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MPs urge colleagues to 'get on with' full decant of Parliament

Parliament at sunset
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A full decant of the Palace of Westminster is likely to be ‘the most economical, effective and efficient choice’ for its multi-billion refurbishment, MPs have suggested

In a report published today, the Public Accounts Committee has backed the view of the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, which had already advocated a full decant.

‘The best value for money will be achieved by getting on with it,’ the report says, recommending that the House of Commons ‘swiftly proceeds to a decision-in-principle’.

It also backs a ‘two-tier delivery authority approach’ to the work – whereby the client secures the funding, and oversees the budget and the work of the delivery authority. The delivery authority is a statutory body given the power to manage the programme of work.

Such an approach, it says, would build on the examples of Crossrail and the 2012 London Olympics. The National Audit Office should be empowered to audit this delivery authority and carry out value-for-money studies, it adds.

Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier said a full decant offered the ‘best chance to keep costs down, ensure safety and complete the work on this historic building as quickly as possible’.

She added: ‘The longer the House of Commons spends mulling new or alternative options, the greater the chance that public money is wasted.

‘Clearly there are many details to be agreed, and difficult choices will need to be made as restoration and renewal progresses. Effective oversight and clear communication will be essential to its success.

‘This will not be Parliament’s last chance to scrutinise this complex and challenging project, and the Public Accounts Committee will be watching costs closely to ensure taxpayers get the best deal.’

The committee’s report states that the condition of the palace has reached a ‘critical point’, with upkeep costing between £50 million and £60 million a year.

A previous independent options appraisal (IOA) had found that a rolling programme of minimum work while the House of Commons and House of Lords remained occupied would take 32 years and cost £5.7 billion. A partial decant approach, taking around 11 years, would cost £3.9 billion for like-for-like replacement, or £4.4 billion with some modernisation of facilities.

A full decant approach, the option favoured by the Joint Committee and Public Accounts Committee, would take around six years and cost between £3.5 and £3.9 billion, depending on the scale of work carried out.

According to the IOA, delays to a decision-in-principle may add between £60 million and £85 million per year to the bill due to additional tender price inflation.

BDP, Allies and Morrison, Foster + Partners and HOK are all in the running in the main competition for the refurbishment.

The AJ understands that more than 100 MPs support a proposal that the Commons and Lords continue to sit in the Palace of Westminster, in temporary chambers elsewhere within the palace when necessary, while renovation work progresses.

The proposal is contained in amendment to a motion on the Palace of Westminster, due to be debated in the House of Commons.

Architect Anthony Delarue, a member of the RIBA-linked Traditional Architecture Group, has suggested that the Commons could meet in the Lords Chamber and that the Lords could relocate to the Royal Gallery, currently used for state receptions, dinners and parliamentary ceremonies.

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