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9 Oct, 2017 19:03

UK parliament proposes new ‘backup’ House of Commons chamber in case of terror attack or fire

UK parliament proposes new ‘backup’ House of Commons chamber in case of terror attack or fire

A parliamentary commission has given initial approval for a new House of Commons chamber to be built, which would serve as a replacement if the original one is destroyed by a terrorist attack or fire. The construction could reportedly cost up to £85 million.

The Commons Commission, which oversees maintenance of the Palace of Westminster, "endorsed the principle of the construction of a contingency parliamentary chamber on the northern estate [near the Houses of Parliament] subject to further investigation of time and cost,"according to minutes from a commission meeting last month. 

Those costs could reach as high as £85 million, the MailOnline reported, citing restoration and renewal proposals.

A commission spokeswoman has defended the approval, saying the House of Common's "main priority is to ensure that the business of government, legislation and scrutiny – particularly in the chamber – is continued in the event of any disruption."

“It is good business practice for any organization to have such arrangements in place," she added, as quoted by MailOnline.

However, not all politicians are keen on the idea of building an entirely new House of Commons chamber on the rare chance that the original one might be destroyed.

"I am very concerned, as are many other MPs, about decisions costing huge sums of taxpayers' money being taken without proper consultation of parliament," Tory MP Shailesh Vara told the MailOnline.

"We need some serious explanations and a whole lot more detail," he added, noting that "we need to be careful about any existing building cost figures, because as most of us know the costs rise and often significantly."

It comes after Labour MP Chris Bryant said earlier this year that a temporary chamber should be "properly impressive" rather than "some cardboard cutout."

READ MORE: Man carrying bag of knives near UK Parliament arrested under Terrorism Act

The commission’s initial approval comes after the March 17 terrorist attack near the Houses of Parliament, in which the attacker drove a car into pedestrians on the pavement, injuring more than 50 people, four of them fatally. He then abandoned his vehicle and ran into New Palace Yard, where he fatally stabbed a police officer.

The attack prompted a major review of security at parliament. The UK has since fallen victim to terrorist attacks including at the Manchester Arena in May, and on the London Underground last month.