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Lord Sandberg: My Lords, we are all delighted that an agreement has been reached on reducing the debt of impoverished countries, but I think that there should be some safeguards here. I have a nasty feeling that after a decent interval--or, more likely, an indecent interval--those countries which have had their debts reduced will rush off to their bankers and say, "Have we not been very good and very clever? We have reduced our indebtedness by about 80 per cent. Will you now start lending us some more money?". I think there should be some safeguards against that happening because otherwise in a few years' time we shall face the Oliver Twist situation of these countries asking for more aid.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I think that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has become well known for his important remarks--not only in this context but also in the domestic context--namely, that the giving of money must be accompanied by reform. That is the simple message behind the complicated package of measures which has been drawn
Lord Blaker: My Lords, after my twice expressed concern about the matter last week, is the noble Baroness aware that I warmly welcome the fact that a solution has been found to the problem of the Russian occupation of Pristina airport? It has removed what could have been an obstacle to the successful performance by KFOR of its role, which it is performing extremely well, and could also have brought back an era of colder relations with Russia which would have been to no one's advantage.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this point last week with some concern, as he said. I am glad that he now feels able to accept what has been negotiated with the Russians. As I understand the position, they will contribute about 750 troops to Pristina airfield for the logistic support of operations there. All KFOR participants will now have appropriate access to the airfield. That will be established under the general command of KFOR. I repeat what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers; namely, that the Russian troops will contribute one or two battalions to the US and German sectors and one to the French sector. The total Russian strength of these battalions is expected to be about 3,000 troops.
Lord Harding of Petherton: My Lords, will the noble Baroness assure us that scenes such as we saw last night on our television screens of British and other KFOR troops standing by while Albanians looted Serb houses--I know how badly they feel as their own houses were looted and burnt--will not be repeated?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the noble Lord raises the sensitive and difficult issues which arise in this area where feelings run extremely high. As I said earlier, I think that the troops there certainly understand that they need to be involved in peacekeeping and in some aspects of maintaining civil control of a difficult situation which might be outside their normal rules of engagement and their normal responsibilities as armed forces. On the whole, things have worked well. I did not
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, will the noble Baroness say a little more about the proposed Balkan summit mentioned in the Statement? Will this be EU led, as we understand that the EU countries are expected to pay most of the costs of reconstruction of the region? Will this be closely linked in with the promises which the British Prime Minister and the German presidency have made in the past two or three months of a long-term prospect of EU membership for all of the countries of the region? If so, is that part of an overall EU strategy?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, over the weekend the G8 Summit agreed only in principle to hold this summit on reconstruction. The EU would be responsible for organising that summit and indeed for organising reconstruction in Kosovo with support from the World Bank and other international financial institutions. I think it is too early to make an assessment of the precise organisation of that broader reconstruction plan. That is why the Balkan summit has been called in the form that it has. However, as I say, it is agreed only in principle but I am sure that everyone will hope that it works out effectively in practice.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, I thank the Lord Privy Seal for her Statement. Perhaps she will convey to her right honourable friend the Prime Minister and to all our forces in Yugoslavia our congratulations on their tenacity and sensitivity in dealing with everything and that our thoughts and prayers are still with them.
Perhaps I may ask a short, quite separate, question about debt relief. Last week, I was a member of the welcoming committee for representatives from Mozambique; can the Minister say whether Mozambique is to be included in the debt initiative? Although trade, elections and economy were on the agenda, the only thing they could talk about was debt relief.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, for her remarks. I will of course pass them on. As I said earlier, we need to continue our support to the Armed Forces operating in this very difficult situation. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Gilbert has said on previous occasions, they may now be entering a particularly dangerous phase of operations in Kosovo at this time.
As to the point about Mozambique, as I understand it, the extra countries which will be included in the impoverished poor countries initiative are Benin, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Honduras, Laos, Senegal and Togo. They can benefit from HIPC for the
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made earlier in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:
"The occasion for the disorder was a so-called 'Day of Action' which had been planned by a number of disparate groups to coincide with the G8 Summit in Cologne. The City of London Police had been aware for some months that such a protest had been planned and information relating to the event had been widely available on the Internet.
