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Public Order Bill

Volume 826: debated on Tuesday 13 December 2022

Committee (3rd Day)

Relevant document: 17th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee

My Lords, with the leave of the Committee, we told the Government Whips that I was going to intervene at this stage.

I wish to put on record the apology I gave in person and in writing to the Minister for suggesting at col. 1345 on 22 November that what he had said about the stop and search powers in the Bill not being exercisable unless an officer is in uniform was not true. I have read the Official Report, and it appears I became somewhat confused—probably after three hours on buffer zones.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, expressed concerns about the new offence of obstructing a police officer in the exercise of the new stop and search powers in the Bill, with reference to the Sarah Everard murder and police advice to challenge any officer who detained a lone woman, and whether such advice would amount to an offence under the Bill. In answer, the Minister said the power extends only to police officers in uniform, which I mistakenly took to mean both suspicion-led and suspicionless stop and search powers in the Bill. At that point the Minister was talking about the stop and search power without suspicion, which is restricted to uniformed officers only.

Although I was correct in my assertion that the suspicion-led power could be carried out by officers in plain clothes, the new offence of obstructing an officer applies only when the officer is exercising the proposed new suspicionless power to stop and search, for which he has to be in uniform. Nevertheless, my understanding is that Sarah Everard’s murderer was in police uniform when he detained her, so the concerns that other noble Lords had about a lone woman resisting an officer exercising the new power to stop and search without suspicion, following police advice in the wake of Sarah Everard, remains.

However, I undertook to apologise to the Committee if I had misled noble Lords by suggesting that what the Minister said about officers having to be in uniform to exercise stop and search powers under the Bill was not true. When, in relation to the power the Minister was speaking about at that moment, he said:

“This power only extends to those in uniform”,—[Official Report, 22/11/22; col. 1342.]

it was true. I therefore apologise for unintentionally misleading the Committee.

Amendment 117

Moved by

117: After Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—

“Protection for journalists and others monitoring protestsA constable may not exercise any police power for the principal purpose of preventing a person from observing, recording, or otherwise reporting on the exercise of police powers in relation to—(a) a protest-related offence,(b) a protest-related breach of an injunction, or(c) activities related to a protest.”Member’s explanatory statement

This new Clause would protect journalists, legal observers, academics, and bystanders who monitor or record the police’s use of powers related to protests.

I am delighted to move Amendment 117 and very grateful to be standing alongside the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I will also speak to the revised Amendment 127A in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. I thank the lawyers at Justice for their technical help with this speech, particularly Tyrone Steele.

These amendments seek to grant fuller protections to all those covering protests and reporting on the exercise of police powers in that context. I am completely confident that all noble Lords recognise the vital importance of journalists, legal observers and indeed the general public in being able to observe, report on and scrutinise what happens at protests and the actions of not only the protesters but, possibly, the police.

As many noble Lords will know, I have deep and vested interests in these amendments. I became a journalist more or less by accident at the age of 19. My first piece was on the left-handed shop in Beak Street for Time Out and was all of 189 words long. It was hardly earth shattering, but it did tell left-handed people where to buy a pair of scissors.

Trying to report stories and find out things that many people do not want known has been the whole obsession of my life. My second and third jobs were on an alternative newspaper and then on Spare Rib. Indeed, my second-ever piece was a report on an anti-Vietnam demonstration in the capital. I can confess quite freely that I was totally terrified to be in the middle of that demonstration, but I was not displeased to be part of it and I was very pleased to be able to go back and write about it. On Spare Rib we both marched and wrote about marching. We protested for equal pay, rights to abortion and rights to childcare, but we reported it; we were allowed to be there and to write about it.

In my long journalistic career, I have edited many magazines and written for more. I have edited three national newspapers and, again, written for many more. I have publicised protests, including many that I vehemently do not agree with, because they are not only important events; they are about people doing something that matters a great deal to them and worth taking to the streets for—or even trying to climb Nelson’s Column. People are on the streets because they do not know what else to do to make their voice heard and they have exhausted such routes as writing letters to MPs, Members of the House of Lords or, indeed, newspapers such as mine.

I have also sent reporters to countries where repressive regimes lock up journalists who are covering protests—think of the Arab spring, Myanmar and Hong Kong. As my friend and mentor, the late war reporter Martha Gellhorn, said, journalism is about bearing witness. We go to bring back the news, whether it is happening on the streets of Cairo or on the M25, to tell all of us, through words, images and sounds, what we have seen, what people are doing and what they care about. Journalists risk life and limb to do so. But, over my half-century in this profession, I have always believed that, at least in this country, we were able to go to a demonstration and then go back to our office and write about it. I also knew that, if a protest got too out of hand, plenty of laws were in place to deal with this—but never was a journalist told that they could not report on a story.

The arrest of Charlotte Lynch, the woman from LBC held for five hours for reporting on a Just Stop Oil protest —more about her later—has been referred to many times in this debate, but her story is extremely important. For me, it was as though one of the pillars of our democratic society had been kicked out from under my feet. She was held in a cell for five hours for reporting on a protest. It was peaceful, however bloody annoying people might find Just Stop Oil. Quite frankly, if a protest does not annoy someone, what is the point of it?

Sadly, I was wrong: this was not the first, and there had been previous attempts to curtail the reporting of protests. At 3.40 am on 30 November 1983, during strikes at the Messenger printers in Warrington, the police demanded that the television crews covering the dispute turned off the lights. After they complied, the police proceeded to charge at the picketers under the cover of darkness. In the words of Colin Bourne, the NUJ’s northern organiser,

“police were running up to them and kicking them and hitting them with their batons”.

It was reported that two police Range Rovers drove into the pickets. Today, with the vast majority of the public possessing smartphones equipped with high-quality cameras, it is thankfully much harder for abuse like that to go uncovered.

Last year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport held a call for evidence on journalists’ safety, and there were masses of respondents. One said that the police themselves contributed to threats or abuse towards journalists, which included physically restricting access to spaces and arresting journalists. As I said, many noble Lords have referred to Charlotte Lynch, who was arrested while reporting on Just Stop Oil. But, that very same day, two others, Rich Felgate and Tom Bowles, were also detained. Again, they peacefully asserted their status as journalists—they had press cards—but they were held for 13 hours.

Back in August, another journalist, Peter Macdiarmid, was also arrested and taken in a police van to Redhill police station. He has notably covered several historic, monumental events, such as the Arab spring, refugees fleeing Iraq during the first Gulf War, Black Lives Matter and the London riots. The award-winning reporter told the Evening Standard:

“It’s the first time I’ve been in cuffs in the 35 years I have covered protests.”

Something is fundamentally wrong with our justice system if police feel so empowered, under the vast array of existing legislation, to arrest and detain journalists first and ask the questions—or worse—later, ignoring the fact that they are from the press. Last week, the Minister said that the issue lies with the training of the police. I am afraid that that is an inadequate solution for the current situation, and it is no remedy for what the Government propose, in terms of expanding the powers in the Bill.

The Bill contains a vast array of measures that could severely and detrimentally impact journalists just doing their jobs. The offence of being “equipped for locking on” is so broad in its ingredients that an individual would only have to be carrying an object with the intention that it may be used. Taking a photo of someone who is locking on could inadvertently fall foul of this because the camera could feasibly constitute such an object.

Journalists are no safer with respect to offences covering the obstruction of “key national infrastructure” and “transport works” or

“causing serious disruption by being present in a tunnel”.

On the latter, the BBC has reported from the tunnelling sites and even filmed the equipment and protesters inside the tunnels dug to disrupt the construction of HS2. The offence is engaged if you are “reckless” as to whether your presence will have the consequence of causing serious disruption.

Moreover, there is no explicit exemption for journalists. The only protection is the reasonable excuse. But as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said in Committee, since a defence is available only after arrest, journalists

“are still faced with the possibility of being arrested and detained for five hours by the police … It seems an onerous experience for a completely innocent person to go through”—[Official Report, 16/11/22; col. 948.]

The proposed, highly expansive stop and search powers would also offer journalists no relief from obstruction in performing their work. An officer who reasonably believes that an individual is carrying a prohibited object can conduct a suspicionless search. What worries me is the number of things—cameras, clipboards, microphones —that could conceivably constitute a prohibited object for use in connection with a protest. This would stifle the legitimate work of journalists and observers who monitor police powers.

Finally, I should mention the most invidious new tool that the Bill proposes—that of serious disruption prevention orders, which many have dubbed the protest banning orders. Under Clause 20, the police could apply to a magistrates’ court to impose one of these orders on an individual without a conviction, including journalists, where they have, on two occasions in the past, I hear, merely

“contributed to the carrying out by any other person of activities related to a protest that resulted in, or were likely to result in, serious disruption to two or more individuals”.

A court could use the civil standard of proof, and if a journalist has been to cover a protest, they will inevitably have racked up more than two events in five years. They might rack up two events in a week at the moment. If a journalist covers a protest, it is foreseeable that this coverage itself could contribute to protest-related activities. If imposed, a protest banning order could last for up to two years, be renewed and result in journalists being banned from attending protests, restrictions on their internet usage, potential ankle-tagging and, of course, if in breach, imprisonment.

We have established two important truths. First, the existing legal framework does not adequately protect journalists and others observing protests from spurious or speculative arrest. Secondly, the Bill’s new offences and powers would make the situation all the more perilous. So I urge the Government to support this amendment, which would protect journalists, legal observers, academics and bystanders. Without this clause, this Bill could lead to a further increase in the arrests of those who cover or happen upon live protest sites. The enormous chilling effect on reporters and observers as a whole, who may consequently be afraid to continue their work, cannot be discounted. This is because there is no explicit provision in the Bill where existing legislation protects them prior to arrest. A reasonable excuse defence, absent from protest banning orders and available with respect to the other offences only once the individual has been arrested and detained and charged, simply does not cut it.

I strongly urge the Government to accept this amendment, which provides holistic protections to ensure that journalists, observers and bystanders continue to have access to protest sites in order to report on what happens and to monitor police powers. It is an essential part of our democracy. I beg to move.

The Committee will imagine the daunting privilege of attempting to follow that speech from one of the most senior journalists—and indeed one of the greatest environmentalists—in the Committee and your Lordships’ House. I want to speak briefly to explain why we have Amendments 117 and 127A. The reason is my poor draftsmanship when we conceived Amendment 117, for which I apologise. Amendment 127A is an improvement on Amendment 117 because of a defect that was pointed out to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. Amendment 117 had protected journalists who were covering the policing of protests only, and, of course, we need to protect journalists who are covering protests as well as the policing thereof.

I would also like to take this opportunity to reassure the Minister that, notwithstanding my fundamental concerns about the Bill as a whole, and significant provisions within it, this journalistic protection in Amendment 127A—I am grateful to the other co-signatories and supporters across the House for understanding this too—notwithstanding our fundamental objections to various provisions that the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, referred to, would not in any way wreck those provisions, objectionable though they may be for my part. All Amendment 127A would do is protect journalists where any police power, not just the police powers in this Bill but police powers more generally, are being used for the principal purpose of preventing their reporting.

I know that it is very hard in Committee to persuade a Minister to think again, but this is not a request to think again about the Bill in sum or in part; this is requesting a protection for journalists that is required in relation to even the police powers that currently stand. In the case of Charlotte Lynch, and other cases to which the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, referred, journalists were arrested and detained under public order powers as they currently stand—not even the broader, blank-cheque powers to come.

So I hope that, in this Committee, those in the Box, and noble Lords and Ministers, will take pause for thought and think about whether we need a protection against current public order powers, and any to come, to ensure that the police are not using them to arrest journalists because they think that the reporting of protests per se gives the oxygen of publicity to protest and so on. Day after day, at Question Time in particular, Foreign Office Ministers stand at the Dispatch Box and—rightly and sincerely, in my view—criticise attacks on journalistic freedom across the globe. I think something like Amendment 127A would be a very important statement, putting that sincerity of Foreign Office Ministers into law in the home department.

So, I hope that noble Lords, Ministers, and Members of the whole Committee will really reflect on the noble Baroness’s speech.

My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee. I want to ask the Government to listen very carefully to this discussion. We have a very real issue when really serious matters, which threaten all of us, do not appear to some of us to be properly addressed. That is a very serious matter for any democracy, and those of us who are democrats do have to stand up for the rule of law and do have to say that extreme actions cannot be accepted.

