HC Deb 21 July 1986 vol 102 cc16-7
25. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Lord Privy if he will review the policy of curtailing the normal line of route for a week on the occasions when Her Majesty's Government invite foreign dignitaries to speak in the Royal Gallery; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Biffen

No, Sir.

Mr. Taylor

As this is the people's Parliament, and not the Government's Parliament, does my right hon. Friend not think that it is unfair, unreasonable and unkind that groups of schoolchildren and pensioners who have saved up for a long time to come to Parliament for pre-arranged visits should have their tours disrupted because of one of these occasions? Cannot such meetings be held in a Committee room? As the last three visits have been by representatives of Spain, France and Italy, and none have been by representatives of the Commonwealth, will my right hon. Friend tell us exactly who selects the people who come to these privileged occasions?

Mr. Biffen

That is a touching reference by my hon. Friend to the Commonwealth. Doubtless he will elaborate at some time on who he thinks would be suitable to make an address in the Royal Gallery. The Heads of State who are invited here for this accolade are relatively few. There have been about 10 during the past 20-odd years. The Government, of course, give the invitation, but they do so knowing that they speak for the British people at large. It would be a poor day if that proper degree of pomp and ceremony, which should be associated with Government were relegated because of schoolchildren's parties.

Mr. Williams

The right hon. Gentleman is missing the important point. Many hon. Members have experienced this problem showing parties around this year. It must be borne in mind that these groups of pensioners, schoolchildren and so on are coming on a once in a lifetime visit arranged months in advance and, in many cases, at considerable expense. They deserve some consideration. Because it seems that the only rooms that need to be closed are the Royal Robing Room the Royal Gallery and the Prince's Chamber, it is inconceivable that we cannot arrange these visits so as not to close the line of route for a full week in advance.

Mr. Biffen

That point is, of course, frequently considered by those who are responsible for looking after such visits [Interruption.] There are various serious responsibilities concerning security—a problem that has been compounded in recent years. I know that it is inconvenient that we must close down the line of route for about a week, but I do not belive that that period would reasonably be shortened without giving rise to other hazards, which I do not believe the House would wish to undertake.