Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster Contents

3Delivery option

How the work should be delivered

77.The IOA assessed three possible delivery options for conducting the R&R Programme, ranging from a rolling programme of works, to partial decant, to a full decant of the Palace of Westminster. For each of these delivery options the IOA estimated the likely duration of the Programme according to a number of different probability, or confidence, levels. Table 3 outlines the three delivery options and their estimated durations.

Table 3: Delivery options included in the IOA

Delivery Option


Likely schedule (based on a P10–P90 confidence level)

E1 (enabled)

A rolling programme of phased works over a significantly prolonged period of years but still working around the continued use of the Palace of Westminster. This could include the adoption of longer Parliamentary recesses, over many years.

Construction schedule would be in the range of 25–40 years (P10-P90), with 32 years being the most likely (P50).


A programme incorporating a partial decant of the Palace of Westminster with each House moving in turn to temporary accommodation, and closure to Members and the public of broadly half the Palace of Westminster in turn for a prolonged period.

Construction schedule would be in the range of 9–14 years (P10-P90), with 11 years being the most likely (P50).


A programme incorporating a full decant of the Palace of Westminster and an associated programme of works necessary to deliver the restoration and renewal of the Palace.

Construction schedule would be in the range of 5–8 years (P10-P90), with 6 years being the most likely (P50).

Source: Deloitte LLP, Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme Independent Options Appraisal, September 2014, Volume 1, pp 5, 11

78.The original Option 1, which was included at the request of the two Houses, assumed a rolling programme of works under current Parliamentary constraints (such as the usual lengths of recesses and working to currently agreed levels of disruption to the work of both Houses). This was ruled out at an early stage of the analysis because it would not be able to meet the programme objectives. In order to keep open an option which involved a rolling programme of works, an ‘enabled’ Option 1 (E1A) was therefore developed which would include the acceptance, by both Houses, of many years of significant nuisance and noise and longer Parliamentary recesses. This option would involve different parts of the building, including both Chambers, being vacated and then re-occupied as the works progressed, with the building of temporary structures in the courtyards and other open spaces within the footprint of the Palace. Option E1A also assumes that alternative Chambers would have to be available off-site in the event of a recall during a recess.64


79.As described in Chapter 1, the IOA estimated the possible costs of the R&R Programme under a range of scenarios, each combining an outcome level with a delivery option. Table 4 gives a brief summary of the likely capital expenditure of each scenario, broken down into various sub-categories.

Table 4: 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

Scenario 2A

Scenario 2B

Scenario 3B

Scenario 3C

Definition of scenario

A rolling programme of works and local decant, with minimal outcome level (meeting all legislation and building policy)

A partial decant, with minimal outcome level (meeting all legislation and building policy)

A partial decant, with enhanced amenities and functions over and above meeting legislation and building policy

A full decant, with enhanced amenities and functions over and above meeting legislation and building policy

A full decant, with significantly enhanced amenities and functions over and above meeting legislation and building policy

Construction works






Construction delivery






Programme management


















Sub-total (excluding Decant)












Sub-total (including VAT)






Decant / reoccupation






Total (£bn) (including Decant)






Source: Deloitte LLP, Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme Independent Options Appraisal, September 2014, Volume 1, p 63

80.As a Committee, we have not simply taken these figures at face value, and we have spent a lot of time interrogating and challenging these numbers. We have also looked at the breakdown of the different sub-categories, in order to assess what the true cost to the taxpayer might be of each of the scenarios. As a result of that work, we note several caveats about the costs published in the IOA.

81.First, it is important to stress that the figures quoted in the IOA are not budgets for the Programme. They are high-level estimates of the broad orders of magnitude which each scenario might cost. Each scenario was modelled using several different confidence, or probability, levels which therefore led to a range of possible costs and programme durations for each scenario. The figures for capital expenditure, shown in Table 4, were based on a P50 confidence level within the estimated ranges (in effect, this means that there is a 50% chance that the costs might be lower, and a 50% chance that the costs might be higher). It is not possible to set a precise budget for the Programme at this stage. As part of further feasibility work it will be imperative, therefore, that a thorough business case should be prepared, balancing costs against value in order to assess and validate the preferred options in more detail. The establishment of a Delivery Authority, overseen by a Sponsor Board (see Chapter 5), will be an essential enabler of this process. Once the Delivery Authority has developed more detailed plans, it would then be right for Parliament to be invited to approve the concept design and corresponding budget for the Programme (further details on the future governance of the Programme are outlined in Chapter 5).

82.Secondly, Table 4 contains several sub-categories of cost which many people would not necessarily include in the true cost of renovating the Palace of Westminster. While it is correct, from an accounting point of view, to include these costs, they do not necessarily represent the real cost to the taxpayer. For example, VAT is returned to the Treasury, so does not represent a net cost to the Exchequer. Nor does inflation represent a genuine outgoing, except insofar as construction cost inflation generally exceeds the Retail Price Index.

83.Thirdly, the estimated decant costs in the IOA provide a broad estimate of the costs which might be incurred in acquiring and fitting out temporary accommodation for the period of the R&R Programme. For Delivery Option 1A, this was based on the use of temporary structures within the Palace precincts (in courtyards, for example). For Delivery Options 2 and 3, it was based on the freehold acquisition of one or two hypothetical buildings. If, as we propose later in this report, it is possible to use buildings which are already in public ownership, then there would be minimal cost to the public purse in acquiring them (although the costs of those buildings might fall to Parliament rather than the Government). In paragraphs 148-193 we explore the possible options for temporary accommodation in more detail.

84.Fourthly, the figures attributed as “risk” in the IOA are contingencies to allow for changes to the budget as a result of unforeseen changes to the Programme’s scope, delivery or schedule. Expert witnesses have told us that with large, complex programmes, it is sensible to include a large allocation for risk at the beginning of a programme. Given that Parliament is still only in the very early stages of its R&R Programme, the IOA makes a large allocation for “risk” as part of its overall capital expenditure calculations. However, it is likely that the risk allowance will fall as the Programme progresses, and the degree of uncertainty about the scope of the Programme falls.

85.Finally, it is important to consider the cost of the R&R Programme in the light of the ongoing maintenance costs of the Palace of Westminster (shown in Table 5). When a budget for the R&R Programme is set, we would expect this to include all repair and renovation costs for the period of the Programme, so Parliament would not be spending additional money on renovation during those years.

Table 5: Annual expenditure on repair, renovation and restoration of the Palace of Westminster

Financial Year

















£48.7m (provisional, subject to audit)

Source: Written answer by Sir Paul Beresford on 15 June 2015 (1774)

86.In Chapter 6 we set out some of the next steps for the Restoration and Renewal Programme. As part of those next steps, detailed specifications and timetables for the Programme will need to be developed. Once those plans have been refined, detailed budgets will also need to be calculated, which Parliament will be invited to approve in due course.

Why is the Palace of Westminster so expensive to renovate?

87.As part of our deliberations, we considered why the projected costs in the IOA were so much higher than for other, comparable projects. The IOA references the cost of the R&R Programme against 14 comparator projects, including the conversion of Middlesex Guildhall into the UK Supreme Court, two projects at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the refurbishment of Manchester Town Hall.65 It also tested the schedule and risk against other major projects at a similarly early level of programme maturity.66 The IOA noted that while the choice of reference projects allows comparison to be made with different elements of the R&R Programme, there is no single building or project that can provide a valid comparison to the Palace of Westminster.

88.It is important to understand why the projected costs of the R&R Programme are not directly comparable to other projects. Most of the additional cost is attributable to the complexity of the M&E work. The M&E plant in the Palace is highly complex, supporting both cultural and institutional functions. The building’s large and mobile population means that every space has to have heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems which are capable of dealing with a high peak capacity. The reference buildings typically have a less dense and more evenly distributed population, or a single space (such as an auditorium) with a high population density. Parliament’s extensive network of broadcasting equipment—more than 100 cameras and 800 microphones across 33 locations across the whole of the Parliamentary Estate (all routed through the Palace)67—is probably unique outside the world of professional broadcasting. The building has 12 kitchens serving numerous outlets (which it would be possible to rationalise under the Programme). The Palace is also a hub for M&E services which link to other buildings (security, data, annunciator and broadcast systems), which will have to be protected, diverted and kept live during the works in order to ensure continued service to operational buildings elsewhere on the Parliamentary Estate.

