Source: Chris Jenner /

Portcullis House (right) before the Elizabeth Tower renovation began

Decisions about how to refurbish the Palace of Westminster, one of the world’s most famous buildings, were never going to be easy. Although the budget is not yet public, it’s already threatening spiral far out of sight. But 20 years ago, a huge furore was going on about building one little office block next to it, writes Helen Burch.

In 1992, Portcullis House was commissioned to provide offices for 213 members and their staff. By 1999, Building reported that it would be most expensive building ever built in Britain – costing £1.2m per MP.  “Although its £250m price tag is public knowledge, no one has revealed exactly how it is possible to spend so much money on office accommodation,” we wrote. Luckily, our reporters were on hand to find out.

In short, it seems many elements of the building came at a premium. A total of £14,761 per member was spent on some very classy English oak furniture, restaurant fittings were £500,000, bronze cladding for the roof was £33m. 

But then, building for parliament may have more demands than most projects – the bronze cladding had to age well, but also attempt to withstand a bomb attack. The building was also intended to last 200 years – a little more ambitious than average.

Click here to read the article from 29 January 1999