HL Deb 17 February 1972 vol 328 cc318-24

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Second Report from the Select Committee be now considered.

Moved, That the Report be now considered.—(The Earl of Listowel.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

The Committee's Report was as follows:


The Committee have considered a memorandum by the Chairman of Committees on Accommodation and Amenities with, a recommendation from the Administration Committee that its contents should be reported by the Committee for the information of the House. The Committee consider that it would be useful to the House to summarise the present position regarding the provision of additional accommodation by new building and other steps which it is proposed to take to provide improved accommodation and amenities.

(1) New Building

There are two new building projects now in hand:—

  1. (i) the State Officers' Court Scheme which is due to be completed by the end of the Summer Recess 1972;
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  3. (ii) the Peers' Dining Room Extension Scheme which is due to start in July, 1972 and to be completed by January, 1974.

The effect of these schemes will be as follows:—

  1. (i) The State Officers' Court Scheme will provide new accommodation for the Law Lords, and the new Dining Room Scheme will absorb some, but not all, of the existing offices in the Law Lords' Corridor. The rearrangement of offices in consequence of these two schemes will lead to improvements in accommodation for Government and Opposition Front Bench Peers, Women Peers and Hansard. Some Interview or Dictation Rooms will also become available.
  2. (ii) The Peers' Dining Room Extension Scheme will add one room to the Library (present Committee Room "C"), provide two Committee Rooms, increase the total accommodation in the Peers' Dining Room from 132 to 200 places and add a new Smoking Room, a T.V. Room and a Cinema Projection Room. Further details of the scheme and of the dislocation and disturbance which will arise while the work is in progress are given in paragraph (6) of the Report.

(2) Amenities

The following improvements which will be provided or are under investigation include improved Servery and wine storage for the Dining Room, a self-service Coffee Bar in the new Smoking Room, cinema projectors for the new Committee Rooms, T.V. Annunciators throughout the House, a Bath and Changing Room for Women Peers and the provision of facilities for tape recording in some Committee Rooms. A new automatic telephone system is in the course of installation. The Committee asked the Sub-Committee on the Refreshment Department to consider—

  1. (i) the provision of Cafeteria Service in addition to the self-service Coffee Bar to be provided in the new Smoking Room; and
  2. (ii) the feasibility of providing a smaller Dining Room or Rooms for private parties.

The Committee have referred to the Sub-Committee on Works of Art the choice of furniture for the new offices to be provided as a result of the State Officers' Court Scheme.

(3) Further Building

There are two areas where additional building can be accomplished, based on existing structures:—

  1. (i) an additional floor to the new State Officers' Court Building, which would yield 1.150 sq. ft;
  2. (ii) a further floor above the Dining Room which would yield 3,300 sq. ft.

Neither of these projects could start until the Dining Room Extension Scheme is completed in January, 1974; but to allow further accommodation to come into use in 1975 the Committee have asked the Department of the Environment for sketch drawings with a view to later financial approval.

(4) Royal Gallery

Reference was made in paragraph 49 of the 10th Report of the Procedure Committee to possible use of the Royal Gallery, Queen's Robing Room and King's Room as suitable meeting places for Peers, M.P.s and guests and as Committee Rooms. The Committee confined its consideration to the proposal to use the Royal Gallery and to furnish it appropriately with armchairs, sofas and carpets. The Committee, while recognising that the Lord Great Chamberlain has control of the Royal Gallery on behalf of the Queen have referred the question for further consideration to the Administration Committee with a recommendation that the Lord Great Chamberlain should be invited to discuss with that Committee bearing in mind the importance of preserving the appearance and character of the Royal Gallery:—

  1. (i) the practicability of the proposed new doorway;
  2. (ii) the increased use of the Royal Gallery; and
  3. (iii) if it is agreed that further use should be made of the Royal Gallery, the type of furniture to be provided.

(5) Conclusion

It is hoped that the new Smoking Room and T.V. Rooms, together with an additional room for the Library and an extra Committee Room, as well as the larger Dining Room and provision of the facilities mentioned above will improve present conditions and meet many of the existing inadequacies.

(6) Peers' Dining Room Extension—Effect of Proposed Works

The works necessary to complete the Peers' Dining Room Extension and construction over the Dining Room will lead inevitably to considerable disturbance and inconvenience from the Summer Recess 1972 until completion of the scheme in January, 1974, although every effort will be made to keep disturbance to a minimum. A notice will be circulated to all Peers nearer the time setting out arrangements in detail. Meanwhile the Committee wish to draw to the attention of the House the main areas in which disturbance will arise:—

  1. (1) From August. 1972 until the latter part of October, 1973 a partition will be erected in front of the fireplace at the northern end of the Peer's Dining Room which will prohibit the use of the Law Lords' Table.
  2. (2) During October, 1972 the Cholmondeley Room will be available for luncheon for Law Lords, Peers and Officers of the House and will be available for private parties only in the evening.
  3. (3) From the beginning of the Summer Recess 1972 until April, 1973 the Law Lords Corridor will be sealed off to contain the dust, etc resulting from the extensive works being carried out to enlarge the Dining Room and to build on the floor above it. After April. 1973 until completion of the scheme in January, 1974 a narrow passage through the corridor should become available.

(4) Throughout the progress of the works the Committee Corridor will be to some extent affected.


  1. (i) The Committee took note with approval of a proposal from the Leader of the House that he should appoint a small Group of Peers to report to him personally on the organisation and staffing of the Parliament Office.
  2. (ii) The Committee authorised the appointment of an additional Personal Secretary and an additional Office Assistant for extra work in conection with Select Commitees.


