To everything there is a season, to every time a purpose: a time to break down and a time to build up. Words written 3,000 years ago surely are apt today for this building, which is 1,000 years old.
I served on the Joint Committee. I attended that Committee as a sceptic, believing that we were only being pushed out of this place for some false reason, but the evidence led to one undoubtable and unalterable conclusion: in order for us to preserve a building that we love, a heritage that we cherish and a history that we are in charge of, we have to decant from this building, refurbish it, restore it, renew it and revive it, and on that basis allow ourselves to have a new building for future generations.
We should dispel the nonsense that there is no easy solution. We must take the difficult choice and we must take it expeditiously. No more dilly-dallying should be allowed to take place. There is not a cheap option. Some Members are trying to hide behind the costs—“If we do the work over time, it will be cheaper.” That is a fraud upon all of us and it does not fool any of us. It does not fool anyone out there in the general public, up there in the Gallery or, indeed, in any newspaper across this country.
We do not own this building; we are custodians of it for future generations. Damian Green made a strong case when he spoke about the security and safety needs of this building, but those of us who care about the history of this building have probably never even visited the cloisters because we cannot. We are largely excluded from going there because it is crumbling. That most historic part can be preserved and revived only if we embark upon an ambitious plan to rebuild those parts of this crumbling building.
As Members of this House, when we enter each day we walk over stones that were laid by William the Conqueror’s descendants. We walk where Cromwell marched his army. We hear echoes around this building, the place where Wilberforce chanted the call for freedom. We pass through corridors where the smoke of Winston Churchill would have passed by. Indeed, on this great Bench, our heroes of Craig and Carson—and, indeed, my da—actually sat. If we really love this building, as many say they do, we should be brave and urge, as amendment (b) does, that we get on with this process expeditiously.