4: Clause 2, page 2, line 26, at end insert—
“( ) to promote public understanding of, and engagement with, the Restoration and Renewal programme and its objectives.”
My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments 6 and 10 and will endeavour to be brief. Rather than repeating myself later, I will set out here why it is important that this amendment should be in the Bill. I suspect that I will have a slightly more uphill struggle than on the amendment we debated before the Statement, but I hope not, because I am seeking consensus. Once again, I am deeply grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and other noble Lords on this and subsequent amendments.
We have to have some understanding of why it is important to have some essential elements written in the Bill rather than in letters from present or past Leaders of the House, or reassurances from the Dispatch Box. It is patently obvious that nobody knows who the Minister will be from Thursday onwards. I suspect—I have written about this—that there may be an election sooner rather than later, so elected Members in the other House do not really know who will be there. As far as we are concerned, the grim reaper can determine whether we are here or not rather rapidly.
On staff servicing the sponsor body and members of the sponsor body who are not in either of these Houses, it is obvious that going for promotion, or leaving for another job or another part of the country is part of life. Therefore, the notion that a letter of assurance or a word or two from the Dispatch Box, or even, importantly, the trust we place in existing sponsor body members and staff is not worth the paper it is written on or the emotion it uses. Who knows who will be here by the time we decant and, certainly, by the time we return?
I place on record that none of what I am going to say disparages either the commitment or the appreciation of Ministers or sponsor body members, or Liz Peace and her team; I have nothing but respect for their work, their good offices and their words. However, we need to ensure that the electorate, who are already totally disillusioned with politics and Parliament, feel that this has something to do with them. As we discussed on the consensual amendment on the economic benefits to accrue from the restoration and renewal programme, if we can get them, so on the political gains that can be made: there is the need to gain consent. That is why these amendments endeavour to ensure that the Bill, whoever is in this House and serving on the sponsor body, and the direction they give to the delivery authority, make it absolutely clear what Parliament’s will is.
What is Parliament’s will? Is it determined by ephemeral Ministers or by a letter that may or may not have been sent months or perhaps years before? Is the will of Parliament to be determined only when the delivery authority eventually comes back with a scheme that, frankly, will not be amendable anyway, because it will have been put together as a package? We may be able to choose whether we have a slightly more or slightly less expensive scheme; I hope that we will go for something more than the lowest common denominator. If we do not, people will be even more aggrieved at the billions we are spending if it is just about electronics and pipework, and a little bit of restoration. These amendments are intended to be a positive way to ensure that the sponsor body is able to understand the will of Parliament, expressed by the Bill, which is, seriously, the only way in which Parliament can reflect the true will of this House and the other place on this prolonged project, and do so with consensus.
It is important that public engagement at every level on these and later amendments supports our intentions—I think that all of us have the same intentions; they cannot be otherwise. I have said to Ministers that if the amendments tonight and subsequent amendments were already in the Bill, would anybody feel that they had to take them out—would there be a move to do so? The argument is that this confines the sponsor body in some way and that it is determinist, preventing it having flexibility in the way it proceeds and what it does. None of the amendments prescribes, because I have deliberately watered them down; none of them is deterministic or confines the sponsor body and the future delivery authority in any way whatever. They reinforce and send a message out to the public that we care about the engagement with them; we want them to understand what is taking place in their name, with their money—to ensure that that reaches out, as Amendment 10 says, to the regions, and that we do so with the support of future generations.
I will say one other thing about the nature of Parliament as well in reaching out and selling the restoration and renewal programme to the public. Does anybody seriously believe that the sponsor body is not inherently part of Parliament? It responds to Parliament, and as we discovered in the Joint Committee, its methodology is very much about the estimates committee and the commission, but it is part of and represented from this House and the other House on the sponsor body. Essentially, it is part of the parliamentary process. However, it cannot simply hand over promoting and communicating the restoration and renewal programme now and in the future to the public. It must have a role in doing so. People have said to me, “This isn’t the role”, but it is in the letters of the former and current Leaders of the House that were sent to the sponsor body and circulated to us all that we do not need to bother putting something in the Bill, because it is the role of Parliament to sell the Bill. If we look at the attendance on the restoration and renewal Bill in this House tonight, or the engagement in the House of Commons, does anybody seriously believe that the 600 or 650 Members of the other House, depending on the boundary changes, will spend their time going out, explaining, engaging and selling this programme to the public? Your Lordships must live in a different world if you believe that, and if you do not, you should support the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I speak in support of the amendment and share the views of my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett.
To me, the principles of this massive investment are that of course it is about the engineering, heritage and security of the House, the comfort of Peers and Members of the House of Commons and their ability to do their jobs, but the most important legacy will be to contribute to the rebuilding of trust between Parliament and the people. It is not uncommon for infrastructure projects of this size to have important secondary benefits without which they can be deemed a failure.
Delivery of rebuilding of civic trust in our country is a massive focus that needs to be seen more clearly in the Bill. That can be best secured by two major themes. One is through access for the public to the Houses of Parliament. This is an uncomfortable subject, because there are serious considerations about the practicalities and impact on parliamentarians of having more members of the public in and out of the House—and on security arrangements. But given the huge amount of money that we are set to spend, we need to reconcile those two considerations and ensure that members of the public have a much better opportunity to meet their MPs and come to talk to Peers about legislation going through the House to educate themselves about what is going on. I am mainly thinking about schoolchildren having civics lessons to understand what Parliament is up to and observing legislation going through on the issues that they care about. We all feel frustrated that our wonderful Galleries are not more filled, but who can blame people for not coming to watch legislation being passed when it is so uncomfortable, the wait is so long and the experience is so profoundly negative?
Those three things need to be squarely addressed. The way the Bill is written at present puts parliamentarians and their desires very much at the front of the process. That is right in one respect—this is a parliamentary building and parliamentarians will drive the process—but I should like the public to have a much clearer voice.
The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, spoke very well about the limited expectations we should have for Members of Parliament engaging with their constituents on the difficult and sensitive subject of how billions of pounds will be spent on this building. A consultation processes is described in Clause 5:
“The Sponsor Body must prepare a strategy for consulting members of each House of Parliament for the purposes of section 2(3)”.
That is a thoughtful and pragmatic approach, because I am sure that the noble Lord is correct that once we are presented with a difficult plan, it will be very difficult to tweak and change it, because a huge investment in professional services will have gone into it; to try to change the staircase, move things around and put the kitchen on top of the sitting room is, as all householders know very difficult, when you have reached that stage.
It is critical that the public have a voice from the very beginning and that questions of access and education are hard-baked into the project from the very beginning. You can use modern forms of consultation to get a very clear, subtle, deliberative snapshot of what the public might want from a project, although it is very complicated and they may need to have both it and the options explained to them.
We should tweak the amendment to include the public clearly in the consultation process. What would people like to see from a modern, 21st-century Parliament? How would they like to meet parliamentarians to discuss constituency matters or legislation? How would they regard matters of security and travel? How would they get to Parliament and how would they like to see their children engaged in education and civic programmes?
If we do not face up to this challenge—if we brush it off and put it in the too-hard-to-try bucket—my fear is that we will invest, say, a billion pounds, trying to get the plan right but it will then be rejected by the public. It will be met with unhappiness and discord. I have seen it happen with infrastructure projects time and again. Then it will be sent back to the drawing board and we will have wasted time and money, whereas, if we grab the nettle at this early stage, take the plunge and listen to what the people want in terms of engaging, accessing and educating themselves on Parliament, we can save a huge amount of the budget, get a better product and save some money at the same time.
My Lords, I support my noble friend’s amendment. I absolutely agree with everything that has been said. Frankly, it is a no-brainer for the Government not to agree with the amendment. Apart from anything else, if they do not, they will be seen to be offside with common practice these days in restoration projects.
If the House were to come to the Heritage Lottery Fund—I declare my interest as deputy chair of the board—with a proposal for a fairly significant grant, as the House may still do although we could not fund the whole thing, the very least we would expect is a clear strategy. It is not necessarily as simple as consultation; I mean a serious public engagement strategy which would allow us to tell who would actually benefit, how their voices had been collected and heard and how they had been reflected in the proposal. We would not consider proposals which could not provide us with that obvious proof of public benefit.
What we are considering here, for all the reasons we know and which the noble Lord has again spelt out, is a national project of the greatest public benefit that we could conceive of. By not acknowledging that in the Bill or making clear plans to involve and listen to the voice of different communities around the country, we are missing a massive opportunity. We also neglect our public duty.
No, my Lords, I did not say that. I was making a hypothetical case that, were such a grant to be considered—I am not saying that it would be—it would have to satisfy different conditions. Of course I agree that this is a public project for national Treasury funding.
I have now lost my thread completely. This is the second time that my noble friend has interrupted me when I was developing my strategic thinking. I return to the principle. It is extremely important, for all the reasons we know, that this change is owned by the people we are here to serve. It is absurd not to recognise them in the Bill or to give them a voice.
We know how to do this, although it is complicated. At what point do you start involving people? How do you structure it? How do you reach out? How do you collect the voices, as it were? But we do it every day in major and minor projects around the country. It is not a miracle; it is a science.
To take just one example before I close, the National Museum Wales has, I am delighted to say, just won a national museum of the year award. In its redevelopment, which involved a great deal of new building, it involved thousands of people from all manner of excluded groups in the local and national community. The result has been transformational in their and our understanding of what people expect from a national museum.
This is not a museum. We have a much greater duty. But those principles and methodologies can certainly be adopted and followed.
My Lords, I support the amendments and the spirit in which they have been moved and spoken to by the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Bethell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews.
In my involvement both in the Joint Committee and in taking part in debates, I have been very conscious that we are here as trustees. That has implications not only because we have responsibility—we have to get on with it, because we would not be thanked by the public if we dithered and an accident happened which destroyed part of this important part of our national heritage—but, as trustees, we are temporary. There are 650 Members of the other place here by election. Those of us who are here are, as the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, said, at the hand of the grim reaper or may choose to take retirement. That makes it important to remember that we are here but there is a great public out there, to whom we owe responsibility. As the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said, it is important that we try to understand what they want from what is, in fact, their Parliament—a place where they can engage with not only Members of Parliament but Members of your Lordships’ House. How can they get their views across? How can we use this place for education, so that we bring up a new generation of citizens who want to take part in the democratic process?
The amendments are directed at engaging the public more in what we are doing at the moment; I suspect that those who know about it are somewhat cynical about it, so an explanation of why a large amount of money is being spent might go a long way. They are also trying to gauge what the public wish to see in how we spend that money. When the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, talked about access and people wanting to talk to their MPs, I reflected on the fact that, when we voted earlier this evening, my noble friend Lord Foster of Bath asked me, if I got a chance when I spoke this evening, to say that he thinks that it would be a good idea to have a coffee shop in the Royal Gallery because it is a large space that is not used for much else, except on historic occasions, but which could clearly be adapted and changed. I rather suspect that, on first hearing, people would say, “Oh, we can’t do that”, but has anyone ever asked? It would be a good place for that, in the same way that Portcullis House has become a meeting place for discussion and discourse for Members of the House of Commons—you can take people there. That is perhaps worth thinking about if we want to engage the public more.
My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, that we are trustees, or custodians, of this Palace of Westminster, which ultimately belongs to the public that we exist to serve. Clearly, we need to ensure that, through this programme of works, the Palace that belongs to the public and the people who occupy it are in a position to serve the public better.
I also support the need for public engagement with and consultation on these works. I would counsel one thing, however. During the debate, I have been a little worried by comments about attempts by us to help the public to understand better what this project is all about. At the moment, those of us in positions of great privilege and some power think—too often and mistakenly—that we are the ones with all the information and that we need to impart it and impose it on other people. As has been made clear by other noble Lords in their contributions, we want to understand better what the public expect from their Parliament and reflect on what they want so as to influence how we change.
However, I would go one step further: we must be frank and understand that the process of consulting people is another opportunity for us to show that we are changing and that we want to serve them better. I want us to ask about what it is that people want to see us change in terms of our behaviour as parliamentarians. If we can understand better what they want from us in terms of how we behave—to show that we take them seriously and listen to them in carrying out our work—we should consider what we need to do differently in terms of how our building is formatted, refurbished and renewed to make sure that we are better placed to show that we are listening and responding, and to give people confidence that that is what this is all about.
My Lords, I echo what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, said about making much better use of the Royal Gallery. I referred to this in my speech at Second Reading. I wish him luck because it will mean taking on the fully entrenched forces of the officialdom of the House, but I will willingly make one last attempt at getting a coffee bar in the Royal Gallery. I will join the noble Lord; perhaps my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, might also commit themselves. It may be that, if all the party leaders and many noble Lords converged on a maximum point of pressure, we could persuade the authorities of the House to act. This might be the moment: if we have a series of speeches on this, a revolutionary change that would make this place far more accessible could be brought about. Part of the problem with the House of Lords is that it is largely inaccessible to the public because the points of entry are so narrow and constrained; it is almost impossible to get here unless you have an appointment with a Peer who meets you. The number of meeting places that are not offices is also limited. Perhaps we will have brought about a revolutionary change by the end of the debate.
I am very sorry for interrupting my noble friend Lady Andrews. I was anxious to interrupt her because, when she mentioned the lottery, I could see the Treasury’s eyes gleaming at the prospect of possibly being able to pass on large parts of the cost. It is important that we establish that this is absolutely a public project. If the Victorians could build this extraordinary Palace—Mr Gladstone was very mindful of the public finances—we in this generation can certainly live up to our responsibilities.
Actually, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer when a large part of the work was being carried out. I assure my noble friend that Gladstone took a keen interest in the allocation of the public finances; my noble friend and I can correspond on this matter afterwards.
The amendment moved by my noble friend seems at one level to be a statement of the obvious but, on another level, the fact that it needs to be stated is of some importance in itself. The two changes that he essentially wishes to make are: to enlarge the sponsor body’s duties to include promoting to the public the work of R&R; and to add to the sponsor body’s duties consulting not only Members of each House but members of the public. That should not need to be said; it ought to be obvious that that should happen. However, there are two reasons why this is important. First, I do not think that the Government are racing to accept the amendments; I am looking at the noble Earl. If so, there must be some reason why. It is precisely because the actual duties will be expanded in a way that the Government think will be distracting to the sponsor body. Why would the Government regard them in that way? They impose additional duties.
However, those duties—the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, was completely right about this—are exactly what we would and should expect of the sponsor body in two respects. First, it is a matter of self-interest: the body is going to spend a lot of money—the figure of £4 billion has been touted before but, from my intimate knowledge of how infrastructure projects go, I think that we can safely assume that it will be significantly larger. When the inevitable controversy comes, as it will, about the cost, overruns, delays and everything else, the sponsor body, your Lordships and the other House of Parliament need the ultimate protection possible, which must surely come from having engaged with the public and having proper public promotion and displays. Westminster Hall needs to be full of displays about the work that will be undertaken and we need the visitor centre to do the same. That is important. Secondly, part of the justification for the spending on this work is that it will enhance public access significantly.
To extend the point about what happens at the end of restoration and renewal, not having proper citizenship education is part of the problem. My noble friend Lord Blunkett has done more than any other Minister—in history, I would venture to suggest—to put citizenship at the core of what we teach in schools. It is hugely important. However, we still do not pay nearly enough attention to it. In particular, we do not make visiting Parliament, engaging with parliamentary institutions and meeting parliamentarians a systematic part of secondary school education, as it should be. Since the Germans’ massive renovation of the Bundestag’s beautiful old buildings in Berlin—at the behest of British architects, as it happens—they have had comprehensive programmes for schools and schoolchildren proactively to visit Berlin, tour the German parliament and meet their parliamentarians. We do not do that here. Even with all the expansion we are talking about, the creation of a visitor centre and all that, it all depends on people wanting to come here, whereas we should be proactively engaging. This problem goes to the wider issue: the further one goes from London, the more disengaged people feel from their parliamentary institutions, not least because they hardly have any contact with what goes on here. Their schools are much less likely to come here.
