Bicameral services for the public
Parliament's bicameral (of both Houses/Chambers) services for the public are among the information and communications services that the House of Lords Information Committee is concerned with.
Parliamentary website: www.parliament.uk
The Committee has welcomed a wide range of improvements to the parliamentary website www.parliament.uk. The Committee is particularly excited by the programme of virtual tours being developed, which allow people to explore some of Parliament's famous buildings and learn about the current work and history of Parliament. A House of Lords Chamber virtual tour and House of Lords Library virtual tour are already available.
In July 2007 the Committee recommended establishing regional parliamentary outreach officers. A team of four regional outreach officers started working in July 2008 in two start-up regions- Yorkshire and the Humber, and the East of England. It is planned that, by 2010-11, there will be twelve regional outreach officers covering all regions of the UK.
Parliamentary Education Centre
In October 2007, the House agreed the Committee's report on Improving Facilities for Educational Visitors to Parliament (HL Paper 177, Session 2006-07), which concluded that "a dedicated space for school visitors of approximately 1,000 square metres (consisting of flexible accommodation of five classrooms with ancillary space for storage, toilet facilities, a lunch area and locker space) should be sought either on or off the existing Estate-the exact space depending on what becomes available and at what cost". Following that decision, a detailed feasibility study was undertaken to identify a suitable location and examine how it could be adapted to meet the agreed requirements.
In May 2008, the Committee considered the results of that feasibility study and approved plans for a new Parliamentary Education Centre, which should open in the Commons area of the Estate in 2012. The Centre will transform the facilities for education visitors to Parliament by providing a high quality professional space dedicated to learning. The increase in space will enable the Education Service to offer sessions for 100, 000 visitors per year, compared to the 29, 000 currently accommodated. The Centre will include video conferencing facilities and a space where art, archives and artefacts can be displayed. The Committee warmly welcomes the development of a Parliamentary Education Centre.
Broadcasting of proceedings
The Information Committee supervises the arrangements for televising and sound broadcasting the proceedings of the House and its committees. The Director of Parliamentary Broadcasting, who works for both Houses, monitors adherence to the rules of coverage laid down by the Committee.
Many broadcasters, MPs and Peers would like users to be able to 'embed' Parliamentary material into their own web sites. Under the terms of the current licences, the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL) cannot allow any of its licensees to offer embedding. However, embedding could allow wider access to parliamentary proceedings through websites and other channels, and the Committee supports measures which would increase coverage, and thereby understanding, of Parliament. Whilst there would be risks in allowing embedding, given those benefits, the Committee has asked for further work to be done on how this might be achieved.
A number of MPs have suggested that they should be allowed to place clips of their appearances in the Commons Chamber on video-sharing websites such as YouTube. Although, the issue was raised first in the Commons, there is a similar interest in the House of Lords.
The Committee recommended that Peers be allowed to post coverage of their parliamentary contributions on external searchable web sites. The Committee also agreed certain conditions for such posting. The Committee has asked for advice and technical support to be provided so that all Members who wish to can upload parliamentary footage onto searchable websites.