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Kingsnorth Climate Camp (Policing)

Volume 495: debated on Monday 6 July 2009

1. What recent representations he has received on the policing of the Kingsnorth climate camp in August 2008. (283784)

The Home Office has received a number of items of parliamentary and public correspondence relating to the policing tactics employed at Kingsnorth climate camp in August 2008.

My constituents, James Chan, Stephen Halpin and Sunil Bhopal, attended the Kingsnorth camp and report that the police played music between 5 and 6 am, and prevented water and food from getting into the camp. Does the Minister think that that is acceptable policing, and will he tell the House what lessons have been learned from that as we look forward to the climate change camps this summer?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising those points. He will know that the National Policing Improvement Agency, Kent police and the inspectorate of constabulary have looked at these issues. I am shortly expecting some reports on how policing was undertaken at the camps. It is important to recognise that the Government and the police are committed to allowing peaceful protest, and that we take the concerns that have been raised about some issues at the climate camp extremely seriously. I will receive shortly, and will publish for the House, reports on those issues, and I will look at what lessons can be learned.

Has the Minister had the opportunity to read the Home Affairs Committee’s report on the Kingsnorth camp and the G20 protests, in which we made specific recommendations about the tactic of kettling? Do the Government have a position on the use of kettling as a tactic by the police in policing protests? If not, when will the Government be in a position to give us their views?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his report, which will be a good contribution to the debate on policing tactics. He will know that as early as tomorrow we are expecting a general report from the inspectorate of constabulary and Denis O’Connor on the protests at the G20 and some general issues. I want to reflect on that report and to respond in due course about the tactics that were used. I will consider those issues and respond to my right hon. Friend and the Committee’s report in short order.

There appears to be a repeating pattern at protests, including the Kingsnorth climate camp, of some police officers failing to wear their identifying numerals. We saw that at the Countryside Alliance protests in 2004, again at the G20 protests—despite the assurances of senior officers beforehand—and, astonishingly, again at the Tamil protest in Parliament square just a day after the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had made it clear that that practice was unacceptable. What are Ministers doing to ensure that some police officers do not tar the reputation of the vast majority who are disciplined, public-spirited and unashamed to be identified as citizens in uniform?

I regard it as a matter of course that police officers should be able to be identified in whatever activity they undertake, and that will be one of the issues that we consider in relation to the policing of this protest and others. We are expecting a report shortly, as I have said, and I raised in a letter to Kent police of 24 June the need for me to see their report of the incidents at Kingsnorth. I have had an assurance from the chief constable, Michael Fuller, in a letter dated 3 July that he intends to publish the report on the incidents. I want to obtain the facts, look at the issues and ensure that the lessons are learned.