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John McDonnell: I will not contradict your ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the point of Brian Haw's protest is to ensure that we listen to him. If we silence him, we will be unable to listen to that message, which is one of peace that opposes some decisions of the House. One of the roles of an MP is to defend the democratic rights of the citizens of this country. That is what we are threatening. This is not to do with noise or nuisance; it is to do with removing the little man's voice from outside the Chamber.
Mr. Hain: I am sure that my hon. Friend would not defend this examplein fact, I know he would criticise it. My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Anne Picking) tried to enter the House during the hunting demonstration and was virtually beaten up. We have to move forward in dealing with such problems. The issue of the loudhailer is one small part of a much wider picture and we really must deal with it. I am sure he agrees with that. I think he should be more proportionate about the points that he is understandably making.
Is that an allegation that Brian Haw has at any time tried to prevent Members from coming to the House, because he has not, and no one has ever alleged it? We are introducing a Sessional Order and then legislation to obviate one evilpreventing Members from having access to the Housewhile at the same time wiping out the democratic rights of an individual. The breadth of potential interpretation is
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what is abhorrent about the Sessional Order. We are also going through a lengthy process of introducing new legislationa new order to quell the voice of one man who speaks for the majority of the population of this country, against war and for peace.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD): I am always rather uncomfortable when we have a discussion that appears to be ad hominem, so I shall not follow precisely the line pursued by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), but I want to remind the House that, long before the particular individual whom we have been discussing was permanently installed, a pig named Winston was present. I do not recall any Opposition Member objecting to the presence of that pig, although it was just as untidy as the gentleman to whom we are referring.
Mr. Tyler: It did not, but those who were with it had very loud voices, and rightly so, because they were making an important point on behalf of my constituents, as it happensthose involved in agriculture.
I want to return to the report and the motion. Recommendations 1, 2 and 3, which the Government accept, are very sensible. They should be endorsed by the House. Recommendation 4 relates to the new statement that is to be made giving details of the
That obviously is important, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) said, there surely must be a proposal as to what will be said in that statement. I do not know why we have waited so long, because the report was made to the House in November last year, and we could by now have seen a draft. I hope that we will see one before the general election.
That gives rise to all sorts of problems of definition. What is a long-term demonstration? If an individual comes and goes regularly but intermittently, is that a long-term demonstration? If we have a very large demonstration that raises the security issues referred to earlier, and it takes more than 24 hours, is that a long-term demonstration? What is the difference? I am suspicious of that recommendation, and to be fair, so are the Government, whose response states:
Furthermore, they do not ask us to endorse paragraph 22 and recommendation 5. There were concerns in the Committee about the recommendation, as was obvious from the evidence given to it, and as I know from Members present this evening. I therefore hope that we
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will make progress very slowly on that recommendation. It could be, as hon. Members have said, a slippery slope.
There is something to be welcomed and celebrated about the fact that the main focus of demonstration has in recent months moved from opposite Downing street into Parliament square. I hope that that is recognition that Parliament still has a role in our political society, and that the body politic is not exclusively in Whitehall. It is extremely helpful that people now recognise that speaking to Members of Parliament, albeit occasionally through loudhailers, might have some practical impact. It is much better than simply shouting at No. 10 and assuming that that is the only place in which power lies.
I understand the concerns of members of the public about trying to ensure that their voice is heard. These days, it is difficult. The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) referred to himself as a member of the Hyde Park ToriesI am not quite sure what that describedbut there is a case for a designated area in an appropriate part of London where people can speak their mind and have an audience that is attentive and perhaps even influential. Perhaps he would join me in suggesting that we move speakers' corner from Hyde park to St. James's park[Hon. Members: "Connaught square."] Hon. Members are suggesting other parts of London, but I am not quite sure why. Perhaps it is opposite the residence of a particular individual.
There is an extremely important issue at stake. To some extent, the Government are attempting to push it sideways, with references to the Mayor of London's "World Squares for All" proposals for Parliament square. I cannot quite see the Mayor of London addressing the issue in the way that I would prefer, but he may have a different view from the Government's. What is extremely important is that the Government go on to say that there will be a "consultation exercise", but they seek to limit the remit of that consultation exercise to "developing police powers". That must be in the context of the rights of the individual in this country to represent his or her views. The Leader of the House has already said that there is existing legislation to deal with disruptive, dangerous or threatening activities that may concern us in our duties in the House.
Mr. Bercow: I very much admire the hon. Gentleman, but may I put it to him that although the House should have self-respect it should not practise self-delusion? I put it to him that the reason why Mr. Haw continues to indulge in his rancid rants opposite the House of Commons is not that he wishes to pay tribute to Parliament but that he knows that he is able to get off scot-free. That is partly because of the rank naivety of the hon. Gentleman and others.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I will defend the right of people who disagree with me to express their views. The hon. Gentleman may well
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disagree with members of my farming community in Cornwall who express their views in a similar way on a similar site in Parliament square, but I do not recall his objecting.
The House must consider this carefully. If, in the interests of tidiness, we are in any way to undermine the legitimate concerns of our constituents and the public at largeif we are to extinguish long-standing rightslet us do it with our eyes open, and not because we have suddenly joined the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. There is existing legislation to deal with the threats that we all understand are there. I found the flight of fantasy from the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire extraordinary. There are security issues, but they are not there now, and they are not involved in the proposed change to our Sessional Orders.
It is certainly important for us to look carefully at the issue of access, for a number of reasonsaccess for Members, staff and constituents wishing to come here on legitimate business. The order, however, does not deal with that. I accept that the existing order has been there for some time, but as the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington pointed out, if it has not proved satisfactory in the past why should we repeat it now? The current wording of the revised order is surely redundant. It says:
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