UK Politics

Parliament security boosted ahead of Brexit vote

Cressida Dick, Met Police chief Image copyright PA
Image caption Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick has faced calls to tighten security

Security around Parliament is to be increased in the run-up to Brexit, amid concern about the harassment of MPs.

The speakers of the Commons and Lords met Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick on Thursday, days after Tory MP Anna Soubry was verbally abused.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said the police planned "increased security in the period ahead".

At least 115 MPs had called on police to improve their response to abusive protesters outside Parliament.

Ms Soubry was shouted at - including being called a liar and a Nazi - during live TV interviews on BBC News and Sky on College Green, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

The former minister - a supporter of a fresh Brexit referendum - was later called "scum" and jostled as she tried to re-enter the Palace of Westminster.

She criticised police for not intervening and called for the protesters to be prosecuted under public order laws.

Mr Bercow told MPs he had met the Met police chief on Thursday, who had communicated plans for increased security to allow MPs, journalists and anyone else "to go about their business unimpeded by aggressive, threatening or intimidating demonstrators".

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Media captionBrexit protesters chanted "Nazi and scum" at Conservative MP Anna Soubry

He added: "I very much hope as a result of the increased security that is now to be set in train, people organising events - either within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster or adjacent to it or in close proximity to it - will feel confident and comfortable that they can safely proceed with their plans."

The annual Parliamentary charity pancake race between MPs and journalists has been cancelled because of concerns about the security situation.

Earlier this week Mr Bercow described the abuse and harassment of MPs outside Parliament as "a type of fascism" and called for a change of policing policy. Revised advice was issued to MPs by Parliament security on Tuesday.

Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act means that "threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour" might be deemed a criminal offence.

But Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) and Article 11 (right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association) of the European Convention on Human Rights contain the rights to peaceful protest.

College Green is regularly used by media to interview politicians, as well as being a popular site for protesters to gather.

Sky News presenter Kay Burley said the "increasingly vile, aggressive and intimidating" abuse had forced her to change her own route to Parliament and she now had to have security protection.

And political commentator Owen Jones published a video on Twitter that he had recorded while being followed and shouted at by a group of protesters outside Parliament.

The cross-party group of MPs who have signed a letter to police - which includes those both for and against Brexit - said many of the concerns had been "repeatedly raised" with officers and senior policing staff and said there appeared to be a "lack of co-ordination in the response from the police and appropriate authorities".

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