89.The site is large and complex, and moving equipment and materials around it will be a challenge. For example, there are only a few access points to the basements, and many of the internal corridors are narrow. Heritage items which remain in situ during the works will have to be protected both from physical damage and from fluctuations in temperature and humidity. In addition, the security requirements of the Palace significantly add to the financial and logistical problems inherent in the Programme. Even with the building fully vacated, special security measures will be required.

90.Another contributing factor is that the Palace of Westminster is exceptional in terms of the proportion of high-quality areas as a percentage of the total floor area, and in the quality of its decoration. It is highly compartmentalised, which means there is a high proportion of internal walls—most of them with high quality finishes—in relation to floor area. Finally, the sheer size and complexity of the Palace of Westminster means that it is not directly comparable to a single building in an easily accessible site. Instead, the Palace is a collection of various buildings within a secured and constrained site.

91.The Palace of Westminster is not, therefore, directly comparable to many other historic buildings such as cathedrals, Oxbridge colleges or stately homes.

International comparisons

92.While there is no direct comparator to the Palace of Westminster, it is worth noting that the Palace of Westminster is not the only parliamentary building in the world undergoing major renovation work. Over the past few years, the R&R Programme Team has been in contact with a number of other Parliaments who are in the process of restoring their buildings in order to gather ideas and to share lessons learned. Four of the parliamentary programmes researched by the Programme Team (in Canada, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland) are being driven by the need to replace infrastructure, in a similar way to the R&R Programme.

93.In Canada, refurbishment has begun on several 19th and early 20th Century buildings on the parliamentary estate in Ottawa, involving the future relocation of both Chambers to temporary accommodation.68 In the Netherlands, the group of buildings known as the Binnenhof, where Parliament is located, now need major restoration. In this case, it is proposed that all of the buildings should be closed at the same time in order to complete the work more quickly, requiring the relocation of both Houses of Parliament.69 Austria is also engaged in a similar programme of works, with a full decant of its 19th Century Parliament building being planned from 2017.70 Finally, in Finland, the Parliament building is currently closed for a major refurbishment, scheduled to finish in 2017.71

94.There are a number of other parliamentary renovation programmes which provide useful comparators and the R&R Programme Team is continuing to liaise with officials in other countries. Furthermore, parliamentary officials are also gathering information and assimilating lessons learned from the construction of new parliamentary buildings in the United Kingdom, including the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and Portcullis House.

Advantages and disadvantages of each of the delivery options

95.One of the key tasks we set ourselves was to assess, at a high level, the preferred approach for delivering the work. We have worked closely with the Programme Team in order to assess the viability of each of the delivery options, as well as to analyse and investigate the potential impact that each delivery option would have on the work of Parliament, its Members, staff and those who visit the building. Each of the delivery options involves some kind of compromise and choosing between them inevitably involves weighing up various conflicting demands. Further feasibility work will be required by the Delivery Authority in order to validate our conclusions and to make the necessary arrangements for temporary accommodation. However, based on the extent of our work so far and the evidence available to us, in this section we set out some of the advantages and disadvantages of each of the delivery options and outline our rationale for what we see at this point to be the preferred option.

Schedule and cost

96.Given the pressing need for the work, it would clearly be sensible to tackle the work by the quickest and most effective means possible, while still allowing the business of Parliament to continue with minimal disruption. In terms of schedule alone, the IOA concluded that full decant (Option 3) would deliver the Programme in the shortest time, partial decant (Option 2) would take significantly longer, and the rolling programme of works (Option 1) would be the longest option.72 There are various reasons for this: full decant provides maximum flexibility in scheduling and sequencing the works, it demands no compromises between the needs of the contractors and the needs of a working Parliament, and it does not entail the installation of the substantial, temporary M&E plant which would be required to keep all or part of the building operational under Options 1 and 2.

97.When it comes to cost, the IOA outlines projected ranges of costs in a variety of formats, and the ranking of each of the options will inevitably be affected by the assumptions made and the calculations used. As a Committee, we have spent a great deal of time scrutinising the figures contained within the IOA, and questioning the consortium which produced the IOA. In particular, we questioned why the IOA focuses so much on cost, rather than value.

98.The IOA was not able to attribute cash values to some of the potential benefits of the Programme (for example, improvements to access and circulation around the building) and so could only calculate the Net Present Cost of the various options, rather than the Net Present Value. It is worth noting that the IOA consortium did ask Parliament for such values on the potential benefits, but the R&R Programme Team were, understandably, not able to ascribe such values at the point of the IOA. This is because ascribing such values would inevitably be a subjective task and one for the politicians in both Houses, not officials. So, once both Houses have considered this report, a full and thorough business case will be developed in which the potential benefits of the Programme (outlined in this report) will be calculated and taken into consideration.

99.The IOA concluded, however, that the capital cost of the R&R Programme would be “most significantly impacted” by the selected delivery option and the overall duration of the Programme, rather than by the outcome level.73 In other words, it is how we choose to deliver the Programme, rather than what work we decide to do (beyond the necessary minimum) which has the greatest impact on capital cost. While none of the figures in the IOA should be taken as actual budgets, of all the scenarios costed within the IOA those involving a full decant (Delivery Option 3) were clearly projected to have the lowest capital cost, as well as to provide the greatest opportunity to achieve benefits.

Figure 7: Capital expenditure of scenarios E1A, 2B and 3B

Bar chart showing capital expenditure for three different scenarios

This bar chart illustrates the capital expenditure of scenarios E1A, 2B and 3B, based on a P50 confidence level and the most likely programme duration. Capital cost differentials between scenarios are principally influenced by the delivery option and not by the outcome level.

Source: Deloitte LLP, Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme Independent Options Appraisal, September 2014, Volume 1, pp 10, 18

Feasibility: risks to the Programme

100.One of the major issues which we examined throughout out inquiry was the feasibility of each of the delivery options. The expert witnesses we heard from gave us a clear steer that it would be far more feasible to conduct the works safely and securely if the building were fully vacated. Mr Nick Mead, President of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), told us that keeping part of the building operational throughout the works would be a significant challenge which would slow the programme down considerably. He noted that, because the M&E services in the Palace were not fully charted, it would not be possible for engineers to tackle repairs in one area with any certainty that they would not affect services in other parts of the building. Previous experience working with old buildings had shown that it was often easier to “know that everything was coming out, rather than just trying to do bits and pieces.”74

101.Mr David Hirst, Chair of the Management Panel at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), told us that Delivery Option 3 had clear advantages over the other two options:

“Emptying the building and allowing the investigation works to be carried out, and providing clear access to a range of contractors over a period of time to do the works, offers the best, simplest and lowest-risk option. It is not without risk—there are still significant risks with that option—but it is the most straightforward option.”75

He added that Option 2 (partial decant) would be “a very complex activity to manage” and that it would be more expensive as a result. He thought that it would be very difficult to see the end of Delivery Option E1 (a rolling programme).76 The ICE also felt that the timescale and disruption associated with Option 1 meant that there was “a high risk of it being abandoned after a few years.” 77

102.Another matter of concern to witnesses was the management of asbestos-related risks, which CIBSE described as a “critical precursor to providing full and safe access” to the M&E services. The ability to do this work safely would be a “compelling consideration” when deciding between Delivery Option 2 and 3.78 Mr Hugh Feilden, Chair of the Conservation Advisory Group at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), also emphasised the asbestos problem:

“As soon as you open up a void and find asbestos, you have to stop everything, tent up and make it safe. If you are doing it bit by bit, that really slows the process down and accelerates and increases the disruption, and you may find yourself doing that again and again, because asbestos is not the only nasty substance around. That is why I personally would recommend going for an option of partial or full decant—simply to have operational effectiveness.”79

103.CIBSE concluded that, although finding enough decant space to enable a full decant of the Palace would be a significant challenge,

“The restoration of the Palace of Westminster is a massive undertaking, which can only sensibly be undertaken on a whole building scale. The additional complexities and uncertainties of a phased refurbishment would create a very significant potential for cost overruns and delays of time. Given the uncertainty around the precise state of the Palace, and the state of the building services, any contract for phased restoration and refurbishment would contain significant elements of contingency.

