Contractors on British Library face legal action

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The Independent Online
THE BUILDERS of the controversial new British Library at St Pancras, in London, are likely to be sued by the Government, it emerged yesterday, by Chris Blackhurst.

The prospect of years of litigation is another blow to the project which has been severely hampered by technical difficulties and design faults - and seen its cost spiral from pounds 164m to over pounds 450m.

Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, told MPs he was unable to put a definite figure on the library's final price because it depended on claims and counter-claims with contractors. 'We're talking about issues which may come to law,' he said.

Giving evidence to the Commons National Heritage Select Committee, Mr Brooke was also unable to give an opening date for the building which so far has taken 12 years to construct.

The Heritage Secretary was speaking after a report that the National Audit Office, the public spending watchdog, was launching a second investigation into the project. Workers at the site have told of possible corruption with quality assurance teams allegedly deliberately hampering progress.

Earlier, the committee heard from Brian Lake, secretary of the British Library Regular Readers Group, that the open-ended way the project was structured had led 'to massive waste of public money'. An environment had been created, he claimed, 'in which corruption could flourish'.

Mr Lake called for a public inquiry and detailed audit to discover what had gone wrong.

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