Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (120-133)



  120. Would that be for equivalent properties? Are you saying that the examples I have just quoted and you quoted earlier are equivalent properties to the ones that were charging £50 and £100 and would be charging that amount of money?
  (Ms Alexander) From what we can see it looks as though the range is not out of line bearing in mind the sorts of properties that we give grants to which range from a small monument in a park to Blenheim Palace. We will certainly have more information on this after this July survey.

  121. I still express some concern that we are only carrying out surveys now and only looking at these matters now when clearly there has been some public sensitivity about this particular issue going back three years, and I do think that it is long overdue that English Heritage caught up. I did not want to miss out on the opportunity, as a former resident of Muswell Hill for something like 15 years, to talk briefly about Kenwood House and the Iveagh Bequest. I wanted to ask you, first of all, whether opening it in the evening—as I know the Iveagh Bequest was very keen that it should be open to the public and as many members of the public should see it as possible. In looking at using it for private functions is that within, first of all, the spirit of the Iveagh Bequest? Secondly, as it used to be controlled by the GLC and the London Borough of Camden have you consulted with the local authorities concerned and, indeed, the new Greater London Authority, in relation to its private use?
  (Ms Alexander) At the time at which we were planning the major investment that we have just made in Kenwood the Greater London Authority did not exist. We have certainly had discussions with the local authority about what we are planning to do at Kenwood and one of the ways in which we believe we can fund that is to provide for corporate entertainment into the future. We believe that that is consistent with our duties, which will certainly not involve any reduction in the hours at which the house is open to the public, but we hope will provide a valuable facility locally.

  122. One of the other issue that has always been very prevalent at Kenwood House is of course security. We had the embarrassment of two major British paintings being stolen from Kenwood House some years ago and it does have an almost unrivalled collection available for public display. What arrangements are you making, if there is going to be private use of the home, to ensure that the security is available and that that security cost is passed on to whoever it is who is hiring the hall?
  (Ms Alexander) We have invested in security improvements as part of the refurbishment. I do not think you would expect me to go into the detail of them in public, but we have improved the security in the house and we have further plans for investment in the security around the house over the next 12 months.

  123. Finally, you mentioned earlier that a donation was made in relation to the use of the house for the wedding of the ex-King of Greece's daughter. Was that donation agreed before the event took place or did that happen subsequently?
  (Ms Alexander) It was offered before the event took place.

  124. Thank you.

  Chairman: Thank you. I think Mr Rendel has one final question.

Mr Rendel

  125. Mr Love raised an interesting point about insurance of Kenwood House. If anything had happened to any of the paintings or whatever during the time at which the ex-King's daughter's wedding was taking place would there be any insurance cover for that?
  (Ms Alexander) As a public body we are not able to insure[12].

  126. He did not have any insurance and you did not insist on it as part of his costs that he had insurance?
  (Ms Alexander) I am very sorry, I do not know the answer to that question.

  127. So that is a cost which may not have been included?
  (Ms Alexander) May not have been included.


  128. I think it would be helpful to have a note on that.
  (Ms Alexander) I would be happy to provide that.

Mr Rendel

  129. Who set up the agreement between English Heritage and ex-King Constantine?
  (Ms Alexander) Well, the work was done between a consultant working for ex-King Constantine and the deputy director of my London region.

  130. He was the first person he came to and he did all the negotiations with the ex-King's consultant?
  (Ms Alexander) I have no idea who the first person he came to was, it was probably my Chairman. I would be surprised if it had not come through my then Chairman, Sir Jocelyn Stevens.

  131. It would have come to him because he was a friend of ex-King Constantine's?
  (Ms Alexander) Yes, a personal acquaintance and therefore I imagine that there might well have been a direct approach.

  132. It is likely that the first approach was to somebody who was the Chairman of English Heritage and who was a friend of the person concerned and an agreement was then set up, which was not written, for costs to be paid and for a donation of uncertain size to be given at an unspecified time, is that what we are saying?
  (Ms Alexander) We agreed that the wedding reception would be of benefit and that the benefit would be the advantage of the publicity over the wedding and that a donation which had been offered, but most importantly we ensured that all of our costs would be covered.

  Mr Rendel: I do not know, Chairman, if we can look into this as part of our Committee, or whether the Comptroller and Auditor General can do it, but it does seem to me that there are questions to be asked here.

  Chairman: Do you have any questions at the moment?

  Mr Rendel: I think we had better pursue them later13.

13 Note: See Evidence, Appendix 2, page 14 (PAC 1999- 2000/225).


  133. Who was the Chairman at the time?

  (Ms Alexander) Sir Jocelyn Stevens.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. It has been a very interesting hearing and I thank you for coming, and you too, Mr Young. You have had a very quiet time today. Indeed, it is culture, media and spectating rather than culture, media and sport today. Thank you.

12   Note by Witness: Whilst we do not judge it cost-effective to insure commercially valuable contents such as paintings, we do take out buildings and public liability insurance to cover Heritage Hospitality events. The contract with Party Planners contained a clause indemnifying English Heritage for losses etc. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 3 May 2001