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Amendment 2

Part of Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 5:30 pm, 22nd July 2019

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.