The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body

Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 19th June 2019.

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Amendments made: 8, page 10, line 20, at end insert—

‘( ) See also paragraph 7A, which makes provision about the appointment of the first external members.”

This amendment signposts the new paragraph 7A inserted by amendment 9 (which deals with the appointment of the first external members of the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body).

Amendment 9, page 12, line 2, at end insert—

“Appointment of initial external members

7A (1) The person who, immediately before the commencement day, was the chair of the shadow Sponsor Body is to be treated as having been appointed on that day as the chair of the Sponsor Body in accordance with paragraph 2.

(2) Appointment by virtue of sub-paragraph (1) is to be treated as being for a term of 3 years.

(3) A person who, immediately before the commencement day—

(a) was a member of the shadow Sponsor Body (other than the chair), and

(b) was not a member of either House of Parliament,

is to be treated as having been appointed on that day as a member of the Sponsor Body in accordance with paragraph 3 (external members).

(4) Appointment by virtue of sub-paragraph (3) is to be treated as being for a term ending with the last day of the period of 3 years beginning with the day on which the shadow Sponsor Body was established.

(5) An appointment by virtue of sub-paragraph (1) or (3) ceases to have effect at the end of the period of 1 month beginning with the commencement day unless, before the end of that period, the appointment is confirmed by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(6) Paragraphs 2, 3 and 6 do not apply in relation to a member who is appointed by virtue of sub-paragraph (1) or (3).

(7) In this paragraph—

“the commencement day” means the day on which section 2(1) comes into force;

“the shadow Sponsor Body” means the body, established in July 2018 in connection with the restoration of the Palace of Westminster, which is known as the shadow Sponsor Body.”—(Mark Tami.)

This amendment provides for those who were external members of the shadow Sponsor Body immediately before clause 2 comes into force to be appointed as the first external members of the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body.

Third Reading

Queen’s consent signified.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 4:38 pm, 19th June 2019

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I give my thanks to my fellow Devonian Member of the House, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend for Torbay (Kevin Foster), for all the work that he has put into the earlier stages of the Bill, not least because he arrived on the Bill after its Second Reading. He has done an excellent job in liaising with others and getting himself over all the considerable detail of the matters that we are discussing today. I also thank those who served in Committee and those who contributed on Report.

I shall not dwell on the Bill for too long, as there is a high level of consensus across the House, and of course it is a Bill for Parliament as a whole and not for the Government in particular. It is important that we protect, restore and renew the parliamentary estate, not just because there are 3,000 or 4,000 people working here who have a right to work in a place of safety that is not falling apart around our ears, quite literally in some instances, but because the estate—the building and this Chamber in particular—is a symbol of the cradle of democracy that has inspired many millions all around the world. It is a symbol of our heritage, rooted in that sense of democracy.

The estate is also a positive symbol of defiance. One thinks of this Chamber and these buildings as having been forged out of the great fire of 1834, but this Chamber itself burned down in its former incarnation during the final days of the blitz, when Westminster Hall was also struck by incendiary bombs. The difficult decision had to be taken as to which one to save, given that there were not enough fire appliances to save both. With Westminster Hall being almost 1,000 years old, the decision was taken to save the older part of the Palace, which was undoubtedly the right decision. This Chamber rose out of the ashes at the end of the second world war and serves as a great inspiration to our country, and it is important that we do the right thing by the estate.

As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has amply outlined, the Bill sets the governance structure for the work that will be required to bring everything up to the standards that we should expect. It will ensure that the work runs to time, runs to budget and has a high emphasis on ensuring value for the taxpayer.

Of course, one of the reasons why the Bill is in such good shape is the excellent work of the Joint Committee that conducted pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill. I extend my thanks to my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman for her excellent chairmanship of that Committee. It should be noted that, in broad terms, the Committee endorsed the approach that the Bill takes. I also thank my right hon. Friend Andrea Leadsom, my predecessor as Leader of the House, for all her excellent work in pushing the project forward and for taking the Bill through its Second Reading.

