§ 7.17 p.m.
§ The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
I now ask the House to turn to another subject. It will be recalled that the last time we had a debate on our accommodation in this House was more than three years ago, on31st March, 1960. As a result of what was said then, you, Mr. Speaker, set up a Committee, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), to consider how the accommodation for hon. Members might be improved. As you yourself indicated in your statement to the House on 21st November, 1962, the Committee made a most valuable set of recommendations which must form the starting point of our debate this evening.
To facilitate our deliberations and in response to requests which were made to me by hon. Members from both sides of the House, I arranged last week for all hon. Members to receive a document prepared by my Ministry and entitled "Accommodation for the House of Commons". This document has basically two purposes. First, it gives details of the works which have already been executed by my Ministry, or which are in the course of being executed, to give effect to your Committee's recommendations. Thus, No. 1, Bridge Street, which my Ministry purchased, has been converted to provide for the time being much needed additional accommodation for hon. Members and their secretaries, for visitors, and for the Fees Office.
In addition, the accommodation for the Parliamentary Press and the B.B.C. has been extended. The Library has been expanded by using accommodation which you, Mr. Speaker, were good enough to make available from your residence. A new Lounge and Writing Room for hon. Members has been provided and the accommodation for the staff of the Refreshment Department has been substantially improved.
Finally, and this is the most important item, work will begin this month on the first phase of the major scheme to provide additional accommodation in the roof space above the Committee Rooms. This will be a substantial pro- 728 ject which is estimated to cost more than £500,000.
It can be carried out only gradually because, as I am sure the House will agree, it is vital to minimise disturbance and inconvenience to hon. Members. But I trust that if there are no unforeseen delays and difficulties the first phase will be completed next year, and the whole scheme in 1966. It will provide 51 rooms for individual Members plus accommodation for 25 secretaries, and, as the document points out, it will meet a variety of other requirements.
The second purpose of the document that I have presented is to give the House the most up-to-date information I possibly can about the ways in which we may provide an entirely new Parliamentary building on the other side of Bridge Street. The Committee which you, Mr. Speaker, appointed, recommended that 50,000 sq. ft. of accommodation should be provided as part of the general re-development of the site bounded by Bridge Street, the Embankment, Richmond Terrace and Whitehall and Parliament Street.
Parts of it are owned by the Metropolitan Police, including their headquarters at New Scotland Yard. Richmond Terrace is already owned by my Ministry. The remainder was designated for Crown Offices in 1961 by the London County Council, as planning authority, and is the subject of a Draft Compulsory Purchase Order. As is often the case, there have been a number of objections, on which in due course there will have to be a public inquiry, but we have already succeeded in acquiring part of the site by agreement.
I am sure the House will agree that the re-development of this large and important site of about 6 acres will be a formidable undertaking. It will be necessary to meet both the requirements of the House and the need for new permanent offices for the headquarters staff of Government Departments. It must also meet the requirements of the Metropolitan Police who are providing part of the land to be re-developed. Finally, we must consult the London County Council and the Royal Fine Art Commission.
In these circumstances, I am sure the House will agree that we cannot at this stage have cut and dried proposals for 729 the development of the Bridge Street-Parliament Street site. What I believe is important is that we should take into account the views of all concerned, and not least the views of hon. Members, at this early stage.
It was to provide a basis for discussion that Sir William Holford was commissioned to make a feasibility study. It is no more than that. His preliminary report, which is included in the document which hon. Members have received, is, I think we all agree, a valuable starting point, but it does not represent a firm plan for the development of the site, let alone a design. Nor is it a blueprint for action by the Government. I must emphasise that the Government have not decided to carry out a particular scheme at any particular estimate of cost. We are not committed to any part of the report. We have received it, and we are considering it, and I hope that today's debate will enable me to get the sense of the House on the question of the additional accommodation which will be provided for hon. Members on this Bridge Street-Parliament Street site.
It would not be possible for this House to formulate its wishes in the short time available to us this evening. I should like therefore to commend to the House a suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) that there should be appointed an Advisory Committee through which the House could be kept in touch with developments affecting the new Parliamentary building, and which might enable the Government to have ready access to the views of the House as the project develops. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that if it were the wish of the House that such an Advisory Committee should be set up, you would be willing to appoint it.
I want to leave as much time as possible for hon. Members to give their views on the matters which are raised in the document, so I shall not therefore attempt to draw the attention of the House to the many important and interesting points which are contained in and arise out of Sir William Holford's report, but I should like to mention just six matters.
First, provided that my Ministry succeeds in acquiring the whole of the site, I envisage that we should have no 730 difficulty in meeting the requirements of the House in a building which would be effectively separate from any others there might be on the site. This building would not be used for any other purpose, in accordance with your Committee's recommendations.
Secondly, the building could, if the House agreed, be located at the south-east corner of the site. That is where No. 1, Bridge Street now stands, and in that situation it could, again as recommended by your Committee, have a private access to the Palace of Westminster by means of a tunnel under Bridge Street.
Thirdly, a building so sited could be linked with a neighbouring office block on the Bridge Street site so as to provide room for expansion on the upper floors of that block if it were ever needed. As the House will recall, the Committee under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus recommended that the new building should be capable of expansion, and I think that extendibility is a good concept to import into modern building.
Fourthly, as your statement on 21st November made clear, Mr. Speaker, you were then advised that it was unlikely to be practicable to provide parking facilities on the scale proposed by your Committee, that is, one car parking space for every hon. Member who might have office accommodation in the new building. Sir William Holford's study has established that it would be practicable, but the cost would be very great—at least £1 million—and horn. Members would no doubt wish to consider whether such expenditure would be justified.
Fifthly, there is the question of the provision of shops and two public houses—very important to the life of Whitehall. When the London County Council designated the site for Crown Offices, we agreed that there-development should include adequate and suitably sited shops, restaurants and licensed premises. But I think it is very much for consideration whether in the final design any of them should be on the frontage of Bridge Street itself.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I have not forgotten my undertaking mentioned in your statement to submit in due time for the prior approval of the House a model of the proposed building. But I think that 731 it will be clear from what I have said that I am by no means in a position to do so yet, and it is only after I have received the further views of the House and have carried forward other necessary consultations that it will be possible to consider in more detail the ultimate design of the building.
I think it is clear that with all the processes that must be gone through, not least the acquisition of the site, we are not likely to be able to begin demolition work before 1965, or to be able to complete the Parliamentary building before 1968. However, I can say that it is our present intention that the Parliamentary building and the police station will be given priority. They will be the first to be constructed.
I hope that the House will indicate what it feels about the general character of the Parliamentary building, and especially the design possibilities mentioned in paragraphs 17 and 22 of Sir William Holford's Report, and particularly the suggested treatment of the river frontage with its bays looking towards the Palace of Westminster so as to give as many as possible of the occupants a view of it. I believe, and I think it is probably generally accepted, that the architectural character of the Palace of Westminster must influence the design of the new building, but on this, as indeed on all other matters raised in the document, I shall welcome the opinions of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I should like on behalf of all hon. Members to thank the Minister for the consideration that he has shown us in preparing the document. At least everyone can know what we have in mind, and I am sure that the debate will be very much more informed because of that.
I come first to the need for a continuing accommodation committee. There is a great history of accommodation committees here. I notice that since 1831 nothing has really altered in the House of Commons, because in that year there was aReport from the Select Committee appointed to consider the possibility of making the House of Commons more commodious and less unwholesome, and who were instructed to inquire in what manner adequate accom- 732 modation can best be afforded for its Members.I suppose that we are considering that matter again this afternoon.
An accommodation committee under the chairmanship of Lord Winterton advised on the layout of the present Chamber, and from time to time we have had other advisory committees. I suggest Mr. Speaker that in your consideration of setting up a Committee we should have something a little stronger than an advisory committee. I think that we ought to have a Select Committee—that used to happen in the old days—strengthened with more powers, and reporting to the House. It is necessary that the architect should plan what hon. Members want. We do not at the end of the day want a building that we do not like and accommodation that does not suit us at all. The truth of this is shown in the appreciation, if that is the word, of Sir William Holford which seems to me to fly in the face of paragraph 26 of Mr. Speaker's Committee's Report on Accommodation, which says:…over and above these detailed requirements, we wish to stress that in the designs for the new precinct, the needs of the House of Commons must take priority at every stage. If Members and others are to be encouraged to make use of the new precinct, it is of the greatest importance that the part of it which the House of Commons is to use shall have as much of the atmosphere of Parliament associated with it as the present Palace of Westminster has. We believe that it should have a dignified entrance which would be as much associated by the general public with Parliament as the St. Stephen's entrance is at present; and in particular that it should be in no way associated with any development for shops or any other commercial purpose.We ask, too, that these facts should be constantly borne in mind. It has always been firmly in my mind that the planning of the Parliamentary precinct—I ask Members to look at the plan which has been given—should cover the whole frontage of Bridge Street. I object to the business of taking it round the Embankment, or trying to make room for the St. Stephen's Club. In view of the traffic along that part of the road we should take the opportunity to push the buildings right back off the road there. We have Parliament Square facing the New Palace Yard entrance. We should get something of depth before we consent to a building going up on the 733 other side. When we look at the plan we notice that Sir William has left plenty of room, with the tree in the middle, behind those buildings, and it is my view that the whole of the building ought to go back to give an atmosphere of space.
Traffic requirements should never be very far from our thoughts. If we imagine Bridge Street very much wider than it is, we see how much easier that would make it for traffic. Normally, if we take the Sessional Order, hon. Members like myself come over Westminster Bridge and we have to have a policeman to show us round. Hon. Members come down Whitehall on, say, a No. 12 bus and the traffic turns left into Bridge Street. We get the bulk of that traffic through, but we can see how we are being overtaken by developments. One has only to look at the Elephant and Castle site. That site stands condemned because we had not the vision to complete an underpass, which would have solved the problem. To plan any development of Bridge Street with the present width of road would be ridiculous. It would have almost a village atmosphere in 10 years' time. So the opportunity should be taken to widen Bridge Street.
I remind hon. Members that we are speaking about something which is in the heart of the Commonwealth. This is an opportunity. We want a noble building with an impressive entrance. We want the Parliamentary precinct to go right along that frontage, taking in the whole of the ground and first floors, and then we can have the depth of the other buildings behind to go further in if we need to develop. I do not want to raise political matters tonight, but if, for instance, we went into Europe the very nature of our Parliamentary institutions might alter. We might have to have a different sort of Parliamentary building for Committees and so on. Provision is made for too few Committees if we need to expand.
