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G20: London Summit — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:36 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Shadow Minister, International Development, Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs 2:36 pm, 30th March 2009

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, following recent industrial unrest in Europe, they will provide additional security for attendees at the G20 London summit.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, security for attendees at the G20 event will be based on a thorough threat and risk assessment which considers the full range of factors, including public order risks.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Shadow Minister, International Development, Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that fears about the scale of the demonstrations and protests set for London on 1 and 2 April have meant that, let alone all the awful inconvenience to anyone trying to get around London, estimates of the cost of policing London in those two days have hit around £7.2 million, with an acknowledgment that the cost could soar? What does he think is a realistic estimate of the cost, and can he explain how it will be funded?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, the figures quoted are the ones that we are working on in calculations and in discussions with the Metropolitan Police Service. The intention is that the Home Office will cover part of the figure, and we are in debate as to exactly what percentage will be covered and how it will be done. However, it is a standard thing to hold big events in the capital, and we are particularly good at it. I think that people often like to hold events in London because we are so good at policing them and maintaining public order.

Photo of Baroness Knight of Collingtree Baroness Knight of Collingtree Conservative

My Lords, can the noble Lord assure Members of this House that they will be able to attend this week without let or hindrance?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I see no reason why we should not be able to do that. Advice has been given to some in the City that they should perhaps dress down, so to speak, but I certainly have no intention of dressing down—indeed, I thought that I might even dress up slightly. However, a lot of things are happening and we must not underestimate it. We are expecting demonstrations from April Fuels Day, which is to do with climate change; Financial Fools Day, an anti-capitalist protest; a Stop the War march in central London on 1 April; the G20 Global Meltdown, which is a march to the City; and a march to the ExCel centre. So an awful lot of people are involved, and when that happens one sometimes gets troublemakers. However, the aim is to allow people to demonstrate peacefully, as happened on Saturday. That is what the police will be trying to achieve.

Photo of Lord Clinton-Davis Lord Clinton-Davis Labour

My Lords, should we not be very proud that the G20 is being held here rather than carp about it?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. It seems to me rather important and pertinent that we are having a meeting like this at this stage and we should be proud that it is being held in this country. All the coverage of the meeting seems to be negative and that is rather unfortunate because something good might actually come out of it.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Spokesperson for the Home Office

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is a pity that the spin has been put on our younger generation? They are concerned about climate change and financial issues, but they have been called anarchists and it has been implied that they all will be violent, whereas they simply want to protest. Can he also assure me that very strict guidance will be given on the use of Tasers? It is to be regretted that they are to be used at all.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Baroness. I have a number of youngsters myself. The young people in this country are generally very good. I have been very impressed with the cadet forces and all sorts of groups, so I would certainly not say that they are all anarchists. However, as I said, when there are so many thousands of people involved some will be troublemakers who are not there to be peaceful demonstrators. They do not have deep-held feelings about these things but are there for other reasons and ulterior motives. That is extremely unfortunate. There are very strict guidelines in place for Tasers, and they will of course be implemented.

Photo of Lord Haskel Lord Haskel Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the best way of ensuring one's security during the meeting of the G20 is not to look like a banker?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, my noble friend raises an interesting point, but I do not think that I would go there; particularly with my colleague sitting here on my left it would be a frightful thing to say. When large demonstrations are going on there may be some merit in dressing down slightly, as some City firms have advised, but, as I say, I have no intention of doing so.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, are the police satisfied that they have an organisational link between the multifarious groups that are due to take part in the demonstrations, so that there is some control and someone they can talk to about preventing a major outbreak of violence if one seems to be arising?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I have great faith in the Metropolitan Police Service. It has tried to get that co-ordination and has talked with the groups involved. As I said, London has a very good record of being able to hold these sorts of events. There is also another point, which is interesting. I looked at the policing of the Kingsnorth power station and what happened there and I was not very happy with what I saw. We are looking into that and giving advice on how these things should be policed. That sort of thing will be taken into account on this occasion.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, will the state visit of the Mexican President this week be an added complication or dealt with entirely separately?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, it will almost inevitably be an added complication but, as I say, the Metropolitan Police Service is used to arranging and dealing with a number of things at the same time. I am sure that it has been completely factored in and I see no difficulty with it.

Photo of Lord Hamilton of Epsom Lord Hamilton of Epsom Conservative

My Lords, the estimated cost of the G20 summit is £20 million. As there is no agreement among the world's major economies on the way forward in the economic crisis facing us, is it not rather a lot of taxpayers' money to be spending on the Prime Minister's desperate effort to save one or two seats at the next election?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I think that that is symptomatic of the unbelievably curmudgeonly attitude to this. This is a very important opportunity. I do not like to talk figures but it may well cost about £19 million in total. But if action agreed at the summit makes a difference of 0.1 per cent in economic growth, it will be worth more than £1 billion to the United Kingdom next year. So any small change is welcome. Part of it is to do with confidence. Confidence is important and yet everyone seems to try to undermine it.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, Deputy Shadow Leader, Parliament, Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, how will Parliament be informed about the hoped-for success of the outcome of the G20 summit? Will there be a Statement to Parliament or will we learn of it in some other way, as the House will be in recess?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, the noble Lord raises a pertinent point. I do not know the answer, but perhaps I may get back to him in writing on it.