The issue of asbestos in the Houses of Parliament has raised many questions recently – not least of which is the wellbeing of its occupants, including ministers, staff, visitors and the general public.
Asbestos has been on our own doorstep since it came into use in commercial buildings and homes. However, the presence of asbestos in the Palaces of Westminster is likely to heighten awareness in the media about the hazards of the substance.
Exposure to asbestos causes lung diseases, including Mesothelioma, and so the treatment, removal and disposal of the asbestos in the Palace of Westminster is a concern that potentially affects many people. In answer to this concern, on 15th June 2015, Lord Sewel, The Lord Chairman of Committees, was posed the following question by Lord Alton of Liverpool:
“To ask the Chairman of Committees what assessment has been made of the levels of asbestos throughout the Palace of Westminster and the parliamentary estate; what is the policy regarding disturbing it, leaving it in place, or removing it; and what advice has been taken about the dangers of asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, to those involved in repair and construction work and those working in areas where asbestos has been removed or disturbed. (HL466)”
Lord Sewel, The Lord Chairman of Committees, stated that it was difficult to estimate the amount of asbestos in the Palace of Westminster and on the parliamentary estate because asbestos materials of various types have been widely used and often concealed in ducts and voids, and buried in the fabric of the building over the years.
Lord Sewel commented, “Extensive surveying has been undertaken to inform Parliament’s management of asbestos and robust controls are in place to cover checking for the presence of asbestos and the safe execution of works (…)
“All staff in the Parliamentary Estates Directorate undergo mandatory training in asbestos management which provides information and advice about the dangers of asbestos, including asbestos-related diseases. Contractors and their staff are also required to undertake this training, or to provide evidence that they have done equivalent training. The removal of asbestos would be part of the minimum outcome of the Palace Restoration and Renewal Programme and is therefore addressed in all the scenarios that are described in the recent Independent Options Appraisal.”
You can read Lord Sewel’s full response here.
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