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Commons and Lords Speakers reject Boris Johnson’s call to move Parliament to York amid multibillion pound refurbishment

Commons and Lords Speakers reject Boris Johnson’s call to move Parliament to York amid multibillion pound refurbishment

The restoration project’s sponsor body said the PM’s proposals would ‘not...be considered as part of the scope of the strategic review’. (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson’s call to consider temporarily moving Parliament to York while it undergoes major renovation works has been shot down by the speakers of the House of Commons and the Lords.

A letter from Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body to the Prime Minister makes clear that both Lindsay Hoyle and Lord Fowler believe it would be “inappropriate” to revisit existing plans for a temporary London switch.

Under the current proposals to overhaul the crumbling estate, politicians are expected to leave the Palace of Westminster for up to five years while work is completed.

The plans, billed as “the biggest heritage restoration ever undertaken in the UK”, would involve MPs moving to a temporary Commons chamber on Whitehall in the site of the former Department of Health headquarters.

Mr Johnson wrote to the heads of the sponsor body, which is overseeing the renovation plan, last month to say a fresh review of the scheme should look at “the full range of options”.

While the PM named a string of London locations including Richmond House, City Hall and Westminster’s QEII Centre as possible sites, he said “the review should also consider a possible location outside London”.

And he added: “The government is considering establishing a government hub in York, and it would therefore make sense to consider this as possible location.”

But, in their reply to the PM, the body’s joint chief executives Sarah Johnson and David Goldstone made clear that potential temporary sites had “already been considered at great length” — and said any change in plans from those signed off in 2018 would need fresh agreement from MPs and peers.

They said: “As you have already noted, the option of locating Parliament outside London has constitutional implications, which makes this a matter for both Houses to determine rather than for our review.”

The pair added: “While the Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority are now independent bodies, we are mindful of the importance of conducting our work within the parameters set down by both Houses of Parliament including the legislation passed in 2019, and the preferred locations for the temporary chambers which have been determined by the House Commissions. 

“Accordingly, we wrote to the Speakers of both Houses to seek their views on your suggestion that an alternative location for Parliament outside London should be considered as part of our strategic review. 

“We received a response from both Speakers on 27 July in which they confirmed, in similar terms, that as the location of the Houses is a matter for Parliament, it does not form part of the Programme’s scope, and consequently would be inappropriate for us to explore further. 

“This option will not, therefore, be considered as part of the scope of the strategic review.”

The rejection of the PM’s call comes after a report by the National Audit Office warned that the costs of the restoration project are mounting.

Previous estimates have budgeted for around £4billion of spending, but the NAO said this was now likely to be a "median" figure — and that the final bill could be as high as £6 billion.

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