But it has a second effect too, and that is that we have to be extremely careful about the way in which we deal with those extreme actions. I do beg the Government to take very seriously the fact that these extreme actions will continue, because people are more and more worried about the existential threat of climate change. The Climate Change Committee spends a great deal of its time trying to ensure that there is a democratic and sensible programme to reach an end that will protect us from the immediate effects of climate change, which we cannot change, and, in the longer term, begin to turn the tables on what we as human beings have caused.

It is not always easy to do that in the light of others who are desperate that we should move faster and that we should do more; who are desperate because they are seriously frightened and are not sure that those who are in charge have really got the urgency of the situation.

It is very difficult to imagine that we are not going to have to cope with the uprising of real anger on this subject. As a democrat, I want us to cope. As a parliamentarian, I want us to be able to deal with these issues and ensure that the public are not threatened. I echo the Deputy Chancellor of Germany, a Green Member of Parliament, who makes it absolutely clear that the kinds of actions we have seen in this country from Extinction Rebellion and similar things in Germany are not acceptable in a democracy.

The other side of that argument is that we have got to be extremely careful about the way in which we enforce the law and how we deal with this issue. Journalists play the key part in this. They must be there to report on what happens. It is in our interest as democrats that that happens. If they are not there and cannot say what needs to be said without fear or favour, none of us can stand up and deal with the arguments of those who argue that democracy does not work and that somehow they have to impose their will.

I want the Government to recognise the importance of this. In this country, a journalist must have access without fear or favour. The police must not treat them in a way that has happened again and again, and which must stop happening. As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, it is not happening because of what is in this Bill, which in general I do not have an objection to; it is what happens in any case. The fact that the police could hold a journalist for five hours knowing that they were a journalist is utterly unacceptable. You cannot do that in a democracy—and nor can we talk to other countries about these things if that happens here and we do not do something to enshrine in law the fact that it should not.

Earlier, I had to deal with the question of not opening coal mines in order to be able to stand up in the world and show that we too will carry out what we ask other countries to do. This is another, even more serious, case of that. We cannot talk about repression if we in this country can be shown not to have protected journalists in these circumstances.

It is a terribly simple matter. We must put on the face of the Bill, referring to all actions, that journalists should be in the position that the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, suggests. It may be that her amendments could be better done; it may be that the Government have a different way of doing it. The only thing that I ask, in order to protect democracy and ourselves—those of us who are moderates and believe in the rule of law—is that we need to have this assertion.

What great speeches; I am almost embarrassed to follow them. I support Amendments 117 and 127A. I wish I had signed Amendment 127A. I speak as the mother of a journalist and as somebody who had misfortune to be on a panel with the PCC for Herts Police—the force that arrested the journalist and the cameraman. His name is David Lloyd. He was saying “Yes, yes, yes, I’m all in favour of free speech, but the media have to be careful that they are not inciting these protests”. I pointed out that that was free speech on his terms, which is not actually free speech.

These amendments are crucial. I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that if the Government do not want to accept any of them, they could probably accept Amendment 127A without too much pain. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, said that you cannot do this in a democracy, but actually the police did do it. They thought that perhaps they could get away with it, and that has happened before. So we really have to send out a signal that this must not happen.

It is crucial for people to be able to observe protests and see that the police and protesters are behaving properly and not inciting violence. Legal observers from organisations such as Green and Black Cross document police actions against protesters and provide support during any legal proceedings that follow. That is an incredibly important role. We need statutory protections to prevent police from harassing and arresting journalists, legal observers and others. This is extremely important.

My Lords, if I had to choose between the two amendments, I would choose Amendment 127A. It is quite important to understand why it is the better version. It is because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, it not only covers the way the police exercise their powers, which is the main target of Amendment 117, but extends to people who are observing the protest itself. That is a very important and significant extension. The way the protest is proceeding is all part of the background against which the other part of the amendment has to be judged, so the broadening in Amendment 127A is rather important.

Another point worth noting is that neither of these amendments uses the word “journalist” in the main text. That is important too: protection is extended to allow other people, for whatever reason, to carry out the exercises referred to. To narrow this down to journalists, which neither amendment seeks to do, would be a mistake. It has to broadened out in the way that both do.

As I have said, however, my main reason for intervening was to explain why I would choose Amendment 127A if I had to choose between the two amendments.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a series producer making a television series on Ukraine.

I was very moved by the speech of my noble friend Lady Boycott and the dedication to journalism that she has shown. I support both Amendment 117 and Amendment 127A. As a television journalist who has reported on protests across the country and the world, I have experienced protesters being suspicious of journalists for fear that their footage would be used by the police to identify and arrest people at a later date. As a result, I have been attacked by protesters and my cameramen have had their cameras grabbed and attempts made to take the tapes or cards.

In many of these cases, particularly in this country, the police have been there to protect us journalists and allow us to do our work reporting on demonstrations, so I am appalled and surprised to hear from my noble friend Lady Boycott that, in recent years, the police in this country have been arresting journalists for doing their job: filming protests. I thought that ECHR Article 10 on the right to freedom of speech would be incentive enough for the police to leave them alone, but clearly not.

This amendment therefore seems necessary to protect journalists going about their business, reporting on protests and the disruptions that they may cause. The problem is that the powers in Clause 2 on locking on seem to be so broadly drawn. It is one thing to arrest people for locking on, but to arrest someone for carrying an object

“with the intention that it may be used”

in connection with that offence seems to give the police power that cannot be right in a democracy. I fear that the words will give them leeway to stop a journalist who is carrying a camera to film the lock-on. Surely even the threat of this happening cannot be allowed. It will have a chilling effect on free speech.

I understand that the police want to be able to arrest protesters who are locking on and filming themselves while doing it, but the wording in this amendment, that

“A constable may not exercise any police power for the principal purpose of preventing … reporting”,

may be an important protection for camera people and journalists covering protests. It protects bona fide journalists.

Clause 11, allowing

“stop and search without suspicion”

in an area near a protest seems to stand against everything I thought Conservatives represented. I always thought it was a driving force behind Conservatism that they wanted to take the state off the backs of individuals. This clause does the opposite. When I talk to people about the possibility of their being stopped without suspicion just because they unwittingly wandered near to a protest, they are aghast. When this possibility is extended to journalists being stopped for going about their business, the threat against free speech posed by this Bill is compounded.

The Government are usually eager to protect journalists and journalism. I suggest to the Minister that, by accepting this amendment he will be striking an important blow for freedom of speech, which is so sorely missing in much of the Bill.

My Lords, I had no intention of speaking on this amendment, but I feel I must, because my late husband, Philip Bassett, was an industrial journalist who covered many strikes, most significantly, I suppose, given what we are discussing, the miners’ strike, which the whole team of industrial journalists on the Financial Times covered. If this legislation stands the way the Government have drafted it, people like my late husband, and indeed the team with whom he worked, which included the very eminent journalist, John Lloyd, would have been open to prosecution. As it is, for their coverage of the miners’ strike they won journalist of the year.

My Lords, the speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, really was excellent, and I hope it gets a wide hearing beyond this place and the numbers here.

When I have discussed this, I always hear the argument from people who are opposed to Just Stop Oil that the people we are talking about are not real journalists. There is something about the concentration on Charlotte Lynch from LBC that somehow says that the other people who were arrested on the same day did not really count, and I want to address that briefly.

There is no doubt that, when the protests that we are seeing at the moment are so performative, activists may well film what is going on, often because they want records of what they are doing to put out on social media. It is tempting, therefore, to treat them differently from journalists. However, I would urge against that and have argued against that. In the end, who decides who is the journalist and who is not? As the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said, the whole act of bearing witness and truth has nothing to do with views on the protest. Whether you are enthusiastic about the protest or hostile about it is irrelevant to those of us who want to know what has happened on the protest. Sometimes, even activists with a film camera are valuable for truth. The argument that it will incite more protest is misguided, because it treats those who are viewing these films as though they are just automatons who will see them and immediately rush out and protest. You might well see the film intended to illicit your support and think what idiots they are. That is not the point. The truth is what we should be concerned with.

I just say to the Government that I am concerned in particular about the serious disruption prevention orders. I have said throughout the discussions on the Bill that there are so many unintended consequences. I have no doubt that the Government are not intending to use serious disruption prevention orders to stop journalism in its tracks. I think the orders are a terrible blight, by the way, and should be removed from the Bill, but that is not the point I am making. The consequences of them could well be that they thwart journalism. That is the point. I urge the Government to consider that they can support their own Bill and accept these amendments in good faith—I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, explained this well—because they are trying to ensure that what they do not intend to happen, which is that journalistic freedom is compromised, will not happen and that journalists will not get caught up in this. We know that they will. That is the reality. It is a danger and a threat that the Government should get rid of.

My Lords, I have been following this Bill carefully but have not been able to take an active part in it so far. It is difficult not to agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said about the importance of journalism, and I am sure the whole House agrees. I declare an interest as the chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Of course, a good and accurate record or recording of what takes place at a demonstration is important for all parties, whether they be demonstrators, the police or the public. What concerns me a bit about the amendment is what it actually does, apart from sending a very important message. That may be enough; I do not know. It seems to me that in fact it would not be lawful for a constable to arrest anybody anyway for observing, recording or reporting a protest, and nor would the exercise of police powers in relation to those matters or indeed any other matter, but I will listen carefully to what the Minister says.

I would also be grateful for some clarification of how this might interrelate to the reasonable excuse defence that exists in various parts of the Bill. I know that there is some uncertainty at the moment about its scope, where it features in terms of the definition of the offence and whether simply saying—understandably, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said—that this an incredibly serious cause, ie, climate change, and therefore justifies all the potential offences here. This is a fascinating and important amendment, and I seek clarification in due course from the Minister as to its scope.

My Lords, we wholeheartedly support Amendment 117 in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and signed by me for the reason so effectively introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott.

We have seen some very worrying developments. I remember that when I was serving, the police, following criticism, made strenuous efforts to work with journalists, in particular photographers, to ensure that their work was facilitated during protests. A colleague of mine who became chief constable of British Transport Police, Andy Trotter, made great strides in building a good rapport between journalists and the police. Recently, however, there is evidence of disregard for press cards—for example in a briefing from the National Union of Journalists on the arrests of journalists by Hertfordshire Police and other police forces. This seems to be going completely in the opposite direction to the progress made when I was serving.

As others have said, if journalists and photographers are afraid to do their jobs of being at protests and reporting on them, that is very dangerous for our democracy and the right to protest, having a chilling effect, as the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, put it, on journalism in relation to protests.

As other noble Lords, such as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said, it points to the overly wide offences in the other parts of the Bill, for example,

“being present in a tunnel”.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said, journalists have reported from inside these tunnels and could be guilty of those offences. It points not only to the importance of these amendments in protecting journalists but to the overreach of the offences in other parts of the Bill.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, said, Amendment 127A is an important extension of the original Amendment 117, extending the protections beyond journalists to legal observers, academics and even innocent members of the public watching what is happening and recording it on their smartphones.

However, other noble Lords have not mentioned that it is also damaging to the police. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, talked about a dispute where the police asked journalists to turn off their lights and, under cover of the darkness that ensued, engaged in violence towards the protesters. In the situation the police service now faces of ever-diminishing public trust and confidence in it, stories of the police arresting journalists at protests could easily be hijacked and used by anti-police activists further to undermine public trust and confidence in the police.

These are very important amendments, which should give reassurance to journalists and observers of protests. This points out just how bad the Bill is as far as journalists are concerned, as opposed to how bad it is for everybody else who might be subjected to these offences. The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, talked about the reasonable excuse defence. All the reasonable excuse defences in this Bill are post-charge defences and would not prevent journalists and others who have a reasonable excuse being arrested and detained for five hours, as the LBC reporter was. This really highlights the debate we have had today. The dangers this over- reaching, overbroad legislation poses for journalists shine a light on the dangers it poses for protesters generally.

My Lords, it is a privilege to speak to these important amendments in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Jones, my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. The way they spoke to the amendments, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, was not only moving but challenging. I want to say something more generally, as other noble Lords have, about what happened to Charlotte Lynch.

