UK Politics

MPs to be offered extra security after Jo Cox's death

MPs in the House of Commons paying tribute to Jo Cox Image copyright House of Commons

All MPs are to be automatically offered additional security in their constituency offices and homes.

The move comes amid increased security concerns, particularly following the death of the Labour MP Jo Cox.

Until now, MPs who wanted to install security had to apply through the parliamentary expenses watchdog Ipsa.

But the BBC's Norman Smith said MPs had decided to strip the watchdog of its authority over security decisions amid concerns over delays to MPs' requests.

Following a decision by the Estimates Committee of MPs on Tuesday, all MPs will automatically be offered extra security - such as panic buttons, extra lighting, additional locks and emergency fobs - and will not have to apply to have them installed.

Previously, MPs wanting enhanced security arrangements had to have to a risk assessment carried out by the police and written estimates before any work could be carried out.

Jo Cox died last month after being attacked in her West Yorkshire constituency, the first MP to be killed for more than 25 years.

The safety of MPs outside the Houses of Parliament is the responsibility of local police forces but Ipsa has responsibility for approving funding for security procedures and dealing with requests from individual MPs.

'Providing assurance'

The watchdog's chairman wrote to MPs in the aftermath of Ms Cox's death to say the way in which it handled applications would be "reviewed and accelerated" in response to concerns about its role.

In January, the security measures available to MPs at their constituency offices and homes were "standardised" - to try to speed up the process and ensure all 650 members of the Commons receive a consistent service.

They were divided into two packages: routine and enhanced claims.

The former is based on MPs filling in self-assessment forms although MPs must obtain two separate quotes from locksmiths. Those seeking additional protection in response to a specific threat must consult local police commanders who are expected to make recommendations based on a security and intelligence review.

In 2014-15, £77,000 was spent on additional security measures designed to enable MPs to fulfil their duties following police recommendations.

The Estimates Committee, responsible for financial and logistical support to MPs that has not been outsourced to Ipsa, is chaired by Commons Speaker John Bercow and its members include the Leader of the House of Commons and representatives from the main parties.

A spokesperson for the House of Commons Commission, which supervises the overall running of the Houses of Parliament, said it did not publicly discuss the details of security arrangements and "in the event that arrangements to MPs security are revised further, this information will be communicated privately to them".

An Ipsa spokesperson said: "We have been working in partnership with the police and the House of Commons since last year to improve the security support available to MPs and their staff. We have recently streamlined the way we provide this support, responding to the security needs of MPs as defined by the police, while continuing to provide assurance about the public money spent."

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