§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. R. Thompson.]
§ 2.14 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I am very interested to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health is also in her seat, because the subject matter which I propose to bring before the House is the problem of the air conditioning of this Chamber. It is a matter which is of interest to us all. but particularly to the members of the staff who have to spend long hours in the Chamber and, if I may say so with respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is not without interest to the occupants of the Chair.
Hon. and right hon. Members have at times complained of symptoms such as a sensation of dryness of the nose and throat, and the expression "sinus infection" has been bandied about, and it is desirable that we should know how much truth there is in the suggestion that sinus infection may be caused by the change from the old to the present conditions, which, in many ways, are certainly more admirable than we had at one time. I am also conscious that the Ministry of Works has a great deal of knowledge about this problem. The Parliamentary Secretary has taken a great interest, and he and the Minister and his staff between them must have a great fund of knowledge which I am sure they 2524 will be only too happy to impart now that we have an opportunity of asking questions.
The questions which I wish to ask are seven in number, or perhaps seven-and-a-half. Of these, there is only one of which the Parliamentary Secretary may not have had full notice, and I will mention it when I come to it. First of all, there is the whole question of background information on this problem. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary in his answer—and he will have a fair amount of time at his disposal—will be able to tell us as much as possible about the background of this process. I mentioned dryness of the throat, which has been complained of, and I have also mentioned the possibility of sinus infection either by way of causation or aggravation.
But there is another feature, and that is the question of lassitude and fatigue. Of course, to blame the atmosphere of this Chamber and the air conditioning entirely may be quite foolish. We spend very long hours here; we are here very late, and there are other reasons for fatigue. We are not all 18 or 20 years of age by any means, and as we grow a little older lassitude and fatigue, through not getting much exercise, may be playing an even greater part than any possible changes in the atmosphere. However, it is a point which has to be borne in mind.
The second question, after considering the background of the whole problem, is this. If there are any factors that can either cause or aggravate sinus trouble, then what are they, and in what way can they be associated with the air conditioning of a room like this? Can it happen if the air is kept too dry? We know that the nose and throat, and particularly the mucous membrane of the nose, if it is healthy, is moist and not dry. The cells of the mucous membrane have upon them little whips or flagellae, or cilia as we call them, and they do not behave normally if there is dryness of the mucous membrane. Their purpose is to sweep any infection out of the nose, and they are in constant and vigorous action if the nose is suitably moist, but if the nose and throat become dry then their action flags and is diminished. That would be the moment at which infection could be aggravated or even initiated.
My third question is, what action has it been found that the Ministry staff can 2525 take to control and regulate both temperature and humidity in this Chamber, and what are the variations that are required as between a full House, a medium House and a thin House? At the moment, we would call this a thin House. We expect it on an Adjournment debate on a Friday. It is certainly a little cooler now than it is at 9.30 on, say, a Wednesday or a Thursday night when we all crowd in together and each of us radiates heat into the atmosphere.
That is, of course, exactly what I am asking. I am asking what is the technique being used, and is it efficient enough? Can it be done? Can it be done quickly enough to allow for the variation in attendance? Is not the problem that the Minister faces rather like the problem the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee faces, that he can never know quite what call there is to be on his services? We can never say how full the House is going to be, or how few people there will be in it.
I am told that it is possible by some periscopic means for the technical staff, looking from where they are with their machinery, to tell how many people there are in the House. There may be other and even more accurate methods of assessing that, and what is happening to humidity and temperature. What we want to know is, how satisfied is the Minister as to the way it works? We are not in a hermetically sealed cavern here. The door to my right and the door to my left, the one facing you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, swing open easily, and must do so, and they allow a quick inrush of air. That, too, must be taken into account.
The fourth question is this. May it be that it is not the atmosphere in an air conditioned chamber that aggravates sinus infection, but that it is leaving the Chamber and going info the open air, because of the change? If the Parliamentary Secretary has anything to tell us about that we shall be very glad to hear it.
Another question is this. I know that he has had medical experts in the Chamber, that they have visited it when the House has been sitting. Have they given him any specific advice? Is it technical 2526 advice, or can we refer to it only as advice arising from subjective feelings, the sort we can give from our subjective ones when we sit here?
