Parliament staff face being charged with corporate manslaughter if someone is killed on the aging estate, experts have warned. MPs paused a £4billion Palace of Westminster overhaul last year over concerns about rising costs, despite incidents of falling masonry and worries over a major fire.
Many fear a repeat of the devastating 2019 Notre-Dame Cathedral fire in Paris, it was said.
Dr Ruth Fox, the director of the parliamentary research group the Hansard Society, said MPs have “got power without responsibility” as it will be staff who face the consequences if there is a death on site.
She said: “If the place does burn down, or somebody is killed by falling masonry, it’s not the MPs who are going to be up in court on charges of corporate manslaughter, it’s going to be the clerks of both Houses.
“They’re the corporate officers, and I think they’re incredibly courageous to accept this burden of responsibility when, ultimately, it’s the MPs who are running the direction of this.”
Sir John Benger, the clerk of the House of Commons, has insisted the building is safe but in a “condition of decay”.
He said: “If we just wait and wait, and defer and defer, eventually there will be catastrophic and irreversible damage to the Palace, which is part of a Unesco world heritage site.”
Around £2million a week is spent on maintenance at the estate.
Tackling asbestos at the site would take a team of 300 people more than two years, it has been claimed. A Parliament spokesperson said: “We are getting on with work across the estate to ensure the safety of those who work and visit here.
“Members in both houses are expected to vote on a way forward later this year.”