Parliament is spending £2m a week fixing a Victorian building. Credit: Getty Images
There is a “real and growing risk” that Parliament House will be destroyed in a catastrophic event before it can be repaired, MPs warned last night.
The Accounts Committee said thousands people working in a Victorian building are at risk because it leaked, could ignite, and masonry fell.
They said it was “incredible” that no decisions had been made on how the Palace of Westminster should be rebuilt, five years after MPs agreed to take action.
During these “years of delay”, Parliament spends £2 million a week to refurbish a Victorian building and health and safety incidents, many of them asbestos-related, have risen.
Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “After years of delay and debate, overturned House resolutions, and the huge costs we have seen in rebuilding the Elizabeth Tower alone, it's hard to be sure about the future of the project to renovate and restore this iconic World Heritage Site. which is visited daily by thousands of people.
“But without such trust from Parliament and the public, these critical works will continue to stall, with the real risk that the entire building will be destroyed in a catastrophic incident before the work is completed or perhaps even started.”
< p>“There are already people who are on risk lists for decades after being exposed to asbestos in a building; the building is leaking, masonry is falling and there is a constant risk of fire.”
The report says the focus to date is on MPs, not the thousands of staff and visitors who use the building.
Cost will be high
The timing and cost remain uncertain, except that the cost would be high and that further delays would be extremely costly to the taxpayer.
Parliament spends up to £2m a week refurbishing the palace, but a list of incidents related to health and safety is still growing, including some involving asbestos.
The committee concluded that the clerks of both houses “seem to have finally publicly acknowledged the enormity of this task, for which they are now personally responsible,” but it remains unclear how they will handle their legal responsibilities under the program along with their responsibilities to individuals working in and visiting the Palace.
Clerks and newly established program structures “should build confidence in their ability to implement a program of this magnitude and complexity.”
Timely transparency and compliance with OSH protocols and safety, especially with regard to asbestos, urgently needs to be improved before more significant work and potentially more serious incidents occur.
Dame Meg said: “Given the uncertainty about how clerks will carry out their legal duties who will really be held accountable and held accountable if the unthinkable happens?
“In responding to this report, the GAC expects much greater clarity on these critical issues and, finally, a clear indication of the cost and timing of obtaining this a lot of work done before it's too late.”