Parliament is expected to relocate away from its historic site at the Palace of Westminster in the next decade after MPs decided that the risk of a major fire was so great that a total refurbishment costing at least £3.5bn was necessary.
MPs voted by 236 to 220 to support an amendment that saw Conservative and Labour members come together to support a full programme of works that is likely to result in the Commons relocating to a venue in Whitehall from the middle of the next decade.
They backed an amendment from the Labour MP Meg Hillier and rejected two motions in the name of leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom. Neither of those motions would have committed MPs and peers to moving off site.
It would be the first time either house had moved out of the Victorian-era palace since the Commons chamber was destroyed by a bomb in 1941. Under the plan, the Commons and Lords would move off site in 2025 for an estimated six years.
The Commons would move to Richmond House, on nearby Whitehall, and the Lords would relocate to the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre. The Lords will have to vote on the proposals before they are confirmed, but the upper house is expected to follow the Commons’ lead.
During a three-hour debate MPs issued a series of dire warnings about the safety of the Palace of Westminster, where around 8,000 people work and a million people visit each year. There were, however, sharp disagreements on whether MPs should be voting to spend money on an expensive relocation.
Leadsom, opening the debate, said there had been 60 incidents in the past 10 years that could have caused a serious fire. “The likelihood of a major failure grows the longer the systems are left unaddressed.”
The minister said she would support one of two motions in her name, which had called on MPs to support the creation of an Olympics-style delivery authority to develop a plan to renovate the palace, without spelling out exactly how it would be done. She eventually voted in favour of a final resolution that incorporated the Hillier amendment, saying “we owe it to future generations to take action”.
Jeremy Corbyn was among those voting for the key Hillier amendment, as did cabinet ministers Chris Grayling, David Gauke and Matt Hancock. Those voting against included Damian Hinds, Sajid Javid, Esther McVey and Penny Mourdant.
Hillier said afterwards: “I’m delighted that parliament did not duck a decision on its future. We now need a clear plan and to watch costs closely.”