What’s Going On Here?
The government’s “highly oppressive” plans to suppress disruptive protests were met with a string of defeats in the House of Lords on Monday – some good news for Kill the Bill campaigners and eco activists.
The government’s proposed changes to the police and crime bill, were a response to climate protests from Insulate Britain. The group had blocked highways in 2021 as a tactic to bring about more urgent action on the climate crisis.
What Does This Mean?
The defeated measures include criminalising “locking on”, a tactic protesters use to make it difficult to move them, and making it an offence to disrupt roads and railways.
Peers also voted against a measure that would allow police to stop and search anyone at a protest “without suspicion”. Another plan peers stripped out would have banned people with a history of causing serious disruption from joining certain protests.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, introduced the amendments to the bill in the autumn after last year’s climate protest disruption.
But because her changes were brought to the House of Lords after the bill had already gone through the House of Commons, they can’t now be brought back to MPs.
That means ministers will have to write up new legislation if they want to pursue Patel’s proposals.
Why Should We Care?
The government’s most draconian plans for clamping down on protests may be on hold – but it’s not over yet for environmental campaigners.
While Priti Patel’s amendments were voted down, the bill is expected go back and forth between the Lords and Commons until a final form is agreed by the end of the current parliamentary session.
And deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has suggested the government would not let go of the harsher measures.
Asked if plans to clampdown on disruptive protests would be put to MPs again, Raab told the BBC: “We’ll look very carefully at all of that, but, yes, absolutely.
“In relation to noise, of course we support the right of peaceful and rambunctious protest, but it cannot be allowed to interfere with the lives of the law-abiding majority.”
If the government does pursue the measures further, it would have significant impact on eco activists’ rights to protest for greater climate action.
For more detail on the bill, have a read of Jessica Kleczka’s blog post from earlier this month.
Tell your MP your views on the bill and how you’d like them to respond if further draconion measures are pursued.
This article was amended on 21 January to make it clear that the government’s voted down plans to suppress disruptive protests may be reintroduced.