Security Alert at Westminster Palace as Suspect ‘device’ found
A mobile phone and drinks bottle sparks security alert at The houses of Parliament, Westminster brought to a temporary standstill as roads are cordoned off and people advised not to use mobile phones near suspected device. James Kirkup, Political Editor at The Telegraphreports:
- A section of the Palace of Westminster in the shadow of Big Ben was evacuated in a brief security alert after an X-ray detected a mobile phone and a drinks bottle.
- Police and security officers cordoned off a section of the Parliamentary estate around New Palace Yard, next to the base of the clock tower.
- One officer said the alert was triggered after an X-ray operator at the Parliament visitor centre detected what appeared to be a mobile phone connected to a liquid bottle in a bag.
- Specialist officers from the Metropolitan Police, wearing rubber gloves, were called and inspected the package.
- It transpired that the phone was not connected to the bottle.
The security alert comes just 2 months after it was announced that cut backs had to be made to the security budget, and that some of the policing roles at The Palace of Westminster would be replaced by private security contractors. Although the Met Police would continue to have an armed presence at Parliament. Some MPs have expressed their concerns that security companies may employ agency staff, who have had little training and not yet completed vetting.
Police at the palace warned people not to use their mobile phones “for your own safety”, the roads around Parliament square were closed off to prevent vehicles and pedestrians from passing in front of the Houses of Parliament. A 30 meter cordon was in place across the square to keep tourists away from the suspected device. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “There is a security alert. We have no further details.”
A spokesman from local London security company, Westminster Security commented: “MPs have every right to be concerned for their personal safety, they should be able to go about their daily duties without the worry that their safety is being compromised due to budget cutbacks. You seen what happened at the London Olympics, who’s to say that won’t happen again, but with fatal consequences?.”
The area around Westminster Palace was declared safe within one hour of the security alert.