§ The Minister for Film and Tourism (Mr. Tom Clarke)
I have no plans to visit the Rex cinema. If it were currently showing a good British film, I might be tempted—but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the Rex has been closed for years.
§ Mr. Page
I am disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman will not visit the Rex cinema. As he has rightly said, it has been closed for some years. It is in a dilapidated state; £2 million is needed to glue it together. Berkhamsted is an attractive town and the Rex cinema, in the middle of it, is an eyesore.
As I said, £2 million is needed to repair the cinema. If it is used for cultural purposes, it will require £100,000 to £200,000 a year in subsidies. Will the Minister either provide the £2 million that is needed to bring the cinema back to its former glory and the £100,000 to £200,000 a year to maintain it or allow the frieze around the screen and the plaster shells on the side—which, as the Minister will know from his 1930s days are the sort of features that have given the Rex its listing—to be stored elsewhere? Better still, will the Minister take steps to remove the listing, allow the site to be developed for sheltered housing and take the pressure off the green belt, which is so badly needed in Hertfordshire?
§ Mr. Clarke
I have no intention of intervening. It is true that my Department has received letters, but only two have been opposed to the listing. One such letter was from the hon. Gentleman on 19 May 1997, in which he enclosed a letter from the developers. However, the local authority, the Friends of the Rex, the Ancient Monuments Society and the Cinema Theatre Association all support the listing. The hon. Gentleman will know that there is a presumption in favour of the preservation of listed buildings. We support that view.