Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:42 pm on 21st April 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 5:42 pm, 21st April 2021

I beg to move,

That, under the provisions of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019, Tommy Sheppard having resigned as a Parliamentary member of the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body, Kirsty Blackman be appointed to the Body in his place.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to this motion, which has been put before the House at a critical moment for the restoration and renewal project. The appointment of Kirsty Blackman to the Sponsor Body comes as the officials charged with delivering the works are beginning to draw up more detailed proposals, which will ultimately be put to the House for approval.

During this process, hon. Members will, if today’s motion is agreed to, be asked their views on all manner of questions —questions such as: should we put a glass roof on this or that courtyard; or, should we go above and beyond our statutory obligations; or should we spend £1.5 billion on a temporary Chamber? Sometimes it will be up to us, as Members of Parliament, to say, “No, thank you.” That is why the work of Members sitting on the Sponsor Body is so important, because the input of those directly accountable to taxpayers should make a real difference to what is eventually brought forward.

The Sponsor Body and the delivery authority will not be spending the coming months drawing up their plans to advance this project in isolation. Indeed, they have already begun engaging with Members to understand their views. This summer, Members will have the opportunity to put forward opinions on the initial work directly, with further opportunities continuing later in the year and into 2022. I strongly encourage hon. and right hon. Members to take up this opportunity. At the same time, the Sponsor Body and the delivery authority will proceed with their work, while listening carefully to the hon. Member for Aberdeen North as well as to other Members from the major parties on the Sponsor Body, who will, together, helpfully scrutinise and shape the activity. This was a task that Tommy Sheppard had been approaching with his customary aplomb. Indeed, I am delighted to see the third party taking such an interest in the long-term future of the Palace of Westminster, and I am glad to see that are its Members are here. This is great contribution to our nation.

What is at stake here does not rest on party membership or whether one sits on the Government or the Opposition Benches; what matters is our responsibility to our constituents. We as Members are the ones who will have to look taxpayers in the eye and explain why we are spending public money on the facilities and buildings of Westminster rather than elsewhere on public services used by millions. Yes, the Palace of Westminster must be saved for future generations, but in aiming to achieve that goal we must seek to build the broadest possible consensus across the House, which means preparing a programme of works that prioritises what is vital, not gold plating. I am confident that the hon. Member for Aberdeen North will play her part, through her discussions with fellow parliamentarians, so that we can arrive at a sensible outline business case that allows the programme to proceed on schedule. That is the outcome we all want to achieve, and I am sure the hon. Lady will help realise it. On that basis, I commend this motion to the House.