Wates was contracted to fit out offices left vacant

The House of Commons paid contractor Wates about £4.5m of public money to fit out offices that it subsequently left vacant.

The firm’s interiors division was engaged to refurbish the offices at 14 Tothill Street between February 2009 and the end of 2010 ahead of an anticipated move by the Commons department of resources that autumn - but the staffing move never materialised.

The property has up to 5,567m2 of space and was procured to act as a decant space for the House of Commons and the House of Lords during the refurbishment of offices at the Millbank Island site. Parliament signed a 16-year lease on the property in October 2007, with a six-month free rental period.

While the Lords occupied the first two floors of the property in September 2009, the 2,800m2 of floor space belonging to the House of Commons has lain empty ever since.

Following a written parliamentary question by Tory MP Stewart Jackson, it was revealed that the Commons expenditure on the property to the end of January 2010 totalled £6.2m in rent and fit-out costs. The House of Commons Commission also revealed that the Commons was liable for 60% of business rates and utility costs since the building became partially occupied, totalling £340,000 and £72,000 respectively.

Last November, the House of Commons management board proposed that the Parliamentary Estate dispose of 14 Tothill Street as a cost-saving exercise designed to save £2.4m in rent a year. However, parliament was only two years into the 16-year contract, which had an eight-year break clause.

Commons staff will occupy the rented property in October, four years after it was procured.