EXCL Tory MP slammed by Commons security guards' union after questioning their lunchbreaks

Posted On: 
18th July 2019

A Conservative MP has come under fire after he questioned the "value for money" of letting security guards in Parliament take two-hour breaks.

Daniel Kawczynski said Commons bosses were "too timid" to take on the unions.
Credit: 
PA

The Parliamentary Security branch of the PCS trade union branded Daniel Kawczynski "outrageous" after he queried the length of the rest periods given to staff protecting the Commons.

But the Shrewsbury and Atcham MP said Parliamentary management were "too timid" to take on the union - and told PoliticsHome the breaks were out of step with the rest of the economy.

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The row erupted after a written question from the MP to the House of Commons Commission, which regulates working conditions for staff on the Parliamentary estate.

Mr Kawczynski asked "for what reasons security officers in the House of Commons are entitled to a break of two hours and 15 minutes in each eight hour shift; and what assessment the Commission has made of the comparative value for money of such contracts".

But PCS blasted the move, and argued that one of the reasons the breaks are needed is because guards wear heavy stab vests for long periods that can cause "physical discomfort".

They said Parliament remained "a prime target for a terrorist attack in Europe", and warned that those protecting the estate "face a very real risk of being fatally stabbed as they carry out their duties".

The union's general secretary Mark Serwotka told PoliticsHome: "It's outrageous that a Tory MP should suggest that our members are not value for money because of their rest breaks. Security guards do an incredibly important job, keeping our elected representatives and the public safe."

A motion passed by the union's Parliamentary Security branch - seen by this site - meanwhile hits out at the Conservative MP and urges Commons authorities to step in.

The motion says the branch has "censured the Right Hon Member" for his question.

It adds: "The Commission should conduct an inquiry into the circumstances leading the Right Hon Member to raise this question."

It also vows to raise the matter with other Parliamentary unions "at the highest level" and says it will push to make "all members" aware of the intervention.

'TOO TIMID'

But Mr Kawczynski told PoliticsHome it was "extraordinary" that a trade union had passed a motion against him for "asking a question".

And he pointed out that "hard-working" MPs' staff get an hour away from their desks for lunch - a move that is "standard procedure across many public sector and private sector organisations".

"I've raised this issue with the Commons authorities and the trade unions for the House of Commons are so powerful that the House of Commons authorities are too timid to take them on," he said.

"I'm just interested in the aspect of value for money to the taxpayer."

The MP added: "The taxpayer is paying for the security, and I just wanted to ask why is it that somebody here is entitled to two hours and fifteen minutes for an eight-hour shift, whilst nearly every other public sector worker that I come across normally gets an hour off during the day?"

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat MP who sits on the Commons Commission, told Mr Kawczynski in response to his question that the breaks for security staff - which are longer than the one hour handed to others working on the Parliamentary estate - were "a legacy carried over from the Metropolitan Police working practices since 2016".

He said: "The House is currently in discussion with the union about the introduction of a new roster and rest breaks."

The row comes after Parliament's security guards cancelled a planned strike earlier this year, following a long-running dispute about working conditions and the reinstatement of personnel that threatened to cause chaos in the Commons.