Can members of the public tour the Houses of Parliament?
Yes, members of the public can take a tour of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster. This is known as the Line of Route tour.
For UK residents, permits for guided parties to tour the Palace and Westminster Hall can be obtained from your local MP. They can then usually arrange for them to take a tour in English or another language.
Tours are only available on certain days and at certain times, depending on whether Parliament is in session or in recess. They usually last approximately one hour. At present, tours are only available on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and on Fridays – all day if the Commons are not sitting, late afternoon if they are.
The Central Tours Office issue only a limited number of special permits each day, and once these have all been allocated no more will be issued. As you can probably imagine, it can be quite difficult to arrange for everyone to take a tour on their preferred date, so it would be helpful if you had some alternative dates available. I will try my best, but on occasions I may be unable to obtain a permit on the day you wish to attend.
If you would like me to try to arrange a tour on your behalf please contact me with your preferred dates. Applications should be made as far in advance as possible. You are also advised to visit and read the Visiting Parliament page on the UK Parliament website for full, up to date information.
Are members of the public admitted to the House to watch debates?
Yes, the Public Gallery - also known as the Strangers Gallery - is set aside for members of the public who arrive at the British House of Commons without invitation. It is located on a level above the floor of the Commons and looks down onto it. The Public Gallery is open to the public when the House is sitting, and is closed to the public when the House is in recess.
The first hour of proceedings is devoted to Question Time, whilst Prime Minister's Question Time takes place on Wednesdays. To attend at this time, United Kingdom residents should write to their local MP to request tickets. I am only allocated a small number of tickets and as a central London MP there is considerable demand for these so I cannot guarantee any particular date and requests should be made as far in advance as possible.
If you would like me to try to obtain tickets for the Strangers' Gallery on your behalf please contact me with your preferred dates, as far in advance as possible and I my staff will get back to you with potential dates for which we can obtain tickets.
As you can imagine, Strangers' Gallery Tickets for Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesdays are very difficult to obtain. I will do my best to try to arrange tickets for Prime Minister's Questions, but it helps if constituents can provide a range of possible dates, as far in advance as possible.
As an alternative to making ticket arrangements, visitors may join the public queue outside St. Stephen's Entrance. A wait of 1 or 2 hours or more is usually common during the afternoons. Generally speaking, after ticket holders have left the Gallery and the afternoon queue has subsided, there is not normally too much pressure on places in the Gallery, except during controversial debates. Visitors who wish to minimise waiting times are therefore advised to arrive at about 13.00 or later.
Need more information?
For comprehensive and up to date information on visiting parliament you are advised to read the Visiting Parliament page on the UK Parliament website.