Select Committee on Administration First Report


(a)  It is worth recalling that the Houses' authorities had to work within a framework of three criteria:
—the Palace of Westminster is primarily a place of work, and public access to it must not impinge upon that work;
—visiting arrangements during the recess must not constrain either the Parliamentary works programme, or the ability of either House to sit at any time it may be necessary to do so; and
—current rights of Members of both Houses and of the Parliamentary Education Unit, to sponsor visits must be maintained.
The Committee re-iterates that these criteria are fundamental; should the House agree to further re-openings of the Line of Route, then the House authorities will need to continue to operate within such a framework. (Paragraph 3)
(b)The Committee concludes that, based on responses by visitors, the Line of Route tours during summer 2000 were a considerable success in terms of value for money and the quality of both the tours themselves and of the guides. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Line of Route should again be re-opened during the Summer Adjournment 2001, and that Blue Badge Guides again be engaged for the tours. The Committee considers that, as further work is still needed before it can recommend a permanent re-opening, a 2001 opening should be seen as a further trial. (Paragraph 14)
(c)The Committee has agreed that for a re-opening in 2001 the budget should not exceed the £232,000 that was, in effect, approved by the House in January 2000; the House authorities have therefore been advised that this amount is finite, and that the lessons learnt from the 2000 re-opening would have to be translated into action without any increase in funds. (Paragraph 15)
(d)The Committee considers that the visitor base must be widened, and therefore a larger distribution and marketing network is required across the United Kingdom, as is a more high profile campaign in order to alert overseas visitors. The House of Lords has agreed already that the Line of Route should be re-opened during the 2001 Summer Adjournment. We hope, therefore, that the House will agree to our proposals at an early opportunity to enable the Visitor Manager to launch an effective campaign. (Paragraph 18)
(e)The Committee considers that, should the House agree to a re-opening in summer 2001, then a charge would again need to be made for the services of a guide; it does not consider that, for 2001, there should be an increase in the price charged in 2000, and therefore recommends that visitors be again charged £3.50. The House will wish to note that this amount would cover the ticketing charge as well as the services of a guide. (Paragraph 21)
(f)The Committee recommends that for a summer re-opening in 2001, tours should again follow the route currently taken by visitors between 9.30 am and 12 noon, provided neither House is sitting, ie:
Norman Porch—Queen's Robing Room—Royal Gallery—Prince's Chamber—Chamber of the House of Lords—Peers' Lobby and Corridor—Central Lobby—Commons' Corridor and Lobby—Chamber of the House of Commons—return to Central Lobby—St Stephen's Hall—Westminster Hall—leaving by New Palace Yard. (Paragraph 23)
(g)The Committee concludes that Portcullis House should not, at this time, be added to the Line of Route tours during the Summer Adjournment; it does, however, consider that the House should encourage greater "casual" access to the building and therefore recommends that the Portcullis House courtyard, its Committee Corridor floor and one or two Committee Rooms be open, at no charge to visitors, during the annual London Open House weekend. (Paragraph 26)
(h)The Committee considers that the arrangements for the purchase and collection of tickets were less than satisfactory; the Serjeant at Arms has, therefore, been requested to identify an appropriate location in, or near, the Palace where tickets for Line of Route tours can be obtained. In addition, tickets should be more widely available across the United Kingdom. The pre-requisite of having to order by credit card should also be abandoned, and visitors should be able to purchase tickets from the "on-site" box offices. (Paragraph 31)
(i)The Committee seeks the approval of the House to extend the trial summer re-opening of the Line of Route for a further year; the House will wish to note that the House of Lords has approved already a summer re-opening in 2001. (Paragraph 50)

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Prepared 8 February 2001