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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    turn it into a hotel, rich Americans would pay a fortune to stay in it.
    The parliament can move to Bradford, its the "least visited" city in the UK by tourists & is the most culturely diverse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Turn it into a museum (the rich American/Chinese etc ) tourists would love it!

    Build a new Parliament instead, to include accomodation/offices for all the MPs from out of town & stop this riciulous situation with abuse of expenses for econd homes but providing a nice little room or two to each MP.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Surely in order to set an example, the best choice would be to move to a building in the North/Wales where we can find something cheaper to use while the main building is renovated?

    This will give a boost to another location and will setup an example for other public services to follow.

    But will our MPs go? No they dont want to be away from their BTL portofolios and London restaurants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    MP's are absolutely the last people who are fit to decide about this.

    At best, they are inept and incompetent.

    At worst they are criminal and corrupt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    9.richardjinx - "Saying the place could burn down tomorrow so close to 5th November is tempting fate a little."

    I see what you're saying but the analogy doesn't really work - Guy Fawkes wasn't fater the Mps, he was after the King & any MPs who died, if he had succeded would have merely been collatoral damage.

    His aim was to trash the monarchy & install the Pope as our leader.....


Comments 5 of 39



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