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Accommodation (Palace Of Westminster)

Volume 300: debated on Monday 10 November 1997

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If he will report on progress in the refurbishment of the Lord Chancellor's accommodation within the Palace of Westminster, indicating the latest estimated cost. [13463]

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his concern about the need to refurbish my 9 by 4 office in the House of Commons—hitherto, he has not been noted for his concern for the welfare of Labour Members of Parliament. I am, however, delighted to discover that he is now participating in the art of constructive, helpful opposition.

For the sake of completeness, I should mention also that it has been suggested to me that this question is the product not of kindness but of incompetence, and that the hon. Gentleman is actually referring to the official residence provided by the House authorities to the Lord Chancellor. If that is so, I can assure him that the refurbishment has commenced and is expected to be substantially completed by January next year. The estimated cost remains at £650,000.

That is a most offensive answer. We know that old Labour still survives on the Government Benches; that cavalier attitude to £650,000 of public expenditure on the Lord Chancellor's accommodation betrays that fact.

My question on the Order Paper relates not to the Minister's accommodation but to the Lord Chancellor's—

I have not finished yet. Given that the Minister's right hon. and noble Friend wishes to dispense with the traditional attire of his office and to hand over power to the judges, perhaps the only sense in which the Lord Chancellor remains traditional is that, like all socialists, he is anxious to spend as much of other people's money as he possibly can.

The hon. Gentleman got his question wrong the first time. He will know that the Lord Chancellor is the Speaker of the House of Lords, and the official residence is provided for his use in precisely the same way as Speaker's House is provided for the Speaker of this House. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that both Departments should be properly conserved as part of the historic building programme undertaken over a 10-year period by the House authorities. Speaker's House has been maintained to a high standard, in keeping with the conservation policy, and the Lord Chancellor's official residence should match that standard.