Whether it's reports of fire, asbestos, falling stonework, creaking sewers or dodgy electrics, the dilapidated state of the Palace of Westminster is all too well known. After years of dither and delay, work has belatedly begun on a Restoration and Renewal programme to bring Parliament into the twentieth century – and thereafter (hopefully) into the twenty-first.
Among the projects currently being undertaken is an overhaul of the notoriously unreliable parliamentary lifts. Slow, creaky and installed well before existing safety legislation, the elevators are being replaced as part of a two phase strategy which will see £5.05 million spent on refurbishing 11 lifts identified as a priority by the end of 2022 and then a further estimated £35.9 million on another 57 elevators. The figures were revealed in a parliamentary answer to SNP MP Alan Brown.
Unfortunately there is little sign thus far that the new lifts – which cost a cool £459,000 a pop – are any better than the old ones. Poor Brendan Clarke-Smith found himself trapped in one last month in the newly-renovated One Derby Gate site, which has itself just completed a separate multi-million pound renovation. The Bassetlaw MP spent 50 minutes there, having broken down and then tried to used the intercom system to call for help, only for that to also break down too.
The Tory backbencher told Mr S that the word 'emergency' was also spelt incorrectly on the inside of the lift and that the maintenance man who released him said that nothing of the ordeal had been reported on the elevator system at all. A House of Commons Spokesperson confirmed to Mr S the costs of the scheme, adding that: 'the programme will deliver a full electrical and mechanical refurbishment to the lifts so that they continue to be safe to use. This will also ensure that they are compliant with current standards and legislation, including fire safety.'
What better embodiment of the ups and downs of parliamentary life?