Parliament could move to York during refurbishment, Boris Johnson says

16 Jul 2020 @ 7.15 am
| News

The Prime Minister has suggested Parliament could move to York while the Palace of Westminster undergoes a multi-billion pound refurbishment.

In a letter, Boris Johnson says that locations outside London should be considered as a review is under way on how to handle the repair works at Parliament, which some estimates state could cost £6 billion.

Mr Johnson wrote: “Costs should be kept to a minimum (ie no gold plating). We should also move as quickly as possible.”

The PM said that the case for both Houses staying in place should be considered but that other locations should be in the mix.

He stated: “However, the review should also consider a possible location outside London.

“The Government is considering establishing a Government hub in York and it would therefore make sense to consider this as a potential location.”

Move quickly

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be very keen on the idea. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire

The comments came after a new consultation process was launched last month which considered whether MPs and peers would need to vacate the historic building as work is carried out.

In the letter to people involved in the review, the PM said: “We should also move as quickly as possible, both because of the risks associated with the current state of the building and the need to provide certainty on the way forward and thereby minimise disruption to our business.”

Before Parliament voted in 2018 to approve the renewal works, which will entail decanting the whole building for at least six years, MPs had pushed rival plans that would have seen only a partial vacating required.

This would have forced builders to work around the Commons schedule.

The idea has since gained traction again following the coronavirus outbreak.

A recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) stated that the £4 billion cost previously reported for the project was likely to be a “median” figure, with the final outlay on the Unesco World Heritage Site expected to be higher.

Initial estimates put the final bill as high as £6 billion, with the builders expected to be in until the 2030s.

Follows Lords idea

The House of Lords debates Brexit in October 2019. Photograph © House of Lords 2019 / Photography by Roger Harris

The possible temporary relocation of MPs to York follows the idea that the House of Lords – and possibly a major government department – could be permanently move here.

Johnson has even sent a team of aides to the city to scout out potential locations.

Some peers have rounded on the idea, with Lord Singh saying “York is seen as something of an outer Mongolia by the general public”.

There have also been reports that the PM wants to make York Britain’s second seat of government, perhaps.

The Times quoted one source saying: “You could put the Home Office there.”