Sir Alan Urwick, who has died aged 86, followed a distinguished diplomatic career in the Middle East with six years at the Commons as a reforming Serjeant at Arms.
Traditionally the House’s chief administrator came from the military, but MPs were discontented over how the running of the building had been handled over the years by unaccountable “men in tights”. The House of Commons Commission, under the Liberal MP Alan Beith, wanted an outsider and Sir Geoffrey Howe, Leader of the House, had as Foreign Secretary gained a high regard for Urwick.
Succeeding Sir Victor Le Fanu during the summer recess of 1989, Urwick arrived to find his offices unusable because of building work; unfazed, he commandeered a committee room.
Concluding that a chronic shortage of offices for MPs could be eased by converting grace-and-favour residences in the Palace into working space, Urwick vacated his own in Speaker’s...
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