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Republic of Ireland: Diplomatic Service

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many officials of diplomatic rank who were responsible for or privy to (a) the decision to dispose of Glencairn, County Dublin, (b) its subsequent lease back to his Department and (c) the purchase of Marlay Grange, Dublin have since 2000 (i) been raised to the peerage, (ii) received Knighthoods or the rank of Dame and (iii) been recipients of any other honours from the Queen. (159052)

[holding answer 22 October 2007]: The decisions referred to were taken by Ministers after advice from officials. Many officials would have been privy to the decisions at that time and it is not possible to identify them all without incurring disproportionate cost.

Honours are awarded to officials for exceptional public service.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many hectares comprised the Glencairn House and estate prior to its disposal; how many hectares have subsequently been leased back; what the rental cost is for each year of Glencairn’s lease back to his Department; and if he will make a statement; (159053)

(2) what the receipt from the sale of Glencairn House, County Dublin was; what the cost is each year of its subsequent rental; and what the total costs were of legal agents and other fees relating to its sale and subsequent lease back.

[holding answer 22 October 2007]: I refer my hon. Friend to the report on the Rationalisation of the Glencairn Estate, Dublin produced by the Comptroller and Auditor General to the House of Commons which gives full details of the sale of Glencairn and purchase of Marlay Grange. The report is available at:

http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/nao_reports/03-04/03041088.pdf.

The Glencairn House and estate comprised 14.2 hectares and was sold for IR £27 million (£24 million) in 1999. The Ambassador remains in occupation of the house and its immediate curtilage. No land has been leased back since the sale, nor is any rent paid for the occupation of Glencairn House. Under terms agreed with the purchaser, the agreed portion of the sale price relating to Glencairn House and its immediate grounds of 2.87 hectares (IR £4 million, £3.5million approximately at today’s rate of exchange) will only be payable when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office gives vacant possession. Total fees (legal and agents’) relating to the sale amounted to about £170,000.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) when his Department became aware that Marlay Grange, Dublin had an asbestos problem; why the asbestos was not revealed in the survey commissioned prior to its purchase; and if he will make a statement; (159054)

(2) what the total cost was of the purchase of Marlay Grange, Dublin; what the subsequent cost to date has been of (a) asbestos treatment and removal and (b) all other refurbishment costs; what (i) other costs of maintenance of the buildings, (ii) other costs of maintenance of the grounds and (iii) other maintenance costs have been incurred; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 22 October 2007]: I refer my hon. Friend to the report on the Rationalisation of the Glencairn Estate, Dublin produced by the Comptroller and Auditor General to the House of Commons which gives full details of the sale of Glencairn and purchase of Marlay Grange. The report is available at

http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/nao_reports/03-04/03041088.pdf.

Marlay Grange was purchased for IR £8 million in 2000 (£6.258 million). An initial survey of the property, carried out in October 1999, showed that a comprehensive refurbishment would be required. However, this was not an invasive survey as the owners were still living in the property and would not permit one. The extent of asbestos only became known after the property was purchased, when the full survey was carried out in preparation for refurbishment.

Up until mid-2004, we had spent £700,000 on works to Marlay Grange, which included asbestos removal, fees and security works. No refurbishment works have been carried out. Since mid-2004 we have incurred security and minor maintenance costs of £507,000.