The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill 2017-19 was introduced on 8 May 2019. Its second reading has been scheduled for 21 May. The Bill establishes the bodies that will be responsible for overseeing and delivering the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster.Jump to full report >>
The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill 2017-19 [Bill 388] was introduced in the House of Commons on 8 May 2019, by the Leader of the House of Commons. As well as other Cabinet ministers, Valerie Vaz, the shadow Leader of the House of Commons, is also a sponsor of the Bill. A written statement from the Leader of the House of Commons, on the same day, noted that the Bill would give effect to resolutions passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords on 31 January and 6 February 2018, respectively.
The Bill defines “the Parliamentary building works”, which encompasses “Palace restoration works” – the Restoration and Renewal Programme. The scope of the definition is wider than the Palace restoration works. This is to allow the Commissions of the House of Commons and of the House of Lords, with the agreement of the Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority, to designate other works relating to the Parliamentary Estate as works to be undertaken by the programme.
The Bill establishes the statutory body that will have overall responsibility for the Parliamentary building works – the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body. It requires the Sponsor Body to form a company limited by guarantee – the Delivery Authority – to formulate proposals relating to Palace restoration works and to carry out the Parliamentary building works. The Bill also establishes the Parliamentary Works Estimate Commission. Estimates are prepared by the Sponsor Body. The Estimates Commission is responsible for laying estimates before the House of Commons. Before doing so, it has to review them and if the anticipated final cost exceeds the amount of funds allocated for the works, it can reject the estimate and require the Sponsor Body to prepare a new estimate.
The Bill requires parliamentary approval for the proposed Palace restoration works and the funding of those works.
Before that approval is obtained, expenditure is limited to preparatory works, which include initial design works and works that “do not affect the continued functioning of the Palace of Westminster for the purposes of either House of Parliament”. So there are two phases:
The introduction of the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill 2017-19 followed a long drawn out process of assessing and reviewing the state of the Palace of Westminster and of determining how best to proceed.
A Library Briefing Paper, Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster (CBP 7898, 3 December 2018), provides more background on the programme up to the appointment of the joint committee on the draft bill.
The January/February 2018 resolutions of the two Houses requiring the establishment of the Sponsor Body and the Delivery Authority only referred to works in the Palace of Westminster (including the decant and decant venue of the House of Lords). The Northern Estate Programme (NEP) is a House of Commons programme of refurbishment of buildings and the construction of a temporary Chamber. It is proposed that whilst both Houses are unable to use the Palace of Westminster, the House of Commons will sit in this temporary Chamber.
A majority of witnesses who appeared before the Joint Committee on the Draft Parliamentary Buildings Bill thought it would be sensible for the sponsor Body to take charge of the NEP as well as the works in the Palace, because of the interdependency of the programmes.
The Bill would allow this to happen but does not require it.
The Joint Committee noted that Andrea Leadsom expressed concern that incorporating the NEP into the Sponsor Body’s responsibilities would add to the complexity of the project. However, the Joint Committee argued that the House of Commons Commission, which is responsible for the NEP, “is not an organisation whose primary purpose is to manage major building works and we do not believe that it should retain this responsibility when a dedicated organisation is ready and able to take over”.
It recommended that “the shadow Sponsor Body take on de facto responsibility for all the works necessary for decant even before the Act to set up the statutory body is passed” and that “Once the Sponsor Body has been established in its substantive form we believe it should take control of the Northern Estate Programme”.
In its response to the Joint Committee, the Government noted that the Bill would allow the NEP to be included in the Parliamentary works programme. It also acknowledged the interdependent relationship between the two programmes. It noted that discussions about integrating the programmes were underway. However, it considered that full integration “may be more appropriate” after Royal Assent, when “the Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority are established in substantive form, and all the statutory accountability and financial safeguards are in place”.
The House of Commons launched a consultation on its proposals for a temporary House of Commons at Parliament’s Northern Estate on 8 May 2019.
Commons Briefing papers CBP-8568
Author: Richard Kelly