It would be wrong to ‘stitch-up’ any move while the Houses of Parliament in London are renovated, according to MP Jonathan Edwards.
MPs and peers are due to vote on the option selected by a cross-party committee looking at how to repair the crumbling buildings in Westminster when they return from their summer break amid reports that politicians will move to the Department of Health in Whitehall. The bill could be around £3.9 billion during six years of work under a total move out.
But Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards has called for MPs to get a vote on moving Parliament outside London. Birmingham has been suggested as one potential option by myself, at least during the duration of the renovation work.
Mr Edwards says there are multiple ‘convincing’ arguments supporting relocation:
- Cost – capital costs on new building and revenue costs of sustaining Parliamentary activity in London
- Helping decentralise the British State by moving political power from London
- Move public investment from London
- Modernise Parliament –suitable Chamber – seats for every elected Member, electronic voting, and suitable offices for MPs and staff
- Reboot UK politics following a rolling programme of scandals which has corrupted the Westminster body politic
- Reduce the cost of government – reduced financial pressures on MPs and staff which can be translated into lower public expenditure, for instance, reduced need for housing allowances and London-weighted salaries.
Mr Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said: ‘The Westminster Parliamentary Estate is an incredible building and it is a privilege to get the opportunity to work within those hallowed walls.
‘Work on the New Palace began in 1840 and it had a good innings by any stretch of the imagination. However the Estate has fallen into a state of disrepair and the price tag involved in the necessary restoration and renewal work is eye watering.
‘A select committee of MPs and peers is currently considering options for the work needed to restore the Houses of Parliament with the price tag varying between around £4-7bn.’
He added: ‘These are eye watering sums. To put it in context the Welsh Government is spending around £6bn on health services for the whole population of Wales this year.
‘I recall only too well the cries of outrage from the Conservative party in Wales when £60m was allocated for the new Senedd building which houses the National Assembly for Wales.
‘Yet there is a conspiracy of silence by the Westminster establishment over spending a 100 times more on the Westminster Parliament.
‘The Senedd building was built at a time of increased public spending. We are now in the sixth year of a vicious policy of fiscal austerity initiated by the UK Government that has seen public investment cut back drastically. It’s an act of political debauchery for politicians to spend these sort of sums on their own facilities when the people we serve have seen their services, incomes and wellbeing cut to the bone.
‘The New Palace was built when the British State was the most powerful imperial power on earth with control of a fifth of the globes landmass and a quarter of the world’s peoples. It’s no longer in that position. The decision to leave the European Union will create greater economic challenges with a substantial fall in tax revenues expected over the coming years. With this in mind, politicians have to justify every penny of expenditure.’
He added: ‘There are also other very persuasive arguments in my view why relocation should be considered. One of the great failings of the British State is that it has concentrated economic and political power in London and the South East of England.
‘Addressing the individual and geographical wealth inequalities of the UK should be the most important challenge of our times – not least because addressing those injustices would in itself be an economic driver.
‘It would be a bold statement of intent for the British political class to make by favouring relocation that they are serious about equalising wealth and sharing the cake more evenly.
‘The Westminster Parliamentary estate was not built to service the vast infrastructure needed to support modern politics in terms of offices for MPs, their staff and the media. A more modern structure would allow for a coordinated approach to Office space, meeting rooms and a debating chamber itself where elected members are able to have a seat each as opposed to being packed in like sardines in order to deliberately encourage a destructive tribal hostile political culture. Who knows a new Chamber might even bring in a more efficient voting procedure instead of spending seven minutes per vote walking through lobbies.’
‘After a series of damaging scandals which has corrupted politics, democracy itself needs a reboot. The worrying rise of populist post truth politics can only be countered if there is a radical change in political culture. I cannot foresee the rotten political culture of the UK changing if its epicentre remains at Westminster.
‘The Westminster Palace is an iconic building but I cannot consciously support expenditure of that amount on any building. There are also a number of other reasons why relocation of the British Parliament would be more appropriate. With that in mind MPs should be given the opportunity to support a relocation option when the time comes to vote before the end of the year. It would be a grave political mistake for the Westminster establishment to attempt to stitch up this decision by presenting a fait accompli.’
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