The circumstances surrounding the future of the QEII Centre would be funny, if they weren’t so tragic and ironic.
The story so far: our ermine-decked, unelected upper house (The Lords to ordinary proles like you and me), are having their chamber revamped at a cost some £4 billion. Well, that’s the conservative estimate, anyway. So that bill will be footed by you and me and the rest of the taxpayers.
While that’s going on, they could sit tight and put up with a few tradesmen, ladders and dust as we do. But because they are Lords, such a scenario it seems, is unacceptable, so a committee has been assembled to find them a new home for the duration of the work (somewhere between six years and forever). After examining options, a 124-page report has been produced by this exalted bunch and this has pretty much ruled out M’Lords staying put and instead propose a number of venues to be taken over and rebuilt for their convenience including The Treasury Building in Parliament St, King Charles St, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Westminster Hall or The QEII Centre.
Absurdly, it seems the latter is favourite. No matter that we currently only have three major venues in London (Paris has 13) and the events industry is against the idea, no matter that a small fortune has just been spent on bringing the venue up to standard and no matter that it has bookings well beyond the proposed moving in date that will lead to potential legal actions and compensation payments met by the taxpayer (that’s you and me, remember?), they still seem enthused by the idea of taking over the QEII Centre and ending its career as a commercial venue. In essence, they’ll be reversing the flow of money.
At the end of this month, the options will be debated in both Houses of Parliament, and a decision will be made on the QEII’s future.
Such an appalling waste of our money seems not to have raised an eyebrow in the mainstream press or in the House of Commons but the conference industry is not their focus, I guess. It’s much more important to focus on cutting benefits and exiting the European Union.
Interestingly, the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson supported keeping the QEII Centre as it is – one of the capital’s few major international standard conference venues - and went into print to say so. (But he was also once in favour of remaining in the EU, so perhaps he has changed his mind).
Meanwhile we at M&IT magazine/meetpie.com have set up a petition to persuade the Prime Minister’s office of the error of this plan (go to https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-save-our-qeii-centre to register your vote) and new Mayor Sadiq Khan and London & Partners’ Director of Business Tourism & Major Events Tracy Halliwell have voiced their support for our view that keeping the venue open for business is the sensible decision (even if they did say it in a mealy-mouthed kind of way!)
Sarah Storie Pugh of The International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) said: “IAPCO expresses grave concerns at the potential loss of the QEII Centre to the business tourism industry for London. In the opinion of IAPCO, a professional and dedicated congress centre in the centre of London is paramount to the city’s position in the international meetings market and therefore urges that the QEII is retained as a congress centre”.
What do you think? At a time when Belfast, Sydney, Rome, Kuala Lumpur and many other cities are all expanding their conference centres, we are considering closing one of ours. It seems ironic that we should vote for Brexit to escape the clutches of a bunch of foreign, unaccountable, unelected elite, and then allow our own unaccountable, unelected elite to engage in a land-grab of our valuable real estate without recourse.
Register your vote and your view here.