§ 30. Mr. Dormand
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the progress being made in providing additional office accommodation for hon. Members.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
In accordance with the design brief given to the architects in the Services Committee's third report of 1983–84, the design team has developed preliminary sketch plans for phase 1 of the new parliamentary building. These plans are now under consideration by the Services Committee's New Building Sub-Committee.
§ Mr. Dormand
Does the Leader of the House realise that the aspect of the matter that still puzzles most hon. Members is the time that it will take before the new offices are occupied? In those circumstances, will he give assurances that he will ignore the strident voices of some of his hon. Friends who want the development to be cancelled, and that there will be no reduction in the moneys already allocated for the work? What progress is being made in transferring staff from the Palace so that their accommodation can be made available to hon. Members?
§ Mr. Biffen
I do not belive that there is any likelihood of this project being cancelled. I shall see what can be done to ensure that the execution of the work proceeds according to the budgeted time scales and with the appropriate finance. To date, it is up with the forecast. As for the movement of staff from the Palace so that more places are made available for hon. Members, those numbers have already been given. I shall look into exactly what changes have taken place to date.
§ Mr. Biffen
That interesting and perceptive question goes somewhat wider than the question of the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand). I should have thought that the good-natured response to it shows that it is a matter of some delicacy.
§ Mr. Meadowcroft
Has the right hon. Gentleman ever investigated the possibility of providing some distance away from the House extra accommodation for research assistants? Although this is not an ideal solution, if the right hon. Gentleman has not carried out such an investigation, will he please do so?
§ Mr. Biffen
The Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) is looking at the main proposition that it would be appropriate that the Palace should be, as it were, repossessed by hon. Members, but if that were to take place I hope that hon. Members would not then complain that they were some distance away from their beloved research assistants.