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House Of Commons (Facilities)

Volume 480: debated on Wednesday 8 November 1950

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I desire to ask your Ruling and guidance, Mr. Speaker, on a matter of which I have given you prior notice. I refer to Questions affecting the amenities of this House. Recently I sought to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works to ask him if he would arrange for additional telephone boxes for local calls to be placed adjacent to the Lobby. The Table refused this Question on the ground, I understand, that this Chamber is a Royal Palace either under the control of yourself or that of the Lord Great Chamberlain. I have looked up the precedents in this matter——

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must ask me a question and not make a speech. It is rather difficult for me to answer a speech. I have looked at the point. The hon. and gallant Member has asked me why a Question to the Minister of Works concerning the siting of telephone boxes for local calls was refused a place on the Order Paper. The answer is that this Question was concerned with the allocation of space in the Palace of Westminster, a matter which is the responsibility not of the Minister of Works nor of any other Minister, but of the Lord Great Chamberlain and, under him, the Serjeant at Arms. The Questions asked in 1937, to which I think the hon. and gallant Member was going to draw my attention, were concerned not with the allocation of space but with the maintenance of apparatus already installed and as such were properly put down to the Ministers responsible for maintaining that apparatus. All I can suggest to the hon. and gallant Member is that if he really wants to explore the matter further he should give me notice and put a Private Notice Question to the Speaker.

If the Question is not in order and cannot be put to the Minister of Works, would it not be possible after the publicity which has now been given to it for the Minister of Works to make the necessary recommendations through the appropriate channel?

I thank you for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. May I ask if you are aware that, as a result of my raising this matter, the right hon. Gentleman has now provided telephone booths outside this Chamber?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works and the Lord President of the Council whether it would not be convenient after a few more weeks have passed, to find an afternoon for a discussion in which all opinions upon the many virtues and some defects of this new Chamber could be expressed?

May I say with regard to the telephone boxes, that long before I had notice that this Question was refused, steps had been taken to supply a limited number of dialling boxes right alongside the trunk call boxes? With regard to complaints concerning the accommodation now provided, might I point out to you, Mr. Speaker, to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that if people will let me have their objections we shall sort them out and see what can be done to meet everybody's point of view?