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House of Lords: Director of Facilities

Volume 712: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2009


Asked By

To ask the Chairman of Committees whether he will reconsider the title of the newly-appointed post of Director of Facilities.

My Lords, I am not persuaded that there is any need to change the title of Director of Facilities. It clearly and accurately describes the duties carried out by the post holder.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Nevertheless, does he not agree that Director of Facilities is a very poor description of the important job which Carl Woodall is doing and that we need something rather more imaginative? If the noble Lord himself lacks inspiration, will he consider asking Members of this House to suggest alternatives and perhaps offer a small prize for the winner?

My Lords, I am not really persuaded by that argument. As I have said, the title describes very well the important job that the new Director of Facilities does. I know that the noble and learned Lord made various suggestions when we debated this the first time around, including Estates Bursar and things like that. But none of his suggestions would as accurately fit the bill as the title we have chosen. I should add that facilities management is now a well recognised profession. That describes exactly what Carl Woodall does.

My Lords, would the Chairman of Committees be surprised to know that to me a director of facilities means a lavatory attendant?

My Lords, I thought that we might get something like that. I will just have to bring the noble Baroness up into the modern age.

My Lords, I am sure that this title does seem a bit miserable. I am very much in sympathy with the noble and learned Lord asking the Question. If we were in a school, I am sure that we would be happy enough with the title of school caretaker. But this is a palace, so palace bursar has a far better ring about it. Does the noble Lord agree?

My Lords, the problem with the use of the term “bursar” is that it would not accurately describe the responsibilities for finance. The responsibilities for finance are held by the finance director and the accounting officer, the Clerk of the Parliaments, and not the Director of Facilities.

My Lords, does the Chairman of Committees think that the name Black Rod describes the task of that post holder?

My Lords, probably not precisely. However, it is a title that has been around for a very long time and I for one would not wish to change it.

My Lords, would the House be happy to know that whatever Carl Woodall’s title is he has been of considerable help already in trying to find out whether the facilities for those who are hard of hearing around this House are adequate? So far, I think we have convinced him that they are not adequate. Therefore, I am hoping for great things from him and from those who command the resources of the House for putting the House into good repair.

My Lords, we will do our best to meet those needs. However, I have to say that I have heard only good reports of the Director of Facilities since he has been in post.

My Lords, if the Chairman of Committees is reduced in his choice of title, would it not be better simply to resort to the word “facilitator”?

My Lords, the more suggestions I hear, the more convinced I am that we have got the right name at the moment.

My Lords, when the Merovingian kings lost their power, they called the man with the real power “Mayor of the Palace”. Why not use that title?

My Lords, despite the fact that the Chairman of Committees feels that he has chosen the best name, what about “Comptroller of the Palace of Westminster” or indeed “Comptroller of the House of Lords”?

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that Carl Woodall was appointed as Director of Facilities and that he has made a flying start in carrying out his duties as he was required to do on his appointment?