Select Committee on Administration First Report


6. The appraisal report from the consultants confirmed the Committee's belief that increased access to the Palace was now a realistic aspiration, which could be achieved without interfering with the working requirements of both Houses. The Committee considers that it would be appropriate to re-open the Line of Route to the public during the Summer Adjournment, and therefore recommends that such a re-opening should take effect from 31 July 2000, subject to the re-opening taking into account three fundamental considerations:

  • The Palace of Westminster is primarily a place of work, and public access to it must not impinge upon that work;

  • visiting arrangements during the recess must not constrain either the Parliamentary works programme, or the ability of either House to sit at any time it may be necessary to do so; and

  • current rights of Members of both Houses, and of the Parliamentary Education Unit, to sponsor visits must be maintained.

7. The Committee further recommends that tours should follow the route currently taken by visitors between 9.30 am and 12 noon, provided neither House is sitting, ie:

Norman Porch — Queen's Robing Room — Royal Gallery — Prince's Chamber — Chamber of the House of Lords — Peers' Lobby and Corridor — Central Lobby — Commons' Corridor and Lobby — Chamber of the House of Commons — return to Central Lobby — St Stephen's Hall — Westminster Hall — leaving by New Palace Yard.

8. It is proposed to assemble visitors in Victoria Tower Gardens and to route them into Victoria Tower by way of Black Rod's Garden. Wheelchair access to the Palace would be possible along the slightly revised route that currently operates. However, this does mean that wheelchair users would not be able to enter St Stephen's Hall (and Westminster Hall only if entering by the North Door) but would, nevertheless, be able to see everything else that an ambulant visitor would see.

9. The Committee considers that the Summer opening programme should become an annual event, and that, if it were successful, it might be appropriate, in due course, to extend opening to Easter, Whitsun and certain other weekends.

10. The Committee was advised that three visitor management systems had been evaluated—personally guided groups, audioguided groups, and free-flow. The consultant's conclusion was that the audioguide system offered the best option, balancing the need to accommodate large numbers of visitors with the provision of a consistent and high standard of interpretation. The consultants also recommended the adoption of a timed ticket system to encourage pre-booking and minimise the impact of peaks and troughs in visitor movements along the tour route.

11. The Committee endorsed these conclusions; and therefore recommends that groups equipped with individual audioguides, with a commentary available in different languages[1], would be the most appropriate visitor management system for the Line of Route, in conjunction with a system of timed ticketing.

12. The House will wish to note that alternative forms of interpretation would be available for visually or hearing impaired visitors.

1  The proposal is that the commentary would be available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. Back

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Prepared 26 April 1999