Limited access to Westminster
New restrictions have been imposed on visitors’ access to the Palace of Westminster and the travels abroad of parliamentarians and colleagues are strongly discouraged for maintaining the functioning of Parliament during the Covid-19 crisis.
Commercial tours are canceled, MPs, colleagues and other passport holders will be discouraged from bringing guests to the estate for social visits, and mass lobbies by country groups will be banned.
Members of the public will still be able to attend debates and participate in selected committee hearings.
Parliamentarians, colleagues, parliamentary staff and other members of the “parliamentary community” will continue to be able to work on the estate where necessary.
In a joint statement, Commissioners’ spokesman Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Lord Lord Fowler said: “We are determined that Parliament should, as far as possible, continue to fulfill its important constitutional duties to pass legislation, keeping the government in mind and above all by representing the views of the people of the United Kingdom and making their voices heard.
“In order to preserve the functioning of Parliament, it is our duty to take proportionate and reasonable measures to reduce the risk for those who work in the parliamentary estate and for those who have to visit.
“We are clear that now is the time to be pragmatic; everyone in the country is asked to find a balance and it is right that we do the same.
“It is in this spirit that we have decided to implement a series of restrictions relating to travel abroad and visitor access.
“These steps were developed in collaboration with Public Health England and reflect the current government approach.”
The government and parliamentarians resisted suggestions that Parliament should have closed to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Nadine Dorries, health minister, has been positive for coronavirus, as did his 84-year-old mother and a number of MPs have self-isolated.
Cabinet minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said Friday that she had tested negative for the virus, but will remain at home for seven days as a precaution after contacting Ms. Dorries.
Under the new restrictions, which will enter into force on Monday, new bookings for Parliament’s banquet or commercial tour facilities will not be accepted and existing bookings will be refunded.
Members of the public who wish to enter the parliamentary estate only to see Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the building, will not be admitted.
Members of the public can still enter the central Lobby for a meeting with their Member of Parliament or a member of the House of Lords if this is booked and agreed in advance.
Changes to school visits and member-sponsored “democratic access” visits.
Parliamentarians, colleagues and staff are invited to follow the advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding travel, but even where no guide has been provided for a particular country, parliamentary authorities say they are “strongly discouraged” from going abroad.
The risks of the visits should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account whether any of the delegates belong to vulnerable groups due to their age or health conditions.
Garry Graham, deputy secretary general of the Prospect union, which represents some members of parliamentary staff, welcomed the “reasonable and proportionate” move to limit visitors.
“Staff need to minimize the risk of infection, but it is also important that Parliament be able to remain open for as long as possible.
“This seems like a good way to proceed for the time being.”