Clause 2: The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body
1: Clause 2, page 2, line 32, at end insert—
“(i) to promote public understanding of the purposes of the Restoration and Renewal Programme.”
My Lords, I shall speak also Amendments 2, 3, 4 and 5. These amendments, taken together, are designed to address a number of concerns—raised at Second Reading and in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and others—on the twin themes of engagement with specific categories of individuals about the restoration and renewal programme and promoting an understanding of the purposes of the programme, in ways I will explain more fully.
First, I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for his constructive and collaborative approach in working with the Government to formulate the wording of the amendments now before us. The Leader of the House and I were sincerely impressed by the passion and sincerity with which he made his case, and he succeeded in persuading us that appropriate amendments to the Bill were warranted. I hope the House will agree that we have arrived at a good place in this respect.
The first amendment seeks to ensure that the sponsor body promotes public understanding of the purposes of the restoration and renewal programme. The Joint Committee that undertook pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill detailed the importance of the public understanding the restoration and renewal programme. The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, tabled an amendment in Committee that was quite similar to the one we are debating today, and he was supported by a number of other noble Lords in the arguments that he put forward.
As noble Lords may recall, I outlined in Committee why that amendment was not strictly required, given what the shadow sponsor body has set out it will do in promoting understanding of the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. For example, the restoration and renewal programme’s current purposes, as set out in its vision and strategic themes, includes the aim to:
“Open up the Houses of Parliament, improve access and encourage a wider participation in the work of Parliament”.
Nevertheless, we have listened to this House and recognise the desire of noble Lords that this amendment be included in the Bill to place this specific duty on the sponsor body.
The second amendment in the group relates to staff and public engagement. This amendment would require the sponsor body, in formulating the strategic objectives of the parliamentary building works and making strategic decisions relating to it, to seek the views of those employed by Parliament and working for Members, as well as the public at large. Again, as noble Lords will recognise, I outlined in Committee the engagement the shadow sponsor body has already started to undertake with staff and will be undertaking with the public in the future. For example, the shadow sponsor body circulated a questionnaire to Members and their staff with the aim of understanding what they would like to see from restoration and renewal of the Palace. I understand that the shadow sponsor body will publish these findings in October. Furthermore, the body will soon be considering its public engagement strategy.
Since the conclusion of Committee, we have had the chance to consider this matter further. We recognise the will of this House that provision should be made in the Bill to ensure that the sponsor body engages with staff and the public in undertaking its work. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, again for his collaborative approach in formulating this amendment. I am sure that he, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, who made a similar suggestion in Committee, and members of the pre-legislative Joint Committee will welcome this amendment. It will ultimately be for the sponsor body, once established, to determine how it fulfils this duty, but I am sure all noble Lords will join me in encouraging the sponsor body to build on the engagement the shadow sponsor body has undertaken to date.
Amendment 5 seeks to ensure that the sponsor body will carry out the works with a view to facilitating improved public engagement with Parliament and participation in the democratic process, especially by means of remote access to Parliament’s educational and outreach facilities and programmes. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, once again for agreeing to work with the Government on this amendment. The pre-legislative Joint Committee that examined the draft Bill, of which the noble Lord was a member, argued that the term “renewal” requires an outward-facing approach to the UK Parliament’s role at the centre of our democracy. In Committee, I outlined that the Government agree that the outputs as part of restoration and renewal should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate any future reforms which could facilitate opportunities for outreach and engagement. I was pleased to report that the shadow sponsor body had already outlined, as part of its strategic vision and themes, the aim to,
“reconnect people from across the UK with their Parliament through improved education and visitor facilities, physical and digital access”.
I also outlined in Committee the excellent work already done in this area through various parliamentary engagement and outreach programmes across the UK. 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. The quality of this engagement is reflected in the feedback from 94% of participants, who rated it “good” or “excellent”. Furthermore, the education service also welcomed 70,226 school visitors in the year to mid-April 2018. The Lord Speaker’s Peers in Schools programme has seen more than 2,000 Peers in Schools visits since the programme began in 2007. The education service also trained more than 2,900 teachers to help them engage their students in learning about Parliament and democracy. Nevertheless, we have listened again to the will of this House that an amendment relating specifically to remote connectivity and outreach programmes should be included in the Bill. In considering this matter, I encourage the sponsor body to work with Parliament’s education and outreach team in order to build on the excellent work it is undertaking.
The other two amendments, Amendments 3 and 4 in the name of my noble friend, are minor and technical; they merely ensure consistent references to the parliamentary building works in Clause 2(4)(b) and 2(4)(g). The Government have sought to ensure that the will of the House is facilitated when it is clear that a particular course of action is preferred. These amendments are a clear example of our determination to see that this is done. Each of the amendments in this group is designed to ensure that the necessary engagement work is undertaken and borne in mind by the sponsor body.
