Select Committee on House of Commons Commission Twenty-sixth Annual Report

Maintaining the heritage of buildings, objects and documents


172. The House of Commons occupies a diverse range of buildings, including part of the Palace of Westminster, a Grade I listed building situated in a World Heritage Site; other listed buildings such as the two Norman Shaw buildings; and the recently completed Portcullis House. Just as distinctive as Barry's design of the Palace of Westminster was Pugin's work on the interior design and furnishings. As part of the introduction of resource accounting and budgeting (see paragraph 20) estimates of the values of the House's assets must regularly be made and published. The total fixed assets of the House were valued at over £1,036 million at 31 March 2003, with the House's share of the Palace of Westminster accounting for the majority of this sum.[18]

The House of Commons occupies a diverse range of buildings, including the recently completed Portcullis House (above) and listed buildings such as Norman Shaw South (right).

173. The House is charged with preserving and maintaining these assets while, at the same time, providing the modern office facilities required by Members and staff. Similarly, the Parliamentary Archives preserves original Acts of Parliament from the fifteenth century onwards, and other historical manuscripts including the death warrant of Charles I, but also must tackle the modern concepts of freedom of information and electronic records management. The sections below describe how the House met these challenges in 2003/04.

Parliamentary estate

174. The parliamentary estate is managed by the Parliamentary Estates Directorate on behalf of both Houses and maintenance services are provided by the Parliamentary Works Services Directorate. The House of Commons element of the estates budget in 2003/04 was £37 million, of which £23 million was new works and maintenance. The main features are described below.

One of the new lifts in the recently refurbished Norman Shaw South.

Norman Shaw South

175. Following restoration, the Norman Shaw South building was re-occupied in March 2003, having been refurbished as accommodation for Members and their staff. This supports the strategy to concentrate Members' offices in the Palace and buildings north of Bridge Street.

Main Committee Rooms: Palace of Westminster

176. Sixteen Committee Rooms on the main Committee Corridor in the Palace of Westminster are being restored and equipped with modern facilities. The work started with Committee Room 14 in 1998 and is due to be completed with Committee Rooms 15 and 16 during the summer of 2004. The scheme entails the installation of air conditioning, sound insulation, modern microphone systems for audibility and broadcasting, and the restoration of interior decoration and furnishings. In addition, works of art have been relocated within Committee Rooms to complement the paintings on the Committee Corridor and Committee Rooms have been named after Prime Ministers to reflect the theme of the Corridor.

Courtyard Stone Restoration

177. The external stone restoration of the Palace is continuing with Commons Court and Commons Inner Court, which are due to be completed in the 2004 summer recess. More important than the obvious removal of grime is the cutting out of decayed stone and its replacement with new carved limestone; quarried from Clipsham, Rutland.

Carving new limestone (above) and improvement measures to regulate vehicles and pedestrians at the entrance to Black Rod's Garden (right).

178. The timetable for the courtyard stone restoration programme is dictated by the periods when courtyards are not providing access for other work and can be occupied by contractors. Thus, in earlier years, the schemes to modernise the House of Commons kitchens and install the Terrace Cafeteria prevented access to Commons Court; for the next three years, the modernisation of the Lords' Refreshment Department will prevent access for the next stone restoration project in Peers' Court. The cleaning and restoration of stonework in the courtyards is both a noisy and disruptive process. The revised sitting times for the House, in particular the introduction of the September sitting, have limited the times at which such work can be undertaken; the current contract has therefore been extended to enable work to take place at weekends.


179. The threat of international terrorism has necessitated enhanced security measures throughout the parliamentary estate. Additional physical measures and enhanced manpower availability have provided benefits, but the primary factors safeguarding the security of Members, staff and visitors are constant vigilance and co-operation.

