Public still allowed in Commons despite attack

Last updated at 12:37 20 May 2004


Members of the public will still have access to Parliament despite yesterday's flour bomb attack on the Prime Minister, Peter Hain has announced. He said that it was necessary to strike a balance between security and public access.

A wider review of Westminster security will be completed by the summer.

The review will look at claims that Speaker Michael Martin breached security protocol by clearing the chamber, instead of sealing it, in case the powder was poisonous.

And it will assess procedures for allocating places in the public gallery, after it emerged that seats intended for members of the Lords and their guests had been occupied by protesters who bought tickets from Labour peer Baroness Golding in a charity auction.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorism Branch was carrying out an investigation following the arrest of two men aged 50 and 36 on suspicion of criminal damage.

The right for peers to sponsor guests in the Commons gallery was immediately suspended following yesterday's incident.

Protesters

It was because Lady Golding had vouched for them that the protesters, from pressure group Fathers 4 Justice were seated in front of a £600,000 security screen designed to prevent just such an attack.

The group, which campaigns for improved access for divorced men to their children, identified the protesters as father-of-two Ron Davies, from Worthing, Sussex, and Guy Harrison, from Steyning, West Sussex.

They said their missiles were three condoms packed with self-raising flour stained with purple dye.

Mr Martin yesterday told MPs that the House authorities would review the way the incident was handled "to ensure all appropriate procedures are followed if necessary in the future".

Commons Leader Peter Hain said: "A thorough review of security is taking place with the Security Service and the Metropolitan Police. It must now take account of the full circumstances of today's incident.

"It has caused deep concern to Members of the House, staff and visitors.

"However, I believe that it is important that our procedures remain as accessible as possible. Everyone will be relieved that no physical harm has been caused."

He added: "This was a serious incident. I have asked for an immediate report on the circumstances and what additional security provisions may be necessary."

'Profoundly disturbing'

Shadow home secretary David Davis was critical of the response to the incident, which he described as "profoundly disturbing in the current security situation".

Police officers donned nuclear, chemical and biological protection suits as the powder hurled at Mr Blair was checked, even though no measures were taken to protect or examine anybody else who had been in the chamber.

Mr Davis said: "Today is just another example of where security has failed and incompetence has prevailed.

"The glass screen in the House of Commons was meant to prevent attacks like this. Questions must be asked about how we prevent such an attack happening again.

"We believe the chamber should have been sealed until the substance was identified, otherwise other staff within the House of Commons are potentially put at risk unnecessarily."

Fathers 4 Justice said the incident was just "the first in a series of planned protests" in the run-up to their main Father's Day demonstration on June 18.

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