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 Strategic Review of the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal programme has been published, after 10 months’ work – but political factors mean that implementation of the programme’s main conclusion, that there will be a ‘full decant’ from the building while work takes place, remains in doubt.
The Coronavirus pandemic has added to the questions surrounding the nature of the Parliament that should emerge from the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal programme. But, with concerns over the programme’s governance and public engagement rising, the report arising from the current review of the programme will not now be published this year.
The Coronavirus pandemic has presented parliaments with significant technical, procedural and political challenges, at Westminster and around the world. This page brings together our Covid-19 content, covering the UK Parliament’s adaptation to the crisis, UK Coronavirus-related Statutory Instruments, and the responses of other legislatures around the world.
There remains no alternative to ‘full decant’ for Restoration and Renewal that is safer or more cost-effective. Developments since both Houses agreed full decant in 2018, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, reinforce the longstanding Hansard Society approach to R&R: it must be ambitious, creative and inclusive and encompass a new vision for Parliament’s environs.
Submitting evidence before the House was to take further decisions on its Coronavirus arrangements, we decried the Leader of the House’s decision to end hybrid proceedings and remote voting as "over-hasty, poorly thought-through, unwise and unnecessary". Our recommendations covered House business, risk management, delegated legislation and select committees.
The new review of the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal project opens up a range of different outcomes for the future of the building. However, with the alarming state of the Palace not changed by the Coronavirus, the government should not use the pandemic as an excuse to downgrade or delay the much-needed repairs.