Sixthly, on the assumption that something can be done to overcome the difficulties of having many people in the Chamber at times of congestion, is it possible that we can protect the health of Members and staff by any other additional means? The Parliamentary Secretary, of course, knows better than I do that it is possible to send ozone into the atmosphere of an air conditioned chamber or of any chamber. It is easily manufactured, and it could be sent into this Chamber. For all I know, it is.
Ozone, which is O3, is an unstable gas and quickly splits into its normal constituents of O2, oxygen, and the single atom, O. This single atom is quite a virulent disinfectant, as I think it has been described. It attaches itself to bacteria and destroys them. It also attaches itself to organic matter and destroys that, and in high concentration will clarify water as well as atmosphere.
We cannot have an excessive amount of it where we sit and work, because it would be offensive. Combining with the nitrogenous compound, its smell alone would be offensive. We can have only a few parts of it per 100 million added. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give consideration to this point and whether it is of any use at all in the dilution that would be bearable in the Chamber. If it is thought by his technicians and advisers that it would be useful, I think we should have it, because it would cost very little to install.
Now I come to a point of which I have not given the Parliamentary Secretary notice—not to an ozoniser but an ioniser. On the question of whether ionisation is a practical proposition much research has been done. I would quote from a well-known textbook. I borrowed it from the Ministry of Works, and, therefore, it should be good. The authors are Faber and Kell. This is a reprint of 1948. On ionisation it says this:Another method of treating air is by ionization. This is being experimented with in the United States, but though a mass of research has been done there is little practical result at present. Ionization may be described crudely as a change in the physical state of the air whereby the constituent atoms become electrically charged. This change is caused 2527 naturally by sunlight, and it is found that in dull dark weather the vitalizing ions are absent. It is supposed that by creating them artificially air equal to that on a bright summer day may be produced. We must wait some time before this is sufficiently developed for general use.That is interesting, it seems to me, for this reason. I put this forward very tentatively, naturally, for I do not know how far this is a practical proposition. In medicine, for thousands of years we have talked of vitality. When the sun has gone down and it is dark, and especially some time before dawn, we speak of vitality being at its lowest. That is when many people who are in a long, lingering sickness tend to die. My own experience is that it is usually about 4 o'clock in the morning.
On the other hand, we know very well that about noon on a cloudless day the air does seem to be charged with these vital ions, and people have told me that they can even see them when they look out to sea, as a sort of shimmer that is noted in the air. How far it is true or not I do not know. Of this I am certain, however, that the sun is responsible for much of our vitality. We cannot do without it. We feel the better for a modicum of it. We have not had much of it this season. If there is a possibility of charging the air in the way suggested in this textbook I think the Minister should consider it. I will leave the matter at that.
My last question is: is there any way of counteracting the effect of the radiant heat which we ourselves produce in the Chamber? I have heard it said that each human being radiates as much radiant heat as a small electrical stove, a 2-kilo-watt stove. That means that in this Chamber we get heat from the warmed air, which is also kept moist and humid, and some heat from our lighting system, and the rest of our heat comes from our own bodies. When there are 400 or 500 people in a Chamber of this size most of the heat, I warrant, comes from ourselves When there is a sudden trooping out I cannot see how it is possible to get a constant and rapid change-over effectively, without cold currents and warm currents meeting together.
That may explain why those who sit on the Front Bench—I would rather it should be them than those who sit where 2528 I do, myself included—sometimes say their feet are cold and sometimes that there is a draught around their heads. It is because of the way the cold and warm currents, meeting each other, behave.
Some time ago the Parliamentary Secretary answered a question on the amount of illness suffered by the staff in the Chamber itself, and I was happy to know that information which I had thought was accurate was not entirely accurate and that the position was not as bad as I had feared. It may be that many of the thoughts which we have on this matter of the atmosphere here are mostly subjective and that we tend to assume them, but some of our feelings are certainly accurate. For example, in the debates on the Navy Estimates, at four o'clock in the morning, sitting where I am now standing, I was frozen. I had to leave my seat.
I hope it will not be thought that I have wasted the time of the House in bringing this matter forward. It is not a trivial matter, because we have to try to do our work as comfortably as possible. Without human comfort we cannot have physiological efficiency. In working in a Chamber like this, physiological efficiency depends on three factors—temperature, humidity and air motion—that is, the movement of fresh clean air. Temperature control alone does not command comfort, because humidity is equally important.
