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Palace of Westminster

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 7 November 2013

1. If the Commission will establish a Members’ consultation group for the work on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. (900963)

I shall answer for the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso).

Last year the House of Commons Commission invited the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Sir Alan Haselhurst) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) to join two Members of the House of Lords as an informal consultation group for the pre-feasibility study on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. That group is not a decision-making body; its purpose is to ensure that the programme team has a good understanding of the range of Members’ views and requirements, and that that is reflected in the final formal proposals.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that answer. I am not sure whether he said that there are Members of the House of Commons on that advisory body, as I could not quite hear. If there are not, would it be possible to include them? I have strong opinions on this issue as, I am sure, do many other Members of the House. I would like an assurance that the House will be consulted and kept up to date on progress.

There are already two Members of the House of Commons on the informal committee, and there may be a third. There are currently three Members of the House of Lords. The hon. Lady is right and it is crucial that Members are kept advised. That will be done through the normal channels, and all relevant committees will be advised. If she is interested—I know her commitment to this issue—and would like to meet the project manager, that would be perfectly possible.

What is the latest estimate for the cost of restoring and renewing the Palace of Westminster? If the cheapest and quickest option is to close the place down and do it in one go, is that a route the hon. Gentleman would be kind enough to advance?

I am sorry I did not catch the question, but no decisions have been made except to appoint advisers and consultants who will advise on the options. Those options will be considered in the next Parliament, and the final decision will be taken by both Houses. There will be an immense amount of consultation and, of course, interest from Members of both Houses.