Palace Of Westminster Restoration Could Cost £22 Billion And Last 76 Years

Works needed to save the Houses of Parliament could even last up to 76 years if MPs stay in the building.
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The sun sets behind the Palace of Westminster, the home of the Houses of Parliament in central London
The sun sets behind the Palace of Westminster, the home of the Houses of Parliament in central London
TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images

The long-awaited restoration work needed to save the Palace of Westminster could cost up to £22 billion and last 76 years, a bombshell report revealed today.

Three options for renovating the crumbling palace have been outlined as part of a survey by the official body overseeing the renovations.

The various scenarios show that the longer everyone remains in the building - the longer the project will take and the more expensive it will be.

They include:

1) Full decant, everyone leaves: £7-13 billion, 19-28 years.

2) Partial decant, Commons moves to Lords: £9.5-18.5 billion, 26-43 years.

3) Commons stays put: £11-22 billion, 46-76 years.

The report, by the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Programme [R&R], warned that a continued presence “substantially heightens the overall risk” for the restoration project and parliament, compared to a full decant.

“In particular, the pre-existing level of fire risk in the Commons chamber is not reduced until completion and so would not be ‘as low as reasonably practicable’ and would be sustained for decades,” the report said.

The Grade I listed building is riddled with asbestos, leaking pipes and costs millions every year to maintain.

It comes less than a week after HuffPost UK revealed separate works in the Speaker’s apartments had to be halted for three days last year after the discovery of asbestos.

Construction workers remove the scaffolding from the restored west dial of the clock on Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, at the Palace of Westminster.
Construction workers remove the scaffolding from the restored west dial of the clock on Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, at the Palace of Westminster.
Victoria Jones - PA Images via Getty Images

Up to nine members of parliamentary staff and even more contractors may have been exposed to the potentially-deadly substance between October and November last year.

The R&R scheme was intended to deliver a number of “critical” improvements to the palace such as removing asbestos, reducing the fire risk and replacing the “failing network” of essential building services including power, sewage, water, gas, heating and data cables.

Today’s study found that there are a number of “key risks” if MPs stay put, they include fire safety and other serious concerns such as health and safety legislation.

They even suggested it could alter parliamentary business, ways of working and parliamentary procedure.

“A partial decant or staying put means we continue to risk the palace burning down, a major asbestos or sewage leak or a major water failure.”

- Dame Andrea Leadsom

The multi-billion pound cost estimates factor in a lease with the QEII conference centre close to parliament - where a temporary House could be constructed.

MPs originally backed a full decant proposal in 2018, which would see them move into Richmond House in Whitehall for around six years.

But the latest report comes amid a number of set backs for the project and a desire from some MPs to remain in the historic building.

Former cabinet minister Dame Andrea Leadsom told HuffPost UK it was clear that staying in the palace while work continued was not only “outrageously expensive” but posed “difficulties and danger” for everyone visiting and working there.

“Throughout my time as leader of the Commons and ever since, I have been consistent in my view that the only option is to decant. It is the safest and most cost effective way to preserve this irreplaceable UNESCO World Heritage site for future generations,” she added.

“A partial decant or staying put means we continue to risk the palace burning down, a major asbestos or sewage leak or a major water failure. I think it is ridiculous that the tough decision the House took in 2018 has been reopened yet again.”

However, another former Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg recently warned that MPs would “never come back” to the Houses of Parliament if the worst-case scenario went ahead.

Rees-Mogg told the Commons earlier this month: “It seems to me that if we were to have a decant of 20 years we would never come back into this palace and £13 billion or possibly even £14 billion of taxpayers’ money is not justifiable.

“This has gone on for too long, we have been waiting for years for the perfect scheme and instead of getting on with what we ought to do.”

It is thought that MPs may be asked to be vote once again on alternative proposals for the refurbishment.

A House of Commons spokesperson said: “The House of Commons commission wants vital work to secure and restore the Palace of Westminster to begin as soon as possible and is determined to secure value for the taxpayer, while ensuring the parliamentary estate remains a safe place to work and visit.

“The commission’s proposals are intended to ensure that critical works to the Palace can be started sooner, are affordable, and minimise the time that Members spend outside the Palace.

“A final decision will be taken by both Houses. In the meantime, the sponsor body and delivery authority continue to carry out important preparatory work, including surveys.”

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