Parliament: `No' to House visitors charge

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PLANS TO charge visitors to the Houses of Parliament in the summer recess were thrown out by MPs last night amid fierce cross-party opposition. MPs backed an amendment opposing the measure by 119 to 36 in a free vote.

The Commons Administration Committee proposed to charge adults about pounds 5.50 to tour the Palace of Westminster.

The committee's chairman Marion Roe (C, Broxbourne) said that charges were necessary to cover the costs for summer tours. It would be unfair for taxpayers to fund the tours, when up to 80 per cent of visitors could be from abroad. MPs' constituents would not be charged to visit Westminster when Parliament was sitting, she said.

But Peter Pike, (Lab, Burnley) insisted: "As one goes all over the world, particularly in Commonwealth countries, you see the war memorials to thousand of people who gave their lives to this country and to keep this Parliament free ... I have grave doubts about charging some of these people coming into this great symbol of democracy."