HC Deb 30 March 1983 vol 40 cc145-6W
Mr. Mates

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable of Thames Valley police as to the additional cost of policing the last major demonstration at Greenham Common; what problems such demonstrations pose for the police; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mayhew

We understand from the chief constable that the additional cost of policing the related demonstrations at Greenham Common on 12 and 13 December, when demonstrators first encircled the site and then sought to blockade it, was of the order of £35,000. This was the overtime element of the cost of approximately £57,000 for deploying a total of 633 officers. The freedom to demonstrate within the law is long-standing and important, and the policing of demonstrations is a proper duty for the police, which chief officers of police seek to discharge as economically as possible and without impairing effectiveness in other areas. But the duty inevitably places considerable burdens on police resources. Demonstrators who decline to liaise or co-operate with the police, who seek to interfere with the rights of others to go peacefully about their business, or who transgress the law, add to the difficulties. The police are not helped by failures to understand that they are not present at demonstrations in support of or in opposition to the views being expressed. Their duty is to maintain the peace and prevent the commission of offences. It is only right that demonstrators should be aware that their actions incur costs, both in policing and in terms of the social and economic disruption that demonstrations can cause the community.