HL Deb 12 February 2001 vol 622 cc23-4WA
Earl Attlee

asked the Chairman of Committees:

Whether the heating in the House of Lords is adequate for comfortable working, particularly on Mondays; and [HL626]

Whether the heating system in the House of Lords is capable of providing comfortable working conditions in a severe winter; and [HL627]

How many electric heaters are in operation in offices throughout the House of Lords; and whether there is any safety implication. [HL628]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I believe that in general the heating in the House of Lords is adequate for comfortable working. But satisfactory heating control in this building is undoubtedly difficult because of its age, construction and layout. In the event of any local discomfort, if a telephone call is made to the helpdesk (telephone extension 4747), the Works Directorate will do everything it can to assist.

The heating is controlled by a computerised building energy management system which balances operational control with energy conservation. The system takes account of external temperature to calculate the optimum time to start the heating. In cold weather, particularly on a Sunday night, the shift technician makes a judgment whether to override the computer and start the heating earlier. The temperature settings in various parts of the Palace relate to the respective uses of the rooms. Occupants have widely differing comfort requirements, but heating technicians endeavour to meet personal preferences.

The works rolling programme includes heating modernisation and improvement projects. The main Palace boilers are to be renewed in 2002–03. Heating and air conditioning is being improved in three committee rooms each year. £300,000 is spent each year on the modernisation of basement plant rooms, and each summer recess, as part of the PDVN installation project, heating is modernised and other maintenance is carried out in a section of the building.

One further difficulty is that, in very cold weather, the doors which have to remain open for the Line of Route allow in a great deal of cold air. At these times it is only after 1 pm that the Royal Gallery, Prince's Chamber and the Chamber itself can really warm up.

If an occupant requires additional heating in a room, an electric heater can be provided, subject to the loading on the electrical distribution. Seventy electric heaters have been issued. They are regularly checked for safety under a portable appliance testing contract. There is clearly a safety implication if they are left on overnight or over weekends.