Independent review of Committee witness security

List of recommendations in the independent review of the incident at the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 19 July 2011, together with progress report on implementation as at 17 October 2011.

Risk assessment: training
1. Officials carrying out the weekly risk assessment should receive professional training. The results of the training should be recorded.

Formal training in risk assessment will be arranged as soon as possible for those officials carrying out the weekly risk assessment who have not received such training.

Risk assessment: criteria
2. There should be written criteria (suitably flexible) against which risks are assessed. The criteria should cover all risks from “high end” such as counter terrorism to “low end” such as peaceful, but disruptive, protests.

The existing written criteria for risk assessment were reviewed immediately after the incident and these revised criteria are now in force.

Protection of witnesses
3. Witnesses should be afforded the protection required to ensure (a) their personal safety and (b) the effective operation of the committee.

The personal safety of witnesses, Members of Parliament, staff and the public has been and remains a key objective in the process of providing a safe and secure environment for public committee hearings.

4. In future for meetings where the risk of disruption is high the Committee Chair and the Clerk should be briefed on arrangements in detail, once they have been finalised.

Chairs and Clerks of committees are given a detailed briefing on arrangements for meetings where there is a high risk of disruption.

Risk assessments: review and approval
5. Risk assessments for the most high risk events should be reviewed, robustly questioned and formally approved by the most senior security official in the House. This would help rectify planning errors, provide confidence to the staff and police charged with arranging security and make clear where responsibility lay.

The weekly risk assessment for the most high risk events will be reviewed, subjected to robust scrutiny and given formal approval by the most senior security official in the House.

Police advice
6. The police should be required, through their contract with Parliament, to offer views on the adequacy of security arrangements, in order to ensure their expertise in such matters is routinely taken account of.

It is implicit in the existing contract between the Metropolitan Police Service and Parliament that the police should proactively offer views on the adequacy of security arrangements; and they do so.

Security arrangements
7. Security arrangements in Committee rooms for high risk events should be reviewed with a view to significantly reducing the risk of disruption by protestors. Consideration should be given to :

  • Increasing the number of security staff in the room ( one police officer placed at each side of the front of the room could well have prevented May-Bowles reaching the witness)
  • Placing a physical barrier between public and witnesses
    Providing  attendees with a list of dos and don’ts; some meeting etiquette
  • Otherwise designing measures that could limit the ability and/or opportunity for protestors to cause disruption whilst maintaining public access to Parliament

Consideration has been given to the specific measures listed in the recommendation. Revised protocols are now in place and have already been tested in practice at high risk committee meetings. These protocols also draw on the results of a recent Metropolitan Police Service audit completed during the summer of the physical security measures and procedures in place at all visitor entry points. Practical options for physical barriers in committee rooms between witnesses and the public are being explored as a matter of urgency.

8. For high risk events either secondary, more thorough, searches of bags should be undertaken by security staff, or, preferably, all bags should be removed prior to entry.

This recommendation has already been implemented for high risk meetings, including the introduction of a regime preventing visitors from carrying bags into the meeting room.

Incident response plan
9. A protocol for responding to disruptive incidents in committees should be written. It should focus upon providing clear leadership roles and delegation of responsibility. There should be  a presumption that :

  • there is a single point of command for each incident; and
  • the police are that single point once they are required to invoke their constabulary powers; but
  • control should be handed back to Parliament as soon as the incident has been resolved; and
  • there should be an audit trail (there wasn’t on this occasion, or at least none has been seen).

Writing a detailed, highly prescriptive response plan would probably prove nugatory, due to the unpredictable nature of such events. Plans should be capable of being flexible, coherent leadership being the key requirement. Detailed critical response plans should be held and implemented by the police.

A protocol as described in the recommendation and based on Parliament’s existing Incident Management Framework is being urgently developed, to cover a range of possible incidents in committees. All committee staff are being re-briefed on the use of the existing alarm systems.

Security governance
10. Arrangements for the governance of security should be reassessed, both in the light of the security failure at the CMS Select Committee and the earlier report on security governance. The possibility of creating a Director of Security should be considered anew. It is likely that in the case of the incident in question here a Director would have taken the opportunity to assure him or herself of the adequacy of plans.  Any such post should have independence of operation and clear reporting lines.

Mr Speaker will begin discussions, including with his counterpart in the House of Lords,  the Lord Speaker, about whether this recommendation merits further attention and could complement existing roles. 

List of recommendations in the independent review of the incident at the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 19 July 2011, together with progress report on implementation as at 17 October 2011 (PDF PDF 333 KB)