Every now and again, something occurs in our society and our democracy which should act as a wake-up call. We all speak here and say that we are proud of our democracy and of our freedoms and traditions. Of course we are. I do not believe that we live in a totalitarian country, but even in a democracy things occur that are totally unacceptable. Such things require the state to act and respond, require Parliament to take action, and require a Minister of the Crown to look at what has happened, listen to what is being said and respond in the way that the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Jones, my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and the noble Lords, Lord Deben and Lord Paddick, mentioned.

The Minister’s brief will probably say that the amendments are not necessary, that we have ways of dealing with this and that it is an isolated incident that means that no action is required—we can condemn it and say it should not happen, then move on. It is too serious to do that. You cannot do that with certain things that occur. This is not a weakness; it is a strength when a democracy responds in this way. It is a strength when a democracy shines a light on things that have happened. This is not to blame an individual officer or circumstance; it is to say that, for whatever reason, something happened in our democracy—this was about a journalist—and the police operated unacceptably.

That is what the amendments seek to do. They ask the Government, “If these amendments are not the right way of solving the problem, what are you going to do, other than say warm words, to ensure that it will not happen again?” That is what Parliament wants to hear and what all of us here expect from the Government. We do not want a massive condemnation of the country’s police or a massive assertion that every time you go out on a protest, people are arrested. But Charlotte Lynch, as well as the other two that the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, mentioned, Felgate and Bowles, were reporting on a protest and were arrested. That is astonishing. It is incredible, quite frankly, when you go through the actual events. Despite producing a card, they were arrested, handcuffed, taken away and detained for hours.

That cannot just be explained away. How on earth did it happen? Where was the senior officer? Where was the very senior officer? Where was even somebody saying, “Hang on a minute. What is actually going on?” That happened in our country in 2022. Let me repeat: nobody is saying to the Minister that we live in a totalitarian state, but you cannot have a situation like that occurring without the Government of our country responding in a way that is appropriate and reflects the seriousness of it. That is why the amendments have been put forward. I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is right that Amendment 127A is better because it talks about observing as well and has a broader scope, or whether the Government’s lawyers could come forward with an amendment, but something needs to be done that addresses something that has really occurred.

We talk about other countries where this happens, and ask why they do not do something about it. Actually, we need to look in the mirror and reverse it on to ourselves and say, “Why don’t we do something about it?” I repeat, because it is so important, that the Government’s defence mechanism—and I have been in government and know what happens—will be: “It’s a very serious matter, but, of course, it’s not the normal state of affairs.”. That is absolutely not the point.

I was rereading the briefing we have had from the NUJ, from Amnesty and from other people. It is just words sometimes, because words and principles matter. Principles that underpin out democracy are important, particularly when it comes to the freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of journalists, broadcasters or whoever to go and do their business and report on demonstrations or protests. The Government’s own statement on 3 November said:

“Media freedom is an essential part of a healthy information ecosystem. The free flow of independently generated and evidence based information is the scaffolding for building democracy.”

That says it all.

Warm words matter, but so does policy and so does government reaction. It was a terrible situation that occurred with Charlotte Lynch. There are other examples where that has happened, and I cannot finish without responding to my noble friend Lady Symons. I played all sorts of roles during the miners’ strike. I was in Nottinghamshire as a local councillor representing and, by and large, working alongside miners who were on strike in a community where the vast majority were working. People know—and the noble Lord, Lord Murray, will also know the situation in Nottinghamshire with his background—the important role that journalists and broadcasters of all sorts played, including by my noble friend’s late husband, in reporting that. That is the strength of democracy. It is a crucial series of amendments, and if the Government are not prepared to accept what the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, has said, what are they going to do about it?

Before I forget—I just got carried away with my own rhetoric—I want to ask one simple but important question. The Hertfordshire police did an inquiry into what happened in respect of Charlotte Lynch. They published five recommendations on 23 November. Given the importance of this, they made all sorts of recommendations about training and guidance. They also said:

“Hertfordshire Constabulary should consider ensuring that all officers engaged with public order activity complete the NUJ package and identified learning is shared.”

That means shared with other forces across the country. That is really important. If something good can come out of what happened to Charlotte Lynch, surely it is an improvement in police practice. It is also about the Government themselves considering whether something needs to be said in this Public Order Bill that strengthens and underpins the right of journalists to go about their business. Sometimes it is action that is needed as well as warm words.

Before the Minister responds, I have to say that, while I do not often take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker—normally we are on the same side—I am more concerned than he appears to be about what happened in Hertfordshire. That is because, when somebody is arrested and taken to a police station, a sergeant or a custody officer has to satisfy himself or herself that there are grounds to detain that individual. I cannot believe that the journalist did not say to the custody officer, “I’m a journalist”. Yet a sergeant or above—as a custody officer has to be—authorised the detention of that journalist. That does not sound like officers on the front line getting a bit overenthusiastic and not having the right training; that was a sergeant in a controlled environment who was not at the scene of the protest and who authorised the detention of somebody he or she knew to be a journalist. That sounds more like something systemic than something unusual.

I will respond to the noble Lord. If I, in any way, gave the impression that I underestimated the significance or seriousness of what happened to Charlotte Lynch, that was certainly not my intention. I hope that most noble Lords can see the vehemence with which I support doing something about what happened to Charlotte Lynch and using that—if that is the right way of putting it—as a way of ensuring that the Government respond in a way that protects journalistic freedom across our country, whatever the circumstances.

My Lords, before I begin responding to the debate, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for his most gracious apology, which I am obviously very happy to accept. I also acknowledge that the debate in question was long, free-ranging and somewhat tortuous.

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions on Amendments 117 and 127A. I completely agree with much of the sentiment that has been expressed when speaking to the amendments, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and to which the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, have added their names. As I made clear during the debate on the first day in Committee, I share the concerns about the recent arrest of journalists reporting on the Just Stop Oil protests on the M25. The Government are absolutely clear that the role of members of the press must be respected. It is vital that journalists can do their job freely and without restriction, so I agree completely with the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and my noble friend Lord Deben, that it is a vital part of our democracy that journalists must be able to report without fear or favour.

On the specific case of the arrest and detention of the journalists at Just Stop Oil’s M25 protest, I was pleased to see the independent review into the arrest and detention of the journalists that concluded on 23 November. The statement issued by Hertfordshire Constabulary confirmed that the arrests were not justified and that, going forward, changes in training and command would be made. It acknowledged that it was the wake-up call to which the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, referred. The review has proposed a series of recommendations which Hertfordshire Police has confirmed it is acting on. They include:

“A further review to ensure that any Public Order Public Safety officers and commanders who have not yet carried out the College of Policing National Union of Journalists awareness training are identified and do so within 30 days; Directions to ensure that all commanders have immediate access to co-located mentors”,

to the policemen who are logging activity,

“and public order public safety tactical advisors throughout operations”


“An immediate operational assessment of the number and experience of the Constabulary’s cadre of Public Order Public Safety commanders.”

I hope that the noble Baroness was somewhat reassured by that statement and the confirmation from the constabulary that it clearly got it wrong in that case, as well as the mitigations in place to ensure that it does not happen again.

In answer to the noble Lords, Lord Faulks and Lord Coaker, the police make mistakes. We agree that it was wrong, but we do not legislate for instances where it was clearly a false arrest and, therefore, unlawful.

More widely, I seek to assure noble Lords that the police cannot exercise their powers in any circumstance unless they have reasonable grounds to do so. It is highly unlikely that simply recording a protest creates sufficient grounds for the use of powers. The College of Policing’s initial learning curriculum includes a package of content on dealing effectively with the media in a policing context. In addition, the authorised professional practice for public order contains asection on the interaction of the police with members of the media, including the recognition of press identification.

Both the noble Baronesses, Lady Fox and Lady Boycott, referenced SDPOs, to which we will return later. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, specifically asked whether attending two or more events might give cause to one. The answer is no, because they would not be causing or contributing to serious disruption. However, as I said, that is a debate to which we will return.

Therefore, I support the sentiment behind the noble Baroness’s amendment, but I do not think that it is necessary and respectfully ask her to withdraw it.

Before the Minister sits down, and with my real thanks for the sentiment that he expressed, does he concede that public order powers in general are cast in broad terms? Charlotte Lynch was arrested for the offence of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance—a fairly broad concept—and a number of broad police powers and offences in the Bill are triggered by an undefined concept of serious disruption.

Does the Minister also concede that senior voices in policing have said that journalists who give the oxygen of publicity to protests are part of the problem? By giving publicity, they are feeding the fuel of serious disruption. I know that the Minister disagrees with that proposition but, given that there has been so much performative legislation, and that there is apparently disagreement in the policing world about what is and is not feeding a serious disruption, why would the Government not take this modest step to ensure that no one should be arrested for the primary purpose of preventing their reporting of protest?

As a point of clarification, the difference between Amendments 117 and 127A is not the class of people they cover; it is the class of activity that is being reported on. Amendment 127A is an improvement on my poorer drafting of Amendment 117 because it refers to reporting protests themselves and not just the policing.

I agree with the noble Baroness that I do not agree with the proposition she just outlined from senior police officers. Having said that, I have not read those particular comments and cannot comment on the specifics. I go back to what I was saying earlier: it is not lawful to detain journalists simply there monitoring protests; it is against the law. The police made mistakes in these cases. As I said earlier, we agree it was completely wrong.

Before my noble friend sits down, the fact is that what he says is true, but something has happened and therefore we have to react to it. For the Government to say that it is not necessary to do this does not mean that they need not to do it, if noble Lords see what I mean. It does not help for the Government to say that it is all okay because it was illegal. It happened and we know that it has happened on several occasions. It is also true that there appears to be among sections of the police a feeling that journalists make things worse rather than do their job. In those circumstances it is no skin off the Government’s nose just to say, “Right, we will put this in and that will make people feel happier and it will make us able to say to foreigners, ‘Look, we actually got this in the law. Not generally, but particularly, because it happened. Why don’t you do the same thing?’”

I do not understand this Government not taking easy steps that do not harm anybody. Just do it and do not constantly say, “Oh well, it’s all right.” It is not and we should do it.

I have to say to my noble friend: I hope I was not giving the impression that I was saying that it was all right, because it was not. I have acknowledged that it was wrong and the police made mistakes in this particular case. But, to go back to the point I made in response to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, we do not legislate for instances where it was clearly a false arrest and therefore unlawful.

Will the Minister confirm that neither in his remarks nor apparently from what he said was the response of Hertfordshire police, was there any reference to the unauthorised detention of the journalist at the police station? The first thing that would have happened at the police station is that the journalist would have been asked to turn out their pockets, including their press pass, and yet they were still detained for five hours. What do Hertfordshire police and the Government say about a sergeant not at the scene of the protest authorising the detention?

Obviously, I defer to the noble Lord’s expertise on matters custodial, but—I am flying solo a little bit here—I imagine that, whatever the erroneous reasons given for the arrest, the custodial sergeant or whoever was in that position felt that some investigation was required.

Does the noble Lord not realise how disappointing his response is in many ways? As the noble Lord, Lord Deben, just said, what happened in Hertfordshire was a real challenge to us to respond to something which seems to threaten journalistic freedom to report on protests. All of us are saying that, for the Government to turn round and say, “Don’t worry: it was a rare occurrence and it won’t happen again—no need to worry” with a shrug of the shoulders is just not the sort of response that one would hope to get from the Government. As I said, I do not believe we live in a totalitarian state, but every now and again a challenge emerges which threatens to undermine aspects of our democracy, and in this case it is journalistic and broadcasting freedom.

I think that we, certainly I, would expect the Government to reflect on what the movers of the amendment said and on some of the many moving speeches, including from my noble friend Lady Symons, and whether there is a need for the Government to act in order to protect one of the cherished freedoms that we have. I think that is what people in this Chamber—if I read again what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said; the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, made the point through her amendment; and I have tried to do it through the words that I have said—are expecting from the Minister, rather than simply, “Well, it was just one of those things that happened and it won’t happen again.”

Very briefly, what concerns me about this—well, lots of things concern me—is that the police, including the custody sergeant, should have known it was an illegal arrest, but they must have thought they could get away with it. That really irks me. It is the thought that the police were so high-handed, and that is why it has to be explicit so that they cannot in any sense claim ignorance of the law.