To minimise this risk the joint committee should obtain the agreement of parliament as a whole to vacate the whole site for the duration of the refurbishment. This is the only sensible, realistic engineering approach to the project. It may create challenges for parliamentarians, but if this is to be a proper refurbishment which addresses decades of decay and arguably false economy to deliver a parliament building fit for the 21st century at good value to the electorate who are funding it, then it needs to be a systematic, whole building, whole life approach.”80

Feasibility: disruption to the work of Parliament

104.As well as risks to the Programme, Options 1 and 2 also present a significant risk to the smooth running of Parliament. Under Option 1, the Programme would run to such a slow timetable that there would be a high risk of existing plant failing before it could be reached in the sequence of works. In the words of the IOA,

“Delivery Option E1 provides the slowest rate of operational risk reduction given the piecemeal nature of the delivery of the Programme, with the greatest potential residual risk of a catastrophic event such as fire or flood as a result of life expired services, fabric and structure.”81

105.In this sense at least, Option 1 has little to recommend it over doing nothing, since it would involve living with the current risk for many, many years. While scenario E1A might be superficially attractive, the IOA concluded that it would bring with it “the longest overall schedule duration with high levels of delivery risk … over a protracted period stretching into decades”.82

106.Delivery Option 2 would be little better. It would still mean living with the outdated and antiquated M&E systems for a prolonged period of time, with the ever increasing risk that there may be a catastrophic failure at any point. Coupled with this would be the extreme inconvenience and disruption of working alongside a busy construction site for over a decade.

107.Judging the level of disruption likely caused to Parliament under each of the delivery options is difficult. Factors like noise, vibration and other inconvenience—certain routes around the building being closed for prolonged periods, for example, or loss of access to offices and amenities—are difficult to predict and even more difficult to quantify. Some argue that it will be essential to retain some sort of presence within the Palace of Westminster throughout the Programme and, during our informal discussions, Members of both Houses have indicated to us that they would be willing to tolerate increased levels of disruption during the works.

108.However, the degree of disruption that would be involved in continuing to operate a Parliament within a busy construction site cannot be overstated. Delivery Option E1, which would entail Parliament staying within the Palace of Westminster, would involve a significant amount of disturbance to the work of both Houses. In particular, it would mean both Chambers having to be relocated elsewhere in the Parliamentary Estate for between two to four years each, at separate points in the Programme. This would mean that a temporary structure would be required within the precincts for up to eight years, for occupation by one or other House. The challenges of trying to run an effective Chamber under such conditions are significant, and it would be difficult to see how adequate provision could be made for the essential procedural offices which need to surround the Chamber, as well as for the press and the public who would need continued access to the temporary Chamber. Furthermore, there would be significant security and safety risks to overcome if either House was to stay on site during the works.

109.Option E1 would also involve a continuous sliding-block puzzle of decant and reoccupation as the works progressed around the building. It is worth contemplating what this would mean in reality: constant, loud noise and vibration from drilling and hammering, and from the operation of heavy machinery; loss of circulation routes around the building; loss of car parking spaces; loss of natural light, of lavatories, of catering facilities, of committee rooms, of meeting space; the ever-present risk that somebody will slice through the wrong pipe or wire, cutting off power, water, heating or ventilation; increased activations of the fire alarm; traffic congestion around the building site; and risks to the safety of occupants. If, and only if, Parliament were willing to tolerate that degree of disruption, and the works did not end up being abandoned part way through, then the Programme could probably be brought to a conclusion around the middle of the Century (though it is unlikely that a majority of the current occupants of the building would be there to see the work finished).

110.Delivery Option 2, meanwhile, could turn out to combine the worst of all options. It would involve a lot of the disruption and inconvenience of Option 1, with the House remaining in situ having to operate around a busy and highly complex building site in the other half of the building. In addition to this, Parliament would still have to acquire and fit-out temporary accommodation for one House first, and then for the other House afterwards, without the advantage of keeping the two Houses co-located. It is important to note that it would not just be the Chamber that would be relocated under this scenario, but all the offices, services, and staff from that House, which would need accommodating in temporary accommodation as well. During the period of the works the two Houses would be physically separated, with access to the remaining House probably severely hampered due to the construction site operating alongside.

111.An alternative scenario for Option 2 proposed by some Members was that the House of Commons should remain on site throughout, occupying one half of the building at a time, while the House of Lords moved to temporary accommodation for the entire period of the Programme. However, this scenario too would be far from ideal. For the House of Commons, it would mean MPs with offices in Portcullis House and the Norman Shaw buildings having to traverse a major building site to access the temporary Commons Chamber in the Lords. For the House of Lords, it would probably mean being out of the building for over a decade.

112.During our deliberations, we have also had to take account of the current security climate and the possible implications of each of the delivery options. Under Delivery Option E1, the Palace would become one large construction site, with hundreds of contractors, heavy machinery and specialised equipment being brought into the building to work alongside Members, staff and visitors who would require constant access to the building in order to allow the business of both Houses to continue. This would obviously require extensive planning and thorough zoning of different areas in order to manage security risks. Even under Delivery Option 2 (a partial decant) the construction site and one of the two Houses of Parliament would be operating immediately adjacent to each other. While security threats are there to be managed, scenarios which involve Parliament staying on site would add an extra level of complexity to an already complex and costly programme.

113.Taken together, the issues outlined above have led us to the inevitable conclusion that there would be serious doubts about the feasibility of Delivery Options 1 or 2.


114.Each of the delivery options would enable the minimal amount of works (Outcome Level A) to be carried out, which was a core programme objective. However, not all the options would offer the same scope to make further improvements to the building. This is both because some of the bigger adaptations or alterations to the Palace could be carried out only if the M&E services were completely disconnected, and because continual access to the construction site by users of Parliament would hinder some of the larger construction works suggested as part of a wider remit.

115.Mr Feilden said that it would be easier for designers to restore the building in a strategic, coherent way if they had access to the whole building at once. With a full decant, the design team would have an opportunity to look at the building as a whole and develop building-wide strategies, particularly for the M&E systems.83 Our briefings with officials in both Houses have also pointed to the clear conclusion that many of the issues outlined in Chapter 4, such as visitor routes, disabled access and Parliament’s working environment, could be better tackled in a single phase.

Wider impacts

116.As well as improvements to the Palace and the work of Parliament, the R&R Programme presents opportunities to deliver wider benefits. One of these is the potential to stimulate a specialist employment sector and create skills opportunities for future generations. The Programme will require a significant number of skilled trades and crafts in the conservation and heritage sectors on a scale rarely if ever seen before in a single project. It therefore represents an opportunity to provide a substantial programme of training and apprenticeships to develop the next generation of skilled craftspeople in the heritage sector, supporting the many small, specialised companies in that field.84 Given that Delivery Option 3 would take place over a shorter timeframe, the greater intensity and throughput of work over a shorter period would maximise the potential to realise this benefit.85 We add a note of caution in this regard though, as one of the risks to carrying out Delivery Option 3 is that there might not be sufficient skills to conduct the works in a short timeframe. This is an issue which we consider in more detail in Chapter 6.

117.Another opportunity presented by the R&R Programme is the chance to engage with members of the public about the work required to the Palace of Westminster and, alongside that, about the ongoing work of Parliament. Again, the conclusion of the IOA was that Delivery Option 3, which would generate “the most rapid and thus visible rate of change”, might enhance the opportunity for public engagement (a subject to which we return in paragraph 143).86

Implications for the business of both Houses

118.Many witnesses have commented that the R&R Programme would be the ideal opportunity to change some of the procedures and practices in both Houses, particularly those which might be affected by the physical limitations of temporary accommodation. This Committee was established in order to consider the best way to proceed with the R&R Programme, and we have therefore chosen to focus our inquiry around the key strategic decisions which will need to be taken as part of the construction programme.

Ceremonial requirements

119.There will be various ceremonial issues which will need to be considered further if the Palace of Westminster is to be fully decanted during the period of the works. Large ceremonial events in Parliament range from predictable, regular events (such as State Opening and Prorogation) to occasional events (such as addresses by foreign Heads of State) and completely unpredictable events (such as a Lying-in-State). In addition, there are a whole host of smaller, ceremonial events which take place in Parliament every day which are dependent to some extent on the layout of the Palace of Westminster. These include daily routines such as the Speaker’s and Lord Speaker’s processions and the walking of messages and bills between the two Houses.

120.We recognise that some of these events might need to be modified or adapted in certain ways while both Houses are in temporary accommodation. It might also be necessary for some ceremonial events to be held in alternative locations and there are plenty of suitable locations, such as the Banqueting House, in central London. This will be a matter for both Houses to determine in due course. We also note that it might be necessary for Parliament to use another building (separate from either temporary Chamber) for large occasions, such as the State Opening of Parliament. This is an issue which the two Houses will need to consider in further detail in conjunction with other stakeholders, such as the Royal Household. In all instances, we are confident that it will be possible for suitably dignified alternative arrangements to be made for all of the ceremonial events which take place in Parliament.