With renewed thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for enabling us to achieve the express will of the House on these important issues, I beg to move.
My Lords, understandably, over the summer and this afternoon the minds and hearts of parliamentarians have been somewhere other than on debating the restoration and renewal Bill. However, I congratulate the noble Earl on his new appointment and role, and I want to put it on the record that, if we were able to conduct wider business in the way that I have experienced negotiations with the noble Earl, we might get a lot further a lot faster, and some of the divisions that are bedevilling our country might be settled more easily.
I appreciate that, although restoration and renewal will cost the nation billions of pounds and the Bill might be very controversial, it does not compare with the situation that we are in in respect of our relationship with Europe and all that goes with it. However, I think that, in time, people will look back and be grateful to this House for the work that it did at Second Reading, in Committee and, now, on Report in relation to the measures that we are taking. They will appreciate the importance of getting agreement on restoration and renewal, speeding the Bill through and ensuring that time is not lost in getting on with the works.
I want to reciprocate by saying that it has been a great pleasure to do business with the noble Earl and his team. The Bill team, Cabinet Office officials and Members and officials in this House have been extraordinarily helpful, but none if it would have been possible without the wider support of Members of this House from all the political party groups. I thank and pay tribute to them for their voices not only in Committee but behind the scenes. We have made genuine progress, which is why I withdrew the amendments that I had tabled and agreed to put my name to those spoken to so eloquently this afternoon by the noble Earl. It is really important to understand that this House is not an internal process but the actual beating heart of our democracy. The outward-facing nature of what we are doing, as the noble Earl has described, will, in the years ahead, become critical to people’s understanding, first, of what is happening and why and, secondly, that this is a crucial part of our democratic process. The engagement and participation in democracy and the processes and programmes of this House and the other place will stand the test of time.
The noble Earl said that I had been passionate on this subject. It is quite hard to be passionate about the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster, but he is right. Underpinning my desire to bring about these changes was the belief that, when our politics are more settled and people come to see the investment that we are making in the Palace and the subsequent and consequent investment in the world heritage site more broadly, they will understand that giving the sponsor body a clear remit was crucial. I just want to put it on the record that when the Bill was considered by the Joint Scrutiny Committee, it was made clear to us that the sponsor body, and subsequently the delivery authority that it will oversee, will take their directions and objectives from Parliament. The one way in which Parliament can now ensure that the sponsor body is clear about what is required and can work in a flexible and positive fashion is to ensure that the Bill is clear. With the help of the Government, and in particular the noble Earl, I think that we have been able to make it a lot clearer and the sponsor body therefore has a much more positive remit.
Extremely good work by both parliamentarians and officials is going on behind the scenes and I suggest that the sponsor body should connect with what is already taking place in relation to, for instance, the Select Committee engagement team. Two small research projects have recently been publicised, involving small amounts of money, on the work of Select Committees. On the back of the Senior Deputy Speaker’s work on Select Committees of this House, we have discussed the importance of getting that right for the future. I would simply ask the sponsor body to connect with what has already taken place and perhaps—as part of the substantial investment that will go into the physical infrastructure—put a relatively small amount of money into such projects, which can stand the test of time and will be valuable for the future.
I declare my interest, as mentioned in the register, in relation to the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the public understanding of and engagement with politics. I suggest that the work that it has been doing behind the scenes—it made a presentation to the scrutiny committee—should be taken up. The work of the centre, and that of others in the academic field, could be extremely helpful and with relatively small amounts of money—although much more substantial than, say, £5,000 for a research project—could yield fruit. If we get it right now, we will get it right down the line. Although today is probably not the day for me to say much more due to what is going on outside and in the other House, which will be of critical importance to the future of our nation, I think people will be grateful to the Government for their co-operation, and to parliamentarians of all persuasions, for the way in which they have set about ensuring that the Palace of Westminster will continue to be the beating heart of our democracy in the generations to come.
My Lords, I fully support the amendments on the Marshalled List, particularly Amendment 5 which refers to “facilitating improved public engagement”. I wonder whether there is still a possibility that that engagement could be other than remote. A question was asked in the other place about the possibility of access to the Elizabeth Tower for visitors when those works are completed, in a way that is independent of decant works which by then may have started or be about to start.
