Will Pexit mean Pexit?
I write this article from the House of Commons Library, a beautiful place, with every kind of book and magazine to be found. The library serves as a reminder of just how magnificent and extraordinary our Houses of Parliament really are.
In a few years, Parliamentarians will move out – Pexit – to an ‘acting Parliament’ based at Richmond House. We are told that we will return once restorations of the Houses of Parliament are complete.
I am sure this is the honourable intention of all those involved – and that they genuinely mean it; but, my biggest fear is that, once gone, MPs will never again set foot in the Palace of Westminster.
As with almost every public sector construction project (witness HS2) the costs will be likely to substantially overrun. If, for example, this happens during a recession, the public won’t be too pleased if MPs are spending money on new Pugin wallpaper, as opposed to hospitals or schools.
At this point, we will be told that for a fraction of the cost, there is a shiny new building that can be brought on a giant lorry from Scandinavia – shaped like a headlamp, walkie talkie, or a pickled cucumber and, how much better it will be to move in there, to a building that reflects the twenty-first-century and beyond.
I realise that I may sound slightly reactionary – which I am not by nature, may I add. In fact, I live in a modern house that was literally brought to its spot on a lorry and plonked on the ground.
However, when it comes to Parliament, it is hard not to be. I first came to the building when I was ten years old and decided to be an MP on that day. It took thirty years to achieve my childhood dream. I remember being amazed by Central Lobby and that the Houses of Parliament were made up of over one thousand rooms.
On Saturday, a good friend of mine, who has seen the ramshackle-state of the House of Commons basement and knows everything worth knowing about construction and building, said that the only way real restoration would work was if there was an unlimited budget and an unlimited timeline which, of course, is politically unpalatable.
When Pexit is done, we will find out after a few years if my friend is right. Meanwhile, by the time we are asked to decamp, I will have had well over more than a decade here in this special place and for that I will always be very thankful.
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