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Rules on Marches and Demonstrations

Volume 592: debated on Thursday 12 February 2015

The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the threshold to ban marches and demonstrations is currently measured in terms of public safety, not economic impact; further that there are currently no restrictions on the frequency, location, time and date of marches; further that the Petitioners believe that marches and demonstrations are having an impact on the lives and trades of residents in Rotherham; further that the Police and local council in Rotherham have tried their best to minimise the disruption to traders in Rotherham of marches and demonstrations to ensure that businesses stay open; further that when marches and demonstrations occur in Rotherham significant parts of the town have to close; further that the Petitioners believe such protests and marches are having a devastating impact on local communities; and further that a local petition in Rotherham on this subject has received nearly 300 signatures.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consider the rules regarding marches and demonstrations, including looking specifically at the thresholds that are used to ban marches and demonstrations so that they include a provision to consider the economic impact of such marches as well as looking at the restrictions that are in place on the frequency, location, time or date of marches and demonstrations.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sarah Champion, Official Report, 21 January 2015; Vol. 591, c. 334.]

[P001425]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Government recognise the concerns raised about the impact of recent protests in Rotherham.

This country has a longstanding tradition of giving people the freedom to gather together and to demonstrate, provided that they do so within the law. A balance has to be struck between protecting the rights of businesses undertaking lawful activities, the rights of residents to go about their business without fear of intimidation, and the rights of protesters.

The management of protests and demonstrations is an operational matter for the police, who work with local partners to reduce the impact of disruptive protests on the community. The Public Order Act 1986 provides the police with a range of powers to deal with marches and static protests. Under section 12 and section 14 of the Act, chief officers may impose conditions on marches and static protests to prevent serious public disorder, serious damage to property, serious disruption to the life of the community, or intimidation. Under section 14 the conditions can relate to the location of the protest, the maximum duration, and the maximum number of participants. Under section 13 of the Act, if the police assess a march will cause serious public disorder, despite conditions being set, the police can apply to the local authority for an order banning all marches in a district for up to 3 months. The banning order can only be made with the Home Secretary’s approval.

The Government keep the public order legislation under review to ensure its effectiveness.