HC Deb 25 July 1974 vol 877 cc1941-3

9.56 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)

I beg to move, That Members and Officers of the House, the staff of the House and all persons who require to enter the precincts regularly on official duty or on the business of the House shall produce a photographic identification pass, provided by the authorities of the House, whenever so requested by the police officers or officials of either House responsible for security within the precincts or in the other parliamentary buildings in the vicinity; that the authorities of the House prepare and distribute such passes; and that the authorities of the House provide similar passes for Members' spouses, if so requested. This motion invites the House to agree that all Members of the House, and others who need to come here regularly, should carry a photographic identification pass and should show it to the police upon request. The motion would implement the Fifth Report of the Services Committee. Such passes have been for some time in use here by officers of the House and some others regularly employed here. But some Members—and others—do not yet have them. Members' spouses will be provided with photographic passes on request. The existing position has placed the police and the security staff in a very difficult position. It is often assumed, perhaps more often by older Members, that most, if not all, Members are readily recognisable by the police and staff of the House; and that there is, therefore, no need for formal identification procedures of this kind.

I have no doubt that there are in fact many of those who serve us here who rightly pride themselves upon knowing by sight the great majority of Members. But this is obviously not true of more recent recruits to the House, and in the light of recent events I do not think we can continue to rely any longer on this assumption, however pleasant it may be.

I do not expect any hon. Member will positively welcome the change proposed in this motion. But, however unwelcome, I believe it is a necessary change if security here is to be made more effective. Unless the police and security officials have the right to challenge everyone here without exception, and to ask them to provide some proof of their identity, there is obviously a glaring loophole in our precautions.

The Services Committee has discussed this matter and has taken the view that photographic passes are the most convenient way of proving one's identity. I share that view. I am sure that the police and the security officials will do all they can to minimise inconvenience to hon. Members.

Once everyone who comes here regularly has a photographic pass, it will be much easier for the police to check the entry of casual staff, of whom there are large numbers here, and any others who do not have them.

The Services Committee has also made further recommendations for improving security in the House in their Sixth Report. In particular, it has made recommendations to restrict the use of the entrances to the House, other than St. Stephens, to those in possession of valid passes. This clearly raises a number of difficult, very important and possibly contentious issues. I think it would be better not to come to conclusions on these matters this evening.

Earlier this afternoon I told the House that the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Mr. Starritt, had agreed to make an assessment of the security of the Palace of Westminster, in consultation with all concerned. I hope the House will agree to await his report.

It being Ten o'clock, Mr. Speaker interrupted the Business.