Can I tour Parliament???

Old Apr 14th, 2003, 03:06 AM
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Can I tour Parliament???

Will be in London mid-May. On Parliament's website, www.parliament.uk, it states that "Overseas Tours" are only available during the Summer Opening of Parliament. Does this mean that U.S. citizens are not allowed to tour the House of Commons & House of Lords?

It also states that foreign visitors have to apply to their Embassy for a "card of introduction". I really can't make heads or tails what this is for.

I would just like to either walk thru the Chambers during "off-hours" or see the politicos in action.

And what is "Stranger's Gallery"???

I guess my bottom line Q is, can I tour the chambers in mid-May and if so how do I go about doing it???

I'm really confused but I would appreciate any feedback.

Thx in advance.

Bob
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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 03:39 AM
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Bob, if you read the website carefully, it's really quite straightforward.

No overseas visitors are allowed to tour Parliament currently, but can do so during the Summer sessions (26/7-30/8 and 19/9-5/10), so you won't be able to do it during May.

However, if you are there before Whit recess starts on 22nd May, you can watch a debate from Strangers' Gallery, which is the area where non-members are allowed to sit and watch the parliamentary proceedings. You do this either by simply joining the queue, in which case it's first come first served, or by applying to your embassy for the card of introduction, which means you avoid the queues and are shown straight up to the Gallery.

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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 03:46 AM
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BTW, before you decide to go and watch a debate "live" as it were, I'd try and check one out on TV on the BBC Parliament channel. It's mostly pretty boring stuff!
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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 04:33 AM
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Thx, this clarifies things. Appreciate it.

Bob
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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 04:37 AM
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Xenos, we were fortunate enough to see Jack Straw and government debate Zimbabwe, it was not boring and was a fascinating process. My husband was in awe, he loved it. He wanted to saty all day! They also debated fox hunting a bit, now that was lively!It was a one of the top highlights of all our European trips! Judy
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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 05:00 AM
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Judy, sounds like you were lucky! Looking at today's schedule, there's a questions session about work and pensions, a motion about smoking in restaurants, a debate on last week's budget and another debate about Jobcentre services in Hendon. That sounds like a more typical day to me!

Proposed schedules can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programme...nt/default.stm
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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 05:09 AM
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What you can do Bob, is go to the Old Bailey courthouse & sit in the gallery to watch a trial. It's fascinating (with wigs and all), particularly if you get a good trial. On my first trip to London as a college student, I went and watched a trial where the defendant was representing himself (very rare). I still remember it as a highlight of my trip.
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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 05:48 AM
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My sister and I attended a session of Parliament in October three years ago, this is the procedure we followed:

Well in advance of our trip ,we applied ,in writing, to the United States Embassy in London for cards of introduction. Each foreign Embassy is allowed to issue only 4 cards per Parliament session. We hoped to attend during the Prime Minister's Question time which is only on Wednesdays.

We were instructed to pick up the cards of introduction in person at the Embassy the day before we were to visit Parliament.

On Wednesday we arrived at St. Stephen's Entrance about 20 minutes before the doors were to open to the public.
People who were guests of Members of Parliament had precedence over other visitors.
The guards outside the Entrance directed us to a small waiting area for those people who had cards of introduction from their respective embassies.
The line of people who did not have cards of introduction snaked down the sidewalk.

When the doors opened we were sent inside to another guard who wrote a number on our cards of introduction and then directed to us a bench in the entry hall. The protocol of the numbering and bench sitting was strictly enforced.

Be warned that even if you have a card of introduction and even if you find yourself sitting on that bench, you may not necessarily be admitted to the Stranger's Gallery in time to hear the PM's Question period. It is definitely first come , first served. There were about 30 'bench people' waiting to enter the Stranger's Gallery that day.

Luckily, my sister and I were Numbers 2 and 3 and we only had to wait for about 20 minuets before we were allowed to take the next step to entering the Stranger's Gallery. That step is the security check: a pat down by a policewoman, then a stop at a desk to sign a form declaring we were who we said we were, then surrendering our handbags to a police officer to be kept while we were in the Stranger's Gallery, and then finally we were escorted into the inner sanctum.
It was well worth the wait. We had a clear view of Mr. Blair and we sat there listening to him until his question time was over.



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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 06:52 AM
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I've experienced both a session in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and both of them were interesting although poorly attended. I believe there were less than 6 MP's in the HoC and about 10 in the HoL. The HoL was gilded and very sumptuous looking. One thing I found amusing was seeing both a bishop and a peer nodding off during the session!

Mclaurie is right too about the Old Bailey. I witnessed a trial there several years ago. A "bloke" was accused of smashing someone's head in with a beer bottle during a pub brawl. What was especially striking were the social contrasts; hearing the posh accents of the barristers and the cockney dialects of some of the witnesses. The young defendant sat stone-faced and motionless in the dock while the bewigged judge seemed to have a wry sense of humor. A fascinating but somber slice of London life!
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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 07:08 AM
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Good news! My friends and I are getting a tour on May 8. However, you have to write a letter three months in advance in order to get accepted. We wrote the letter months ago and they responded quickly stating that we were very lucky to be accepted because they normally don't allow people to tour it. Our main tour is called the Clock Tour Tours. We are very excited and can't wait to see it. There are all kinds of rules they sent us, but all can be accomplished very easily.

After reading all the rules, we then had to send a confirmation back to them stating that we would be there at our scheduled time. So the answer is yes you can get a tour in May, but you have to write a letter to them three months before the desired tour time.
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Old Apr 14th, 2003, 07:43 AM
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Xenos: yes we were lucky! Everytime I see a session of Parliament on TV, I feel very privileged to have observed the Mother of all Legislatures...makes me all emotional. FYI, we were there last Feb. and we waited in line for about an hour and a half, we were seriously searched 3 times, and my bag was held and I picked it up, when we left. No slouches there! Judy ;-)
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Old Apr 15th, 2003, 03:03 AM
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Is photography allowed inside the Commons?
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Old Apr 15th, 2003, 04:49 AM
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I don't think photography is allowed. We went during the summer opening in 2001, and no one was taking pictures.

It's an amazing place to visit -- one of the highlights of our trip!

Annette
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