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MPs seek to cut £3.5bn bill for Houses of Parliament repairs

Treasury select committee queries cost of building work and investigates whether temporary shutdown can be avoided.

Cheaper alternatives for the renovation of the Houses of Parliament are to be sought by MPs to keep costs below the estimated £3.5bn bill.

The premises used by parliament are in urgent need of extensive restoration and repairs to avoid the risk of being burned down or encountering other catastrophic failure.

The Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, who chairs the Treasury committee, described the project as “one of the largest major restorations in the history of the public sector” but questioned the value for money.

The consultants Deloitte examined the options in 2014 and recommended that MPs and peers should leave the building entirely for some years to allow the renovations to go ahead. The joint committee on the Palace of Westminster backed the plan, but Tyrie questioned the proposal and costings.

In January, Tyrie announced that the Treasury committee would hold an inquiry into the proposals. “Neither the report by Deloitte nor that by the joint [committee] provides enough of the evidence needed to come even to a preliminary decision on these proposals,” he said.

On Friday, the committee published a preliminary report saying it would look at whether reducing the scope of the renovations would save money. The work was “competing for funds with many hard-pressed parts of the public sector” so extra scrutiny and challenge was needed, it noted

The inquiry is also to investigate avoiding a full shutdown of parliament. Deloitte and the joint committee strongly opposed a “partial decant” with one of the chambers staying in use, but the Treasury committee said it would pay particular attention to this option, looking at other projects that had done something similar and exploring whether the work could be completed in less than the 11 years estimated by Deloitte.

The Treasury committee plans to scrutinise the brief originally given by parliament to Deloitte and see whether there are lessons to be learned from other large projects. Tyrie said it would be imprudent for parliament to commit to a specific option before the committee had finished its review.

He said: “This can only be justified to taxpayers if parliament and the public see the evidence required to make an informed decision. The committee’s inquiry into this hugely expensive project will challenge and assess the work and conclusions of the existing reports.”

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