Impact on staff

121.We recognise that a decant from the Palace would have a significant impact on the staff of both Houses. While many staff are already based in other buildings on the Parliamentary Estate (rather than the Palace), many others have worked within the Palace for decades and, for some, their jobs may revolve around the fabric of the building itself. As a Committee, we have been appointed to make recommendations on the strategic decisions which Parliament now needs to face. We made our Call for Evidence available to staff of both Houses, and we are grateful to those who have responded. However, we have been mindful throughout our inquiry that it is for the administrations of both Houses to manage the impact on, and communications with, staff affected by the Programme. We have not, therefore, undertaken detailed analyses of what each of the delivery options might mean for staff in different departments of either House. It goes without saying that a decision to relocate both Houses to an alternative location would have significant implications for staff, many of which will require further thought. We stress that continuing communications with staff about the changes will be vital in managing the transition to any temporary accommodation, and urge the two administrations to ensure that this happens.

Delivery option: conclusions

122.On the basis of the evidence we have received, we conclude that it would be a mistake to attempt to carry out the Restoration and Renewal Programme while Parliament remains in full occupation of the building. It would involve taking considerable risks with public money, with the continuity of the work of Parliament, and with the future of the Palace itself. The overwhelming risk is that the level of disruption caused to Parliamentary business by the Programme, or vice versa, would become intolerable, and another solution would have to be sought mid-Programme, with all the concomitant expense and upheaval that would entail. Option 1 is also likely to require the greatest capital expenditure, and present the least scope for delivering improvements to the building.

123.Option 2, involving a decant of first one House and then the other, would also be extremely risky. With the Palace split in two, site logistics (for both the operational House and the Programme) would be a challenge. There would be significant risks which would be difficult to manage, including security, fire and health and safety risks. Delivering the M&E work would be more difficult and expensive, as the M&E plant serves the whole building, and temporary services would have to be installed to serve the operational part of the building. Although the degree of noise and nuisance might not be as great as under Option 1, we cannot be confident that Parliament would be able to tolerate the level of disruption entailed with Option 2.

124.By contrast, on the basis of the expert opinions provided to us, it appears that Option 3, involving a full decant of the Palace of Westminster, would deliver the Programme in the shortest possible timeframe, is the most feasible from an engineering and security point of view, likely involves the lowest capital cost, and presents the fewest risks to the Programme and to the work of Parliament.

125.We recognise that there is still work to be completed in order to validate our conclusions. One of the most important stages which will need to follow is the completion of a full and thorough business case, which should assess the value of each of the delivery options, as well as the potential cost. To inform the final decision, we hope that the business case will be able to take account of some of the potential benefits of the Programme which we outline in Chapter 4.

126.In Chapter 5 we recommend the establishment of a Delivery Authority to take the Programme forward, and it will be for this body to carry out further work on our preferred way forward. That Delivery Authority will also need to assess in more detail the feasibility of a full decant, which must be demonstrated clearly and beyond doubt. The feasibility will be dependent on the acquisition of appropriate temporary accommodation for both Houses, and on the availability of sufficient skills in the building and heritage sectors. These obstacles should not be insurmountable provided that both issues are planned for at an early stage, but again, it will be for the Delivery Authority to validate our assumptions in this area before any final decision is made.

127.The analysis in the Independent Options Appraisal, and all the independent, expert evidence we have received, have pointed us to one clear conclusion: that a full decant of the Palace of Westminster is the best delivery option in principle. It allows the works to be completed in the shortest possible timeframe, it minimises the risk of disruption to the day-to-day operation of Parliament, it is likely to involve the lowest capital cost, it minimises the risk to safety of construction operatives and occupants, it minimises the risk to the Programme itself, and it provides the greatest scope for meeting the needs of a 21st Century Parliament building.

128.Subject to that option being determined to be feasible, achievable and cost-effective, and eventual validation by the Delivery Authority, we recommend that the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster should be conducted in a single phase, with both Houses moving out to temporary accommodation for the duration of the works.

Temporary accommodation: issues for consideration

129.In order to facilitate a full decant of the Palace of Westminster, sufficient temporary accommodation will have to be acquired and fitted out for use by both Houses. We have spent a lot of time considering whether it would be possible to relocate both Houses during the period of the works and we have scrutinised many possible locations for temporary accommodation. At this stage, such consideration has been at a relatively high level, and has involved the broad examination of whether either House could fit into particular buildings, rather than the production of specific designs or layouts. Over the next couple of years, Parliament will have to undertake a thorough assessment of the requirements of each House so that the essential needs of Members, staff and others can be taken into consideration as far as possible in developing the plans for temporary relocation. It is envisaged that this work will be begun by the Programme Team and then taken forward by the Delivery Authority once established (see Chapter 5). In the course of our inquiry, however, we have identified some of the main considerations which should be taken into account when selecting temporary accommodation.


130.The first question which arises is where both Houses should be relocated. The Scottish National Party Westminster Parliamentary Group suggested that, if both Houses were to be decanted during the period of the works, they should both be relocated elsewhere in the United Kingdom rather than in London.87

131.There are superficial attractions to Parliament sitting outside London. It would make Parliament more accessible, for a few years at least, to people in the region to which it relocated, and it might be possible in principle to acquire or construct the necessary accommodation more cheaply outside the capital. However, we have concluded that such a move should be avoided.

132.First, as described in paragraph 37, both Houses own a number of buildings around the Palace of Westminster which are currently used by Members and staff. These stretch from Portcullis House and the Northern Estate, to buildings such as Millbank House in the Southern Estate. These buildings house a large number of Members’ offices, as well as many committee and meeting rooms. If Parliament were to relocate outside of London during the works, it would mean abandoning these buildings for the duration of the Programme, thereby increasing very significantly the requirement and cost of decant space.

133.Secondly, there is the issue of proximity to Whitehall. The United Kingdom’s Parliamentary system revolves around the fact that Ministers are, with a very few exceptions, Members of one or other House of Parliament and, in order to discharge their duties both as Members and as Ministers effectively, they need access to their own departments, to other Government departments, and to Parliament on a daily basis. While alternative arrangements could be made to accommodate a situation in which Parliament and Government were geographically remote from each other, it would represent a fundamental re-writing of the terms of trade between the two and would likely lead to a reduction in Ministerial accountability to Parliament, and in the topicality of Parliamentary proceedings. The alternative would be to relocate a large proportion of the current occupants of Whitehall to the same location as the temporary Parliament.

134.Lord Butler of Brockwell, who served as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service for a decade, described the problem as follows:

“I have no doubt in saying that Parliament needs ready access to Ministers and vice versa. Departments also need ready access to Ministers and vice versa. It is an old-fashioned syllogism. The three need to be closely co-ordinated if Government is to work properly.”88

135.Mr Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government, also supported this view. He noted that the Institute for Government had conducted interviews with Ministers and one of the consistent points raised was that Ministers felt there was a “gap” between their departments and Parliament. Ministers did not spend as much time in Parliament “as perhaps they should” and civil servants did not always understand sufficiently the importance of Parliament to Ministers. In his view, “if you separated them further, that problem could get much worse.”89

136.We have therefore concluded that the option of temporarily locating Parliament outside London during the works, while attractive in many ways, carries an unacceptable burden of cost and inconvenience, which would otherwise be avoided.

Co-location of the two Houses

137.During our informal conversations with Members of both Houses, co-location was felt to be a very important factor in choosing possible temporary accommodation for both Houses. While both Houses can (and do, to a large extent) operate independently, there are a lot of links that it would be detrimental to lose. Some formal proceedings between both Houses, such as the physical exchange of messages and bills, for example, could be adapted during the occupation of temporary accommodation. However, there are many varied interactions which could not be replicated if the two Houses were to be located far away from each other. This includes formal proceedings such as Joint Committee meetings, which require Members of both Houses to attend, all of whom need to be within a reasonable distance of their own Chamber in order to attend divisions. It also includes a wide range of informal meetings, including but by no means confined to the work of all-party parliamentary groups, party political group meetings, bicameral briefings on legislation and civil society events held for Members of both Houses. Members attach a great deal of importance to the day-to-day interaction between the two Houses, and we therefore feel that the temporary accommodation for both Houses should be located fairly close together.