My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, I am getting a strong sense of how disappointing I am being, but it is also very fair to say that I have been completely unequivocal in sharing completely his concerns about the protection of our democracy and institutions. As I said earlier, it is a vital part of democracy, and I would expect and also demand, that protests are reported on fairly and freely. Of course I am sorry that the noble Baroness is irked, but I cannot second-guess what the police were thinking and I will not stray into that territory.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply to all the wonderful speeches, and I thank many noble Lords for speaking tonight in support of the amendment that the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and I put forward.

What I want to say very much reflects what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, was saying. I would call this the Government’s “bad apple” defence, which at the moment gets deployed all over the shop, whether we are talking about a single police officer who accosts a young woman at night with bad consequences or about a single police station in Hertfordshire. This is not about a bad apple; as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, this is about a systemic situation, and as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, this has happened and it is now happening a lot more.

I suspect, although I am quite happy for your Lordships to disagree with me, that this is a lot to do with the climate and the feeling of people in a desperate situation who do not know what else to do. They end up gluing themselves to the road and they are seen as something extreme. That does not matter: it is still a protest, however annoying and nuisance making it is, and we can all debate that—but it is another debate. This is about the right to protest and the right of journalists to go to that protest and report on it. Journalists report on what human beings do. They report on people, what motivates them and what they care about, and what people are prepared to glue themselves to a road for or to padlock themselves to, or to climb Nelson’s column or whatever it happens to be.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, made the point about monitoring things across the world. We send journalists to monitor whether African countries are having free elections. How can we stand here and say that that is a good idea if, at the same time, someone reporting on a climate protest is chucked in jail? She was in a cell with a tin bucket as a lavatory for five hours. We are not talking about a quick slap on the wrist and “I’ll write you a letter later and send you a 30 quid fine”. This was a serious thing and it happened. We are therefore obliged to do something about it.

I come back to the “bad apple” defence. It is used by this Government over and over. They cannot use it in this instance and hope to hold their heads up high, or for people in this House to let them get away with it—we will not. I, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and others will bring this back on Report. We will work on the amendment, but it will fundamentally be the same. I am very grateful to all noble Lords who supported it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 117 withdrawn.

Amendment 118

Moved by

118: After Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—

“Repeal of section 73 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022In the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 omit section 73 (imposing conditions on public processions).”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is intended to remove the noise “trigger” that empowers senior police officers to impose conditions on public processions.

My Lords, I was very excited when I saw this grouping: I thought that I had got my own group to myself. However, I am afraid that others have butted in. I am very grateful for that, obviously.

The noble and learned Lord accused me of trying to waste a lot of time on this—he is not listening—but I promise I will not. My aim here is to highlight the fact that, when we pass all these things in a Bill, is it sometimes very easy to miss their cumulative effect. For me, there is a slippery slope of anti-protest laws under this Government. It will not play very well with the public, or with them when they are out of government.

Each Bill that we pass diminishes our rights, little by little. We tend to see each of these measures in isolation because that is how we deal with them, so it is easy to lose track of the cumulative effect of the Government’s anti-protest agenda. I really hope that the opposition Front Benches can join me in committing to repeal these anti-protest laws when we finally get this Government out of power. I have merely highlighted the parts of the Bill that are the most egregious from the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, and I am pointing out that they should not have been in there and we really ought to have struck them out.

My Lords, it is difficult to argue with the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb: if the Government, as they have, bring back those parts of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that they want to reinstate, why can she not ask this House to remove those parts of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 that she does not want retained? The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has adopted a less provocative approach in his probing amendment, Amendment 127, to establish how often the new noise trigger powers have been used by the police in relation to protests outside buildings—with or without double glazing.

We on these Benches vehemently oppose the provisions in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act that the noble Baroness wishes to repeal, although we subsequently and reluctantly accepted the usefulness of Section 80. But that was then, and this is now. I believe that the Committee should perhaps operate on the basis of appeals in criminal trials and ask this: what new evidence is there to persuade Parliament that we should now reverse the decisions that it made a year ago?

Before I forget, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for signing Amendment 127, which deals specifically with noise. I have a lot of sympathy with much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has said about many of the powers, but I will concentrate specifically on noise, so may disappoint her.

As the noble Lord referred to, we had many debates during the passage of what is now the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. I will reflect on the noise provision, which particularly exercised me, but one of the themes throughout those debates was what is practical, what will work and what difference it will make. We accused the Government—I still do—of knee-jerk reactions to the latest protest in both that Bill and many of the public order Acts we now see. No doubt we will soon have a third public order Act in response to something, and then a fourth. Our argument all along, as I will mention on a later group, has been that we should enforce existing laws as effectively as we can; I think we would be surprised at quite how well they deal with some of these protests.

The noise provisions commenced on 28 June 2022. I and your Lordships’ House were told at the time what a crucial change to the legislation this was, so I know that the Government will have been carefully monitoring its impact since. The Minister’s officials will no doubt have prepared for this; can he tell us how effective it has been with respect to noise? How many times has it been used? Why has it not stopped any of the protests we see now? Are they not noisy enough? What is going on?

How many police forces have used the power? What impact assessment have the Government made so far and, if it is too early, when can we expect one? What guidance has been given to officers on what constitutes a noisy protest? How noisy does it have to be? I did ask all these questions. These noise powers were never asked for by the police. Have they now recognised that they were wrong and the Government were right, and that these new noise powers have meant that protests that were too noisy are now fine and we are all sleeping more comfortably in our beds?

I congratulate the Government on their latest fact sheet; I could not believe it. Had I been a Minister, I would have deleted this but—full credit to them—the Government must fully believe that this is a crucial part of public order legislation. The latest edition of the Home Office fact sheet explaining public order provisions from 20 August, an update of the one we used during the police and courts Bill, says that

“a noisy protest outside an office with double glazing may not meet the threshold”

for a noisy protest. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, will be really pleased with that. The Government have kept it in. Given the embarrassment they caused themselves with this, I would have ensured that it came out. A Minister of the Crown signed off that updated guidance. I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Murray, was here, but perhaps he could ask his noble friend Lord Sharpe when he returns whether he was responsible for ensuring that the noise provisions were retained with respect to double glazing.

Given that it is in the Government’s official guidance, has the double-glazing noise provision ever been used by a police officer to determine whether a protest will be too noisy or not? This is a question to which the whole nation is waiting for an answer. I certainly am. I am also, along with organisers of many protests, waiting to find out whether the Government have yet done any analysis of which streets have lots of double glazing, as protesters need to avoid them for fear of falling foul of the noise threshold.

I thank noble Lords. The public order measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 have only just come into force, so, in the Government’s view, it is far too early to consider whether they should be repealed. These measures were debated at length during the passage of the Act, and the police have barely had the opportunity to make use of these new powers to manage public processions, assemblies, single-person protests and protests in the area outside Parliament. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to respect the democratic process and allow these measures to continue to be part of the statute book. It is no doubt clear that, as we have seen, the public continue to be able to protest as before since the commencement of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

I will not dwell long on the amendment lowering the maximum penalties for wilful obstruction of the highway. This House was clear in its position that the increase in sentences was appropriate, and I doubt that that position has changed in the last six months.

Amendment 123 would repeal the statutory offence of public nuisance and reinstate the common-law offence. In doing so, it would allow courts to place custodial sentences beyond the current 10-year maximum in the statutory offence. This would also have the effect of removing the reasonable excuse defence. I worry that this amendment undermines the benefits of the statutory offence, as recommended by the Law Commission.

I turn to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on double glazing—I want to say, “for complete transparency”, but perhaps I should not. Parliamentarians asked for practical examples of when the power would and would not be used. This example is in the guidance to illustrate that the threshold is subjective, depending on its impact on people or organisations, which is why there is no decibel threshold.

When debating the measure covered by Amendment 123 during the passage of the PCSC Act, Parliament spoke at length about the meaning of “annoyance”. The Law Commission’s written evidence to the Public Bill Committee on this said:

“Annoyance in the context of nuisance is a legal term of art that does not connote merely feeling annoyed. It requires ‘a real interference with the comfort … of living according to the standards of the average man’”.

In common law, “annoyance” and “inconvenience” were already within the consequence element of the common-law offence.

Amendment 127, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, probes the use of the powers to prevent noise from public processions, and presumably assemblies and single-person protests, from causing harm. I am sure that the noble Lord is aware that the Government are legally required to table a report on the operation of these new powers to manage public processions, assemblies and single-person protests by 28 June 2024. In the meantime, I can inform him that I am not aware of the new powers relating to noise being used—but I remind the House that the use of conditions on protests and other gatherings is relatively infrequent. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about instances of the noise provision being used. As I say, there is no record of the police using this power.

For the reasons I set out, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Did the advice’s definition of “discomfort” really use the word “man”, so it does not apply to women? Is that real?

I was quoting from the Law Commission’s written evidence, which referred to the

“standards of the average man”.

In that context, as in many legal documents, the word “man” implies “mankind”.

I suggest that legal sources need to brush up on equality these days—that is ridiculous.

With my amendments, I was trying to give the Government the opportunity to see that the legislation they have brought in is extremely unpleasant and repressive. I wish I had done a little more homework, like the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and highlighted some of the ridiculous things in the Act. He highlighted a real deficit in the Government’s reading of legislation and their concentration on these things, which let such things through. There was a lot of laughter in the Chamber when the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, presented that part of the Bill, as it was. I argue that the drafting of some of these Bills is absolutely appalling, and that highlights it. I will of course withdraw my amendment, but this Government are awful.

Amendment 118 withdrawn.

Amendments 119 to 125 not moved.

Amendment 126

Moved by

126: After Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—

“Consolidated public order guidance(1) Within three months of the day on which this Act is passed, the College of Policing must, with the approval of the Secretary of State, publish consolidated guidance on public order policing. (2) Guidance under this section must consolidate into a single source—(a) the College of Policing’s authorised professional practice for public order, and(b) the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing’s operational advice for public order policing.(3) The Secretary of State must require the College of Policing to annually review its guidance under this section.(4) The College of Policing may from time to time revise the whole or part of its guidance under this section.(4) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament any guidance on public order policing issued by the College of Policing, and any revision of such guidance.(5) Guidance under this section must include—(a) legal guidance on existing public order legislation and relevant human rights legislation;(b) operational guidance on best practice in public order policing, including how best practice should be shared between police forces;(c) specific operational guidance in addressing techniques for locking on;(d) minimum national training standards for both specialist and non-specialist officers deployed to police protest-related activity;(e) guidance on journalistic freedoms and the right of journalists to cover protests without interference.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment probes the need for public order policing guidance to be consolidated into one accessible source and regularly updated, as recommended by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. It would require guidance to include minimum training standards, clear information on relevant law, and operational guidance on best practice.

My Lords, I emphasise my Amendment 126 in this group, which probes the need for public order policing guidance to be consolidated into one accessible source and regularly updated, as recommended by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. It would require guidance to include minimum training standards, clear information on relevant law and operational guidance on best practice.

Throughout the Bill we have argued that this legislation does not answer the actual issues. Rather than layer upon layer of new legislation, we need to use the powers the police already have. Police need clarity, excellent training and robust and up-to-date guidance on how to use the powers they have, what the rights of the British people are and what best practice is out there. Our officers need the support and resources to be confident in what their powers are and to use them effectively and proportionately, not be left to interpret broadly defined new powers every few months. As we have just been debating, we have seen stark examples of what happens when this goes wrong.

My Amendment 126 reflects issues raised by His Majesty’s inspectorate in Matt Parr’s report on public order policing, Getting the Balance Right?, published in March 2021. On guidance, the report found:

“The College of Policing’s ‘authorised professional practice’ … is out of date: it does not include recent relevant case law, or information on certain new and emerging tactical options. The College is planning a review.”

Has this review taken place?

The report welcomed work by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing to put together operational guidance for protest policing, but

“found problems with some of its legal explanations, particularly how it sets out the police’s obligations under human rights law.”

This document was being revised in light of the inspectorate’s concerns. Has that taken place?

Crucially, the inspectorate recommended that it would be beneficial to consolidate relevant guidance into one source, as my amendment seeks to do, with arrangements to keep the guidance current and regularly revised as is necessary. My amendment provides for that, as I said, but what action have the Government taken on this with the police?

Noble Lords have experienced how difficult it is to find a comprehensive summary of the existing powers that the police have to manage protests. We have asked the Government whether it would be possible to publish a comprehensive guide to all the powers available to the police so that we can see for ourselves whether there are any gaps.

