Previous SectionIndexHome Page

9.58 pm

Mrs. Roe: This has been an interesting debate. I thank right hon. and hon. Members for their views and comments, and I shall respond briefly. I thank the Minister for his supportive remarks, and also my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning). Members of the Committee are most grateful for their comments and support.

Much work went on behind the scenes by both Members and staff to try to ensure that the reopening was a success. The comments of the Minister and my hon. Friend will be welcomed by all those involved. I should be grateful if the Minister would pass on my thanks to the Leader of the House, who has been most helpful.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton talked about how we could overcome cynicism about the House. I understand her points, and I hope that the reopening of the line of route will play a part in removing some of the misunderstanding about what is done by this place and the other place and the work that is undertaken by Members and others.

Mention has been made of the narrow visitor profile, given that trips to London are expensive. I understand that. However, I hope that marketing will draw to the attention of those who come to London--and many do--that there is an opportunity to see the Houses of Parliament. I have in mind especially those who come with young children. There is an opportunity to see what our democracy is about and to understand our traditions and the importance of this historic building.

My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) mentioned merchandising. I remind him that the merchandising remit is not part of my--

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business),

Question agreed to.

Question again proposed.

Mrs. Roe: Merchandising is the responsibility of the Catering Committee, and I am certain that the Director of Catering Services will take into account the points made by my hon. Friend and others about the type of products that should be available and what sells to which particular market, as well as promoting Pugin and the role that he played in the design of this magnificent building. That should be mentioned by guides in their talks to the groups that they take around.

On casual access to Portcullis House, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton thought that that was too cavalier. I can assure her that the security will not be cavalier. The matter was dealt with meticulously during the reopening of the line of route. We take proper advice and all those involved have done an excellent job.

26 Feb 2001 : Column 682

It is suggested not that there should be unrestricted access, but that access should be widened as far as is practical. I remind my hon. Friend that the general public are allowed into parts of Portcullis House to watch the activities of Standing Committees and Select Committees. I am sure that the House would want to encourage that, but we must be mindful of the security element.

Mrs. Browning: My hon. Friend will recall that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) pointed out that access to the atrium in Portcullis House gives direct access to other parliamentary buildings, other than through the normal security procedures. Although the first floor of Portcullis House is quite a secure unit, the atrium is not a secure area suitable for unlimited access. I hope that my hon. Friend will take that into account.

Mrs. Roe: I have noted what my hon. Friend says. I believe that there is at present no direct access to the courtyard for members of the public, for the reasons stated by her. I assure her and the House that the matter is taken extremely seriously, with an eye to terrorism both in the past and in the future. Experience suggests that the matter was dealt with in a constructive and positive way during the reopening last summer.

I look forward to welcoming the hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) as a new member of the Administration Committee tomorrow. I am sure that she will enjoy the work that we do, and that she will be an active member of the Committee. No doubt the Visitor Manager will take on board the hon. Lady's constructive comments about advertising with heritage organisations. I agree that it is important that as many members of the general public as possible are made aware of the opportunities to visit this special place. The report noted that there had been problems with the toilet facilities, and we hope to remedy the problems of access, which were the subject of complaints.

Souvenirs are not a matter for my Committee, but I will draw the comments that have been made to the attention of the Committee which has that responsibility. I have noted the other points made by the hon. Member for Don Valley about Portcullis House, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham about the teddy bears and other items that were on sale.

I now come to the remarks made by the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), especially on the budget and paragraph 8 of the report. I accept his concerns; the worst-case scenario is not presented as a budget. The House authorities will realise that the issue is important and we will have to keep below the specified amount. The hon. Gentleman asked about the extra costs involved in the need for the Parliamentary Works Directorate to work at weekends. I understand that an additional cost of £10,000 was incurred because work had to be done on Sundays rather than on days when the tours were occurring. Although one must never discount any figure within a budget, that cost was not astronomical.

I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman did not expect full answers today to his very detailed questions on financing. I shall of course ensure that he receives a reply as quickly as possible. I can tell him that the merchandising costs to which he referred are for the

26 Feb 2001 : Column 683

equipment and the shop in Westminster Hall. I understand that those are one-off costs. The entertainment that he mentioned related to two receptions--one to welcome the guides and one for the media. The Refreshment Department provided the refreshments, so I am pleased to say that the cost was recycled within the House.

I think that I have covered all the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) in my responses to other colleagues. However, if there is any other detail that he would like me to provide with regard to financing, I should be happy to do so. It is extremely important for this debate to be open, for all the figures to be available and for everybody to know exactly what is being done.

I have welcomed this opportunity to put before the House the success of the reopening of the line of route. I hope that it will endorse the Committee's recommendation without a Division. If hon. Members are unsure about whether we should have another trial, they should ask a fundamental question: do we listen to the sections of the media that have chosen to represent last year's reopening as a failure, or to our constituents, who have written in their thousands to say how much they have enjoyed the tours and to urge us to continue them? I am sure that this House will know to which group my Committee has been listening, so I hope that our recommendations will be endorsed.

Question put and agreed to.


Motion made,

Line 31, at end add--
'( ) The committee shall have power to appoint a sub-committee, which shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, and to report to the committee from time to time.
( ) The committee shall have power to report from time to time the minutes of evidence taken before the sub-committee.
( ) The quorum of the sub-committee shall be three.'.-- [Mr. Sutcliffe.]

Hon. Members: Object.

26 Feb 2001 : Column 684


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [31 January],

Hon. Members: Object.


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [23 January],

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Next Section

IndexHome Page