I am struck when I meet school parties—some I show around; many I just meet when I am walking around the Palace—and ask where they come from. They disproportionately come from London and the area immediately around. Why? Because if you have to proactively seek to come here and cover expenses and things of that kind, it will particularly be private schools—we come back to this issue—who will come here. We have to end this. We are now in a massive Brexit crisis because of the massive alienation between a large part of our people and our parliamentary institutions.
The noble Lord makes the point well, but I think he is too limited in his analysis of the problem. It is not just that schoolchildren do not understand the parliamentary democracy they live in. They do not see for themselves the opportunities that lie in the Civil Service and other forms of public service. There is a massive disengagement between schools and universities and the whole ethos of public service. There is a good argument that that kind of personal contact with Parliament would do a huge amount to invigorate a sense of public service that is missing at the moment, particularly in the schools to which he refers—schools outside London and non-grammar, non-independent schools.
My Lords, I agree with every word the noble Lord has just said.
What I would like to see in this Bill—as noble Lords know, I always try to push things to extremes—is a duty on the sponsor body to see that, once the restoration and renewal work is completed, there are facilities and arrangements in place for every schoolchild in the country, during the course of their secondary education, to visit the Houses of Parliament, have a tour and get the opportunity to see the work we do.
I have to take the noble Lord to task on engagement in schools north of the south—if you see what I mean. Not enough of us take part in the Lord Speaker’s outreach programme, but many do, and I assure the noble Lord that the majority of schools I go to are not private but state schools, and they engage through citizenship. They are often either GCSE-level or sixth-form level—I have been to a couple of primary schools as well—but they do come down. With this project we have a chance to enlarge on that, but I would hate to think that people following this debate would think that we do not engage already. On the whole—I cannot speak for others—I have been to state schools, certainly not private schools.
My Lords, I commend the noble Baroness on her work. I did not say that we do not engage at all; I said that we do not engage nearly enough. The overwhelming majority of state secondary school pupils across England do not have any engagement, will not have come here on a visit and will not have met their parliamentarians. We should take that as a criticism of us—this institution—because it is.
My noble friend Lord Blunkett is pushing the door further—which he does so brilliantly on these occasions —so that we at least recognise in the Bill that the public exist and that the promotion of public engagement should be a duty on the sponsor body. These amendments seem entirely uncontroversial, unless the noble Earl is going to argue that they are distracting to the work of the sponsor body. If he does, I hope that at the very least he will agree to consider that issue further. If they are distracting, we are admitting that engaging with the wider public is a distraction to the work of the very body and the restoration and renewal programme that should seek to serve this wider public interest.
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate—I have an amendment a little later—but it seems to me that we are touching on an extremely important subject. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for tabling these amendments. Following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has just said, we need to make some practical suggestions. I entirely agree with him when he says we must have exhibitions in Westminster Hall—of course we must; people must know what we are doing—but we need to take them out to the country. I would like to see an exhibition on our restoration and renewal programme in every town and city hall in the country. It is not impossible—indeed, it would be very easy to do it—and modern technology makes it easy to simulate, project, let people have virtual reality shows and all the rest of it. We ought to go to every town and city in the country, so that whether it is Lincoln, where I live, or Wolverhampton, the city next to the constituency I represented for 40 years, people should be able to go and see.
There should be a follow-up, of course, and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is right that we should get as many schoolchildren as possible, because it should be part of the citizenship education of every child in this country to come to Parliament. Citizenship is a Cinderella subject; it is badly neglected in many schools. They pay lip service to it, but do not engage in the way they should.
I go further, because I believe we should also endeavour to ensure that people in every university in the country know what we are doing. After all, it is from the universities of this country that most elected parliamentarians —and, indeed, most appointed parliamentarians—in the future will come. If we are to engage in a proper way, we need to do it systematically, practically and with concrete suggestions such as those I am putting forward. Whether it is part of the renewal body’s remit to draw up that programme or whether it wishes to set up some committee of both Houses to discuss the practicalities, that detail is a little further down the line, but that it should be done is very important. Indeed, it must be done.
We are embarking on an enormously expensive exercise. I believe it is totally justified. Democracy is beyond price, and this is the greatest secular building in our country, but it belongs to everyone. This is the people’s Palace—the people’s Parliament. They should know what is being done, why and how. After all, at the end of the day they are paying for it. I would like to see a practical programme drawn up, and nobody would be better able to direct and help in that than the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. If he wanted to get a few like-minded souls around him, I for one would very happily be involved.
I will just correct the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, because he said this place belongs to everyone. With respect, it does not. We were talking about having a coffee bar in the Royal Gallery—which is a wonderful idea—but a few years ago I asked if I could have a concert there in aid of a charity. I asked Black Rod—not the present Black Rod, of course—who was in charge of the room. He said, “No, you can’t”. I asked, “Why?”. He said, “It belongs to Her Majesty and she won’t allow it”. I asked, “Who advises Her Majesty?”. He said, “I do, and I shall advise her not to”. I asked, “Why is that?”. He said, “It’ll wear the floor out”. It was one of the stupidest reasons. In planning, building regulations and everything else, this is technically a royal Palace. We have to sort all these things out before we end up finding we cannot do something because of some idea that has been around here ever since the place was built.
My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group and some of the later ones, particularly those in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Bethell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon. I was sad that I was not able to take part in the Second Reading but I hope to make up for it now.
For me, the pertinent questions are: who is the restoration and renewal project for, and what is it intended to achieve? The Bill is incredibly unambitious. It is designed to keep things roughly as they are—or, in some cases, exactly as they are—to serve those people who currently occupy the building, whether MPs, Peers or staff. I love the idea of a coffee bar in the Royal Gallery—it might warm it up—because it is almost unusable at most times of the year. However, it is only partly right if we look to MPs, Peers and staff for what is appropriate for the future.
Public engagement has to be at the heart of the project. If we do not engage the public properly, they will not see this as a good use of money. We are talking about billions of pounds of public funds from the Treasury and it must not look like an upgrade for our offices; it has to look like part of the national fabric. We must therefore involve the public in renewing the heart of our democracy.
It is a fundamental principle of our parliamentary democracy that no Parliament can bind its successors in law, and yet this Bill will do exactly that. This building will be set in stone for decades. It will take a decade to start the work and a decade to complete it and in that time we will not take into account the fact that our society is moving on. The public can be more radical than we are. We tend to get stuck in mud with our processes. We have a new clock, a new system with the Lord Speaker and so on, but these changes have been incredibly slow. Public engagement will suggest more radical things than we do here.
Once the building is done, there will be no opportunities for moving on, changing our systems or doing anything new or perhaps more democratic. Whether it is introducing an elected Chamber, electronic voting or whatever, it will be much harder because people will say, “We cannot do that because we have just spent billions on recreating what we had before. It will not fit and we cannot spend any more money”. This country has undergone massive constitutional changes over the past couple of decades and it is illogical to persist in the way we are going when society is moving on. We cannot afford to be blinkered about what is happening around us. For these reasons, the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, are essential. The sponsor body must have as one of its central purposes the duty to ensure that its work accommodates future concerns, changes and political developments. If it does not do that, it will be seen as a huge waste of money.
I would go even further with public engagement and say that we should parallel the sponsor body’s work on restoring and renewing the building with establishing a citizens’ assembly, which is what Theresa May should have done with Brexit. Such an assembly could offer a way in which to restore and renew our whole political system. A Government with vision past the next few months would breathe life into a new era of citizenship and change public engagement for the better. This place is not a museum but a working building, and we have to accept that work sometimes changes.
These amendments are vital. I regret that they have been watered down—I would have supported the unwatered-down version—but I will support them at any further point in our work.
My Lords, I add my support to the amendments, which are important. I also endorse everything that has been said about citizenship and education, and the role that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, has played in that.
The Bill is unfortunately titled. The title is somewhat misleading because it places the emphasis on restoration and renewal of a physical entity—the Palace—rather than the restoration and renewal of Parliament as an institution. That should be at the heart of informing the debate as we go forward because we have to configure the Parliament in order to fulfil the functions that both Houses fulfil.
In its recent report the Liaison Committee endorsed the view that we have a number of functions which are not confined to the legislative-Executive relationship but encompass as well the legislative-public relationship. We should see this through the prism of not only the relationship between Parliament and government but the relationship between Parliament and those outside who the institution serves. I endorse the point that we are trustees. We need to look at it in that perspective and consider how we can configure or reconfigure space to fulfil those functions. That should be the driving force. We should look at it dynamically in terms of our functions, not as some fixed physical entity.
Reinforcing that—this point has been touched upon—is the context in which the discussion is taking place: how people outside see the institution, which, at the moment, is not positive. The recent audit of political engagement by the Hansard Society tracked the extent to which there is dissatisfaction with the way our system works. The proportion of respondents who feel that the system of governing needs a great deal of improvement stands at 72%—the highest level it has been in the audit series. The level of distrust has been a change of kind and not only extent. By that I mean that people used to distrust MPs; now they distrust the House of Commons. That is a challenge that we have to face up to and address. We have to see it in that context.
We need to think about how we relate to those outside the House in the way that has been stressed, and I agree with most of what has been said. That encompasses not only seeking to educate but, as has been stressed, engaging with people outside Parliament—not only in terms of restoration and renewal but how we craft an institution that can continuously engage with people outside.
The noble Baroness who has just spoken seems to think that we are going to be stuck with whatever the fixture is. However, one can anticipate that and have flexible space that is adaptable to needs as they change over time. In that context we need to anticipate and address the, if you like, known knowns and think about the known unknowns and the extent to which the Palace may be configured on that basis.
We need to configure space so that we can enable greater interaction between Members and those making representations and, has been stressed, those who wish to be present for proceedings. I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said. It reinforces my point about not just seeing the Palace as a fixed body but that dynamic of how we relate to people outside, creating space here for that purpose but thinking how we can configure it in such a way so that we can engage with those outside who cannot come here as well.
I wholly endorse what has been said. It is important that it is in the Bill, for the reasons that have been given. It should be at the forefront of what we are doing. My noble friend Lord Bethell referred to it basically as a secondary function, for reasons I understand, but we should stress it as a primary function in terms of what this institution is about. That has to be at the forefront throughout the work that is undertaken and, for those reasons, I endorse the amendments.
My Lords, I support the amendments of my noble friends Lord Blunkett and Lady Smith and that of the noble Lord, Lord Bethall.
A number of themes have emerged from the discussions over the past 50 minutes. The amendments were eloquently outlined by my noble friend Lord Blunkett and that set the tone for the rest of the debate on group five. There has not been a voice against the amendments and I would not like to be in the noble Earl’s place in trying to respond across the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, touched on the rebuilding of civic trust. He is absolutely correct. There is a misconception about the restoration and renewal project among those outside who do not know much about it that it is about us improving the place for the benefit of parliamentarians and spending large amounts of money in doing so. We all know that it is actually about maintaining the heart of our democracy and the benefits it brings as a centre of education and heritage.
A number of noble Lords spoke about education. I have been in the House only for a year and one thing I went straight into was working with the education and schools engagement team. For those who have not had that opportunity, I highly recommend it. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, talked about reaching out to all secondary schools, but some of the most engaging conversations I have had have been with primary school children. My noble friend Lord Adonis is correct that not enough schools are coming into the House, and we should encourage that more. We should use this as an opportunity to reach out further; the sponsor body should have the ability to do that and should hold it at the forefront of its mind when thinking about what the Palace should look like once we go through this process. It should think about engagement with education and schools. That would be to all of our benefit.
There are other organisations across civil society, including the trade unions. To go right back, the Joint Committee’s recommendation was that the sponsor body should,
“promote public engagement and public understanding of Parliament”.
When this was in its infancy and being pulled together, there was talk of a public understanding of Parliament.
We all know what happens with large infrastructure projects—and this will be a large infrastructure project. Too often, sometimes for unforeseen reasons, they overrun in time and expenditure. Parliament will not have the time to do the work on this—there is a lot of other work that Parliament needs to do—so putting it in the Bill and adding it as a responsibility for the sponsor body will help us to deal with some of those issues. If we do not get out there and tell the story of restoration and renewal, we could see many of the criticisms and problems that have arisen with other large infrastructure projects.
To touch on another amendment, we should ensure that businesses across the UK benefit from the economic advantages that the project will bring. Some of the contracts should go out across the UK, and that should remain at the forefront of the sponsor body’s mind.
If my noble friend Lord Adonis gets his wish and we end up with a coffee shop in the Royal Gallery, I am more than happy to help out as the first barista. I support the amendments.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and my noble friend Lord Bethell for tabling these amendments. As has been clearly explained, they seek to require the sponsor body to promote public understanding of and engagement with the restoration and renewal programme. The amendments would also require the sponsor body to have regard to these matters and to develop a strategy for consulting the public.
The first thing for me to say is this: the public will absolutely and undoubtedly want to understand how the restoration and renewal of the Palace is progressing and what it means for them. That is exactly why the shadow sponsor body is already engaging with the public on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. It is doing that because one of its main strategic priorities is to:
“Open up the Houses of Parliament, improve access and encourage a wider participation in the work of Parliament”.
Those are exactly the things that noble Lords have been advocating. That priority is not just about filling the Public Gallery. It is very much about securing public buy-in to the work of Parliament, and you cannot do that without making the public aware of the biggest thing to happen to this building for 180 years: the R&R programme.
As part of its remit, the shadow sponsor body recently appointed its external relations director and will shortly be considering a public engagement strategy. This is being developed in consultation with both Houses, so as to deliver on the Bill’s requirement for the sponsor body to have regard to the need for improved visitor access and education facilities in the future. The shadow sponsor body has also established an engagement group, chaired by a member of its board, to oversee these activities. These appointments and ways of working are not temporary bursts or window dressing: they are outward and visible signs of how the sponsor body means to proceed in the future. We can be quite sure it will continue this essential work of engaging with the public.
Given what the sponsor body is doing and the clear remit under which it is operating, I question whether it is necessary to amend the Bill. Indeed, placing a duty in primary legislation on the sponsor body to engage and consult with the public on R&R, which I appreciate the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, regards as benign, may easily bring about what most of us want to avoid: being over-prescriptive about the way the sponsor body is made to undertake its work. If we do that, we risk saying to it that there is something quite distinct called public engagement that should be ranked pari passu with its essential task, which is, first, to agree designs for the outline business case and then to deliver R&R. Public engagement is integral to those things. It is not something that we should imply or state is a separate task, so in that sense we would risk distracting the sponsor body from its principal task. The sponsor body will have the chance to engage innovatively with the wider public about R&R, and the shadow body has already set about doing that, but it is for the sponsor body and delivery authority to decide how best to do it as part of its main tasks. We must trust the sponsor body to determine how best to undertake the restoration and renewal works and how it will engage with the wider public on it.
Let us not forget—indeed, we were reminded of it earlier—that Parliament’s engagement with the public is already happening. Yes, we need to do more, and I will come on to that in a second. The UK Parliament’s education and engagement service engaged more than 2.2 million people in 2018-19, of whom approximately 1.4 million were engaged face to face. This was spread across the UK with, on average, 21 engagement activities per constituency and around two-thirds of visiting schools receiving support for their travel. The quality of this engagement is reflected in the feedback from participants, 94% of whom gave a rating of “good” or “excellent”. One of the House of Lords’ strategic aims is to,
“promote public understanding of the House of Lords and engagement with its work”.
