The Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster is co-chaired by Chris Grayling MP and Baroness Stowell of Beeston and was appointed in July 2015 to consider a range of options and make recommendations on the best way to protect the Palace and to maintain it as a working parliament.
ICE provided its expertise as it responded to the Committee's call for evidence by issuing a written submission earlier this year. The Committee also called David Hirst CEng FICE, who Chairs ICE's Management Panel, to give evidence in person. In his evidence session he suggested that a full decant of occupants offered best value for public money. He told the committee that "Giving clear access to a range of contractors over a period of time offers the simplest, best and lowest risk option."
He went on to say that"a partial decant would include quite a lot of working around existing activities. You would end up taking up a lot more space to allow existing activities to carry on. It would be quite difficult to co-ordinate and more expensive as a result.
Continuing maintenance on a larger scale without decanting, we would never see the end of. It is beyond the working lifetime of the people involved and the scope of works would necessarily change during the lifetime of that scale of works."
He warned that the project needed a clear vision early on, in order to realise the opportunities that were on offer.
Echoing ICE's recommendations, the Committee concluded in its report that the Palace of Westminster 'faces an impending crisis which we cannot responsibly ignore'. There is a substantial and growing risk of either a single, catastrophic event, such as a major fire, or a succession of incremental failures in essential systems which would lead to Parliament no longer being able to occupy the Palace.
The report suggests that both Houses should proceed to set up a Delivery Authority, without delay, to test the conclusions and to validate that a full decant is feasible, achievable and cost-effective.
ICE has a long history of offering evidence and insight to Government consultations on a range of built environment issues. As a leading voice on procurement, risk management and major project management, ICE is expertly placed to offer input to this high profile project of national and historical significance.
ICE's submission offered evidence on the scope of the work as well as how the work should be delivered. Amongst the recommendations were to ensure that the project is properly resourced and funded, with highly capable and experienced professionals and adequate contingency provisions.
The submission also looked at the question of how best to deal with occupants of the palace for the duration of the work. The options being looked at are to undertake the work with either a fully occupied palace on a 'rolling' programme of works basis, a partial decant of occupants, or a full decant of occupants.
After having examined the pros and cons of each options, the report declared that option 3 of a full decant was likely to offer the best value for money. Whilst the evidence points to a compelling case for this option, the report stated that Parliament needs to be satisfied that acceptable decant arrangements can be provided for both Houses during the likely decant period of 6 years.