mentioned at all, about what comes into Victoria Tower Gardens. I happened to be talking to one of the officers of the House, who got very excited about the issue of lying in state. I do not want to anticipate any unfortunate events that may take place at a very senior level in our country, but at some stage there will be a lying-in-state. Anyone familiar with the problems of lying in state in this Parliament, when the queue goes all the way down the back, through Victoria Tower Gardens and over Lambeth Bridge, will ask where on earth the people are going to go. This is just one illustration of the peculiarities and requirements of the extraordinary site on which we stand.
I criticise my noble friend Lord Cormack over one point. He spelled out what he was looking to see from the restoration and renewal of these great parliamentary buildings. We see a forecast of 37 degrees on Thursday, but I saw absolutely no mention in the new proposal of the importance of brilliant air conditioning throughout the Houses of Parliament.
I am a strong supporter of the Holocaust memorial; I was a strong supporter when it was originally proposed. What was not proposed at the same time was that it would be combined with the learning centre. That introduced an entirely new dimension, of course. When the proposal was originally put forward—I understand that the Prime Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Feldman, were involved at one stage—there were three alternative locations for the learning centre that were not Victoria Tower Gardens. The memorial, like other memorials, was to be in Victoria Tower Gardens.
The issue I see arising is that we have had a clear statement about how little space this will take up—the figure given was 7.5%—but it has to be built first. It may be 7.5% when the work is finished. I was surprised that my noble friend Lord Pickles did not seem to think that the learning centre was underground.
There was an intervention that I thought suggested not. If I have got that wrong, I apologise.
It is going to be a massive construction process. I asked my noble friend Lord Pickles—he will not mind my mentioning this—how long he thinks this will take; two years, possibly. Anybody familiar with construction projects in London—I have been, and am at present, quite closely involved with some—knows the likelihood of any construction project in London finishing on time. Your Lordships should come with me to Crossrail and see the problems; the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, knows better than anybody that this is a major problem. While the construction is going on, how much space will it take up? I asked earlier what happens to all the spoil they dig out. It will all go out by barge. That is a new dimension, but it is implicit recognition of the traffic problems that this might cause.
This is an incredibly difficult issue to talk about, because all sorts of allegations are made about anti-Semitism. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on his most moving speech, which seemed to me to completely knock on the head the suggestion that anybody who has a concern about this must be implicitly anti-Semitic. I recall the letter written to the Times by the noble Lord and 10 other colleagues, all Jewish Peers, including the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, expressing their concerns about what will happen.
It is obviously going to be a major construction project which will give rise to concern over traffic—about which we have complaints enough at the moment—will deprive a significant area of London’s smallest park of its utility and will go on for some time. I hope those words will echo around Westminster Council. I am not sure whether they will echo around the Secretary of State whose application it is—it will presumably be referred to him subsequently—but it is an unfortunate decision and we will have to see what comes out of it.
My noble friend Lord Polak made the point that we have had terrorism and we do not expect any more problems. However, given the news today about the ISIS attacks and the killing of the Taliban, the idea that ISIS/Daesh has gone away is wrong. Having lived through Borough Market and Westminster Bridge, and having seen the new threats of one kind or another, I must warn your Lordships, from my experience of having dealt with terrorism for too much of my life, that this is a completely new dimension. We never had suicide bombers in Northern Ireland but we will have them aplenty—it is what happened in Kabul today. Given the complete confusion in the whole of the Middle East area, the activities of the different groups and the unfortunate involvement of Israel—a democratic state in the middle of that appallingly unstable and dangerous area—your Lordships will not be surprised to hear me say that, as the hatred, threats and the various problems in the world continue to grow, there is no prospect of a calmer, more peaceful world emerging. In those circumstances we need to move with great care to ensure that we do not increase the risks of more danger.
We know all too well—it is a political point—that the police are finding it hard to cope with the present number of threats, difficulties and disruptions they face. This will not make their lives any easier and, in many cases, the challenges will be even more dangerous.
I add my voice to that of my noble friend Lord Cormack and, although it may be a bit late, I hope the House and the sponsor body will look carefully at the implications of this development as the hugely demanding task of restoring and renewing our Parliament is carried forward.
