» Thursday, September 16, 2004

House Security

Asked for the official government line on Peter Hain’s statement this morning that there should be a new director of security at the House of Commons, the PMOS said Mr Hain had also made it clear that this was a matter for the outcome of the enquiry. There were clearly lessons to be learned and clearly it was a process of bringing security measures in the House up to date. How precisely that was done was a matter for discussion. It was important that we recognised after yesterday the importance of modernising the security arrangements around the House. That would be a matter for further discussion.

Asked about security guards carrying out police duties inside the House as a money saving measure, the PMOS said it was important to recognise there was already an enquiry under way before yesterday’s incident, and the Government, along with the relevant agencies, have been feeding in to that enquiry. The PMOS said it was wise to wait for the enquiry to produce its results and then see what happens. Even before yesterday people recognised there had to be changes and the ongoing enquiry needed to take yesterday’s events into account.

Asked about comments made this morning by the Commissioner of the Met Police that police around the country should be prepared for increasingly militant action by pro-hunt protestors, the PMOS said the Government recognised that this was a matter that does arouse strong emotions. That was why the Government would have preferred the issue to be resolved by a compromise way forward. The government recognised that people had a legitimate right to protest. When the Prime Minister met with pro-hunt campaigners in his constituency last Friday and again at Chequers, he stressed that any protest must be peaceful. The leadership of pro-hunt campaigners that the Prime Minister met had said they wanted peaceful protest. He said that hunting, as we have seen through the years, is a subject that does attract pro and anti protest. The Government would still appeal for this matter to be approached in a calm and rational way. The more it could be debated in a calm and rational manner on both sides, the better.

Questioned about possible topics within the House of Commons security review, the PMOS said the issue of security was one that went further than yesterday’s events and that that was precisely why there was already an enquiry set up and why Government and the agencies involved have been contributing to that enquiry. There were specifics being discussed but as with all security matters it was better that people were able to reach conclusions without those thinking processes being public for obvious reasons. The judgement should be made when the conclusion of the process had been reached, not in the middle. Yesterday’s events were not the initial cause of the enquiry but had given added urgency to that enquiry and had made its conclusions more important. Nobody was trying to down-play the significance of yesterday’s events, it was a subject of deep concern but we still had to work out how to achieve a balance, if at all possible, between making sure there weren’t breeches of security like yesterday, and that MPs, constituents and others who used the Palace of Westminster were secure and that access was still maintained. That was a balance that would be difficult but if all the expertise could be bought to bear on the subject, the Government was confident it would be reached.

Asked if the Prime Minister was surprised that MPs had not been able to discuss their own security in the House of Commons today, the PMOS said that because neither he nor the Prime Minister had been there in the morning, it would be wrong for him to comment.

Asked about media coverage about a possible ban on mass protests, the PMOS said it was the responsibility of Westminster Council and the Highways Agency. It was an issue that was part of the broader security issue and should be discussed but it would be better discussed in the appropriate way.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

1 Comment »

  1. How long does it take to ‘case’ a joint like the houses of parliament? Most folk who know ‘security’ could prepare a report in a day and a comprehensive plan in under a week.

    If MPs want to use ‘committee’ procedures for security matters then terrorists have at least another 6 months of big loopholes before we see a modicum of security.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 18 Sep 2004 on 1:08 pm | Link

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