Work starts on MPs' `Legoland' home before they have anywhere to put it

More than pounds 90m has been spent on a "Legoland" office block being pieced together for MPs at Westminster.

Construction of the pounds 250m bronze and sandstone offices started in January, on the site opposite Big Ben where London Underground has been laying the new Jubilee Line.

But while the Parliamentary Works Directorate has been waiting for London Underground to complete and clear the site, a lot of the work on the new Commons office building has been going on around the country.

A project spokesman told The Independent that it had been decided to prefabricate as much of the new building as possible, with work already substantially completed on sandstone columns from Derbyshire, granite plinths and walling, precast concrete floors, columns and arches. "All the flooring units come ready-made, and they'll slot on top of the columns; that's where talk of the Lego kit comes in," the spokesman said.

"The columns are individual stones, but they come ready-made in storey- high units with a big metal bar through the middle of them, and a bolt at each end to turn it together.

"The on-site job is really just putting it all together and bolting it up, and making sure it's wind and weather-proof." When it is completed, the new building will provide individual offices for more than 200 MPs and their staff, with six select- committee rooms - one equipped for simultaneous translation - eight conference rooms, exhibition space, restaurant and canteen facilities, a post office and "a necessities shop". Already called Portcullis House, after the Westminster insignia, it is expected to be ready for occupation from the beginning of 2001. Sir Sydney Chapman, Conservative chairman of the all-party Commons Accommodation and Works Committee, has said that Michael Hopkins and Partners, the architects, had been commissioned "to produce a building designed for a life of 200 years or more, using materials of high quality, including natural stone, bronze and English oak, as befits a site of international importance."

But while the building is being built to last, with roofing and windows made of aluminium and bronze, The Independent has been told that there is no question of furnishing it with the kind of luxurious fittings that have been commissioned in the existing Palace of Westminster.

The new building will contain none of the hand-printed wallpaper, or luxury furnishings, which provoked the recent row over the pounds 650,000 redecoration of the Lord Chancellor's apartments.

"There will be no wallpaper at all in the building," one source said, "so we can scotch that one; there will be no hand-printed wallpaper."

The building will also be carpeted with carpet-tiles, rather than the hand-made, Pugin-design carpeting used in the main parliamentary building. "We will be going to the manufacturers for a standard product," the project spokesman said. "It will be a plain background with a black spot on it, and the office furniture will be bought off the market. What the House decided was that we had to build a building which was not to the standards of the speculative office developer, knowing it was going to be pulled down in 30 years' time. We are building on the presumption that Parliament lasts for ever."

The pounds 250m budget makes allowance for forecast construction price inflation up to the year 2000, and includes the purchase of the site, all fees and expenses, furnishing and fitting out costs, including value-added tax.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent