Restoration and Renewal (Report of the Joint Committee)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 31st January 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin Conservative, Derbyshire Dales 6:36 pm, 31st January 2018

I want to start by thanking my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for tabling the motions and for the very able way in which she moved the debate and put the arguments so very clearly.

Nobody wants to leave this House—of course we do not—but we do have a duty and an obligation to future generations to make sure that it is looked after and repaired properly. That is the most important thing.

I hope that the delivery body will look at working on this site 24/7. This is an island site: there is no reason why it cannot be worked 24/7. As I understand it, the proposals that would take seven or eight years are based on working a normal week. This is an island site with no neighbours. I fully agree with the point made earlier—I was going to suggest it myself—that we should give ourselves planning permission on this site. We should be able to deliver that. As a world heritage site, there will be certain obligations, and that is absolutely right. That is why I am much more optimistic that this project can be done quicker than the previously proposed timescales.

During my period as Secretary of State for Transport, I was very fortunate to see some remarkable projects in this country, one of which was London Bridge station, which has just been completed. It was awful that people had to suffer the development of London Bridge, but we can now see that it is a great example of English engineering and people doing a job. However, it would have been done much more cheaply and much quickly if we could have closed it. The fact is that when we operate in buildings at the same time as engineering work is being done to them, the work takes longer and it is more expensive.

Some colleagues say we can segment the work and do it in sections. I would like to know how many of them have done the basement tour. I suggest that they go and work there for six months—actually, I think six hours would probably be enough for them to realise that the conditions are absolutely intolerable for people to work in.

I have reservations about the proposal to build a completely new Chamber. If we are sensible about this, the simple fact is that, if we give two and a half years, and no longer, to do this work, there is no reason why we could not find alternative accommodation. The House sits approximately 146 days a year. It is not always as full as this. In fact, quite often it is a lot emptier. I very much doubt that we would need an exact mirror of the Chamber for the emergency period.