MPs vote for ‘full decant’ for parliament refurb, threatening conferencing at QEII Centre

MPs voting, 31 January, to leave the Palace of Westminster while a proposed £3.5bn refurbishment of parliament takes place is likely to result in the QEII Centre being lost to the wider conferencing industry for several years.

With the House of Commons opting for a “full and timely decant”, rather than a partial decant to allow for the work, the House of Lords, which is still to hold its vote on the issue, is thought likely to be relocated to the QEII Centre, although the work will probably not start until 2025.

The Lower House is likely to go to Richmond House, in Whitehall currently used by the Department of Health.

During a three-hour debate on the issue, MPs argued that Parliament risked becoming a safety risk and that urgent action was needed.

An antiquated sewage system and the presence of significant amounts of asbestos are part of the problem.

MPs effectively endorsed the 2016 report by the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster which warned a decision on how to refurbish Parliament could not be delayed any further.

Labour’s Chris Bryant said for MPs to want to stay in the building while extensive building work was taking place was “bonkers” and they had a duty to preserve parliament for the next 100 to 200 years.

Michael Hirst, chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) said: “My understanding of the vote is that an Olympic style Delivery Authority will now carry out a more detailed review of the works and costs and alternative accommodation options and there is no definitive decision on where this may be.

“The industry will continue to provide evidence of the critical importance of the QEII conference venue being kept open especially in a post-Brexit Britain where meetings and events will provide an essential platform to showcase Britain’s global footprints.”

James Heappey MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the UK Events Industry added that he was “disappointed” with the House of Commons vote for a full decant. “I don’t believe that the economic impact of taking the QEII Centre out of use has been fully considered as part of the costs of this already hugely expensive project.

“My APPG colleagues and I will be raising our concerns in both Houses as there is still plenty of debate left to be had. We are all clear that London’s preeminence as a venue for international meetings, exhibitions and conferences will be threatened by removing such a significant central London venue.”