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6.41 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, from these Benches perhaps I may echo the remarks that have been made. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, for providing the House with an opportunity to debate the annual report and accounts. He may be disappointed that the opportunity has not been taken by more people. As we say in many other instances, if the customers are satisfied with the stewardship by the officers and members of the committees, they leave the matter to the practitioners.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, has provided the opportunity for people who are deeply affected by the changes and by the work to listen to what is being said. The Motion also provides those like the Chairman of Committees who have a responsibility with the opportunity to debate the issue. I am delighted to see the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees in his place. I am also delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, in his place. He was a most distinguished Chairman of Committees before the present chairman. In a sense his responsibilities cover the period in the report, although, as the House will acknowledge, the

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noble Lord, Lord Boston, will reply. We on this side of the House certainly feel that the Chairman of Committees has had a good year. Those of us who have served on committees have served under a benevolent chairmanship. He has guided us through one or two sticky periods, and we are very grateful indeed.

It is not my job tonight, nor is it my intention, to deal with any of the points raised. However, having served on most of the committees over the year, I am well aware of the issues in the report and points raised.

I appreciated the tone of the introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. He seemed to major on the deficiency in accommodation. I sensed that that might have a personal aspect. I do not know whether the noble Lord has a problem as regards a desk or a place. I am conscious that many others must be in the same position. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that over my period in the House--it is only 12 years, with five years as Chief Whip--there has been a remarkable change as regards the space found. The situation is not perfect. It will not be perfect until everyone who wants a desk, or even a room, of their own, as do colleagues at the other end of the building, is satisfied. However, space is found often through the ingenuity of officers. They see an opportunity and move people in or out. At the end of the quadrille, the committee is faced with the prospect of having two rooms with nine desks or four rooms with 12 desks. The usual channels have the difficult task of solving the situation.

I am always amazed at what appears to me to be a dead end, and the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, will recall the number of times that he has reported and I have said, "In about two years' time we might see some result". Yet during the past two or three years, refreshingly, bits of accommodation have been found. Not all Members want facilities. Some Members do not use this House as much as others. But those who do so need a place from which to work.

Until that perfect situation is arrived at, there will always be deficiencies. Although not every Member on my Benches who wants a place has one, I would not major at this time on the deficiencies in accommodation which the report might expose.

The report is a mine of information. I wish to refer to the changes brought about by the sad retirement as Black Rod of Admiral Sir Richard Thomas. He was a brave man. He persisted perhaps longer than some of us thought it wise as regards his health. However, he left good order. He left with the highest compliments of this House. The report provides us with the opportunity of putting on record yet again that which I know the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees has already stated. In doing so, I also have the opportunity from these Benches to thank the new Black Rod, General Sir Edward Jones, for the swift way in which he has mastered the intricacies not only of the precise function that he performs but, almost as importantly, how to get on with people and how to weld together what could be a disparate crew--the usual channels, the leaders, officers, and so on. I congratulate General Sir Edward Jones and his senior colleagues, Brigadier Clark and Major Charlesworth. Perhaps I may mention, too,

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Major Horsfall. The House has been remarkably well served by the calibre of the staff in general and those who serve us at the highest levels. I honestly cannot recall complaints against members of the staff. If there may have been dereliction on the part of committees which failed to ensure that they carried out their remit, the officers have done a first class job.

I do not wish to intervene in any way on the points made. That will fall to the Chairman of Committees. It is an admirable suggestion that we consider the net product of the work of the officers, not least financially. The Clerk of the Parliaments and his colleagues are always reminding the committees of the budgets that have been prepared and the responsibilities that they have as accounting officers. That is absolutely right. However, I simply say this to the House. Members down the other end of the corridor seem to find with ease reasons for spending large sums of money which they always maintain is in the best interests of Parliament. When we compare the enormous amounts of money which, properly, are voted for the comfort and facility of Members in the House of Commons, I do not believe that we should be too upset at the amount of money that we carefully, not grudgingly, provide for ourselves. It has been well provided and well spent. We should, not be pleased with the year, but be satisfied that those who have the responsibilities have discharged them not just to the best of their ability but to the satisfaction of Members.

6.50 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is very grateful indeed to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, for drawing attention to the 1994-95 annual report of this House. I am very grateful to him for letting me know the main points which he proposed to raise in advance of this discussion.

