My speech during the debate on the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster, 31 January

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): There is good news in this debate, which is that there seems to be universal agreement, from Members in all parts of the House, that where urgent work needs doing to guarantee the future safety of those who work in this place and those who visit, we should press on with it. Indeed, there is a strong feeling that there is a need for greater urgency in such work. From most things that I have read and heard, it seems that rewiring is a very urgent priority, as that is where the worst fire risk seems to come from. Substantial pipe work may also need doing, where pipes need replacing or re-routing as part of a safety plan. These things can all be done through compartmentalising—taking things in stages and linking up as appropriate.

We know we can work alongside builders and maintenance companies, because we are doing that all the time. I pay tribute to those who are working on the Elizabeth Tower at the moment. They are getting on with their work in a way that is not disruptive of our work at all. They must be working in confined and difficult circumstances, but they have so far done it in a way that is entirely compatible with the work of Parliament. So I hope that the Leader of the House would take away the sense that urgent work for the safety of people here in future and for the safety of the very fabric of the building might be accelerated, with options looked at so that we can press on with it in a timely and sensible way.

I find myself having more difficulties about the much bigger scheme being launched any time soon. As we have heard, quite big elements of it have not been properly thought through or costed, which makes taking a decision in principle a bit more difficult. I find myself in that interesting position where many parliamentarians find themselves; having been entirely of the leave faith on the referendum issue, now, showing flexibility and how I am always influenced by the facts, I find myself firmly in the remain camp on this parliamentary discussion.

Let us first address the issue of decanting to an alternative Chamber, which we would have to build. We hear there are problems with the site for one of the potential alternatives. I just do not think our constituents would understand our spending a very large sum on producing a temporary replica of this Chamber for a limited number of years—we are told it will be a short period, but some of us think it will be for rather longer—when there are so many other priorities. My constituents want us to spend more on health and social care, the military and so forth, and I agree with them.

Andrea Leadsom (The Leader of the House of Commons): For clarity, let me say that what is being talked about is a permanent business contingency in Richmond House that provides a real legacy gain to the parliamentary estate and is a secure gain for all parliamentarians for future generations.

John Redwood: I am grateful for that correction, and I did understand that, but the public are saying that this is really only going to be used for a few years because we will come back to use the main Chamber, and this is a very expensive investment in contingency, particularly as one hopes the contingency never occurs. We know from history that there are other ways of dealing with a disaster contingency, as unfortunately people had to do this during the second world war. We would cross that bridge in the awful event that we needed to do so, but investing a lot of money in such a protection would be a strange thing to do—I rest my case. I do not think my constituents would regard that as something they would want their taxpayers’ money spent on at the moment. I agree with them that we need to spend a bit more on health and social care. Those would clearly be the priorities if we had this extra money to spend.

Finally, let me say that I agree with those who think there is something very special about this place and something important about it for our democracy. This is the mother of Parliaments and this building does have great resonance around the world, being associated with the long history of freedom, and the development of the power of voice and vote for all adults in our country. It would be strange indeed to be turning our back on that for a period, particularly when we are going through a big constitutional and political change in order to implement the wishes of the British people as expressed in the referendum. Particularly during this period, it is important that our visitors can come to be reminded of our national story and why we are where we are. All those of us who seek to represent people should be daily reminded of that national story when we come here—

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

John Redwood: No, as I am conscious of time.

We need to be reminded of that story as we go past the memorial to suffragettes, as we go past the statues and paintings of those who made such a contribution to past political battles and debates, those who were part of the story of wrestling control from the monarch and establishing the right of many more people to vote and have their voice heard through Members of Parliament. That proud history makes this more than an iconic building, more than a world heritage site; it is a living part of our democracy. Our interaction with it and our presence on this grand political stage is the very essence of our democracy. I do not want us to move away for a few years at this critical moment in our national story.

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89 Comments

  1. Jackm
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    When Scotland and Northern Ireland leave the UK the number of MPs remainting to represent England should be greatly reduced so in this case a smaller parliament building will only be required..just thinking ahead..in line with speaking for England

    • Rien Huizer
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Scotland is unlikely to leave and NI is still at least half a decade away (although a disappointing Brexit and generous EU treatment of the Republic may add a little momentum). A much more progressive approach to social issues (eg abortion) may also make a union with the South more attractive. But Scotland is firmly in English hands.

      • Hope
        Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        JR, another useless debate costing us taxpayers a fortune for you all to talk drivel. People make things happen not buildings. We want value for money and action and less hot air and acting against the public vote. Civil servants do the work by turning decisions into outcomes after all.

