London (AFP) – The British Parliament towers over the River Thames. A popular attraction for tourists, the Victorian Palace is a loyal companion to Londoners and a symbol of the United Kingdom to all. But within the national icon, the glory quickly ended.
150-year-old mold is exploding in the venerable rooms. Parliament itself reported “fallen stones, cracks in the roofs and crooked windows”, and water damage. For decades, only the basics were corrected, and mice were running the lanes. The Palace of Westminster is in need of redevelopment. But the controversy over the renewal has stalled.
The fire has already been avoided in 2017
Members of the European Parliament are sounding the alarm. Former minister Andrea Leadsom told the BBC at the weekend that the iconic building in the heart of the capital was threatened with a fate like Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, which was badly damaged in a major fire nearly three years ago. And the conservative politician warned that “it could burn today, tomorrow, or any day.” In 2017, a fire was only avoided thanks to the fire watch, which operates around the clock in Parliament. “We have to make a decision and move on.”
But so far, the deputies have not been able to reach an agreement. Because it’s about a lot of money – and a lot of time. In February, a report from the Responsible Program Committee estimated the costs at between 7 and 13 billion pounds (8.3 to 15.4 billion euros). Construction period: from 19 to 28 years. In addition to improving fire protection, asbestos removal, new cabling, and maintenance work are essential. The building, which was built between 1837 and 1860, is also threatened by flooding.
But all the numbers and data only apply if MPs have left the building for 12 to 20 years. If there is only partial removal, the estimates increase significantly. And if work had to be done around MPs and staff, the Palace of Westminster would become an expensive permanent site to build: 46-76 years would be required at a cost of £11-22 billion.
The alternate site is up for discussion
The delay is also due to disagreements between members of the two chambers, each of which has its seat in both houses of Parliament. First, an alternative site must be found, but even that is difficult. So the Lords, as members of the House of Lords are called, want to stay near the House of Commons. The conference building located near the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, which was under discussion, was rejected by the government as an alternative location.
Construction Secretary Michael Gove, as the responsible cabinet member, would prefer to move to a completely different area. Gove’s letter to Lords John Macphale was quoted by the BBC as saying: “I understand that a change in the House of Lords, even for a temporary period, would be widely welcomed.” “I know that cities and towns across the UK would be happy to offer their hospitality to their peers.” Moving for a year to a city outside London would also symbolically support Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “Leveling Up” programme, for which Gove is responsible.
‘Very angry in the house of the lords’
But the minister faces resistance. Lords member Helen Hayman senses a conspiracy. Hayman, a former Labor MP in the House of Commons, told the BBC that the House of Lords was doing its job temporarily in blocking the Tory government’s highly controversial proposals.
“They are very angry with the House of Lords. To expel us is a punishment.” Experts fear that political bargaining will further delay the €1 billion project. Political expert Matthew Flinders said all sides would blame each other for turning away from unpopular decisions.
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