The Final Report from Deloitte on The Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme Independent Options Appraisal was published at 1.00 p.m. today. It was preceded by a presentation to MPs and peers. The meeting was not entirely harmonious. Part of the reason for this was highly parochial: some of the Power point slides were virtually impossible to read. More substantively, it was because we were presented with what are, in effect, unpalatable truths. We know the infrastructure of the Palace is in a dreadful state. It has been neglected for more than half-a-century. The whole Palace needs a refit. We cannot get away from that. I think many members were hoping it would be possible that the work could be done while both Houses remain in place. The problem with that is the cost, both in terms of money (£5.7billion) and time – it would take around 32 years. A partial decant would take 11 years at a cost of £4.4billion. The quickest and cheapest option would be a full decant – six years at a cost of £3.5billion or £3.9billion, depending on what improvements were made.
The need to move out clearly exercises many members, some fearing if we move out we may not move back in or that it would be changed out of all recognition. Those are matters, though, for Parliament and not the responsibility of the team preparing the report. A Joint Committee of the two Houses is to be appointed to make recommendations. The work itself is not expected to start at least until 2020/21, assuming the decision on what to do is taken by the end of 2016.
My view is that we need to grasp the nettle and accept we are going to have to move out for some time, either fully or partially. Remaining in place is not feasible, even though some members seemed to have problems with this. The possibility of long recesses, creating more time for building work, was raised by one and the possibility of workers working longer than a five-day week was put forward by another. Neither would make much difference.
I think we will have to move out, but I also believe we should then move back in. I do not see Parliament moving to another part of the country as an option. It would be too costly to the taxpayer and inconvenient to those wanting to come to Parliament. The Palace of Westminster is a Grade I listed building, a World Heritage site. We are going to have to spend the money to restore it, regardless of whatever purpose it is then utilised for. I am not sure we could justify the cost, on top of that, of designing and building a new Parliament in city X and also relocating Government to city X. We are a parliamentary system. Parliament is where Government is. Finding the space for both would be problematic and the cost – of building and relocating – would be enormous. Bear in mind that moving Parliament means not only moving members, but also about 10,000 staff. There is also the issue of convenience of travel. The advantage of being in London is that people wishing to visit can do so. The Palace gets about one-million visitors a year now. London has convenient transport links. One would need to find somewhere with similar accessibility. I am, not sure anywhere matches the capital.