Maintaining the heritage of buildings,
objects and documents
166. The House of Commons occupies a diverse range
of buildings, including part of the Palace of Westminster, a Grade
1 listed building situated in a World Heritage Site; Portcullis
House; and listed buildings such as 1 Parliament Street, 1 Derby
Gate and the two Norman Shaw buildings. Barry's distinctive design
of the Palace of Westminster is augmented by Pugin's work on the
interiors and furnishings. Estimates of the values of the House's
assets must now be regularly prepared and published to fulfil
the requirements of resource accounting. The total fixed assets
of the House were valued at some £993 million at 31 March
2004. The House's share of the Palace of Westminster accounted
for the majority of this sum.
167. The House is charged with preserving and maintaining
these assets while, at the same time, providing the modern office
facilities needed by Members and staff. Similarly, the Parliamentary
Archives preserves original acts of Parliament from the fifteenth
century onwards, and other historical documents, but also must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 2004/05.
168. The parliamentary estate is managed by the Parliamentary
Estates Directorate on behalf of the two Houses, and maintenance
services are provided by the Parliamentary Works Services Directorate.
The House of Commons element of the estates budget in 2004/05
was £34 million, of which £20 million was for new works
and maintenance. Some examples of recent works are described below.
Palace of Westminster Committee Rooms
169. Sixteen Committee Rooms on the main Committee
Corridor in the Palace of Westminster have been restored and equipped
with modern facilities. The work started with Committee Room 14
in 1998 and was completed with Committee Rooms 11, 12 and 13 during
the summer of 2004. The scheme entailed installing air conditioning,
sound insulation, and modern microphone systems for audibility
and broadcasting, and the restoration of interior decorations
and furnishings. In addition, portrait paintings of Prime Ministers
have been hung on the Committee Corridor and in the Committee
Rooms in a chronological sequence (see paragraph 178).
170. Many parts of the Palace of Westminster are
floored with Victorian encaustic tiles. Decades of wear and tear
now make restoration appropriate, particularly in heavily trafficked
areas. After some years of development, replacement tiles have
been commissioned from a Staffordshire firm. The first new tiles
were laid in St Stephen's Hall in 2004.
171. During the 2004 summer recess the Members' Library
rooms on the Palace river front were fitted with protective glazing;
a new computer network was installed; painted ceilings were conserved;
cooling was installed; and other maintenance work was carried
Courtyard stone restoration
172. The external stone restoration in Commons Court
and Commons Inner Court was completed in 2004. 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.
173. The timetable for the courtyard stone restoration
programme is dictated by periods when courtyards are not needed
to give access for other works and can be occupied by stone restoration
contractors. Thus the current modernisation of the Lords Refreshment
Department prevents access for stone restoration in Peers' Court
to complete the chain of courtyards on the central roadway. The
next courtyard to be cleaned and restored will therefore be Cloister
Court, which is centrally situated and surrounded by Members'
facilities. Arrangements are being made to offer temporary relocation
to those likely to be affected by the work.
174. The threat of terrorism remains a significant
concern which requires the co-operation and vigilance of Members
and of all those employed on the parliamentary estate.
175. 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. The contract 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 Houses' requirements
176. A review of security in the Houses of Parliament
was carried out in 2004 by a joint team from the Metropolitan
Police and the Security Services. It made recommendations relating
to the security pass system, vehicle access to the parliamentary
estate, the security of the Chambers of both Houses, and a number
of other issues. Following the review, the appointment of a Parliamentary
Security Co-ordinator was made jointly by Mr Speaker and the Lord
Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords. One of his primary
roles is to manage the consideration and implementation of the
review's recommendations under the general oversight of an enlarged
Joint Committee on Security, working closely with the Head of
Security, the Serjeant at Arms and Black Rod.
Works of art
177. 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 parliamentarians,
topographical views of Parliament, cycles of historical narrative
paintings 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 Committee Rooms and the Committee
Corridor and locations on the visitor tour route. The Curator
and his staff are responsible for managing all aspects of the
collection, including the annual programmes of conservation, documentation
and art-handling, research, administration of works of art on
loan, and offering advice on acquisitions. They work closely with
the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art which considers
policy for the collection and advises the Speaker on matters relating
to works of art. Expenditure of that part of the House of Commons:
Administration Estimate for the acquisition of new works of art
is delegated to the Committee.
178. Over the last year, there has been a major re-hang
of works in the Committee Rooms on the Committee Corridor. This
is part of the long-term project to display works of art associated
with the Prime Minister after whom each Committee Room is now
named. Accordingly many large format paintings relating to the
ministries of each Prime Minister have been moved to these Rooms.
