HL Deb 12 July 1982 vol 433 cc18-22

3.42 p.m.

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

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a Statement.

"I have to report to the House that a man was arrested in Buckingham Palace on Friday morning after entering the bedroom of Her Majesty the Queen. The House will admire the calm way in which Her Majesty responded to what occurred. It will also share my grave concern, and that of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, at this most serious failure in security arrangements. A man appeared in court on Saturday, having been charged in connection with an earlier incident at the Palace. I understand that the facts have been reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is considering the possibility of charges arising out of the latest incident.

"In recent years a number of additional security measures have been introduced at Buckingham Palace; but this latest incident shows that the position is still not satisfactory and that more needs to be done. I have, of course, fully discussed the incident with the Commissioner, who is operationally responsible for Royal protection matters. On Friday he appointed Assistant Commissioner Dellow to carry out an urgent inquiry into what went wrong and what lessons are to be drawn for the future. Immediate steps were also taken by the Commissioner on Friday to strengthen security arrangements at the Palace.

"Mr. Dellow has today submitted to the Commissioner and myself an interim report on this incident; we shall see a further report later this week. I am determined, as is the Commissioner, that the arrangements for safeguarding the security of the Queen should be as comprehensive and effective as possible. The rapid implementation of the measures resulting from his inquiry will require the closest consultation between the Palace authorities and the police, and will be pursued with the utmost urgency.

"I shall make a further Statement to the House as soon as I can."

That concludes the Statement.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for repeating the Statement of the Home Secretary. Does the Minister agree that it has disclosed a deeply disturbing state of affairs which I believe has shocked the whole nation? That it should fall to a Home Secretary to begin a Statement with the words: I have to report to the House that a man was arrested in Buckingham Palace on Friday morning after entering the bedroom of Her Majesty the Queen". is indeed staggering and startling. First, may I express the relief of my right honourable and honourable friends and, I am sure, of the whole House that Her Majesty suffered no injury as a result of this appalling intrusion. We admire yet another example that Her Majesty has shown of her courage and coolness in the face of danger or potential danger.

The Statement, I believe, calls for further clarification. It contains one sentence which seems to me to be highly ambiguous: A man appeared in court on Saturday, having been charged in connection with an earlier incident at the Palace". Was it the same man? What was the earlier incident? What precautions by way of safeguarding and improving security followed that earlier intrusion? Have there not been other intrusions into the Palace or its grounds in recent months? Has this matter been taken sufficiently seriously? What steps have been taken? We shall expect a searching and full inquiry into this incident and we are relieved that in due course a report will be made upon it to the House. This is a matter which has shaken the country. The whole of the population will need reassurance that something is being done to avoid any recurrence of this appalling peril.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, may I echo the expression of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones: that the nation has been deeply shocked by this incident and the enormous potential for danger to Her Majesty involved in it. The facts will be revealed later, but I should like to ask about one or two matters arising from the Statement. What time of morning was it when this incident took place? There is merely a reference to Friday morning. Was it in the hours of darkness? Was the other person mentioned in the Statement—if, in fact, he was not actually the same person—involved in any way with the man in this incident? One notices that the Statement says the man was arrested on Friday morning. Presumably he is still in custody. If so, have any charges been brought against him? Has he been brought before a court? These matters are obviously of the gravest concern to the country as a whole. One can only echo the admiration which has already been expressed about the way in which Her Majesty dealt with the situation.

Lord Elton

My Lords, in responding to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, I must emphasise that the Government, as well as all on the Benches behind them are no less deeply concerned than they are with the gravity of this issue, nor any less admiring of Her Majesty's calm in the face of this difficult and very worrying situation. The earlier incident involved a man on 7th June. The man is now in custody, and that is the man we are speaking of. I would rather not be drawn into details of this event for two reasons. One is the aspects of security which detailed discussion can reveal to others who are not aware of the situation. The other is that with prosecution under consideration the matter is, I am advised, sub judice and I should be ill-advised to discuss what it is alleged was done.

