HC Deb 26 October 1960 vol 627 cc2351-4
Mr. Speaker

I have a statement to make to the House.

On 22nd July, 1960, I received an interim Report from the ad hoc Committee which, as I announced to the House on 23rd June, was appointed under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) to consider certain proposals to improve Members' accommodation. I have communicated the Report to the Leader of the House and to the Minister of Works and, for the convenience of the House, I shall now give an account of the action which, I understand, has been taken, or is proposed, on the recommendations in the Report.

The Committee's main recommendations relate to the proposal to convert the roof space over the Committee Rooms into office accommodation. The Committee recommended that this scheme should proceed forthwith in general on the basis of office accomodation for officials, etc., rather than for Members and that the Committee be reappointed to consider the detailed allocation of the new space. I propose to reappoint the Committee with its former terms of reference expanded to make it clear that the use to be made of Speaker's House proper is not among the matters referred and I understand that the Minister of Works is proceeding with the planning of the scheme on the basis recommended by the Committee.

The Committee also recommended extended rest room facilities for the Refreshment Department's staff at terrace level and improvements to the servery between the Members' and Strangers' Cafeterias. I understand that the additional rest room facilities have now been provided and that the servery improvements, which require considerable structural alterations, will be carried out during the Christmas Recess.

Finally, the Committee drew attention to various other suggestions, mainly involving reallocation of rooms, which had been made to it and which it thought worthy of further study. As a result, additional secretarial accommodation for the Leader of the Opposition has been provided during the Recess. Also, facilities for the Press Gallery refreshment staff have been improved.

With the permission of the House, I will circulate a summary in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am sure that hon. Members would wish me to thank the Committee for the valuable work which it has been able to do so far on this difficult subject.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Sir J. Duncan

On behalf of the Committee, may I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your statement and say that when we are reappointed, we will continue to do the best we can for the improvement of accommodation for Members and for the staff. I should like to add that what has been done has met with the warm approval of all who have been affected, including the secretary to the Leader of the Opposition and, in particular, the Refreshment Department staff.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I add my thanks to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Committee for the work that has been done and express my personal thanks for the enlargement of the rather inadequate accommodation hitherto available to my secretary.

Following is the summary: The Committee were appointed on 23rd June, 1960, and consisted of the hon. Members for South Angus (Chairman), Stalybridge and Hyde, Cardigan, Blackburn, Bristol West, East Grinstead, Leeds West, Bradford West and Truro.

2. Their terms of reference were: To consider the proposals to improve the accommodation for Members in the House of Commons set forth in the Minister of Works' statement (OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1960, col. 1522) and, in particular, the proposal to convert the roof space over the Committee Rooms into office accommodation, and to make recommendations.

Accommodation for Refreshment Department Staff

3. The Committee recommended for execution as far as possible in the Summer Recess proposals advanced by the Ministry of Works and the Serjeant at Arms for improving the accommodation at Terrace level by:

  1. (1) increasing rest-room, etc., facilities for waitresses, cafeteria staff and cleaners by the reallocation of existing accommodation and by the addition of Rooms 27 and 28 in the North Curtain Corridor:
  2. (2) extending the servery into the lobby leading to the Cafeterias, involving among other works the provision of new entrances for the Members' Cafeteria and, through one of the bathrooms, for the Strangers' Cafeteria;
  3. (3) making consequential arrangements to replace the additional rooms to be taken over by the Refreshment Department.


4. No difficulties over ventilation in the Smoking Room or elsewhere were brought to the Committee's notice and the Committee made no recommendations.

Adaptation of the roof space over the Committee Rooms

5. The Committee considered the Minister of Works' proposal to provide some 19,000 sq. ft. of floor space by adapting the roof space over the Committee Rooms at an estimated cost of £250,000.

6. After studying the replies to a questionnaire which was circulated to Members the Committee concluded that the need for additional working facilities for Members amply justified the Minister's proposal, but that facilities for Members should as far as possible be provided in the vicinity of the Chamber. Accordingly, the Committee recommended that:

  1. (1) the scheme should proceed forthwith on the basis of office space with the proviso that a small amount of one section might later be required for domestic purposes;
  2. (2) the new accommodation should be allocated to officials and others who now occupied accommodation near the Chamber;
  3. (3) the Committee should be reappointed in the new Session to recommend on the detailed allocation of the new accommodation and to continue their work generally.

Other short-term proposals

7. In a Schedule to the Report the Committee listed various other suggestions, mainly involving the reallocation of existing rooms, which had been made to them and which they thought merited further study. Of these the Committee attached most importance to the following:

  1. (1) Leader of Opposition's secretarial accommodation—more space.
  2. (2) Press Gallery Refreshment Staff—improved facilities
  3. (3) South End of Cloisters—provision of a Members' Lounge/Rest-room.

Building in New Palace Yard and across Bridge Street

8. The Committee were informed that the Government had applied for the designation of the site bounded by Bridge Street, Parliament Street. New Scotland Yard and the Victoria Embankment, with the intention of redeveloping it for Government purposes (the Bridge Street scheme). They were also aware of the suggestion that Sir Charles Barry's original plan might be completed, or partly completed, by building on one or both sides of New Palace Yard (the Barry scheme).

9. Although unable in the time available to reach any firm conclusions on either scheme so far as the House of Commons was concerned, the Committee considered that when the Bridge Street development took place it might well be necessary to use some of the accommodation for Members and others unless it had by then been decided to proceed with the Barry scheme.