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Dozens working in Parliament may have been exposed to asbestos by botched renovation works

Parliamentary authorities have paused construction works and say ‘lessons’ have been learned

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Saturday 19 February 2022 09:43 GMT
The Palace of Westminster is in a poor state of repair
The Palace of Westminster is in a poor state of repair (Getty Images)

Botched renovation works in the Houses of Parliament may have exposed dozens of people working on the estate to asbestos, it has emerged.

Parliamentary staffers and contractors are among those who have been warned they may have been exposed to the potentially-deadly substance between October and November 2021.

Authorities this week said they had called a "temporary pause" to renovation works on the Victorian gothic palace to ensure "lessons" are learned and implemented.

The incident is reported to have involved work on the Speaker’s apartments, which sit on the parliamentary estate.

Parliament's buildings are in a very poor state of structural repair and an official report found in 2016 that it was “riddled with asbestos”. Visitors to the estate are often surprised to find a complex of buildings permanently propped up by scaffolding and in a state of constant renovation.

The inquiry recommended that MPs and staff be temporarily relocated to another building so that “a thorough renovation of the Palace [of Westminster] would allow this asbestos to be removed safely and more cost-effectively".

However the plans are up in the air because the House of Commons Commission wants to examine options that could involve keeping parliamentary business on the estate during the renovation period.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who as leader of the Commons until week was the most senior MP in charge of overseeing the process, cast doubt on whether leaving the estate was required for safety reasons, saying last month: "We seem to be surviving.”

A House of Commons spokesperson said: “The House is currently working with our contractors, supply chain and the Health and Safety Executive following an incident of possible asbestos exposure on the estate.

"A temporary pause in construction projects was implemented to ensure lessons learned from this incident are rapidly implemented.”

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