Oral statement to Parliament

TUC protest in London 28 March 2011: Home Secretary's response

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

Speech to Parliament on 28 March on the TUC protest in London. This version is as written, not as spoken. ‘Mr Speaker, …

Theresa May gave this speech to Parliament on 28 March on a TUC protest in London. This version is as written, not as spoken.

‘Mr Speaker, on Saturday 4,500 police officers worked to keep order during the TUC march of up to 500,000 people.

During the afternoon and evening, gangs of thugs carried out acts of violence against the police, private property and public monuments.

I want to place on the record my gratitude to the officers who put themselves in harm’s way during Saturday’s operation. I want also to praise the Met’s senior officers - Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens and Commanders Simon Bray and Bob Broadhurst - for their leadership. And I want to condemn in the strongest terms the mindless behaviour of the thugs responsible for the violence.

I can confirm to the House that 56 police officers were seen by force medical examiners, twelve of whom required hospital treatment, while 53 members of the public were also hurt. I can also confirm that officers arrested over 200 people on Saturday, and 149 of them have already been charged.  I expect that number to increase as the police go through video evidence - as they did after the student protests last year.

The message to those who carry out violence is clear - you will be caught and you will be punished.

Throughout Saturday and Sunday, the Minister for Policing and I were kept informed of events as they happened. The Home Office was in regular contact with both the Metropolitan Police and City Hall. The Policing Minister has spoken to Kit Malthouse, the Deputy Mayor, and I have spoken to Lynne Owens to thank her for the police operation, which was on the whole, a success. 

The police might not have managed to prevent every act of violence, but they were successful in preventing wider criminality, and are now actively engaged in investigating the perpetrators, so they can be brought to justice.

Mr Speaker, in my statement to the House following the student demonstrations in December, I said that the police would learn the lessons of that experience. Since then, the Metropolitan Police have been learning the lessons necessary, and the tactics deployed on Saturday reflect that learning. 

But there is more that can be done.

Just as the police review their operational tactics, so we in the Home Office will review the powers available to the police. I have asked the police whether they feel they need further powers to prevent violence before it occurs.

I am willing to consider powers which would ban known hooligans from attending rallies and marches. And I will look into the powers the police already have to force the removal of face coverings and balaclavas. If the police need more help to do their work, I will not hesitate in granting it to them.

Mr Speaker, this is the right way of doing things. The police are operationally independent. The Mayor holds them to account for their performance. The Home Secretary’s role is to make sure they operate within the right legal framework and have the right powers to do their job.

I know the whole House will want to join me in sending this message: we will always back the police when they do their important work, and we will back them as they do everything they can to bring these mindless thugs to justice.’