Coverage of House of Commons proceedings in Westminster Hall.
Runtime: None minutes
Westminster Hall - Palace of Westminster - Netflix
The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Commonly known as the Houses of Parliament after its occupants, the Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London, England. Its name, which is derived from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey, may refer to either of two structures: the Old Palace, a medieval building complex destroyed by fire in 1834, and its replacement, the New Palace that stands today. The palace is owned by the monarch in right of the Crown and for ceremonial purposes, retains its original status as a royal residence. The building is managed by committees appointed by both houses, which report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker. The first royal palace was built on the site in the 11th century, and Westminster was the primary residence of the Kings of England until fire destroyed much of the complex in 1512. After that, it served as the home of the Parliament of England, which had been meeting there since the 13th century, and also as the seat of the Royal Courts of Justice, based in and around Westminster Hall. In 1834, an even greater fire ravaged the heavily rebuilt Houses of Parliament, and the only significant medieval structures to survive were Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St Stephen's, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, and the Jewel Tower. The subsequent competition for the reconstruction of the Palace was won by the architect Charles Barry, whose design was for new buildings in the Gothic Revival style, specifically inspired by the English Perpendicular Gothic style of the 14th–16th centuries. The remains of the Old Palace (except the detached Jewel Tower) were incorporated into its much larger replacement, which contains over 1,100 rooms organised symmetrically around two series of courtyards and has a floor area of 112,476 m2 (1,210,680 sq ft). Part of the New Palace's area of 3.24 hectares (8 acres) was reclaimed from the River Thames, which is the setting of its nearly 300-metre long (980 ft) façade, called the River Front. Barry was assisted by Augustus Pugin, a leading authority on Gothic architecture and style, who designed the interior of the Palace. Construction started in 1840 and lasted for 30 years, suffering great delays and cost overruns, as well as the death of both leading architects; works for the interior decoration continued intermittently well into the 20th century. Major conservation work has been carried out since then to reverse the effects of London's air pollution, and extensive repairs took place after the Second World War, including the reconstruction of the Commons Chamber following its bombing in 1941. The Palace is one of the centres of political life in the United Kingdom; “Westminster” has become a metonym for the UK Parliament, and the Westminster system of government has taken its name after it. The Elizabeth Tower, in particular, which is often referred to by the name of its main bell, Big Ben, is an iconic landmark of London and the United Kingdom in general, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, and an emblem of parliamentary democracy. The Palace of Westminster has been a Grade I listed building since 1970 and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
Westminster Hall - Commons Chamber - Netflix
At the north end of the Chamber is the Speaker's Chair, a present to Parliament from the Commonwealth of Australia. The current British Speaker's Chair is an exact copy of the Speaker's Chair given to Australia, by the House of Commons, to celebrate the opening of Old Parliament House, Canberra. In front of the Speaker's Chair is the Table of the House, at which the clerks sit, and on which is placed the Commons' ceremonial mace. The Table was a gift from Canada. The dispatch boxes, which front-bench Members of Parliament (MPs) often lean on or rest notes on during Questions and speeches, are a gift from New Zealand. There are green benches on either side of the House; members of the Government party occupy benches on the Speaker's right, while those of the Opposition occupy benches on the Speaker's left. There are no cross-benches as in the House of Lords. The Chamber is relatively small, and can accommodate only 427 of the 650 Members of Parliament—during Prime Minister's Questions and in major debates MPs stand at either end of the House. By tradition, the British Sovereign does not enter the Chamber of the House of Commons. The last monarch to do so was King Charles I, in 1642. The King sought to arrest five Members of Parliament on charges of high treason, but when he asked the Speaker, William Lenthall, if he had any knowledge of the whereabouts of these individuals, Lenthall famously replied: “May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.” Since then, in the State Opening of Parliament, when Black Rod representing the monarch approaches the doors to the chamber of the House of Commons to make the summons, they are pointedly slammed in his or her face. Black Rod has to strike the door three times with a staff, to be admitted and issue the summons from the monarch to the MPs to attend. When repairs after the World War II bombing were completed, the rebuilt chamber was opened by King George VI on 26 October 1950 who was invited to an “unofficial” tour of the new structure by Commons leaders. The two red lines on the floor of the House of Commons are 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) apart, which, by apocryphal tradition, is intended to be just over two sword-lengths. It is said that the original purpose of this was to prevent disputes in the House from degenerating into duels. However, there is no record of a time when Members of Parliament were allowed to bring swords into the Chamber; historically, only the Serjeant at Arms has been allowed to carry a sword, as a symbol of their role in Parliament, and there are loops of pink ribbon in the Members' cloakroom for MPs to hang up their swords before entering the Chamber. In the days when gentlemen carried swords, there were no lines in the Chamber. Protocol dictates that MPs may not cross these lines when speaking; a Member of Parliament who violates this convention will be lambasted by opposition Members.
The Chamber of the House of Commons is at the northern end of the Palace of Westminster; it was opened in 1950 after the Victorian chamber had been destroyed in 1941 and re-built under the architect Giles Gilbert Scott. The Chamber measures 14 by 20.7 metres (46 by 68 ft) and is plainer in style than the Lords Chamber; the benches, as well as other furnishings in the Commons side of the Palace, are coloured green. Members of the public are forbidden to sit on the benches. Other parliaments in Commonwealth nations, including those of India, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have copied the colour scheme under which the Lower House is associated with green, and the Upper House with red.
Westminster Hall - References - Netflix