House of Commons leak: Debate called off after water pours into chamber

MPs joke about need for a ‘leak inquiry’ after cascade forces Commons to adjourn two hours earlier than planned 

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Thursday 04 April 2019 16:05
House of Commons business suspended after water starts pouring into press gallery

Debates in the House of Commons have finished two hours earlier than planned after a major leak in the roof forced the chamber to be closed.

Water flooded into the press gallery at one end of the Commons during a debate on loan charges, prompting deputy speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to call a halt to the debate.

The leak began during a speech by former education secretary Justine Greening and the debate continued for several minutes before Sir Lindsay suspended proceedings, with the noise of the water clearly audible.

He said: “I’ve got to suspend the sitting. When we come back, the bells will ring two minutes before we restart. So the sitting is now suspended – and no photographs please.”

MPs could be seen looking nervously at the ceiling as the water continued flow, with one exclaiming: “The roof’s leaking!”

Wrapping up her speech, Ms Greening said: “I want to finally finish my comments, with a leaky roof in the background. This has been an interesting week for other events happening while members have been giving speeches.”

Speaking next, Labour MP Justin Madders joked: “I hope I can complete my speech before rain stops play. I think there’s probably some kind of symbol there about how broken parliament is.”

He was interrupted by veteran Tory Sir Bill Cash, who asked Sir Lindsay: “I just wondered what is going on? Is it hot air escaping from here?”

The deputy speaker replied: “Somebody might say there is a leak in parliament at the moment – we’ll take it from there.”

That prompted Mr Madders to quip: “I’m sure many cabinet meetings have similar difficulties.”

The Commons adjourned for the day at 3.13pm, almost two hours earlier than planned.

The press gallery canteen, which is two floors above the House of Commons chamber, was also forced to close as staff struggled to stem the flow of water.

A House of Commons spokesperson said: “We are aware of a water leak on the estate and we’re working urgently to resolve it.”

They later added: “The leak was urgently dealt with and has now been isolated. The House of Commons maintenance team is currently assessing the damage.

“We would like to clarify this was not a sewage leak.”

MPs did not appear to be too unhappy at being forced to go home two hours early.

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Conservative former minister Sir Peter Bottomley joked: “We will obviously need a leak inquiry.

“It demonstrates we must have restoration and renewal. But we are very grateful to the maintenance staff who keep this place going.”

And Tory MP Ross Thomson wrote on Twitter: “Not the first time there has been a leak in parliament I’m sure.”

The Commons and Lords are due to move from the Palace of Westminster in 2025 so that six years of renovation work can be completed.

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