HC Deb 21 July 1980 vol 989 cc21-2
32. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many seats are available in the Strangers' and Press Galleries, respectively.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

There are 157 seats in the Strangers' Gallery and 154 seats in the Upper and Lower Reporters' Galleries.

Mr. Hunt

As there seems to be no shortage of seats in the Press Gallery, how does my right hon. Friend justify the continuing monopoly that journalists enjoy on the reporting of our proceedings? Is he aware that when he told me on 23 June that any relaxation of the rules governing admission to the Strangers' Gallery would result in unofficial reporting, many of us were tempted to retort "So what?" Will he refer this matter to the appropriate Committee as soon as possible?

Mr, St. John-Stevas

I know that my hon. Friend has not been satisfied with the replies that he has received about unofficial note-taking. As regards the press, there must be a certain number of seats that are not taken up at any given moment. They must be available to the press. I reduced the number of seats allocated to the overseas press at the beginning of the Session. However, my hon. Friend clearly is not satisfied, and I shall ask the appropriate Committee to consider that point. I hope that my hon. Friend will be pacified.

Mr, Hooley

In the light of the big and proper demand for the public to observe and hear our proceedings, why are 50 or 60 or more seats vacant at Question Time every day? Can we not have a more sensible allocation of tickets to prevent that from happening?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is up to individual Members. I have done everything that I can to encourage individual Members who are not using their allocations to surrender their tickets in time for them to be taken up by other Members. That is printed on the tickets.

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