Security at Westminster and in Constituency Offices
Update: 16 December 2010
Update 16 December 2010:
As you'd like to hope, Parliament has about the best security and emergency planning of any place to work in the country. This Guide can't tell you everything (for security reasons of course!) but can point security-cleared staff in the right direction if you'd like more information on the procedures in place to keep our workplace safe.
There are well developed mechanisms to deal with all kinds of events, not only terrorist attacks, but incidents such as floods and fires of varying seriousness. The main objective of these contingency plans is to ensure safety and security, and business continuity plans also exist to ensure that Parliament can continue to sit even if it's not possible to do so in the Chambers. It's also very important that proceedings continue to be broadcast so that the public can see business carrying on as usual.
National Terrorism Threat Levels – decided by MI5 and the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre
The annunciators will tell you what the current threat level is, as will the Intranet
Response Levels here in Parliament
There are plans in place to deal with all kinds of events, not just terrorist attacks but incidents such as floods and fires of varying seriousness. The main objective of these contingency plans is to ensure safety and security. Rehearsals for MPs, for example what to do in the event of a chemical attack in the Commons Chamber, take place every so often and you should encourage your MP to attend!
Business continuity plans are an even bigger job and are vital to ensure that Parliament can continue to sit even if it's not possible to do so in the Chambers. There are temporary locations to which Parliament would reconvene if the Palace were to be unsafe, where facilities such as the Table Office and Vote Office could be set up.
It's also very important that proceedings continue to be broadcast so that the public can see business carrying on as usual.
In the event of an emergency, alerts will be shown on the annunciators, a prolonged division will ring and the voice-over system will give advice. MPs will be paged, and email will be used for updates but not for immediate instructions.
To help Members to meet the costs of measures taken in the constituency to safeguard their staff, their equipment and themselves, there is a Scheme for Central Contributions towards Members’ Security Costs.
This might cover, for example
The first £1000 of the costs of any project should be met from the Incidental Expenses Provision, as all Members receive £1000 in the IEP towards security costs.
To apply, your MP needs to obtain a report from your local police crime prevention officer and forward it to the Operations Directorate in the Resources Department, together with an estimate of costs from a reliable contractor/supplier. The police should be asked to prioritise their recommendations.
The Resources Department publishes a factsheet on the Scheme which can be found on the Intranet
In the meantime, a useful measure can be for staff to have an ‘office code’ for a potentially dangerous or disruptive situation. A constituency office I worked in has a code for calling the police in the event of a violent visitor – the Secretary would call to the caseworker in the back room, “could you get the Blue File please?!”
[Editor's note: There is more information available relating to this section on the intranet but it will need amending following the decisions by IPSA in March 2010: http://intranet.parliament.uk/finances/allowances/security.]
If you’d like more info on what the Contingency and Business Continuity Plans are, contact the Serjeant at Arms who is happy to give talks to staff groups.
Please remember that security is a matter for all of us. If you see someone or something suspicious, contact the police or security staff. Better a well intentioned mistake than ignoring something potentially disastrous.
Make sure you get a House of Commons Emergency Card, your Whips’ Office should have a stock of these. It shows a phone number which, in the event of an emergency, will issue a recorded message of advice which will be constantly updated as the situation changes. There is also a website which will be activated to which you can log in for advice and updates.
Last but not least, the security staff are here to ensure our safety and so please be nice and polite to them, especially at times of heightened security measures when getting in and out of the buildings can take a bit longer.
This note has been prepared with the assistance and approval of the Serjeant at Arms.
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