Tours of Parliament
Seema is generally happy to arrange for constituents to undertake a tour of the Palace of Westminster and would strongly encourage local residents to visit. Seema will not be arranging these during the Dissolution, but will resume them if re-elected. The guided tours last for approximately 75 minutes and are available on the following days when the House is sitting:
|Mondays||09.00 to 12 Noon||Full Tours|
|Tuesdays||09.00 to 09.55||Full Tours|
|10.00 to 12 Noon||Partial Tours (Lords Only)|
|Wednesdays||09.00 to 09.55||Full Tours|
|10.00 to 12 Noon||Partial Tours (Lords Only)|
|Fridays||15.30 to 17.00||Full Tours|
Tours can be arranged for larger groups of up to 20 people but these must be pre-booked through the MP’s office after the election period is over and we advise as much notice as possible (and preferably 2 months). To book a tour you must be a resident in the Feltham and Heston constituency.
Tours of the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben)
We can arrange for tours of the Clock Tower for constituents, who must be UK residents. Space is extremely limited and early booking (currently 3-6 months in advance) is strongly recommended.
We can arrange for groups of up to 16 people to visit Big Ben and see how the clock works. This tour requires a certain degree of good health and fitness as there are 334 steps to climb and no lifts are available. It is therefore not suitable for all visitors.
Tours are held at the set times of 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am and 2:30pm from Monday to Friday and must be pre-booked through the Seema Malhotra’s office.
As it is House of Commons policy to obtain information concerning each visitor wishing to tour the Clock Tower, we will require the following information for each member of the group: Full Name, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Current Address, Nationality
What people have said…
“I would highly recommend this tour to anyone. It is very interesting culturally, covering a period of nearly 1000 years, royalty as well as politics. You get to see right inside the Houses of Lords and Commons. There are many statues and paintings, but the wonderful ceilings and friezes make you appreciate the rich history of this country and the Commonwealth. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and able to answer any of the questions from the group. This would be a great tour for schools or groups (we saw a Brownie pack enjoying themselves). “
Jan Marshall, Norwood Green resident
History of Parliament
Origins of Parliament
The modern UK Parliament can trace its origins all the way back to two features of Anglo-Saxon government from the 8th to 11th centuries.
In 1215, King John agreed to Magna Carta which stated the right of the barons to consult with and advise the king in his Great Council.
The first known official use of the term Parliament was in 1236. It described the consultative meetings of the English monarch with a large group of his nobles (the earls and barons), and prelates (the bishops and abbots). The word Parliament means an event arranged to talk and discuss things, from the French word “parler”.
In 1332, under the reign of Edward III, the representatives of the counties (knights of the shire) and of the towns (burgesses) always sat together in one chamber and were known as the House of Commons, separating from the Upper House (the King and his nobles) after 1341.
Henry VIII’s Reformation Parliament fundamentally changed the nature of Parliament and of English government. With the ground-breaking statutes of the 1530s Parliament became omnicompetent, that is, no area involved in the government of the realm was outside its authority. It now made laws affecting all aspects of national life, especially in religious practice and doctrine, which had previously been under the authority of the Church alone.
Throughout the 16th century, under the reign of Elizabeth I, and for most of the following century, Members of Parliament saw themselves as the monarch’s servants and Parliament as a place to deal with local matters and to pass necessary legislation. There were some oppositional voices, including Peter Wentworth, who made a speech in the Commons arguing for freedom of speech in Parliament, for which he was punished and committed to the Tower of London.
The Gunpowder Plot
When Catesby, Fawkes and their fellow plotters decided to take matters into their own hands and strike at the very heart of the monarchy and government in 1605, they were doing so against a background of religious and political divisions with a long and bloody history. In 1568 Mary Queen of Scots’ expulsion from Scotland to England creates a focus for Catholic discontent in England. They were disappointed by the failure of James I’s peace treaty negotiations with Spain to improve the position of Catholics in a Protestant country, often seen as heretics or allied to foreign powers. The discovery of the plot had a lasting effect on the treatment of the Catholics in England and its failure is commemorated to this day on Bonfire Night – 5 November.
The Civil War and the Glorious Revolution
The reign of Charles I, beginning in 1625, deteriorated into civil war and regicide. But the republic set up in his place was ousted by military rule under Oliver Cromwell. Then in 1660 the monarchy was restored under Charles II.
Within 30 years of Charles II’s restoration to the throne in 1660, England was once again on the verge of civil war. In 1688 the country was invaded by a foreign army and its King fled, as the Crown was offered by Parliament to his own nephew and son-in-law. These events are usually known as the Glorious Revolution.
Act of Union 1707
Until the early 17th century England and Scotland were two entirely independent kingdoms. The Acts of Union, passed by the English and Scottish Parliaments in 1707, led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain on 1 May of that year. The UK Parliament met for the first time in October 1707.
Parliament and Empire
The British Empire was founded haphazardly, through trade, war and treaty. For 400 years Parliament responded to these imperial developments mainly through passing new laws, setting up commissions, and holding enquiries.
This extended the reach of Parliament far beyond the British Isles, affecting the lives of millions across the globe. In so doing it shaped the modern world in a way that still has repercussions today.
1800 – Present
The principle of ministerial responsibility to the lower House did not develop until the 19th century—the House of Lords was superior to the House of Commons both in theory and in practice. After the reforms of the 19th century, beginning with the Reform Act 1832, the electoral system in the lower House was much more regularised. It removed rotten boroughs and increased the number of individuals entitled to vote. For the first time the seats for the House of Commons were distributed according to population.
The 1911 Parliament Act was prompted by the House of Lords’ rejection of the People’s Budget of 1909. This Act removed the right of veto from the Lords except on bills to extend the life of Parliament. Lords were permitted delaying powers of one month for money bills, and 2 years for other legislation. The duration of Parliament was reduced to 5 years.
1918 saw the 4th Reform Act, which increased the electorate from its pre-war level of 8 million to 21 million; gave the vote to men over 21 fulfilling 6 months’ residence qualification, and to women over 30 meeting occupancy requirements. The voting age for women was lowered to 21 in 1928. In 1969, the voting age was reduced to 18.
Further reforms to the House of Lords were made during the 20th century. The Parliament Act 1949 further reduced the House of Lords delaying powers over bills. The Life Peerages Act 1958 permitted the creation of life peers and peeresses, giving women the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords. The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the right of most hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House.
In 1999, extensive powers were transferred to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive.