Select Committee on Administration First Report


The Administration Committee has agreed to the following Report:—



1. Since the 1970's, visitors to the Palace of Westminster have been able to take part in tours along a predetermined course (the "Line of Route") only by being sponsored by a Member or Officer of the House, or an equivalent member of staff. Currently some 120,000 visitors a year visit the Line of Route in this way. No ticket charge is levied, but guides cost £20 to £25 per group of 16 visitors. For over 20 years casual visitors and tourists have been denied the opportunity of visiting the Palace, and of seeing the home of Parliament and its treasures. This is a situation which the Administration Committee wished to see changed to enable as many people as possible to see the two Houses of Parliament.

2. Accordingly, when the Committee was advised by the Serjeant at Arms on 31 March 1998 that he, and Black Rod, were undertaking a competitive tender competition to select a consultant to advise on all the aspects to be considered concerning the possible re-opening of the Line of Route to the general public during the Summer Adjournment, it was in full support of this course of action.

3. On 16 June 1998 the Serjeant at Arms reported back to the Committee that the appraisal report had been completed, and although focussed mainly on opening the Line of Route to the public from the Summer Adjournment 1999 for an eight-week period, it also identified the potential to open the Line of Route on non-sitting days at other times of the year. Additionally, the consultants identified a number of possible improvements to correct deficiencies in the existing arrangements for sponsored visitors to the Line of Route in order to make the visit a memorable one of high quality and in keeping with the dignity of Parliament. Furthermore, they recommended that the summer opening programme should be organised as a ring-fenced activity with the majority of operational services contracted out to specialist organisations (eg ticketing, ushering and retail).

4. The Committee endorsed the proposal to continue with detailed planning. The consultants' Business Plan, which was presented to the Committee on 1 December 1998 and reported to the House on 9 February 1999, set out a basis for a 5-year programme of summer opening based on the aim of breaking even over that period. Copies of the Plan are available for inspection by Members in the House of Commons Library.

5. As this is a matter which concerns both Houses equally, Sub-Committees of the House of Lords Offices Committee have been undertaking a parallel inquiry. A concurrent meeting with the Administration and Works Sub-Committee was held on 9 December 1998, which indicated that, although both Committees were broadly in agreement on how progress might be made, some members of the Lords Sub-Committee were fundamentally opposed in principle to the possibility of charging visitors to take part in tours along the Line of Route.

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Prepared 26 April 1999