Those were the questions which I wished to put to the Parliamentary Secretary. I am happy to see that there is plenty of time for other hon. Members to take part in the debate, and I hope that in his reply the Parliamentary Secretary will give us all the information at his disposal.
§ 2.32 p.m.
§ Sir Alfred Bossom (Maidstone)
We have heard an interesting medical review of the air-conditioning arrangements here from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), and it is interesting to realise that the same complaints arise in all the great debating chambers of the world. Apparently no one has yet solved this problem. I have examined the plant here, because during my life I have had a little to do with that sort of thing, and I want immediately to congratulate the staff on handling this most complicated plant, which is 2529 one of the most complicated I have ever seen in any country. They handle it very successfully.
One difficulty which they face at the outset is that the air of London itself is not good. They take in air for the lower part of the Chamber from just over the river. The heaviest part of the London atmosphere, containing carbon dioxide, rolls down towards the river, so that the engineers have to take in air under very difficult conditions. They do so much to it that, by the time they are through, it may be perfectly pure but it has no vitality left at all. None of us wants to drink a lot of distilled water; we all prefer ordinary tap water, which is much more interesting to drink, or mineral water. It may be that the engineers are making this air far too pure for it to be appropriate to our use.
§ Dr. Stross
I take it that in using the word "vitality" the hon. Member is using it in the same sense as that which I intended: it is air which has had all its sunlight filtered out of it.
§ Sir A. Bossom
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central referred to ozone. I know of cases in which ozone has been introduced with great success into the atmosphere in such chambers as this. I shall not give a list of these places; they are not in England but in the United States, including New York. The introduction of ozone has been very successful.
I want to make a simple suggestion. It is a practical suggestion but I do not know whether it will be adopted. We can analyse the atmosphere of this Chamber and discover exactly its temperature, humidity and what it contains. Why cannot we take the air at a place like Brighton and find out what it contains? We go to Brighton, are stimulated and all feel better. Why cannot we find out what the air at Brighton has which we have not, and put it into this atmosphere?
This is a practicable proposition, for it has been done in other parts of the world. If we could do that it would help. I will not say the vitality but certainly the intensity of thought in the Chamber There are occasions on which hon. Members have looked round and have seen a good many colleagues dozing. I have been guilty myself. We are often guilty 2530 when we would much prefer not be. The present atmosphere does not give the sense of vitality which we need.
If the Parliamentary Secretary could investigate this matter and try to find out what is being taken out of the atmosphere, and what we need, he could insert into the atmosphere of the Chamber what we need and make it much better. A few feet from the ground we have air taken from possibly the worst place in the whole of London. At the top of the Chamber it comes from a better place—only a little better, because the London atmosphere is itself not pure. I have made a practical suggestion to see whether we can help to provide satisfactory air-conditioning arrangements in the Chamber. If we succeed, we shall set an example to the world.
§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) because I was not present when he commenced to speak. I was looking after my gastric needs and for the moment I had completely forgotten that I had any sinuses.
May I first deal with the very valuable comments of the hon. Member for Maid-stone (Sir A. Bossom)? He spoke of the importance of a change of air and of the value of the air at the seaside and in country places. A lot of work was done on that subject some years ago, mainly at Hamburg, and it was found that people who live at the seaside were not more healthy than others and that a change of air through a visit to the seaside was valuable for a time of up to about two months. After that it ceased to be beneficial. That may deal with some of the points which the hon. Member made.
Like many hon. Members, I had the privilege of being a Member of Parliament and sitting in the Chamber which preceded this Chamber, and also in the Chamber now used by Members of another place. I have been much more healthy in this House than in either of the other two. I am convinced that the ventilation system is very much better. In both the original House and in the Chamber now occupied by their Lordships, I used to get a good many colds, but since I have been here I am glad to say that I have had very few colds and have been very well indeed.
2531 Part of the reason for that, I think, is not that we have a uniform temperature here but that sometimes, as I sit here, I can feel a slight current—not unpleasant—of air. I think it is fresh and invigorating air, and I believe it does us a lot of good. That is an advantage which we have in this Chamber.
My hon. Friend referred to sinus diseases. I ought to know a good bit about that subject because during my life I have taken some part, in practice, in treating the diseases of that region of the body. I am convinced that in the past we have paid too much attention to infection of the sinuses. A good many other factors should be considered in sinus disease besides bad air and infection. I am sure we should also consider the value of food and the taking of sufficient of the right sort of vitamins. Ideas change in that as well as in other matters.