The consensus across the House has extended to the Government drafting some of the amendments that we have agreed this afternoon. Most notably, we drafted amendments 8 and 9, which were in the names of my right hon. Friend Sir Patrick McLoughlin and Mark Tami—I will call him my right hon. Friend because he was my sparring partner during my days in the Whips Office—who spoke so powerfully about the importance of ensuring that the shadow Sponsor Body is transferred, subject to various requirements depending on when the appointments and the terms of office fall due.

We also worked with Christian Matheson on amendment 7, which relates to education facilities. We absolutely accept that such facilities are not just desirable but necessary. We thank him for the constructive way in which he engaged with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on that matter. There were many other contributions, and two amendments—amendments 1 and 4—have now passed by way of Division in addition to those that I have mentioned. We look forward to examining them and to considering whether they might be improved or changed in some way when this Bill goes to the other place, but that is down to the will of the House.

I conclude by thanking the Bill team, all those involved in the restoration and renewal programme, the Whips, the PPSs—my hon. Friends the Members for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) and for Banbury (Victoria Prentis)—the Clerks, the Opposition Front-Bench team and, in particular, the shadow Leader of the House for having sponsored the Bill. The Bill has been improved during its swift progress, and the House has risen to the occasion. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 4:44 pm, 19th June 2019

I endorse the Leader of House’s full list of thanks to save the Official Reporters having to record it again. I am pleased to support the Bill, as amended, and I thank the Chairs in Committee—my right hon. Friend David Hanson and Sir Gary Streeter—and the other members of the Committee for debating the Bill on 4 June. I thank my hon. Friend Christian Matheson and the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Kevin Foster, for taking the Bill through. I understand that it was quite a pleasant affair—[Interruption.] Perhaps I should not have used the word “affair”!

Her Majesty’s Opposition support the Bill, which follows a long process of assessing and reviewing the state of the Palace of Westminster and of determining how best to proceed. The House debated and voted on restoration and renewal on 31 January 2018, and agreed that the Palace of Westminster is in need of restoration and renewal.

I thank both former Leaders of the House, the right hon. Members for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington) and for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), for unlocking the difficulties and allowing the passage of the Bill—particularly the right hon. Lady, who is here in the Chamber.

The House resolved by 234 votes to 185 that immediate steps be taken to establish a shadow Sponsor Board and Delivery Authority. I thank the members of the shadow Sponsor Board, who will hopefully step out of the shadows and become fully fledged members. These bodies will be able to make strategic decisions on the restoration and renewal programme so that the Palace of Westminster can be secured as the UK Parliament for future generations.

The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body will have overall responsibility for restoration and renewal, will act as a single client on behalf of both Houses and will be empowered to form a Delivery Authority. The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body will hopefully also have responsibility for the Northern Estate programme.

On Report, hon. Members touched on the successful London Olympics project, and one of the key things is that the project had an end date, so I suggest that the Leader of the House looks at arranging a proper schedule so that restoration and renewal does not run into never-ending dates for completion. It is important to have a date for completion.

I, too, thank the Joint Committee, chaired by Dame Caroline Spelman, for scrutinising the draft Bill and making recommendations. The Joint Committee reported on 21 March 2019, and it said that the basic structure of governance proposed by the draft Bill is correct.

This has not been mentioned but, now Parliament has agreed that there is a climate change emergency, I understand that, within the necessary constraints of heritage and conservation planning, the refurbishment will support the energy efficiency of the buildings by using more energy-efficient building fabrics, including, where feasible, in the Palace of Westminster.

I am delighted that the education centre has been accepted and will be in its new place, as it will be a key part of the legacy of the building works. It should be established and remain in place during the works on the Northern Estate and the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre. I know from experience that my constituents love the education centre, and it is important in helping them to understand what democracy is about so that they know exactly what we do in this place. The education centre is a fantastic building, showing the reality of sitting in the Chamber and in the House of Lords, so I thank the Leader of the House.

I heard what the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office said about the Comptroller and Auditor General, and I hope some sort of oversight can be agreed. The Government mentioned cost and value for money approximately 13 times in their response to the Joint Committee’s report, so it is vital that we all agree that costs should be kept in check, particularly for taxpayers and for Parliament.

My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester did a grand job of addressing amendment 1 on blacklisting, and I am delighted that the House has accepted that amendment. The Leader of the House will know that the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010 prohibit the compilation, use, sale or supply of trade union blacklists. It is a terrible thing to be on such a blacklist, which destroys lives, and I am pleased that the House has spoken and that it will not be the case, certainly in terms of contracts.

