Houses of Parliament could close for five years for repairs

Houses of Parliament MPs say the Houses of Parliament are structurally sound, but that facilities are outdated.

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The Houses of Parliament may close for up to five years for refurbishment, under plans being discussed by MPs.

Parliament could be convened in a replica chamber or a conference centre for the duration of the repair work, which could start in 2015.

The Sunday Times has reported the refurbishment could cost about £3bn.

A Commons spokesman said a study into the long-term upkeep of the Palace of Westminster is under way. Its findings are to be discussed by the year's end.

The Palace of Westminster - the meeting place of the House of Commons and House of Lords - is a Grade I-listed building much of which dates back to the 1840s and 1850s.

In January, the BBC reported that cracks had appeared in palace buildings, and that the Clock Tower housing the Big Ben bell had started to lean, although not to an extent to cause major concern.

A statement from the House of Commons Commission, chaired by the Speaker John Bercow, said at the time that the palace was "structurally sound".

Refurbishment work is ongoing, but a Commons source told the Sunday Times that the Victorian facilities "are creaking".

The buildings are widely reported to be infested with mice, and the plumbing and electrical systems are out-of-date.

The source added that the scale of the work involved made it "obvious" that the most cost-effective answer was to "move out".

They said: "We either move out or spend £10bn over 20 or 30 years on trying to do the work during the summer recess."

MP Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) tweeted earlier that the Commons was a "unique and passionate" place to discuss politics, however conceded that "the rodents are a problem".

The newspaper also reported another option under discussion is leaving the Palace of Westminster altogether, and establishing a new parliament elsewhere in London.

But a parliamentary source told the BBC is it unlikely the palace would be abandoned or sold.

An initial study by the House of Commons Commission into how the work might be done began before the current summer break.

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