The building that we want in the Parliamentary precinct should match the present building—I do not mean that it should be Gothic—but it should be something more than Sir William has in mind. This plan seems to be nothing more than a shopping centre with a Parliamentary 734 annexe. It does not met the ideas that I have in mind. Whitehall is not a shopping centre, and need not be. If we want to have one or two public houses and shops we might be able to direct them round the corner nearer to Scotland Yard. One gentleman wrote to me—he was an architect—and suggested that one of the difficulties was that the new building, as envisaged by Sir William, is too vulnerable in the case of a siege. He had in mind demonstrations around Parliament Square. I do not know whether he thought that the proximity of Scotland Yard was an advantage or a disadvantage. For the life of me I cannot understand how the Minister of Works, who had a representative on the Committee, seems to have completely misunderstood the boldness of the nature of the Committee's conceptions.
The proposed Bridge Street site raises questions of principle beyond that of the building itself. I presume that these buildings will not come under the jurisdiction of the Lord Great Chamberlain because they will not be within the Palace of Westminster, and we can thank our lucky stars that we can go in and out of the building on a Saturday without the minions of the Lord Great Chamberlain challenging our right of access as they do now. Who is to decide whether it is a matter of emergency, or whether an hon. Member can take a party of his constituents over the place, or delegate it to a guide? This raises the question of a decision on unified and democratic control of the Palace of Westminster.
Incidentallly, I came across the third Report of the Select Committee on the House of Lords Offices. Their Lordships are rather better furnished than we are about this sort of thing. They really do control the place and give directions to the Lord Great Chamberlain. The Committee recommended that air conditioning be provided as a matter of urgency for the Chamber and asked the Lord Great Chamberlain to request the Minister of Works to take the necessary steps to implement the recommendation. If we wanted that to be done, it would operate the other way round, and we should have to ask the Minister of Works to ask the permission of the Lord Great Chamberlain. This is the ridiculous situation that we have got into. I think that before the Parliamentary precinct is built 735 this matter of how we are going to control the place has to be settled. Since our debate in March, which the Leader of the House will remember, in which I made some suggestions about the Lord Great Chamberlain, I have been pursuing my researches. The last thing which I read on the subject was the tenth volume of the History of the Peerage which says:It is deplorable that an office which dates from the Norman period and was granted in fee in 1133 should be split up and should descend in fractions, in accordance with rules invented by the judges in defiance of all precedents nearly 650 years later.That is the definition of the office of the Lord Great Chamberlain. We ought to do better than that. On the day following the repudiation of his peerage and the emergence of Mr. Wedgwood Benn back again into this place it seems rather bad that we are considering things in a context where a new building might be considered to be the prerogative of an official dating back to the hereditary principle to 1133. This matter brooks no delay. We must get down to the unified control of the Palace of Westminster.
A suggestion was put up by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) in 1960 that the Lord Great Chamberlain's office should be so regulated that he would be limited to the control of the Robing Room. That seems to me to meet the historic concept of looking after the Monarch at a Coronation and leaving the up-to-date management of this place where it should belong.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
The authority that I had for saying that was the Report of the Select Committee of 1901, dealing with the presence of the Sovereign in Parliament. It might help the hon. Member if I were to say that the then Secretary of State to the Lord Great Chamberlain was asked:It is the tradition, is it not, that if the King sleeps in the Palace of Westminster he sleeps there in the Lord Great Chamberlain's house? For instance, when George IV slept in the Palace of Westminster before his Coronation (as he did) he slept, did he not, in the Lord Great Chamberlain's House?The answer to that question was:On that occasion he slept in the Speaker's House which was handed over to the Lord Great Chamberlain for the purpose upon the payment of a nominal fee.736 The next question was,But that is the tradition, at all events, is it not?To which the reply was,Yes, that he should sleep in the Lord Great Chamberlain's House.Then the question was asked,At that time the Lord Great Chamberlain's house was not big enough, and so he had to get another house, and he hired the Speaker's house for the occasion." A. "Yes." Q. "But the Sovereign has no prerogative or right, I take it, to make the Palace of Westminster a Royal Palace and live in it?" A. "No. The only room he has a right over is the Robing Room, and whenever we wanted to use the Robing Room we used to write to the Queen"—that is, Queen Victoria—to ask if Her Majesty had any objection to its being used.The point is that the significance of the Lord Great Chamberlain's power with the Crown is simply to ensure that in the days when the Sovereign used to sleep in the Palace of Westminster on the night before his Coronation the position was properly regularised. Since then the Palace was burnt down, and a new one was built in 1884, and I thought our objects could be served by retaining just that power for the Lord Great Chamberlain.
§ Mr. Pannell
The hon. Member intends to be helpful, but he has made more of a speech than an intervention.
I am familiar with the Report of the Grand Select Committee of 1901, but that was an inquiry into the Lord Great Chamberlain's conduct then. A distinguished predecessor of Mr. Speaker—Mr. Speaker Lowther—complained before that Committee that a custodian, or the equivalent of a custodian then, had stopped him from coming into this place on a Saturday afternoon. We have not progressed much since then. But that Grand Select Committee was set up because on the occasion of the presence of the Monarch in the House there were about 101 ladies in the galleries of the House of Lords who were neither the relatives of peers nor the wives of Members. That has a familiar modern ring, too. People at the time wondered how they got there. I will not pursue that. Members of this House trying to get through from the other place were almost killed. They were considering accommodation in those days, and the Lord Great Chamberlain was there then as he is now.
737 I hope that it will be clearly understood that the Commons should have the right not only to take over for its own use the space on the site as the need becomes apparent, but to ensure that they have the control of the whole precinct. My view is that we should have delineated on a map a certain radius of this House, to be known as the precinct, and that everything within vision of the House should be determined not upon the say-so of a sub-committee of the L.C.C., or the Greater London Council, or whatever it is., but should be within the control of Parliament. A Joint Parliamentary Commission with planning authority should be set up to decide the sort of buildings of which this place should be the centre.
I reject Sir William Holford's plan, and I hope that the House will reject it, too, and that before we are through and make the final decision a proper model will be put before us. We have not gone beyond the point of no return, as the Minister has said, and I have no doubt that if the weight of opinion comes down in favour of a rejection of a plan, for the reasons that I have stated, the Minister will take due note of what is said.
I want to say a word about the question of the architect. I hope that what I say will not be taken as a reflection upon Sir William Holford, but I tend to detect at present a great dealof log-rolling among the top architects, and a certain laziness in the approach of Government Departments and other bodies to the architectural profession. They tend to choose the safe, well known and fashionable architects. In those circumstances, I wonder how we shall produce an inspired architect. I wonder whether it is too late to hold a competition on the subject of this site.
I should like to quote from the Daily Telegraph of 10th August, 1961—from Peterborough's column. The Peterborough of those days was the present Minister without Portfolio. It is not I who am saying this; it is what the right hon. Gentleman said. I told him that I was going to raise this matter. He said:I see that the Minister of Power has just reappointed Sir William Holford a part-time member of the Central Electricity Generating Board. He advises on the design and siting of pylons and power stations.738It must be poor fun being Sir William's Private Secretary. A month ago he was re-elected President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.He is Professor of Town Planning at University College, London, and a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission, the Historic Buildings Council and the advisory committee on buildings of special architectural and historic interest.A few weeks ago Mr. Marples made him a member of his advisory group on urban traffic. He is a member of SPUR—the Society for the Promotion of Urban Renewal.These and other occupations take half his time. His large private practice includes advisory work on St. Paul's precincts, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford's roads.Much of his work lies in Commonwealth countries, to which he travels frequently.One may wonder why so much has to fall on one man in an enormous profession—and whether it augurs well for the profession.Incidentally, since then Sir William has become consultant architect for the new Kent University at Canterbury.
I mention this because I think that the choice of architect is not just something for the say-so of the Ministry. We are considering what will be an historic building, and I hope that we shall take great care to see that the architectural profession produces its best. In order to indicate that this is not just a personal view of Sir William Holford, Members may remember that the Sunday Telegraph carried a similar sort of paragraph about Sir Basil Spence. Perhaps I may read it. It said:The fault lies with the committees who decide these matters. Just as the big name is chosen nine times out of ten to paint the commemorative portrait at the big price so the big name occurs first to people looking for an architect. Fortunately Sir Basil's achievement in buildings is superior to the achievement of fashionable portrait painters; and he would probably be the first to agree that other talents should be given more opportunity.My appeal is that the Ministry of Works should take care to see that we get an inspired architect.
Another thing which I wish to urge strongly is that the architect finally selected should be asked to give the extent of his practice, both financial and operative. If he is to give the fullest personal attention to this all-important job, he should be able to guarantee dates and continuous personal attention. Nowadays delays in the progress of building operations, particularly of this size, often mean vastly increased expenditure. I 739 very much doubt whether professors with private practices which probably run into nearly £100 million, and who have jobs spread about all over the world, are the men to do this work. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether a competition is entirely out of place even at this stage, bearing in mind the long delay which will occur before we get down to doing the work. If that could happen, not only would there then be satisfaction among members of the profession but there would be a greater degree of public satisfaction.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
I have listened with interest to what the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has said. He has indicated that what he has in mind is a younger and more imaginative type of architect. But I should like him to say whether or not he agrees that the building erected should be of a traditional type, not a sort of Coventry Cathedral type but something suitable for the precincts.
§ Mr. Pannell
That seems to me to indicate the completely traditional mind—a pre-renunciation of peerages sort of mind.
I do not know whether I want a traditional type of building. I happen to believe that the noblest examples of a civic building in the London area can be seen in the Borough of Walthamstow where I was born. I was a member of the committee which accepted the plans and it was there that a young architect named Hepworth got his first great chance. Anyone who would like to seea fine example of a civic centre should go to Walthamstow and look at that building. Charles Gilbert Scott designed Liverpool Cathedral when he was 21. I do not want a certain level of dull competence. I do not want people to be able to look at a building and say, "That was planned by Sir So-and-So". In the days to come I want people to be able to look at the building erected here and not care who planned it but only to know that it rests easy on the eye and gives them satisfaction and pleasure. It does not matter what is the style. Not everyone likes the Gothic style of this building.
The late Mr. Walter Elliot, whom some of us remember with affection, was in Westminster Hall on that night during the war when this building was bombed 740 and burned. He was asked what the fire brigade should save—whether it should be this chamber or that chamber or Westminster Hall. He said, "Let the pseudo-Gothic go". He was right, and we all know it. So do not ask what I want. I am just a layman like the rest of us. I want something worthy to bequeath to our successors and so I think does every other hon. Member.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will say a word about the builder selected to do the work in the roof space which is to commence in August. How was this contract allocated? Was it in competition on a price schedule employing Ministry of Works forms? Or was the contract just given to one of the big groups which are doing the railways, atomic power stations and so on? These are all things which hon. Members should consider. I have no doubt that other hon. Members will raise detailed considerations. I have attempted to discuss what I consider to be the bigger questions of principle which must concern this House.
