British Parliament up for hire – sign of the times?
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January 7, 2014
British Parliament up for hire – sign of the times?

Editor:In what is a most revealing sign of the times in which we are living, the revered buildings of the British Parliament are to be put up for hire to host private events, according to the Financial Times.{{more}}

The historic buildings at Westminster, along the banks of the river Thames, constitute what is referred to as “the Mother of Parliaments” and are marketed as “one of the most iconic buildings in the world”. The Westminster Parliament is certainly the best known Parliament in the world and with their nearly 1,000 years of history, the buildings have been declared by the United Nations Educational and Cultural organisation (UNESCO) a World Heritage site.

However, today, they are in desperate need of an upgrade, and the heating, drainage, ventilation and electrical systems are described as being “extremely antiquated”. This is the reasoning behind the decision to hire out the buildings as part of a fund-raising drive to pay for repairs and refurbishment. “The site needs to be maintained and that needs money,” said a spokeswoman for the Speaker of the House of Commons. “If we can generate money from the outside world, then that is a good thing,” the spokeswoman added.

So, the stage is set for big companies and rich individuals to book rooms in the Palace of Westminster overlooking the Thames to entertain their guests or to host special weddings. There are up to 15 dining halls and tea rooms available to be offered to business clients for up to 1,000 pounds (over EC$4,000) an hour. These include the vast Portcullis House, which can be rented on Saturdays for up to 450 persons at the rate of 9,000 pounds (almost EC$40,000) a day.

The hiring scheme is expected to raise two million pounds a year, and will be attractive to tourists, American tourists in particular. The high security arrangements in place will add to the attractiveness as a safe venue.

Parliament for hire will continue a trend already started. The Financial Times reports that Buckingham Palace is already an upmarket venue for corporate clients, including the JPMorgan financial giant, hosted by Prince Andrew, Duke of York and prompting a London social commentator to quip, “What next – the JPMorgan Palace of Westminster?”

Renwick Rose