Clause 1: “The Parliamentary building works”
1: Clause 1, page 2, line 1, leave out from “Westminster” to end of line 2 and insert “at the earliest opportunity that its work and democratic and constitutional functions can reasonably be delivered in the restored Palace.”
My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I open the Committee stage of this Bill. My noble friend Lady Smith—who, as the House will know, was a member of the original Joint Committee and spoke with her usual eloquence and depth at Second Reading on behalf of these Benches—unfortunately has other commitments and cannot be here until later but is very much hoping to join us as soon as possible. Meanwhile, my noble friend Lord McNicol and I are holding the fort.
I am moving Amendment 1 and speaking to Amendment 16, both of which are in my noble friend’s name. It is right that we start today with amendments to Clauses 1 and 2 that aim to ensure and reiterate that the core purpose of the restoration and renewal programme must be to enable the Houses of Parliament to continue to serve as the UK’s primary legislative and democratic institution.
Clause 2 lists areas to which the sponsor body must have regard, but the work of Parliament, legislation and the representative democratic function is not referred to anywhere in the Bill. As my noble friend Lady Smith said at Second Reading,
“That is a serious omission. At no point should the sponsor body … lose sight of that”.—[Official Report, 8/7/19; col. 1675.]
Our amendments seek to remedy this. The House will be aware that, as this project progresses, it is vital that we bring the public and Parliament with us. We must make both aware that the works are imperative not only to preserve this historic building for future generations but to ensure that this country can long benefit from its constitutional role.
By stressing the significance of the works for the sanctity of democracy, we can better demonstrate that the costs and work involved are vital and necessary, and we help address and dissuade notions that this is only for the benefit of parliamentarians. Safeguarding Parliament’s role in our constitution is of vital benefit to everyone in the UK. Through these amendments, this House can do more than send this message; we can ensure that this principle is at the forefront of consideration for the sponsor body as works progress.
Amendment 16 would legislate that the sponsor body must always take regard of the primary democratic and constitutional functions of Parliament during the project. Amendment 1, meanwhile, would ensure that while the decant takes place the aim of the works will be to facilitate both Houses’ return so that their democratic and constitutional functions can be upheld and continued.
The importance of including in the Bill the broad principle that the works must never lose sight of the fact that they are taking place to maintain Parliament as a place of democracy was underlined by noble Lords from across the House at Second Reading. I hope that the Government will agree and bring forward proposals on Report to ensure that this principle is incorporated into the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am happy to speak in support of the amendment that has just been so ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler. It is important we remember that the principal functions of this place are its constitutional, legislative and scrutiny functions. That should not be forgotten. That said, in many of the debates we will have in Committee, we will remember many of the other things that happen in this place. I was going to say it is a village; it is probably larger than that in terms of the number of people who work here. However, at the end of the day, if it were not for the democratic and constitutional functions that take place, most of that other work would not materialise.
Although it is not one I signed, possibly through omission rather than as a deliberate act, the words “at the earliest opportunity” in Amendment 1 are important, because there is an urgency in this: both in starting now and, when the works start, in getting back in as soon as possible. Throughout the whole process, it is important that we try to maintain the pace. We will come later to an amendment I have tabled about timelines. We all know from large public works that there is often a tendency to delay, but I hope that once we get out it will not be very long until we get back in.
My Lords, any amendment which improves the Bill is obviously a good thing, but I was not clear from what my noble friend said how this amendment does so. It is not clear to me how the words,
“as soon as is reasonably practicable”,
“at the earliest opportunity that its work and democratic and constitutional functions can reasonably be delivered in the restored Palace”,
are in any way different. Could my noble friend answer that when she responds?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, for moving the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith. I am also grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness. The Government entirely agree that it is important for the sponsor body and delivery authority to ensure that the R&R works enhance and protect the work of Parliament. This focus is reflected in the fact that the Bill requires that the majority of the members on the board of the sponsor body are parliamentarians.
As part of its strategic vision for the programme, the shadow sponsor body has been clear that restoration and renewal must deliver a building that supports Parliament’s core function as a working legislature both now and in the future, using high-quality design and technology. This includes facilitating any procedural changes that may be requested by either House.
When drafting the Bill, the Government have been careful not to prescribe either what Parliament does or its procedures, as these are clearly a matter for Parliament itself. We are concerned by the reference to the “democratic and constitutional functions” of Parliament in this amendment, as we are mindful of potential legal challenges in respect of the exercise of the powers contained in the Bill. For instance, we must be careful not to unintentionally invite the courts to consider matters that are the preserve of Parliament, such as the question of what the “democratic and constitutional functions” of Parliament are. Doing so could call into question the separation between the courts and Parliament.
