Annual Report and Accounts 2000-01


Black Rod's Department
(Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod: General Sir Edward Jones)

1  Purpose

The duties of Black Rod's Department include the historic responsibility for controlling access to the Chamber; the organisation and mounting of ceremonial events; the co-ordination, with the Authorities of the House of Commons, of the security arrangements for the Palace of Westminster; the planning and supervision of the Works Programme; the continuing search for solutions to the overriding problem of accommodation for Members; and the provision of domestic services.

2  Organisation

The organisation of the Department remained unchanged. There was a higher than usual turnover of staff in Black Rod's Office, but, at the end of the year, all staff posts were filled with well qualified staff. The Staff Adviser completed a comprehensive and far reaching report on the staffing and grading of the Doorkeepers. After full consultation, its recommendations were accepted and will be implemented as appropriate.

3  Activities and Financial Performance

Millennium Year made particular demands on the Department because of the high number of ceremonial events. Much attention was focussed on the increasing demands of Members for improved accommodation and services. The arrangements agreed for facilities and rights of access for former Members of the House gave rise to no serious difficulties and have been renewed by the appropriate Committees. The Department is also beginning to feel the impact of radical organisational changes which are taking place in the House of Commons. An important innovation was the opening of the visitors' tour (Line of Route) to the general public on a trial basis in August and September 2000.

a. Ceremonial

  • Her Majesty The Queen opened Parliament on 6 December 2000.

  • The following events took place in Westminster Hall during the year: the Annual Conference of the International Law Society in July 2000, the Opening of the Annual Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association by Her Majesty The Queen in September 2000, and the Millennium Exhibition, which ran from May to September 2000 (see paragraph 54 above).

  • The following major events took place in the Royal Gallery: the annual ceremony to appoint new Queen's Counsel (attended by former President Mandela), a ceremony to celebrate the Centenary of the Commonwealth of Australia Act, and a ceremony marking the meeting in London of the American Bar Association.

b. Visitors' Tour (Line of Route)

  • After lengthy discussions in committees and in the two Houses, the Line of Route was successfully opened to the general public during the Summer recess on a trial basis. The number of visitors was lower than expected but this was partly due to a shorter opening period than had been anticipated. An independent survey recorded a high satisfaction rating. The project was completed within the financial constraints imposed by the two Houses.

c. Administration

  • A principal concern has been to improve the range and quality of accommodation and services available to Peers. The key to demonstrating progress in this respect was the successful completion of new accommodation in 7 Little College Street, which opened in December 2000 (see also Part I, paragraph 59).

  • Negotiations are taking place to acquire additional freehold property in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster.

  • The implementation of the revised Special Service Agreement with the Metropolitan Police proceeds satisfactorily. The Agreement has been extended to cover a full five-year period.

  • The Summer Works Programme was completed on time. Stone cleaning in Royal Court has greatly enhanced the appearance of the Palace. The first phase of the scheme to improve the environment of Old Palace Yard was completed and has attracted favourable comment.

  • An improved postal service has been introduced. After some initial difficulties, it is operating satisfactorily.

4  Finance


Black Rod's Department
Postal Services


5  Future Activities

The following activities are included in the Departmental Plan for 2001-02:

  • A programme to reorganise offices and desks during the summer recess when the project to refurbish Millbank House is complete. Members will occupy desks in Millbank House and in the space vacated in the Palace.

  • The completion of Phase 2 of the Old Palace Yard environmental improvement scheme.

  • A further trial of the opening of the visitors' tour (Line of Route) to the general public.

  • Monitoring of the effects of the reorganisation of the Parliamentary Works Directorate.

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