        In 2009 you all had a chance to start a fresh from the swamp laid bare where 302 MPs were overpaid or fiddled their expenses. Those who did not fiddle or were overpaid knew such action was going on or turned a deliberate blind eye. Any other organisation would have been closed down irrespective of the building it occupied. We were promised a clean up by all parties and a reduction in number. To date no action worthy of speaking about. There is no need for over 650 MPs and 850 Lords. Right to recall fudged and failed to deleiver.
        Cameron promis d EVEL and failed to deliver, it would need a building or joint use of one for an English parliament. Still no action.
        The polic have so,d. Oust stations and work out in offices above Pizza Huts and like, literally. So mirror what Parliament has brought on other public services. Portal can s for school classrooms. You could also work from an ambulance like NHS staff!

        Meanwhile in the real world no action on in delivering Brexit which the majority of citizens voted for after two years! Why not the same specious arguments for another election? It was close, a lot of Labour and left b dem are disappointed with result so it should be rerun, they did not vote to be poor under the Tories.
        Hammond should be sacked he was either aware of the Treasury report which is against collective responsibility and govt Brexit policy and if he was not his dept are out of control which demonstrates incompetence.

  2. Miss Brandreth-Jones
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I am just wondering how your speeches get onto this blog site. I presume you have a typist typing in the house and nowadays that will probably be on a computer. How is it allowed to move from one device to another?

    Reply I never write a speech in the Commons. We simply take the published record of the speech!

  3. Duncan
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Once, a vital part of our national democracy. Now, little more than a rubber stamp for EU legislation.

    Why should the public care for this place when the people who populate it hold it in total contempt?

    We have peoples representatives who walk through the doors of this hallowed place and no doubt sneer at the statues lining the walls. From the Commons to the Lords, there are many within this place who view Parliament and the Palace as a relic of the past. For them, it is little more than a sop to the past.

    The EU-Referendum result and the betrayal of democracy that is about to unfold and perpetrated by ‘people’ who populate this cherished place undermines its sanctity, its relevance and its place in British history

    Cromwell fought tirelessly against a tyrannical monarch who viewed Parliament in the way the EU view the British Parliament today, little more than a rubber stamp

    If Parliament isn’t sovereign and independent it may as well not exist.

    • Duncan
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      I consider JR to be one of the very few MPs who fully appreciate and have always done so the absolute importance of ‘our’ parliament to ‘our’ democracy.

      My parliament is NOT the property of the EU.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

        Well perhaps 100-150 of them do do. Most of the rest are unfortunately career politicians who do not really care so long as they get their pay, pensions, expenses, soap box and perhaps a few paid “consultancies”. Many would probably be even happier getting a larger such package from the EU with the special tax breaks they get on top.

        • hope
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

          Most MPs do not even debate or vote over theist forty years on anything important. Just waved through. Restore so it is safe as a sightseeing venue and Shut the place down of parliament. No need to have the EU and Parliament the charge ahas gone on too long.

  4. Fedupsoutherner
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Indeed John, MPs should not forget how the people gained democracy and must remember they are in power to deliver what the people voted for when given a democratic vote.

    • Hope
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      JR Failed to say, when standing up for England, where is the English parlament going to sit after refurbishment? He failed to mention why the govt failed to deliver on EVEL, why the govt failed to deliver on cleaning up Westminster and now make names of MPs secret under the guise they are being assessed not investigated! Is this more about not getting subsidised food and aclcohol at our expense if you left the building?

      I got an idea use this as an opportunity to cut the number of MPs to about 200 and 100 Lords. Each debate could be costed so we know how much it costs for this drivel.

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    You make excellent points. There is no real reason why the building could be repaired perfectly efficiently in small sections.

    Not that I imaging for one moment that it will be done efficiently. This as government rarely do anything efficiently. It is not their money they are spending after all and there are lots of people on the make in the process. I have met some of them. Let us at least hope they will not cover the roof with PV panels or put a wind turbine on the palace as (pathetic gesture politics) Cameron might have well have done.

    • Tom
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      NHS forced to pay £1500 for £2 pot of moisturiser says the headline in The Times today.

      So much of the state sector seems to be just a conduit for taxpayer money to be given to people with good connections. The renewable industries in particular. So I do not think the refurb. will be done very efficiently either.

      • Tom
        Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        renewable energy industries

  6. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Does staying cost more while they work around you Mr Redwood?

