MPs debating options for repairing Parliament


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The majority of the iconic building dates back to the mid-19th Century

MPs will vote later on plans for multi-billion pound programme to to repair and modernise Parliament’s buildings.

Parts of the Houses of Parliament are crumbling and there have been warnings of a potentially deadly fire unless ageing electrical systems are replaced.

Opinion is split over whether MPs and peers should move out of the Commons and Lords while work is done, seen as the most cost-effective move.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom told MPs that Parliament faced “critical risks”.

There had been, she said, 60 episodes in recent years which could have led to a serious fire, adding that the “patch and mend” approach to the fabric of Parliament of the past 40 years was no longer viable.

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The current rolling programme of repair work is no longer viable, many MPs believe

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UK Parliament

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A senior parliamentary official recently warned that Parliament could become the next Grenfell Tower

As well as the threat of fire, the building is seen as vulnerable because of its antiquated sewerage system and areas of the palace, which was largely rebuilt in the 19th Century after it burnt down, are riddled with asbestos.

Two motions tabled by the government will be debated later on Wednesday.

The first would allow MPs to approve essential repairs but agree to review the “need for comprehensive works” before the next election, which is due in 2022.

The second would establish a body to carry out a “sufficiently thorough and detailed analysis” of various aspects linked to the restoration work, including whether MPs and peers should move out and whether this process should happen sooner.

In 2016, the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster warned that the decision on how to refurbish Parliament could not be delayed any further and backed a “full and timely decant”.

An amendment to the government motions tabled by Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier would back this recommendation.

Labour’s Chris Bryant told Sky News for MPs to want to stay in the building while extensive building work was taking place was “bonkers” and they had a duty to preserve Parliament for the next 100 to 200 years.

“I say to colleagues, it is really time we got a grip of the situation and voted for something which might be inconvenient for us but is in the long-term interests of the nation.”

Under his plan, Parliament would temporarily relocate to Richmond House, a nearby building in Whitehall currently used by the Department of Health.

DUP MP Ian Paisley said there was “no cheap option” and anyone who believed this was “deluded”.

“There is necessary work that needs to be done and necessary money that needs to be spent,” he said.

An SNP-led amendment would see MPs consider the option of whether to permanently abandon the Palace of Westminster altogether.

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