Michael Gove has said he “wholeheartedly supports” temporarily relocating the House of Lords out of London while extensive restoration works are carried out.
Peers have voiced their opinion that the Queen Elizabeth II Center in Westminster, which is just a few minutes away from parliament, should be used while restoration works are carried out,
However, over the weekend, it was reported that Mr Gove was against the plans.
Speaking during departmental questions in the Commons on Monday, Mr Gove highlighted how civil servants have been relocated to different parts of the UK and suggested peers could do the same while the works are carried out.
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“Over the weekend there was speculation in some newspapers that that estimable effort by civil servants should be joined by members of the Lords,” he told MPs.
“Can I say that I would wholeheartedly welcome the relocation of the House of Lords to one of our great cities, and in particular the attractions of the six towns that constitute Stoke-on-Trent – as I saw last week – are formidable.
“And if the House of Lords were to relocate to Stoke-on-Trent, I think you could be assured of a warm welcome in one of the most attractive places in England.”
Repairs to the House of Lords do not yet have a fixed start date, but are likely to involve a full decamp from parliament.
The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that Mr Gove proposed Stoke-on-Trent, which is a 165-mile drive from London and played host to a recent away day for the cabinet, would be an “excellent home” for peers.
The newspaper also reported that the levelling up secretary had listed Burnley, Edinburgh, Sunderland, Plymouth, Wolverhampton, and York as other options in case Stoke was deemed unsuitable.
Responding at the time, shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy accused Mr Gove of “another recycled announcement from a government that first talked about this two and a half years ago”.
“For all the gimmicks, slogans and press releases, on every measure of levelling up, we are going backwards,” she said.
Meanwhile, former Lord Speaker Baroness Hayman said the plan was “bonkerooney”.
“I think [ministers] are really quite angry with the House of Lords at the moment and therefore [want to] kick them out. It’s punishment,” she told BBC Radio Four’s The World This Weekend.
Earlier this year, a report said the restoration could take up to 76 years if politicians and peers were not moved.
The project’s sponsor body has said the cheapest option is for a “full decant”, which would reduce the cost to between £7bn and £13bn.
Any plan will be subject to a final vote by parliament.