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News International Plant, Wapping

– in the House of Commons at 4:21 pm on 6th May 1986.

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Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East 4:21 pm, 6th May 1986

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, to discuss a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the conduct of the Metropolitan police at Wapping on 3 May. The matter is specific because it is the responsibility of the Home Secretary and it is important because it deals with the reputation and credibility of the Metropolitan police and the democratic rights of ordinary British citizens.

The House will know that there were a number of eye witnesses to those events, including hon. Members. I was there and what I saw was a police riot. I was absolutely ashamed of what I saw. I never thought that I would see events of that type in this country.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, London printers are not criminals who can and should be bludgeoned in that indiscriminate way. The police response was wholly disproportionate to anything that had happened. After the first minor incident, for hours there were violent police baton charges which were completely unnecessary. I have a preliminary list of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of 44 people who were injured.

There was no warning of the brutal attacks, nor was the crowd allowed to leave. At about 12 o'clock I tried to leave Wellclose square. As I tried to leave I was stopped by riot police with batons and shields. I said that I wanted to leave and they said that they were not allowed to let me. [Interruption.] There are hooligans in the Chamber. I am giving an eye witness account of what happened to me. I hope that the House will want to know what happened and not what the hooligans in the House want to shout about.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman should make his submission as to the urgency and importance of this matter.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

The urgency is that I tried to leave and they told me that no one was allowed to leave. I explained who I was and asked why I was not allowed to leave. They said that it was on the orders of a superior officer. When I spoke to the superior officer he asked me whether I was alone. He then allowed me to leave. If I had wanted to lead the crowd away, I would not have been allowed to leave. The urgency is that unless some change is made soon people will be killed by the Metropolitan police. The House should discuss that.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter which he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the conduct of the Metropolitan police at Wapping on 3 May. I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has said. He knows that the only decision I have to make is whether to give this matter precedence over the orders set down for today or tomorrow. I regret that I do not consider the matter that he has raised appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10 and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

I am not questioning your decision. Is it in order for the grave events that occurred two miles from this Chamber on Saturday and Sunday night to be raised in the House on Thursday in the debate on crime prevention? That would provide an early opportunity for those who were present to report on the brutal battering by the police.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

If the debate is on the Adjournment, it will be a wide debate and I judge that it will be in order to discuss matters of that kind.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the statements made by my right hon. and hon. Friends, various statements made in the press and allegations by Conservative Members and as the Home Secretary is in the House and is accountable to the House, would it be in order for us to know whether he will inquire into these matters and make a statement prior to the debate on Thursday?

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to challenge your earlier ruling in any way. However, would it be in order for the Secretary of State for Social Services to be asked to attend the debate on Thursday and make a statement about the directions given to the Health Service on Saturday evening? Policemen were taken to a hospital near to the Wapping printing plant, but printers and other people injured in the demonstration were taken to St. Bartholomew's hospital, which is some distance away, and ambulances were prevented from getting to the scene of the police violence against the pickets on Saturday evening. Those are serious matters.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

None of those are matters for me.