Noble Lords will know that the Companion explains that the principle of control by Parliament of its affairs, free from interference by the courts, is often called “exclusive cognisance”. We are concerned that the inclusion of this wording in the Bill could be seen as Parliament waiving the exclusive cognisance of the House, and so we have reservations about the wording of the amendment.
The best way to ensure that the R&R works enhance and protect the democratic and constitutional role of Parliament is to ensure that Parliament has a final say on the plans for a restored and renewed Palace. The Bill sets out very clearly that the works cannot commence until Members of both Houses have approved the delivery authority’s proposal for the design, cost and timing of those works in the outline business case. This will enable parliamentarians to determine whether the designs for the restored Palace and decant enable Parliament to carry out its democratic and constitutional functions. Significant changes to the design, timing or cost will also have to go back to Parliament for agreement. For these reasons, we are confident that the sponsor body will ensure that the parliamentary buildings works enhance and protect the work, and democratic and constitutional functions, of the Houses of Parliament.
Obviously, this is a matter for noble Lords to consider, but as I have set out, we have some legal concerns. I hope that I have reassured the noble Baroness and the noble and learned Lord that the principle behind the amendment will be central to the work of the sponsor body and the delivery authority. I am sure that the parliamentary authorities would be happy to provide further advice on this if needed. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.
I thank the noble Baroness for her comments. After today, I will look at the legal and constitutional issues that she raised. I am very grateful for her reassurances about accepting the principle. If we feel that we need to reinforce that, we will come back on Report.
In answer to my noble friend Lord Adonis, the “earliest possible opportunity” reference will be taken up in later amendments and so we will respond to that in due course.
I thank in particular the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, for his contribution. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
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.”
My Lords, in moving this amendment I say at the outset that I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater for adding their names to it.
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.
Can the noble Lord tell us where he proposes that the memorial should be moved to?
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.
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.
My Lords, I support the amendment that was moved so clearly and eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I agree entirely with the other things that have been said so far.
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—
Will the noble Lord give way?
In a moment—this is not the appropriate place. I venture that anyone who has great experience in local government, such as the noble Lord who I am about to give way to, should be of a similar view.
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?
Yes, of course.
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 have been to the site in Berlin. Does the noble Lord not agree that it is on a much bigger footprint than is postulated for Victoria Tower Gardens? It is a rectangular site, occupying a great space, which is very different from what is proposed here.
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.
I will of course give way in a moment, but as I said, this is not the House of Commons; I will come to you in a moment.
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”.
I am listening to the noble Lord’s cogent speech with great interest. Should he not have started by declaring his interest as co-chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation Advisory Board?
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.
For the record, I forgot to mention that I am a trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Charitable Trust. I apologise for not saying that at the beginning of my contribution.
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 noble friend kindly offered to write to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. Will she confirm that she will put a copy of that letter in the Library?
I am happy to do so.
I take it from what the Leader and the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, have said that these decisions are beyond the point of no return. That being the case, is not this debate a complete waste of time?
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.
2A: Clause 1, page 2, line 2, at end insert—
“(4) The Sponsor Body must ensure that the first works carried out as part of the Parliamentary building works are to ensure that all buildings undergoing works are provided with—(a) a fully automatic fire alarm system achieving BS5839 L1/P1 standard; and (b) a fully automatic water mist suppression system.(5) Exceptions to the requirement under subsection (4)(a) may be justified only on grounds of practical feasibility and must be given prior approval by the Sponsor Body.(6) If, for reasons of practical feasibility, the requirement under subsection (4)(b) cannot be delivered, the Sponsor Body must approve an alternative fire suppression solution before further works may commence.”
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 2A, 2B and 16A, which are all in my name. These are all about fire. We have had several debates in your Lordships’ House about the risk of fire in this building. As we saw at Notre Dame in Paris a few weeks ago when the roof caught fire, there are issues about how we protect roofs and the building both when it is in use and when there are contractors on site. Many noble Lords will have seen the results of fires. I think the Queen has had bad fires in two palaces during her long reign, and we have had two fires in Glasgow and in many other places. Having spent quite a lot of time looking at fire prevention and the consequences in the Channel Tunnel and other long tunnels and in other buildings, I suppose that fire is of great concern to me. I am very grateful to two officers of the House, John Bradbury and Malcolm McBride, who have helped me and discussed the issues and the problems with me. I am also grateful to Stewart Kidd, who is a past secretary-general of the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association.
