Working in the Palace of Westminster is a privilege, but it does have some problems, not least given the age of the building. I have previously mentioned the cramped conditions in the Lords: space has not expanded sufficiently to keep abreast of the growth in the active membership. There are also other problems, some transient and some not.
At the moment, there are little white bags hanging at the ends of each bench in the chamber. These are not the product of some ancient ritual. They are to treat an infestation of moths. I hadn’t realised that we had a big problem (other than seeing the odd frayed carpet) but apparently we do. The white bags are apparently an effective way of dealing with it.
Yesterday in some of the Lords committee rooms, the air conditioning system failed. At the Constitution Committee in the morning, we were taking evidence from David Blunkett and Lord Heseltine. We had the windows wide opening. There was building work of some sort going on in the courtyard below. The witnesses had to compete with banging and the sound of heavy objects being thrown into skips.
I was back in the room in the afternoon for the meeting of Sub-Committee E of the EU Committee – the last meeting of the sub-committee to be chaired by a law lord. Good news: a temporary air conditioning unit had been installed. Bad news: it was a noisy air conditioning unit. Still, we were much cooler.
The affected committee rooms are on one side of the committee corridor. The rooms on the other side overlook the Thames. In the Thames, just across from the Palace, there is now a drilling rig. Apparently, it is being used to improve the sewerage system. I read a story about it which mentioned that there were over thirty outlets on the Thames that pump sewage into the river. When I recounted this to one of our clerks, he pointed out that one of them was by Victoria Tower Gardens, just by the Palace: at low tide, he said, you can see the outlet. I do hope that we are not in for another Great Stink. We have already had a political one.