Talking of contracts, one of the key considerations that Opposition colleagues are keen to proceed with in restoration and renewal—Neil Gray addressed this in amendment 4—is the need to ensure that the economic benefits are available to all countries and regions of the UK, not just London. There used to be something called contract compliance, so contracts can be worded in such a way to include that. We know that some European countries—dare I mention Europe?—are able to benefit their own companies in that way without falling foul of state aid rules. I certainly think that contracts could be worded in such a way as to make those benefits available to the whole country. I know that it has been accepted now, but perhaps the Leader of the House could write to the shadow Sponsor Body to suggest that it looks at that.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

Anybody with experience of local government will know that a contract has to include every item. If it does not, there will be a lot of additional costs that were never expected. Does my hon. Friend agree?

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Absolutely. I know that my hon. Friend had a very good career as the leader of a local council, so he knows all about it.

Turning to heritage, Tim Loughton made a valuable and robust contribution, and I agree with every word he said—I must declare an interest, because my daughter is an archaeologist. This is a unique building and we must protect it. I understand the Minister’s point about the distinction of a UNESCO world heritage site, which is slightly different, but it is an historic building. My hon. Friend Mr Sweeney suggested that we should have a craft school, which is something they do in Scotland. Perhaps Historic England could link up with Historic Environment Scotland and do something somewhere in the middle of the country—

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Yes, I would love that. We have a great manufacturing tradition and there are many skills.

Photo of Mark Tami Mark Tami Opposition Pairing Whip (Commons)

Many of the skills that we will need are currently very limited, whether those of stonemasons or people who can work on the thousands of windows in this place. We need to train those people, because those skills are not readily available. We will be importing those skills if we do not train people.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. For me, having apprentices is a key consideration. It is also a good opportunity to make the workforce more diverse. I do not know whether the Leader of the House is aware of this, but there is a specific company that employs only women builders, decorators, plumbers and electricians. I think that looking at that would be a good way of showing that we are diverse. I would have liked to have seen the heritage aspect included in the Bill, but the Minister has suggested that there will be discussions, particularly in the other place, where there is a lot of expertise on heritage—he might regret that slightly. I am glad that the amendments have been won. Perhaps the Government will consider making them slightly stronger. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester will be very happy to work with the Government on any future wording.

Finally, we have a duty to protect this amazing building. I know that lots of hon. Members have worked hard, whether in Bill Committees or through contributions they have made in discussions with House authorities, including the Minister. It affects all of us. We might not be here when the building is finally restored to its glory and is in its best condition, but we do this for future generations. Her Majesty’s Opposition are absolutely delighted to support the Bill as amended.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Conservative, South Northamptonshire 4:54 pm, 19th June 2019

I am delighted to see you in the Chair again, Madam Deputy Speaker, for my second speech in two days—my first contributions from the Back Benches since 2014—on another subject about which I feel so passionately. Yesterday, I talked about my passion for this place, this much-loved Parliament, in the context of the need to ensure that everybody who comes here to visit or to work is treated with dignity and respect. Today, I shall talk briefly about my other passion: making sure that Parliament is a safe and modern place for all those who work in it and for the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

It was no mean feat—in fact, it was quite a great achievement—to introduce the Bill and to make progress where countless other Governments have failed. I pay tribute to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your commitment as a member of the House of Commons Commission, and to the shadow Leader of the House, Valerie Vaz, and the representatives of other parties on the Commission, for their commitment to making progress on this issue. The Bill is a significant tribute to all those who serve on the Commission, who were so determined to see that we take action.

Since the repairs made after the second world war, very little has been done to restore the Palace’s fabric. It is clear that 80% of the cost of R and R will lie in mechanical and engineering works. There is no doubt that we have almost left it too late. There have been 66 fire incidents since 2008. There are regular masonry falls, with the potential to cause serious injury. There are constant leaks—in the Palace rather than the Cabinet—blockages and failures of systems, and there is of course the ever-present risk of an asbestos leak, which would have us move straight out of here.

