Press access fears as Commons security tightens

The occasional perk of editors to watch Prime Minister’s Questions has become a casualty of the heightened security following the purple flourbomb attack on Tony Blair.

Westminster-based journalists have been banned from taking other journalists into the Parliamentary Press Gallery while security is reviewed.

In the past, accredited lobby correspondents have been allowed to apply for tickets admitting colleagues from the office. It is a privilege visiting editors from regional daily papers have often enjoyed on visits to the capital.

Speaker Michael Martin slapped a four-week ban on the practice after the Prime Minister was sprayed with a purple flour-bomb during Prime Minister’s Questions last month.

Greg Hurst, secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and Parliamentary correspondent to The Times, said: “He assured members of the gallery that the press is not being singled out and that access into all galleries is under review.”

But there are doubts whether the ban will be lifted and it is feared the authorities will simply decide to limit attendance only to political journalists who have been vetted by the security services.

Chris Fisher, political editor of the Eastern Daily Press, said: “The House is in danger of over-reaction. Editors have not been the only beneficiaries of past practice. It has been useful, say when there is a health debate, for a specialist to cover the story instead of relying on the resident political reporter.”

By David Rose

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