Plans for the vital restoration work to save the Houses of Parliament will be examined by an expert team set up by the new Sponsor Body in charge of the work.
The independent body set up last month to manage the restoration and renewal of the Houses of Parliament will review options for how the restoration programme should be carried out, including new ways of working developed in response to Covid-19.
The body will re-examine evidence behind options developed over five years ago, including the plan to relocate temporarily all MPs and Peers while the work takes place.
The review will consider the trade-offs between cost, timescales and scope that Parliament would need to make in order to ensure best value for money, in line with recent recommendations from the National Audit Office.
The review will be led by Sarah Johnson, the Sponsor Body CEO, and will involve infrastructure and programme management experts drawn from the Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority.
Sarah Johnson said: “The impact of the current health crisis on public finances and Parliament’s ways of working has made it even more essential that we review both the strategy for relocating the two Houses and the scope of the restoration of the Palace.”
MPs and Peers decided in 2018 to leave the building completely to avoid the significant disruption that would be caused by remaining on site while construction work carried on around them.
The House of Commons now contains many new Members elected for the first time who may well take a different view of Restoration and Renewal from Members in 2016. It is also a very different Government which, even before the current crisis, had a clear set of priorities. In the light of Covid-19, there are likely to be other key drivers, arising mainly as a result of the impact on the economy, on public finances and on the population at large.
What remains unchanged, however, is that the Palace of Westminster is falling apart faster than it can be repaired. Many features have not been renovated since it was built in the 19th century. The longer the essential work is left, the greater the risk of a catastrophic failure from fire, flooding or falling stones.
According to the National Audit Office, Parliament has spent more than £369m on maintenance since 2016. There is an increasing backlog of repairs estimated at over £1 billion.
The project is expected to create employment and training opportunities in construction, engineering, design, and IT, as well as attracting those with specialist skills in carpentry, stonemasonry, metalwork, and heritage conservation.