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Diet members’ dream of spacious new offices will soon come true.

The construction of three state-of-the art buildings that will house more than 700 offices is expected to start in fiscal 2006, at a price tag of 150 billion yen.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s government has earmarked about 710 million yen for design of the office buildings in the fiscal 2004 budget.

The secretariats of the two houses are expected to soon present the building plans to lawmakers.

The 13-story buildings will house the 480 members of the House of Representatives and the 247 members of the House of Councilors.

There will be two for the Lower House and one for the Upper House, with a total floor space of 300,000 sq. meters.

The two Lower House buildings will have day-care facilities as well as a huge international convention hall and reception room.

The current office buildings, erected around 1963, are worn out.

Even heavyweights in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have to work in cramped spaces. Stacks of cardboard boxes line some hallways and visitors are made to line up outside offices.

In 2001, an advisory panel reported to the Lower House speaker that Lower House members were in dire need of a new office building.

The Finance Ministry, initially reluctant to give the go-ahead, finally agreed based on the Private Finance Initiative, which is aimed at using private-sector funds for social infrastructure improvements.

This means the government will not need to issue bonds to finance the construction of the buildings.

But a secretary of a veteran lawmaker has criticized the plan, saying there are discussions on revising the Constitution to make the Diet a unicameral legislature.

“What are they going to do with the three buildings, which are to be built at a cost of 150 billion yen on the pretext that the two-chamber system will continue to exist?” the secretary asked. “To begin with, what has happened to the question of moving capital functions to places” outside Tokyo?

Such sentiments have been making the rounds in Nagata-cho, the nation’s political center, even though the idea has not been formally announced.

There are calls to build a single high-rise for all the lawmakers.

The current layout of the buildings is inconvenient because they are located 130 meters apart, and the new plans make no attempt to improve this.

Officials at the prime minister’s office have said that a helipad would be necessary if the building is a high-rise, while others have suggested linking the new buildings with moving walkways.

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