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. He – or more likely, his whip – is submitting a number of very general written questions and signing the odd EDM to give the impression things are still ticking over. Jared is still under investigation after losing the Labour whip. He’s been off for weeks…

Keith Vaz: An investigation into Vaz by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner is somehow still ongoing after a complaint was made about his rent boys and coke binge in September 2016 (Kathryn Hudson better hurry-up, she’s due to step-down by the end of this year). Vaz hasn’t voted since 18 October, though he did speak in the House last week. He is currently rumoured to be on a trip to the Middle East…

Damian Green: Westminster was on tenterhooks awaiting the release of Sue Gray’s report last week, but it didn’t materialise. It was rumoured to be on the agenda again yesterday but failed to appear. Putting off the inevitable seems to be distracting Damian from his job liaising with the DUP…

Mark Garnier: Remains under Cabinet Office investigation after the Mail on Sunday reported allegations in October that he sent an aide to buy sex toys and called her “sugar tits“. What on earth are they doing, interrogating the sex shop owner?

Kelvin Hopkins: Former Shadow Culture Secretary Kelvin Hopkins lost the Labour whip in November. The party is still investigating a complaint that Hopkins sent inappropriate text messages and made inappropriate physical contact at a student event in 2014. He is voting in line with Labour but hasn’t spoken since 25 October. No update from Labour…

Ivan LewisLabour is still investigating a complaint against Lewis, who denied allegations of sexual harassment after a woman said he touched her leg and invited her to his house when she was 19. He hasn’t voted since 31 October or spoken in the chamber since 25 October. No update…

Dan Poulter: MPs say they haven’t seen Dr Dan around Westminster since the Sunday Times reported allegations against him on 5 November. His office told the BBC he’s “on sick leave”. He last voted on 31 October and hasn’t spoken in the chamber since 11 July. The new Conservative Party disciplinary committee is yet to report its findings… 

Charlie Elphicke: Elphicke’s friends say is still unaware of what allegations have been made against him. He was told in November that allegations had been passed to the police, but there has been no news of any action. In the meantime, Elphicke is still without the whip. The chairman of his association recently backed him…

Stephen CrabbThe former Welsh Secretary is still under investigation by the Conservative Party for allegedly sexting a 19-year-old who applied for a job in his office in 2013. No update…

Chris Pincher: He resigned as a government whip after allegations in the Mail on Sunday that he had un-tucked the shirt of a male Tory. Pincher referred himself to the police. No news as to the outcome…

Daniel KawczynskiReferred to the Tories new disciplinary committee in November following allegations that he pressured a young researcher to go on a date with a businessman ‘older than her father’. Nothing heard yet…

Jack LoprestiA former staff member complained about Lopresti’s behaviour and a probe was launched last week. The complaint came via the Tories’ new code of conduct hotline…

What do Sue Gray, Kathryn Hudson and the Tory and Labour party internal inquiries get up to all day?

Victory! Parliament’s Lego Lord Nelson Restored

When parliament’s Lego Lord Nelson went missing from the top of his model column, Guido immediately launched an investigation to solve the mystery. Today, we can report that Nelson has been restored to his rightful place.

A senior parliamentary source said:

“Thankfully a Tory staffer has replaced the stolen Nelson in a patriotic act of goodwill. Efforts will be made to observe this Nelson to ensure he doesn’t go walkabouts again. Justice.”

Parliament Week saved…

Who Nicked Nelson? Parliament’s Lego Mystery

How are the parliamentary authorities marking UK Parliament Week? By setting up a big Lego model of the Palace of Westminster, Tower Bridge and Trafalgar Square, of course. But there’s something (or someone) missing from the diorama currently on display in Portcullis House. On Nelson’s column, there’s no Lord Nelson…

There are conflicting accounts as to when Nelson disappeared. One researcher pointed the finger at “leftists”, alleging that the model Nelson may be absent due to the controversy over the real statue’s supposed connotations. Guido hears excited staff are now plotting to replace the missing Nelson with their favourite little Lego men and women. If you have seen Nelson, get in touch anonymously…

Churchill Statue Vandalised Outside Parliament, Man Arrested

A man was arrested last night after a statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was graffitied. A co-conspirator told Guido:

 “A lefty loon was arrested defacing the Churchill statue in Parliament Square. He was swiftly dealt with by police from parliament.”

A warden in Parliament Square said the graffiti – which was daubed on the statue’s stone plinth – said “something racist” and that police are examining CCTV footage of the incident. A Met Police spokesman told Guido:

“At around 21:45hrs on Tuesday, 24 October, officers arrested a man in Parliament Square, Westminster SW1 on suspicion of criminal damage. 

“He was taken to a central London police station.”

