HL Deb 25 July 1974 vol 353 cc1920-2

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of your Lordships, I will now read a Statement on security and I will use the words spoken by my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council in another place. The Statement is as follows:

"At the Government's request, with the approval of Mr. Speaker and the Lord Chancellor, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has agreed that the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. James Starritt, should arrange for a special assessment of security in the Palace of Westminster to be made under his direction by the present Head of the Metropolitan Police, Crime Prevention Branch. With the co-operation of the authorities in both Houses, the police will work in close liaison with the Security Co-ordinater, the Chief Inspector in charge of police in the Palace of Westminster and the Superintendent of Custodians. The assessment will cover both Houses of Parliament and will pay particular attention to the question of public access and the security of individual rooms. Mr. Starritt will report to Mr. Speaker and to the Lord Chancellor."

My Lords, the Lord President ends the Statement by saying:

"I feel sure that the Deputy Commissioner will wish to take full account of the valuable work that the Services Committee has been doing on security matters".

Since this is a Statement repeated in your Lordships' House, I should perhaps add a reference to the work of our own Offices Committee; in particular, the Administration Sub-Committee and also to Black Rod and all those other officials who serve us.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for having repeated that Statement. We are naturally all very concerned about the security of the Houses of Parliament, and are also very conscious of the extreme difficulty of enforcing complete security where the public have such ready access, as indeed they should and must. Also, may I echo the noble Lord's words and say how grateful we are to our own Committees and to Black Rod, and particularly to the staff, on whom a great deal of extra work has fallen. They have a difficult task to perform and they do it with great care and efficiency. I should like to welcome the Statement, and particularly the fact that the inquiry will be under the personal direction of the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. James Starritt, and I am sure that that will be a most valuable exercise.


My Lords, I also wish to welcome the Statement and to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for what he has said, particularly about the work done by Black Rod and the other people who work in this House. I should particularly like to pay a tribute to the work of the police. On a more personal note, I should like to express the hope that as many Members as possible will now supply themselves with passes, which can be obtained very easily in this House, because there will be a large number of police who will take part in the work of ensuring security and it will be a great convenience to them if all Members have passes.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may be allowed to add my thanks to the noble Lord, because I asked a Question for Written Answer on this subject not so long ago. I wish to ask the noble Lord two questions arising out of his Statement. First, while Members of both Houses, their secretaries, the staff, personnel and all the others who regularly use the Palace of Westminster are probably outnumbered by visitors and others who come daily for one reason or another, would it not be a good idea for the staff, secretaries and personnel to have on their photographic identification passes the Westminster portcullis crest which members of both Houses have on theirs, and so reduce the hazard?

Secondly, is it not the case that one cannot look at the security of each House separately as if it were a separate entity, and one must look at the Palace of Westminster as a whole? Therefore, is there not something to be said for setting up a Joint Committee of both Houses specifically to keep an eye on security, with Black Rod and the Serjeant-at-Arms in attendance, and for expert advice to be made available?


My Lords, perhaps I may deal with those last two questions first. In regard to the staff, including secretaries and the like, this is a matter to which special consideration needs to be given. I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate that one of the dangers of too wide a distribution of passes is the fact that considerable dangers can be created owing to loss of passes, and so on. But this is a matter which we are looking at. In regard to co-ordination between the two Houses, this fact has been recognised. One must take into account the fact that each House is responsible to itself, but I understand that the Chairmen of the respective Committees in the Commons and in the Lords meet with their officials and seek the highest degree of co-ordination.

I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Amulree, for the welcome they have given to this Statement. In regard to passes, I must not anticipate the Report of the Offices Committee which will be considered by this House to-morrow, but there are some recommendations contained in it. I hope the House will be able to accept that Report. Clearly, it would be of great advantage to all those who are responsible for access to this building if every Member were to carry a pass—I hope voluntarily, but, if the House wills otherwise, by compulsion. It would certainly make the burden on our officials a good deal easier.