What’s the House worth?

Baroness Deech

I read with some sense of shock that the building that houses the Commons and the Lords, the Palace of Westminster, is so riddled with asbestos and other faults that Parliament might have to relocate for 5 years while it is rebuilt – or even move to an entirely new building in London or elsewhere.  I had not noticed the leaks and other defects that some have suffered from.  On the contrary, every single time I go in there I feel a renewed sense of obligation to try and live up to the image that the Palace projects.  It is grand; it is gothic; it does not nod to modernity; it is infused in its artwork and architecture with a sense of domination.  All over I know, but it is redolent of the time when Britain had an empire and ruled the world.  It gives continued work to some of our best craftsmen, who can be seen retouching the paintings, the carvings and the gilt.  The Palace lacks sufficient offices for all its inhabitants, and it does not make the best use of modern technology.  For example, there are useful screens around the place indicating what debate is taking place, who is speaking and what amendment is under discussion.  But  so much more could be usefully displayed on screen using modern technology, for example, the wording that is under consideration, the actual question being asked and so on. Visitors often express surprise that we do not vote electronically from a distance, but have to be physically present in the corridors.  That is right in my opinion.  To allow voting from a distance would be a temptation to miss the debate and not familiarise oneself with the issues.  And it is most instructive to wait in the queue to vote and see who else is sharing the same corridor and have a chat with other peers that one does not already know.  A new building, whether at Westminster or elsewhere, would have to have more rooms, secretarial facilities and the latest digital aids placed by the seat of each MP and peer.

That surely could be achieved in the existing building.  The thought of a modern concrete block replacing it elsewhere in London – or out of London – fills me with fear. I believe that work and study are very much affected by the beauty of the surroundings in which they are carried out.  No modern architecture could compete with the Palace, designed by Sir Charles Barry, and no modern construction would awake the same sense of obligation and respect.  And London would be bereft of one of its greatest sights.  Westminster Hall is still there after 800 years, the original home of the courts and Parliament.  It is convenient for the Abbey, 10 Downing St and Buckingham Palace, not to mention the government offices lining Whitehall.  Yes, there are mice.  I have seen them in the Peers’ Guest Room, and adopted the nonchalant attitude that seems to be de rigueur when they appear.  It is best to avoid the nuts that are left on the tables there, just in case.

24 comments for “What’s the House worth?

  1. MilesJSD
    29/08/2012 at 3:06 am

    In all honesty, this is simply breath-taking, Baroness.

    From your “the image that the Palace projects”:

    I get something very akin from sitting quietly in Plymouth’s principal Church-of-England, St Andrews
    where “projections” subtly appear to meet and to en-joy temporality, spirituality, and materially-frugal-comfort (together):

    such as with my father
    (the worldly one, Leonard Alfred Sydney who to me appears to be not so much “resting-in-peace” as still-peaceably “watching-and-praying”, from any one of the silently-great granite stone pillars where, I ween, “God’s imagination” allows him to abide even ‘though his funeral was in the Tavistock parish church)

    But “projection” has come psychogically and psychiatricly to mean something ‘bad’, “immature expectation, even one-way-blaming” going on, out-of-control, between humans.

    So I feel a spiritual-power in this Post to be emanating from some of Baroness Deech’s words, that could sway the whole Nation.

    But let me note, please:
    to the spiritually-historical Value of such Buildings, we may need to consider a heretofore hidden factor or two.
    My mind has been recently ‘visited’ with the thought that the amount of inspired planning, and yet miserably-arduous often forced-labour too, that must have gone into constructing these marvellous legacies,
    was largely due to the practical-fact, that at that time our predecessors knew there is Divine Greatness to be carried forward by Humankind, as well as by “God-Himself”;
    but lack of scientific, technological, and
    material advances so constricted and frustrated this great Rising-Spirit, that the only expression or ‘investment’ they could find, was to make the best possible works of Art and of Architecture, to “stand”, prayerfully for all posterity to have and to use as ‘surveyor’s pegs’, ‘milestones’, even as “Spiritual- (or Mind-/Emotion-/Body-) ‘Maps'”, witness to those predecessors awareness of “Great Responsibility”.

