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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 16:27 GMT
Thatcher statue to enter Commons
Sculptor Neil Simmons with the marble Thatcher
Sculptor Neil Simmons with the marble Thatcher
The huge marble statue of Lady Thatcher is poised to take its place in the House of Commons after Westminster rules were changed.

Historically, statues of former prime ministers can only take their place five years after the subject's death.

Sculptor Neil Simmons with the marble Thatcher
A larger-than-life figure
But the rules have been changed to allow a statue to be placed as long as it is three terms of government, or a minimum of 12 years, after they have left office.

Because the 12 year limit is not reached until the end of the year, the statue will be loaned to the Corporation of London where it will be on show at the Guildhall.

Derek Conway, chairman of the accommodation and works committee announced the changes on Wednesday.

Mr Conway confirmed that the statue of Baroness Thatcher will be on long-term show in the Palace of Westminster.

Italian marble

The two-tonne statue of Lady Thatcher, complete with handbag, was unveiled for the first time last week.

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, known across the world as the Iron Lady when in office, is represented as a larger than life 8ft in the work commissioned for the House of Commons.

When I first met her I was very worried, rather intimidated, as most of us were, but meeting her she was a very human person

Sculptor Neil Simmons
The statue was carved by sculptor Neil Simmons in white Carrara marble. Mr Simmons is regarded as one of the UK's finest figurative sculptors.

It was commissioned in 1998 by the House of Commons Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art. It was paid for by an anonymous benefactor.

Mr Simmons took two years to find the right size piece of Italian marble from which to create the 1.8 tonne statue.

Facing Maggie

He then had to face Lady Thatcher herself for six sittings.

"She was a very easy person to talk to - which I was very surprised at," Mr Simmons told BBC News.

"When I first met her I was very worried, rather intimidated, as most of us were, but meeting her she was a very human person," he added.

During the sittings Lady Thatcher had to sit in a chair on scaffolding - but "she was game for it" and was happy to do whatever was required, said Mr Simmons.

A plan to place it in the new MPs' office building, Portcullis House, was abandoned when it became apparent it was so heavy the floors would have to be reinforced at huge cost.

An announcement on where it will be temporarily housed is expected next week.

There have been a number of offers, including from Lady Thatcher's home town of Grantham and the retirement town of Lake Havasu City in Arizona.

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"Even 12 years after she stepped down from power Lady Thatcher still has a star quality"
See also:

01 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher statue unveiled
21 Jan 02 | UK Politics
US city wants Thatcher statue
26 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Margaret Thatcher: Tory titan
24 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Lady Thatcher statue homeless
13 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Thatchers celebrate 50 years together
03 May 99 | Thatcher Anniversary
Mixed record of the Iron Lady
26 Apr 99 | Thatcher Anniversary
Thatcher: Après moi
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