    If so then moving seems a better move but use an existing auditorium. Hire out an office block for MPs’ office duties.

  7. Ariadaeus
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    For those of you that doubt John Redwood’s post I suggest you visit the edifice in Edinburgh that is the Scottish Parliament. From the outside it looks like an enormous public toilet and inside it gets worse – £40M was the original estimate but cost £400M. Paid for by (mostly English) taxpayers.
    Opposite is Holyrood House an architectural delight depicting three different types of architecture and a delight to behold.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Indeed government projects cost whatever they can get away with them costing and then double that. Not my money mate what do I care? Anyway my mates got a very good contract out of it.

  8. Tom
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    You are surely quite right on all this.

    A BBC employee has (rather typically) said “We’re not in the business of producing toothpaste or tyres at the BBC. Our business is truth.”

    Well what is wrong with toothpaste and tyres at at least one can choose to buy them or not (unlike the BBC licence tax) and they are useful things. The BBC is not at all in the “business of truth”. It is actually a propaganda organisation pushing a line of pro EU, big government, left wing, PC drivel, magic money tree economic and idiotic green crap.

    What is very clear is that nearly everyone at the BBC is rather overpaid and almost all are misguided lefties.

    • Anonymous
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.

    • bigneil
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Last night the BBC reported that 18 “migrants” ended up at a French hospital after a mass fight in Calais. Four shot, others hit with iron bars. Clearly their frustration at having to wait a bit longer ( before getting their free lives for doing nothing positive in the UK ) got too much for them. We should take them all immediately and set them straight into jobs that they are so desperate to do ( surgeons, doctors, scientists etc ) . No wonder they laugh their heads off when found inside a lorry in England, because they know they’ll be here forever, etc ed

      • Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        The most important issue of our times apart from regaining our independence and it is written off as “etc”.

      • Anonymous
        Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        Ditto the Albanians ‘captured’ in a dinghy.

        I don’t want the Palace of Westminster rebuilt. I want it knocked down.

  9. zorro
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Well said, once they get the MPs out you won’t get back in there for years. You can be sure that they will drag it out. Better for MPs to carry on in place to keep up the time pressure!

    zorro

  10. jerry
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Thankfully MPs chose a more realistic approach!

    Anyone who understands major building/engineering works understands that it is always cheaper to start from afresh, failing that, an empty building/space. I thought the speech from the member for Meriden was excellent with workable (and secure) solutions.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Empty 5% of the building and do that. It the team do that well let them loose on the next 5% and so on ….. No reason why it should cost much more that way at all. They will want to perform well to get the next bit and will be more experienced as the go.

  11. stred
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    It looks like the Tory ‘Brexiteers’ are too feeble in the face of the treacherous (people ed) that have taken over your party. You may as well knock the building down or vacate it for repairs, stay at home and take the salary and pension, perhaps communicating by video conference. The rules are being handed over the Brussels to suit big money. British democracy is dead. The only way to get it back is by other means.

    Reply Mrs May has confirmed again this week that she fully understands we need to take back control of our money, our borders and our laws. I look forward to her delivering that.

    • Duncan
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      JR

      I am perplexed as to why you would say such things when you know full well that May, Hammond, Heywood and their advisers are all secretly plotting to keep us inside the EU Customs Union and under the umbrella of the ECJ

      You know this to be happening and yet you persist in peddling this nonsense that May desires ‘Full Brexit’

      She does not desire the UK leaving the EU and all that this entails

      If we remain in the EU-CU we will not be able to enter into FTA’s with non-EU nations nor will we be able to cut taxes to attract capital investment into Britain

      people want the truth, that is all they ask for

      • Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        I, too, am perplexed.

        • The Prangwizard
          Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          It’s all about The Party. The Party comes above everything.

    • Jonp
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply…yes and that means all of the red lines are in place..so if we want a deal with them then it’ll have to be like a Canada deal..otherwise just plain WTO Rules..all our choice it serms..but the clock is ticking and Barniers patience is fading…so the question is..what on earth are we talking to them about if we are going to leave without any agreement into the future as there will be noneed for a transition period

    • Mark B
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply

      But maintain Regulatory Convergence which will keep us in the EU in all but name.

