Peers have defied for a second time the government’s plans to give the police powers to shut down ‘noisy’ protests.
Continuing their stand-off with ministers over the matter, the House of Lords once again rejected the move in the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would give officers the ability to clampdown on protest marches judged to be “too noisy”.
MPs reinstated the proposals after peers originally voted them down in January, to the sound of drumming from protesters outside Parliament.
But today, the House of Lords voted once again for the controversial curbs to be removed from legislation by 208 votes to 166 – a majority of 42 votes.
A short time later, peers inflicted a further defeat on the government in backing a move to remove the “noise trigger” for public assemblies and preventing an expansion of police powers for such gatherings by 190 votes to 175 – a majority of 15 votes.
Ministers say Bill will help keep people safe
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a near 300-page piece of proposed legislation covering the government’s flagship crime and justice plans.
Ukraine war: Fleeing refugees with passports can apply for digital visas to come to the UK, Priti Patel confirms
Ukraine war: Families tired and frustrated with UK visa system for refugees say it is ‘next to worthless’
Ukraine invasion: ‘Please help’ – British man appeals for UK visa rules to be relaxed to save family trapped in Ukraine
Among the bill’s many measures are plans to introduce tougher sentences for the worst crimes, while also stopping the automatic early release from prison of serious and violent sexual offenders.
The government suffered a number of defeats with regards to the bill on Tuesday.
Peers also defied the government in pressing their demand enabling search and seizure powers to be given to food crime investigators.
They also defeated the government in giving their backing to proposals which would make “intimidatory offences aggravated by sex or gender” a crime.
The bill will later return to the Commons as the two chambers continue to hash out a final version of the bill in what is known as ‘parliamentary ping-pong’.
Critics say it limits an individual’s right to protest
The legislation, which passed its initial hurdles in the Commons last year, led to widespread ‘Kill the Bill’ protests over concerns regarding its impact on protests.
According to the original text, police would be given powers to shut down demonstrations if the actions of those involved caused “serious annoyance”.
When the bill was first published, Amnesty UK warned the legislation represented an “enormous and unprecedented extension of policing powers”, giving authorities the power “to effectively ban peaceful protests should they see fit”.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) also published a report raising concerns about the bill, namely that it would curtail an individual’s right to protest.
The JCHR said the proposed curbs placed on demonstrations in the bill would restrict peaceful protest in a way that is inconsistent with human rights.
It added that the proposed rule allowing the police to put conditions on protests based on how noisy they are is neither “necessary nor proportionate”.
Bill to go back to the Commons once more
Labour MP Harriet Harman previously called for the right to protest peacefully to be “given explicit statutory protection”.
“Noisy protests are the exercises of the lungs of a healthy democracy. They should not be treated as an inconvenience by those in power,” she said.
Ahead of the plans to give officers the powers to stop “noisy” protests being first voted down by peers, demonstrations took place in numerous cities, including London, Bristol, Coventry, Newcastle, Liverpool. Manchester, Sheffield and Plymouth against the measure.
Activists described the move as a “draconian crackdown” on the right to protest.
The Home Office has maintained that the bill contains measures that are “in line with human rights legislation”.
Ministers have said the “tough” legislation will help keep people safe and contains vital reforms.