On training, can the Minister provide information to us on what national training standards are in place for the police on their protest powers? One issue picked up in Matt Parr’s report and reflected in the amendment is the deployment of non-specialist officers to protest sites. The report found

“a wide gap between specialist … officers and non-specialists when it comes to understanding and using existing police powers. Non-specialist officers receive limited training in protest policing, and lack confidence as a result … In every force we inspected, interviewees told us that some of these non-specialist officers do not have a good enough understanding of protest legislation.”

What changes to training will be required as a result of the Bill, when it becomes an Act, or Acts that have preceded it? How many specialist officers are available for deployment and how often are non-specialist officers being deployed out of necessity, with the obvious potential consequences?

On best practice, what arrangements are in place for the sharing of best practice on protest policing? This was one of the recommendations for Hertfordshire police following the Charlotte Lynch case. When we get things right or get things wrong, how is that being shared and reflected? How effectively are forces collaborating to learn from experience? The inspectorate found

“many examples where debriefs weren’t being done when they should have been”.

Though there were some excellent examples of practice, too often learning was not taking place from debriefs. The debriefs themselves were not leading to any actual change, such as revised training. Does the Minister have any update for us on that?

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for signing Amendment 144, our other amendment in this group. It speaks to the issue of how specialist officers are deployed and planned for. The amendment would require a national monitoring tool to be established to monitor requests for and the use of specialist protest officers to allow us to evaluate the capacity of capacity and demand for the specialist teams. Can the Minister explain what arrangements are currently in place to monitor the capacity of specialist officers and how they are deployed across different forces?

I look forward to hearing from my noble friend Lord Rooker on his amendments to Clause 30. These reflect concerns raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, and also reflect our concerns over serious disruption prevention orders. We will discuss these concerns in more detail in the next group.

I hope the Minister realises that that is a helpful series of questions, which seeks to build on the inspectorate’s report on what should be happening to improve the policing of protest in our country. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, for the avoidance of doubt, I say to the Minister that I will not be deviating into policy regarding the Bill. I am going to stick to the 17th and 19th reports of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I have served on this fascinating committee since January and I want to test how deeply the Government consider the reports from the committee.

Memory tells me that when I came into the House—it was around 20 years ago; I was Home Office Minister in 2001—being new to the House and the department, I was advised that, in the main though not exclusively, the Government tended to accept the advice of the Delegated Powers Committee. I am not complaining; on this, it is the Government’s choice, but the way they have gone about it is what I want to test.

It is only Clause 30. In the history of this Bill, earlier this year a similar power was in a previous Bill. The 13th Report of Session 2021–22 raised the same points about the power in Clause 30. The report drew this to the attention of the House, repeating the concerns expressed in an earlier report.

Clause 30 is on the power to issue guidance. It gives the courts a very broad discretion to impose on a person—but I will not go over all the detail of that. In its 17th report, at paragraph 10, the committee said:

“As we stated in our 13th Report … we consider that the SDPO”—

the serious disruption prevention order regime—

“places considerable power in the hands of the police—first, any decision of a court as to whether to make an SDPO—and as to the restrictions to be imposed under one—is likely to be heavily influenced by what the police say about whether the conditions for making one are met … second, SDPOs can be applied in a broad range of circumstances: they are not limited to the prevention of criminal conduct but can be imposed for such vague, and rather open-ended, purposes as preventing people from ‘contributing to’ the carrying out by others of activities that ‘are likely to result in’ serious disruption to as few as two people”.

The report went on to say:

“Clause 30 allows the Secretary of State to issue guidance to chief officers of police and chief constables in relation to SDPOs, including, in particular, on—the exercise of their functions in relation to SDPOs; identifying persons in respect of whom it may be appropriate for applications for SDPOs to be made; and providing assistance to prosecutors in connection with applications for SDPOs.”

That is the Secretary of State issuing guidance on what appear to be quite detailed operational functions of the police.

Paragraph 12 of the report said:

“A chief officer of police or a chief constable ‘must have regard to’ such guidance.”

The guidance is not subject to any consultation requirement at all. The Government stated, in a memorandum they supplied with the Bill, that the guidance should be subject to parliamentary procedures only in exceptional circumstances. In other words, Parliament is not really bothered about this. It said the guidance in question merits this,

“given the extensive parliamentary and public debate about the appropriate balance between the rights of protesters to exercise their freedom of speech and assembly”.

The report said this was unchanged from the view expressed by the Government in the memorandum accompanying the power to which the committee drew the attention of the House in its 13th report. The whole point about this is whether the affirmative procedure might or might not be appropriate—which the committee drew to the attention of the House—so that Parliament at least has a role.

Paragraph 17 of the report said that

“we considered that guidance issued by the Secretary of State on the exercise of police functions in relation to serious violence reduction orders should be subject to the affirmative procedure because the exercise of those functions could prove to be highly controversial. We indicated that such scrutiny would benefit the police by whom the functions would be exercised”.

In the second part of paragraph 17, the committee said that

“we considered that proposed revisions to an existing code of practice on the exercise of statutory stop and search powers were sufficiently significant to merit affirmative procedure scrutiny. We noted that the Act governing that code gives Ministers a choice as to whether to make revisions by affirmative procedure regulations”.

At the end of the day, the committee concluded that Clause 30 contains an extreme example of a power to issue guidance on the exercise of statutory functions. It allows the Secretary of State to influence the exercise, by the police, of functions that could prove highly controversial, including identifying persons against whom the courts may make serious disruption prevention orders. The committee then said:

“Accordingly, we consider that guidance under clause 30 is sufficiently significant to merit affirmative procedure scrutiny.”

The point is that, when the Government published the Bill and the delegated powers memorandum, they gave examples of previous cases where such scrutiny was not required. Commenting on the 16 examples, paragraph 20 of the 17th report says

“of the ‘examples’ given … 10 are not comparable as they do not require anyone to ‘have regard to’ the guidance; … a further 2 concern guidance that has a much narrower focus (as to ‘the effect’ of statutory provisions); … another relates to functions (exercisable by a constable) that appear to be much more limited; … 4 concern guidance to which a requirement to consult applies; and … the most recent one we reported to the House. In addition, the ‘examples’ relate to … the prevention of harm that is much more specific”.

So the examples set out in the delegated powers memorandum, published by the Government and given as part of their reason for it, did not apply; the Delegated Powers Committee made it clear that they were not relevant. To be honest, I never expected to be speaking on or tabling amendments to this Bill, because it drifts along, as it were, but the great thing about the delay is that I have the opportunity. Last week, we had the Government’s response to the 17th report, which we published in the 19th report on 5 December—a few days ago.

I do not have the letter with me, and I do not know which Minister signed the response to the Delegated Powers Committee, but I can remember my 52 weeks’ experience at the Home Office like it was yesterday. I had a private office of seven, and my day job was immigration, nationality and asylum. My other job was coming here and doing police, prisons and everything else—of course, we had the 9/11 legislation. I have to say that I cannot conceive of anybody in my then private office suggesting that I ever sign a letter such as that which has become the Government’s response to the 17th report.

The reason is this: in response to our conclusion, the Government said:

“The Government does not agree that clause 30 contains ‘an extreme example of a power to issue guidance’.”

They went on to talk about provisions in other Bills, including domestic abuse protection notices and domestic abuse protection orders, and said:

“As the table below shows, the Committee took a similar position in relation to previous Bills providing for very similar statutory guidance. Given this, we remain of the view that the negative procedure is appropriate in this case.”

My initial reaction to that was, “Blimey, they’ve come up with some new examples of where we got it wrong”. But they did not, because the table of examples supplied by the Government—table 1 in the 19th report of the Delegated Powers Committee—is exactly a repeat of what they said in the delegated powers memorandum. Every single example is repeated, one after the other, which the 17th report said was not relevant.

My question is: did the Minister who signed the letter on the Government’s response realise that the examples they were giving to the committee in justification were the exact same examples—no new ones—that had been given in the delegated powers memorandum, which the 17th report listed in the main as not relevant? How can this happen? Did anybody read the 17th report?

No committee is more important than another, but this House has the Delegated Powers Committee, and the other place does not. It is a very important issue as Ministers accrue powers. In this case, they want the power to give guidance to chief constables on controversial matters without any parliamentary scrutiny or consultation whatever. Therefore, it is just one clause in the Bill that the Delegated Powers Committee drew attention to.

There seems to be a lack of attention to detail in the Home Office—I do not blame the Minister for this, because I know how busy Ministers dealing with this House are. Did nobody say, “Minister, as you sign this letter with these examples, rubbishing the Delegated Powers Committee and telling them you’re not interested and they got it wrong, you’re giving them the same examples we gave before, which they said, in detail, were not relevant.”? I would love an answer, as I am sure would the Delegated Powers Committee.

Counsel to that committee would also like to know the Government’s response, because we still have all these Bills coming along, which have been drafted by parliamentary counsel, removing powers from Parliament and giving them to the Executive. They are doing it more and more. In this one, they have been caught out. It is quite clear that nobody is paying attention to the detail. While that continues, I and others will continue to push to see why that is the case. Hopefully, Ministers will be seized of the fact that it is an important parliamentary aspect that we do not just for this House but for both Houses together.

My Lords, I support Amendment 142A from the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and his Clause 30 stand part. He has set out the concerns of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee pretty clearly. Noble Lords will be pleased that I will therefore speak briefly, but I will consider Clause 30 in the political context.

Having been a member of the Delegated Powers Committee for a full term, I am acutely conscious of the increasing tendency of the Government to avoid adequate parliamentary scrutiny of powers delegated to Ministers. Clause 30 is of particular concern, because the delegated powers enable Ministers to increase the already unacceptable police powers under SDPOs. I am very interested in this Bill, even though I have not been able to be involved until now.

As has been extensively debated in this House, it is extraordinary that these orders can apply to people who have not been convicted of any offence and who are not considered to be at risk of offending; that orders can last for up to two years and be renewed; and that a breach of any requirement under an SDPO can lead to six months in prison—for somebody who has not been convicted of an offence. As things stand, such powers do not sit comfortably in a democratic state, in my view. But with Ministers able to extend those powers and further interfere with citizens’ liberties, with only minimal parliamentary involvement—and if, as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said, they stick with the negative procedure—this Bill feels much more suited to a country such as Iran or China. I have never said such a thing about a piece of legislation in this House before, but this goes way beyond the pale. A few years ago, Clause 30 would not have been included in this Bill; I just do not think it would have happened.

In the DPRRC’s recent report, Democracy Denied?, we express our concern about

“an increase in the number of occasions on which ministers have been given power to supplement primary legislation by what is, in effect, disguised legislation”

—things such as guidance, which is not a delegated power in the normal sense—that is,

“instruments which are legislative in effect but often not subject to parliamentary oversight”,

being, as in this case, subject only to the negative procedure. That is one way of doing things.

Democracy Denied? expresses further concern about guidance where there is a requirement “to have regard” to it, which the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, also referred to. Although there is an element of choice, a requirement to have regard to guidance carries with it an expectation that the guidance will be followed unless there is a cogent reason for not doing so. In the context of this Bill, such guidance is completely unacceptable.

I very much hope that this House will deal with Clause 30 on Report. Our Delegated Powers Committee recommends that the guidance should be subject to the affirmative procedure. It would probably have been ultra vires for the committee to have gone further than that, but speaking personally, and not in the context of being a member of the Delegated Powers Committee, I really hope that the House considers removing Clause 30 from the Bill at the next stage.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has done a service to the House in focusing such clear attention on the Delegated Powers Committee report, and the issue that it raises. I simply want to pursue one of the points that he mentioned, which is one of the features of the guidance to which this power relates:

“guidance about identifying persons in respect of whom it may be appropriate for applications for serious disruption prevention orders to be made”.

What does the Secretary of State know that the police do not know about who it would be appropriate to make serious disruption prevention orders about? On what basis does the Secretary of State know what the police do not know and therefore have to be advised about?

The only basis I can think of is not a helpful one for the Government. It is that there is a political reason here and that what the Government want to do is say, “Never mind those people who are protesting about this, go after those people who are protesting about that.” This is the very kind of power which we have always tried to avoid giving, in the form of direction to the police, to anybody, including police and crime commissioners. There has been a very necessary reluctance to have the police directed in a way which could become political, and in which the choice of where to deploy resources was based on whom the authority concerned—in this case, the Government—disliked and wanted to see penalised in some way.