    [Imagination has far more power than Will, to produce good and lasting results]
    =======
    Nonetheless, the nitty-gritty here must surely include:
    What a great opportunity to truly advance in
    1) electronic parliamentation;
    2) additional buildings for Colleges of Expertise

    and perhaps (wildly spreading our wings)
    3) the truly pardigm-leap into participatory-democratisation, and ‘power-to-the-people’, Opportunity,
    to at least begin a Peoples’ Non-Legislatively Governance-Supportive ‘House’
    whereby non-civil-service People could conduct particpative-democratic-networks
    mainly through electronic means;

    thus ‘creating’ the first (-in-the-world) greater-than-critical-mass, for a true and response-able,
    Peoples’ Democraticly Participatory Nation-State ?

  2. Dave H
    29/08/2012 at 7:14 am

    When I read the headline on the BBC website (which they’ve now changed), I was briefly full of hope, until I read the full article. It said that Parliament could close for five years. Unfortunately the article then expanded that MPs and peers would continue to meet elsewhere.

    (No, Lord Blagger hasn’t hijacked my account.)

    • Gar
      01/09/2012 at 6:43 pm

      It said that Parliament could close for five years.

      This was on the cards at the 1997 election when the shape of the chambers become self evidently not good ones to use.

      If the Independent/Crossbench goes on the way it is, then the noble house/second chamber will have to be redesigned to accomodate them.

      It is hells’ own job to know even now to whom to sit next, or even whether to enter on the left or right!!!! (in my case Ha! ha! Ha!)

      A circular chamber with fairly steep rows may be fittable-in-to-able (peace to Miles) but not if there are 1500 regular attenders and 1500 regularly attending mice as well.

  3. Gareth Howell
    29/08/2012 at 8:14 am

    All over I know, but it is redolent of the time when Britain had an empire and ruled the world. Or Portugal ruled it, or Spain or France, and the redolence is its trouble.

    It gives continued work to some of our best craftsmen, who can be seen retouching the paintings, the carvings and the gilt.

    The Old Palace would make an excellent museum for that reason.

    The Palace lacks sufficient offices for all its inhabitants, and it does not make the best use of modern technology.
    The Baroness forgets Portcullis House.

    If that were sold off it would get about £1500m now, a little more than the cost of building at £800m.

    No what is needed is a planned New Town for about 250,000 people,civil service,and so on, to take the whole lot about 50 miles from the centre, with an entirely new capital building, and leave the existing buildings to the tourists.

  4. Lord Blagger
    29/08/2012 at 9:25 am

    The Palace lacks sufficient offices for all its inhabitants,

    =========

    Because more and more are getting on the gravy train.

    Time for a cull.

    ==========
    To allow voting from a distance would be a temptation to miss the debate and not familiarise oneself with the issues.
    ==========

    Just an excuse to deny us the vote.

    ==========

    A new building, whether at Westminster or elsewhere, would have to have more rooms, secretarial facilities and the latest digital aids placed by the seat of each MP and peer.

    ===========

    Nope, an unheated warehouse in Slough would be fine. A few Portaloos.

    That would sort out those on the take from those with a vocation wouldn’t it?

    A tea ern in the corner, plus a few entrepreneurs bringing round the food at lunch time, for cost plus, and we get rid of those tax avoiding subsidies you are so fond off.

    • maude elwes
      29/08/2012 at 12:16 pm

      I agree with the Baroness. The power of the Palace has been an influence for good. It is an awesome place to work inside. A constant reminder of duty. So, she has it right, this time.

      And cry indeed for my understanding is, it is going to be sold off to developers for a song and made into flats for foreign millionaires or billionaires who will pay through the nose to gloat they have a little nest where those British Lords once sat.

      After which, they will cock a snook at the British citizens who paid for its ‘towering erection’ and maintenance throughout their lives ad infinitum.

      Time for families to seriously start a programme of exodus. What we, the English, are in dire need of is a Moses to take us to ‘our’ promised land.

  5. Nik Morris
    29/08/2012 at 4:23 pm

    I’d like to see you all debating on street corners…in the rain…on council estates. That would make politics fun again. Seeing you all suffer.

  6. Lord Blagger
    29/08/2012 at 4:28 pm

    Except, that instead of the promised land, they have ordered us out of the trenches into no man’s land with machine guns and shells all over the place.

    Meanwhile they sit in their chateauxs supping fine wines at our expenses, etc.

  7. Gareth Howell
    29/08/2012 at 6:29 pm

    The Texans would certainly be interested in acquiring Big Ben.

  8. Gareth Howell
    30/08/2012 at 7:32 am

    Yes, there are mice. I have seen them in the Peers’ Guest Room, and adopted the nonchalant attitude that seems to be de rigeur when they appear

    If they appear when the baroness is there, then there are thousands of them riddling the place, everywhere. At night when all is quiet they are out scurrying like republicans at a party convention.

