MPs demand answers on pounds 34m bronze facade

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The Independent Online
MPS ARE to demand an explanation over a decision to spend pounds 34m on a bronze facade at their palatial new offices opposite the House of Commons.

The glass and sandstone building will provide space for 205 MPs, many of whom have had to work in cramped conditions. But it has been dogged by controversy over soaring costs that have reached pounds 250m - more than pounds 1m for each MP.

The bill for the bronze cladding, said to be the most costly used on an office block, is disclosed in court docu- ments lodged in connection with a lawsuit brought by a firm that failed to win the contract.

Syd Rapson, (Lab, Ports- mouth North), and a member of the all-party Commons accommodation and works committee, said yesterday: "I am amazed that the facade is so expensive. When we return, I will be asking for a justification of this figure."

The works committee approved construction contracts for the seven-storey block before Labour came to power.

Mr Rapson said: "When I joined in 1997, the contracts had been placed. But I will need to be convinced, and so will my Labour and Liberal Democrat colleagues, that this represents value for money. We are very hot on anything that smacks of waste or extravagance."

The building, to be completed in 2000, was designed by the architect Sir Michael Hopkins, who worked on the Glyndebourne opera house. It will have a central courtyard with sandstone pillars, an arched glass canopy over cafes, shops, and a 200-seat restaurant.

The original budget, approved by the Commons in 1992, was pounds 130m. The rise has been blamed on inflation, and on delays in construction of the new Westminster Tube station below the site.

Defenders of the building have said it is designed to last 200 years and there would have been an outcry if the best materials had not been used in such a prestigious project.

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