Parliament staff told to ‘keep a place for public’

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Series Details Vol.11, No.31, 8.9.05
Publication Date 08/09/2005
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By Martin Banks

Date: 08/09/05

Staff at the European Parliament have been warned not to take up places in the public gallery to listen to the assembly meeting in plenary session.

The Secretary-General Julian Priestly has written to all staff, MEPs' assistants and trainees, reminding them that the galleries are reserved for visitors.

"Space in the galleries is very limited and every seat is allocated in advance," the letter said. "Vacant places at any given time, far from denoting free space, generally indicate the delayed arrival of a delegation or group.

"These visitors usually travel long distances for the opportunity to be in Parliament at a specific time and seats must be kept for them."

Priestley added: "I know I do not need to emphasise to you the need to do all we can to enhance Parliament's image as a welcoming and smooth-running institution."

A Parliament insider said: "The problem has been going on for some time but seems to have got worse recently. So many people are trying to get into the public gallery for keynote speeches like the one Tony Blair gave in Brussels at the start of the UK presidency that there is no space for the people who should be there.

"Some people have got very hot under the collar because they have come a long way to be present for a set-piece speech and find they cannot even get into the chamber. Clearly, this sort of thing does not exactly endear the Parliament to visitors."

Staff have been reminded that they can follow plenary proceedings via a video-streaming facility on individual PCs.

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