My Lords, I will make a brief intervention before the Minister responds. The broad sentiment behind Amendments 2 and 21A to ensure that consideration is given to how other constructions could impact on the restoration and renewal programme is fully acknowledged by us. I listened with interest to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I am also a great fan of Victoria Tower Gardens. I particularly enjoy walking through it and seeing “The Burghers of Calais” and the anti-slavery memorial.
However, while I am obviously moved by the contributions of noble Lords on the Holocaust memorial and the Holocaust itself, I am not in a position to comment on this today—I have not been involved in it —but my noble friend Lady Smith has been involved in discussions with noble Lords from all sides of the House.
As the House noted at Second Reading, the Government have chosen not to hand planning issues to the delivery body, as had previously been suggested—my noble friend Lord Adonis raised this point—but none the less it is helpful for this House to consider whether there is a place for the sponsor body to advise on such issues. The comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, raised important issues in relation to this and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
On Amendment 21A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, the issue of the parliamentary relationship agreement including provision for corporate officers to inform and consult the sponsor body on nearby works is important. The noble Baroness raised a number of important issues and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this debate and my noble friend Lord Cormack for tabling his amendment. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, I understand the sentiment behind it and agree that, if planning applications for works adjacent to the Palace were submitted, the sponsor body would clearly need to seek guidance on whether those works might impede the R&R programme and, if necessary, raise objections. Prior to the appointment of the shadow sponsor body, under the House authorities the R&R programme has held annual conferences for neighbours such as Westminster City Council, the GLA, Transport for London, Westminster Abbey and the Metropolitan Police. The sponsor body plans to continue these conferences, in order to update partners on the progress of the R&R programme. Close engagement will continue.
Clause 2(2)(b) already places a duty on the sponsor body to make strategic decisions relating to the carrying out of parliamentary building works, and this would include responding to planning applications that may impede the works. Therefore, while we recognise the importance of the principle behind this amendment, given that this is something that the sponsor body already has the power to do in the relevant circumstances, I do not believe it needs to be prescribed in the Bill.
A number of noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Cormack, Lord Forsyth and Lord King, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, raised particular concerns around the Holocaust memorial project planned to be located in Victoria Tower Gardens, which is run by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. I assure noble Lords that, before deciding on Victoria Tower Gardens, the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, an advisory board to the MHCLG which has cross-party support and is co-chaired by my noble friend Lord Pickles and Ed Balls, conducted an extensive search for possible locations and considered almost 50 sites in central London. Visibility, accessibility, availability and affordability were taken into account during this detailed process. The foundation identified Victoria Tower Gardens as a potential site for the memorial and, following investigations into its feasibility, recommended it to the Government in January 2016 as the best choice.
My noble friends Lord Cormack and Lord Forsyth, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, raised the possibility of the Holocaust memorial being situated at the Imperial War Museum. Noble Lords will certainly be aware that that was carefully considered along with, as I said, many other locations. However, Victoria Tower Gardens was identified as the site capable of meeting the Government’s aspiration for the new national memorial.
A key factor in choosing the location was the visibility it afforded to the memorial. As my noble friends Lord Polak and Lord Pickles said, in the shadow of Parliament, the memorial will encourage visitors to learn about the challenging decisions that our leaders had to make in the lead up to, during and in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
My noble friends Lord Cormack, Lord King, Lord Forsyth and Lord Polak, and the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, all touched on the important issue of security. We are fully aware of the security implications associated with the environs of the Palace of Westminster and are in regular contact with representatives of the Parliamentary Security Department, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and the Metropolitan Police. We have been advised on physical and operational security measures to mitigate risks and are confident that the proposed site would be secure. Queuing visitors will be confined to the paths immediately adjacent to the memorial itself, and all visitors will require a pre-booked ticket.
Moreover, as my noble friend Lady Altmann said, the planned design will lead to improvements in Victoria Tower Gardens. The vast majority of the public space will be retained and improved, with more accessible seating and a new boardwalk along the embankment.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and my noble friend Lord King asked about the timetable for the project. As my noble friend Lord Pickles outlined, subject to planning permission, work on the site is expected to begin in 2020, with the Holocaust memorial opening in late 2022; that is well before the R&R programme works will commence. A detailed delivery plan has been developed and robust project management arrangements are in place to ensure that it remains on track, with engagement with specialist contractors throughout the course of the works.
