HC Deb 26 November 1984 vol 68 cc610-1
50. Dr. Mawhinney

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied with the facilities for permitting hon. Members' parties to tour Parliament when they have to enter through St. Stephens entrance.

The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

St. Stephen's entrance is used for the entry of Members' parties when the line of Route through the House of Lords is closed; I am aware that under such circumstances space for visitors at the point of entry is restricted.

Dr. Mawhinney

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the beginning of this Session of Parliament over 2,000 people a day have been touring the House, going through inadequate security arrangements at both St. Stephen's entrance and the Norman Porch entrance, outside which there is no protection against the weather? At the very least, will my right hon. Friend ensure that manual security arrangements are made available to supplement the existing arrangements, to try to reduce the backlog of people and the delay which they experience in trying to tour the House?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend is perfectly correct in drawing attention to the growing numbers of people now visiting the House. The figures show that the total is about 50 per cent. above that for last year. I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's points about security.

Mr. Adley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is quite a good market in Prayer Cards among parties which come round this House and that as a result a member of the House of Commons staff has to be permanently on duty at the door to see that they are not pinched? Would it not be in the interests of all of us, in order to reduce the costs of running this place, if those cards could be left at the Vote Office, when it is open, from where hon. Members could go and take a card? It could have a double benefit.

Mr. Biffen

Ambitious as I am to extend my responsibilities, I would rather not answer that question, but I shall direct it to those who are possibly more competent.

Mr. Williams

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind that a week ago the Norman Porch was closed, and one of the scanner channels at St. Stephen's entrance was closed? The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney), who asked the original question, will bear witness to that as we were both there. It was an absolute shambles outside St. Stephen's entrance a week ago. Security became impossible, which was no fault of either the police or the attendants, who were coping with a difficult situation. Could not the repair work have been carried out over the weekend?

Mr. Biffen

I think that the matter raised by the right hon. Gentleman has security implications. I shall look into it.