MPs skipping queue to see Queen lying in state sparks criticism

·3-min read
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stood vigil at the Queen’s coffin (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stood vigil at the Queen’s coffin (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

As members of the public stand in line for hours to see the Queen lying in state, a rule allowing MPs and peers to skip the queue along with up to four guests has drawn criticism.

MPs have been offered four extra tickets to visit Westminster Hall, a House of Commons spokesperson confirmed.

It allows their guests to bypass the miles-long queue, which was temporarily paused on Friday due to overwhelming demand from people eager to catch a glimpse of the Queen’s coffin.

It’s symbolic that hard-working security guards, cleaners and catering staff in Parliament are treated as second class citizens

Mark Serwotka, PCS union

Most Parliamentary staff can also avoid the line and bring one guest.

But people who work directly for MPs and peers, such as parliamentary researchers, cannot.

They and people employed by contractors in Parliament – such as cleaners, security guards and caterers – must queue with the public to attend the lying in state.

It has led to accusations from the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union that they are being treated as “second class citizens”.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It’s symbolic that hard-working security guards, cleaners and catering staff in Parliament are treated as second class citizens.

“As we usher in a new era, it’s time for them to be treated as equals and at least given a pay rise to help them through the cost-of-living crisis and beyond.”

Members of the public queuing near Tower Bridge (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)
Members of the public queuing near Tower Bridge (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

The rule allowing MPs to avoid the queue angered some members of the public who had spent hours waiting.

James Birchall, 33, a trainee physiotherapist who travelled to London from Liverpool to pay his respects and was waiting in Southwark Park, told the PA news agency: “They should have to queue, especially if everyone else does.

“I mean, they are not better than anyone else, in fact, they are much worse than most people so yeah they should have to queue up, definitely.”

But others were not concerned, including Philomena Arthur, a director in the NHS.

“I don’t mind at all because they are closer to it than I am and it’s their job and they will be invited to the ceremonies and all of that,” the 63-year-old from Basildon, Essex, said.

“And if it was my work place I’m sure I would get the privilege of getting there first”.

She added: “I think it’s good to see them also paying homage to her.”

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, said she was giving away her guest tickets in a ballot for her constituents to enter.

Among the MPs who have filed past the Queen’s coffin to pay their respects are former prime minister Theresa May and deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, who are members of the Royal Company of Archers, stood vigil at the Queen’s coffin on Thursday.

On Friday, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) paused the queue to Westminster Hall for “at least six hours” after Southwark Park reached capacity, with the estimated queueing time for mourners having risen to at least 14 hours.

David Beckham outside Westminster Hall (Elena Giuliano/PA) (PA Wire)
David Beckham outside Westminster Hall (Elena Giuliano/PA) (PA Wire)

Mourners were urged not to join the line until at least 4pm.

Former England captain David Beckham joined thousands of others in the queue hugging the banks of the Thames, waiting for more than 12 hours from 2am.