Wrong sort of pressure

Lord Norton

The BBC’s admirable Mark D’Arcy has done a post on his blog about the pressure on resources in the Lords:

“On the Turkeys/Early Christmas principle, a lot of peers instinctively oppose reform of the House of Lords, but there is one internal factor that may work in favour of change – it’s getting rather crowded in the Bishops’ Bar.

“Forget the arguments about the nature and structure of parliamentary institutions in a democratic polity, forget the manifesto promises and a century of constitutional debate. When a chap can’t get a table for dinner in the Peers’ Dining Room, and when Noble Lords have to order their G&Ts in the Pugin Room to avoid the crush, there’s a problem.”

The only problem with this is that there is not a particular crush in the Bishops’ Bar.  I am a regular at lunchtime and often have my dinner there in the evening.  It can get a little crowded at lunchtime, but no more than before, and there is never a problem of space in the evening – it is not unusual for me to be the only one in the dining side.  As for the Pugin Room, this is the preserve of MPs; only peers who have previously been MPs are entitled to use it.   Despite the pressure now on space in the chamber, the various refreshment outlets appear to cope with the burgeoning numbers – I rarely see the long table crowded in the Peers’ Dining Room and, if I opt for the River Restaurant (or the Terrace Cafteria in the Commons) in place of the Bishops’ Bar, I have never yet failed to get a seat.

Having said all that, the Lords (as regular readers will know) would nonetheless like to get the Pugin Room back.  The Commons acquired it over a century ago but it remains ‘red carpet’ territory.  I wonder if we could claim the Commons are only leaseholders…

17 comments for “Wrong sort of pressure

  1. tory boy
    11/04/2011 at 7:20 pm

    How did they get it? Was there not a swap of rooms? I have been in the Pugin room a couple of times it has very loud decor! How would the lords get it back considering the commons has Portcullis House and the lords does not yet have an equivalent. As you state it is also on red carpet!

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      12/04/2011 at 2:37 pm

      tory boy: I understand the Pugin Room was given up in return for the use of a committee room. Not only do the Commons now have an extended range of eating outlets, but also have now a floor of committee rooms in Portcullis House (as well as the Upper Committee corridor). I gather the House authorities have previously made representations to the Commons but without any success.

      • Dave H
        12/04/2011 at 7:54 pm

        How about some direct action? Hire in a couple of students as consultants (helps them pay their fees) and organise a sit-in. Start at a time when it’s mostly empty and fill it up with peers. You could do a rota system so that you can all have rests, and pair off for votes so that you don’t all need to rush to the chamber.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          12/04/2011 at 11:10 pm

          Dave H: A similar thought had crossed my mind. We wouldn’t need to buy in consultants. We have people in the House who have led armies…

          • Daniel.Olive@ntlworld.com
            17/04/2011 at 10:41 pm

            I’m sure Lord Norton would have no difficulty sourcing students expert in occupation (last thing I heard they were still occupying half of Staff House).

            Just walking in and occupying might work. I just can’t see the security removing Lords Goodhart, Steyn and Alexander of Weedon, three former chairs of JUSTICE, or Baroness Kennedy the current chair. Perhaps a more effective method would be for the three former Met commissioners to occupy? The Commons doorkeepers might still give it ago, but would they be prepared to manhandle Baroness Boothroyd?

            Perhaps a method more suited to the dignity of the House and it’s members might be to either hold a committee meeting in the room or direct a servant of the Refreshment Committee to lay out places for Lords. Then imprison anyone obstructing them for contempt of the house. If it came to a battle of the privileges you have the power to fine and to imprison beyond the life of a Parliament.

  2. Bedd Gelert
    11/04/2011 at 7:44 pm

    Lord Norton, Don’t blame Mark D’Arcy, it is probably more due to the BBC/Guardian axis having already decided at one of their editorial meetings that the ‘correct’ worldview is that the ‘Lords is ripe for reform’.

    ‘Facts’ can be just be selected and moulded to fit that pre-determined conclusion. Or maybe I am being too cynical ?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      12/04/2011 at 2:39 pm

      Bedd Gelert: Being cynical and being right are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

  3. MilesJSD
    12/04/2011 at 5:35 am

    Whenever I see an educated, intelligent, wealthy or otherwise highly-empowered individual using vapid and directionless terms, such as “progress”, in important contexts, my little row-boat of citizenship takes in sea-water most alarmingly and lung-chokingly

    and the ‘celebrated’ D’A having skewed his little popular journalism speed-boat at several angles around our Democratic Victualling Houses’ watering-places, only to leave us naked and marooned on a capsized boat-bottom by his key-fog-term “change” right at the end of his ‘spin’ where he no doubt comfortably runs his steel-keel onto a luxurious little beach somewhere just around some privately-protected corner where ‘transparency’ and ‘responsibility’ have no admission.
    Or is it the Poster’s fault for publicising inanities from a so-called people-serving profession (‘The Media’) wherein the three basic principles of good-communication and honest-argumentation
    .1. Be Clear in what you say and write;
    .2. Be charitably appreciative of others’ inputs;
    .3. Be self-correcting, wherever you are shown to have been wrong or to have omitted some essential;

    have no place.

    If I may speak as plain as the working-class origin I come from, it seems to me D’A has poked his nose into the victualling places of our Houses of Parliament without first thoroughly wiping it.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      12/04/2011 at 2:46 pm

      milesjsd: It may also be that he is getting confused as to which room is which, though if so that rather supports your contention.

