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Houses of Parliament

Volume 556: debated on Thursday 17 January 2013

1. What progress the Commission expects to make in the remainder of this Session on the renovation and renewal of the Houses of Parliament. (137522)

At its October 2012 meeting, the Commission agreed to publish the report of the previous feasibility group and ask for a full independent analysis to be carried out of the various high-level options other than the option of a new building away from Westminster. The House Committee of the House of Lords reached a similar view. The results will be available in 2014 and will provide the basis for an informed decision about how exactly to proceed.

I am most grateful for that answer. Given the need for an informed decision, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is vital that all stakeholders—the public, the press, those who work here and, of course, Members of both Houses—are fully engaged in the process leading up to that decision?

Indeed. The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely important point and the Commission is grateful to him for the part he played in advising the study group last year, together with the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Sir Alan Haselhurst) and two Members of the House of Lords. This will be a major project that will affect us all, and good consultation with all those involved will be vital to ensuring its success. I look forward, as I am sure the Commission does, to working with the hon. Gentleman and others to ensure that that happens.

If the cheapest and quickest option for a complete renewal of the fabric of the Houses of Parliament is to close the Houses of Parliament and temporarily relocate them elsewhere, will the hon. Gentleman ensure that that option is put before the House so that Members can vote for or against it?

The purpose of the feasibility study now being undertaken is to ensure that there is accurate information, properly gathered by outside independent experts, so that all the options are based on fact, without any optimism bias. I cannot personally imagine a circumstance in which the House would not wish to express a view on what is best, but when the decision is made, after the information is available, it will be for the usual channels, whichever they are, to work out how to do that.

If we were to move out, which I would not particularly object to if it were more cost-effective, and if, for instance, we were to move to a round chamber, such as that at Church house, where would the Liberal Democrats sit? Would they sit between Labour and the Conservatives? Would they sit to the far left or to the far right, or would they sit in the bishops’ seats?

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. That is beyond my pay grade in this role, but I assure him that wherever it was it would always be the right place.