British MPs vote to quit Houses of Parliament to pave way for massive facelift
LONDON, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- British MPs voted Wednesday night to leave the world-famous Palace of Westminster for the duration of multi-billion dollar repair works.
After a lengthy debate the politicians by 234 votes to 185 voted that they accept the clear and pressing need to repair the palace, better known as the Houses of Parliament, to prevent catastrophic failure, and to leave the premises for the duration of the works, expected to last for six years.
It is the first indication that the majority of MPs are in favour of leaving the building while an extensive program of works continues.
The cost of repairs has been put at around 5 billion U.S. dollars, with the bill even higher if the work is carried out while politicians continue to occupy it.
It was the first major debate by MPs about the restoration and renewal of the palace of Westminster following a report first published on Sept. 16.
Leader of the House of Commons, MP Andrea Leadsom, said: "The Palace of Westminster is the seat of our democracy, an iconic, world famous building -- and it is in dire need of repair. While Parliament is structurally sound, it contains a number of critical risks, including fire hazards."
She said there have been 60 incidents in the last 10 years that could have caused a serious fire.
Government ministers had proposed setting up a new authority to assess whether Parliament should be completely moved while the work is undertaken or should continue to use part of the Palace of Westminster.
But in what was described as a surprise move, the House of Commons narrowly rejected the government's favoured proposal and instead backed a cross-party amendment in favor of leaving the building for the duration of the work.
Even so, politicians are unlikely to quit the UNESCO World Heritage Site until 2025, providing full Act of Parliament is agreed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
A spokesman for the Houses of Parliament said: "The Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Program has been established to tackle the significant work that needs to be done to protect and preserve the heritage of the Palace of Westminster and ensure it can continue to serve as home to the UK Parliament in the 21st century."