HC Deb 28 November 1983 vol 49 cc648-9
37. Mr. Dormand

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the progress being made in providing new office accommodation for hon. Members.

Mr. Biffen

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the debate on 22 November.

Mr. Dormand

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that what he said in the debate last week about the new building means that in no circumstances will the money set aside for that project be withdrawn? What is he doing to try to expedite the completion of phase 1? Does he agree that the five years before hon. Members will be able to use those offices is a long time?

Mr. Biffen

I should like to say at once that the figure of £23 million that was mentioned in the debate as being available for expenditure on this project is committed in principle, and although it is subject to the normal PESC disciplines, I very much hope that it will be available to ensure that the project is completed in the time scale that has been set out.

Mr. Crouch

Has my right hon. Friend had second thoughts about the proposal for preserving the undistinguished nineteenth century facade on 31 to 47 Parliament street? Has he had further thoughts about my protest last week that this should not be done and that, instead, we should give our architects an opportunity to design something to represent us in the twentieth century?

Mr. Biffen

I thought that my hon. Friend put his argument with all the elegance of a preservationist rather than as someone seeking some monstrous new development in the facade of this phased development. Of course I have given thought to it, but I have come down unshakably on the side of the prejudice that I expressed at the commencement of the debate last week. If I were to do anything else I would not have been able to give the answer that I have just given to the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand).

Mr. Shore

May I urge the right hon. Gentleman to be equally unshakable in his determination to see that the money is spent?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot add to the answer that I have just given.