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'Don't trust Tories' says Howarth

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The outgoing chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Architecture has issued a clarion call for the architectural community to vote Labour.

Alan Howarth, one of the most passionate supporters of the AJ's PPG 7 campaign last summer, called on the architectural community to protect the likes of CABE from the threat of a Conservative government.

The retiring Labour MP for Newport East, a former Conservative minister under Margaret Thatcher, claimed Tony Blair's two governments had taken several major architectural steps forward, progress that would be threatened by the Tories.

Howarth - who became an honorary member of the RIBA last week - insisted that a Conservative government would also scrap other initiatives, such as the Prime Minister's Better Public Buildings Award and departmental design champions.

'The Labour government's commitment to good design in the public sector and PFI work has led to a step change in the way procurement works, ' he told the AJ.

'The Conservatives are simply not interested in anything aesthetic. There used to be one or two that were, but they are extremely few and far between these days.

'It has been a huge job to restructure the government to think about architecture since Labour got back into power, and this would be undone if the Tories got back in. I have seen no evidence to suggest that they have changed, ' he added.

Howarth, who crossed over from the Conservative benches to Labour in 1995, also warned that CABE was under threat.

'If we had a new government, it would probably not just disband CABE, but would give a nod and a wink to developers that it doesn't matter what the Design Review says, ' Howarth said.

'The fact is that something like CABE does not work without the full backing of the government of the day.' Although he admitted the government's design champion initiative was not perfect, he said it was 'a good idea heading in the right direction', which proved the prime minister's personal commitment to architecture.

Howarth also said the Liberal Democrats should not be trusted. 'I'm not aware of any of their MPs who have any knowledge of these issues, ' he said.

'The fact is that the Labour government since 1997 has had a better track record on architecture than any other in recent memory, ' he added.

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