Restoration and Renewal (Report of the Joint Committee)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:56 pm on 31st January 2018.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 4:56 pm, 31st January 2018

I will make a bit of progress and give way in a moment.

Surprisingly, no one in my less-than-scientific survey of a few people in Perth and North Perthshire thought there were any admirable qualities in spending billions on a parliamentarian’s palace. I am pretty certain that, even if I went looking for anyone who thought there were, I would not find any in my constituency.

Let me compare and contrast what is happening in this Chamber with what has just been happening in the Scottish Parliament, where we are setting out our budgets. We are allocating billions of pounds to socially useful programmes that will enable our citizenry. What are we doing here? We are talking about spending billions of pounds on a royal palace to accommodate Members of Parliament. Nothing could distinguish better the priorities of these two Parliaments.

I do, however, accept that we have an issue. [Hon. Members: “ Oh really!”] Yes. Because of the decades of prevarication and indecision, this building is practically falling down. The failure of successive Government to face up to their responsibility in looking after this place means we now have a building that could, as people have said, face a catastrophic failure at any time.

The mechanical and electrical engineering systems are already well past their use-by date and the risk of that catastrophic failure rises exponentially every five years. Some of the high-voltage cables in the building are decaying, and fire is an ever-present risk, only compounded by just how easily any fire would spread. Most worryingly, as we have heard from the Deputy Leader of the House and the Leader of the House, there is a substantial amount of asbestos in the building. Mice and other vermin are a common feature, and I have heard that some staff even have names for the mice that they frequently acquaint with on a daily basis. It is not a robin we need in this House, but a flipping big eagle to pick up some of the huge mice that kick about this place. The Palace of Westminster is simply falling down.

The most important aspect that we have to consider is our responsibility for the staff who work in this place. This is a workplace for thousands of people, and we are putting them at significant risk by staying here.