MPs To Move From Sinking Westminster?

Andy Thornley
By Andy Thornley Last edited 75 months ago
MPs To Move From Sinking Westminster?

Image by Andy Thornley

A committee of MPs, chaired by Commons Speaker John Bercow MP, will today consider options for resolving a chronic subsidence problem affecting the Palace of Westminster — one of which includes abandoning the historic site altogether.

Cracks have recently began to appear in walls within the ancient palace, with the most likely culprits of the sinking foundations being the construction of the Jubilee Line tube tunnels and work on an underground carpark. The subsidence has been so bad that Big Ben (or 'The Clock Tower' as pedants will complain it is called) currently leans over 8 inches to the north west. Work to correct the subsidence could be very expensive and would come at a time of austerity when Government cuts are already biting hard on the country.

A decision to leave the Palace of Westminster however would be a difficult and probably unrealistic one because of its historical significance, having been the seat of power in the United Kingdom for the past 1,000 years.

The Daily Mail has claimed that the cost of remedial work to shore up the palace will cost around £1bn whereas the estate itself is only worth £500m. It quotes an 'insider' (these insiders are always anonymous!) who proposes "[selling] it to the Russians or Chinese" –- something which would provoke great controversy as Big Ben and Westminster are two of the most recognisable and quintessentially British landmarks on these shores.

The paper –- for once -– did not include a quote from the Taxpayers Alliance, however, we can have a fairly educated guess that they would prefer to scrap it altogether and move to rented offices somewhere near Victoria –- a move which they would claim would offer much better value for money for the taxpayer.

If the Palace of Westminster was sold, what would you like to see it become? A museum? A (potentially very dull) theme park? Add your suggestions below...

Last Updated 23 January 2012


I highly doubt it will be sold.  This is just one of those things where the politicians will go through the motions of finding alternatives (ex. moving, selling etc.) but ultimately settle on what is the most realistic option - just restore the palace and take the hit of the cost.  Sure the cost of remodelling is more than the apparent value of 500m, but that does not include the intangible value of the site.


Or, in a slightly more rational report from the BBC:

[Professor John Burland of Imperial College], a construction expert who oversaw the building of the [underground] car park, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the lean had "been there for years. When I first started work on the car park it was obvious that it was leaning."We made measurements on it. It was leaning at one in 250 to the vertical, which is just about visible. That's the break point between looking vertical and looking like a slight lean."We've known about it for years and it was probably developed at a very early stage because there's no cracking in the cladding and we think it probably leant while they were building it and before they put the cladding on."That was a long time ago and buildings do lean a little bit."

Prof Burland said the cracks in the Palace of Westminster had been there for years.He added: "There's no such thing as an old building that isn't cracked. In fact they're beneficial because the building moves thermally more than is caused by the Jubilee Line and the movements concentrated around the cracks and, if they didn't, there'd be cracking elsewhere."So these have been there for years and they're certainly not caused by the Jubilee Line or the car park."