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Estate Building works (2017)

Request

  1. What are the House of Commons and the House of Lords respective policies with regards to compliance with the Building Regulations and who provides the Building Control services.
  2. Please provide a list of all building works which started and/or completed within the last three financial years with their respective start & completion dates and overall values.
  3. Over the same period, please provide a full schedule of Building Regulations Control compliance certification including reference numbers.
  4. What has been the fees for the Building Control services over the last three financial years by each service provider?
  5. I refer to the recent applications to Westminster City Council for the planned works to the Elizabeth Tower reference 16/11111/LBC and 16/11109/FULL however there is no information on view. Please confirm whether the House of Commons has asked for information to be withheld from the public and if so on what basis this has been made.
  6. Please provide the annual costs of the maintenance of the Palace of Westminster over the last 15 years including all refurbishment work.
  7. The Restoration and Renewal website states that the area of the Palace of Westminster is some 112,476 square metres, however in response to Mr Willie W. Hamilton’s written question (Hansard HC 10 March 1986 vol 93 c359W), Mr Biffen records the area as being 790,000 square feet, or approximately 73,400 square metres, a difference of some 39,000 square metres or 35%. Please provide a breakdown of areas to explain the difference in these figures.
  8. How many people are engaged in developing the Restoration and Renewal programme?
  9. What is the cost of the Restoration and Renewal programme to date in terms of dedicated staff time and cost of consultants?
  10. Please provide a list of the works planned to be undertaken to the Palace of Westminster up to the start of the Restoration and Renewal works.
  11. How many people are engaged in developing the House of Commons Northern Estate Programme?
  12. What is the cost of the House of Commons Northern Estate Programme to date in terms of dedicated staff time and cost of consultants?
  13. When were each of the buildings included in the Northern Estates Programme previously refurbished?
  14. Construction News of 16 December reports that the House of Commons Northern Estate Programme, comprising Norman Shaw North, Norman Shaw South, 1 Derby Gate and 1 Parliament Street, will cost circa £500 million to refurbish. Please provide a breakdown of the cost of the programme by building and the associated square area of those buildings.
  15. Please provide me what the fees allocated to this project are and the fees being earned respectively by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and Gleeds.
  16. Please provide the annual costs of the maintenance of the House of Commons Northern Estate over the last 15 years including all refurbishment work.

Response

Please note that the House of Commons and House of Lords are separate public authorities in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). However as building work, especially large-scale projects and programmes, tends to be carried out on a bi-cameral basis, our response covers work carried out in both Houses unless otherwise indicated.

Your request for information has been considered under both the FOIA and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).

