HC Deb 26 July 1999 vol 336 cc18-9
44. Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), representing the House of Commons Commission, what was the original estimate and what is his latest estimate of the cost of Portcullis house. [91382]

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (on behalf of the House of Commons Commission)

The estimated cost of Portcullis house, as agreed by the House of Commons Commission in 1993, was £165 million, including construction costs, furnishings, fees, value added tax and an element for risk. At the time, the forecast inflation for 1992–99 was between £51 million and £62 million. The present forecast outturn costs to the original brief for construction fees, furnishings, VAT and risk remain at £165 million at 1992 prices, but inflation in 1992–2000 is now estimated at £56 million. Approved changes to the original brief have added a cost of £4 million and £10 million is attributed to delays caused by London Underground Ltd.'s work on Westminster station. The current overall estimate is, therefore, £235 million.

Mr. Flynn

It seems unfair that inflation occurred in those years, which seems to be a total surprise to the relevant authority. Has the hon. Gentleman noted that the cost of that single building is 10 times the cost of the Welsh Assembly building? There is another difference—the Welsh Assembly building is beautiful. Is he satisfied that the Commission used the right financial rigour in its advance financial planning?

Mr. Kirkwood

The contractual arrangements that were agreed by the House in 1993 are industry-standard. The provisions made for inflation were agreed and known at the time. The estimates are not out of line. They were between £51 million and £62 million and, in the event, it looks as though inflation is likely to be somewhere between the two, at £56 million. The building should be judged on the basis of value for money. It is designed to last for 200 years. If the low maintenance and running costs meet the design specifications, the building will truly be seen to have been good value for money in 200 years' time. If the hon. Gentleman wants to hang around and make representations at that time, I will be here to try to ensure that true judgments can be made then, when the full value of the building can be judged.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Given that the taxpayer has to foot the bill for Portcullis house, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that all relevant work has been subject to competitive tender?

Mr. Kirkwood

Indeed it has. All the normal European and other contract compliance rules have been fully taken into account and executed in the operation of the contract. The Commission has undertaken a mid-term review, which has just been completed by the consultants, Northcroft, who confirmed that, provided that the building meets its design specification to last between 125 and 200 years, the public purse will truly get value for money from what will be an architecturally special building.