HC Deb 22 April 1980 vol 983 cc106-7W
Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he proposes to switch off the central heating system of the Palace of Westminster and its ancillary buildings as a gesture towards national fuel conservation.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

The heating was, with the concurrence of the House authorities, turned off on 14 April in all parts of the Palace of Westminster and its ancillary buildings where this was practicable. However, most of the Palace is served by an obsolete steam radiator system, which it is impossible to modulate, and certain sections cannot be cut off without causing waterlogging of pipes. In these parts of the system severe difficulties and delays would occur should a sudden cold spell make it necessary to resume heating. The very large heat inertia of the building and the large air infiltration through the great Gothic windows would result in severe discomfort particularly during late night sittings. When the present heating modernisation and air-cooling programme is completed, rapid responses to changes in ambient temperatures will be possible. In the meantime the House must continue to rely on the experience and judgment of the Department's parliamentary staff in this matter.