Parliament Turns Away Scores of Interns in Security Clampdown

Guido hears that scores of interns and kids on work experience have been turned away from Parliament today in an apparent big crack down on people working on the Parliamentary estate without security clearance.

Before now it had been standard practice for MPs to take in students for shadowing or work experience, who would never go to the lengths of obtaining a formal pass for their few days in parliament.

This crackdown seems to be as a result of the Leader of the Opposition’s office employing full time staff for months without security clearence, an entirely different situation to teenagers on work experience. Interns have been joking with each other that Jezza has ruined it for everyone…

One recently employed staffer in the process of applying for a pass told Guido that “People who have been working here for weeks are suddenly being turned away. Others here on work experience aren’t going to be able to get any experience at all. It’s going to be even harder to get your foot in the door at Westminster now.”

Guido understands that some interns who were turned away have successfully made it in after being advised by their offices to enter the estate via another entrance under the guise of being there ‘for a meeting.’ If security have merrily been turning away work experience kids, does that mean they will finally start turning away Corbyn’s aides?

POLL: Should MPs Vote for an Early Holiday?

As if the six weeks holiday they have this summer were not enough, MPs are voting to knock-off the week before. Aren’t there a few legislative issues to iron out before?

‘SNP Plot’ Could Ruin England Match for MPs

It’s Estimates Day in the Commons, a dull procedure by which MPs formally consider estimates of future spending by government departments. This isn’t particularly controversial and most estimates are ‘rolled-up’ to minimise the number of votes – often there aren’t any votes at all. Tory MPs have been warned to expect multiple divisions tonight and there are rumours of an “SNP plot” to force votes which would mean MPs spend the match in the division lobbies rather than the bar. The SNP would not be so petty as to spoil England fans enjoyment of the game tonight, would they?

Just 7% of MPs Complete Fire Safety Training Despite “Another Grenfell” Warning

Just 7% of MPs have completed fire safety training despite Parliament being identified as a ‘red risk’ fire hazard which has the potential to be “another Grenfell”, Guido can reveal. Around 46 out of 650 have completed Parliament’s online fire safety course which contains vital information on how to evacuate their staff. MPs were asked to undertake the training by House authorities. Sir David Amess, MP’s representative on the Fire Safety Committee, said in an email to colleagues:

“Regardless of how you voted on the restoration and renewal motion, whilst we remain in the Palace it is beholden on all of us to do all we can to make ourselves familiar with evacuation procedures if a fire broke out.”

Former Black Rod David Leakey compared Parliament to “another Grenfell” waiting to happen. Fire experts have rated the collapsing building in the highest possible category of fire risk. Even if MPs don’t care for their own safety they have a duty to their staff…

Sandbach: I’ll Report Non-Constituents Who Email Me to the Police

Ultra-Remoaner Tory MP Anotinette Sandbach recently got into trouble for reporting an OAP to the police for sending her a polite email criticising her views on Brexit. Pretty bonkers even by Sandbach’s standards. Well, now Antoinette has updated her standard email auto-reply, threatening non-constituents who email her that she might report them to the cops:

“Please note that due to strict Parliamentary protocols, I will be unable to take up concerns of non-constituents.  If you are not a constituent and you have sent me a campaign email please note that your email will be retained in accordance with my data policy and may be disclosed to third parties in accordance with my data policy.  Emails which are abusive, threatening distressing or which may or could amount to harrassment will be disclosed to the police and relevant regulators.  For the avoidance of doubt any further contact from non constituents, who have received this bounceback and are therefore aware that I can not deal with their query may be classed as harrasment may be reported to the police and other relevant authorities including the House of Commons authorities and the Member of Parliament for the non constituent.”

Totally normal behaviour.

Police Called to Sports and Social After ‘Fake Pass’ Scare

Police were called to Parliament’s Sports and Social bar last night after a man was challenged over a ‘fake’ House of Lords pass. Scottish Conservatives and SNP researchers spotted a man in the bar wearing what they described as a counterfeit parliamentary pass. One told Guido:

“It was obviously a fake pass. The red lines were the wrong distance apart, the numbers were the wrong size and it wasn’t double sided… When he was challenged he hid the pass in his pocket and then fled the parliamentary estate… others also saw him earlier this week on the terrace.”

A Met Police spokesman said there were no arrests. Witnesses said the police took statements. A House of Lords Spokesman said:

“The Police attended the Sports and Social Bar last night in relation to an access issue. It was not in response to a disturbance or breach of the peace.”

