HL Deb 16 June 1999 vol 602 cc286-8

3.07 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Second Report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 65).—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:

1. Record Copies of Acts The Committee recommends that the record copies of Acts of Parliament, kept in the House of Lords Record Office, should be printed on archival paper instead of vellum, with effect from the first Act of the year 2000. With the agreement of the Master of the Rolls and the Keeper of the Public Records, the production of the second record copy of each Act for the Public Record Office should cease. When the Parliament Rolls of Acts of Parliament were discontinued in 1849, it was resolved by both Houses that two copies of every Act, whether Public or Private, should be printed in vellum, one to be stored in the Record Tower (now the House of Lords Record Office) and the other with the Master of the Rolls (now the Public Record Office). The former copy is authenticated by the Clerk of the Parliaments as the official authority for the published text of an Act. In 1956 vellum was replaced by archival paper for Private Acts. The increasing scarcity and expense of vellum and the printing restraints which it imposes have now led to the proposal that Public Acts should be similarly treated. On the advice of conservation experts at the British Library, archival paper has been identified with a proven life expectancy of 250 years and a probable life expectancy exceeding 500 years in good archival conditions. It is superior to vellum for print quality, is less bulky, and avoids the use of animal products. The value of the potential saving is about £30,000 a year. Resolutions of both Houses would be needed to give effect to this recommendation. The Committee has been informed that a comparable recommendation is being made by the Administration Committee of the House of Commons.

2. Smoking in the House of Lords Following the Report of the Informal Group on Smoking (copies of which are available in the Printed Paper Office and the Library of the House), the Committee makes the following recommendations:

  1. (i) Smoking should be banned in lavatories and telephone kiosks;
  2. (ii) Smoking should be banned in Committee rooms, unless, at a private meeting of a Committee, that Committee specifically gives permission at the time.

3. Lords Reimbursement Allowances The Committee was informed that from 1st April 1999 the motor mileage allowance had been increased by 1.1 pence to 51.2 pence for the first 20,000 miles for the period to 31st March 2000 Further mileage in this period would be payable at a rate of 23.6 pence per mile. The Committee was further informed that from 1st April 1999 the bicycle allowance had been increased by 0.1 pence to 6.5 pence per mile.

4. House of Lords Families Room The Committee welcomes the provision of a room for the use of immediate family members of Peers. The Room is not intended to be used as a work or meeting room. It is to be a no smoking area.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, perhaps I may briefly return to the theme I have pressed before; that is that there is not enough information in these reports to encourage us to make decisions about passing them on. Your Lordships may recall that I have raised in the past the question of lack of information about the car park and the £2.5 million. I shall not embarrass the House by detailing the quite spontaneous public support I had from all quarters in correspondence and calls about this matter. Indeed, I believe I showed great restraint. A number of messages were given to me to pass on to the House authorities and I felt that they would be much better without them. We do not receive enough information.

Previously we discussed the Offices Report on 17th December. That was simply the membership of the various sub-committees. May 25th is the latest report and there is not a great deal in it. However, when I look at the minutes of the meeting, which is the substance of the report, I find that the first item is: Report from the Administration Works Sub-Committee enclosed". It says that the sub-committee approved the three-year programme of works for the period beginning April 2000. It does not say what happened to the report; what the committee did with it and what it was told about it. But there must be an enormous amount of money involved in this. We can see the work going on all the time. But because it is a rolling programme it is difficult at any stage to see where we are going. We are being asked to approve matters time after time without proper detail. When trouble arises and extravagance is exposed, we are told that the House approved it on a specific date. It is not fair to the House and I shall be grateful for the Lord Chairman's comments.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I shall certainly bear in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, said. One of the considerations when putting forward a report from the Offices Committee is not to burden your Lordships unduly with a great deal of material and to concentrate on the essential matters. In any event, it is open to noble Lords in all parts of your Lordships' House to raise matters in other ways quite apart from when we discuss reports from committees.

The issue of car parks does not arise in this report and therefore does not fall to be considered on this occasion. The works programme is of course thoroughly considered in your Lordships' committees, but I must remind your Lordships that it was as a result of the Ibbs review some years ago that specific responsibility for executive action in relation to financial matters was placed on the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee of the Offices Committee. That needs to be borne in mind.

In conclusion, bearing in mind the need for reasonable brevity so as not to overburden your Lordships' House, I will certainly take into account what the noble Lord said and if it seems appropriate to add one or two matters, I shall invite the committee to do so.

On Question, Motion agreed to.