HC Deb 18 April 1994 vol 241 cc635-6
34. Mr. Steen

To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, representing the House of Commons Commission, what funding is being made available for the provision of office accommodation for hon. Members.

Mr. Beith

The agreed programme of works for 1994–95 includes £5 million for continued design and other preparatory work for the new phase 2 building.

Mr. Steen

There are more unoccupied bedrooms in the Palace of Westminster estate than there are in the Hilton hotel, Park lane. Of the 66 bedrooms in the Palace, only two thirds have been used in the past five years. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be better for those bedrooms to be converted into offices for hon. Members than to be left as bedrooms exclusively for the use of officials?

Mr. Beith

There are not 66 bedrooms, but 66 beds for the use of staff who are required to work during late sittings. Some of the beds are in dormitories which the hon. Gentleman might find do not compare very favourably with the accommodation in the Hilton hotel. The House has made a number of provisions for offices for hon. Members, including additional accommodation at Millbank, and of course the completion of the accommodation in the new building will ensure that all hon. Members who want a single room can have one.

Mr. Maxton

Is not it becoming clear that however much money this place spends on trying to improve facilities for hon. Members, we can never provide on this site a modern, democratic Parliament? Is not it time that the House of Commons Commission was given the job of examining the viability and cost of building a brand new Parliament outside London altogether?

Mr. Beith

Whatever the attractions of such a proposal, the Commission would certainly not embark upon examining it unless it was directed to do so by the House.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Bearing in mind the fact that there are 19 bars in this establishment, is it really essential to take as another bar the Lady Members' Terrace Room, where lady Members have worked since 1945, from the days of Bessie Braddock?

Mr. Beith

That matter relates to the complex proposals by the Catering Committee which have yet to be debated in the House. I am sure that the hon. Lady will want to put her point when they are.