Osborne fury as MPs demand £4billion to save Houses of Parliament …

  • Huge sum is needed to correct ‘structural problems’ in ancient building
  • George Osborne ‘reacted with fury’ at demand in time of austerity
  • But Commons sources say there is ‘no alternative’ to huge spending plan

Glen Owen

22:21 GMT, 31 May 2014


22:21 GMT, 31 May 2014

'Better think again': Chancellor George Osborne is said not to be pleased with the demands

‘Better think again’: Chancellor George Osborne is said not to be pleased with the demands

MPs are demanding an extraordinary £4billion of taxpayers’ money to refurbish the Houses of Parliament, The Mail on Sunday has learned.

The huge sum – enough to build 200 secondary schools – is needed to correct ‘structural problems’, say MPs.

Chancellor George Osborne has been warned by Cabinet colleague Andrew Lansley, the Leader of the House, that a ‘capital spending bid’ running into ‘several billions of pounds’ is being prepared by the Palace authorities and will land on the Chancellor’s desk this autumn.

Commons sources say the total amount demanded will be £4billion, with a further £1billion in a ‘contingency reserve’.

It is understood Mr Osborne reacted with fury when he was informed about the imminent demand, telling aides: ‘They had better think again.’

The whopping bill comes at a time when the Chancellor is insisting that his austerity measures, including welfare cuts  and public sector pay restraints, need to continue until at least 2018 to balance the books.

It also coincides with continuing public hostility towards MPs over their taxpayer-funded expenses claims and an 11 per cent pay hike promised after the 2015 Election.

However, a senior Commons source said last night: ‘There is no alternative to this. It sounds a lot, but it amounts to £400million a year over a decade, or £200 million over two decades, depending on the timescale for the work, which is peanuts for the Treasury. We can’t just let the 1,000-year-old mother of all Parliaments fall into ruins.’

The row comes after surveyors hired by the House of Commons Commission – the group of MPs chaired by Speaker John Bercow that supervises its administration – found chronic subsidence in the building, partly linked to the digging of the London Underground Jubilee Line in the 1990s.

Crumbling: Surveyors looked over the Palace of Westminster and found that cracks in the walls, fire hazards and safety risks

Crumbling: Surveyors looked over the Palace of Westminster and found that cracks in the walls, fire hazards and safety risks

One report found that Big Ben is tilting 18in from the vertical, while cracks have appeared in the walls of the Palace.

Engineers fear the ancient piping system, including boilers dating from before the Second World War, is ‘ready to blow’, while the building is also suffering from electrical problems, fire risks and multiple safety hazards.

They say there needs to be a staged shutdown, section by section, over ten to 20 years while the infrastructure is replaced.

The £4billion cost, which comes as MPs prepare to return this week for the State Opening of Parliament, would be enough to build 13 hospitals at £300 million each.

The Commons chamber itself also needs extensive work and at some point during the next Parliament will have to be shut for 18 months. MPs are expected to relocate to the Lords, with peers probably meeting in the QE2 conference centre opposite Westminster Abbey.

Relocate: The chamber of the House of Commons will need to close for 18 months during the next parliament

Relocate: The chamber of the House of Commons will need to close for 18 months during the next parliament

Building costs at the Commons have a history of overrunning. When Portcullis House, the office building for MPs, was designed in 1992, it was projected to cost £165 million, but by the time it was finished in 2001 the bill had spiralled to £235 million.

A spokesman for Mr Lansley said: ‘These discussions are at  a very early stage and the contractors have been asked  to report back with more cost-effective options.’

Last night a Treasury source said: ‘A bid of that scale will not be approved.’

A Commons spokesman said: ‘In 2012, a study on the condition of the Palace showed that unless significant restoration work is undertaken, irreversible damage may be done to the Grade I listed building.

Both Houses agreed that doing nothing was not an option and asked for an independent appraisal of a range of options.

‘This appraisal is under way. The priority will be to ensure value for money for the taxpayer while safeguarding the heritage of the Palace. The decision will be taken in the next Parliament.’

Comments (14)

Share what you think

The comments below have not been moderated.


Surrey, United Kingdom,

16 minutes ago

I honestly don’t care what the repairs will cost: get on with them ASAP. This building is a true icon of this nation and must be saved and kept in all its glory in perpetuity. I’d imagine it generates far more than £4bn every year as part of the London tourist economy.

Jon Sims,

Ningbo, China,

30 minutes ago

Nah.. Move the government to Salford with the BBC.. if its good enough for the BEEB..


Sapporo, Japan,

5 minutes ago

Brilliant but share it around a bit; say Commons in Newcastle and Lords in Rochdale or similar.


London, United Kingdom,

32 minutes ago

Just take it from the savings we will make when we exit the EUSSR.

No to the EU,

England, United Kingdom,

42 minutes ago

Not think again! …Stop thinking altogether and start listening !!!


London, United Kingdom,

53 minutes ago

£ 2,000,000,000 from the money for nothing we give every year to the EU to waste + £ 2,000,000,000 from the money for nothing we give in Overseas Aid every year to dictators to build new palaces = Sorted !!


Cosgrove, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

With a bit of luck the heating system will blow during Prime Ministers Questions and it will bring down the building doing us all a huge favour.We can then have a new building and a new government.


1 hour ago

What about a trailer park ? It will save the taxpayer a fortune and solve the second homes and expenses problem.



1 hour ago

That valuation is highly suspicious.

Roasty Toady,

Cardiff, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

So we need to cut benefits and fire those from services such as the police and the army to make the country work but suddenly 400 million over a decade is peanuts for the treasury. If you want your precious building fixed then do what the rest of us do when something breaks. pay for it out of your own pocket.


1 hour ago

Knock it down and build a new modern building. It would be a lot cheaper that way

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

Who is this week’s top commenter?
Find out now

Leave a Reply