      • MilesJSD
        12/04/2011 at 6:53 pm

        and it raises an ‘efficiency’ question pertaining to ‘minimum-membership-tenure’ in the House;
        the implication being that with such an historical-architecturing of victualling-rooms, members need a minimum number of years ‘guaranteed-seat’ to properly and effectively habilitate to the Place, not simply for their personal-refreshment but for what may be seen as ‘suspended-standing-orders small-talk’, a governance-absolute-essential, I would think.
        Then, of course with so many members rarely in the House, and the lifelong-membership Embarrasing-Inconsistency a propos willingness-&-ability to do governance, the principal constitutional need of the House surely includes ‘ring-fencing’ a minimum number of proven experts to be present as, as it were, the plenum-quorum.

        Every one of this ‘plenum-quorum’ needs to be qualified and experienced in good-communication, honest-argumentation and sustainworthy-life-experience;

        and all need to be advocating, and be rapidly focus-able upon, The Peoples’ Real Needs – (distinctly from minority-wants, luxuries, and fantasy-gamblings).

        All need to be eschewing political-party-biasings and underminings;

        and to be pre-paredly holding the Commons Government to the Task of scrutinising and preparing every piece of legiaslation ‘fail-safe’.

        Since dominantly most legislation must be ‘fail-safe’ for the Needs of The People to be fully and best-affordably met, the whole Westminster Precinct must surely be a Governance-Place;

        and within that the victualling-rooms and other two-way-communication places, complete with CCTV as well as with certain provisions for screened-tables, are essential to be ‘learned and informally utilised’ by all members.
        “Guardians”, “Medias”, who-ever, should be focusing upon the Needs & Affordable-Hows of The People, not upon refreshment rooms that should be out-of-bounds to them anyway;

        and since even pass-level-students in GCSE Geography would be able to read coloured maps of the various rooms, successfully to know what they look like and where they are (just in case they ever have to make use of any of them (which would contingently be in a great-once-in-a-lifetime-hurry to deal with an emergency)

        why can not Media leaders use such maps to ‘find their way about’ ?

        and leave the democratic-blog-timeframes to those who respect the 3-Principles of good-communication and honest-argumentation, and both The People and The Parliaments ?


      • maude elwes
        15/04/2011 at 1:24 pm

        @Lord Norton:

        If government want to abolish the Lords, and I believe you, what will it do with its friends?

        Can the plan be to paint the room pink and make it into a lounge bar?

  4. Twm O'r Nant
    12/04/2011 at 8:25 pm

    not unusual for me to be the only one in the dining side.

    Splendid solitude.

    Since there are currently so many people who consider HofL to be the best club in London, perhaps Lord Norton’s request may be heard.

    Portcullis house does provide so much more for the other place.

    HofL is of course ripe for reform. Bedd Gelert keeps us on our toes. Perhaps once the Lib Dems in govt have won the AV campaign,they could start on Lords Reform.

    Chuck out all those who have just chucked themselves in.

    One new peer, from the West country, is practicing his public speaking before making his 4 minute maiden speech. He is just a bit shy, that is all. Bless ‘is heart! He’s never spoken in public before perhaps.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      12/04/2011 at 11:11 pm

      Twm O’r Nant: The House of Lords may be in need of reform but not in need of abolition, which is what the Government proposes.

      • maude elwes
        19/04/2011 at 1:44 pm

        Abolition of a second chamber would be a tragedy. And, I think, unlikely.

        What the Lords is in dire need of is a rethink of who are suitable representatives. What is the aim of this change? Why do we need so many? Why is it filled with a heavy percentage of old and useless politicians who are both unrepresentative and even more out of touch than those in the other place?

        Why, for example, are past it blow hards like the previous Commons Speaker still in Parliament at all? And what of Prescott? He is all but illiterate and represents no one but himself. What are we paying him for?

        The list is endless and frankly, can the tax payer afford them? Not by what we are being told by government, we can’t.

        • Lord Blagger
          19/04/2011 at 5:18 pm

          What the Lords is in dire need of is a rethink of who are suitable representatives.


          It’s even more basic.

          1. Do they do anything?
          2. Is it worth the cost?
          3. What disasters have they allowed through?

          For example, there’s a little bill going through that exempts MP from HMRC investigations.

          Any guesses as to what the Lords will do?

          My guess is that they will let it through on the Nod. If they are really cheeky, and amendment to get the Lords added to the list of people granting themselves tax haven status.

          No need to be a non-dom then, is there?

  5. Twm O'r Nant
    14/04/2011 at 9:06 am

    I have been fairly consistent in saying that it should have about 100 or so elected members and no more.

    The current practice of electing hereditary peers (say 30 out of a total membership of 150) from their own list could be continued.

    Since I have been campaigning here and elsewhere for such a thing (2 years) membership must have increased by a couple of hundred.

    It is of course the best club in London; unlike the other clubs, you do not make a subscription debit each year, although even the Garrick and the RAC members do quite well. The Catholic charity, Sovereign Military Order of Malta does quite well also, but limits itself to medical issues.

    Legal Argument, wine, road transport, and medicine, in that order!

  6. maude elwes
    15/04/2011 at 7:02 pm

    @Lord Norton: If you feel the Pugin room belongs to the Lords, then sit in it and use it. At the same time negotiate with the people who have the power to restore it explaining the benefits of it being used by the Peers.

    Surely there has to be some kind of method to put pressure on those who are withholding it from the members. Erroneously I’m sure.

    Line up in your robes or something and make it an issue, explaining how you all feel so strongly about it and why it’s needed. It’s a matter of tradition. Is it not? A tradition that is to be rightfully respected.

    Take a stand. Do it for England and the Dominions!

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