POLITICS
23/01/2012 16:23 GMT

John Bercow 'Not Worried' About Parliament Sinking Into Thames

John Bercow has reassured MPs that he is "not worried" by reports that Parliament is slowly slipping into the river Thames.

Subsidence caused by work on Parliament's underground car park and the construction of the Jubilee Line have led to cracks appearing in walls around the Houses of Commons and Lords as well as causing Big Ben's bell tower to lean 18in at its peak.

It had also been reported that there were fears the building could sink into the river.

But the Speaker of the House of Commons told Tory MP Robert Halfon that he "should not believe everything that he reads in the newspapers" which he said were "getting overexcited" - as was their stock-in-trade.

"Keeping calm and doing the right thing is ours," he added.

Halfon had stood in the Commons chamber on Monday afternoon to ask Bercow whether MPs should consider "whether or not to buy ourselves lifejackets".

MPs on the House of Commons Commission, which is responsible for the upkeep of the Parliamentary estate, met today to discuss a surveyor's report that suggested options for dealing with the problems, including repairs to the mock-Gothic building which may mean peers and MPs temporarily moving out.

Following the meeting the commission released a statement that sought to reassure MPs and peers that there was "no immediate risk" to the structure of the palace.

"It is envisaged this early work will take approximately a year, with any decisions on renovation not being made until the next parliament, with any work not commencing before 2020," it added.