Treasury committee to assess Deloitte advice on Parliament restoration project

Deloitte’s work in appraising the options for the planned £3.5bn restoration project on the Houses of Parliament is to be scrutinised as part of an inquiry by the Treasury committee, which says no building work should begin until it has investigated the pros and cons of different approaches and the likely costs

The committee has published its preliminary report on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster, which it says is likely to be one of the largest major restorations in the history of the public sector estate. The cost, if carried out over the minimum period of five to eight years, has been put at between £3.5bn and £4bn.

The report states that the two most important documents on the matter are the Independent Options Appraisal (IOA) by Deloitte of September 2014 and the report of the joint committee on the Palace of Westminster of September 2016.

It has been accepted that MPs and peers will need to move out of some of the Parliamentary buildings in order for work to be done. The decant options in the IOA were a rolling programme of twelve partial decants (option 1), separate decants for the Lords and Commons parts of the building, with one chamber always in use (option 2), and full decant of the entire building (option 3).

The Treasury committee says pursuing option 1, in particular, could impact the pattern of sittings with the parliamentary timetable. Both Deloitte and the joint committee firmly favoured option 3, and emphasised the urgency of the work.

When it decided to set up an inquiry into the project in January 2017, the Treasury committee chair Andrew Tyrie said: ‘Neither the report by Deloitte nor that by the joint commission provides enough of the evidence needed to come even to a preliminary decision on these proposals.’

The committee says that if the House of Commons is asked to commit in the near future to one of the options and a timescale, it will need to be sure that there is sufficiently strong evidence to do so in advance of the business case.

The report states: ‘The purpose of our inquiry is therefore, first, to assist the House by offering constructive challenge to the case for proceeding urgently with Option 3, and, second, to assess the merits of pursuing other options instead or in addition.’

The committee says its aim with its inquiry is to add to this information by gathering its own fresh evidence. It reports that a call for written evidence has resulted in 13 submissions, bringing new perspectives, and oral sessions to interrogate the evidence more fully are planned.

It will cover a number of topics, including reviewing Deloitte’s approach. The report states: ‘Despite the investigations and recommendations of the joint committee and Deloitte, the process by which and by whom some decisions have been taken on restoration and renewal to date are opaque. The Treasury Committee will examine the Deloitte’s original brief from Parliament and the guidelines it was given to govern the scope of its work.’

It will also examine the costings of each option, the factors used to develop a risk assessment, the links between this project and other public sector renovation work, and the schedule, given that the start date has now been moved from 2020 to 2023.

The report concludes: ‘We will attempt to assist the House by challenging and testing the work and the conclusions of Deloitte and the joint committee. Because of the extensive investigations already carried out, our inquiry is likely to be relatively short and specific. Until this work has been carried out it, it is our view that it would be imprudent for the House to commit to a specific option or timetable.’

The Treasury committee’s Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster: Preliminary Report is here.

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