"Organisers of demonstrations normally co-operate early and fully with the police to ensure that arrangements for a peaceful occasion are satisfactory to all concerned. In this instance, no co-operation was forthcoming: attempts by the police to discuss the arrangements were rebuffed by the organisers.
"The City Police none the less provided as much information as they could to those who live and work in the City about what was planned; how the police proposed to respond; and what precautions residents and business could usefully take.
"During the morning of last Friday, the demonstrations were generally peaceful. Around midday, however, a much larger group, soon numbering several thousand, began to assemble in Liverpool Street. After a couple of hours this crowd split into four separate groups and moved off.
"The groups then converged on the LIFFE building in Canon Street. At this point a concerted effort was made to storm the LIFFE building, with demonstrators using scaffold poles and paving stones without regard to human safety. As a result of police action, the demonstrators then moved away from the area, but disorder continued over a wide area of the City and then in the Trafalgar Square area in the Metropolitan Police District.
"As a result of the day's disorder 16 people were arrested. The offences involved included criminal damage with intent, aggravated burglary, assaults on the police and on members of the public. Investigations are continuing. As is normal in such situations, the commissioner will be making a full report on the events to his police authority.
"I should like to place on record my appreciation for the way in which the City of London Police, supported by the Metropolitan Police and the British Transport Police, dealt with this wholly deplorable outbreak of violence, which was plainly premeditated. I would like to extend our sympathy and good wishes to the eight officers who were injured and taken to hospital. The refusal of the organisers to discuss with the police how the event was to be handled was wholly irresponsible. There can be no excuse for this kind of violence.
"At the moment, I have no firm information to suggest that a recurrence of these demonstrations is likely in the foreseeable future. None the less, I intend to hold further consultations with the Commissioner and the police service, to ensure that everything possible is done to protect the safety of the public and the businesses in the City and elsewhere in London.
"Madam Speaker, this country has a fine tradition of peaceful protest which is an essential part of any well-functioning democracy. The London Police--the Metropolitan Police Service and the City Police--have a fine record of co-operating fully with peaceful demonstrations. But the refusal of those organising this demonstration showed that they viewed with contempt peaceful protest and democracy in equal measure. They and they alone are responsible for what ensued. The whole House will join me in supporting the efforts of the police to ensure that those responsible for the violence are brought to justice".
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made by the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary. I am sure that your Lordships will also support, as I do, the Home Secretary's condemnation of these disgraceful events; his expression of sympathy to those who were hurt, particularly the police officers; and his thanks to the police and, in some cases, to the civilians who were actively involved in resisting the rioters. It is clear that the blame for these events lies entirely with the rioters. As has been said, there is a tradition of properly organised, peaceful demonstration in this country which is well understood.
Your Lordships' will also wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Levene, the Lord Mayor, who went out on Friday incognito to see the situation for himself. It is good to see him in his place today. I am sure that
The Minister said that the commissioner of the City Police is to prepare a report on the events. Will that report be published? If so, can he say when that is likely to be? Will the report include a review of the warnings given by the authorities beforehand? I saw--as, no doubt, did many of your Lordships--the warning on the parliamentary data and video network which appeared a day or two before the disturbances. I have also heard of some institutions which, as a result of the warnings they were given, told some staff to stay at home on the day. But, at the same time, it seems that the premises of LIFFE, for example, were dangerously exposed, although a wholesale invasion of the premises was successfully resisted.
The key problem to emerge from the Statement concerns the lack of co-operation between the organisers of the demonstration and riots and the police. The Minister listed several offences for which people have been arrested and charged. Has anyone been charged with holding the demonstration without obtaining the necessary police permission? It may be a little early, but I hope that some people will be charged with that offence.
Some noble Lords, including myself, have read in the newspapers that precedents for this disgraceful demonstration may lie with some of the road protestors and tree people and so on. Are those links clear and, if so, does that make it more likely that protests will be organised in future by those same people?
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, I am sure that we all agree with the Home Secretary's Statement that this was a deplorable episode of calculated and well-orchestrated violence against the police and private property. Subsequently, we heard yet again--I heard this on the "Today" programme on Saturday morning--the truly absurd suggestion that provocative behaviour by the police had led to the disturbances. That allegation is made on virtually every occasion that a peaceful demonstration gets out of hand. It is patently absurd in the circumstances of this case.
