MPs and peers will move out for six years

An Olympic-style delivery authority will oversee the £4bn restoration of the Palace of Westminster.

A joint committee of MPs and peers this afternoon published a long-awaited recommendation for the best way to save the crumbling Grade I-listed buildings.

As trailed, the committee has backed a full move out of MPs and peers for five to eight years to allow the essential maintenance works to take place.

During this period MPs will move to the nearby headquarters of the Department of Health - Richmond House, revealed to be the frontrunner by Building in March - while peers will move to the QE2 conference centre.

Today’s report recommends Parliament set up an “arm’s length Delivery Authority” to test its conclusions and to work up detailed designs and a business case, which both Houses will then vote on.

This delivery authority is likely to be supported by the winners of two client advisory roles Parliament has been procuring.

Nine firms and joint ventures were shortlisted last December - Allies and Morrison, BDP, Foster + Partners and HOK have been shortlisted for the architectural lot, while Aecom and Mace, Capita and Gleeds, CH2M, Arcadis and Turner & Townsend have been shortlisted for programme, project and cost management services.

Construction of the London 2012 venues and infrastructure was overseen by the Olympic Delivery Authority, chaired by Sir John Armitt.

Prime minister Theresa May is expected to endorse the committee’s recommendation.

MPs and peers will decamp from 2022, in their first move from Parliament since 1941.

The works on Richmond House are being lined up for inclusion in parliament’s £500m Northern Estate programme of works to upgrade MPs’ offices across Whitehall.

The committee’s report recommends the Palace of Westminster restoration works be managed together with the Northern Estates Programme in order to better co-ordinate the works and avoid clashes.

The two programmes have been managed separately to date, in part because the Northern Estates Programme concerns just the House of Commons, whereas the Palace of Westminster works are being run by both houses.

Contrary to some reports, MPs will not be banned from drinking at the partly Sharia-funded Richmond House if it becomes parliament’s temporary home.

Baroness Stowell, co-chairman of the committee, said: “We must not spend a penny more than is absolutely necessary, but this is now an increasingly urgent problem. We can’t put off the decision to act any longer if we are to protect one of the most important and iconic parts of our national heritage.”

One of the biggest jobs for the delivery authority will be managing the complex supply chain required for the programme.

The works will be particularly dependent on specialist skills, especially in the heritage sector, which tend to be found in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The report recommends market engagement commence as soon as possible.

A tight timetable


Both Houses vote on the joint committee’s recommendations


Legislation introduced and passed through both Houses

Delivery authority set up ‘in shadow form’. Design process and feasability studies begin


Both Houses develop a business case. Delivery authority confirms and costs the plans, consults on the designs

Both Houses approve the concept design, plans, schedule and budget


Delivery Authority begins procuring contractors, final stage of design, obtains planning consents

Northern Estate upgrade of MPs’ offices completes

Houses move to temporary accommodation

Major works begin on the Palace of Wesminster

Why the committee backed a full move out and restoration of the Palace of Westminster

The joint committee considered a number of options for both houses of Parliament - including permanently relocating them outside London, restoring the Palace of Westminster around sitting MPs and peers, or even housing them in temporary buildings constructed on rafts on the River Thames - but in the end opted for a full move out and ‘swift’ restoration job.

The preferred option of a full decant of MPs and peers to buildings across Westminster for five to eight years, will cost up to £4bn. This trumped a compromise of clearing one house at a time, costing £4.4bn, and building around a continuously operational Palace of Westminster, which would take 32 years and cost around £5.7bn.

Other options considered and rejected included repurposing Westminster Hall - the oldest existing part of the Palace of Westminster, built in 1097 - as a temporary sitting chamber, and relocating both houses outside London, but this was dismissed due to cost and logistical issues.

Richmond House - currently the health department’s HQ and recommended to be the House of Commons’ new temporary home - could accommodate a temporary chamber in its courtyard. It is considered the most appropriate option for security and logistical reasons.

Richmond House could be retained by the House of Commons after the renewal programme to provide “a lasting legacy” and would also allow the Commons to sell off one or more buildings it is currently leasing.

The QE2 Conference Centre is the preferred temporary home for the House of Lords, although the report warns the loss of income from commercial uses during this period had to be considered.