Select Committee on Administration First Report


  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. (Paragraph 6).

  The Committee 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. (Paragraph 7).

  The Committee recommends that groups equipped with individual audioguides, with a commentary available in different languages, would be the most appropriate visitor management system for the Line of Route, in conjunction with a system of timed ticketing. (Paragraph 11).

  The Committee considers that the work involved with managing the Line of Route would be too onerous for existing staff to be able to incorporate into their present duties, and therefore recommends that a discrete visitors' office, serving both Houses, be established within the Department of the Serjeant at Arms, with appropriate staffing of a Visitor Manager, an Assistant Manager and a secretary. (Paragraph 14).

  The Committee considers that many visitors, at the end of their tour, would wish to ask questions about what they have seen, how Parliament works, etc; and therefore recommends that suitably knowledgeable staff should be available at the end of the tour in order to assist with visitors' enquiries. (Paragraph 15).

  The Houses of Parliament are neither a museum nor an art gallery; they are a working legislature, and the Committee considers it important to stress that admission charges would apply only during the 8 or so weeks of the Summer Adjournment and would only serve to recover the incremental costs of the summer opening programme over a 5-year period. For over 42 weeks of the year therefore, visitors would still be able to participate in tours of the Palace of Westminster, meet their constituency MP or Members of the House of Lords, listen to debates in both Chambers when either or both Houses are sitting, and attend meetings of Standing and Select Committees free of charge. Even during the Summer Adjournment, Members of both Houses would continue to be able to bring in their guests. It is not, nor has it ever been, proposed that members of the public should be charged to see the Houses of Parliament "at work". (Paragraph 20).

  The Committee recommends that, in order that the two Houses might recover all capital and running costs within five years, visitors should be charged at an appropriate rate. The admission charge would include a colour information leaflet and the use of an audioguide. (Paragraph 22).

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Prepared 26 April 1999