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Mr. Forth: The Government.

Bob Spink: I do not see why the House should accept this nonsense. We need to link the changes to security recommended in the report with a comprehensive and cohesive security review. We should not tackle the problems in a piecemeal fashion, as we appear to be doing tonight.

We need better visitor facilities, especially toilets. I personally welcome the giving up of Room W5 to provide more ladies' toilets. Guests arriving here after travelling a long way on coaches—perhaps from Thurrock, from Castle Point or even from Dundee, East—really need toilet facilities, particularly the ladies. I see no reason why we should not seek to provide them.

Mr. Forth: Is my hon. Friend saying that it is a case of moving from W5 to WC?

Bob Spink: I could not have put it better myself. We should not allow utility considerations to compromise the heritage of this place.

The report mentions increasing the lighting levels in Westminster Hall. Mr. Deputy Speaker, during the time of your predecessor, Thomas Hungerford, who is generally recognised as the first Speaker to be so called around 1390, William Rufus' original roof caved in. It was replaced by the beautiful and unique hammerbeam roof, which we still admire today. As I walk through Westminster Hall after this debate, I shall look up at that roof and enjoy the experience very much. It was built of great oaks taken from the then King's hunting ground in Thundersley wood in my constituency. Indeed, it created a clearing in those very woods in which my house was built.

Seriously, however, the current gentle and sympathetic lighting is subtle and evocative: some even find it ghostly. It is certainly mood enhancing, especially late at night. I do not want that atmosphere to be destroyed by modernisation philistines. The bottom line is that we must do nothing to compromise the heritage of this beautiful, wonderful and historic building.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Thomas Hungerford lived just outside my constituency. How long has electric light been available in Westminster Hall?

Mr. Forth: Too long.

Bob Spink: I imagine that the lighting many hundreds of years ago was even more subtle, emotional and
 
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atmospheric than it is today. I do not want the present effect to be destroyed by increased levels of lighting of which we have no knowledge at present. The bottom line is that we must do nothing to compromise the wonderful heritage and history of this building.

The Benfleet historical society is due to visit this place next week, and the following week I shall be welcoming a group from Hadleigh. They want to see the true, beautiful Palace of Westminster in all its historic glory. They do not want to visit Disneyland.

9.50 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Phil Woolas): We have had a very comprehensive debate. I remind the House that it has been the second half of the discussion: we had nearly an hour on 22 April and we have spent nearly three and a half hours on the matter this evening. All the points that have been made have been pertinent to the report.

On behalf of the House, I thank the Committees that produced this report and their Chairmen, the hon. Members for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) and for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Derek Conway). I also thank the Chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Lepper), who contributed to the debate. We all owe them thanks.

The Government strongly support the report, which has been compiled by the Domestic Committees of the House. In essence, there are three arguments against the proposals. The first has to do with security. I repeat what I said on 22 April, which was underlined again tonight: the primary purpose of the proposal is to improve access for visitors. I believe that the change would be put in hand irrespective of security considerations. However, if those security considerations can be made more convenient for visitors, I urge the House to accept the move.

Secondly, it has been said that we are being asked to buy a pig in a poke and that the House will be committed to further expenditure and development. On 22 April, I said that the Government believe, as do I, that those further developments are to be welcomed. However, as the Chairmen of the Committees said, this proposal is not a commitment to stage 2. When the House asks the Domestic Committees to undertake detailed work, it should give them a bit of trust. It is for the Committees to go into detail, probe and ask questions and I believe that they have done that.

Finally, I think that the main thrust of the arguments against the proposal is based on a fear of change. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) has said that he fears that the House is turning into a theme park. I put it to him that his proposals would turn it into a museum. In the modern age, it is right and proper for us improve the facilities and the welcome that we extend to the 400,000 people who wish to visit. I suspect that more people would want to come
 
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here as a result. The welcome that we give people at the moment is frankly risible. People are asked to stand outside in the rain and cold, treated like strangers.

Mr. Gale: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Woolas: I shall give way very briefly, as I want to finish my remarks.

Mr. Gale: The debate is open-ended, so there is no haste. However, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Given his concern about visitors to the House, will he contemplate the fact that most of the visitors for whom the proposed facilities will be designed are likely to be from overseas? The visitors whom hon. Members would like to invite are our constituents, but they are denied access on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. That is because the House now sits at times that render it impossible for them to be present.

Mr. Woolas: I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, but we are not debating sitting hours. The debate on 22 April made reference to the improvements that are proposed by other hon. Members on how best to allow constituents to visit the Palace of Westminster.

Bob Spink: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Woolas: No, I wish to finish on this point. The hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) made a point about overseas visitors. I would have thought that Members of Parliament would see this building not only as a prime heritage site for the United Kingdom but as a prime world heritage site. The overseas visitors to this place, which is a symbol of democracy around the world, should be welcomed warmly and we should provide access for them. On that basis alone, I recommend the reports to the House.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth (Coventry, North-East) (Lab) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 161, Noes 35.

Division No. 170
[9:55 pm


AYES

Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Begg, Miss Anne
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Cairns, David
Casale, Roger
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Dawson, Hilton
Dobson, rh Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Efford, Clive
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Michael, rh Alun
Miller, Andrew
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Owen, Albert
Perham, Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Shaw, Jonathan
Skinner, Dennis
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Gillian Merron and
Mr. Nick Ainger


NOES

Boswell, Tim
Burnett, John
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Dodds, Nigel
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flook, Adrian
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Leigh, Edward
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McLoughlin, Patrick
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Rendel, David
Rosindell, Andrew
Salmond, Alex
Sanders, Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Teather, Sarah
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, John
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. Roger Gale


Question accordingly agreed to.


 
11 May 2004 : Column 325
 

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Question just decided was, That the Question be now put. But, ironically, as I understand it, that will not happen. Is it possible, with the Government's agreement, for us to proceed now to vote on the main Question? To do otherwise makes nonsense of the House—are all here and all ready to vote, yet we cannot because of some silly rules.


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