HC Deb 07 November 1968 vol 772 cc1051-61
4. Mr. Lubbock

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate the additional cost incurred by the Metropolitan Police in consequence of the demonstration on Sunday, 27th October.

14. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the cost to his Department caused by the Trafalgar Square demonstration on Sunday, 27th October.

28 Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will announce the estimated cost to public funds of measures to maintain order and prevent damage during the recent demonstration in London against the Vietnam war.

29 Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the approximate cost of police and other services to the taxpayer resulting from the demonstration in London on 27th October, 1968.

30 Mr. John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the total cost of all the police and other measures, including the erection of protective barriers and the clearing up of debris, necessitated by the demonstrations on Sunday 27th October last; and what part of this cost is to be met by the demonstration organisers.

35 Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the extra cost to the Metropolitan Police, Government Departments and local government authorities, caused by preparations for dealing with the demonstration in central London on 27th October.

44 Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the cost to public funds of the Vietnam demonstrations on Sunday, 27th October; and to what main heads of expenditure is that amount attributable.

61 Sir D. Walker-Smith

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the estimated total cost on the Home Office vote arising out of measures taken in regard to the demonstrations in London on Sunday, 27th October.

Mr. Callaghan

The additional costs of the arrangements by the Metropolitan and City of London police for the demonstration on 27th October would be of the order of £81,000 on the assumption that no man will take time off in lieu of overtime payment. No police were brought in from outside the Metropolitan area. For the Home Office, additional staff costs and other expenditure amounted to about £1,200. I have no information about the expenditure falling on other bodies.

Mr. Lubbock

To what extent does the right hon. Gentleman think it possible to give police officers a day in lieu, so that the full amount of £81,000 is not incurred? Can the right hon. Gentleman comment on the wildly exaggerated estimate, given by Mr. George Gale, of a cost of £500,000? Will he draw the true figure to Mr. Gale's attention?

Mr. Callaghan

The question of time off must, to some extent, be at the discretion of the man himself and the needs of the work that must be done. The matter must be left to the Commissioner to decide. I have no idea where the figure of £500,000 came from. Perhaps the Chairman of the Police Federation was taking the total cost of all the policemen involved that day but, of course, their wages would have been paid whether they were on duty for the demonstration or not.

Mr. Dalyell

In view of events abroad, does not my right hon. Friend think that far too much fuss has been made about the additional cost?

Mr. Callaghan

I think that it would be better to spend £81, 000 on another children's home, for example, but I regard the maintenance of the right of free speech as very important.

Mr. John Hall

When the ordinary individual wishes to apply for police assistance because he is holding a meeting which requires police help in looking after traffic, for example, he is expected to pay for that help. Would it not be only fair to ask the organisers of demonstrations to make some contribution towards police expenses?

Mr. Callaghan

I do not think so. It would, of course, be very difficult to know where to draw the line. In view of the well known disorderliness of the Conservative Party conference, I would presumably have to ask the Conservative Party to pay for police protection. I think we must draw a distinction between public meetings, political meetings and the rest, and I think that we had better leave the matter as it is.

Mr. Goodhart

But should not the extra cost of the police be borne, at least partly, by those who threaten and orgainse violence and not by the law-abiding home-owners in the area concerned?

Mr. Callaghan

I do not think that the figure of cost, unwelcome as it is, should be put into the scale against the desire of between 20,000 and 30,000 of our people to demonstrate their views, whether one likes them or not, on the subject of peace and war.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the Home Secretary aware that while the majority of people in this country would fully agree with that, they are also extremely unwilling to have to pay out of their own pockets towards the cost? Can we have some estimate of what was the cost to Government Departments and public authorities other than the police of protecting themselves, and what was the cost to private persons?

Mr. Callaghan

I dare say that everybody pays taxes which he does not like and I dare say that a number of demonstrators were also taxpayers. But I do not think that we can split it up in this way. I said in my original Answer that the cost to the Home Office was £1,200. It would take a disproportionate amount of time and effort for all my colleagues in other Ministries to get the cost to their Departments.

Mr. Whitaker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people think that this money was very well spent in maintaining the famous British traditions of freedom of speech and peaceful toleration, but would he enable those members of the public who wish to express their appreciation in a particular form to do so by giving them the address of the Police Benevolent and Orphans Fund?

Mr. Callaghan

I am sure that contributions of that sort would be welcomed, but I do not wish particularly to encourage donations for what the police regard as being part of the day's work.

Sir D. Renton

I do not quarrel with the cost on this occasion, but will the Home Secretary say how much money as a maximum he would consider justifiable for a repeat performance on another occasion, or for any other similar large-scale demonstration?

Mr. Callaghan

I do not see how I could possibly answer such a question.

Mr. Orme

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the cost to democracy, following demonstrations in Chicago and Mexico and parts of Europe, was very cheap in view of the defence of democracy in Britain on 27th October?