This leads me also to inquire whether we have closed our minds or shut the door on access to Westminster Hall. I know that there are complications but, if there were a means of allowing people to come through Westminster Hall on a particular line of route and then exit in the usual way, that would be a more meaningful way for people to engage. Those of us who have taken parties round the Palace on many occasions are impressed by the magic felt by many people, the emotional contact they may experience by being here. To lose that entirely would be a shame. Such access may be impossible in view of the works that have to take place in the Palace, but I hope that we will look at the possibility.
I am minded of what is available in the visitors’ centre on Capitol Hill in Washington where tableaux tell the story of Parliament through the ages. There is also the possibility of viewing a film. Perhaps a passage through Westminster Hall could be allowed and the Grand Committee Room—or the Westminster Hall chamber as it has become known—might also be a place where a film could show the work of Parliament and what it is all about. I hope we have not told ourselves that it cannot be done. It would be encouraging to know that this possibility is at least being investigated so that, by the time we have to decant from the building, there might still be an opportunity for something more than remote access for members of the public.
My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Howe for the amendments and place on record my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for all the work he has done on securing these amendments. They are extremely important—in particular, as my noble friend Lord Haselhurst would add, Amendment 5.
This might be the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill, but we and the sponsor body need to look at it as the Parliament restoration and renewal Bill. It is not simply a case of bricks and mortar; it is about the space and how it is employed for the future. Picking up on what my noble friend said, it needs to be adaptable space. That is the point that needs to be put over to the sponsor body: not only should we use the space in the way indicated by my noble friend but there are going to be changes that we cannot anticipate in the way that we might want to use it. This place was designed originally to accommodate meetings in committee rooms dealing with private Bills. That did not take into account how Parliament would evolve, particularly as a public body. We cannot anticipate all the needs in future, so adaptability is going to be a clear theme.
I reiterate the point that the space can be used to connect with people outside. That is a crucial point that has already been stressed. We need not only to educate but to be able to engage. That would play to the strengths of this House in particular, but the institution of Parliament as a whole needs to be able to connect with people outside in different ways, including in ways that, as I say, we might not able to anticipate at the moment—so we need to have that space available but not rigid.
So we need to be outward-looking and adaptable. I reiterate my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for all the work he has done on this. I was delighted with the agreement that was reached with the Government, so I very much support the amendments before us.
My Lords, I will add my thanks to all those who have worked during August to come up with a solution that meets not just the needs of those moving the amendments but the sentiments that were expressed during the debate. As a member of the shadow sponsor body, I think that this gives some clarity about the wishes of the House and the responsibilities of the sponsor body when it gets its substantive form.
Right from the beginning, outreach and education have been an absolute priority for the sponsor body. I assure the noble Earl that we have had a lot of discussions with the education and outreach department already, and I assure the noble Lord, Lord Norton, that flexibility is one of the key things that we are thinking about in design. Obviously not every room in the Palace can be entirely flexible—there are too many constraints, particularly of heritage, for that—but one of our overall objectives will be to end up with a much more flexible space because, as the noble Lord said, we simply cannot predict where we are going to be in future.
The shadow sponsor body has always felt, as the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, has previously so passionately described, that the renewal of Parliament is not just about the building—that is extremely important to us. When we think about overall renewal, some of the issues are matters of operation—about how we do things—some are procedural and some are cultural. The Houses of Parliament are extremely conservative organisations that are quite resistant to change, so we have to accept that there is also cultural thinking.
A lot of these matters need attention from Parliament. The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, was right to talk about the need for close working between the shadow sponsor body—the sponsor body, going forward—and the rest of Parliament, and how we do these things together. It is certainly not for the sponsor body to start telling Parliament what its procedures should look like and so on—so there is very much a need for close working on that.
My final point is that it has become clear to me, having chaired a number of sessions—particularly on the question of accessibility, but the point is wider—that there is an awful lot that we could do now. We do not have to wait for the physical restoration of this building. I urge the House to find ways of exploring some of the things that could be done right now to make the building more accessible—and I mean accessible in its full sense in terms of the language that we use and the way that people engage with this place—while we wait for more tangible physical accessibility improvements further down the road.
We need to think about how Parliament creates the space to think about those things when there is so much else going on. If Parliament is to come through what is a particularly torrid time at the moment, we really must give some attention to these matters.
My Lords, I too support these amendments. Seeing the reference to “remote access” in one of them, I thought it not inappropriate to draw the House’s attention to the tremendous changes there have been in recent years. I first became a Member of the House of Commons 45 years ago. Since then it has changed immensely, largely because of the electronic advances that there have been. The amount of contact with constituents that Members of Parliament now have through emails and so on is one thing. You can also watch Parliament any time you want on the parliamentary television channel. This started with your Lordships’ House, and broadcasting from the Commons followed. There have been tremendous advances and there is no doubt at all in my mind that these have not stopped but will go on in ways that we cannot envisage—any more than we could have envisaged 45 years ago that things would be as far advanced as they are now. So we are not just starting this process; we are hugely advanced along it. It will speed up, in all probability, and of course the sponsor body must take account of it as it goes about its work on this building.
