Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 10 December 2010

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: tuition fees demonstration.

Tuition Fees Demonstration

Asked about the conversation between the Prime Minister and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police about the demonstrations last night and the attack on the Prince of Wales’ and the Duchess of Cornwall’s car, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that it was a good conversation.  The Commissioner updated the Prime Minister on events during the day and was now looking into what happened, both in and around Parliament Square and what happened with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.  The Commissioner assured the Prime Minister that he would be taking any steps necessary in light of that investigation.

Asked if there would be any Government involvement in the investigation, the PMS said that it would be led by the Commissioner.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed that security for the Royals needed to be stepped up, the PMS said that the police were looking at what had happened last night and would take steps as necessary; it would be wrong to comment before they had done that.  With regard to the events more generally and the police approach, it was something which clearly needed to be looked at and if there were lessons to be learnt we would learn them.  However, we should be clear about where responsibility lay for what happened yesterday.  As the Prime Minister said, it was not good enough to say that it was a small minority of people; it wasn’t.  There were a considerable number of people on the streets with the intention of causing trouble.  It was those people who were responsible for the events yesterday, and they should feel the full force of the law.

Asked if the Prime Minister’s security would be looked at in light of events yesterday, the PMS said that we never commented on the Prime Minister’s security.

Asked if there was concern that the same sort of protests could happen when the House of Lords voted on tuition fees next week, the PMS said that the police were looking at what happened yesterday and would learn lessons as necessary.  The basic point was that this was a difficult situation for the police, involving a large number of people, as opposed to a minority, and the blame lay with the people who were out on the streets with the sole intention of causing trouble.

Asked if lessons would be learnt by the time of the House of Lords vote, the PMS said that the police were looking into what happened and would learn appropriate lessons.  We were not aware of any current plans for protests next week, but the police were monitoring the situation and would take necessary precautions.

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Commissioner that the protesters who attacked the Royal car were lucky not to get shot, the PMS said that it was not for him to comment on police operational matters.

Asked if the police would have been allowed to shoot protesters under the circumstances, the PMS said that he was not going to get into it.

Put that the Commissioner had said that the police showed restraint by not shooting, the PMS said that as a general statement the police did show restraint yesterday in the face of severe provocation from a group of people who were there to cause problems.

Asked if the Commissioner was the best person to conduct the review, and if so why, the PMS said yes, because he was responsible for policing.  The police were best placed to make judgements on operational issues.

Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in the Commissioner, the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary, the PMS said yes.  The responsibility for what happened yesterday lay with the people who were out to cause problems.

Put that the police were supposed to stop people causing problems, the PMS said that the police were dealing with a very difficult set of issues yesterday.

Asked if the Home Secretary or the Commissioner had offered their resignation because of what happened to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the PMS said no, because the blame lay with the people who were causing the trouble.

Put that there were precedents for the Home Secretary to resign after threats to the Royal Family, the PMS said that he was aware of that, but it would not be appropriate for the Home Secretary to offer her resignation in this case.

Asked if the purpose of the Commissioner’s call to the Prime Minister was to apologise for what happened, the PMS said no, the purpose was to update the Prime Minister on the situation.

Asked why there was a need for an investigation when the Prime Minister was so supportive of the police, the PMS said that we all saw the outbreaks of violence yesterday.  It would be odd if we didn’t look into what had happened so we could learn any appropriate lessons.  The Prime Minister was clear in his support for the police and that the blame lay with the people who wanted to cause trouble.

Asked if the police investigation was about apportioning blame or learning lessons, the PMS said that the purpose of looking at this was to make sure that if we could do things better next time then we would do so.  This was about learning lessons; the basic blame lay with the people who turned up and wanted to cause trouble.  We would not start passing judgements on what the investigation would find before it had reported.

Asked if the Government had asked the police to look at who was to blame, the PMS said no; if there were lessons to learn, we were keen to learn them.

Asked if the broad mass of students were to blame, the PMS said no, but equally this was not a small minority.

Asked if the Government was questioning the right to protest, the PMS said absolutely not; it was perfectly within peoples’ rights to protest peacefully, but it was not within peoples’ rights to rip up buildings, spray graffiti, beat poles into windows and attack police officers.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to anyone at Clarence House, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had said this morning that he spoke to the Prince of Wales’ private secretary last night.

Asked if the Prime Minister apologised in that call, the PMS said no, the Prime Minister did not apologise for the actions of people who wanted to cause trouble in the streets of London.  The police were looking into the matter, but the basic point was that blame lay with the people who turned up with the intention of causing trouble.

Put that this was the biggest Royal security breech in a generation and the police were sitting in judgement on their own actions, the PMS said that we had full confidence in the police and the job they were doing, but clearly there was a specific issue around what happened to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall yesterday, which was being looked into by the police.  We would not pre-judge that investigation.

Asked if the Government had received any representation from the Royal Family complaining about what happened yesterday, the PMS said that he was not aware of any.