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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, indicated, I was struck by the force of the arguments put to me at Committee stage from all sides of the House about extending protection for employee trustees against victimisation by their employers. In this Bill, we are emphasising the responsibilities that trustees have for ensuring that a pension scheme is properly run and for looking after the interests of scheme members. We are aware that member-nominated trustees will often be in a minority on trustee boards, and that sufficient protection should be provided to an employee trustee in the same way as

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we are seeking in the Bill to provide protection, in a number of important areas, for trustees in their role as trustees.

In the Committee debate, I gave an undertaking that, if I could see a gap in the legislation, we would give serious consideration as to how we could close it. Having considered the position carefully, I can reassure noble Lords that, after consulting colleagues responsible for the relevant legislation, we do not believe that such a gap exists.

Individuals who have two years' service fall under the generalised protection against unfair dismissal. In such a case any dismissal is potentially unfair and the onus is on the employer to show that it was not. Employees would, of course, have to show that they have been dismissed and have not, for example, simply resigned, before they can establish their case. The Government do not believe that all employees, regardless of their length of service, should have such a general protection. The two-year qualifying period is necessary to ensure that the legislation does not create too heavy a burden on employers making them reluctant to recruit.

The Government have recognised that there should be specific protection in certain kinds of areas where fundamental rights are at stake, even where individuals do not have two years' employment—for example, for trade union and health and safety activities. In these cases it is up to those seeking to rely on this special protection to show that their complaint falls within its scope. That is in line with the time-honoured principle of UK law that it should be for those whose case depends on establishing certain facts to prove those facts.

The qualifying period is a major component of government policy, to ensure that employment protection legislation does not weigh unjustifiably on employers. The likelihood —I also mentioned this point in Committee—of pension scheme trustees having fewer than two years' service is perhaps minimal. We do not therefore see their position as justifying extending the list of exclusions. To do so might well bring pressure to extend the list still further.

In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, expressed concern about the effect that mergers and takeovers might have on an employee's length of service, and how that came into the two-year rule. Indeed, I took her point, and that was one of the matters that we looked into.

I say to the noble Baroness that this is unlikely to be a problem, either generally or in relation to pension scheme trustees. The reason is that events such as mergers and takeovers would not normally break an employee-trustee's continuity of employment. I should like to make three main points about that, because it was one of the valid points that the noble Baroness brought to my attention.

First, employment protection legislation provides for continuity of employment to be preserved in most cases where a firm is taken over by another, either by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) or under paragraph 17 or 18 of Schedule 13 to the Employment Protection

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(Consolidation) Act 1978. Secondly, TUPE provides broadly for the continuity of employment where a business or part of a business is transferred to a new employer. Thirdly, Schedule 13 to the 1978 Act provides for continuity when a wider category of business is transferred or if the employee moves to an associated employer.

I hope that I have managed to persuade the noble Baroness that the particular problem that she envisages of somebody having to go back to the beginning in the light of a merger, a takeover or something of that nature and start the two-year clock running again, is very, very unlikely. Indeed, I submit that under the three points that I have made it will not happen at all.

I turn to the related matter of victimisation and bullying by an employer which falls short of actual dismissal, a point that was also raised in Committee. In the Government's view, employees are already protected against significant victimisation or bullying by employers for whatever reason. If they suffer financial loss, they may be able to complain to an industrial tribunal or to the civil courts. If the employer's actions amount to a fundamental breach of contract, the employee will be entitled to resign and, if he qualifies, complain of unfair dismissal to an industrial tribunal. In any event, we do not believe that acting as a pension scheme trustee will put individuals in any more vulnerable a position with regard to victimisation by an employer. After all, employers set up pension schemes voluntarily; so any real employer-trustee conflict should be something of a rarity.

As I indicated, I have great sympathy with the concerns expressed during our debate in Committee. I undertook to look seriously into the position, which I have done. I appreciate the concern of noble Lords in Committee and that of the noble Baroness this afternoon. However, I am satisfied that the present unfair dismissal provisions already provide the legislative protection that we all believe the trustees need.

