HL Deb 07 July 1982 vol 432 cc767-8
Baroness Sharples

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made on the repairs to the ceiling of the Chamber of this House.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am pleased to report that the restoration of the ceiling of this Chamber is progressing well and should be completed as planned, by October 1984. The main contract for the supply and fixing of new joinery and structural carpentry was let in January at a price of £577,544. The contract for the restoration of the painted ceiling panels was let in March for £91,870. This work should be completed by August 1983. The fixing of the panels and carved wood should then take about a further year and the restored ceiling should be revealed to view in October 1984. The overall cost of the restoration should remain well within the original estimate of £3 million, thanks to competitive tendering.

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that extremely comprehensive reply. Is my noble friend aware that I went up to the ceiling last week and that I also went to see where the work was being done in Regency Street? Will my noble friend please congratulate those who are working at the moment on the preliminary work, which is extremely sophisticated and interesting? Can my noble friend please confirm that the timber to be used for the joists—Scots pine—will be coming from the estate of the noble Earl, Lord Cawdor, and that the trees were actually planted in the reign of George III?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her congratulations, which I shall of course pass on. It is always a great feeling for me when sitting on the Front Bench to think that she might be crawling about the timbers above my head. I can confirm that timber similar to that used in the original ceiling will be employed and that Scots pine from the estate of the noble Earl, Lord Cawdor, will be used for the carpentry and yellow pine from Canada for the joinery. I am not quite sure of the antecedents of the pines otherwise.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, did the timbers come from that source before or after we lost our American colonies?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, if I am to be diplomatic, I should say that they were conceived before and grew up after.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I seem to recall on a previous occasion when this matter came before the House that I asked a question about other ceilings within the House itself. I do not know whether the noble Earl can tell us whether a survey has been conducted and, if so, the results?

The Earl of Avon

Yes, my Lords, a survey of the ceiling in the Peers' Lobby has been completed and the report has been evaluated by the department. The condition of the ceiling is poor and, subject to the agreement of the Administrative Committee, a protective scaffold and platform will be erected during the Summer Recess. In view of this discovery it is also being considered prudent to survey the other decorative ceilings in the House of Lords during the Summer Recess.

Lord Margadale

My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend whether thought has been given to the fact that some people think that, with the lower roof, the acoustics in this Chamber are better than with the higher roof heretofore?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I shall certainly bring that particular point to the attention of my right honourable friend. I am not quite sure whether it will be possible at this stage to make any lowering in order to help the acoustics.

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