MI5 wants 'spy' cameras in Parliament corridors

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Indy Politics

Proposals by the Security Service to place CCTV cameras in Westminster's corridors of power have outraged MPs who fear that the proposals for protecting the Commons will enable MI5 to pry into their affairs.

Proposals by the Security Service to place CCTV cameras in Westminster's corridors of power have outraged MPs who fear that the proposals for protecting the Commons will enable MI5 to pry into their affairs.

A blueprint for defending Parliament against terrorist attacks, drawn up by M15 and the Metropolitan Police, proposes that CCTV cameras are placed in Parliament's corridors and corners. Private discussions and political deals are done in the nooks and crannies of Parliament and under the proposals, these could be monitored.

MPs fear that the plan will do nothing to hamper terrorists but will permit the security services to listen in on their conversations, passing information to the Government.

Yesterday MPs warned the proposal would be rejected on the grounds that it was draconian. Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, said the proposals were Orwellian and would create a police state inside parliament. "The idea of having M15 security cameras in every corner of the Commons gives M15 the right to monitor every conversation that is going on," he said. "This has nothing to do with big terrorism and everything to do with Big Brother."

One MP said that the cameras would hamper the functioning of political activity in the Commons, including the ability to have private discussions with pressure groups and political broadcasters and journalists. The tapes could be used to try to find the source of a leak or off-the-record sources used in broadcasts and newspaper articles. The proposals could also undermine the backbenchers' ability to rally support, and compromise ministers who discuss matters with rebellious MPs.

A boom barrage extending a third of the way across the Thames to protect the Houses of Parliament from a terrorist attack from the river, is also suggested. So, too, are electric fences around parts of Parliament and a permanent bullet-proof screen in the House of Commons. This would shield all seats in the public gallery in order to prevent a repeat of the protest earlier this year by a fathers' rights campaigner who hurled a condom full of purple powder at the Prime Minister.

The report also suggests an overall security co-ordinator with a wide range of powers should be employed. The call for increased surveillance was boosted by the invasion of the Commons by pro-hunt demonstrators who changed clothes in a committee room after walking down a Commons corridor unchallenged. But Tony Blair has called on the Commons authorities not to go "over the top" with regard to security.

Yesterday Matthew Taylor MP, who chairs the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party, said that the introduction of CCTV cameras inside Parliament should be resisted. "We can't defend an open and free democracy by taking away that openness and freedom," he said.

"It is not just the ability of a malign government in the future to abuse camera systems but also access to the public that's an issue. There are big questions about who is watching and what they are looking for."

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