£5.7bn for parliament repairs? Here’s how other countries have done it

The Houses of Parliament are falling down, and could cost anything from £3.5bn to £7.1bn to repair. Natalie Stanton looks at the cost of parliamentary buildings around the world.


Parliament repairscould cost anything from £3.5bn to £7.1bn

The Houses of Parliament are falling down. And according to an independent report released last week, restoring them to their former glory would come with a hefty price tag: about £5.7bn.

This could be reduced to £3.5bn if MPs and peers relocated for six years. Or it could soar to £7.1bn if they stay put and opt for the most expensive option. In that case, parliament repairs could take up to 40 years.

Either way, it sounds like a particularly pricey endeavour. Even more so, when you consider that the world's most expensive building Saudi Arabia's Abraj Al Bait which opened in 2012, cost a grand total of $15bn (£9.5bn).

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Of course, the UK isn't the only country to require a revamp of its government headquarters over the past few decades. But even comparatively, the estimated cost of £5.7bn looks pretty steep.

Here's how some other countries have approached the project, and how much their own parliamentary buildings cost:

Palace of the Parliament, Bucharest, Romania £1.9bn (in 1997)


Romania's parliament building in central Bucharest has broken numerous world records. Not only is it the world's most expensive administrative building, it's also its heaviest. And it's the second-largest building in the world, after the Pentagon in the US so large that parliament occupies just 30% of the space available.

It was built to the orders of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu between 1984 and 1997, and as many as 700 Romanian architects collaborated on its design. Containing about one million cubic metres of marble, and roughly 3,500 tonnes of crystal, the palace's construction cost $3bn (£1.9bn).

Parliament House, Canberra, Australia £537m (in 1998)


Construction of Australia's Parliament House began in 1981, and the vast building was officially opened seven years later. It was the largest building project in Australia since the 1960s, and remains one of the largest structures in the southern hemisphere. Its design is based around the concept of two boomerangs. The building was expected to cost A$220m, but the budget ballooned to roughly A$1.1bn (£537m).

Georgian Parliament building, Kutaisi, Georgia £52.6m (in 2012)


In 2012, Georgia inaugurated its new parliament building in Kutaisi replacing its former home in Tbilisi, which is 220km to the west. Georgia's MPs relocated to the new building after parliamentary elections in that year.

The building, an enormous glass dome, is on the site of a memorial to tens of millions of Soviet citizens who died in World War II. The 46 metre-high memorial, which stood in its place previously, was demolished with explosives in 2009. Covering 430,000 sq ft, the building cost $83m (£52.6m) to build.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada £1.5bn (currently on budget)


Canada is currently renovating its own crumbling parliament buildings in a project which closely mirrors our problems in the UK. It's thought that the two countries have been sharing notes on their vast renovation projects. Work started on Ottawa's Parliament Hill in 2002, and is scheduled to take about 20 years. C$3bn (£1.5bn) has been put aside for the works, and the government claims to be on budget and on schedule.

The Canadian House of Commons has temporarily relocated while its existing chamber is renovated, which is expected to take about seven years. The government has attracted criticism for the cost of the temporary chamber it features a soaring glass dome roof, which comes at a price of C$42m (£21.6m).

Scottish Parliament building, Edinburgh £414m (in 2004)


Closer to home, construction of the Scottish Parliament Building began in 1999. It was expected to cost between £10m and £40m, and be completed in 2001. However, its cost soared to a mighty £414m, and it was finally inaugurated three years late in 2004.

During construction, the committee rooms and debating chamber were relocated to the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, located nearby. A flashy glazed porch area was erected to welcome the politicians and their staff to their temporary base, but this was eradicated as soon as the new parliament building was opened.

A major public inquiry into the handling of the construction kicked off in 2003, and found fault with almost every aspect of the project from cost increases to the way major design changes were implemented.

Natalie joined MoneyWeek in March 2015. Prior to that she worked as a reporter for The Lawyer, and a researcher/writer for legal careers publication the Chambers Student Guide. 

She has an undergraduate degree in Politics with Media from the University of East Anglia, and a Master’s degree in International Conflict Studies from King’s College, London.