Motion to Refer to Grand Committee
My Lords, before dealing with the Motion, will the Leader accept that there is something much more important affecting every Member of this House today—not in three months’ time, but today—which is our ability to get in here and get out again? The current restrictions on cars coming in and out are becoming nonsensical. I am told that it will take three months to review the situation; it should be reviewed today. We are supposed to be in charge of our own place; we can surely decide; we can tell Black Rod; we can do what the devil we like. I declare a personal interest: I had an operation a week ago and have been advised that I should do as little walking as possible in the near future. I find it very difficult walking across the road to get a taxi, and other Members are finding it even more difficult. Surely he can do something about that now.
My Lords, may I support the noble Lord, Lord Barnett? I have just put down a Question to that very effect, but unfortunately it must wait a month before it can be heard in this House. I strongly support the point that the current arrangements are a total failure and should revert. Any suicide bomber who wishes to attack this place certainly could do so without somebody looking at the bottom of their car. Please will the Leader do something about it today?
My Lords, I am well aware, as are most Members of the House, that this week there have been some difficulties in entering the car park. I know that Black Rod has received many representations—I expect that, even after today, he will continue to receive many further representations—and I urge noble Lords who believe that they can suggest improvements commensurate with providing the security of the House, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has pointed out, to do so as early as possible.
I will have discussions with the Chairman of Committees and members of the relevant committees that made these decisions to see whether the review can be speeded up. I understand the difficulties that have taken place.
I think I am right in saying that we are still a self-governing House and therefore that what my noble friend has asked the Leader of the House to do is a perfectly reasonable request. However, the Leader of the House has shown no sign that he intends to respond to that request. I sit on the Joint Committee on Security. This matter is not being driven by the security of this House but by the other place. There is no pressure for this from this House whatever. The Leader of the House has been asked to find some space so that colleagues can at least express their opinions. This is all he is being asked to do. The people involved in this think this is a done deal and have no intention of backing off no matter what the experiment shows. It is therefore vital that the Leader of the House should tell us that he will find space early next week so that we can all express our opinions.
My Lords, as a member of two committees that were involved in making this decision for this experimental time, I was not aware of any pressure coming from any outside source. The decision was taken sincerely and clearly within this House by the membership of this House. Should it be thought sensible, I am very happy to review the matter, but let us learn from the experience and see whether we can approach this in a spirit that is intended to make it as constructive and as safe as possible.
My Lords, I am sure this has already occurred to any would-be terrorist, but what do the security arrangements of the House do about the river and the boats that go up and down it? My friend hired one of those boats the other day and was free to take suitcases on and off as she wished. If we cannot do anything about that, why do we carry on making entrance to this place more complicated and inconvenient?
I am not sure that the Floor of the House is the best place to discuss matters affecting the safety and security of the House.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, nothing I said in my earlier reply was supposed to be discourteous to the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. This House is self-regulating. The decision was taken by various committees of the House that would not have been able to do so without its agreement. Perhaps the review could be done more quickly than in three months. Those noble Lords who have suggestions and ideas as to how we could improve the situation should write to Black Rod—or, indeed, raise it in their party meetings, which might be a better place than having a debate in this House.