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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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