Watching a debate - guidance for visitors with autism
A great way to visit Parliament is to watch a debate in the House of Commons or House of Lords chambers when Parliament is sitting. You do not need to book, it is ok to just arrive and join the queue to come in.
The queue varies in length, but the average wait time is about 30 minutes. The busiest time will be during Prime Minister's Question Time (PMQs) that takes place in the House of Commons chamber on Wednesdays from 12:00 to 12:30. In this instance only, free tickets will be necessary to ensure entrance and they can only be issued in advance by contacting your local MP. If you don’t have a ticket you can queue but you will only gain entrance if there is space available.
Tickets for the galleries
The Visitor Assistants at the Cromwell Green entrance (see story 2 Going through security) will issue you with either a red card (for the House of Lords gallery) or a green card (for the House of Commons gallery).
House of Lords Public Gallery Ticket
House of Commons Public Gallery Ticket
You can ask to see whichever debate you chose and if it is not busy you can see both Chambers working.
Sometimes there can be long queues to watch the debates, and the public viewing galleries may be full. If you would like to visit at a quiet time you should email the Visit Parliament team or call on 020 7219 4114 who will be happy to give you advice.
Visitors who go to watch debates are asked to remain quiet. People watching must not try to join in with the discussions or ask questions, unless a member of staff says that this is allowed.
Doorkeepers look after visitors in the public viewing galleries, so if you have any concerns please talk to them before entering.
St Stephen's Hall
In this room are stops 3 and 4 on the audio tour, (this also forms part of the guided tour – see story 4 Going on a tour)
This is St Stephen's Hall where you will queue (which can vary in length) to go in to watch the debates. The people on the left in the picture are some visitors waiting to get in.
The Visitor Assistants will take the green or red card from you and replace it with a ticket for entry to either gallery which you will need to fill out with your name, and signature. There are pens available.
This is the gallery ticket for the House of Commons.
You will be able to sit in the green benches whilst you are waiting and if you need any assistance you can speak to a member of staff.
There are toilets nearby and if you need to use these you can speak to Visitor Assistants or security staff to do so. You will not lose your place in the queue.
This is an echoing space, and often crowded, with large heavy doors to handle, but there are Visitor Assistants and Security staff in here to direct you. There are steps at both ends with handrails. You can take photographs here.
The galleries of both chambers
This person is a doorkeeper. She controls security in the chamber and looks after visitors. Security is slightly stricter in the galleries for your safety.
Before entering the Gallery you will be asked to switch off your mobile phone. You will leave your bag with a Doorkeeper who will look after it for you and give you a tag which you will hand in at the end of your visit to get your bag back.
You will need to climb the stairs, or take the lift to get into the gallery. Inside the House of Commons you will sit behind a glass screen. You can stay for as little or as long as you like. When the MPs are debating it can be noisy and get quite heated, but this is part of the spirit of the debate. When you are ready to leave you go back to the doorkeeper and hand your tag back in, in exchange for your bag. You then return down the stairs and back to Central Lobby.
This is the public gallery in the House of Commons. It can be very busy in here. It is high up and you will be behind a security screen for your safety. You can still see and hear everything. There are microphones in the back of the chairs to amplify the sound. You can stay for as little or as long as you want.
When you watch the House of Lords you sit in this gallery. It is high up with no screen. There are speakers in the back of the chairs. You can stay for as little or as long as you like.