POLITICS
18/01/2018 11:32 GMT | Updated 18/01/2018 17:41 GMT

Andrea Leadsom Warns MPs They Must Decide If Costly Parliament Refurb Is Justified

'At a time of great fiscal constraints, it is a genuinely open decision.'

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom says MP must make a decision on whether a costly refurbishment of Parliament is justified in the current economic climate.

The restoration and renewal of the Grade I-listed Palace of Westminster - which is partly sinking, contains asbestos and has outdated cabling - will be debated again later this month.

A 2012 report warned the building could suffer “major, irreversible damage” if significant work to restore it is not carried out.

But the works would mean significant upheaval and could see Parliamentarians moved out of the building for a long period of time while they are undertaken.

Leadsom told MPs on Friday that the issue would come back before the Commons on Wednesday, January 31 in the form of two government motions.

She said: “The reason for the motion is to be very clear that this is a decision for the House.

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The Palace of Westminster is in urgent need of restoration work

“The House needs to decide whether we can afford to justify the undoubted work that needs to take place to restore this palace - a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has over one million visitors a year - at a time when there are great fiscal constraints.

“It is a genuinely open decision that the House needs to make.”

Labour’s Valerie Vaz, shadow leader of the Commons, said not enough time had been set aside for the issue and claimed the government had failed to take on board the recommendations of a joint committee set up to examine the issue.

In 2016, it concluded the building “faces an impending crisis which we cannot responsibly ignore”,  pointing out “a substantial and growing risk of either a single, catastrophic event, such as a major fire, or a succession of incremental failures in essential systems which would lead to Parliament no longer being able to occupy the palace”.

Vaz said: “The government cannot be serious.  It’s as if the joint committee have never met.”