Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Sir William McKay KCB, Clerk of the House of Commons and Chief Executive

  In your letter of 22 May you asked me to provide supplementary notes in response to a number of questions from Members of the Committee. These are given below: please let me know if I can be of any further help to the Committee.

Question 66

  The Kappa report does not say that things had "gone wrong" nor does it attribute costs. Question 66 asked about the costs of unduly long response times and the lack of leadership and expertise in the firms comprising the project team. There were no direct additional costs from these elements, but tightening up these areas—as we did—significantly improved control of the project, thereby enhancing the likelihood that targets would be met.

Question 73

  The lifts are padded because they are dual purpose passenger/goods lifts. They were used to carry food when the kitchen lifts contractor had work to complete. As the law requires, the decision to use the lifts was based on consideration of Health and Safety risks, balancing the risks of carrying hot food up the stairs to the courtyard against the use of the lifts. The risks were further reduced by ensuring that containers with liquid were only half filled, that the majority of food was on trolleys, and all containers were lidded or covered.

Question 77

  Buildings to meet the special needs of Parliaments are necessarily more expensive than buildings for general use, but on the basis of information available to us the cost per square metre of Portcullis House appears to represent good value when compared to other similar buildings.

  The NAO have calculated the cost of Portcullis House at 4,700 per square metre at 1992 prices. They told us that, when construction of the new Welsh Assembly building was halted in July 2001, the estimated cost had reached 47 million (31 million at 1992 prices). The area of the building is quoted to be 3,300 square metres, so the cost would equate to some 9,390 per square metre at 1992 prices. The new Scottish Parliament building is to comprise 30,600 square metres, and is currently estimated to cost some 266 million (177 million, equivalent to 5,780 per square metre at 1992 prices).

  Paragraph 3.17 of the NAO report stated that the Jakob-Kaiser Haus and Paul Löbe Haus in Berlin were expected to cost about 351 million at 1992 prices. These buildings provide a total of 110,000 square metres of space—equivalent to 3,190 per square metre.

  All parliamentary building projects are different and direct comparisons are therefore problematic; but the cost of Portcullis House does not seem excessive.

  The Committee asked for the cost per square metre of a shorter-lasting (40-50 year) building in central London. We have been advised by Quantity Surveyors that indicative costs for a standard office building in central London are of the order of 3,700 per square metre, including fitting out, furnishing, structured cabling for computers and VAT, but excluding Fees.

Question 85

  Seele Alvis could deliver the contracted design, but offered a technical solution that allowed them to revert to the concept in the original tender invitation with a price reduction of 0.6 million. In these circumstances the question of cancelling the contract did not arise.

Question 88

  The contract with Seele Alvis was signed on 8th May 1996. At that point we had a legally enforceable agreement with the company. Returning to Harmon after that stage was not, therefore, a viable option.

Question 101

  This information has been provided in response to questions 77, 85 and 88.

Question 181

  The attached table (Annex A) provides a breakdown of the latest figures.

  You also asked me to respond to a further question on Appendix 4 of the Report as to where ultimate responsibility for the Harmon errors lies. Ultimate responsibility lies, of course, with the Corporate Officer. We employed major private sector companies to advise us, but in the final analysis it was my predecessor's responsibility, and that responsibility (unlike that of government officials at the earliest stages of the project) descends to me.

Sir William McKay KCB

Clerk of the House of Commons and Chief Executive

June 2002

Annex A



Project Management/Design Team




Structural Engineer


M&E Engineer

Fenestration Engineer


Construction Manager


Project Manager


Quantity Surveyor


Specialist Designers


Catering facilities designer


Data network designer


Sound system design


Roads Engineer




Security advice


Regulatory/Statutory Requirements


Legal advice


Planning Supervisor


Building regulations approval






previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 24 July 2002