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

Legislating for Restoration and Renewal

Early in 2018 both House of Commons and the House of Lords endorsed the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster that a full decant would be the best and most cost-effective way of delivering the Restoration and Renewal (R&R) Programme; and that the Programme should be overseen by a statutory Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority.

In July 2018, the composition of the Shadow Sponsor Board was announced. The Board would operate in shadow form until the necessary legislation was passed.

Also in July 2018, Andrea Leadsom the Leader of the House of Commons announced that legislation to establish the Sponsor Board and the Delivery Authority would be published in draft.

The Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill was published on 18 October 2018. In a Written Statement, published on the same day, Andrea Leadsom said that the draft Bill:

… seeks to establish the statutory bodies that will be responsible for the restoration and renewal works within the Parliamentary estate, giving effect to the resolutions passed by Parliament earlier this year. …

The Bill will establish the governance structure within which those bodies will operate. The bodies will have the capacity and capability to make strategic decisions on the Restoration and Renewal Programme, so that the Palace of Westminster can be secured as the UK Parliament for future generations.

On 23 October 2018, the House of Lords agreed that a joint committee should be appointed to consider the draft Bill. The House of Commons agreed on 26 November and appointed six members to serve on the Joint Committee. The House of Lords agreed its six members on 29 November.

Recommendations on Restoration and Renewal to the two Houses

The Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster’s report, Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster, was published on 8 September 2016.

The Committee concluded that “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. We have also concluded that, in principle, a full decant of the Palace of Westminster presents the best option under which to deliver this work”.

The Committee recommended the text of a motion on which its report should be debated. The motion called for its report to be agreed. It would trigger the next stages in the process of the Restoration and Renewal (R&R) Programme, including the establishment of a Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority by legislation (and shadow bodies, in the meantime); and authorise the development of a fully costed business case for a full decant of the Palace of Westminster. The proposals for R&R made by the Delivery Authority would be subject to approval by both Houses.

Debating R&R

The Government scheduled a half-day debate on R&R on 31 January 2018. The Government tabled a general motion for debate and two motions to provide a choice of decisions.

One motion (Restoration and Renewal (No 1)) called for funding to “facilitate essential work to the services in this Parliament” and agreed to review the need for comprehensive works before the end of the Parliament. In line with the Joint Committee report, the other motion (Restoration and Renewal (No 2)) provided for the establishment of a Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority to take forward R&R. However, unlike the Joint Committee’s recommendation, the motion provided that first these bodies would have to analyse three options of full decant; partial decant; and retaining a parliamentary foothold in the Palace during a full decant. An amendment, made to the first motion, allowed the House to endorse the Joint Committee’s recommendation that there should be a full decant of the Palace of Westminster and that the work should be overseen by a Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority.

Previously, a general debate on R&R was held in Westminster Hall on 25 January 2017.

Further inquiries

Since the Joint Committee reported, both the Treasury Committee and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have reported on Restoration and Renewal.

In a preliminary report, published on 17 March 2017, setting out aspects of the project it wished to review, the Treasury Committee concluded by calling for the House to delay committing to an option or timetable until the Treasury Committee had completed its inquiry. The Treasury Committee did not take any evidence on R&R.

In its report – Delivering Restoration and Renewal (10 March 2017) – the PAC concluded that a full decant was the most economic, efficient and effective choice and recommended “without hesitation” that the House should swiftly decide in principle to decant from the Palace. It endorsed the two-tier delivery authority approach and reiterated that much more analysis was required before a final decision was made. (The amendment, agreed on 31 January 2018 was moved by the Committee’s Chair, Meg Hillier.)

How were the options developed?

Internal review

In 2012, the Management Boards of both Houses commissioned an internal review of previous documentation on modernising the building service of the Palace of Westminster that also set out a preliminary business case for a general modernisation of the Palace.

The Internal Review, Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster: Pre-Feasibility Study and Preliminary Strategic Business Case (October 2012), 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. They agreed to commission an independent cost appraisal of the remaining three options:

  1. Option 1 – continuing repairs and replacement of the fabric and systems of the Palace over an indefinite period of time.
  2. Option 2 – a defined, rolling programme of more substantial repairs and replacement over a long period, but still working around continued use of the Palace.
  3. Option 3 – scheduling the works over a more concentrated period with parliamentary activities moved elsewhere to allow unrestricted access to the Palace for the delivery of the works.

Independent Options Appraisal

The IOA, Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme Independent Options Appraisal (September 2014, published in June 2015), considered these options and mapped them against three outcomes:

  • Outcome Level A: the ‘do minimum’ option of like-for-like replacement of existing systems;
  • Outcome Level B: would provide scope to make some improvements to the building;
  • Outcome Level C: would provide for more ambitious improvements.

It subjected five of the nine possible scenarios to detailed evaluation, estimating the possible costs of each scenario:

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)

Scenario E1A: A rolling programme of works and local decant, with minimal outcome level (meeting all legislation and building policy)                £5.67bn

Scenario 2A: A partial decant, with minimal outcome level (meeting all legislation and building policy)                                                                    £3.94bn

Scenario 2B: A partial decant, with enhanced amenities and functions over and above meeting legislation and building policy                                  £4.42bn

Scenario 3B: A full decant, with enhanced amenities and functions over and above meeting legislation and building policy                                          £3.52bn

Scenario 3C: A full decant, with significantly enhanced amenities and functions over and above meeting legislation and building policy                  £3.87bn

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

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