The most disturbing element of the whole episode was the organisers' refusal to discuss their plans with the police. We assume that there will be a careful examination of the incident and the law relating to public demonstrations--in particular, the need for organisers to consult the police. None of us wants to limit the right of any members of the public to demonstrate. I normally hesitate before making demands to amend the law in the immediate aftermath of an episode, however deplorable. The general public, however, have a right to adequate protection from the conduct of rioters. I hope that the Minister can reassure
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful, not for the first time, for the steadfast support of the noble Lords, Lord Cope of Berkeley and Lord Harris of Greenwich, which will be much welcomed by those with responsibility for the maintenance of law and order last Friday. I am grateful also for the sympathy that has been expressed for the injured police officers. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, mentioned the notable part played by the noble Lord, Lord Levene of Portsoken. I noticed that noble Lord was in his place and the House will wait with keen anticipation, to see whether or not he is able to intervene and assist us.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked about the report of the Commissioner of the City of London Police. As the statement said, that report would be from the commissioner to his own authority. In the usual way, any decision to publish that report in full or part ought to lie with the commissioner and the authority. Parts of such a report may better be left unpublished, for obvious reasons. I am sure that the noble Lord's point is well taken--that where possible, such reports should be published, other things being equal.
I anticipate that the Commissioner of the City of London Police will be applying his mind, as will the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and others, to the lessons to be learnt. It cannot be disputed that there was a co-ordinated attack on the LIFFE building, which eventually failed.
Permission is not needed for assemblies in a public place, as opposed to marches or processions. Conditions can be imposed on public assemblies but they are difficult to enforce if the organisers are not known. I suspect that the non-co-operation experienced was very much with that in mind. Your Lordships might agree. I know of no charge of holding a march or procession without a licence but again, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, is well taken.
I do not know whether or not there was a connection with those persons who indulged in demonstrations against road widening schemes. One needs to be cautious about saying anything at this stage. The last thing I want is someone to say that a trial had been prejudiced, thereby bringing about an acquittal, by my answering specific questions.
The City's business did continue and the markets were open. They bring enormous benefit to the whole economic wellbeing of this country. In many ways the best answer given to the protestors is that business did continue. That seems an important rebuff.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, indicated that these were well-organised scenes of provocative behaviour. I have no doubt that is so. I live in Clerkenwell, which is only a few minutes' walk from Smithfield, where the demonstrations seem to have begun. I travelled down Fleet Street, trying to return to the Home Office. There is no excuse for what was done. None at all. Speaking
There was a plain refusal to co-operate. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, is right--the intention was to override the right of everyone else to go about their business in peace, order and security. There are lessons to be learnt, not least that one should remain steadfast and carry on with one's daily life and business so far as that is possible.
If there is any further intelligence from reports made to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, I will be more than happy to return to your Lordships with that information, either by letter or in the Chamber. If that is done by letter to any of the respective spokesmen, I will of course place a copy in the Library in the usual way.
Is the Minister aware that, despite the best endeavours of the demonstrators, firms in the City of London continued working normally throughout Friday and business was not disrupted? I spent three hours walking among the demonstrators, to see for myself exactly what was happening. I was appalled. This was not a demonstration turned sour by policing that was too heavy. Nor was it a demonstration that was hijacked by a violent element. The organisers always intended the demonstration to be violent. It was designed to create as much damage and disruption as possible. I saw the way in which its focus shifted and the deliberate way in which demonstrators went about their business. There can be little doubt that much energy had been spent trying to bring the City of London to a complete halt, but they failed.
Would the Minister and the whole House care to join me in congratulating all those in the City--those who work there together with our police force--who ran the gauntlet of the protestors to get on with their jobs? I saw ripped jackets, City workers being spat at, despatch riders and taxi drivers being assaulted, and endless demonstrators urinating in the street.
The majority of the 300,000 people who work in the City took those events in their stride. They continued with their work, which benefits this country and its economy so much. That needs recognition. People who work in the City are the first to give their money and time to others. They are the first to help others in need. They are the first to recognise the right to free speech. That which they had to suffer on Friday was beyond the bounds of what was acceptable.
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