When we come to fire, three separate issues need to be discussed: detection; evacuation of people; and suppression—that is, how to put the fire out. I think the authorities in your Lordships’ House and the other place have made progress in detection. There are certainly very good systems in the basement, and I know that they are doing some things to detect fire in the roof. I will come to evacuation later. It is fine to have a fire detected, but if you are not going to let the building burn to the ground, you have to suppress the fire before it goes too far. I know we have good procedures in this House when the contractors are working on the roof, and I am sure they are very well policed, but there is still a risk. Given the special nature of this building and that, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, said earlier, our job is to protect Parliament, we have to take these issues extremely seriously. That is why I put these amendments down. They are probing amendments, and I hope to carry on discussing the various issues in the amendments with Ministers, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, and other people after this debate.
The first thing that needs to be done, when any works are done in a building such as this, is to put in a fire alarm detection system and a water mist suppression system. That is covered in Amendment 2A. People will say that it is impossible—it should have been done by now, but it has not been—and within the constraints of the Bill it is no good asking for it now because we have not started the work. Putting them in now, or at least as soon as we can, will at least mean that the building will be protected during the construction. It would be temporary pipework and perhaps some extra wiring, and it might be expensive, but it would be quite expensive—and a complete disaster—if this building caught fire.
We have had a discussion about whether it would be possible to put a water mist system into Westminster Hall. As we all know, it has a very big span and it is the most iconic building in the Palace. I am advised that a water mist system could be put in in Westminster Hall with the present technology. Therefore, I do not think that it should be dismissed out of hand. It would need to be in the roof space and a proper study would need to be undertaken, but if it is possible to do it—it needs a certain amount of compartmentalisation as well —it should be considered because it would be a great shame, and even a disaster, if the roof of Westminster Hall caught fire, given its age and iconic nature.
It would be very easy for experts to say that the things suggested in Amendment 2A cannot be done, are not feasible or are too expensive. I believe that one proposal for putting detection systems into part of this building was rejected by the Treasury as being too expensive. I do not think that the Treasury should be the judge of what it costs to preserve this building. New subsections (5) and (6) proposed in Amendment 2A require that the sponsor body must be given very good reasons for exceptions, and it must be able to suggest alternatives.
Amendment 2B comes under the second part of “detection—evacuation—suppression”, and that is evacuation. We have had several helpful meetings with noble Lords and Ministers on this question, and I was struck by comments made at the last meeting by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, from the point of view of wheelchair users. She said that there are times when she cannot get through the doors of this building and that she sometimes got stuck, which meant that she could not vote in a Division because she could not get there. We have to consider very carefully that, after having moved out into a nice new or converted building, we will all be quite used to having loos and lifts that are accessible for disabled people, committee rooms with loudspeakers and microphones so that you can generally hear what is said—which is not the case here at the moment—and offices that we have similar access to. Therefore, when we come back here—if we do—we will expect the same things, and I do not think that many noble Lords will be happy if we do not have them.
It is lovely having an office in the main building, as I do, even if it is at the far end. It is Room S3/3 and is accessed by two narrow staircases with no fire escape, but we love it. However, we will not be prepared to come back here if most of the rooms are not accessible to people with wheelchairs and the lifts are all over the place. The lifts will need to be much bigger. If we accept all that—the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, will probably be in charge of all this by then—I suspect that we will need to demolish many walls, floors, and staircases outside the main buildings in order to get that access. It is something that we need to think about.
One thing that I talked to the fire experts about was evacuation. I asked them about the Committee Corridor, which has half-hour fire-resistant doors between the Lords end and the Commons end. At the Lords end, there are seven, eight or maybe nine committee rooms, each of which can take 100 people. Therefore, 900 people might have to get out in the event of a fire at the other end. There are two narrow staircases to get people down to the ground floor. Noble Lords will know that the Labour Party had a meeting there this afternoon and we had to come down to vote. There were under 100 of us in that room and we all got down in time to vote, but multiplying that number by nine suggests that the size of the staircases will need to be looked at very carefully.
One of the fire experts said to me that they had not been able to persuade the House authorities—which might include the noble Baroness the Leader—to have a real live evacuation test with members of the public. There is a great difference between having members of the public do it and having volunteers, who are often young and healthy and move quite fast. We did the same thing when we trialled evacuation from the Channel Tunnel. We had an expert who could model the movement of people alongside the movement of a fire. That has not often been done, but he did it in connection with the airplane that crashed at East Midlands Airport about 10 years ago and he got within 10% accuracy of who would and would not die. It is terribly important that this is modelled using real live people—the kind of people we get in the committee rooms—and not volunteers, and that it is done at a very early stage before any design work is done on the refurbished building.
Finally, Amendment 16A is just an attempt to remind us all that there will be those who say, “Don’t put a water spray or mist system in this building. It’s a special building and it might affect the fabric and the pictures”. I remind your Lordships that, if this building catches fire, that too will affect the pictures and the fabric, because, as we all know, much of this building, including the roof, is timber. Therefore, it is good to listen to the experts in heritage, but the most important thing is to make sure that this building is preserved. I beg to move.
