- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News
On Wednesday 31 January 2018, as Shadow Leader of the House I responded to the motions on the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster.
A Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons was appointed by both Houses in July 2015. It took evidence, and a report was published on 8 September 2016. The Committee deliberated, and reached the conclusion that there should be a full decant of Parliament because that was the most cost-effective option. The Committee proposed that there should be a shadow delivery authority, a sponsor board, and updated costings.
A second report was published by the Public Accounts Committee on 10 March 2017. The PAC endorsed the Joint Committee’s recommendation. In particular, it said that the feasibility of a full decant must be demonstrated clearly and beyond reasonable doubt, with a comprehensive risk analysis, before a final decision was made. Both reports were produced on a cross-party basis.
There are new threats. Security, as well as safety, is now a key factor. On 22 March, our friend and protector PC Keith Palmer was killed in a terrorist attack in Westminster. For all sorts of reasons, we need a contingency Chamber. The northern estate programme is on to that; discussions are ongoing with Westminster Council and they have been quite productive. Since the Department of Health and Social Care has now moved out into Victoria Street, it may well be possible to use the space behind the façade of Richmond Terrace, and that could very well be our contingency Chamber; it will become the contingency Chamber when we move back to the House.
The governance of the project is another major area of concern. The delivery authority, with its experts, will carry out the day-to-day work, and will be accountable to a sponsor body. The Governance Committee heard from Sir David Higgins on how he operated with the two bodies responsible for the successful Crossrail and 2012 Olympics. Mr Higgins made it very clear that so long as the professionals, who will be on the delivery authority, have a Gantt chart, so there is a timeframe and the costs are allocated, there should not be any need for any overrun.
We have a duty to protect this beautiful heritage building. We can make Parliament truly accessible for people with disabilities. We will have more meeting rooms and an up-to-date, compliant building. We could leave behind a great legacy in skills and in civic pride. We will be able to do our work here safely and securely on the behalf of our constituents in their Parliament.
I voted in favour of an amendment which enabled us to make an immediate decision on repairing the Palace of Westminster, compared with two motions tabled by the Government. The amended motion was approved by 234 votes to 185.
You can read my speech in full here: https://goo.gl/o3xvAs