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QEII Centre under threat as MPs vote for £3.5bn refurb

The QEII Centre could be out of action for at least six years after MPs voted for Parliament to relocate during a £3.5 billion refurbishment.

MPs voted by 236 to 220 to support a full programme of works that could see the House of Lords occupy the QEII Centre. The works, which could also see the House of Commons moving to a Whitehall venue, have been estimated to take six years from 2025.

The House of Lords is yet to vote on the proposals, but it is expected that they will confirm the plans. An Olympic-style delivery authority will carry out a more detailed review of the works and costs and alternative accommodation options.

James Heappey MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the UK events industry, said: “I was disappointed that the House of Commons voted narrowly for a full decant. I don’t believe that the economic impact of taking the QEII Conference Centre out of use has been fully considered as part of the costs of this already hugely expensive project.

“My APPG colleagues and I will be raising our concerns in both Houses as there is still plenty of debate left to be had. We are all clear that London’s pre-eminence as a venue for international meetings, exhibitions and conferences will be threatened by removing such a significant central London venue.”

Michael Hirst, chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), said: “The industry will continue to provide evidence of the critical importance of the QEII conference venue be kept open especially in a post-Brexit Britain where meetings and events will provide an essential platform to showcase Britain’s global footprints.” 

The proposals have been on the table since 2016, at which time event professionals from around the world rallied to prevent the Government-owned QEII Centre from being used by the House of Lords during the refurbishment, saying taking it away would be ‘madness’.

More than 200 industry professionals signed a petition urging the government to consider an alternative venue, as part of a campaign called Hands off Our QEII, launched by QEII board member Simon Hughes and M&IT.

Along with signatures from industry professionals from across the UK and as far away as Spain, Germany, Serbia, Norway and the US, the campaign also attracted support from chair of the Events Industry Board Nick de Bois, who said that the possibility of a temporary move of the House of Lords to London’s QEII Centre “could pose a threat to the present commercial viability of the conference centre.”

Pat Sandall, an events professional based in Spain, signed the petition saying: “London has a dearth of suitable spaces as it is – removing this valuable space from the city’s inventory is madness.”

A 2012 report warned that the Houses of Parliament could suffer “major, irreversible damage” if significant work to restore it is not carried out.