Parliamentary Building

Oral Answers to Questions — House of Commons – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th December 1972.

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Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington 12:00 am, 13th December 1972

asked the Lord President of the Council whether it is still expected that the new parliamentary building will he completed in 1978; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

This is a matter which must await the outcome of the debate, which I have already promised.

Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many hon. Members are becoming cynical about this matter and feel that the building will not be completed this side of 1980? Is he further aware that some of us believe that the kind of exhibition which is being shown upstairs is merely an exercise to keep our morale high? Finally, may I ask him not to forget the dreadful conditions in which many hon. Members and secretaries have to work, flouting laws on this matter that were passed by this House? Will he try to expedite the completion of this building?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

The hon. Gentleman has made a strong case for an early debate on this issue, which I should very much like to provide, because until the House has taken a decision we cannot proceed. Provided that the House takes an early decision on the matter, there is no reason why the new parliamentary building should not be completed in 1978 for occupation in the autumn of that year.

Concerning the working conditions of hon. Members, secretaries and others who serve the House, I am aware of the great difficulties that exist. The Services Committee is actively considering what extra can be done to help.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Birmingham Handsworth

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decision and a debate must take place in this House before the end of January? As the existing buildings on the site have to be demolished and excavations undertaken before any new building can go up, could not work on this side start as soon as possible, bearing in mind that, if there are archaeological finds, the sooner they are found the better and the less likely they will be to delay the subsequent building work?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

I certainly cannot promise a debate before the end of January. We shall be back here for only one week in January after the recess. The end of January might be sooner than we can manage. If we obtain the approval of the House—that must be a matter for the House—demolition could start after the summer session is completed. Obviously the sooner it starts the better.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

May we have another debate at the same time about this wretched new car park in New Palace Yard which is becoming—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. The Question concerns the new parliamentary building.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Cannock

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are not as impatient as has been suggested and that we would prefer extra delay rather than the destruction of Parliament Square by this hideous new building?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

That must come within the debate.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Will the Minister give two further promises: first, that he will not try to slip the debate through on a Friday at five minutes to four, as he did with the car park debate; and secondly, that he will ensure that the views of this House are considered, because we would not like to see the mess, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) was about to refer just now, repeated when this new building is constructed?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

All I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that I think a half day's debate on that topic would be suitable. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, that is not enough."] This is the problem. I will discuss this matter with hon. Members.

Photo of Mr Toby Jessel Mr Toby Jessel , Twickenham

Will my right hon. Friend examine the relationship between the proposed new building and the traffic problem in the vicinity of Parliament Square? Will he give very careful consideration to the request of the Greater London Council and take the opportunity to put in one more traffic lane for eastbound traffic in Bridge Street? This would make it possible to alter the phasing of the traffic lights and speed the traffic down Whitehall. Further, is my right hon. Friend aware that this could be done without setting back the main building and that it would mean only cutting into the surrounds?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

I recognise the importance of speeding traffic down Whitehall. The other point which my hon. Friend has mentioned would be more appropriate for the debate.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many Members would not be satisfied with a half day's debate? Despite our sympathy with the remarks of the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) about lack of accommodation, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that many Members think that the new building is completely out of character with Parliament?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

I was asked whether I would refrain from slipping the debate through at five minutes to four on a Friday afternoon, and I said in reply that I thought half a day would be very suitable for a debate. However, I have noted what hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House have said. All I can say is that if we are to give this subject the time that hon. Members think it deserves, something else will have to fall out of the programme.