180. The Houses of Parliament have a joint contract with the Metropolitan Police to provide the police and security officers who are responsible for providing security services throughout the estate. This contract was renewed with effect from 1 April 2005. It is managed by the Serjeant at Arms and Black Rod and is intended to dovetail with the plans and facilities provided by the Metropolitan Police throughout the capital. The police contingent is headed by a Chief Superintendent who performs the role of Head of Security in conformity with the House's requirements and guidelines. The new contract includes a requirement for performance indicators which are monitored on a monthly basis.

181. A programme of security works has been undertaken in conjunction with the House of Lords. Improvements include measures to regulate vehicles and pedestrians at the entrances in New Palace Yard and Black Rod's Garden; protected windows in the Palace; and additional closed circuit television. Physical protection was installed as part of the restoration of Speaker's Green; a temporary security screen has been erected in the House of Commons Chamber, which will be replaced by a permanent screen in due course (see paragraph 163); and there are security aspects to proposals for a visitor reception at Cromwell Green (see page 62).

Works of Art
182. There are around 7,500 items in the art collections of both Houses. The House of Commons collection includes portraits and sculptures of Prime Ministers and other prominent figures, views of Parliament, and political caricatures. Much of the collection is displayed in the areas of the House most frequently visited by members of the public such as the Committee Corridor and locations on the visitor tour route. The curator and his staff are responsible for compiling catalogue information on the collections, conservation programmes, the presentation and preservation of works of art, and offering advice on acquisitions. They work closely with the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art which considers policy on the future of the collection, advises the Speaker on matters relating to works of art, and is responsible for the acquisition of new works of art.

183. Following the completion of a major re-hang of paintings on Committee Corridor, work was undertaken to improve the lighting in this area. This has greatly improved the arrangements for viewing the portraits in one of the areas most regularly visited by members of the public. The first phase of a programme to bring better lighting to the entertaining rooms was also completed. Chandeliers in the Members' Dining Room have been refurbished to increase the ambient light level for diners and task-lighting provided to allow the portraits around the walls to be seen more clearly.

184. During the summer of 2003, the marble busts of Prime Ministers were re-arranged on the Committee Stairs in chronological order to accommodate two significant acquisitions: a bust of Benjamin Disraeli by Mario Razzi, purchased by the Works of Art Committee in April 2003, and a bust of Lord Derby by Matthew Noble, loaned to the House anonymously. Caricatures from the Collection were hung along the Upper Committee Corridor, including a recently acquired political caricature on Irish land reform showing Gladstone, Parnell and John Bull.

During the summer of 2003, the marble busts of Prime Ministers on the Committee stairs were re-arranged (above right). The newly named Disraeli Room (above).

185. The House made some significant acquisitions over the last year. The family of the sculptor Oscar Nemon generously donated a number of examples of his work, including supporting archive documentation and photographs. The donated works relate to Nemon's celebrated sculpture of Sir Winston Churchill outside the Commons Chamber, and to busts of other major political figures including Harold Macmillan.

186. A fully-worked study for the portrait of Sir Winston Churchill by the artist Graham Sutherland was loaned to the House for two months for display in Portcullis House. From a private collection in Scotland, the study gives valuable insight into the original painting which was commissioned by both Houses to celebrate Churchill's 80th birthday, but which was so hated by Churchill that his wife Clementine famously destroyed it after his death in 1965.

187. The Works of Art Committee has continued to commission new works for display in Portcullis House. It commissioned two new portraits of current parliamentarians: Paul Boateng by the artist Johnny Yeo, and Diane Abbott by Stuart Pearson Wright. Both portraits were completed in March 2004.

188. At the instigation of the Committee, staff from the Curator's Department, aided by the Parliamentary Communications Directorate, completed work in March 2004 on a pilot for a new Works of Art website. This will allow images of the permanent collections, together with supporting text information, to be available to users of the parliamentary intranet in late 2004. The intention is to make this information available on the Parliament website in due course.

