Decisions 18 November 2002

Monday 18 November 2002 at 5pm in Speaker's House

Present:

The Speaker, in the Chair
Mr Stuart Bell
Mr Robin Cook
Sir Patrick Cormack
Mr Eric Forth
Mr Archy Kirkwood

1.  Visitor Centre: outcome of feasibility study

The Serjeant at Arms, the Director of Finance and Administration and the Chairman of the Group on Information for the Public were present.

Points made in discussion included:

  •  that an exciting and innovative visitor centre could enhance the experience of the public visiting Parliament, as well as acting as a reception and security clearance area, but that it was important that such a centre should not be detrimental to Parliament as a working institution);
  • potential costs of around £15 million were high, but could be phased (and were small in comparison with sums spent by some other legislatures);

The Commission recognised that a centre in Westminster Hall (possibly together with further facilities in Victoria Tower Gardens), being close to the point where most visitors entered the building, created a strong case for its use.  However, Commissioners also acknowledged that a centre in Westminster Hall might be seen to compromise the integrity of a historic building and might involve reversing the current logical tour route through the Palace; and that space would be at a premium.

Further points made included:

  • that Westminster Hall would have to remain available for great State occasions;
  • that any occupants displaced by a visitor centre would have to be adequately accommodated elsewhere;
  • that an alternative option would be the siting of a full visitor centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, but that this would involve the use of land not owned by either House.

The Commission agreed

  • to task officials with collating further information on aspects of the proposals, including the possibility of siting a centre in Victoria Tower Gardens;
  • to release the consultants' report to the Finance and Services and domestic committees and others with an interest;
  • to return to the matter when the advice from officials and committees was available.

2.  Freedom of Information

The Director of Finance and Administration, the Clerk of the Journals (Chairman of the Freedom of Information Group), Speaker's Counsel and the Freedom of Information Officer were present.

The Commission discussed disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act of information held by the House Administration.

The Commission agreed that Members' expenses and allowances should be included in the House's publication scheme from 2004 onwards.