Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Bob Russell MP to the Chairman of the Committee

  I have read with interest your Memorandum on the "Modernisation of the House of Commons: A Reform Programme for Consultation".

  While there is much food for thought in what you put forward, I do not share the view that an earlier start in the Chamber and an earlier finish time will be to the overall benefit of MPs.

  I find the present arrangements—starting the official business of the House at 2.30pm—a better use of my time than if business was undertaken in the morning. In the mornings I concentrate on casework and meetings, the latter are not easy to arrange with outside bodies in the evening. Dealing with correspondence and phone calls earlier in the day is much better than attempting to do them in the evening.

  I am also concerned that if the Chamber is brought into use during the mornings it will have serious consequences on visits by the public. I recall when such visits could not take place on Wednesday mornings when the Chamber was in use, but now the Chamber is free it means that tours can take place this day (although Thursday has been lost as a result). To lose Tuesday and Wednesday mornings as well would be most regrettable.

  It would be ironic if Parliament was to open a Visitors' Centre and then prevent visitors from visiting the Chamber! In the course of the last Parliament I welcomed more than 1,000 people from my constituency, from school pupils to retired people's groups, for conducted tours of the Houses of Parliament. I would regard it as a retrograde step if in effect such tours were stopped.

  I would have thought that the Mother of Parliaments would want to open its doors to the public, not shut them!

  I trust that my thoughts on retaining public access to the Chamber on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings will be given careful consideration.

31 December 2001

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