HC Deb 23 March 1981 vol 1 c626
32. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if the question of note-taking in the Strangers Gallery has yet been referred to the appropriate Committee; and if he will make a statement.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Paymaster General and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Francis Pym)

The Services Committee has once more looked at the present arrangements, and has recommended that no change be made in the rule relating to note-taking by visitors to the Strangers Gallery.

Mr. Hunt

While expressing extreme regret at that decision, may I ask my right hon. Friend to acknowledge that this ridiculous rule that there shall be no note-taking in the Strangers Gallery is a relic of a bygone parliamentary age that has no place in a Parliament of the 1980s?

Mr. Pym

I respect my hon. Friend's opinion, but I do not share it. I do not think that it is widely shared in the House. The essential purpose of the Strangers Gallery is to enable people to obseve and listen. Were permission granted for note-taking to be done, that could result in a considerable number of people waiting a long time to take notes, thus reducing the numbers who could come in. I hope that my hon. Friend will be reassured that the Services Committee has looked at this subject twice in the recent past and has come to its view after careful consideration. It is a view that I must support.

Mr. Dubs

Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that the Strangers Gallery would be full of people desperately anxiously taking notes of our proceedings? Surely the absurdity of the Minister's position is obvious. Does it not devalue the traditions of the House if we continue one that is so absurdly idiosyncratic?

Mr. Pym

The Services Committee consists of members of the hon. Gentleman's party as well as of mine. On two occasions those members have come to a different conclusion from that of the hon. Gentleman, and I think that the House would wish to support them.