HC Deb 17 November 1986 vol 105 cc305-6
39. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will bring forward proposals for the modernisation of the annunciator system in the House of Commons; and if he will make a statement.

The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

The Property Services Agency is in the process of commissioning a study of the existing cabling in the Palace of Westminster. This will assess the likely future cost and reliability of the annunciator system. The results of the study should be available to the Services Committee by about Easter next year.

Mr. Bruinvels

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. However, does he not agree that Easter 1987 is a long way off and that the annunciator system in question is in urgent need of modernisation? The system needs to be brought into the computer age, so that it has the ability to update. That will prevent hon. Members such as myself being caught out if we happen to be in the Library, for example. On one occasion certain amendments to the Education Bill were moving faster than the annunciator system, with the result that the annunciator was running eight minutes behind my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Mr. Biffen

I recollect the robust view taken by my hon. Friend on the replacement of Members' telephones and its relevance to public expenditure. I know that he will wish the same standards broadly to be applied to annunciators. However, the difficulty that he encountered could be considered as part of the survey.

Mr. Wigley

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the people doing the survey will consider the possibility of making a sound track from the Chamber available, through the annunciators, to Members' rooms, to increase our efficiency?

Mr. Biffen

I am not clear whether that is in the terms of reference, but I shall draw the agency's attention to the suggestion, which I know the hon. Gentleman, with his customary fairness, will agree was not universally approved.