MPs split over plans for £4bn move out of parliament

Written by David Singleton on 8 September 2016 in Diary

Not every MP is up for leaving the Palace of Westminster.

Plans to move MPs and peers out of parliament for six years could be a “hard sell”, one senior figure behind the scheme admitted today.

Tina Stowell, who co-leads the joint committee on the Palace of Westminster, said the restoration and repair works were essential. But she also acknowledged that the size of the repair bill would meet some resistance.

“It is a hard sell, I absolutely accept that. It is a big decision. It is lots of money. But it is also an opportunity to preserve something that is really important to us as a nation and our identity,” she said.

The committee has recommended that MPs and peers should move out of the Parliament so that a six-year repair project, at an expected cost of approximately £4bn.

Under the proposals, a new chamber for MPs would be set up in the courtyard of Richmond House, the current home of the Department of Health. Peers would move to the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre.The work would begin in 2023.

The plans were defended by Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and spokesman for the joint committee. “All the evidence points to having to move out of the whole palace simultaneously. That is the lowest risk, most cost-effective and quickest option,” he said.

But other MPs are not convinced. It emerged today that Conservative MP John Redwood had written to the committee to some months ago to slam the plans.

He said: “I believe that the recommendation to move parliament offsite for the duration of the works is a wholly unacceptable and disproportionate proposal.

“In my view, there are sufficient access routes to key areas of the palace to allow for other sections of the building to be sealed off, while the works take place.”

SNP leader Alex Salmond also criticised the committee’s report - for failing to consider moving parliament to another city.

He said: “It does not put all options on the table. It does not consider a new-build parliament when it must scrutinise all possible options – and it is based on figures which were proposed in 2014.

“The UK government will effectively be asking taxpayers to pay a Westminster premium to crowbar a modern parliament into a Victorian building at a time of austerity when Tory policy is hitting some of the poorest in society, and political uncertainty when this UK government has no plan for the UK outside the European Union.”

Downing Street said the prime minister would consider and respond to the report, but did not set out a timescale.

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