Press Gallery (Report)

Oral Answers to Questions — Public Building and Works – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th March 1965.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Delargy Mr Hugh Delargy , Thurrock 12:00 am, 8th March 1965

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what study he has made of "Partners in Parliament; A Report to the Press Gallery", a copy of which has been sent to him; and which of its recommendations for which he has responsibility he will carry out.

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

I have read this report, which is addressed to the Press Gallery. The accommodation of the Press Gallery is primarily the responsibility of the authorities of the House, who will no doubt consider any matters arising out of the report which are put to them.

Photo of Mr Hugh Delargy Mr Hugh Delargy , Thurrock

Even though my right hon. Friend himself may not have direct responsibility, will he draw this report to the notice of the authorities and ask them to improve as far as they possibly can the conditions under which journalists have to work in this place?

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

I accept, of course, that the accommodation for the Press Gallery is not as good as we would wish, but neither is the accommodation for hon. Members, and I have always felt that hon. Members came first.

Photo of Mr James Ramsden Mr James Ramsden , Harrogate

Reverting to the announcement which the right hon. Gentleman made about another possible building scheme, which, we understood, would include some fresh accommodation for the Press Gallery, has he made any progress with that or has he a model of the scheme yet which hon. Members could see?

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

On the first point, I have assumed that, for any accommodation on the scale we have in mind for over Star Chamber Court, there will be a Committee set up by Mr. Speaker which will probably look at the allocations there. On the second point, we have a model, but it has not yet been let loose from the Department.

Photo of Mr John Wells Mr John Wells , Maidstone

The Minister has just said that he has always thought that hon. Members came first. Can he explain why so many rooms which have recently been made available have been made available to the members of the Government, particularly to members of the Government who were not at the time Members of the House, instead of to back-bench Members?

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

The hon. Gentleman loses the point, which is that members of the Government are Members of the House, and they have responsibilities to their constituents which they discharge in addition to their responsibilities to the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "So does everyone."] I never suggested that they did not. The hon. Gentleman had better come in when Mr. Speaker calls him. It is my job as Minister of Public Building and Works to allocate rooms to members of the Government. I have no responsibility in allocating rooms to Members of the House.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Do not these questions and answers emphasise the importance of transferring control of this Palace to Parliament itself? Can my right hon. Friend say when he will be prepared to make a statement on this?

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

No, I do not know. I welcome the approving grunts from the benches opposite to my hon Friend's supplementary question, and I can only say, on the first part of it, that as he knows, I need no reminding. I want to have these things settled as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, in striking a balance between the Press Gallery and the House, that there is one important distinction, that Members of the House tend to remain roughly the same in number and, therefore, exert the same pressure on this place, whereas in the Press Gallery there is a tendency over the years for resources to accumulate—I am thinking of television, broadcasting and the Commonwealth—and it is no bad thing for Parliament that they should?

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

I do not want anything I say to be taken as expressing any lack of sympathy with the Press. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have a record in that as well on Select Committees, when hon. Members opposite took no interest at all. I wish nothing to be taken as indicating lack of sympathy towards the Press whose accommodation I want to be extended in this place. I was only making the point that it is sometimes forgotten that Parliament is the Members.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is only on very rare occasions that the Press Gallery is fully occupied and that a glance in that direction at this time will supply evidence in support of that contention?

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

Yes, I know that; but it fills up during the hot spots.

Photo of Miss Joan Quennell Miss Joan Quennell , Petersfield

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not solely a question of accommodation as such under which the Press Gallery suffers but the ventilation in parts of the Press Gallery—I am not referring to the part which is exposed to the Chamber—is even worse than it is in other parts of the building? Is it not within the realms of possibility to improve it?

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

The point of the hon. Lady's Question explains quite a lot.

Photo of Mr Hugh Delargy Mr Hugh Delargy , Thurrock

In view of the widespread interest in this subject—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and in order to give my right hon. Friend opportunity to make a fuller statement, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.