I cannot see any respectable argument for the Secretary of State saying to the police “You do not realise what I realise; this is the guidance I am giving you about identifying appropriate persons.” It is the sort of thing that even the affirmative procedure would not give us a very good chance to deal with, because you cannot amend statutory instruments, even under the affirmative procedure. But to leave it simply to the negative procedure, which is so limited and so inadequate, particularly in the other Chamber, is simply not satisfactory. The Government’s response to the Delegated Powers Committee has been wholly inadequate so far.

My Lords, I wish to make one or two brief observations in respect of the way these amendments tie together. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which I support, sees a good precedent in what Parliament sometimes does, which is to pass successive pieces of legislation without having in mind all the complexities of the earlier legislation. We saw this most clearly in my experience in relation to search warrants of premises, and I will come back to that in a moment. There is a huge advantage in having up-to-date guidance, and the best people to produce it are those who have practical experience—namely, the police institutions—so I warmly welcome that.

But its importance goes to Clause 30, because the question I ask myself is: why is Clause 30 there? Why can it not be dealt with in two other ways? One is the use of guidance given by independent police to other police, to get uniformity; and secondly, do not forget these are applications to a court, so can we not do what we did in relation to search warrants? That is, to provide in detailed form, through the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee, working closely with the police and other organisations, the information that needs to be put before a court to make the decision on the order. Now, if the Home Secretary feels that there are areas that you need to specify—for example, about the kind of person who should be asked to supervise or do something—why can the detail of what is required, the kinds of considerations, not be put properly and openly through an independent process of rules and forms? This worked for search warrants.

We ought to bear in mind the experience of ASBOs. It is not the time at this hour of night to go back to that rather unhappy chapter, but trying to supplement un-thought-through legislation of this kind with guidance is not the way forward; there are better mechanisms.

It seems to me, when one looks at Clause 30, one asks oneself, “What is it for?” In Clause 30(2)(c), the guidance is about

“providing assistance to prosecutors in connection with applications for serious disruption prevention orders.”

Is the intention that somehow the Home Office believes that the police do not help prosecutors? What guidance do they need? These are independent people and their independence should not be called into question. In most countries, the independence of the prosecution service, as in our country, is critical, and so is the independence of the police.

I do not want to go into the constitutional points under Clause 30, because I entirely agree with what has been said. I think one ought to look at this from a practical experience point of view to say that the clause is completely unnecessary. It should be possible to deal with the practical consequences of these orders in a way that takes into account experience. This is a criticism of the way in which the modern Civil Service is structured. There are probably few people in the Home Office who remember what I have just gone through. I thought a few grey hairs might remind people that there is a better way forward than this constitutional aberration, constituted by Clause 30.

My Lords, we support Amendments 126 and 144 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. As recommended by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, consolidated public order guidance should be published, to include minimum training standards, clear information on relevant law and operational best practice. We must ensure that existing law and practice are used effectively and that police can then be held to account against that consolidated guidance.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, talked about ensuring that the police had excellent training. I go back again to my own experience: the Metropolitan Police were world leaders in public order policing and the training was extensive and excellent. Other forces used to come to the Metropolitan Police and engage in training with it and in that way good practice was shared.

Does the Minister know what the impact of cuts to police budgets has been on the quality and amount of training in public order policing—the involvement of other forces in training with the Metropolitan Police, for example? My understanding is that special constables, who are part-time volunteers, are now being trained as public order officers. This is a very difficult, sometimes dangerous, skilled area of policing. One would question whether part-time volunteers are the right officers to be used in that sort of situation, requiring knowledge of public order legislation that is getting longer and more complex as we go on.

What has been the impact of the police cuts on the number of public order trained officers? Before the Minister stands up and talks about the uplift in the number of officers, I point out that across 16 constabularies, the number of police officers over the last 12 months has gone down rather than up and the Metropolitan Police has given notice to the Government that it will not reach its target of the uplift of an additional 30,000 officers.

HMICFRS talks in its public order report about the lack of regular officers volunteering to be public order officers because it involves increased weekend working—which is not popular—an increased risk of complaints, and the increased risk of being verbally and physically abused. What steps are the Government taking to mitigate these factors, which are working against having highly trained, highly skilled public order officers in sufficient numbers to be able to handle protests?

We support Amendment 142A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and I echo the comments of other noble Lords on the importance of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I am not sure that I subscribe to the rather sinister implication that the Home Secretary might give guidance to the police on what sort of people should be made the subject of serious disruption prevention orders. But we are putting the cart before the horse a bit here, since we are talking about guidance on SDPOs before we have discussed and debated SDPOs themselves.

This smacks to me of cut and paste from other legislation. For example, on Police and Criminal Evidence Act guidance to the police on matters such as stop and search, it is established practice that the Home Office publishes after consultation; as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said, there is no requirement for consultation here. It is the case that the Home Office gives guidance on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to the police on the way they should apply stop and search, for example. But when you cut and paste that and put it into serious disruption prevention orders, you open up a Pandora’s box with the potential for the guidance to say, as my noble friend Lord Beith pointed out, that this is suitable for this type of protester or this political issue but not for that one. Then you get into very dangerous territory as a consequence.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, has said, there are better ways of approaching this—established ways of dealing with it—such as the example he gave of search warrants to ensure that we maintain the political independence of both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which will be the two main agencies involved in deciding whether unconvicted people should be made the subject of SDPOs, as we will get on to in the next group.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for the amendments in this group. I turn first to Amendment 126, which would require the College of Policing to publish guidance consolidating the public order authorised professional practice and NPCC and college operational advice for public order policing. The Government would be required to lay the consolidated guidance before Parliament and the guidance would need to be reviewed annually and updated when appropriate.

The noble Lord’s explanatory statement clarifies that this builds on a recommendation from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services to the College of Policing. For the benefit of the House, when giving oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee, His Majesty’s Inspector Matt Parr has said of policing’s response to the report that it was

“the most professional and thorough response”—[Official Report, Commons, Public Order Bill Committee, 9/6/22; col. 55.]

he had seen to a report that he had done.

The college has drafted a new public order public safety authorised professional practice that is in the final stages prior to consultation, which precedes publication. A draft version will be published for consultation by public order practitioners by the end of December and the college plans to publish the final version in early 2023.

To provide further reassurances to all those present who have shown interest in public order guidance, noble Lords will perhaps allow me to detail some of the work that the college has undertaken beyond the authorised professional practice to improve public order training.

On guidance, the college publishes regular bulletins, including on changes to processes, legislation and new training products. Its summary guide to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act has been circulated to all forces and widely shared with officers involved in policing public order and protest. This guidance reiterates the need for a balanced approach with a reminder of the recent HMICFRS conclusion that

“the police do not strike the right balance on every occasion. The balance may tip too readily in favour of protesters when – as is often the case – the police do not accurately assess the level of disruption caused, or likely to be caused, by a protest.”

In April, the college drafted the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Protest Operational Advice Document, which reiterated the need for a rapid response to disruptive disorder. The document aims: first, to support consistency of decision-making and engagement with stakeholders; secondly, to signpost guidance, legislation, key legal decisions, policies and practice which may assist in the policing of protest, thereby promoting public safety, preventing or reducing crime, disorder and/or terrorism to support overall public safety; and, thirdly, to assist decision-makers in achieving outcomes which support the exercise by peaceful protestors of their rights under Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11, while striking the appropriate balance between those rights and the rights of others affected by protest. This is being reviewed by the college, which aims to publish the revised version in February 2023.

On training, over the last six months the college has rolled out significant changes to protestor removal training. This used to be a very niche skill with very few people trained to a high level, but this meant the response was slow. The college has since developed new, quicker training for simpler lock-ons, which has meant a substantial improvement in the speed of the police response to these. I could go on, but I think I have made the point. The college is a professional organisation that is proactive in response to protests to ensure that officers are trained to the highest possible standards. It does not need a legislative stick to make them do so. That is why the Government do not support this amendment.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for specifying that Amendment 144 is a probing amendment to query the demand for, and the capacity of, specialist protest officers across police forces. I presume by “specialist protest officers” the noble Lord is referring to both public order trained officers and officers trained in the removal of protesters who lock on. For the benefit of the House, it is worth clarifying that, for the most part, protests are non-violent and are managed effectively by general patrol officers. When there is a risk of violence, officers with additional specialist public order training are deployed.

On specialist public order trained officers, the NPCC has set a national requirement of 297 police support units across England and Wales, alongside 75 in London. A police support unit consists of one inspector, three sergeants and 18 constables as well as three drivers. On level 3, which is basic public order training, the NPCC has set a requirement for 234 basic deployment units.

On the question from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on specialist officers, the NPCC has identified a national requirement for 108 officers trained in debonding protestors, 189 officers trained to remove protestors and another 189 who are trained to remove protestors from complex environments such as height. The noble Lord also asked about non-specialist officers. They are deployed to respond to peaceful protests and all have level 3 public order training.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked me about specials. Peaceful protests would seem to me to be well within the abilities of volunteer police officers—indeed, I have seen it in my own service overseas. He also mentioned cuts. I am afraid I am going to disappoint him by saying that we are well on the way to the 20,000 police uplift that was promised. I will also of course say that the nature of protests has changed and, therefore, so has the nature of policing, as reflected in much of this Bill.

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister and am grateful to him for giving way. I have seen evidence that special constables are being trained to level 2 and being issued with specialist equipment, so I am not talking about special constables trained to level 3, as the noble Lord suggested.

The noble Lord gave a whole series of numbers. The National Police Chiefs’ Council has decided that there should be specified numbers of level 3 and level 2-trained units of one, three and 18—one inspector, three sergeants and 18 constables—as the requirement nationally. To what extent have police services fulfilled those requirements? The indication that the Minister gave was that that is the target that the National Police Chiefs’ Council has given, but to what extent have police forces been able to fulfil that target?

I am afraid that I do not know the answer. I will write to the noble Lord with the detail. Regarding the specials, as long as they are trained, surely that is the point.

Chief officers are responsible for demonstrating that they can appropriately mobilise to a variety of public order policing operations at a force, regional and national level in accordance with the national mobilisation plan. The College of Policing sets consistent standards across England and Wales to ensure consistency across forces, allowing officers from different forces to operate in tandem when deployed to other force areas.

The required capacity for public order capabilities is informed by the assessment of threats, harm and risk from the National Police Coordination Centre, as agreed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Officials and Ministers in the Home Office regularly probe the National Police Coordination Centre on its confidence that forces can respond to disorder. At present, it assesses that forces are able to meet current protest demands. Forces have been able to use public order resources to respond to incidents including the awful disorder in Leicester in August and September, as well as Just Stop Oil’s recent disruptive campaign on the M25.

Amendment 142A seeks to ensure that statutory guidance issued under Clause 30 is subject to the affirmative scrutiny procedure, rather than the negative procedure, as the Bill currently allows. This follows a recommendation from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, as explained by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher. I thank the committee for its consideration of the Bill. I hope, but am afraid I doubt, that noble Lords will forgive me for echoing the arguments made in the Government’s response here. SDPOs do not represent a new concept. Successive Governments, dating back at least to 1998 and the creation of anti-social behaviour orders in the Crime and Disorder Act, have legislated for civil preventive orders of this kind, which can impose restrictions on liberty, backed by criminal sanctions. Many of these preventive order regimes include similar provision to that in Clause 30 for the Secretary of State to issue guidance which was not subject to the draft affirmative scrutiny procedure. Guidance issued for serious violence reduction orders is subject to the negative scrutiny procedure. Having said that, I listened very carefully to the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and I will write to him with an attempt to unravel some of the discrepancies that he mentioned.

We therefore see it as entirely appropriate that the guidance is subject to the negative scrutiny procedure and respectfully encourage noble Lords not to press their amendments.

My Lords, the last remark the Minister made, about writing to my noble friend Lord Rooker, was useful. Reflecting in the letter on the comments by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, might be helpful as well.

I will focus on my own amendment. I thank all noble Lords who contributed on it. The reason for it was the need for co-ordinated and updated guidance. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that the updated guidance will come at the beginning of 2023.

You can see why there is a need for clarification. An article in the Daily Telegraph just yesterday, quoting the chief constable of Greater Manchester, Stephen Watson, said:

“criticism of officers by the public for being too slow to clear the protesters was ‘not an unreasonable judgment’.”

