Boris Johnson's proposal to relocate House of Lords to York rejected

Review of parliament renovations will not consider the idea

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 19 August 2020 17:54 BST
Boris Johnson faces opposition in the House of Lords
Boris Johnson faces opposition in the House of Lords

Boris Johnson's proposal to temporarily move the House of Lords to York has been rejected by the body in charge of renovating the upper house.

The prime minister was reportedly keen on the idea as a symbolic way to stress his commitment to rebalancing the country away from the capital, short of real devolution of power.

But the Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority, which is carrying out a review of plans to revamp the Palace of Westminster, said it would not consider such an idea.

The authority is reviewing plans, which were first costed at £4 billion in 2014 and which have yet to get off the ground.

In a letter to the prime minister, the body said there were "constitutional implications" of moving peers and MPs outside of London and that it was thus not within its scope to decide.

The letter added that whether parliament should be moved was "a matter for both Houses to determine rather than for our review".

"This option will not, therefore, be considered as part of the scope of the strategic review," it added.

"In line with best practice, we remain committed to developing a business case that will set out in detail the options for restoring Parliament including cost estimates and timescales."

The plan to relocate to York was criticised by the Lord Speaker Lord Fowler, who complained that it amounted to "gesture politics". York City Council's leadership however welcomed the proposal.

In 2018 MPs and peers agreed that when renovation goes ahead, they will "decant" to temporary facilities outside the place for the duration of the renovations.

The authority delivering the works says they are needed because the Victorian mock-gothic palace is "falling apart faster than they can be fixed".

The most often mentioned alternative location for the Commons during the renovations is Richmond House, a building around the corner from the palace that currently houses the Department of Health.

An option in London would avoid any need to temporarily relocate the entire industry of public affairs and political journalism to another city for a limited period of time.

Proponents of moving the legislature's base out of London however say the renovations are a good opportunity to do so either on a trial basis or permanently.

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