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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 10:20 GMT
Scrap assembly building, say Tories
Site of new Assembly building
The assembly building has been a controversial project
Welsh conservatives are to use a minority debate to call for the new assembly building project to be cancelled, and for the money to be put into public services instead.

Party leader Nick Bourne intends to use the talks to develop opposition to the plans, which have been continually dogged by controversy.

Money has been wasted, but let's not waste any more

Nick Bourne, Welsh Conservative leader
Despite expecting to lose the vote, Mr Bourne demanded an end to the "absolute mess" surrounding the project.

"People in Wales are pretty united against wasting money on this," he said.

"They are more concerned about what happens in the assembly building. They want us to deliver on health, on rural services, on jobs and education.

Finance Minister Edwina Hart
Finance Minister Edwina Hart
"Money has been wasted, but let's not waste any more.

"Let us draw a line under it now and spend it on public services rather than on a building we don't really need."

Mr Bourne also criticised a "total lack of leadership from the first minister" on the project, which faced a major set-back in July when Finance Minister Edwina Hart sacked architect Lord Richard Rogers.

At the start of the project, the initial budget was just over 26m, but the potential cost of the building rose to between 37m and 47m.

'Unrealistic and irresponsible'

However, former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies - who instigated the building project - described Mr Bourne's calls as "unrealistic" and "irresponsible".

"There's one guaranteed way of wasting more money and that is by cancelling the contract," he said.

Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne
Nick Bourne expects to lose the vote
"The millions that have been spent would be wasted.

"There would also be legal challenges which would incur more costs and bring a bigger bill for compensation."

Mr Davies described the project's handling as "less than brilliant" over the last couple of years, but he stressed the importance of the building.

"If we are determined to create the new Wales we are all talking about, then we have to have confidence in ourselves, and a building which people can be proud of."

"At the moment there is a temporary home, and it says a lot about how we perceive ourselves.

"We have a site, we have back-up facilities, we have a world-renowned architect and we have funds put aside.

"What we need now is determination to deliver."

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Edwina Hart is expected to say she is pleased with the bids that have been received from companies keen to take over the project.

BBC Wales's Rhodri Lewis reports
"The plans may look impressive, but the Rogers design for the Assembly is no nearer being built than it's ever been"
Welsh Assembly Chamber Row

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