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Nick Harvey (representing the House of Commons Commission):
The Commission has had no recent discussions with the authorities in the House of Lords on the matter. The parliamentary estate is managed by the Parliamentary Estates Directorate as one single entity, including management of its environmental impact.
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Norman Baker: I welcome my hon. Friend to his position and assure him that I will do my best to keep him busy in his new role. Does he recognise that there is a lack of co-ordination between what happens at this end of the building and what happens at the other end? There is, for example, no common recycling scheme and no joint procurementin other words, no joined-up Parliament. There is also a lack of joined-up Commons, in that Members duly separate their rubbish in their offices, only for it to be put together again in one bag by the cleaners subsequently. Is there not a long way to go before the House of Commons and the House of Lords get their environmental act together?
Nick Harvey: I shall pick up the point that my hon. Friend makes about waste streams. The problem is recognised and acknowledged. The authorities are doing what they can to resolve the problem. My hon. Friend states that there is a lack of co-ordination between the two Houses. May I assure him that officers of both Houses are working together closely on these matters and looking at ways in which we can improve our environmental performance?
Nick Harvey: I shall resist the temptation that the hon. Gentleman presents to make any puns. A great deal of work is being done to examine our energy conservation and waste management and on other environmental fronts. Given the constraints that we are under with a building of such an age, we are doing what can to keep our environmental impact to a minimum.
Nick Harvey : The number of new Members who had no office at the end of each week since the state opening of Parliament was 120, 119, 98, 64, 30, one and, as of last Friday, nil. The problem is inevitable following an election, but it was exacerbated this year by the requirement to reallocate accommodation for many returning Members in line with the desire of the Accommodation Whips for a rebalancing of office allocation between the parties across the estate.
Mr. Turner: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his answer. Given the trend for more Members to have staff in their constituencies and the fact that there are now 13 fewer Members than there were in the last Parliament, has he observed any reduction in demand for office space around the parliamentary estate?
There has been no noticeable reduction in demand for office accommodation around the estate. As I say, it has been a particularly complex operation on
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this occasion, with more than half the planned moves taking place being for returning Members rather than for new Members.
Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that any danger of new Members having delusions of grandeur was soon gone following seven weeks spent squatting in other Members' offices and/or the canteen? Will he look into how many Members have had computers or phone lines installed and have had a full complement of furniture in those seven weeks since first being elected by the public?
Nick Harvey: It is acknowledged that there have been problems on these fronts. Experience has shown that there is a maximum number of moves that can be undertaken in one week if an acceptable standard of service to Members is to be sustained. There has undoubtedly been a bottleneck as a result of some Members asking staff to change the positions of already installed telephone and IT equipment, diverting them from getting on with the task of installing new equipment for new Members. The Serjeant at Arms and his Department intend to ensure that lessons are learned so that next time round the target of getting all new Members into an office within a month of an election can be achieved.
Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): In view of the fact that hairbrushes and combs have been removed from the Members' Cloakroom on the grounds of the risk of spreading HIV or lice, could the Speaker ensure that all
Mr. Speaker: Order. I hate to tell the hon. Gentleman again that his request is beyond the scope of this question. Perhaps we should run a course to help him to get it right, because he is putting me in great difficulties. I am afraid that he cannot ask about combs and the spread of HIV, as the question is about offices.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there are great variations in the accommodation that is available to Members of Parliament, ranging from some that is excellent to some that is fairly awful? Will the Commission take that on board, and ensure that no Member in the next Parliament has to have an office with no window?
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and the Commission can certainly consider it during the course of this Parliament in the hope that we can offer new Members coming into the next Parliament the best possible premises in which to do their work.
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The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Nigel Griffiths): I welcome the progress towards making the legislative process more effective and accessible to the public. We have ensured a significant increase in the number of Bills published in draft for pre-legislative scrutiny. However, there is more that we can do, particularly to improve the effectiveness of our Standing Committee scrutiny, and I hope that the Modernisation Committee will consider that.
Dr. Wright: Over the years, we have had umpteen reports which show that we do not scrutinise legislation effectively here, with the result that our legislation is often flawed. We all know that that is true. We still do not see enough draft legislation, we legislate too much, our Standing Committees do not work well in scrutinising and, when amendments come back from the other place, we often do not consider them at all. In the next phase of modernisation, will my hon. Friend give his attention to making scrutiny more effective?
I am of course happy to do that, and I pay tribute to the part that my hon. Friend has played through chairing the Public Administration Committee with distinction. Nobody would claim that our scrutiny is beyond criticism, but we sit for longer than most
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legislatures and our mechanisms for scrutiny here, in the other House and through Joint Committees, are invaluable and detailed. Of course, we will consider any proposals to improve on that with great care, and I hope that we could act swiftly on them.
Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): May I invite the Deputy Leader to consider using the opportunity presented by the concerns about the Licensing Act 2003 to establish a pilot project for post-legislative scrutiny? We could thus not only examine what is going wrong with that measure but ascertain how best we can establish a process for considering measures after implementation when it clearly has unforeseen consequences.
Nigel Griffiths: There is a well recognised mechanism for post-legislative scrutiny. Our Select Committees do an excellent job of undertaking that in key cases. The Liaison Committee reinforced that message in its annual report in 2002. Combined with valuable pre-legislative scrutiny, that makes the House one of the most effective legislatures at scrutiny. I shall not be Chirac'd by the hon. Gentleman into subjecting us to ill informed views on how the House works through post-legislative and pre-legislative scrutiny, simply to make cheap political capital.
Nigel Griffiths: I hope that all hon. Members take it on themselves to do the job that our electors expect of us. I believe that the House is more open than many other legislatures. Although I am not complacent about improvements that have been made in my time in Parliament and will be made in future, I believe that every hon. Member has a duty to ensure that the Executive are held to account and that legislation is of the highest quality. I look forward to working with my hon. Friend to secure that objective.
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