House of Lords block government’s ‘draconian’ protest crackdown

House of Lords blocks government’s protest crackdown

The government’s plans to introduce new laws to contain protests have been halted after the House of Lords voted down a number of controversial measures.

The measures in the Police Bill were introduced after the disruption caused by groups like Insulate Britain.

The Lords rejected the bill because of several controversial proposed powers including:

  • Allowing police officers to stop and search anyone at a protest “without suspicion” for items used to prevent a person being moved, known as “locking-on”.
  • Giving courts the power to ban people with a history of causing disruption from attending certain protests.
  • Making it an offence for a person to disrupt the operation of key national infrastructure, such as an airport and newspaper printers.

Peers also blocked the imposition of tougher sentences for blocking all roads to just a highway to major routes and motorways.

Powers to impose conditions on demonstrations judged too noisy were also blocked by 261 votes to 166.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC Radio 4 that measures against noisy protests would “absolutely” be reintroduced to the Commons.

Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb said: “These are draconian laws that are a wider assault on our democracy.”

Meanwhile, Independent crossbencher and prominent QC Lord Carlile of Berriew, said:  “The dilution of without-suspicion stop and search powers is a menacing and dangerous measure.”

Lords were particularly aggrieved that some of these measures were implemented without the acknowledgement of the House of Commons but were instead added in at a late stage of the process.

Labour frontbencher Lord Rosser called it an “outrageous way to legislate” adding: “We cannot support any of these last-minute, rushed and ill-thought-through broad powers… with the exception of approving the increased sentences for wilfully obstructing motorways and major roads.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel voiced her displeasure at the results on Twitter, saying: “Last night Labour blocked the Government from introducing new measures to stop Insulate Britain & XR [Extinction Rebellion] bringing our country to a standstill.”

“Once again Labour’s actions are proving they are not on the side of the law-abiding majority – instead choosing to defend vandals and thugs,” she added.

The bill will now return to the Commons following revisions and recommendations from the House of Lords.

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