Last week’s Westminster terror attack has boosted the case for MPs and peers to remain in parliament during its multi-billion renovation, according to a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation
Alex Carlile, a non-affiliated peer in the House of Lords, told The Observer that the security risks of ‘decanting’ parliamentary staff into different buildings should make authorities reconsider plans in the wake of the attack.
‘The security issues and costs of moving us out to different locations would be very considerable,’ he said. ’I am sure that people will be pressing to remain within the parliamentary estate.
’I personally favour staying where we are if we can. Anything that makes the case that we should stay in one building will be seized upon.’
A spokersperson from the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal team told the AJ that an announcement on when the House of Commons would debate and vote on the refurbishment plans had been expected last Thursday (23 March). Following Wednesday’s attack, the debate was postponed.
Five people, including the attacker Khalid Masood, were killed when 52-year-old drove a rental car into pedestrians on the pavement of Westminster Bridge, before crashing the vehicle into the perimeter fence of the Palace of Westminster grounds and stabbing to death an unarmed police officer. Masood was fatally shot by police at the scene.
Carlile added that new security measures to protect Westminster from passing traffic, as is the case outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and by Buckingham Palace, may be needed as a result of last week’s events.
‘It may well be that we need to do the same thing around the Palace of Westminster which is to push traffic well away from the building,’ he said.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told The Observer that the refurbishment plans should take into account any new measures that come to light following the attack.
‘If we are to spend billions and evacuate the place, we might as well make it more secure, as well as deal with structural issues,’ he said. ‘The government has a habit of allowing these contracts to run over budget, but it should be hard-nosed and negotiate proper security into the price that will give strong protection long into the future.
‘This is not just about protecting politicians. There are huge numbers of people who work in parliament, and we owe it to them, especially those charged with laying their lives on the line to protect MPs, to make their place of work as secure as we possibly can.’
Carlile is a former Lib Dem MP, but left the party in January over disagreements with the party’s policy on security and surveillance.
Earlier this month, the Public Accounts Committee published a report saying a full decant of the Palace of Westminster was likely to be ‘the most economical, effective and efficient choice’ for its multi-billion refurbishment, adding to the view of the the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, which had already advocated a full decant.