  1. What are the House of Commons and the House of Lords respective policies with regards to compliance with the Building Regulations and who provides the Building Control services.
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    For statutorily listed buildings, compliance with Building Regulations is secondary to compliance with the principal listed building legislation (Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990). The policy across the parliamentary estate is to meet current building regulation standards wherever possible, always having regard to the status of the buildings. Building Control services are provided by private suppliers appointed by individual projects.
  2. Please provide a list of all building works which started and/or completed within the last three financial years with their respective start & completion dates and overall values.
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    List of building works which started and/or completed within the last three financial years.
    The values shown are inclusive of VAT.
  3. Over the same period, please provide a full schedule of Building Regulations Control compliance certification including reference numbers.
    And
  4. What has been the fees for the Building Control services over the last three financial years by each service provider?
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    The Building Regulations Control compliance certification and details of fees for Building Control services is not held in a central location but rather held in a minimum of 90 individual project files in a variety of formats, including a number of databases, electronic files, and paper documentation. In some cases the information is held in our archives and the size of each file varies widely dependant on the scale and complexity of the individual project.
    Therefore to provide the information you require, we would have to locate, retrieve and manually extract the relevant data from each of the project files. We estimate it would take on average 30 minutes per file to carry out this work and, if subsequent information was required from the companies involved, then we estimate a further minimum of 10 minutes per project.  This would consequently exceed the appropriate limit of 24 working hours (or £600) specified for the House of Commons in section 12 of the FOIA. Under this legislation the House is not obliged to comply with your request and we will not be processing your request further.
    It is not known whether these records might contain some environmental information and we have therefore also considered our obligations under the EIR. We are unable to devise a search strategy to only search for the environmental information as there is no way of determining in advance what material will contain environmental information as defined by the EIRs. We have concluded that to do so we would have to collate all the requested correspondence before going on to isolate the environmental information and therefore your request is refused under EIR 12(4)(b) (manifestly unreasonable). This is not an absolute exemption and the public interest test applies.
    The public interest in disclosing this information is to promote transparency and accountability of public authorities, as well as providing greater public awareness and understanding of these environmental matters. We have also considered the public interest in maintaining this exception, which lies in protecting the House of Commons from exposure to disproportionate burden which places a strain on our resources and gets in the way of the delivery of our mainstream services.  In this case, the House has concluded that the public interest in maintaining the exception is greater than the interest in disclosing this information and your request is refused.
    If you were to make a new request for a narrower category of information (for example the certification and/or fees of fewer projects), it may be that we could comply with that request within the appropriate limit, although I cannot guarantee that this will be the case.
  5. I refer to the recent applications to Westminster City Council for the planned works to the Elizabeth Tower reference 16/11111/LBC and 16/11109/FULL however there is no information on view. Please confirm whether the House of Commons has asked for information to be withheld from the public and if so on what basis this has been made.
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    The Elizabeth Tower planning and listed building application has been submitted under Restricted Procedures in accordance with the DCLG Circular 02/2006 Crown Application of the Planning Acts pp 24, 25, and at the request of the Parliamentary Security Department. This means that the House of Commons has asked for detailed information relating to planned works to the Elizabeth Tower to be withheld from the public register, and that this decision has been made on security grounds.
  6. Please provide the annual costs of the maintenance of the Palace of Westminster over the last 15 years including all refurbishment work.
    Some information is held by the House of Commons.  The House does not hold data for all the years requested, because financial data is destroyed after 6 years after end of financial year in which action completed, in accordance with the Parliament’s document disposal policy.
    Costs are expressed in financial years, not calendar years, as this is how the information is stored in our system. Figures are inclusive of VAT where it has been charged. We have interpreted ‘refurbishment’ to mean restoring to a good state of repair, including replacement of building services (such as fire safety systems, cooling and heating systems).The table linked to below provides this information in the breakdown requested for the last four full financial years. For the financial years 2010/11 and 2011/12, the information is incomplete and not held in a format which allows us to break it down into the categories you have requested.
    The costs for maintenance and refurbishment work to the Palace of Westminster, broken down by year.
  7. The Restoration and Renewal website states that the area of the Palace of Westminster is some 112,476 square metres, however in response to Mr Willie W. Hamilton’s written question (Hansard HC 10 March 1986 vol 93 c359W), Mr Biffen records the area as being 790,000 square feet, or approximately 73,400 square metres, a difference of some 39,000 square metres or 35%. Please provide a breakdown of areas to explain the difference in these figures.
    This information is not held by the House of Commons.
    The House of Commons has no information which shows how the March 1986 figure was determined. However, the Hansard record is of a response to a question on “ … the amount of space occupied …”. Occupiable space would normally exclude plant rooms, roof voids, and similar areas where staff do not work. In addition, rounded, “approximate” area values were provided.
    In contrast, the Restoration and Renewal Web Site figure was compiled from digital drawings which included the car park and an allowance for the thickness of all the internal walls on all the floors. This is a gross internal area since the R&R Programme will comprise works throughout the Palace of Westminster; including plant rooms, roofs and an amount of internal wall changes. Reference to the gross internal area is thus more appropriate for a project of the R&R Programme scale.
    Table showing how the 112,476 square metres was calculated. (pdf 128KB)
  8. How many people are engaged in developing the Restoration and Renewal programme?
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    This data is already publicly available on the parliamentary website. As the information you request is reasonably accessible to you otherwise than under the FOIA, your request is refused. In refusing your request the House is applying the exemption set out in section 21 (1) and (2) (a) of the FOIA. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
  9. What is the cost of the Restoration and Renewal programme to date in terms of dedicated staff time and cost of consultants?
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    Table for the costs
  10. Please provide a list of the works planned to be undertaken to the Palace of Westminster up to the start of the Restoration and Renewal works.
