In a letter published tonight (July 15) the Prime Minister said a location outside London should be considered to temporarily accommodate the Commons and Lords during the renovation of their historic home in the capital.
He wrote: “The Government is considering establishing a Government hub in York and it would therefore make sense to consider this as a potential location.”
The letter comes amid reports that the Roman city of York is being considered as a potential second centre of government and could be a new permanent home for the Upper House.
The suggestion prompted peers to criticise the move, accusing No 10 of wanting to “rid (themselves) of these pesky Lords” by moving them north and away from the capital.
Mr Johnson, who was elected in December on a manifesto centred on ‘levelling up’ the nation by boosting the economic prospects of the North, revealed his thoughts in a letter to the chief executive of the delivery authority responsible for the £4bn programme to restore the Palace of Westminster.
The UNESCO World Heritage site, which was rebuilt in its current form in the 19th century, is thought to be a major fire risk and in urgent need of an upgrade.
The PM said in a letter to David Goldstone that the review of the Parliamentary Restoration and Renewal programme should “explore the full range of options” but that costs should be kept to a minimum, with no “gold plating”.
He added: “We should also move as quickly as possible, both because of the risks associated with the current state of the building and the need to provide certainty on the way forward and thereby minimise disruption to our business.”
The PM wrote that the review should consider the case for both Houses remaining during the renovation works as well as “a full decant of both Houses or a partial decant of either or both Houses”.
He said that although there were options within London such as Richmond House, the QEII Centre and City Hall, the review “should also consider a possible location outside London”.
The letter, published in the Commons library, added: “The Government does not prejudge any particular outcome. The review should determine how the various options should be assessed. Costs are obviously a major driver, but the review should also consider other factors including disruption to Parliament’s work, the timelines for delivery, heritage benefits and fire safety.
“The location of Parliament is a constitutional issue. The views of Parliamentarians will need to be considered carefully, as well as any legislative impact.”
This week, the leader of York council wrote to the PM backing the plan to move the Lords or civil service departments.
Liberal Democrat Keith Aspden, who has led York Council since last summer, said the city’s “excellent transport links, talented population and ambitious plans for the future” made it the “ideal place for a major Government relocation”. He said: “I look to forward to working to ensure that promises made to level-up our region are delivered.”
He added: “Historically York has already been home to the seat of power in the 15th and 16th century with the Council of the North. Today York is an ambitious city, steeped in history and with many exciting prospects for the future.”
A spokesperson for Parliament’s restoration programme said: “The Houses of Parliament are falling apart faster than they can be fixed. As the Prime Minister has made clear, the current situation is unsustainable given the serious risk of a major fire and the need to upgrade the services throughout the building.
“The restoration and renewal programme was set up in law to tackle this urgent work. We are currently reviewing how the programme is delivered before sharing findings with both Houses of Parliament. In line with best practice, we remain committed to developing a business case that will set out in detail the options for restoring Parliament including cost estimates and timescales.”