Mr. Callaghan

I am sorry that there has been this focus by a small group of hon. Members opposite on cost. The benefits to the country of the absence of social tension following the demonstration cannot be measured in terms of the cost.

12. Mr. Wingheld Digby

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information he has as to the number of foreign students who entered the country for the demonstration on 27th October.

48. Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his estimate of the total number of foreign students who came by legal and illegal means, respectively, to take part in the demonstration on 27th October.

Mr. Callaghan

About 70 foreign nationals are known to have arrived with the intention of taking part in the demonstration. I have no evidence about illegal entry.

Mr. Digby

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there have been widespread claims by the demonstrators that a number did enter illegally, and that this is much resented by many citizens? Can he throw no light at all on these claims?

Mr. Callaghan

I did not see any of them. I am bound to say to the hon. Gentleman that I found that a number of claims were made, which cannot always be substantiated.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson

Will my right hon. Friend state whether any foreign aliens were arrested on the demonstration?

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, they were, but there is a later Question about that. It was a very small number indeed. If the House likes I can give the figures now. There was one German, one Australian and two American schoolboys, aged 15 and 16.

13. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent the organisers of the demonstration on 27th October satisfied the police that they would be able to control the demonstration; whether he is satisfied that such control was effective; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Callaghan

Arrangements were agreed with the organisers on the route to be followed by the main body of demonstrators. Apart from some minor incidents and inconvenience to traffic, this self-disciplined precession gave the police no real cause for concern. The police were unable to secure any such agreement with those who were responsible for the separate and smaller procession to Grosvenor Square, where the organisers seemed unable to control their supporters and much disorderly behaviour took place.

Mr. Digby

Did the main organisers give no undertaking at all with regard to Grosvenor Square? Was it not obvious, anyhow, that certain elements were bound to exploit the situation and go there?

Mr. Callaghan

The organisers of the main demonstration indicated that they did not intend to go to Grosvenor Square, and they did not go there.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some hon. Members attended both as observers and actually marched on the demonstration? Is he further aware that the main demonstration was perfectly orderly, and that I believe that the organisers of the demonstration should receive the congratulations of everyone? Obviously in all such demonstrations there is a certain element which joins and which cannot be controlled by anyone, irrespective of who they are.

Mr. Callaghan

I agree with a large part of what my hon. Friend says, and I am very grateful to hon. Members from both sides of the House who undertook the task of observing what was taking place. I found it very useful to hear their comments. It is true, in the case of any demonstration, that one cannot control who turns up, but in this case there was a separate factional group, determined to march on Grosvenor Square and, as the event turned out, to make trouble there. This was not a case of isolated individuals who joined the demonstration. With regard to offering my congratulations to the organisers, I do not think I really wish to embarrass Mr. Tariq Ali.

Mr. Hogg

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that although this thing went off far better than many hon. Members had anticipated, organisers of demonstrations cannot shrug off responsibility for what happens when they deliberately organise a demonstration of a size which enables dissident elements to behave in an unruly fashion?

Mr. Callaghan

This is true of any gathering of persons. On the previous day there was a football game organised between Birmingham City and Derby County. In the course of that, a lot of supporters of one of the teams ran riot and a number of arrests were made. I do not think that I can be expected to join any cry that we should ban football matches. One has to have a sense of proportion; one has to balance, on every occasion, whatever the purpose of the demonstration is, the need to preserve law and order and the right to demonstrate.

16. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the Government's policy on demonstrations in London arising out of the events of Sunday, 27th October.

32. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the London demonstration of 27th October; and what information he has about plans for further similar demonstrations.

Mr. Callaghan

I have reviewed the position following the demonstration in London on 27th October, and conclude that at present there is no need to modify existing policy, namely to balance the traditional rights of free speech and assembly against any possible threat to public order. Future cases will be judged on their merit at the time.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I pay tribute to the police, and incidentally to the Home Secretary for his handling of the demonstration, but is not the likelihood of a repetition of the sort of provocation which: took place in Grosvenor Square in itself a grave threat to our constitutional liberties, and should not the Home Secretary be now considering contingency plans to avoid such a situation again?

Mr. Callaghan

There are groups of people, who go under the names of Maoists, anarchists, Trotskyites and half a dozen other small factions, who are determined to provoke trouble with established authority, mostly in the person of the police, on any occasion when they can find suitable excuse for so doing. I have no sympathy with these people, nor have the overwhelming number of people in the country. A careful watch must be kept of any intentions that they may have.

Mr. Molloy

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the vulgar behaviour in Northern Ireland against Roman Catholics who wished to demonstrate was far more disagreeable than what happened on 27th October?

Mr. Callaghan

The Prime Minister has answered a number of questions on this subject and I am at this moment in discussion with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland on the matter.

Mr. Fortescue

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the ordinary citizen does not understand why, when he cannot even snap his fingers under a policeman's nose without being arrested and charged, organisations which announce in advance that they intend to stage a riot at a given time and a given place and then do so are allowed to go scot-free?

