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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, for having informed me this afternoon before we sat that he was proposing to raise these matters. As regards the meetings of the Committee, after the first one, which it is proposed in the Motion before the House shall take place on 31st January in the Palace of Westminster, it is hoped--although these details have to be finalised by the Committee when it meets, should your Lordships agree to this Motion this afternoon--that it will meet in Edinburgh in the Council Chamber there. It is also hoped that those meetings will take place between 5th and 7th February.

As regards the third question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, yes, indeed, consultations have taken place. There is a Clerk to the Committee, Mr. Edward Wells, already in place awaiting your Lordships' decision this afternoon. Rather than trouble your Lordships with administrative detail now, perhaps it would be appropriate for me to say that it will be open to the noble Lord to consult the Clerk for any further details. I hope that that meets with the noble Lord's acceptance.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House of Lords' Offices: Select Committee Report

3.35 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move that the first report from the Select Committee on House of Lords Offices be agreed to. I should mention paragraph 5 on HMSO privatisation, the subject of the next Motion to be moved by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. I should like to make two preliminary points which might be helpful to the House. Both the Finance and Staff subcommittee and the Offices Committee considered the Government's proposals for the privatisation of HMSO. Neither Committee took a view on the merits of the Government's proposals, as it is for your Lordships to express opinions in debate, as always. However, we did draw up stringent safeguards which we consider to be the minimum necessary if satisfactory arrangements are to be made for the future provision of printing and publishing services for Parliament. These are set out in the report as subparagraphs 1 to 4.

My other point is on the statement made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on 13th December, in which she confirmed that the Offices Committee will be invited to consider the detailed arrangements for a contractual relationship between the House and a privatised Stationery Office. This consideration will take place later in the year. The Offices Committee and, through that Committee's report, the whole House, will have the

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chance to say whether the safeguards we are discussing today have been met by bidders for the Stationery Office business.

Moved, That the first report from the Select Committee be agreed to [HL Paper 12].-- (The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:

    1. Appointment of Sub-Committees

    The Committee appointed the following Sub-Committees and Panel--

Finance and Staff Sub-Committee

    L. Boston of Faversham (Chairman),

    V. Cranborne (L. Privy Seal),

    B. Gould of Potternewton,

    L. Jenkins of Hillhead,

    E. Northesk,

    L. Peston,

    L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn,

    L. Richard,

    L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank,

    B. Seccombe,

    L. Weatherill,

    with the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Administration and Works Sub-Committee

    L. Boston of Faversham (Chairman),

    E. Gowrie,

    L. Graham of Edmonton,

    L. Harris of Greenwich,

    L. McColl of Dulwich,

    L. Peston,

    L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn,

    B. Serota,

    B. Stedman,

    L. Strathclyde,

    V. Tenby,

    L. Weatherill,

    with the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.

Library and Computers Sub-Committee

    L. Avebury,

    L. Brougham and Vaux,

    L. Freyberg,

    L. Holderness,

    L. Lewis of Newnham,

    B. Lockwood,

    L. Lucas,

    L. Macaulay of Bragar,

    L. McIntosh of Haringey,

    L. Mustill,

    L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn (Chairman),

    with the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Refreshment Sub-Committee

    V. Allenby of Megiddo,

    E. Arran,

    B. Birk,

    L. Chesham,

    L. Graham of Edmonton,

    L. Harris of Greenwich,

    L. Lawrence,

    L. Mackie of Benshie,

    L. Merlyn-Rees,

    V. Montgomery of Alamein,

    L. Peston (Chairman),

    with the Clerk of the Parliaments.

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Advisory Panel on Works of Art

    L. Armstrong of Ilminster,

    L. Cavendish of Furness,

    V. De L'Isle,

    L. Donoughue,

    E. Gowrie (Chairman),

    L. Morris of Castle Morris,

    L. Palmer,

    Ly. Saltoun of Abernethy,

    B. Trumpington,

    with the Clerk of the Parliaments.

    2. PDVN cabling and other works

    The Committee was informed of the programme for cabling for the Parliamentary Data and Video Network. To minimise disturbance and cost, this work is to be synchronised with associated works of automatic fire detection, fire stopping, electrical rewiring, telephone cabling and asbestos removal, and will for Lords' accommodation be completed by 2000 and for the state rooms by 2002. The programme for individual cabling requirements will remain flexible to allow for changes in priorities.

