HC Deb 28 June 1982 vol 26 cc607-8
34. Mr. Stoddart

asked the Lord President of the Council how many hon. Members have office accommodation in single rooms.

Mr. Biffen

The number of Members who have office accommodation in single rooms is 247.

Mr. Stoddart

Does that not betray a very unsatisfactory situation? If the House were subject to the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, might not the Leader of the House and Mr. Speaker be liable for prosecution in the courts? Will he urgently review arrangements for office accommodation, bring forward the Casson report, and not allow private enterprise to be a drag on its implementation.

Mr. Biffen

The number of single rooms available in the House has increased from 89 in 1971 to 247 in 1982.

I cannot think that that shows that the authorities have been sluggish in trying to improve accommodation for hon. Members. I do not regard it as axiomatic that it is in the interests of Parliament that every hon. Member should have his own battery cage.

Sir David Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the Middle Ages the ecclesiastical tradition in the House was Benedictine rather than Carthusian and that it would be greatly deplored if we all lived as single monks in our own cells?

Mr. Biffen

As someone who had many happy parliamentary years at a desk in Cloister Court, I say "Amen" to that.

Mr. Hooley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while hon. Members' accommodation is unsatisfactory, the accommodation for their staff is atrocious? Will he adopt a more constructive and positive attitude towards that problem than he appears to be taking?

Mr. Biffen

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but it must be clearly understood that the improvements that he has in mind would cost a considerable amount. It is by no means clear that the entire Chamber agrees with him about the importance of hon. Members, their research assistants and secretaries having individual rooms.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

How are those 247 golden people chosen? Are they chosen on the basis of Buggins' turn or from among those who have been particularly good in obeying their Whips, whether in Government or in Opposition?

Mr. Biffen

They are chosen by the Whips. I leave the process by which they are chosen to my hon. Friend's imagination.

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