Major programme of works to Palace of Westminster is essential and progress is urgent to minimise costs and risks
8th September 2016
In a report published today, the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster has concluded that the Palace of Westminster ‘faces an impending crisis which we cannot responsibly ignore’. There is a substantial and growing risk of either a single, catastrophic event, such as a major fire, or a succession of incremental failures in essential systems which would lead to Parliament no longer being able to occupy the Palace.
The Joint Committee of MPs and Peers has also concluded that the current ‘patch and mend’ approach to maintaining the Palace is no longer sustainable and recommends that a major programme of works is now essential and that Parliament must enable the next stage of urgent and vital preparatory work to go ahead so as to minimise costs and reduce further risks. The Joint Committee, co-chaired by Chris Grayling MP and Baroness Stowell of Beeston, was appointed in July 2015 to consider a range of options and make recommendations on the best way to protect the Palace and to maintain it as a working parliament.
The Palace has not had a major renovation of its mechanical and electrical services since it was built in the mid-1800s, leading to a substantial and growing risk that a catastrophic event such as a major fire, or incremental system failures, will lead to the building being uninhabitable.
The Committee concluded that the lowest risk, most cost-effective and quickest option to undertake these essential works would be for all MPs, Peers, and staff to move out of the Palace temporarily in one single phase. However, the Committee recommends that, first, Parliament should establish a Delivery Authority to develop a full business case and prepare a final budget for Parliament’s approval. The next, detailed preparatory stage will ensure that taxpayers, as well as Government and Parliament, can be confident the final proposal is the most cost-effective and will be deliverable before the final go-ahead is given for the works to start during the 2020 Parliament.
The Committee’s main conclusions and recommendations are:
That a clear decision on the next steps is needed now. The report contains a draft Motion recommending that a Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority be established as soon as possible. Once established, the Delivery Authority will produce the detailed business case which will then allow the final budgets to be set.
Subject to further feasibility work, value-for-money assessments and validation by the Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority, the Committee concluded that the best decant solution for the House of Commons would be a solution based around Richmond House and the House of Commons’ Northern Estate. The best decant solution for the House of Lords would be the establishment of a temporary Chamber and supporting offices in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.
The programme will present significant opportunities to engage with small and medium-sized enterprises throughout the United Kingdom, especially those with specialist skills in the heritage and conservation sector. The Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority should consider how apprenticeships and other training schemes could be delivered as part of the Restoration and Renewal Programme, in order to increase capacity in this area and to provide a lasting legacy of skills.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston, Co-Chairman of the Committee, said,
“We must not spend a penny more than is absolutely necessary, but this is now an increasingly urgent problem. We can’t put off the decision to act any longer if we are to protect one of the most important and iconic parts of our national heritage. The next phase of work, to be conducted by the Delivery Authority, will be vital in ensuring that Parliament has a fully costed and tested plan for conducting the work, before being asked to give the final go-ahead for the works to start.”
Committee member and Committee spokesperson, Chris Bryant MP, said,
“All the evidence points to having to move out of the whole Palace simultaneously. That is the lowest risk, most cost-effective and quickest option.”
Notes to editors
The full report can be found on the Joint Committee’s website.
Further information on the Restoration and Renewal Programme can be viewed on the ‘About the Programme’ page.
Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster:
The Joint Committee was appointed by both Houses in July 2015 following the publication of an Independent Options Appraisal (IOA) in June 2015. Produced by a consortium led by Deloitte Real Estate, Aecom and HOK, the IOA set out a range of scenarios with estimated costs and timescales for carrying out a major renovation of the Palace. The Committee’s inquiry addressed two main themes from the IOA: the broad scope of the work to be carried out and how the works should be delivered. It agreed the following guiding principles:
To preserve the heritage of the Palace as the home of the UK Parliament for future generations
To deliver value for money for the taxpayer
To continue the effective functioning of Parliament whilst the work is happening, and
To consider the options in the light of the current security climate.
The Committee has also published 64 responses to its Call for Evidence.
For more information on the Committee, including its membership, please see its webpage
In 2012, the House of Commons Commission and the House of Lords House Committee commissioned a Pre-Feasibility Study. The study indicated that, unless significant conservation work is undertaken, major, irreversible damage may be done to the building.
Further details on the Restoration and Renewal Programme including background, timelines, facts and figures on the Palace of Westminster and videos showing the deteriorating condition of the building, can be found here.
For a selection of images on the current condition of the Palace of Westminster, please see the images page on this site.