HC Deb 01 March 1960 vol 618 cc1000-4
3. Mr. Blackburn

asked the Minister of Works how many filing cabinets are now provided for the use of hon. Members.

Lord John Hope

Seventy-five. In addition, 67 desks with filing accommodation and 41 cupboards are provided. These figures do not include filing cabinets provided for right hon. and hon. Members who have their own rooms. A further 40 filing cabinets and 40 desks with filing accommodation will shortly be available in 6–7, Old Palace Yard.

Mr. Blackburn

Is it not a fact that the filing cabinets to which the Minister refers are only those in the secretaries' rooms, that no individual Member of Parliament has been provided with a filing cabinet and that Members are restricted to the small schoolboy's locker?

Lord John Hope

I should like to look into that specific point.

8. Sir L. Plummer

asked the Minister of Works what requests he has had for the provision of better accommodation for the representatives of the Press in the House.

Lord John Hope

I have received requests through the authorities of the House with regard both to the Reporters' Buffet and to the Reporters' Gallery Library.

Sir L. Plummer

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will not regard too seriously the traditional reluctance of the Press to project its own demands? Will he look at the Press Gallery accommodation, which is inadequate for so large a staff doing, on the whole, so responsible a job? Would he at the same time pay particular attention to the space allotted to the Commonwealth Press, which sits in an alley as it were, disturbed by people passing by? Will he say whether he can now provide the Commonwealth Press with the kind of accommodation it should have?

Lord John Hope

Yes, Sir. Press accommodation, as all accommodation, certainly comes within what I am now looking at. I agree that this has all to be part of the general investigation.

9. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Works how many desks there are in each of the secretaries' rooms off Westminster Hall; what is the floor space in each room; and what requests he has had to improve this accommodation.

Lord John Hope

The information is as follows:

  • Room A: 19 desks; 644 sq. ft. of usable space.
  • Room B: 16 desks; 626 sq. ft. of usable space.
  • Room C: 8 desks; 304 sq. ft. of usable space.
  • Room D: 17 desks; 626 sq. ft. of usable space.
I have received no requests to improve this accommodation.

Mrs. Castle

But is it not clear that the accommodation is well below the desirable accommodation advocated by the Gowers Report of 1949 on non-industrial employment? Is the Minister aware that the Gowers Committee's recommendations may shortly become law, and can he therefore state what steps he is taking to bring this accommodation into line with a Report which may eventually become the law of the land?

Lord John Hope

With respect, the hon. Lady is not right about the Gowers Report. The minimum recommended in the Report is 400 cubic feet and all these rooms are above that. One is 407, one is 470, one is 456, and the fourth is 442 cubic feet.

Mr. C. Pannell

When the Minister gave his Answer about cubic feet, was he considering the inordinate height of the rooms? if one considers floor space those figures are absolutely ridiculous. Why does not the Minister do his homework?

Lord John Hope

I was giving the House the figures in cubic feet. Whether that was convenient for the hon. Gentleman or not, I cannot help it.

Mrs. Castle

Has the Minister ever been into the secretaries' rooms? Has he seen how crowded the girls are, and does he really say that the accommodation, which works out at less than the Gowers Committee's recommendation of a minimum of 47 square feet per desk, is adequate for the girls who are working there the whole time and who certainly deserve better of hon. Members of this House?

Lord John Hope

I do not in the least mean to suggest that I think the conditions are perfect. I was simply answering specific criticisms which I thought had been made unfairly. There is a great deal of congestion, but it could be greatly alleviated if hon. Members would make more use of the dictating rooms provided for them on the interview floor.

10. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Works what requests he has had for the provision of further rest room facilities for the staff of the House.

Lord John Hope

I have recently been asked to provide a second rest room for the waitress staff of the Refreshment Department. I am looking into this.

Mrs. Castle

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he would agree that, even without the additional facilities to which he has referred and which I welcome, the fact will remain that the large staff in this House has not, as a whole, the standard of rest facilities we would like them to have, particularly in view of the fact that most are employed on split duties and are here from about 11 o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock at night? Does he agree that until there are fundamental structural changes in the provisions in the Palace, we cannot provide the facilities we should?

Lord John Hope

I certainly agree with the hon. Lady that the accommodation about which she has asked in her Question is not adequate. I am hoping very much that something I can do, without fundamental structural alteration, will help a great deal.

11. Mr. C. Pannell

asked the Minister of Works how many secretaries of hon. Members are accommodated in St. Stephen's Tower; and what cubic capacity is allocated to each.

Lord John Hope

As a temporary measure, accommodation for eight secretaries has been made available in two rooms in St. Stephen's Tower. Four secretaries are in Room 7, where they have 323 cubic feet each; the other four are in the Turret Room, and have 239 cubic feet each.

Mr. Pannell

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the figures he has just given are hardly reconcilable with the figures he gave in answer to a previous Question? Will he bear in mind that, inadequate as the facilities are, they are preferable to sending the girls across the road, to the great inconvenience of the hon. Members they serve? Would he consider dealing with this as vacancies occur in other parts of the Palace, rather than sending secretaries outside the place?

Lord John Hope

I would not agree with the hon. Gentleman and I believe the House would not do so. After all, it is only just across the road and I should have thought the secretaries would rather go there than have to work in what are admittedly, although only temporarily, sub-standard conditions inside the Palace.

13. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Works what consideration he has given to the erection of office accommodation in New Palace Yard.

Lord John Hope

I am considering various possibilities for providing additional accommodation in the Palace of Westminster, and this is one of the proposals I am looking into.

Mr. Lipton

Is the Minister aware that the plan by Sir Charles Barry, which was ordered by the House to be printed on 21st June, 1855, provided for additional buildings round New Palace Yard? Shall we have to wait another century before anything is done about it? Cannot the noble Lord hold out any hope at all?

Lord John Hope

It does not necessarily follow that the only way to get rid of the difficulties which confront us all in the House lies in implementing the Barry scheme.

14. Lady Megan Lloyd George

asked the Minister of Works whether he is now in a position to state on what date he hopes to lay before the House his plans for extending the office accommodation available to hon. Members.

Lord John Hope

I shall be ready to make a statement during the discussion on accommodation which it is hoped may take place before Easter.

Lady Megan Lloyd George

Can the noble Lord give an assurance that the House will have an opportunity of studying and deciding on these plans? Would not the best way of ensuring that be to set up a commission of representatives of all parts of the House, as recommended in the Motion which has been put on the Order Paper by some of my hon. and right hon. Friends?

Lord John Hope

We can wait for the method which the House decides would be best to be employed to look into all the suggestions which I have to make, but I assure the noble Lady that the House will have a chance to look at and discuss what I suggest. The House will not be presented with a fait accompli of any sort.