Parliamentary Archives

189. The Parliamentary Archives (the House of Lords Record Office) is responsible for developing and implementing records management policy and practices for both Houses of Parliament. Both Houses have adopted a common policy on records management and are committed to the improvement and maintenance of effective records management processes. This will support efficient access to information and enable Parliament to comply with the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act (see paragraphs 131-36).

190. During 2001, both Houses agreed to the use of a common classification scheme for all parliamentary records, in order to improve the retrieval and sharing of information across departments. Most departments have now completed the classification of their existing paper records and are using the Parliamentary Classification Scheme for all new paper records. As part of this programme of work, the majority of staff involved with the creation of records have attended training in the use of the scheme and in basic good practice for records management. A short presentation on records management is now routinely included in the induction programme for new members of staff.

191. Work has started on the development of the Parliamentary Records Disposal Practice.

This is linked to the functional classifications in the Parliamentary Classification Scheme and will identify how and when records created by parliamentary staff should be stored and disposed of. Disposal can mean either the destruction or deletion of records after a stated time or their transfer to the Parliamentary Archives for permanent preservation. The Disposal Practice for one of the twenty eight functions has been finalised, and several others are now in progress.

192. An electronic records management strategy has been developed and the next stage planned will probably involve some more pilots in different business areas. The Parliamentary Archives ensures that departmental records of both Houses of Parliament worthy of permanent preservation are selected and archived. A five year project is underway to develop a comprehensive online catalogue of archival holdings, which is now accessible in the public search room and will be available on the internet by March 2005.

Conservation of Library stock

193. Maintaining the House's core collections of parliamentary papers and other official documents, and ensuring public access to their contents by preparing printed and on-line indexes, is a key responsibility for the Library. The Library has continued to preserve and, where appropriate, conserve these important areas of its stock. Conventional conservation is, however, both expensive and labour-intensive, with the added disadvantage that it makes the volumes more difficult to use and does nothing to provide wider access to their contents. The Library has therefore been looking at digitisation as an alternative to conventional conservation, particularly for Hansard. It is hoped that work on this project will commence in 2005/06.

194. In June 2003 approximately 16,000 of the Library's older books were transferred to the King's Library of the British Museum. Many of the volumes are rare, with fine bindings, and are of scholarly or antiquarian interest. The collection is now on display to the public in the exhibition Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century at the British Museum and is available for consultation.

A collection of approximately 16,000 of the Library's older books are now on display in the King's Library of the British Museum.

History of Parliament Trust
195. The History of Parliament is a major academic project to create a scholarly reference work describing the Members, constituencies and activities of the Parliament of England and the United Kingdom. The published History now covers a total of 281 years of parliamentary history in 28 volumes. The most recent set of volumes, covering the House of Commons from 1690 to 1715, was published in 2002, and has been extremely well reviewed. Work continues on further sections of the History dealing with the Commons from 1422-1504, 1604-1660 and 1820-32 and the Lords from 1660 to 1832. The project is governed by a Trust, chaired by Sir Patrick Cormack FSA MP, and composed mainly of Members and staff of both Houses. It employs 29 staff and in 2003/04 received grant-in-aid of £1.2 million from the House of Commons: Administration Estimate and almost £0.3 million from the House of Lords Estimate.

196. During 2003 the History produced its first Corporate Plan, which was reviewed by the Commission in early 2004. The Plan indicates the projected publication dates of each of the sections under preparation. These have been set after considerable discussion and experiment, and are intended to be challenging but achievable; however, the History is committed to work wherever possible, and consistently with the maintenance of its high scholarly standards, to bring these forward. The Corporate Plan sets out the History's aims and objectives over the next three years, including the investigation with its partners, Cambridge University Press, of the possibility of online publication; and the promotion of the History to its core academic audience, and the building of new audiences for the History's work, including family historians and schools. The History has also been working to make historical parliamentary sources more easily available. With its partner, the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London, it has been building a digital library of historical resources, funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, including the early journals of the two Houses.

18   HC 67, 2003-04 Back

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