HC Deb 08 December 1980 vol 995 cc618-9
33. Mr. Moate

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, what consideration the Services Committee is currently giving to the provision of extra parliamentary facilities.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Services Committee presented a report to the House last Session, which, if implemented, would enable a considerable extension of facilities to be made in the long term. In view of the present lack of funds for new facilities, the Committee is concentrating on seeing that the existing facilities are used to the best effect.

Mr. Moate

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is virtually no prospect—nor should there be—of funds being made available for the redevelopment of the Bridge Street site? Will he therefore seriously contemplate a new initiative to allow a joint public and private venture approach to the site, particularly one financed by private capital?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am concerned about the inadequate accommodation that undoubtedly exists for hon. Members. It is an interesting suggestion that we could use private capital for that purpose, which I shall pursue. It is constructive and useful.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

With regard to the idea that was put forward by the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate), whether or not we agree with it, is it not the case that we have never debated the Casson report? Before replying to an off-the-cuff idea, would it not be sensible to debate the report on the Floor of the House?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by an early debate on the Casson report, because we know that public money is not available, but I am not against a debate at some stage. My hon. Friend's remark was not an off-the-cuff idea, because he has written to me about it.

Mr. Rost

What does my right hon. Friend intend to do about the unacceptable rising cost of running the Palace of Westminster? How can he, the Government and hon. Members expect the country to follow the example that we are supposed to be setting for restraint in public expenditure, when ours is such a bad example? Is there not much evidence of wastage and inefficiency in the running of the Palace of Westminster that should be cut out?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not agree with my hon. Friend. I think that we get good value for money in this House. The House of Commons Commission, which is responsible for these matters, is constantly looking for ways to make economies, and we shall continue to do so.

Mr. Freeson

Is the Minister aware that we know that he wanted the building to be erected but that he was given instructions from elsewhere that it was not to be built? Will he tell the House the approximate annual cost of erecting that building across the way, on the assumption that it will take about seven years to construct, which is a reasonable amount of time? Will he check with the Treasury as to whether the proposal that he has received this afternoon and in a previous letter would be acceptable by its rules on public expenditure? Will he also tell the House when we may expect to get rid of that slum across the road, which is a disgrace not only to this House but to London?

Mr. Robert Atkins

The right hon. Gentleman must not talk about the Treasury like that.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I was going to say that I did not know to which particular slum the right hon. Gentleman referred. With regard to his question concerning the time of seven years, he will appreciate that I cannot answer that immediately, but I shall write to him with the appropriate figures. We must accept that there is a shortage of money. Some hon. Members would like the accommodation across the road, but others would not. I am most anxious to ensure that hon. Members have adequate facilities, but we have to cut our coat according to the cloth.