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Conservative Party Conference Incident

Volume 414: debated on Thursday 30 October 1980

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3.14 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether their attention has been drawn to a report in The Times of 11th October of proceedings at the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton on 10th October and in particular to that part which reads "one young man near me was being dragged from the hall unconscious after a pounding on the floor of the centre aisle by security men in plain clothes and some Conservatives, including women"; whether they have called for a report from the chief constable of Sussex on this incident; and whether proceedings are contemplated to uphold the rule of law.

My Lords, I understand that on two separate occasions on the afternoon of 10th October the proceedings at the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton were interrupted by a protester. In each case the man concerned was first approached by the conference stewards and was then escorted from the hall by plain clothes police. Both men were released later that day, and no complaint of assault has been made by either of them.

But, my Lords, is the noble Lord aware that Mr. Fred Emery, who was the reporter in this case—a most reputable reporter on the staff of The Times—was sitting only a few yards away from where the particular incident took place and that there is no reason to doubt the veracity of this report? Is he further aware that the young man concerned, a Mr. Michael Carver, who is 5 feet 6 inches high and of only slight build, was carried from the hall unconscious, awoke in a police cell and was arrested without any charge being preferred against him? Is the noble Lord further aware that Mr. Carver was detained in the Royal Sussex Hospital overnight in order that his condition could be checked?

My Lords, all I can say is that the information which the noble Lord has is not the same information as I have. I understand that neither of the protesters was unconscious when escorted from the hall and neither has complained of an assault.

My Lords, if I were to table a Question to my noble friend embodying press reports of the proceedings at the Labour Party Conference, would my noble friend institute the necessary proceedings under the Mental Health Act?

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that Mr. Fred Emery is the political editor of The Times and he has submitted this statement of what he saw—a quite appalling statement and one that it would be impossible for Mr. Emery to make unless he had seen the things he says he observed? Is the noble Lord now saying, apart from making jokes about the Labour Party Conference, that they have made no attempt to find out who gave the order for this man's arrest? Were the police to whom the noble Lord referred in his original Answer in fact official police officers? Because another reporter has said that they were hired security agents.

My Lords, this is a very serious matter, and it should be treated seriously.

My Lords, I really do ask the noble Lord to get on and ask his question, please.

As it is the Leader of the House, yes; but I will also raise the matter in debate in those circumstances. That is my question.

My Lords, if I may reply to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hale, the answer is that we have been in contact with the Sussex police about these incidents and it was on the results of that contact that my replies to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, were based.

My Lords, the obvious thing to do on being asked a Question of this kind was to get in touch with the people who escorted the two young men from the hall. They were the Sussex police, and it is upon that contact that my replies this afternoon have been based.