Wolverhampton South West MP Stuart Anderson has today spoken in Parliament on the Restoration and Renewal General Debate. As part of this debate, Stuart asked the Government to ensure that the funding allocated for this project was well managed, and that all Government investment goes to level up communities across the nation.
Stuart's speech, which was cut short due to parliamentary proceedings, is published below. He used the opportunity to ask the Government to justify these spending allocations when constituents ask him why Whitmore Reans can’t have a walk-in surgery, Kings School can’t have the money that it needs to fix the building, or even Punjabi United can’t have funding to support what they do in the community.
Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker,
This is not a debate that I would have thought I would be speaking in. Or even a subject I had even looked at prior to becoming the MP for Wolverhampton South West. It has never been brought up on the doorstep and not one that fills my inbox, but after being here for a little over half a year I believe it is important for the new intake to have a say.
I am sure that we will hear enough today about the splendour of the Palace, how many corridors are in parliament and concerns around the renovation. But at end of this debate we will be in no doubt that we are faced with an enormous task.
I am aware of the extensive debates on the restoration and renewal of this unique site prior to the House coming to the decision it did.
I have looked at the different debates and the current course of action. I can see positives and negatives in each possible outcome, but what is clear that doing nothing about it is the worst mistake of all.
I believe that there are now more factors that need to be considered than before. From the General Election to COVID-19, there has been a change that must be considered.
The General Election changed the make up of this house and well over 100 new MPs have entered the place Churchill called the ‘Citadel of British Liberty; the very foundation of our laws’.
It is not until you spend sometime here that you can truly experience the uniqueness of this place. Will the views of my new colleagues be the same as their predecessors? Ultimately, we will be the ones dealing with the decision for many years to come.
We also cannot overlook the impact of COVID-19 that probably advanced the use of technology in parliament by about a decade. We have all seen the pros and cons of this, but we have been involved in a new way of voting and debating, we have seen what can be done.
Changes have been made to how MPs and staff operate. All of whom have had to work differently. The very number of people in this place has had to change and it has shown that the Palace can operate under exception circumstances. None of this was probably deemed practical, or even possible in the past but has now become a reality.
I said that this project doesn’t fill up my inbox, or get raised on the doorstep, but if we get this wrong it will. Too many factors have entered the equation that would assume that the previous course of action was the right one. This is an UNESCO site, just like the Black Country now is. It was here before any of us and it does need investment to make sure it is around for many more years to come.
On the Black Country, we have a strong industrial heritage. This project has enormous opportunities to create employment and training opportunities for Wolverhampton’s young people in areas such as construction, engineering, carpentry, stonemasonry, metalwork, IT, and heritage conservation. We should invest in their talent and unleash their potential.
The restoration to the Palace is going to be ongoing for a long time and I don’t think people would dispute that it is needed.
What I would have concerns about is continuing along the current trajectory without adjusting to these changes. The options provided before are now outdated by recent events and it is not beyond us to think of a more fitting solution.
How will the great people of Wolverhampton feel when I explain the extensive cost that will be incurred for the move to Richmond House and for what reason.
To get a purpose-built facility while the old one is renovated. Or the billions of pounds involved to make sure MPs can work in the same conditions when the rest of the country is changing how they must work?
When constituents ask me why Whitmore Reans can’t have a walk-in surgery, or Kings School can’t have the money that it needs to fix the building, or even Punjabi United can’t have funding to support what they do in the community. Do I say to the great residents of Wolverhampton that we can have that as we have diverted too much money to making sure we have nice conditions in parliament? No, it is not something I will be doing. We need to level up the country and investment needs to be used around the country not just in London.
We need to adapt and work around the restoration of this great site. Too much has happened for us to simply sit back and take the same course of action. A new approach to what is necessary and what is vanity needs to be considered.
I believe we can think of a new solution that not only restores the Palace but keeps us here working here in some adjusted normality, just like the rest of the country is having to get used to.
The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019 (PBRR Act) received Royal Assent in October 2019. The Act creates the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body, which will have responsibility for the restoration of the Palace of Westminster. The Sponsor Body was established substantively on 8 April 2020, six months after Royal Assent. The Sponsor Body will propose an Outline Business Case for Restoration and Renewal, to be voted on and agreed by both Houses of Parliament, before the building works can begin.
At the time of the Bill’s second reading in May 2019, these votes were expected during 2021. They are now expected in 2022. Much has changed since plans were first put forward for Parliament’s restoration and renewal, and today's General Debate in the House of Commons gave MPs the opportunity to put forward their views on this topic.