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Parliamentary Authorities Investigating Burst Glass Ceiling In MPs' Office Building

Portcullis House (Alamy)

4 min read

Parliamentary authorities have launched an investigation after a glass ceiling panel collapsed, causing gallons of water to fall from the roof into a crowded communal area of Portcullis House on Tuesday.

Portcullis House, built in the 1990s, is a modern section of the parliamentary estate. It is where a number of MPs have their offices. Its central atrium, where the incident took place, is busy with MPs, parliamentary staff and media working in the buildings holding meetings or using adjacent catering facilities. 

Part of the atrium has now been cordoned off where water pooled, and shards of the glass ceiling panel were scattered. 

“Teams are currently attending to an issue with the atrium roof in Portcullis House," a House of Commons spokesperson said. 

“The central part of the atrium has been cordoned off, with additional safety mitigations implemented to allow us to continue our investigations. 

“Committee meetings are still scheduled to take place, with amended access routes. 

“Catering facilities remain open."

“Just another normal day in our very fit for purpose Parliament,” Labour MP Charlotte Nichols tweeted.

Mirror journalist, Mikey Smith, tweeted that people had been moved from under the glass ceiling "for fear of falling shards" after the "about a gallon" of water had fallen through. 

Restoration and Renewal plans, which look at the Palace of Westminster parts of Parliament, have been stalled since the project was taken back in house by Parliamentarians in 2022. 

In 2018 both MPs and peers agreed to plans known as a “full decant”, with everyone leaving the palace and the Commons moving to Richmond House, the department for health and social care’s former offices on Whitehall, while the Lords would be based in the QE2 conference centre on the other side of Parliament Square.

An external sponsor body was set up to begin the work, but last year MPs decided to abolish it in favour of creating the new Restoration and Renewal Programme, bringing it back under the auspices of the Commissions of both Houses.

In April, PoliticsHome reported that a parliamentary expert had said staff could be the ones to face charges should somebody be killed by an incident such as a fire or falling brickwork before the Palace of Westminster is fixed. 

Dr Ruth Fox of the Hansard Society told The Rundown podcas that "If the place does burn down, or somebody is killed by falling masonry, it's not the MPs who are going to be up in court on charges of corporate manslaughter, it's going to be the Clerks of both Houses," she said. 

“They're the corporate officers, and I think they're incredibly courageous - if I can use that phrase - to accept this burden of responsibility when ultimately, it's the MPs who are running the direction of this.”

Dr Ruth Fox, director of the Hansard Society, told PoliticsHome that the incident "demonstrates that the problems are not just in the main building" of Parliament. 

She added: "Questions about the cost and the length of time the work to restore parliament is taking is critical.

"But this is our national legislature and for parliamentarians, for staff, and for the public coming into the buildings it needs to be a safe environment and incidents like this undermine the perception of the institution as a  safe workplace and a safe place to visit. 

"They need to tackle the problems and come up with a plan as soon as possible, and kicking it into the long grass again, is not an option." 

 

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