MPs and their staff are excluded from the Palace, not least because since 5.00 p.m .today – when Parliament was dissolved – there are no MPs. Members and their staff can clear their offices but thereafter are barred from Parliament. This is to avoid any use being made of parliamentary facilities for election purposes.
The situation is different for peers. Though there are now no MPs, we remain as peers. We can have access to the Palace and our offices as long as we do not use the facilities for electoral purposes. The library remains open, though the research services are not available, and some of the dining facilities remain open throughout the period of dissolution. This is not just for the benefit of peers, but also of staff. The Palace remains staffed for the purposes of maintenance and security, as well as to enable staff to prepare for the new Parliament. Details of State Opening have already been circulated.
I know peers will be engaging in a range of activities, some very much involved in the election and others committed to their professions or other responsibilities. I’ll variously be at Westminster. I have to catch up on paperwork as well as use the opportunity to sort out the stack of material on my desk and, indeed, surrounding my desk. Most of my time, though, will be spent in Hull: apart from teaching, I have research to complete and various publishing deadlines to meet. I also have to monitor the election campaign and prepare some post-election analyses. Oh yes, and mark a large number of undergraduate dissertations. They will keep me well occupied on the train when I travel down to Westminster.