My Lords, we welcome the Government’s amendments in this group, and their focus on public engagement and awareness. Amendment 1 creates a duty on the sponsor body to promote public understanding of restoration and renewal, while Amendment 2 introduces a need for the sponsor body to ensure the works facilitate engagement and a participatory democracy. Amendment 5 ensures that the sponsor body carries out its duties with the views of Members, staff and the public at the front of its mind. We also welcome Amendments 3 and 4, which strengthen the reference to the parliamentary building works in regard to ensuring the safety and security of staff and the public, as well as to educational facilities.
At the start of the Bill’s passage, one of the main areas on which we sought government reassurance was engagement with the public, as well as with staff and Members in both Chambers. The Joint Committee recommended that the sponsor body should,
“promote public engagement and public understanding of Parliament”,
and we are pleased that the Government now fully accept this. Engagement must be at the heart of the programme of restoration and renewal, as this Palace, as well as the democratic processes and structures it represents, can often feel very distant to many people across the country. It is vital that there is a strong relationship between the sponsor body and the public, so that they have confidence in the programme throughout the process. These amendments help to alleviate our concerns and ensure that restoration and renewal becomes about far more than the necessary bricks and mortar, rewiring and replacement, and sewerage and stairways. They also allow us to change the way Parliament looks and feels, both inside and out.
Like other noble Lords, we read with great interest the results of the 2019 Members survey on R&R, confirming the themes and issues raised during the passage of this Bill in both Houses on accessibility, remote and digital integration, and safety, security and protection. The first survey showed just how vital regular communication, consultation and engagement are now and will be as the programme progresses to its successful completion. In particular, this is a working building for more than 8,000 members of staff, and the omissions in the original Bill on the importance of seeking their views about the works have now been rectified. Amendment 5 is a welcome step forward in helping improve their working conditions throughout restoration and renewal, and this must be an aim for the sponsor body.
In closing, I of course pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Blunkett for his tireless work on these issues throughout the Bill’s passage, and to the Government for their willingness to discuss and address our concerns and arrive at the good place to which the Minister referred.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for his very kind remarks and the constructive suggestions he has made. I express once again my appreciation to him for working with us as he has done and for the support he has demonstrated for these amendments. I am grateful, too, to other noble Lords who have endorsed the approach that we and the noble Lord have taken. It has been important throughout the Bill’s passage that we should listen to all Members and, where possible, seek to work with them towards an agreed position. I hope and believe it is clear that we have done exactly that. I thank other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate: my noble friends Lord Norton, Lord Cope and Lord Haselhurst, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Scott and Lady Wheeler.
My noble friend Lord Haselhurst asked two questions that go back to the issue, which I know has been considered by both Houses, of whether it would be possible to retain a foothold, so to speak, during the R&R programme in the Houses of Parliament regarding Westminster Hall and the Elizabeth Tower. I can tell him that these matters were partly covered at earlier stages of our debates, but it was agreed by both Houses in early 2018 that the Bill should allow for a full and timely decant of the Palace without retaining a foothold. Analysis by the programme in 2017 found that continued use by Members and/or the public of Westminster Hall or the area surrounding it would be highly disruptive and costly for no additional quantifiable benefit. The costs would be connected to maintaining a secure perimeter in close proximity to construction works and the additional cost to construction from managing a complex and partially occupied site. Having said that, access to the Elizabeth Tower could be a different matter. In fact, it is a matter for the sponsor body and Parliament to decide in due course. Members of the other place and noble Lords will be free to offer their view to the sponsor body on this issue as part of its consultation strategy.
As I said, these amendments build on the current work the shadow sponsor body is undertaking in these areas, in my judgment very capably. What matters now is the future. Like all noble Lords, I look forward to seeing how the sponsor body builds on this work and fulfils the specific obligations the amendments set out.
Amendment 1 agreed.
Amendments 2 to 5
2: Clause 2, page 2, line 35, at end insert—
“(3A) In performing the duties under subsection (2)(a) and (b), the Sponsor Body must make arrangements for seeking the views of— (a) people employed in or for the purposes of either House of Parliament,(b) people working for members of either House of Parliament (whether or not for payment), and(c) members of the public.”