I have been a member of most of the Committees on Accommodation set up during the last 14 years. It is a matter in which I have been deeply interested. To hon. Members who are newcomers to this House and who may think that the accommodation in this place is not as convenient as it ought to be, I would say that over the years there has been a great improvement. I think that those who serve on accommodation committees in the future should include a proportion of hon. Members who are serving in their first Parliament, because it is undoubtedly the fact that this place gets more and more rational the longer we are in it. I do not know whether or not that is a good thing. I hope that we shall go ahead with this work and that there will be no delay in appointing a Committee.
Most hon. Members are devoted to this place. We are glad to be in it. But we must also consider what the public think about it. If I have spoken of Sir William Hertford's appreciation with disrespect it was from no political motive. The view which I take, after having served on many Committees, is not the same as that of Sir William Holford. The vision in my mind is of a noble vista and not one consisting of shop fronts and that sort of thing. I have said that some 741 people outside try to paint this place as one in which there are squalid people meanly paid and meanly esteemed. I do not believe that we are such people. But that is something which we are not arguing today. I commend to the House the words used by King George V when declaring open the County Hall across the road. His Majesty said that our forefathers were right when they put up noble buildings and that a public authority meanly housed is all too often a public authority meanly esteemed.
I ask this House to grasp the opportunity to provide on this noble site in the centre of the Commonwealth a building suitable to bequeath not only to our own generation but to all those people who will look to this day and age with respect and, if I may say so, a building which will be a reflection of the taste of this generation.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Sir James Duncan (South Angus)
The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has painted a broad canvas and used a wide brush. I wish to be rather more detailed in what I have to say, although later I may say a word or two about what was said by the hon. Gentleman.
I was appointed by Mr. Speaker to be Chairman of the ad hoc Committee on Accommodation. The more we looked round this place and the more we tried to find additional accommodation for hon. Members the more we found that it was quite impossible to do so in a satisfactory manner. The Gothic nature of the architecture made it quite impossible to split rooms either vertically or horizontally. The more we examined the place the greater we found the difficulty to turn out anyone who was accommodated here. But we did our best, and it is, I think, a reflection on our Victorian forefathers that although they ensured that the style and character of the buildings in which we work were noble and expansive, they had absolutely no regard for the comfort of the staff.
The situation in respect of rest rooms and so on for waitresses in the cafeteria and other members of the staff is appalling. Although we were able to make substantial improvements, I still do not consider the accommodation for the staff 742 to be satisfactory. We have done the best we could under the most difficult circumstances. While on the subject of staff I must say that I am afraid that this generation also has made mistakes. When the new building was erected in 1950 the Press Gallery was, on the whole, treated extremely well. The members of the Press Gallery have extensive accommodation behind the Gallery. But the Press Gallery staff was completely neglected. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware that the waiters and waitresses who wait on members of the Press Gallery have to eat in the same room as members of the Gallery but at different times. The rest room and changing room for the female staff was a little cupboard with a roof light. We have been able to make some small extensions there, but I think that at the time when this Chamber was rebuilt in 1950 more thought ought to have been given to the staff.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Can the hon. Member be entirely happy that in the Press Gallery 20 men of the Press are working together in the same room?
§ Sir J. Duncan
If the hon. Member will hold his patience a little longer, I shall deal with the Press Gallery itself almost at once.
I refer next to the Library. It was very overcrowded, particularly in regard to storage. I think the whole House will be grateful to Mr. Speaker for allowing us to use seven rooms and some cellars for the storage of books. In the roof space additional rack space will be available for the storage of books in the corridor running at right-angles to the new rooms to be erected there. On the whole I think the Library will be satisfactorily dealt with for some years to come, particularly with the two rooms which we took from Ministers.
I now turn to the accommodation for the Press. We were able to enlarge the B.B.C. room a little. We increased its accommodation by 50 per cent., the Report says. Fifty per cent. of a small area is not very much. However, it is probably enough. We were able to get agreement that the ordinary Press should use the Commonwealth Press Room when the Commonwealth Press is not using it—if I remember rightly, after 6 p.m. That is a quiet room where people can write 743 their paragraphs and articles in comparative peace. There was a suggestion that there should be some extra space for the Press in the new building. It was represented to us that the Sunday Press did not need the accommodation behind the Press Gallery nearly so much or so urgently and that its members could write their despatches and articles outside the immediate precincts of the Chamber. So we have recommended the allocation of a place for them and, in addition, we gave them room 13, which I think they have now.
Nevertheless it is true that with the increasing number of people who attend in the Press Gallery there is urgent need for more room. I point out, however, that they are here to work. One suggestion that has been made was that they should have a recreation room. I think that would make them more comfortably off than Members of Parliament, so I am not in favour of that. When the roof space is completed there will be—only one floor down, but nevertheless at some reasonable distance from the Press accommodation—the bedroom of the Clerk of the House, two Clerks Assistants' rooms and a bathroom, which is not necessary. I ask my right hon. Friend that when we get the roof space erected consideration should be given, maybe by the Advisory Committee to which he has referred, as to how those rooms should be allocated. One of them is a big room. Originally we thought it would be useful as a Minister's room. It might be possible, as all the Ministers are now housed, to give the Press fairly considerably increased accommodation if we could make those rooms available.
In the roof space there will be accommodation for the Clerk of the House. As the former Clerk has now retired, perhaps I can relate what we found. He has to be here all the time the House is sitting and has to be available to Mr. Speaker, sometimes urgently, for consultation. We found that he had a bedroom upstairs but had absolutely no method of cooking his breakfast except by one gas ring. I hope the House will agree with our recommendations—as the Government have agreed—that the Clerk of the House should have a flat in the roof space. I think that would be dignified. It would enable him to be 744 nearer, and he would be available night and day, as he has to be during the sittings of the House.
Then we considered the Fees Office. We had a bit of a battle about the Fees Office. It was over in Westminster Hall. We moved it into the temporary building, No. 1 Bridge Street. I think that has been very satisfactory. The accommodation is better. It is a little further for hon. Members to go, but it will be nearer when it goes into the roof space. So I hope that recommendation will be generally accepted as an improvement. By doing that we have given desk space for hon. Members in Westminster Hall.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
The hon. Member has said, and I agree, that it seems perfectly satisfactory for the Fees Office to be over the road, but he said that eventually it will come back to this building. If it is perfectly satisfactory for the Fees Office to be across the road, why should it come back and the same situation arise again?
§ Sir J. Duncan
I shall explain why we want it fairly near to these premises.
The remainder of the space will be devoted to hon. Members and their secretaries and will accommodate 51 of us. We have had a pilot scheme over at Bridge Street, which has been generally accepted. I am glad to know that hon. Members who have been using it have been pleased with it. With the experience of that pilot scheme we shall be able, when the accommodation in the roof space is available, to decide what sort of accommodation, whether single or double rooms, with telephones inside or outside, with lockers for themselves and their secretaries, hon. Members should have. That again shows an improvement.
I should like to express some general considerations about this building. It is impossible to do anything very different with this building. The cloisters are an example. Hon. Members who have no secretaries can be accommodated at the south end of 'the cloisters, where they can retire to write letters in the morning and to have easy access. The needs of hon. Members seem very variable indeed. Some require everything. Some require a telephone in their room, a secretary, a locker, everything. 745 The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who I see is smiling, wants all sorts of things, including a central dictation system. On the other hand, many Members do not want anything——
§ Sir J. Duncan
For instance, there are lawyers who do all their work, including their constituency work, at home, in their offices in the Temple, or wherever they live. There are businessmen—I hope there always will be businessmen in this House—who do their constituency business in their offices. There are others who are quite content to use the basement rooms and, as I do, to sit on a divan to dictate letters in the passage way. The needs of Members are varied and we have tried to make recommendations which would meet those varied needs.
Bearing in mind the varying needs, I have worked out the accommodation to be something like this: there will be 51 rooms in the roof space and eight at the south side of the cloisters. There will be 280 single rooms in the new building in Bridge Street. That is 339 rooms. There are about 100 Ministers and P.P.S.s who do not want additional rooms because they can either work in their Ministries or in their Ministers' rooms, and every Minister has a room. There are the businessmen, lawyers and those who live near home and who do their work at home. In addition, there is the Library. There are the Lobbies on either side of the Chamber; there are basement rooms and, of course, there is the old Fees Office.
On the whole, I think that when these schemes are complete the Committee will have met the reasonable needs of everybody, and ought as time goes on to continue to meet the varying needs of Members. It seems to me that if we can look forward to the fairly quick provision of a Parliamentary precinct on Bridge Street it should not be too long before every Member has the sort of accommodation that he thinks he needs. But there is no doubt that as more double accommodation becomes available, and as the personnel of Parliament changes over the years, additional needs may arise, and that is why we were keen to see that in 746 the plan there should be room for expansion in case the need increases as the years go by.
I should like to say a word on the Holford plan. As the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) said, we do not want shops on the Bridge Street frontage. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that it was a fairly lively Committee and that very often three or four persons were talking at the same time. However, we did agree that there should not be shops on the frontage. Nevertheless, I am attracted to a shopping precinct. I like the idea of being able to shop away from the noise of traffic. Of course, this plan is only a first shot, and I hope that Sir William Holford and the Minister will consider moving the whole thing round a bit and eliminating the front row of shops but at the same time trying to maintain a shopping precinct.
I think that a car park, although it would be expensive, is necessary. I know it is true that at the moment, even on a three-line Whip, one can always park one's car in New Palace Yard, but more and more people are having cars and it is an advantage in London to have a car which one can park. Therefore, if the Government are prepared to face the extra expense, I think it is advisable to have a car park underneath.
The other matter to which the hon. Gentleman referred—though this was far beyond our terms of reference—was a unified and democratic control of the whole of this House. I think that requires far more consideration than has been given to it.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
I pointed out—and the hon. Gentleman should face this—that this new Parliamentary precinct will not be within the control of the Lord Great Chamberlain. It would be rather ridiculous, therefore, if, while this Palace is in the control of the Lord Great Chamberlain, we were to have a different sort of control across the road. That is the reason for unifying the control somehow.
§ Sir J. Duncan
I gathered that point from the hon. Gentleman's original speech. Of course, we go back a long way in history. My hon. Friend the 747 Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) might have been the Lord Great Chamberlain except for some accident, I believe.
§ Sir J. Duncan
Not yet. I remember his speech a year or two ago. There is history, and there is a practice brought out by tradition which, although it is complicated, seems to work.