In the light of that explanation of to where trustees can look for protection in existing law, I hope that the noble Baroness will be reasonably satisfied and feel able to withdraw her amendment.

7 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that detailed response to the amendment, but I am not entirely satisfied.

In the first place, the Minister produced the argument that an employee, if he were a trustee, would normally have had at least two years' service. That is not entirely true. There could be a fairly new firm in operation which decided to introduce a pension scheme. The individuals concerned would not have had the opportunity of working for two years with the same employer.

Secondly, he advanced the arguments in relation to TUPE and the Acquired Rights Directive in regard to mergers and takeovers. I understand that continuity of employment is guaranteed to a certain extent by the TUPE regulations. However, one of the reasons for

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attempting to write into the Bill some protection to trustees was, as it were, to flag up to employers who might feel inclined to exercise some intimidation or intimidatory tactics that there was special protection available to a trustee in such circumstances.

There was one aspect of my amendment to which the Minister did not address himself. It was my intention that if an individual succeeded in demonstrating to an industrial tribunal that he had been victimised, he would then be entitled to the maximum damages available to somebody dismissed under that particular section of the legislation. In other words, the employer would know that should an individual succeed before an industrial tribunal in demonstrating victimisation, then by decision of that tribunal the maximum amount of compensation could be claimed and made payable.

I am not entirely satisfied with everything that has been said. On the other hand, in view of previous votes that have taken place this evening and considering the hour, I do not feel inclined to press this matter to a Division. I shall consider very seriously what the Minister said. It may be possible to come back at Third Reading with a different form of words. The Minister's explanation does not entirely satisfy all the arguments that we advanced. I do not feel that trustees are adequately protected against victimisation or intimidation. However, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion, I suggest that the Report stage begin again not before 7.50 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Battersea Power Station

7.5 p.m.

Lord Dubs rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will investigate the circumstances surrounding the disposal of Battersea Power Station by the Central Electricity Generating Board, and the reasons for its present dereliction.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to ask a complicated and important question of the Government about Battersea Power Station. The history of the power station over the past 11 or 12 years has been a sorry one. It is a history of neglect, incompetence, muddle and lack of will. I shall develop that history in a few moments.

First, let us look at the way in which our capital city is developing. Every now and again, there is an opportunity—it may come only once every 100 years—when a major site of importance to London and Londoners is ready for redevelopment. We have seen that happen in Canary Wharf where, I contend, we made a mess of it. We have seen it in the case of County Hall where I believe that we are also in danger of making a mess of it. We have seen it in the case of Battersea

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Power Station where I fear that we are missing opportunities that may not come again perhaps for 100 years or longer.

I want briefly to trace the history of the power station in relation to its original owners, the Central Electricity Generating Board; to record the fact that it is now a semi-derelict building that has no roof and that if the building becomes a dangerous structure it may have to be pulled down; and to point out that what we need, even at this point in time, is an exercise in imagination and co-operation between different sectors to do something sensible with an important and valuable site.

Let me turn to the history. About 1983 the CEGB decided that it no longer needed Battersea Power Station to provide electricity. A plan was prepared to dispose of the building by means of a competition. The winning consortium would have a golden opportunity to develop the site in line with the competition's winning entry. The consortium that won the competition did so on the basis of developing a theme park on somewhat similar lines to Alton Towers.

At that time I happened to be the Member of Parliament representing the Battersea constituency. I wrote to the Central Electricity Generating Board asking what safeguards there would be should the consortium which had won the competition be unable to proceed with the entry that had given it victory. The answer was that, apart from Wandsworth Council's own planning controls, no safeguards were necessary or would be sought.

