Francis Maude: Parliament is now more visitor-friendly

Horsham MP Francis Maude

Horsham MP Francis Maude

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Last week I reported on a typical day of meetings and visits in and around Horsham. In the past I’ve also given readers a flavour of a regular day in the Cabinet Office.

It’s not quite a case of ‘either/or’ as my two roles as a constituency MP and Minister for the Cabinet Office often mix and one of the most obvious examples is when we have a mass lobby of Parliament.

On these occasions, local people who may belong to a union or another organisation visit Westminster along with colleagues from around the country, all hoping to see their MP and explain their cause.

Central Lobby can be packed – it’s quite a sight and I try to take part whenever my diary allows. If I can’t, I’ll always make time to see people locally instead.

I’ve also started to arrange ad hoc phone surgeries – the idea being that I can call constituents who may not be able to attend a regular advice surgery but are keen to speak with me, rather than writing or emailing. I’ve only done a few sessions but they’ve proven popular and very productive.

I also try to meet with school groups who, via Parliament’s Education Service, visit the Houses of Parliament to discover what it’s all about. Suitable for Key Stages 2 to 5, students have a tour and take part in a workshop. More information can be found via: http://www.parliament.uk/education/visiting-parliament/

You don’t have to be part of an organised group to visit Parliament – I’m delighted to be able to sponsor tours for individuals, families and other groups of constituents. You might need to be patient, as tours are booked up well in advance but please do email my House of Commons office via: francismaudemp@parliament.uk and my team will be happy to help make the arrangements.

Even more in demand are trips up the Elizabeth Tower (aka the clock tower or, simply, Big Ben!). Restricted to UK permanent residents, 11 years and older, the tour is quite an experience – not for the faint-hearted - and one that I’m happy to help arrange.

In recent years, Parliament has become much more visitor-friendly with some well-stocked gift shops and a welcoming cafe. www.parliament.uk is an absolute mine of information for prospective visitors and anyone interested in the history of this wonderful British institution.

As always, I’m very happy to visit local schools and other groups to talk about Parliament and my experiences of being an MP and a Minister.