Bodyguards may protect PM at Commons debates

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Tony Blair could be protected by bodyguards inside the Commons for the first time under MI5 proposals for tightening the security at Parliament after the purple "flour bomb'' attack on the Prime Minister.

Tony Blair could be protected by bodyguards inside the Commons for the first time under MI5 proposals for tightening the security at Parliament after the purple "flour bomb'' attack on the Prime Minister.

Senior Westminster figures confirmed yesterday that allowing bodyguards into the Commons was one of the options to be studied by a security commission today, chaired by the Speaker, Michael Martin.

"It is up to Downing Street, but it is one of the options," a senior Commons official said. The only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated was Spencer Perceval, who was shot in May 1812.

Mr Blair is escorted to the Commons by bodyguards in armoured cars, but once inside Parliament he is protected only by his Parliamentary Private Secretary, David Hanson.

The Speaker has also banned MPs' guests from the VIP galleries in the Commons in the first sign of a crackdown on security after last week's attack by two protesters from Fathers4Justice.

A joint security committee of MPs and Peers was given an MI5 report yesterday on possible security loopholes, but Parliamentarians are reluctant to take many of the measures, fearing they could turn Westminster into a fortress.

Ministers dismissed reports that Prime Minister's Questions would be moved to trick would-be assassins. "It wouldn't take killers five minutes to find out when it was going to happen," one senior Westminster source said.

A door from the Commons' terrace to the Strangers' Bar was also closed after advice that it could allow terrorists with a rocket-propelled grenade to fire a missile into the area where MPs and guests were sitting.

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