Houses Of Parliament
A country’s government is not only essential to its security and order, but it is an important symbol of that country’s national identity as well. One of the oldest and perhaps respected governing bodies in the world is the Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom. The Houses of Parliament have a special meaning to the citizens of the United Kingdom, but visitors from abroad also look at them as an example of a great democracy. Despite their important function in modern society, or perhaps because of it, the Houses of Parliament are one of the most revered tourist attractions in Great Britain.
A Preview Of Parliamentary Procedures
The Houses of Parliament provide many unique opportunities for visitors to gain a first-hand perspective of what really goes on in the daily workings of the government. Some opportunities are available for all visitors, while others are limited to citizens of the United Kingdom.
Visitors from the United Kingdom and from abroad have the opportunity to visit the public galleries during a session of Parliament.
This allows them to see debates between the two Houses of Parliament and witness the creation of laws. Select visitors can even view Question Time and the Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons with tickets from a Lord. Both United Kingdom residents and visitors to the country are also able to view judicial hearings; no tickets are required.
Other opportunities available to the masses are committee sessions. Committee sessions are open to virtually everyone, including the press. The Parliamentary archives are also open to all visitors.
Citizens of the United Kingdom have certain extended privileges when visiting the Houses of Parliament. Citizens are able to tour the Houses of Parliament any time of the year, but visitors to the country are only able to do so during the Summer Opening. This distinction is also true of the Parliamentary Archives. Additionally, United Kingdom residents are able to climb to the top of Big Ben, while visitors from abroad are not permitted to do so.
Time For A Tour!
When touring the Houses of Parliament, visitors move through designated area of the estate and are led by a trained guide. Tours last for about seventy-five minutes. Individuals, couples, families, and large groups are welcome; however, because there is a lot of walking involved, it is not recommended that young children go on tours of the Houses of Parliament. Once the tours have commenced, there are no restroom facilities available; this can also pose a problem to families with small children.
Purses and tote bags are allowed on the tours, but they will be searched, and large bags might be refused entry. Tourists are not allowed to bring cell phones, cameras, or items pertaining to personal defense with them.
Educating The United Kingdom’s Future
Special tours are also offered for school groups. A maximum of thirty-two people, including both students and staff members, are able to be accommodated in a group tour. School visits incorporate a tour, a session with the Member of Parliament who represents the visiting school, and hands-on activities for the students.
An additional educational opportunity that the Houses of Parliament provide is the accommodation for student Parliaments ten times each year. These model Parliaments last about three hours, and students are expected to prepare before hand in order to achieve an authentic Parliamentary experience.
Carrying On A Tradition
The Houses of Parliament are a traditional part of the British government; an integral part of its history and culture. The Houses of Parliament remain one of the most popular attractions in the United Kingdom—they enlighten people in the workings of their own government and inspire the generations of the future.