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…