House of Commons (Accommodation)

Oral Answers to Questions — Lord President of the Council – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th June 1966.

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Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby 12:00 am, 15th June 1966

asked the Lord President of the Council whether the working conditions of journalists and members of the staff in the Commons part of the Palace of Westminster meet the requirements of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act.

Photo of Mr Gerald Wills Mr Gerald Wills , Bridgwater

I have been asked to reply.

Although the Act is not enforceable within the House of Commons, recommendations by H.M. Factory Inspectorate on the accommodation of the staff of the House and for Members' private secretaries are being implemented. Extra accommodation in the Star Chamber Court building will be allotted to the Press.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply and apologise for making him the victim of a piece of "buck" passing. Will he not agree that we are merely tinkering with this matter, and is it not time that we stopped making excuses and got down to the problem of being rid of the disgusting conditions under which staff in this place work?

Photo of Mr Gerald Wills Mr Gerald Wills , Bridgwater

I understand that the accommodation to be allotted to the Press in the new Star Chamber building is to their satisfaction and will be satisfactory to all concerned. As regards the report of the inspectors, in many cases it dealt with minor matters, and other major matters have been implemented and are already satisfactory.

Photo of Mr Eric Moonman Mr Eric Moonman , Billericay

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will consider taking steps to convert at least 25 per cent. of the 87 toilets in the House of Commons so that the space can be used by Members as offices.

Photo of Mr Gerald Wills Mr Gerald Wills , Bridgwater

I have been asked to reply.

This will be considered, but I hope that less drastic means of providing office accommodation for Members can be found.

Photo of Mr Eric Moonman Mr Eric Moonman , Billericay

The hon. Gentleman's reply will cause some dismay among hewer Members because they have no adequate accommodation, although they may have satisfactory conveniences. Would he be prepared to consider the possibility of an inquiry into the usefulness of all the rooms in the Commons Part of the Palace, including the toilets, and also will he negotiate with the Lord Great Chamberlain to ascertain whether some of the 67 toilets in the other place can be more effectively used as well?

Photo of Mr Gerald Wills Mr Gerald Wills , Bridgwater

I am always prepared, and we are always prepared, to consider the greater provision of accommodation, but many of these toilets to which the hon. Gentleman refers are little more than cubicles, and the larger ones which he has in mind are in places where they are most greatly needed.

Photo of Mr James Dickens Mr James Dickens , Lewisham West

asked the Lord President of the Council how many persons were in residence in that part of the Palace of Westminster occupied by the House of Commons in 1956; how many are in residence at present; and how many rooms they occupied then and occupy now.

Photo of Mr Gerald Wills Mr Gerald Wills , Bridgwater

I have been asked to reply.

Six persons were in residence in the House of Commons part of the Palace in 1956 and six persons are in residence at present. In 1956 they occupied 108 rooms. 90 rooms are now occupied.

Photo of Mr James Dickens Mr James Dickens , Lewisham West

With due deference to you, Mr. Speaker, as a resident in this part of the Palace of Westminster, may I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply and invite him and his Committee to consider asking the residents whether any surplus accommodation they may happen to have can be made available to Members of the House of Commons?

Photo of Mr Gerald Wills Mr Gerald Wills , Bridgwater

This matter has been considered on numerous occasions, and I have myself inspected the so-called surplus accommodation. Believe me, it is not surplus, and it would be most difficult to make use of it.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

May I take it from my hon. Friend's reply that he is not including the Whips' Office on either side of the House as a residence in it?

Photo of Mr James Dickens Mr James Dickens , Lewisham West

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will state the number of rooms in the Palace of Westminster, indicating separately those occupied by Members of the House of Commons, excluding public rooms.

Photo of Mr Gerald Wills Mr Gerald Wills , Bridgwater

I have been asked to reply.

The number of rooms in the Palace of Westminster is 1,189, of which 736 are in the House of Commons part, but in view of the difficulty in defining rooms occupied by Members of the House of Commons and "Public Rooms", a schedule listing rooms in the House of Commons and the occupiers will be sent to the hon. Member and placed in the Library.

Photo of Mr James Dickens Mr James Dickens , Lewisham West

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his reply, but will he consider whether the Members of another place and the facilities available to them could be moved out of the Palace of Westminster to make more accommodation more readily available to Members of this House?

Photo of Sir Robert Cary Sir Robert Cary , Manchester, Withington

Is it not necessary for the principal officers of the House of Commons to live within the Palace of Westminster in order to discharge their duties?

Photo of Mr Gerald Wills Mr Gerald Wills , Bridgwater

I think that that is understood, or should be understood, by most hon. Members.