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Wed, 29 May 2024

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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
Defence
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Westminster repair plans in chaos after parliamentary authorities scrap delivery body

Estimated costs for the repairs to the Palace of Westminster have ballooned in recent months

2 min read

MP and peers could now remain in Parliament while works are undertaken on the Palace of Westminster following a decision to scrap the sponsor body.

It was announced on Wednesday that both the Commons and Lords commissions had agreed to "replace" the Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body which had been established to deliver the project.

A House of Lords spokesperson said "further consideration" would be needed before deciding on how to proceed with the plans.

MPs and peers agreed in 2018 to plans which would have seen them decant to nearby Richmond House - the first time they would have left the chamber since the Luftwaffe bombings in 1941.

But the sponor body -  set up two years ago - reportedly prepared new estimates which would have seen costs rise to as much as £14bn and require MPs and peers to leave for 20 years.

A range of proposals was expected to be put before parliamentarians in 2023, with work expected to begin in the mid-2020s.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said Parliament would be expected to "justify to the taxpayer" the cost of repairs

The estimates came after ongoing surveys found damage to the Palace was more widespread than initially anticipated, with a spokesperson for the programme saying the detailed plans would be based on "tens of thousands of hours of building investigations."

Speaking last year, then-Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said Parliament would be expected to "justify to the taxpayer" the cost of repairs.

But following a meeting on Tuesday evening, the Lords Commission agreed with its Commons counterpart to scrap the sponsor body, saying decisions about its replacement should not be made "in haste".

In a summary of the meeting, the group said the sponsor body should "pare down" its activities with a focus on "essential work" until Parliament authorities received "independent advice and assurance" on how to proceed.

A House of Lords spokesperson said: "The House of Lords Commission is determined that the vital work to secure the future of the Palace of Westminster proceeds in a timely way that ensures the project can be delivered safely, and provide the best possible value for money," they said.

"The Commission agreed with the Commons Commission that the Sponsor Body should be replaced but not until further consideration has taken place and agreement had been reached on what should replace it. Any new proposed structure should be subject to external expert advice and assurance.

They added: "The priority for the Delivery Authority now must be to focus on delivering the planned intrusive surveys and other necessary work to enable progress to inform future decisions on the next steps."

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