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‘The Palace of Westminster, a masterpiece of Victorian and medieval architecture and engineering, faces an impending crisis which we cannot responsibly ignore’. These words opened the report of a specially-convened joint select committee, chaired by the leaders of the Commons and Lords, published in 2016. This paper examines the reasons why the physical building of the UK Parliament has been able to deteriorate to such an extent, drawing on Historical Institutionalism to understand policymaking decisions that have been made about the Palace and identifying recurrent themes that have shaped these decisions at different points of the evolution of the Palace. It further sets out how these themes continue to delay the planned refurbishment of the Palace—the Restoration and Renewal programme—to this day. In doing so, this paper will increase our understanding of both the history of the Palace of Westminster and the hidden wiring of parliamentary governance, in addition to offering real-world policy impact for the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster. 

Dr Alexandra Meakin is a Lecturer in Politics at the University of Leeds. Her PhD thesis, awarded in 2019 from the University of Sheffield, was an analysis of the decision by the UK Parliament to approve the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster. She continues to research the Restoration and Renewal programme, alongside her wider research interests, which include the impact of design and space on legislatures, and the governance of parliaments.

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