Select Committee on Administration First Report

2  Visitors to Parliament

10. People visit Parliament for a wide variety of reasons. Most visitors' first-hand experience of the work of Parliament is gained watching debates from the public galleries in the two Chambers. Last year 130,000 people visited the public gallery in the House of Commons. In the winter months, there are approximately 250 visitors a day to the public gallery in the House of Lords; this increases to between 350 and 500 a day in the summer.

11. Constituents also visit Parliament on tours organised through their Members: last year there were around 96,000 bookings. The introduction of summer opening has made the Palace more accessible to tourists. Summer opening in 2003 saw around 87,000 visitors, just under half of whom came from the United Kingdom. The Parliamentary Education Unit organises visits for school parties and in 2003 hosted 9,000 students. In addition, approximately 38,000, of the 96,000 visitors on Members' tours, were students visiting Parliament on tours booked through the Central Tours Office. Around 88,000 people attend dinners and receptions in the House of Commons each year.

12. In addition to these recorded visits, many people visit the Palace of Westminster for other reasons. For example:

·  to attend Select Committee meetings, either to give evidence or to watch a public hearing;

·  to lobby their Member or an individual peer, or take part in mass lobbies of Parliament;

·  to attend House of Lords judicial hearings; and

·  for meetings with staff of the two Houses.

13. The wide range of reasons why people visit Parliament means that the information they require on arrival varies. Nevertheless all need to be welcomed. Furthermore, non-passholders who visit the Palace need to be searched and checked by security staff. These requirements put a large strain on the current facilities for accommodating visitors.

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Prepared 10 February 2004