As I understand the matter, the original consortium acquired the power station for £1.5 million. It is a Grade II listed building. Although the members of the consortium have changed several times, the original idea for development was proceeded with for some years. The Prime Minister in office at that time hailed the head of the consortium and said that she would be there at the power station on the day that it opened in 1990. I am bound to say that on the day I was there but she did not appear. That was hardly surprising, as the building was empty. It had no roof; work on it had stopped; and it was as derelict then as it is today. At some point in that period, Wandsworth Council found itself owed around £150,000 in planning fees. It was perfectly clear that the consortium had run out of money.

But perhaps I may go back a stage or two. The consortium had promised that it would involve the local community in further developments on the site. I do not believe that that happened. So far as I am aware, there was no sign of it. The building was then sold to a Hong Kong consortium, which I believe is called Parkview. It is not clear whether that consortium has any clear proposals for developing the site.

However, there is another and more serious issue. I understand that, if the building were to be pulled down, the value of the site would increase to between £100 million and £150 million. That is an enormous incentive for any developer to do nothing; to wait until the building becomes too dangerous to be allowed to stand. The local authority will then issue a dangerous structure notice. The developer will be able to pull down the listed building and make a large profit.

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I do not know for what sum of money the original consortium sold the site to the present owners. The present owners, Parkview Estates, bought the original consortium's debts rather like the Dutch bank bought the debts of Barings. It is not clear therefore who would benefit if the building were to be pulled down and there were to be a green field site. Whoever benefits, the public will have lost because the Central Electricity Generating Board disposed of the building without even the minimum safeguards one would have thought a public body at the time would insist upon; which means that someone can make a large killing for negative effort, given that nothing is happening.

That is a sorry saga. I regret that the Public Accounts Committee in the other place did not bother to look into the issue. It may have unearthed rather more than I am able to reveal today. It is a miserable and murky story. We now have a situation where English Heritage has a responsibility for the building because it is listed. Wandsworth Council appears to find the issue too big for it to cope with. Its involvement has been a story of neglect and of doing very little other than trying to recoup the money in planning fees. If ever there was a need for a Greater London Council, it is here. It would be a body that could take a strategic view of that part of London and ensure that the site is developed in a way that meets the needs of London as a whole as well as the local community in Battersea.

Over the years the issue has been kept alive by a local group—the Battersea Power Station community group—and by the South London Press, which battled valiantly to try to draw the attention of people to what has been happening on the site. I believe that there are ways ahead in which, despite the history, we can look forward in a positive sense. Other cities in the world have shown that there are imaginative ways in which key sites can be developed and used for the good of the local community as well as of the wider community. Developments in parts of Hamburg indicate an exciting approach to urban regeneration. Developments in San Francisco arose from the city council setting up a task force in order to see what could be done to develop key areas of that city. I am sure that examples exist in other cities which indicate that there are possible and imaginative ways ahead.

We need a sense of excitement in relation to the opportunities. We need to create a way forward which will seek to bring in new and exciting ideas; a way that will recognise that we need a mixed development on the site rather than only one. After all, the site consists of 35 acres, a large building and an adjacent site which could complete the opportunities and possibilities. We need a mixed private and public development. We need to make sure that commercial benefits can accrue from the site; that social, community and leisure benefits can accrue.

I suggest that the Government should bring together the private sector—after all, Parkview owns the site—English Heritage and, despite what I have said about it, Wandsworth Council. Architects from around the world could be invited to find exciting ways of developing the potential of the site. In Hamburg teams of architects worked openly so that members of the public could see

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what was going on and could engage in a dialogue with them. In that way ideas were developed and local people had an input.

The Hamburg opportunity seems an exciting one. One of the architects involved, Mr. Alsop, made me feel extremely enthusiastic about the opportunities that exist for that type of approach. I do not know what is the right answer for the Battersea site, but I know that opportunities exist. I ask that the Government take that on board. I accept that the history has been miserable and unfortunate. But let us use our imagination, grasp the exciting opportunities that exist, and make something of an important part of London. At the moment it is neglected and signifies failure. Let us be positive. Let us feel the excitement and move forward on that basis.

