I was in Westminster yesterday to catch up on paperwork and some research. The Palace was, as one might expect, fairly quiet, as it tends to be in August, though by no means deserted. During recesses, parliamentary offices continue to be staffed and some parliamentarians are around. I popped over, as I tend to, to the snack bar (the Despatch Box, pictured) in the Atrium in Portcullis House – it serves an excellent cup of tea and it is a valuable social space. It is fascinating watching the comings and goings. (The Atrium is to pass-holders what Central Lobby is to members of the public.) It was moderately busy.
The most notable change that takes place at Westminster during the recess is not so much the disappearance of members, but rather the switch to a normal office hours culture. This is most notable in respect of dining facilities. They run on the assumption that there will not be anyone around beyond 5.00 or 6.00 p.m. After that time, one has to pop out to find an alternative place to eat or get a cup of tea. When one of the Houses is sitting, the facilities stay open until late evening.
The limited opportunities for eating aside, I rather like the Palace during the summer. There is no pressure, either in respect of masses of people or of business (though I need to work on drafting some amendments and written questions), and I like just being at my desk getting on with work. As regular readers know, I also have a pleasant view.