138.It is clear that the two Houses of Parliament and Government need to be located close to each other. The location of temporary accommodation a long way from Whitehall would add significantly to the cost and logistical complexity of the R&R Programme, and introduce numerous challenges for the smooth operation of both Parliament and Government. Furthermore, unnecessary additional cost can be avoided if Parliament can continue to make use of its current buildings on the Parliamentary Estate during the R&R Programme. We therefore conclude that the temporary accommodation for both Houses for the period of the R&R Programme should be located as close to the Palace of Westminster as possible.


139.In Chapter 4 we highlight some of the accessibility issues within the Palace which will need to be addressed as part of the R&R Programme. Accessibility will also need to be factored into any designs and decisions for temporary accommodation. In particular, Members told us that design decisions regarding temporary accommodation would need to take account of considerations such as car parking or drop-off spaces for disabled people, the distance from wheelchair-accessible Underground stations (such as Westminster), the provision of accessible lavatories, the suitability of audio equipment in the temporary Chamber and committee rooms, and many other issues. An equality analysis, conducted by Parliamentary officials, has already provisionally assessed the various equality issues which will need to be considered as part of the Programme. Once preferred locations for temporary accommodation have been selected, further equality analyses will be conducted in order to assess these issues in more detail.


140.The largest legacy of the R&R Programme will, of course, be a restored and renewed Palace which is fit for the 21st Century and beyond. Other potential legacies might include the legacy of skills and greater public engagement with the work of Parliament, as outlined in paragraphs 143-145. However, there is also potential to ensure a legacy from the temporary accommodation used during the period of the Programme.

141.No detailed designs have yet been developed for any of the potential temporary accommodation options, and so it is not possible at this stage to say with any certainty what they might subsequently be used for, or whether either House will wish to keep them long term. It might be that some of the temporary accommodation acquired for the purpose of the Programme will be sold or leased at the end of the Programme. If not, alternative uses that have been suggested to us include an interactive, informative visitor centre or Parliamentary museum, a permanent education centre (to replace the temporary centre currently located in Victoria Tower Gardens), a ‘spare’ Chamber for business continuity purposes (but which could also be used for school visits and Youth Parliament debates), a permanent conference facility, or even a heritage centre for those who wished to access the Parliamentary Archives.90 While each of these ideas would need investigating in much greater detail, there is certainly scope to ensure that any temporary accommodation acquired and developed for Parliament could be put to good use after the R&R Programme has been completed.

142.We recommend that, in the design and fit-out of any temporary accommodation, subject to the need for a cost-effective and economic solution, consideration be given to the possible uses to which the buildings might be put when the R&R Programme has concluded, including their onward sale if appropriate.

Public access and engagement

143.It is obviously essential that the public should have continuous access to Parliamentary proceedings. We agree with the Parliamentary Visitors Group who told us that the public would expect access to the temporary site of Parliament, including the Chambers and committee rooms, in order to see Parliament at work. They suggested that there might also be a market for commercial tours in temporary accommodation, because of the curiosity value. 91

144.In terms of the Palace, the Visitors Group suggested that members of the public might also welcome being able to visit the Palace of Westminster during the works, in order to view the renovation work. If this were not possible, for security or safety reasons, then “viewing points” or “remote cameras” could also be used in order to inform and involve the public throughout the works.92 Ms Penny Young, Librarian and Director General of Information Services in the House of Commons and Chair of the Parliamentary Visitors Group, told us that the R&R Programme presented an opportunity to “rebuild” Parliament’s relationship with the public, using the renovation work to engage the public in a discussion about the building work, and using that “as an opportunity to communicate what Parliament is about.”93 The Group also suggested that Parliament’s existing education and outreach services could build on interest in the Programme through community engagement.94

145.Professor Matthew Flinders and Dr Leanne-Marie McCarthy-Cotter, from the Sir Bernard Crick Centre at the University of Sheffield, said that the R&R Programme should be viewed as a “vibrant and positive opportunity for democratic renewal” and that the Programme presented an opportunity for “designing for democracy”. They argued that the Programme would provide an opportunity to look more strategically at what an effectively functioning parliament might look like, particularly in the context of rising levels of political disengagement and the public’s changing expectations regarding access, visibility and performance.95

Media access

146.Media access to Parliamentary proceedings is an essential feature of any modern democracy, and proper provision will need to be made for the media during any period of decant. The Parliamentary Press Gallery stressed to us the importance of allowing members of the press continued access to the work of Parliament. Mr Craig Woodhouse, Chairman of the Press Gallery, appreciated that there would have to be a certain amount of “make do and mend” during the works. However, he stressed that it would be vital for members of the press to be close to the Chambers and to Members of both Houses. He told us that the Press Association maintains a constant presence in both Chambers, with their journalists working on rotation, so they in particular would need to be “as close as possible to the Chambers themselves” during decant.96 Mr Tony Grew, Honorary Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, stressed that it was important for journalists to be able to work in Parliament “and physically see the Chamber at work.”97

147.Mr Woodhouse also told us that the media would be keen to retain live broadcast points close to the Chambers during any potential decant from the Palace. Close access to Members and broadcast points near the Chamber were essential for covering big events in Parliament and for “grabbing MPs and getting people to speak on TV”.98

Options for temporary accommodation

148.After considering the various factors which would be important when selecting any temporary accommodation, we also assessed some specific options. As a decision has not yet been taken by both Houses on the best way to conduct the R&R Programme, it has been too early to commission and develop detailed proposals for temporary accommodation. Detailed feasibility work, including the commissioning of surveys, assessments of needs, negotiations with current landlords, and detailed design proposals, will all need to be undertaken by the Delivery Authority as part of the next phase of the Programme. However, preliminary feasibility work has been conducted and officials have identified some possible locations for temporary accommodation for both Houses in the Westminster area, based on current knowledge about the use of space in the Palace. We have spent many hours considering the various options available, examining in broad terms how well they would suit both Houses, especially in terms of location and general fit. In this section we outline our conclusions in response to this initial feasibility work.

Westminster Hall

149.One of the first questions we asked was whether it would be possible to locate a Chamber in Westminster Hall. At first glance, Westminster Hall appears to be an ideal space to locate one of the Chambers during the R&R Programme, and there is an attraction in Parliament retaining a foothold in its historic home. However, despite our various attempts to find a way to make this option feasible, the Westminster Hall option also has a number of significant obstacles.

150.First is the structure of the Hall itself. The floor is thought to date from the early 19th Century and consists of large York stone slabs spanned between grids of dwarf brick walls. The walls are supported off a concrete raft that is not reinforced and the York stone slabs are delicate. Throughout our exploratory work, we have been adamant that neither Chamber needs to be replicated exactly and we have been willing to consider various compromises in order to see whether constructing a temporary Chamber in Westminster Hall might be possible. However, there are certain standards that would need to be met in terms of accessibility and security, and any temporary Chamber which could meet these requirements would, in all likelihood, be too heavy to be supported by the floors in Westminster Hall without the risk of causing damage.

151.Furthermore, there are M&E services which run underneath Westminster Hall and the ‘W’ rooms which will need to be replaced as part of the R&R Programme. This will involve the removal of a significant amount of asbestos directly underneath the steps of Westminster Hall, and along the sides, requiring unrestricted access to the Hall for a lengthy period of time. Even if a temporary Chamber could be constructed in Westminster Hall for most of the Programme, it would therefore need to be moved again when the M&E work in and around the Hall needed to be conducted.

152.There is also the medieval hammer-beam roof. The roof was constructed at the end of the 14th Century and is the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe.99 Any temporary structure in Westminster Hall would need to be supported by temporary services, including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electricity, broadcasting, and many others. Experts have suggested that it would not be advisable to heat the entire Hall without building an enclosed pod, because the dramatic change in environmental conditions would threaten the medieval roof. Even if a temporary Chamber were contained within a closed pod, it would be difficult to eliminate the risk of long-term damage if the Chamber was to remain in the Hall for a number of years. Maintaining access to the Hall would also be likely to cause disruption to the many construction vehicles which would need to enter and move around New Palace Yard.

153.Finally, a Chamber in Westminster Hall would be subject to much of the noise and other nuisance which make Delivery Option 1 so unappealing. In paragraph 128 we recommended a full decant of the Palace that would allow the R&R Programme to proceed in the cheapest, quickest, least disruptive way possible. This means that, even if a temporary Chamber could be constructed in Westminster Hall, it would be located away from Member and staff offices, and separated from all the other services and facilities which Members and staff rely on. A temporary Chamber located in Westminster Hall would then just become an isolated space adjacent to a construction site.

