The Treasury committee’s line is in direct contrast to that of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which also has a spending watchdog remit. Earlier this month the PAC recommended that all MPs and Peers should vacate the Palace of Westminster to enable the refurbishment to proceed as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible. Any delay would only add to the costs and the risks, it said.
The Treasury committee, by contrast, is not satisfied by the work of expert consultants, led by Deloitte, that forms the basis of decision making to date. It is not so much the competence of the experts that the MPs question, but the terms of reference given to them.
The consultants have estimated that the cost, if carried out over the minimum period of five to eight years, will be between £3.5bn and £4bn. A joint committee of both House of Parliament reported in September 2016 on the options presented by the consultants.
The Treasury committee’s preliminary report says: “Despite the investigations and recommendations of the Joint Committee and Deloitte, the process by which and by whom some decisions have been taken on restoration and renewal to date are opaque. The Treasury Committee will examine the Deloitte’s original brief from Parliament and the guidelines it was given to govern the scope of its work. There will be other important process decisions to be taken following the expected debate in the House affecting the programme. These will include the scope of the business case and the integration of the project with other strategic works programmes affecting the estate. We will consider how these processes can be subject to adequate scrutiny during and after the restoration and renewal programme.”
The Treasury committee report concluded that: “[The committee] will attempt to assist the House by challenging and testing the work and the conclusions of Deloitte and the joint committee. Because of the extensive investigations already carried out, our inquiry is likely to be relatively short and specific. Until this work has been carried out, it is our view that it would be imprudent for the House to commit to a specific option or timetable.”