HC Deb 18 December 1995 vol 268 cc843-4W
Mr. Beggs

To ask the Chairman of the Administration Committee when he expects the Committee to conclude its review of the use of Committee and Conference Rooms; and if he will make a statement. [6651]

Mr. Michael J. Martin

I am pleased to announce that at its meeting on 28 November, after having consulted Madam Speaker about our proposals, the Administration Committee concluded its review of the use of Committee and Conference Rooms.

The Committee endorsed the ruling that the rooms should be booked by Members only for

private meetings or conferences in connection with a Parliamentary subject".

The Committee believed that it would be helpful for the House to have a clearer definition of a "parliamentary subject", and agreed that it should mean a matter of current or possible future concern to the House, which falls into one or more of the following categories:

  1. (i) Matters intended to increase the awareness of, interest in, or promote discussion of Parliament, its history, institutions and procedures, or the constitution of the United Kingdom;
  2. (ii) Matters relating to the effect, or possible effect, of extant or proposed legislation (including Private Bills and Private Members' Bills);
  3. (iii) Subjects under investigation by a Select Committee of the House;
  4. (iv) Local issues, especially those involving more than one constituency, or which could not more easily or readily be dealt with in a Member's regular advice surgery;
  5. (v) Meetings with recognised charities, when the sponsoring Member is a trustee, governor, parliamentary advisor or other officer of that charity
  6. (vi) Matters to raise interest in, or to encourage or facilitate movement towards, the establishment of parliamentary democracies in other countries;
  7. (vii) Matters which are affecting, or could affect, the safety. well-being or interests of UK citizens or organisations at home or abroad, or those of EU, commonwealth or foreign nationals resident, or organisations operating, in the UK;
  8. (viii) Matters in which the UK is, or may become, involved on a political, economic or military level, and relationships between the UK and any other country or countries;
  9. (ix) Meetings with representatives (elected or otherwise) from EU. commonwealth or foreign Parliaments or Governments, or from the European Parliament. the European Commission, or international organisations. eg UN or NATO;
  1. (x) Meetings with representatives of the Secretaries' and Assistants' Council, the Whitley Committee Trade Union Side, recognised Trade Unions or staff associations;
  2. (xi) Any other meeting approved by the Speaker.

The Committee believed that the main criterion for approving use of Committee or Conference Rooms is that meetings should be connected in some way with the parliamentary duties of the Member who books the room. Rooms should not be used for purposes unrelated to the House, such as entertainment or the launch of any commercial or financial product.

We endorsed the current practice for Rooms to be booked for the purposes of launching pamphlets or reports of a political, or party political, kind.

We believed that it would be appropriate also for Rooms to be used to launch any book written by an hon. Member, or by a former hon. Member who is now a Member of the House of Lords, and that the sale of books at such a launch should be permitted.

We also agreed that hon. Members may book Rooms to launch books written by Strangers, provided that it falls within headings (i) or (vi) above or any of the categories below:

  1. (a) Histories of the Palace of Westminster, the House of Commons or any of its Departments;
  2. (b) Anthologies of Members' speeches and extracts from their diaries;
  3. (c) Biographies of former Members of either House;
  4. (d) Biographies of former servants of the House (eg Erskine May, Hansard or Bellamy);

We do not, however, believe that it would be appropriate to permit the sale of books written by Strangers at launches held on House premises.

We also agreed that Sub-Committees of official party groups, that is, the 1922 Committee, the parliamentary Labour party and the parliamentary Liberal Democratic party, should be accorded precedence in booking the rooms over all-party groups, parliamentary groups and individual Members.

These new regulations will come into effect upon the return of the House from the Christmas recess.

Following a recent incident, I would like to remind hon. Members that whenever they have booked a Room for a meeting with constituents or other guests, it is the hon. Member's responsibility to remain in the Room at all times. If an hon. Member does have to leave the meeting for a Division in the House or in a Standing Committee, he or she should return to the Room immediately their vote has been recorded. It is also incumbent on hon. Members to ensure that their meetings finish on time, so as not to inconvenience any other hon. Member who may have booked the Room for a succeeding meeting, and that once the meeting has concluded, all guests are escorted off the premises or left in the charge of another hon. Member or the relevant House authority, for example, in the Strangers' Gallery.