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Palace of Westminster (Restoration and Renewal)

Volume 598: debated on Thursday 9 July 2015

1. What assessment he has made of the implications for the House of the proposals for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. (900871)

9. What assessment he has made of the implications for the House of the proposals for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. (900880)

We intend to establish a Joint Committee of Parliament on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. I expect this to be established before the summer recess. The Committee, which will be co-chaired by the Leaders of both Houses, will consider the independent options appraisal report, which was laid before both Houses on 18 June, as well as related evidence. It will then make recommendations to both Houses on a way forward, taking account of costs, benefits, risks and potential timescales.

Too many decisions affecting the country as a whole are made by people who view them through the prism of their personal experience living and working in London. Does the Leader of the House recognise that moving Parliament out of the Palace of Westminster not only is the most cost-effective approach to restoration, but provides a unique opportunity to take decision making out of the metropolitan bubble; and will he think seriously about temporary relocation to one of our great northern cities, such as Sheffield?

I think that is the third or fourth representation I have had so far to locate Parliament in an hon. Member’s constituency. I suspect—

I hear Wallasey from the Opposition Front Bench. I suspect there are 650 different views on where Parliament might be temporarily located. I am sure the Committee will note the fact that those views exist.

Can the Leader of the House be more specific about when he will bring the Deloitte report back to this place for a full discussion? Although I enjoy a relationship of solidarity, reciprocity and mutuality with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), may I put in my bid for Manchester, please?

As I said, I think we will get many more such representations. Seriously, this is something that has to be agreed by everyone: we need the agreement of this House and of the other place. We need to have a sensible plan that represents value for the taxpayer, as well as recognising that this is a historical part of our nation and the centre of our democracy. We will endeavour to make sure we deliver a sensible recommendation in a timely way that gives this House a way forward.

I welcome what the Leader says about providing a plan for the restoration. My introduction to the House of Commons was in Committee Room 18, where the leaking roof demonstrates the importance of restoration. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should not rule out a half-and-half solution to refurbishment?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for not lobbying for Andover. In my view, the job of the Committee is to look at all the options, not to rule any option in or out at this stage. What is of paramount importance is that the solution chosen must enable our democracy to continue to work effectively.

Although my constituents in Kettering would support the cheapest option, which also happens to be the quickest option, of closing down the Palace of Westminster and moving us out, please can we quell all this nonsense about going to different parts of the country and make sure we just go over the other side of Parliament Square to the QEII conference centre?

I hear my hon. Friend’s view. Of course the possibility of temporary relocation is one of the options that will have to be considered. I have to say that my own view is that we should move out of this place, were we to choose to do so, with the utmost caution and care, and that is not where I personally am inclined to take us.

Will the Leader of the House update us on whether the options appraisal report came within the original £2 million budget, or indeed the revised £2.4 million budget?

I do not have those figures to hand, but I am happy to ensure that the officials concerned write to the hon. Gentleman confirming what the final cost was.

Will the Leader of the House take into account the impact on tourism and on the UK economy if we move out of this building? Many people come to the UK from abroad to visit the Houses of Parliament, but it is highly unlikely that they will come to visit us in some aircraft hangar in another part of the country. Will that be a key consideration when the decision is made? [Interruption.]

From a sedentary position, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) was surprisingly self-deprecating in suggesting that my hon. Friend is the tourist attraction, rather than him. The position of this building as the centre of both our democracy and our national life—part of the magnet that brings so many tourists to London—is absolutely something that we should take into account.