HL Deb 17 February 1972 vol 328 cc332-5

4.13 p.m.

Consideration of Second Report resumed.


My Lords, may I add a word, on a slightly lower temperature, about the proposed extensions to your Lordships' Dining Room. The proposal is to add about 50 per cent. to the accommodation of the Dining Room by taking in the existing Law Lords' rooms on the Law Lords' Corridor which now abuts on the end of our Dining Room. This will form an L-shaped dining room at the North end of the Dining Room, and that in the future will become the Peers' Guests' Dining Room. That will give us accommodation for Peers' Guests amounting to about 112, compared with the existing number of about 70; in other words, an increase of 42. Peers dining singly will move across from our present room into what is now the Peers' Guests' Room, and that will give us an increase in accommodation from approximately 62, which we have at present, to 88 the other side; in other words, an additional 26. Our calculations show that this addition to the Peers' Guests' Dining Room should make it possible for Peers to book tables, and indeed obtain tables, for luncheon engagements without having a second sitting which is so inconvenient at the present time.

This Report, as noble Lords will have seen, gives (in paragraph 6 on page 4) some details of the timetable of these changes. This indicates that the work will start at the end of the summer. We shall then lose the end table in the single Peer's Dining Room—that is the Law Lords' table; a screen will be built across there when the work commences. The outside wall of the Law Lords' rooms has to be cantilevered out about 8 feet in order to widen that section sufficiently for the extension of the Dining Room, and the whole of that work with the building overhead will take some 12 to 18 months. We can then expect to have the completed, extended Dining Room available for our use by the autumn of next year—by the beginning of November.

The second point which we were asked to consider was the possibility of having one night a week when dinner would be provided. This the Refreshment Department has not done as a formality. In fact, of course, over the summer months dinner was provided very much more often than on one night a week. Our practice, which seems to have worked out reasonably well in practice, has been to lay on dinner whenever it seemed that attendance here was going to be heavy enough to justify it, rather than make it a formality of a fixed night, when it might not be to the convenience of Peers to attend. May I, my Lords, in concluding my brief comment on these proposed additions, pay a short tribute to Black Rod and his officials, who have a tremendous amount of work to do with all these changes, and to the Architect of the Palace of Westminster, Mr. Pearce, who has gone to endless trouble to ensure that these additions are going to be substantially in the same character and decor as we now have, which we all value so much.


My Lords, I rise only to express appreciation not only on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House but also I think on behalf of noble Lords from all quarters, of the introduction which the noble Earl, the Chairman of Committees, has given to the Report of the Offices Committee; and the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, as Chairman of the Sub-Committee for the Refreshment Department. We are all very conscious of the great difficulties the Committee as a whole and the Sub-Committee are experiencing in meeting the increasing needs and demands of Members of this House, and of the limitations that clearly exist. It is extraordinary to realise the amount of work that is in progress, and when completed it will make a very considerable difference to the general running of our affairs and the amenity of Members.

I should like, with other noble Lords, to express our appreciation to Black Rod and to all his staff, and, if I may say so at this rather difficult time (I think also of the last Session, although we have paid our compliments in that connection), to Miss Wilson, the Manageress of the Refreshment Department, and to all those wonderful girls who run a bar just along the corridor and in other places. We are very much indebted to them, and I hope that we shall see this great work brought to fruition in a very short time.


My Lords, may I just tiptoe for a second into the discussion to say that I should very much like to associate myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has just said? The House as a whole is very greatly indebted to all those who are helping to improve our accommodation and facilities, in the rather restricted Victorian context in which we find ourselves: to the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees; to my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, the Chairman of the Refreshment Department Sub-Committee; to Black Rod and his staff; to Miss Wilson and Ann and the rest of them; and also, if I may say so, to the people who have actually been dealing with the alterations. They have carried out the work with a minimum of interference and with very great consideration for us.


My Lords, may I ask a question and make a short comment? First of all, I would add my own congratulations to the Committee for their helpful and valuable Report. I suppose it is too much to hope that a large notice which says "No Smoking" will be placed in a prominent position in the new Smoking Room.




In making this suggestion, my Lords, I realise that I am speaking now for more than a half of the adult population, who are non-smokers of cigarettes. Be that as it may, I appreciate the fact that a room called a Smoking Room has for many years—perhaps hundreds of years; I do not know—been a very valued amenity in another place. Nevertheless, at a time when our Department of Health and Social Security is urging more accommodation for non-smokers in public places, in railway trains and transport generally, and when our Health and Education Council has a non-smoking campaign as one of its first priorities, I would ask the Committee to endeavour to find some slightly different name. We have tried to follow the customs of another place when we thought they were good ones. I believe that to have a room of this kind is a good thing. I do not seriously hope that it will be labelled a "Non-Smoking" Room, but I wonder whether we might be able to find a different name for it.


My Lords, I should like to make a protest against the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Platt. In my view, the smoking campaign has been carried to far too great lengths. To have a smoking room is an old historic tradition in this country and it should be sustained in this House. Those who like to smoke should be entitled to smoke themselves to death in this House if they wish to do so.


My Lords, as a non-smoker myself I will not take part in this argument between the noble Lord, Lord Platt, and the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. I should like to thank all noble Lords who have spoken for their very kind words, which will give considerable encouragement to the Offices Committee, to all its sub-committees and to all the staff of the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.