Since 2017, anyone that has walked past Parliament will have noticed the scaffolding on Big Ben. While this may have ruined a few tourist pictures, it is there for good reason. The seat of the UK’s democracy, neglected for decades, is in dire need of restoration, as currently it is a risk of flooding, fires and even Big Ben’s clock stopping permanently.
The restoration and refurbishment project is expected to cost at least £12 billion and will force the Commons and the Lords to move for a minimum of five years. As it is such a large project that will impact the daily lives of parliamentarians, and possibly the process of our democracy, Savanta ComRes decided to question Peers on their thoughts of the restoration project.
Two in five (42%) Peers believe both houses should remain in the same building...
As parliamentarians will have to leave the Palace of Westminster for five years, there is an argument to move both houses outside of London, as it may improve public trust and engagement. Peers however appear to be less enthusiastic with this proposal, as less than one in ten (8%) believe moving parliament outside London during restoration will improve public engagement and four in five (79%) disagree it will have a positive impact on the public’s engagement.
This opinion translates to both the Commons and the Lords, as nine in ten (87%) Peers believe the Lords should remain in London during restoration, while slightly more (91%) Peers believe the Commons should also remain in London. Although there is almost universal agreement among Peers that both houses should remain in London, it is interesting to see that slightly more Peers believe the Lords should relocate for the five-year period. An example of this is that one in twenty (4%) Conservative Peers believe the Lords should move away from London, whilst not a single Conservative Peer believes the Commons should relocate.
When asked whether the Commons and Lords should stay in the same building during restoration, Peers are evenly split. Two in five (42%) Peers believe both houses should remain in the same building, whilst nearly the same number (40%) of Peers disagree it is needed. There is a split between Life Peers and Hereditary Peers, as half (48%) of the Life Peers questioned believe both houses should remain in the same building, whilst only one in six (14%) Hereditary Peers agree.
Another aspect of relocation that needs to be considered is the impact on the parliamentary process. Three in five (62%) Peers believe that relocation will have a negative impact on the ability to create law, whilst only one in four (26%) disagree there will be a negative impact. The largest worry of this comes from Labour Peers, as nearly three in four (71%) agree there will be a negative impact, whilst only on in ten (13%) disagree that a negative impact on the creation of law will happen.
For decades there has been calls for reform of the House of Lords, therefore Peers have been asked whether support would, or would not, increase whilst Peers do not sit in the Palace of Westminster. Peers are split on this, as one in three (30%) believe there will be more support for reform, whilst nearly the same number (27%) of Peers disagree. Mostly however, Peers seem unsure whether support will grow or not, as four in ten (42%) neither agree nor disagree that support for reform will grow.
The restoration project has been projected to take five years, but Peers do not appear confident with the given timeframe. Nine in ten (92%) Peers believe Parliament’s restoration will take longer than five years, whilst hardly any (2%) Peers disagree it will take longer. Hereditary Peers appear to be the least confident with the five-year timeframe, as every single Hereditary Peer questioned agrees that restoration will take longer.