He went on to say:

“The public has seen us reacting too slowly, less assertively than they would have liked.”

That is the second-most senior police officer in the country saying that the police should have acted more quickly with respect to the protesters. He goes on—and I am not a trained police officer, just reflecting on what the chief constable said in a national paper:

“I think fundamentally, if people obstruct the highway they should be moved from the highway very quickly. The so-called five stage process of resolution can be worked through”

quickly. He goes on, and here is the point that the guidance needs to clarify. Is the chief constable of Greater Manchester right, or are the other officers? The article says that his argument is that

“officers spent too much time building a ‘copper-bottomed’ case for prosecuting people for offences such as public nuisance rather than arresting them for the lesser crime of obstruction.”

I do not know whether that is right or wrong, but somewhere along the line there needs to be clarification through the guidance package, which we hope will come at the beginning of 2023. It should say that, to deal with protests quickly and robustly but according to the law, these are the options available in coming to any decision. The chief constable of Greater Manchester is clearly saying that the police could have done better by using the lesser offence of obstruction. Is he right or wrong? The guidance may be able to sort that out for us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 126 withdrawn.

Amendments 127 and 127A not moved.

Schedule agreed.

Clause 19: Serious disruption prevention order made on conviction

Amendment 128

Moved by

128: Clause 19, page 22, line 8, leave out “on the balance of probabilities” and insert “beyond reasonable doubt”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment raises the burden of proof for imposing a serious disruption prevention order to the criminal standard.

My Lords, Amendment 128 is in my name, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. I will also speak to Amendments 129, 130, 133 to 136, and 139 to 142 in my name and to the other amendments in the group; and I will oppose Clauses 19 and 20 standing part of the Bill.

Serious disruption prevention orders are modelled on the orders given to terrorists and knife carriers, with similar draconian provisions, yet these are to be imposed on peaceful protestors, some of whom will never have been convicted of a criminal offence and some of whom will have never even attended a protest. These orders will effectively prohibit British citizens from exercising their human rights of free expression and assembly. They include the possibility of electronic tagging and restricting people’s use of the internet.

Liberty gives an example, which, in my own words is of someone who could be subjected to an SDPO, who has never been convicted of an offence, who attended two protests in the last five years and who, at those protests, based on inadmissible hearsay and on the balance of probabilities, contributed towards someone else doing something that was likely to result in serious disruption. The purpose of the order would be to prevent the person subject to the SDPO from contributing towards another person doing something that was likely to result in serious disruption at some point in the future.

HMICFRS says of serious disruption prevention orders:

“Such orders would neither be compatible with human rights legislation nor create an effective deterrent. All things considered, legislation creating protest banning orders would be legally very problematic because, however many safeguards might be put in place, a banning order would completely remove an individual’s right to attend a protest. It is difficult to envisage a case where less intrusive measures could not be taken to address the risk that an individual poses, and where a court would therefore accept that it was proportionate to impose a banning order”.

In the same report, senior police officers are quoted as saying that SDPOs would

“unnecessarily curtail people’s democratic right to protest”;

that such orders would be a “massive civil liberty infringement”; and that,

“the proposal is a severe restriction on a person’s rights to protest and in reality, is unworkable.”

That is the police’s view. They added that it appeared unlikely that the measure would work as hoped, because a court was unlikely to impose a high penalty on someone who breached such an order if the person was peacefully protesting, to which HMICFRS said:

“We agree with this view and that shared by many senior police officers.”

It is what we would expect in Russia or Iran, not in the United Kingdom.

These orders can also be imposed on those convicted of public order offences, and although we impose their imposition on anyone, it cannot be right that a person can be convicted of a criminal offence of breaching a serious disruption prevention order and sentenced potentially to a term of imprisonment, on the basis of an order imposed on the balance of probabilities, potentially based on evidence such as hearsay that would not be admissible in a criminal trial. I have rehearsed these arguments time and again in relation to similar orders in the past.

The origins of this type of order are to be found in anti-social behaviour orders—ASBOs—another order imposed on the balance of probabilities but with criminal sanctions for a breach, which Parliament decided was unfair and unreasonable, and so replaced with an entirely civil-based, non-criminal approach. In the case of knife crime prevention orders, the Government used the argument that the police had advised them that knife carriers would not take the orders seriously if no criminal sanctions were attached to them. Even if noble Lords had some sympathy with that approach in relation to the potentially fatal consequences of knife crime, surely serious disruption prevention orders are far closer to ASBOs than to knife crime.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans have added their names to my Amendments 128, 129 and 130; and the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, has also added his name to my Amendment 128. The amendments require a court to be satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt” —the criminal standard of proof—before imposing a serious disruption prevention order, rather than depending on the civil standard of “on the balance of probabilities”.

We support Amendment 131 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, which states that participation in a lawful trade dispute should not result in the imposition of a SDPO. I can see what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, is doing with her Amendment 132, and, if she were here, I would have looked forward to her explanation of it to the Committee.

Although electronic tagging is limited to 12 months, serious disruption prevention orders can be imposed for up to two years—but they can also be renewed indefinitely. That means that someone who has never been convicted of an offence can be prohibited from being in or entering a particular area indefinitely, prohibited from being with particular people indefinitely, prohibited from engaging in particular activities indefinitely, and prohibited from using the internet for particular purposes indefinitely. Can the Minister explain how that provision would be enforced, if they could use the internet for some purposes and not others? My Amendments 133, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141 and 142 would prevent serious disruption prevention orders being renewed, effectively placing a maximum limit of two years on their imposition.

Someone who breaches a serious disruption prevention order can be sentenced to a maximum of 51 weeks in prison and an unlimited fine. My Amendment 134 questions whether an unlimited fine is appropriate for such an offence, for the reasons I have argued in previous groups.

Most of those amendments should be redundant, because I urge all noble Lords on all sides of the House to join me and the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, in opposing the proposition that Clauses 19 and 20 stand part of the Bill. I beg to move Amendment 128.

My Lords, I enthusiastically support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, that we are not living in a totalitarian state, but George Orwell also warned of the slide from democracy to despotism: it becomes invisible so that, in the end, you cross a border without really knowing that your freedom has been taken away because you do not want to do anything that might lead to anyone wanting to take it away. We have not got there yet. Nevertheless, it seems that we are discussing areas of legislation in which we find, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, blocks of words being transferred mindlessly from one set of offences to another set of offences, rather like prefabricated hen houses. One has to guard against that, because the offences are of very different gravity and one must not use the same language when talking of one rather than the other.

Part 2 introduces the serious disruption prevention order, described by Liberty as a protest banning order, which gives police the power to ban a person who has not been convicted of any offence for up to two years from attending any protest, together with extraordinary powers of surveillance, including electronic surveillance. Now I am against prevention orders on the whole, because they tread the path of stopping the liberties of people who have not been convicted of any offence. That is the road down which they lead, so I am suspicious of that in principle.

Here, we have a penalty which can be imposed on a civil standard of proof, meaning that the conditions needed for being given an SDPO need to be proved only on a balance of probability. That compounds the offence. The Government are not only taking powers to inflict extraordinary penalties on someone who has not been convicted of anything, they are also claiming the power to do that on a balance of probabilities, rather than on having reasonable suspicion. That is what this amendment wants to remove and there are subsequent amendments to which the same logic applies. We need to put in a requirement of reasonable doubt into the whole series of these preventive disruption orders.

My Lords, I gladly put my name to the stand part amendments on Clauses 19 and 20, which of course stand for Part 2 as a whole, not because I am temperamentally inclined against compromise but because these clauses are so breath- takingly broad that I am not sure I would know where to begin the process of amendment.

Seeking perspective, I turned to the civil orders with which I am most familiar, terrorism prevention and investigation measures, or TPIMs, the replacement for control orders, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which are currently being copied, I think reasonably, for hostile state actors in the National Security Bill. These are the most extreme forms of restriction known to our law, short of imprisonment. In a rational world, were measures such as these considered necessary in the completely different context of public order, they would be considerably lighter—but, in no less than six respects, the reverse is true. I shall briefly explain how.

The first respect is the trigger. TPIMs can be imposed only when it is reasonably believed that the subject is or has been involved in terrorism-related activity and that the TPIM is necessary to protect the public. An SDPO can be imposed under Clause 19 on someone who twice in the past five years has been convicted of something as minor as obstructing the highway, if an order is thought necessary to prevent them doing so again. Under Clause 20, the person need never have been convicted of anything, though of course if they breach any provision of their SDPO then, just like the suspected terrorist, they can be convicted and sent to prison.

The second respect is content. The range of TPIMs is limited to the specific measures specified in the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011. The Bill, by contrast, makes a virtue of the fact that the range of SDPOs is completely unlimited—a point emphasised in Clause 19(6), Clause 20(5) and again in Clause 21(7). Notification requirements seem to be envisaged as routine—as, remarkably enough, is electronic tagging—but these orders can require the subject to do, or prohibit the subject from doing, anything described in them. The extensive list of prohibitions in Clause 21(4) is for some reason not considered sufficient. The right to peaceful protest is not even referred to in the Bill as a consideration to which those imposing the orders must have regard, despite the obvious potential for these orders to inhibit the exercise of that right.

The third respect is imposition. TPIMs can be imposed only by the Secretary of State, after obtaining both the permission of the High Court and the confirmation of the CPS that it was not feasible to prosecute the subject for any criminal offence. It used to be my job to review those decisions of the Home Secretary, and meticulously thought out and prepared they were too. SDPOs, by contrast, will be imposed by magistrates on the application of police or prosecutors, who may be subject to guidance—provided for by Clause 30—

“about identifying persons in respect of whom it may be appropriate for applications for serious disruption prevention orders to be made”.

I echo the noble Lords, Lord Rooker and Lord Beith, the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and other noble Lords who, in the last group, characterised that provision for guidance as an astonishing and excessive interference with the operational independence of the police and prosecutors.

The fourth respect is duration—this point has been made. TPIMs are renewable up to a maximum of five years, but SDPOs can be renewed indefinitely.

The fifth respect is oversight. TPIMs must be the subject of quarterly reports, and the whole operation of the system is reviewed by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation in a report that the Home Secretary is required to publish. There is nothing equivalent for SDPOs.

The sixth respect is numbers. Numbers of TPIMs have always been very low, reflecting their impact on liberty and the safeguards in place to prevent their abuse. The total number in force is published quarterly, and I believe it currently stands at two. By contrast, the impact assessment for the Bill assumes that around 400 SDPOs will be imposed each year: 200 on conviction and another 200 otherwise than on conviction. The relative absence of safeguards is illustrated by the fact that the TPIM Act extends to 69 pages, whereas Part 2 of the Bill occupies a mere 15. A simple comparison between our treatment of terrorists, or suspected terrorists, and those suspected of protest-related offences should surely suggest that Part 2 of the Bill, even more than the provision for no-suspicion stop and search, is an extraordinary overreaction.

I felt strongly enough about this issue to send the Bill team a draft of these remarks well in advance, so I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. What do the new orders add to the injunctive powers that are already available and that the Bill proposes to extend? The Minister may wish to assure us that these extraordinarily broad powers will be responsibly used, but he is in no position to do so, because they will be placed in the hands of thousands of magistrates—they are fine public servants, but, with respect, many of them will not be as well informed or alert to the civil liberties issues as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. Even if the powers were in the hands of Ministers, assurances of good will and moderation can be no substitute for proper legal guarantees.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended the removal of Part 2 of the Bill—Clause 19 as well as Clause 20. I understand that, in areas such as this, the Government will often come to Parliament with a so-called concession strategy. If that is the case here, I can only hope that it is an extremely bold one and that the Minister will own up to it as soon as possible. Otherwise, I am sure that many of us will be driven to follow the Joint Committee’s recommendation.

My Lords, at this late hour, I will say just a very few words. I start, rather tiresomely, with a pedantic legal point. The explanatory statements for the first three numbered amendments in this group suggest that they relate to the “burden of proof”, but they do no such thing. As I say, somewhat pedantically, I point out that the burden is unquestionably accepted to be on those who wish to pursue this supposed remedy, but these amendments are directed to the standard of proof, which is so critically important here.

