Parliament Square (Management) Bill [HL]
Lord Martin of Springburn (Crossbench)
My Lords, I have no intention of seeking to delay this piece of legislation, but I would like some assurances from the Minister. This is obviously a beautiful square, which was greatly enhanced by the cleaning up of the stonework at Westminster Abbey, and of the stonework and the creation of the visitors' centre here at the Palace of Westminster. However, approximately 10 years ago, the Home Office promised and delivered a Bill through both Houses which stated that it would stop the permanent encampment of people like the late Mr Brian Haw in the square. He turned the square into an absolute eyesore and indeed a health hazard. All sorts of strange things happened at that place because of his permanent encampment. Every time that the police acted on the legislation that was introduced by the Home Office, a judge-and I make no criticism of the judges-duly instructed them to put Mr Haw's dirty and unsightly equipment back on to the square, facing the House of Commons, where visitors from all over the world would turn up. It was a disgraceful situation.
We even had those who called themselves the Tamil Tigers and held hunger strikes, not only on the pavement but on the square itself, which meant that anyone who wanted to visit the beautiful memorials to people like Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and Lloyd George could not do so. Any of us who have been involved in demonstrations, in the trade union movement or any other movement, know that when you demonstrate at Parliament you turn up, make your demonstration and then go on your way, back to your place of work. That did not happen with Mr Haw and the other individuals involved.
One individual had a loud-hailer that was so loud that it even gave offence to the press corps here in the Palace of Westminster, who complained that even during the parliamentary recess they could not do any work because the loud-hailer was so loud. Some of the utterances from that loud-hailer were saying, for example, that certain parliamentarians were murderers. That cannot be right.
I make this point because the legislation was brought in by the Home Office around 10 years ago. I do not know the exact time but it was when Charles Clarke was Home Office Minister. That is not a criticism of him; it is just to give noble Lords an idea of the time window that I am talking about. Could the Minister here or the promoter of the Bill give us assurances that the Bill will solve the very problems that I have been talking about?
Lord Strathclyde (Leader of the House of Lords, House of Lords; Conservative)
My Lords, we are just passing my noble friend Lord Marlesford's Bill, and it will then go to another place. However, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Martin of Springburn, that at the very highest level of our Government there is a great interest in what is happening in Parliament Square. There has been considerable improvement in recent months, but no stone is being left unturned-using legal means-to try to improve the situation. I hope that we can move on to whether the Bill do now pass.
Bill passed and sent to the Commons.