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Why should MPs stay put in the Palace of Westminster?

29 December 2012

5:11 PM

29 December 2012

5:11 PM

Tristram Hunt paints a bleak picture of the state the Palace of Westminster is in for Spectator readers this week as he draws parallels between the crumbling parliament building in New Delhi and plans to renovate the Mother of Parliaments in London. The Labour MP and historian writes:

In SW1, the situation is critical. Forget the obvious signs of decay — the mice; the leaking roofs; the wafts of sewage. Deep in the belly of Charles Barry’s 1830s Gothic wonderland, the infrastructure is in meltdown. The steam and condensate systems are beyond life expectancy. Explosions from the boilers risk the cabling and water pipes. The vertical risers are ridden with asbestos. And like a decaying hulk, the Palace glides on with gallons of water swashing around its basements.

In New Delhi, the fabric of Parliament House’s gorgeous, fortified sandstone is equally frayed. Proceedings in the Rajya Sabha have been suspended during budget debates because of unspeakable smells. Office additions have blocked off emergency exits, while unauthorised alterations threaten structural stability. And like at Westminster, there is a tangible sense of decay along the corridors and chambers — made all the more stark by the new cityscape of luxury hotels and boutique office complexes springing up across Delhi.

But though MPs in both countries are preparing to decant from their current lodgings, the similarities end there. Indian politicians do not plan a return to their parliament, while those in Westminster will. And Hunt is relieved that this is the case. You can find out why by reading the full feature here.

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