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Education Centre

Volume 577: debated on Thursday 20 March 2014

The latest estimate of the cost of constructing and equipping the education centre is £6.93 million, excluding value added tax but including the usual provision for contingencies.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell me how expenditure of some £7 million on what will be a temporary building can possibly be justified? Would it not be much better to put the education centre into the space that is currently occupied by the loss-making day nursery overlooking Parliament square?

The hon. Gentleman and I served together on the Administration Committee during the last Parliament, and I know of his enthusiasm for the education centre. We considered a wide range of options, all of which we have considered again during the current Parliament, and this option provides by far the best value. It allows us to increase the number of children who go through the education centre from 45,000 to 100,000, which is a significant advance.

A teacher who had taken children around the Houses of Parliament said that it had been a

“fantastic experience that allowed children to have firsthand experience of how the Houses of Parliament work. It was great for them to see it as a working building—online it is static and empty. They were very much struck with awe and wonder.”

Engagement with children is the future of our politics.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is very important for children from outside London, particularly those from my constituency, to be able to come and see what goes on in Parliament, and engage with the democratic process? Can he tell us when the first sod will be turned, so that we can have the centre as soon as possible?

I cannot at this moment give the hon. Lady an exact date, but it is hoped that the centre will be open in 2015, probably just after the election. As for her first point, as one who represents the most northerly constituency on the mainland of the United Kingdom—and long may it remain united—I must say that it was a tremendous pleasure to welcome children from Kinlochbervie and Wick high schools two weeks ago who made two separate visits. I am sure that we wish to continue to do everything possible to enable constituencies such as hers to benefit from these resources.