7.16 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, Battersea Power Station has evoked strong feelings from the generations of people who have known it. For two generations it was the wonder of the industrial age—from 1933 when the London Power Company first commissioned it, through to its peak of activity in the 1950s when it burnt 1 million tonnes of coal a year and sucked up 340 million gallons of water a day from the Thames. I am an engineer and I make no apology for saying that the colossal structure, with its four chimneys, each 337 feet high, captures my imagination. To me it evokes heavy engineering at its unfashionable best; it evokes battleships, ocean liners, steam trains and oil rigs.

I spend much of my working life travelling through Moscow. In Moscow working power stations still exist in the city centre. I have no doubt that those power stations are unloved brutes, barely functional and very dirty. For the Muscovites, heavy engineering evokes today's difficulties, not yesterday's successes. But Battersea Power Station is not unloved; it is a brute, but a brute with style. That has been acknowledged by all parties involved with it over the years.

Today Battersea Power Station has been standing idle for 13 years. It is now a desolate empty hulk with the west wall down and the roof removed. We heard something of the failure of private enterprise, of Wandsworth Council and of the Government to develop the site and preserve the structure. It is too easy to catalogue the broken promises, the back scratching, the waste of public money and bankruptcies that have characterised the site's history for the past 13 years.

Noble Lords may remember that in June 1988 the then prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, attended a ceremony at Battersea Power Station in which she referred to it as,

    "the wonderful example of private enterprise and local government working hand in hand for the benefit of Britain".

She went on to congratulate the developer, Mr. John Broome —who was subsequently honoured—on,

    "seizing the opportunity not only to save this magnificent building, but to put it to work again for the nation ... This colossal undertaking has that touch of pure genius that has always made Britain great".

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I take no pleasure in reminding the Government of those words. They illustrate their misplaced faith in the private sector. But, much worse, they have given Wandsworth Borough Council an excuse for doing nothing over the past 13 years. No initiatives have been taken; no leadership shown. The planning brief is over 11 years old. Wandsworth itself could update it; for example, there is no need for there to be a single developer, as we heard earlier. As a statutory authority Wandsworth Borough Council should be leading both public and private investment in the site's development. That is how it would happen in many European cities—I think of Hamburg, Marseilles, Barcelona and Paris.

I hope that the aspirations for Battersea Power Station which Mrs. Thatcher set out in her speech in 1988 may yet be fulfilled. But it will take leadership and imagination. I urge the Government to consider their role so that future generations of Londoners may enjoy the sight of heavy engineering with style.

7.19 p.m.

Lord Desai: My Lords, we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Dubs for introducing this important Question. Although not much interest has been shown on the other side of the House about it, I do not think it is a partisan issue.

Battersea Power Station is part of London's and the nation's heritage. It is a magnificent building if in a somewhat brutal style, as my noble friend said. Not all schemes where private enterprise has bid for a public place have been failures. In Islington, the Royal Agricultural Hall was converted very successfully into the thriving Islington Business Centre. On the other hand, County Hall—perhaps I should declare some kind of interest because the London School of Economics where I work bid for County Hall and lost—was left to lie unoccupied for many years. Something is being done to it—we do not know what—and we hear constant rumours that the hotel plan may be abandoned and that we may be in another Battersea Power Station situation. Battersea Power Station is an example of a private enterprise scheme being aborted, thwarted or neglected.

What I want to do is not so much to apportion blame to Wandsworth Council, the private sector or the Government, but to ask whether it is not time for someone somewhere—be it English Heritage, the Millennium Commission, or whoever—to have a thought about public buildings which are in danger of being vandalised, if not totally destroyed. Either they will be put to a use which is not suitable—County Hall is an example—or they will be prematurely destroyed and the space will be put to another use.

Partly it is a matter of profitability; and why not? But I think there should be some way of conveying to people who own the building that rather than let it go to waste and become dangerous, and then destroy it and redevelop the site over a period of 10 or 15 years, it may be more profitable even from their point of view to adopt an alternative strategy—a co-operative strategy. With a little imagination from English Heritage, or whoever, we could both preserve the building and use it to generate profits for the private company and benefit the public interest.

