I have just received the answer to a question I tabled about what was the earliest date the two Houses could decant the Palace of Westminster if both Houses voted for that option and what was the estimated cost to the public purse of for repair and maintenance of the Palace in the period between now and decanting. You can read the full answer here.
The essential points from the answer are that the earliest we could move out will be 2025 and that over the next five years the cost of repairs and maintaining the Palace will exceed £400m. It seems fair to assume that with the cost for the period between 2021/2 and decanting added to that figure, the cost to the public purse of maintaining the Palace before we decant will be more than £500 million.
The figures may prove to be conservative estimates. As the answer from the Senior Deputy Speaker concedes ‘It is possible that reactive maintenance costs may rise in future as the condition of the Palace continues to deteriorate.’ Keeping the Palace in a fit state of repairs appears to be a case of running in order to stand still – there are myriad works going on – and the Palace could at any point between now and getting out suffer a catastrophic failure of one or more essential services.
Both Houses should have voted on the issue at least a couple of years ago, but the debates kept being delayed. There will now be a debate next month. There is a need to treat the issue with a greater seriousness, and urgency, than we have seen to date, both for the welfare of those who work in the Palace and for the impact on the public purse. That impact will be even greater in terms of the decision as to whether to go for a full or partial decant of the Palace. Delaying the decision has not been cost free.