Cameron gives green light for MPs to relocate to Holyrood
By our Political correspondent Nat Hunter
UK Ministers have today revealed their plans for the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster. Work will begin in 2015 and is expected to take 5 years and cost over £3 billion. The proposals will also require the peers and MPs to move out while the renovation is underway.
The scheme was announced by the House of Commons commission, which is chaired by Speaker John Bercow MP. Mr Bercow claimed that, if repairs were carried out while the parliament was in residence, the cost of refurbishment would rise to over £10 billion and would take up to 20 years to complete.
He said “as a consequence we will need to find a new home for both MPs and Peers for the whole of the next parliamentary term”.
The solution proposed by the commission involves the temporary relocation of the House of Lords, House of Commons and the Cabinet office to sites in Scotland and Wales, a move which has been widely condemned by MPs as no more than a sop to reduce Nationalist unrest and agitation in both those countries.
The House of Lords will take over the Senedd building in Cardiff bay, which currently houses the Welsh Assembly. The Assembly will move back into the neighbouring Ty Hywel bulding which they occupied before the Senedd was built.
While there are over 800 peers, and the Senedd has space for just 60 assembly members, this is still seen as a practical solution since so few peers currently turn up for debates in Westminster, and far fewer are expected to make the trip to Wales.
The House of Commons will relocate to the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood and the Scottish Executive will be moved to the nearby Dynamic Earth, which will be closed to the public while MSPs are in session.
The debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament is unable to accommodate all 650 current MPS, even if most take seats in the visitor's galleries. However, planned boundary changes are expected to reduce the number of MPs, particularly those from Scotland, and make the chamber a more comfortable fit for those who remain.
MSPs are furious at plans to evict them from the new parliament building and are asking how they can possibly be accommodated in the smaller Dynamic Earth building.
Tricia Marwick MSP the Presiding Officer told the BBC: “I might be able to fit half of them in the canteen, but the rest will be split between the earthquake simulator and the tropical rainforest. How is that ever going to work?”
However, Iain Davidson MP, chairman of the Westminster Committee on ripping Scotland apart from the UK, said: “No problem. Once we get our No vote in 2014, we'll rip so many powers from those neo Natz that they might as well meet once a month above a pub, for all they'll have left to talk about”.
MPs have already complained that Edinburgh is far too remote a location to be at all practical.
Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk tweeted: "It's like working abroad. We have nothing in common with these people. #DeepFriedMarsBars #BackOfbeyond".
Tom Greatrex, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said: “My whole life is in London. It will be a great upheaval to leave my friends and family behind and trek up to Scotchland every week. And I can tell you, pretty well all my Labour colleagues feel the same way as me.”
The Cabinet Office will relocate to the town of Stornoway in the Western Isles for reasons of National security. This will be slightly inconvenient, as crises which occur on a Sunday, will need to await Monday morning before they can be resolved.
Since the Highlands and Islands have some of the worst infrastructure in Europe, this will require the upgrading of the A9 to motorway status between Edinburgh and Inverness, and on to Ulapool. A submarine road tunnel, similar to the Channel Tunnel but for cars rather than trains, will replace the current Stornoway to Ulapool ferry service. This has already been dubbed 'la tunnel sous la Minch'.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who has approved the relocation plans, told a BBC correspondent, off the record, that he was “happy to go to the Outer Hebrides”. He added, “It may be bloody remote, but there is scope for some spiffing travel expenses and I can pick up a whole sporting estate for little more than a spot of lodge flipping”.
Despite the boost to jobs in the area, there have been angry protests against the plans from local residents.
In a letter to the Stornoway Gazette, one crofter wrote: “The isle of Lewis has always been a peaceful place with very little crime, and now we are to play host to some of the most dishonest and corrupt coves and blones in the country. That simply won't do at all, at all”.
Head of the Scottish conservatives Ruth Davidson MSP said she was delighted at the news which she said “proved conclusively that we are better together”.
She said it was right that MSPs should move aside for MPs as “the House of Commons does all the serious work and makes all the really important decisions," adding "I dearly hope to join it one day.”
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont was unavailable for comment.
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