Refurbishment at Houses of Parliament paused after asbestos discovery

Sub-standard renovation works in the Houses of Parliament may have exposed dozens of people working on the estate to asbestos.

Several parliamentary officials said the incident occurred as part of fire safety work being carried out in Speaker’s House, the residence of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle. Those affected are currently being notified by the Commons authorities. 

Parliamentary staffers and contractors are among those warned they may have been exposed to the potentially fatal substance between October and November 2021. One person familiar with the maintenance of parliament said it looked like “a huge failure of safety systems.”

They also confirmed they temporarily paused construction projects on site for up to three days as a precaution so they could brief staff.

A spokesperson for the House of Commons said:

The House is currently working with our contractors, supply chain and the HSE following an incident of possible asbestos exposure on the estate.

A temporary pause in construction projects was implemented to ensure lessons learned from this incident are rapidly implemented.

It is understood the incident took place as part of work commissioned by the Parliamentary authorities in the Speaker’s apartments.

The projects have since resumed – including the works on the Speaker’s apartment. It is understood those affected are all being contacted.

However, plans for a wholesale restoration are currently in limbo as the Commons Commission — its managing body — wants to explore the option of MPs remaining on the estate while the work is carried out.

In the meantime, the Commons authorities continue to make ad-hoc repairs and carry out fire prevention measures. 

The Grade I listed building is riddled with asbestos, leaking pipes and costs millions every year to maintain. A Health and Safety Executive spokesperson said: “HSE is aware and investigating.”