My Lords, I want to make some brief comments. I start by reminding noble Lords that the shadow sponsor body sets six key strategic priorities in its publication about restoration and renewal produced in the spring—I know that everyone will have read it avidly and memorised it. The very first point in the very first block of priorities concerns fire—the risk of fire in the restored Palace and also during the restoration. Therefore, it is very much in the minds of the sponsor body, as your Lordships would expect.
The noble Lord’s point about evacuation was very interesting. My initial thought was that it really was not anything to do with the shadow sponsor body. It is an operational matter and something that we ought to do. Most of us, ever since being at school, have experienced fire drills. I thought I would be saying that this was a matter for the House, but the noble Lord made a more fundamental point about how much we do not know about how people use this place. One thing that the shadow sponsor body has found in its work is that people do not necessarily react as you would expect them to, so it is a very real point. However, I stand by my initial view that it is for the House authorities and not the shadow sponsor body to sort out the evacuation drill.
I hope that the noble Lord wants not to put on the face of the Bill a specific and technical response to fire but, rather, to probe whether we are taking it seriously. Having said that I am not speaking on behalf of the sponsor body, I know that we would be very keen to work with the noble Lord on this matter. Your Lordships will be aware that we have done a lot of work with Members on disability access issues, for example, and will be doing so on other matters, so I am very happy to talk to him about that.
His question about fire and heritage gives rise to a fundamental point, which is that noble Lords have many different priorities. Some say that heritage takes precedence and others say that accessibility does. I think that making something a number one priority above everything else on the face of the Bill would probably make life quite difficult later. There will be a point when the House has to make has to make these decisions. The shadow sponsor body, working with the designers, will put forward a whole range of propositions but it will be for the House to work through what it chooses to prioritise. Therefore, putting things on the face of the Bill that constrain that prioritisation could mean that Parliament has fewer choices when it comes to make a decision.
I do not want to comment on this from the point of view of a member of the sponsor body, because I certainly am not. I was a member of the Joint Committee that reviewed the legislation but I am not speaking from that point of view either. I am speaking as somebody who, in his professional life before entering the world of politics, supervised construction projects. Indeed, I was supervising a project when the people adapting the sprinkler system with welding equipment set fire to the roof and the building burned down. Therefore, I am very well apprised of the risks and I think that the noble Lord has done us all a favour by raising them in the way that he has.
I want to comment in particular on the specific technical solution that the noble Lord has put forward. I think he will recognise that this project’s construction phase will last for at least another 10 and probably 15 years. Mist sprinkling had not even been invented 10 or 15 years ago, so we need to be very well aware that what technology will deliver now might be completely different from what it is appropriate to deliver later. Therefore, I very much hope that he will make allowances for the specific point that my noble friend has raised and ensure that, whatever discussions take place, we do not lock ourselves into a technical solution that becomes outdated and irrelevant.
My Lords, I rise briefly to support the comments and amendments—Amendments 2A, 2B and 16A—of my noble friend Lord Berkeley. The House was made particularly alive to the vulnerability of the estate to fire by the recent incident at Notre-Dame, which happened during the restoration work, as we all know. Fortunately, in many respects, there are provisions currently in place within your Lordships’ House and across the Palace to protect the buildings and, we hope, reduce and mitigate the risks of anything similar happening. Not least, staff are employed to patrol the estate and we have all seen the developments and changes with the fire doors and other advances.
The technological advances and changes over the last decade commented on by my noble friend are something we need to be kept aware of. For the safety of the 8,000 people who work here, the 1 million or so who visit annually and, as has been touched on, the precious heritage of the building, it is imperative that we take any and all further steps necessary to ensure the utmost protection. As he touched on, steps must also be taken to ensure that evacuation procedures are up to scratch in the event of fire. One thing I have noticed as a new Member here is that some of the stairs do not stop at the level above or below, which I find a bit bizarre. Also—I am sure there is a very good reason—I have never heard a fire alarm or test within the building. I am sure it is because I have not been here at the right times, but during the hours of sitting I have never heard a test done on a fire alarm.
In recent years, I understand there have been two major royal palace fires. In each incident, the evacuation procedures meant that not a single individual was seriously injured. Should a fire take place in the royal Palace of Westminster, it will be a far greater challenge to protect all those in the building because of its size and nature. It will be useful for the House to consider what exact provisions will be necessary. I look forward to the Minister’s response to the amendments.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for tabling these amendments on fire safety and for his continued interest in this extremely important subject, and I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate.
I assure noble Lords that fire safety is recognised as being of paramount importance. As the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, said, it is very much on the mind and agenda of the sponsor body. It was good to hear that from somebody on that body, which had far more weight than my saying it on her behalf. One of the reasons these works are urgent is because of the alarming number of fires that have been caught just in time around the Palace. This is why we have 24-hour fire-safety patrols, and, more importantly, why full decant is required as soon as possible.
