UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested that Parliament relocate to the northern city of York for the duration of the Palace of Westminster renovation project, reported The Independent.
In a letter sent to officials leading a review into plans to temporarily move parliamentarians elsewhere during the multi-billion pound restoration project, expected to take place around 2025, David Goldstone and Sarah Johnson, the Prime Minister has reportedly suggested that “the review should also consider a possible location outside London”.
When MPs voted in favour of a “full decant” of the UNESCO World Heritage site back in 2018, proposals had been put forward to set up a temporary debating chamber in Whitehall’s Richmond House.
“The government is considering establishing a government hub in York, and it would therefore make sense to consider this as possible location,” Boris Johnson is said to have written.
The letter is believed to contain other possible location options, such as Richmond House, the QEII (Queen Elizabeth II Centre) and City Hall, with a case for both Houses remaining in place.
The House of Lords, which houses 795 peers, is already due to temporarily relocate out of the Palace of Westminster in line with the refurbishment plans, with reports in January 2020 suggesting that York Central, a brownfield site next to York Station, and the city of Birmingham were contenders to permanently host the upper chamber.
At the time it was stated that a decision on whether to relocate the chamber would be determined as part of a constitutional review launched in the spring.
Westminster Bridge, the Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace) and Elizabeth Tower (under renovation). pic.twitter.com/tL5eiRUnyR— The Essential Lion Man 🌈 (@LeadfootedLion) October 2, 2019
Expanding on the speculation, The Times reported on Saturday that plans for a York hub might include swathes of the civil service besides the House of Lords.
Boris Johnson is said to have underscored that the government does not “prejudge any particular outcome”.
“The review should determine how the various options should be assessed. Costs are obviously a major driver, but the review should also consider other factors including disruption to parliament’s work, the timelines for delivery, heritage benefits and fire safety. The location of parliament is a constitutional issue. The views of parliamentarians will need to be considered carefully, as well as any legislative impact,” said Johnson.
The Westminster renovation project is anticipated to last for years, with a recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) stating the estimated £4bln cost for the restoration was a rough estimate, with the final figure expected to be higher.
Parliamentary authorities are reported as having spent £369m on maintenance costs since 2016, with over 40,000 issues reported on the estate since 2017 and a backlog of repairs estimated to exceed over £1 billion, according to the NAO.