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Restoration and Renewal

Volume 620: debated on Thursday 2 February 2017

6. What plans he has for the House to debate and vote on the timetable and budget for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster; and if he will make a statement. (908561)

I am eager to schedule a debate on the Joint Committee’s report and recommendation to refurbish the Palace of Westminster as soon as possible. That will be announced in the business statement in the usual way. The Joint Committee’s report recommended the establishment of a delivery authority that would develop a business case and budget prior to a final vote in Parliament, following a decision in principle. By its own admission, the Joint Committee was not in a position to provide detailed budgets before the establishment of a delivery authority.

If the Palace of Westminster needs to be renewed and restored, I am pretty sure that my constituents in Kettering would want me to vote for the cheapest option. If that happens to be the quickest, so much the better. Will the Leader of the House make a recommendation to the House ahead of the vote?

That is a matter for the House. It is vital that the Palace is safeguarded in the right way for the reasons that my hon. Friend has indicated. The Government want to ensure that the solution is deliverable and value for money, and are taking their time to consider the detail of the proposed recommendations and the implications very carefully.

“Taking their time” is the understatement of the year! The Joint Committee was chaired by two Ministers, one of whom, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), is sitting on the Front Bench. He was staring at the back of the head of the Deputy Leader of the House, going, “Just get on with it, man.” Get on with it!

There are pressures on parliamentary time—I think the hon. Gentleman is responsible for some of those pressures—but the reality is that the matter is of significant importance, and we will proceed as soon as possible.

I welcome the fact that the Government are taking their time to consider the best option for dealing with this historic Palace. Given the amount of taxpayers’ money involved, will the Deputy Leader of the House reassure me that such a cost will deliver an effective Parliament and a solution that taxpayers believe is genuine value for money.

It is crucial that value for money is safeguarded. Advice is being taken on a range of the technical and governance recommendations made by the Joint Committee report—we have studied it very carefully—and the independent Major Projects Authority is also being consulted.

The Deputy Leader of the House says that there is pressure on parliamentary time. We spent 45 minutes trooping through the Lobbies last night and we will spend hours doing the same next week, so if the Chamber is to be decanted, will that not be an opportunity to introduce modern practices, such as electronic voting?

I am surprised to hear that Scottish National party Members feel Divisions are a waste of time. I am sure they could avoid Divisions if they saw fit.

Is it not the case that the large majority of people in the House of Commons are not in fact Members? There is a constant risk not only on health grounds, with asbestos and the rest, but of a fire, and we certainly do not want a repeat of 1834. Should not those who complain about the cost involved—they are quite likely to come from outside—be told that they have such an absolute right to complain because this place exists?

I recommend any Member of the House who has not read the report to read it, because it particularises in fine detail some of the concerns that the hon. Gentleman mentions about health and safety and about risk.

First, people started talking about the great reform Bill—where do all these greats come from?—and now there will presumably be the great reconstruction bill for the House of Commons. All the time I have been a Member we have made do and mended, and we have got on perfectly well. Why do we need to have this reconstruction? Let us just patch things up a bit and carry on as normal.

Again, I recommend that the hon. Gentleman read the report. It is decades—in fact, many decades—of patching and mending that has led to patching and mending no longer being practicable in the opinion of the authors of the report, so clearly a number of major issues need to be addressed.

We are out of time, but I really want to hear the last question, not least because the hon. Gentleman is a newly elected and extremely keen member of the Committee about whose name he is concerned. I call Mr Philip Davies.