Skip to main content

Business: Road Works, Parliament Square

Volume 609: debated on Monday 7 February 2000

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3.7 p.m.

My Lords, I should like briefly to remind the Government Chief Whip of a sessional order which requires the chief of police to take care that, during each Session of Parliament, the passages through the streets leading to this House are kept free and open.

I do not intend to delay the House, but we now have in existence a legion of people who consider themselves free to scatter cones across and dig holes in the streets of this city more or less at pleasure, thereby disrupting and disturbing people who wish nothing so much as to move around freely. Now these infernal people have turned their attention to Parliament Square. I wonder whether the Government Chief Whip could marshal the huge influence that he has at his command in order to stop such a nuisance going on?

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, for giving me notice that he intended to raise this matter. As the noble Lord has said, at the beginning of every Session the House orders the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to take care that passages through the streets leading to this House are kept free and open and that no obstruction be permitted to hinder the passage of noble Lords to and from this House. That order was laid and communicated to the Commissioner in the usual manner by Black Rod on 17th November last year.

These precautions are taken every year. They are held to refer to demonstrations, disturbances and lobbies which might purposely obstruct Members of either House from going about their business. The order has never been taken to refer to any lawful and necessary activity in the public interest, such as roadworks.

I acknowledge that the works which are going on outside have had an adverse impact on traffic, which many noble Lords have found frustrating. However, I do not believe that they can be said to amount to a stoppage in the street. The traffic is moving, albeit slowly, and pedestrian access is unimpeded. However, strictly speaking, this is not a matter for me but for the House authorities—in this case, Black Rod, and your Lordships may feel that it is inappropriate to invoke the sessional order that deals with the situation. I should also point out that a notice regarding the roadworks was placed on the Peers' notice board on 10th January.

My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm that those roadworks are to continue for six weeks and that for some period during those six weeks Parliament Square is to be closed?

My Lords, I was not aware of that but, again, I believe that that is a matter not for me but for the House authorities.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us how Members are to get to the House during the period of closure?

My Lords, I am sure that there are alternative ways to reach this House other than via Parliament Square. I use them every day.

My Lords, is there sense in the view that, when possible, Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge should not both be disrupted simultaneously?

My Lords, that is an extremely good idea and I am sure that that, too, should be communicated to the House authorities.