Notre Dame fire renews fears for Britain's Houses of Parliament

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-16 22:16:31|Editor: xuxin
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LONDON, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Politicians in London expressed fears for Britain's most famous building, the Houses of Parliament, in the wake of the devastating Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

The Palace of Westminster as the home of British politics is known to be in line for a multi-billion-dollar facelift and refurbishment, on fears that the building, which dates back 1,000 years, is a potential fire risk.

Proposed works are not due to start until the mid-2020s when the House of Commons and the House of Lords both move to temporary homes in London.

Labour politician Chris Bryant, a member of a joint committee of parliamentarians from both the Commons and the Lords which examined the state of the building, said: "We have taken far too long already putting our fire safety measures in place."

"Parts of the Palace are as old as Notre Dame and we must make sure that every fire precaution is taken as the major work goes ahead. God knows we've had enough warnings," Bryant added.

A joint committee report in 2016 cited a substantial and growing risk of either a single, catastrophic event, such as a major fire, or a succession of incremental failures in essential systems which would lead to Parliament no longer being able to occupy the Palace of Westminster.

Main opposition leader, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn said the Paris fire was a warning for MPs about the state of the Palace of Westminster.

He said: "The state of the building is very poor in Westminster and a fire risk is obviously huge with a building that has so much wood within it."

Labour MP Anna Turley said she was shocked by the state of the building when she was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015.

"On my induction an engineer showed me the electrics (in the Houses of Parliament). It looked a health and safety disaster and fire waiting to happen," she said.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, who is regarded as Prime Minister Theresa May's deputy, said a water leak in the Commons earlier this month was a stark reminder of the need to deal with the building's problems.

"With each year that passes, the risk of a catastrophic fire grows," Lidington said earlier this week about the Houses of Parliament.

A UK Parliament spokesperson said: "Fire safety is a key priority for Parliament and protections are constantly reviewed and updated including at our active construction sites.

"Last year, we completed a major program of works to enhance fire safety measures in the Palace of Westminster, and while this work continues we stand ready to learn any lessons that emerge from the fire at Notre Dame to ensure we do everything possible to protect our people and buildings on the Parliamentary Estate. Health, safety and well-being, including fire safety, will remain the highest priority," said the spokesperson.

The Palace of Westminster was built in the mid-1800s after a fire in 1834 destroyed large parts of the old building. The oldest part of the building, the 1,000 year old medieval Westminster Hall survived and remains a busy part of the parliament estate. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.