16 October 2021

Face-to-face meetings between MPs and voters must be suspended, says ex-minister

16 October 2021

Face-to-face meetings between MPs and constituents should be suspended pending a security review following the killing of Sir David Amess, a former Conservative minister has said.

The call comes as the longest continuously serving female MP, Harriet Harman, said she would be writing to the Prime Minister urging him to back a Speaker’s Conference to look into what needs to change to ensure parliamentarians are safe in their constituencies.

In the wake of Sir David’s killing, local police forces are contacting every MP to discuss their personal safety and the security of any events they plan to attend.

Tobias Ellwood, a former defence minister, said in-person meetings with voters should be paused while MPs await the results of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s call for police forces to review security arrangements for elected representatives.

The chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, who was hailed as a hero for his attempts to save the life of Pc Keith Palmer during the Westminster terror attack, tweeted: “MP engagement with the public … is a vital part of our work – our accessibility with the public.

“But understandable huge anxiety amongst MPs now.

“Until the Home Secretary’s review of MP security is complete I would recommend a temporary pause in face-to-face meetings.”

But former Cabinet minister David Davis said suspending public meetings with MPs would be “a terrible reflection of what David stood for”.

He told Sky News: “I don’t think we should do that. I’m sorry, I disagree with Tobias on that.

Former Tory Cabinet minister David Davis said he did not agree with suspending in-person meetings between MPs and constituents (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA) (PA Media)

“I don’t think David would (agree) either.

“Sure, we should be cautious, maybe we should do things to ensure the people who come to see us are bona fide, but I think actually pausing it would be a bad idea.

“It would be a terrible reflection of what David stood for – David himself was the ultimate constituency MP. You can see that in the response of people in his constituency.”

Ms Harman said there should be a parliamentary conference to review security arrangement in constituencies.

She said her previous call for a Speaker’s Conference following the murder of Jo Cox in 2016 was not backed by the government at the time, but she urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to approve one following a second MP killing only five years later.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Harman said: “We cannot have the death of an MP being a price worth paying for our democracy.”

Labour MP Harriet Harman (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Archive)

She added: “I think that, while we anguish about this dreadful loss, we can’t just assert that nothing should change.

“I don’t think anybody wants to go to a situation where the police are vetting individual constituents who come and see us, but I’m sure there is a safer way to go about our business.

“That’s why I’m proposing we have a Speaker’s Conference, which is something that happens only once every 10 years or so where there is a major issue for Parliament and our democracy, and the Speaker brings together the parties and the authorities and comes up with recommendations.

“Since Jo Cox’s tragic killing, we’ve had changes in our home security, we’ve had changes in security in Parliament, but we haven’t looked at the issue of how we go about that important business in our constituency, but do it in a safe way – and I think we must do that now.”

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