Armed forces personnel to get priority in Commons public gallery

The Guardian reports that six places are to be reserved for serving members of the armed forces during prime minister's questions or any other parliamentary debate.

(By Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian, 5 November 2009) Serving members of the armed forces will be given priority when the Commons allocates places in the public gallery for prime minister's questions, John Bercow said today.

The Speaker told MPs that up to six places in the public gallery would be reserved for armed forces personnel during PMQs or any other parliamentary debate.

If more than six service personnel visit parliament at any one time, those who cannot get seats in the Commons gallery will be given a tour of the palace of Westminster and the opportunity to sit in the public gallery in the House of Lords until a seat in the Commons gallery becomes available.

Bercow made the announcement a day after Gordon Brown expressed his backing for the proposal at prime minister's questions.

In a short statement to MPs, Bercow said: "We owe a huge debt to those who serve in our armed forces. They will always be welcome in this place."

The public gallery is always full for prime minister's questions and members of the public have to queue up well before it starts if they want to guarantee getting a seat. At other times, when the Commons is debating routine business, people can normally get into the gallery without waiting.

Brown always starts prime minister's questions with a tribute to any British servicemen killed in action since he last addressed the Commons.

Bercow told MPs today: "I'm glad to say that we will ensure that up to six visiting serving members of the armed forces will always be found a place in the gallery whatever the other pressures may be."

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