Lord Aylestone

My Lords, in applauding the calmness of Her Majesty during this extremely distressing occasion, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that this is a Statement which the whole country would have preferred never to have had to hear? On the inquiry which is to take place—one appreciates that a great deal of it will be sub judice—would the noble Lord be prepared at this stage to say (a) whether the police division responsible is up to strength and (b) whether either the first man, the second man or, in fact, the two boys who were found camping in the Palace gardens some months ago, have any knowledge whatever of the inside of the Palace?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I think it proper that I should respond to detailed matters at a later stage, although the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, will be aware of the fact that for the first time in many years, the Metropolitan Police are now approaching their establishment figure. I am not aware that any of the people in question had knowledge from outside of the inside of the Palace, but I cannot make reference to the particular circumstances of this occasion, for the reasons I have already given.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, is the noble Lord, Lord Elton, aware that questions on security arrangements do not, in my view, impinge upon the sub judice rule? Therefore I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and I cannot be criticised—although there was probably no intention to do so. We are still left in a certain amount of confusion, although perhaps it is my own confusion of mind. Are we talking about two men, or are we talking about one man—the same man—who is concerned? As I understand it, there were two men. I believe the public will be anxious to know whether that is so or not, because it is by no means anywhere near clear. The most important thing, of course, is that there should be a thorough, immediate and urgent investigation of what went wrong and into what steps are now going to be taken to see that it does not happen again.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the man about whom allegations are now being made is the man who was charged for the original offence.

Several noble Lords


Lord Elton

I have to emphasise again that the urgency with which this will be pursued is something that depends on the absolute conviction of my right honourable friend that it is a matter of the first importance—not only out of his loyalty to Her Majesty, as a loyal subject, but in knowledge of the deep love and regard in which she is held by every Member of this House and by the nation. It will be pursued with ineluctable determination.

Lord Morris

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend why this man was not remanded in custody rather than being granted bail for the first offence? In addition, will he be good enough to let me know which regiment of Guards was on duty on the morning in question?

Lord Elton

My Lords, it is a question of the timing of the charge, which did not in fact allow the custody to take place in time to prevent the offence. As to the second question, I shall have to let my noble friend know in writing.

Baroness Gaitskell

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister whether—quite apart from the question of the man—it does not seem that Her Majesty's quarters are left so that anybody can get inside? That is the thing that astonishes one. Her Majesty uses various rooms. How is it that someone can get to them?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I entirely understand the concern felt by the noble Baroness, which is shared by Her Majesty's Government, but, for reasons I have given—of security—it really is not proper to discuss what those arrangements are or how, to great surprise, they were defeated.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is no doubt aware that the nation is appalled at what has happened, but may I point out to him that there is another dimension? Security already being tightened, no doubt, at Buckingham Palace, but there are other residences which Her Majesty the Queen has to visit from time to time. Will the Minister say, quite categorically, that they too—Sandringham and other places—will be subject to complete examination from a security angle, and also that other important places and offices of state where security might be at risk as much as at Buckingham Palace will be thoroughly examined so that nothing like this can ever happen again?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I can confirm that the security arrangements at the other Royal residences are also being reviewed. In the process, the general security of the Royal Family will be considered.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said that the first offence was on 7th June and that, as a result of the second offence, the question of security is going to be pursued with "ineluctable determination". Can the noble Lord tell us, with what determination and with what results the question of improving security was given consideration between 7th June—the first offence—and the recent second offence?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am extremely anxious not to commit myself to making a statement that can be used in court about the first occasion. As I understand it, the identity of the first intruder was not clear. I have already misled your Lordships; the identity of the intruder was not clear until the second occasion. But I do not want to go any further than that, because I am trespassing on ground that might be covered by courts and it would be improper for me to say anything which could prejudice the outcome of a trial.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, with regard to the court appearance on Saturday, was the man charged with an offence committed on 7th June or was he before the court as a result of the incident which took place on Friday morning?

Lord Elton

As a result of the incident which took place on Friday morning, my Lords.

Baroness Stewart of Alvechurch

My Lords, may I suggest that we consult Her Majesty's Mistress for the Robes, the Duchess of Grafton, who is herself a justice of the peace and a magistrate of very wide experience at every level? She has been with Her Majesty for many years, and I believe that she could be most useful with suggestions.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I will bring that idea to the notice of my right honourable friend.