I wish to pay tribute to those with whom I worked closely over the past couple of years. I pay tribute, first, to those who served on the original Joint Committee, the advice of which has been so fundamental to the making of progress; to the programme team, particularly Tom and Kate, who did such a fantastic job; to the superb Leader’s Office team, particularly Joanna and Rob, who have done a marvellous job; to the joint Select Committee, particularly my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman; to the shadow Sponsor Board itself—I wish Liz Peace every success as she takes it forward; to the Bill Committee, with huge thanks to the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend Kevin Foster, who literally jumped in and got stuck straight into the Bill, and what a fantastic job he has done; and to the Cabinet Office Bill team, particularly Ellen and Tim.

I pay particular tribute to Chris Bryant, who has been such a supporter and advocate of restoration and renewal, and to Meg Hillier, who has been a superb Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and has proven herself to be a completely determined advocate for the restoration of this place. It has been a vital, cross-party effort. Finally, I pay tribute to my now ex-Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend Victoria Prentis, who was a huge support to me personally as we tried to persuade Members right across the House to back the Bill. I am so glad that, between us all, probably with some fraught conversations and a bit of persuasion—with no bullying, of course, because that would not be acceptable, but with some strong persuasion and strong argument—we have got there.

As we send the Bill to the other place for consideration, I would really like the Delivery Authority to consider looking into three issues that are critical to value for money and to the securing of a modern and functioning democracy. The first is Elizabeth Tower. You will know as well as I do, Madam Deputy Speaker, that this has been a fraught issue. Elizabeth Tower is being restored. It is probably halfway through its restoration—at significant cost to the taxpayer—and will be open long before we leave this place. It is my strong desire that, once the restoration work starts and we have decanted out of here, Elizabeth Tower should remain open to members of the public. It will have been expensively restored, and the programme team have confirmed that having Elizabeth Tower remain open would not add to the cost or complexity of R and R. I urge the Delivery Authority to ensure that that happens and that we do not end up putting the Elizabeth Tower under wraps again, having just reopened it.

The second issue to consider the availability of the second Chamber in Westminster Hall—the Grand Committee Room—which, in itself, will not be significantly affected by restoration and renewal. It is a more complicated matter because, of course, there will be building works, earth movers and so on all around the Palace, but we should give it consideration, bearing in mind that the decant option gives us only 75% of the footprint of the Palace. If we want to try to snaffle some of that back, we could keep the Grand Committee Room as our second Chamber throughout. That would enable us to provide more space for valuable Committee rooms and so on in Richmond House during the decant period. I urge the Delivery Authority to consider retaining access to that second Chamber, certainly through Saint Stephen’s entrance, and potentially keeping the Jubilee Café open as a place for Members and visitors to be able to eat and get cups of tea. The second Chamber is a particularly useful place, and I urge colleagues to consider that point seriously.

I have one final point to make in the context of the entire project. I have some concerns about the proposed way in which the media will be facilitated during the decant period. I met the head of the Lobby on a couple of occasions to discuss the needs of the media. I am aware that, under the current proposals for decant, the amount of space for the media is proposed to be considerably restricted to potentially half what it currently has. There is also a proposal to put a glass screen between members of the press and the temporary Chamber. I urge the Delivery Authority, if it takes on the northern estate programme, to reconsider that and ensure that the press has adequate space. Day in, day out, we see the consequences of different Parliaments around the world not having a free press to scrutinise their work. We constantly see the consequences of dictators who try to shut down the freedom of the press and what that does to their societies and their communities, and I would hate for us to do anything that did not permit the freedom of the press that we so value in the United Kingdom.

I am so glad to see this vital legislation moving forward and that the House itself has come to accept that, if we want to stay here for decades to come and pass this great Palace on to future generations, we simply must get on with it. I will stay close to the R and R programme over the coming years, and I look forward to the establishment of a professional Delivery Authority that will be tasked with ensuring good value for taxpayers’ money and with ensuring our legacy.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 5:02 pm, 19th June 2019

I do not plan to detain the House for very long. You will be pleased to know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that my speaking notes had to be ripped up after the result of that last vote. We are very pleased that the SNP secured the amendment of the Bill with the support of Members from all parties, for which I am very grateful.