I did not intend to intervene when I came here this morning, but I thought that someone ought to give his experiences and say how valuable he thinks are the arrangements made for our health and comfort in this Chamber, and how much better one of us, at least, has been since the present arrangements have been made.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
We have had a wealth of technical and professional experience placed at out disposal since the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) initiated this debate. We have had contributions from the medical and architectural side, and now it is perhaps the turn of the ordinary layman, who has no scientific pretensions at all, to make what might be described as a purely lay contribution to this discussion.
I feel that this is perhaps more a subjective matter than most other matters, because it is a question as to how we, as individuals, react to particular conditions. I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central admit that at the present moment this Chamber is far too cold.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I agree with my hon. Friend. I think that the atmosphere could, with increased comfort to the present inhabitants of the Chamber, 2532 be raised by quite a number of degrees. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) also gave his personal reaction of the past few years to the conditions which prevail in this Chamber. Statements have been made that Members have experienced an increase of sinus trouble while in and around this Chamber. I cannot understand that, because my experience is similar to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking.
Since we began to sit in these air-conditioned circumstances in 1948, I have had far fewer colds in the head and suffered far less from catarrh and other allied complaints than I ever did before. It is, I think, a tribute to the very careful, scientific planning which went into the construction of this Chamber, that at least two of us should make that claim. I think that it is a claim that is shared by a number of other hon. Members.
My complaint, if any, is that in the Palace of Westminster, that is to say in this Chamber and within the precincts of the Chamber, we now have so great a variety of temperatures in the different rooms that I am reminded of the conditions that prevail in a fully-equipped Turkish bath, where one goes from a hot room to a cold room and vice versa. At the present time, without the aid of a thermometer, I have been able to detect four or five different temperatures within 50 or 100 yards of this Chamber by going into a corridor, a Committee room, the Library and so on. That seems to indicate that the conditions in the Chamber are, from a purely technical point of view, so satisfactory that we realise how inferior are the conditions outside as soon as we leave the Chamber.
I should not like it to be thought that there is any serious complaint, so far as lay Members are concerned, about the very careful precautions that have been taken. I remember reading a publication giving a description of the elaborate arrangements which are now being operated here, and, quite frankly, when I read about them, I thought that it was another lot of scientific ballyhoo and jargon devised to impress ordinary people, and that whatever money had been spent was not fully justified.
I think that we have had sufficient experience of conditions in this Chamber to be able to say that, by and large, 2533 they have worked reasonably well—that the health of Members has improved in accordance with the time they have spent in this Chamber. Danger to health and comfort does not arise from conditions to which Members are subjected in this Chamber as much as to the conditions to which they are subjected immediately they leave this scientifically-controlled atmosphere.
I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, who is to reply, will be able to give us some further information, and tell us whether the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir A. Bossom) can be put into effect. So far as I am concerned, I do not mind being made a guinea pig for whatever further scientific experiments the Ministry of Works may have in mind. They have done pretty well up to now, and I have no doubt that with such further scientific knowledge as becomes available, conditions in this Chamber will be even further improved.
§ 2.47 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works (Mr. J. R. Bevins)
I should first like to say how grateful I am, as I am sure the whole House is, to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) for introducing this short debate, to which my right hon. Friend has asked me to reply. I think that the hon. Member made a fascinating speech, and I was particularly interested in his comments about lassitude and the use of an ioniser. Lassitude is a common complaint, especially as we grow older, and it is perhaps particularly prevalent in the House of Commons, where so many hon. Members are overworked, and possibly underpaid as well.
I am afraid that I am not competent to comment on the suggestion which the hon. Member made with regard to the ioniser. He quoted from a book written by Faber and Kell, and I shall be very happy to read that book myself and, if necessary, to take advice on it. The hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir A. Bossom) also made a short but interesting speech in Which he referred to the benefits of the use of an ozoniser. I shall say a word about that presently. Having heard the speech of the hon. Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel 2534 Lipton), we now understand why the hon. Member for Brixton is so assiduous in his attendance in this Chamber—it is purely selfish.
It is true that ever since this new Chamber was opened a number of hon. Members have complained from time to time about the atmosphere here. On the other hand, it is only fair to the Ministry of Works and those who work in this Chamber to say that the great majority of Members have not been articulate in complaint during the last year or two, and evidently find conditions reasonably good.