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I really wish that the Government would think along those lines. They could thereby save the building and make it profitable and useful rather than let it go to waste, become dangerous and then have to have it destroyed.

7.23 p.m.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I should like to declare right at the start of my remarks that I have been involved in this project in the sense that in 1983 the CEGB invited me to chair the body that was to select the scheme to be pursued.

The CEGB's original proposition was to tear down the station and redevelop the site. But when the building was listed the CEGB was unable to do that, and it therefore decided to appoint a body, which ran a competition in order to come up with various proposals. It was a pretty eminent body, apart from its chairman, who was not eminent at all. It included Sir Hugh Casson, President of the Royal Academy; Sir Robert Lawrence of the British Railways Board; the Editor of the Standard; the chairman of Wandsworth technical services committee; the chief executive of the London Docklands; and a leading member of the CEGB. So quite an eminent body of people examined the matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, will no doubt recall.

My full recollection is that this was done extremely fairly. The competition was advertised. Six competitors were selected. We were not told the names of the competitors. Their projects were closely examined; the financial, environmental and transport implications were all looked at, and finally the syndicate in which the Alton Towers group was involved was selected. The proposition was that the Battersea Power Station should be converted into a replica Alton Towers, having regard to the fact that the structure had to be preserved. All seemed to be going well until financial difficulties arose. As a result of those financial difficulties, which meant that work on the project stopped in 1989, it was then sold—or the debts were sold, as the noble Lord rightly said. Since then, regrettably, the whole thing has been in abeyance.

I share the views expressed by other noble Lords who have spoken: the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, to whom we are grateful for introducing this Question; the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, who told us in glowing terms how much attachment he has as an engineer to this building; and the noble Lord, Lord Desai, who addressed the Question in his usual practical way.

When it was first built a lot of Londoners were shocked at the appearance of this upturned table in their midst. But since then they have grown to love it and do not want it to disappear. The conclusion I would reach, having been involved at the start and having had high hopes that the project would go ahead and provide some leisure for Londoners and for tourists visiting our shores, is that I very much hope that some way will be found of finding a solution at long last.

There are difficulties in the way. As the noble Baroness will probably remind us, the matter is still going through the courts. The question of ownership is not entirely resolved. But we shall have to see whether

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the Government can try to expedite these matters in some way. We can then perhaps pursue the proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that we should have another look at the matter and make use of the site which is becoming so derelict that this revered building could one of these days collapse from lack of attention. I look forward with great interest to hearing what the noble Baroness has to say to us.

7.27 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I rise not to apologise for the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, is unable to be here because he is here. However, the circumstances were such that he needed to be out of the House for a very important reason and as he was so uncertain as to whether he could get back in time, I drew the short straw. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, who is sitting next to me, takes a keen interest in this matter, as indeed do all other noble Lords. I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, is to make a contribution and, I hope, to give us some words of comfort.

The noble Baroness should recognise that the terms of the Question are reasonable and gentle. It is couched in low key terms. There has been a remarkable lack of rancour from those two Members of the House who can speak most knowledgeably about Battersea. One of them represented Battersea in another place and another represents it on Wandsworth Council. We begin, therefore, in a positive and constructive way. However, sadness pervades the air because anyone who is a Londoner—I am a Londoner merely by emigration and by accident—must accept that the skyline, the riverscape and the unity of London are unique in many ways but not least because of the buildings and the functions that have been carried on in them. One can create rhapsodies about the importance of the River Thames. We are talking about a priceless asset which we believe is in danger of—I shall not say "being sold down the river"—coming to a very sad end.

I certainly have a great deal of sympathy with a number of groups; first, with the people of Battersea and Wandsworth. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, for the brief history. He told us that when the structure was first created—now almost 60 years ago—it must have caused a hiatus among the populace. If one were to ask people throughout the world what they associate with Battersea they would mention the dogs home, the power station and the Festival of Britain. No doubt those who know more about Battersea can give many more examples. One of the few things that people think about when asked about Battersea is the power station.

