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Hands Off Our QEII, event professionals plead

Campaign launched to persuade UK Government to look at alternative options during Westminster refurbishment

Pictured: A report has shortlisted the QEII building as a venue to be used by the House of Lords while repair work is carried out at the Palace of Westminster

London would lose its last dedicated conference centre in the city if the government decides to temporarily move into the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre II (QEII), worried event professionals say.

Industry leaders argue the capital would lose credibility for attracting major conferences and miss out on millions of pounds worth of economic value if the UK Government took over the venue while repair work is carried out at Westminster.

It comes after a report recommended the House of Lords take up residence either at the QEII centre or a venue at Victoria Gardens, while repair work is done between 2022-2028. Leading the opposition is QEII board member Simon Hughes, with supporters including former Mayor Boris Johnson and the APPG for Events, who says speculation at the prospect of using the venue is deterring conference organisers and damaging long term bookings.

They have called for the government to rule out using the venue, in a joint campaign with Meetings & Incentive Travel (M&IT), Hands off Our QEII. Hughes said: “We know from the numbers that the QEII adds about £122 million in economic benefits every year. We employ hundreds of Londoners in both permanent and freelance staff.

“The other issue is, compared to other destinations London is not awash with big conference centres. At the moment, Earls Court is gone and if we took QEII out of the game, central London would have little or no purpose-built venue for central events, meetings or conferences. It would leave all our bids focussed on ExCeL, which is superb, but a lot of business that comes to centre of town, comes to the centre for specific reason. They want to be in the heart of London.”

The UK Government carried out an enquiry to decide which building to move into, and recommendations were handed down this week.

Hughes said no representatives from the QEII were invited to give oral evidence at the enquiry in December and January, which explored the options on where to house the government while restoration work is carried out.

Hughes said that the longer that people are allowed to speculate about the possibility of losing the QEII, the more harm it would do. “So far a number of people who've contacted the centre have asked the question. They say 'we've seen the reports, what does it mean'. We tell them at the moment it's business as usual and once a decision has been made we'll inform them,” he said.

“But what we don't know is the impact it’s having on people’s decision making. There's an unknown there. They may have seen the speculation and decided not to put the QEII on the shortlist which means we’re missing out on that. “Of course there are long lead times involved for event planners and you really don't want to put an option in that you’re not absolutely certain is available in two or three years hence.”

Register your support for the Hands off Our QEII campaign by signing our petition here.

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