£150,000 fig trees to adorn MPs' offices

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Indy Politics

Every member of Parliament wants a fig leaf of credibility, but this is ridiculous.

Every member of Parliament wants a fig leaf of credibility, but this is ridiculous.

Portcullis House, the new home for MPs in Westminster, is to be planted with Florida fig trees.

As if acres of English oak, the main material for the new office interiors, were not enough, parliamentarians will see 12 of the exotic trees placed in the courtyard of the £230m building.

Portcullis House has already come under fire for its "ferry funnel" design and for its huge cost, which works at out roughly £1m for each of the 215 MPs it will accommodate.

However, a fresh controversy now beckons because of the disclosure that the fig trees have not been bought outright but have been hired for five years at a cost of £150,000 to the taxpayer.

The trees, which will arrive by way of Belgium in the next few weeks, will be housed under the glass canopy that covers the building's central courtyard. Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said that the running costs of the fig tree scheme would dismay his constituents and all those worried about the cost of the MPs' offices.

"This is so ridiculous it's obscene. Why on earth are they hiring trees, for God's sake? It just proves that the whole project has run out of control," Mr Baker said. Sir Sydney Chapman, chairman of the Accommodation and Works Select Committee, proudly announced earlier this week that the project had been completed on time and on budget.

* The retiring Commons Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, is to have a room in Portcullis House named after her, as will the former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher, Clement Attlee, Harold Macmillan and Harold Wilson and the former Liberal leader Jo Grimond.