POINT OF ORDER – PROTEST NOISE – 22 July 2008

[Mike Penning: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Yesterday, this House and the other House had the honour of welcoming 120 British servicemen returning from Iraq at the north door of the Great Hall. Mr. Speaker was there to greet them, and it was a pleasure and an honour to see them. However, while we were waiting for them, the lunatic fringe that is the peace camp outside broke through the police lines and got into the ranks of those brave servicemen and women. Those people abused and attacked the service personnel, calling them cowards and other things that I will not repeat in this House. Can we investigate how on earth British servicemen and women returning from Iraq and marching through the streets of London to this House came to be attacked, and whether enough police were on duty? Next time we invite them, can we make sure that there are enough police on hand, so that we can welcome them in the proper way?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): We are all aware of the demonstrations that are a permanent feature outside the House, and of how they may sometimes stray beyond the limits. As politicians, we are perhaps more used to such things than other people but, given that the soldiers to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred were here not only to be honoured by us but to be our guests in the Houses of Parliament, I think that what happened was a dreadful situation. I am sure that he will be glad to have his words on the record, and that they will be noted by everyone in the House today and by people outside it. Let us hope that that kind of thing does not happen again.]

Dr Julian Lewis: Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I did not see the attack on the servicemen, but I heard the persistent attempts to use amplified noise from the square to abuse them. Fortunately, that did not spoil the occasion, at any rate not significantly, but will you ask Mr Speaker to investigate what has happened in respect of Westminster council? Representatives from the council came for a meeting with Mr Speaker, the police and me following 50 complaints about broadcast noise from the square disturbing people at work. Westminster council assured us that the licence to broadcast from the square would run out in January of this year, which means that it has run out now, yet there appears to be no enforcement to prevent such broadcasting. The situation is intolerable and absolutely pathetic, and it is about time that the law were enforced in respect of these abusive people.

[Mr Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman raises two matters, and I think that I have dealt with the first already, although I should like to add that I hope that all the soldiers and their families who are here today will be seriously and strongly reassured by the feelings in this Chamber today. As for the second matter – noise – we are all well aware of what goes on out there. I shall draw Mr Speaker's attention to the matter and make sure that he reads the hon. Gentleman's remarks in Hansard. Let us hope that some action can be taken.]