I have previously posted about the need for both Houses to decant the Palace of Westminster in order for the restoration and renewal (R&R) programme to be undertaken. With each passing week, the Palace shows more signs of its ageing infrastructure. This is apparent in some public areas (areas closed off for work, creaking floorboards in the committee corridor), but even more so in areas not seen by the public, not least in terms of the basement.
It is impossible not to notice the work being undertaken just to keep the Palace ticking over. Anyone looking at the Palace from outside can see the scaffolding and coverings adorning parts of the building. It is even more apparent to anyone walking through the courtyards. The possibility of some catastrophic failure gets greater month by month.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, both Houses were supposed to have taken a decision on the various options for R&R earlier in 2016. The votes were postponed until earlier this year. In the event, the holding of a general election has put the decision back. It is not clear how soon a vote will be held in the new Parliament. The Government and parliamentary authorities keep passing the buck.
Even if both Houses do get round to voting for a full decant, for the reasons given in my earlier post, the election this year may have the effect of pushing a decant even further back than the expected 2022. It was initially thought it could be 2020, but there was a view that MPs newly elected that year ought to have the opportunity to spend a year or so in the Commons before Members moved out, so it was put back to 2022 (aided by the delay in the two Houses taking a decision). With the next election after this June now scheduled to take place in May 2022, that may mean it being pushed back to 2024.
One wonders how much of the Palace has to start falling down, or which essential service has to seize up, before Government and the parties recognise the need to act.