The Palace of Westminster’s famous towers, gilt along with gargoyles exude grandeur. yet descending into the basement which runs underneath the Houses of Parliament inspires a different kind of awe – alarm along with anxiety.
To go on a tour of the cavernous corridors below the building is actually to enter a seemingly never-ending network of claustrophobic passageways lined with huge tangles of protruding wires along with pipes, taped up here along with there, leaking, hot to the touch.
Faults go unmended because the pipes are so entwined they cannot be safely dismantled, along with boiling steam rushes through ancient plumbing all day along with night because engineers are afraid if they switched the idea off they would likely not be able to get the idea back on again.
The overall impression is actually of a temporary fix ready to give way to flood or fire at any moment.
The team charged with keeping the whole thing ticking over says the basement gives the clearest image of how precarious the situation is actually.
yet increasingly the sticking plasters fall off along with the failing fabric of the building gives way, generating the idea difficult for the people who work there to do their jobs.
What’s the idea like inside Parliament?
One assistant to a Conservative MP told the BBC that will all the staff in her office on the lower-ground floor of the Palace had to relocate twice while asbestos was removed, along with again after a pipe burst inside corridor.
On one occasion, she was working in her office when a light fitting fell via the ceiling on to her desk.
“They’ve taken the approach of just putting plasters on problems rather than overhauling the idea,” she says, “so overall the idea’s just a bit dodgy.”
“The walkway to the auto park is actually usually so flooded underneath that will the floor panels bounce around along with your shoes get soaked.”
A Labour researcher recalled an occasion a few years ago when the toilets above Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw’s office “leaked through along with dripped onto papers, leaving horrid smells”.
The sight of mice running around is actually so commonplace that will several parliamentary workers only mentioned the idea in passing, saying, “oh yeah, we’ve got loads” or “the place is actually riddled with them”.
A parliamentary spokesman said: “Providing a physical working environment that will is actually as safe as we can possibly make the idea is actually an absolute priority.”
The Labour MP Meg Hillier has investigated options for the restoration of Parliament as chair of the Public Accounts Committee, yet also has personal experience of doing battle with the dilapidated surroundings.
She told the BBC of the “hole inside carpet which you have to remember where the idea is actually otherwise your foot goes through the idea”.
She added: “The plugs in my office buzz along with spark – I take extra care to switch them all off before I leave because I’m terrified of a fire starting in there.”
The head of engineering on the estate, Andy Piper, says that will if a fire were to start everyone could be evacuated, yet at present he is actually not confident the building could be saved as the idea would likely not be safe for firefighters to enter.
Warnings via history
the idea’s estimated that will 60 tiny fires have started out on the estate over the past 10 years, along with 24 fire inspectors patrol the grounds on rotation.
Caroline Shenton, author of several books on the history of the building, points out that will concerns raised by MPs along with architects inside 1830s about the condition of the accommodation went unanswered.
In 1834, a massive fire destroyed both Houses of Parliament along with various other buildings on the site.
“I do see a parallel because there had been years of attempts to change the accommodation, along with the squabbles were exactly the same – over symbolism along with expense,” she says.
Alexandra Meakin, a former clerk in Parliament along with research associate at the University of Sheffield, summarises the situation as “desperate”.
She points out that will most of the electricity along with plumbing was originally put in after World War II along with went out of date inside 1960s along with 70s.
Why has nothing happened?
the idea’s at that will point been over a year since a specially convened committee recommended a complete relocation of all staff via the Palace of Westminster to allow major restoration works to take place.
“Major” does not do justice to the scale of the programme – the head engineer at Parliament told the BBC there wasn’t any comparable project inside UK.
“People liken the idea to restoring a cathedral or a stately home, yet that will doesn’t come close – along with those places would likely not have hundreds of people working there, as well as being the seat of government.”
Even if the government were to give the green light tomorrow, the idea would likely take several years just to move people out along with get reconstruction started out. So why wait?
There are some who believe the idea’s essential for MPs to remain in place at all costs, along with would likely prefer repairs to take place around them.
As Conservative Sir Edward Leigh put the idea earlier that will year: “that will is actually not an office block. If the idea were I would likely agree we should move out, yet the idea is actually not.
“the idea is actually the centre of the nation along with the nation should keep its debating chamber in that will building.”
Others are of the view that will there are better uses for £3.6bn – especially with the social housing shortage inside spotlight.
Another Conservative MP, Shailesh Vara, summarised the idea thus: “When we are writing to our constituents along with saying that will they cannot have one more few pounds for whatever they are seeking money for, do we genuinely want to go to the public along with say that will, nevertheless, we want to spend billions of pounds on our place of work?”
Meg Hillier doesn’t buy that will argument, reasoning: “The public aren’t going to have much confidence in us if we can’t keep our own house via falling down.”
via a procedural perspective, a motion approving the restoration has to be brought forward along with passed in government time.
There has been speculation ministers are shying away via bringing the idea forward as they face the not-insignificant task of legislating for Brexit.
Former Parliamentary clerk Alexandra Meakin says: “Given the cost of the programme, along with the fear of media hostility – particularly inside wake of the Big Ben furore – there is actually very little incentive for the government to hold the debate.”
A spokesman for the leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom denied that will, telling the BBC: “Discussions are ongoing within Parliament along with efforts to arrive at a consensus continue.”
As Parliament resumes after recess, that will could be the session in which MPs finally take action.
yet inside meantime, as one member of House services put the idea: “We are prisoners of the building’s historic along with iconic significance.”