Bercrow has given details of how Parliament is tackling its asbestos problem

The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has given new details of Parliament’s efforts to combat its massive asbestos problem.

Parliament’s asbestos dangers first hit the national news in 2008, after a report leaked to Clinica magazine and the Guardian disclosed “significant dangers” to “all persons” from exposure to the carcinogenic substance in the Victorian-built Houses of Parliament.

Building asked Bercow - who is ultimately responsible for the upkeep of the parliamentary estate - how he was tackling the ongoing issue at the NFB annual conference last month.

Responding on his behalf, Commons staff revealed parliament has this year appointed Redhill Analysts as an asbestos consultant and defended the recent management of the asbestos problem.

The management has been criticised by Goddard Consulting, which produced the 2008 report.

Founder Ted Goddard said that the presence of asbestos in parliament was the most extensive he’d seen in his career, out of the “hundreds” of buildings he had surveyed.
But John Borley, House of Commons board member for facilities management, said he disagreed with Goddard’s assessment of the extent of the asbestos risk.

Borley said that parliament had a “watertight” policy of containment and had been given a clean bill of health by the Health and Safety Executive. He added: “It would be a problem if we didn’t manage it.”

A spokesperson for parliament said: “The speaker as chair of the House of Commons Commission is kept regularly informed about major developments regarding the House of Commons estate.

“We estimate that in the last four years, up to 1,000 routine air quality tests have been performed around the parliamentary estate with not one test conclusively proving the presence of asbestos above [the limit of detection].

“This is a complex area where professional opinions may differ.”