§ Sir J. Duncan
I think this system works. There are naturally shortcomings in any system—for instance, if one wants to get in here on a Sunday afternoon and one finds difficulty in doing so; but that sort of thing could easily be ironed out. But the hon. Gentleman wants what he calls unified and democratic control—a sort of Kitchen Committee or House Committee running this House. I think that suggestion requires much more consideration than has been given to it up to now.
We have various departments—the Speaker's Department, the Serjeant-at-Arms Department, the Office of Works, and so on. They all have their jobs to do. It is a little complicated to understand, but it works. But if we are to have superseding all that a House Committee which is to try to run the whole thing, I very much doubt if it would work so well. Therefore, although I hope I am just as good a democrat as the hon. Member for Leeds, West, I think democracy can go too far. We have got to have a certain amount of discipline and order in this place, and we want to have it done for us. I do not think it is the job of the elected Members of Parliament to have a Kitchen Committee, a Library Committee and various other committees, and, superimposed on all that, a House Committee, because it seems to me that we shall be devoting far too much of our own time looking after ourselves when we really ought to be spending far more of our time looking after the country and the Commonwealth.
I would like far more consideration to be given to this proposal before any change is made, in spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely has read out of a book written in 748 1901, because it works now; and I would be sorry to see a new system set up, under which, no doubt, there would be problems which could not be so easily resolved and where the clear demarcation which exists today between the various departments might be overridden by some House Committee or something like that which would get at cross purposes.
I have mentioned the Commonwealth. The only recommendation of the Committee which was not accepted was the recommendation to remove the offices of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association across the road. I was prepared, as I believe the Committee was, to allocate it very good accommodation. I think 2,000 sq. ft. was in our minds. The Association could do what it liked with it. It could have a suitable meeting hall and modern offices, and, as it was to be part of the Parliamentary precinct, it seemed a marvellous chance, with the increasing use of the existing offices and the enormous amount of work that is being done for the Commonwealth, for the Association to have something really good so that Commonwealth visitors could be suitably housed and entertained. If they had to address meetings they could have sizeable meetings rather than the comparatively small and rather unattractive facilities at Westminster Hall. But the big guns were against us. That recommendation was turned down.
I suggest that the Government should reconsider that, because I believe that we could give much more dignified accommodation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association inside Parliament as part of the Parliamentary precincts, if it accepted that offer, rather than for the Association to continue rather hugger mugger in the office it now has. It has no chance of expansion there. I know that there are great sentimental ties involved in coming into Westminster Hall and feeling that one is in Parliament. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and its officers are dyed-in-the-wood reactionaries. If only they would look forward twenty or thirty years, because we are working for the long-term future, I believe that in the new building the Association would have far better and more satisfactory accommodation which would be just as dignified and just as much part of Parliament as that which it now has.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I have found the debate up to now deeply depressing. If an industrial worker had to put up with the conditions that M.P.s put up with, there would be a strike within 24 hours. The simple fact is that this building is not equipped to allow Parliament to operate efficiently. No amount of patching, modernisation and extending will radically alter that position.
When I came here first in 1950, I was given the key to a locker which was no bigger than that which I had at school. That was the only accommodation, the only amenity, that I had in the building. I sought what solace I could in the Library. A Member is thrown in at the deep end when he comes here. Nobody bothers to tell him or show him the way round. He has to find out for himself. I made my way quickly to the Library. I cannot speak too highly of the service of the staff in the Library. I do not think that they could be more helpful or more courteous or more friendly than they are. Within the limits of their resources, they give the very best possible service to Members. One cannot complain about that. However, I must say that the resources that they can offer to Members are woefully inadequate.
In my view, the back bench Member is faced with an impossible task. He represents no challenge whatever to the Executive. Indeed, the most disturbing constitutional development of the last few years has been the enormous growth of the Executive's power vis-à-vis the legislature. This debate is on a much narrower front than that broad issue, but it is part and parcel of the same problem, because the Executive has a vested interest in keeping the individual Member of the legislature in a fairly helpless and harmless position. The average back bench Member is not more than 10 per cent. efficient. He is the equivalent of a humdrum, pen-pushing clerk-cum-welfare officer. He is treated with scarcely veiled contempt by the Executive, sometimes by civil servants, and by the public at large. This has much to do with the conditions under which we work in this building.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) said, over the years things have improved. I now 750 have an addition to my locker. I have a little desk upstairs right at the top. I go up in an old, antiquated lift and I eventually get right to the top of the building. I am with another seven Members in a room the size of the average dining room in the average council house. If the factory inspector, or whoever is responsible for this kind of accommodation, came here, he would prosecute. All the time, every day in midsummer, we have to have artificial light. We must switch the lights on. I sit furthest away from a very narrow window and I must put the lights on on a day like today or yesterday. The room is ideal for a suicide. If I could squeeze out of the window, I could throw myself, and sometimes feel like doing so, into the Thames. The room is wholly inadequate for an effective Member of what we choose to regard as the Mother of Parliaments.
The blunt fact is that this building was not built and is not equipped for a twentieth century rôle. I view the Holford Report with no great enthusiasm, rather with a considerable amount of dismay. It reminds me very much of the unfortunate, rather ridiculous, and certainly expensive exercise in Downing Street. What is needed here and what was needed there is a completely new start, a completely new modern building, severely functional, designed to ensure that the efficiency of the legislature is not thwarted or jeopardised by purely physical shortcomings in its working conditions.
I go further and assert that, if we are to make any great impact on the problem of the imbalance between the development in London and the South-East and that in the rest of Britain, the Government must give a much bigger, bolder and more imaginative lead than they have done hitherto. I tried to raise this point at Question Time this afternoon and received a lot of rather silly laughter from the other side for doing so. I suggested that the Government should set up an inquiry into the advisability and desirability of shifting the centre of government entirely from London into the Provinces.
An excellent article on this subject appeared in the Economist on 8th December last year. I hope that the Minister read it. I wish that he would act on it. The fact that the centre of 751 administration is in London acts as an extremely powerful magnet for all kinds of other institutions—the national Press, foreign embassies, public relations firms, pressure group head offices, the headquarters of big businesses, and so on. They all congregate in London because this is where the big decisions, particularly big Governmental decisions, are taken.
The Government appeal to others to get out of London, but they are not prepared to set an example. Periodically they quote figures to show that a few civil servants have been dispersed to other parts, but what happens to the accommodation that is thereby released? I suspect that it is taken over by other office employees and we are, therefore, back in precisely the same position. In other words, the Government are making no impact on this problem of congestion in central London.
In the article in the Economist, entitled "North to Elizabetha" it is suggested that we should start building a new administrative capital for Britain. It refers to…a Washington, a Canberra, a Berne, a Brazilia—somewhere north of the Trent.It goes on to suggest that we should transfer the Queen, Parliament, Government Departments and their civil servants there. It suggests a site somewhere between York and Harrogate, midway between Thames-side and Clyde-side—a site with extremely good communications north and south and near to the industrial heart of Britain.
This is an enormously imaginative and bold project—much too bold, I think, for the Government of the day. It would undoubtedly present a tremendous challenge to architects, engineers, builders, town planners and others and it would strike a powerful and sorely needed blow at the idea that we in this country are hide-bound by tradition and conservatism through an undue reverence for everything that is old, musty and riddled with dry rot and woodworm. The kindest thing that can be said about this building is that it is quaint, that it has many peculiar traditions and that it has certain features of considerable historic significance. But it is certainly not what it should be—an efficient workshop for legislators.
752 As I said at the outset, no modifications or alterations will drastically alter that situation. If we accepted the desirability of creating a new administrative city further north it would undo the continuing imbalance in the country as between the South-East and the remainder. It would provide an enormous psychological uplift to the North which, heaven knows, we need. There are two nations in this country, despite what the Prime Minister and any one else may say. One has only to meet and talk to people in the North to understand how they feel. I sincerely believe that the sort of project the Economist and others have suggested would have an enormous influence on the people of the North and on the institutions which congregate around and about the centre of administration.
As an ordinary back bench Member I have suffered over the years increasingly from the feelings of frustration, helplessness and impotence. I am sure that those feelings are shared by a good many, if not most, of my colleagues. They originate in large measure from the environment in which we work. Nothing so far suggested by the Minister, Sir William Holford or the Committee on Accommodation has been within measurable distance of solving the problem with which we as back benchers are continually faced.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
I should like to make a contribution to this debate as the Chairman for the time being of Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee on the Library. I wish to take as the peg for what I want to say, first, a remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), and, secondly, some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton).
My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus referred to the expansion of the accommodation for the Library which had been made possible by Mr. Speaker putting seven rooms in his residence at the disposal of the Library. He went on to say that he hoped that the Library would now be adequately housed for some years to come. If the Library services are regarded as adequate by the House, and if they are to be continued at about 753 the present level with about the present staff, it is perfectly true that it is adequately housed. But the point that I wish to make is that raised in the early part of his speech by the hon. Member for Fife, West, namely, is the House satisfied with the secretarial and research facilities which are at the disposal of back bench Members in carrying out their constitutional duties of supervising, scrutinising and criticising the executive Government of the day?
I believe that there is a balance of opinion for and against that view in the House. But, if the general view of back benchers on both sides is that they are inadequately equipped for their constitutional duty, this is the time that we must consider how far extended secretarial services, either by the creation of some new type of secretariat or by the extension of the services at present rendered by the Library staff, should be provided and housed. If there is to be an extension of the Library staff, obviously its members will require extended accommodation. If we do not take this opportunity of making that need clear, we shall find that the lack of accommodation will prevent an extension of the services which back benchers may feel they need.
I hope that some hon. Members have familiarised themselves with the Report which the Advisory Committee sent to Mr. Speaker a few weeks ago and which he has been good enough to make available to Members by putting copies in the Library. So that they may be on the record, I ask the House to bear with me while I read two short extracts from that Report because they illustrate what is in the Advisory Committee's mind, and they indicate the decisions or opinions that we want from the House in order that we may look to the future development of the Library.
In the middle of our Report, on page 4, we put two points of view which have been put to us by hon. Members. We said that there were some hon. Members whoclaim in effect that the present Library provides, say, 90 per cent. of the reasonable needs of, say, 90 per cent. of the present Members, and that it would be unreasonable and unecessary to provide a 100 per cent. service at perhaps double the present cost in order to satisfy the more rarefied demands of perhaps 754 10 per cent. only of the Membership of the House.Then, we put the conflicting view on the other side, the view that the hon. Member has just put to us. We said:Other Members take a contrary view. They declare that the work of Members is nowadays both more important and infinitely more complicated and pressing than ever before; yet they are too poorly paid and too inadequately equipped to perform it properly. They deny that they wish to have speeches prepared or services approximating to the Library of Congress scale. On the other hand, they point to the enormously strong and well-qualified Civil Service which backs the Executive…and claim that if the function of the House of Commons is to criticise the Government effectively it must be equipped with necessary means of comparable quality.That is the view of some of those who made representations to the Committee. The earlier view is the opinion of others. The Committee was at this stage unwilling to decide between them.
