LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – The government has turned down a proposal for the House of Lords to temporarily relocate to a building across the street from Parliament, instead directing peers to relocate outside of London.
While major restoration work is underway, the House of Lords may be required to leave Parliament.
Peers preferred to meet at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, which is only a short walk from Parliament.
However, Michael Gove, the Levelling up Secretary, has stated that he will not endorse the plans.
His department owns and operates the QEII Centre, a major meeting and exhibition area with views of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.
Mr Gove advised that they look at other buildings in the North, Midlands, South West, Scotland, or Wales.
However, crossbench peer Baroness Hayman described his intentions as “bonkerooney,” alleging they were “punishment” from the government for recent Lords rebellions against its laws.
The restoration of Parliament will cost billions of dollars, but if MPs or peers remain in the building, the cost would skyrocket.
According to a research released earlier this year, the restoration may take up to 76 years if MPs are not moved, with the cost of renovations exceeding £22 billion.
The lowest alternative, according to the project’s sponsor and delivery authority, would be a “complete decant” of the palace for 12 to 20 years which would lead the working cost to be between £7bn and £13bn.
It was clear to him that the House of Lords moving elsewhere, even for a limited period, would be welcomed widely, Mr Gove told Lord Speaker Lord McFall.
He knew towns and cities all throughout the UK would be delighted to welcome peers, he continued.
The proposal to relocate the Upper Chamber outside of London was initially proposed in January 2020.
Downing Street stated that it would show its commitment to levelling up and distributing decision-making outside of London.
York was considered, but several senior peers believed it would be impracticable to divide the Lords and the Commons.
Lord Fowler, the Lord Speaker at the time, called it “gesture politics,” while Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle called it excellent PR but wondered how it would function.
Peers’ relocation to York was effectively cancelled by the summer of that year.
After the letter was published, Baroness Hayman said Mr Gove’s approach was “worse than” tokenism and not a logical or grown-up way to confront the problem on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend.
She thinks the administration was grumpy with the House of Lords right now because they had done a job during the past session and truly challenged and made the government think twice about crucial legislation, she continued.
A government with a large majority in the House of Commons believed that if something was easy in one place, it should be easy elsewhere. So, she thinks they were furious with the House of Lords at the moment, and kicking them out was a punishment, she added.