[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
MP queue-jump rule 'reconsidered'
Big Ben
There have been warnings that the rule, if left unchanged, could spark a revolution in Parliament
Unions representing House of Commons staff say they are hopeful that a rule encouraging MPs to jump the queue in restaurants will be scrapped.

It follows a "lively" meeting between staff and the MP whose committee brought in the rule.

One worker called the rule "abominable" and MP Lembit Opik said it might encourage a staff "revolution".

Unite union leader Kevin Flack said staff were so angry that he thought MPs would be forced to change their minds.

The row began when secretaries and researchers in the House were instructed by e-mail to "give way" to MPs in lines for canteens, telephones and lifts.

Members of the Commons' Administration Committee had ruled that that congestion in the lunch-time queues meant that busy MPs might miss important meetings, or be late for votes.

To say it in signs all over the parliamentary estate where MPs are outnumbered eight to one by staff - that's inviting revolution
Lembit Opik MP

But the instruction has caused huge resentment amongst the staff - most of whom are employed by the MPs themselves.

Pat Fee, of the Secretaries and Assistants Council, said: "A written rule is out of order. MPs shouldn't be allowed to queue-jump in the facilities we use. They have their own facilities' for eating which are not open to us."

One secretary said: "There's a joke amongst staff that we'll need to wear rear-view mirrors in the canteen queue, so we can jump out the way of an MP in a hurry!"

Not all members agree with the committee. By Wednesday morning 74 MPs had signed a petition expressing their "astonishment" at the rule, amid warnings that it creates "a rigid two-tier system which is counter to an enlightened image of Parliament".

Brass neck

The MP who started the petition, Lembit Opik, said: "MPs generally have exceptional manners. You'd have to have a pretty brass neck to abuse this edict and go to front of the queue.

"Everyone here in the Palace of Westminster knows that if an MP is a hurry, he or she will be let through."

"But to say it in signs all over the parliamentary estate where MPs are outnumbered eight to one by staff - that's inviting revolution.

"Let's have a return to common sense."

Dozens of staff attended the sometimes heated meeting on Tuesday where they expressed their anger at the ruling to Labour MP Frank Doran, whose committee brought in the rule.

Mr Doran told staff that he would relay their feelings to fellow committee members. Unions are now awaiting a formal response following a meeting of the committee on Tuesday.

SEE ALSO
Anger over MP queue jumping rule
10 Oct 07 |  UK Politics
Queue-barge MP expresses concern
11 Oct 07 |  UK Politics

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific