Sunday, 24 January 2016 13:13

COST of Westminster restoration ‘unthinkable at a time of austerity’

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OPPORTUNITY TO REFORM AND MODERNISE THE WAY PARLIAMENT WORKS SHOULD NOT BE MISSED
 
 The Scottish National Party has said the astronomical cost of Westminster restoration is ‘unthinkable’ during a time of damaging Tory cuts to public services.
 
 The party has submitted its findings on the proposed restoration of the Palace of Westminster, which is expected to cost the taxpayer billions.


   
 The building, largely constructed in the middle of the 19th Century, is now being proposed for a massive refurbishment as it has been allowed to deteriorate for years. The building is now partly sinking, contains asbestos and has outdated electric cabling.
 
 The SNP’s views will be examined by the Palace of Westminster Joint Committee – which has called for evidence as part of a programme preparing for the building's restoration.
 
 Tommy Sheppard MP, the SNP Cabinet Office spokesperson, commented;
 
 “The cost of restoring Westminster is astronomical. The prospect of spending billions of pounds at a time of belt tightening and damaging Tory austerity is eye-watering.

 “The people coming up with these proposals must live on another planet if they think it will wash with the public. Nothing damages the reputation of parliament and politics more than the establishment being seen to look after itself whilst services and social security for the majority are savaged.
 
 "The claimed urgency of the need to repair the building is completely undermined when one of the options being considered would take 32 years to complete. It is also wrong for a project of this scale not to fully consider all options - it should certainly include the option of parliament leaving the premises completely for either a new build or a new location if it is cost-effective.
 
 “The decision by the Joint Committee to rule out a new build parliament means the UK Parliament will remain crowbarred into an expensive, impractical and archaic building whatever the cost to keep it going.
 
 “This should also be an opportunity to reform and modernise the way business is conducted in the Houses of Parliament. It could have been a golden opportunity to look at the way politics works at Westminster and a way to modernise the antiquated and out-dated way this building actually works – but the costs are based on a "like for like" refurbishment meaning we would still have the House of Lords and all the Victorian working practices that might have worked in 1916 – but certainly don’t in 2016.
 
 "This cannot become another Westminster stitch-up decided behind closed doors with little or no public awareness or consultation. There needs to be clear lines of accountability and scrutiny at all stages so this doesn’t spiral out of control.
 
 "Unfortunately this is part of the cost to Scotland of remaining under the Westminster system. If we are to spend untold billions, we expect - at the very least - to see a parliament fit for the 21st Century."

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