HL Deb 06 July 1983 vol 443 cc562-4

2.47 p.m.

Baroness Sharpies

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

The Question was as follows:

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

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am pleased to report that the restoration of the ceiling of this Chamber has continued to progress well in the past year.

The contract to install the new carpentry and joinery is nearing completion. A sample bay has been decorated in order to determine the correct degree of toning necessary for the final work. The majority of the original painted panels and timber carvings have already been successfully restored and repaired. Tenders for the contract to refix them, and to decorate the entire ceiling, have just been received. Work on the final stage of the restoration will therefore begin in the Summer Recess, and should be completed as planned by October 1984.

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Can he say how many people have been doing this work, which I understand, and indeed have seen for myself, is extremely skilled? Will he also say whether fibre glass has been used for any of the repair work?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, to answer the second of my noble friend's supplementary questions first, no fibre glass has been used in the restoration work, nor in any other part of the repairs to the ceiling, which have been carried out almost entirely with original materials, with the exception of some stainless steel hanging brackets. because of course it is a hanging ceiling. As to the number of staff, I am afraid that I cannot tell my noble friend, especially as a lot of the work has been carried out outside the building.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, as we fear a repetition of what happened several years ago, I venture to declare my interest in the matter?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, although he was not in his place when the original accident occurred, is of course very well known and very well appreciated. I note that his hundredth birthday comes up at roughly the same time as when it should be possible to reveal the ceiling in its full glory.

Lord Lee of Newton

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that many of us will be happy about the reply he has been able to give to the noble Baroness? Is he also aware that we are very happy about the huge amount of work that is now being done in the Palace. Would it be possible for us to have photographs and replicas of some sort, especially of the clock tower, while the scaffolding is still in place?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, a complete record is being kept as has been seen in the recent exhibition on the work on the ceiling. I also understand that paintings are being carried out as appropriate from time to time by Lady Henderson.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, can my noble friend tell me whether glue will still be the main ingredient stopping these heavenly bodies from falling on noble Lords like the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in future, or is some more scientific method now being used?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the bosses are not yet refixed into place but it is considered appropriate that they should be bolted into place so that no such recurrence takes place.

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, will it be necessary for other parts of the Chamber to be painted because of the possible difference in colour when the ceiling is in place?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, no decision has been taken on that, but I agree with my noble friend that it may well be appropriate to retone certain parts of the Chamber because otherwise the new ceiling will outshine the rest of this beautiful part of the building.