Steerpike Steerpike

Crumbling Commons gears up for new term

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It’s less than a week until MPs return to Westminster after a summer full of llama drama and Afghan disaster. But as our elected leaders gear up to debate the great issues of state once more, Steerpike has unearthed figures which suggest Parliament’s foundations are not as solid as they would like to think. Whether it’s asbestos, falling stonework or the risk of incineration, all too often the Palace of Westminster resembles a house of horrors.

Mr S has obtained a copy of the most recent parliamentary ‘Asbestos Management Survey’ – drawn up between July 2019 and April 2020 –  and it makes for depressing reading. Released under Freedom of Information laws, the report identifies the presence of asbestos material in approximately 28 locations across the parliamentary estate. It also identifies areas which Palace staff have not been able to fully access or inspect – ‘despite every effort being made by the survey team to gain access.’  

A parliamentary spokesman told Steerpike that the plan ‘ensures that any work posing an asbestos risk is properly carried out with licensed asbestos removal contractors involved where needed. Anyone who may have to work on asbestos undergoes annual asbestos refresher training.’ Still, hardly encouraging.

The estate also has to contend with stonework dropping off its buildings, with one such piece destroying the windshield of a Toyota owned by future Attorney General Michael Ellis. There have been seven such incidents of falling masonry since the beginning of 2019,  with parts falling all over the estate including multiple incidents at both Westminster Hall and the Victoria Tower. Some 14 centimetres of stone fell off the north front of Westminster Hall in February 2019 while most recently nine centimetres disappeared off the face of a gargoyle at the site’s Cromwell Green entrance in March 2021.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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