As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, the tragic fire of Notre-Dame was a stark reminder to us all of the risks to this historic building. There is no doubt that the best way to avoid a similar incident here is to get on with the job of protecting the thousands of people working here and the millions who come to visit, as the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, rightly said. The Bill is clear that the sponsor body must have regard to,
“the need to ensure that those works are carried out with a view to ensuring the safety and security of people who work in Parliament and of members of the public”.
Clearly, this will require the sponsor body and delivery authority to ensure that the Palace is as safe as reasonably practicable from the risk of fire during construction and subsequently in service. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, said, one of the key themes highlighted by the shadow sponsor body is for its vision of the programme to,
“ensure high standards of health, safety and wellbeing and provide appropriate protection for the building and those in it”.
Under the Bill, the sponsor body will be required to lay detailed proposals before Parliament for approval, and the Motion passed by both Houses last year requires that those proposals must include measures to ensure fire safety, among other factors. Clause 7 specifies that no Palace restoration works, other than preparatory works, may be carried out before the sponsor body has obtained parliamentary approval of these proposals. It defines these “preparatory works” as,
“initial design works, and … other works that do not affect the continued functioning of the Palace of Westminster for the purposes of either House of Parliament”.
As noble Lords will be aware, and indeed as the noble Lord said, the current work carried out by the Strategic Estates team to keep this place functioning is operated during restricted timeframes in order for the business of Parliament not to be affected. For example, the ongoing work on the cast iron roof programme can be conducted only when the House is not sitting and work must be stopped immediately if a complaint is made on grounds of noise by an MP or Peer. This sort of example highlights the need for swift progress to be made in decanting both Houses so that the sponsor body and delivery authority can get on with R&R, including the installation of the necessary fire-detection and prevention measures.
The Bill requires at Clause 6 that Parliament and the sponsor body enter into a parliamentary relationship agreement, which will contain commitments around the safety of the Palace, including mitigating fire risks. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, spoke on 25 April and at Second Reading on his understandable concerns about the fire safety of the Palace prior to the works beginning. Until the Palace is handed over to the sponsor body, the House authorities remain responsible for fire safety and have put in place a number of measures to protect the Palace and the roofs, as he mentioned, in particular.
As the noble Lord will be aware, Parliament’s fire safety strategy sets out particular requirements that will need to be considered as part of restoration and renewal. This includes the installation of a full water mist or water sprinkler system, although, as the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord McNicol, said, we also need to ensure that we are fleet of foot with respect to technological advances. Already, the current fire safety improvement project has installed a water mist system throughout the basement, and it is operational. This was following lessons learned from the devastating fire at Glasgow School of Art, where the sprinklers had been installed but not turned on.
In addition, fire safety improvement works include having automatic smoke detection systems in most of the roof spaces across the Palace, and coverage of the remaining spaces will happen by December this year. The House authorities have also compartmentalised the roof space and extended the regular fire safety patrols to include the roofs. In the Palace more generally, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, there are now more than 700 fire doors in operation and strict requirements for all contractors to abide by the highest fire safety standards. I can reassure all noble Lord that those high fire safety standards will continue to apply throughout the works. In his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, makes a specific point about the fully automatic fire alarm system achieving the L1/P1 standard. I am aware that this level of detection is already written into Parliament’s fire safety strategy requirements.
Turning to his amendment regarding evacuation of the Palace, and the observations of the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, at present, the fire risk management team carries out evacuation drills of all parliamentary buildings once a year; the Palace itself is evacuated twice a year. However, I accept his comment that it has proved difficult to stage these evacuations while the House is sitting. There have been previous evacuation trials involving volunteers in the Chambers and Committee Rooms; we will obviously continue to work to make sure that we do the best we can in this regard and, if there is more that can be done, we will look into it. Furthermore, it is expected that as part of the design works for R&R, the principal designers will use specific computer software to model evacuation routes, capacity and timings.
I cannot stress enough the importance that we place on fire safety. I hope the noble Lord will recognise that in the answers I have given. I fully support the principle of his amendments but, in light also of the comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, we do not believe they need to be, or should be, included in the Bill. This is an extremely important issue and something that will be covered in the parliamentary relationship agreement, which we believe is a more appropriate vehicle for this kind of information. I hope that, in the light of my comments, the noble Lord is to a degree reassured. I assure him that we will continue to have this as our highest priority.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her comprehensive response. I am much more reassured than I was before, but not totally reassured. I will keep watching this. I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken, including the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for putting me right on one or two things. That has been useful. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, who has had first-hand experience in this area.