Nevertheless, we thought it useful to compare the services which the Library of Congress renders to Congress in the United States of America with the services which our Library renders here. They can be summarised by saying that the Legislative Reference Service alone in Washington—the service that serves particularly the legislature—has a budget of 2 million dollars a year, whereas the budget of our Library here is £56,000 a year. We have had certain proposals by hon. Members to increase the services, and they would bring our budget up to £86,000, or about one-eighth of the budget of the Library in Washington.
It is not for me, as, indeed, the Members of my Committee did not feel that it was for them as an Advisory Committee, to make recommendations to Mr. Speaker or to the House, but——
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
Does not the hon. Member think that as well as cost, an even more striking comparison can be made between our services and those of the Library of Congress in that in our Library in the new Session the research facilities are to be expanded so that we have seven research workers, compared with the Library of Congress with its 215? I appreciate the argument that 215 may be too many, but seven shared between 630 Members is, possibly, too few.
§ Sir H. Linstead
Yes. The difference in staff numbers is another reference by 755 which the difference of the services can be measured.
It would be appropriate if I referred specifically to four proposals for new services which were made to my Committee by hon. Members. They are services which, if the House decides that it needs them, would require additional accommodation. One was an expansion of the research services to include the provision of specialists, particularly to deal with scientific and technical matters. The second was an abstracting service to provide factual digests of documents which hon. Members do not have time to read. The third was translating facilities, and the fourth was a comprehensive Press-cuttings library. So far as we can judge, these four services together would cost about another £50,000 per annum, and they would also require additional accommodation.
I ask the House to help the Committee and to help Mr. Speaker in his task of directing the Library services by giving an indication of its feelings both for and against an extension of the research and specialist services along the lines which I have mentioned.
The questions which I have noted as those which we should answer are the following. Is the function of the House still to scrutinise and criticise the Executive and to ventilate grievances? If so, is its equipment adequate to discharge that task? If not, how is the equipment to be made available? Is it to be through the Library? Is it to be by creating a new form of secretariat? How is it to be done?
Any development of this kind is an uphill task because neither the Executive for the time being nor the potential Executive for some future time is particularly anxious to see a large reinforcement of the facilities available to back benchers, and we have to face that fact. The most we can hope for is a benevolent inertia.
One hon. Gentleman said that the Government must give a lead. I think that in a matter of this kind it is the House which must give a lead, and the House must indicate what it wants and what it does not want, and then it will have to push extremely hard, probably against both Front benches, to achieve what it wants.
756 I wonder if the House will allow me to make one reference to a suggestion by the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). He was talking about the choice of architect. I agree with him that this is an extremely important matter. I do not agree with him that we must avoid architects with big names, because very often the man who has got a big name has got it because he can do a big job, and I join issue with him when he says that he thinks that this is something which should be open to competition. I very much doubt that.
If it is a building of a well-known type, such as a school or a town hall or a cinema, it is something very suitable for architectural competition, but when it is a highly-specialised building I think the owners have to take their courage in both hands and choose an architect themselves. The architect has got to live with the people who are going to use the building. We could not set out, in the conditions which are the preliminaries for a competition, all the details of the building; we could not do it with sufficient explicitness to enable a competition to produce a really satisfactory plan. We have to choose the man ourselves and he has got to make himself part of the life of the building so that he can understand it and its functions from the ground upwards and so comprehend just exactly what it is that the users of the building need.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that his argument means that the architect must be employed full-time on the job without any other commitments?
§ Sir H. Linstead
No, I certainly would not agree with the hon. Gentleman in that, because it is very often the man with a wide practice, who knows how to organise the many other specialists who have to be employed, who can make a better job of it than the man who is expected to concentrate solely on one project.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
A large number of people on both sides of the House will have heard the speech of the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) with a great deal of satisfaction, particularly after the earlier speech of one of his colleagues who seemed to have insulated himself against the twentieth 757 century to an extent one would not have thought possible.
It is worth noting that a number of this morning's newspapers discussed this matter, probably in anticipation of this night's debate, and they discussed it on the basis whether Parliament is doing the job it really ought to do. The very fact that that can be discussed really ought to be a matter of serious concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House. We are faced with the possibility—indeed, the certainty now—of an extension of the buildings of this place, and I think my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) was right when he said that this was an opportunity we ought to take to look very seriously indeed at the way in which we can improve our facilities.
There are two ways of looking at this, We can argue whether there is enough room for making pots of tea, whether there is room for people to hang up their coats and whether there is room for them to park their cars. All these things are, no doubt, important, but I believe, and I think there is a large body of opinion which believes, that this House in its present state, with its present organisation, with the facilities which it provides—and those facilities are determined very largely by the accommodation available—is incapable of challenging the Executive as it should, incapable of judging the Executive, because Members of Parliament are not equipped.
One of the things which worried me about the speech of the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) was the attitude that he seemed to have, which is very common throughout this place, that "it is rather quaint", "a nice place to be in", "it has good traditions", "it goes along not too badly", and "there may be some things wrong with it, but nothing is fundamentally wrong".
I interrupted the hon. Member on the question of the Library facilities, which I think constitute our most important problem. The House provides for 630 Members of Parliament, seven graduate research workers. How can back bench Members of Parliament challenge the Executive on the basis of sharing seven research workers between 630 of them?
758 Any Member of Parliament who finds the Library adequate cannot be doing a proper job.
It is a very brilliant Member of Parliament who, without any previous experience or training, can take on any Minister, with all the help and advice of the civil servants behind him, by popping into his local library or the Library of the House and looking up a few books. Research is an important and skilled job, and a large section of the membership of this House is incapable of doing it. This is as much a specialised job as being a lawyer or an engine fitter.
The Library in the Congress of the United States provides services which some of us would not want. Hon. Members ought to write their own speeches. It is wrong that an elected Member of Parliament should be able to get someone to write his speeches for him. The Minister in the previous debate was a damaging indictment of people who come here and read speeches which have been written for them. For instance, no hon. Member who is not in the aircraft industry can seriously take part in a debate on that industry without having access to information produced on an expert and objective basis. He can, of course, go to the aircraft industry and obtain information, but this is, naturally and honourably, biased information. If the Member of Parliament is a scientist, he is all right, but I am not a scientist and, as an elected Member of Parliament, I believe that science is an important influence in this country.
There is no one in this House to whom one can go to obtain information or a brief on particular subjects. This facility is not a trimming. It is part of the tools of trade of Members of Parliament. This House can do as good a job as any other elected body if it has the facilities. What hon. Member who employs people in his office would say, as one hon. Member said, that they could do their letters on a bench in a corridor, as Members of Parliament do their letters on benches in one of the Lobbies? If I ran an organisation and found a member of my staff dictating letters on a bench in the foyer, I would kick him out, believing that that is not the way one works. It is certainly not the way a British Member of Parliament ought to work.
759 I hope that in the new building we shall have other things besides extended Library facilities. I see no reason why we should not have some form of centralised dictating service where Members can pick up a telephone and dictate to a central pool certainly their most urgent correspondence. There are hon. Members who are lawyers and businessmen, wealthy men, who have secretaries, and some trade unions provide secretarial assistance. But can it honestly be suggested that an hon. Member with no other income, whose home is outside London—I am not one of those; I have a London constituency and am relatively comfortable—can afford a secretary or any secretarial assistance out of a net income of, probably, about £900 a year? Can he do that after he has paid a board and lodging allowance for four nights a week in London? Can it be said that a Member of Parliament who has no secretarial assistance and has no real filing facilities—if he is lucky he may have a filing cabinet somewhere, but no one to do anything with it—and who leaves this place for a dingy bed sitter in Kennington Oval can conceivably do an adequate job?
This brings me to another factor. I see no reason why the House should not seize the opportunity to face the problem of Members who do not live in London and who have no other incomes than their Parliamentary salaries. There is no reason why there should not be hostel accommodation for them. I do not ask for palatial residences, but an hon. Member in such circumstances should have available a bedroom and, possibly, a sitting room as well. This accommodation could be provided either in a Government hostel or by the Ministry of Public Building and Works taking over accommodation in an existing hotel.
We must get to the stage of wondering whether we are not ourselves devaluing Parliament by the way in which we treat hon. Members. All too often it sounds as though, when we make speeches like this, people think we are trying to get more comfort and cushy places for ourselves. Everyone likes comfortable surroundings in which to work but that is not the point here. There is something wrong if an hon. Member whose home is not in London cannot even entertain a foreign delegate for a 760 meal or offer any hospitality, or even have a room in which to carry on a discussion. Instead, such hon. Members have to spend long hours travelling backwards and forwards to cheap bedsitters and live most of their day in this building, because there is nowhere else to go, in conditions of extreme discomfort. This is the sort of thing we should deal with in the new building.
Another thing I would like to see—it is surely not revolutionary in 1963—is a conference room or rooms in the new building equipped for simultaneous translation. It should be possible for Members of other Parliaments to meet us for discussions. As far as I know, without the special permission of the Minister of Public Building and Works—who is very helpful—there is nowhere where the many organisations to which hon. Members belong can gather and where there is simultaneous translation equipment.
Many hon. Members on both sides do not speak foreign languages. There are some I have heard speaking foreign languages who would do better if they did not. There should be meetings and discussions on such subjects as whether we go in or out of Europe. Such conferences are everyday activities in a European Parliament and surely we should have somewhere in our precincts where conferences of this type can take place.
Can we please get away in this discussion from the idea of adding a little more space for someone to sit down when waiting to go home? Let us get down to ensuring that this Parliament is a place, first and foremost, in which it is possible to operate effectively against the Executive. This is a vital thing to back benchers on both sides of the House. It is not a factor commending itself to the Front Bench. Ministers do not like to be challenged: I would not do so if I were a Minister—which is a long way away.
No Minister will dig his own grave by equipping people who might be awkward. That is the real reason behind the lack of facilities so far, although Ministers naturally find others. I hope that we will be able to produce these circumstances in the new building and will do so determined to use these new facilities in an effort to make the British Parliament much more effective than it is.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Evelyn Emmet (East Grinstead)
Ido not want to go over the points which have already been made, although I should like to have said something about the plan produced by Sir William Holford. I agree in general with the criticisms made by the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) and by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan).
