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Speaker John Bercow accused of risking MPs’ safety with plan to bring in private security firm at Commons

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Speaker John Bercow accused of risking MPs’ safety with plan to bring in private security firm at Commons

Post by Sabre on 23/4/2014, 16:28

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  • Metropolitan Police Force paid £31m a year to guard Palace of Westminster
  • Current contract ends March 2015, just before General Election
  • 500 police work at Westminster but only 20-30 ever visible
  • Labour MP calls plan for private firm 'a recipe for disaster'



Speaker John Bercow was last night accused of putting MPs’ safety in jeopardy after deciding to ‘sack’ Scotland Yard and bring in private security to take on a high-profile role at the Commons.

Mr Bercow was told he was risking ‘disaster’ by agreeing to the privatisation of the airport-style searching and screening of visitors to the Palace of Westminster.

The move, agreed with the House of Lords, comes amid complaints that the cost of the Metropolitan Police’s contract for the security of the entire Palace – £31 million a year – is too high.








Controversy: It comes just days after Mr Bercow - pictured with his wife Sally and a Metropolitan Police officer - backed the 'sack[ing' of Scotland Yard and use of private security to take on a high-profile role at the Commons


However, the plan – first revealed by The Mail on Sunday last August – has sparked fury from some MPs.

Labour’s Barry Sheerman, who represents Huddersfield, said: ‘This is a recipe for disaster. This kind of privatisation will lead to a lack of security in what is a very vulnerable building.


‘Have people forgotten the level of security during the full IRA challenge and how vigilant we still need to be?’

The MP, who is writing to Mr Bercow to protest, also warned that employing private contractors would lead to much greater turnover of staff.








John Bercow has rarely been popular among MPs and has now further irritated them by his plans to replace the Metropolitan Police Force at the Houses of Parliament with a private security firm


The plan has also angered Commons workers, with one saying: ‘It’s a total disgrace. That job of checking on the thousands of visitors who come in here every day is absolutely vital for our safety as well as for the politicians. It can’t be palmed off.’

Despite concerns, the House of Commons’ governing Commission, chaired by Mr Bercow, and the equivalent committee in the Lords, have now agreed to the privatisation when the current contract with the Met ends next March, shortly before the Election.

A note sent to Commons staff last week said that a ‘specialist commercial provider’ would be sought to operate at the three main public entrances – Portcullis House, Cromwell Green and Black Rod’s Garden in the House of Lords.








New security: A note sent to Commons staff last week said that a ¿specialist commercial provider¿ would be sought to operate at the three main public entrances ¿ Portcullis House, Cromwell Green and Black Rod¿s Garden in the House of Lords


Armed protection, policing and other security functions will remain with the Met.

Concern over the price of the Met contract has been combined with complaints expressed two years ago that although they had 500 personnel at Westminster, only 20 or 30 were visible at any time.

A spokesman for the House Committee, which oversees the running of the Lords, insisted security would not be compromised. And the Met would only say it had been informed of the parliamentary authorities’ ‘preferred option’ for future security arrangements.








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