Reference Library – Scotland
THE former Metropolitan Police Commissioner claims the “soft” outer ring of security at the Palace of Westminster must be enhanced after a video showed the complex’s gates were left open and apparently unmanned after Wednesday’s terror attack. The footage shows the aftermath of the assault on New Palace Yard which left PC Keith Palmer mortally wounded. As armed officers swarm the cobbled forecourt, having shot dead terrorist Khalid Masood, the imposing iron gate which allows vehicles to enter can be seen wide open.
Pedestrians are shown walking past and at one stage a courier on a moped appears to enter unchallenged.
Blair told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am absolutely certain that there will be a review now of the outer soft ring that those of us who work at the Palace of Westminster are very used to.
“Always behind it is the inner core of armed officers, but PC Keith Palmer has paid with his life for that soft outer rim and I think that his family at least, and everybody else, needs the reassurance that will be reviewed.”
Blair refused to criticise the officers who apparently left the gate unguarded, describing them as “human beings” who will have been “gripped completely” by the attack while knowing the “cavalry” of armed officers was on its way.
But he added: “I’m absolutely certain that there will have to be changes.
“People are used to the fact that if they go into Downing Street4 they are confronted by basically closed gates and armed officers and I’m afraid that’s what will have to happen, but we’ll leave it to the reviews to see what it is.
“But I don’t think there should be shock horror about the fact the gates were open for a moment after that kind of attack.”
Evans described the outrage as “one of those things that by experience you learn” from.
He revealed that “lots” of MPs locked in the Commons chamber during and after the attack were discussing how to boost security in certain areas, but said far more checks are carried out at Carriage Gates than we he was elected in 1992 and a “bobby” would just “wave you through”.
The Tory MP said: “I’ve got no doubts whatsoever that there will be enhanced features of security, it’s happening on a regular basis, but following this tragedy security has got to be upped at the same time as still having a welcoming hand to members of the public to come and see how democracy works.”
Parliamentary authorities and the police are carrying out a review of security in the wake of the atrocity.
The complex’s main entrance has two sets of large metal gates allowing vehicles to go in and out of the estate and they have traditionally been left open during the day.
A pair of smaller, makeshift gates was introduced more recently with two police officers at each to check passes and allow cyclists, cars and delivery drivers to come and go.
Just inside the entrance gate, armed police are usually present and an unarmed officer sits in a booth by the exit.
Electronic ramps are depressed and barriers lifted further into the courtyard after passes are checked using handheld machines which flash up with a picture of the pass holder .
MPs’ vehicles are also checked for bombs before they can access the underground car park where the Tory MP Airey Neave was blown up in 1979.
Security fears have been raised after it emerged that the gate of Parliament were left unmanned and open in the immediate wake of Wednesday’s terror attack. The footage, captured by The Times1, shows the aftermath of the assault on New Palace Yard in which PC Keith Palmer2 was stabbed to death. As armed officers swarm the forecourt, having shot dead terrorist Khalid Masood3, the imposing iron gate that allows vehicles to enter can be seen wide open.
No police officers are visible guarding the entry point, known as Carriage Gates, fuelling concern the attack might have been worse had Masood been followed by accomplices. Pedestrians are shown walking past and at one stage a courier on a moped appears to enter unchallenged. Yards away, separate footage showed Theresa May being rushed from the building and into a waiting car.
Although the gate was open for a matter of minutes, critics will use the brief security lapse to rebuke claims on Friday by Scotland Yard’s anti-terror chief that current arrangements were “proportionate”. Mark Rowley said that procedures for guarding Parliament had been designed so they were not “overly intrusive”.
“Our current arrangements have been developed with Parliament over many years and are designed to provide access to the seat of our government balanced with security that is proportionate but not overly intrusive,” he said. Parliament’s main entrance has two sets of large metal gates allowing vehicles to go in and out of the estate and they have traditionally been left open during the day.
A pair of smaller, makeshift gates was introduced more recently with two police officers at each to check passes and allow cyclists, cars and delivery drivers to come and go. Just inside the entrance gate, armed police are usually present and an unarmed officer sits in a booth by the exit. Electronic ramps are depressed and barriers lifted further into the courtyard after passes are checked using handheld machines which flash up with a picture of the passholder.
More police, some armed, are usually present after the final checkpoint. Wednesday s murderous rampage at Westminster left five people dead, including the attacker . Many more were injured.
Britain’s top anti-terror cop today signalled MPs may have to put up with more intrusive security at Parliament to protect it in future. Scotland Yard s anti-terror chief Mark Rowley stressed that a review following the terror attack1 would probe whether a different tone or balance was needed for security at Westminster.
Our current arrangements have been developed with Parliament over many years and are designed to provide access to the seat of our Government balanced with security that is proportionate but not overly intrusive, he said.
As would be expected, my team will work with Parliamentary authorities to assess whether a different tone or a different balance is necessary. Police at the scene after the attack (Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)
He spoke out as calls grew for more armed officers to be deployed at key points around the estate.
Senior Tory MP Nigel Evans said: If the tragic death of Keith Palmer points us to any action that we need to take it is if we are going to have unarmed police officers on the frontline, we need to ensure that within inches of them there are armed police officers behind them. Forensic investigators at the scene of the attack (Jeremy Selwyn)
The attacker, Khalid Masood, 52, is understood to have been shot dead by two officers from Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon s personal protection team who were waiting for him in his official car as he went to vote in the Commons. This has raised concerns among MPs over the speed of response of other armed officers.
However, Ken Marsh, chairman of the London Police Federation, said: If these two were not there, there would still have been armed officers there in seconds. It emerged today that Masood burst through Parliament s main carriage gates while they were open for a car carrying Acting Met Commissioner Craig Mackey to leave the estate . Mr Mackey was driven off quickly.
Police officers have long complained the solid iron Victorian gates are too heavy to open and close constantly, despite modifications, for cars to come and go, which may explain why they were not shut instantly. Meanwhile, amateur footage captured the apparent confusion of the moments after the attack when Theresa May was walking through a Commons courtyard flanked by protection officers. After shouts of Get in the car , the Prime Minister began to walk one way before veering back to the nearest car .
A member of the security detail is heard shouting for his car keys, in the video published by the Sun. The security review will also inevitably focus on the vetting of the thousands of people with passes to access the parliamentary estate. More than 1,200 passes have been lost over the last seven years, including 280 belonging to MPs, which once reported are blocked from use.
Hundreds of people on social media backed calls by MP James Cleverly, who served in the army with Pc Palmer, for him to be post-humously honoured, with the George Medal or another award.
Meanwhile, former Culture Secretary and ex-London Minister Dame Tessa Jowell said: There should be a lasting memorial to those who died and to the emergency staff who, like PC Keith Palmer, showed such courage.