Of course, that does not mean that the majority of the Members share the view which was expressed with something like poetic licence in 1950 that the atmosphere in the Chamber would be like a fine spring day out of doors. Whatever we may think of it, it is not quite like that. This matter has often been examined in the past, and I have no doubt that it will go on being examined from time to time in the future. There was, for example, a Select Committee of this House in 1913, before which Dr. Hill gave evidence. He said that the ideal atmosphere was one which produced cool heads and warm feet—not the converse, as was apparently the case before the First World War.
About two years ago my predecessor, who is now Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, arranged for an examination of conditions in the Chamber by the Medical Research Council. That produced a valuable report, and certain changes were made in the ventilation of the House which were, I think, an improvement. Even so, however, those changes have failed to abate all criticism of the conditions in the House.
Indeed, during January this year the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) made a speech, characteristically forthright, in his constituency in which he dwelt on what I might describe as the occupational hazards of our calling. He referred to sinus trouble, to what he described as awful headaches, and to other matters which, I am happy to think, are outside the scope of this debate. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central has also mentioned certain of the afflictions which the hon. Member for Dudley had described.
2535 It is the case that certain Members of the House are troubled by the complaints referred to by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, but it does not follow that they are due to the atmosphere in the Chamber. I myself was a victim of sinus trouble between 1944 and 1951, but within six months of my coming into the House the trouble disappeared. So I think that conditions in the House can cure as well as kill.
These conditions, of course, exist outside as well as inside the Chamber. They exist even more extensively in places like Washington and New York than in this House. In those places there are many people who suffer from chronic sinus trouble, which is aggravated by sudden changes in atmosphere on leaving air-conditioned buildings and going into the open air. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Works has had the advantage of some eminent specialist opinion based on experience both in this country and in the United States.
Our information, put quite simply, is that some sufferers from sinus trouble are afflicted by any air-conditioning system, no matter how good it may be; that cold air streams at face level, which we should try to avoid and which we generally succeed in avoiding, affect some people; that other people may be affected by excessive dryness, which may be overcome either by raising humidity or by inhalants; and that a final group of people will be affected, not only by excessively cold rooms, but also by crowded and overheated rooms. My right hon. Friend and his officials have tried during the last few months to ascertain whether any of those aggravating factors exists here. The consensus of opinion is that until very recently, especially towards evening, this place has been too hot and too dry.
The hon. Member for Maidstone and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central referred to the possibility of introducing an ozoniser plant into the building. I am sorry that I cannot defer to the wisdom and experience of the hon. Member for Maidstone—I would much lather do that than cross swords with him—but since that suggestion was put to my right hon. Friend some time ago, we have examined this proposal in conjunction with the Medical Research Council. What that Council says suggests 2536 that the case against ozonisation is almost overwhelming.
It says that it would be extraordinarily difficult to control the amount of ozone that would be imported into the Chamber. Even moderate quantities of ozone are liable to aggravate the respiratory membranes, and very often ozone produces violent headaches. The Medical Research Council adds that experiments on guinea pigs with ozone have appreciably shortened the life of the guinea pigs. I am, therefore, rather hesitant to take any precipitate action. Nevertheless, as I said, I appreciate the value of the experience of the hon. Member for Maidstone. If, in the near future, he would care to discuss this matter with my right hon. Friend and representatives of the Medical Research Council, I should be very pleased to arrange accordingly.
§ Dr. Stross
Would it not be fair also to say that with the amount of ozone that would be safe for us, the atmosphere would not be improved because there would be so little of it?
§ Mr. Bevins
Yes, I think that is the view of the Medical Research Council.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent. Central referred also to temperature. During the early part of this year, we carried out a number of tests. As hon. Members know, the temperature here tends to rise quite sharply when the Chamber is crowded. Our recordings, which are meticulously kept, show that during, say, the half-hour before 10 o'clock when the rule is not suspended, and when there is, perhaps, a three-line whip, the temperature may rise by about five degrees owing to the radiant heat produced by a full House.
