HC Deb 10 March 1980 vol 980 cc920-1
35. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will consider the establishment of a Select Committee to inquire specifically into the allocation and availability of accommodation for hon. Members and others in the Palace of Westminster.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

No, Sir. These matters are already dealt with by the Services Committee and I do not think that it would be helpful to set up a special committee of the kind that the hon. Member proposes.

Mr. Hamilton

Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that there has not been an updated investigation of this matter since that carried out by Dick Stokes in the early 1950s? Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that the House of Lords has an undue proportion of the accommodation available in the Houses of Parliament and that that must be put right? The accommodation problem of hon. Members is quite intolerable and getting steadily worse.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Palace of Westminster houses a hi-cameral legislature. We must accept that fact. I am afraid that the only long-term and satisfactory solution to the problems of accommodation of hon. Members is to have a new building. However, in the present financial circumstances I am afraid that we are unlikely to make rapid progress in that direction.

Mr. Dykes

Is my right hon. Friend able to say what is the latest position on the proposal to give proper, limited and sensible access to European Members? This saga is already beginning to make "The Mousetrap" look like a short run.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

This matter has been considered by the Services Committee which will publish its report on Thursday.

Mr. Sheerman

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider making a tour of inspection of hon. Members' accommodation in the Palace to inform himself of the deplorable condition in which his colleagues have to work? Perhaps some of his colleagues on the Government Front Bench do not work in such conditions and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does not realise quite how bad things are.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I did that when I was first appointed Leader of the House. Long before I was appointed to that exalted position I was a Back Bencher and experienced at first hand the difficulties now being experienced by other hon. Members.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Since the Leader of the House has turned down the idea of a Select Committee inquiry and my idea of having an independent, external inquiry by a company outside the House of Commons, what is he planning to do to resolve our difficulties? Does he understand that when the Division Bell rings, hon. Members from both sides sometimes have to sprint to the House to vote? Is that fair?

Mr. Alan Clark

It will do the hon. Member good.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not know whether it is fair but certainly it is not desirable. I do not believe that we shall make progress by conducting more inquiries into a situation the basic details of which are well known.

Mr. William Hamilton

Take the accommodation from along the Corridor.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No. This is a bicameral legislature. Members of the other place have their rights and we must respect them. The question of individual hon. Members' accommodation is dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Stradling Thomas) and the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison). My experience is that they do their best to help hon. Members in all possible ways. I congratulate them on their work.

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