House of Commons (Freedom of Access)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1979.

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Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West 12:00 am, 23rd January 1979

I have a brief statement to make. Yesterday the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]—he has been held up—supported by the hon. Members for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold) and Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg), raised on a point of order the difficulties facing Members in making their way to the House, which in their case had resulted in their arriving late for Question Time. I undertook to look into the matter and to report to the House.

The Commissioner of Police informs me that there were about 25,000 members of the National Union of Public Employees and other unions in the vicinity of the House, of whom some 3,500 were in possession of letters inviting them to see their Member of Parliament. In such a situation it is always a problem for the police to identify Members and afford them the necessary priority: for example, by allowing them through streets closed to the general public. But I am assured by the Commissioner that every effort is made to do so, and will continue to be made in future.

I am sure that the House will agree that the Sessional Order requiring the police to keep free the passages through the streets leading to this House must be interpreted reasonably and that their responsibilities in this regard cannot extend, for example, to Hampstead, or, for that matter, to the end of the Embankment. I have written to the Commissioner of Police to thank him and his officers for the work that they have done.