Sunak rejects suggestion MPs should work from home over security fears

Rishi Sunak has rejected a suggestion for MPs to speak and vote from their constituencies because of concerns about security at Westminster.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister believed it was “really important that we maintain Parliament as a place for free debate and expression of views”.

Veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman had suggested a return to Covid-era remote working could be needed to ensure the protection of politicians in the face of threats and intimidation.

The comments by the Mother of the House – the longest-serving female MP – came after the chaotic scenes in Westminster last week over the vote on a ceasefire in Gaza.

Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman has suggested a return of Covid-style remote working could be needed in Parliament over security fears (Niall Carson/PA)

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle broke with precedent over the selection of a Labour amendment to an SNP motion because he had concerns about the intimidation suffered by some parliamentarians – but the backlash to his actions has left his own position in jeopardy.

Ms Harman suggested a return to a “hybrid” model of working could be examined by a Speaker’s Conference to help maintain MPs’ safety.

“One of the things that I think could come out of a Speaker’s Conference is an agreement that actually we could go back to hybrid again, which is that sometimes MPs could speak in the Chamber, sometimes they could speak from their constituency,” she told LBC Radio.

“They could sometimes vote through the division lobbies, or they could sometimes vote online. I think we’ve got a process now that we experimented with during Covid, which we could actually bring that back in.

“And that’s something I would propose to a Speaker’s Conference, so if somebody feels particularly under pressure, they can still participate in the Commons, but not in a way that makes them feel vulnerable.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside Parliament as MPs debated a ceasefire in Gaza
Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside Parliament as MPs debated a ceasefire in Gaza (Lucy North/PA)

But a No 10 spokeswoman said the Prime Minister would resist any change that could “stifle” the role of Parliament.

The spokeswoman said: “He believes that Parliament should remain the place where MPs express their views and have debate.

“That’s fundamental to our democracy and he doesn’t want to see that change.”

A package of measures aimed at increasing security for MPs is expected to be announced within days, The Sun reported.

Downing Street said MPs would have the “support and security they need”.

The spokeswoman said Mr Sunak acknowledged the threats faced by MPs.

“Some of the behaviour and the intimidation has been completely unacceptable.

“I don’t think anyone listening to MPs talking about their experiences in the house could fail to be moved by that. He’s incredibly aware of that.

“And we will – while not getting into details – always ensure that MPs have the support and security that they need.

“While he is very aware of that, he is also very clear that we cannot allow democracy to be stifled. I think again, most parliamentarians would agree with that.”