154.For these reasons, the construction of a temporary Chamber in Westminster Hall would be impractical, and it is not an option which we recommend. We note that it might be possible to use the Hall for occasional, special events, though only if it was possible for them to be planned and scheduled around the R&R works.

Courtyards and car parks on the Parliamentary Estate

155.Having ruled out Westminster Hall as a way to remain on the Parliamentary Estate, we invited the R&R Programme Team to consider the feasibility of constructing temporary Chambers in one or more of the courtyards or car parks within the Parliamentary Estate. Various scenarios were explored and tested, and as a Committee we took the view that we would be willing to compromise on many elements of the design and layout of the temporary Chambers if it would enable one or both Houses to remain on site. Unfortunately, the overall conclusion was that comparable difficulties to those which arise with Westminster Hall would apply to these options.

156.Any temporary Chamber in a courtyard would need to be supported by a whole raft of temporary M&E services. These would have to be supplied by a skeleton of temporary services running the length of the building, passing through the courtyards, car parks and connecting spaces. Such temporary services would be extremely costly to build and would severely disrupt vehicle access through the Palace, hampering access by delivery vehicles, getting in the way of heavy equipment and disrupting emergency fire routes.

157.If the benefits of a full decant of the Palace were to be realised, then offices within the building would be closed and Members and staff would be located elsewhere. This would mean that Members and staff would have to leave their offices outside the Palace and walk through a working construction site, avoiding the temporary services running throughout the courtyards, just to access the Chamber. It is difficult to see how the essential procedural services could be provided to the Chamber without additional offices also being established next to the temporary Chamber, thereby increasing the size and cost of any temporary structures which would have to be built in the courtyards. It is also implausible to think that regular access for members of the public could be maintained while also ensuring the safety of visitors.

158.Building a temporary Chamber in either of the underground car parks would be no less problematic. Although the car parks in New Palace Yard and underneath Abingdon Green are already underground, significant additional excavations would be required in order to create enough space for a temporary Chamber. As with the other options, a whole host of temporary services would also need to be installed for the period of the Programme.

159.In our opinion, these options would create so much disruption to the smooth functioning of the R&R Programme that they would fundamentally undermine the advantages which accompany a full decant. Furthermore, as with Westminster Hall, if both Houses were to decant from the Palace, any temporary Chamber in a courtyard or car park would also be isolated from Member and staff offices, in the middle of a busy construction site. To put it another way, constructing a temporary Chamber in an inner courtyard or a car park would entail many, if not all, of the inconvenience and risk associated with scenario E1. For these reasons, we decided to discount these options.

160.We have also examined whether the underground car park in New Palace Yard might be kept open for parking during a full decant of the Palace of Westminster. The IOA evaluated Delivery Option 3 on the basis of a complete decant, assuming that there would not be access to the car park. However, we appreciate that many Members rely on the car park in order to access Parliament, especially when arriving or leaving at unsociable hours of the day. Without knowing the precise implications of keeping the car park open (in terms of time and cost disruption to the Programme), we are not in a position to be able to make a firm recommendation on this issue at this stage. However, we note that this is a matter which will need to be considered further in the next phase of the Programme and our preference would be for the car park to be kept open if possible, or otherwise for alternative arrangements to be made.

Victoria Tower Gardens, Abingdon Green and Parliament Square

161.In order to try to stay as close to the current Palace of Westminster as possible, we considered the option of constructing temporary Chambers on various green spaces around the Palace, including Victoria Tower Gardens, Abingdon Green and Parliament Square. The first consideration to note here is that Parliament does not own all of these spaces, so to even consider them as possible sites overlooks one of the most fundamental considerations—that they would first have to be acquired and then planning permission sought—which would not be straightforward.

162.Putting this large issue to one side, it is likely that the size, complexity, and corresponding cost of any temporary structure would be great. While, in the commercial world, many temporary buildings are constructed for short-term public events, such simple, light structures would not be suitable for long-term use, over several years, by either House of Parliament. This is because a temporary structure built in any of the green spaces around the Palace would need to be large enough to house a Chamber, strong and secure enough to meet all the current security guidance, and equipped with a whole raft of temporary services, including heating, lighting, air conditioning, drainage, broadcasting and IT, to name just some. The temporary Chamber could not operate in a vacuum and so would also need to be surrounded by enough office space to house the staff and services necessary to allow business in the Chamber to operate effectively.

163.Looking at each option in turn, Victoria Tower Gardens is a large and open space but, even if it could be acquired for the period of the Programme, the Gardens would likely be required as a possible site for construction facilities such as plant, materials, contractors’ offices, facilities for workers and much more. All of this activity is likely to have significant implications for the traffic flows in and around the Palace but it is difficult to see where else the construction site might be placed. Furthermore, constructing a temporary building which would be large enough to accommodate a Chamber and its supporting services, and which would also meet the security criteria required, would be extremely costly. As the building would have to be removed after the R&R Programme, there would be no scope for legacy benefits.

164.Abingdon Green is close to the buildings currently owned by the House of Lords and would therefore be a convenient place to locate a temporary Chamber. However, the building would need to be strong and substantial enough to comply with current security advice, and it might not be possible to support such a construction on top of the underground car park. The site is rather small and so the number of offices and services which could be located around the Chamber would be limited. Furthermore, the same problem would arise as with Victoria Tower Gardens: building a large, temporary building on the site for a period of a few years would be extremely expensive and provide little scope for any legacy value.

165.Parliament Square is located close to Commons buildings and so, at first glance, could provide an ideal location for a temporary House of Commons Chamber. However, in addition to the problems of cost, issues to consider would be the significant levels of disruption which would likely arise if Parliament Square had to be closed to traffic, as well as the visual impact that such a new structure would have in the middle of a World Heritage Site.

166.Taking all of these problems together, we have also discounted these scenarios.

Horse Guards Parade

167.At an early stage of our inquiry, we considered the possibility of constructing a temporary building on Horse Guards Parade. As with some of the options outlined above, it is worth noting that Horse Guards Parade is not within Parliament’s hands, and so the use of this space would not necessarily be possible. Putting this consideration to one side, one of the major advantages to using this site would be its size, as it would easily be large enough to accommodate either one or both Houses for the period of the Programme. It would also be very convenient for access to Government departments along Whitehall.

168.However, this option also has one very significant drawback, which is its distance from other buildings on the Parliamentary Estate. One of the key criteria which we believe should be used in selecting temporary accommodation is the continued occupation of existing Parliamentary buildings as far as possible, to minimise the cost of alternative accommodation. Horse Guards Parade is more than half a mile from Lords’ offices on Millbank and although the Commons offices on the Northern Estate are much nearer, the lack of any secure connection would introduce a potential security risk to MPs moving between sites. The use of Horse Guards Parade would therefore only work if all Members’ offices, not just those within the Palace, were moved to the site and incorporated into one secure campus. This would be possible in theory, but it would significantly increase the size and cost of the temporary structure required, when compared to relocating only those facilities which are currently within the Palace.

169.Because of these logistical and cost hurdles, we decided to discount the use of Horse Guards Parade, though we note that if further feasibility work on either of our preferred options were to identify an insurmountable obstacle, then this option might need to be re-opened.

Other buildings in the Westminster area

170.Officials in the R&R Programme Team have also considered, at a very high level and without engaging with owners or occupiers, other buildings in the Westminster area, and discounted them. This was because, putting aside the significant consideration that the owners of those buildings might not wish to lease them to Parliament, most of them were not of sufficient size. Very few buildings are actually big enough to accommodate a structure the size of a Chamber,100 even without all of the other facilities which would need to be relocated from either House.

The River Thames

171.Some have suggested to us that Parliament could construct one or more temporary buildings on rafts which could sit on the river. There are several problems with these suggestions. First, and most important, is security. While it would not be wise to go into great detail about security threats in this report, those who work in the building will already be aware of the heightened security climate in which Parliament now operates, and there would be significant security challenges to overcome if a temporary building were to be placed in the middle of the river. Secondly is size. Figure 2 gives an indication of the footprint of the Palace, and the sheer size of the building in comparison to the river would be a real problem. To accommodate just the two Chambers and their essential services would require a temporary structure so large that it would need to take up virtually the whole width of the river alongside Parliament, severely impeding the passage of river traffic.