    • Alison
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

      Reply to Dr Redwood’s reply to stred (stred’s 8:09 am post) – As I mentioned yesterday, I am very worried about Mrs May’s wording to the press in Beijing, specifically about EU citizens who come to the UK post Brexit, during transition. She was simply not categoric, she indicated she would fight this during negotiations. Mrs May’s record on not caving in during negotiations is, I believe, desperately poor. I also mentioned I am very worried that very large numbers of EU citizens will come during the transition period (which I pray won’t happen) .. I can’t see the UK getting a cap on numbers (as eg Luxbg did when it acceded, re Portuguese), and I can see the UK conceding effectively full rights to EU people who come 2019-2021.
      I can see no reason to have any confidence in Mrs May’s capability to deliver true and timely Brexit. She is heavily handicapped by being without core inner drive, reflecting fundamental desire to deliver it. She also has a Chancellor who is clearly hell-bent on thwarting Brexit, not to mention a majority-Remain Cabinet.

      Unless one has real desire, real belief (for, in Brexit), and unless one actually fears continued membership of the EU, I do NOT believe one will have the deep strategic and tactical awareness, knowledge, perception which are crucial to the UK’s interests in achieving Brexit. Churchill had it, and the people supported him.

  12. Prigger
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Well after the Referendum, I recall vividly seeing and hearing Ben Bradshaw Labour MP in the House directly pleading openly yet face-to-face to Mrs May “Surely you are not going to allow ordinary people out there deciding we are leaving the EU!!!” She evaded a direct reply but sternly cautioned him most cleverly for his expressed sentiments.

    Parliament does not exist if he is within it.

  13. Tom
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Next Tory leader betting odds in order (favourite first) is currently Mogg, Boris, Gove, Rudd.

    Gove surely is unsuitable as he is the reason we now suffer May and he even thinks there should be 20% VAT of private schools!
    Rudd is a lefty remainer like May, with tiny majority of just 346 – she would be no better than May indeed she is essentially another May but a bit younger.
    Boris is unpopular with many of the dafter remainiac Tory MPs for some reason is seen as lacking gravity and a bit divisive.

    So Mogg it is. Sound on economics and Brexit. (true he has the odd foolish views coming from his irrational belief system) but he would be a massive improvement on “let’s jump off the cliff with another punishment manifesto (John Major style)” Theresa May.
    They cannot go into the next election with T May that is very clear. But can it be done without causing an election? Would the DUP put up with a Catholic?

    • jerry
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      @Tom; But Mr Gove is the electable candidate out of those four people, the Tory party are in real danger of doing what the Labour party did post James Callaghan…

      • stred
        Posted February 2, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        Gove talks Greencrap, looks like Educating Archie and is a backstabbing opportunist.

        • fedupsoutherner
          Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

          Stred. I agree. Give me Mogg any day.

        • jerry
          Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

          @stred; I said electable, not that I approve of his politics!

    • James Snell
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Tom..the DUP worked with Martin Mcguinness..i’m sure that they can work with Moog..DUP know well their days of being the top dog in NI is almost over
      .they have no choice now but to compromise..but on another note..don’t you think we are all looking rather silly in the eyes of the world with all of these comments. I agree at this stage Rees-Moog should be given a shot at the PMs job..to ser how he fares out
      .failing tjat JR should be given a chance

    • Hun
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Rudd?…snigger.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        Or, perhaps ever worse Ruth Davidson.

  14. eeyore
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Labour has announced it will compulsorily purchase land to build on at below its true value. This follows its commitment compulsorily to expropriate shareholders at non-market prices.

    If theft is justifiable in the public interest, would it not be better for Parliament to defer refurbishment of its premises until Mr Corbyn is in power? His government could then compel building contractors to work for nothing. Suppliers of materials could simply be expropriated. Cost of renovations: zero.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Having started life in construction on special works good luck with keeping this to any sort of budget.

  16. alan jutson
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    It has been a few years since I last visited the the Houses of Parliament/Palace of Westminster, and indeed I was surprised at its poor state of repair, with huge bins in Westminster Hall placed to catch the rain from the leaking roof, tell tale straps to monitor subsidence on many walls, so it is not a surprise to hear you talk about the poor electrical system.

    Yes the compartmental system of working is ongoing with the Elizabethan Tower (known as Big Ben to most) but parliament is split into two halves with the central lobby (surprise, surprise) at the centre of the building.

    Given the other place, the House of Lords is at the absolute opposite end of the Building to the Commons, and neither sit 24 hours a day 7 days a week, why not organise a rota where both can use the same Chamber whilst the other is being refurbished, no need to build something new, no need to move, just a little bit of flexibility needs to come from the Politicians and Lords themselves.

