The Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, co-chaired by the Leader of the House of Commons and the Leader of the House of Lords, was appointed by the two Houses of Parliament in July 2015 to consider the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster. The Committee’s main task is to make a recommendation to both Houses about the best way to approach the Restoration and Renewal Programme, a major programme of repair and conservation which is intended to start during the 2020 Parliament.
The Palace of Westminster is one of the most important and recognisable buildings in the world. It is a Grade I listed building and, with Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church, forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also home to one of the busiest parliaments in the world, with more than a million people, including 70,000 schoolchildren, passing through its doors each year.
In October 2012, a Report published by the House of Commons Commission and the House of Lords House Committee indicated that, unless significant conservation work were to be undertaken, major, irreversible damage could be done to the building. In order to protect the heritage of the Palace for future generations and to ensure that it can continue as the home of the UK Parliament, the governing bodies of both Houses agreed that doing nothing was not an option. They also ruled out building a new Parliamentary building away from Westminster.
At the end of 2013, the House of Commons Commission and the House of Lords House Committee commissioned a consortium led by Deloitte Real Estate to undertake an independent appraisal of the options for carrying out the Restoration and Renewal Programme. The Independent Options Appraisal was published on 18 June 2015. The Independent Options Appraisal explores a range of scenarios for restoring and renewing the Palace of Westminster, combining potential improvements (ranging from minimum requirements to substantial improvements) with different delivery options. The Independent Options Appraisal is informing the Joint Committee’s work, though the Committee is now exploring a range of possible options for the way forward.
The Committee’s inquiry
The Committee’s task at this stage is to make recommendations in two areas:
a. The broad scope of the work to be carried out. The proposed work includes replacement of the building’s mechanical and electrical plant, improved fire-safety measures, conservation of the external stonework, and conservation of the heritage fabric of the interior of the building. There is the potential to go further, and deliver long-term improvements which make the Palace more accessible, provide better visitor facilities and have the potential to enable the building to be used more efficiently.
b. How the work should be delivered. Whether Parliament should remain on site for the duration of the works (which would take several decades) or whether to relocate some or all of the functions of Parliament temporarily to another location in central London and aim to complete the work in a shorter period.
As a first stage in its inquiry, the Committee is seeking views on these two strategic issues. The Committee will not be looking at detailed designs for the restored Palace of Westminster.
The Committee’s approach to this task is driven by three principles: to preserve the heritage of the Palace of Westminster as the home of the UK Parliament for future generations, to deliver value-for-money for the taxpayer, and to continue the effective functioning of Parliament whilst work is happening. The Committee’s decision will also be informed by an understanding of the current security climate.
Below are the two sets of questions: the first aimed primarily at members of the public and interested groups (such as conservation bodies); and the second aimed primarily at MPs, Peers and other people who work in or regularly visit the Palace of Westminster. The questions are intended to direct respondents towards the areas where the Committee feels they will be able to make the most valuable contribution, but respondents are free to address either set of questions or both. Please note that questions are not listed in any particular order of importance.
Questions aimed primarily at members of the public and interested groups
1. What changes could be made to the Palace of Westminster in order to improve public engagement with the work of Parliament and to improve accessibility?
2. What opportunities or benefits do you think a major Restoration and Renewal programme could present for Parliament and the wider public?
3. How should the heritage of the Palace of Westminster be conserved and safeguarded, while recognising that it is home to a busy working Parliament with regular public access?
4. What will be the major risks or challenges in delivering a Programme of this scale and how should they be addressed?
Questions aimed primarily at MPs, Peers, staff and other people who work in the Palace, or visit regularly
5. Would you like to see any changes made to the Palace of Westminster as part of the work? If so, what would those changes be?
6. What do you think should not be changed as part of the Palace of Westminster restoration and renewal?
7. How can the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster support the work of Parliament and parliamentarians? What changes do you think are required to the building to adapt to Parliament’s changing needs in the 21st century?
8. Are there any changes which would help to improve the way in which you work in the Palace of Westminster?
9. Could the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster make it easier for the public to be welcomed into the Palace and to see and participate in the work of Parliament? If so, in what ways could this be achieved?
10. What are your observations on the current condition of the Palace of Westminster?
11. What, in your view, would be the most appropriate means to deliver the changes which you would like to see made to the Palace of Westminster?
12. Are there any services which are currently located in the Palace of Westminster which, in your view, need not be co-located with the Chambers during any potential decant period?
Instructions for submitting evidence
Written evidence should be submitted via the Committee’s evidence portal.
If you have difficulty submitting evidence online, please contact the Committee staff by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning 020 7219 0740. The deadline for written evidence is 22 January 2016.
Each submission should:
- be no more than 2,000 words in length (short submissions are preferred)
- be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible
- have numbered paragraphs
- include a declaration of interests (if relevant).
Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
All submissions will be acknowledged by email. Evidence which is accepted by the Committee may be published online at any stage; when it is so published it becomes subject to parliamentary copyright and is protected by parliamentary privilege. Once the submission has been accepted as evidence you will receive a further email, and at this point you may publicise or publish your evidence yourself. In doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee, and you should be aware that your publication or re-publication of your evidence may not be protected by parliamentary privilege.
If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
Names will be published with the evidence, but personal contact details will be removed from evidence before publication. Such details will be retained by the committee secretariat and used for specific purposes relating to the Committee’s work, for instance to seek additional information.
The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. We may also ask you to comment on the process of submitting evidence via the web portal so that we can look to make improvements.
Substantive communications to the Committee about the inquiry should be addressed through the Clerks of the Committee, whether or not they are intended to constitute formal evidence to the Committee.
You may follow the progress of the inquiry at: Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster consultation