Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg are understood to believe keeping them in the building is the only way of stopping costs spiralling. Their defiance comes as figures reveal MPs and civil servants are sharing the corridors of power with a rising number of mice, moths and pigeons, all disturbed by building works. But it is feared if parliamentarians go, then restoration project bosses will keep coming up with new things to do, increasing costs and delaying the return.
The soaring bills for the upgrade of the Elizabeth Tower which houses Big Ben shows how repairs can end up costing radically more than originally estimated.
First predicted to be around £29million, the restoration is now expected to come in at around £80million. There is widespread concern about the potential for a disaster if major repairs are not done soon. Fears include the risk of catastrophic fires and falling masonry while vermin are also a regular sight throughout the estate.
The cost of maintenance has doubled in three years to more than £125million a year – equal to more than £2million a week.
Controlling pests, including mice, pigeons and moths, is also spiralling to nearly £150,000 in 2019/2020. A whopping £10,000 was spent on hawks this year to deter pigeons and gulls.
Mice sightings have doubled since 2014 while clothes moths are eating historic paintings and fabrics. Supporters of moving out MPs and Lords argue it is the most cost-effective way of restoring the palace.
Options put forward in 2014 suggested a full decant could cost £3.5billion and last six years, while a rolling programme of works could take 32 years and cost £5.7billion. This year, Meg Hillier, the chair of the public accounts committee, suggested refurbishment could be “at least” £12billion.
When asked to comment on whether he backed MPs staying, the Speaker’s spokeswoman said he “wants MPs to have all the information they need to make an informed decision regarding costs, requirements and timescales for the restoration process”.
A spokesman for the renovation programme confirmed an option of keeping MPs in the Palace is being considered.
He said: “The Palace of Westminster is falling apart faster than it can be fixed and needs a programme of essential restoration.
“We are developing a detailed restoration plan for the essential work needed to save the Palace for future generations.
“This plan will for the first time give a true sense of the work required, costs and timescales. Parliament will vote on the plan before building work commences.
“Following a request from the House of Commons authorities we’re also looking at the costs and feasibility of how Members of Parliament could retain a presence in the Palace during the restoration programme.”
A costed restoration plan is due to be brought before Parliament in 2023 for a vote, with work due to being in the “mid-2020s”.