There are three points which I should like to cover, one of which has already been made—I have to say it—from the other side of the House. As both sides of the House feel very strongly about this issue, it will do no harm to repeat it. It is to express the hope that in the new buildings there will be facilities for simultaneous translation. I have in my hand a letter from the Ministry of Public Building and Works saying that it can now make arrangements for this apparatus to be hired, installed and taken away, all of which is laborious and extremely expensive. It should be installed in Committee Rooms and available as a permanent fitting for permanent use as an ordinary tool available for party meetings, inter-party meetings or international meetings of any kind. Houses of Parliament abroad, certainly in Europe, can produce these facilities immediately as a matter of course.
In his plan, talking of the floor space for the Parliamentary building, Sir William Holford says that the plan is a little higher than the minimum asked for. If he had said that it was a little higher than the maximum, I would have been a great deal happier.
§ Mr. Rippon
I hope that my hon. Friend will be fair to Sir William Holford. The proposition put to him was to prepare a feasibility study on the basis of the recommendations of the Committee of which my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) was chairman. They referred to 50,000 sq. feet. If the Committee or the House had asked for more, no doubt he would have put forward a different proposal. He has done what he was asked. In fact, he has done a little more.
§ Mrs. Emmet
I quite understand that, but I was on that Committee and we also recommended that there should be room for expansion, and that is what I want to emphasise.
§ Mr. Rippon
He has done that, too. I hoped that I had made it clear that the design allowed for expansion.
§ Mrs. Emmet
I am trying to stress that. If a certain amount of floor space has been calculated as being sufficient for the time being, one knows that as the years go on inevitably one finds that one has not allowed for a number of things which are necessary.
Hon. Members have made their criticisms of the outside of the building, but I want to deal with one or two internal matters. I hope very much that the architect will employ an up-to-date decorator for the inside of the Parliamentary building, whatever is done elsewhere. Going around the excellent Ministry of Works buildings, I am sometimes shocked by the obvious domestic mistakes made inside them and the not always up-to-date methods of decoration—dust ledges and things of that sort. Even our ancestors, when they made wooden panels, remembered to slope them down so that they did not collect dust. Interior arrangements need careful study. There are excellent new forms of flooring and wall covering and coping, and I hope that these methods will be carefully considered for the new building.
Looking forward to the days when we might not find it so easy to recruit the excellent ladies who come here at night and clean out our House for us—how they do it I do not know—I hope that some up-to-date method of cleaning suction in all the rooms will be considered. I am certain that as the years go on these things will become more difficult and now is the time to consider how to deal with them.
I also hope that we shall make arrangements for the convenience of the police, the secretaries and the domestic servants, from the point of view of hygiene. These people are not always considered, and I think that we should go into these problems very carefully. It might also be a good idea to provide such an elementary thing as a first-aid room in the new building. At the moment we have no such facility.
Those are domestic suggestions. I think it is a good idea to make them now, otherwise they might be overlooked. Although my right hon. Friend may have 763 disagreed with the beginning of ray speech, I am sure that he will feel more sympathetic towards my latter remarks.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
The horn. Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) has brought a housewife's common sense to the debate in the suggestions that she has made for the Minister to consider when the new building is being constructed. I propose to follow the hon. Lady on two important points. First, on the question of a first aid-room. Secondly, on the question of the staff.
My speech tonight is a continuation of the speech that I made on 31st March, 1960. On that occasion I was allowed four minutes, at four minutes to nine o'clock, in which to make my speech. I was able to start it then, and I hope, in the few minutes available to me now, to be able to complete it.
We are tonight debating the provision of amenities to enable Members of both this House and another place to do their jobs efficiently and well. There was a time when the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) was able to run a mile in four minutes, but on the occasion of my last speech it was as much as he could do to stagger through the Division Lobby in time for a Division. However, since then the hon. Gentleman has made better speed from the back benches to the front bench, so perhaps it can be said that after a time one gets accustomed to the conditions in which one has to work.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the poor way in which Members and the staff in this place are treated in matters of health. The Government have officially adopted the policy of instituting an occupational health service throughout the country. As a result of Recommendation 112 by the International Labour Office, the Government, in their White Paper entitled Inter national Labour Conference, Cmd. 1318, stated that all places of work should be encouraged to provide an occupational health unit to look after their staff.
When I raised this point some time ago, the Prime Minister told me that the House of Commons was not a factory. But that is just what it is. There are 500 manual workers here. On any 764 given day there are about 2,400 people in the Palace of Westminster. If we deduct from this figure the Members of this House and those of another place, it means that every day there are between 1,700 and 1,800 people here. Many of these are manual workers, and they ought to be provided with proper facilities. In addition to the people who actually work here, the House might be interested to know that last week I was told by a policeman that in two hours on Wednesday morning 2,500 visitors passed through this Chamber.
As the hon. Lady the Member for East Grinstead said, we have no first-aid service. If an accident occurs, there is a policeman who may or may not be available at that moment to render first-aid. Somebody has to get on the telephone and hope that the congestion of traffic will not prevent an ambulance being rushed from St. Thomas's Hospital to the Palace of Westminster to render assistance. The whole point of an occupational health service and a health unit is not that it would provide a glorified first-aid. It would prevent people who are working hard from becoming ill. It would prevent hon. Members from suffering from the consequences of having to work for long hours with inadequate tools and facilities, and the stress and strain which is part and parcel of our job. Hon. Members from both sides of the House owe a debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). He acts as the unpaid medical practitioner for this House.
As was pointed out by the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) in 1950 we failed to provide facilities for the staff. We have a room for secretaries. One of the most appalling sights of the twentieth century is a battery of hens on a farm crammed in a confined space and forcibly fed. I think that the next most horrible sight is that of 32 secretaries crammed into inadequate accommodation in a manner which is unhygienic, unpleasant and probably unlawful. A recent inspection by the Ministry of Labour showed that 32 secretaries were working in a space which was sufficient only for 20. How can we ask for decent conditions for people outside when we treat our own staff in that way?
§ Sir J. Duncan
As the hon. Gentleman mayknow, we have tried to thin out the secretaries, and by the improvements to be made in the accommodation in the roof and over the road, we shall reach the required standard of health in respect of accommodation.
§ Mr. Pavitt
I was delighted to see that in the Report presented by the hon. Gentleman's Committee. But I am concerned that we shall not kill off too many secretaries between now and 1966 and that we shall seek to do something in the immediate future.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle(Blackburn) rose—
§ Mr. Dalyell rose—
§ Mrs. Castle
Is my hon. Friend aware that there has been a totally unnecessary delay of two years in bringing the roof scheme into operation; that our Committee unanimously recommended its immediate introduction in August, 1961, but that as soon as the Committee was disbanded, the Government "ditched" the scheme?
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that Members of Parliament at least have the Terrace to walk on. But neither secretaries nor the Press are allowed on to the Terrace? Would not it be a good idea if 20 yards of the Terrace, no more—perhaps at the House of Lords end—were made available for the use of members of the Press, who are an integral part of Parliament, and for secretaries?
§ Mr. Pavitt
I think the first point is well taken. As the House will know, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) brings knowledge to these matters, and she has worked day in and day out during the last two years and played her part.
What was said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) strengthens the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) about the need for a permanent advisory committee to deal with such problems and the necessity for some sort of centralised control. 766 If I may return to the subject of the battery of hens upstairs—I am sorry, to the secretaries' room upstairs—I would remind the House that only last week a complaint was made about the fact that fumes were permeating that part of the building and making it almost impossible to work in the overcrowded conditions existing there.
I wish to warn hon. Members of the grave danger which we run because we are not doing the right thing to safeguard our health. I ask hon. Members to recall the deaths of hon. Members during the last 12 months. The medical problems of the twentieth century are not caused by fevers but by coronary thrombosis, and the stress and nervous strain under which we work. Such things, which are the killers of the 1960s are not uncommon in this place. We all have sad memories of people of first-class calibre and intellect who made a great contribution in this House but who were taken from us and their lives terminated all too soon. This House bears a measure of responsibility for that because of the work we do and the way in which we have to work, and because there has been a failure to take adequate precautionary measures and obtain proper advice so that illness might be prevented.
The least that we could have is a permanent medical officer of health for the 2,400 people who are here daily whose job would be to advise us how to prevent nervous breakdown, coronary thrombosis, ulcers and ailments due to stress. Secondly, at least one, two or three industrially-qualified State-registered nurses should be permanently on the building and able to give the facilities which are normally provided by good employers in industry or offices elsewhere.
With all the services which are being provided, we want the kind of facilities that would enable hon. Members to follow sensible regimens to maintain their health. For a brief period between 1945 and 1950, we had a gymnasium, which gradually lapsed. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) was once seen entering the Division Lobby in running shorts at about that time when a Division was called at an unfortunate moment.
767 I took a deputation of my hon. Friends to the Minister's predecessor and tried hard to see whether we could get a small facility like a squash court or a place where, in the short space of time that hon. Members have, we could at least try to keep up physically with the pace which we have to maintain mentally. We had considerable discussion with the previous Minister. It was found that the cost would be about £140, which was impossible to sanction. He tipped us, however, that if we would like to ask for a gymnasium for £10,000, it might be easier to get it through the Treasury, but that to ask for a small sum like £140 was difficult.
In any new buildings that we have in Bridge Street, consideration should be given to facilities whereby Members might at least keep a measure of physical fitness to cope with the kind of things that we do here. We know from weary experience of the way in which the benches are constructed and the posture we have. We sit here lounging back on our green seats getting a crick in the neck, trying to keep an ear to the microphone and an eye on whoever is speaking on the benches opposite. I do not know whether Mr. Speaker is more fortunate, but he sits in his Chair for longer hours than we do. Was advice taken from medical men about whether Mr. Speaker's chair was right for posture? Do we have an occupational hazard merely because of the way in which the seats are built? It costs as much to provide benches as seats which are therapeutically sound and which enable people to have the right physical approach.
In the new building, will there be a place where Members can relax? At present, few Members do. In the Smoke Room, the Tea Room and in the Corridors, we are all the time giving out nervous energy. We talk to our colleagues and to the Press. Most of us get here early in the morning and get home at midnight. During that time, we burn up three times as much nervous energy as the average person.
What kind of facilities will the Minister give us so that we have proper relaxation and are able to come away from the strain and bustle and be able, perhaps, to main- 768 tain sanity in a place which tends increasingly, to use a colloquialism, to drive us "round the bend"?
We are not seeking special privileges. We have special handicaps in the job which we do here. Because of the conditions and of the way our traditions run, we cannot live the normal life of people in most other professions, callings or places of work. One's weekends are taken up in travelling around the country. If we are not sitting on green benches here, we are sitting on green railway seats travelling in trains to the North, East, South or West. I expect that the experience of most hon. Members, on both sides, has been the same as mine. Last year, from October to December, the first weekend I had at home was the weekend before Christmas. We are here most mornings at 10 a.m. and we leave most nights after the 10 o'clock vote, getting home sometime around midnight. In those circumstances, it is up to the House to redress the balance.
