HL Deb 25 October 1993 vol 549 cc709-10

2.57 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will now take steps to improve the health and safety at work of all who work in the Palace of Westminster, and unambiguously apply the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to the Palace and its outbuildings.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Employment (Lord Henley)

My Lords, it is the policy of authorities in both Houses of Parliament to comply fully with the provisions of the 1974 Act, as if they were binding on them in the same way as on the Crown. As my noble friend Lord Ullswater made clear in March, Her Majesty's Government hope to extend its scope to the Palace of Westminster at the first suitable opportunity.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, when will that be? As the Minister said, I was assured on 30th March that the Palace authorities had agreed in principle to the extension. We have been waiting some time for that agreement to be put into effect? When can we expect the extension to take effect?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I can give the noble Baroness no advice other than that it will be at the first suitable opportunity. It has been agreed to by this House; it still has not been finally and formally agreed to by another place. Obviously, we have to have the formal agreement of another place before we can go ahead.

Lord Monson

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that in contrast with most other establishments where people finish work between 5 and 6 o'clock in the evening, most of the staff of the Palace of Westminster, most honourable Members in another place, and most of your Lordships more often than not work until midnight or even later? From the point of view of health and safety, is it right that there should be no nursing sister on duty in the Palace of Westminster after 6 p.m.?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I appreciate that we sometimes work hours somewhat later than other places of work. As I said, we try to comply with the provisions of the health and safety legislation so far as possible.

There is a nursing sister on duty until 6 o'clock each working day, as the noble Lord states. As to later hours, I can only say that I shall pass on the remarks that the noble Lord has made to the appropriate authorities.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, does the Minister agree that Members of another place have far better medical facilities than Members of your Lordships' House? Many noble Lords travel long distances from all parts of the country to attend here. Should there not be facilities for medical checks to guard, for instance, against the possibility of strokes?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I should not like to comment on whether the facilities in another place are superior to those in our own House. I am satisfied that what we are doing in this House is satisfactory as regards the health and safety at work legislation. What the noble Baroness asks goes somewhat beyond that. Again, I shall pass on the remarks she has made to the appropriate authorities.