House of Commons Information Office (HCIO) is a
section within the House of Commons Department of Information
Services. The chief role of the office is to provide
the public with information on the work, history and membership of
the House of Commons of the United
The Office was set up in 1978 following a recommendation by the
Services Committee in their report Services for the Public
. The Committee recommended there was "a need for
the House to ensure that the public is well informed about its
work" and that a "small information office be created within the
library...dealing with enquiries from the public."
The office was thus established on 1 June 1978 and was originally
known as The Public Information Office. It quickly evolved into a
much bigger section in order to cope with the volume of calls it
received. By 1982 the Office was responding to more than 50,000
enquiries annually and this figure rose to 69,000 in 1985 and was
up to 95,000 in 1990. It was also one of the first sections to
pioneer the use of computers and electronic publication in the
House of Commons with the use of Viewdata
Role of the office
The HCIO's original aims have changed little in its 30 year history
and is still imbued with "Promoting public knowledge and
understanding of the work and role of Parliament." The current HCIO
office is a quick reference service for the public dealing with all
aspects of the work, history and membership of the House of
Commons. Its means of disseminating information have changed
somewhat overtime and now puts a greater emphasis on online
resources such as the Parliament website than even five years ago.
The HCIO is now part of the Department for Information Services and
consists of 13 full time equivalent staff. The head of the office
is Dr Stephen McGinness.
The office deals with approximately 35,766 phone calls and 4,818
email enquiries per year. A substantial amount of information is
provided by the HCIO factsheet collection, which is available via
the Parliament website. The factsheet collection (65 in total)
deals with subjects ranging from Parliamentary Questions to the
Typical enquiries received by the office include:
- Who's my MP?
- Which Department deals with...?
- How do I follow the progress of a bill through Parliament?
- How do I tour/visit Parliament?
- How do I find the Report on...?
The Office is also responsible for the production of the Weekly
Information Bulletin, a publication providing detailed information
on current and future business in Parliament. It is compiled by the
editor (currently Kevin Williams) and two deputy editors. It is
available in hardcopy from the The Stationery Office and in both
pdf and html format from the Parliament website. A Sessional
Information Digest is also published after each session. This is
also available in electronic formats.
The HCIO holds a collection of Parliamentary images which are
available for the public to use for non-commercial
. The Office houses a collection of photographs on
the history, buildings and people within Parliament and there are
also slides which can be borrowed on request.
The HCIO also plays a key coordination role for Freedom of
Information requests to the House of Commons as a public
Recent developments within the HCIO have included the recording of
podcasts on various Parliamentary topics and working with the
Parliamentary Outreach team to provide talks to the public.
In May 2008 an information desk was established in Westminster Hall
to coincide with the
opening of the new Cromwell
visitors entrance. The desk is manned by staff from the HCIO who
are there to answer questions from the public on all aspects of the
work and history of Parliament. Westminster Hall provides a good focal point
for visitors who have just finished a tour of the Palace of
Westminster and for individuals arriving for meetings within
The section celebrated its 30th anniversary in June 2008.
The enquiry service can be contacted via the following:
House of Commons Information Office
House of Commons
Tel: 020 7219 4272
Fax: 020 7219 5839
“Eighth Report from the Select Committee on House of Commons
(Services) – Services for the Public” HMSO, 20 July 1977
“The House of Commons Library: A History”, by David Menhennet, 2nd
“Thirty-first report of the House of Commons Commission, Financial
Year 2008/09” HC 912, The Stationery Office