Exasperated MPs have called for their security to be taken out of the hands of their expenses watchdog Ipsa after struggling to install additional protection at their homes and constituency offices following the death of Jo Cox.
Coffee House is aware of a number of battles between MPs of all parties and Ipsa over approval for the installation of additional locks and intruder alarms. Some MPs are particularly frustrated to have been told that it will take two weeks for the regulator to approve their spending applications, when they are worried about an imminent threat now. None wanted to speak on the record.
One MP said: ‘My constituency office is currently completely unprotected. And Ipsa are saying it is going to take two weeks to approve spending to change this, even though we are currently at increased risk of copy cat attacks from the far Right, regardless of what the motives behind Jo’s killing were.’
Other MPs said they had struggled to get approval for basic measures for many months. A number had become concerned about their personal security and the safety of their staff around the time of the Commons vote on action against Islamic State in Syria.
MPs are now pushing for a dedicated House of Commons security team to help with their personal security. They are concerned that the expenses watchdog doesn’t fully understand the pressures on parliamentarians, and is more worried about proving to taxpayers that it is cracking down on excess, even when extra security is a necessity for people in the public eye.
The Conservative MP and vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee Charles Walker said: ‘I really do think the time has come to seriously consider handing over responsibility for the security of members of parliament to the House of Commons and ideally a specialist team working within the Palace of Westminster. We can’t have Ipsa carrying the responsibility for the funding of members’ security.’
A Labour MP, who has had a long-running battle with the regulator to install additional security measures, said: ‘I don’t really mind who runs it, just so long as it works. At the moment we are required to get multiple quotes from accredited suppliers, which takes a lot of time in organising and often there aren’t that many accredited suppliers around. It would be much easier if they had an approved list, rather than going back and forth with questions about why certain quotes were different.’
A spokesman for Ipsa said it took the security of MPs ‘very seriously’ and that it had written to them earlier this year outlining what measures would gain automatic approval. ‘In light of last week’s tragic events, we are now discussing with the House of Commons and the police how we can streamline the way we can process police-approved security applications while still ensuring that public money is spent appropriately, as is our remit from Parliament. We will contact MPs again shortly about this.’