HL Deb 03 August 1906 vol 162 cc1575-8

Debate on the Motion, "That the Third Report from the Select Committee be received" resumed (according to Order).


In deference to the wishes of noble Lords opposite I beg to withdraw my previous Motion and to move that the consideration of paragraph 4, which deals with the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, be adjourned and that the House do agree to the rest of the Report.


I think it is an unfortunate arrangement that the meeting of the Select Committee on this question should have been put off till the last day but one of the present sittings, and that then the hour of the meeting of the Committee should have been changed on what I am bound to say was insufficient notice. There is no reason that I know of why the great proportion of this Report should not have been settled a fortnight ago. The real matter of importance before us at the moment, now that the other Question has been postponed, is the proposed surrender of certain rooms to the House of Commons. It is said in the Report that in return for the carrying out of this arrangement the Office of Works are to make structural alterations for the convenience of the House of Lords. As a matter of fact, this House is getting nothing which it does not possess except that the Office of Works has been graciously pleased to provide access to certain rooms which belong to us, but into which we have not been able to get. I believe those rooms are extremely high up; I understand they are on the second floor of this building. My point is that we are giving up a great deal too much of the accommodation which belongs to this House. Earlier in the session we gave up a very important room on the floor on which we are-now sitting. This is the second time in one session that we are asked to give up accommodation for which we get nothing: in return. This has happened in previous years, and I enter my emphatic protest against this continual surrender of the accommodation of your Lordships' House.


I would appeal to the noble Lord not to press; his opposition to this particular proposal. I think there is some excuse for his complaint with regard to the change in the hour of the meeting of the Committee, but there was also an unexpected change in the hour on which the House met, and it was only possible for the members of the Committee to be informed of the change at short notice. The rooms which are proposed to be given over to the House of Commons are three little rooms which face on to the Terrace. They are little more than cellars and are used for the storing of papers and books. These rooms, however, would be very convenient to Members of the House of Commons became they are close to the kitchen, and the proposal is to throw them into one so as to make another dining-room. It would also be a great convenience to the other House to have that extra accommodation in the autumn. There is a greater demand for dining accommodation now than formerly, and the surrender of the rooms in question will be no loss to us.

I now come to the rooms to which we are to get access. They are in a part of the House which the librarian used, to have. The librarian now has his own sitting-room on the same floor as the library, and this House will now come into possession of the rooms above in that particular House. There are three rooms which will be at the disposal of the messengers who will be displaced by this surrender to the House of Commons, and at the same time access will be given to four or five rooms above, into which it has been impossible up to now to get. I agree that we are not getting anything back from the House of Commons, but we are securing further accommodation for this House, and what we are giving up is not much use to us. The First Commissioner of Works is very anxious to be able to begin the structural alterations at once, so that the rooms may be ready by the time the House meets again in October. I hope therefore, your Lordships will agree to the Report in part as moved.


I might explain that the reason the meeting of the Committee was postponed till so late a period, was that I was trying to ascertain whether it would not be possible to get from the House of Commons some rooms in exchange for those we were giving up. The point was that there was nothing the House of Commons had which this House really required, and I therefore did not feel justified in insisting on the giving up of rooms which the House of Commons could ill afford to spare, and which this House really did not want. I thought the best thing in the interests of your Lordships was to get access to the large airy rooms upstairs which have been referred to.


I object to the claim that for this surrender we are getting anything in return. The Office of Works are merely doing something which ought to have been done ten years ago.


I think, after the appeal of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees, your Lordships would do well to agree to the proposal and offer no further opposition to the surrender of these rooms. But the moral of this conversation is that we really should insist upon being consulted in rather better time whenever encroachments of this kind—and I hope there will not be many more—are in contemplation. Of late years we have surrendered bit by bit very valuable accommodation, and I hope this is the last time a matter of this importance will be thrown at our heads without notice.

In Question, Report in part agreed to, and to be further considered on Tuesday, the 23rd of October.