House of Commons
Session 2009 - 10
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Weekly Information Bulletin
Weekly Information Bulletin: 21st November 2009

Visits to the Gallery of the House of Commons

The Public Gallery is open to the public when the House is sitting, which is usually:

14.30 - 22.30 or later on Mondays and Tuesdays

11.30 - 19.30 on Wednesdays

10.30 - 18.30 on Thursdays

09.30 - 15.00 on sitting Fridays

When the House returns after a recess on a day other than a Monday, the first day will have Monday sitting times.

Recess

 

The Public Gallery is closed to the public when the House is in recess. The provisional recess dates announced for the session 2009/10 are (all dates inclusive):

Recess

From

To

Christmas recess

16 December 2008

5 January 2010

Half Term recess

10 February 2010

22 February 2010

Easter recess

TBA

TBA

Whitsun recess

TBA

TBA

Summer recess

TBA

TBA

 

Attending on Monday - Thursday: Question Time

The first hour of proceedings on these days is devoted to Question Time. On Wednesdays, the last half hour of Question Time is taken by Prime Minister's Questions.

To attend at Question Time, United Kingdom residents should write to their local Member of Parliament. Members have only a small allocation of tickets so requests should be made as far in advance as possible.

Foreign and Commonwealth visitors can apply to their Embassy or High Commission in the UK for a card of introduction. This does not guarantee entry to Question Time, but does give the holder entry ahead of visitors waiting in the public queue. Embassies and High Commissions may issue no more than four cards on any day, so visitors from certain countries may find cards are booked for several weeks ahead. Please note that such cards do not guarantee entry at 14.30 (Mondays and Tuesdays), 11.30 (Wednesdays) or 10.30 (Thursdays). Quite often, it will not be possible to admit their bearers until after Question Time - that is, after 15.30 (Mondays and Tuesdays), 12.30 (Wednesdays) or 11.30 (Thursdays). British embassies abroad do not issue such cards.

Australian and Canadian visitors may apply to the London office of their province or state as an alternative to their High Commission.

People from theChannel Islands, the Isle of Man, British colonies and Commonwealth territories unrepresented in London may apply to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (020 7219 5378) for tickets.

Attending on Monday - Thursday: other debates

Those visitors attending Question Time may, if desired, stay in the Public Gallery for subsequent debates.

Other visitors may join the public queue outside St Stephen's Entrance. A wait of 1 or 2 hours is common during the afternoons. Generally speaking, after ticket holders have left the Gallery and the afternoon queue has been cleared, there is not, except during controversial debates, too much pressure on places in the Gallery. Visitors who wish to minimise waiting times should therefore arrive at about 16.00 or later on Mondays and Tuesdays, 13.00 or later on Wednesdays, and 12.00 or later on Thursdays. The House of Commons Information Office can advise what is to be debated.

Attending on Fridays

It is usually fairly easy to get into the Gallery on sitting Fridays. Advance bookings for Fridays, through Members of Parliament, may be made; but it is normally possible to enter the Gallery, without queuing, at the start of the day's proceedings. Later in the day a queue tends to develop and some delay is probable.

The House of Commons does not sit every Friday, but will sit on the following Fridays in 2009/10 session (all dates provisional):

Attending Sittings of the House in Westminster Hall

Sittings in Westminster Hall take place at the following times:

09.30 - 14.00 on Tuesdays

09.30 - 11.30 and 14.30 - 17.00 on Wednesdays

14.30 - 17.30 on Thursdays

Finishing times in the afternoon may be later in certain circumstances. Places are limited; there is no system of tickets or advance booking. Visitors who wish to attend a sitting should go to St Stephen's Entrance, where they will be admitted on a first come, first served basis.

Attending meetings of Committees

Select and General Committees meet throughout the week, although not usually on Fridays. Places are limited and there is no system of tickets or advance booking. The Information Office can advise when and where meetings will take place. This information is also available on the Commons Committee Homepage of the UK Parliament website at http://www.parliament.uk/what_s_on/hoc_news3.cfm. Only evidence-taking sessions of Select Committees are normally open to the public.