The noble Lord, Lord King, mentioned the construction time and suggested that it might be longer. He also suggested that the contractors would need quite a lot of the garden for temporary works while they build the memorial. Has the Minister any idea of whether any of the garden will be able to remain open during the construction phase?
I am afraid that because this project does not relate specifically to the R&R programme, I do not have that information. But I am sure I will be able to find out and will write to the noble Lord.
My noble friend Lord Cormack raised the issue of the decant. We will come to that in a later group so, if it is okay with noble Lords, I will now turn to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Stowell.
My noble friend’s amendment would obligate the House authorities to consult the sponsor body about major works to the Parliamentary Estate which sit outside of R&R, if they are likely to have an impact on delivering the programme. Noble Lords will be aware that the Strategic Estates team is a bicameral service, accountable to the clerks of both Houses and to the relevant domestic committees. In the case of this House, those are the Services Committee, the Finance Committee and ultimately the commission. At present, the shadow sponsor body sits within the House authorities and under the Strategic Estates team, which means that both parties have a head start in looking ahead and being aware of what ongoing projects might have an impact on R&R.
My noble friend’s amendment is to Clause 6, which concerns the parliamentary relationship agreement that the House authorities and the sponsor body will have to sign once the sponsor body is formed on a statutory basis. This agreement will set out the arrangements to hand over the Palace for decant and to hand it back once the Palace has been restored. It will also cover issues relating to staff transfers, insurance, security and the control of data, among other matters.
In the light of its purpose, we consider that this agreement is the natural place for the House authorities and the sponsor body to determine how they will keep each other informed about ongoing estate works which might affect the R&R programme and provide the clarity that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, rightly said was important. As this agreement already has to cover “consultation and co-operation” between the sponsor body and the corporate officers of the House, we do not think it is necessary to prescribe in this Bill what that consultation and co-operation should cover.
Ian Ailles and the two clerks currently co-ordinate estates projects through the Parliamentary Estate and public realm oversight group. Once the sponsor body is established, if Parliament and the sponsor body wish for this group to continue to play a co-ordinating role, it would then need to be covered by the parliamentary relationship agreement. In addition, if, over the course of the R&R programme, it became apparent that there was support for current separate House authority estates programmes such as the archives project to fall under R&R, the Bill makes provision for this under Clause 1.
Adding another project to R&R could happen but only with the agreement of the commissions of both Houses, the sponsor body and the delivery authority. As was discussed during this debate, that is precisely the process that is currently being followed to integrate the Northern Estate programme, which includes Richmond House, into the R&R programme. The reason it was not included from the beginning is that the NEP predates important decisions on R&R.
I hope that my response reassures my noble friend, and I ask that he withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, my noble friend does not appear to be answering the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and has asked me to withdraw my amendment. I made it quite plain when I moved it that I rather honour the convention in your Lordships’ House that we do not divide in Committee and I have no intention of seeking to do so. However, I would like to say two or three things.
First, it is very important indeed that any application relating to the immediate environs of the Palace of Westminster, and that could conceivably impinge upon what we are going to do, should at least be looked at by the body we are formally establishing in this Bill. That is very important, and I may well seek to move an amendment when we come to Report. If I was so minded, I would want to consult the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, before doing so.
On the subject of the Holocaust memorial, it is important that the Committee has been able to debate this extremely important adjacent development. In responding, my noble friend the Leader of the House indicated that it is almost a fait accompli, but I gently remind her that the planning authority has yet to determine, and I certainly hope that it will take most carefully into account not only the powerful speeches of my noble friends who have so strongly supported this, but those of us who have perfectly reasonable, legitimate concerns about the effect it may have. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for what she said, and to my noble friend Lord King and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for his moving and powerful speech. These are not arguments that should be lightly dismissed or cast aside, and it is entirely legitimate that those of us in this House and in the other place should have views. If they diverge sharply from those equally sincere views held by my noble friends Lord Pickles, Lord Polak and Lady Altmann, that is what democracy is all about. We cannot always agree on everything, as we have demonstrated quite successfully over the past three years. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.