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    A list of projects (Resource & Capital) in and around the Palace of Westminster which have been planned for the period 2017/18-20/21 and form part of the Medium Term Investment Plan for the same period . This list also includes some planned works to be delivered by the Parliamentary Maintenance Services (PMS), for example refurbishment allowances. It does not include carpeting or redecorations which may be delivered in response to business needs over the period 2017-21 by PMS.
    Please note that there are also a number of projects delivering physical security enhancements. Details of these projects have been withheld as follows:
    FOIA Section 24(1)/EIR 12(5)(B) – National security
    The nature of the plans to enhance security on the parliamentary estate is a piece of information which, if disclosed, would provide an indication of the potential security vulnerabilities of Parliament. Section 24(1) of the FOIA, or section 12(5)(b) of the EIRs provides an exemption from disclosure where provision of the information would make the UK or its citizens more vulnerable to a national security threat. This is a qualified or non-absolute exemption and the public interest test applies.
    There is a public interest in the adequate security and protection of Parliament and how taxpayers money is spent on protecting the parliamentary estate and its occupants from harm or threats of harm. The countervailing argument is that the disclosure of details of proposed security improvements, even in very broad terms, would risk exposing any vulnerabilities in current security systems and equipment used to protect Parliament. Groups planning attacks are known to conduct extensive research into the opposition they might face and the release of this information may therefore significantly impact on national security. Whilst there may be a public interest in access to this information, it is considered that in this case it is not in the wider public interest to disclose as there is a risk of national security being compromised.
    FOIA Section 31(1)(a)/EIR 12(5)(b) – Law enforcement
    As we stated above, the House has concluded that the disclosure of plans to improve its security would provide an indication of the potential security vulnerabilities of Parliament. The release of this information would also be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime and is therefore exempt by virtue of s.31(1)(a) FOIA or section 12(5)(b) EIR. This is a qualified or non-absolute exemption and the public interest test applies.
    There is a public interest in the adequate security and protection of individuals visiting and working on the parliamentary estate, the buildings and their contents. This is outweighed by the risks of criminal activity being undertaken if the information was disclosed. In providing details of planned security enhancements, individuals with malicious or criminal intent seeking to gain unlawful access to or plot attacks against the estate or individuals thereon would be provided with a significant indication of potential security vulnerabilities, and we would fail in our duty to assist those services providing us with law enforcement. It is our view that the greater public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the minor public interest in disclosing the information.
    FOIA Section 38(1)/EIR 12(5)(b) – Health & Safety
    If access to and security on the parliamentary estate was compromised in the ways described above, this is likely to also directly prejudice the health and safety of individuals working on and visiting Parliament. Therefore we have concluded that information relating to planned improvements to our security arrangements is exempt from disclosure under the provisions of section 38(1) (a) and (b), or EIR section 12(5)(b). This is a qualified or non-absolute exemption and the public interest test applies.
    We have considered the public interest in knowing and understanding how Members, Peers, staff and visitors are provided with adequate protection of their health and safety when on the parliamentary estate. There is a countervailing public interest that the health and safety of those individuals may be harmed by the release of information which may assist criminals, terrorists and fixated individuals to access the estate for the purpose of causing harm to legitimate staff and visitors. In all the circumstances of the case it is our view that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
  11. How many people are engaged in developing the House of Commons Northern Estate Programme?
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    It is already publicly available on the parliamentary website.
    As the information you request is reasonably accessible to you otherwise than under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), your request is refused. In refusing your request the House is applying the exemption set out in section 21 (1) and (2) (a) of the FOIA. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
  12. What is the cost of the House of Commons Northern Estate Programme to date in terms of dedicated staff time and cost of consultants?
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    The cost to the House of Commons of the Northern Estate Programme.
  13. When were each of the buildings included in the Northern Estates Programme previously refurbished?
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    The buildings that require refurbishment in the Northern Estate Programme comprise Norman Shaw North, Norman Shaw South, Parliament Street and Derby Gate.
    Table providing previous refurbishment details.
  14. Construction News of 16 December reports that the House of Commons Northern Estate Programme, comprising Norman Shaw North, Norman Shaw South, 1 Derby Gate and 1 Parliament Street, will cost circa £500 million to refurbish. Please provide a breakdown of the cost of the programme by building and the associated square area of those buildings.
    A breakdown of programme costs is not held by the House of Commons.
    It may help you to know that accurate cost estimates are yet to be drawn up, as the cost management consultants have only recently been appointed.
    Details of the square area of these buildings is held by the House of Commons.
  15. Please provide me what the fees allocated to this project are and the fees being earned respectively by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and Gleeds.
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and Gleeds have been appointed to a zero value framework but have not yet been given any instructions. This means that the fees they are earning are currently zero.
    The professional services fees allocated to the Programme are already in the public domain (contract notice number: 2017/S 001-001299). 
    As the information you request is reasonably accessible to you otherwise than under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), your request is refused. In refusing your request the House is applying the exemption set out in section 21 (1) and (2) (a) of the FOIA.  This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
  16. Please provide the annual costs of the maintenance of the House of Commons Northern Estate over the last 15 years including all refurbishment work.
    Some information is held by the House of Commons.  The House does not hold data for all the years requested. Financial data is destroyed after 6 years after end of financial year in which action completed, in accordance with the Parliament’s document disposal policy.
    The following buildings have been included as being part of the House of Commons Northern Estate:
    • 1, 2a, 2b and 4 Canon Row
    • 1, 2, 3 and 53 Parliament Street
    • 1 Derby Gate
    • Norman Shaw North and South
    • Portcullis House

Table providing the costs in the breakdown requested for the last four full financial years. Please note that, for the financial years 2010/11 and 2011/12, the information is incomplete and not held in a format which allows us to break it down into the categories you have requested.
Costs are expressed in financial years, not calendar years, as this is how the information is stored in our system. Figures are inclusive of VAT where it has been charged. We have interpreted ‘refurbishment’ to mean restoring to a good state of repair, including replacement of building services (such as fire safety systems, cooling and heating systems).