Annual Report 2002-03



Freedom of Information

78. The House of Lords' Publication Scheme was approved by the Information Commissioner and published in November 2002 in accordance with section 19 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Scheme sets out the classes of information the House publishes, how the information is published and whether a charge is made. The Scheme is available in hard copy and on the Parliamentary website. Most of the information has been publicly available for many years. However, some new information was included in the first edition, and work has started on identifying additional information for later inclusion.

79. In January 2003, a decision was taken by the House that the Publication Scheme should be amended to include information relating to Members' expenses from autumn 2004. This information will be published annually (related to financial years), broken down by the main categories of expenses available, namely: travelling expenses, day subsistence, night subsistence, secretarial costs and the costs of post-paid envelopes. In 2004, expenses relating to the financial years 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04 will be published. Consideration will be given later in the year to the detailed implementation of this decision.

Information and Access to Parliament

80. The Information Office Enquiry Service dealt with over 21,000 enquiries from the public and Members, and over 4,000 packs of information were distributed.

81. The Office continued to support the work of the Parliamentary Education Unit through its programme of Pupil Parliaments, in particular with teaching materials for schools to use in preparation for House of Lords' style debates. It was also involved in the production of a video for junior schools and assisted in the development of the Explore Parliament website.

82. The Office has continued to contribute to improved internal communications. The booklet, formerly known as the "Grey Book", was redesigned as "Who does what in the Lords" and will be regularly updated. In March, the Information Office produced a new publication, "The Work of the House of Lords". It describes the work of the House in the context of the last complete session of Parliament. It has been widely circulated and well received.

83. Steps were taken to improve public understanding of the committee work of the House (see paragraph 60).

84. Following agreement of both Houses, the arrangements for Members' tours through the Palace of Westminster and the public opening in the summer recess were brought under the control of a single Central Tours Office, which takes bookings, issues permits and allocates guides. Members' tours are now provided free of charge with guides appointed by the Office. The House of Lords meets 30% of the costs of these arrangements.

85. Both Houses are committed to improving public understanding of the work of Parliament and its accessibility. Proposals for the provision of dedicated visitor facilities were considered by the House and Administration and Works Committees following the submission of a feasibility study by consultants which put forward a range of options. The Committees agreed that the facilities should be sited next to Westminster Hall, subject to approval of the final design and provision of alternative accommodation for those offices currently occupying the space.

Public Information


The Record Office:

980 Visitors
6,650 items produced
4,500 enquiries

The Information Office:

22,000 enquiries

4,000 Information Packs

8,500 e-mails

Records Management

86. The House of Lords Record Office is responsible for developing and implementing records management policies and practices for both Houses of Parliament. A common policy for the management of records has been adopted by both Houses, requiring the improvement and maintenance of their records management processes. As well as delivering increased efficiency, this will support Parliament's ability to comply with relevant legislation including the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

87. Central to the improvements to be made to the management of records is the development of a common classification scheme for all Parliamentary records. Both Houses agreed to its use in 2001 as a way of improving the retrieval and sharing of information across Parliament, and 700 staff have received training in the use of the scheme. During 2002-03, most Lords' Offices began to implement the scheme and it is envisaged that all offices will use it to describe their paper filing systems by April 2004. Staff awareness of records management issues supports a culture of accountability and openness; and all new members of staff now receive a presentation outlining the value placed by the House on good records management as part of their induction programme.

88. Best practice in the disposal of records is also essential. The development of a disposal authority for Parliamentary records began in early 2003. Linked to the classification scheme, it will state how long records should be held by Parliamentary offices, and whether they should be destroyed or preserved in the Parliamentary Archives.

89. The management of Parliament's electronic documents and records has also been identified as a priority issue by both Houses. A board representing the interests of the two Houses was convened to consider how methods for the management of records in electronic form can best be implemented.

Information Technology and Systems

90. A number of initiatives were taken to implement the IS strategy of each House of Parliament, that is "to exploit information systems and technology so as to give Parliamentary and public users ready access to a wide range of Parliamentary information, when they want it and without having to know where it is held". Projects were grouped together in a single programme shared with the House of Commons, and managed by a bicameral Programme Office. The projects included the Library-based Parliamentary Information Management Services (PIMS) project which went out to EU-wide procurement during the year; the House Administrative Information System (HAIS), a Commons project for accountancy and human resources data management which may be extended to the Lords in 2005-06; and proposals for Parliamentary document and records management systems.

91. In July 2002, the Parliamentary Website was re-launched with a new design, and the number of hits grew from 832,000 per month (in May 2002) to 1,915,000 in May 2003. The House of Lords Intranet has also been redesigned along similar lines and has become an indispensable means of disseminating information among staff and, to a lesser extent, between staff and Members.

92. The number of Members who hold PCs or laptops on loan from the House is now 367. A decision was taken by the House Committee to increase to two the entitlement of Members to loans of official equipment: each Member will be able to have a PC for use on the Parliamentary estate and also a laptop, with appropriate printers.

93. Following a successful experiment in broadcasting proceedings from the two Houses over the Internet, arrangements are in hand to extend this service on a permanent basis. In addition to the coverage of the Chambers, visitors to will be able to access audio "webcasts" from many Lords' select committees meeting in public. Some webcasts will have a video feed as well, and all will be accessible on demand for 14 days after live transmission.

Works and Security

94. The final phase of the major project to restore Old Palace Yard, namely the relaying of the main carriage way, was carried out during the summer recess in 2002.

95. 1 The Abbey Garden, which is leased by the House, was thoroughly refurbished. Work also began to replace the main Palace boilers and the air conditioning chillers, situated in Black Rod's Garden.

96. Security improvements prompted by the events of 11 September 2001 were implemented, in particular the new permanent security features in Black Rod's Garden.

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