I said that my amendments were probing, and of course one should not put particular technological solutions in a Bill like this because things might move on, as noble Lords have said. The key point is to have a debate about these issues and for the Government to be aware of them.
Corners can still be cut in any building. I recall that when I was first in your Lordships’ House, a long time ago, I had locked myself out of my house and so slept here, in the family room downstairs. I had a very comfortable night but in the morning I went to see the then Black Rod and said, “You said you patrolled everything once an hour”. He said, “We must have patrolled the family room”, but I said, “Well, the door squeaks so I would have heard it. I just don’t believe you”. People cut corners; that is human nature. So, in addition to the patrols, detection and suppression is vital.
I pay tribute to the work that is going on to get into this. We have to keep going and make sure that as work moves forward these issues are taken into account, as well as the evacuation. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2A withdrawn.
Amendment 2B not moved.
Clause 1 agreed.
Clause 2: The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body
3: Clause 2, page 2, line 17, leave out from “Authority” to end of line 21 and insert “, when considering the award of a contract in respect of the carrying out of the Parliamentary building works, to have regard to—
(i) the prospective contractor’s policy relating to corporate social responsibility, and(ii) the prospective contractor’s policies and procedures relating to employment (including in relation to the blacklisting of employees);”
My Lords, I shall speak to the two amendment in my name and that in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. Noble Lords will be aware that an amendment was tabled by Chris Matheson on Report in the other place imposing a duty on the sponsor body to require the delivery authority, when allocating contracts for construction and related work, to have regard to the company’s policies on corporate social responsibility, including those relating to the blacklisting of employees or potential employees from employment. This was opposed by the Government due to existing legislation on blacklisting, and because we considered it more appropriate for these matters to form part of the programme delivery agreement between the sponsor body and delivery authority. The amendment was passed but had defects—namely, that policies on blacklisting are employment policies, not, strictly speaking, matters of corporate social responsibility. We are therefore tabling this amendment in order for the spirit of the original amendment to remain in the Bill while ensuring that it is appropriately drafted.
This amendment will ensure that there is a duty on the sponsor body to require the delivery authority, when considering the award of a contract in respect of the carrying out of the parliamentary building works, to have regard to the prospective contractor’s policy relating to corporate social responsibility and its policies and procedures relating to employment, including in relation to the blacklisting of employees. We have worked with colleagues in the other place on this amendment and they are content with this change of wording.
The second amendment in my name relates to the reporting of contracts and fulfils a government commitment made in the other place. On Report in the Commons, MPs debated an amendment requiring the sponsor body,
“to undertake, and publish, an annual audit of the companies that have been awarded contracts for the Parliamentary building works, with a view to establishing their size and geographical location”,
which was tabled by Meg Hillier. It was clear that such an amendment commanded support on all sides, and the Government agreed to bring an amendment on the reporting of the awarding of contracts to your Lordships’ House. Schedule 1 of the Bill already requires that the sponsor body must prepare and publish a report once a year on the carrying out and progress of the parliamentary building works. The amendment requires that that report includes information about persons to whom contracts for carrying out the works have been awarded, particularly their size and the areas in which they operate. We believe that the amendment fulfils the spirit of the amendment debated in the other place while being appropriately drafted and included at the proper place in the Bill. Again, in proposing this amendment we have worked with colleagues in the other place who are supportive of the wording. I hope noble Lords will support both amendments in my name.
Finally, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for tabling his amendment on ensuring that R&R provides opportunities for businesses across the UK. The Government have always sought to encourage the shadow sponsor body to give thought to how the delivery authority will engage with SMEs and businesses across the UK in restoring the Palace of Westminster. That is already happening on other projects on the parliamentary estate, such as the work on the restoration of Elizabeth Tower. The shadow sponsor body is committed to creating economic opportunities across the UK, and, once it is established in statute, we expect to continue this commitment. Once the R&R programme is under way, parliamentary committees will no doubt want to scrutinise the work of the sponsor body and the delivery authority, including what opportunities have been created across the regions.
Nevertheless, an amendment tabled by Neil Gray was passed on Report in the other place requiring the sponsor body, in exercising its functions, to have regard to the need to ensure that economic benefits of the parliamentary building works are delivered across the nations and regions of the UK in terms of contracts for works, and in any other way that the sponsor body considers appropriate. This is a parliamentary project, and we accepted the will of the other place to include an amendment in the Bill on that principle. However, we identified some concerns with the amendment relating to procurement law. In particular, when developing its procurement strategy and assessing bids, it would not be lawful for the delivery authority to factor in the geographical location of companies, which could expose it to legal challenge. The Government therefore committed to support the drafting and tabling of this alternative amendment, which addresses those concerns.