    Just like a hospital wasting the use of its operations theatres, with them not planned for being used 24 hours a day every day, exactly the same could be said of our Parliament building.
    Why can Politicians not show some leadership and flexibility for a change, with the Lords having to show rather more than those who have been elected, and whom we expect to meet in one place.
    Neither Parliament or the Lords sit on a Friday, Saturday or a Sunday so the building is only used 4 days a week at its maximum, so there is huge room for manoeuvre if the will is present.
    Most people even when they carry out major improvements on their own homes stay put and put up with some discomfort for a period of time, whats wrong with politicians doing the same !.

    • alan jutson
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Further.

      The other solution would be to use the Great Hall of Westminster which is large enough to take both chambers at the same time, and is only used as a walk through and glorified entrance and waiting room for visitors (complete with gift shop) at the moment.
      Aware this is also used very, very occasionally for Laying in State and huge speeches by foreign dignitaries.
      But other location exist where such could take place.
      So why not use this huge open space to make it a sensible workable proposition with a temporary but uniform structure that will suit both debating chambers.
      Stage type tiered temporary seating is readily available or can be constructed at little cost, additional stand alone heating can be either purchased or hired for the period as can lighting.

      How many times year are either Debating chambers used to their maximum capacity, very time I view Parliament on TV there are scarcelly more than 50 politicians in total involved in actual debate, the rest just seem to flood in for a few minutes to vote.

      Quite honestly John where there is a will, there is always a way, afraid its time some politicians started to think outside the box that is the Commons Chamber, and in a rather more flexible and cost effective manner.

  17. Bert Young
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    The renovation / construction work sounds complicated and there must be many aspects that will make the time involved difficult to plan for ; having said this I do believe that the contractors will ” spin ” the job out to give them plenty of elbow room . If it is possible to continue to use the Parliament building then the House should stay thus saving the tax payer a lot of money .

  18. Qubus
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Off topic:
    I understand from this morning’s Daily Telegraph that the UK is unable to pursue Volkswagen regarding the emissions scandal because the devices where not fitted in the UK, and thus somehow has only received £1.1m compensation, whereas the USA has received £15b.
    Can this really be correct? If so, what is the point of us being in the EU?

    • Dennis Zoff
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Qubus

      “If so, what is the point of us being in the EU?”

      ….just leave it there, nothing more to be said!

  19. a-tracy
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Perhaps now the vote has gone the other way for one year after the works have been concluded it should be open to the public at £15 per ticket to recoup some of the money spent from visitors not just from the UK but from all over the world. I get a feeling from you that you’re concerned you’ll never go back and if Labour get into power before the work is concluded with their view of history you might be right.

    Our museums should not be free for anyone other than UK residents.

    It smacks of motorway improvements now when they box off four junctions for numerous years yet only work on one small section at a time. There have been more accidents, incidents on that stretch than ever and the UK productivity has suffered for years as a result but hey ho…

  20. majorfrustration
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    £4billion – dream on – more like £8billion by the time its finished. Just remember its a Government project. Presume the buildings used whilst the rebuild/refurb takes place will be fitted out with the same number of bars as used in the current building

    • stred
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      £4bn for re-wiring and piping is ridiculous. It sounds like the usual consultants job- expanding tendencies. How are costs to be controlled and will there be a clerk of works. If you are not around when builders are renovating your house, you will find that they are working on somebody else’s and charging for both.

      (As experienced for 25 years when administering building contracts and building own projects)

  21. Andy
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    The most effective thing for taxpayers is to sell the Palace of Westminster. Maybe Dr Fox could let the Chinese buy it? Turn it in to a hotel and visitor attraction – so it can be a money maker rather than money taker.

    In the meantime buy a dilapidated unused school. in somewhere cheap – Mansfield maybe – and send our MPs there to work. We can stick up a few Portakabins in the grounds for offices and they can hold PMQs in the school hall. Let MPs experience the sort of conditions inflicted on most public sector workers. Those who have to travel for work can do so only 2nd class and they can not stay anywhere more expensive than a Travelodge.

    There is no need for Parliament to be in London. Far too expensive. Axe the number of MPs at the same time. Get rid of the elderly – no over 70s in Parliament – strict two term limits and a new electoral system which removes safe seats. Time to end the Westminster gravy train and get these Parliamentary time-wasters doing a proper job.

    • acorn
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Did you notice that Trump wants to get rid of career politicians and limit then to two four year terms. Imagine how refreshing that would be for the UK’s sclerotic, corrupted, self serving, so called Westminster democracy. I would go further and introduce “mid-term” elections; so that a political party was never more than two years away from facing a ballot box.

