Select Committee on Administration First Report

3  Current facilities for visitors

14. Apart from those entering through Sovereign's Entrance to go on the visitor tour route, the vast majority of visitors to Parliament enter through St Stephen's entrance. There is a consensus that the current provision for the public at this entrance, and the main routes after security, remain unsatisfactory:

·  queues for the public galleries are open to the elements;

·  the welcome at St Stephen's Entrance is staffed by police officers whose first priority is security and controlling the narrow entrance;

·  at busy times, the limited facilities for security screening cause delays and queues. Security screening takes place in an awkward space at the end of Westminster Hall (or, at times, in a temporary marquee);

·  information about what is happening in chambers or committees, although improved recently, remains minimal;

·  there is a cramped bookstall with limited stock; and

·  the main retail and souvenir shops in both Houses are inaccessible to unescorted visitors.

15. Some progress has been made in recent years by improving facilities for visitors once they are inside the buildings, including:

·  a reception desk in Central Lobby;

·  the Jubilee Café, with a lobby containing some information material, and extra public lavatories;

·  plasma screens which list current committee meetings, sited inside St Stephen's Entrance and in Central Lobby;

·  a Tours Office with centrally organised guiding based on a common script;

·  explanatory notes for visitors attending select committee meetings.

16. Yet dissatisfaction understandably remains. All the measures listed have been developed piecemeal. We believe there is a need to attempt to develop unified projects: to provide a better access and welcome for visitors; and to provide information for visitors to explain how Parliament works and its purpose. It is these three elements—access, welcome and information—that should be the aim of any projects to improve visitor facilities.

17. We believe that there is unlikely to be a single solution which would meet all the requirements set out in this Report which is why we discuss the solution in terms of projects rather than a single project. There are multiple requirements ranging from improved access arrangements to the ideal of a full interpretative visitor centre. However, there are a number of constraining factors, the most significant of which is that there is a lack of adequate space on the main Palace site. The building was not designed in the expectation that large numbers of the public would either have the right or the wish to visit.

18. Accordingly, we have reassessed the various elements, and identified the first priority on which we judge there is wide support: a new security/reception building at the western end of the Jubilee Café, to form the main entrance to the Palace for non-passholders.

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