Annual Report and Accounts 2000-01



48.  With the House sitting for long hours and with an increasing number of Members attending on a very regular basis, there were repeated and understandable demands for improvements in the accommodation and facilities provided for Members. The following paragraphs describe some of the key areas where pressures were particularly felt and improvements sought during the year.

Information and Access to Parliament

49.  The Information Enquiry Service (run by two staff) handled some 20,000 enquiries. E-mails more than doubled (5,287) over the 1999-2000 figure (2,522). Demand for published information material also rose significantly and the Information Office produced slide material illustrating the work of the House for members and staff to use in lectures and seminars for outside groups which is another growth activity.

50.  At the request of the Clerk of the Parliaments, the Office designed and produced the new pocket-guide to Procedure and Practice (see paragraph 26).

51.  The Office also commissioned a communications research programme to evaluate existing House of Lords communications and to inform and develop its information strategy.

52.  So that the House of Lords is fully represented in the activities of the Parliamentary Education Unit, which is jointly funded by both Houses, and to secure better value for money, PEU staff are now involved in the work of the Lords' Information Office, as they have been in the Commons. Additional staff were approved to cope with the increased activity of the Information Office.

53.  The visitors' tour through the Palace of Westminster (known as the Line of Route) was opened to the public during the summer recess 2000. This will be repeated in 2001 with no increase in the small charge (£3.50) for visitors and with improvements to the arrangements for the sale of tickets and souvenirs.

54.  An exhibition entitled ìVoters of the Futureî was held in Westminster Hall between Easter and Autumn 2000 as Parliament's contribution to the ìString of Pearlsî Millennium Festival during which many institutions along the River Thames were open to the public in the year 2000.

Information Technology

55.  The House of Lords provides personal computers on loan to Members to assist them with their Parliamentary duties and to allow access to electronic mail and the Internet through the Parliamentary Data and Video Network (PDVN). The number of Members who have equipment on loan rose to 487. There was a major increase in the number of individual requests from Members and staff for support and assistance from 584 in 1999 to 2,500 in 2000.

56.  The staff of the Computer Office was increased during 2000-01 to meet this increase in demand and to provide improved training for Members and staff; overview training sessions on popular topics were also introduced to supplement one to one training sessions.

57.  A major project was initiated to redesign the Parliamentary website. The objectives are to improve the appearance of the site and to make it easier for both Parliamentarians and the public to navigate and to find the information which they seek. Implementation of the new design will proceed as a joint project with the House of Commons.

Accommodation and Works

58.  The shortage of accommodation for Members and the crowded condition of much of the available accommodation, especially compared with what is now available to the House of Commons following the opening of Portcullis House in 2000, were discussed several times during the year in House committees. At the end of March, the Offices Committee invited the Leaders of the parties to make an approach to the House of Commons to request the transfer to the Lords of 43 offices in the Upper Committee Corridor (South) in order to help resolve the House's acute accommodation shortage.

59.  Much was done to secure additional desks for Members and to improve working conditions. The accommodation in 7 Little College Street was opened in December 2000, providing desks for 75 Members and a well equipped satellite unit of the Library. Plans are well advanced for the occupation of Millbank House in August 2001 which will provide a further 100 or so desks for Members. Accommodation within the Palace is also being made available for Members through the return of five rooms by the House of Commons and the move of staff of the Committee, Computer and Accountant's Offices to Millbank House. Out of the total membership of the House of 683, 430 now have access to a desk and associated facilities, and desks for 622 Members will be available by the end of 2001. However, much of this accommodation will remain overcrowded.

61.  Amongst the important works projects undertaken were: the first phase of the restoration of Old Palace Yard, the refurbishment and air conditioning of Committee Room 4, and the successful completion of the stone restoration of Royal Court - the first House of Lords' courtyard to be restored under the current programme. The programme to install cables to provide access to the PDVN continued in 2000 when the Lord Chancellor's offices and the offices in the Harcourt Corridor were cabled.

Printing and Publishing

62.  The printing of Hansard, select committee reports and the Minute was put out to competitive tender during 2000. A new four year contract for these services, which took effect from April 2001, was won by the current provider, The Stationery Office (TSO). Taken together with the new contracts for printing bills and amendments and electronic publishing, which took effect in April 2000, the tender exercises will result in significant savings in public expenditure.

63.  The House followed the House of Commons in assuming overall responsibility for the publication of its own papers. TSO will continue to administer the required publishing services and to distribute papers on behalf of the House. Two further contracts, which also took effect on 1 April 2001, were awarded for these purposes.

64.  The service provided to the House by the Printed Paper Office (PPO) was enhanced with the appointment of a Clerk of the Printed Paper Office who took over the management of the PPO from the Clerk of the Journals. The Office has assumed responsibility for monitoring the day to day operation of the various contracts with TSO, including the quality of the printing service provided.

Other Services and Facilities for Members

65.  The Administration and Works Sub-Committee approved proposals for the provision of a medical screening service for Members at the Palace of Westminster, comparable to a service already provided for MPs. Discussions on how this service can best be provided are underway with a view to implementation in 2002.

66.  The Royal Mail assumed responsibility from the Attendants for sorting and redirecting House of Lords' mail and for delivery to the outbuildings. After some initial difficulties, the new service has enabled mail to be forwarded more efficiently.

67.  The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, which provides objective analysis of science and technology-based issues of relevance to Parliament, including select committees of the two Houses, was established on a permanent basis, funded by both Houses.


68.  It was agreed that the television cameras in the Chamber should be replaced in 2003 with the House meeting the capital cost of the replacement, and the broadcasters remaining responsible for the operating costs.

69.  The Administration and Works Sub-Committee confirmed that the House should not be used by Members as a business address or for the promotion of any commercial activity.

70.  Changes were made to the House's policy on smoking and the number of places where smoking is permitted was further limited.

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