THE SNP has urged the UK Government to consider building a new replace for the Palace of Westminster after a Treasury Select Committee report said refurbishment would cost at least £3.5 billion and would take between five and eight years.
In its report, the committee said there was not enough transparency surrounding decisions on restoration and renewal, despite investigations and recommendations.
“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,” it said.
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“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.”
Andrew Tyrie, the Treasury Committee chair, said the project was one of the largest major restorations in the history of the public sector.
“Apparently, it is likely to cost at least £3.5bn over five-eight years,” he said.
“This can only be justified to taxpayers if Parliament and the public see the evidence required to make an informed decision.
“The committee’s inquiry into this hugely expensive project will challenge and assess the work and conclusions of the existing reports.
“Until such work has been carried out, it would be imprudent for Parliament to commit to a specific option.”
However, an SNP spokesperson said: “The committee report’s findings are disappointing in that it fails to look at all economical options on the table, such as a new-build functioning parliament.
“At a time of continued Tory austerity and following the Chancellor’s embarrassing U-turn on taxing the self-employed, we have to question whether spending billions of pounds to keep Parliament in a palace is good use of taxpayer’s money.”
The committee’s preliminary report concludes that it will try 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.”
The age and condition of the Palace of Westminster are the biggest problems facing the refurbishment project.
There is the risk of a “catastrophic failure or fire, or of small incremental failures rendering the building uninhabitable”, and the committee is to examine how serious these are, how far it is possible to assess them, as well as how rapidly they are worsening.
The current timetable would see the extended start date change from 2020 to 2023 and the committee said it would look into what was driving that.
It would also consider how soon commitments had to be made, and how well the timetable fits with other projects in the House.