As part of this, the House contributes 30% towards the bicameral parliamentary outreach team. This bicameral service engages with the public through inviting schools to visit Parliament and the education centre, live-streaming questions with Mr Speaker and the Lord Speaker and providing online resources for schools to teach important principles relating to our democracy. In the year to mid-April 2018, the education service welcomed some 70,226 school visitors.
I am a bit confused because the Minister said that accepting my noble friend’s amendment would divert the sponsor body’s activity from the main activity, which is to build a new Palace, but he also said that it is doing it anyway. If it is doing it anyway, the amendment is surely all right.
The point I was seeking to make is that if you set out in the Bill something that looks quite distinct and separate from the main task that the sponsor body has before it, you risk distracting it. What we are saying to the sponsor body is, “Yes, public engagement is vital, you are already doing it, so you should do it in the best way you can because you know best how to deliver R&R”. That is the position I come from. Therefore, there is no need to change the wording of the Bill. We should not be frightened of leaving the Bill as it is because we know that the sponsor body has its heart in the right place in a way that reflects exactly what noble Lords have been talking about this evening.
The restoration and renewal of the Palace should increase the number of visitors and see that visitors have an even better experience. I absolutely agree that R&R also provides the opportunity to re-engage the public in how democracy functions in the UK. The programme will develop better educational facilities, and it has been suggested that the additional chamber in Richmond House can be used to engage schoolchildren in our democratic process. That would be added value from the R&R process.
I just want to say something about building in a statutory duty to consult. I have talked about the need to avoid being over-prescriptive but, over and above that, the Government are concerned that placing a statutory duty on the sponsor body to consult the public, as prescribed in the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Bethell, is a particularly onerous requirement. Public engagement, as I have said, is essential for the works to succeed, but a duty to consult, I would strongly argue, would divert resource and time from the essential job at hand, which is to formulate proposals on the design, cost and timing of the works for parliamentary approval.
Let me turn briefly to Amendment 6, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, requiring the sponsor body to have regard to non-cashable benefits when assessing whether the programme delivers value for money. Clause 2(4) (b) to (h) contains a wide range of non-monetary benefits to which the sponsor body must have regard. They include safety and security, the environment, accessibility, educational facilities and the spread of opportunities to secure economic or other benefits across the UK. These benefits, which are, of course, important, have got to be balanced against the need to ensure that the works represent good value for money, as required under Clause 2(4)(a).
Value for money is core to the programme, and we consider that that has to remain explicit in the Bill. If we go on adding other non-monetary matters to Clause 2(4)(a), we run the distinct risk of watering down the explicit imperative of achieving value for money for the works, which is something that the Bill as drafted ensures the sponsor body must have regard to. Therefore, I think that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, would be detrimental to the Bill.
I thank all noble Lords for their contributions and their support. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that one reason that I have worded things as I have was spelled out by the noble Lord, Lord Norton, in respect of the original Long Title and the scope of the Bill—to ensure that my amendments are in scope.
I shall just say what I said at the beginning. I am very keen to gain consensus on this so that when we come back on Report people will have had a chance to think about whether they really are against it, using the argument that it is already being done so we do not need to do it. Apart from the fact that I have a long-standing and historic commitment to engagement, participation, democracy and citizenship, I tabled these amendments because the Joint Committee—the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, will be able to confirm this—examined this issue in detail and came up with the proposition that we should enhance the Bill by encouraging public engagement and democratic participation, which is the core of what our democracy is all about. This is the heart of our democracy, and we were concerned about the pushback against the proposal.
I discovered that there was an original sponsor body mission statement—it is in the text of the interviews with the Joint Committee—that included public engagement and it was taken out, so noble Lords will understand my suspicion about what is going on here. I really do not understand who is advising and pushing the Government against these amendments, but I will withdraw on this occasion on the grounds that we will be back in September.
I recall the occasions when my noble friends Lady Blackstone and Lord Rooker and my noble and learned friends Lady Scotland and Lord Falconer came to me in the eight years when I was in government saying, “We’ve got a problem in the House of Lords”. I asked, “What’s that?”. They said, “Our own side is in favour of the amendments being moved by the other side and we’re likely to lose. What shall we do? Shall we come to an agreement and do this gracefully or shall we go down fighting on something that we didn’t intend to fight about in the first place?” We are all in agreement are we not? Everyone has said tonight that this is a good thing that the sponsor body is doing, but the Government still feel that they have to oppose putting it in the Bill. I just say to the Government: please, over August have a good holiday and let us come back and agree a few things.
Amendment 4 withdrawn.
Amendments 5 and 6 not moved.
7: Clause 2, page 2, line 45, leave out sub-paragraph (ii) and insert—
“(ii) (after completion of those works) all parts of the Palace of Westminster used by people working in it or open to people visiting it,”
Amendment 7 is grouped with Amendment 17, which would insert a new clause into the Bill. I will be brief, as we have been over this issue tonight. There is a really important message to the world out there, as we said a moment ago, and it is on accessibility. We discussed this briefly at Second Reading. It is not a question of access to but access within the building for staff, parliamentarians and, where appropriate, visitors. The message should be that we are going to make this an exemplar project, learning from what has been done at some of the most historic features in the world and building on them, and learning from what is happening with the development of new technology to enable access for people with particular disabilities, possibly in a way that was not true even a few years ago.
I shall not overegg the point—I shall be very brief. It is crucial that those who carry out this project, including the designers, the delivery authority and the companies that are taken on to do the work, are absolutely clear that we are intent on making as much as possible of this place easily accessible and usable for people with a whole range of disabilities. To do otherwise would be betrayal.
I have been approached very gently—people are very gentle with me these days because I am getting to the point where they do not have to knock me about in the way that they used to. They have been telling me that rooms 6/12, 6/13, 15/28, 15/79, 8/95, 8/96 and 15/22—noble Lords will notice that we are going backwards in terms of age here—are not very accessible. There are rooms in a couple of turrets with stairs that make it impossible for a wheelchair to get up there. I accept all that. The interesting thing about being approached and nudged about how difficult it is, is that it displays the mentality with which people approach these issues. They approach them from the point of view—they have been told, presumably—of how difficult they will be. That is why I want these amendments in the Bill; if they are not accepted by the Government, I will want them to be voted on in September. I am determined that we will send a message from all parts of this House that we are going to make everything we can accessible.
Of course, there will be turrets that are not accessible. I would not take my dog into an operating theatre. I would not become a commis chef around the corner and take my dog into the kitchen. There has to be a degree of common sense and give and take, but people tell me there are places in the subterranean parts of this House that will never be accessible—actually, they will. When we have ripped out the wiring, the pipework and all the rubbish, we will be liberating quite a lot of space. There is nothing down there to do with heritage, although there will be a bit of archaeological digging, which, as I understand it, might dig up more than we are bargaining for.
Tonight, I just want to put on record that, yes, there are 1,100 rooms and, apparently, 65 levels—I presume they mean steps as there are certainly not 65 floors in this place—but they will be accessible.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness; until I was nudged along, I did not know anything about this. I am enlightened by it, and it is all the more reason why we should have absolute clarity that we are going to tackle the issue. I will give noble Lords one example: there are steps currently that are completely unusable by certain members of staff and parliamentarians. The problem looks really difficult but if, without damaging the heritage, you put in a moving staircase that is accessible only by people with a particular card to activate it—this will be possible in the 20 years it will take before we come back into this place—you could do it. This is what I said at Second Reading. We are fighting the “mind-forg’d manacles” that William Blake referred to. We have to put these aside and use a bit of common sense. If noble Lords do not like the amendments, they should come back with something that meets the requirement. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, that I have every faith in the sponsor body as it stands at the moment, but, as I said earlier, people will not be there. I am trying to future-proof what we do. If we do not do it for people with disabilities, we are not doing it for ourselves. I beg to move.
My Lords, I want to follow the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, because I have added my name to his second amendment. In the Joint Committee, we had long discussions about the whole question of access, particularly, as the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, has said, about access within the building once one gets in. I want to support the noble Lord in his desire to get something written on to the Bill with regard to disability. We had long discussions in Committee about this. It is a matter not just of people getting into this building but, once they are in the building, of how they get around it. The figure quoted in one of the briefings we had is that currently only about 12% of this building is accessible to people with a disability. As the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, has indicated, there will be rooms in this building that will not be accessible after renewal and I am sure that is probably right. I think it falls on the sponsor body itself to decide what is an acceptable percentage: if it is 12% now, are we talking about 25% or 30% eventually?
The other thing that we had a long conversation about was how people come into the building in the first place. The Cromwell Green entrance is totally inadequate for our needs now. It sometimes takes people an hour to get in, and if it is raining it is pretty miserable. Access to the building needs to be looked at as well.
I will not pre-empt the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, but it is not just those with physical disabilities who have difficulty accessing the building—those in wheelchairs or like the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, have difficulty in getting around. There are also people with hearing disabilities, but I will leave that issue to the noble Lord, Lord Stunell.
There are many ways in which this building could be made much more friendly and supportive of people so that we could use everyone’s skills that otherwise would not be included. I am very happy to have put my name to this amendment. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be more supportive of this one than of some of the others. When I broke my ankle last year, as I reflected at Second Reading, that made me realise the true difficulty of getting around this building; I think there are something like 90 different stairs, and many of the lifts are not accessible. If I can go further, some of the ladies’ and gentlemen’s facilities are totally inadequate for those with disabilities. This is an opportunity to put those basic needs right.
My questions for the shadow sponsor body are: where are your priorities going to come in this? In view of where you are going, what way can you see of achieving that while recognising that some of the building will not, I suspect, be suitable for getting the sort of access that most of us would like to see? I am hoping that my noble friend will be more encouraging later. I am very pleased to support these amendments.
My Lords, I spoke about some of these issues in response to an earlier amendment. All I will say is that the amendment asks for a report for the building to be fully accessible, which I support, but to achieve that and the things that my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, have mentioned—including lifts, toilets and other areas that are currently inaccessible—will involve some massive works in this building and they will be very expensive. They will also reduce the amount of space available for other things, but I am sure that they have to happen.
My Amendment 17A proposes that the same criteria that my noble friend has put in Amendment 17 in respect of this building when we come back are also applied to the temporary accommodation that we might have in the QEII or wherever.
My Lords, to some extent my contribution has been prefigured, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, for that. I strongly support everything that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, has said. I particularly want to pick out his phrase about making this an exemplar project.
In the many discussions that I have had over the years about making this place accessible to people with physical deficiencies, if you want to put it that way, or disabilities—I speak as someone who is not profoundly deaf but is quite deaf and certainly needs his hearing aids—all too often the attitude and the response have been grudging, a sort of reluctant admission that under the Disability Discrimination Act they have a duty to do it, but it is certainly not one undertaken with great joy.
I would have thought that this building—as we are a national Parliament and representatives of a democracy that in other aspects is trying to promote civilised values around the world, and here I am thinking of the work of our international development department, our Foreign Office, God bless them, and others, where we are constantly saying that we set an example—should surely set an example when it comes to access for those of limited mobility or with some other disability.
I want to put a word in for my noble friends Lady Brinton and Lady Thomas of Winchester, who, as noble Lords will know, make their way around this building in electric wheelchairs. This brings into focus the fact that our different priorities are in conflict. A whole lot of additional fire doors have been put in, which make it virtually impossible for those two noble Members to proceed around the building other than with an assistant to open and close the doors. Various arrangements have been put in place for the doors to be left open during sitting hours and so on, but for all sorts of reasons—some might say bureaucratic reasons—those commitments do not always work.
Each of my noble friends has personal stories about the problems they have had of being trapped behind those doors waiting for somebody to come and open them. There are challenges, but there are solutions. One can imagine that in 10 or 15 years’ time, it will be entirely feasible for every door and every electric wheelchair in this building to be fitted with a transponder, and for the doors to open when a wheelchair approaches. However, the idea of anybody thinking of or implementing that seems a very long way away.
As for deafness, I am inclined to say: do not get me started. Can we at least make sure that the new provision complies with existing law? This building does not comply with existing law and although people have wriggled and squiggled when they have talked to me about how they believe they have put in place various so-called first aid measures to make it okay, it all comes down to the person with the disability fitting into a system which, frankly, does not work or deliver. We certainly need to make sure we have standards that comply with existing legislation.
We need to consider what standards we as a legislature will impose upon employers and other public buildings when we get to 2035. Will our standards for them have risen? If so, can we make sure that we design our standards to do that as well? In fact, I would go further than that and say we ought to set outstanding standards and aim to be best in class for a public building in the United Kingdom—and why not best in class throughout the world? We need to see what that would mean and how we would make it work, rather than reluctantly dragging this along behind us and seeing what we can get away with.
This debate fits somewhere in between the debate we have already had on public engagement and the one we are going to have on future-proofing. I will just make the point that if you exclude or do not engage with people with disabilities, you are not doing the job that we set out to achieve in the first set of debates. I will not use all my ammunition on future-proofing at this point, but when we get to those amendments, it is worth remembering that not just the standards but the expectations of people in 20 years’ time will not be lower than they are now. If we are not achieving current standards now, simply doing things the same way in the revised, upgraded building will not do it.
I strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, said. He has much more experience than I do of both being a guerrilla and sitting at the big desk taking the decisions. In so far as I can give him any support from either of those dimensions, I shall certainly do so.
My Lords, I very much support these amendments. My noble friend Lady Byford and the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, have picked up on the importance of catering for not just those with physical disabilities but those with non-physical disabilities, which are not always visible and which we are therefore not aware of.
I want to make one point, because if I do not, I suspect nobody else will. At the moment, there are parts of the Palace which are difficult, indeed inaccessible, for anybody who suffers from acrophobia—a severe fear of heights. There are real difficulties. I am conscious that architects do not take that into account when designing new buildings. Some buildings are extremely problematic. I want to put that on record because I suspect otherwise nobody else will, but it needs to be taken into account.
My Lords, we fully support the amendments from my noble friend Lord Blunkett, which would place a duty on the sponsor body to ensure that all parts of the completed buildings used by people working in them, or open to the public visiting, are accessible, and on the delivery authority to publish a report on how it will ensure that the restored Palace of Westminster is fully accessible to MPs, Peers, visitors and staff with disabilities. My noble friend Lord Berkeley is absolutely right to highlight with his Amendment 17A the importance of provisions for disability access in temporary buildings under the project.
The Government’s response to the Joint Committee promises that,
“the works to the infrastructure of the Palace of Westminster will ensure that the Palace is more accessible for those with disabilities”.
We welcome the shadow sponsor body’s commitment to ensuring that improving access will form part of the vision and strategy, and to aim for access for everyone. However, the term “more accessible” must have the definition and clarity of what actually needs to be achieved as set out in these amendments. My noble friend Lord Blunkett is right to seek a firm commitment in the Bill on what this vision and aim must cover and will mean in practice, and to make sure that the Bill requires the relevant bodies to have a legal obligation to ensure access for those living with disabilities. Of course, there are already obligations in statute, such as the Equality Act, but the Bill needs to make it clear that this is a core intention behind the restoration.
At Second Reading, my noble friend Lady Smith asked the noble Earl to explain the remit of the disability sub-committee proposed by the Government during the passage of the Bill in the Commons. Can the Minister provide any further information on this, or undertake to write to noble Lords on the proposed committee’s work and role?
I would like to raise the important issue of how the R&R programme will interface and communicate with our parliamentary committee structures. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, referred to this at Second Reading. I would be grateful if the Minister responded to this point. I serve on the Services Committee, which has a special meeting in early September with the R&R team. The committee has been very careful to ensure that the current extensive parliamentary works programme always has a view to what is proposed as part of R&R.
On disabilities, the committee was told at its last meeting by one of the R&R team leaders that currently, only 12% of the Palace has compliant step-free access. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, mentioned this. The potential for replacing non-compliant lifts in their current locations is limited and when combined with local interventions such as ramps would increase the accessible area only to around 30%. Initial investigations indicate that providing an exemplary level of non-discriminatory access for people with disabilities and limited mobility would require the complete re-provision of lifts throughout the Palace. This is just one aspect of the scale of the challenge the sponsor body has to, and must, deal with.