I have a great deal of sympathy with Wandsworth Borough Council, which is the unit of government that has been landed with having to take some initiatives and exercise some power and authority in the absence of the GLC. That was an ideal unit of local government both to accept responsibility and to find the moneys necessary. The sad fact is that the GLC is not with us.

I certainly have sympathy with the Department of National Heritage because in a very busy life, with a great deal to do and not always with sufficient funds, we are asking it to take on board the responsibility for

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trying to sort out the mess. Anyone who looks at the matter cannot but agree that it is a mess and that someone has to take the initiative to sort it out. We are saying that here is an opportunity for the Department of National Heritage and the Department of the Environment to come to the rescue of Londoners in that way.

I certainly agree with Mr. Victor Hwang, head of the current consortium, when he says,

    "Battersea Power Station is a symbol of London and we would like to use that to recreate the spirit of the art deco era".

Whether that is the function for which the consortium finally gets planning permission is another matter. But the building is quite unique.

I also endorse completely Mr. Brian Barnes of the Battersea Power Station Community Group when he asks Wandsworth Borough Council to publish a new development brief for the site. Mr. Barnes is quoted in the local press as saying,

    "Wandsworth should take a more active role in the planning process and work with Parkview to speed up the redevelopment of the power station".

We are asking the Minister to be sympathetic and helpful.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, and others have drawn our attention to the fiasco of the manner in which County Hall was taken out of public use by the residual body. It was bought and tinkered with. The project has lapsed, and the building has a history. I am not making a point about the way in which private developers can buy something for what I might call "nefarious purposes".

I served as chairman of a planning committee in Enfield some years ago and as leader of the council. A suspicion was introduced by one of the speakers that a possibility may exist that if this site finally became derelict and an eyesore the clearing of the site itself would bring in millions and millions of pounds. I am not in the business of causing anyone to talk about bogeymen and produce scare stories, but those factors exist.

My noble friend Lord Dubs said that we are looking for a sense of excitement in the future. That is what we need. He also said that there is a lack of will. I can see quite clearly that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and her colleagues in the Ministry are listening very carefully to the strength of feeling in the debate. A noble Lord said that there is no party animus in this, and that is absolutely right. There is nothing to be gained.

A great many headaches will come to whoever takes up this problem. The building was described by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, as a "brute with style". It should still have a part to play in the overall planning of the river. I remember that it was Frank Sinatra who sang, "London by night is a wonderful sight". It is. Among the sights which Londoners see beside the other great buildings like this House and County Hall is Battersea Power Station. There are opportunities here. I very much hope that the Minister can be positive and give the people of Battersea—but more importantly the

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people of London and millions outside it—a sense that the Ministry has grasped this opportunity, which may never come again.

7.35 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, for having stepped into the shoes of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, much as I regret being able only to admire him but not to hear him this evening.

We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for providing us with an opportunity to discuss this important London building. Since I live within a stone's throw of Battersea Power Station, I am at a loss as to whether or not I should declare an interest. My feelings are every bit as passionate as those of the noble Lords who have spoken.

The power station is listed as a building of special architectural or historic interest. Its listing status is Grade II. It was constructed from the 1930s onwards to the designs of Theo Halliday and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and is an important example of industrial architecture of that period. The power station is in fact the largest brick building in Europe. To illustrate its size, one could drop the whole of St. Paul's Cathedral into it and still have room to spare.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, will be interested to know that it is perhaps ironic that when construction was first mooted in the 1920s, fears were expressed that smoke emitted would ruin the paintings in the Tate Gallery across the river. Time moves on and, as we all know, Scott's other Thameside power station, at Bankside, is now itself to become part of that gallery.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, is right, the building remained in use as a power station until 1983. In 1984 the then owners—the Central Electricity Generating Board—launched a competition for its disposal. The bids were assessed not by the CEGB but, as he said, by a panel of independent assessors under the distinguished chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra. I believe that he has given sufficient details about what went on at that time.

