Palace of Westminster: Utilities

House of Commons Commission written question – answered on 15th October 2008.

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Photo of Frank Doran Frank Doran Chair, Administration Committee, Chair, Administration Committee

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what progress has been made with preparations for the planned works to replace the mechanical and electrical systems in the Palace of Westminster.

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Much of the mechanical and electrical system within the Palace of Westminster has now exceeded its economic service life and major modernisation work is urgently required. It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the existing services and to replace, repair or extend them as required in an efficient and effective manner and there is a growing risk that breakdown in these essential services could not be quickly repaired. The complete project will take many years and involve considerable cost.

The Commission is concerned to ensure that the mechanical and electrical modernisation is carried out in the most economical way consistent with enabling the House to operate properly. Normal practice is that major works are only undertaken in the Palace of Westminster during the summer recess but the extensive scale of the work planned requires that the full range of options should be carefully considered. The Commission (working with the responsible bodies in the Lords) is therefore ordering a detailed feasibility study to examine whether substantial savings in cost, time and risk could be made by moving some operations of both Houses out of the Palace for a period to enable modernisation to be carried out continuously until its completion. All contingencies need to be looked at carefully. The feasibility study is expected to report in the middle of 2009. No decisions will be taken until all these options have been assessed.

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