3: Clause 2, page 2, line 39, leave out “those” and insert “the Parliamentary building”
4: Clause 2, page 3, line 11, leave out “those” and insert “the Parliamentary building”
5: Clause 2, page 3, line 12, at end insert—
“(ga) the need to ensure that the Parliamentary building works are carried out with a view to facilitating improved public engagement with Parliament and participation in the democratic process (especially by means of remote access to Parliament’s educational and outreach facilities and programmes);”
Amendments 2 to 5 agreed.
6: Clause 2, page 3, line 15, leave out from “that” to end of line 18 and insert “opportunities to secure economic or other benefits of the Parliamentary building works are available in all areas of the United Kingdom.”
I should apologise to the House because my lack of surefootedness, if I might put it that way, has resulted in Amendment 6 coming back to the House this afternoon. As Members will recall, we discussed it in Committee and I inadvertently did not press it to the vote, so I had better make it clear from the beginning that I am doing so this afternoon. It is a very simple amendment that fulfils undertakings given over recent weeks and months. I pay tribute to Neil Gray, the Member of Parliament who has been working on this in the House of Commons and with the shadow sponsor body, of which he is a member.
The amendment is about the opportunities to secure economic and other benefits right across the UK. Placing it in the Bill will reassure people across the UK that they will not simply be contributors as taxpayers, but will see benefits in employment, supply and the kind of facilities we want for the future. I will not speak at length because we covered this in Committee, but we have seen it with the Elizabeth Tower. We know from other major infrastructure projects, at least one of which I support, that this can not only yield benefits but get people’s commitment and, if I might use the term, understanding of what is taking place at the same time. I hope this will be a consensual amendment and that we can agree it.
I make one final point. I hope that when the sponsor body comes forward with the options in relation to the extent of investment, it takes an ambitious view, and is up front about what we are going to expend in cash. I hope that we will not get into a position such as we did with HS2 or, for that matter, the Scottish Parliament. It is important to get this right from the beginning. The original estimates, which I will not even mention, were so wide of the mark that it is important that we put them to one side and are clear with the public over a very long period. I noticed that the announcements on education spending made over the weekend were rolled up over the years to double the actual amount that will be spent in the final year of that spending commitment, if it comes to fruition. My good friend Gordon Brown used the same trick when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it does not help, because the public eventually catch up with you.
My little plea to the shadow sponsor body is to be brave, come out with the real figures, make sure that people know that they are over the next two decades and not next week, and then let us go forward together on making this project work. I beg to move.
My Lords, we welcome Amendment 6 from my noble friend Lord Blunkett, and strongly support his aim to specify in the Bill that the economic and other benefits of the parliamentary building works are supported across the whole of the UK.
Businesses across the UK must benefit from the economic opportunities that large-scale, government-funded projects such as this bring. This must remain at the forefront of the sponsor body’s mind throughout the works. Contracts must be awarded to businesses across the UK, to foster and build greater connectivity between all corners of the country and the Palace of Westminster.
Despite being in London, this building represents and connects with every region, and we know that the key challenge with this project is to make all nations and regions of the UK feel engaged with it, so we support Amendment 6.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for retabling this amendment and reassure him that we continue to support it. As he said, we spoke to it in Committee, and I emphasised the Government’s support. It was very kind of him to take the blame on his shoulders, but it is only fair to say that we were all at fault for this failing to be approved in Committee.
As noble Lords are aware, the amendment places in the Bill a requirement on the sponsor body, in exercising its functions, to ensure that opportunities to secure economic or other benefits of the parliamentary building works are available in all areas of the United Kingdom. The Government have always sought to encourage the shadow sponsor body to give thought to how the delivery authority will engage with SMEs and businesses across the UK in their work to restore the Palace of Westminster. The noble Lord alluded to this already happening on other projects being carried out on the Parliamentary Estate, such as work on the restoration of the Elizabeth Tower.
In the Commons, an amendment to spread the economic benefits across the UK gained the support of the House. However, we had some concerns with its drafting regarding procurement law, which I set out in Committee. The Government therefore committed to support the drafting and tabling of this alternative amendment, which addresses those concerns. We consider that this amendment retains the spirit of that passed in the other place, while also adhering to public procurement law, so we are delighted to support it.
Amendment 6 agreed.
Clause 6: Relationship between the Sponsor Body and Parliament
7: Clause 6, page 5, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) recommendations from the Sponsor Body for the future maintenance of the Palace of Westminster over the longer term after completion of the works;”
My Lords, this is an important amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Smith. It aims for us to learn the lessons of the past and ensure that we have the necessary long-term plans and steps in place after the new building has been completed and handed back to Parliament to facilitate its ongoing and future maintenance and improvement.
