government & courts

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Sitting through a parliamentary debate or a council meeting (some of which we list below) may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they provide an insight into how the world works. And it is free. We would particularly recommend the debates in the House of Lords, which are pleasingly courteous. In a similar spirt of civic transparency, courts of law are open to the public. The procedure is as interesting as the content. 

OUR GOVERNMENT & COURTS FAVOURITES

House of Lords. Westminster. Watch debates and committee meetings. Compared to the Commons, the Lords is remarkably civilised (and elderly). More info. 

Old Bailey. Central Criminal Court. City of London. A crown court dealing with serious criminal cases including murder, rape and robbery. More info. 

House of Commons. Westminster. Watch debates from the Strangers' Gallery and at no cost and without prior booking. More info.

Supreme Court. Westminster. The highest appeal court in the UK. Set up in 2009 to take over this function from the House of Lords. More info. 

GOVERNMENT & COURTS LIST

GOVERNMENT

Camden Council. Local democracy in action at monthly public meetings of Camden Council. Motto: Not For Self But For All. Meetings held in Council Chamber, Town Hall, Judd Street WC1H 9JE. More info. See on map. 

City of London Corporation. City of London. Meetings of the Court of Common Council, its committees and sub-committees are all open to the public. Meetings held in the Guildhall. More info. See on map. 

Greater London Assembly. Southwark. Members question the Mayor in public, ten times a year, to hold him to account. Meetings take place in City Hall, SE1 2AA, designed by Norman Foster. More info. See on map. 

House of Commons. Westminster. Watch debates from the Strangers' Gallery at no cost and without prior booking. Visitors can also attend all committee meetings, seated in the committee room. More info.

House of Lords. Westminster. Watch debates and attend committee meetings. By contrast with the adversarial Commons, the Lords is remarkably civilised (and elderly). More info. 

Kensington & Chelsea Council. The meetings of the Council and its committees are freely open to the public. Meetings at the Town Hall (designed in 1976 by Basil Spence) Hornton St, W8 7NX. More info. See on map. 

Wandsworth Council. Meetings of the Council and committees are open to the public. Full meetings of the Council take place every two or three months. Town Hall, Wandsworth High St, sW18 2PU. More info. See on map.

Westminster City Council. Meetings of the Council and committees are open to the public. Meetings at 5 Strand WC2N 5HR during current refurbishment of City Hall in Victoria Street. More info. See on map.

COURTS

Old Bailey. Central Criminal Court. City of London. A crown court dealing with serious criminal cases including murder, rape and robbery. More info. 

City of London Magistrates Court. Most criminal cases stasrt in a Magistrate's Court. More serious cases are referred up to a Crown Court. Proceedings open to the public. 1 Queen Victoria Street, EC4N 4XY. More info. See on map. 

Royal Courts of Justice. Westminster. Opened by Queen Victoria in the Strand in 1882. Houses the High Court and the Court of Appeal for England and Wales. All proceedings open to the public. More info. See on map.

Supreme Court. Westminster. The court of last resort and the highest appeal court in the UK. It was established in 2009 to take over these functions from the House of Lords. Proceedings open to the public. More info. See on map.

Westminster Magistrates Court. Westminster. Opened in 2011 at 181 Marylebone Road. Handles all extradition and terrorism-related cases. Court proceedings are open to the public. More info. See on map.