It is a pleasure to follow Andrea Leadsom. She perhaps inadvertently provided several thanks not just to me but to the likes of Mark Tami for the service that we provided through all stages—from the Joint Committee to the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee, the Finance Committee, the Sponsor Board and various other incarnations in which we have been involved. Certainly thanks must also go to her, as she was the first Minister who took this project very seriously and started to drive it forward. The House must thank her for her efforts in this regard. Previously, the Government were rather lukewarm and standoffish about the project.

I want to pick up on some of the points that the right hon. Lady made, because they were very sensible and should go on the record. The suggestion about Elizabeth Tower should be considered. I know that she and others have made that point before, and it is right that the relevant bodies consider it. I think she understands that her idea about Westminster Hall might present a greater challenge. Discussions need to be had with the contractors and the programme board about whether it would be possible given the fact that we are looking for a full decant to make it easier for the contractors to work, but certainly it should be considered.

The right hon. Lady was absolutely right to make her point about facilities for the media. Under the current proposals, their facilities would be greatly downgraded from the already inadequate facilities they currently have, so that issue definitely needs to be looked at as part of the decant process.

I thank Joanna Dodd and Michael Everett in the Clerks team for their assistance in drafting our amendments, which were successful in the end, and SNP researcher Eoin Bradley, who provided support on the Bill. I also thank my hon. Friend Stewart Hosie, who is soon to be a Privy Counsellor; he provided a great service for us on the House of Commons Commission. He and I have worked closely together throughout the process leading up to this point. His replacement will be my hon. Friend Pete Wishart—[Interruption.] Indeed, he should also be a Privy Counsellor. My hon. Friend led on Second Reading and has been heavily involved in this process to date.

I thank the new Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Kevin Foster, for his approachability and willingness to engage. Although we disagreed on my amendment 4, he was willing to engage and we had a very forthright, honest meeting and discussion about it. I have a challenge for the current Leader of the House—not to sabotage amendment 4, which has just been passed and which is about ensuring that there is discernible benefit across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom when the Bill moves to the other place. We will be watching closely and with great interest.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee 5:06 pm, 19th June 2019

I will not repeat the many thanks outlined by Andrea Leadsom, Neil Gray and others, because they have listed everybody that I would list. However, I pay tribute to them and particularly to the members of the original Joint Committee, who really set the tone.

It seems a long time since 31 January last year, when we were on a knife edge here—not knowing. I hot-footed it here from my daughter’s hospital bed to ensure that we could get the amendment through, but we were really not sure what was going to happen. I give real credit to the former Leader of the House for taking up the ball and running with it, and ensuring that the Bill reached this position today. I also thank the Ministers since then who have picked up the pace.

It is really important that we get on with this now, and there is a real will to do so. As Members, we need to keep a very close eye on the process. The Public Accounts Committee will certainly do that, although probably not under me. I think my term of office will have almost come to an end—if I am still here—by the time we move out, so I will leave a note to my successor. The National Audit Office is already looking at how it can engage with the process, although there are still some discussions to be had about how that will work.

I urge Ministers to look again at amendment 6. I apologise for not being here when the Minister discussed it—I was chairing the Public Accounts Committee—but I thank him for the assurances that it will be looked at in the other place. It seems to me that amendment 6 follows neatly on from amendment 4, which has been adopted, because for amendment 4 to work we will need some sort of audit of how the work is going. Amendment 6 is a very simple measure, so I welcome the fact that the Minister has agreed to look at it and I know that colleagues in the other place will do so.

It feels like a long journey since January last year, but this has actually been going on since 2016 in this Parliament, and of course it has been decades coming. The key lesson is that we must ensure not only that we move out, get the work done and move back, but that no future Parliament allows the future, modernised, refurbished, restored Parliament building to fall into such disrepair. If this building is going to work for successions of future MPs, peers, staff and members of the public who visit, and if it is to remain the icon of democracy that it was set up to be, we need to maintain it in the future. We must make sure that that is part of the plan now—I lay a warning for our successors. That cyclical maintenance, boring though it may be, is vital so that we are not in this position again in our dotage. I can imagine the former Leader of the House sitting up in the Public Gallery and getting very frustrated if we come here as we get older. Let us hope that we do not have to do that, and that future Members will be good custodians of this building, as we and some of our predecessors have sadly not been in the past.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.