    • Sheer Mardy
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      “Let MPs experience the sort of conditions inflicted on most public sector workers.” “Portakabins”. Have you not been on a UNITE union jaunt? Free meals in quite good hotels and extras?Get to be but a minor union representative, what used to be shop steward level! You really don’t know do you Andy???!!
      It is obvious. The comrades are …well ….they have become , let us say, the next generation of Mr. Jones of Manor Farm in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. It will hurt you when you see it all…unless they rope you into it first. But in your nightmares it will still hurt you realising what has become of the spirit of the glorious Tolpuddle Martyrs. They may just as well have not bothered, Bless them!

  22. Rien Huizer
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Do I detect an almost religious attachment to relics?

    • Mitchel
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      No,many of us would happily see the House of Lords abolished or replaced.

    • stred
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      English bloody Heritage will insist on exactly the same materials as used originally and have failed to last in the exterior repairs, when modern materials are cheaper and last longer, like portland cement. Yes, it’s a religion of heritage worship, often adminstered by history or arts graduates who know nothing about building. I once was told that we could not insert steel beams to correct a badly sagging timber floor which was over spanned. Steel was out of keeping. In a 14c pub, they wanted to keep the woodworm holes.

    • sm
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      I’m a complete agnostic, but on the several occasions that I visited the Palace of Westminster as a political activist, not a tourist, I did feel that the place inspired one to consider just how important Government is to a nation, and how our system of Government, imperfect though it may be, has developed over centuries and usually attempts to do its best for the nation.

      And whatever one’s views on the faux-Gothic styles of Barry and Pugin, the Palace has dignity, and that is an invaluable and priceless asset.

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        SM. Agree. the Palace of Westminster has too much history to be turned into a hotel or something similar. It is a symbol of our democracy which should also be protected against all odds.

      • Anonymous
        Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        In two hundred years not a brick will stand. The same for every church in this land.

  23. formula57
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Surely “a permanent business contingency in Richmond House” is deficient in providing for too close a proximity to the palace of Westminster since a disaster affecting the latter may be on such a scale as to also affect the former?

    As for the outrageous cost, surely taxpayers are used to such extravagance from government? We just do not wish to hear self-serving words about austerity when it suits.

    • stred
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      They could put the EU law stampers in a rented industrial shed with football stands on 2 sides for a short period. 1-2 years is more than enough for services renewal. The exterior scaffolding and stone repair does not make the interior of the HoC unusable. Use Portcullis House for all admin and the pubs instead of MPs subsidised bars. Put the Speaker in a flatshare where he can show off to some snowflake EU -loving Trump- hating friends. Abolish the Lords and elect 200 advisors who could rent a church weekdays while working on admin at home.

  24. Iain Moore
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I can see the need for the restoration of the House of Commons, and the prevarication and delay a good indicator of the failure of decision making in our Government. Yet again the cry is ‘Just get on with it’!

    The cost of the alternative venue does worry me, if I understand things correctly billions are being earmarked for expenditure on it, that is ridiculous. How can you possibly arrive at that cost? It seems the political class are getting suckered into the old builders trick of sucking his teeth and bit of head scratching , as he attempts to pluck a figure out of the air he thinks he can get you to pay, and as the egos of the political class are very easily massaged, the skies the limit to the figure that he can come up with. A bit of scaffolding to tear the seats in a hall , job done. I reckon £10,000 should do it. A bit of slumming by our political class might be just what is needed to improve the decision making there.

  25. A.Sedgwick
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Close all the bars, restaurants and tea rooms that could empty the Lords, coupled with about half the year parliament is in recess or the chambers are 90% empty or it is Friday, Saturday, Sunday that seems sufficient elbow room for the work to be done in situ.

    As a completely unrelated comparison a roof was put on the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadow in one year with massive ground issues, Wimbledon takes several years.

  26. oldwulf
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    If the Lords were abolished, presumably the empty space might come in handy ?

  27. Monza 71
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Having done a considerable amount of property development there are real difficulties and costs associated with working round the client as opposed to having unfettered access to every part of the site. Trying to work round MPs would be a nightmare for all concerned and could extend the work to a decade or more.

    Constructing an alternative chamber therefore seems a sensible proposal and would probably be cost effective. I am very surprised that our host isn’t proposing that it could be used as an English parliament afterwards, not just as a contingency.

    While the main chamber could be used for this much-overdue legislature, there are considersble objections from the Scots in particular to its dual use by English Representatives. These would not apply if the contingency location was used and they could not then claim that Scots MPs were second class MPs.

