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Parliament In Disrepair Left Vulnerable To High Energy Costs, As Bill Hits Almost £1m

Houses of Parliament (Alamy)

4 min read

Parliament’s age and disrepair has left it vulnerable to rising energy costs, a parliamentary expert has warned, after new data showed the bill for gas and electricity had already reached almost £1m for the first two months of this financial year.

Figures released to PoliticsHome under freedom of information rules show that across April and May 2023, the gas bill in Parliament was £152,661, while electricity came to £741,897, totalling £894,558 for that two month period alone. 

The last full year’s figures available and published on the Parliament website are for the financial year 2021/22, when the overall gas bill was £793,650 and electricity came to £4,598,657. 

That gas cost was a sharp increase on the two previous years, when the spend totalled £554,875 (2020/21) and £634,627 (2019/20). However, the 2020/21 financial year covered long periods of lockdown when fewer people would have been on the parliamentary estate. 

Electricity costs have fluctuated more in recent years, with a total bill of £4,815,584 in 2020/21. This was an increase on the £3,311,512 recorded in 2019/20, but closer to the £4,459,994 in 2018/19. 

The full costs for the energy bills 2022/23 financial year are due to be published in the autumn. 

Dr Ruth Fox, director of the Hansard Society told PoliticsHome that the state of the buildings in parts of Parliament, as well as it's age, means it is not especially energy efficient, and therefore particularly vulnerable to increasing energy costs, and that this demonstrates why the Restoration and Renewal programme to preserve the Palace of Westminster is so important. 

“The Palace of Westminster is an old Victorian building in a state of disrepair, so it’s inevitable that it’s going to to be hit heavily by increases in the cost of energy," she said. 

“This is one reason why the restoration of the Palace is so important, to improve the energy efficiency of the building and in circumstances like this help reduce costs.” 

The data has been provided for the whole of the parliamentary estate, which includes the Palace of Westminster – which is centuries old in parts – as well as more modern buildings such as Portcullis House, the office building which sits above Westminster tube station. 

The Restoration and Renewal programme is the work being carried out to preserve the Palace of Westminster, which contains the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as 900-year-old Westminster Hall. 

The work is overseen by both houses, after an external sponsor body that was first set up to begin the work was abolished last year. 

Among the possibilities for improving energy efficiency with the Restoration and Renewal project are tasks such as replacing equipment that is coming to the end of its lifespan with more modern alternatives that would be more efficient. 

Another possibility could be improving the thermal performance of windows in the parts of the estate that will have works done to them. Many windows are single-glazed and some in the building struggle to close properly. 

Ultimately, decisions on the go-ahead for Restoration and Renewal works are a matter for MPs and Peers. 

Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords are expected to have the next vote on how the programme can proceed at a point later this year. 

A House of Commons spokesperson told PoliticsHome: “Parliamentary authorities take energy efficiency very seriously, and have a commitment to reducing Parliament’s environmental impacts.

"Since 2008, Parliament has reduced its carbon emissions by 54 per cent and its gas consumption by 31 per cent, with consumption of electricity and gas continuing to fall as we make improvements to energy efficiency across the estate.

"We have secured a good deal for taxpayers to provide energy to the estate, through the Crown Commercial Service's Supply of Energy and Ancillary Services Framework on a fixed term.”

“We are always seeking ways to reduce our operating costs and carbon emissions across the Parliamentary Estate.

"The Restoration and Renewal programme will provide us with more opportunities in the Palace of Westminster to do this.

"The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration & Renewal) Act 2019 requires the R&R programme to have regard to the need to protect the environment and to contribute to achieving sustainable development.

"Members of both Houses agreed a more integrated approach to the future restoration of the Palace in July 2022, prioritising safety critical work. Members in both Houses are expected to vote on a strategic case later this year.”

 

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