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Thu February 20 2020

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MPs split over Parliament refurbishment plan

20 Mar 17 The House of Commons Treasury committee says that there should be no decision taken on the proposed refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster until it has completed its own inquiry.

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.

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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.”

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