I held a House of Commons pass for many years and was always amazed – as well as slightly ill at ease - at how lax the security seemed. Things are tighter than they previously were; new procedures and search points have been put in place after a series of embarrassing security lapses.
Last night I visited the House of Commons to have a drink with a friend, as my bag was searched a padlock (used to secure my gym locker) was identified and taken from me, in return for a large laminated receipt, for the duration of my visit. A few hours later I returned to the search point and, on presentation of my receipt, the padlock was given back to me.
This all seemed fine. The system worked. However, after picking up my padlock I then walked back out into New Palace Yard to exit the Parliamentary estate. This was also my route at the beginning of my visit. As it was now about 10pm there were no police around; I could have easily wandered back into the estate unchecked and duly padlocked myself to a set of railings or headed back into Central Lobby or beyond. The security staff on duty seemed frankly uninterested. In comparison to the security at the Capitol in Washington it all seemed rather amateur.
I know this seems something very minor, and I don’t want to make light of an issue as important as security. It’s just that we hear lots of worrying things about threats to the UK. A high profile target such as the House of Commons needs the very best security on offer. Last night it didn't look like this is in place.