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Should the Commons be sold off as it risks sinking into the Thames?

By Joseph Willits 
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WestminsterBoth the Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday have reported today on the deterioration of the Palace of Westminster prompting Big Ben to lean by 0.26 degrees, 18 inches at the top. Tomorrow, MPs will hold a House of Commons commission meeting chaired by Speaker John Bercow to air various possibilities on how to tackle the increasing problem in the building's fabric.

One of the more controversial and divisive proposals (and perhaps least likely) would be to sell off the Houses of Parliament, and relocate MPs to a new site elsewhere. Selling the current site could raise £1billion, and the construction of a new Parliament is estimated to cost around £500 million. The Mail on Sunday suggested that the very fact that this idea has been raised is indicative of the seriousness of the problem.

If the building was to be repaired, beginning at the end of the decade, it would be expected to take at least five years to complete. During this time, the Commons may have to relocate to a secure location (already ready if a terrorist attack was to occur), or use the Lords Chamber. This would not be the first time that the Lords Chamber has been used temporarily by MPs. The Commons chamber was destroyed in the Second World War, forcing MPs into the Lords.

The House of Commons commission will be shown the results of a surveyor's report which warns of a risk of the Commons falling into the Thames due to subsidence. The report also details electrical problems, health and safety hazards, fire risks, and outdated boilers. Surveyors have advised closing off different sections of the building over a period of years to support the building's foundations. Two of the key factors in the present state of the Palace of Westminster are believed to be the Jubilee Line extension in the 1990s, and construction work on the House of Commons' underground car park. 


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