Grantham Journal column: Keeping pace with the modern world
Last week, MPs voted on plans for the restoration and renewal of Parliament. This vast complex – more a small town than a single building – is falling apart. Its electrics, central heating, sewage system and water supplies are ancient and constantly breaking down.
The place is infested with mice and moths (that have munched through most of my suits) and maintenance staff are constantly fighting against leaks, blocked drains and small fires.
Tens of thousands of people work here and hundreds of thousands visit. The risk of a catastrophic fire is real, and growing. We need to modernise it before it’s too late.
Installing modern plumbing, air conditioning, central heating and electrics, restoring the roofs, windows and gutters, and shoring up its foundations on the banks of the Thames will cost £3-4 billion and take at least six years.
I can totally understand why some people believe that this is a crazy sum to spend on restoring a rabbit warren of old buildings. But our Parliament is a global icon. All over the world, when people think of Britain, they think of HM the Queen and Big Ben.
Five years ago, we spent £9 billion on the London Olympics. It was a huge success and most of us believe that it was worth every penny. Surely it is worth spending less than half that amount on restoring Parliament to its original glory and making it fit for the 21st century?
n This week, on the day that Elon Musk successfully launched his Falcon Heavy rocket into orbit and brought its vast booster rockets back to earth in a breath-taking display of technological wizardry, MPs passed the Space Industry Bill into law. Sitting here, in our crumbling Victorian museum, we voted for measures to make the UK the most attractive place in Europe to launch rockets into space.
Parliament may be old, and falling down. But its purpose, and the job of all MPs, is to look to the future and ensure that, as likely as not, the next Elon Musk is a Brit.