HL Deb 06 April 2000 vol 611 cc1416-8

3.16 p.m.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

asked the Chairman of Committees:

What plans the Parliamentary Works Directorate has to improve the approaches to the entrance to the Palace of Westminster from Westminster Underground station.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords, as part of the construction of the new Westminster station, London Underground is responsible for refurbishing the old public subway under Bridge Street to provide a dedicated and direct route between the Palace and the station. I understand that the subway will be reopened by the time the House returns from the Summer Recess.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that characteristically courteous reply. Is he aware that I am a member of the underground railway travelling classes, partly to give more people an opportunity to meet me and partly because I have a free pass? Is he further aware that I am depressed when I reach the tunnel leading from the Underground station to the Palace of Westminster: first, by the death-trap steps with which it is littered; secondly, by the builders' detritus that is there; and, thirdly, by the garbage, the cans, the papers and everything else that collects there? In view of the fact that Portcullis House is costing £250 million—goodness knows how much the refurbishment of the Underground station is costing—will the noble Lord use his undoubted charm and influence to see that the small amount of money that is needed is expended in order to supply a worthy entrance to what is sometimes misleadingly described as the Mother of Parliaments?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kindly words at the outset of his supplementary question. As a frequent user of Westminster Underground station, partly because I, too, am the holder of a free pass, I say with what I hope noble Lords will feel is uncharacteristic immodesty that I too was interested in what I had to say this afternoon.

On the substantive part of the noble Lord's attractive and entertaining supplementary, first, I hope that he and other noble Lords will be pleased to know that the major part of the refurbishment consists of a dedicated subway for parliamentary use in addition to a replacement of the public subway which we used to know. So far as cleanliness is concerned, that is the responsibility of Westminster City Council. I know that the council does its utmost to try to keep the subway clean. Other users of the station—unlike the noble Lord and, I hope, myself—do not assist the council in that task. The council is very conscious of the matter; I know that it will continue to do all that it can to improve the conditions while we await the new facilities.

Lord Borrie

My Lords, does my noble friend's Answer to this important question mean that one will be able to move happily from and to the Underground station on one level instead of having to go through a rather tiresome obstacle course, upstairs and downstairs, on more than one occasion?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, when the changes and improvements take place, the route to the top of the stairs, which I believe my noble friend has in mind, leading to our own card-operated turnstile, will no longer be involved. Therefore, we can look forward to some improvement.

Baroness Platt of Writtle

My Lords, does the noble Lord know when the lift in the station will start operating? It has been there ever since the station reopened, but it has never moved.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I try to help your Lordships as much as I can, but that matter does not fall within the responsibility of the Directorate of Parliamentary Works. It is within the responsibility of London Underground. I am sure that it will already be aware of the noble Baroness's point. In any case, so as to cover it, I will make sure that it does and perhaps an answer can be provided in that way.

Lord Addington

My Lords, bearing in mind that the noble Lord's responsibilities and powers in this area are somewhat limited, will he give an undertaking to use all his influence to make sure that Westminster is the most disabled user-friendly of all the stations on the system—accepting, of course, the fact that it does not make a great deal of difference if people can get on a train at Westminster but cannot get off anywhere else?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I must give the preliminary answer that I gave a moment ago to the noble Baroness. However, I feel sure that the noble Lord's comment will be noted and taken into account.

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, while I agree that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive, is there any chance that the Jubilee Line will be running properly by the Summer Recess?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I say this with some happiness, although not in the sense of being able to assist the noble Lord too much, that his question falls outside my terms of reference.