Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 13:56 UK

MPs could be moved out of Commons

Commons chamber
The Commons is in need of a major refurbishment

MPs could be moved out of Parliament for up to three years while a major refit of the Commons takes place.

Urgent work costing about 350m needs to be carried out on the historic central London building.

The Commons authorities have commissioned a 250,000 feasibility study into the options for relocating MPs while it is completed.

They could meet at a nearby conference centre - or even in the Lords chamber, which does not need a similar refit.

Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey, spokesman for the Commons commission, said it was "pretty well inevitable" that MPs would have to move out during the repairs.

Essential repairs

The only question was whether it would be for a "few weeks in Westminster Hall or a couple of years or more in another place".

"Initially, I think MPs will be against it," said Mr Harvey, but he hoped they would change their minds when they had seen the feasibility study and the likely timescale.

The work was not likely to start until 2012, he added.

Essential repairs to the Palace of Westminster are usually carried out during the summer months when Parliament is in recess.

But the scale of work which needs to be done is so great that it would take about 25 years to complete in this way.

Modern

More than 500 miles of water pipes, electrical cables and telephone wires need to be replaced in what would be the biggest programme of works since 1947, when the Commons was rebuilt after the Second World War.

There were 33 leaks from hot water pipes in the past month and there is also a problem with asbestos, which needs to be removed.

A Commons spokeswoman said much of the infrastructure in the Commons had reached the end of its "economic life".

"Work has to be done all the time but there comes a point when you have to do major replacement," she told BBC News.

She said the IT infrastructure would also be upgraded and more modern, environmentally friendly generators would also be installed.

She refused to speculate on where MPs would meet while the work was taking place.

But if it was decided to close the Commons chamber, she said they would move somewhere close to the House of Parliament, to enable them to carry on working as closely as possible to normal.

MPs briefly met in the House of Lords chamber during the Second World War but any move to repeat that might be resisted by peers.

Another option might be to set up a temporary chamber in the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, at the other side of Parliament Square.

The Commons spokeswoman stressed that no decision would be taken until the feasibility study had been completed.

The feasibility study is expected to report in the middle of next year.



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