The multi-billion-pound refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster presents an opportunity that comes once in a century-and-a-half to reform the leading institution of our democracy and its environs. What principles should shape reform of its culture and practices? How can innovation blend better with tradition? And how might public engagement be enhanced?
The long-delayed rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster has taken two large steps forward with the publication of key legislation and a public consultation on plans for the House of Commons’ temporary accommodation. However, concerns and confusion remain around the roles of both the government and the public in the R&R programme.
It’s a year since the House of Commons voted to proceed with the proposed multi-billion-pound refurbishment of the dangerously dilapidated Palace of Westminster. The vote was a clear step forward, and considerable progress has been made since, but the tight vote and opposition to full decant among Conservative MPs suggest the path ahead could remain rocky.
The Hansard Society has long argued that the Westminster Restoration and Renewal debate lacks any vision. As the Commons debates R&R on 31 January, historians Dr John Crook and Dr David Harrison advance a broader view encompassing the whole of a wider World Heritage Site, to realise its archaeological potential and engage the public in its unique history.
The troubled progress of the Restoration and Renewal project for the current Palace of Westminster turns out to be only a contemporary echo of a 17th and 18th century experience. Personal feuds, ‘inconvenienced’ Members and a Byzantine management structure were just some of challenges faced by the reformers of the medieval Palace.
The summer’s row over the temporary silencing of Big Ben highlights confused and opaque decision-making structures governing the Palace of Westminster. This bodes ill for the stalled Restoration and Renewal (R&R) project.
By date (descending)