EXCL Parliament spends £600,000 of taxpayers' money on 'pop-up' debating chamber
Parliament bosses spent £600,000 testing an emergency 'pop-up' debating chamber before taking it down straight away, PoliticsHome can reveal.
The flat-pack debating room was created ready for a "short notice forced relocation" such as a fire, flood or other emergency.
The project - which took place in a secret location in central London - included the construction of a replica chamber equipped with full sound and broadcasting systems, catering facilities and makeshift voting lobbies.
It is designed to ensure parliamentary business can continue to function if one or both of the Houses of Parliament is suddenly rendered unusable.
Parliament security chief David Leakey - who steps down as Black Rod today after seven years in the job- said: “Like all responsible organisations, we need to road test our business continuity plans, in order to ensure that Parliament can maintain critical and core parliamentary business and activities.
“We have been re-developing plans for a short notice forced relocation of a chamber, together with essential supporting facilities and staff, to a number of venues, including venues local to the Palace of Westminster."
A senior Westminster source told The House Magazine that the week-long test run cost £600,000 and included 200 volunteers carrying out mock debates using parliamentary speeches from Hansard.
One insider said: "The temporary chamber constructed for this purpose will be dismantled at the end of the exercise."
They noted that the pop-up could be constructed anywhere in the country provided there was a venue with sufficient space.
“What would be the problem if, for example, the Thames Barrier didn't work and this part of London flooded - where would we go?" the source said.
"We have thought about this and we do have a plan: we have our pop-up chamber all ready in a flat pack to transport to another part of the country if necessary.”
In a press statement, Parliament explained that the alternative chamber replicates the usual appearance and activities of the Commons or Lords.
It added that the temporary chamber will be stored ready for immediate deployment and could allow the relocation of parliament for a period of up to ten weeks.