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Demonstrations in Central London

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:17 pm on 2nd May 2000.

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Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip 4:17 pm, 2nd May 2000

My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their helpful and generous comments and for sharing with me their praise of the police for the way in which they conducted themselves yesterday. I shall do my best to answer the important questions that were asked.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, asked whether a request would be made for television and media companies and the public to give up photographs so that those responsible for these outrages can be identified. I am happy to say that the answer is yes, and I am also assured that the police themselves took great pains to ensure that there was video coverage of the demonstration. As we know, there is no better evidence than that of photographs or video, from which it is hard to escape.

On discussions between the Home Secretary and the commissioner, there were bilateral discussions and a special discussion some weeks ago. However, I am not in a position to be able to tell the House exactly what was discussed on those occasions.

With regard to the Cenotaph and the protection of monuments, discussions were held with the police about the protection of nationally important monuments in the area covered by the protests. I am sure that the bodies responsible for their upkeep will have taken full account of police advice in reaching their decisions on what to do.

In relation to the reference made to one of the candidates in the mayoral election--I do not want to go into the election this afternoon--it will not be up to whoever is successful on Thursday as to whether or not a protest march should take place. As the noble Lord knows well, the current law enables the commissioner and, outside London, district councils to apply for marches to be prohibited when serious public disorder is anticipated and to attach conditions to public assemblies. Whether or not to use the powers is an operational matter for the commissioner or the chief of police in any county.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, is right that we have to be careful in relation to the courts. It is important that those who are convicted of committing offences are not only rightly convicted, but also rightly punished. However, as we discussed earlier this afternoon, under our system that must remain a matter for the courts to lay down and not for Parliament or the Home Secretary or the Government. I am sure that we all have our own feelings as to what should happen. I hope I have covered all the questions asked.