Met to take over Parliament security

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Indy Politics

The Cabinet agreed yesterday that the Metropolitan Police should be put in charge of security at the Houses of Parliament after the invasion of the Commons chamber by supporters of hunting.

The planned clampdown will mean ending the role in charge of security of the Serjeant-at-Arms. Day-to-day control of parliamentary security will be handed to a director of security with expertise in tackling the threat of terrorism.

However, ministers are divided over whether to ban demonstrations in Parliament Square. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, wants to outlaw them. But other ministers, including Peter Hain, the Leader of the Commons, believe there should be a ban only if the demonstrations are a proven security risk.

The Government's determination to act was reflected in a statement by Mr Hain, who said: "The truth is that the House of Commons is operating as if in a bygone age. Our security arrangements are antiquated."

He suggested that the modernisation of the way Parliament is run needed to go much wider than the issue of security. "We need to accept that the management of the House is outdated. It is time for reform."

Final decisions will be taken after a report in two weeks by MI5 and the Metropolitan Police. Surveillance cameras are expected to be fitted to all parts of the Palace of Westminster, with tougher barriers between areas open to the general public and the 14,000 pass holders.