    • maude elwes
      30/08/2012 at 3:23 pm

      A pretty purring moggy or two or ten is desperately needed there methinks.

  9. Nazma FOURRE
    31/08/2012 at 12:23 am

    Dear Baronness Deech,
    It is high time that Britain offers more than older buildings to the unpredictable men and women who are the lords and the commons as they are the ones deciding for her destiny.
    Since the House of Lords rests on the frame of a monarchical tradition,I strongly feel that the appropriate place for the House of Lords would be in Her Majesty’s palace itself, rest assured if this would please her Majesty to accomodate the Lords, knowingly that the House of Lords is the jewel of a long monarchical tradition.

    To that extent, I shall suggest the lords to ask her Majesty for this special favour namely for the accomodation of the House of Lords in some of the offices of her Palace.

    God save the Queen and the Lords. God bless the united Kingdom.
    Nazma FOURRE

  10. Senex
    31/08/2012 at 5:17 pm

    Mme Nazma, when they burned the national debt (tally sticks) with great enthusiasm back in 1834, Parliament went up in smoke and burned to the ground. Personally I think the Americans had a hand in this what with us burning down their White House in 1812.

    George IV wanted Parliament to relocate to the newly built Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace) but the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne thought the place to big and roomy and positively didn’t like the prospect of strangers mulling around so they found the money to build anew. The present palace is a crumbling ruin.

    Now in France you don’t have a King but you have the Élysée Palace where the President hangs out, usually to dry. Its not widely known but the Treasury is still using tally sticks for the national debt, the basement is full of them and its getting overly full.

    So here’s the plan: we lend Monsieur le Président a tonne or two of our debt for stoking up the palace boilers and set some enthusiastic work experience civil servants to stoke the boilers. Bingo, you get a new Palace for the sixth republic and we get to lower our national debt. Heck we can even lend you Seigneur Blagger to see where savings can be made.

    Parfait

    • maude elwes
      01/09/2012 at 2:04 pm

      I read more startling news in the, Guardian, today, headed, Secret Whitehall guide reveals how royals can veto new laws.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/31/secret-royal-veto-powers-exposed

      Now I wonder if the French would like a return to the powers of the monarchy? After all they were deprived of the greed of theirs some time ago. But, what puzzles me in this little revelation is, why, if the royals are so revered and we all enjoy the cost of rambling royal offspring, was this felt necessary to hide from the public? Could it be they are not as adored as we are led to believe and Ms Fourre’s sycophancy would have us believe?

      We are told they interfere in new laws when it may affect their private interests. Now that a laugh that is. Wouldn’t democracy be all inclusive if the citizen could interfere in the making of laws when it may affect their private interests?

      Now, on the surface this may not feel too uncomfortable, but, think ahead, what if one of the inheritors turns out to be akin to these sibling Princes, and their wives and ex wives husbands or what have you? Or another, as yet closet case unsavoury character yet to break out of the silence like past princesses for example. Where would we be then?

      I have a strong feeling this is why the Tories and the cling ons want us out of Europe. Couldn’t have royal interference in EU law making could we?

      http://www.republic.org.uk/What%20we%20want/In%20depth/Royal%20finances/index.php

      This research tells us the real cost of royal personages is five time more than the official figure given each year and how its growing with each new member. What a surprise… And why we don’t know how much it costs us is, because they are free from the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. Which of course this government also wants rid of along with Human Rights Act and others we have not yet heard about.

      Secrecy in British government is all consuming and this shouldn’t be so in a democracy. Should it?

      • Lord Blagger
        03/09/2012 at 11:11 am

        his research tells us the real cost of royal personages is five time more than the official figure given each year

        ==========

        Look at the Lords. Constantly claiming they cost 300 a day, rather than the 2,700 a day.

        It just shows the priority. What can they get out, rather than the damage they do.

        • maude elwes
          03/09/2012 at 4:34 pm

          @LB:

          Now, what we should be seeing is privatisation of the Monarchy. That could bring some sort of kudos for Pepsi or Coca Cola couldn’t it. We could sell it off by arranging a franchise. Maybe under the name of ‘Party Pieces to enjoy the Royal Mentality By. Plastic little cups and napkins for sale by the millions. Disney like. Big money earner that.

          After that, the Lords. Sell it outright and float it on the stock exchange. All the numerous associated real estate, including the Palaces, to be left in tact for the tax payer to benefit from one way or another.The same way its looked after by the receiver when a company goes bust.