My Lords, I express my gratitude to the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Berkeley, and my noble friend Lady Byford for tabling these amendments. The Government are grateful for the opportunity to work with the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, to bring forward his Amendment 7 today and its improvements to Clause 2(4)(e).
The Bill currently provides that the sponsor body must have regard to the need to ensure that any place in which either House of Parliament is located while the parliamentary building works are carried out, and the Palace of Westminster after the works are complete, are accessible to people with disabilities. It is also already part of the shadow sponsor body’s vision to provide exemplary standards of access for everyone to a restored and renewed Palace—a far cry from the 12% referred to by my noble friend Lady Byford and the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler. However, we have welcomed the opportunity to work with the noble Lord further on this very important issue.
The Government support this amendment, which specifies that:
“In exercising its functions, the Sponsor Body must have regard to … the need to ensure that … (after completion of those works) all parts of the Palace of Westminster used by people working in it or open to people visiting it … are accessible to people with disabilities”.
In the words of the noble Lord, this is to make exemplary standards of access for everyone, a phrase also used in the vision document for the sponsor body. We consider that this amendment strikes the right balance between ensuring that the sponsor body has regard to the need to make the Palace as accessible as possible for people with disabilities and operating within the parameters of existing legislation, as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell.
To be clear, as several noble Lords mentioned, some parts of the Palace are likely to remain inaccessible. In particular, in the less-visited extremities of the Palace of Westminster the provision of step-free access is unlikely to be practicable. However, Amendment 7 will give members of the public with a disability access to the parts of the Palace they need to access, and parliamentarians, staff and contractors access to the areas they use. In response to the question about how much more of the Palace will be available—which I think was originally asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith—I undertake to write to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, on that point and on the point about committee scrutiny, if I may.
Turning to Amendments 17 and 17A on reporting, I must express some reservations. We believe that these amendments reflect concern about the degree of commitment to ensuring disabled access. Given our agreement to Amendment 7, we believe that these amendments are no longer necessary. Amendment 17 would require the delivery authority to lay a report before both Houses, setting out what steps it will take to ensure that the restored Palace of Westminster is fully accessible for people with disabilities. Amendment 17A would require that report to cover any building used temporarily by Parliament during the works, as the noble Lord explained.
As I have already set out, the Government agree that these works are an opportunity to make the Palace more accessible for people with disabilities. That is why the Bill requires the decant locations to be accessible for people with disabilities, and I have just outlined our support for the noble Lord’s Amendment 7 to strengthen that commitment. The Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster said in its report in 2016 that the two decant locations were recommended not only for their locality and legacy benefits, but for the opportunities they present for greater accessibility. Indeed, it was a key recommendation that:
“All temporary accommodation should be designed with accessibility in mind, and make suitable provision for Members, staff and visitors with a disability”.
Under the Bill, the sponsor body and delivery authority will need to formulate proposals relating to the design, cost and timings of the works. This will form the outline business case, which must be approved by Parliament before the substantive works can proceed. It will include proposals on how the programme intends to make the Palace and the decant locations accessible for people with disabilities, in line with the spirit of Amendment 7. In formulating these proposals, the sponsor body will need to consult parliamentarians. This consultation will be an opportunity for Members to feed in what they feel is required on disabled access, as well as on other important areas such as safety and security, environmental sustainability and value for money. We are concerned that such a report on the specific issue of disabled access alone could reduce clarity and accountability in governance.
Noble Lords will appreciate that a balance needs to be struck between several factors in restoring the Palace. In considering access for people with disabilities, the sponsor body and delivery authority will need to comply with any legal obligations, such as those under the Equality Act 2010 and planning law, given that this is a grade 1 listed building. Any proposals put forward to Parliament for approval will also need to balance the various requirements for the programme, including those specified under Clause 2(4). For the programme to be truly independent of Parliament, the sponsor body must have the freedom to make those judgments. We are concerned that the report prescribed by these amendments could override these other requirements and blur the lines of accountability for different elements of the project. For the reasons outlined above, the Government support Amendment 7 relating to disability access, but have reservations on Amendments 17 and 17A relating to disabled access reporting. I hope noble Lords agree not to press those two amendments.
My Lords, my mother told me never to look a gift horse in the mouth. I never quite understood what that meant—especially in my case. Anyway, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and am happy not to move Amendment 17 and to agree Amendment 7, on which we now have consensus.
Amendment 7 agreed.
8: Clause 2, page 3, line 5, at end insert—
“(ga) the special architectural, archaeological and historical significance of the Palace of Westminster;”
My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 8 in the name of my noble friend Lady Evans of Bowes Park. Noble Lords will be aware that Members in the other place considered an amendment that proposed that the sponsor body should have regard to the need to conserve and sustain the outstanding architectural and historical significance of the Palace of Westminster, including the outstanding universal value of the world heritage site.
There is no disagreement on the Government’s part about the sentiment underlying this. We agree that the works undertaken during R&R will need to ensure that the architectural, archaeological and historical significance of the Palace of Westminster is preserved for future generations. Originally, as I explained at Second Reading, we were of the view that the best way of achieving this was through the existing planning processes, which will be legally bound to safeguard the grade 1 listed status of the building. We have also been cautious about the idea of including the UNESCO heritage status of the Palace of Westminster in the Bill, given that this designation also covers Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church.
Nevertheless, we recognise that there is support in both Houses for the Bill to specify that the sponsor body should have regard to heritage. Because of that, the Government committed in the other place to bring forward an amendment on heritage in Committee. We have therefore tabled this amendment, which we consider strikes the right balance between the preservation and protection of the Palace’s heritage, and the need to deliver the renovations and accessibility modifications that would improve the functionality of the Palace.
The Government have been grateful for the opportunity to discuss this approach with a number of noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Inglewood and Lord Cormack, the noble Baronesses, Lady Scott of Needham Market and Lady Andrews, and the noble Earl, Lord Devon. I am genuinely pleased that all the noble Lords we engaged with supported the drafting.
The purpose of the restoration and renewal programme is to secure the Palace, and restore and renew it for future generations. The heritage of the Palace is central to this, so this amendment will set into the Bill a duty on the sponsor body to have regard to the special architectural, archaeological and historical significance of the Palace of Westminster. This is one of a number of matters for the sponsor body to have regard to, so will need to be considered alongside others, such as disabled access. In that sense, it seeks to ensure that the Bill strikes the balance between restoring the Palace of Westminster and renewing it. I beg to move.
My Lords, my Amendment 11 is grouped with the amendment just moved by my noble friend Lord Howe. Having had conversation with him, for which I am extremely grateful, I am perfectly content with the wording that he has referred to.
However, I want to draw to your Lordships’ attention —briefly but forcefully, I hope—one thing that worries me very much. While we sit here, one of the most historic parts of the Palace of Westminster is crumbling. If I asked one of your Lordships to go and get a handful of dust, you might think that I was referring to Evelyn Waugh and go to the Library, but you can get a handful of dust by going to the cloister.
Some of your Lordships may not be familiar with the cloisters, mainly because, until very recently, they were not very good offices for a number of Members of the other place. They are adjacent to the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. They were damaged by, but mainly escaped, the fire of 1834. They were damaged again in an air raid in 1940. Both those unfortunate incidents were followed by restorations—after the fire by that of Barry and after the air raid by that of Scott—and both those restorations were meticulous.
The cloisters date back to the reign of Henry VIII—1520 or thereabouts. They are among the finest cloisters in the country. If you go to them now and if you are proud of this great Palace, you will feel ashamed. I was there just 10 days ago and took a friend who was an architectural historian. I will be going again very shortly, taking the chairman of Historic England, because there is real concern. That is not only because the fabric is in such a parlous state and because this is one of the most historic parts of the Palace of Westminster but because there are no current plans to begin restoration. It is even suggested that nothing much can happen until after restoration and renewal is complete. That would be a total scandal. It would be a terrible neglect of one of the most historic parts of the fabric of the Palace of Westminster.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Howe for our conversation. I am grateful for the recognition signified by the amendment to the Bill that he has moved, but that is only the beginning and it is not enough. If we are to be serious about restoring and renewing this great Palace, that commitment has to extend to every part of it. I am glad to see the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, in her place, because she was an exemplary chairman of English Heritage before it was changed—where English Heritage looks after the properties and Historic England looks after the rest. She will know that what I am saying is right. It is tremendously important that the danger—I am not using the wrong word—facing the cloisters at the moment is dealt with as quickly as possible.
This ought to be one of the true jewels in the Palace. It is of enormous architectural and historic importance because, in the Oratory Chapel in January 1649, the death warrant of Charles I was signed: one of the most seminal moments in our history and in the evolution of our parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. We should be making more of it. It was an office for a few Members of Parliament; it is now disfigured and defaced by radiators, and the stone is crumbling. If we are going to mean what we say about restoration and renewal, we must restore this extremely important part of this great Palace of Westminster and, I suggest, make it available to members of the public to see it.
I use this as an example to underline the need for my noble friend’s amendment. It must become an integral part of the Bill, but that is just the beginning. I would like to hear from my noble friend, when he winds up this brief debate, that he will go and have a look himself and that he will do all he can. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, will also go and have a look, because we need to put it right. I do not have to beg to move, because I am merely tagged on to my noble friend’s amendment, but I draw it to noble Lords’ attention with sadness but determination. It is a determination that I hope noble Lords will share.
My Lords, I shall be very brief. First, I thank the Government most warmly for the amendment they have brought forward. It is an exemplary amendment: it has none of the conditions attached that I thought might have been tempting. It is a simple, elegant and comprehensive statement of what it is we must take care of and it has the right balance of technical and emotive language. So I am very grateful and I can say that Historic England, with which I still have a continuing connection, is extremely pleased and grateful to the Government for this. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is absolutely right.
We heard a very powerful speech at Second Reading from the noble Earl, Lord Devon, which warned us, essentially, not to be completely obsessed by the simple presentation of a Victorian building. He was absolutely right, but very much of the medieval Palace—in fact most of it—has disappeared and the cloisters are the most significant part of the archaeology and architecture left, so we should have a special care for them. I am not entirely certain whether they are designated as being at risk. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is meeting the chair of Historic England, because we can get very good guidance as to what to do. In my experience, you can always do urgent conservation and repairs, so I see no reason why that should not happen before R&R starts properly, let alone before it finishes, because, frankly, there will be nothing left if it is the stone itself that is so fragile. I would be very interested to know what comes of that meeting, and so, I suspect, will many Members of the House: maybe we can follow that up informally, or maybe through the estates department of the House, to make sure that we know that action is being taken.
My Lords, I shall speak relatively briefly, I hope, on this issue. I welcome Amendment 8 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Evans, and I thank the Minister for his comments. My noble friend Lady Andrews spoke at Second Reading, as did other noble Lords, about the historical significance this building has, and I am pleased that that has led to the amendment today to ensure that a duty is placed on the sponsor body to have regard to,
“the special architectural, archaeological and historical significance of the Palace of Westminster”.
The amendment addresses the concerns felt across the whole House and we welcome it.
On the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, in a sense, what he is saying is the very basis of the restoration and renewal programme. I said before that we all recognise that there is that line to be trod between the necessary changes to the building and preserving its historical fabric. The whole basis of this programme is that, while we recognise the historical and archaeological implications of the building, we adapt it for modern use. He made a point in his amendment about us returning to the building. If we were not going to return to the building, we could just have a museum and patch everything up as it is now. However, because we are returning to the building, we need to have those types of adaptations and improvements. The only reason so many of our historic buildings have survived is because they have been adapted to modern use. If you go back to history, the reason why we have so many old buildings is because they have been kept in use and modernised over many years. I am also pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, makes reference to the building’s status as part of the UNESCO world heritage site, as that is an important distinction to make. The point of his amendment, which is well made, is covered in Amendment 8, so we are grateful to the Minister and the Government for bringing it forward.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate and for their welcome of the wording of the amendment before us. It resolves very neatly the concerns raised by many noble Lords and indeed many Members of the other place, and I am genuinely glad that noble Lords feel that it is entirely appropriate.
I hope that I can briefly give some words of comfort to my noble friend Lord Cormack and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, on their perfectly understandable concerns about the condition of the medieval cloisters. First, I assure them that Cloister Court is part of the Palace of Westminster. That point is material, because it means that it will be included in the restoration and renewal works. Furthermore, however, the House authorities are planning some exterior conservation works in Cloister Court before restoration and renewal begins. Following that, the whole Palace, including both the external and internal spaces of Cloister Court, are in scope for the restoration and renewal works. With those words, I hope that my noble friend in particular will be at least partly reassured on his concerns.
Amendment 8 agreed.
Amendments 9 to 11 not moved.
12: Clause 2, page 3, line 9, at end insert—
“( ) the need to ensure that the Parliamentary building works facilitate future developments in remote connectivity for the purposes of outreach and parliamentary engagement.”
My Lords, I will speak also to Amendment 13. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Stowell of Beeston and Lady Byford, for their support in this. Without delaying the House, because we have been over quite a lot of this ground, this is about future-proofing and future connectivity: the way in which we foresee in the future the important element of building in the way in which we will be able to provide for this institution to be literally in the 21st century. I do not want to overegg this, because we have gone over some of the ground about participation and democracy, but it is important that the sponsor body has as one of its key elements the way in which the House can be prepared for any substantial constitutional and parliamentary reform in the future. It does not interfere in any way with the other elements we have discussed over the last five hours, but it would ensure that there was a clear remit which, again, the delivery authority would understand as well. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. Future proofing is the end of some of our previous discussions, so a great deal of the ground has been covered in one way or another. We need to future proof against possible constitutional developments, developments in public expectation and changes in technology. These two amendments cover that very well.
I draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that whenever we talk about constitutional change, a whole lot of people freeze and say, “We don’t want to build in constitutional changes with this; that would be pre-empting another process”. I point out that over the timescale of this project, a lot of constitutional change will take place, independent of repair, restoration and renewal, and we need to ensure that, at the end of it, we do not have a building that does not accommodate the changes that will have been made.
If we wind the clock back 20 years, there was no Westminster Hall debating chamber in the other place. It is now a very important part of the other place, and I would not mind guessing that in 20 years’ time it will be seen as even more important. In this debate we have talked already about a more profitable use for the Royal Gallery—not necessarily financially profitable but how we might use it.
If we spend five or, perhaps, 10 years in the QEII, I have little doubt that our procedures will adapt to that building in ways which people will be reluctant to give up when they come back to this building—whether it is a simple thing, such as somewhere to plug in your iPad when you are sitting on the Benches, or something else that we have not even imagined. All these things need to be clearly in the minds of the sponsor body and the delivery authority.
It might be said that we should not be offloading this responsibility on to the sponsor body. I agree with that, but the alternative is that this House and the other place confront the questions of constitutional reform themselves. My imaginative capacity is insufficient to see how that would happen. I think that the reality will be that the sponsor body will come back to this House and the other place and will say, “We can do this, or we can do that”. Then we might find that we are at last engaged in the kind of thinking that, at the moment, everyone shies away from.
My Lords, my name is added to Amendment 12. In the Joint Committee, we said that it was easier to see what restoration was about, but the renewal part exercised quite a bit of our time. In other words: what sort of Parliament did we want and what sort of involvement with democracy did we want? We have talked about the outreach programme and the educational facilities, and I shall not anticipate my noble friend Lord Bethell in moving his amendments. I felt surprised at that stage that not enough thought had been given to renewal and its opportunities. I have no qualms about mentioning that again when the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, is in her place, because I know that she is well aware of the hopes that the shadow body has—but the Bill does not place enough emphasis on that.