This amendment places in the Bill the provision that the sponsor body, in exercising its functions, must have regard to the need to ensure that opportunities to secure economic and other benefits of the parliamentary building works are available in all areas of the UK. We believe that the amendment retains the spirit of the amendment passed in the other place while adhering to public procurement law, so I hope noble Lords will support it. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 9. I am grateful for the understanding and commitments made by the Leader of the House, and that we have consensus. In the light of that and the fact that we have taken a very long time on the first clause of the Bill, and in order not to hold people up, I shall be incredibly brief.
I think there has been a real collaborative effort to put together the jigsaw that is before us in relation to this proposition. As the noble Baroness, Lady Byford —to whom I am grateful for her support on this and other aspects of the Bill—knows, we considered this at some length in the Joint Committee scrutinising the Bill. There is unanimity because we all want this to be seen as a national project benefiting the nation as a whole. I shall come to other arguments later on other amendments, but on this one we have anonymity—I am sorry, I mean unanimity, although we might have anonymity as well if we carry on too late tonight; no one will know what we have debated.
My own area benefited originally from the stone for this building. A lot of the stone came from South Yorkshire and adjoining areas. Big Ben at the moment is being constructed with a mechanism from the north, from the city of Sheffield, and I think we can make this a real economic win-win. We need to because very big infrastructure projects, including the one that I am associated with in relation to skills and employment for the Heathrow expansion, need to be seen to reach out for gross domestic product, for GVA and for productivity. We have a terrible gap on all three of those in our country, comparing London and the south-east with the rest of the UK. If we can make a small contribution with this substantial investment of public money, we will all benefit from it.
My Lords, I will just say a few words. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for his comments. The Joint Committee went into quite a bit of discussion about the fact that this should be a UK project, not a London and the south-east project. I am grateful to my noble friend the Leader of the House for responding to the way in which the debates went in the Commons and for coming up with the proposed amendments, because that is a great benefit to us. Corporate and social responsibility is extremely important in this day and age. It is so easy to just say, “Well, yes”, but not actually do it, so spelling this out in the Bill will make a huge difference.
The other thing that we talked about in the Joint Committee was the opportunities this would give for young apprentices and those who are retraining, who are necessarily young people, to learn skills and take part in a project of this size and complexity. I am very grateful that we will be able to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to be involved in this project. I will not repeat everything that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, has said, but I am very happy to support this amendment and I thank the Leader of the House for bringing forward the amendments that she has spoken to already.
My Lords, I was slightly surprised to hear the noble Baroness’s remark that this is a UK project, not a London and south-east one. The overwhelming majority of the work and the employees will be located in London and the south-east. Saying that that is not the case does not make it not the case. It is the case. This is an issue we will address later. By virtue of the fact that Parliament is located in Westminster, the temporary premises will be in Westminster, and all the refurbishment works will take place in Westminster, it is a London and south-east project. We might as well admit that completely frankly. Some weasel words about it being open and promoting the interests and knowledge of the rest of the United Kingdom do not, I am afraid, amount to anything at all when the overwhelming focus of Parliament before, during and after this work will be on London and the south-east.
I appreciate the noble Lord’s comments. It would be a great mistake to say that people from elsewhere who have the skills and opportunities to come here are not able to use them. Is the noble Lord really saying that people who live in London and the Greater London area are the only people who will be involved in this project? If he is, that is a very sad state.
I certainly was not saying that; I was simply stating the obvious. The work will be overwhelmingly located in London and the south-east because that is where Parliament is currently located.
That is indeed where the work will be done, but it does not have to be done solely by people living in London and the south-east. I suspect there will be quite a few people coming from abroad to work on this project as well. If that is so, I do not see why we cannot have people who live further from London than the 25-mile radius around it.
If I can interject in this discussion, there is a real danger that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is right, but it does not have to be like that. That is why I am very supportive of Amendments 9 and 27, which are exceedingly important. When the Minister winds up, I would appreciate it if she could comment on Amendment 27 and the annual report to Parliament on “the areas in which” those who have contracts operate.
It seems that the decisions will have been made by then. They are very dependent on the nature of the procurement exercise, which is why Amendment 9 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, is terribly important. It seeks to insert provisions that,
“opportunities to secure economic or other benefits of the Parliamentary building works are available in all areas of the United Kingdom”,
which implies that the start of the procurement process will be geared to deliver that objective. The Government and those responsible for making the decisions about procurement need to plan this very carefully. It will not be enough for the procurement system simply to take national contractors from a national list, with companies that say they can employ people from all parts of the country. In reality, what will almost certainly happen is that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, will be proved right because the labour force will come from a narrower part of the UK—London and the south-east. I want to avoid that.