Amendment 7 takes the Minister at his word in Committee, when this issue was raised by us and a number of noble Lords. Our original proposal was to incorporate future-proofing recommendations under the sponsor body’s reporting requirements in Schedule 1, but this amendment follows the Minister’s suggestion that it could better placed in Clause 6 as part of the parliamentary relationship agreement and that recommendations on the future maintenance of the Palace over the longer term be part of the hand-back arrangements.
I thank the Minister and the Bill team for their helpful discussions and reassurances since Committee, particularly in relation to the sponsor body’s reporting processes and business case development. Obviously, we recognise that the sponsor body will be abolished following the completion of the parliamentary works, so it is important that we have clarity now on exactly how future maintenance of and improvements to the Palace will be facilitated and taken forward. I understand that the latest view from the Government is that it should be included in the sponsor board business case summary and not that of the PRA. I look forward to the Minister’s confirmation of this. I would also be grateful if he would facilitate a meeting on this issue between the sponsor board and my noble friends so that we can be assured that effective future-proofing measures are a key part of the R&R programme.
Throughout this process, we have stressed that we must ensure that the estate does not fall into its current level of disrepair. We had 40 fires between 2008 and 2012; 4,000 windows need to be repaired or replaced; 40% of pipes, ducts and cables will be at critical or high risk of failure by next year; most building services will be at a high risk of failure by 2025; we rely on a sewage ejector system that is more than 130 years old; and asbestos can be found everywhere.
As we said in Committee, the can has been kicked down the road for far too long. While parliamentarians have not wanted to be seen spending money on themselves, inaction has come at a heavy price. We are now spending huge amounts of money on everyday maintenance and repair, and it has been estimated that every year of delay increases the cost of the works by £100 million. We must not get to a point again where the Palace is at risk of a catastrophic failure and the building can be described as no longer fit for purpose. Using the expertise gathered by the sponsor body, it would be of great benefit for the sponsor body to produce recommendations on long-term maintenance—ideally on five-year, 10-year and 20-year plans which can be reviewed. Making specific safeguards now will save us money, save this building and save future parliamentarians from facing a similarly dire situation in a few decades’ time. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am sure that the sponsor body would be happy to meet the noble Baroness and her colleagues—indeed, any noble Lord on any matter relating to this programme. I may regret saying that, but it is important that the shadow sponsor body and the sponsor body are as open and receptive to Members as it is possible to be. I also give the assurance that future-proofing the work is very much part of the design brief that the shadow sponsor body will be working towards. Anyone who has ever spoken to any of the contractors trying to do the work in this place will know that one of their biggest problems is simply getting access to things—they have all been buried and hidden underneath more modern work. Given this opportunity to take it all out and start again, we would certainly expect one of the outcomes to be the facilitation of future work, be it ongoing maintenance or larger jobs that may need doing in 50 or 60 years.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, for speaking to this amendment, which, as she made clear, provides that the parliamentary relationship agreement may include provision about recommendations from the sponsor body for the future maintenance of the Palace of Westminster over the longer term after completion of the works.
Let me say straightaway that I agree it is important that, after completion of the parliamentary building works, the Palace of Westminster is maintained for the future and does not fall back into its current state of disrepair. Having said that, I think that there are other mechanisms better suited to achieving what the noble Baroness is seeking to achieve than an amendment to this Bill. I would go further and say that this amendment is not at all necessary. I hope I can provide the House with sufficient reassurance on that point.
This amendment places a provision in the Bill that the parliamentary relationship agreement may require the sponsor body to provide recommendations for future maintenance of the Palace. The contents of this agreement will be for the sponsor body and corporate officers of both Houses to determine. The overarching reassurance I can give about the future maintenance of the Palace over the long term is that this is not at all an afterthought. There are already several mechanisms in place that will shape such maintenance.
First, as I am sure the noble Baroness appreciates, it would not be the sponsor body itself which would be undertaking future maintenance of the Palace. As noble Lords will be aware, it is likely that the sponsor body will be abolished following completion of the parliamentary building works, given that the purpose of the Bill and the bodies it establishes is simply to complete the parliamentary building works—that is, the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster.
That said, the Bill enables the sponsor body to work with the parliamentary authorities to put forward recommendations and practices to ensure that a robust maintenance plan is established for the future. Here I direct noble Lords’ attention to Clause 2(2)(h) of the Bill, which places a duty on the sponsor body,
“to deal with matters relating to completion of the Parliamentary building works, including the making of arrangements for the handing over of the buildings to which those works relate”.
It is common practice with major construction works where long-term maintenance is envisaged for maintenance teams to work alongside the construction engineers in the final stages of the project when major infrastructure is being commissioned. This ensures that a thorough understanding of operating and maintaining the installed systems is provided for. Incidentally, I understand that this kind of training and familiarisation could well extend over the final year of the project.