172.Thirdly, there are the issues of noise and nuisance which would be encountered in a temporary structure located right next to the construction site. Fourthly, it is likely that the river may need to be used to some extent in order to deliver materials and remove waste from the construction site, and any temporary Chambers on the river would impede that access. Finally, if the Palace and Victoria Tower Gardens are to become one large construction site, setting up a secure access route through the Palace to reach the river would be very complex and would be likely to disrupt the construction work. For these reasons, we also discounted the possibility of constructing temporary structures on the River Thames.

King Charles Street

173.Finally, one further scenario which we have considered in some depth is the option of constructing a temporary Chamber in King Charles Street, off Whitehall between the Treasury Building and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office building. This option would be sub-optimal in a number of ways, especially as it would probably necessitate the closure of that road, but we mention it here for the purpose of completeness. We further note that, if either of our preferred options for temporary accommodation turned out not to be feasible, then this scenario might need to be considered further.

Government property

174.A more promising source of accommodation lies within the Government estate, not least because, as these buildings are already in public ownership, there would be minimal net cost to the taxpayer in acquiring them. In addition, the Government is focusing on reducing its estate, particularly in central London.101 Lord Butler of Brockwell told us that, while individual Government departments might be defensive of the buildings they owned, the Government had an obligation “to seek a satisfactory solution to enable Parliament to work effectively” during the R&R Programme, in the interests of the UK as a whole.102

175.Over the past few months, the R&R Programme Team has been working with the Government Property Unit to identify options for a temporary move to the Government estate. We note that discussions with the Government Property Unit have only taken place on an exploratory basis so far, and that no detailed negotiations have taken place or assurances been given. Furthermore, we recognise that even identifying some of these buildings in this report may cause uncertainty and concern to the current occupants of those buildings. We reiterate, therefore, that each of the possible options for temporary accommodation still needs to be assessed and refined in a lot more detail, so it is not possible at this stage to make a definite recommendation as to where either House of Parliament should be located. We are grateful, nonetheless, for all the advice and support that the Government Property Unit has provided to the Programme Team.

176.The most promising options identified so far are below. While we stress again that no detailed designs have yet been produced, initial studies have indicated that adapting pre-existing buildings is likely to be cheaper, and more likely to provide a lasting legacy, than constructing new temporary buildings which would be lost at the end of the Programme. We have therefore focussed our attention on Government buildings close to the current Palace which have the potential to accommodate a Chamber and other offices.

The House of Commons: Northern Estate and Richmond House

177.As part of its long term property consolidation strategy, the House of Commons has been in discussions with the Government to acquire Richmond House, currently occupied by the Department of Health. This building abuts directly onto Parliament’s Northern Estate103 and so would provide an ideal location for a temporary House of Commons. If acquired, the use of Richmond House during the R&R Programme would have several benefits.

178.The secure perimeter of the Parliamentary Estate could be extended to encompass Richmond House and its surrounding spaces. Given that over 200 MPs already have offices in the Northern Estate,104 this would make an ideal location for a temporary House of Commons Chamber, with direct access from MPs’ current offices on the Northern Estate.

179.Initial investigations of the building have indicated that it should be possible to construct a temporary Chamber in the courtyard of Richmond House. The rest of the building could then be used to house a mixture of Members’ offices (for those displaced from the Palace), meeting rooms and those services which need to be located close to the Chamber. Additional space would be required for House of Commons committee rooms, but there are places within the Northern Estate where these could be located.

180.The total space available to the House would be less than at present, and it might be necessary to acquire an additional building to accommodate all Members’ offices. However, there is one further and very important potential benefit to the taxpayer. On the assumption that Richmond House would be retained by the House of Commons after the R&R Programme, there would be the potential for this building to provide a lasting legacy as part of a rationalised Parliamentary Estate. It might also allow the House of Commons to dispose of one or more of the buildings it is currently leasing, delivering long-term cost savings.

181.It goes without saying that alternative accommodation would also have to be found for the Department of Health. While this is primarily a matter for the Government, we note that there could be potential for the Department to occupy another building currently leased by the House of Commons, in exchange for Richmond House.

The House of Lords: Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre

182.If a full decant of the Palace of Westminster is to take place then it is imperative that adequate and comparable temporary accommodation is found for both Houses. Throughout our inquiry we have therefore placed equal weight on finding a solution for both Houses, and on identifying locations for temporary accommodation which will enable both Houses to be located as close to each other as possible.

183.After considering various options, on the basis of the initial feasibility work conducted so far, it appears to us that the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre would provide the best possible temporary accommodation for the House of Lords. The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre is owned by the Government and currently used as a commercial conferencing facility. One of the main factors in its favour is that it already contains many large open spaces, which could provide an ideal location for the House of Lords Chamber. It would also satisfy our requirement for co-location of the two Houses. If the House of Commons were to be based temporarily in and around the Northern Estate, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre would be just a short walk across Parliament Square.

184.As for office space, adaptations could be made in order to create space for essential services which need to be located close to the Chamber and for some Members’ offices. As with the House of Commons option, the total space available might be less than at present, but the building should be able to accommodate all of the essential services required near the Chamber, and would be less than a 10 minute walk away from current House of Lords buildings. It is possible that additional office space might be required in another building nearby in order to accommodate enough offices close to the temporary Chamber for use by Members and staff for whom remaining in their offices in the Southern Estate would not be possible or practicable.

185.We recognise that there would be commercial implications arising from the occupation of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, as it would mean the loss of a conference facility in the centre of London and the loss of revenue currently generated from that business. We have received submissions of written evidence on this matter from the Management Board of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre and from Mr Simon Hughes, a non-executive director of the Centre. At their request, their submissions have not been published for reasons of commercial confidentiality. However, we have taken their concerns into consideration and note that the Government or the Mayor of London might need to give further consideration to the provision of conference facilities in central London if this option were to be taken forward.

Additional office space

186.The preferred options for temporary accommodation for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are only likely to work if some additional office space can be acquired in order to provide enough room for Members of both Houses to work effectively. Initial discussions with the Government Property Unit have indicated that there may be an opportunity, by the time the R&R Programme begins, to make use of some of the space currently occupied by Government departments in the Treasury Building (100 Parliament Street). These discussions are still underway. Other options could include buying or leasing other properties in the area, but this is a matter which will need to be considered in more detail by the Delivery Authority once established. The acquisition of any additional office space will also have to be subject to a rigorous business case.

Progressing the options for temporary accommodation

187.As with the recommended delivery option, following Parliament’s approval on the preferred way forward for the R&R Programme, much more work will need to be carried out in order to secure temporary accommodation for both Houses. This will need to involve a thorough examination of the needs of both Houses while in temporary accommodation, a clear determination that the decant options meet these needs, as well as negotiations on the acquisition and fit-out of the buildings. Each decant scenario will also need to be rigorously assessed in terms of its security. Once established, this work will be undertaken by the Delivery Authority, and it will be for that body to validate the options selected by this Committee. If the Delivery Authority identifies problems with the options we have recommended, or is able to identify better solutions, it should be open to that body to suggest alternatives if necessary. However, we believe that the options outlined above are the most promising scenarios which merit further consideration.

188.Our recommendation for a full decant of the Palace of Westminster is contingent on suitable temporary accommodation being procured for both Houses. As far as possible, the solutions for temporary accommodation should enable the continued effective use of existing Parliamentary buildings, in order to minimise cost and disruption. When planning for decant, we recommend that the administrations of the two Houses should work together in order to ensure that the best use is made of existing Parliamentary buildings, including the sharing of buildings between the two Houses if required.

189.The House of Commons already owns a number of buildings within the Northern Estate, and many MPs’ offices are located in those buildings. Subject to further feasibility work, value-for-money assessments and validation by the Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority, we conclude that the best decant solution for the House of Commons appears to be a solution based around Richmond House and the Northern Estate.

190.For the House of Lords, subject to further feasibility work, value-for-money assessments and validation by the Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority, we conclude that the best decant solution appears to be the establishment of a temporary Chamber and supporting offices in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

191.For both Houses, it would be desirable for Members’ offices to be located as close to the temporary Chambers as possible, either within the same building, or very close by. In order to facilitate this, we recommend that the R&R Programme Team and, when established, the Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority, should continue to work with the Government Property Unit in order to identify space within the Government Estate, such as the Treasury building, which could be used for additional Members’ offices and other services.

