Fires are reported “virtually every month” in the Houses of Parliament, MPs have claimed – and they are calling for quicker action to repair the centuries-old building.
The Palace of Westminster has been undergoing repair work for some time under the restoration and renewal project, but the “cack-handed” scheme has experienced several delays.
During a debate on Tuesday, several MPs raised concerns about the risks faced by the Victorian building.
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It came just a day after a broken air conditioning unit led to a leak in the commons chamber.
Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said the debate could “not be more timely”, adding: “There are small fires reported virtually every month.
“It is only by the diligence and hard work of the staff in this place, patrolling virtually on a 24-hour basis on fire watch, that nothing more serious has happened.”
He went on to say that he feared MPs were leaving the building at risk of much larger failure, which will inevitably leave them “looking rather stupid” for not taking “major action quicker.”
For the SNP, Kirsty Blackman described the Houses of Parliament as a “relic” that is “not a suitable, appropriate working environment”.
She criticized how the project has been handled, saying: “You couldn’t really do it in a more cack-handed way than the way it is currently being done in.”
Following the debate, MPs approved a motion to abolish the project’s sponsor body and bring the governance “in-house”.
Commons Leader Mark Spencer said a rethink is needed to ensure value for money is offered to taxpayers and he insisted no options are ruled out under the new management arrangements, including moving MPs and peers elsewhere while work is carried out.
In 2018, MPs and peers agreed on a plan that would see both the Commons and Lords move to temporary facilities near the existing site, a “full decant”, to allow essential repairs and upgrades to be made.
But a review of the plans was carried out amid concerns about the cost, which was estimated at £4bn in 2014 but has since spiraled.
Earlier this year, the sponsor body published its essential scheme options, which it estimated to cost between £7bn and £13bn and take between 19 and 28 years to complete.
Conservative former Commons leader Chris Grayling said MPs were “deeply, deeply frustrated” that it has taken seven years to get to the current point of the project and spoke in favor of a proposal, which he described as the “bloody hell get on with it ” amendment.
Meanwhile, former Labor Minister Chris Bryant warned that alternative places to be used in an emergency “are not safe”.
“Church House is not safe from any kind of bomb attack,” he said. “There is no other venue that we could go to.
“It’s not only a risk to us and the building, it’s also a risk to our democracy.”
Closing the debate, Mr Spencer said he could not guarantee that MPs will have a vote on the option of an eight-year decant, but noted: “I will make sure that the eight-year decant is one of the proposals that they look at.” , and they consider very seriously.”