MPs should vacate deteriorating Palace of Westminster or face “catastrophic event”

The UK’s iconic Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament, risks a possible "catastrophic event" without an urgent £4bn refurb, and MPs and Lords should move out to let builders do the job, a report warns today.

Politicians should work elsewhere for six years to allow for a comprehensive reworking of the 19th Century building’s vast network of electrical and mechanical systems, many of which date back to the 1940s and are no longer fit for purpose, a senior parliamentary committee says.

While the danger is not structural, the building "faces an impending crisis which we cannot responsibly ignore," says the report.

"It is impossible to say when this will happen, but there is a substantial and growing risk of either a single, catastrophic event, such as a major fire, or a succession of incremental failures in essential systems which would lead to Parliament no longer being able to occupy the Palace."

The report’s authors want MPs to "decant" to the nearby headquarters of the Department of Health, and for Lords to set up house in the QEII conference centre.

MPs and Lords would have to agree, but their colleagues on the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster warned them not to dither over the decision, saying work, estimated to take about six years, should start in 2023.

A delivery authority to prepare the budget should be formed, the report said. Then a detailed preparatory stage must take place to make sure plans were cost-effective.

The committee favoured a full move-out over other options, such as a partial move out, which would take 11 years and cost £4.4bn, or allowing MPs and Lords to stay, which would cost £5.7bn and take 32 years.

Most of the palace visible today was built after a major fire in 1834, but it incorporates parts of medieval buildings that survived the fire.

The report said that parts of the Palace are so riddled with water corrosion, asbestos, frail stonework and ageing electrics and wiring, that it could soon become "uninhabitable" and would be knocked down if it was not protected.

"Although the building is formally designated as a Royal Palace, those who work in it will be all too familiar with stories of flooding, power failures, fire hazards, freezing-cold rooms in the winter and boiling-hot offices in the summer," said the report’s summary.

Image: Most of the palace visible today was built after a major fire in 1834, but it incorporates parts of medieval buildings that survived the fire (DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0)

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  1. This is great opportunity to bring parliament into the 21st century.
    Westminster Palace should be demolished and replaced with a new fit for purpose building. Designed for current and future needs.
    This should include accommodation for members of parliament which in turn would stop the expenses abuse on second homes. Saving the tax payers money.
    As for the history of the building and sentimentalists small sections could be saved and displayed as a tourist attraction, creating a funding stream.
    If this was taken on board it would be cheaper and quicker to complete

  2. How can it take 6 years to design & procure ? How can it take 6 years to implement ? Somebody is trying to make a career out of this. What is the point of putting modern facilities into a skeleton that has almost crumbled away and which will, notwithstanding the imminently proposed facade repairs, continue crumbling as soon as the contractors have walked away. Notwithstanding it’s iconic image, the Palace of Westminster is a Gothic Revival mess. We should knock it down and replace it with a modern fit for purpose building with a facade designed to last 500 years. By all means continue with the current image on sauce bottles thereafter.

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