The Report and 3rd Reading of The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill 2017-19 in the House of Commons took place on 19 June, and among other threads was Tim Loughton MP’s unsuccessful proposal (Amendment 5) to include heritage in the Bill’s list of duties, raising Neil Gray MP’s objection that ‘the conflict between access for members of the public versus heritage… will make it far more difficult to make this place more accessible to disabled people…’. (Col 275).
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Loughton’s Amendment 5 was submitted following on from his role as Chair of the Archaeology All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), and was supported by Valerie Vaz MP. It called for the Bill to specify: ‘the need to conserve and sustain the outstanding architectural archaeological and historical significance of the Palace of Westminster including the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site’.
However Neil Gray objected on the basis that: ‘… as I have said before this project will throw up irreconcilable conflicts which will make for very difficult decisions. One will be the conflict between access for members of the public versus heritage. Amendment 5, as well-intentioned as it may be, will make it far more difficult to make this place more accessible to disabled people. Besides, if this is just going to be a project to empty everything out and return it all back as it was but a bit cleaner, then what on earth is the point? The building contributes to the culture here, which is elitist, inaccessible and out of date, and that must change. We support amendment 6 as a way of improving the Bill, but it does not in itself satisfy our desire for greater emphasis to be placed on the Sponsor Board and the Delivery Authority to ensure the project has discernible UK-wide benefits.’ (Col 275)
Loughton explained in response that: ‘We must absolutely make sure that, in the considerable work that will need to take place in this Palace, the full archaeological integrity and importance of the building—what is under it, what is on it and what is next to it—is appreciated and we do not lose the opportunity to investigate more the history of this place or destroy, in our pursuit of getting a building that is more sustainable, user-friendly and so on, all that in the process.’ (Col 277)
In further debate, John Redwood pointed out that ‘… an additional complication is that this is a complete Victorian rebuild of an earlier building, which also reflects the Victorian view of the history that predated the building. We therefore have a double time capsule: it is a piece of Victorian Britain and it is their view of the previous few hundred years.’ (Col 278). To this Tim Loughton responded that ‘My right hon. Friend is dealing with the really modern stuff—‘.(Col.279)
The amendment was not called.
See the Bill stages