House of Commons
Session 2000-01
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Weekly Information Bulletin
Weekly Information Bulletin: 9th December 2000

Visits to the Gallery of the House of Commons

The Strangers' Gallery is open whilst the House sits - usually 14.30-22.30 or later on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11.30-7.30 on Thursdays, and 09.30-15.00 on most Fridays. You can check whether the House will be sitting by telephoning 020-7219 4272 or by listening to the recorded announcement of business (please note that this service has now ceased and the information can be found on the Parliamentary calendar). .

Attending on Monday - Thursday afternoons

It is difficult to secure a place in the Gallery during the afternoon (Question Time takes place on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 14.30 hours to 15.30 (with the Prime Minister answering from 15.00 to 15.30 on Wednesdays) and on Thursdays from 11.30 to 12.30.

To attend at this time, United Kingdom residents should write as far in advance as possible (several weeks' notice may be necessary) to their local Member of Parliament (the House of Commons Information Office can advise who this is if there is doubt). Members have only a small allocation of tickets, and by no means for every day. It is therefore usually difficult for them to meet requests for tickets for specific days.

Foreign and Commonwealth visitors can apply to their Embassy or High Commission in the UK for a card of introduction, which will normally permit entry during the early afternoon. 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. Quite often, it will not be possible to admit their bearers until after Question Time - that is, after 15.30. 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 the Channel 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.

If none of these arrangements is made, one may join the public queue outside St Stephen's Entrance. But a wait of 1 or 2 hours is common during the afternoons.

Attending on Wednesday mornings and Fridays

It is usually fairly easy to get into the Gallery on these days. Advance bookings for Fridays, through Members of Parliament may be made; but it is normally possible to enter the Gallery, without queuing, at the commencement of the day's proceedings. Later in the day a queue tends to develop and some delay is inevitable. On Wednesdays the Gallery is cleared at 14.00 to allow people with tickets obtained from their MP to attend Question Time.

On some of these days the Gallery is likely to be full.

Attending in the evenings Monday to Thursday

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 18.00 or later. The House sits until 22.30 or after on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: the gallery remains open during this time. The Information Office can advise what is to be debated. NB For the remainder of this session the House will rise at 19.30 on Thursdays.

Attending meetings of Committees

Select and Standing Committees meet throughout the week, though 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. Only evidence-taking sessions of Select Committees are normally open to the public.

In all cases visitors should go to St Stephen's Entrance, whence 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. Nearest Underground Station - Westminster; Buses - 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 77A, 88, 109, 159, 184 and 511. Car parking is not available for visitors; there is, however, a NCP car park (fee) off Abingdon Street (near Victoria Tower). This is often full, and as meter parking in and around Westminster is scarce and expensive, intending visitors would be well advised to travel by public transport.


Tours of the Houses of Parliament

The House of Commons Information Office is often asked how visitors may tour the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament). This note is intended as guidance.

1. United Kingdom residents

People who are resident in this country should get in touch with their local Member of Parliament (the House of Commons Information Office can advise who this is if there is doubt), who can usually arrange for them to take a tour. They should apply as far in advance as possible. Tours may only be undertaken when the House is not sitting; this usually means Monday and Tuesday mornings, and Friday afternoon after 3.30pm. Times vary during recesses and on non-sitting Fridays and visitors should be prepared to be flexible about their arrangements. Wednesday and Thursday mornings are also available, but the tour is confined to the Lords area of the building. The address for contacting MPs is:

House of Commons


London SW1A 0AA

2. Overseas Visitors

Visitors from overseas can obtain a permit to tour the Houses of Parliament by applying to the Parliamentary Education Unit of the House of Commons Information Office. When the House of Commons is sitting, this office can issue a permit which will enable a party of up to 16 in number to tour the Palace of Westminster between 3.30 - 5.30pm on a Friday afternoon, provided the House has concluded its business for the week. During recesses, the days and timing of tours may vary, but as a rule, they take place in the morning from 9.30 am - 12 noon most weekdays. Only Members of Parliament may issue permits for other sitting days.

Address to contact: Parliamentary Education Unit

House of Commons Information Office

House of Commons

London SW1A 2TT

Tel: 020-7219 4750

E-mail: [email protected]


3. 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 Parliamentary Education Unit of the House of Commons Information Office arranges a series of educational visits suitable for older school children or adult education students. These take place in the autumn, but are advertised in the Times Educational Supplement in March. Teachers and others wishing to participate are advised to contact the Education Unit early. When the House of Commons is sitting, the Unit also arranges a programme of Wednesday visits during term time, which is aimed at year 8-10 pupils. Further details are available from the address above. For all other educational visits, organisers should write to their local MP as in 1 above. Parties from overseas educational institutions may also apply to the Parliamentary Education Unit, who may be able to arrange for a permit to tour in accordance with the usual restrictions (see 2 above), which apply to permits for any overseas visitor. An information leaflet, Educational Visits to Parliament, is available from the Parliamentary Education Unit on request.




The Houses of Parliament are closed at Weekends, on Bank Holidays and between the rise

of the House for Christmas and the New Year.


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Prepared 9 December 2000