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Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): People do not need a guide.

Sir Patrick Cormack: They do; they must be escorted by either an hon. Member or a guide. One cannot just come and wander round. Members of the public of course have access, through St. Stephen's Hall, to Central Lobby, and that will not change--it never would change. However, members of the public who come to do the Line of Route must be accompanied by either an hon. Member or a member of his or her staff, or by one of the qualified guides. If they are escorted by a qualified guide, a charge is, quite reasonably, levied by the guide.

Mr. Pike: That is not correct. A Member can arrange for a group to go round with a permit in his or her name. If the group do not wish to pay for a guide, they do not need to do so as long as a Member has given them a permit to go round.

Sir Patrick Cormack: If I am slightly wrong, I apologise, but my point is substantially correct. There are very few who would want to do that, because they want the building to be explained to them. I enjoy nothing more than taking parties round. I took one yesterday morning. I love every stone of this building and am very proud of it. I never cease to get a thrill when I walk through Westminster Hall. I never cease to be amazed by the wonderful artistry of Pugin and Barry as I take people round, which I am always happy to do. I like the building so much that I wrote a book about it some years ago,

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which I commend to hon. Members. It is still in the Library of the House. Perhaps I should declare another interest. I gladly and unashamedly do so.

People need to have the building explained to them if they are to get the maximum benefit from it. The overwhelming majority of those who come are glad to have a guide and very much want one.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: I apologise for not being here for most of the debate. I have had unavoidable meetings. The hon. Gentleman's argument has been based on the fact that people have to pay at the moment. He said that they had to pay a guide to have access. That is on the record. It now turns out that people do not have to pay. The hon. Gentleman is party to a decision to introduce a charge where previously one was not required. That is wrong.

Sir Patrick Cormack: The hon. Gentleman has come in late and has not listened properly to the point. I made the reasonable point that most people who come for a tour of the House are taken round by a guide because Members do not have time to take them. The guides levy a charge, which is frequently passed on--although not always; I sometimes pay it myself. The proposals that we are debating are not without precedent or analogy.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: Choice.

Sir Patrick Cormack: We are talking about choice. The hon. Gentleman can chunter away as much as he likes. He is a great chunterer. I shall not be challenged by anyone on the subject of choice. People do not have the choice to see this building in August or September, but, thanks to the modest, sensible, constructive and thoughtful proposals of the Committee, supported by a number of distinguished Labour Members, they will have that opportunity.

I share the reluctance of the Leader of the House about charging. I wish that we could do it all for free, but we cannot, at least until the initial costs have been recouped. I believe that most of those who come will gladly pay, just as they gladly pay to enjoy Westminster abbey, Buckingham palace and a host of other historic buildings throughout the country. One of the main reasons why people come to this country for their holidays is to enjoy our rich heritage of historical buildings and wonderful museums and galleries, some of which are open free, but the majority of which are not. We would merely put ourselves in that category for two months of the year if we adopted the proposal. I have a basic sympathy with the amendment, but it is far better to have the building open during those two months than to have it closed. It is far better to let people come than to keep them out.

I have three important questions for my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne, who will briefly sum up the debate. Does her Committee envisage that those who come will all have hand-held guides, or will there be an opportunity for guides to take people round? Many people prefer a human guide to an inhuman instrument. If so, will there be an opportunity for those staff of the House who act as guides in their off-duty hours to do so during the summer? Some of them have an encyclopaedic

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knowledge of this place and are wonderful guides because they work here and love the place very much. I hope that they will have that opportunity. Secondly, who will do the commentary for the audio guide, how will it be organised and how many languages will it be in? My third question is merely a point of clarification. My hon. Friend made it clear that the rights of Members and senior officers of the staff would remain. They will be able to come at any time to show people round. She said that that would apply to Members' staff. At the moment it also applies to Members' spouses. Will she confirm that that will remain the case? One or two people have raised that with me.

With those brief questions I am delighted to commend the report. Once again, I thank my hon. Friend and her Committee for putting it together. If the House is pleased to approve the report, as I trust that it will be, this place will be a welcome addition to the tourist map of London.

5.56 pm

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

The amendment is supported by a number of hon. Members on both sides, to whom I am grateful. I agree with the hon. Member for South Staffordshire(Sir P. Cormack) on two points. First, I agree that this building is a very important architectural masterpiece. I admired it when I was involved with architecture and I still do. It is still an amazing working environment, despite the fact that it is unable to move with the times in some respects, as is shown by the problems of making the disabled more welcome. I endorse the views expressed by others that we should make the building available as much as possible for people to see how it works.

I also agree with the compliments that the hon. Gentleman paid to the House Committees, particularly the Administration Committee. The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) introduced her report with seductive modesty, but I warn hon. Members to look carefully at the small print.

Before I refer specifically to the report, I must deal with three general points, two of which are widespread misconceptions that have been repeated this afternoon. The first is that, somehow, the proposals in the report deal exclusively with August and September and with foreign tourists. Both those arguments are wrong. There are detailed recommendations in the report that apply to other parts of the year and there are important implications for the entry of all persons to the building.

The second misconception is that we have to get on with this. It has taken a long time to reach the Floor of the House. I asked the previous Leader of the House what was going on in July of last year, because rumours were circulating. However, there is no rush. Some people thought that we had to get on quickly because we were going to open the place this August. Nothing will happen until August 2000--14 months hence--so there is time to get it right.

The third point is that there is widespread concern that this is the thin end of a big wedge. Many hon. Members have expressed concern about that in the House

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and outside. If I were at liberty to do so, I should quote extensively from an important letter from the Finance and Services Committee, on which I serve, setting out a number of reservations. However, as the Chairman is not here, it would be unfair. I hoped that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) might be present, because the letter expressed important reservations about the report.

The inhabitants of the other end of the building share our concerns, but they keep being told that the Commons has agreed to it, just as we shall no doubt be told that the Lords have agreed. That is not true.

Dr. Palmer: Just to clarify that point, let me say that there were fairly extensive discussions with the equivalent body in the House of Lords and only one member of that body dissented vigorously. The overwhelming majority supported the proposal. Of course, the debate will reveal whether that is the general view.

Mr. Tyler: I understand that the House of Lords has not yet taken a decision, so it has not yet shown where it stands.

I want to deal with the proposals first in relation to the principle; secondly, in relation to some practical issues; and, thirdly in relation to precedent.

First, in paragraph 3, the consultants

From the outset, the private consultants whom the Select Committee asked to look at the proposal considered not just August and September, but the whole year. As the hon. Member for Broxbourne said, that is still implicit in the report.

Paragraph 3 also states that

would be

    "contracted out to specialist organisations".

Those of us who are suspicious of contracting out, commercialisation and privatisation should look carefully at the small print of the report.

The proposal that is endorsed by the Committee at paragraph 9 of the report is that:

Where would it stop? We do not know, and it is not spelt out. When I deal with the economics of the proposal, the House will agree that the likelihood is that, once it has started, it will be unstoppable.

In other words, this is a completely new departure. The Select Committee is saying quite blatantly, first, that it is likely to extend throughout the year in due course; and, secondly, that, whatever safeguards are mentioned now, there is nothing to stop the system being extended to sitting days. The Committee can give us all the assurances that it likes, but there is nothing to stop it. Thirdly, it suggests an element of contracting out or privatisation.

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