BNP members of the European Parliament, including leader Nick Griffin, will be given free access to part of the Palace of Westminster despite the attempt of MPs to bar them, it was revealed [yesterday].
The Commons last year decided to remove the right of MEPs to hold photo access passes to Parliament in a bid to keep out Mr Griffin and fellow party MEP Andrew Brons. But peers objected to the decision and tonight head of the administration in the Lords, Lord Brabazon of Tara, said MEPs would now be given special passes which would allow them into only the parts of Parliament controlled by the Upper House.
Debating the move last year, peers described the measure as a 'messy, shoddy little administrative proposal' but were told that, as both Houses issue passes, the decision of MPs could not take proper effect unless agreed to by the Lords. Peers unanimously demanded further consideration of the matter by MPs, but Lord Brabazon said tonight in a written statement that the then chairman of the House of Commons administration committee, Frank Doran, had replied that it was not 'appropriate to revisit the issue'.
Lord Brabazon said: 'It was clear, not least for administrative and security reasons, that it would be preferable for the two Houses to operate identical rules in respect of Parliamentary passes for UK MEPs.'
But he told peers that the House committee in the Lords had nonetheless agreed to continue issuing Parliamentary passes to UK MEPs. He added: 'However, because of the decision taken by the House of Commons, it will be necessary to alter the appearance of UK MEPs' Parliamentary passes to make clear that they only grant access to the House of Lords' areas of the Parliamentary estate. In addition, the new passes will only operate the pass readers in the Lords' area.
'The work is already under way and the new style of pass will soon be issued to UK MEPs who have requested one. In the meantime, the officials of both Houses are working together closely to ensure that the new arrangements bed in as smoothly and effectively as possible.'
At the time peers rejected the approach taken by the Commons, Labour's Lord Tomlinson said MEPs had enjoyed the right to passes 'for the last 29 years without, as far as I'm aware, having produced any problems'.
He said the issue threatened to be 'a very serious irritant between ourselves and the European Parliament'.