§ Mr. Batiste
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has anything to add to his answer of 19 February to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mrs. Short) Official Report, column 741, about meetings in Trafalgar square; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Waldegrave
I have approved a major scheme for a complete refurbishment of Trafalgar square. The cleaning and repair of Nelson's column, which is currently in progress, is the first stage of this exercise and should be completed in May. While the column and the immediate area are surrounded by scaffolding and a hoarding I do not consider it in the interests of public safety to allow meetings on the square which would attract large numbers of people. I have therefore refused permission for some demonstrations by organisations which have traditionally held meetings on the square and would in normal circumstances be permitted to do so.
Each new application will be considered on its merits and in the light of Metropolitan police advice. During the period when the square is cleared prior to the main refurbishment it should be possible for the larger gatherings to be resumed temporarily.
The main refurbishment, which includes relaying the paving, will start in the summer and take about two years. During that time no meetings can be allowed on the square though there will always be some room for pedestrians. The square will, however, be completely cleared in December 1987 and 1988 to allow the traditional Christmas and new year celebrations to take place.