Government real estate is valued in the billions

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Some of the most desirable and exclusive real estate in London has finally been given a price tag, although none of the properties will be seen in an estate agent's shop window.

According to figures released by the Government, the famous Whitehall buildings from 10 and 11 Downing Street to Admiralty arch form a property portfolio worth billions.

The valuations are contained in a series of parliamentary answers released by Government departments in response to a query by Mike Penning, the Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead, who said it was important for taxpayers to see the assets held in their name.

The answers reveal that the 10 most valuable assets owned by the Cabinet Office alone, ranging from Admiralty Arch to 10 Downing Street, have a book value of £126,964,364. Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street may now be only seen by the select few allowed through a security cordon of wrought iron, but the two houses are worth more than £23.5m, while Admiralty Arch is valued at nearly £26m.

However, prospective property developers were warned by Jim Murphy, the Cabinet Office Minister, that: "The Government is unlikely to place certain of these properties on to the open market for sale."

Departments were asked to list their 10 most valuable fixed and moveable assets.

Figures from the Foreign Office reveal the value of its palatial headquarters next to Downing Street - £50m - and also the book value of embassies in Paris, Rome, Washington and Moscow.

The biggest figure arose from the more mundane holdings of the Department for Transport, which values Britain's trunk road network at £72.1bn and the Channel tunnel Rail Link at £1.6bn. The most striking moveable assets, meanwhile, belong to the Ministry of Defence, which lists four nuclear missile submarines, valued at up to £581m.

The ministry responsible for the nation's leisure, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, lists the Serpentine Gallery (£3.9m) and the Inn In The Park restaurant in St James's Park at £2.9m.

Ever-cautious, Gordon Brown, did not give details of the value of the Treasury's fixed assets. The most notable of these is the newly refurbished departmental headquarters at 1 Horse Guards Road.

Mr Penning may yet press for full disclosure. In explaining his request, he said: "The public have a right to know how their money is being spent, to know what assets are out there, and whether departments really need them."


10 & 11 Downing Street

Two of the most desirable and historic addresses in London, boasting extensive formal reception rooms behind one of the most famous facades in the capital. Accommodation includes the Cabinet Room, grand staircase, and a state dining room. No 10 was built in 1682, but altered when joined to a 1677 house on Horse Guards Parade. No 11 boasts grand state rooms and studies. Both houses include flats in the attic.

Plus points: Cul de sac location, gated private driveway. Convenient for the West End.

Minuses: Street can be a little claustrophobic. No 10 could do with a lick of paint.

Admiralty Arch

Built in 1911 and boasting outstanding views of Trafalgar Square and The Mall. Commissioned by King Edward VII as a memorial for Queen Victoria. Used as offices and includes two Edwardian town houses for entertaining. Currently allocated to the First Sea Lord and his deputy.

Plus points: Imposing and centrally located.

Minus: Traffic noise.

Admiralty House

This elegant Georgian mansion was completed in 1788 and is steeped in Naval history. Nelson once laid in state here. Features include the fine drawing room, dining room and music room, all on the ground floor. Upstairs has been converted into flats. Occupied by John Prescott and Margaret Beckett.

Plus point: Filled with Nelson memorabilia.

Minus: Noise from constant rehearsals by military bands on Horse Guards Parade.

Foreign Office

Built in 1868 across from Downing Street. Magnificent Grade-I listed accommodation refurbished between 1984 and 1997. Includes the covered Durbar court designed for Edward VII. State rooms include George Gilbert Scott's Locarno suite.

Plus point: A stone's throw from St James's Park.

Minus: Perhaps a little grandiose for the average 21st-century buyer.

Official residence of British ambassador, Paris

A stone's throw from the Champs Elysees. Completed in 1723 and bought from Napoleon's sister, Pauline, by the Duke of Wellington. Official rooms include a state banqueting room.

Plus points: Survived the French revolution and has been painstakingly restored.

Minuses: Not many.

British embassy, Washington

Neo-Georgian residence built by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1928 with embassy next door. Red brick residence set in gardens in one of DC's most exclusive neighbourhoods.

Plus points: Stylish and a magnet to the most powerful people in the world.

Minus: Wouldn't you rather live in New York?