Therefore, before the sponsor body is abolished and as part of the duty set out in Clause 2(2)(h), the sponsor body may wish to consider training House maintenance staff to ensure they are fully briefed on the new equipment and assist in developing appropriate plans to ensure that, as much as possible, the Palace is appropriately maintained in the future. As it is envisaged that the sponsor body would not be responsible for future systems, it is likely that it would work closely with the House administrations as part of the training on new systems and formulating future plans.
In terms of monitoring the future maintenance of the Palace after it has been handed back to Parliament, House authorities could provide updates on ongoing maintenance of the Palace through the appropriate domestic committees. In addition to Clause 2(2)(h), the parliamentary relationship agreement—the PRA—could also further outline what is expected in terms of future training. The PRA is expected to include an agreement between the sponsor body and Parliament about the process for handing the completed works back at the end of the programme, before the sponsor body is abolished. This would likely include further details regarding the training on the matters I outlined a second ago. However, as I said, Clause 2(2)(h) is crucial in dealing with this matter, given that the sponsor body is likely to be abolished following completion of the works, thus limiting the means to enforce any of the obligations in the PRA.
I said that future maintenance is not at all an afterthought. The shadow sponsor body has already demonstrated that it is thinking about the future maintenance of the Palace. Through the publication of the vision and strategic themes document, the shadow sponsor body has already committed to taking account of the need to deliver an outcome which provides an effective future maintenance solution for the Palace. This document has already been approved by both House commissions and published on the restoration and renewal website. Among other points, the document states that the sponsor body must:
“Deliver a refurbishment programme that minimises but also facilitates future maintenance and improvement”,
by delivering “operational efficiency and longevity”. Secondly, it states that there must be a focus to:
“Optimise operating and capital costs through a focus on whole-life costing; and achieve operating cost targets”.
Whole-life costing means that decisions must be taken based not solely on capital costs but on the sum of those, plus the costs of operation and maintenance over the whole of the operational life. In essence, this means minimising the sum of capital and operating costs averaged over the lifetime of the installation.
I mentioned mechanisms plural. The second point for noble Lords to bear in mind is that the future maintenance of the Palace will also form part of the outline business case brought before Parliament for approval. Importantly, the outline business case will be developed in line with the principles of Her Majesty’s Treasury’s Green Book, which require that the costing is done on a whole-life basis. This includes maintenance over any future timeframes as appropriate, which may of course differ between different aspects.
It might be helpful if I explain that, in following the HMT Green Book principles, the business case will adopt a five-case methodology to provide decision-makers with a framework for structured thinking. The cases are as follows: strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management. The consideration of whole-life costs is a fundamental focus of the financial case and is a critical input for the economic appraisal in the economic case. As I have mentioned in previous debates on the Bill, the shadow sponsor body has already given the assurance that the outline business case it prepares will follow the Green Book principles, thus taking this matter into account. Therefore, the requirement and cost of future maintenance will be a consideration during the design stage of the programme, which will require approval from noble Lords.
Thirdly, the Bill already permits the sponsor body to make recommendations for the future maintenance of the Palace. It could do so as part of the reports that it produces, relating to the progress and completion of the parliamentary building works under paragraph 27 of Schedule 1 to the Bill, which must be laid before Parliament and published. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that the combination of the mechanisms that are already in place to address the future maintenance of the Palace makes her amendment unnecessary. I am sure that, if she wants to discuss this matter further—the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, helpfully indicated this—members of the shadow sponsor body would be more than willing to engage with her.
In both Houses, we have outlined throughout the course of the Bill that, at its core, its key aim is to secure the Palace of Westminster for future generations. The process of restoration and renewal offers a great number of opportunities in which we as Members will be able to influence and prioritise what we want the outcomes to be. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw the amendment.
I thank the noble Earl for his reassurances on the importance of this matter and for his thorough and helpful explanation of both the reporting and future monitoring delivery arrangements. I feel very reassured. Obviously, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, in particular for her willingness to meet with me and my colleagues to discuss this further. I certainly welcome the reassurance, and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 7 withdrawn.
Schedule 1: The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body
8: Schedule 1, page 19, line 17, at end insert—
“( ) A report under this paragraph 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, when I moved an amendment in Committee seeking a timeline to be outlined by the sponsor body, it was not my original intention to move an amendment on Report. However, having listened to the debate and the comments made, I said at the end of the debate that there was at least merit in considering whether to come back to the issue. I have done that, albeit, crucially, in a different way—that is, with a similar amendment but with a crucial difference.
