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A major refurbishment programme is needed to protect and preserve the heritage of the Palace of Westminster and ensure it can continue as the home of UK Parliament. The Restoration and Renewal Programme was established by Parliament to undertake this work. In 2019 legislation established the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body to oversee the Programme.

In 2022 a new approach to the works was proposed by the Commissions of the two Houses of Parliament and endorsed by both Houses.

A new approach to the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster

Initial estimates of the cost and duration of the Restoration and Renewal Programme were presented to the Commissions of the two Houses of Parliament in January 2022, by the programme’s Sponsor Body. It was estimated to cost £7 billion to £13 billion, taking 19–28 years, with a decant lasting 12–20 years.

The Sponsor Body was established by statute to set the strategic direction of the project, provide leadership and governance, liaise with parliamentarians and other stakeholders, monitor performance and prepare the business case for the work.

The Commissions were concerned about both the costs and duration of the programme. During 2022 they proposed, and the two Houses endorsed, a new approach to undertaking the work.

The Sponsor Body was abolished and its functions were transferred to the Corporate Officers (the Clerks) of the two Houses. Staff of the Sponsor Body were transferred to a new joint department of the two Houses, to support the Corporate Officers in their new functions.

Both Houses also endorsed a proposal from the two Commissions that they, meeting as a Client Board, would be “responsible for making critical strategic choices and recommendations relating to the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster”.

The Client Board was to be advised by a separate Programme Board, comprising members of both Houses, officials and independent members with relevant expertise in major programmes.

The two Commissions’ proposals were set out in a joint report, Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster – a new mandate (PDF), from June 2022. Both Houses endorsed the recommendations in July 2022.

The two Houses were subsequently asked to approve a statutory instrument that abolished the Sponsor Body and transferred its functions to the Corporate Officers of the two Houses of Parliament. The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body (Abolition) Regulations 2022 came into force on 1 January 2023.

Development and assessment of new options

Following Parliament’s agreement for a new approach to the Restoration and Renewal Programme, the Delivery Authority (the body responsible for undertaking the restoration and renewal work) began “taking forward a wide range of options for the new approach to the works” (PDF).

In their annual progress report on Restoration and Renewal, published in July 2023, the Corporate Officers of the two Houses summarised how the Delivery Authority approached the task of developing new options:

The Delivery Authority has developed a wide range of options for restoration and renewal of the Palace which set out various methods of restoring the Palace as well as a spectrum of levels of ambition for the outcomes that could be achieved. Six outcome levels for the scope of works (the ‘what’) were developed alongside six representative construction scenarios (the ‘how’). Combining each of the outcome levels with each of the construction scenarios has led to the production of thirty-six delivery options.

The shortlisted options

At its meeting on 20 June 2023, the Programme Board agreed that the two Houses should be presented with two construction options (PDF). One would involve a decant of the Palace of Westminster and the other would allow a continued presence. The shortlist it recommended to the Client Board was:

  • a full decant and phased return (Construction Scenario C)
  • a continuous presence option, “under which the House of Commons Chamber would remain within the Palace, but may temporarily be required to sit in the Lords Chamber (subject to the Lords agreement)” (Construction Scenario F)

Under both construction scenarios, the same outcome would be delivered: which had been agreed at the Programme Board’s meeting on 5 June 2023 (PDF).

In his foreword to the Quarterly Report: Restoration and Renewal of the Houses of Parliament, covering July to September 2023 (PDF), Nigel Evans, the Chair of the Programme Board, wrote:

… we unanimously agreed to shortlist one outcome level with delivery through two potential construction scenarios – one “full decant” option where both Houses move out of the Palace at the same time (with one House, assumed to be the Commons, prioritised for return) and one “continued presence” option where the House of Commons Chamber business would remain in the Palace. In doing so we considered speed, safety, and value for money.

In July 2023 the Client Board endorsed the Programme Board’s recommended shortlist of the two delivery options. The Client Board also “requested that a fallback option of enhanced maintenance and improvement forms part of further detailed design work on these options to inform a decision on the preferred way forward in due course”.

At its meeting in November 2023, the Client Board asked parliamentary officials for a more comprehensive description of work on the ‘enhanced maintenance and improvement’ option so that when MPs consider the costed proposals they have more information.

Temporary accommodation

On 20 June 2023, the Programme Board “provisionally agreed that the QEII Conference Centre remains the preferred decant location for the House of Lords” (PDF). The conference centre is close to the Palace of Westminster on Broad Sanctuary.

At its meeting on 24 October 2023, the Programme Board agreed that Richmond House should be recommended to the Client Board as the preferred location for any House of Commons temporary Chamber for the full decant delivery option (PDF).

The Programme Board also agreed that temporary accommodation on the northern part of the parliamentary estate to support a contingency House of Commons Chamber should be considered for the continued presence delivery option.

Further information on the R&R Programme

Previous Library research 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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