Guest columnist: Brexit will help us break down barriers

Sir Edward Leigh
Sir Edward Leigh

The coming of the new year brings, as ever, new challenges matched with opportunities.

This year we will see Article 50 invoked as the United Kingdom officially signals our intention to leave the EU, in accordance with the expressed will of the British people as determined at last year’s referendum.

The Prime Minister, in her very first interview of 2017, has reiterated her commitment to a ‘hard Brexit’.

In order to forge new and closer c0-operation with the rest of the world, it is absolutely necessary to break out of the closed, sclerotic, and overly protectionist barriers of the European Union.

We are just now gearing ourselves up for a parliamentary battle regarding Parliament itself.

The Victorian Palace of Westminster is structurally sound but is in need of a total top-down renovation to re-do all its services: electricity, heating, cooling, telephones, internet, and all those other cables that make things work.

All the way back in the 1840s, the original architect Charles Barry invented a creative ventilation system for the Palace.

Unfortunately, Mr Barry’s system didn’t work at all, and had to be entirely redone.

But it did mean that there were sufficient spaces within the walls to run all those complicated wiring systems that began with heating, then electricity for lighting, then telegraphy, telephones, and finally internet and ethernet.

These systems have existed side by side for decades now and no-one is precisely sure which wires and cables necessarily do what.

This means we can’t fit in a new system because we don’t know what system we have yet.

The consultants argue that this means we need to kick everyone out of the Palace and do the whole thing over in one go.

Tempting as this is, the Houses of Parliament is no ordinary building.

Aside from being the home to Great Britain’s parliamentary democracy for more than 400 years, more than a million people visit the Palace of Westminster – many of them schoolchildren – each year to observe the workings of our constitution and to learn about the parliamentary process.

I invited an independent outside architect, working as a volunteer, to come and investigate the consultants’ proposals.

He has suggested an alternative which would mean both the Commons and the Lords could continue to meet in the Palace, as well as continuing to allow visitors to be able to come and see Parliament, and which would very likely involve less cost to the taxpayer.

This is an all-around win, and I am working with like-minded friends and colleagues – be they Conservative, Labour, or Liberal – to ensure this historic building continues to be functional while being preserved for future generations, and at a good price for the taxpayer.

I’ve been quite vocal about this, and the media are taking notice.

The BBC even put my name on their list of Members of Parliament likely to make an impact in 2017.

After more than 30 years in the Commons, I am finally an up and coming MP.