The need for Parliament to move out of the Palace of Westminster in order for major renovations to take place, estimated at some £7Bn is not news, although over the last decade there have been various discussions regarding the idea that the renovations could be carried out during Parliamentary recesses. This approach would take much longer and cost much more, but it would mean that Parliament could stay put, potentially reducing some of the expected disruption. However on Saturday the Independent newspaper published a piece on the possible new location for the Commons and Lords to move to. If this is a well researched article, it raises all sorts of issues which shows that our Government is determined to do as little as possible to help itself, primarily because we are willing to pick up the tab for its excesses. The suggestion is that they will move a few yards away to the offices of the Department of Health.
As we have seen on our screens, moving into temporary accommodation is a matter of reality for many people across the UK. In most cases this is as a result of floods or other external threats, on the other hands there are also folk whose decision to create a new home can lead to a short term relocation. In all cases the people moving leave behind possessions which have no longer got any purpose for the families concerned. Space is at a premium in these situations and so the move offers a cathartic chance to slim down or declutter. However the Commons and Lords despite regular debates and comments in public remains bloated and unchecked in its breadth. This would be a great opportunity to reduce the number of MPs, Lords and Special Advisers.
The second element of concern is the location of the temporary accommodation. We have a deeply London centric Government which occasionally moves out to other locations for Cabinet meetings. Why not grasp the nettle and move to locations where the accommodation is much cheaper and the environment is less familiar to our elected leaders. A move to Birmingham, or Liverpool, to Sheffield or Middlesbrough would completely change the way in which our Government operates.
Finally when will Parliament consider what they want to return to? It is pretty lazy to assume that renovating what Parliament has, and returning the MPs and Lords to the same but more modern will do the trick. We know that the current two sided chamber is no longer a good fit for our Parliament with numerous groupings within each party, let alone the number of party’s. Lets have a contest to design new Chambers that are fit for the 22nd Century so that by the time we get there, these issues have been considered.