Boris Johnson proposes moving parliament to York while Palace of Westminster repaired

16 July 2020, 10:28 | Updated: 16 July 2020, 11:45

Boris Johnson has suggested moving parliament to York while the crumbling Palace of Westminster is refurbished.

In a letter to those overseeing parliament's multi-billion pound restoration, the prime minister proposed the Yorkshire city as a temporary location for either or both the House of Commons and House of Lords.

MPs have previously voted in favour of a "full decant" from the Palace of Westminster while works, estimated to cost around £4bn, are carried out.

Under the proposal, Richmond House - less than a mile from the Palace of Westminster - was set to be the location of a temporary House of Commons chamber.

However, those plans are now under review "to ensure value for money" following the coronavirus crisis and its impact on public finances.

In his letter to Sarah Johnson and David Goldstone, the chief executives of the restoration and renewal programme, the prime minister welcomed the review.

"The review should advise on the best model for delivery," Mr Johnson wrote.

"As part of this, it should consider the case for both Houses remaining in situ for the duration of the works, a full decant of both Houses or a partial decant of either or both Houses.

"There are a number of possible locations within London, which could be considered, including Richmond House, the QEII Centre and City Hall.

"However, the review should also consider a possible location outside London.

"The government is considering establishing a government hub in York and it would therefore make sense to consider this as a potential location."

MPs were due to debate the restoration and renewal programme later on Thursday.

Ahead of that debate, former House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom urged MPs to support the existing plans as she highlighted parliament's current problems of fire risks, asbestos, out-of-date pipes and cabling and falling stonemasonry.

"On the vexed issue of what to do, it is not a case of whether we fancy moving out or staying here, it is that if we don't move out, all the evidence points to a disaster that will force us out," she wrote in The Times.

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A spokesperson for parliament's restoration programme said: "The Houses of Parliament are falling apart faster than they can be fixed.

"As the prime minister has made clear, the current situation is unsustainable given the serious risk of a major fire and the need to upgrade the services throughout the building.

"The restoration and renewal programme was set up in law to tackle this urgent work.

"We are currently reviewing how the programme is delivered before sharing findings with both Houses of Parliament.

"In line with best practice, we remain committed to developing a business case that will set out in detail the options for restoring Parliament including cost estimates and timescales."