New door for House of Lords to cost £7m

Peers' door - Dan Kitwood/Getty
Peers' door - Dan Kitwood/Getty

The cost of renovating the front door of the House of Lords' has tripled to £7 million in just a year prompting peers to accuse the authorities of "Guinness Book of Records" level spending.

The overhaul of the Peers Entrance in Parliament was scheduled to cost just over £2 million but that has jumped after delays and with other nearby works being carried out.

The scale of the spending has alarmed peers who are worried that it is being carried out without proper scrutiny because of fears about security.

The portico at the Peers' Entrance at the House of Lords is the main entrance used by peers when they arrive for work at the House of Lords.

The work to increase security at the door is due to start in the coming weeks, according to a recently circulated letter by a senior House of Lords official.

The worry is that the extra security will leave peers queuing outside to enter, itself creating a security risk.

Lord Forsyth - UPPA/Photoshot
Lord Forsyth - UPPA/Photoshot

Alarm about the cost has been raised by Lord Forsyth, the chairman of the Conservative peers' group.

Lord Forsyth, a minister in Margaret Thatcher's administration, said dozens of peers had expressed concerns about the scale of the works to him. The design of the plans is also seen to be inappropriate for the building.

The peer was given the brush off from the Lords, where he has tried in vain to find out the official cost of the works.

Lord Forsyth said it was "completely unacceptable that the Parliamentary authorities are refusing to answer parliamentary questions" about the costs.

He added: "At a time of great pressure on public expenditure it is surely right for taxpayers and members of Parliament to be told what is being spent when the sums involved are so enormous.

"The peers' entrance door at £7 million should surely be worthy of the Guinness Book of Records and the estimated cost has tripled in less than a year."

Tory peer Lord Dobbs added: "I am very mystified by the costs. They appear to be escalating as we breathe but nobody seems to be getting Parliament's permission."

Baroness Deech, a Crossbench peer, said she was concerned that her colleagues would have to queue to get through security at the entrance once the works are complete. She added: "It's clear that Parliamentary security will be weakened by the installation of doors at Peers' Entrance that slowly admit one by one, so that when hurrying over there to vote a queue will form, an easy target for anyone passing along St Margaret St."

Increase blamed on inflation

Lord Gardiner of Kimble, the deputy speaker of the House of Lords, told Lord Forsyth in a Parliamentary answer: "The cost of works to replace the door at Peers’ Entrance has increased due to delays caused by issues unearthed during initial surveys and other works taking place in the nearby area.

"Increases were also caused by inflation, which meant tender returns came back higher than estimated."

A Lords spokesman said: "Parliament is committed to ensuring the safety of everyone on the Parliamentary estate, the project at peers' entrance is an important part of that commitment.

"For security reasons we do not publish, or comment on, the costs of capital security work."

It comes as huge sums are being spent on the restoration and renewal programme at the Palace of Westminster, where work has barely started.

An initial assessment last February found that the works could take 76 years to complete if MPs were allowed to remain in the building while they took place.

The report was ordered by the House of Commons Commission, which is responsible for the maintenance of the Palace of Westminster and the rest of the parliamentary estate.

The works are set to include large-scale renovation of the stonework, a complete replacement of all electrical wiring and strengthening of floors and walls.