HC Deb 28 October 1970 vol 805 cc216-7
29. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement about the steps being taken to improve security in the House of Commons; and what outside advice he has taken on the matter.

30. Mr. Gorst

asked the Lord President of the Council whether, in view of the incident which occurred in the Chamber on Thursday, 23rd July, he is satisfied as to the security arrangements in the Commons part of the Palace of Westminster; and if he will make a statement.

32. Mr. Mudd

asked the Lord President of the Council what steps are now proposed to increase the security of the Chamber of the House of Commons and the safety of its honourable Members.

Mr. Whitelaw

The appointment of a Security Co-ordinator by the authorities of both Houses has already been announced. Several studies have been undertaken into the matter of the security of the House during the recess, and I propose to invite the Services Committee urgently to consider this whole question.

Mr. Hamilton

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that, while we would all agree that we need some better security than we have had hitherto, there would be strong objections to frisking people going into the galleries? Nevertheless, does not the Minister agree that there should be some medium by which back-bench Members could express themselves individually—I presume to the Services Committee—on these very serious matters?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he said. I am sure that his views will be carefully noted by the Services Committee and that, equally, its members will be only too pleased to hear the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House on this problem. It is a matter for them, but I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he said.

Mr. Gorst

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, if there are any recommendations for alterations to the nature of the Chamber itself or the public gallery, or to implement any sort of searches of members of the public, the House will be given an opportunity to discuss the proposals before they are implemented?

Mr. Whitelaw

I think that general assurances are always dangerous, but on what my hon. Friend said, clearly, if major changes of the sort that he envisages were to be put forward by the Services Committee, I have no doubt that both they and the House as a whole would wish to discuss them.

Mr. Mudd

Would not my right hon. Friend accept that this is a matter of some urgency and that the appointment of a co-ordinator and the various procedures are prolonging a decision to an unnecessary and insecure degree?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not think that I could accept what my hon. Friend said, particularly when he spoke of an "insecure" degree. I do not think that that is so. If I judge the mood of the House of Commons rightly on this matter, I think that we want to consider sensible precautions but that we have absolutely no intention of being panicked into taking action which we might subsequently regret.