HC Deb 31 January 1983 vol 36 cc16-8
30. Mr. Dormand

asked the Lord President of the Council whether it is his intention, in the arrangements presently being undertaken to increase accommodation for hon. Members, to provide a separate office for each hon. Member.

Mr. Biffen

Services Committee deliberations are still proceeding on how best to put to parliamentary use the accommodation in phase I of the redevelopment of the Bridge street site.

Mr. Dormand

Is it not scandalous that we should have to ask for such a basic requirement as an office for each hon. Member? Will the Leader of the House, in spite of what he has just said, do something now, before it is too late, to ensure that it is the aim of the operation now being considered to have an office for each hon. Member? Will he also, as a matter of urgency, consider the present position with single rooms in the Palace? Is he aware that very few hon. Members, and perhaps no Back Benchers, have a single room in the Palace? Is it not of considerable value for hon Members to be as close to the Chamber as possible?

Mr. Biffen

For fairness and accuracy, I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that, even if phase I of the Bridge street site were to be implemented, not every hon. Member would have a single room, even if that were generally thought to be desirable. I make no assumptions on what might be the judgment of the House on these matters, but I will draw the attention of the Services Committee to the hon. Gentleman's point about a further investigation of the accommodation that is available to see whether it might be more effectively utilised.

Mr. Dickens

Does my right hon. Friend agree that when a constituent contacts his Member of Parliament the very least he can expect is confidentiality? Whether it be other Members of Parliament, or their secretaries, research assistants or, indeed, their visitors, does he agree also that when one is telephoning about sensitive material on behalf of a constituent, that constituent should expect confidentiality, which he does not get at present when we are sharing offices?

Mr. Biffen

I am sorry if my hon. Friend has real difficulty in securing the degree of confidentiality that he would wish, given the present accommodation of the House of Commons. I have to say—I hope that my hon. Friend does not take this in any hostile sense—that most hon. Members who have similar problems none the less manage to overcome them.

Mr. Maxton

Is not an enormous amount of space within this building used by the other place, and if we abolish it, would we not have enough office accommoda-tion for all of us?

Mr. Biffen

This matter was raised only a few weeks ago when I was required to answer questions on this issue. I do not think that I can do any better than refer to the rather dusty answer that I gave to the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan).

Mr. Greenway

Has my right hon. Friend heard the cacophany of sound when three or four hon. Members are using the telephones at the same time in one office, or dictating letters to their secretaries, or a combination of these things? Does he agree that something muse be done to make facilities more suitable for each hon. Member?

Mr. Biffen

I know that this point is argued in all parts of the House. It is for that reason that the House will fairly soon have the opportunity to debate the proposals For phase I of the Bridge street site, when these considerations can be weighed and judged.

Mr. Dalyell

Should not a room be found in the House of Lords for Admiral of the Fleet Lord Lewin, where he can discuss classified information in a way that only a Minister can do? How is it that he can discuss matters which the House of Commons is told—

Mr. Speaker

Order. With every respect, that is going too far. I was willing to see how far the hon. Gentleman wanted to go.