Listed building consent was given by Wandsworth Borough Council for the removal of part of the building, and work commenced accordingly. We understand that Mr. Broome spent a considerable sum of money on consolidating the building's foundations, but his plans subsequently fell through and circumstances forced him to sell the building. Parkview International, as agent for the Hwang brothers from Hong Kong, has now acquired the debt on the site, and is proceeding to full ownership.

The argument has been heard that, given the continuing uncertainty over the power station's future and the current state of the building, the right course now is to de-list it. The Government do not agree with that, for two reasons. Here I agree with the gist of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Desai.

First, although the power station at present stands empty with no roof and no west wall, it still retains the special qualities that were held to justify its listing in the

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first place. The most significant features of the interior, including the directors' staircase, bronze doors and Art Deco control room, are unaltered and protected.

Secondly, to de-list the building would send out entirely the wrong signals to other owners of historic buildings who would like to redevelop. The listing system does not in itself rule out any particular option for the building or its site. Its purpose is to flag up the special character of a building, and to ensure that decisions determining a building's future take that special character into account. The owner of a listed building may apply to the local planning authority for consent for its demolition. However, we are not aware that any application for consent to demolish Battersea Power Station has been made.

The Government's general policy on the conservation of historic buildings was set out last year in Planning Policy Guidance Note No. 15, Planning and the Historic Environment. This guidance, which local planning authorities must take into account in carrying out their statutory functions, restated the long-standing presumption in favour of the preservation of listed buildings.

I must emphasise that it is important that the Government do not comment on the merits of any particular option so as not to prejudice any decision which the Secretary of State for the Environment might eventually have to make on a planning or listed building consent application.

The guidance note also emphasised that viable new uses are often the key to the long-term survival of historic buildings. As your Lordships may be aware, many other major industrial buildings, which at one time might have seemed total white elephants, have subsequently been found very successful new uses. The Albert Dock in Liverpool and Dean Clough Mill in Halifax are good examples. I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that the current position regarding Battersea Power Station is that Parkview International is in discussion with Wandsworth Council and English Heritage on a master plan for the complete site. I understand that mixed use of the site is among the options being considered. The Government are not a party to the discussions and it is not for me to speculate on the outcome. So far as we are aware, no new formal planning applications have been made. I have to say that both English Heritage and the Government accept that a viable new use for the site may in due course require substantial adaptation of the existing building, or some additional building, or a combination of both.

However, at this stage English Heritage's aim is to ensure that, until the long-term future of the building can be clarified, the condition of the fabric does not further deteriorate, and in particular that the directors' staircase and the control room are kept weathertight.

English Heritage inspects Battersea Power Station regularly. The last inspection took place on 6th December, and another will be carried out this week. The need for a number of minor repairs (such as patching minor leaks) was identified in the course of December's inspection, and these have now been completed by the owners. English Heritage has also requested Parkview to arrange for a structural engineer

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to look at the steelwork supporting the north-west chimney. A report on that should be available by the end of this month.

Both English Heritage and Wandsworth Council are well aware that they both have powers to serve a repairs or urgent works notice against an owner who neglects a listed building. However, English Heritage does not consider that Battersea Power Station has deteriorated to an extent that would warrant action of that kind at present. As I have said, English Heritage continues to monitor the condition of the building, and considers that for the moment there is no cause for alarm.

The Government fully acknowledge that the recent history of Battersea Power Station has not been as one might wish. However, I hope that your Lordships will draw some comfort, first, from the fact that discussions on the future of the site are proceeding; and, secondly, from the assurances that I have given that the building is subject to regular inspection by English Heritage, which is satisfied that the current condition of the building gives no immediate cause for concern. I hope that I have allayed the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and of those of us who are interested in the future of Battersea Power Station.

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