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Departments: Official Residences

Volume 461: debated on Monday 18 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the official ministerial residences allocated to Ministers in his Department; and what the total annual cost is of running each. (141963)

When in Northern Ireland I stay at Hillsborough castle. As well as providing overnight accommodation for me, the facilities at Hillsborough castle are also used to provide official hospitality and overnight accommodation for members of the Royal Family, visiting dignitaries and diplomats. Other activities at the castle include departmental meetings, the Annual Garden Party and Citizenship Ceremonies. In addition to its use by the Northern Ireland Office and other Government Departments, charities and local community groups can request to use the facilities, generally for fund raising purposes, and the castle and grounds are open at certain times of the year for guided tours.

The costs associated with my overnight accommodation at Hillsborough castle cannot be separated from the overall cost. The cost of running Hillsborough castle for the 2005-06 financial year was £4,948,666.27. As custodians of this listed building the NIO takes seriously the need to preserve, maintain and refurbish the fabric of the building. This cost includes the maintenance of the buildings and grounds, and the security of the castle, the grounds, and that of Ministers, officials and visitors while present at the castle. It also includes the cost of catering, hospitality and administration. £3,165,938.56 is included in this amount in respect of cost of capital and depreciation.