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House Of Commons Accommodation (Committee's Report)

Volume 645: debated on Monday 2 October 1961

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I have a statement to make to the House about the further recommendations which have been made to me by the Committee advising us about accommodation. I shall endeavour to summarise them, as I am anxious not to trespass unduly on the time of the House.

The Committee proposes that the roof space over the Committee rooms upstairs could provide accommodation not only for the Fees Office and the Clerk of the House, as was previously recommended, but also 51 rooms for the use of individual Members, and two large rooms and a rest room for a total of 25 secretaries. A new lift would be provided, close to the existing lift to the Upper Committee Corridor.

I understand that the roof space scheme would be by far the most costly of the improvements which have been under consideration by the Minister of Works, who is, I understand, answering a Question today about the timing of this scheme.

The Committee has also recommended that the accommodation in Westminster Hall now occupied by the Fees Office should be used as a Members' desk room.

In order to save the time of the House, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT details of other recommendations made by the Committee for rearranging the accommodation of the Library and for providing additional accommodation for the staff of HANSARD, the Press and B.B.C., two Clerks Assistant, book storage and lavatories. The rearrangement of the Library accommodation is acceptable to the Library Committee.

The House will wish me once again to thank the Chairman and members of the Committee for their labours in the service of the House and for the great amount of work that they have done.

May I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that statement and say, in return, that the Committee—and, I am sure, the whole House, particularly the Library Committee—will be extremely grateful to you for allocating certain rooms below your house for the service of the Library.

While I am grateful to learn that steps are at last being taken to improve the amenities of the House, Mr. Speaker, I am satisfied that the amenities for hon. Members are in a rotten condition. What I do not understand, from a Written Answer from the Minister of Works, is that a second lift does not appear to be on the horizon. Some hon. Members, for the past four years, have had to climb to the top of this building because there has only been one lift and often that has been out of commission.

When we returned to the House after the General Election of 1959, even the lift man was taken off and, as some hon. Members do not seem to be capable of closing the gates after them, other hon. Members have to continue to walk up to the top of the building. This happens frequently. The lift was out of order only last week and it is high time—and this should be a priority—that a second lift was installed to the Upper Committee Corridor. This is a very serious matter. I know that an important debate is to follow—

Order, The hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I understand and appreciate his difficulties about moving in a vertical plane. I do not desire to be frivolous. He has been to see me about it. But he will understand my difficulty. I cannot answer for the Minister of Works, and I cannot allow this matter to be debated now, because there is no Question before the House.

Following are the details of the other recommendations:

The Committee recommended that the existing rooms in the Central Block should be left virtually unaltered, but that the present corridor should be widened and used to provide additional dictating cubicles for the staff of HANSARD. In addition, they recommend that space should be allotted in the North Block for two bedrooms and a joint bathroom for the two Clerks Assistant. It is recommended that the North and South cross-wings should be used for book storage and that the existing Tea Room stairs should be extended to the Upper Committee Corridor with a mezzanine floor suitable for a desk room for three Members and additional lavatory accommodation.
The space on the ground floor of Mr. Speaker's house which he has made available for the use of the House should be allocated to the Library staff. who should also retain rooms 42 to 44 in the North Curtain Corridor. In exchange, the Library should surrender "The Times" Room, which could then be divided and provide two rooms for other uses.
Finally, the Committee make proposals for some additional accommodation for the Press and the B.B.C. They recommend that the Press should have an additional room adjacent to the present Press Gallery rooms and that the accommodation at present occupied by the B.B.C. should be extended by some 50 per cent.