The Palace of Westminster is renowned across the world. The buildings are a place of great historical significance and repute and the envy of many. The buildings quite rightly occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of this nation and are a representation of our democracy and should be treasured. They are one of the great tourist venues and help to portray this country all over the world.
Yet, despite all of this MPs were right to vote to relocate away from Westminster so refurbishments could take place.
MPs this week voted by 236 to 220 to support an amendment that saw members across the House come together to back a full programme of works that is likely to result in the House of Commons moving to a venue in Whitehall from the middle of the next decade. This would be the first time Parliament has moved out of the palace of Westminster since the Commons chamber was destroyed by a bomb in 1941.
The amendment successfully defeated Government proposals which would have further delayed a final decision. The Government appear to have been worried the cost of the repairs, part of a proposed £5.6 billion modernisation would be hard to justify in a time of economic hardship. MPs in the end appear to have been convinced to support the amendment due to the potential risk of a large scale fire.
Of course, the cost of repairs is far from ideal, however the alternatives are far worse. Firstly, the longer a decision is delayed the greater the costs of the repair are likely to be. Secondly, the risk of a catastrophic event is now quite significant. Thirdly, the building in many parts is no longer fit for purpose. This means carrying on as before is no longer an option. A report from the Joint Committee of the Palace of Westminster further underlines this point.
This decision should not be seen as MPs simply spending money on themselves. Nor, should it be viewed as a selfish or irresponsible decision. The repairs for Westminster are a necessity and the sooner they begin than the sooner MPs can return back to the Palace.
The Houses of Parliament are places where our elected representatives make decisions on our behalf, important decisions which shape our future. These decisions should be made in a building fit for purpose and not in danger of calamity. This is not the end for the Palace of Westminster, but merely the start of a new beginning.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – Sky News