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Rushanara Ali MP brings debate on Henry Moore's 'Draped Seated Woman' to Parliament

PUBLISHED: 16:48 19 December 2012

Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' erected in Stepney in 1962

Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' erected in Stepney in 1962

Henry Moore Trust

The debate over the potential sale of Henry Moore's 'Draped Seated Woman' was brought to the House of Commons by MP Rushanara Ali today (Wednesday).

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman has resolved to auction the sculpture, known as ‘Old Flo’, at Christie’s in the New Year, claiming it is unworkable to bring it back to the borough from the Yorkshire sculpture park where it currently resides.

Addressing culture minister Ed Vaizey in Westminster today, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali asked the government to join Labour’s calls for the council to reconsider the sale, as question-marks over ownership remain.

“This is effectively a fire-sale caused by the appalling financial deficit brought on by profligacy and quite extraordinary waste in the council”, she said.

More than 3,000 people have now signed a petition urging Tower Hamlets council to ensure Old Flo is brought to the borough and displayed in public.

During the debate, Mr Vaizey described the proposed sale of the sculpture as “lamentable”, but insisted it would ultimately be a decision for the council – not central government – to take.

Ms Ali’s decision to raise the issue in Parliament was criticised by Cllr Rabina Khan, a member of Mayor Rahman’s Independent cabinet, who said she should have used the opportunity to raise the housing problems facing people in the borough.

She said: “Instead of fighting this travesty or supporting the Mayor’s plan to use some of the proceeds from Old Flo to build social housing, Rushanara is more interested in ingratiating herself with the arts world.”

However, Ms Ali dismissed Cllr Khan’s comments as “completely ridiculous”, adding: “I have campaigned tirelessly on issues such as housing, fire service cuts and benefit cuts.

“Three thousand people signed a petition in support of the campaign to save the sculpture, so it’s right that I should raise this issue in Parliament, as I have done with a range of other issues.”

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