    Reply The Elizabeth Tower is being completely refurbished at the moment without closing Parliament!

    • Mark B
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Monza 71

      I am in total agreement.

      Reply to reply

      Mr. Redwood MP sir, what experience do you have in construction ? And I mean on-site and not in the Boardroom.

      Sir. What is currently being renovated is a Clock Tower. It is not an integral part of the day-to-day functioning of government, so I do not think your argument is any way supportive of your position.

    • jerry
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      @JR reply; Bit of a difference between renovating an appendix to the main building though, but even that work is apparently causing problems due to noise, and no one is suggesting that parliament is closed, just a building.

    • Monza 71
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      Yes but the Elizabeth tower is effectively a separate building.

      When refurbishing Parliament in its entirety, there will be water pipes, heating pipes, hundreds of thousands of cables of every possible type crisscrossing the building from and too every direction.

      These cannot be installed properly if the builders have access to only one part of the building at a time. The one thing to avoid with cables and pipes are too many connections. Every connection adds cost, slows the flow of liquid, electricity or data and is a potential problem that might not fail for a couple of decades or more.

      In any event, do you really want to try to carry on working continuously on a building site for at least a decade ? I wouldn’t.

      It isn’t practical or economic to stay on site and anyway, what about my suggestion of using the additional chamber as an English legislature ?
      Reply They are also working on some of the roofs at the moment

      • ChrisS
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 12:05 am | Permalink

        Almost all of the work on roofs can be carried out from outside the building.

    • Monty
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      I agree too.
      I’m concerned that much of the electrical and other systems in the building have been subject to numerous temporary fixes that probably are insufficiently documented, there’s the added frisson of hazard that arises from a combination of asbestos and vermin. The contractors are going to be confronted with a steady series of surprises once they start. There will be “orphan” electrical wires and probably plumbing pipes that were bypassed long ago and never removed, all very innoccuous until someone accidentally connects them to live volts, or live steam, and some guy at a remote point gets the last surprise of his life. If the parliament remains in situ, electricity, water, steam (if applicable), telecomms, fire detection and suppression, all have to remain live during the work.
      And what if unforeseen misfortune leaves you in a position where the building has to be taken completely out of service without notice, for any significant stretch of time? All dressed up with no place to go.

  28. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I am prepared to take the opposite view, that once we have left the EU it will be fitting for our national Parliament to resume its sittings in a renewed building as the centre of our renewed national democracy. Perhaps there should then be a proper ceremony of rededication and purification. That is if the combined forces of big business, the civil service, the trade unions, the mass media etc actually allow us to leave the EU.

    Incidentally a replica House of Commons film set was up for sale a few years ago, I don’t know what happened to it:

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/586408/order-order-your-life-size-5000-sq-ft-house-of-commons-replica-on-ebay-now/

    “Order, order … your life-size, 5000 sq ft House of Commons replica on eBay now”

    It that is still available it could be useful.

    • Mark B
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      Do you know how much the Scots spent on themselves for their little Talking Shop ?

      Too much, sir !

    • ChrisS
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      If Parliament was moved to “the centre of our renewed national democracy” we will never get our much-needed English Parliament.

      The excuse will be continue to be made that England is so dominant by virtue of its proportion of the population that one isn’t needed but then the additional argument will be made that with Parliament sitting away from London – Warwick or somewhere similar – one isn’t needed at all.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        I mean “national” as in “British”, or more exactly “UK’sh”.

        I see no problem in having Westminster as the UK Parliament with the English having the same as the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish already have, namely a separate devolved Parliament for England. Preferably located outside London closer to the geographical centre of England.

        • Monza 71
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

          That was the point Monza 71 made earlier : build the “temporary” parliament outside of London and then it can become the English Parliament when the UK one moves back to Westminster.

          In that case the new building will actually be used much more than it would be if it were to become just a contingency in the case of emergency.

          Of course, the taxpayer would be lumbered with the additional cost of travel and hotel rooms for English MPs when, after refurbishment, we will already a perfectly serviceable building in Westminster which would be doing nothing when our MPs are sitting as English members.

          Shades of Strasbourg…………….

      • Mitchel
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Do a swap with the owners of Warwick Castle with the HoP turned into a visitor attraction.Although living not far from Warwick myself, I’m not sure I would be happy with so many undesirables moving into the area.

  29. Dennis Zoff
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Just a thought….

    John, has anybody considered closing Westminster down completely and turning it into a museum…..interesting tourist attraction?

