HC Deb 03 August 1966 vol 733 cc462-4
36. Mr. John Wells

asked the Lord President of the Council how many rooms in the Palace of Westminster and adjacent buildings under the control of the House of Commons are occupied by Labour party officials; what is the total area of floor space so used; and if he will arrange to offer it to Members of Parliament.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

Three, occupying 780 sq. ft. The allocation of accommodation to the Parliamentary Labour Party, which is of long standing, was recognised by the Stokes Committee in 1953 and I know of no reason why it should now be reviewed.

Mr. Wells

Is the Lord President aware that the British taxpayer will be extremely angry to hear that these arrogant party hacks employed by the party opposite are occupying this large amount of space which might well be offered to hon. Members who have to put up with very mediocre working conditions, and, furthermore, what may well have been acceptable to the Stokes Committee nearly 20 years ago is no longer acceptable to the country today?

Mr. Bowden

I am aware that since 1906 the Parliamentary Labour Party has had some accommodation in the Palace of Westminster. I am also aware that there are at present three officers of the Conservative Party who, I am sure, are not arrogant party hacks, who occupy accommodation in the building.

37. Mr. Baker

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will take steps to have instituted a regular, approximately half-hourly, messenger service between the Letter Board and outlying Members' secretaries' offices, such as 7 Old Palace Yard, from 10.30 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Mr. Bowden

It would not be possible to institute such a service without an increase of staff.

Mr. Baker

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why the staff cannot be increased?

Mr. Bowden

This position is met as well as possible. I understand that the doorkeepers on the Letter Board already telephone outlying accommodation whenever there are urgent letters, telephone messages, etc., and it seems quite unnecessary to duplicate this work.

38. Mr. Whitaker

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will ask the Services Committee to review all instances of sexual discrimination in those parts of the Palace of Westminster under the control of the House of Commons.

Mr. Bowden

I will gladly ask the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) to look at any instances if the hon. Gentleman can show that Members of either sex are incommoded by the present arrangements.

Mr. Whitaker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was one unfortunate example only last week when the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy was segregated from his secretary—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Chair wants to hear this.

Mr. Whitaker

—separated from his interpreter simply on the ground that she was a woman, so that he was unable to understand the economic debate that was taking place?

Mr. Bowden

I am not quite sure whether that is an advantage or a disadvantage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The position is that the Distinguished Strangers' Gallery is restricted to men, and ladies are not admitted to it.

Hon. Members