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The BBC's Shaun Ley
"The building is home to 200 MPs and their staff"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 02:41 GMT
Queen opens Portcullis House
Portcullis House
Portcullis House has been dogged by controversy
The Queen will officially open Britain's most expensive office block - built to house MPs - on Tuesday.

Staff and politicians will be hoping problems with its toilets, fire alarms and other "state of the art" facilities will not overshadow the occasion.

Portcullis House has been dogged by controversy, not least because of disputes over its budget. Square foot for square foot, it is the country's most expensive office block.

In recent weeks, it has tried the patience of MPs of all persuasion with its rogue fire alarms and broken lavatories.

They have also had to cope with a leaking roof, unreliable lifts and disabled toilets that some disabled people say they cannot access.

When approved in 1992, the building - opposite the Houses of Parliament in central London - was expected to cost 165m.

Inflation and delays in construction led to the total costs exceeding 235m - more than 1m per MP housed there.

Built to last 200 years, Portcullis House has bomb-proof walls and windows and will house 210 MPs and their staff.

Controversial

One of the most controversial aspects of the project was a decision to spend 150,000 on a dozen specially imported fig trees.

The cost of other items has also come in for criticism, including the 440 spent on a reclining chair for every MP with an office in Portcullis House.

But media allegations that the reception desk cost 75,000 proved unfounded.

The Queen is expected to tour Portcullis House with the Duke of Edinburgh at 1130 GMT on Tuesday.

She will unveil a plaque to mark the occasion in the Attlee Room before attending a private reception with MPs.

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See also:

07 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Millions 'lost' on Portcullis legal bill
15 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Inside Portcullis House
25 Jul 00 | UK Politics
MPs' fig tree flamboyancy
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