When the Home Secretary’s statement on last week’s student protests was repeated today in the House of Lords by the Leader of the House, Lord Strathclyde, I asked about the fencing around Parliament Square, which was pulled up and used to attack police officers, and about the failure to board up statues (as has happened on previous occasions when there have been big demonstrations).

This was the exchange:

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and it would therefore probably be inappropriate for me to ask any questions about the detailed policing arrangements. The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, raised the issue of the tented community opposite the Houses of Parliament and I would also like to ask about Parliament Square. I believe that the arrangements for who is in charge of what in Parliament Square are immensely complicated, but my understanding is that the grassed area in particular is the responsibility of the Mayor of London, and I assume therefore that the fences surrounding the grassed area are the mayor’s responsibility as well. It was those fences which were broken down and used as weapons against the police. Given that for previous demonstrations the statues in the square were boarded up—particularly the statue of Sir Winston Churchill—I was surprised that that was not done on this occasion. What representations have the Government made to the Mayor of London about his stewardship of Parliament Square under such circumstances?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I think that responsibility for Parliament Square was handed over to the GLA when it was set up, and therefore to the Mayor of London, so I can confirm that there is a confusing and sometimes disjointed ownership of different parts of the square. The grass is the responsibility of the mayor and the GLA, while the pavements are the responsibility of Westminster City Council. I can also confirm that the fences were therefore the responsibility of the GLA. The noble Lord might well ask why other precautions were not taken to protect the statues or to firm up the fences, but these are precisely the questions that not only the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police but also his commanders on the ground will be posing. No doubt we will learn lessons from that.”

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Mayor Boris Johnson should have done more.  Another example of needing to get a grip on the details?

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