We cannot go home at 6 o'clock in the evening to dig the garden or to play bowls. It is impossible. The only thing that can be done is so to arrange our accommodation as to give hon. Members who have to be on duty here the opportunity of so conducting their lives that they can bring to Our debates not half-dead persons or half-exhausted persons but people who are fully able physically to cope with their daily problems.
In the four minutes that I spoke in the previous debate—which I am now finishing, after three years—I tried very hard to make this point, and there was one concrete result. The Chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries offered me and any other Member who liked to use it a squash court across the road. I was able to use it, together with my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian, on Tuesday of this week. The previous opportunity I had was last November, and previous to that, 15th May. I managed to get in three games of squash in just over a year. Why? Because I was on the London Government Bill, and it was impossible to move from here practically throughout this Session.
It is not a question of luxury, or of pampering hon. Members, to ask for facilities which would enable us to relax, and to lead normal lives. The hon. Member for South Angus was talking about this 769 place being built. I should like to know why, in a place that was opened only in 1950, we cannot have modern facilities. Downstairs we have telephones in the interview rooms, which many of us frequently use to dictate correspondence. Those telephones are antiquated. This morning I went with my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) to see some of the work that was being done in my constituency, and we met a gentleman from Hall's telephones whose company had actually installed one of the first machines in this place in 1908. I think that some of those machines were transferred to the interview rooms downstairs. Whenever we try to conduct a conversation on the telephone there we feel that we are plugged into outer space, or perhaps Jodrell Bank. All kinds of sounds and extraneous noises come over the telephone, but conversation is not at all clear.
There are some modern telephones in this place which are clear, and all those of us who are a little hard of hearing have to chase round to locate a new one—because there are so many of the old ones. I have approached the Serjeant at Arms, who has kindly looked into the matter, but he tells me that we cannot afford to have modern-type telephones. How ridiculous. We have old telephones, which should enable Members to hear clearly the compaints of their constituents, but we cannot afford to replace them with modern instruments that will enable them to do so. We have to put up with those which were installed many years ago.
We are entitled to plead for these things because we have a job to do, which we try to do conscientiously. Most of all, however, I want to plead for the staff. If there should be a model employer it should be this place, but we fall down very bady on this. We must consider not only the point of view about new buildings and control which was put forward so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West—who has devoted a good deal of his time in the last 10 years to this subject—but the question of the way in which the people in these buildings are treated.
When the new buildings are opened, unless there is a personal and human touch about them we shall be blessed merely with a lot more bricks and mortar 770 without having provided what was advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), namely, conditions suitable for people who have to work efficiently; conditions of which, as employers, we need not be ashamed and of which it cannot be said that people ought not to be treated in this way in the twentieth century.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
I should have thought that this debate would have proved one thing conclusively for this Government, and that is the need for the immediate installation of democratic control of the premises and facilities of the House of Commons.
On the very rare occasions when we get an opportunity to debate our needs and the needs of the Officers and staff of this House it is as though a floodgate were opened and a spate of complaint and grievances comes through. We have had a succession of excellent speeches from both sides of the House, every one of which was packed with evidence of the unsatisfactory nature of the conditions in which we are expected to work and serve our constituents and in which the Officers of this House and members of the staff are supposed to serve us and the public.
How much I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) with his sense of frustration and the warning he gave us—which many of us have given before, but which it is right should be repeated on every occasion when we discuss this matter. We are not concerned here merely selfishly with the comforts of hon. Members, but with the basic principle of the rights of the Legislature against the Executive. Our complaint against the Government is that they have deliberately, persistently and unnecessarily eroded and undermined the powers of hon. Members of this House to act as an efficient democratic check upon the Executive.
I happen to disagree with my hon. Friend about moving Parliament from this site. I think that he is perhaps a little too modern in that demand, but from many years of experience of serving on your advisory committees, Mr. Speaker, I say that there is an enormous amount which could be done, even within the physical limitations with which we are faced, to translate this House into a modern democratic machine. Why is it 771 not done? I agree with the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) that we did an enormous amount once we got ourselves established as an Advisory Committee. But we had an enormous political battle to get the first Advisory Committee established.
This has been spasmodic and inadequate, and the future development of our requirements is once again threatened. Why is that? I suggest to the Government that they must face this fact. The reason is simple—that the working facilities of hon. Members of the House of Commons are within the gift of the Government. That is what has to be put right before anything else can be put right. The Bridge Street scheme in the Report before us is another outstanding proof of this. Once again an ad hoc committee was given the job of allocating space in Bridge Street which had been—chosen by us? No. It was decreed by the Government that we should have it.
This is a point which the hon. Lady the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) overlooked when challenged by the Minister. As a member of the Committee she ought to have remembered—I am sure she will agree—that when the ad hoc committee was set up to deal with the Bridge Street scheme its terms of reference were such that it had to base the allocation on 40,000 sq. ft. of space. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has done a wonderful job on this question for many years now. I am sure that all hon. Members, on both sides of the House, would express our Parliamentary sense of gratitude for the time he has put in, but he will remember that we soon found when we made a list of all the immediate requirements to be put forward that 40,000 sq. ft. would not be enough.
Some of us asked, "Are we bound by this? Who fixed this? Why is a great block of offices for civil servants going up? Why can room be found for civil servants and for the police? What about Parliament? Where do we stand in this rating and in competition for space in what should be a Parliamentary precinct?" Some of us said, "Must we be bound by this?" The hon. Member for South Angus said—sort of nervously, being a great constitutionalist and knowing that we were all like dogs on the end of a lead and not free to run as we 772 wanted—"Our terms of reference will not allow us to increase it." We had an awful constitutional kerfuffle to decide whether we would be in order in asking for 10,000 sq. ft. more. We were never given free scope in this. We had a long battle to get the 40,000 sq. ft. increased to 50,000. A vote of thanks ought to be passed to us for having spent so much of our nervous energy in getting the extra 10,000 sq. ft. We had to wrench it out of the Government.
§ Mrs. Emmet
I should like to thank the hon. Lady for dotting the "i" that I tried to make, which was that we asked for the minimum, rather under pressure.
§ Mrs. Castle
That is quite right. We were a unanimous Committee. This is the interesting and democratically significant point. If we get the back benchers of this House together, a Committee of this kind has no party division. We were all agreed on the minimum requirements for space and facilities in a modern democratic institution.
What is the second significant point about the Bridge Street scheme? We know its origin, but what is to be its future? We are told that there is to be another ad hoc Committee. How kind of the Government to see that somebody does not forget to suggest some minimum facilities that Members of Parliament might want. We are getting sick and tired of ad hoc Committees, when we consider the time that is wasted trying to establish what the "hoc" is to which we are "added". This is ridiculous. As I said, we had a Parliamentary battle in order to get the first Advisory Committee set up in 1960. We were told that that was to consider the roof scheme. Then came the end of the Session and we had to be reappointed in November, 1960. In August, 1961, we reported. We did so unanimously. We reported that it was desperately urgent that the scheme should be proceeded with in the Summer Recess. The day after the Chairman reported that to the House through you, Mr. Speaker, and we thought it was all agreed. We then discovered that the Government, for their internal reasons, had decided to delay the scheme. It has been delayed for two years, and that is why I say that some of these minimum requirements are still hanging fire. For two years we have been waiting for that 773 scheme. The first stage could have been completed and the second stage half completed this summer.
One of the things that I suggested concerned the waitresses. Goodness knows, there are no more hard-working women than they. Somtimes they are fit to drop at the end of the day, particularly on a hot summer's day. They have long hours and split duties. They spend their off-duty time in a little hole of a room. I suggest that there ought to be a roof garden to which the staff the Press and anybody else could go when they need to see God's light and air occasionally. It could have been provided. But no; the moment we recommended that, it was politically inconvenient for the Government. What did the Government do? They disbanded the Committee.
We had eight months' fight with the Leader of this House, the trustee of the vitality of Parliamentary democracy. We had eight months' fight with him to get ourselves set up again. Then we were set up ad hoc. The "hoc" to which we were "added" this time was Bridge Street. Then we had another two months' expenditure of nervous energy. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West fought shoulder to shoulder to demand from the Leader of the House that our terms of reference should be extended to enable us to consider the effects of the roof scheme on the Bridge Street scheme, and the effects of the Bridge Street scheme on the roof scheme, and so we went all round the mulberry bush. Are we to come to this place to play this game of hide-and-seek concerning the minimum rights that we ought to be granted? We have had enough argument about what rights should be entrenched in the Constitution of Malta. I could suggest one right which should be entrenched here.
Why cannot we have a permanent Advisory Committee on Accommodation? I suggest that the Government have refused it because they know that once they grant that request, it will be the thin end of the wedge of the principle of democratic control of this House. Why should we have to be guided by the old-fashioned ideologies and romanticisms of the Leader of the House who said he thought that none of us wanted the connection between this House and the Royal Palace to be severed? We are severing 774 it. If the Bridge Street scheme means anything at all, if the premises over there are to be part of Parliament, then clearly the control of those premises ought to be under the same body which controls these premises.
If there is to be royal control of this Palace but the Minister of Works or somebody else, certainly a non-royal, is to be in charge of Bridge Street—or is the Lord Great Chamberlain going there too?—it will be ridiculous. If there is divided control, there will be a difference in status. This will defeat some of the main purposes of our attempt to overspill into Bridge Street without making people there feel that they have gone into an overspill annexe.
We said to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, "We in the Committee are determined to make the place over the road an integral part of the building so that you will not be pushed over into a subordinate type of accommodation if you go there". It was implicit in our Report that the Bridge Street building by character, appearance and facilities should be part and parcel of Parliament. If it is to be all that, it must clearly be under the same control.
One thing only logically flows from that. We should at last face the fact that we must have a House of Commons Committee or Commission. All the money spent on this place is voted for by the House. Every bit of building that is done is paid for by the House. There is the roof scheme. We are to have a new layer in the House. We paid for it. It was voted for by the House and will be paid for by public money. It does not come out of the royal fund. It is nothing to do with the Palace. That scheme is paid for by us. Yet it is still said that we must keep the insignia and control of the Lord Great Chamberlain.
We disagree. We say that it is time that we recognised the fact that we shall never get the facilities we need until we have a House of Commons Commission, with you, Mr. Speaker, as Chairman, with the appropriate Ministers—that is, a Treasury Minister, the Minister of Works, and the Leader of the House—and a predominance of back benchers drawn from both sides of the House as members, and with a vice-chairman who is a backbencher and who shall be able to answer Questions on accommoda- 775 tion in the House and the facilities of the House in his turn at the Dispatch Box. The Committee should produce an annual report which should be annually automatically debated by the House.
