Repairing Parliament: MPs' three options (including a move)


The Palace of Westminster is falling apart. The 150-year-old building is creaking at the seams. It is stuffed full of asbestos. Much of the electrics are pre-war.

It is so fire unsafe officials fear it would never pass any health and safety test. So the authorities are finally deciding what to do about it.

For some months the body that runs the building - the House of Commons Commission - has been considering a radical plan to close the Palace for a number of years while a complete refurbishment is carried out. In the meantime Parliament would sit elsewhere.

I am told that on Monday night the MPs and officials on the Commission met and decided to postpone any temporary evacuation of the Palace while further work was done to examine the options.

But, crucially, the idea of leaving the Palace was very much not abandoned.

One very senior figure on the Commission argued hard, my sources say, for the idea to be scrapped entirely. He said there was a real reputational risk for him and for Parliament if they were seen to be spending upwards of £2bn on the building in a time of austerity.

But the majority on the committee took the view that the money would not be spent for seven or eight years; it would be spread over quite a long time; and they had a real duty to protect the Palace and make it safe for current and future generations.

So on Wednesday the Commission will publish a report it commissioned from officials into the various options. These include:

* a long term refurbishment carried out piecemeal every summer holiday when MPs are away.

* a partial decamp during which MPs would sit in the House of Lords while the House of Commons was repaired and vice versa

* a total evacuation to a temporary location for both houses.

One option that has been firmly ruled out has been the idea of abandoning the Palace of Westminster entirely for a new-build parliament elsewhere.

What the Commission has asked for is a more detailed and robust business plan for each of these options, plans that set out the detailed costs involved and are independently audited.

"We cannot hide from this," one source said.

"There is a serious health and safety issue. The House is not fire compliant, it could burn down tomorrow. So we are going to get some serious work done to see how we can fix the problem with the best value for money. Our broad attitude is let's stay in if we can, but also let's go where the figures take us. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't."

The new estimates are expected to take at least a year to draw up so MPs do not expect any decision to be taken until 2014 with the work not likely to begin until 2018 at the earliest.

James Landale Article written by James Landale James Landale Deputy political editor

Could UK politics go a little bit Swedish?

BBC deputy political editor James Landale looks at whether a minority government could be held to ransom if a party like UKIP had the balance of power.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from James


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Why not a parliamentary body based outside of London? There's no longer a reason why it has to be exclusively there. Historically parliament was held wherever the monarch in the country. Keep certain admin and back office in one location and have MPs move between the Kingdoms for periods of time. It'd remove the Westminster Bubble factor and force MPs to connect with citizens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    they should relocate to Europe Strasburg or Brussels , they seem to have delegated the work of OUR parliament other there to unelected bods but no travel expenses or any other expenses they get paid enough . in fact quite a good time to how is it ? oh downsize bring back a slimmer leaner commons ! thats if the EU will let them back .

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    2 billion quid eh? Worth every penny IMO

    We must maintain these monuments to remind future generations of the corruption sleaze collusion and anti-democratic patrician oligarchies which representative democracy produces

    A huge monument to failure, so future generations can never ever let it happen again

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    So which of their rich friends is gonna rent them a meeting place at a super inflated rate at the tax payers expense?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I believe that Somalia is looking for a new government
    They can have ours, and we'll throw in every civil servant in Whitehall for free as well

    Yours to keep forever, gratis
    Every one of these people is a genius and a credit to the advancement of human society

    No no don't thank us, it was our pleasure

    All we ask in return is that you never ever allow any of them EVER to return to Britain


Comments 5 of 39



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.