It is not always easy to overcome that because, as one hon. Member said, attendances in the Chamber are so unpredictable. But we have found it possible during the last few months to limit the rise in temperature to three deg. F. when about 1,000 people were present—that is to say, hon. Members in the Chamber and strangers and members of the Press in the Galleries. That has involved putting new air into the Chamber at a temperature of about 52 deg. Members may ask why it is not possible to offset altogether the consequences of radiant heat in a full House. The simple answer is that, were we to attempt to do so, we should 2537 have to bring in air at a temperature of about 40 deg., in which event the draughts and the consequences of the draughts would be quite insufferable.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asked about humidity, which, I agree, is important, especially in relation to sinus trouble. Some of my advisers have been at great pains to warn me against the perils of high humidity. They say that if the humidity were too high, it would be liable to induce mental inertia, then drowsiness, and finally sleep amongst hon. Members. But I do not believe all I am told, and so we decided on the evening of 25th March to raise the relative humidity from its normal 46 per cent, to about 56 percent. On that occasion the House was engaged on the Second Reading of the Television Bill, and I felt reasonably certain that we should confound our advisers—and I think we did, for not a single Member succumbed to either drowsiness or sleep.
The view of my right hon. Friend, who has taken a very close interest in this matter in recent times—a view shared, I think, by many hon. Members, although not all—is that by making allowances for attendances in the Chamber towards evening and by stepping up humidity, we have made a little progress during recent months. But I do not want to deceive anybody. I do not want to suggest that the steps that have been taken or any steps that might be taken in the future are likely to please everyone. Indeed, during several evenings in the month of March, When the House was full, we kept the temperature well below what is the normal under those conditions. In spite of that, several hon. Members declared to me that it was about five degrees hotter than it had ever been before.
This, of course, is an old, old story. I am told that 100 years ago there was a Doctor Reid who was concerned with the ventilation of the House. He recounted how on one day various Members complained that it was too hot and others that it was too cold. Some wanted a temperature of 50 degrees, others wanted a temperature of 71 degrees. We find exactly the same sort of thing in the House today.
I believe that we have a hot room in a certain part of the Palace of Westminster where the temperature is maintained at 70 degrees and where a minority 2538 of hon. Members prefer to stew, if I may use the vulgarism, whilst others prefer the Terrace. It is true that we all tend to consider this matter quite subjectively.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and others who have spoken in this debate for their cooperation. I would also take the opportunity of expressing the appreciation of my right hon. Friend to various members of the medical profession, who shall be nameless for obvious reasons, who have been so helpful, and to members of the technical staff, who are always vigilant on behalf of hon. and right hon. Members.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I am sure that the whole House, if it had been present, would have liked to join in the thanks which the Parliamentary Secretary has just expressed to those skilled professional people who have helped his Department in the arrangements of the House. To those people, unseen and unheard by us, who, every day, minister to our comfort in the way that the hon. Gentleman described, I am quite sure the thanks of all of us who have listened to the hon. Gentleman are due. I should like to thank him also for the care and detail with which he has dealt with the points that have been raised in debate.
As one who spends a good deal of his time in the House, I think that all of us have noticed since we came into the Chamber a few years ago a steady improvement in the control that the technical staff have managed to achieve. Certainly, in the early days there were times at the end of Questions when there was a terrific blast blowing through the House in which it was impossible for anyone to keep a paper on his knees. I remember a very distinguished Member who then sat on this side of the House who, on two successive days turned up in a greatcoat with his collar turned up. Those of us who are here will recollect the incident to which I refer. That excessive variation both of temperature and movement of the air has vanished and the technical staff is evidently getting a great deal of control now over these things.
2539 The only complaint that I have about the House is about the lighting. I find it very trying to my eyes. Last Sunday a journalist, whom I do not read myself, but who, my friends tell me, is continually writing about me, said that I sat here in a somnolent condition. I want to assure him and hon. Members that it is not sleep but tiredness of the eyes from the lighting that reduces me to that condition. I do not think that any Minister has ever complained that I have been sleeping when I have been sitting on this side of the House on the Opposition Front Bench, somnolent as I may appear to be.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central has done a great service to the House by his speech today. He has been supported by the hon. Baronet 2540 the Member for Maidstone (Sir A. Bossom), my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), speaking with varying degrees of experience in the technical matters that arise in the course of a discussion of this kind. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary can safely convey to the technical staff of the House our gratitude for what they have done while they have had this plant under their control, and assure them that it is typically English gratitude in that it is an expression of thanks for the favours which, we are quite sure, they will in future confer on us.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly, at Five Minutes past Three o'clock.