Today, the Government publish the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill, which seeks to establish the statutory bodies that will be responsible for the restoration and renewal works within the parliamentary estate, giving effect to the resolutions passed by Parliament earlier last year. In addition to Parliament having expressed its view in those resolutions, it will also be given an opportunity to vote on the proposed design, cost and timing of the substantive building works relating to the Palace of Westminster. In developing the Bill, the Government have worked closely with the House authorities.
The tragic fire at Notre Dame has served as a reminder of the risks to this historic and iconic building. The recent incidents in the Palace of Westminster, including falling masonry, have further highlighted the urgency of the works to restore and renew the Palace of Westminster.
The Restoration and Renewal Bill was published in draft in October 2018 and has been subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee. Its report was published in March 2019 and we have carefully considered the responses of the Joint Committee. The Government welcomed the Committee’s report and the considered, evidence-based approach the Chair and Members of the Committee have taken in scrutinising the Bill, and accepted many of its recommendations in full. The support of the Committee and its endorsement of the overarching aim of the Bill is integral in progressing this important and pressing work.
The Bill will establish the governance structure within which those bodies will operate. The bodies will have the capacity and capability to make strategic decisions on the restoration and renewal programme, so that the Palace of Westminster can be secured as the UK Parliament for future generations.
The Bill establishes a parliamentary works sponsor body which will have overall responsibility for the programme and act as a single client on behalf of both Houses. It will also form a Delivery Authority as a company limited by guarantee. The Delivery Authority will formulate proposals in relation to the restoration works, and ensure their operational delivery. The bodies will be independent and able to operate effectively in the commercial sphere, bringing the expertise and capability needed for a project of this scale. This two-tier approach was used to successfully deliver the London Olympics.
The Bill also establishes a parliamentary works estimates commission which will lay the Sponsor Body’s estimates before Parliament, and play a role in reviewing the Sponsor Body’s expenditure.
The Government’s role is to ensure we deliver the best possible value for taxpayers’ money, and the measures in the Bill reflect our determination to ensure Parliament keeps the total bill down, and the restoration runs to time and on budget. The Bill provides that the Sponsor Body and the Delivery Authority must have regard to value for money when exercising their functions throughout the Programme. The Treasury will be able to review and comment on the annual estimates for the funding of the programme, and the National Audit Office will be able to undertake audits and value-for-money reviews. Furthermore, the estimates commission will have the power to review, comment on, and in certain circumstances reject those annual estimates.
It is important that the views of parliamentarians on the programme are taken into account. The Sponsor Body will have a majority of parliamentarians on its board, alongside external expertise. Parliamentarians will be fully consulted on the strategic direction of the programme. The Sponsor Body will be required to return to Parliament for approval to make any significant changes to the approved proposals in respect of the Palace. Parliament will also be given an opportunity to vote on the annual expenditure of the Sponsor Body and the Delivery Authority through the estimates process.