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Palace of Westminster: Furniture

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 October 2008

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will take steps to stop the placing of tables and chairs on the staircase between the lower waiting hall and the Committee corridor; and if he will make an assessment of any (a) damage to the pavement by the Barry Statue and (b) health and safety implications of any emergency evacuations required in the area. (222374)

It has been the practice for many years to use the landing adjacent to the lower waiting hall to store furniture from the Members’ and Strangers’ dining rooms when they are both in use at the same time for functions sponsored by Members. These can take place between 4-6 pm each weekday, on Thursday evenings, and at times when the House is not sitting. The furniture has to be kept close to the dining rooms because there are only 30 minutes available to reset them for the evening service to Members.

A study during the recess has concluded that the issue could be overcome either by accepting bookings for functions in only one of the dining rooms at any one time or by taking out of use temporarily one of the adjacent rooms used by Members. The possibilities and their implications will be reported to the Administration Committee this month.

The conservation architect has advised that there has been some minor damage to the stonework on the landing.

The fire safety manager has advised that storing furniture on the landing does present a risk to effective building evacuation; how great that is would depend on the number of people in the Palace at the time, particularly in the Committee Rooms. He advised that it would be good practice to discontinue using the landing for storage. Until the Administration Committee has had an opportunity to consider the matter, arrangements are being made to advise the fire safety manager when both rooms are being used for functions.