The display has been further strengthened with the paintings of
William Pitt addressing the House of Commons by Karl Anton Hickel
and Gladstone's cabinet by Cato Dickenson, both generously loaned
by the National Portrait Gallery, which have been hung in Committee
Rooms 6 and 14 respectively.
179. The Committee has made some significant acquisitions
during the year including a portrait of Stanhope by Van Dies.
It also purchased a watercolour of Parliament Square attributed
at sale to AC Pugin, the father of AWN Pugin, and subsequently
confirmed to have been by the artist. In addition to its work
on the historical collection, the Advisory Committee has acquired
a number of portraits by highly regarded contemporary artists.
These include portraits of Michael Foot by Robert Lenkiewicz,
Iain Duncan Smith by Paul Benney, and David Blunkett by Lorna
Wadsworth, the latter a previous nominee for the BP National Portrait
award. These portraits hang as part of the contemporary collection
on the first floor of Portcullis House, which is accessible to
180. The Committee has also added to the House's
collection of busts. Notable acquisitions this year include a
portrait bust of John Major by Neale Andrew and a bust of Manny
Shinwell by Oscar Nemon. The Committee was very grateful to accept
into the Collection from the Nemon family a number of preparatory
works by Oscar Nemon for his sculptures of Churchill and Macmillan,
together with related archive material. These pieces were exhibited
in Portcullis House for three months. The exhibition was one of
a number of popular in-house exhibitions mounted by the Curator
and his staff in Portcullis House over the last year. Others included
an exhibition of works from the Collection to commemorate the
bicentenary of the birth of Benjamin Disraeli.
181. During 2004/05 a firm of consultants was engaged
to carry out a review of the Curator's Office and the skills and
resources currently available to it. In particular, the consultants
were asked to consider the development of policy relating to the
management of the collections; and likely future trends in acquisitions
and commissions, exhibitions, and other proposals for developing
and using the collections. The consultants' recommendations are
currently being considered by the Clerks of both Houses.
182. 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 maintenance and improvement of effective
records management processes. This supports efficient access to
information and enables Parliament to comply with the Data Protection
Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
183. During 2001, both Houses agreed the use of a
common classification scheme for all parliamentary records in
order to improve the retrieval and sharing of information across
departments. This scheme has now been implemented for paper records
in most offices. 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. An online records
management tutorial is now available for refresher training. A
short presentation on records management is also routinely included
in the induction programme for new staff.
184. Work is in progress on the development of the
parliamentary records disposal practice. This is linked to the
functional classifications in the parliamentary classification
scheme and identifies how and when records created by parliamentary
staff should be disposed - that is, destroyed after a stated time
or transferred to the Parliamentary Archives for permanent preservation.
The disposal practice has been finalised for eight of the 28 classifications
and is in progress for four others.
185. The Parliamentary Archives launched its web
catalogue, Portcullis, in December 2004. This catalogue
contains descriptions of the Archives' several million records,
and is the result of a five-year project to automate access to
the records of Parliament. Portcullis is available online
Conservation and digitisation
186. Maintaining the House's core collections of
parliamentary papers and other official documents, and ensuring
public access to their contents by preparing printed and online
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.
A project to create online catalogue records for
approximately 30,000 titles where there are currently only card
index records was completed in 2004/05, some seven months ahead
187. Towards the end of 2004/05 approval was received
for a project to begin the digitisation of Hansard back to 1803,
and work will begin in 2005/06. The project is being coordinated
with other digitisation initiatives, including those relating
to the Private Acts (see paragraph 61) and the Parliamentary Archives
catalogue (see paragraph 185) and with work in this area led by
the History of Parliament Trust (see below).
History of Parliament
188. 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 widely acclaimed.
Work continues on further sections of the History dealing with
the Commons from 1422 to 1504, 1604 to 1660 and 1820 to 1832,
and on 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 30 staff and in
2004/05 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.
189. The History's aims and objectives are contained
in its annual Plan, which is published on its website, and reviewed
by the Commission (most recently in March 2005). The Plan indicates
the projected publication dates of each of the sections under
preparation. The next two sections, 1820-32 and 1604-29, are expected
to be published in 2009 and 2010 respectively, although the History
is working to improve on these dates wherever this is possible
and consistent with the maintenance of its high scholarly standards.
The Plan also sets out how the History plans to engage with its
existing audiences (in particular, Parliament, academics and family
historians) and to build new audiences for its work, especially
within schools and colleges. In pursuit of the latter aim, the
History offered in 2004 a prize for the best essay on a range
of subjects relating to British political and parliamentary history
by a school or college student; it has also been discussing the
creation of learning packages for schools based on its work. The
History continues to work with its partner, the Institute of Historical
Research at the University of London, on building a digital library
of historical resources, including the early journals of the two
Houses, and has helped to promote the discussion of the digitisation
of a wide range of historical parliamentary sources.