Speaker outlines Commons security

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Indy Politics

The Speaker of the Commons yesterday imposed tight security around the Commons chamber yesterday after the "purple flour-bomb" attack on Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Questions. Michael Martin told MPs that only his personal guests would be allowed into the special galleries from where two protesters last week threw their missiles at the Prime Minister.

The Speaker of the Commons yesterday imposed tight security around the Commons chamber yesterday after the "purple flour-bomb" attack on Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Questions. Michael Martin told MPs that only his personal guests would be allowed into the special galleries from where two protesters last week threw their missiles at the Prime Minister.

A senior foreign diplomat was forced to sit behind the new security screen and David Hill, the Prime Minister's head of communications, was refused entry to the Commons chamber to watch his boss answer questions, when he failed to show his security pass to a Commons doorkeeper. He told Mr Hill: "I know who you are, sir. But I'm afraid I can't allow you in without a pass." Mr Hill was forced to stand outside the chamber for 30 minutes.

Doorkeepers were ordered to stand in the aisles of the public gallery, and officials from the Serjeant at Arms office were placed in the media gallery to impose tougher security. MPs said the armed police had also increased the firepower of their weapons.

But behind the show of strength was a simmering row between the Speaker and Peter Hain, the Leader of the House, who is pressing for the Commons authorities to accept radical changes to security proposed by MI5.

The Speaker was being backed by senior MPs opposed to bringing in a security chief to replace the Serjeant at Arms, traditionally the person in charge of security over MPs for the past 600 years.

MI5 and Mr Hain want a security expert in charge, answerable to the Home Secretary and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, like the new arrangements at Buckingham Palace, but MPs appear ready to reject the plan, and stick to tradition.

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