1.By 2012, it had become clear that the condition of the Palace of Westminster had reached a critical point. The House of Lords House Committee and the House of Commons Commission appointed a study group to examine options for its refurbishment. The group considered four options; continuing a programme of reactive maintenance indefinitely without a major decant, constructing a new building for Parliament with basic renovation of the Palace for alternate uses, restoration without a major decant or renovating and modernising with a planned decant and return.
2.The study group produced a ‘Pre-feasibility study and preliminary strategic business case’ on 30 October 2012, concluding that unless significant conservation work is undertaken, major, irreversible damage may be done. To protect the heritage of the Palace for future generations and ensure it can continue as the home of the UK Parliament, both Houses agreed that doing nothing was not an option, at the same time ruling out the option of a permanent move to another building. Following consideration of the 2012 study, and an agreement that the Palace of Westminster should remain Parliament’s permanent home, both Houses agreed to commission an independent options appraisal (IOA) to investigate a range of options for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster.
3.The IOA compared five scenarios which combined varying levels of scope with three different approaches to carrying out the work. The report does not recommend which scenario to choose but was designed to enable Parliament to make an informed decision on a preferred way forward. The options ranged from a do minimum gradual approach, to total restoration in a single phase approach. The key findings are set out below:
Option One (rolling programme)—Undertaking the minimum work where both Houses remained in occupation would take around 32 years. During that time both Chambers would have to close for between two to four years, at different times, but sittings could be relocated to a temporary structure elsewhere in or around the Palace. Users of the Palace would have to tolerate high levels of noise and disruption over a long period and there would be a level of risk to the continuous running of the business of Parliament. This option was seen to be the least predictable in terms of duration and cost. The order of magnitude costs (for ranking purposes) for a ‘do minimum’ outcome was £5.7 billion.
Option Two (partial decant)—Work could be accelerated if first the Commons, then the Lords, were to move to temporary accommodation outside the Palace. Security and nuisance issues would also have to be managed at the boundary between the two Houses. This approach would take around 11 years. The order of magnitude costs (for comparison purposes) were £3.9 billion. With some modernisation of facilities, above a like-for-like replacement, the order of magnitude costs were £4.4 billion.
Option Three (full decant)—Both Houses fully vacating the Palace would enable the project to be completed in the least time and would minimise disruption to Parliament from construction works. Risks to the continuous running of the business of Parliament would be greatly reduced, assuming that sufficient temporary accommodation could be found for occupants of the Palace. This approach would take around six years. The order of magnitude costs for some improvements included were £3.5 billion or, with above a like-for-like replacement, £3.9 billion.
4.Following the completion of the IOA, in 2016, a Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster was appointed to consider these options. It concluded that there was a clear and pressing need to tackle the work and to do so in a comprehensive and strategic manner to prevent catastrophic failure. The Committee concluded that the full decant of the Palace of Westminster was the best option to deliver this work. In its view, conducting the works in a single phase would allow the works to be completed in the shortest possible timeframe, would minimise the risk of disruption to the day-to-day operation of Parliament, involve the lowest capital cost, minimise the risk to safety of operatives and occupants, minimise the risk to the programme and provide the greatest scope for meeting the needs of a twenty-first century Parliament building. It concluded that regardless of the option chosen, the project would be lengthy and disruptive with a huge impact on the conduct of business of both Houses.
5.The Joint Committee also recommended a series of Objectives and Guiding Principles for the programme. It concluded that the scope of works should be extended beyond the basic do minimum option, in order to improve facilities such as public accessibility for limited marginal cost.
6.The Committee recommended that a sponsor board, including representatives from both Houses and the Government, and possibly others with a heritage or construction background, should be established to oversee the delivery of the project. This sponsor board should then appoint an arm’s-length delivery authority to manage the delivery of the programme on time, to budget and to specification.
7.The precise scope, quality, cost and design would be developed in greater detail as the programme progressed. Following this decision in principle, the project team would then develop a detailed design, a fully costed business case on the option chosen and then enter the procurement phase. The Committee recommended that the next stage of this process was for Parliament to take a decision in principle on which option to take forward. Debates expected in both Houses in early 2017 have been delayed.
1 Deloitte LLP, , September 2014, Vol 1, p. 63
2 Deloitte LLP, , September 2014, Vol 1, p. 63
3 Deloitte LLP, , September 2014, Vol 1, p. 63
4 Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, September 2016, p. 5
8 March 2017