As the noble Lord said, this is the first time since the annual reports were instituted three years ago that we have debated them. I very much welcome this chance to have heard what your Lordships have had to say and to give the House something of an account of how the administrative arrangements put in place some four years ago are now working out.

I hope your Lordships will consider me neither frivolous nor complacent if I say that the short answer to the Question on the Order Paper is really, "Yes, in the main". I must confess that I was tempted to say, "Yes", and leave it at that, but I knew that noble Lords, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, would not allow me to get away with that. Such an example of idleness certainly would not be tolerated by this House. So perhaps in giving something of an account, and in attempting to answer the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and other noble Lords have raised, I could begin by referring to one matter which the noble Lord mentioned, namely the history of the Ibbs reforms.

It is of course the case that in 1990 the then Leader of the House of Commons, Sir Geoffrey Howe, as he then was, asked Sir Robin Ibbs to conduct a review of

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the way in which another place could improve its administrative structures so as to have more direct control over its own affairs. His report was concerned primarily with another place, although he and his team interviewed a number of officers of this House as well.

It might be worth reminding ourselves that the Ibbs Report made three important recommendations. The first was that Parliament should become responsible for its own buildings and accommodation services rather than having to ask the Department of the Environment and the Property Services Agency for moneys to spend on maintenance and future improvements. These moneys were never easy to get because expenditure on Parliament had to compete with spending on other public buildings. Next, the report recommended that Parliament should no longer receive its printing and publications free of charge from Her Majesty's Stationery Office on an allied service basis; and, finally, that Parliament should reform its financial management.

The implication of those recommendations is very far-reaching indeed. Neither House was properly equipped to assume responsibility for expenditure on such a massive scale. New administrative and control systems had to be created. Those were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and also in passing by the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft. I should like to join with those noble Lords--and particularly on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton-- in paying tribute to the contributions which my predecessors made to these matters, the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Ampthill. I am the fortunate beneficiary, simply that, of the matters that were decided upon and put into place and which were so greatly promoted by those two noble Lords serving as Chairman of Committees; and also with the support of successive Leaders of the House, the noble Lords, Lord Waddington and Lord Wakeham, and carried through now by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, our present Leader of the House.

Your Lordships' House began these reforms with the creation, on the initiative of the Clerk of the Parliaments, of the post of Principal Finance Officer, to be held by a Table Clerk, supported by a qualified management accountant from outside. The House was fortunate to obtain, in October 1991, the services of a secondee from Price Waterhouse. These two posts were instrumental in developing, with the support of the domestic committees of the House, the systems that are now in place.

Then, in May 1992, the domestic committee structure of the House was altered to streamline decision-making and to make the structure similar to the one that another place was adopting, so that the two Houses could, to an extent at least, proceed together. So the Administration Sub-Committee of the Offices Committee was renamed the Administration and Works Sub-Committee, with particular responsibility for the works programme. The Staff of the House Sub-Committee was combined with the Finance Sub-Committee and became the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee. These two, with others which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, mentioned, the Library and Computer Sub-Committee and the Refreshment Sub-Committee, mirrored arrangements in another

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place. Day-to-day responsibility was devolved on these sub-committees by the Offices Committee, and indeed most decisions on expenditure and resources are in fact now taken in the sub-committees. The particular importance of the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee--our equivalent of the House of Commons Commission--was recognised by the appointment to it of the leaders of the parties.

One of the most fundamental developments of 1992 was the gradual delegation to heads of offices of their own budgets, a matter referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. Each head now has to set his or her own budget for the coming year, including salary and other staff costs, printing, computers and, in certain offices, the costs of committees as well, and to monitor expenditure during the year. That has been operational for the past two financial years. I can tell the House that this has proved a great success. It has resulted in real-terms reductions of expenditure, particularly on printing and publications, where care has produced worthwhile savings.

I should now like to mention the costs that the House assumed from HMSO in 1992. I understand that HMSO estimated the cost of the allied service of providing papers and office supplies to this House to be of the order of £6 million a year. But I have to tell your Lordships it was not clear how that figure was arrived at. So all has not in fact been well from the beginning. Indeed, to start with, under the new arrangements HMSO invoices for printing and papers were far from satisfactory. I note that my immediate predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, nods his head, having been familiar with that at the time. These have, however, improved. Now that each office knows what it spends on printing and publications, budget holders have been able to reduce their costs, making the overall charge to the House less by some £2 million. This saving will be taken a step further when a new supply and service agreement is signed with HMSO tomorrow. It shows how timely is the tabling by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, of this Unstarred Question.

