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Amendment 2

Part of Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Pickles Lord Pickles Conservative 5:00 pm, 22nd July 2019

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.