Snippets from the Palace

Lord Norton

45007Working 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.

3 comments for “Snippets from the Palace

  1. Adrian Kidney
    16/07/2009 at 10:47 pm

    I know that a lot of politicians are unhappy with the somewhat delapidated state of the Palace. There are broad talks about the feasibility of a full-scale or partial decant to fix some of the worst problems. What’s the feeling among noble Lords?

  2. lordnorton
    17/07/2009 at 12:34 pm

    Adrian Kidney: Given its age, one would expect some problems of this age. Despite the stresses of age, I regard it as a magnificent building, truly wonderful to work in. I have heard nothing recently about the possible relocation while the roof of the Commons is being fixed. It may be that the objections of members have ensured that they don’t have to move out.

  3. baronessmurphy
    18/07/2009 at 11:45 am

    Adrian Kidney I don’t really mind the state of the building as far as work goes, like Lord Norton I feel it’s an old place and if some of the working environment is Victorian I don’t really mind although my new office was like a cauldron in a hot spell a couple of weeks ago and there seems no way of cooling it.

    My main gripe is the maintenance of the decorative fabric and the failure to get it looking right. As I gaze at the carved wooden panels on the Chamber walls some are in need of repair, the lighting is ghastly and inappropriate, the carpets in some committee rooms are worn, it is as if there is no passion to present this building in its full glory. Standard lamps and table lamps in the Guest room and Bishops bar are circa 1950 and rather tatty, like a provincial hotel that never got upgraded. A lot of art work needs cleaning. I love this place but it just doesn’t quite reach the sort of standard I saw when I visited the Capitol in Washington. When guests from abroad come I find myself wishing it were ‘posher’. The exterior is beatiful, so should be the interior.

Comments are closed.