The graffiti on the statue has now been covered:

Heads Up: Parliament Tells MPs It’s Too Windy To Inspect Falling Masonry

Yesterday a chunk of stone as big as a football fell from a height off Norman Shaw North and shattered the windscreen of Michael Ellis’s car. It was only by luck that no one was injured, or worse…

Today it emerges that an urgent inspection of the masonry on Norman Shaw cannot take place due to “high winds”. An email to MPs from parliamentary authorities states that a “specialist stonemason” cannot inspect the building until after the weekend. The entrance to Norman Shaw will remain closed. In the meantime, it’s too dangerous for specialists to make safe a clearly dangerous building. Heads up everyone…

Car Windscreen Smashed Inside Parliament

This is the scene on the Parliamentary Estate where an object described as a “huge chunk of stone” has smashed through a car windscreen. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but a co-conspirator tells Guido that within the last 30 minutes a “huge chunk of stone fell off Norman Shaw North”. Fortunately, there are no reports of any injuries. Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom has been spotted on scene along with police and parliamentary authorities. The car is rumored to belong to Northampton North MP Michael Ellis. Very dangerous… 

UPDATE 13.30: More pics coming in from the scene:

UPDATE 14.17: A parliamentary spokesperson said:

“The main entrance to Norman Shaw North has been closed for health and safety reasons until further notice. The incident is being investigated by parliamentary authorities as a matter of urgency.”

Internet Down on Parliamentary Estate

MPs and staff are unable to get online on their first day back at work as an internet outage appears to be affecting the Parliamentary Estate. One bag carrier moaned:

“Can’t get online at all, should have worked from home.”

Not much work getting done this morning…

UPDATE: Relieved staffers get in touch to say their connections are now restored. Back to work…

UPDATE II: The fall out continued this lunchtime in the Portcullis House canteen. The tills and card readers have been struggling to get online all day, which when coupled with the cafeteria serving up Jerk Chicken – a favourite dish among MPs and staffers alike – as a back-to-school treat, led to long delays and queues flowing out the door. One old hand, fresh back from their summer holidays, comments: “It’s like Heathrow passport control down here”.

Islamist Preacher Who Called for Destruction of Britain Coming to Parliament

Heads up Special Branch – a notorious Islamist hate preacher who called for Britain to be “destroyed” is due to meet MPs in parliament this month. Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, a former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and current Imam of the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, will visit Britain as part of a delegation organised by pro-Palestinian group EuroPal. Provided he isn’t stopped at Heathrow…

Sabri stated in a 2001 radio sermon: “Allah, destroy the U.S., its helpers and its agents. Allah, destroy Britain, its helpers and its agents. Allah, prepare those who will unite the Muslims and march in the steps of Saladin.” Furthermore, Sabri:

  • Denied the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust, telling Italian newspaper La Repubblica in 2000: “Six million Jews dead? No way, they were much fewer. Let’s stop with this fairytale exploited by Israel to capture international solidarity.”
  • Praised child martyrdom, saying in a 2001 sermon: “The younger the martyr – the greater and the more I respect him… They [mothers of martyrs] willingly sacrifice their offspring for the sake of freedom.”
  • Was removed by from office by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas because of his extremist views
  • Was banned from entering France by the French government in 2012
  • Said in a New York Times Magazine interview: “If the Jews want peace, they will stay away from Al Aksa…This is a decree from Allah. The Haram al-Sharif belongs to the Muslim. But we know the Jew is planning on destroying the Haram. The Jew will get the Christian to do his work for him. This is the way of the Jews. This is the way Satan manifests himself. The majority of the Jews want to destroy the mosque. They are preparing this as we speak.”

An email sent to MPs announced the details of Sabri’s visit and offered meetings in parliament with the EuroPal delegation between Monday 11th and Friday 15th September. Cup of tea with Jezza?

Government Spokesman on S**t SpAds

Concerned by a no doubt crucial health issue, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath tabled this written question on May 18th:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to ensure that NICE guidance is followed in the use of faecal microbiota transplants in the treatment of recurrent Clostridium difficile.”
Yesterday he received an unexpected written answer from the government spokesman:
“The standards of conduct expected of all civil servants, including Special Advisers are set out in the relevant Codes of Conduct. These Codes make clear what Special Advisers can and cannot do in their roles.”
Bit harsh…

Hungry Hacks Mourn Moncrieff’s

Receipt-watching editors are breathing a sigh of relief today as journalists tuck into their final lunch at Moncfieff’s cafe bar, the hack’s boozer inside parliament. A 2012 FOI request revealed a glass of sauvignon blanc set scribblers back just £2.35, a pint was just £3.30 and you could get a plate of roasted half spring chicken with stuffing for £2.95 – excellent prices for expensive SW1.[…] Read the rest

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