A Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill presented to the House of Commons and presented to the House of Lords allows ‘interested parties the opportunity to consider the approach taken to the governance of the Restoration and Renewal Programme’.
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Joint Leaders of the House of Commons and the House of Lords write:
The Palace of Westminster is one of the most iconic and significant buildings in the world. Now a Grade I listed building, the Palace forms part of the UNESCO Westminster World Heritage Site with Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church. Since its construction, many features have never undergone major renovation and, as a result, parts of the Palace of Westminster are now in a state of significant disrepair. The House Authorities established a Restoration and Renewal Programme.
to establish what improvements were required to the Palace of Westminster so that it can continue to serve as home to the UK Parliament in the 21st century.
A Joint Committee was established to consider an Independent Options Appraisal on different approaches to how the Restoration and Renewal work could be undertaken. The Joint Committee published its recommendations, concluding that the ongoing maintenance programme was not sustainable and considered that a major programme of works was required. As part of its recommendations the Joint Committee suggested establishing a set of governance arrangements to oversee the Restoration and Renewal Programme.
On 31 January 2018, the House of Commons approved a resolution that work should commence on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. In particular, the resolution required that ‘immediate steps be taken’ to establish a shadow Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority, and that their ‘statutory successors’ be established by legislation in due course. A resolution in identical terms was approved by the House of Lords on 6 February 2018.
The draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill seeks to establish the statutory bodies that will be responsible for the restoration and renewal works within the Parliamentary estate, giving effect to the resolutions passed by Parliament. In developing the draft Bill, the Government has worked closely with the House Authorities.
The Bill will establish the governance structure within which those bodies will operate. The bodies will have the capacity and capability to make strategic decisions on the restoration and renewal programme, so that the Palace of Westminster can be secured as the UK Parliament for future generations.
The Bill establishes a Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body. The Sponsor Body will have overall responsibility for the Restoration and Renewal Programme and will also be empowered to form a Delivery Authority as a company limited by guarantee. The Delivery Authority will formulate proposals in relation to the restoration works, and ensure their operational delivery. This two-tier approach, as used in the successful London Olympics project, is the best structure to deliver a value for money programme, which commands the confidence of taxpayers and Parliamentarians.
The Bill also establishes a Parliamentary Works Estimates Commission. The Estimates Commission will lay the Sponsor Body’s estimates before Parliament, and will play a role in reviewing the Sponsor Body’s expenditure. The Government agrees with Parliament that there can be no blank cheque for this work and it must represent good value for taxpayers’ money. In doing so the Bill provides that the Sponsor Body and the Delivery Authority must have regard to value for money when exercising their functions throughout the Programme. The Treasury would also be able to review and comment on the annual estimates for the funding of the Programme, and the National Audit Office will be able to undertake audits and value-for-money reviews. Furthermore, the Estimates Commission will have the power to review, comment on, and in certain circumstances reject those annual estimates.
The Bill will ensure that the relevant bodies are independent and are able to operate effectively in the commercial sphere, bringing the expertise and capability needed for a project of this scale. The creation of a separate, statutory Sponsor Body will provide a single client for the Programme including on behalf of both Houses and all Members. In doing so, the Bill stipulates that the Sponsor Body will have a majority of Parliamentarians on its Board, alongside external expertise and that Parliament will be fully consulted on the strategic direction of the Programme. These arrangements will provide for completely separate funding and accounting mechanisms for the Programme from the House Authorities, strengthening the independence of the bodies. The creation of a Delivery Authority will be focussed solely on the efficient and effective delivery of the Programme, to manage delivery will bring efficiency and effectiveness through a body which is organised and resourced to deliver such a programme and can focus solely on doing so. However, it is important that the views of Parliamentarians on the Programme are taken into account. The Bill stipulates that the Sponsor Body will have a majority of Parliamentarians on its Board, alongside external expertise. Parliamentarians will be fully consulted on the works in relation to the Palace of Westminster. Furthermore, Parliament will be given an opportunity to vote on the proposed design, cost and timing of the substantive building works relating to the Palace of Westminster. The Sponsor Body would be required to return to Parliament for approval to make any significant changes to the approved proposals in respect of the Palace. Parliament will also be given an opportunity to vote on the annual expenditure of the Sponsor Body and the Delivery Authority, through the estimates process. As part of the resolution passed in both Houses earlier this year, it was agreed that the most cost-effective delivery option for the Restoration and Renewal Programme was by a full and timely decant of the Palace of Westminster. Under the Bill, the Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority must undertake their work on the Restoration and Renewal of Parliament so that both Houses can return to the Palace of Westminster as soon is practically possible.
We have decided to publish the Bill in draft to ensure that all interested parties have the opportunity to consider the approach taken to the governance of the Restoration and Renewal Programme before the Bill is introduced. We welcome the forthcoming Parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that the draft Bill achieves the aim of ensuring that the Restoration and Renewal Programme will be sufficiently independent, drawing on outside expertise, whilst also being transparent and accountable to Parliament.
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