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Parliament's Review of Guided Tours

23 March 2018

Image of UK Parliament portcullis

Updated 29 May 2018

276,000 visitors were welcomed to the Houses of Parliament on guided tours in 2017. About 92,000 people visited through paid-for tours, 92,000 UK residents received tours booked through an MP or Peer and 92,000 schoolchildren visited Parliament’s Education Centre.

Guided tours are an essential part of our role to open up Parliament to all and increase public participation in the work of Parliament and democracy. Tours provide the opportunity for UK residents, schools and overseas visitors to come in and to understand what Parliament is and how Parliament works today, and to discover the Palace and its rich history.

A review of the operating model for guided tours was undertaken in 2017 because the current commercial contract to provide Blue Badge Tour Guides to take paid-for tours is coming to an end in October 2018 and would not be extendable without a full procurement exercise. This has provided the opportunity to take a fresh look at how we provide all of our guided tours. We want to reduce the complexity of the existing model (there are currently three different pools of tour guides conducting different types of tours, with different rates of pay and employment statuses), increase overall consistency of quality and ensure public money is spent wisely. We also want to take this opportunity to end Parliament’s use of casual contracts with no guaranteed hours, which is a legacy from existing arrangements. 

In 2017 Blue Badge Tour Guides took approximately 23% of tours of Parliament under a commercial contract that has been in place since April 2014. This contract to provide paid-for tours ends in October 2018 and any future contract for providing guided tours would be put out to tender through open competition in line with procurement law. 

This review is now complete and from October 2018 a new model for tours will be in place. Under the new model a core team of directly employed guides will be established who can take all the different types of tours that Parliament offers to visitors.  

This change simplifies the management of our tours operation as a whole whilst maintaining the quality and consistency across all types of tours offered; creates 28 new full-time and part-time jobs; ends our use of casual workers with no guaranteed hours; and will also save a modest amount of taxpayers’ money.

This decision has been made by the executive management of both Houses and has been endorsed by Member committees in both Houses.

The decision has now been taken and all efforts are now focussed on the important task of implementing the agreed changes. 28 new full-time and part-time guide positions are now in the very final stages of recruitment following advertisement through fair and open competition. Our new guides will start work in August 2018 and will undergo a comprehensive programme of training before they begin taking the majority of Parliament’s guided tours from October 2018. We are proud to establish a diverse and highly skilled team of directly employed guides to engage and inform Parliament’s visitors. They will be excellent ambassadors for Parliament and individuals will enjoy the benefit of permanent, direct employment as well as future career opportunities in Parliament.

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