Examination of witnesses (20-39)|
MONDAY 19 JUNE 2000
20. I understood that there was something called
English Heritage Hospitality too?
(Ms Alexander) Yes. We launched that very recently
at three of our London properties. That is making property available
for corporate or private entertainment.
21. How much do you charge when you lend out
(Ms Alexander) It varies. The three properties at
which we are piloting this scheme, Chiswick House, Eltham Palace
and Kenwood House, are all in London. If I can give you an example;
a two hour reception in the house at Kenwood is £4,000
and any extension beyond half an hour is £1,000 per hour.
That, of course, has a major art gallery within the house and
we have just finished a major refurbishment project, and both
of those facts will be reflected in the price that we charge,
which is at the top end of the market.
22. Is that a consistent price all through?
(Ms Alexander) No, indeed not. The prices would be
different for the different houses.
23. For each house you have a set price per
(Ms Alexander) We have a number of different prices
according to whether it is a dinner, reception, the time of day
or weekend, in effect, both reflecting the market and our likely
24. Are the properties then closed to the public?
(Ms Alexander) We only allow corporate entertaining
in the hours when the properties would be closed to the public
25. None of these properties have ever been
closed to the public at a time when the public would normally
be allowed in?
(Ms Alexander) I do not think I can say that, but
it is certainly our normal rule that it would be very much the
exception for that to be the case.
26. My understanding is that there was a wedding
at Kenwood given by ex-King Constantine?
(Ms Alexander) That is true.
27. Was there a contract with him as to what
the price would be?
(Ms Alexander) There was no corporate hospitality
at Kenwood at that time, so we had no basis on which to enter
into a contract with him.
Instead, a donation was offered.
28. Has a donation been received?
(Ms Alexander) Yes, it has.
29. How much was that?
(Ms Alexander) It was £5,000.
30. How long did he have it for?
(Ms Alexander) He did not use the house at all,
he used a marquee and it was in use during Friday. At that time
the house had not been refurbished. The major project through
which we re-decorated the whole of the interior where the major
art gallery is housed had not yet started, and it is on the basis
of that refurbishment that we have put such a high price on the
31. This wedding took place when?
(Ms Alexander) July last year. At that point we only
had one house in which we were launching our corporate hospitality
pilot, and that was Chiswick House.
The prices for letting Chiswick are considerably lower than those
32. When did you get the donation?
(Ms Alexander) We received that very recently.
33. Why did you not get it at the time?
(Ms Alexander) It has taken some time to sort out
all the costs, I am sure, and a donation is something which is
difficult to press for.
34. Would you ever again rent out a place without
having a contract?
(Ms Alexander) I think if we are looking at an individual
case on a building where we do not normally let it we would certainly
look at the circumstances of the individual case. We certainly
would always make sure, as we did in the case of Kenwood, that
every penny of our own costs are covered, as indeed they were.
35. It is bit odd though, is it not, to rent
out a place unless you are sure you are going to get a proper
return? You presumably would not normally rent out a public building
for a private function unless you were sure you were going to
make a sufficient sum out of it to make it worth while from the
public interest point of view?
(Ms Alexander) A return is achieved in a number of
different ways. We did feel with Kenwood that at a time when we
were launching our corporate hospitality, and we knew that this
would be extended to Kenwood this year, the sort of publicity
that we would get from the Royal wedding reception thereand
which, indeed, we did getwould be worth many column inches
of advertising revenue which we certainly would never be able
to spend on Kenwood ourselves. So the return was not simply the
donation and the return of our own costs, it was also what we
felt to be very valuable publicity for the house, which is a general
benefit to ensure that people know what the house is and they
can visit it and which we also felt sure would help our corporate
hospitality once we launched that, which we did last month.
36. Did you judge the value of that publicity?
(Ms Alexander) We have not put a pound sign value
We considered in advance of the event that it was difficult to
do so, and after the event we were very pleased with the publicity
37. You rented it out without having a contract
in return for the offer for a donation plus costs and without
having valued the amount of publicity on which you would justify
(Ms Alexander) We felt it was a good opportunity.
38. Would you ever do that again?
(Ms Alexander) I would have to look at the circumstances
of an individual case. If someone came to me with what seemed
like a very positive opportunity, we would negotiate the best
terms for English Heritage.
39. Are you confident that these were best terms?
(Ms Alexander) I think we got a good return.
2 Note by Witness: A 2 hour reception at the
house in Kenwood is £4,000 at the weekend and £3,000
during the week. Back
Note by Witness: The event was a wedding reception, not
a wedding. Back
Note by Witness: There was a written contract with the
event organisers to recover English Heritage's costs in addition
to the donation. Back
Note by Witness: Whilst the guests did not use the house,
the wedding party did. Back
Note by Witness: The scheme had also been extended to Eltham
Palace on 16 June 1999. Back
Note by Witness: The value of the coverage has now been
assessed independently as between £790,000 and £2 million. Back