Moving out?

Lord Norton

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.





11 comments for “Moving out?

  1. 18/06/2015 at 7:40 pm

    I completely agree with what you say. I read that moving out will also allow better visitor facilities to be included so that it’s possible for more people to visit Parliament more easily. Surely that should be heavily promoted as one of the benefits? It must be possible to find offices for 10,000 people in London, and suitable venues for the debating chambers. It’ll mean a few years of inconvenience, but surely that’s better than 30 years of perpetual building work? Personally, I’d rather not be working amongst the building work. Presumably the costs given in the media include the cost of temporary relocation?

    • Lord Norton
      18/06/2015 at 8:04 pm

      Jonathan: Many thanks. Yes, the enhanced cost includes better visitor facilities and the figures include the cost of temporary accommodation.

  2. tizres
    18/06/2015 at 9:30 pm

    When Portcullis House was first mooted, were there any parallel discussions about the refit of the Palace?

  3. 19/06/2015 at 4:22 am

    Lord Norton,

    I’m hopeful that the solutions to these challenges will provide some distant successor with Quizzes…

  4. 19/06/2015 at 8:58 am

    On the other hand, Generation Rent are apparently proposing moving Parliament to Hull. That would at least shorten your commute!

    • Lord Norton
      19/06/2015 at 9:45 pm

      Jonathan: Public interest before personal benefit. There is also the practical point, which would apply to most places put forward as possible sites, as to where one would find the space, not only for the legislature, but also for government departments and housing for all those who work in the institutions.

  5. Dean B
    19/06/2015 at 9:08 am

    Not even Hull?

    • Lord Norton
      04/07/2015 at 10:41 pm

      Dean B: Where would we put everybody?

      • Lord Blagger
        05/07/2015 at 10:46 am

        Very easy.

        Abolish the lords then the commons can shuffle between chambers.

  6. Matt Oliver
    19/06/2015 at 9:23 am

    The report seems sensible to me. As long as the new proposed media centre doesn’t look like the one at Lords then I agree…we should just get on with it.

  7. MilesJSD
    20/06/2015 at 6:30 pm

    1. Why is the Need to make at least The Commons legislative chamber electronic,
    not a top-priority ?

    Even “temporarily” whilst the next {2020 + 12 = 17 ] modernisingly-lost years go by, this ‘up-dating of existing old traditional buildings’ shoujld be an opportunity to radically streamline both its technological and mind-functional capabilities and its fitnesses-for-longestterm-purpose’ ?

    2. Could not the Scottish, Welsh, Ulster, and Greater-London parliament places be used;
    or at least ‘leaned on’ for support during these 17 years
    17 years at least, at the end of which may be little or no democratic-process improvement
    only some historicly-rooted Beautification
    and a mere smidgen of Tourist trade profitability
    [and its woven-in profiteering side-effects ?].

    3. Why not see this as a great opportunity to increase the efficiency, and effectiveness, of British Parliaments
    including streamlining the need for “10,000 MP-support employees” ?

    4. Since it is by no means ‘off the cards’ that the whole Westminster infrastructure could be ‘taken out’ at one blow
    [eg by plastic suitcases of state-of-the-art atomic-bombery or other persistent WMDs]
    surely Britain needs at least one truly secure alternative Place, Network, and ‘100% back-up’ for Parliamentary-Preparations-&-Legislative-Activities ?

    [as well as the already existing smaller deep underground emergency ‘bunkers’, maybe ?]

    5. How will Top-to-Bottom ‘reach-out-democracies’
    such as Lords of the Blog,
    be ‘affected’ ?

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