Speaker’S Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:41 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee 12:41 pm, 8th January 2019

Before we proceed to the urgent questions, I would like to say something that relates to the events that unfolded outside this place yesterday.

In the course of proceedings at various times yesterday, the hon. Members for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) and for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) and Mr McFadden all raised with me their very grave concerns about aggressive, threatening and intimidating behaviour by demonstrators at Abingdon Green and, in many instances, between Parliament and Abingdon Green.

To those points of order, I responded, I hope, sympathetically and as effectively as I could. Colleagues will realise that I had not myself witnessed the behaviour, which was taking place while the House was sitting and I was in the Chair, but I was extremely concerned to learn of those developments. Moreover, it was clear beyond doubt both that there was an intensity of feeling on the matter and that that intensity of feeling was across the House. I undertook to look further into the matter.

Of course I am aware—as colleagues will know, for it has been reported—that a very large number of Members have written to the commissioner of the Metropolitan police. I thank them for doing so. I have myself today written to the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Cressida Dick, in support of those representations, and my letter has been published. We respect the operational freedom of the police, and we absolutely understand that they have difficult judgments to make in balancing the precious right of peaceful protest on the one hand and the right of Members of Parliament, journalists and others to go about their lawful business unimpeded and unthreatened. My sense of the opinion of colleagues, and they have considerable evidence for their view, is that, as things stand, the balance is not right.

I must say to the House that, frankly, it is intolerable if Members of Parliament and journalists go about their business in fear. This situation cannot stand. I have written with force, passion and politeness to the commissioner of the Metropolitan police seeking a review of policy. I hope that that is regarded by colleagues across the House as helpful. I would like to thank all those Members yesterday—on the Floor of the House and in conversations with me—who registered their concerns. I share them, and I will do my best to ensure that those concerns are properly addressed without delay.