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Demonstrations in Central London

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:14 pm on 2nd May 2000.

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Photo of Lord Harris of Greenwich Lord Harris of Greenwich Liberal Democrat 4:14 pm, 2nd May 2000

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. It is right that we should spend some time discussing the activities of the vicious thugs who were involved in yesterday's totally unacceptable behaviour.

Although I shall try to avoid the response of all too many of us in the past of trying to make recommendations for changes to the law, one or two questions arise. First, is there a requirement to announce, in advance, what demonstrators propose to do? I recognise that yesterday a number of disparate groups were involved, but somebody organised the 500 cyclists who pedalled their way from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square. Clearly, that was organised, so should there be some form of statutory requirement that people who seek to take action of that sort should give several days' advance notice to the police?

Secondly, on the attitude of the courts--a point touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish--it is not for us to say what should happen in individual cases when particular persons appear before the courts. However, I believe it would be helpful if the Home Secretary were to ask the Crown Prosecution Service to report to Parliament on the scale of penalties imposed on people convicted of public order offences yesterday and in the previous disturbances in the City of London, so that we can be aware and so that future potential demonstrators can be aware of the penalties to which they could be subjected.

Thirdly, I am sure that all noble Lords are gratified that there were not more police casualties and casualties among innocent members of the public. Will the Minister pass on to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police our congratulations to the police on what they did yesterday and good wishes to those police officers who were injured?