I turn now to the responsibilities that the House has taken on for its own accommodation. That was also mentioned tonight. The Palace of Westminster is of course a building shared with another place. So a joint organisation was needed for its maintenance and improvement. The skeleton was there already in that the Property Services Agency had many staff working in this building. The agency transferred those staff to the two Houses and the Parliamentary Works Directorate was created from 1st April 1992 under Mr. Henry Webber, who became budget holder for the largest budget in Parliament. While each House has its own budget for works services, much of the work within the Palace is regarded as necessary for the Palace as a whole. So it was agreed that for maintenance projects and indeed for any other projects for the Palace as a whole, such as the Parliamentary Data and Video Network, the cost would be shared between the two Houses on a 40:60 percentage basis--that was referred to by the noble Lord--recognising the 40:60 split in the

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amount of the Palace occupied by the two Houses. Projects for one House only are budgeted for separately and paid for by that House.

The Administration and Works Sub-committee decides the works programme each year. Two years ago it also approved a 10-year rolling programme of works, so setting out for the first time a properly structured approach to maintenance and improvements. I can assure your Lordships that control of such a significant new area of expenditure has been satisfactory. That is due in no small part to the systems created by the director of works himself and, so far as this House is concerned, to a new post in Black Rod's Department--the administration officer who has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Graham. The administration officer has provided a link between the Parliamentary Works Directorate and the House itself, both Members and staff. At this point I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have thanked the staff. I can assure them that their very kind words will be passed on to the staff. I should like to join those noble Lords who made those observations and congratulate all concerned on the massive works programme which was carried out during the Summer Recess.

Rather more specific questions have been asked about accommodation and I shall try to deal with one or two of those as well. I need to remind your Lordships that the balance of accommodation was decided in the first place by the Administration and Works Sub-committee. It decided that new refreshment facilities were required and that a new committee room was badly needed also.

Both the noble Lords, Lord Jenkin and Lord Graham, referred to the question of accommodation. With regard to accommodation and facilities generally for Peers, much has been achieved since 1992. We have gained rooms from the Lord Chancellor's Department on the South Front which provided some 36 desks; we have refurbished 6-7 Old Palace Yard, which gave us an additional 22 desks--when I say "we", I mean all noble Lords collectively and the staff as well--and recently we have provided rooms to Peers on the second floor with 17 more desks to be allocated by the Chief Whips and the Convenor of the Cross-Benchers. With other room conversions, we reckon that there are now some 90 more desks available to Peers than there were in 1992. Including the Law Lords, there are some 286 Peers' desks, many of which are shared.

In addition to the extra rooms and desks, the project in the South East Return which is due for completion by Easter will add two new dining rooms and a new grill room as well as the committee room. The improved Terrace awning is an example of our ability to enhance accommodation as well. I might mention that a computer training room has been provided for Peers. Black Rod is discussing with the Chief Whips and the Convenor possible future needs and a study on in-filling has just been carried out.

While we are discussing accommodation and in view of the fact that Black Rod's Garden and the works undertaken there have been mentioned, I should like to mention the security arrangements through that entrance and the matter of security generally, which was raised

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by the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, among other noble Lords. The security arrangements for car parking in Black Rod's Garden regrettably, at least for the time being, have to be more intrusive than is the case in the Peers' car park. That is because of the mix of private and commercial vehicles for both Houses which use Black Rod's Garden entrance. Arrangements are reviewed constantly to ensure that they are in line with the security threat.

Turning to security expenditure more generally, your Lordships would quite rightly accuse me of presenting nothing but good news if I did not refer to that matter, which does not contain quite such good news as indicated elsewhere in this debate. So far, we have had less success in controlling expenditure on security. It is a matter of the utmost concern that both Houses of Parliament should be properly protected. That is why large sums of money have been spent on physical protection and the development of the new entrance. However, the Finance and Staff Sub-committee has from time to time queried the level of charge made by the Metropolitan Police for providing police and security officers for the Palace of Westminster. That cost has stabilised but, in my view, is still too high. I should like to see an independent inspection into police manpower and rostering. Of course, in the end it is a political decision as to how high a level of security should be provided for your Lordships and Members of another place. In saying that, I must repeat that we are splendidly served by those police and security officers who look after us in this place despite problems of considerable difficulty when we have to achieve our democratic purpose of keeping this House as open as possible to people outside.

