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Preparing for restoration and renewal

A major refurbishment programme 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 2018, both Houses of Parliament agreed the work was necessary and that it should be overseen by a statutory Sponsor Body and undertaken by a separate Delivery Authority.

The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019 set up the two bodies and defined their roles and governance arrangements. The Sponsor Body includes MPs, members of the House of Lords and external members. There must be more parliamentary members than external members.

The Act requires that before building work on the Palace can begin, the two Houses have to approve a scheme prepared by the Sponsor Body and the funding for the scheme.

Concern about the programme

In January 2022, the Commissions of the House of Lords and the House of Commons received an initial assessment of the cost and schedule of the Restoration and Renewal project (PDF) from the Sponsor Body.

The House of Commons Commission expressed concern about the cost and schedule presented in the initial assessment (PDF), estimated to be £7 to 13 billion. The House of Lords Commission expressed concern about the potential overall length of the decant period (PDF) and asked for options to shorten it to be explored. The House of Commons Commission suggested replacing the Sponsor Body with a new department of both Houses.

In February 2022, the Lords Commission agreed to replace the Sponsor Body (PDF), subject to advice being taken on what should replace it.

In March 2022, the two Commissions met jointly and agreed to seek independent advice and assurance on a different approach to the Restoration and Renewal (R&R) Programme.

In a joint statement, the Commissions confirmed their commitment to preserve the Palace of Westminster. They set out the parameters that would guide their new approach.

A new approach: The Client Team

On 14 June 2022, the House of Lords Commission and the House of Commons Commission published a joint report, Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster – a new mandate (PDF). It set out their proposals for a new mandate for the R&R Programme and a new governance structure to oversee the programme definition phase.

The two Commissions concluded that the Sponsor Body should be abolished and replaced by a joint department of both Houses (the Client Team). The head of the Client Team would report to the Clerks of the two Houses of Parliament.

It would be overseen by a Client Board – the two Commissions meeting together – and a Programme Board, drawn from the Commissions, senior managers in both Houses and independent members with appropriate expertise.

The governance framework will be in place while the project is developed but a different governance structure may be required when the works are taking place.

The two Commissions also agreed that the new programme of works should be designed for uncertainty. It should also be better integrated into existing work on the structure and maintenance of the Palace.

A Review Team was appointed to advise and provide assurance on options for replacing the Sponsor Body and the new approach to the works. It endorsed the parameters the two Commissions published in March. But it recommended that a clear long-term vision of the “end-state” of the programme and further evaluation criteria should be developed.

The end-state vision should not be completely fixed but it should allow for periodic review of the project.

Decisions for the two Houses

The existing statutory framework has not yet been altered. The two Commissions are recommending to the Lords and Commons that their new approach to the programme is adopted and that the Sponsor Body functions are brought in-house. The Sponsor Body oversees the R&R Programme. It includes a small staff team and the Sponsor Board, which includes parliamentarians, setting the strategic direction of the Sponsor Body.

The Leader of the House of Commons has tabled a motion that seeks the House of Commons’ endorsement of the Commissions’ recommendations (PDF). It also approves the establishment of a new joint department to take on the Sponsor Body functions.

If the motion is approved, secondary legislation will be required to abolish the Sponsor Body and transfer its functions to the new joint department.

Further information on the R&R Programme

Previous Library briefings provide more detail on the background to the R&R Programme; the passage of the legislation that established the current governance framework; and the developments that have taken place since the Act was passed:

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