    3. Overhaul of roofs over parts of the House of Lords

    Following an inspection and survey by the Parliamentary Works Directorate, a project will be undertaken to carry out essential repairs and restoration to some of the House of Lords' roofs. The repairs will begin in summer 1996, with completion by autumn 1998. Disturbance and inconvenience to Lords and staff will be kept to a minimum.

    4. HMSO Supply and Service Agreement

    The Committee approved a new Supply and Service Agreement between the House of Lords and Her Majesty's Stationery Office for the provision of printing and publishing services.

    5. HMSO privatisation

    The Committee took note of the Government's intention to privatise Her Majesty's Stationery Office provided that satisfactory arrangements can be made for the future provision of services to Parliament and agreed that extensive safeguards would be necessary to protect the House's interests. Similar safeguards were being sought by the House of Commons' Commission for that House.

    In any arrangements for privatisation, safeguards should be sought to secure the following:

    1. Confidence that the business of the House will not be interrupted. This will require:

    (a) adequate time for the preparation of one or more tightly drawn contracts;

    (b) an assurance that overnight production facilities in inner London are retained for as long as the House continues to need them;

    (c) sufficient continuity in the senior management of the relevant sections of the Stationery Office to ensure that the House's needs are understood;

    (d) one or more individuals in the privatised Stationery Office who are answerable to the House for the service provided;

    (e) alternative emergency arrangements for overnight printing in the event of the failure of contractors.

    2. A publication regime which protects the interests of Parliament and does not leave the pricing of its publications to commercial interests. This should include a guarantee that a privatised Stationery Office will not seek any increase (in real terms) in the rates of charges paid by the House or the level of prices to the public above those negotiated for 1996 and that the House will be credited with a proportionate share of future savings arising from technological advances. It would be desirable to achieve a progressive reduction (in real terms) in the cost of Lords papers.

    3. A requirement on any prospective purchaser of the Stationery Office to accept the substance of the provisions of the new Supply and Service Agreement between the House and HMSO, including the maintenance of existing service standards and delivery schedules and the rights of the House to regulate the production and reproduction of its documents in both paper and electronic form.

18 Jan 1996 : Column 708

    4. The administration of Parliamentary copyright, and the function of Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament, not to be transferred to the private sector.

    The Committee noted that alternative arrangements would have to be made by the House to replace its "intelligent customer" function, now performed by HMSO. This will probably require recruitment of staff by the House, to make good its competence to conduct dealings with the private sector and to commission work.

    There should be a debate in the House, for the House to express its opinion on the Government's intentions to privatise HMSO.

    6. Lords' reimbursement allowances

    The Committee took note of new rates of subsistence and secretarial allowances, following the annual uprating on 1 August in line with the increase in the Retail Price Index:

    Overnight subsistence by £2.50 to £74.00

    Day subsistence by £1.00 to £33.00

    Secretarial costs by £1.00 to £32.00

    7. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

    The Committee agreed that the current joint funding arrangements with the House of Commons, whereby this House contributes 22% of the running costs of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, should be continued for a further five years from 1 April 1996.

    8. Staff of the House

    The Committee approved the extension for two years of the post of additional Temporary Clerk in the Committee Office. The Committee took note of the following:

    --that Dr Christopher Kerse had succeeded Mrs Eileen Denza CMG as Second Counsel to the Chairman of Committees and Legal Adviser to the European Communities Committee on 9 October, following Mrs Denza's retirement. The Committee expressed their appreciation for the service which Mrs Denza had rendered the House;

    --that Miss Marlene Barrett had been appointed a Temporary Library Clerk until July 1996, in substitution for Dr Victory who is on maternity leave;

    --that Mr Norman Adamson CB QC, Assistant Counsel to the Chairman of Committees, had retired on 28 September 1995. The Committee expressed their appreciation for the service which Mr Adamson had rendered the House;

    --that Mr Derek Rippengal CB QC and Sir James Nursaw KCB QC had agreed to continue to serve part-time, sharing the work of Counsel to the Chairman of Committees for a further year, ending 30 November 1996.

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