I suggest, too, that their Lordships should have a similar Committee or Commission. They have a sessional Committee now. They can continue to have that sessional Committee, or they can have a permanent Commission. I want a body that works not only in sessions but in the recesses. I work in the recesses, I want the democratic control over my working facilities not to be interrupted when the House rises, as it is at present.
If we had that, we could have a joint planning body of the two House Committees to plan and supervise the development of this new Parliamentary precinct. I beg the Leader of the House seriously to consider this. I believe him to be an enlightened man who, once he gets out of his bad ways as a party man, cares about democracy and the vitality of democracy. He has an enormous responsibility here. There is not much time. We have been told that the plans are still fluid. Therefore, this is the moment to set up this joint representative planning Committee to keep under continual review the development of the plans and ensure that we get something which is worthy of the future—the long-term future—during which it will have to serve us.
In addition, we must have a House of Commons Commission in being the whole time, to be in charge of the running of our part of these premises. The joint planning committee on the Bridge Street site would then take into account many of the excellent points which have been made today. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he did not like the idea of a shops frontage on Bridge Street. I entirely agree that, if there is room for commercial building there, there is room to give many more facilities and amenities to the Parliamentary section.
A glance at the annexe to the Report shows that whereas we are to have 500,000 sq. ft., which it has taken us a life-and-death struggle to get, 40,000 sq. ft. will go for commercial purposes. Why should we be given a penury of space in 776 order that there may be shops and commercial premises there when we could be building a new frontage and providing for the future by building accommodation, as has been suggested, of the sort we need; perhaps sleeping accommodation for hon. Members who represent provincial and other constituencies, recreation and rest rooms for the Press and our staff—and, indeed, for ourselves? There are plenty of uses to which this extra space could have been put.
I suggest that until we have this continuing democratic control over our affairs we shall never get the facilities we need to make us efficient. We all know what they are—and I recognise the reference in the Library Committee's Report to the fact that we have for many years been asking for better services. New and young hon. Members often have a scientific background nowadays. They are nationalist in outlook. They are interested in various technical matters and they need facilities commensurate with the broad and challenging new age in which we live.
It is absurd that if I receive a letter from Germany I cannot get it translated in the House of Commons. If, perhaps at an hour's notice, perhaps as the result of a debate suddenly being announced, I want someone to go quickly through past debates to find a quotation of a particular Minister made at a particular time, the staff is not available to do this, despite the goodwill of the Librarians. We should have a Press-cuttings service as well.
Is it not ridiculous that we should still have to pay 4d. a copy for every copy we get from the copying machine after the first three copies? I think of the years it took us to get a second copying machine installed. I think of the battle we had to keep it open after 6 p.m. I admit that after we campaigned for a considerable time we at least have it open until 10 p.m. or the rising of the House.
When this House rises for the recess, as we do tomorrow, we lose all control over these things. What will happen to this copying machine during the recess? Will it be kept open until 10 p.m.? I have no say in these things and nor have you, Mr. Speaker. You become impotent from the point of view of defending our facilities as from 5 p.m. tomorrow. This 777 is a ridiculous state of affairs because, whatever is said, we do not go away on holiday for three months. That is another one of those myths. I shall have 10 days in the country and on Monday, 12th August, I shall be here dictating a backlog of correspondence, as will other hon. Member. While I am here I will not even be able to get a cup of tea because there will be no refreshment facilities available, not even for the staff and secretaries. What will happen if I want a guide during the recess? Do I have any control over whether or not a guide is available? Will I have to pay? After all, that comes under the Lord Great Chamberlain.
During the coming three months' recess hon. Members are devoid of all power. It is as though we have all gone on holiday. This tempts me to mention dozens of other things, but I do not wish to delay our proceedings. I was delighted to learn that the Press Gallery is at last waking up to these facts and has set up a working party to consider the status, rights and working conditions of Parliamentary journalists. There is concern among members of the Press Gallery about their position, and they are right. I know of the terrible conditions under which they work. Our Committee tried to help them and I will back them in what they are doing. I think that they are right. They put up with conditions which they should not have to bear. I hope that this new sign of life on their part will mean that they will be alerted to their duty to wake up the country to the sort of conditions under which their legislators live and work. Perhaps they will battle a bit more strongly on our side, too.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works (Mr. Richard Sharples)
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works said at the conclusion of his speech that he would welcome the ideas on this matter of Members on both sides of the House. I think that this debate has been most valuable. We have heard a great many views to which we shall certainly pay attention.
It is, I think, fair to say that in the brief which we gave to Sir William Holford we accepted the recommendations of the Duncan Committee in full 778 with the sole exception of the change in accommodation for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and the reasons for that were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan).
If I may refresh hon. Members memories, the recommendations of the Committee were that the new accommodation shouldIn the plan which Sir William Holford has produced—and it is a feasibility plan and not in any way a final plan—there are no commercial premises directly connected with the Parliamentary extension or precinct. However, one thing has become clear during the course of the debate, and that is that hon. Members on both sides object to the idea of having shops and commercial premises opposite this House in the redevelopment in Bridge Street itself. That is certainly a matter to which my right hon. Friend will pay attention. I think that there are good reasons for having some shopping facilities in that area. My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus spoke of the idea of having shopping facilities in an arcade behind. I think that that idea, which is partially incorporated in Sir William Holford's plan, has very much to commend it.
- "(a) be capable of expansion;
- (b) be physically connected to the Palace of Westminster by a private access;
- (c) be so sited and have such facilities as may be necessary to ensure that Members can reach the Division Lobbies in the time prescribed by the Standing Orders;
- (d) have adequate car parking facilities;
- (e) be designed, equipped and administered as a Parliamentary Precinct and in no way associated with any commercial development."
I do not think hon. Members would expect me to answer in the very few minutes which remain all the points which have been raised because, as I said, the main purpose of this debate was to hear the views of hon. Members and to take those views away and study them carefully. However, one or two points have been raised which I think I should try to answer.
The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), who, I know, has made a great study of these questions, asked me particularly about the architect. As I said, Sir William Holford was commis- 779 sioned to produce a feasibility study of the area as a whole and, when the plan in broad outline has been worked out, it will be necessary for an architect to be appointed. We have a quite open mind about that. We shall welcome very much the views of the Advisory Committee which I understand you, Mr. Speaker, have agreed to set up on the steps which we should take in the selection of the architect.
I can see that in a scheme of this kind there may be objections to an open competition, but, again, that is a matter on which we should welcome the advice of the Advisory Committee. We had an open competition in connection with the Broad Sanctuary scheme, and for that building a young, although comparatively well known, man was chosen.
The other specific question asked by the hon. Member for Leeds, West concerned the selection of the contractor for the roof-space scheme. This was done by selective tender. A number of firms which were considered capable of doing the work were invited to tender and a firm price contract has been negotiated for it.
A point which has been raised by a number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Leeds, West and his hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), is the status of the new accommodation. It is probably easier if I divide this into two parts. First, as to day-to-day administration, the new Bridge Street building will be in exactly the same position as this House, in that it will be administered by the Serjeant at Arms on Mr. Speaker's behalf, but as it will not be part of the Palace of Westminster it will not come under the jurisdiction of the Lord Great Chamberlain.
In due course, we shall have to consider whether the new building is a Parliamentary precinct in the legal sense. That will need careful consideration, because it will affect questions of privilege such as the suspension of a Member, the service of a writ on a Member, the committal of strangers for contempt, the free access of Members to the House and even such questions as the serving of alcohol while the House is sitting. That is a matter that we shall want to consider very carefully, and we are fortunate that we have the time to be able to do 780 this. The Government will come forward with proposals, which will be prepared with the help of the authorities of the House and will be discussed through the usual channels. This will be a fairly complicated business.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
A most important consideration, which has been voiced to me by other hon. Members who are not here tonight, is the road widening at that point. Will the Government bear in mind whether Bridge Street is already too narrow in the interests of traffic and all sorts of public considerations and consider this in any scheme?
§ Mr. Sharples
The hon. Member will have noticed that improvements are suggested in Sir William Holford's plan, but certainly, in view of what has been said tonight by the hon. Member and others, we shall give careful consideration to that point.
The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) asked whether facilities for simultaneous translation can be provided in the new building. This, too, is a matter which we shall consider As to simultaneous translation in the Committee Rooms, there is the possibility of being able to hire equipment as and when it is required. The advantage of that system over having fixed equipment is that we could use any of the Committee Rooms. I saw in operation only a few days ago a system of wireless transmitters with a single wire round each Committee Room which would enable these facilities to be provided in any of the Committe Rooms.
§ Mrs. Emmet
That is perfectly true, but has the point been studied whether this apparatus is part of the ordinary equipment of a Committee Room, as a tool of the House at the disposal of any Members who wish to use it, and not to be hired and paid for separately accordingly to its use?
§ Mr. Sharples
That depends upon the purpose for which it is used. If it is used for purposes of the House or of an all-party committee of the House it could legitimately be said to be part of the facilities of the House, but if it is used for a single party meeting or for a political meeting it might be more difficult to justify. [HON. MEMBERS: "Mean."] Every case should be judged upon its merits.
§ Mrs. Emmet
When I suggested that it should be part of the ordinary tools of the House I meant that it should not matter whether it was a party meeting or not. Committee Rooms are not charged for according to whether they are for party meetings or not. This facility would be like a piece of writing paper or an ink pot or a Room.
§ Mr. Sharples
What we have been devoting our minds to is getting the technical side of this right, the means of providing these facilities for the House, to which I think we have now got the answer, but so far as payment for the facilities goes it is for the cases to be put up and decided on their merits.
§ Mr. Sharples
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) spoke of facilities for health. I am informed, although I did not know it, that there is a well-equipped first-aid Room in the House. It is on the Lower Waiting Room Corridor.
I do not think that in the remaining two minutes which I have the House would expect me to go into the very wide constitutional issues which have been raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, West and the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn. All I would say is that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have listened with great attention to all that has been said in this debate. We have had the benefit of hearing, amongst others, ray hon. Friend the Member for South Angus who was Chairman of the Committee which did this most valuable work. I am sure the whole House owes a debt of gratitude to him and to other hon. and right hon. Members who took part in that Advisory Committee. We have also had the benefit of hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) who spoke as Chairman of the Library Committee. I am sure that the House will want to study very carefully indeed the propositions which he put to the House and will want to make recommendations to his Committee if those facilities are required.
We are very grateful indeed for the advice which we have received from hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
Could my hon. Friend say whether he and his right hon. Friend are fully seized of the necessity to provide a room for every Member and not just 280?
§ Mr. Sharples
We are in fact providing for more than 280, although not a room for every Member of the House, for reasons which were considered by the Duncan Committee.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.