HL Deb 05 May 1981 vol 420 cc3-5

2.44 p.m.

The Marquess of Tweeddale

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they view the prospect of this summer's Notting Hill Carnival with equanimity; and, in the event of its taking place, what advice they will be giving the Metropolitan Police.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, if the carnival is to take place again this year, I am sure that the organisers will wish to have close liaison with the police to try to ensure a peaceful occasion.

The Marquess of Tweeddale

My Lords, while I thank the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask whether he would not consider that, in the light of recent disturbances in Brixton and elsewhere, it is highly undesirable to hold the carnival at all in Notting Hill Gate, especially as Notting Hill Gate is a predominantly white, that is to say a non-Caribbean, area?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I appreciate the problems of people living in a locality where there are large concentrations of people gathering together for a particular reason. If it appears to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police that a public procession will unavoidably give rise to serious public disorder, he can apply to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary for his consent to the making of a banning order. That is the only criterion for a ban, and that is a matter for the commissioner at the time.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that the people from the West Indies are part of our society now and that we should—in opposition to the Question—do all in our power to make it possible for them to have the carnival in the carnival spirit that they have always enjoyed in their own country, and which, if we could guarantee fine weather, they would have now in our country?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I share my noble friend's views and hopes.

Lord Hale

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there is no possible connection between Brixton—near where I live and through which I travel every day—and Notting Hill? There was no question of carnival at Brixton, but a long deep-seated dissatisfaction, which is now under consideration and on which there is more to come. Is the noble Lord aware that the way to deal with the carnival is to join in and join in with the right spirit, because it has been done in the tropics on a number of occasions? If people go to participate, and not to criticise or attack, most people think it may have considerable success again.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I do not in any way dissent from what the noble Lord has said, but I Think the way to ensure a peaceful occasion in this particular context is for there to be close liaison with the police and with those who organise the carnival, if it is to be held. However, the carnival, of course, if it is to be held, will be due in August, and it is a little difficult to assess the prospects so far ahead.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, would the Minister agree that one of the problems that occurred in the past—I had some connection with this in the Department of the Environment—was that it was difficult to get a proper organisation of the people concerned with the carnival? Does he agree that it is extremely important that there should be a strong cohesive committee organising it from the carnival side with whom the authorities can deal?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, and I am most grateful to her for making the point.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, would the Minister not agree that the trouble that occurred at the festival on the last two occasions was the work of a very small minority of people, and that the need, the problem, is to concentrate on those few people rather than to condemn out of hand a joyous and splendid occasion?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, here again I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said.

Lord Gainford

; My Lords, as a resident of the area affected by the carnival, may I ask my noble friend, regarding the success of last year's carnival, whether the next one must still be considered as something to be feared?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I think I can only repeat what I have already said in answer to previous questions. I believe that with close liaison with those who are responsible for keeping law and order, in other words the police, it will be possible, if the carnival is to be held again this year, to ensure a peaceful occasion.