House of Commons Information Office
The House of Commons Enquiry Service, formerly known as the House of Commons Information Office, 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 Kingdom.
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The Office was set up in 1978 by Commons Librarian David Menhennet, following a recommendation by the Services Committee in their report Services for the Public (July 1977). 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 established on 1 June 1978 and was originally known as The Public Information Office. It quickly evolved into a 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.
In 2015 the House of Commons Information Office became the House of Commons Enquiry Service.
Role of the Commons Enquiry Service
The Service's original aims have changed little in its 30-year history and is still charged with "Promoting public knowledge and understanding of the work and role of Parliament." The Enquiry Service answers questions from the public on all aspects of the work, history and membership of the House of Commons. Its means of disseminating information have changed somewhat over time and now puts a greater emphasis on online resources such as the Parliament website and social media.
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...?
- "David Menhennet, commons librarian: Obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
- “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 Edition 2000
- “Thirty-first report of the House of Commons Commission, Financial Year 2008/09” HC 912, The Stationery Office