Strangers' Gallery

Oral Answers to Questions — Lord President of the Council – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th February 1988.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 12:00 am, 29th February 1988

To ask the Lord President of the Council how many admission orders were issued for entry to the Public Gallery in the most recent Session for which figures are available.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

Since parliamentary Sessions vary in length, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find it helpful if I give him the average annual figure over the past three calendar years 1985–87, which is 160,201 admission orders.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

I am grateful to the Lord Presient of the Council for his reply. What steps is he taking to encourage more visits to the Strangers' Gallery? Is it not about time that we opened some real public restaurants and facilities in this place? That would encourage people to come here and could, indeed, turn the Palace of Westminster into a real people's palace. Even if televising the House of Commons turned into the most boring show on earth, which I doubt, given the experience in the House of Lords, even one night's broadcast of what goes on in this place would reach more people than could visit the Stangers' Gallery over about four or five years.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

With hon. Members getting tickets in rotation — two orders every nine days — if the hon. Gentleman has any spare tickets, I am happy to make use of them for my constituents. Most hon. Members could deal with more admission orders than they currently get. The Galleries are well used without the attractions that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that hon. Members are responsible for members of the public for whom they obtain tickets for the Strangers' Gallery? It is their responsibility when they misbehave. What action has he taken against hon. Members when it is quite obvious that they have allowed into the Strangers' Gallery people who intend to demonstrate?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I am sure that the House will expect any hon. Member who facilitates a member of the public going into the Strangers' Gallery to hold himself responsible for the conduct of that person, in so far as he is able to do so. What action should be taken against any hon. Member who, by neglect or other means, lets into the House somebody whom he should not let in is not a matter for me.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

There is desperate pressure for tickets. Has the Lord President of the Council ever looked up to the Strangers' Gallery, just before 3 o'clock, and seen many empty seats? Our colleagues have to queue from 2 o'clock onwards to get tickets. It is not the case that, too often, with the system of rotational tickets, colleagues on both sides of the House pocket their tickets in case they want to use them, find that they do not need them, and forget to return them to the Admission Order Office, while people who really want tickets cannot get them? Should not the rotational system be looked at?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The hon. Gentleman has raised this matter in the past. On many days, all admission orders are issued. The time until 3 pm is allowed for those visitors whose arrival has been delayed. At 3 pm, any unoccupied seats are allocated to people waiting in the public queue. That is the general system. It has worked to most people's satisfaction, but if the hon. Gentleman thinks that it should be looked at, I shall see what can be done.