          That way the family of Royals could perform for the companies who buy them lock stock and barrel. And should same companies want to spend millions on their upkeep we, the people, would have no qualms.

          I cannot see the difference between privatisation for the NHS, Work and Pensions, and any other department those giant concerns want to have in their control.

          That way we could arrange a government of the people by the people to take over the treasury and spend our money on what we find necessary for our practical use.

          Schools, hospitals, welfare, pensions, disability, infrastructure, parking, waste department, and on and on. Last but not least, defense. We could save all that money by not wasting it on arms, aircraft and trident from US dealers whom we denied knowledge of for matters of secrecy. And because our US allies don’t like the notion of our people, who pay for it all, knowing what they get up to with our hard earned cash. You know that new thing they are bringing in, secret courts and inquests so you can never know the basis of their wars and the torture they so enjoy.

          In fact a coup by the tax paying people who pay for this profligacy by others who decide which drains should be the receivers of our purchases.

          • Lord Blagger
            04/09/2012 at 1:27 pm

            Or we could render them down for tallow. 🙂

      • thedukeofwaltham
        26/09/2012 at 8:16 pm

        “Little-publicised” is one thing, but “secret powers” is a bit much, considering that I read about Queen’s Consent years ago on Wikipedia… With all the time journalists are reputed to spend in that website, one would expect the Guardian article to at least name the constitutional principle in question!

  11. Twm O'r Nant
    01/09/2012 at 7:54 am

    Interesting Yes that House staff need to keep cats, but keep them where? Le them wander amongst members during the day? By now it would take them a long time to reduce the population of mice.

    It is an awesome place to work inside. A constant reminder of duty. It is not and it is not. Thinking work is quite intensive.

    The buildings have had their day. I can’t quite see the logistics of Portcullis house,
    such a vast atrium and so much central apparently unused space, all air conditioned. Why?

    The Central area could take a temporarily built full chamber of course.

    It would be so much better to think big, and build a new town, not just re-novating.

    • maude elwes
      03/09/2012 at 2:47 pm

      @Twm:

      I disagree. The building is a tribute to our history and the power it still projects. To be rid of it would be tragic.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwveEEL7zIk

      I’ve always loved it, and love it now. Regardless of the present inmates. It has a certain ambience that speaks to me of a great nation. One I find daunting and exciting in dark energy, exposed in its rafters there more than anywhere else.

  12. Lord Blagger
    03/09/2012 at 11:10 am

    The buildings have had their day. I can’t quite see the logistics of Portcullis house,
    such a vast atrium and so much central apparently unused space, all air conditioned. Why?

    =============

    Very simply they are spending your money on themselves. If they had to spend their money, they would have been declare bankrupt ages ago. Just look at the lack of oversight on the building costs.

  13. Nazma FOURRE
    04/09/2012 at 12:28 am

    Senex,
    I am sad to note your irrelevancy whilst quoting Elysée palace which is not linked to the French Monarchy .The French Monarchy originates from the Versailles palace which is now a musuem.

    God save the Queen and the Lords. God bless the United Kingdom.
    Nazma FOURRE

    God save the Queen and the Lords. God bless the United Kingdom.
    Nazma FOURRE

  14. Nazma FOURRE
    04/09/2012 at 12:52 am

    Seenex
    So sad to learn that you have been misleading in your information which makes your late comment irrelevant especially where you send a link to the Elysée palace from the french Monarchy. The French monarchy originates from the Versailles palace just before the revolution allowing France to be a Republic.

    As a result , France does no longer have a king as it is a republic based on Republican constitutional values of a well framed 5th Republic constitution .

    The Elysée palace has never been a palace of the king but an ancient palace of the French Lords. which has been nationalised.
    God save the Queen and the Lords. God bless the United Kingdom.
    Nazma FOURRE

  15. Gareth Howell
    04/09/2012 at 1:41 pm

    what we should be seeing is privatisation of the Monarchy. That could bring some sort of kudos for Pepsi or Coca Cola couldn’t it. We could sell it off by arranging a franchise.

    The slapstick comedy “The Pope and the Witch”
    by a well known Italian playwright was one of my finest viewing evenings at the West end theatre some years ago, in which the Pope ended up by enjoying the sachets of Heroine, provided by the witch, so much that
    he forgot his official duties.

    In the case of the British monarchy doing the same only coca cola would be needed, having as it does sufficient coca- in it, to cause minor and short term addiction to the product.

    An alliance with coca cola would be sufficient, especially with Harry cavorting
    sky clad in public places.

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