192.For both Houses, it will be vital to ensure that necessary provisions are made for the essential staff and offices which need to be located close to the Chambers. In contrast, during the period of the works, some services could be scaled back or provided differently in order to reduce the amount of temporary accommodation required and the cost of the Programme. The Programme Team is in the process of assessing the functions and services which need to be located close to the Chambers, and we recommend that Member and staff consultation should be factored into this ongoing work as a key priority.

193.For both Houses, the temporary decant solution should be designed and constructed with legacy value in mind. Wherever possible, we recommend that the temporary provisions made for Chambers, Member and staff offices during the period of the works should be designed with a view to reusing or repurposing those buildings after the Restoration and Renewal Programme in a way which ensures best value for money for the taxpayer.

Next steps for temporary accommodation

194.Over the coming months, the Programme Team will need to continue their work to establish the feasibility of each of the options for temporary accommodation. This work will pass to the Delivery Authority, once it is established, to take forward, and it will be for that body ultimately to make recommendations on the best and most feasible options for temporary accommodation. Once the Delivery Authority is formed, the next steps for this work will include the following:

195.The development of temporary accommodation for both Houses will require further feasibility work and detailed analysis. Although this work will be started by Parliamentary officials, it will be completed by the Delivery Authority once established. It is essential that Members and staff be involved and consulted throughout this process in order to ensure that the temporary accommodation adequately meets the needs and requirements of the users of those buildings, as well as being cost-effective. In order to guide the development of temporary accommodation options as part of the next phase of the Programme, we recommend a number of criteria for temporary accommodation, outlined in Box 2.

196.We recommend that the final plans for temporary accommodation be drawn up by the Delivery Authority, for approval by the Sponsor Board and, ultimately, by both Houses. The Delivery Authority and the Sponsor Board, working together, will have to ensure that the temporary accommodation fully meets the needs of Members of both Houses and also represents good value for money, having regard to its use during the R&R Programme and to any possible legacy use afterwards.

Box 2: Recommended Criteria for Temporary Accommodation

In order to guide the feasibility work which will need to be undertaken on potential sites for temporary accommodation, we recommend the following Criteria for Temporary Accommodation:

Value for money

  • One of the overarching criteria for the development of temporary accommodation should be value for money. The main purpose of the Programme is to restore and renew the Palace of Westminster, and that is where resources and effort should be focused. While suitable temporary accommodation will need to be developed for both Houses, the costs and work required to provide this accommodation should be minimised as far as possible.
  • A minimum level of reconfiguration and fit-out of the temporary buildings should be carried out, except where it is essential for business need, security, building regulations or accessibility reasons.


  • The two Houses should be located as close to each other as possible, and also situated as close to the current Parliamentary buildings and Whitehall as is feasible.


  • The general floor space and layout of the two Chambers should be replicated as far as possible in temporary accommodation. However, the fixtures and fittings do not need to be as elaborate as the current Chambers and should be designed in a way which minimises unnecessary cost.
  • The division lobbies should, as far as possible, be replicated. However, if necessary to fit into temporary accommodation, consideration should be given to configuring the division lobbies differently.
  • Committee rooms for both Houses do not necessarily need to be located within the same building as the Chambers, as long as they are close enough to enable Members to attend votes in either House.
  • There should be flexibility in the design and layout of committee rooms in temporary accommodation. In particular, consideration should be given to reducing the size of committee rooms in order to reduce the total floor area required.
  • All temporary accommodation should be designed with accessibility in mind, and make suitable provision for Members, staff and visitors with a disability.
  • Car parking and drop-off spaces should be provided close to temporary accommodation for those with a mobility impairment. Short-term parking should also be provided for Members who need to access the Chamber quickly (for divisions, as an example). However, car parking space for all Members and staff need not be provided.

Working environment

  • House of Commons temporary accommodation should provide the same number of desks for Members as currently provided in the Palace. Where possible, cellular, private offices should be provided for Members of the House of Commons, though they need not all be in the same building as the temporary Chamber. If necessary in order to fit into the temporary accommodation, thought should be given to accommodating some Members in shared offices.
  • As far as possible, House of Lords temporary accommodation should provide the same number of Members’ desks as currently provided in the Palace. However, if there are space constraints, thought should be given to reducing the number of allocated desks in the temporary accommodation and to providing flexible, shared working areas for Members of the House of Lords near the Chamber instead. Allocated desks should continue to be provided in other current Parliamentary buildings.
  • Flexible workspace should be provided for Members of both Houses close to the Chambers.
  • Temporary accommodation does not need to contain the same number of ministerial offices and ministerial meeting rooms as currently contained in the Palace.
  • Staff who are required to be close to one of the Chambers should be accommodated in the same building as that Chamber, while others should be located in nearby buildings.
  • Staff of MPs should be accommodated with the Members they support in temporary accommodation.
  • Staff of Members of the House of Lords should be accommodated close to the Members they support but, as now, should not be accommodated in Members’ shared offices.
  • Use of Parliamentary buildings, by both Members and staff, should be intensified wherever possible in order to accommodate more people before additional accommodation is sought.
  • Both Houses should accept an element of compromise while occupying temporary accommodation. This might involve certain services or facilities not being replicated in temporary accommodation.
  • Some of the facilities which need not be replicated in full include:
    • Areas which have only a ceremonial function
    • Banqueting facilities (though basic cafeterias and dining rooms will be required for Members and staff)
    • Car parking (although some car parking will be required for those with a mobility impairment, and for Members needing to access either Chamber quickly)
    • Exhibition spaces
    • Library spaces (though some level of reduced Library service will be required close to both Chambers)
    • Retail spaces
    • Spaces occupied by third parties
  • Further consultation should take place with Members and staff in order to determine which facilities and services need to be replicated in temporary accommodation, and which should be scaled back.


  • Temporary accommodation options for both Houses should be developed in line with current security advice and guidance from the Parliamentary Security Director.

Access to the work of both Houses

  • Temporary accommodation for both Houses should be designed so as to allow continued public access to the Chambers and committees of both Houses, as well as space for members of the public to meet their elected representatives.
  • Temporary accommodation for both Houses should also be designed so as to enable continued access for the press. In particular, facilities will need to be provided for members of the press close to the Chambers and committee rooms.

Legacy potential

  • As far as possible, temporary accommodation provided for the purposes of the R&R Programme should be designed with legacy value in mind.

64 Deloitte LLP, Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme Independent Options Appraisal, September 2014, Volume 1, pp 5, 57–58

65 Ibid., Volume 2, Appendix A.4

66 Ibid., Volume 2, Appendix B.1

67 Information provided by the Director of Parliamentary Audio/Video.

68 Government of Canada website, Follow the rehabilitation of the parliamentary buildings: [accessed 26 July 2016]

69 Government of the Netherlands website, No-frills renovation of Binnenhof parliament buildings: [accessed 26 July 2016]

70 Republic of Austria Parliament website, Renovation of the Austrian Parliament: [accessed 26 July 2016]

71 Eduskunta website, Renovation of Parliament’s properties: [accessed 26 July 2016]

73 Ibid., p 24

77 Written evidence from the Institution of Civil Engineers (RAR0042)

78 Supplementary written evidence from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (RAR0066)

80 Written evidence from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (RAR0063)

82 Ibid., p 24

84 Written evidence from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RAR0035)

86 Ibid., p 25

87 Written evidence from the Scottish National Party Westminster Parliamentary Group (RAR0044)

89 Ibid.

90 A separate programme, the Archives Accommodation Programme, is currently considering the future location of the Parliamentary Archives. It is expected that a decision on the future of the Parliamentary Archives will be made by the House of Commons and House of Lords Commissions, after both Houses have taken a decision on the Restoration and Renewal Programme.

91 Written evidence from the Parliamentary Visitors Group (RAR0059)

92 Ibid.

94 Written evidence from the Parliamentary Visitors Group (RAR0059)

95 Written evidence from Professor Matthew Flinders and Dr Leanne-Marie McCarthy-Cotter, Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics, University of Sheffield (RAR0006)

97 Ibid.

99 Information taken from the Living Heritage pages of the Parliamentary website [accessed 26 July 2016]

100 The area of the current House of Commons Chamber is 278 square metres and the current House of Lords Chamber is 366 square metres. Information provided by the Parliamentary Estates Directorate.

101 Government’s Estate Strategy, Cabinet Office (October 2014)

103 The Northern Estate is the cluster of buildings to the north and west of Portcullis House, which mostly house MPs’ offices: Norman Shaw North, Norman Shaw South, Derby Gate, Canon Row and 1 Parliament Street.

104 Information provided by the Parliamentary Estates Directorate.

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