Disturbances (London)

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 28th March 2011.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:30 pm, 28th March 2011

On Saturday, 4,500 police officers worked to keep order during the TUC march of up to 500,000 people. During the afternoon and evening, gangs of thugs carried out acts of violence against the police, private property and public monuments. I want to place on record my gratitude to the officers who put themselves in harm’s way during Saturday’s operations. I want also to praise the Met’s senior officers—Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens and Commander Simon Bray—for their leadership, and I want utterly to condemn in the strongest possible terms the mindless behaviour of the thugs responsible for the violence.

I can confirm to the House that 56 police officers were seen by force medical examiners and that 12 of them required hospital treatment, while 53 members of the public were also hurt. I can also confirm that officers arrested more than 200 people on Saturday, and that 149 of them have already been charged. I expect that number to increase as the police go through video evidence, as they did after the student protests last year. The message to those who carry out violence is clear—they will be caught, and they will be punished.

Throughout Saturday and Sunday, Ministers were kept informed of events. The Home Office was in regular contact with the Metropolitan police and City Hall. The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice has spoken to Kit Malthouse, the deputy Mayor, and I have spoken to Lynne Owens to thank her for the police operation, which was, on the whole, a success. The police might not have managed to prevent every act of violence, but they were successful in preventing wider criminality and are now actively engaged in investigating the perpetrators so that they can be brought to justice.

In my statement to the House following the student demonstrations in December, I said that the police would learn the lessons of that experience. Since then, the Metropolitan police have been learning the lessons necessary, and the tactics deployed on Saturday reflected that learning, but there is more that can be done. Just as the police review their operational tactics, so we in the Home Office will review the powers available to them. I have asked the police whether they feel they need further powers to prevent violence before it occurs. I am willing to consider powers that would ban known hooligans from attending rallies and marches, and I will look into the powers that the police already have to force the removal of face coverings and balaclavas. If the police need more help to do their work, I will not hesitate in granting it to them.

That is the right way of doing things. The police are operationally independent, the Mayor holds them to account for their performance and the Home Secretary’s role is to ensure that they operate within the right legal framework and have the right powers to do their job. I know the whole House will want to join me in sending this message: we will always back the police when they do their important work, and we will back them as they do everything they can to bring these mindless thugs to justice.