HC Deb 19 December 1994 vol 251 cc1391-2
37. Mr. Steen

To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, representing the House of Commons Commission, if he will list the staffing levels in (a) security, (b) health and safety and (c) works in each of the last three years.

Mr. Beith

The figures for staffing levels for the three years 1991–92, 1992–93 and 1993–94 requested by the hon. Gentleman are as follows: security staff 421, 415 and 407 respectively; health and safety two, two and two and the works directorate 184, 181 and 103. In addition, there are a number of other staff whose duties involve aspects of security or health and safety.

Mr. Steen

Is it not true that there are now three buzz words—safety, security and hygiene? If one mentions any of those words in the Palace of Westminster, the people with the public purse get glazed eyes, reach for their wallet and are immediately prepared to shell out whatever money is asked for under those three heads. Should we look into the working practices in the Palace of Westminster and consider bringing in one of the better management consultant firms to examine whether this place is overmanned, whether there are too many people in security and administration and whether we could save money in the Palace of Westminster to show that we set standards in this place which others can follow?

Mr. Beith

Whenever accidents occur in any of the three sectors to which the hon. Gentleman refers, the form of questioning to which those who are responsible in any organisation are subjected is quite different from the question that the hon. Gentleman has asked today. The House of Commons Commission, as an employer, must have regard to the safety of its employees in all those respects. However, at the same time, it seeks to pursue cost-effectiveness, and the staff inspector's work assisted in that. Where appropriate, it takes outside advice.