The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, spoke about technology. In 10 or 20 years’ time, we will be able to communicate in a totally different way from the way we do now. We talked about the outreach programme run by the Lord Speaker, where individual Peers go out to schools and schools come here. With modern communications, that can be done virtually; there is enormous scope for us to relate to the general public in a totally different way. I will say no more on that because we had good discussions earlier—but I will say that it would be a shame to miss the opportunities in the Bill, and I support the amendments in this group.
My Lords, I also support the excellent amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. There are two amendments in my name in this group. They are practical, nitty-gritty measures, but I hope that they will not be brushed off for that reason, because they are important. The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, put it very well in his comments: engagement on R&R will not happen until the options are fully understood and one gets the feeling that one is making informed choices.
It is imperative that those options are clear from the outset, and we do not know what the options on educational facilities and participatory democracy are at the moment. I am hopeful for the Wallace/Adonis café—I look forward to drinking my latte there—but that anecdote has become a metaphor for our vision. There is simply no information or a clear, thoughtful prognosis on what could be done with the building. There is talk of glass ceilings over the courtyards and someone tells me that we can clear out the ground floor, but I have no practical knowledge of whether these things are at all possible. My amendments would apply to the Bill after Clause 4, but they address Clause 2(2)(b), which commands the sponsor body to,
“make strategic decisions relating to the carrying out of the Parliamentary building works”.
To do that, it is absolutely imperative that the body has, at least in outline, an idea of what could be done to further the educational facilities and participatory democracy.
We are talking about intellectual leadership here. I know that the Bill is largely about the administrative structures of the bodies involved, but other considerations are also important. We talked about culture and hard-baking public consultation into the way in which this project conducts its business. I have found that, in major infrastructure projects, the intellectual leadership is often—and quite rightly—with the engineers and project managers, whose thoughts are dominated by the practical considerations of budgets, timetables, M&E, air conditioning and the physical practicalities of getting the job done. Here, we are talking about something that is softer but still important. If we leave the intellectual leadership of this project to the people who govern the practicalities, these important considerations will not be baked into the project at an early stage.
Noble Lords will be familiar with me urging for major investment in public consultation. However, to carry out that consultation, you have to understand a little about what kinds of practical options there are for enhancing the educational facilities and access to the House. That is why it is worth while investing in the budget for the right professional services to put together a clear report on the options in these two areas. I strongly recommend that they be written into the Bill.
My Lords, I will speak briefly. I have no problem with Amendment 12—the lead amendment—or Amendment 18 in the name of my noble friend Lord Bethell, but I am afraid that I have my doubts about Amendments 13, 14 and 19. I think that they will place a burden on the sponsor body with which it will not be able to cope, because it would have to decide what it understood by “major political and constitutional reforms” before any reforms have taken place.
Coming back to my earlier comments, we need an adaptable space that can be fitted with changes that Parliament itself may wish to make to meet the demands made of it and to engage with those outside it. As Amendment 13 stands, there is a problem with referring to,
“major political and constitutional reforms”,
without stipulating what one means by that. Similarly, in that amendment and my noble friend’s, there is a reference to, “inclusive participatory democracy”. If that is going to stay in the Bill, the definitions section will have to be amended to explain what that actually means for the benefit of the sponsor body.
So I think there are problems with the stipulations in these amendments. I understand where my noble friend the Minister will be coming from in responding to them. A lot more work would need to be done; otherwise, the danger is that the amendments will confuse rather than clarify.
My Lords, I rise to support the amendments before us, especially the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Blunkett. I am speaking on behalf of my noble friend Lady Smith on Amendment 14 and will touch on Amendments 18 and 19.
The amendments in this group broadly consider different aspects of the future Parliamentary Estate. I turn first to Amendment 12, which deals with remote connectivity. This House earlier discussed the wider issue of engagement, and I believe there is a consensus—nearly full consensus—that prior, during and after the work we must consult as much as necessary. Future technology should be considered, introduced to the estate where possible and accommodated into the future arrangements if this can be to the benefit of maintaining engagement with the wider community and public.
Amendment 14, in the name of my noble friend Lady Smith, relates to the need for a modern working environment for parliamentary staff. More than 8,000 people work on the estate, and present conditions for many of the staff are insufficient. The sponsor body must have regard for this and factor in the opportunity to improve working conditions during the programme. It should consult with trade unions and other organisations about working conditions.
Finally, Amendments 13 and 19 focus on participatory democracy, while Amendment 18 relates to the educational provision on the estate. Parliament should and can be an inspiring place and offer incredible opportunities to learn about how democracy works. We heard earlier from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, who talked about this being a very special place and still feeling awe, even after spending three decades in the other place and this place. We feel it when we bring visitors and guests in here. There is an opportunity through this process to expand on that and to open that opportunity up to more people.
My noble friend Lord Blunkett and the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, talked about future-proofing, and the noble Lord, Lord Norton, touched on issues relating to Amendment 13. My understanding and reading of the amendment are that it talks about the capability and ability to absorb and deal with future changes. It really just opens up the possibility; it does not force or drive any future constitutional changes but just deals with allowing us and the body to deal with the capabilities of any future changes.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and my noble friend Lord Bethell for tabling these amendments on education, outreach, modernising the Palace as a workplace and democratic renewal. As the amendments cover a wide range of issues, I shall respond to them individually.
The amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, would require the sponsor body to have regard to the need to ensure that the works facilitate future outreach activities, are capable of accommodating future constitutional reforms and promote participatory democracy through the works. The Government agree with the noble Lord that the works should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate any future reforms in either House, be they political or constitutional, and facilitate opportunities for outreach and engagement.
The nature of the work will itself present excellent opportunities. For example, some have suggested this could be a legacy use of the Commons decant chamber, as Richmond House will be incorporated into the permanent Parliamentary Estate and will have flexibility built in to enable a range of legacy uses.
It is a matter for both Houses to determine any reforms to their procedures, and it will be important for the programme to facilitate rather than impede such developments. The shadow sponsor body has explicitly stated that part of its vision is that the programme will,
“Help facilitate any procedural changes that may be requested by either House”.
Any future procedural changes will not necessarily be contingent on the restoration work.
Under the Bill, the sponsor body has a duty to determine the strategic objectives of the works and to make strategic decisions relating to those works. The sponsor body is required to consult parliamentarians on the strategic objectives of those works. These are matters which should be properly considered at that stage, alongside other considerations raised by Members of both Houses, in order for the sponsor body to assess what should be the overall priorities for the programme rather than these being on the face of the Bill; then the outline business case will set out how the priorities will be realised.
As my noble friend Lord Howe has explained, work is already being undertaken by the shadow sponsor board to develop a public engagement strategy. This is being developed in consultation with both Houses in order to deliver on the Bill’s requirement for the programme to deliver facilities for education and for visitors in future. It is part of the shadow sponsor body’s vision to help Parliament to connect people with the past, present and future of parliamentary democracy through engagement with its rich heritage.
The shadow sponsor body has agreed a goal to:
“Help facilitate any procedural changes that may be requested by either House”,
as part of its functionality and design strategic theme, which commits the programme to:
“Deliver a building which supports Parliament’s core function as a working legislature, both now and in the future using high-quality design and technology”.
The shadow sponsor body has also stated in its vision to ensure the building enables public engagement with the proceedings and wider activities of the two Houses. This strategic approach was also endorsed by the Commissions of both Houses in May of this year.
I turn now to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, which would require the sponsor body to have regard to the need to create a modern working environment within the Palace of Westminster. The Government agree that the works must take into account not only the requirements of parliamentarians but, as the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, said, of all the staff who work within the Palace, ensuring that their needs and requirements are properly taken into account. As I noted in my earlier remarks in relation to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, the shadow sponsor body has, as part of the functionality and design strategic theme, a commitment to deliver a building which supports the core function of Parliament as a working legislature, both now and in the future using high-quality design and technology. The shadow sponsor body has already identified this as a key priority for the works. As part of its vision for the programme, the shadow sponsor body is committed that the restored Palace will have a,
“flexible, effective and enjoyable working environment”—
something I am sure all your Lordships are looking forward to.
In turn, this will clearly require the sponsor body to engage with staff. This work is already under way. In late 2018 and early 2019, the shadow sponsor body distributed a questionnaire to all who work in both Houses—Members and staff—complemented by supplementary engagement with teams who have infrequent access to computers. The results of the questionnaire have been considered by the shadow sponsor body and will be communicated to all parliamentarians and their staff in the autumn via the internal newsletter and the parliamentary intranet. The shadow sponsor body has hosted workshops with House staff on current ways of working and been in dialogue with the unions representing Members’ staff—MAPSA, Unite and the NUJ—as well as with the HR teams in both Houses who lead on discussions with staff trade unions. I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble and learned Lord, in whose names the amendment stands, will agree that the fundamental points raised in the amendment are captured in the priorities of the sponsor body in relation to the nature of the working environment and the consultation with staff that needs to underpin it.
Finally, turning to my noble friend Lord Bethell’s amendments on reporting, I must express some reservations. These amendments would require the delivery authority to lay a report before both Houses setting out what steps it will take to ensure that the restored Palace of Westminster provides educational programmes for schoolchildren and opportunities for participatory democracy. The Government agree that these works are an opportunity to build a restored Parliament which provides better educational facilities and opportunities for the public to engage more in the work that we do. Under the Bill, the sponsor body must have regard to the need to provide educational and other facilities. The Bill already provides that the sponsor body and the delivery authority must enter into a programme delivery agreement, which contains,
“provision about the review of the Delivery Authority’s activities by the Sponsor Body”.
A variety of reports will be requested and produced by the delivery authority with regards to the review of its actions by the sponsor body. While this amendment deals with one possible example of such reports, the shadow sponsor body’s preference is to define these in the programme delivery agreement rather than in the Bill.
Under the Bill, the delivery authority will need to formulate proposals relating to the design, cost and timing of the works which reflect the priorities set by the sponsor body. This will form the outline business case, which must be approved by Parliament before the substantive works can proceed. Given the duties placed on the sponsor body in the Bill, we expect that this will include proposals on how the programme intends to develop educational facilities.
As my noble friend will be aware, we strengthened this provision in the Bill in the Commons so that the provision of education facilities is a need rather than being desirable. Furthermore, as part of the shadow sponsor body’s vision for the programme, it is committed to a restored Palace that encourages,
“wider participation in the work of Parliament”.
We are mindful that a balance needs to be struck between a number of factors when restoring the Palace. Any proposals that are put forward to Parliament for approval will also need to balance the various requirements for the programme, including those specified under Clause 2(4). For the programme to be truly independent of Parliament, the sponsor body must have the freedom to make those judgments through thoughtful and creative assessments of the options. Just as in the case of Amendment 13 from the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, we are concerned that the reports prescribed by these amendments could override these other requirements and risk reducing the clarity of accountability for the works undertaken.
For these reasons we must express reservations about the amendments, but we encourage the noble Lord and others to feed in their views to the sponsor body’s consultation which will be launched once it is established in statute. I hope that on that basis the noble Lord will consider withdrawing the amendment.
My Lords, it is getting even later. I am very grateful for the contributions and for the Minister’s response. I think we will return to some of this on Report. I shall reflect on what has been said. I want to pick up two things. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, rightly drew attention to the fact that the Joint Committee was exercised about the almost dismissive nature of the renewal, as opposed to the restoration, element. That is what has driven me to table my amendments. I am sure my noble friend Lady Smith will reflect on whether she wishes to come back on some of the broader issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Norton, and I first met 50 years ago this October when we took up our places as undergraduates in the same department of the same university. I am always as prepared to listen to him and reflect as I was in the seminars in those days, so I will reflect on his comments in relation to Amendment 13. I shall not move the remaining amendment in my name, but I ask the Minister, as I did earlier, whether over the summer we may reflect on how we can achieve the goals that I think most people set out this evening in a way that ensures that we are a participatory democracy with connectivity in exactly the way that the Senior Deputy Speaker has been endeavouring to spell out in the work of modernising our committees and connecting with the world outside. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 12 withdrawn.
Amendments 13 to 16A not moved.
Clause 2, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed.
Amendments 17 to 19 not moved.
Clause 5: Consultation strategy
Amendment 20 not moved.
21: Clause 5, page 4, line 33, at end insert—
“( ) Any strategy or revised strategy published under this section must include the Sponsor Body’s best estimate of the timeline for the Palace restoration works, including likely dates for the decant of each House and the estimated date of completion.”
My Lords, I promise to be as brief as I can. This is a probing amendment that I do not seek to push further. Clause 5 is about consultation strategy. It indicates that the sponsor body must prepare a strategy for consulting Members of each House of Parliament and must keep that strategy under review and revise it where appropriate. The purpose of my amendment is to require that the strategy or any revised strategy which is published under this section includes the sponsor body’s best estimate of the timeline for the Palace restoration works, including likely dates for the decants of each House and, when they have taken place, the estimated date of completion.
In one of the earlier debates, the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, talked about large infrastructure projects and the many that have run over budget or over time. Clearly if we are trying to engage the public and keep them on side, that can often be the thing that makes them less receptive to a major project. Therefore, it is important that we ensure that there is some focus on the timeline so that the public are well aware of the likely dates. If there is any reason—there might be a very good reason—why things fall behind schedule, it is important that people know why and that a proper explanation is offered.
I specifically want to refer to issues that were raised at Second Reading in the other place and in the report of the Joint Committee, which looked at the draft Bill in relation to works on the Northern Estate. We heard today and at Second Reading that the intention is that the works relating to the Northern Estate project will be brought within the ambit of the sponsor body. The chair of the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, Dame Caroline Spelman, said at Second Reading:
“The main reason for the delay is the chosen plan for the decanting of Parliament to a replacement building on the site of the present Richmond House. Because Richmond House is a listed building, it will be more difficult to demolish and rebuild it under planning law. The Committee took the view … that under the Bill as it stands, Parliament is not taking separate planning powers to itself for this purpose”,
which I think many in your Lordships’ Chamber will agree with,
“but will be subject to the same planning regime ... We were told, however, that the demolition and rebuilding of Richmond House would cause some delays, as there would inevitably be strong objections from those who value its heritage”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/5/19; col. 654.]
It would be very useful for this House to be updated on where the Government think we are on the planning application with regard to Richmond House. What progress has been made, and what assessment has been made of any likely objections and of whether there could be such matters as judicial review? Clearly, that could lead to a serious delay. Indeed, paragraph 160 of the report of the Joint Committee looking at the draft Bill says:
“Although it would be possible to work around the loss of this land”—
the Ministry of Defence car park land, which I will come back to—
“because of the need to move access arrangements and dismantle and rebuild accommodation as the works developed, there would be significant extra costs—we were told in the region of £350 million —and delay (possibly resulting in decant being postponed for several years, until 2028)”.
That is quite a serious delay and cost. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that, if these delays and associated costs creep up on us, we know what is happening, why it is happening and what is being done to address it. Indeed, it would be interesting to hear whether the issue of the Ministry of Defence car park has been sorted out.
I conclude by referring to the final sentence of paragraph 161 of the Joint Committee report:
“we note that our inquiry appears to have had a role in bringing the ‘Ministry of Defence car park’ problem to the notice of Members of both Houses and others, which underlines the role of select committees in facilitating, as well as hindering, projects”.
My hope is that if the sponsor body has a responsibility or duty to report on any delays and why they are taking place, it will help to focus minds and do some good. It will be able to show that this project has the priorities and makes the progress that I think we wish to see. I beg to move.
