Plans to convert two former government buildings, Admiralty Arch and the Old War Office, into luxury hotels will compromise national security and put the Queen at risk, according to former Home Secretary Lord Reid.
The two Whitehall properties were both sold to private developers. Prime Investors Capital (PIC) bought a 99-year lease on the Admiralty Arch in October 2012 for £60m as part of a wider sell-off of unused government buildings in a bid to raise more than £1b for the nation's coffers.
The Old War office was bought by Indian billionaires Hinduja Group, in partnership with Spanish group Obrascon Huarte Lain Desarrollos, on a long-lease arrangement for an undisclosed sum, though it was reported to be as much as £300m.
However, peers have expressed concern that the locations of the two buildings on the State Procession route between Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster mean that terrorists could use them to target the royal family, according to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11730492/Sale-of-two-government-buildings-to-hotel-developers-will-put-Queen-at-risk-peers-warn.html" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">The Telegraph.
Meanwhile, Labour peer Lord Foulkes of Cumnock described the sales as "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," he said.
"There will be Remembrance Day services and the Queen coming to open Parliament; it is extremely dangerous. Surely he must think again."
Conservative peer Lord Bridges of Headley argued that the freehold of both buildings was still owned by the government and that security measures would form part of the "commercial arrangements" with the private sector.
He went on to admit that the hotels would employ their own staff, and that the Government had not insisted on security clearances for employees.
"It is obviously in the hoteliers' interests to take their security checks on their staff into consideration," he said.
PIC revealed last August that it was in talks with more than 12 luxury operators regarding the management of the grade I-listed property following its transformation into a five-star, 100-bedroom hotel, which is expected to open at the end of 2016 or early 2017.
The five-storey Old War Office building, which was constructed in 1906, has 1,000 rooms and two-and-a-half miles of corridors. It has been estimated that once the conversion work is completed the site, which was bombed eight times in the Blitz, may be worth £1b.
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