Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster

A major refurbishment is needed to protect and preserve the heritage of the Palace of Westminster if it is to continue to serve as home to the UK Parliament in the 21st century and beyond.

In 2016, a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament concluded that “a full decant of the Palace of Westminster presents the best option under which to deliver this work”.

It is expected that Members of the 2017 Parliament will be asked to debate and approve, in principle, the decant and the establishment of a Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority to produce detailed costings.

The Delivery Authority’s proposals for restoration and renewal (R&R) of the Palace would be subject to approval from both Houses. If this work was agreed, the project would be managed by the Delivery Authority and overseen by the Sponsor Board. Andrea Leadsom MP, speaking in the Commons yesterday, said: “On restoration and renewal, the Commissions of both Houses are looking at the proposals and at what is to be done, and we hope to make some announcements in due course.”

What about leaving Westminster altogether?

In 2012, officials from both Houses reviewed the options for the long-term upkeep of the Palace. They suggested four alternative approaches. One, moving Parliament to a new purpose-built building, was ruled out by the House of Commons Commission and the House Committee of the House of Lords. No further analysis of this option has therefore been undertaken.

An Independent Options Appraisal (IOA) was then commissioned to consider alternative delivery options for the Programme. A consortium led by Deloitte Real Estate considered rolling, partial and full decant against three potential outcomes from the minimum required to more ambitious improvements.

It undertook detailed evaluation of five shortlisted scenarios and provided a summary of the likely capital expenditure of each of those five scenarios (see table 1).

Table 1: Total capital expenditure of shortlisted scenarios in the IOA

(£bn, based on a P50 confidence level, at Q2 2014 prices as reported in September 2014)

Options

Outcomes

1. Rolling decant

(25-40 years)

2. Partial decant

(9-14 years)

3. Full decant

(5-8 years)

A. ‘do minimum’ – like-for-like replacement of existing systems

£5.67billion

£3.94billion

B. make some improvements

£4.42billion

£3.52billion

C. more ambitious improvements

£3.87billion

The Consortium commented that as well as being the most expensive, a rolling decant programme was also the “least predictable in terms of cost and duration” and would have a “level of risk to the continuous running of the business of Parliament”. The full decant option was, conversely, deemed to have “greatly reduced” risks to the continuous running of Parliament.

A decision for Parliament

The two Houses established the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, chaired by the then Leaders of the two Houses, to review how best to approach the R&R Programme. In September 2016, it concluded that:

  • “a full decant of the Palace of Westminster presents the best option under which to deliver this work”;
  • Temporary accommodation in Richmond House (Department of Health) would be ideal for the House of Commons and the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre would provide the best possible accommodation for the House of Lords
  • The delivery of R&R should be overseen by a statutory Sponsor Board; and
  • An arm’s-length Delivery Authority should be given responsibility for delivering the R&R Programme.

The Joint Committee recommended that the two Houses agree a motion to start this process but stressed that once a full business case had been developed, it too would need to be approved by Parliament.

The Government announced that the initial vote would take place before Easter 2017. However, no debate was held.

It is expected that a debate will be held and a decision taken early in the new Parliament.

Is a total decant the only way?

Some Members have argued against a full decant, to ensure that the Palace remains the home of Parliament throughout the works.

In February 2017, the Public Accounts Committee took evidence from the R&R Programme and officials from other large-scale infrastructure projects. The Committee concluded that a full decant was the most economic, efficient and effective choice. It noted that delays in taking decisions added to the Programme’s costs.

However, the Treasury Committee has argued that the assumptions and conclusions of Deloitte and the Joint Committee should be thoroughly scrutinised. It recommended that the House should not commit to an option or timetable until it has done so.

Where can I find out more?

A series of FAQs have been developed which provides further details on the proposed restoration of the Palace, including what the works could mean for Members and staff. Further information is also contained in the executive summary of the Joint Committee report and on the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme website.

If you have any questions about the Restoration and Renewal Programme, please email the Programme Team.

 

Houses of Parliament Long Exposure by Rob HowardAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


“There is a clear and pressing need to tackle the work required to the Palace of Westminster and to do so in a comprehensive and strategic manner to prevent catastrophic failure in the next decade“ – Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster

Condition of the Building

Since the construction of the Palace of Westminster in the mid-1800s, many features have never undergone major renovation. The heating, ventilation, water, drainage and electrical systems are now extremely antiquated and improvements to fire safety are needed. The cumulative effects of pollution and lack of maintenance is causing extensive decay to stonework. The roofs are leaking, asbestos is present throughout, corrosion has occurred in gutters and downpipes, and internal plumbing regularly fails, causing visible and sometimes irreversible damage to the Palace’s carved stonework ceilings and Pugin-designed historic interiors.