The House of Lords has spent more than £54,000 on a new smoking area and luxury furniture for the Parliamentary terrace, it can be revealed.
The huge spending included around £19,000 on chairs for the exclusive drinking and eating spot overlooking the Thames, after the previous ones were deemed too ‘heavy and difficult to move’.
Meanwhile, thousands of pounds more is going on creating a new smoking area on another part of the river frontage, in Black Rod’s Garden, according to details disclosed to MailOnline under FOI rules.
A path, canopy and seating area is being installed after peers decided putting it on that side of the estate would help deter MPs using the facility for their own crafty cigarettes.
The plans were agreed by the cross-party Lords Services Committee back in April, although completion has been delayed by the coronavirus chaos.
The plans were agreed by the cross-party Lords Services Committee back in April, although completion has been delayed by the coronavirus chaos
The spending included £19,000 on chairs for the exclusive drinking and eating spot overlooking the Thames, after the previous ones were deemed too ‘heavy and difficult to move’
Minutes show that there were concerns the removal of the old smoking area in Peers’ Inner Court had caused smokers to go to the Lords Terrace.
Installing a covered smoking zone on the terrace was considered – but peers had issues with ‘visual impact’ of a canopy and pointed out that a lot of table space could be ‘freed up’ if the area was shifted elsewhere.
Instead they signed off on the plan for Black Rod’s Garden River Front, with officials noting that it ‘required the removal of various project storage areas, the creation of a path down from the current smoking area in Black Rod’s Garden and the provision of some shelter.’
The FOI response said that the total costs of the work was not ‘finalised’. ‘The precise route of the new path referred to in your request has yet to be decided and therefore costs are not known at present,’ the House authorities said.
However, they said there was a bill of £2,340 for ‘provision of gazebos’, and ‘specified contractor modifications to security systems’ are adding £2,887 – with VAT on top of both figures.
Some of the furniture previously on the Terrace is being shifted to the smoking area, as new kit had already been ordered.
The FOI response revealed that upgraded chairs have cost £15,727.04, with another £8,775.42 for table bases and £12,060 on planter boxes.
Repair and ‘changes’ to the River Terrace ‘credenza’ – a type of sideboard – were £3,650.
Altogether, the projects have cost £54,500 so far including VAT – but the bill for the smoking area is likely to rise.
A House of Lords spokesman said: ‘The House of Lords terrace is a popular space used by staff and Members for lunch and dinner when the House is sitting.
‘The previous furniture was heavy and difficult to move, causing accessibility issues.
‘The new furniture is much lighter and more flexible, a change which has been welcomed by our colleagues with disabilities and mobility issues in equalising access.
Thousands of pounds more is going on creating a new smoking area on another part of the river frontage, in Black Rod’s Garden, according to details disclosed to MailOnline under FOI rules, Pictured is the entrance to Parliament near the garden
‘Access to the terrace was also expanded so everyone is entitled to use it without grade based distinctions meaning is has become busier at peak times and necessitating more flexible seating.
‘The furniture was purchased via competitive open tender process to ensure value for money.’
On the smoking area, the spokesman said: ‘Smoking is only permitted in three designated smoking areas on the Parliamentary estate.
‘The House of Lords Administration does not encourage smoking on the estate, and staff who wish to access support to stop smoking can do so via our health and wellbeing service.
‘However it is appropriate for employers to provide smokers with access to designated smoking areas.
‘When the furniture on the House of Lords Terrace was changed to improve accessibility smoking was banned, and another smoking area within a courtyard of the Palace was closed to reduce fire risk.
‘This meant the alternative smoking facilities at Black Rod’s Garden needed to be expanded.’