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Sunday, 17 November

It's Time to Act...Before Parliament Collapses

A report highlighted by the BBC says that the Palace of Westminster urgently requires refurbishment - but politicians are avoiding the issue like a pre-election banana skin

Controversy and embarrassment have featured in the broadcasting this week by BBC’s Newsnight that the Houses of Parliament need £3 billion worth of attention.

Although there is nothing new in the fact that something substantial has to be done – back in August 2012, Commons officials had mooted a similar figure to MPs – the timing comes at a delicate time for the government.

Having just lost the Rochester and Strood by-election to UKIP and boasting that it is a prudent administration, the prospect of £3 billion spent on repairs to the Palace of Westminster, appears already to being deferred.

Currently, repairs to Parliament stand at £30 million a year, just to keep the building functioning. However, no one is in any doubt that substantial work has to be undertaken; asbestos is present throughout, the plumbing and heating system is antiquated, energy efficiency woeful and the exterior structure badly needs repair to its masonry alone.

There have been three suggestions to deal with the problems:

  • A full ‘decant’ and complete closure – where MPs and peers leave to other premises for five years. This would be expected to encounter significant political opposition
  • Partial decant – the Houses of Commons and Lords move take turns to vacate the premises but the time would be longer.
  • Politicians put up with the refurbishment around them. Besides not wanting to struggle to hear themselves above the noise, it is estimated that the cost would increase much more.

The authorities have refused to concede that the £3 billion figure is an accurate one; the last official figure was put at £1.6 billion. Some observers have pointed to the fact that the full report on repairs to Parliament has been deliberately delayed till after the General Election in May 2015.

 

Pictured: The Palace of Westminster is having urgent and substantial repairs deferred till after the General Election

Article written by Mike Gannon

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