The Committee approved a scale of fees and rates of subsistence and travelling expenses payable to specialist advisers, research assistants and witnesses.


The Committee were informed of the submission of a further Supplementary Estimate for 1971–72 and took note of a revised Estimate for 1972–73.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now agreed to. Perhaps I may say a few words about it. The main object of the Report is to provide the House with the information it required for the debate on accommodation and amenities. Your Lordships will remember that the House expressed the wish to have such a debate when it discussed the Tenth Report of the Procedure Committee last November and that the Offices Committee were asked at that time to provide the House with the necessary information.

I think it may be useful to your Lordships if I draw attention briefly to the passages in the Report which set out what is being done at the present time to improve our accommodation and facilities. These projected improvements proceed from the opinion that we all share that our present accommodation is inadequate because it has not caught up with the substantial increase in our numbers and our longer hours of work. The House will recall that the Working Group set up by the Leader of the House to deal mainly with procedure expressed its views about accommodation and facilities and mentioned a number of complaints and suggestions, which are referred to in the Tenth Report of the Procedure Committee.

I will try to indicate how the Offices Committee in their present Report have endeavoured to deal with the suggestions and complaints as noted by the Working Group. Noble Lords will notice that Paragraph (1) of this Report deals with new building. There are two schemes now in hand: the State Officers' Court scheme, which is intended primarily for the benefit of the Law Lords and which will be completed this year, and the Peers' Dining Room extension scheme, which will increase accommodation in the Dining Room from 132 to 200 places when it is finished at the end of next year. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on the Refreshment Department, may tell the House something more about the plans of his Committee, and I shall leave that aspect of this Report for him to deal with. The new accommodation that will be provided by these two building schemes will go some way, I hope, to meet the complaints mentioned by the Working Group, and I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to go through them in the order in which they are set out in the Working Group's Report.

The first complaint was about lack of accommodation for private meetings. To meet this difficulty four to six interview rooms will be provided in the Law Lords' Corridor, when the Law Lords have moved into their new offices, and these rooms can of course be used for either interviews or dictation. The second complaint was the lack of a smoking room similar to the Smoking Room of which many noble Lords have had long experience in another place. It is proposed that the Dining Room extention will provide on the first floor above the Dining Room a smoking room to some extent equivalent to the Smoking Room in another place. There will be a self-service coffee bar, and the Sub-Committee on the Refreshment Department have been asked to consider the possibility of providing cafeteria services as well.

The third complaint was of a lack of committee rooms where Peers can hold meetings. Here, again, the Dining Room extension will help to meet this need by providing two committee rooms on the first floor. There will be a movable partition between them, so that they can be turned into one large room for showing films or be used for very large meetings, and projectors will be provided for the films. The fourth complaint was that there is no place other than bars to which Peers can take their friends. I must confess that the new accommodation in these two building schemes to which I have referred will not have sufficient space for such guest rooms; but they could be provided for in the further building, mentioned in paragraph (3) of the Report, which would give two additional floors.

I will now turn for a few moments to Paragraph (2) of the Report which deals with amenities. Here I can perhaps amplify a little what has been said in the Report by saying that the provision of television annunciators has been approved in principle by the Offices Committee, subject to cost. The bath and changing room for women Peers at the end of the West Gallery will be completed this year and the new automatic telephone system, also mentioned in this paragraph, will be installed by the end of the Summer Recess. The House will notice that the end of paragraph (3) to which I have already referred indicates the possibility of further building which, if required, could be started in 1975 and would maintain the momentum of the building programme already in hand.

In order to meet the lacq of accommodation to which they have drawn the attention of the House, the Working Group went on to suggest that consideration should be given to a better use of the Royal Gallery, the Queen's Robing Room and the King's Room. The Offices Committee has noted that the King's Room is now used as the office of the Lord Great Chamberlain, who gave up his ground, floor office as a robing room for the Bishops, and that the Queen's Robing Room which, in its present condition, as I am sure your Lordships will agree, is one of the most beautiful rooms in the Palace, is a valued part of the public line of route. The Offices Committee therefore confined its consideration, as set out in paragraph 1(4) of the Report, to the proposal to use the Royal Gallery as a meeting place for Peers and their guests. The vital factor in this proposal is the provision of some alternative means of access to entry to the Royal Gallery through the Prince's Chamber, which should also be in keeping with the appearance and character of the Royal Gallery. The Offices Committee has asked the Administration Sub-Committee to discuss this proposal with the Lord Great Chamberlain, who of course has responsibility for the Gallery, and the House will be informed in due course when the matter has been fully considered by the two Committees.

The two new building schemes will inevitably cause some disturbance and inconvenience, I am afraid, and these disagreeable consequences are set out in some detail in Paragraph (6) of the Report. But of course this inconvenience will be merely temporary. I hope your Lordships will agree that the Offices Committee is fully aware of the defects of our present accommodation and that it has been doing its best, within the limits set by money and by the existing structure and character of the Palace, to improve the conditions under which we live and work. I am sure the House will wish to acknowledge its indebtedness to successive Governments—both the present Government and their predecessors—for their willingness to finance a costly building programme which will give us the largest addition to our accommodation since the war, and will also wish to express its gratitude to the Officers of the House, particularly Black Rod, and also to the Department of the Environment, for their assistance in the planning and carrying out of the necessary work. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Report be agreed to.—(The Earl of Listowel.)