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Running Costs

Volume 572: debated on Thursday 19 December 2013

May I take this opportunity to wish you, Mr Speaker, and all the staff who serve us so well a very merry Christmas?

On Monday the Commission agreed to lay an administration estimate of £201.3 million for 2014-15. The estimate originally agreed for 2010-11 was £231 million. After adjustments for transfers and so forth, that is equivalent to a 17% reduction in real terms. Savings of £15.3 million are being delivered this year and next through a number of initiatives.

Happy Christmas, Mr Speaker, and I thank the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) for the work that the House of Commons Commission is doing in rightly reducing costs. The other side of costs are benefits. Has the Commission analysed the benefits of the House of Commons? There are not only tangible benefits that additional visitors and tourism bring to the local and London-wide economy, but intangible benefits such as education for our school children and showing the values of a parliamentary democracy to the world.

The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely valid point about the contribution that the House’s activities make to the wider community in which we sit. We have not undertaken such work, but I will take his suggestion away and look at it in the new year.

Every year, the House of Commons spends tens of millions of pounds on making sure that the building literally does not fall down. Will the Commission set out the next steps for the long-term future of the building?

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will have seen, the first ever written statement from the representative of the Commission was made on Tuesday last, announcing the contract for an outside company to consider options for the future of the building. It would be preferable to wait until those conclusions, delivered professionally, allow us to make a proper judgment.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there will be a beneficial impact on the costs of running the House if we could so arrange our affairs that there was a greater intensive use of the facilities by both Members and staff?

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend, who chairs the Administration Committee so ably. He makes a very valid point.

9. I regret to say to the hon. Gentleman that I have lost all confidence in the House of Commons Commission. I thought the Commission’s job was to allow and facilitate Members in this House to do their job properly and serve their constituents efficiently. We do not expect the House of Commons Commission to be incompetent bean counters. I find every day that my job of serving my constituents in this place gets harder and harder due to the incompetence of the House of Commons Commission. I would like them all to resign and for commissioners to be elected by this House, so they can facilitate our doing a job for the people we represent. (901717)

May I wish the hon. Gentleman a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year? I can speak only for myself, but I am a doctor of business administration, a fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, a fellow of the Tourism Society and have been a fellow of the Institute of Directors. I therefore regard myself as having some qualifications that I can bring to the task in hand. My fellow commissioners have a wide range of experience across many disciplines. I have to say, observing the management of this House, that a tough challenge is being met with professionalism and resolve by the team. The Commission does, in my humble judgment, an outstanding job in overseeing it.

We all attach almost as much weight to the views of the hon. Gentleman as does the hon. Gentleman.