    Maybe a new parliament building could be built that caters better to modern politician’s needs which most probably would be significantly cheaper to run…perhaps the London Mayor’s building could be used…more effectively?

    We could call it an “English Parliament” and conduct purely English business without the usual political irritants that do not care about English issues?

    As a senior “English Parliament protagonist”, this is something I assume you would be wholly in favour of, correct?

  30. miami.mode
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    You have previously blogged about how government money is spent in London compared to outside. More £billions for London.

  31. British Brickie
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    The Empire State Building was completed 88 years ago. It took less than one year to build. So, with building technology in 2018 and Parliament not being rebuilt from scratch but just a quick shave and brush up, MPs can have it all done while they are on their summer hols.
    They haven’t gone and employed a British or EU firm to do it have they? If so it could be another century or two

  32. nigel seymour
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I’ve come up with a really good idea – take the £39bn earmarked for the EU and reduce it to £30bn – that means we have a nice little sum of £9bn (profit?) to spend on the most ICONIC BUILDING ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET!! Sounds pretty good to me and don’t mind saying so myself!! Me thinks it would also resonate with all brit leavers… Also, award the renovation contract to any number of eastern bloc countries and we can then save a good third off the cost so reducing it to £6bn…that sounds even better!!! After all, we can’t deprive our EU friends of good UK tax payers money can we!!

    • Mark B
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Even better. Cancel HS2.

  33. forthurst
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    What is striking about the images is that they are a total mixed bag. There are scenes of what appear to be modern installations of neatly installed pipework and wiring and areas where wiring and pipework is rather messy and others where there is clear antiquation.
    Then externally, there appears to be deterioration of the stonework and of the rainwater drainage. Why does the building have to cleared for the latter at all? As to the former, surely it should be a matter of examining each system individually and the quality of the installation of each and whether it conforms to modern standards of technology and safety. The experts on video seem to be generalising to an alarming degree.

    https://restorationandrenewal.parliament.uk/images.html

    • Mark B
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Many thanks.

    • jerry
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      @forthurst; All those points were covered in the debate, brevity makes me suggest that you read the transcript of the debate, not just our hosts contribution – it might even be available to watch via either the BBC or Parliament TV … indeed it is (starting at 15:55:11hrs);

      http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/28c51cde-1c05-4397-bced-f0e06b95974d

  34. Dennis Zoff
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Off track…interesting piece on Philip Hammond’s betrayal, from Rupert Darwall in The Spectator

    The toxic politics of ‘soft Brexit’ https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/02/the-toxic-politics-of-soft-brexit/

    Are you able to comment John….or is this cutting a fine line with your oft-quoted undying support for Theresa May?……which is incidentally particularly irksome given she has been an unmitigated disaster for Brexit!

  35. Mark B
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    As can be seen from the link posted by, forthurst above, the Palace of Westminster is indeed in dire need of repair. As it is a Grade One Listed Building there are very strict rules regarding what can be done. Much of the building fabric is of carved stone and, if replacements are need, will have to be sourced from the original location and faithfully recreated. This is going to be very expensive. And this is just one of many examples.

    It would in my ‘professional’ opinion be better for the whole of the Palace to be closed once major works to the body are undertaken. The reasons are many, but Health and Safety and Security are amongst the important.

    It is time to put away silly sentimentality. This may have been a second home for some but it is in need of some serious TLC.

    May I suggest that you ask Her Majesty if temporary building can be erected in one of the Royal Parks ? I am quite serious. Either that, or less seriously, you can all decamp to Brussels and use the Parliament building when the MEP’s are in Strasbourg. At least for some they will probably feel a little closer to home.

    https://historicengland.org.uk/advice/your-home/owning-historic-property/listed-building/

    • Monza 71
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      I’ve been into buildings like this, albeit on a much smaller scale, and the problems are truly horrendous. You cannot have people anywhere near when you are removing asbestos for a start – the dust travels – and nobody can possibly know how much there is or where it all is in these very extensive group of buildings.

      If I were quoting for the work it would be difficult enough to attempt to come up with a figure if it were to be completely vacated for the whole period of the job, but if asked to come up with an estimate with it still in use, particularly by 650 very vocal and demanding politicians, with a very high proportion prone to grandstanding, ( present company excepted, of course, ) I would probably double it.

      After all, the one thing the contractor cannot afford to do is come back and say it’s going to cost 50% more when they are half way through the job and nobody is in business to lose money.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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