Mr. Callaghan

No one was allowed to go scot-free on this occasion. A number of arrests were made and some of the cases are at this moment sub judice. The police will continue to arrest those who are responsible when they think it appropriate to do so in the execution of their duty.

Mr. Roebuck

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his sensible attitude on this matter will command widespread support throughout the country? Is he fortified in his attitude by the knowledge that at the recent Conservative Party conference there were the most astonishing disorderly incidents in which dissident elements had their testicles twisted by some delegates? No legislation was required then; the whole thing blew over. Will my right hon. Friend continue in the way that he is going at present?

Mr. Hogg

Without pursuing the rather unfortunate and, I should have thought, unworthy tone of the last supplementary question, either in spirit or physically, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he accepts that one of the factors which he must weigh is that, whatever the legitimate intentions of the main organisation, there must be some limit to the number of times that we expose the public to inconvenience and the police to physical assault? Among the arrests to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, does he include the man who was shown in the photographs as kicking a policeman in the face?

Mr. Callaghan

I am not sure what the right hon. and learned Gentleman's intention is, but I have already made clear to him that I shall continue to judge future cases on their merits. That seems to me to be the limit of my obligation. Everything that I have said has indicated that what we must weigh on every occasion—and we must weigh it coolly and not in any emotional way—is the threat to law and order against the rights which have been built up over the centuries to demonstrate and to free speech.

1968 Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Metropolitan Police were engaged in control and other duties in connection with the Vietnam and other demonstrations in London on Sunday, 27th October,

Mr. Callaghan

The answer to the first part of the Question is 8,846; and to the second 74 and 47. As regards the third part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave earlier this afternoon.

Sir G. Nabarro

While I endorse absolutely what the Home Secretary said earlier about the rights of free speech, may I ask him whether he is aware that the overwhelming majority of law-abiding taxpayers and ratepayers in this country strongly resent the extortionate cost of quelling these disturbances and call upon him, as Home Secretary, to prevent a regular repetition of them which may occur from his namby-pamby policies?

Mr. Callaghan

I fully appreciate that the hon. Member must try to get a little back for the mistaken forecast which he made before the demonstration, but if I am being asked to weigh this up on the basis of £s, shillings and pence, I must repeat that it is necessary to weigh the cost of physical preventive measures of this sort against the cost which might be incurred if demonstrations were banned—including the cost of the ensuing trouble which might arise.

Mr. Faulds

Is it not a fact that the popular Press and the not-so-popular Press in the form of The Times were largely responsible for whipping up the wild exaggerations about this demonstration—ably abetted, apparently, by briefings from Scotland Yard?

Mr. Callaghan

I know nothing about briefings by Scotland Yard, although I have seen that some organs of the Press have alleged that this was so. I will not comment on the activities of the Press in this matter. I have quite enough troubles of my own on my plate.

27. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what reserve supplies of water equipment, tear gas and associated riot control equipment he now has available for Metropolitan Police use in maintaining law and order and quelling civil disturbance, commotion and disorder in London.

Mr. Callaghan

This equipment is not considered to be necessary.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the Home Secretary realise that the continued use of police horses on these occasions is deliberately provocative and likely to lead to disorder? Will he not consider alternative methods of carrying the police at the places at which disturbances are occurring, and bear in mind that police horses are reminiscent of Waterloo—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and reminiscent of Peter loo in certain circumstances as well as of Waterloo? Does he not realise that he would be far better off without their continued use?

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Member referred to continual demonstrations. In fact, there have been two demonstrations this year—two Sundays out of 52. We must keep this matter in proportion. As for the use of horses, I rely very much on the Commissioner's view on such matters. He believes that on the occasion of the last demonstration—and I had some opportunity to see it myself—the presence of horses for particular reasons, into which I need not go, had a very stabilising influence. I do not want to jog his elbow in relation to the methods which he employs.

Mr. Rose

Is my right hon. Friend aware that nothing is more calculated to provoke disorder than the irresponsible and hysterical questions of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro)? Will he accept that the police methods in London rather than those in Londonderry ought to be the pattern in a democracy? Will he also accept that tear gas is certainly not necessary because the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South is quite capable of moving me to tsars at any time?

Mr. Callaghan

Having read the well-merited praise of the police in the Motions put on the Order Paper by the Opposition and by my hon. Friends, having also read the comments in the foreign Press about the behaviour of the police on that afternoon, and having seen that most of them regard this as having given a very useful lesson in how this kind of exercise should be conducted, I can only say that I regard most of the questions from hon. Members opposite this afternoon as extremely niggling.

Mr. Hogg

Having regard to the numbers of the police in relation to the numbers of the demonstrators, will not the Home Secretary reconsider his policy of checking police recruitment and bring the Metropolitan Police up to their proper establishment?

Mr. Callaghan

I regret to say that the Metropolitan Police have not been up to their proper establishment since 1945. I do not think that I can be expected to bring them up to establishment in the course of the next 12 months. Substantial recruiting for the police is going on, and it will increase during the next 12 months.