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Mr. Straw: The police service will be grateful for the hon. Gentleman's unequivocal support, not least because it is based on his service as a police officer. I should pick him up on one point; he said that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) were on different sides in the past, but I must say, with respect, that the point has often been made to me by police officers that in an entirely peaceful protest, the police and protesters are, in one sense, on the same side--that of democracy.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman said about the Cenotaph. Lessons must be learned from the experience of all these events. What happened was a deep and awful affront to the whole of our society and the public. We must make sure that the possibility of such desecration does not arise again.
Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that anarchist behaviour of the type that we saw yesterday is nothing new? Anarchists throughout history have tried to prevent Labour movement peaceful marches such as that organised yesterday by the TUC. Does he agree that anyone--candidate for mayor of London or anyone else--who gives sustenance to anti-democratic behaviour by anarchists is not fit to hold public office?
Mr. Straw: I agree with my hon. Friend. This is the last occasion on which it is possible to equivocate. We either favour democracy and law and order, or we do not. Those who equivocate place themselves on the side of people such as the anarchists to whom my hon. Friend has referred.
Mr. Straw: I am aware of the remarks of DAC Mike Todd. I do not have the record before me, but I do not believe that he was referring to the desecration of the Cenotaph as a minor crime. I have explained that the police take that desecration extremely seriously, as they do the despoiling of monuments in Parliament square, including the statue of Sir Winston Churchill. Those incidents are being fully investigated.
Policing is a discretionary matter. Every day we receive demands--not least from Conservative Members of Parliament and from newspapers--that the police should not fully enforce one aspect of the law in order better to enforce another; for example, with what are regarded as minor speeding infractions and so on. The matter is one of considerable discretion, as it is bound to be.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to say exactly which decisions should have been taken--just as it is easy to win any battle when one knows what happened. We were dealing with an extremely fast-moving situation involving some anarchists, but also some extraordinarily well organised and determined criminal people who call themselves anarchists, who were not going to disclose their criminal plans to the police. I say again--without the equivocation that, regrettably, we hear from some Conservative Members as well as from some people outside this place--that I believe that, in Sir John Stevens and his colleagues, we have some of the finest and most professional police officers, not just in this country but in the world. We should back their judgment.
I completely refute the hon. Gentleman's comments on demoralisation. It is extremely silly for him to imply some sort of competition in the policing of such demonstrations. If he went through the record of disorder that occurred under Governments whom he supported, including serious rioting in several cities and the poll tax riots, to create a score sheet--I hope that he does not want to do so--he would find that the Conservative party was at the wrong end of it.
I am indeed aware of conflicting stories over responsibility for the Cenotaph memorial and for the statue of Sir Winston Churchill. I felt it right to give the House the information that became available to me. According to that information--although there is some conflict about the matter--the police are adamant that
I am not surprised that several hon. Members have referred to the comments of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone)--it is right that those comments should be raised. If we are to condemn yesterday's events and to deal effectively with the perpetrators, the comments of Members of the House must be clear. Unfortunately, it is clear that the hon. Member for Brent, East advocates rebellion as a means of influencing Government. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is incumbent on all Members to think carefully about, and to be responsible for, what they do and say, and that statements such as those that have been made can only encourage the behaviour that we saw yesterday? All Members of the House bar one--it seems--would condemn such behaviour.
Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry): Given the contents of the Home Secretary's statement and his answers to questions today, it is plain that both he and the police were aware that yesterday's violence was carefully planned over a long period. As no one makes such detailed plans without a clear objective, why did the right hon. Gentleman describe yesterday's events as mindless violence?
Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): Will the Home Secretary clarify whether the statement that he made today to Parliament was in his capacity as the police authority for London, or what I call the residual Home Secretary, post-July 2000? Will he give an assurance that if there is a repetition of such events--which one hopes that there will not be--he will make a similar reportage to Parliament?
When the Home Secretary is reviewing this matter, will he revisit again the representations that he has received from the chief constable of the British Transport police and the representative organisations of the officers in the British Transport police, the Ministry of Defence police and the Royal Parks constabulary about the problem of jurisdiction that those people have outside the curtilage of a railway station, and outside the curtilage of the Ministry of Defence or of the Royal Parks, where they have no more competence or powers than he has--or than you or I, Madam Speaker, have? That matter has been referred to successive Home Secretaries and has been ignored. It is now time that it was addressed, because of the vulnerability of those police officers in such situations.
Of course, if matters were as grave as they were yesterday and I had received a request for a statement from my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), I would--if the House and you, Madam Speaker, had thought it appropriate--have made a statement.
My hon. Friend also asked a separate question, which I know has been concerning him, about the jurisdiction of the British Transport police and other so-called non-Home Office police forces. We are actively considering that matter, and we hope to make announcements in due course.
Dr. Michael Clark (Rayleigh): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that yesterday's violent chaos in our capital city was a disgrace, an affront to decent citizens, an abuse of taxpayers, who had to pay for the policing yesterday and are now paying for the clearing up, and above all, an insult to our war dead? Does he also agree that it is difficult for us to talk about mob behaviour in other countries when we have such behaviour in our own?
On television this morning, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mike Todd said that he was proud of the way in which the police had contained the situation. Whereas I am proud of the way in which the police set about their work, I am not proud of the way in which the situation was contained, because it obviously was not. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that unless we have some further statement about containment, that sounds like a complacent statement from the police, and that we want some reassurances for the future--as do those motorists who had their windows smashed on Waterloo bridge, the tourists whose families were frightened and the property owners whose property was violently vandalised?