HL Deb 16 January 1997 vol 577 cc274-5

3.17 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked the Chairman of Committees:

Whether he is satisfied with the standards of maintenance of the equipment of the House, and why the elevators fail so frequently.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords, I am satisfied that the standard of maintenance of the equipment in the House is very good and that ways to improve upon that still further are being sought constantly. The lifts on the parliamentary estate are maintained regularly by a contractor who has men here all the time the House is sitting; and there is a continuing programme to renew lift machinery as it reaches the end of its working life. Lift breakdowns are monitored, and the level of reliability is very high.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for that Answer. But in the light of it can he explain why the lifts, and particularly the lift to the second floor office, continually suffer failures and breakdowns? Is my noble friend aware of the great inconvenience to a good many noble Lords which results from those failures?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I hope that I can give the noble Lord reassurance. There has been difficulty with the lift that he uses frequently, Lift No. 95. The machinery of that lift was entirely replaced during the last Summer Recess. I am told that, paradoxically—that is, paradoxically to one who, like me, is a layman in matters of engineering—when complex new machinery is installed, it often takes a little time for it to settle down. Here is the first piece of reassurance: that is the reason why the installers of the machinery give your Lordships' House a 12-month guarantee during that first period so that they can be on hand. But I am aware that there has been trouble with that lift, and I am very sorry about it. I can well understand the inconvenience and frustration that the noble Lord must have suffered. For example, between 16th and 24th October—which was a particularly awkward period because it included State Opening—there were four breakdowns. All went reasonably well until the middle of December. On the 12th of that month there was a further breakdown. Subject to anything that may have happened in the past few minutes, I am happy to say that since then all has been well, and I hope that that will remain the case.

Lord Boardman

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that if in future someone is stuck in that lift, as I was last year, he should not find both the emergency telephone disconnected and the alarm bell switched off on the grounds that they might otherwise create a disturbance outside the lift?

chairman of committees

My Lords, if had known about it I would have come to the aid of my noble friend. I will have the matter looked into. I hope that it will not recur.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

My Lords, can the noble Lord assure the House that the annunciators have been checked, and will continue to be checked, given that the one in the Queen's Room came crashing down last month uncomfortably close to where I happened to be? Another foot or two and I should not have been asking this question.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, with the rest of your Lordships, I am very relieved that the noble Lord is able to ask his question. I will have the matter looked into. It is too late to do anything about that particular incident now, for obvious reasons. But the Parliamentary Works Department has been doing all it can to improve the general service through annunciators. Although inevitably there are difficulties from time to time, I believe that the Parliamentary Works Department, its director, Mr. Henry Webber, and his staff do an absolutely splendid job of work for us.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, considering the very slow movement of the lift which is labelled "Express", does my noble friend agree that it dates from the time when a motor car had to be preceded by someone carrying a red flag?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I am not sure what one would do with a red flag or light in a lift. My engineering perspicacity does not go as far as to be able to conjecture whether one would stand on top of it while it was moving upwards. However, that lift too is perhaps a matter that should be looked into.