Fri, 14 June 2024

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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
Press releases

Restoration and Renewal must deliver value for money as well as fulfilling Parliament's needs

3 min read

The Palace of Westminster sits at the heart of a UNESCO world heritage site and is a global symbol of our parliamentary democracy.

We have a responsibility as custodians of this unique part of our national heritage, pledging our support to safeguard it for future generations. We are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all those who visit and work in the Palace.

As members of the House of Commons Commission, we are tasked with finding a way forward that addresses the very real need for work to be carried out - work that must reflect the current economic realities and the imperative to ensure value for money at all times. We recognise that the debate over restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster has been longstanding – however the impact of these decisions will be with us for a long time, and we have to get them right.

The Commissions are committed to preserving the Palace and keeping the people who visit and work within it safe.

We are not in any doubt – a significant amount of work is necessary to restore and renew this international landmark.

The Commissions of both Houses have now met twice in recent months to develop proposals to reform the way in which the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster is delivered and governed. We have sought independent expert advice, and we thank everyone for their contribution to this process.

Our report, published last month, recommends bringing the responsibilities of the Sponsor Body in-house to Parliament, giving Members much greater strategic oversight of the programme. The Sponsor Body’s recent proposals for restoration and renewal were estimated to cost between £7bn and £13bn, take up to 28 years to deliver, and not starting until 2027 at the earliest. Whilst vital work is required, it must be done in a way that is sensitive to the current economic realities. Our ambition is to provide value for money, while fulfilling the needs of Members and other users of the Palace.

If the joint Commission proposals are approved by our colleagues in both Houses, it will allow a wider range of options to be developed for how the works should be carried out. We are not at this stage asking for any decision to be taken on whether the Palace should be fully vacated while work is underway, nor are we asking Members to consider budgets for the programme.

The proposed new approach means that essential works can be brought forward and delivered in tandem with ongoing maintenance and construction works across the Estate. In other words, we can quite simply get on with the job.

Our immediate priorities are that the programme of works should initially focus on priority areas, which include fire safety, building services – the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, drainage, data and communications systems, asbestos management, and conservation of the building fabric, such as the intricate stonework. 

We have been working hard to ensure that the views of Members are fully taken on board in this approach, and we have also been engaging closely with Members’ staff, House staff and other members of the Parliamentary community.

The Commissions are committed to preserving the Palace and keeping the people who visit and work within it safe. We know Members share this ambition and hope they will support the proposed changes to ensure that this precious building is preserved for the whole nation.

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