Restoration and Renewal Bill

The Parliamentary buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill passed the House of Lords on Thursday 5 September 2019 and the Lords amendments were considered in the House of Commons on Monday 9 September 2019. The amendments were agreed to and the Bill received royal assent on the same day.

I spoke on behalf of HM Opposition and you can read my speech below:

Mr Speaker, may I start by paying tribute to you and your excellent role as Speaker? I was one of the people who dragged you to the Chair, and you have been outstanding. I will come on to your role with the Education Centre. You have been a stalwart in terms of equality. In your efforts to help me in my role as shadow Leader of the House, you have been exemplary. I will miss business questions, and particularly your jibes at us all. Thank you for everything you have done to uphold the parliamentary system; it has been very good. [Interruption.] That was for you, Mr Speaker.

I thank the Minister for bringing the Bill back to this House, and I thank all Members who have taken part in the debates on restoration and renewal. I am pleased that the Bill has come back, and I want to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), who started the push to move the restoration and renewal Bill forward. I want to deal with the amendments—it is important to get them on record—in three chunks, one relating to the Sponsor Body, one to the physical aspects and one to the future.

We have the Sponsor Body, which will be a single client on behalf of both Houses, and that is a good way of working. It will form the Delivery Authority as a company limited by guarantee. Amendments 10 and 12 require the Sponsor Body to lay its reports before Parliament. One of the key things that Members wanted was the accountability of the Sponsor Body to Parliament, and the amendments will ensure that. Amendment 11 will ensure that we know about all the contracts that are awarded to different companies and the people who operate around the estate.

Amendment 1 is fairly important because it is about having regard to the prospective contractor’s policy relating to corporate social responsibility and the prospective contractor’s policies and procedures relating to employment, which is about the blacklisting of people. Many lives have been destroyed by people being blacklisted and not being allowed to take part in contracts. That is extremely important, and I want to thank my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) for ensuring that this has been passed.

Amendment 9 will require the Sponsor Body, in exercising its functions, to have regard to the need to ensure that there are opportunities to secure economic or other benefits throughout the United Kingdom. That is key, certainly on our side, and it is one of the reasons why we support this Bill wholeheartedly. We wanted to make sure that any benefits were not just confined to one part of the United Kingdom, but go to the whole United Kingdom.​

As the Minister said about the physical parts, it is important to ensure that the historical, archaeological and other significance of Parliament continues. That is covered by amendment 8, remembering that it was 900 years ago when the Anglo-Saxons were first involved in this place—and some of them might still be here.

Amendment 5 seeks to ensure that, after the completion of the parliamentary building works, all parts of the estate are accessible to people with disabilities. I know that the hon. Members for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) and for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) were involved in this, and they certainly raised it on Third Reading. If we look at what happens at York Minster, we know we can combine accessibility for people with disabilities with keeping up the building’s historical significance.

As to the future, amendments 4 and 6 strengthen the reference to parliamentary building works in relation to ensuring the safety and security of staff and the public, as well as in relation to the education facilities. Amendment 7 secures your legacy of the education centre, Mr Speaker. It makes sure that Parliament’s education and outreach facilities and programme are ensured and that they become a core part of the parliamentary estate and provide a benefit in a greater understanding of Parliament and our democracy. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) mentioned the craft school in Scotland. I know that Historic England is aware of it and wants to carry on with this, which could be an outstanding way to ensure that all our crafts—ancient and modern—are secured for our future.

Amendment 2 will place a duty on the Sponsor Body to promote public understanding of the purposes of the restoration and renewal programme, and amendment 3 will ensure that the views of Members, staff and the public are at the front of the Sponsor Body’s mind. Everyone across the nation should feel a part of this project, because this place is in the heart of the nation. We do not have a deadline, as the Olympic Delivery Authority did, so the important part is that we make sure there is a deadline, as Members’ tolerance and the public purse are not elastic. However, I again join the Minister in saying that it is important that this is all secured for future generations, and we support the Bill.