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Police Training Manual

Volume 83: debated on Monday 22 July 1985

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

4.7 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the contents of the Public Order Tactical Operations Manual drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers and approved by the Home Office."
The manual provides for the training of the police in paramilitary operations, including instruction in methods of incapacitating demonstrators by the infliction of actual bodily harm or the use of police horses to canter into crowds and the tactical use of noise to instil fear, all of which are in clear breach of the law.

The existence of these tactics and parts of the manual from which they came were disclosed in the cross-examination by the defence in a recent trial in Sheffield. The trial came to an end when the prosecution withdrew all the charges against the accused before it had even completed the presentation of its own case, and the document was made publicly available only over the weekend.

The matter is specific in that it relates to one document containing instructions for the police that have never been published before and now only partially available and clearly and specifically provides for a major breach of the law by the police.

It is important because it is a manual that has clearly been in use throughout the miners' strike and elsewhere, and it throws a completely different light upon certain events which occurred during the strike.

It is urgent because, unless the House discusses it before the summer recess, the police in Britain may continue to be subject to orders that lead them to act illegally and violently against persons engaged in protests or demonstrations who have never been arrested or charged with any offence.

The document was apparently drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers—not an authorised or official body—after the disturbances that occurred in Brixton, Bristol and Toxteth in 1981, and the pages which were released during a recent trial made it clear that officers had been given instructions which laid them open to charges of assault. It is clear from the details that the manoeuvres, with short shields, long shields, horses and truncheons, that it recommends should be deployed are in clear contravention of the rules that have hitherto governed the actions of police forces.

The House will be familiar with the background of the case that I have in mind. It is now over. For the first time, therefore, it can be referred to in the House. Certain persons were charged with riot. Mr. Clements. the deputy chief constable of Yorkshire, said at the beginning of the trial that it was the most serious case of public disorder that he was aware of this century. In the middle of the trial the prosecution offered to drop all the charges if the accused would agree to be bound over to keep the peace. They refused to do so, because they were innocent. Police videos were shown to the jury. They showed that it was a peaceful demonstration until the cavalry charges. The BBC itself had transposed the film to show the missiles were thrown before the charges, whereas the police videos showed that the charges took place before the missiles were thrown.

This manual is a major development in police action. With the long summer ahead of us and with the responsibility of the Home Secretary absolutely manifest, his Department having approved the manual, I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to allow the Adjournment motion in order that the House can discuss the matter before the recess.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the contents of the Public Order Tactical Options Manual drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers."
I have listened with great care, and in no way do I underestimate what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I regret that I have to give him the same answer as I gave to his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I do not consider the matter that he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10, and I cannot therefore submit his application to the House. However, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will find other ways of bringing the matter before the House before we rise for the summer recess.

I am not questioning your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I am asking for your consent to do something which requires your consent. Hon. Members are unable to place documents in the Library of the House without the consent of the Speaker. though Ministers can.

I have checked this, Mr. Speaker. I would ask that you should give your consent that the documents released at the trial relating to the police manual should be placed in the Library of the House so that they can be properly and formally published.

If that is within my responsibility, it seems to me to be a very reasonable request.