It is important that procurement reaches SMEs, not just big national companies. It needs to get specialist professions such as specialist architects, and get to companies based purely in the regions of England, or based only in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. It will not be enough for only national contractors to get the lion’s share of the business. I hope the Government will plan to achieve all this in a proactive way. I fully understand the legal position in relation to procurement law, but this is surely about enabling proper competition, not simply relying on a system which does not promote genuine competition. To do that requires competition to be enabled rather than minimised.
My Lords, in following on from my noble friend I welcome these amendments. I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, refer to skills and apprenticeships. I return to a subject which I raised at Second Reading. The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, and I served on the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster and will readily remember the evidence we received regarding the importance of skills. However, we are talking about skills in the heritage sector, where there may be a shortage at the moment, and there could well be lead times in training people to deploy those skills when it comes to R&R.
One of the recommendations which the Joint Committee made in paragraph 306 of its report is that,
“market engagement should begin early, and be facilitated by the early establishment of a shadow Sponsor Board and shadow Delivery Authority”.
I understand that we do not have a shadow delivery authority at the moment, but it would be helpful if, in responding to the debate—if not tonight then in writing—the Minister could tell us what steps have already been taken to pursue that market engagement and identify where there might be bottlenecks, and see what could be actively done at the moment to try to ensure that there will be an adequate supply of skilled tradespeople when the time comes to undertake this important work.
My Lords, sometimes competitive tender can breed low bidding rates, and contractors make up their profits through claims. Is the idea to generate negotiated unit prices or have competitive bidding?
My Lords, before the Minister answers, I am a great believer in trying to get as many SMEs to bid as possible, but one has to think about the risks they will be required to take, as well as the conditions of contract and the penalties if it is late. You can imagine one or two big contractors being given the overall responsibility to do this, because they are the only people who can manage the risk. There will be a rush to get this done. Wherever the supply of timber, stone, other materials and expertise comes from, we will have to work very hard if we want to get real SMEs to do this, as so many noble Lords expect. It will not happen unless we work very positively towards it.
My Lords, I am pleased that this group of amendments is being debated here today to deal with the responsibilities the sponsor body will have, in particular those relating to the contracts to be awarded. I thank the Minister for the Government’s Amendment 3 on the social responsibilities of the sponsor body, which fulfils their promise in the Commons to address the concern raised by my honourable friend Chris Matheson: that contracts have regard to the prospective contractor’s policy on both CSR and employment policies and procedures. The company’s wider attitude to social responsibility has to be a key consideration when awarding contracts.
On employment practices, we welcome the specific reference to companies that have undertaken blacklisting activities which will lead to their exclusion from consideration. This shameful practice has previously seen businesses compile files on thousands of workers, recording details of their political and trade union activities to prevent them gaining employment in their respective trade. Sadly, there is evidence that blacklisting has remained rife in recent years, and this is an important step not least because many construction staff currently working on building sites are employed by businesses which have previously been convicted of such unlawful behaviour. In such a prestigious project as R&R, it is important that Parliament makes a stand and warns businesses that if they neglect their social responsibilities, are not up to scratch on their employment practices or engage in illegal blacklisting, they will not play a role in restoration and renewal projects and will not be awarded contracts.
I fully support my noble friend Lord Blunkett’s Amendment 9. He is right to underline that the economic benefits of the work have to be available in all areas of the UK. This was again a key theme from noble Lords at Second Reading. We must make it clear that this is a project for the whole country and that all the rewards, including for businesses, are felt in all areas. I particularly endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, on skills and apprenticeships, which was also a familiar theme at Second Reading.
In summary, government Amendments 26, 27 and 30, placing a duty on the sponsor body to include information on contractors’ size and areas of operation in its annual report, are welcome and will help to provide the transparency and accountability needed. Finally, on employment-related issues and the importance of ensuring full staff consultation on the R&R programme and project, at Second Reading my noble friend Lady Smith asked the noble Earl to confirm that there would be full engagement with staff and their representative unions. I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed this and reassured the House that the Government fully recognise its importance.
I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate. I am also grateful for the support for these amendments from across the House. A number of noble Lords raised the issue of procurement and contracts. This is the very reason why we are setting up the independent sponsor body and the independent delivery authority, which have the experts and expertise to ensure that SMEs around the country can take advantage of this. We believe that setting up these bodies in a timely manner is exactly the best way to ensure that the benefits of this project are felt around the country, notwithstanding the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. We very much look forward to ensuring this project has the buy-in of the regions and workers across the United Kingdom because it will be a fantastic project. I hope we will also see regeneration of skills apprenticeships in key areas. I am very grateful to noble Lords for their support for these amendments.
Amendment 3 agreed.
That the House do now resume.
My Lords, I suggest that Committee begin again not earlier than 7.12 pm. For the benefit of noble Lords not signed up to the dinner hour debate in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that debate will now be taken tomorrow.