HC Deb 15 September 2004 vol 424 cc1423-5

10.6 pm

Mr. Speaker

I wish to make a brief statement about the incident that took place in the Chamber this afternoon, which was linked to today's demonstration in Parliament square. I visited the square myself, and I am grateful to the police for the efforts that they made to keep the approaches to the House clear. However, eight men gained access through St. Stephen's entrance, using a forged letter inviting them to a meeting on the Committee Corridor. Once there, they were led to the small stairway at the north end of the Corridor, probably by a passholder, who was clearly exceeding his or her authority. On the stairway, the men took off their jackets and left them behind.

The eight men rushed the Chamber entrance. Three were tackled and overpowered by Doorkeepers on duty. The remaining five entered the No Lobby and from there gained access to the Chamber, where they, too, were overpowered. On behalf of the House I want to pay tribute to the Officers and Doorkeepers concerned for their prompt and effective reaction. They demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and the House, I know, is grateful to them.

The eight men have been detained and are being interviewed by the police. When it was last reported to me, none of them had provided the police with his true name and address. None of the intruders possessed any offensive weapons. Clearly, the intrusion was a carefully planned operation and the Serjeant at Arms has asked the Metropolitan police to conduct a full investigation. It is not yet clear whether the passholder who apparently assisted the intruders was a member of staff, a member of the press or an employee of a Member: all those possibilities are being investigated.

For tomorrow's sitting, I have asked the Metropolitan police to deploy a significant additional squad of police officers in the immediate vicinity of the Chamber until the House rises. Leave for security officers will be cancelled, if necessary, to provide an immediate assurance that such an incident cannot be repeated.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the light of your statement, will you confirm that you would deplore any briefing by hon. Members on either side of the House to the effect that a Conservative Member of Parliament let the invaders in—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let the hon. Gentleman speak.

Mr. Heald

It appears that such briefing is occurring and there is not a scrap of evidence to support it.

Mr. Speaker

As I said in my statement, I am investigating all these possibilities; I ask the House to allow me to do so.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham) (Lab)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. When you are considering the disgraceful events that we witnessed, will you also consider the fact that a female Member of this House was seriously assaulted when she was attempting to enter and was punched by one of the thugs outside? If this sort of behaviour is allowed to go on, all our democratic institutions are at risk. I ask you to interview the Member concerned to get all the details.

Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West) (Lab)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In your statement, you announced that the people who violated—I put it no more strongly than that—this Chamber had a letter of invitation to a meeting on the Committee Corridor. I presume that whoever—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall stop the hon. Gentleman. The letter was forged. I say to the House that it is best not to question the Speaker on a Speaker's statement. I stated my case and the House should bear with me. We have a day to get through tomorrow, and it is important that we see that day through until the Adjournment. I ask the House to allow me to get through that day. When we come back we can have a reasoned discussion about how we proceed, but questioning me on my statement does the House no good.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you take very careful note of any new statement that people who say they have information give to the broadcast media tonight and ensure that anybody who seems to have been complicit is fully investigated, even though they may not necessarily be connected with the House?

Mr. Speaker

When I opened my statement I said that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner would be involved in a full investigation.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con)

On a separate point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

That is a refreshing change.

Peter Bottomley

May I put it to you, Sir, that the greatest risk today was of people being crushed to death against the railings outside the House? The police saved the demonstrators from that; otherwise, we might have had a repetition of the Hillsborough, Heysel or El Salvador tragedies.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Phil Sawford (Kettering) (Lab)

On a separate but related point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that masked intruders were seen in the vicinity of my house and the home of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Member for Corby (Phil. Hope) last night and that they have publicly threatened to come back to intimidate my family and that of my hon. Friend, will you review the personal security of hon. Members and their families when they are not in the House?

Mr. Speaker

I am always worried about any hon. Member who might feel threatened. However, I urge hon. Members not to raise such matters on the Floor of the House but to come and see me privately. I shall give every assistance and help that is possible.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that it is not on the same matter because we must move on. I urge the hon. Member not to make it if it is on the same point.

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