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Thursday, January 21, 1999 Published at 14:48 GMT


UK Politics

Protesters ejected from Commons

A new way to get your message across

Protesters against UK arms sales to Indonesia found a novel way of distributing their campaign literature to politicians on Thursday: showering it onto their heads from the public gallery of the House of Commons.

Two men threw leaflets and marked fake money into the Commons chamber as Tory MP Peter Luff was asking a question relating to the defence industry. The pair were quickly ejected by doorkeepers.

They had started their unusual lobby of MPs by shouting: "The British defence industry is a disgrace. We want a debate. Arms embargo now!"

As doorkeepers moved towards them, the men threw paper darts made out of press releases from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and a bundle of photocopies of five pound notes marked with red ink, representing "blood money", into the chamber below.

The papers continued fluttering down to the floor as Commons Leader Margaret Beckett rose to answer Mr Luff's question.

Defence industry query

Mr Luff had asked Mrs Beckett during questions on forthcoming parliamentary business to find time for an early debate on the defence industry, referring to British Aerospace's multi-million purchase of GEC's Marconi defence business.

Continuing his comments despite the shouting from the gallery, the Tory MP said he was disappointed with Prime Minister Tony Blair's comments on Wednesday reflecting support for European defence restructuring.

"It seems to suggest that he is going to give primacy to European rather than British interests in the restructuring of the defence industry.

"Such a debate will enable this side of the House at least to express its deep concern about the implications of that approach."

As the demonstration continued, Mrs Beckett replied she could not find time for such a debate, defended Mr Blair's comments and said she did not share Mr Luff's view.

By the time she sat down, the floor of the chamber was littered with the phoney cash and literature deposited by the protesters.

Their campaign calls on the government to implement an arms embargo against Indonesia over human rights abuses. It highlighted the confirmation recently uncovered by the comedian Mark Thomas from the Indonesian army that it was using UK equipment in pursuing the occupation of East Timor.

Commons custody officer Sergeant Hugh Jones later said the two men - named by CAAT as Gideon Burrows and Martin Hogbin - were being detained at the House. The Serjeant at Arms, Peter Jennings, would investigate and the men could be transferred to Charing Cross Police Station if necessary.





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