Thank you for contacting me about measures in the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is in its final stages in Parliament.
Relating to protests, I believe these measures are ill-judged, ill-thought-out and nothing short of a curtailment of our rights; their passage into law would be a profound mistake. During consideration of the Bill in the House of Commons last year, I voted for an amendment that would have removed the measures relating to protests. Unfortunately, the Government successfully blocked the amendment by 354 to 273 votes.
We already have the Public Order Act 1986, along with other existing powers, to police protests. I think these strike a careful balance between the legitimate right to peacefully protests and the need to keep order. The right to protest is extremely precious and one of our proudest democratic traditions. It is only right that our laws do not, and should never, seek to shield those in power from public criticism and public protest.
As you know, the Government tabled last-minute amendments to the Bill in the House of Lords that were so broad they would even allow people walking past a peaceful protest to be stopped and searched. I am pleased that Opposition peers were successful in removing these last-minute amendments from the Bill and it was striking how few Government peers turned up to defend them. As these amendments were tabled in the House of Lords and defeated in the House of Lords, they cannot be added back into the Bill.
However, unfortunately, the Government was able to add restrictions relating to the “noise generated” by protests back into the Bill, despite their removal by the House of Lords. These restrictions have now been defined further.
It is disappointing that the Government has undermined many of the good measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill by coupling them up with divisive and draconian measures such as those relating to protests. I believe tackling crime and violence against women should be the focus of this Bill and I will continue to argue for a better approach.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue.