Exterior of the Houses of Parliament, where the Palace of Westminster is located, the emblematic seat of the British Parliament, in London in October 2017
The British deputies will decide this Wednesday if they renew their recognizable headquarters in Westminster, which falls apart, and if they abandon it while the works last.
Bedbugs, leaks, humidity, cold and a great danger of fires affect the palace, whose oldest wing dates from the eleventh century and whose profile is dominated by Big Ben, the clock tower, which is also being restored.
No one disputes that the headquarters requires a renewal, but parliamentarians are divided between those who prefer to move completely to another place, which would cheapen the operation, and those who are reluctant to leave empty the emblematic headquarters, the main symbol of British democracy.
“The risk of a claim is high and it grows every month,” a parliamentary committee concluded in a report in March.
“A fire, water leaks, a total electrical failure or any other mechanical breakdown are the most likely causes,” he warned.
“For a place that is world heritage, the headquarters of ‘the mother of all parliaments’, it is not possible to do nothing.”
The oldest part of the Palace of Westminster was built in 1099, but much of this building with more than 1,000 offices dates from the mid-nineteenth century.
A deputy has complained that there is dripping urine in his office, and the sewage ejectors, which move the waste from the parliament to the sewers, are Victorian and could stop working soon, according to engineers.
To complete the minimum number of works required, with the parliamentarians following in the palace, would cost 5,700 million pounds (6,500 euros, 8,000 dollars) and would take 32 years.
If first the deputies moved to another place, and then the Lords did, the works would last 11 years and cost at least 3,900 million pounds.
The third option, the most economical and fastest, would be to move the whole world to a new headquarters for six years, at a cost of about 3,500 million.