Press ban lifted as general election looms

By David Rose

specialist journalists and editors are being allowed back into the
Parliamentary Press Gallery to watch the political battle intensify in
the runup to the general election.

After months of lobbying, Westminster’s political journalists have
persuaded Speaker Michael Martin to lift the ban imposed after
protesters tossed a flour bomb at Tony Blair during Prime Minister’s
Questions last year.

The ban has meant that only accredited
political journalists vetted by security have been allowed access, but
non- Westminster-based journalists specialising in areas such as home
affairs, education and defence, have been excluded from covering

Access has only been granted on a conditional basis.
Editors and deputy editors are being allowed back in, but specialist
journalists will be limited to two per organisation on any one day.

on work experience, however, remain barred on the grounds they have not
been vetted, and political journalists cannot vouch for them.

a consolation they will be allowed into the Public Gallery, where they
will be given priority in the allocation of seats during non-peak
periods, so they can view proceedings from behind the glass security

Speaker Martin has warned that if any newspaper or
broadcaster exploits the concession to smuggle in someone else, for
example to test Commons security, the ban will be reimposed.

Hurst, honorary secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, welcomed
the move. “We have been pressing for the resumption of our rights,” he

“We are pleased that journalists who don’t have passes and
have a legitimate desire to report debates from the gallery will be
able to do so again.

“It is also important that editors,
particularly editors from regional newspapers, are able to come in and
see the access granted to accredited journalists.

“It is one of
the great strengths of the Parliamentary Press Gallery that its
membership ranges from the national press to many of our leading
regional publications”

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