As was said on a number of occasions when this was debated in Committee, large infrastructure projects have a reputation for going over time and sometimes over budget. Having had the experience of being one of the original Members of the Scottish Parliament, I am certainly well aware of that and of the publish backlash it can sometimes cause. That is why it is important to try to find a way to ensure there is transparency, information and explanation. It is intended not to initiate a blame game but to find a way in which, by sharing information, any possible blame can be mitigated through proper explanation.
Nor is it intended to be a requirement that everything is pinned down to the last day. As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, said in Committee when she supported my amendment:
“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”.—[Official Report, 22/7/19; col. 641.]
That is the spirit in which I move this amendment—not that one wishes to be precise to the very day, but rather that there can be an indication as to when some things are likely to happen. That is particularly the case with regard to the decant. As I indicated in Committee, and as was indicated in the Joint Committee report on the draft Bill, issues that could lead to delays have arisen in relation to Richmond House. As we progress, it would be useful to know just how that is progressing and, if there are particular problems, that these can be identified sooner rather than later.
In Committee, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, expressed concern about the sponsor body having to provide an,
“assessment of timings at the consultation stage”.—[Official Report, 22/7/19; col. 642.]
He indicated that “at best” there would be rough estimates, although he did say he had some “sympathy” for the clarity I was seeking. That is why there is a crucial difference between this amendment and the one I moved in Committee. In Committee the amendment was related to Clause 5, which deals with the publication of a consultation strategy. This amendment seeks to add to the report the sponsor body has to make to Parliament at least once a year a paragraph that would relate to a timeline. That would be helpful for Members, and indeed for the wider public.
If it is not possible for the Government to accept the words of this amendment, I very much hope the Minister will be able to indicate that the spirit of the amendment is agreed to. I beg to move.
My Lords, we welcome and fully support the principle behind Amendment 8, which underlines that the work should be carried out without delays and must be cost effective. The sponsor body has said it expects the current timeline for the project to be around 10 years, from the mid-2020s to the mid-2030s. Of course, there remains some vagueness around this length of time, and we hope the sponsor body is able to provide a more detailed timeline as soon as possible, with some clarity on milestones and gateways for both the decant and the completion of the full works. Obviously, this will most likely come after the business case has been presented and discussed by Parliament. Nevertheless, providing clear information on timelines and milestones will most certainly be important for public engagement and the engagement of staff and Members. We very much support this amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, for his amendment, which would require the sponsor body’s reports on the progress made on the parliamentary building works to incorporate a timeline for the works that would include likely dates for decant and completion. As the noble and learned Lord said, he tabled a similar amendment in Committee, to the effect that as part of its consultation strategy the sponsor body must publish a timeline for completion of the Palace restoration works, including details on the dates of decant and return to the Palace.
In my response in Committee, I agreed that all noble Lords would—quite obviously—wish to seek further clarity on dates around decant, and I am in absolute agreement with the noble and learned Lord’s point that the sponsor body should publish details regarding decant and completion of the works not just once but throughout the course of the project. Here it is important to convey that the shadow sponsor body has always explicitly recognised that, as part of the sponsor body’s reports as set out in paragraph 27 of Schedule 1, it would rightly be required to include timescales on decant and the progress of the works. I can confirm that the shadow sponsor body is in agreement with this approach and therefore the expectation is that the reports produced by the sponsor body will include information on the timetable for the works, including details on timings for decant and return to the Palace.
I spoke at some length in Committee on various points addressing the issue raised by the noble and learned Lord. However, I thought it important to clarify what the Bill requires the sponsor body to do as regards reporting. Under the Bill, the delivery authority is required to formulate proposals for the parliamentary building works, including the timing of those works. These proposals are provided for in Clause 2(2)(e). Parliament will need to approve the proposals before any substantive works commence. If for any reason those timings change significantly, the sponsor body will need to come back to Parliament for further approval. The parliamentary approval of these proposals, as well as the shadow sponsor body outlining its agreement that the sponsor body should include information relating to the timeline for the works in reports it produces, will, I hope, provide noble Lords with the reassurance that this information will be forthcoming.
This is a matter that will surely interest all noble Lords throughout the currency of the works, whether that is before commencement, during or near their completion, so let me again thank the noble and learned Lord for tabling this amendment. I hope that I have provided him with significant reassurance on this important matter.
My Lords, I am grateful to both the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for their comments on this amendment, and in particular for the noble Earl’s reassuring words and the wider clarification of the roles of the sponsor body and the delivery authority in these matters. As he rightly said, the timeline for progress, decant and the likely completion is of interest not just to Members but to the wider public. What he has put on the record today is very satisfactory indeed and we look forward with interest to watching progress. With these words, I seek leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 8 withdrawn.