My Lords, I fully support the amendment, although I would go one step further. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, has rightly identified the planning problems that could occur with Richmond House. I suspect that there will be equal problems with the design of the temporary Chamber for our friends down the other end—the colour of the carpet, the comfort of the Benches and so on. However, the same problems will occur when we start thinking about what this place will look like when we come back. We have been speaking about it all evening but I am referring to the kind of facilities that we want, how much it will cost and what changes there will be. No doubt that will cause delays as well, if only because the Treasury will say that the costs are too high or something like that.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord’s amendment. There should be very regular reports—maybe every six months—on the timescale of the decant and, subsequently, on the refurbishment of this place. But, if he considers bringing it back on Report, he should add something about cost. We are not very good at maintaining costs for things; he knows my views on Crossrail and HS2. Whoever is to blame, we are very good at hiding the real costs or results of programmes for several years then suddenly shocking Parliament and the public. Crossrail was on time and on budget until this time last year; now it is several years late and we do not yet know what the budget is going to be as we have not been told. People must have known about these things, as relating to HS2, several years before the problem occurred.
I hope that we will not have the same problem here. We need to be honest and transparent and set an example with respect to the changes that we have made. I hope the Minister can give us some kind of commitment that such honesty and transparency, and regular updates, will be features of rebuilding this place. It will be very difficult; there will be many changes and probably cost-overruns, which is not surprising when you are working in a building like this, but let us at least know what is going on, in good time.
My Lords, I will be brief: the situation is worse than that described by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, if I can deepen his gloom. With HS2 and Crossrail, with which I was deeply familiar, by the time we came to publishing legislation we knew what the project was going to be. The project was defined; indeed, at the second stage of the HS2 Bill, which had just been agreed by the House of Commons, we knew within a few metres what the line and specification of works would be and so on. We have a defined project—it has just proved much more expensive and problematic to deliver than was conceived. The problem we face with the parliamentary rebuilding work is that we are setting up the sponsor body before we have a defined project.
There is a very good reason for that: we are literally starting from scratch and trying to decide the best way forward, and this probably is the best way forward. I have views on whether we should consider other options —we will come to that in a while—but we are currently at such an early stage of the work that we do not have the faintest clue what the costs will be. We do not have a project description; all we have is a few back-of-the-envelope, broad objectives, a very old costing on the basis of them and a few timelines plucked out of a hat. We also have the potential for massive controversy, which we can already see, about the nature of the decant, where we will go, what we will come back to and so on.
What the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, is proposing—that there should be best estimates for the timeline at the point at which the strategy is published—is perfectly sensible. There is also another reason why it should be done: it is my view that we are at such an early stage of planning, and the issues involved in the restoration and renewal of the Houses of Parliament are so great—because of the wider context referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Norton, of big questions about the future of our parliamentary democracy—that I do not believe it is sensible to be closing down significant options at this stage; we are at such a preliminary stage in devising what the project will be. I am sorry to keep making this point but, since we will be returning to it in September, I am very anxious to keep it open: we should include the question of where the decant should be—there is very good reason to propose that it should not be somewhere immediately adjacent to the Houses of Parliament but could be in another part of the United Kingdom—and where the ultimate Parliament will be.
I agree with what the noble and learned Lord said. On the basis of my knowledge of big infrastructure projects and the stage we are at currently, it is very plausible that there could be three or four years’ delay before the decant starts. If the decant does not start until 2028, we will not move back here until between 2038 and 2040. To put some context on this, phase 2 of HS2 is currently scheduled to open in 2032. So, relatively speaking, it is going to take much longer to complete the restoration and renewal of Parliament than to build a 330-mile high-speed line, which is the biggest single infrastructure project in the world outside the Republic of China. Keeping a few options open at this stage is sensible in terms of planning. We should take advantage of the situation at the moment to think a bit more broadly about where we intend our parliamentary democracy to go over the 100 to 150 years ahead, and in doing so demonstrate the same vision that our Victorian forebears showed when they designed these Houses of Parliament to be the centre of an imperial legislature in the 1840s.
My Lords, I feel that we have already segued into later debates. With due respect to my noble friend, I have to challenge his “back of an envelope” assessment. If he comes to my office, I will show him a huge amount of paperwork—documents that some of us have worked on over the last couple of years. If it was all on the back of an envelope, the envelope would be enormous.
We have gone a little wider than the amendment by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, but I do think he is on to something. I understand that the question of the Ministry of Defence and the car park has now been resolved—but, I suspect, given the extra cost that would have been involved had it not been resolved, that public attention might well have encouraged them to move a little more quickly than they did. Again, we come back to what we are really talking about here: engagement, information and openness. The more that we can say what is intended to be done, the greater will be our ability to monitor the project.
In most large projects that I know, there is some slippage. Noble Lords are right that this project is at a relatively early stage, but quite a lot of planning has gone into it already. We do not need to say, “This will happen on 3 January 2022”, but it should be possible to have an idea of a timeframe for when certain things are likely to happen. That would help with public engagement and the engagement of colleagues around the House.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, for his amendment on the important issue of decant and its timeline. His amendment would require the sponsor body to provide its best estimate for the timeline of the Palace restoration works when consulting parliamentarians.
As noble Lords are aware, the full decant, restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster is scheduled to take place from the mid-2020s until the mid-2030s. I absolutely recognise that noble Lords are seeking further clarity on those dates. It is very much my hope, and that of the Government, that the work will be completed expeditiously and that we will move back to the Palace as swiftly as possible afterwards. Under the Bill, the delivery authority is required to formulate proposals for the works, including the timing of those works. This will form the outline business case, the OBC, which Parliament will need to approve before the substantive works commence. If for any reason the timings change significantly, the sponsor body will need to come back to Parliament for further approval. It is at that stage—the presentation of the OBC—that the timing of the works will become clear.
The Government have of course thought about requiring the sponsor body to provide its assessment of timings at the consultation stage, even if it is just a best estimate. The trouble with that is that the sponsor body at that stage will still be in the process of formulating the OBC, and any forecast timings will be at best a very rough estimation. I argue that this would risk setting expectations prematurely. Those expectations would then inevitably need to be revised when the sponsor body placed its proposals before Parliament prior to approval.
I shall give a simple illustration of that. We have had a wide-ranging and interesting debate on what noble Lords would like to see from a restored Palace. Those aspects of the plan are not the sort of thing that can be nailed down a priori. They are therefore bound to affect the length of time that the works will take.
Furthermore, one essential first step for R&R is the works to Richmond House, which the noble and learned Lord mentioned, to enable the decant from the other place. The timing of those works will inevitably affect the start time for R&R—so clearly we would not want to decant before those works had happened. The noble and learned Lord asked where we were in the planning process for Richmond House. All I can say is that the Northern Estate programme is currently consulting the public on its plans for Richmond House. We expect it to make a formal planning application to Westminster City Council by this autumn.
Regarding the MoD car park, as I made clear at Second Reading, my understanding is that good progress has been made between the Ministry of Defence and Parliament on the use of the car park. I believe that no serious material issues are still outstanding on that front.
To sum up, while I have considerable sympathy with the noble and learned Lord’s desire for clarity on the R&R timescale at the point when parliamentarians are being asked for their views on it, I believe that this is an unrealistic aim, for the reasons I have given. I am sure that the sponsor body will be as helpful as it can to parliamentarians at the consultation stage, but, with the best will in the world, the precise timescale of the works at that juncture will be subject to too many “what ifs”.
My Lords, I am very grateful to those who have taken part in this debate and indicated some support for the general approach I was taking. I am very grateful to the Minister for his response and thank him specifically for his update on the planning in relation to Richmond House—although I think it was very clear, or at least implicit in what he said, that there are still possibilities of that taking time. There is the possibility of a challenge if Westminster City Council were to give positive approval. So it is quite clear that there could be some factors that could delay decant.
As the debate unfolded, it seemed that there was some support for having some kind of reporting back to Parliament. I note and understand the point the noble Earl made that if we do it at the consultation stage it could raise expectations, and that the appropriate point would be after the outline business case had been made. He said that if there was a material change, the sponsor body might have to come back. I will reflect and consult with others on whether we want to put something in the Bill on that, rather than just leaving it open-ended about what would be a material change. We may want to do something that would require the sponsor body to continue to update us after the initial approval of the outline business case.
I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way. To some extent, this debate is unreal, because there are already dates out there. We have been debating the dates of 2025 for the decant and 2035 for moving in. At every stage of the preparation of the plans, the questions that will be asked are, “Are you sticking to the 2025 date or not? If not, when is it moving to and how long will it be before you get back?”. The idea that the sponsor body—with its chair and chief exec—will be able to avoid publishing and giving its view on this issue is entirely unreal.
The noble Lord makes an important point. When I was on the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, our expectation was that we might decant in 2023, but it is now clear that that is no longer the case. Dates have been put out there. We need to maintain public confidence in the project, in terms of not only time but cost. Having been one of the first Members of the Scottish Parliament, I recall well what that can mean in relation to building a parliamentary building. To maintain public confidence, it is important that explanations are given. Often things are no fault of anyone—they are just circumstance —but often it helps to explain what the circumstances are. Therefore, it might merit considering whether we can come back to this at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment 21 withdrawn.
Clause 5 agreed.
Clause 6: Relationship between the Sponsor Body and Parliament
Amendment 21A not moved.
22: Clause 6, page 5, line 6, at end insert—
“( ) The Sponsor Body shall nominate from among its members a member of the House of Commons and a member of the House of Lords who shall be the principal spokesperson for the Sponsor Body in their respective House.”
My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is that the sponsor body should nominate from among its members a Member of the House of Commons and of the House of Lords to be its principal spokespersons in their respective Houses. This was considered by the Joint Committee looking at the Bill. It thought it a worthwhile thing to do but said that it should not be in primary legislation. Indeed, I would not necessarily want to press the amendment, but this is a useful opportunity for us to be updated on where we are and on the thinking on how we will report back to this House and the Commons on the sponsor body’s work.
As I understand it, the Leader of the House of Commons and the noble Baroness, Lady Evans, wrote to the shadow sponsor body with the Joint Committee’s findings and asked specifically about the importance of having a political figurehead for the programme. It replied:
“We note that analogous arrangements already exist in both Houses, with the spokespeople for each Commission responding to oral and written questions”,
and it anticipated that the sponsor body would,
“be invited to consider and agree its preferred approach to the appointment of spokespeople in the autumn, ahead of its transition to the substantive stage”.
It occurred to me on more than one occasion this evening that it might have been helpful if we had a spokesperson from the shadow sponsor body to tell us where it had got to on various things. My noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market, who has had to leave, has sought to do that in a personal capacity. I am not criticising the fact that it has not happened—we are still at a shadow sponsor body level—but one can foresee situations where issues will arise. It would be helpful to have someone at Oral Questions, answering Written Questions or debates in your Lordships’ House, or making Statements and reporting back, just as the Senior Deputy Speaker comes to the Dispatch Box to present reports and respond to them.
I understand that the question of how we deal with this issue might have gone, or is going, to the Procedure Committee. The purpose of the amendment is to get on the record how the House anticipates it might deal with it, so that we can have somebody who comes to your Lordships’ House—and for that matter to the House of Commons—to update us and, to some extent, to be the face of the sponsor body and to answer for it. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will first say a few words in support of the excellent amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace. It makes complete sense to have someone in the Chamber who is able to explain to us the proceedings and progress of the project whom we can ask questions of. To have that in the Bill makes sense. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on how that could be achieved.
My amendments have a different purpose, which is to get the voice of the public on the sponsor body from the outset. There is some flexibility in its current composition, described in Part 1 of Schedule 1: the sponsor body will have between seven and 13 members, between three and five of whom will be external members, including a chair. Between four and eight will be Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament or Peers will be in the majority, which makes sense. But there is not much room in those numbers for somebody who could perhaps represent the public and champion issues such as access and education. One of them will need to be a chair, whose focus will be on driving the project forward and managing the sponsor body itself. I imagine one might be a leading person from the construction industry, and another might have major project experience or heritage experience. That is why I would like to ask the Minister how the voice of the public could be best represented at a very high level from the beginning, when the brief for this project is being decided and the strategy formulated.
In many ways, there are fewer concerns about the delivery authority. It will have nine members, who will be more broadly recruited, with only two executive directors and the rest non-executive directors. It is really the sponsor body where I detect a bottleneck. It would be extremely helpful if the Minister explained how it could be tweaked to give more access to a voice from the public.
My Lords, the amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, is sensible because it is not otherwise clear in the Bill how the sponsor body will interact with the two Houses of Parliament. Under Schedule 1, there will be a chair who is specifically required not to be a Member of either House of Parliament; then there will be between four and eight persons among the membership who will be Members of this House or the House of Commons. By virtue of the fact that they are here, people will expect them to give accounts of what is happening, but they will have no formal standing. They will not formally represent the sponsor body and it is not clear, for example, how one would put questions to that body.
If we are not careful—this comes back to the 19th-century experience—in order to interact, people will want to get at the chair and the chief exec, who are not Members of either House. A Select Committee will be set up so that it can call them before it and interact with them. However, it would be more sensible if Members of the two Houses of Parliament are required to be members of the sponsor body. It could be rather like the way we interact with the Church Commissioners; I cannot remember whether it is the Second Church Estates Commissioner who is a Member of one House or who represents the Church Commissioners here. Is it the Bishops? Anyway, it is possible to interact directly with them. Having a similar relationship would be perfectly sensible, given how important this body and its parliamentary work will be over more than a decade.
The noble and learned Lord said that he did not intend to press his amendment; what he is actually doing may come from his experience of the work in Holyrood. He may be anticipating exactly the problems and issues we will have. It is as well to get this right in the Bill, rather than having to make significant adjustments and take what might be avoiding action, such as setting up a special committee to interact with the sponsor body because we have no provision for the body itself to have a direct relationship with the two Houses of Parliament.
My Lords, Amendment 22 brings our attention to the relationship between the sponsor body and both Houses. The sponsor body must remain engaged with the wider Parliament throughout the work. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, made a number of points in this regard.
Amendments 24 and 25 seek to create within the body a new champion for education and a champion for participatory democracy, as touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Bethell. The benefits of Parliament for educational and participative democracy purposes are well established and were discussed earlier, so I have no need to go back over them. I hope that the sponsor body will agree to promote both these aspects.
Meanwhile, Amendment 28 in the name of my noble friend Lady Smith would introduce the idea of a report to ensure that the Palace is maintained beyond the works. This is an attempt to look to the future and ensure that the Estate cannot fall into its current level of disrepair. The can has been kicked down the road for far too long and work must begin as soon as it has been agreed, but there would be great benefit in reporting on how these works will preserve the long-term future. Be it in a separate account or as part of the pre-existing reporting arrangements, this issue should be given consideration.
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, my noble friend Lord Bethell and the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, for these amendments, which, as they have explained, are about placing further duties on the sponsor body, namely: appointing spokespersons for that body in each House; appointing champions for particular purposes; and to underpin maintenance planning. The amendments are grouped to reflect the fact that they relate to the relationship between Parliament and the sponsor body. I am sure that we can all identify with the arguments advanced for these amendments and I will address each in turn.
The amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord would require the sponsor body to nominate spokespeople for both Houses. The Government agree that it may well be necessary to have political figureheads on the sponsor body. However, we come back to the question of how prescriptive we should be in the Bill. The Government’s view is that it is for the sponsor body to determine the role of its parliamentary Members, whether acting as political figureheads or spokespersons, or answering Parliamentary Questions, and that we should not prescribe these things in the Bill.
Having said that, I reassure the noble and learned Lord that the chair of the shadow sponsor body will be invited to consider and agree its preferred approach to the appointment of spokespeople in the autumn, ahead of its transition to the substantive stage. I am sure they will be receptive to that idea. Apart from responding to Parliamentary Questions, subject to procedural discussions within both Houses, the possibility could also be explored of the spokespeople making Written Statements and moving resolutions to agree the outline business case required by the Bill.
The amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Bethell would require the sponsor body to appoint from its membership champions for promoting effective education for children and participatory democracy. These things should be thought about seriously. It will not have escaped my noble friend’s notice that it is a part of the sponsor body’s vision for R&R to,
“transform the Houses of Parliament to be fit for the future as the working home for our Parliamentary democracy”.
As part of that the sponsor has committed to:
“Reconnect people from across the UK with their Parliament through improved education and visitor facilities, physical and digital access”,
“Ensure the building enables public engagement with the proceedings and wider activities of the two Houses”.
This strikes a balance between how the sponsor body will contribute to these important issues through the works, while recognising that the two Houses will continue to lead on public engagement in the work of Parliament. The shadow sponsor body will work collaboratively on these areas with Parliament’s participation service.
The amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, but spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, would require the sponsor body to prepare a report on the long-term detailed maintenance plan, so that a substantial programme of R&R can be avoided in the future. I agree with him that we should ensure that we do not find ourselves in this situation again, whereby drastic action is required to ensure that the Palace of Westminster is fit to serve as the home of the UK Parliament. The shadow sponsor body is also clear in its vision for the work that it must:
“Deliver a refurbishment programme that minimises but also facilitates future maintenance and improvement”.
All these suggestions, from the noble and learned Lord, my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, are extremely thoughtful, so the question is how best to take them forward. The suggestion I make is that all would be better placed within the parliamentary relationship agreement—PRA. This agreement will be entered into by the sponsor body, the corporate officers of the House of Commons and of the House of Lords, and relate to the relationship between the sponsor body and the two Houses of Parliament.
The PRA will be a fluid agreement and open to change throughout the works. It will provide clarity on who is responsible for the buildings during the works, and other such matters, as appropriate. These will include provisions on matters such as the handover, contractor occupation and hand-back of the Palace of Westminster, including the allocation of risks and liabilities between the corporate officers and the sponsor body, and related matters such as insurance. The PRA could also include provisions for there to be parliamentary spokespeople from the sponsor body, and for champions. There is no reason why the hand-back arrangements, for example, should not contain a set of recommendations for the future maintenance of the Palace over the longer term.
I really do think that provisions of this nature, which are essentially matters of practical implementation, would be better served within the PRA than in the Bill itself. In framing that agreement, it will be for the sponsor body and corporate officers of both Houses to agree what is covered. For these reasons, the Government’s formal advice to the Committee is to express reservations about these amendments.
Again, I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and particularly to the Minister for his reply. All the amendments in this group raise important issues. The Minister made a valid argument about how we might use the parliamentary relationship agreement to deal with some of them. As I indicated, provision for how the sponsor body would report to Parliament need not necessarily be in the Bill; the amendment was an opportunity to get an idea of current thinking. I was not reassured by the Minister saying that it would be put back into the court of the chair of the sponsor body, but no doubt that can be worked through and may well be the subject of a Written Parliamentary Question later in the year—it will be interesting to see who answers it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 22 withdrawn.
Clause 6 agreed.
Clauses 7 to 15 agreed.
Schedule 1: The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body
23: Schedule 1, page 11, line 25, leave out paragraph (b)
My Lords, debates today have probably added £1 billion to the total cost of R&R. When we look at we have said about disability, constitutional changes, public engagement and future-proofing, I think that we can forget £4 billion and start to look at £5 billion. All that is in square brackets anyway.
This legislation is not a money Bill; if it were, we would not be discussing it. It is a governance Bill, but how we arrange the governance affects how much money is spent. For example, the opaque governance of the process leading up to this Bill reaching your Lordships’ House has already cost us money, because it could perfectly well have come at least a year and probably 18 months sooner, which would have saved money. If it is hard to see how, perhaps I may say that the index of consumer price inflation in the last year was 1.9% and the index of construction price inflation was 2.8%—more or less 1% greater. That 1% leads to the whole project’s expenditure falling one year later than it would have done, which has cost us £40 million on a £4 billion project—probably £50 million—simply by starting a year later than we needed to. That is before we have a plan or a project on the table. My amendment is intended to enable us to avoid unnecessary delay and cost, and to learn from that story and the lessons of Crossrail.
Once upon a time when this project was first floated, the governance model in this Bill was advocated and supported because it was going to follow the magnificent models of UK construction projects where we had at last cracked the problem and, as seen with the Olympics and Crossrail, we could now deliver on time and on budget. We still say that, except we leave out the phrase “and Crossrail”; we only say, “the magnificent example of the Olympics”. What Crossrail illustrated is that once you have a delay you automatically and unavoidably have cost increases. That is not only because it costs money to take longer; it costs even more money to try to catch up.
My amendment is designed to save the large amounts of public money which come from delay in taking decisions about how the project should proceed. A project of £4 billion intended to take eight years is going to spend, on average, £500 million each year. That is not a trivial sum in anybody’s counting and certainly not in the Treasury’s counting. The year’s delay will not cost you all the £500 million but it will probably, à la Crossrail, cost you two-thirds—£300 million, say, will be the cost of holding things back for a year, for one reason or another. So the current way we are going to decide whether we can afford something goes something like this: the sponsor body develops a programme, signs it off and passes it to the delivery authority, which gets the design work and the tendering going and then reports back to the delivery authority, which reports back to the sponsor body, which sends it to the estimates commission, which at that point consults the Treasury. The Bill says it “must have regard to” the information or advice it gets from the Treasury. In fact, three of the Bill’s 15 clauses relate to having to have regard to the Treasury’s advice.
Whatever might be said in some idyllic constitutional theory about parliamentary supremacy, the actual tap is turned on and off by the Treasury. That is no surprise and certainly it is the reality of this piece of legislation. The point is that at least a year, and probably 18 months to two years, after the sponsor body has commissioned the work to be done, the Treasury will say, “Oh, no, sorry, that is not in scope, we cannot afford that. Spread it over 10 years, drop all the stuff about getting into the turrets, never mind Lord Stunell and hearing, let us just have it like it was in the old building and cut costs”. We will still have the delays. Incidentally, it will be very difficult to save as much by cutting things out of the design as it will cost to have the delays—which, of course, is another Crossrail story as well.
What we have is a system where we know it will be the Treasury taking the decision on whether the money is going to be spent, but instead of asking before we start, “Can we have the money to do this?”, we are going to wait until we have done everything and then the Treasury is going to say no. Amendment 23 simply short-circuits that in a very simple way. It says that it is permissible to have a Minister of the Crown on the sponsor body. It does not require that there shall be, and it is therefore still a matter of choice as to whether such a person is appointed or not. What that means is that, at the start of the process and not at the end, the Treasury would be saying what can and cannot be spent. In terms of parliamentary accountability and lots of other things, people will say, “That is completely wrong”, but the Government’s fingerprints are going to be on this and they are going to do their best to wipe their fingerprints off it, which they will be well able to do if they present it in anonymous advice to the estimates commission two years after the process began and the delays will be there.
My amendment allows the Government to find a way of being more transparent about taking the inevitable decisions that the Treasury will make and putting those in the public domain at the earliest moment. I know that I do not have too many friends on this, but I have given the House an option, which it does not need to exercise but which in five, 10 or 15 years’ time, a future Administration and the future House will be very grateful for, so that they can indeed save any more delays than those that will by then already have accumulated. I beg to move.
My Lords, I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Stunell. If I understand his argument correctly, he seems to be expressing a lack of confidence that Her Majesty’s Treasury will come up with the money and deliver on the funding at the end of the project, and to avoid that he is suggesting putting it on the committee that is deciding what the project should do and what money should be requested.
I understand why the noble Lord made his arguments, and, as I said, I listened carefully, but I am not persuaded by them. This is a parliamentary project, not a government project—that is an important distinction to make. There are times when I suspect that there may be battles between Parliament and government on this, although I hope not. I hope that in bringing forward the Bill, government is showing its intention to recognise that the work has to be done and paid for.
The Minister made the point in his letter that the Treasury’s role should be,
“an external party looking inwards with the ability to scrutinise the annual funding through the estimates process”.
To have a Treasury Minister on the board—I do not think the noble Lord was talking about any other Minister—could compromise that role, blurring the lines of accountability. As a Treasury Minister, they would have collective decision-making responsibility for decisions taken by the sponsor body, which could lead to conflicting comments on the estimates as well.
I understand the concerns the noble Lord raises, but this is not the way to address it. We would not support the amendment.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, for tabling his amendment, which, as he explained, would allow a government Minister to become a member of the sponsor body. I also thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition for reinforcing the point that this is a parliamentary project and that we need to make that clear at all times.
I understand from the noble Lord’s speech at Second Reading that his key concern was about the potential lack of transparency around the Treasury’s advice on the estimates of expenditure, which in turn could lead to delays, waste and extra cost, as well as the need for Treasury buy-in to the project. The noble Lord has again articulated these points clearly tonight. He also stole the next part of my notes when he explained exactly how the process worked. However, I should add—I did not catch the noble Lord saying this, so I hope he will forgive me if I missed it—that the estimate is laid after it has been reviewed by the estimates commission and there has been consultation with the Treasury. The estimate is then laid before the other place for approval, including any comments made by the Treasury. I am advised that this is more transparent than the current estimates process for the funding of Parliament. To be clear to the House, this provides the opportunity for the Treasury to comment on the annual estimate, but it does not provide it with a veto. Furthermore, in terms of approval for the parliamentary building works, the Treasury is not given a role in respect of the outline business case. That is exclusively a matter for Parliament.
At Second Reading and again tonight, the noble Lord argued that a Treasury Minister could sit on the sponsor body, as recommended by the Joint Committee that examined the Bill. The role of the Treasury in this project is as an external party looking inwards, with the ability to review and advise upon the sponsor body’s annual estimates. The Treasury’s comments on the annual estimate will be laid before Parliament with the estimate. Therefore, the advice of the Treasury will be available when the House of Commons considers the estimate, and that provides for a clear role for the Treasury. The sponsor body and Parliament will therefore have transparent access to the Treasury’s views on the value for money and affordability of the project, which I hope addresses the noble Lord’s concerns around the transparency and the timeliness of that advice. Our view remains that, if a Treasury Minister was a member of the sponsor body, it would compromise that and could restrict the Treasury from being able objectively to assess the sponsor body’s annual estimates. In the light of these arguments, I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his amendment.
I thank the Minister very much for her reply and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for her words of comment on the amendment. She asked whether I trust the Treasury. If I replied yes to that, I would be the only person in this House who did. The Treasury rightly considers itself the guardian of the nation’s purse. In my experience, from both inside the system and looking at it from the outside, it is very rare for the Treasury to say, “Why don’t you take more money? Why don’t you speed up this project?”. I think we can all anticipate that the role of the Treasury in this is to be the gatekeeper of money. It sees that role as reducing the flow of money, particularly if Members of both Houses arguing the case for hospitals, schools, aircraft carriers and goodness knows what else, at the expense of this self-serving project for Members. You can see the national newspapers and media joining in that school.
The idea of someone turning the tap off is real. The only question is whether we have a system where we turn it off at the end of a long process, thus wasting a lot of money and time, or whether we turn it off at the beginning, so that we know we have to take 20 years, not 10 years, because we can spend only £300 million a year, not £500 million a year—as the case may be—in which case, we can design the project on a completely different timescale and get efficiencies that way.
The Minister said that the Treasury’s advice will be published. Yes, it certainly would be, but the question is whether the estimates would have been trimmed as a result of the advice given and the dialogue that goes on. The estimates commission “must have regard” to any advice that it receives from the Treasury. If the Treasury says, “You can spend only £400 million”, and the estimates commission is being invited by the sponsor body to spend £600 million, it is not statutorily in its power to put the £600 million figure on the table in front of Parliament, because it “must have regard” to any advice. The Minister may say that that is incorrect, in which case I should like to have that on record.
I will not pursue this tonight, not just because of the time but because I have no one here who agrees with me. I just say that I think that this is a problem that will come back to haunt us, and I may yet say something at the next stage of the Bill. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 23 withdrawn.
Amendments 24 and 25 not moved.
Amendments 26 and 27
26: Schedule 1, page 19, line 9, after “prepare” insert “and lay before Parliament”
27: Schedule 1, page 19, line 11, at end insert—
“(1A) A report under this paragraph must in particular include information about persons to whom contracts in respect of the carrying out of the Parliamentary building works have been awarded, in particular—(a) their size, and(b) the areas in which they operate.”
Amendments 26 and 27 agreed.
Amendment 28 not moved.
29: Schedule 1, page 19, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) The Sponsor Body must prepare and publish a report giving an assessment of relocating the Houses of Parliament for the duration of the Parliamentary building works to a location outside of London.( ) The Sponsor Body must make arrangements for the report to be laid before and debated by both Houses of Parliament.”
My Lords, Amendment 29 is in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Adonis and the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake. I did not speak at Second Reading as, owing to previous commitments, I knew that I could not be present for the opening and closing of the debate, but I attended for a good part of it and followed it closely. As we know, one of the frustrations of our work is that we often do not know business long enough in advance to prevent such diary clashes. I was struck by some of the speeches at Second Reading: in particular those of my noble friend Lady Andrews and the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, who both showed me that the building I had worked in for so many years as a Member of either this House or the other House was in such a dramatic state of dereliction and decay and just how huge the task facing us is.
A colleague and friend, looking at this amendment, said, “Is this the Geordie amendment, then?”. As much as I would like Parliament to be based in Newcastle or Gateshead, the amendment is much less ambitious. It asks simply that the sponsor body prepare and publish a report giving an assessment of relocating the Houses of Parliament for the duration of the parliamentary building works to a location outside London; and that the sponsor body must make arrangements for the report to be laid before and debated by both Houses of Parliament. That seems a very reasonable amendment, particularly as the study would be prepared concurrently with all the other things being done and therefore not involve delaying the timetable further. Although the idea of relocating Parliament outside London in the way proposed has been mentioned before and some have talked about the cost of doing so, as far as I am aware, no official work on such an option or the cost of doing so has yet been be produced.
At Second Reading, my noble friends Lord Adonis and Lord Foulkes spoke of the desirability of locating Parliament outside London; by doing so, they spoke effectively against overcentralisation and overconcentration in our capital city. Both my noble friends and I know that the idea of relocating Parliament, either temporarily or permanently, has been around for a long time. Indeed, in her Second Reading speech, my noble friend Lady Smith of Basildon reminded us of ideas from the 1960s, such as for a new, permanent capital called “Elizabetha” to be built on land between Harrogate and York. Even as a schoolgirl, I remember that idea giving rise to a lot of excited comments in local newspapers in and around Tyneside as a result.
For the avoidance of doubt, I should make it clear that I am emphatically not in favour of building on that attractive landscape and I am not proposing the Elizabetha solution. Even the name “Elizabetha” for such a new capital reminded me of that hugely entertaining book by Bill Bryson, Down Under; noble Lords may know of it. Bryson describes the debates that went on in Australia over the construction of the new capital, Canberra, as the seat of Parliament and the occasionally ludicrous names that were suggested, such as “Sydmeladperbrisho”—I think that noble Lords get the point—or, even more weirdly, “Thirstyville”; I can just imagine the comments in the press about MPs and Peers moving there.
I also looked at some of the Hansard entries from the time when the Elizabetha idea was put forward. Some Members in the other place spoke in favour of Parliament being established north of the Trent—it seemed like a good idea to me—midway between Thameside and Clydeside. However, some of those debates make for depressing reading. For example, that oft-controversial MP, Willie Hamilton, bemoaned that our building here was not built and not equipped for a 20th-century role. Here we are, saying rather similar things, except that we are now in the 21st century. Through my amendment, I hope simply to look at out-of-London options; for example, looking at either using existing buildings outside London or at what new facilities that might be suitable could be found outside the capital.
