Lords demand new bars, restaurants and grand staircase risking surge in restoration costs

The Palace of Westminster is due to undergo a £5.6billion modernisation, with works due to start in 2025. While the refurbishment takes place, both chambers of the Commons will temporarily relocate, with peers moving to the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre located round the corner from Parliament. When the relocation was first announced, it was agreed the centre would undergo “minimal” refitting; but a leaked document shows peers want to radically overhaul the building.

Minutes of a cross-party Lords committee meeting last month reveal peers discussed installing a grand new central staircase, as well as transforming the sixth floor into a catering suit with bars and restaurants.

The new staircase would “bring in natural light and improve access options between floors”.

The document also revealed peers had suggested transforming the top floor into a series of bars and restaurants, amid fears they will be deprived of access to subsided catering services during the move.

It said: “For the top floor to provide the majority of catering services, a mixture of served and self-service; with the main preparation located in the basement.”

westminster repairs houses of parliament refurbishment

Costs for restoration works to Parliament are feared to exceed the £5.6billion estimat (Image: Getty)

Houses of Parliament restoration plans

The restoration is due to start in 2025 (Image: Getty)

Peers also suggested there could be “smaller outlets located throughout the building”, according to the Mail Online.

But the Tories look set to keep a lid on the costs, with both the Commons Leader and Leader of the Lords steadfast in ensuring “taxpayers get value for money”.

Baroness Evans, Leader of the Lords, is understood to be “hawkish” about costs and has asked for regular updates on the budgets.

Figures in a report produced by a Joint Committee of both Houses in 2016 suggested the “decant” of the whole Palace of Westminster would cost £380million.

READ MORE: House of Lords shock: PM prepares major change for upper house

big ben restoration costs

Costs for renovating Big Ben has soared to £80million (Image: PA)

But it made clear that figure was based on work on temporary accommodation, the Queen Elizabeth II Centre for the Lords and Richmond House for the Commons, being “minimised as far as possible”.

The report said: “A minimum level of reconfiguration and fit-out of the temporary buildings should be carried out, except where it is essential for business need, security, building regulations or accessibility reasons.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg has also been keen to ensure costs for the planned refurbishment do not spiral and is said to have reminded colleagues to make sure “taxpayers get value for money”.

Earlier this month uproar emerged after the bill for renovating Big Ben soared to £80million - almost treble its initial estimate of £30million.

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houses of parliament refurbishment costs

Artist impression of the temporary House of Commons Chamber (Image: PA)

house of commons refurbishment plans

The new chamber will feature a large public and press gallery (Image: PA)

As a result there is concern the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster could also prove more expensive.

Tory MP Shailesh Vara said: “Given that Big Ben was originally due to cost £29million but has escalated to £80million, and the timeframe has moved from 18 months to some four years, it is clear that the cost and timescale for the full restoration of the Palace of Westminster will be hugely more than the original estimates.

“There’s no doubt that that the work needs to be done. But we do need to consider whether the present proposal is the right way forward.

“Because at present it is proving more expensive by the day.”

jacob rees-mogg news

Jacob Rees-Mogg wants to keep the refurbishment costs down (Image: Getty)

But a spokesman for the House of Lords said planning for the move was in its “very early stages”.

He said: “The QEII Centre is the preferred option for the House of Lords when they leave the Palace of Westminster to allow the Restoration and Renewal works to begin. However, planning for this is at a very early stage.

“Any redevelopment of the QEII will be carried out in an efficient and cost effective way while ensuring the property complies with modern building regulations and disability access requirements.”

The refurbishment will see Parliament close down for the first time since the Second World War.

passage of a bill through parliament

Passage of a bill through Parliament (Image: Express)

Essential works will be carried out, as the building is seen as vulnerable due to the threat of fire and because of its antiquated sewage system.

The building is also riddled with asbestos.

It is not yet clear what will happen to refurbishment plans if Boris Johnson goes ahead with his plans to move the House of Lords to the north of England.

The suggestion, revealed at the beginning of the month, could see the upper chamber moved to York in a bid to reconnect the whole country with politics.

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