Annual Report and Accounts 1999-2000

Part I - Review of the Year


55.  Mention has been made of the large number of life peers appointed since May 1997; the regularity with which many Lords now attend the House; and the long hours which the House has been required to sit in recent years. This has understandably led to demands for improvements in accommodation and facilities for Lords. Some of the areas where additional facilities and improvements in services have been achieved, or are being sought, are described in the paragraphs below.


56.  A restructured information service came into existence in September 1998. In its first full financial year it dealt with approximately 25,000 telephone calls and nearly 3,000 written enquiries. A growing number of enquiries now come via e-mail--over 2,500 between April 1999 and March 2000.

57.  Interest in the House was at a high level throughout the year--particularly in relation to the changes resulting from the House of Lords Act. Requests for briefing from schools and other organisations and individuals throughout the United Kingdom and overseas were matched by press and media requests to film and photograph aspects of the House. Television filming also took place for a further documentary about the House at the time of reform. In addition, there were innumerable short filming projects for current affairs programmes.

58.  Following changes in the membership of the House, the Information Office has revised all its information and publicity material. It has also produced material to provide further information about the House of Lords on the Internet.

Computer Developments

59.  The installation of a new electronic mail service for Parliament was completed and IT convergence across the Parliamentary estate was largely achieved. The Parliamentary Data and Video Network (PDVN) infrastructure was replaced during the 1999 summer recess resulting in a more reliable service.

60.  Extensive preparations, undertaken jointly with the Commons, ensured that no Year 2000 (Y2K) difficulties were encountered in either House. Contingency plans were made to take account of any difficulties that might be experienced through failures within or outside the House of Lords, and these, though not required at the turn of the millennium, can be brought into effect should any disaster occur in the future.

61.  Development work on computer projects was suspended to allow for Y2K preparations and this provided a period of consolidation of existing systems, such as electronic document management, the Registry database of information relating to Peers and the new system for the preparation of Hansard. New developments are planned for the year 2000-01.

62.  Many of the hereditary peers who left in November used computers on loan from the House. Some of these computers were purchased by the departing peers; the remainder were returned and some were recycled for use within the House, while equipment unsuitable for re-use was disposed of.

63.  The programme to install cables to provide access to the PDVN continued in 1999 when the second floor, west front (including the Law Lords' offices) was cabled.

Accommodation and Works

64.  Three hundred and forty-one Lords out of the total membership of the House of 699 now have access to a desk and associated facilities, although much of this accommodation remains unsatisfactory due to crowded conditions. Pressure on accommodation remains acute. Throughout the year the Administration and Works Sub-Committee considered detailed proposals for the occupation by the House of 7 Little College Street and Millbank House in December 2000 and August 2001 respectively. This accommodation, which will be well equipped with services and facilities for Peers, including a small refreshment outlet and an outpost of the Library, will, together with the release of some further accommodation in the Palace, provide not only many additional desks for Peers but also the opportunity to improve working conditions. The lease on the new building, which will expire in 2015, was signed in April 2000.

65.  In order to accommodate additional staff in the Committee Office, the accommodation on the top floor of 7 Old Palace Yard, formerly the Staff Superintendent's flat, was occupied by the seven staff of the Science and Technology Committee.

66.  In March the Sub-Committee reviewed proposals for the works programme for the three year period 2001-02 to 2003-04. Amongst the important projects to be undertaken in the immediate future are improved air conditioning, rewiring and fire precaution measures in the Victoria Tower Archives; the restoration of Old Palace Yard; the refurbishment of Lords' committee rooms; and the renewal of the main boilers in the Palace.

67.  Work was carried out on stone restoration in Royal Court--the first House of Lords courtyard to be restored under the current programme.

Printing and Publishing

68.  The House joined the Commons in putting the printing of bills (and amendments) and the electronic publication of Parliamentary papers out to competitive tender in 1999. The contracts for these two services, which took effect on 1 April 2000, were both won by the current provider, The Stationery Office, and involve significant savings to the Administration Vote.

69.  The printing of other House papers (ie. the Minute, Hansard and Select Committee reports) are currently out to competitive tender with a view to awarding contracts from 1 April 2001.

70.  The size of font used on the white order paper was increased so as to aid the visually impaired.


71.  After a review by an independent security consultant and lengthy negotiations at official level, the two Houses agreed the terms of a new Special Service Agreement with the Metropolitan Police for the provision of security services at the Palace of Westminster and Parliamentary outbuildings. The new Agreement, which will be for a period of two years, took effect on 1 September 1999.


72.  Following the rejection by the House of Commons in May 1999 of an initial proposal that the Line of Route through the Palace of Westminster should be opened to the public during the summer recess, a revised proposal was approved by the Finance and Staff and Administration and Works Sub-Committees in February 2000. The Line of Route will accordingly be open to visitors in escorted groups with qualified guides for seven weeks in August and September 2000. Visitors will pay a small charge; and the House of Lords share of the net operating deficit which will fall on the Administration Vote is estimated at £94,000.

73.  Work was undertaken for an exhibition in Westminster Hall on the theme "Voters of the Future", which opened in April 2000. This exhibition represents the contribution of the two Houses of Parliament to the "String of Pearls" Millennium Festival during which many of the institutions along the River Thames have opened their doors to the public in the year 2000.

74.  The Finance and Staff Sub-Committee approved a five year project, to be completed in 2005, to set up a single comprehensive on-line archival catalogue in the Record Office which will enable participation in the proposed national archive network.

75.  A review took place of the arrangements for medical services available to the House. Defibrillators were installed in the Palace and in 1 The Abbey Garden.

History of Parliament Trust

76.  The principal activity of the History of Parliament Trust to date has been to research and publish a history of the House of Commons from the year 1386. Following a decision by the Trust to extend its work to include the House of Lords, preliminary work has been undertaken on a section covering the years 1660 to 1832. An editor and ancillary staff were appointed and detailed research will begin later in 2000. The first financial contribution by the House towards the cost of the Trust, reflecting the level of academic resources devoted to work on the House of Lords, was made during the year.

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