Unions 'should help clean-up costs'

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London Mayor Boris Johnson was embroiled in a row with unions today after suggesting that organisers of Saturday's huge TUC march against spending cuts should contribute towards the cost of clearing up the damage caused by trouble-makers not connected to the protest.

Mr Johnson backed the Metropolitan Police's handling of the peaceful TUC march, attended by up to half a million public sector workers and other campaigners, as well as the violence which broke out in Oxford Street and Piccadilly.

He said: "I think it's very disappointing that a legitimate march that had the support of hundreds of thousands of people was really spoilt by the actions of a tiny minority.

"When you look at what the police had to do, coping with the aggression that they faced from people in Piccadilly and elsewhere, I think they did a very good job in tough circumstances.

"There is a balance to be struck between really heavy-handed restraint of protesters and being too lax and I think they got that balance right.

"Obviously there has been damage to property and it would be a wonderful thing, frankly, if the organisers of the march would contribute to the costs of clearing it up."

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "Boris Johnson is right to say that the violence on Saturday had nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters on the TUC march.

"It is therefore ridiculous to suggest that the TUC should pay towards the clean-up operation. Will he ask the Queen and Prince Philip to chip in if there is violence on the royal wedding day?"

TUC head of campaigns Nigel Stanley said: "The Metropolitan Police have made absolutely clear that the violence and vandalism on Saturday had nothing to do with the TUC or our supporters.

"Indeed our stewards were also subject to attack by the very small minority who tried to hijack our event.

"It is disappointing that the mayor can't tell the difference between the near half-million peaceful TUC demonstrators and the tiny number of trouble makers for whom we have no responsibility."

The mayor added that police will use "all reasonable means" to prevent similar scenes at the royal wedding next month, adding: "I just want to make it clear that it is absolutely incomprehensible if people were to seek to destruct the royal wedding. I think people really wouldn't forgive or understand that kind of behaviour.

"We are looking at all the intelligence we are getting and will be talking to the police over the next few days to see what's coming in, and I can assure people that the police are prepared to use all reasonable means to make sure that the royal wedding goes off brilliantly well and we don't see that kind of bad behaviour."