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CONCRETE CATASTROPHE

Dangerous concrete found in UK Parliament as Raac crisis widens

Dangerous concrete found in UK Parliament as Raac crisis widens
The UK House of Commons Chamber. (Photo: Flickr / UK Parliament)

A contentious form of concrete that forced buildings in over a hundred schools to close has been found in the UK Houses of Parliament.

Mitigations will be put in place as necessary after one area of the Palace of Westminster was found during a routine inspection to contain reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac), a spokesperson told Bloomberg, adding that structural engineers had assessed that there was no immediate risk.

The discovery of Raac on the parliamentary estate adds to a growing list of ageing buildings, which has caused major political trouble for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his governing Conservatives. The Tories trail the Labour Party by about 20 points in national opinion polls, with voters seeing the issue as an example of Britain’s decaying infrastructure and public services.

The crisis has also undermined Sunak’s bid to reset his government ahead of a general election expected next year.

Days before schools returned from the summer holidays, the government announced that 104 would have to shut buildings, with some children forced to take lessons from home. That was because a beam at a school containing Raac concrete collapsed, sparking fears pupils and teachers could be at risk.

The row has engulfed Sunak, who blocked a request for more funding for schools when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration, and who is politically vulnerable on public services in part because of his personal wealth.

Meanwhile, successive governments have shied away from committing to a restoration plan for Parliament despite falling masonry, asbestos, leaks, vermin infestations and decades-old electrical wiring.

In 2022, a body commissioned to produce estimates for a full-scale restoration found it could cost as much as £22-billion and take as long as 76 years to complete the work.

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