Parliament's 'men in tights' to lose security role

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Indy Politics

The so-called "men in tights'', criticised over a series of security breaches in the Commons, are set to lose responsibility for guarding Parliament.

The so-called "men in tights'', criticised over a series of security breaches in the Commons, are set to lose responsibility for guarding Parliament.

Senior MPs approved a proposal from the security services to put a senior police or MI5 officer in charge of Parliament's safety yesterday.

The report by the security services was commissioned after fathers' rights campaigners pelted Tony Blair with purple flour bombs from the public gallery in May. The embarrassment of the authorities deepened last month when five pro-hunt demonstrators reached the Commons Chamber.

Responsibility for security at Westminster, where there are 14,000 pass-holders and hundreds of daily visitors, is divided between the Serjeant at Arms in the Commons and Black Rod in the Lords. The two men are in charge of the overall administration of the Palace as well as its security. A report submitted to the Speaker, Michael Martin, on Tuesday says one figure should take responsibility for both Houses. He or she would be responsible to the Speaker and to senior MPs, but would also answer to the Police Commissioner and heads of the security agencies.

Sir Michael Cummins, the Serjeant at Arms, has taken heavy criticism for security arrangements, facing claims that he and his staff, who carry swords and wear silk tights, are not suited to the threat posed by modern terrorists.

Closing Parliament Square to prevent bombers driving lorries at the Commons has been discussed by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London.

Mr Blunkett said he had taken special powers to close roads around Westminster when there was a terrorist threat, but was consulting on more radical changes to the movement of traffic around Parliament.

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