Friday, April 23, 2004

Boxing them in - for our sake rather than ours

Yesterday it was the generals. Today it's the turn of the politicians. More specifically those who voted in favour of a £1.5m glass screen to protect themselves from 'terrorist attack'.

First, since when did a glass screen cost that much? I know some fitters in Bethnal Green who could gladly do it for less than that.

But why do they even need it? Anyone who enters Parliament has to run the gamut of an X-ray machine and body search by the armed policemen at the door. If you can't find a suspicious looking phial with anthrax there it says a lot about your security.

Some good points were made during the debate which showed up thepointlessnesss of the measure; if there was a threat, one asked why the committee rooms did not also have glass screens put in the them, since the public can attend those meetings too; another asked how this was supposed to protect MPs in Central Lobby, where politicians and public can freely mingle.

But others deserve opprobrium. Stand up Oliver Heald, who said "The threat is immediate, and we need the screen now."

Oh really? It's been two and a half years since the anthrax scares in the US Congress - and to my knowledge not one case hasoccurredd here.

There was also a suggestion made which was overlooked:

"Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): Does the Leader of the House agree that this is the appropriate time in the ongoing review of the security of the Palace of Westminster to address once and for all the ownership of Parliament square, and to look to ways of bringing that within the parliamentary estate and the world heritage site? It is my contention and that of others that one cannot properly secure what is inside if one has not secured what is outside.

Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. The matter has been discussed with the Security Servic. I myself have discussed it and it will no doubt form an important part of the review."

Certain MPs have become fed up by the protestors and demonstrations taking place on Parliament Square over the last year and a half. Some would like them moved on. I just hope the Government's willingness to review the status of the square (currently a glorified roundabout) won't result in them turfing them off. A real win for democracy there!

Sometimes I think our MPs have too much time on their hands and not enough to do. So they dream up ideas like this. But then perhaps the screen is not to protect them from us, but rather the other way around.

What do you think? let me know.

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