Directions

In most cases visitors should go to St Stephen's Entrance, where they will be shown by the Police to a queue, or directly up to the Gallery or Committee Room as the case may be. St Stephen's Entrance is at the centre of the Palace of Westminster, opposite the east end of Westminster Abbey. The nearest Underground Station is Westminster; Buses 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 77A, 88, 148, 159, 211 and 453 all stop nearby. Car parking is not available for visitors; there is, however, a Masterpark car park (charges are payable) off Abingdon Street (near Victoria Tower). This is often full and, as meter parking around Westminster is scarce and expensive, visitors are advised to travel by public transport. There are spaces for bicycles at the Masterpark car park, but not for motorcycles (motorcycle parking available to season ticket holders only).

Some Committee meetings are held in Portcullis House, above Westminster Underground Station. The entrance to Portcullis House is on Victoria Embankment, facing the river.


Tours of the Houses of Parliament

This information sheet provides information on touring the Houses of Parliament. There are different arrangements for when Parliament is or is not sitting.

Details of how to visit the Gallery in order to watch a debate in the House of Commons are available in a separate information sheet available from the House of Commons Information Office.

Tours for United Kingdom Residents - general notes

 

People resident in this country should contact their local Member of Parliament or a Peer whom they know. If you are unsure of your local Member of Parliament's details please contact the House of Commons Information Office, ask at your main local library, or see our Find Your MP service on the Internet at: http://www.upmystreet.com/commons/l/. Applications for tours can be made up to six months prior to the intended tour date. There is no charge for tours arranged through a Member of Parliament or a Peer of the House of Lords. Demand is high so flexibility regarding dates and times is an advantage.

The address for contacting MPs is:

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Tours for United Kingdom Residents - on days when Parliament is sitting

When Parliament is in Session, tours are available at the following times:

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings: 09.00 - 12 noon

Friday afternoons (15.30 - 17.00) if the House is sitting, or all day Friday (09.30 - 17.00) if not.

Please note that on Wednesday mornings, there will be no access to the Commons chamber after 09.30.

The House of Commons does not sit every Friday, but will sit on the following Fridays in 2008/09 session (all dates provisional): 27 February; 6, 13, 20 and 27 March; 24 April; 8 and 15 May; 12, 19 and 26 June; 3 July and 16 October.

Tours for United Kingdom Residents - during recess

 

The provisional recess dates announced for the Session 2009/10 are (all dates inclusive):

Recess

From

To

Christmas recess

16 December 2008

5 January 2010

Half Term recess

10 February 2010

22 February 2010

Easter recess

TBA

TBA

Whitsun recess

TBA

TBA

Summer recess

TBA

TBA

Tours take place Monday to Friday between 09.30 - 17.00 during all recesses except Summer and Christmas.

During the summer recess, tours take place during:

July / August: Wednesdays & Thursdays: 09.30 - 12 noon

September: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays: 09.30 - 12 noon

Tours during summer recess - Summer Opening

During the summer recess, UK residents and overseas visitors can buy tickets to tour Parliament. Tours run from Monday to Saturday, there are no tours on Sundays or Bank Holidays. Further details of the Summer Opening, including ticketing arrangements, will be available nearer the time and will also be published on the UK Parliament website's 'Visiting Parliament' pages at http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting.cfm.


 

Overseas Visitors

Overseas visitors can tour the Houses of Parliament during the period of the Summer Opening (see above).

Overseas visitors are able to attend debates. There is a separate information sheet, available from the House of Commons Information Office, which gives details of how to visit the Gallery in order to watch a debate in the House of Commons.

 

Educational Institutions

Schools or other educational institutions based in this country should normally contact their local MP to arrange a tour of the Houses of Parliament. However, the Education Service offers a range of educational visits for students Yrs 3 - 13. Teachers and others wishing to participate are advised to contact the Education Service early for further details on all visit programmes.

For all other educational visits, organisers should write to their local MP. An information leaflet, Educational Visits to Parliament, is available from the Education Service on request.

The contact details for the Education Service are:

Education Service

Houses of Parliament

London, SW1A 2TT

Telephone: 020 7219 4496

E-mail: [email protected]

 
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© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 21 November 2009