MPs and peers could be forced to share the same building when they are temporarily kicked out of Parliament during its massive renovation works, it was claimed today.
Existing plans would see the Queen Elizabeth II Centre – located a stone’s throw away from the Palace of Westminster – converted into a temporary House of Lords.
Meanwhile, a temporary House of Commons would be set up in Richmond House which is next to Parliament.
However, concerns over the ballooning cost of the restoration project could result in parliamentary authorities asking both MPs and peers to share facilities in Richmond House in a move which could save £1billion.
MPs and peers could be forced to share facilities when they are temporarily kicked out of Parliament during its renovation works
The initial estimated cost for overhauling Parliament was about £4billion but it is now thought the bill could spiral to as much as £20billion.
Ongoing work on restoring Big Ben and the Queen Elizabeth Tower had been expected to cost £29million but the price tag is now likely to rise to closer to £80million after workers found unexpected asbestos and lead.
There are now growing fears it could be a similar story when work begins on the Parliament building itself.
MPs and peers have a legal commitment to renovate Parliament after they passed legislation in 2019.
But many politicians are increasingly worried about the backlash they are likely to face if they ask taxpayers to foot such a heavy bill in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, especially when cuts to services and tax rises are widely expected in the coming years.
The original renovation plans were paused in Spring with a strategic review due to publish its findings in the New Year.
The Times reported that the review will recommend not going ahead with proposals to convert the Queen Elizabeth II Centre.
Instead it will argue in favour of housing MPs and peers in Richmond House in a move which officials believe could save £1billion.
The discovery of unexpected lead and asbestos in the Queen Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben has seen the cost of its overhaul spike
The cost of the restoration and renewal of Parliament has been a thorny subject for years.
There is now a growing suspicion in Westminster that a final decision on the way forward could be delayed until after the next general election, scheduled to be held in 2024.
Some have argued that the overhaul of the site should take place around MPs and peers in order to avoid the need for them to move out.
But the review apparently states that such an approach would result in renovations lasting for 32 years while costs would also be twice as much.