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MPs to debate Garden Bridge funding in Commons

London SE1 website team

The £43 million of public money spent on the failed Garden Bridge is to be debated by MPs in the Commons chamber next week after Labour's Rupa Huq secured an adjournment debate.

The debate – of about half an hour – will take place at the end of business on the afternoon of Friday 15 March, and a Government minister will be compelled to respond to the points raised.

It will be the second time that the Garden Bridge will have been the subject of an adjournment debate; Vauxhall's Kate Hoey led a debate in September 2016.

On that occasion transport minister Andrew Jones declared that the "iconic" Garden Bridge "will show that London is open for business".

News of the latest Commons debate comes after two Labour MPs pressed culture ministers – responsible for the Charity Commission – about the Garden Bridge.

Speaking at DCMS questions on Thursday, Rupa Huq said: "Some £43 million of public money going on a bridge across the Thames on which zero construction occurred has led us all up the garden path and now we know that the trust is being wound up.

"The Charity Commission says it will do no further investigation, so will the Government instigate an independent inquiry so that lessons are learned and no project like this ever has the same fate? Frankly, to have a regulator that is not regulating feels useless."

Charities minister Mims Davies replied: "The commission has rightly scrutinised the trustees' conduct and management, and the charity itself, carefully, and it continues to monitor the charity's progress on winding up.

"I understand that the commission intends to publish a concluding report on the running of the trust and to learn those wider lessons, setting them out for policy makers so that we can learn from them."

Croydon North's Steve Reed MP – a former Lambeth Council leader – said: "It has been a total fiasco. We have seen £40 million of public money wasted; public tendering and procurement processes bypassed; contracts awarded before the business case was even drawn up; and a cosy relationship – to say the least -between the chair of the trustees and senior figures at the Charity Commission itself, as well as the former Mayor of London.

"How can the public have trust in charity regulation if the Charity Commission will not properly investigate a scandal of this magnitude? What is the Minister going to do herself to make sure that a full investigation – not just a report – into this scandal is conducted?"

The minister replied: "As I said, there has been an investigation and lessons will be learned. I am due to meet the Charity Commission fairly shortly.

"The Government increased the commission's budget by £5 million in January 2018 so that it could increase its core regulatory functions. I admit that I have had issues in my own constituency relating to concerns about the Charity Commission, so I am happy to take the matter further."

Last month Ms Davies told Parliament that the Charity Commission "has seen no evidence to date that the eventual failure of the [Garden Bridge] project was as a result of failings or omissions on the part of the trustees"

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