I am interested in what the noble Baroness says. Does she accept that, if you take the United Kingdom from the top of Shetland to Land’s End, the midpoint falls round about Dundee? Would she favour that option? It would make my journey shorter.
I would, yes, partly because there is a direct train from my local station—Alnmouth—to Dundee.
There is much that I could say but the hour is late so I will truncate my comments. I noticed that, in response to my noble friend Lord Adonis at Second Reading, my noble friend Lady Smith talked of concerns about the costs of relocation. She also mentioned the European Parliament’s different centres of activity. As a former MEP, I am conscious of the European Parliament’s travelling circus—although, in its defence, the Parliament is sadly unable to take or address that decision because, by treaty, the member states must agree unanimously on a seat for the Parliament; they have so far failed to do so, which is both costly and wearing for all those involved. However, I am not suggesting anything like the European Parliament arrangements in my amendment.
In response to my noble friend at Second Reading, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said that,
“in October 2012, the House of Commons Commission, and at that time the House Committee in the Lords … ruled out the option of constructing a brand new building away from Westminster and no further analysis will be undertaken of this option”.—[Official Report, 8/7/19; col. 1682.]
Those remarks are not relevant to this amendment, however, because nothing in this amendment calls for either a brand-new building or permanent relocation. I note that the noble Earl also said, in response to a question from my noble friend Lord Foulkes, that he would make some information available to my noble friend and other noble Lords who spoke at Second Reading, about past debates and decisions on this subject. Obviously, since I did not speak at Second Reading, I have not received that information, but I would be grateful to see it before Report.
Finally, I know that my noble friend Lady Smith of Basildon is very supportive of the idea that all regions and nations should benefit from the restoration and renewal project. Indeed, there has been a general welcome across the House for that approach. However, as noble Lords will appreciate, that is somewhat separate and does not in any way negate the issue raised in my amendment.
In conclusion, this is a modest amendment asking merely that the sponsor body prepare a report about the costings of a temporary relocation outside London and report back to Parliament. Given that that body has to come back to Parliament in any case with a number of other estimates, it would be perfectly feasible for us to ask the sponsor body to undertake this study. What I and my co-signatories are asking for is reasonable and feasible, and I hope—even at this late hour—that the amendment finds some favour this evening.
My Lords, I am afraid I do not agree that this is a modest amendment. It is a totally irrelevant amendment that is in no way helpful to making progress on the basic question of the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster.
We go back a long way in examining what we should do about the state of this building. At various stages, reports have been received from consultants saying how much needed to be done; the commission has retreated from that in view of its cost; two more years on, another consultant’s report has been sought; and on and on as things have clearly got worse. Finally, by the narrowest of margins we came to the point where we decided that, no, we were not going to relocate; we were going to decant and get this iconic building restored to meet the needs of Parliament in the 21st century. Now we are starting once again trying to look backwards. What is the point of getting another estimate for relocating somewhere else, unless it is to compare the cost of that with the cost of what is now proposed for the restoration of this building?
Secondly, I believe that the British public has been persuaded—I pay tribute to those involved in putting the case—that this is necessary expenditure. They have been willing to contemplate the likely sum of money involved in achieving the end of restoring this building. In their view it is an iconic building—and now we have the idea of going somewhere else. What would we do with this building except make sure it had to be restored? We would not allow it to crumble, so this is extra expense on top.
There is also the fact that we are a Government in Parliament—so how can we continue in the way we have traditionally done if there is to be a huge geographical separation between the Government and the legislature?
In my view, the whole thing is madness. Having spent far too long worrying and arguing about what we should do, and having so far achieved the assent of the public to this enterprise, I regard it as an absolute farce that we should now start wasting even trivial sums of money looking again at the costings of alternatives. We have delayed far too long. We are now resolved to move forward. It is quite right that we should think of all the considerations involved in that, but to start looking back at this stage is futile, absurd and irrelevant, and should be abandoned immediately.
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend in opposing the amendment. This is not an imposition we should place on the sponsor body.
I start with a technical point, because the amendment is deficient in that it says:
“The Sponsor Body must make arrangements for the report to be laid before and debated by both Houses of Parliament”.
We can impose a duty on the sponsor body to lay a report before Parliament; we cannot give power to the sponsor body to make arrangements for debates in either House of Parliament.
I would link the substance of the amendment to our earlier discussions and relate it to a point that has not been raised and which leads me to be somewhat surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is supporting this amendment. If we have a temporary Parliament elsewhere, it is not only the cost of relocating Parliament, the cost of relocating parliamentary staff, the cost of relocating government so that it is near Parliament and the cost imposed on all those bodies that are in London because they want to make representations to government and Parliament and who would have to move, but, in relation to what we were discussing earlier, Parliament needs to be accessible to the people. They need to be able to come here. We need their visits and they have to be able to come and watch what is going on. They can do that because London is at the centre of the transport infrastructure—it is easier to get to London.
Where else in the country will you be able to create a transport infrastructure in the time available for this temporary relocation so that schoolchildren and any member of the public who wants to come and observe Parliament can do so? It will be extraordinarily difficult—indeed, impossible. London has the convenience that enables us to fulfil that particular function. The proposal is not feasible and it is not a burden that we should impose on the sponsor body, because it has far too much to do already.
That does not need to be the case. Depending where you choose to locate your temporary Parliament, it could have good transport connections. I understand that we are talking about 2028 or 2029 for the move. That will be after the first phase of HS2 is opened in 2025, which will make a dramatic change to the economic geography of this country. I am trying to persuade my good friend the Mayor of West Midlands, Andy Street, to rename Birmingham International as “UK Central” because that is where it will be in terms of accessibility. It will be more readily accessible to most parts of England in terms of proximity than will London when HS2 is opened. The noble Lord has set out an old way of thinking which does not take account of the other changes that are taking place.
To bring Parliament closer to a large part of the country in the interim period is desirable, as we are going to have to move out anyway. The noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, asked what is going to happen afterwards. The plan is that we would move back here. However, there will have to be an interim which will incur huge expense. The doing up of the QEII Centre and Richmond House and all the associated facilities will involve massive expense.
The suggestion in the amendment is well worth looking at. It would not involve any delay. I know the noble Lord is anxious that the sins of the past—ceaseless delay—are put right, but there will be no delay. It would involve the presentation of an assessment of the option alongside the presentation of the plans. Clause 7(2) provides that no work can take place until specific parliamentary approval is given. It states:
“No Palace restoration works, other than preparatory works, may be carried out before the Sponsor Body has obtained Parliamentary approval for … Delivery Authority proposals in respect of those works, and … funding, up to an amount specified in the approval resolution, in respect of phase two works”—
and it sets out elaborate provisions thereafter.
So there would be no further delay. Other work would be carried out alongside it; it keeps an option open; and it takes account of changing circumstances, including the dramatic improvement of the transport infrastructure which will make other locations accessible. It also meets the wider concerns which most of us share—the reason this issue is so live—that Parliament is too remote from the people, and not having all of the centres of government and parliamentary authority located in London would be one way of distributing power more evenly across the United Kingdom.
My own view is that this is a good idea whose time may not quite have come—it certainly has not come at 10.55 pm, a few days before Parliament adjourns for the Summer Recess, with 10 Members present in the House. But its time may be coming and, in the context of wider debates that will take place on constitutional reform in the light of Brexit—including what might well be a decisive move towards a federal United Kingdom in the not too distant future—may come soon. Therefore, making preparations to assess it now is sensible.
I am reasonably laid back about it because of the timeframe for the work. We will not, in any event, have the presentation of the full costed plan to which Parliament can give approval for two years, as we were told at the beginning of Second Reading by the Leader—but I suspect it could be longer than that before we even get the plan. We may not move to decanting into the temporary facilities for the best part of a decade, and it could be the best part of two decades before the work is finished. I suspect, therefore, that what is needed at the moment—as I am anxious to do and as my noble friend did in her very able speech—is to plant the idea in the public mind. In particular, we should encourage political leaders outside London—who are already starting to be interested in this idea—to begin to develop it further. The context of this may change dramatically in the years ahead.
In many ways, it is actually much easier to do it if you are building on a greenfield site next to a major transport interchange such as Birmingham International, where the National Exhibition Centre is. That would be much simpler than the hugely complex, difficult and historic estate here. I wrestled with exactly the same argument on the question of whether we should upgrade a 200-year-old railway line to provide additional rail capacity between our major cities or build a completely new line. Often, building completely new is a good thing.
This is a debate that will run for the next few years, and we have done a good job of planting the idea. I strongly encourage my friends and colleagues who are mayors of the major cities and city regions in the Midlands and the north to advance this idea further. I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, but I suspect that he has not heard the last of this, by any means. Whatever decision is taken in this Bill, we will return to this, because it is a fundamental issue about the governance of the United Kingdom, alongside what will be a £5 billion, £10 billion or £15 billion investment—who knows what the final figure will be?—in the future of Parliament. I do not think that we will be able to keep these big strategic issues off the agenda.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on this amendment because it has started a debate which I have supported for a long time. Maybe she should have gone one step further. We are talking about a report on the temporary relocation of Parliament outside London, but if you are going to build a new temporary Parliament, be it in Richmond House or outside London, there is a cost attached, and I suspect that the cost would be not very different either way. The work in Richmond House will not be prefab but extremely glossy, expensive and difficult, as it so often is with building in a capital city. And we can forget for the moment what will be done in the QEII—although I suspect it will be lovely. There is actually an argument for building something somewhere outside London, as my noble friend Lord Adonis said, and staying there.
This place has to be refurbished because, as many noble Lords have said, it is in a bad state, but it could be used for educational purposes and conferences. That is what they do in Hungary: they built a parliament in Budapest—almost mirrored on this place—and the architect got a second prize for doing it. Hungary now has a parliament with a single chamber and the other half, which I have been to, is used as a conference and education centre. It is a lovely building and it works really well. If we really wanted to maintain a link with this place, we could still use it for the State Opening of Parliament and then go and do our work somewhere else. There are a lot of options.
All the amendment does is ask for this project to be costed properly so that we can have a debate about it. My noble friend said it is not going to delay things. I hope that we can do this and then debate over the next few years whether we go somewhere permanently or temporarily, what the cost will be and what the benefits will be to the region. My noble friend and I do not always agree on HS2, but we certainly agree on transport and the need to have somewhere with good transport in the middle which would work fine. I support the amendment.
My Lords, I always have a sense of déjà vu when discussing this issue. I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Adonis and Lady Quin for contacting me prior to the debate. My noble friend Lady Quin’s amendment is somewhat different from those we have seen before. It is not about relocating Parliament but about a temporary relocation while the works are being undertaken. I have listened carefully to what has been raised today, and I wonder whether we are almost having two separate discussions. There is a challenge with this project so that all nations and regions of the UK feel engaged with it. I might have made a slightly different argument in pushing for this.
We face three things as a country: economic inequality, democratic disengagement and a loss of confidence in the political system. They have been raised at different times when talking about this issue. However, I am not convinced that moving Parliament necessarily addresses them. Having said that, the proposal before us today is about the restoration and renewal of this building to provide a home for a 21st-century Parliament. My noble friend Lady Quin referred to the comments I made at Second Reading about the administrative capital and the plans to build it on the Yorkshire moors. Other countries have done that. That is a completely separate issue from what is facing us today, which is the restoration and renewal of this building. There is nothing that says that in future, if as a nation we want to take that decision, we could not do so, but we would have to accept that the cost would make the cost of restoration and renewal pale into insignificance because Parliament does not exist in a vacuum. It exists as part of a system involving government, civil society, business and the Civil Service. I have always taken the view that we need to keep those elements of governance of the country together and have those communications.
A huge challenge to this programme is to address the issue of benefiting the regions. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, in particular, has some interesting ideas and I hope the Government will pursue them and will be a little more positive than they have been to date on engaging young people and others throughout the country. However, issues of confidence in the political system cannot be addressed by this programme. The costs would be greater than if we have to do the work here. However, there is nothing to stop Parliament at any time looking at creating a new administrative capital if that is what it wishes to do, but I do not think this Bill is the right place to address that. If there had been new arguments that could have persuaded me otherwise, I would have been happy to take them on board, but I am still not persuaded that this programme is the right time to be looking at a different site, even temporarily.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, for their amendment, which brings us back to the vexed issue of decant. The amendment would require the sponsor body to prepare, publish and lay before Parliament a report giving an assessment of relocating the Houses of Parliament, for the duration of the parliamentary building works, to a location outside London.
As noble Lords will be aware, the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster suggested that the Commons should decant to the Northern Estate, including Richmond House, and the Lords should decant to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. I can only underline the words of my noble friend Lord Haselhurst: those recommendations were based on substantial analysis of where Parliament could be relocated during R&R. This included a pre-feasibility study commissioned by Parliament in 2012. Just to clarify what I said at Second Reading, that study looked into the preliminary business case for R&R and considered whether Parliament should decant and, if so, whether it should be to a location outside Westminster, whether temporarily or permanently. It concluded that because the,
“geographical proximity of Parliament to Government is of significance … substantial additional costs would be incurred”.
On the back of the pre-feasibility study, the House authorities commissioned the independent options appraisal. This was scrutinised by the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, which considered the various options for R&R. In its report the committee noted that it had considered the proposal to temporarily relocate Parliament during R&R. It concluded, as was well summarised by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, that,
“the option of temporarily locating Parliament outside London during the works, while attractive in many ways, carries an unacceptable burden of cost and inconvenience, which would otherwise be avoided”.
It reached that decision as Parliament currently owns a number of buildings around the Palace of Westminster, such as the Northern Estate and Millbank House. These buildings provide both office space for Members and many committee and meeting rooms. If Parliament were to relocate during R&R, it would mean abandoning these buildings, thereby increasing the costs associated with decant.
I listened with care to the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition. In its report, the Joint Committee brought our attention to the evidence of the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, who served as Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service for a decade. He described how he had,
“no doubt in saying that Parliament needs ready access to Ministers and vice versa. Departments also need ready access to Ministers and vice versa. It is an old-fashioned syllogism. The three need to be closely co-ordinated if Government is to work properly”.
I hope to convey that there has already been substantial work to assess whether the permanent or temporary location of Parliament should be outside London. On the back of that work, the matter was decided by Parliament in the Motions passed in 2018. Furthermore, contrary to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, I have concerns that the noble Baroness’s amendment, however well intentioned, might seriously delay progress on R&R. Significant work has already been undertaken to identify the decant locations and to formulate designs for the Northern Estate. If we were to decide to decant to somewhere else at this stage, we would need to start the process all over again.
I just do not think that we should go back and unpick the clear decision taken last year or the substantial work that has already been undertaken. To do so risks delaying this important, and urgent, project. Many of us would say that the work is already overdue. We absolutely must secure the Palace of Westminster—a grade I listed building, part of a UNESCO world heritage site and the home of UK democracy—for future generations. I am sure that I do not need to remind noble Lords of the problems that this building faces. Falling masonry, sewage leaks and the alarming number of fires caught just in time all demonstrate the pressing need to pass this Bill and get on with the job. We simply do not have time to delay.
So, for the reasons I have set out, I am afraid that the Government must express significant reservations about this amendment.
My Lords, I thank all Members who have taken part in this short debate. To describe it kindly, I would say there have been mixed reactions, with some thinking the amendment far from modest and quite over the top, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley feeling it did not go far enough. The issues raised will not go away. We need to think imaginatively about how we rebalance our country to tackle overcentralisation and overconcentration. I will reflect on what has been said but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 29 withdrawn.
30: Schedule 1, page 19, line 12, at end insert “in whatever way the Sponsor Body considers appropriate”
Amendment 30 agreed.
Schedule 1, as amended, agreed.
Schedules 2 to 4 agreed.
Bill reported with amendments.
House adjourned at 11.11 pm.