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Press Gallery: Repairs and Maintenance

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2007

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on the refurbishment of the press gallery. (158669)

The refurbishment of the Press Gallery has been a project to modernise accommodation used by the journalists and political correspondents based in the Palace of Westminster for the purposes of reporting on the business of Parliament. The press have had a recognised presence in the House of Commons since 1803, when Speaker Abbott ruled that they should have privileged access to the Gallery.

The Press Gallery is one of the last areas of the Palace to be modernised. Over the 2006 summer recess, the House of Commons began the first phase of the project to bring the offices in line with workplace health and safety and disability discrimination regulations. The second and final phase of works was completed over the 2007 summer recess, during which the entire Press Gallery was decanted. The project also involved refitting and updating the catering facilities in that area of the Palace in order to make more efficient use of the space. The final handover of office accommodation and the new catering facilities took place on 15 October.

The project was completed at a total cost of £7.71 million to the House. As well as modern office accommodation, the improved facilities include a new kitchen and a multi-purpose restaurant and cafe/bar, to be called “Moncrieff’s”. The refurbished Press Gallery will be launched by Mr. Speaker on 20 November.