HC Deb 09 July 2002 vol 388 cc739-40
49. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South)

If he will make a statement on arrangements for receiving members of the public at the House. [65349]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

Improvements to arrangements for receiving the public at Parliament have already been made, and more are planned. A feasibility study is shortly to make recommendations on a new visitor centre for the public.

Mr. Chapman

Does my hon. Friend agree although the prime determinant of the public's perception of our parliamentary democracy may be what we do in this Chamber and how we do it, arrangements for the reception of visitors are an important element? Does he accept that we have not done as well as we might have done in the past as regards queueing arrangements, line of route tours, refreshment facilities, and so on? Does he recognise that my constituents have a round trip of more than 400 miles to come here, so we need to get those arrangements spot-on?

Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that although the steps that have been taken so far are very welcome, as is the feasibility study that he mentioned, there is a lot more to be done? Will he assure me that those matters will be moved forward and kept constantly under review?

Mr. Bradshaw

Yes, I should like to offer my hon. Friend that assurance. Every hon. Member has had similar experiences with constituents who come to this building, which was not designed as a building for a modern, functioning Parliament. That affects not only us, but members of the public, who nowadays expect it to be accessible. Improvements have been made, including the new screens and new reception desk in Central Lobby, screens at St. Stephen's entrance—which should help with new guiding arrangements—and the new Jubilee café. From the point of view of visitors who have to wait outside in our monsoon summer weather, the feasibility study's recommendations on a visitor centre will make a great deal of difference.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

Does the Minister agree that extra morning sittings will hardly make the place more accessible?

Mr. Bradshaw

Not necessarily, but if any suggestions regarding extra morning sittings were to be made, one of the matters that would have to be taken into account is the impact that they would have on the public accessibility of this place. However, other Parliaments sit in the morning and manage to be much more accessible than we are.

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