Corbyn aides work in parliament without security clearance

Corbyn aides work in parliament without security clearance

Andrew Murray, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest advisers, has been working in the UK Labour party leader’s House of Commons office since February despite not having a parliamentary pass.

The news comes after the Huffington Post reported that Iram Awan, Mr Corbyn’s private secretary, has been working in his office for more than nine months despite awaiting clearance from the security services.

Labour sources told the Financial Times that Mr Murray, chief of staff at the trade union Unite, had also not been given a pass by the parliamentary authorities despite applying 12 months ago. “It’s not been rejected, nor has it been accepted, it is an extraordinary delay,” said one person.

Mr Murray, a former communist, works one and half days a week as a consultant to the Labour leader and is considered one of the people Mr Corbyn listens to most closely. Mr Murray and Mr Corbyn are former chairs of the Stop the War Coalition.

Security vetting checks for Commons passes are typically concluded after a couple of weeks. They are usually confined to a Counter Terrorist Check but may include other checks to establish whether individuals employed in sensitive posts or critical functions might represent a security risk.

Ms Awan and Mr Murray have routinely accessed parliament — as visitors — through its main entrances, going through security checks, before being escorted to Mr Corbyn’s offices by his staff.

A spokesman for the Commons said that visitor passes were only for visitors: “They cannot be used to carry out work on the parliamentary estate,” he said. “Any alleged breach of the rules on passes will be investigated by the House authorities.”

Neither Mr Murray nor Ms Awan could immediately be reached for a comment. A spokesman for Mr Corbyn repeatedly said: “We don’t comment on staffing matters”.

A Labour source said that neither application had yet been formally rejected: “We have not been told that any member of staff has been refused a pass or any reasons for why any pass may not have yet been granted.”

Nor had the party been given any guidance as to why the applications had stalled, he said.

Ms Awan worked at the Open Society Foundations before joining the leader’s office.

Mr Murray was seconded to Labour’s general election campaign as a donation in kind from Unite, which is the biggest single financial donor to the party. He is a close friend of Seumas Milne, the former Guardian columnist who is head of communications for the party.

Mr Murray was a member of the Communist Party of Britain until 2016, when he joined Labour.

He has previously expressed “solidarity” with North Korea and questioned why “hack propagandists abominate the name of Stalin beyond all others”. He wrote in 2003: “The drive to seize command of the world economy in the interests of its own monopoly groups now propels the US government to seek to seize command of every corner of the world itself.”

Security at Parliament has been enhanced since the terror attack on Westminster Bridge last year, in which a driver injured 50 people — five fatally — before stabbing an unarmed police officer inside the gates of the estate.

Mr Corbyn had a run-in with the Commons authorities in 1987 after they suspended a pass for Ronan Bennett, who worked as a temporary research assistant for the then backbench Labour MP. Mr Bennett, a novelist, was convicted of murdering a policeman in 1975, but the verdict was later overturned.

On October 21 1987, Mr Corbyn told the Commons that the security services had been “smearing” his assistant’s character: “It is a transgression of democracy to allow security services to decide, on the basis of unpublished information or opinion, who should or should not enter this building.”

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