In questions to the House of Commons Commission today (Thursday 13th September) in the Chamber regarding major asbestos and other works that need to be carried out in the Palace of Westminster, Michael Fabricant suggested that Parliament moves temporarily from London to Birmingham, “Britain’s Second City”.
“I would have suggested Lichfield” explains Michael Fabricant “but only Lichfield Cathedral is a venue big enough to house Parliament and I am not sure the Dean and Chapter would agree to moving out.
“This has all arisen because of an internal report which is nearing completion on urgent works that need to be carried out to the Palace of Westminster. It is likely to say that the building will need to be vacated for two or three years so that the work can be undertaken swiftly and safely and at a lower cost than with MPs, Peers, and staff remaining in place.
"Although I would imagine the House will eventually decide to vacate to adjoining premises in Westminster, I wanted to be the first to put in a ‘bid’ for an alternative location. And what could be better than the Heart of England?”
The following is extracted from Hansard:-
What discussions the Commission has had with the Parliamentary Works Directorate on the possibility of vacating the Palace of Westminster to facilitate the renewal of the fabric of the building and an overhaul of its essential facilities.
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)(LD): I reassure hon. Members that no decisions have been taken as yet. Such a project would be a major undertaking, and a final decision will not be taken for some time and would probably be a matter for both Houses. This will clearly require careful study and planning.
Most of the current Palace of Westminster dates from the mid-19th century, and much of the external structure and weatherproofing has been untouched since then. Many of the utilities and services inside the Palace date back 60 or 70 years. There is a major backlog of remedial work, including that involving asbestos, which is being professionally assessed and must be remediated in accordance with regulations.
In January this year the Commission appointed a study group to examine all the possibilities, including a temporary relocation of Parliament. The group was assisted by two Members from each House. The report of the study group is not yet finalised, but it is expected to be submitted to the Commission and the House Committee of the House of Lords at the end of next month.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)(Con): If Parliament were to be decanted, may I make a shameless bid for it to be decanted to Birmingham? [Interruption.] Why not? It is our second city. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the cost of doing the works over 10 years would be considerably higher than the cost of decanting and doing the work over two or three years?
John Thurso: On my hon. Friend’s suggestion about Birmingham, I cannot possibly comment. In regard to the costs, it is my experience from my past life that a decant and a quick contract are often preferable to a series of contracts with no decant, but that is a matter for the study, and we must be led by the evidence that is produced. We will follow that properly.