Big, fat Indian weddings in House of Commons?

Last Updated: May 10, 2011, 20:24 PM IST

London: Fancy holding your big fat Bollywood-style Indian wedding in the corridors of power of the House of Commons, or sipping tea in the historic Terrace Pavilion?

This is not possible at the moment, but the Administration Committee of the House of Commons has recommended throwing open the ancient seat of power to tourists and raising revenue by hiring out historic spaces at commercial rates.

If Queen Elizabeth agrees to the committee`s proposals, tourists could well be welcome inside the House of Commons on days when it is not in session for weddings, banquets and visits.

Committee chairman Alan Haselhurst said: "The House of Commons is more like a small town then a large organisation. Our catering service provides 7-8,000 meals a day.

The catering provided for MPs and the thousands of staff and others who work in Parliament, and the thousands more who visit, needs to be provided as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible".

He added: "The proposals we have made today would see substantial cost savings, while opening up more of our facilities to staff and visitors."

The committee`s recommendations include setting up souvenir shops, providing more access to journalists and their guests.

Hiring out space for weddings and banquets should be done at commercial rates, the committee has recommended. It said: "Our private sector witnesses unanimously argued that demand for such a prime location would be considerable.

Westminster Hall is, of course, a space shared with the House of Lords, and is part of a royal Palace, so considerable negotiation would be required for such a proposal to be put into effect".

The report added: "Once again, though, from the point of view of both revenue and wider public access to a national asset, we support in principle the idea of hiring out Westminster Hall on a limited number of occasions and for events in keeping with the historic character of the location".

The committee recommended that banqueting restrictions be loosened so that members of the public may sponsor and host events at times when the House is not sitting.

The committee said the catering service needed to be revamped to introduce made-to-order sandwich bars, more takeaway coffee points, buffets and mid-market pizza, pasta, Chinese and Indian restaurant options to rival the table service fine dining that is used by MPs.

Haselehurst said the committee feared a loss of customers if prices rose in staff canteens.

He said the House of Commons should seek permission from Buckingham Palace to rent out Westminster Hall just four times a year at the cost of $25,000 per occasion.

The Palace of Westminster is officially a royal palace and final approval will be required from the crown.

The space holds up to 600 guests, making it suitable for corporate events or wedding receptions.

The committee said: "(So) long as any security concern is dealt with, we believe that allowing public access to the Terrace Pavilion for an afternoon tea service for those who have taken tours would raise revenue for the House and contribute in a minor way to the strategic goal of promoting public knowledge and understanding of the work and role of Parliament through the provision of information and access".

PTI