The incident comes weeks after a man was arrested after breaching Parliament’s security fence and attempting to climb scaffolding on the building. Management of the troubled Sports and Social is due to be brought “in house” after summer recess. Another Parliamentary security scare…

Lembit Opik Elected MP For Outer Space

Lembit Opik is among a group of British politicians who have been elected MPs in the Parliament of Asgardia, the first ‘space nation’. Asgardia aims to be the first nation state in space – enthusiasts launched a (small) satellite into orbit containing the data of thousands of its citizens, but apart from that it exists mainly online. There are 200,000 ‘citizens’ of Asgardia who have signed up online from countries around the world. It is unclear how many still live in their mum’s spare bedroom. One day the Asgardians hope to have a fully functioning space colony, where Lembit will be making the laws…

The first meeting of the Asgardian Parliament is set for 24 June in Vienna. Others involved include former Lib Dem Leicester South MP Parmjit Singh Gill, and, interestingly, sitting Tory MP Nigel Evans. This may not be allowed…

Commenting on the opportunities presented to British citizens by Asgardia, Lembit Opik said:

“As the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, the country is liberated to invest in a truly global space community, and the Government has recognised this with substantial investment in the UK space sector. Asgardia welcomes British citizens who share the dream of human opportunities in space for all countries, not just the privileged few who can afford a presence in space. There was a time when only the British Upper Class could travel abroad. Now it’s possible for all to do it.”

Cosmic…

Serjeant-at-Arms: Bercow Victim of “Witch Hunt”

The senior official responsible for security and order in the House of Commons has dismissed bullying allegations against John Bercow and said the Speaker is the victim of a “witch hunt”. The extraordinary intervention in defence of beleaguered Bercow by Serjeant-at-Arms Kamal El-Hajji is published in the official Commons mag, The Housethis morning. El-Hajji wrote:

“There has recently been article after article in the daily newspapers containing speculation and accusations regarding Mr Speaker’s code of conduct and the allegedly ‘unprofessional’ way that he treats staff and colleagues working in Parliament. Due to a considerable lack of evidence supporting these allegations, it seems clear to me that there is a witch hunt against him, whether it is coming from previously disgruntled staff members or ex-colleagues trying to settle old scores of some kind.

“…we feel that there is a witch hunt going on trying to discredit Mr Speaker… I felt it’s important to stand up for what is right and to show support and solidarity to someone who has done such a great deal for Parliament and for the country.”

El-Hajji was selected for the job in 2015 by a panel of MPs headed by Bercow – he would not have got the job without the Speaker’s approval. Nice way to pay him back…

El-Hajii’s defence does not address any of the actual bullying allegations, which are extensive. It is in stark contrast to comments made by former Black Rod David Leakey, who said Bercow was unworthy of the office of Speaker. How can bullying and harassment victims have any confidence in Parliament after this display?

UPDATE: A government source condemns the Sarjeant-at-Arms: “He should be neutral in all of this. It’s really beyond unprofessional.” 

Police Arrest Intruder Attempting to Climb Scaffolding on Parliament

An individual was arrested this afternoon after attempting to scale scaffolding outside Parliament, according to unconfirmed reports. Parliamentary authorities saY they are aware of an “incident”. Police presence has been intensified.

Authorities are not taking any risks…

UPDATE: Metropolitan Police confirm one male arrested on suspicion of trespass. Police scaling down now.

Peers Get Pay Rise

Their noble Lordships have bagged a pay rise: their daily expenses allowance now stands at up to £305, a £5 increase on last year. The £305 daily rate does not account for the benefits gained from subsidised restaurants. It also does not include travel expenses which can be claimed separately. Lording it up…

Question Asked in Commons Chamber

A man has proposed to his bride-to-be in the chamber of the House of Commons. In what may be an historical first civil servant Matthew Reville popped the question to Labour parliamentary aide Rachel Evans on the floor of the House late last Friday (when MPs were not sitting). Matthew tweeted a video showing the proposal with the caption “motion proposed on the floor of the House.” Congratulations to them both…

Parliament Changed Mail Screening Provider Before Suspicious Package Wave

Today saw the fifth suspicious package incident in Parliament in a week. Of course, MPs get letters from cranks and weirdos all the time. This wave of suspicious – thankfully non-harmful – substances leaking from inside mail is causing researchers genuine alarm. As Guido reported on Monday, police are probing any link to an anti-Muslim hate campaign. Guido can reveal another factor which may also be at issue. The gossip among staffers is that Parliament has recently switched to a new contractor to carry out mail screening. The budget for screening used to be shared with the Metropolitan Police until it was taken completely in house in 2015. Researchers say they have noticed a significant uptick in dodgy letters getting through. One said:

“It’s extremely disruptive. The company doing the external screening has got a lot to answer for.”

Further details about the contract are protected for security reasons. Whether MPs are working or evacuated, you’re still paying for it…

Cops Probe Link After Second Suspicious Substance Incident

Police are dealing with another “suspicious substance” incident in Parliament less than 24 hours after Labour MP Mohammad Yasin’s office was targeted with a package containing a non-harmful liquid. Guido understands Rupa Huq’s office has been evacuated as have other offices on the first floor of Norman Shaw North building. The incident involves two packages. Specialist police and ambulance crews are in attendance. Police said they were investigating whether yesterday’s incident – which saw two people taken to hospital as a precaution – was linked to threats against Muslims. Now Parliament says police are probing whether the two incidents are linked:

“The Met Police are currently investigating suspicious items of mail in Norman Shaw North. We cannot provide any more details at this stage. This is further to the two items investigated yesterday, both of which were found to be non-harmful. The Police are investigating the content of the letters to identify any potential links.”