With regard to administration, it was recognised at the time of the Ibbs Report that Parliament and the two Houses had no legal identity. They could not own property nor enter into contracts. Clearly that position was not sustainable if Parliament were to assume responsibility for its own building and be able to sign agreements with bodies such as HMSO. The result was the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992, under which the Clerk of the Parliaments became the corporate officer of this House. He now has the legal status to act on our behalf in matters of contract and so on with the Clerk of the House of Commons acting similarly there.

The Ibbs arrangements also required a much closer link between the Clerk of the Parliaments and Black Rod because, while Black Rod retains his position as agent of the Administration and Works Sub-committee and is responsible for the provision of accommodation and other facilities within your Lordships' House, the Clerk of the Parliaments assumed new responsibilities as accounting officer for the Works Services Vote which had not existed before. I quite understand the considerations lying behind the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, about the relationship between the Clerk of the Parliaments and Black Rod. But those new arrangements stemmed from the reforms which had to be instituted. So now we can say that a clear line of command, which was required, was agreed with the appointment of the new Black Rod. That also

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recognises the position of the Clerk of the Parliaments as both accounting officer and corporate officer of the House.

I hope that that, at least to some extent, even if it does not completely satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, will meet the point raised by him. Indeed, in another context I shall be able to refer to him (and he refer to me, I hope) as my noble and learned friend.

Let me mention just one other matter concerned with financing. In the Accountant's Office, every effort is being made to improve the professionalism of the staff. I am pleased to report that there are now two qualified management accountants there. As recommended by the Staff Adviser and Internal Auditor, there has been a reallocation of responsibilities between the Accountant's Office and the Establishment Office. The Establishment Office now authorises the payment of staff, while the Accountant's Office makes the payment.

I am conscious of the time, and from this Dispatch Box one must try to set something of an example. My prime duty is to set an example to myself. However, as I am not actually trespassing on your Lordships' speech time, it may be helpful for me to put one or two other matters on the record for your Lordships, both here and elsewhere.

The changes I described show that your Lordships' House has been willing, in a short time, to adopt financial management techniques which the private sector has used for a long time. I would have gone on to spell out in detail the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, in relation to the 6.2 per cent. increase in the 1995-96 estimate. However, I shall let him have the final details of that elsewhere and indicate in a headline form what contributed to it. It was partly Peers' expenses; partly staff costs (an increase of £264,000; 4 per cent., while the previous increase was 15 per cent.); general administrative expenses (an increase of £81,000; 2 per cent.); and retired allowances (an increase of £180,000; 20 per cent.) to take account of retirements, particularly two notable senior early retirements.

I wish to touch briefly on two matters which the administration of the House must face in the near future. The first relates to delegated pay. As from 1st April next year, the Treasury will delegate to all public bodies responsibility for setting their own rates of pay within a given budget. That is something to which passing reference was made by my noble friend Lord Bancroft. It is something with which we shall have to come to grips, and it is already being approached.

The second matter relates to the introduction of resource accounting two years later, in the financial year 1998-99. That is being planned carefully and in good time to ensure as smooth a transition as possible from the present cash-based accounts to accounts based upon assets and accruals. It will be particularly relevant in relation to the Works Services Vote where such tricky questions as the value to be placed on heritage assets have still to be settled.

The basic purpose of the annual report and accounts is to provide as much information as possible to your Lordships and therefore more than was produced in

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years gone by. That will enable your Lordships to see what is being done and to contribute suggestions more readily to what is needed. It will also give us ever greater openness. I share with my noble friend Lord Bancroft a dislike for jargon words, which is why I used the word "openness" and shied away from "transparency".

I conclude by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton,

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and others who have said kind words about myself. As I said, I am the mere beneficiary, and lucky to be so. I hope that, in placing on record some of the work that has been done, your Lordships will agree that it reflects great credit both on the committees of your Lordships' House and on the staff concerned.

        House adjourned at fourteen minutes past seven o'clock.

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