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Lawmakers get cuts in line ahead of Parliament staff

Wed., Oct. 17, 2007

LONDON – The clerks, aides and secretaries who work in Parliament consider it the unkindest cut of all.

British lawmakers have been granted the power to move to the head of the line at restaurants, restrooms and elevators inside the Houses of Parliament, enraging those assistants, researchers, janitors and other workers who must only stand and wait.

The workers warn that Parliament is in danger of appearing decidedly undemocratic in allowing the lawmakers, in British parlance, to “jump the queue.”

“People are outraged,” said Kevin Flack, an aide and labor union representative. “They are shocked by the attitude behind it as much as anything.”

The dispute strikes at the heart of a peculiarly British obsession – the sanctity of waiting patiently in line for buses, trains, coffee stands, deli counters – anywhere there is a crowd.

Anger boiled over at a meeting Tuesday, with staff accusing legislators of boldly brushing them aside at elevator lobbies and cutting as workers waited to be issued new security passes. The House of Commons administration committee acknowledged members needed to negotiate on the changes, but didn’t offer to scrap the directive.

“It was a very angry meeting, with staff complaining about queue jumping, particularly at lifts,” Flack said. Another grievance, he said, is the fact elected members already have a number of plush dining rooms and bars.

Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords already enjoy a range of privileges – from reserved spaces for their ceremonial swords to a legal exemption that prevents them from being sued over anything said in Parliament’s chambers.


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