Yikes…

UPDATE: MPs, researchers and Parliamentary staff have received an email warning them that there have been four unknown substance incidents in two days. It reads:

“The Met Police are currently investigating two suspicious items of mail in offices in Norman Shaw North…

“Yesterday a suspicious substance in an office in Norman Shaw North was investigated by the Met Police and was found not to be hazardous. The affected area was temporarily cordoned off but no evacuation was necessary… A further letter was investigated in an office in Portcullis House yesterday evening and found not to be harmful. This makes a total of four incidents in two days at time of writing.”

Impatient Westminster Begs Greggs To Open Doors

No hint of a return to the pasty tax in today’s Spring statement and it’s a good thing too as Westminster cannot wait for its new branch of baked goodies gods Greggs to open. MPs, ravenous researchers and hungry hacks say Greggs breadder get on with the roll out and finally open the new shop, based in a giant glass-clad concession inside Westminster tube station.

SW1 is not exactly overflowing with budget eateries. One researcher told Guido: “we won’t be able to baguette about this delay if Greggs take any longer than this, we crust they will open as soon as possible.” Guido has asked Greggs just how long there is left to wait. Soon politicos will be able to spend their dough and have their cake and eat it too…

Motion Calling For Independent Inquiry into Bercow Bullying

An Early Day Motion has been tabled calling for an independent inquiry into John Bercow following bullying allegations:

“This house calls for an independent investigation into the allegations of bullying made against Mr Speaker.”

Caroline Lucas has been granted her Urgent Question at 3:30pm. Surely MPs on all sides will want to get to the bottom of this…

MPs Told: ‘Don’t Tell People Your Passwords’

The Information Commissioner’s office has written to MPs to remind them not to share their usernames and passwords with others. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wrote to all MPs this week:

“My office observed reports from social media in early December 2017 in which a number of Members openly revealed their practice of sharing their login details and passwords. I was concerned by these reports and have decided to write to all Members to highlight the importance of following good practice in respect of password management and information security.”

During the Damian Green scandal press reports noted the practice of MPs sharing their passwords with staff. Sharing passwords could give MPs plausible deniability over their online actions…

The letter from the ICO came to MPs in the notoriously impregnable form of a Microsoft Word document. The properties tab in Word revealed the username of the document’s author and members of ICO staff who had edited it. Some way to go to achieve max info sec…

Terror Cops Probe “White Powder” Sent to Parliament

The Met Police Counter Terrorism Command are investigating after a letter containing “white powder” was sent to Amber Rudd’s office in Parliament. A Met Police spokesman said:

“At approximately 1136hrs on Tuesday, 13 February, police were informed of a suspicious package that had been delivered to an office within the Palace of Westminster. Police are at the scene and dealing.

“The letter contained a white powder which is currently being assessed by specialists. The office remains closed at this time, but the rest of the Palace of Westminster is open.

“Detectives from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command have been informed and are investigating.”

A House of Commons spokesman said the powder is “non-harmful”:

“Today the Metropolitan Police investigated a small package containing white powder on the Parliamentary Estate. The powder was found to be non-harmful.”

Parliament is in recess so most MPs are absent from Westminster, though their staff are still working on the Parliamentary Estate. The building was not put into lock-down.

Get in touch if you have any info on this developing story…

Cheers as Sports Back Open

Thirsty parliamentary researchers are breathing a sigh of relief today: Parliament’s Sports and Social Club bar re-opened as of 12 midday. Puritanical MPs had sought to punish young Sports devotees for their own indiscretions during the Pestminster scandal. Can we just have no Nats allowed in please.

Parliament Full of Parasites

Parliament is infested… with bed bugs. They are being spread outside the parliamentary estate by MPs and staff who are taking the little critters back home. A probe by pest controllers found numerous cases of infestation could be traced back to the Palace of Westminster. We warned you…

UPDATE: A Parliamentary spokesman said:

“An occurrence of bed bugs was reported in July 2017 in a limited number of areas of the Parliamentary Estate. Investigations revealed that the outbreak was brought in from outside and did not originate in Parliament. Appropriate action took place to resolve the issue successfully.”

Where Are the Dirty Dozen’s Promised Reports, Investigations and Decisions?

The Brexit noise is helpfully letting both the government and the Labour Party sit on the promised reports, investigations and decisions which followed the recent string of Westminster scandals. Here’s Guido’s run-down of the unfinished business from the past few weeks (and earlier)…

Jared O’Mara: Jared hasn’t been seen in Westminster since the scandal around him erupted in October and he hasn’t voted in the months since.

[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Dame Laura Cox report into Pestminster slams Bercow and his team…

“I find it difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior House administration.”

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