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Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill

Volume 664: debated on Monday 9 September 2019

Consideration of Lords amendments

Clause 2

The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body

Given the wide consensus that the Bill has attracted, I do not propose to go on too long—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] It is nice to be liked. The Government committed to bring the spirit of several amendments that were supported in this House on Report to the other place, with appropriate wording and at the appropriate place in the Bill. We are pleased that these amendments were also supported in the other place and are now included in the Bill. They include an amendment on heritage, which was brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and requires that, in exercising its functions, the Sponsor Body must have regard to the special architectural, archaeological and historical significance of the Palace of Westminster.

As agreed in the House, the Bill now places a duty on the Sponsor Body to require the Delivery Authority, when considering the awarding of a contract in respect of the carrying of the parliamentary building works, to have regard to the prospective contractor’s policy relating to corporate social responsibility and their policies and procedures relating to employment, including in relation to the blacklisting of employees. I am especially grateful for the collaborative approach and constructive contribution of the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) in formulating that amendment.

The Bill now provides that the reports prepared by the Sponsor Body must be laid before Parliament and must include information about persons to whom contracts in respect of the carrying out of the parliamentary building works have been awarded, in particular with regard to their size and the areas in which they operate. I am particularly grateful to the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) for her collaboration in formatting that amendment.

Lastly, in exercising its functions, the Sponsor Body must now have regard to the need to ensure that opportunities to secure economic or other benefits of the parliamentary building works are available in all areas of the United Kingdom. I would particularly like to thank the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) for collaborating on that amendment and for his work as a member of the shadow Sponsor Body.

I am sure that the House welcomes the fulfilment of the Government’s commitments to the House that these amendments would be included in the Bill at the appropriate place and appropriately drafted. Other amendments passed in the Lords and are now included in the Bill, and I consider that they echo the will of the House, particularly as they build on the recommendations of the prelegislative Joint Committee. There are also minor technical amendments that ensure consistent references to the parliamentary building works in clause 2(5).

In summary, the Bill has benefited from close scrutiny both by the Joint Committee and during its passage through both Houses. I hope the House, having considered the amendments passed in the other place, will concur with them and support the passing of the Bill as it stands, so that we can progress with these important works and secure the home of this United Kingdom Parliament for future generations.

Mr Speaker, may I start by paying tribute to you and your excellent role as Speaker? I was one of the people who dragged you to the Chair, and you have been outstanding. I will come on to your role with the Education Centre. You have been a stalwart in terms of equality. In your efforts to help me in my role as shadow Leader of the House, you have been exemplary. I will miss business questions, and particularly your jibes at us all. Thank you for everything you have done to uphold the parliamentary system; it has been very good. [Interruption.] That was for you, Mr Speaker.

I thank the Minister for bringing the Bill back to this House, and I thank all Members who have taken part in the debates on restoration and renewal. I am pleased that the Bill has come back, and I want to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), who started the push to move the restoration and renewal Bill forward. I want to deal with the amendments—it is important to get them on record—in three chunks, one relating to the Sponsor Body, one to the physical aspects and one to the future.

We have the Sponsor Body, which will be a single client on behalf of both Houses, and that is a good way of working. It will form the Delivery Authority as a company limited by guarantee. Amendments 10 and 12 require the Sponsor Body to lay its reports before Parliament. One of the key things that Members wanted was the accountability of the Sponsor Body to Parliament, and the amendments will ensure that. Amendment 11 will ensure that we know about all the contracts that are awarded to different companies and the people who operate around the estate.

Amendment 1 is fairly important because it is about having regard to the prospective contractor’s policy relating to corporate social responsibility and the prospective contractor’s policies and procedures relating to employment, which is about the blacklisting of people. Many lives have been destroyed by people being blacklisted and not being allowed to take part in contracts. That is extremely important, and I want to thank my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) for ensuring that this has been passed.

Amendment 9 will require the Sponsor Body, in exercising its functions, to have regard to the need to ensure that there are opportunities to secure economic or other benefits throughout the United Kingdom. That is key, certainly on our side, and it is one of the reasons why we support this Bill wholeheartedly. We wanted to make sure that any benefits were not just confined to one part of the United Kingdom, but go to the whole United Kingdom.

As the Minister said about the physical parts, it is important to ensure that the historical, archaeological and other significance of Parliament continues. That is covered by amendment 8, remembering that it was 900 years ago when the Anglo-Saxons were first involved in this place—and some of them might still be here.

Amendment 5 seeks to ensure that, after the completion of the parliamentary building works, all parts of the estate are accessible to people with disabilities. I know that the hon. Members for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) and for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) were involved in this, and they certainly raised it on Third Reading. If we look at what happens at York Minster, we know we can combine accessibility for people with disabilities with keeping up the building’s historical significance.

As to the future, amendments 4 and 6 strengthen the reference to parliamentary building works in relation to ensuring the safety and security of staff and the public, as well as in relation to the education facilities. Amendment 7 secures your legacy of the Education Centre, Mr Speaker. It makes sure that Parliament’s education and outreach facilities and programme are ensured and that they become a core part of the parliamentary estate and provide a benefit in a greater understanding of Parliament and our democracy. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) mentioned the craft school in Scotland. I know that Historic England is aware of it and wants to carry on with this, which could be an outstanding way to ensure that all our crafts—ancient and modern—are secured for our future.

Amendment 2 will place a duty on the Sponsor Body to promote public understanding of the purposes of the restoration and renewal programme, and amendment 3 will ensure that the views of Members, staff and the public are at the front of the Sponsor Body’s mind. Everyone across the nation should feel a part of this project, because this place is in the heart of the nation. We do not have a deadline, as the Olympic Delivery Authority did, so the important part is that we make sure there is a deadline, as Members’ tolerance and the public purse are not elastic. However, I again join the Minister in saying that it is important that this is all secured for future generations, and we support the Bill.

I will also be very brief. I, too, want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to you, Mr Speaker, following the announcement you have made. You were a huge source of support and encouragement to all of us elected as SNP MPs in 2015, and particularly to me since becoming the Chief Whip. I remember being admonished back in 2015 for clapping in the Chamber, but that reform seems to be progressing forthwith. Of course, you have been a reforming Speaker, and as the Labour shadow Leader of the House said, much of R and R will be a way to secure the legacy of some of the reforms in making this place much more family friendly and much more accessible. Perhaps, in the tradition of the rooms in Portcullis House, there will, in the restored and renewed Parliament, be a Bercow room, in which people can reflect on that legacy.

The SNP has always recognised the need for reform and renewal of Parliament. We have our own views about how much money should be spent and where Parliament should be located, but we accept the progress that the Bill has made. My hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) has been a member of the shadow Sponsor Board and has engaged significantly on this Bill, including helping to secure what has become Lords amendment 9, which we welcome, so that the money that is spent will benefit the whole United Kingdom and its constituent parts. He cannot be here today, because this morning his wife, Karlie, gave birth to twins—Emmie and Freya—and we congratulate him. I hope that under the proxy voting rules that means that I am entitled to cast two votes on his behalf when we return after Prorogation. We hope that those young girls will grow up in an independent Scotland, and we look forward to their being able to visit the House of Commons once it has been renewed.

The biggest question on everyone’s lips is whether the revised and renewed Chamber will include reclining chairs for the likes of the Leader of the House and, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), who need to make themselves comfortable. We therefore look forward to the Bill’s progress to Royal Assent and the speaking of Norman French later this evening.

Lords amendment 1 agreed to.

Lords amendments 2 to 12 agreed to.