Sale of Admiralty Arch and Old War Office will put Queen at risk say Peers

Peers have said that the sale Admiralty Arch and the Old War Office in central London will put national security, and The Queen, at risk.

The two buildings in the heart of Whitehall were sold to private developers for a large figure, that is thought to be around £160 million, and plans are to turn the landmarks into luxury hotels for London’s booming tourist market.


Admiralty Arch

The topic was debated in the House of Lords on Thursday, and Lord Reid, the former Home Secretary, said the issue was of national security: “If the cost of reducing the deficit by a couple of hundred million pounds is to put our national security — not to mention the Monarch — at risk, it is not a price worth paying.”

Admiralty Arch was built in 1912 as a memorial to Queen Victoria, and is on the State Procession route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster, while the Old War Office – last used in 1964 – is very close to Horse Guards Parade. The fear is that terrorists could use them to target the Royal Family, particularly The Queen, who is Head of State, as well as an iconic figure the world over.

Another peer, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, agreed, saying:

“This is privatisation gone mad. Does the noble Lord really think that selling off the Old War Office building, just up the road from the Cenotaph, to a private foreign company for use as a hotel and private apartments will not cause major security risks? Of course it will.

“There will be Remembrance Day services and The Queen coming to open Parliament; it is extremely dangerous. Surely he must think again.”

A number of government buildings are connected by underground tunnels and bunkers, most dating from the time of WWII, when London was heavily bombed. It is also thought that Buckingham Palace could be linked in this tunnel network, again posing a security threat to the Royal Family.

“Ignore the siren voices which suggest that security can be assured simply by sealing tunnels. It cannot; ask anybody in Hatton Garden,” said Lord Lisvane.


Old War Office

Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a Lib Dem, noted that when George Bush made an official visit to London, the entire Whitehall area was cordoned off for security purposes, no doubt influenced by the aforementioned reasons.

Wallace pointed out that the IRA had managed to ‘mortar No. 10 [Downing Street]’  from within Whitehall in 1991.

Spanish hotelier Rafael Serrano purchased Admiralty Arch for £60 million, and was driven through by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day in 2011. Runners in the London Olympics also used the arch as a thoroughfare.

Lord Bridges of Headley insisted to peers that the freehold of both buildings was still owned by the Government; he also claimed security measures would form part of the ‘commercial arrangements’ with the private sector, but admitted that employees would be sourced by hotel management, and that the Government had not insisted on obtaining security clearances for staff.

“It is obviously in the hoteliers’ interests to take their security checks on their staff into consideration,” he said, and mentioned that the Metropolitan Police would always be ‘very involved’ in security for State events, such as the Opening of Parliament.

“I do not believe that these decisions have put the national security at risk and I have been assured that they have gone through the appropriate processes,” he said.

“The properties were designated surplus to requirements, following a thorough review.

“Since 2010 the Government have generated £1.4 billion in land and building sales while the running costs of the estate have fallen by £647 million.”

Photos: Scott Denny, Mal Booth

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1 comment

Wayne murphy Thu 16 July, 2015 - 2:21 am

This is madness the way great Britain is being sold off.we are a proud people and the royal family are part of our lives,I do not want them or England put in danger for the sake of profit.the word NO comes to mind on this subject.


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