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Public Disorder — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:48 pm on 11th August 2011.

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Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 12:48 pm, 11th August 2011

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will welcome those contributions, from both the Leader of the Opposition and, most particularly, from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. Perhaps I may say how good it is to hear the authoritative voice of the church being represented in this House.

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for what she said and for the way in which she said it, on the whole. I will not say that I agree with every single word, but I very much share her horror at what we all saw on our televisions screens. It is right that we should not judge everything that happened by what we did see, but one cannot possibly be immune to some of the images that we saw on our screens in the past few days. The noble Baroness was entirely right to raise the fact that what we saw on our screens was affecting tens of thousands of people in this country-maybe even more. Some of them will be blighted for the rest of their lives by what has happened. She was right to call on the Government to make sure that we could deal with the criminality by cases being brought before the courts as swiftly as possible. I can confirm that that is happening. The courts are sitting all through the night when required to deal with cases. The Crown Court is now dealing with some of the more difficult ones.

The noble Baroness was also right to raise the question about CCTV and how we should deal with that. We believe that CCTV plays an incredibly important role in dealing with the criminality that has happened and we very much support the use of CCTV. We need to see it better regulated and we will perhaps need to see how regulation and/or legislation can change when we have had a chance to reflect and discuss with the police and the private sector how it can be used.

Of course there are many issues that we will need to debate and discuss in future about what has happened and why. The noble Baroness herself said that there were many and various solutions; indeed, the Prime Minister said as much in his Statement and raised some of them in it, as has the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and some right reverend Prelates who have already spoken and will no doubt do so again shortly.

As for an inquiry, we have taken the view that, in the first instance, this should be a matter for Parliament and that a parliamentary inquiry should do the work first. Therefore, the Home Affairs Select Committee has already announced an inquiry into the riots. I do not suppose for one moment that that will be a matter of taking evidence simply from academics in Whitehall; I am convinced that the committee will need to reach out to the community, to talk to people who have been directly affected, to try to find out what were the causes and to make an authoritative report to Parliament.

On money, many people who have been affected-shopkeepers, individuals, home owners and tenants-will be most concerned about how they can get their lives back on the rails and what they can do about the shortage of money. I can confirm that as many fast-track provisions as possible will be made to try to provide that money. The new high street fund, which is a proposal by two government departments, is designed to shortcut as much as possible the need for funding. Tax authorities, working with local authorities, have been put onto the fastest track possible.

The noble Baroness also asked about the Olympics. The whole House will share the sense of shame of anyone who was abroad, read newspapers or saw some of the television reports emanating from London of what impact this would have on the Olympics. It is the focus of this Government and our predecessors and everyone involved to deliver a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games here in London which Londoners, the rest of the country and the rest of the world can enjoy. The Games should be a peaceful celebration of sporting achievement and a cultural celebration; they are not a security event. We have highly experienced police and emergency services which have successfully policed major events in the past, and they will be able to bring to bear their experience of dealing with protests, both peaceful and law-abiding and violent, during the Games.

Of course, we will need to look carefully at all that has happened. I welcome what the noble Baroness said about looking at these things in a non-partisan way, but both she and I are aware how warily we need to tread the line of partisanship. The riots did not happen because there will be public spending cuts, nor will the reduced spending on the police affect the police's ability to get policemen on the streets.