Major keeps Sir Humphrey happy

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The Independent Online
PLANS to free Horse Guards Parade of parked cars have been quashed by John Major and senior Cabinet colleagues, because of pressure from Downing Street civil servants to retain their privileged parking spaces across one of London's most historic vistas, documents leaked to the Independent show.

A senior Whitehall source said yesterday that the plan by Peter Brooke, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, was scrapped because of pressure from civil servants at Downing Street who would lose their parking spaces.

Leaked letters show a world worthy of Yes Minister, in which the report of an official committee, championed by the Department of National Heritage, with advantages for both Londoners and tourists, was vetoed by civil servants and ministers for reasons of self interest.

Horse Guards Parade, venue for Trooping the Colour, has been a main target of the Independent's campaign to improve the spaces outside cultural and historical buildings by ridding them of parked cars. The Royal Parks Review committee, chaired by Dame Jennifer Jenkins last year, recommended that 'car parking be banned from Horse Guards Parade which should be restored as public open space', with vistas on to St James's Park, and that Horse Guards Road be closed.

Dame Jennifer said: 'Of course civil servants and others like to come to work by car. But such privilege ill accords with government policy to reduce the use of the private car for the journey to work.'

In the leaked letters, Alex Allan, the Prime Minister's principal private secretary, sharply ticks off the permanent secretary at the Department of National Heritage for suggesting that the Jenkins report should be acted upon and cars removed from the site. Mr Allan claims that removing cars would lead to an undesirable 'fortress Downing Street' situation.

John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, deplored closing Horse Guards Road to traffic for a reason that would have made Sir Humphrey proud: 'The road is much used by ministers . . .'

Other Cabinet ministers including the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, and the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, also urged Mr Brooke not to proceed with the plan, even though Mr Howard admits it has some attractions, not least that it is supported by MI5 because it would lessen the risk of terrorism. A Whitehall source told the Independent: 'Many top civil servants have permits to park on Horse Guards Parade and if it were restored as a public open space they would have a five minute walk from another site.'

'No Minister', page 3

Leading article, page 17