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Palace of Westminster Artwork

Oral Answers to Questions — House of Commons Commission – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th June 2016.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 12:00 am, 9th June 2016

What assessment the Commission has made of the effect on hon. Members and visitors of the level of diversity represented in artwork displayed in the Palace of Westminster.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

No formal assessment has been made. However, the strategic priorities for developing the parliamentary arts collection are reviewed by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art at the start of each Parliament. The Committee makes targeted acquisitions that reflect the interests of the House, and makes changes to the presentation of works of art to promote engagement by the visiting public. The Committee has already decided to give further consideration in the current Parliament to the representation of the collection of parliamentarians of black, Asian or minority ethnic origin.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

In the six years that I have had the privilege of serving in this House, I have often felt that the dead white men in tights who people the walls of this Palace follow me around, sometimes into the Chamber itself. As the answer to my parliamentary question showed, there are only two representations of BAME people in the whole of this Palace. In a few weeks, children from English Martyrs Primary School in Newcastle will make the journey to visit Parliament. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that they should be overawed and impressed by the Palace, but feel that they are part of its present as well as its future?

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I agree entirely with the hon. Lady’s point. She will, I hope, be pleased to hear that on 5 July the Advisory Committee will discuss this very subject. I hope the Committee will be able to provide her with a clear action plan that will help to address her concerns.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

It is vital to ensure that we embrace diversity at all levels to ensure that history is remembered correctly. We have portraits and statues of Queen Victoria in the House of Lords. Does the Commission agree that Members and visitors, particularly the latter, are astounded by the architecture, colours and sheer splendour of the Palace, and that there is unlikely to be anyone who leaves feeling negative or even discriminated against?