As the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said, this is no place for balance of probabilities; it is for the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. That is assuming that anything stays in this part at all. Having just listened with my usual awe and admiration to my noble friend Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and having been conducted down memory lane—TPIMs were a significant part of my past when I was here in a judicial capacity—let me say that his attack on Part 2, on the whole concept of SDPOs, is devastating and unanswerable, and hopefully, at some point, the Government, will recognise that if they have not done so already.

In case the Government have not the good sense and courage to abandon entirely this whole group of provisions, I say that the balance of probability has absolutely no place here at all. Of course, it is the standard by which we determine civil disputes and claims, but, as has already been pointed out, ASBOs—which were given to anti-social people who were being very tiresome with no sort of justification towards their neighbours—were initially put on a balance of probability basis and even that was regarded as unacceptable. But how much more unacceptable is it when, as here, fundamental civil liberties are at issue. To suggest that the touchstone for deciding whether people should be barred from exercising their historic rights should be the balance of probabilities—“Well, perhaps it is just more likely that he did or didn’t do whatever it is”—is a nonsense. Again to revert to legalese: “a fortiori” means if it is a nonsense for one thing it is particularly so for something else; and it is particularly so here, in the circumstances where one contemplates making these draconian orders even when there has been no conviction whatever.

I shall support those who I hope will pursue the stand part provisions here, but, failing that, it is unthinkable that this Bill could go through on a balance of probability basis.

My Lords, I intend to be brief, but I wanted to speak in favour of Amendments 128, 129 and 130, addressing the Bill’s provisions on serious disruption prevention orders, adding my support to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others, and in particular my friend, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. SDPOs are particularly hard-line and risk undermining people’s fundamental rights to protest, and they risk subjecting individuals to intrusive surveillance—methods that, as we have heard, are not typical in this country, and nor do we want them to become typical. The terms used to define who they can apply to are worryingly broad. The definition of “protest-related offence” as

“an offence which is directly related to a protest”

leaves the door far too open to interpretation. It therefore seems appropriate that the burden of proof for imposing SDPOs to the criminal standard should be raised as set out in Amendments 128 to 130.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford. Noble Lords will recognise this speech in style and content as the work of my noble friend Lord Hendy, of Hayes and Harlington, who is unable to be in his place this evening. I speak in his place on Amendment 131.

Clause 20 is wholly objectionable because it enables the imposition of criminal penalties in respect of conduct for which the defendant has not been convicted of any criminal offence, as we have heard from all around the Chamber. However, assuming the clause is to stay in the face of opposition from various parts of the Chamber, there is another defect.

The conduct at which it is aimed clearly comprehends picketing in the course of an industrial dispute. There will not be much effective picketing in the course of a trade dispute which does not offend against the description in Clause 20(2)(a)(iii), which refers to

“activities related to a protest that resulted in, or were likely to result in, serious disruption to two or more individuals, or to an organisation, in England and Wales”.

The very purpose of picketing, as legitimated in Section 220 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, is to attend a workplace for the purpose of “peacefully persuading any person” not to work. If effective, this will seriously disrupt those so persuaded and their employer and will render nugatory the right to picket

“in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute”,

contained in Section 220 of the 1992 Act. That right has been statutory in this country since the Conspiracy, and Protection of Property Act 1875. The right was subject to offences created by the 1875 Act such as “watching or besetting” and an array of other potential offences such as obstructing a public highway or an officer in the exercise of his duty, or more serious offences.

Since 1875, the right to picket has been regulated and restricted by many amendments to the relevant law, the latest being several requirements imposed by the Trade Union Act 2016, now found in Section 220A of the 1992 Act. Yet the right remains. This clause would destroy it altogether. It is also a right protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to freedom of association, and, in particular, the right to be a member of a trade union for the protection of one’s interests. It is likewise protected by ILO Convention 87, Article 6(4) of the European Social Charter, and many other international instruments that the UK has ratified.

What is needed is protection against this provision for those who are acting

“in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute”,

to use the time-honoured phrase, which is now found in Section 244 of the 1992 Act. The Government have used this protection in relation to Clause 6 to provide such protection against the offence there created. This modest amendment seeks its protection in relation to this new provision.

My Lords, I entirely support the analysis so eloquently made by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and supplemented by the points made by my noble and learned friend Lord Brown. It is easy to think of ways of making these clauses, chipping here and chipping there. However, the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, was plainly correct. The Government have got themselves into the mess of putting this into legislation without understanding the context of where these orders were made in the past and what they are seeking to do now.

Being a lawyer, I always go back to precedent. You look at it and copy it all out, but at the end of the day you have to sit in your chair and think. There are two things the Government ought to think about. First, can they achieve what they want to do by something that is much more sensible?—to which the answer is plainly yes—and, secondly, what is the consequence of what they are doing? When you are dealing with people who carry knives, with terrorists, or with people who engage in activities that disrupt neighbourhoods, people gathering together, and violence in a social context, that is one thing. But here we are dealing with people who genuinely believe that they are fighting the existential threat to the planet—or they may be fighting for trade union rights, or for liberty. If you treat those people, who have a noble cause as they see it, in the way that you treat terrorists, what do you do for justice? You can only damage it severely. I therefore humbly ask the Minister to sit back in his chair and have a good think about the wisdom of this.

My Lords, I have not been present for earlier proceedings on this Bill because of other commitments, for which I apologise. For that reason, I will say only a very few words. With everyone else who has spoken, I completely oppose Clauses 19 and 20 and support the amendments in this group restricting their ambit and the ambit of SDPOs, for all the reasons considered and voiced by my noble friend Lord Paddick in opening and all other noble Lords who have spoken.

The so-called serious disruption prevention orders amount to punishment that does indeed involve serious disruption: serious disruption of individual citizens’ liberties, imposed without a criminal conviction and on proof to the civil and not the criminal standard, and which can last indefinitely. These proposals are entirely inimical to principles deeply embedded in our law and to notions of crime and justice that we all hold so dear. They are an insidious attack on civil liberties. They threaten a gradual, incremental encroachment on civil liberties—the very type of encroachment that can ultimately lead to the destruction of those liberties themselves.

My Lords, I declare a historical if not a current interest as a Home Office lawyer from January 1996 until the autumn of 2001. I was occasionally and habitually a happy and unhappy inhabitant of the Box.

I agree with—I think—every speech so far in this significant debate. I would go further than some in saying that I was always against this blurring of civil and criminal process from the beginning when, I am sorry to say, Labour did it. I was against ASBOs, CRASBOs, control orders, TPIMs, football banning orders and all the rest, because they were always about lessening criminal due process. That is always the intention when you blur civil and criminal process by way of these quasi-injunctive orders. Whether it is minor nuisance or suspicion of being associated with terrorists, whatever the gravity of the threat, you will catch behaviour without proper criminal due process and then prosecute people for the breach.

Although we do not always agree, I must commend the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, in particular on a devastating critique of this use of copy and paste in my former department. Computers are wonderful things—until they are not. I will not labour the point, save to quote the right honourable Member for Haltemprice and Howden, who has done his best on this Bill in the other place along with Sir Charles Walker, from the Times this morning:

“Serious disruption prevention orders, or SDPOs”—

protest banning orders—

“can be given to anyone who has on two previous occasions ‘carried out activities related to a protest’ that ‘resulted in or were likely to result in serious disruption’”—

which is not defined—

“or even ‘caused or contributed to the carrying out by any other person’ of such activities. This is drafted so broadly so as to potentially include sharing a post on social media or handing out a leaflet encouraging people to go to a protest—even if you did not go on to attend that protest. Those issued with an SDPO can face harsh restrictions on their liberty, including … GPS tracking and being banned from going on demonstrations, associating with certain people”,

et cetera—and the orders are renewable indefinitely, as we have heard.

I am sorry if I have made noble friends feel uncomfortable. Do not think about these measures as they would be employed today. Think about how they could be used on the statute book by another Government, not of your friends and not of your choosing, in 20 years’ time. That is why, in a terrible Bill, Clauses 19 and 20 should not stand part.

My Lords, I open by echoing what the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said: all the arguments in all the amendments could become redundant if we support not putting Clauses 19 and 20 in the Bill. The strength of feeling demonstrated through this short debate leads me to believe that that may well be what we vote on when we come to Report.

I forget whether it was my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti or the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, who referred to this as copy-and-paste legislation. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, who gave the analogy of chicken coops being moved around to replicate these civil injunctions. But perhaps the most powerful speech we have heard was from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, who gave six examples of SDPOs being tougher than TPIMs, which really caused me to sit back and reflect on the meat of what we are dealing with here today.

My noble friend Lady Chakrabarti said she has always been against what she called quasi-injunctive orders—civil orders—going all the way back to ASBOs. This caused me to reflect, as a magistrate, on which of those orders I deal with when I sit in courts. I deal with some of them: football banning orders, knife crime prevention orders and domestic violence protection orders—I think most noble Lords who have taken part in this debate think DVPOs are an appropriate use of civil orders. But, of course, the list goes on. That is really the point my noble friend makes: there are a growing number of these civil orders that, if breached, result in criminal convictions.

To repeat what I said, here we are meeting a very extreme situation in which people planning to get involved in protest or to help people do so can potentially be criminalised for that activity. The nature of the potential offence being committed is different.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, went through in detail, for which I thank him, the nature of the injunctions in Clauses 19 and 20, so I will not go through all that again, but I will make one point that he did not make. We are concerned that there does not seem to be any requirement for the person involved to have knowledge that the protest activities were going to cause serious disruption. That lack of a requirement of knowledge is a source of concern for us.

In the debate on the previous group, my noble friend Lord Rooker and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, spoke about the comments of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, and my noble friend quoted from them. The noble Lord, Lord Beith, spoke about the Secretary of State issuing guidance to chief police officers and how that could go down a road whose potential political implications, in a sense, I prefer not to think about.

I will quote briefly from other committees which have reflected on this legislation. First, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has said:

“Serious Disruption Prevention Orders represent a disproportionate response to the disruption caused by protest. They are likely to result in interference with legitimate peaceful exercise of Article 10 and 11 rights. The police already have powers to impose conditions on protests and to arrest those who breach them. Other provisions of this Bill, if passed, will provide the police with even greater powers to restrict or prevent disruptive protest.”

Another committee, the Constitution Committee, said:

“The purposes for which a Serious Disruption Prevention Order can be issued are broad. They can be issued not only to prevent a person committing a protest-related offence but also to prevent a person from carrying out activities related to a protest. Such a protest need cause, or be likely to cause, serious disruption to only two people. This gives the orders a pre-emptive or preventative role. Furthermore, ‘protest-related’ offence is not adequately defined in this part of the Bill nor … is ‘serious disruption’. This undermines legal certainty. We recommend that the meaning of ‘protest-related offence’ is clarified more precisely.”

The Minister has a big job on his hands to try to convince any Member of this Committee that he is on the right track. The amendments in my name—the clause stand part amendments—are the quickest way to put this part of the Bill out of its misery.

My Lords, there are notices to oppose within this group, so it may help if I start by addressing serious disruption prevention orders as a whole, before turning to amendments to the clause. SDPOs will target protestors who are determined to repeatedly inflict disruption on the public or those who simply wish to go about their daily lives. Our experience at recent protests has shown that many police are encountering the same individuals, who are determined repeatedly to inflict disruption on the public.

It cannot be right that a small group of individuals repeatedly trample on the rights of the public without let or hindrance. Yes, many are arrested, but after paying small fines or serving short or suspended sentences, they are free to reoffend. This measure would, following the consideration and permission of the courts, allow for proportionate and necessary restriction or requirements to be placed on individuals to prevent them causing harm.

Additionally, in some cases, individuals choose to not get their hands dirty. They go around the country speaking to young people who are determined to make the world a better place—not to encourage them to study and seek out a career to better the planet, or even to enter politics to enact change; instead, they encourage them to commit criminal offences, alienate the public from their cause and jeopardise their opportunity for a career that will actually make a difference. Why should these individuals, who contribute to serious disruption, be permitted to behave as they do without consequence?

This is why SDPOs are needed, as drafted. They will provide an alternative, non-custodial route to prevent those who have a track record of trampling on the rights of others from doing so. The threshold for the imposition of these orders is appropriately high and I trust our courts to impose them only where necessary.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked about the HMICFRS conclusion. The report from the policing inspectorate considered only orders which would always ban an individual from protesting. SDPOs grant the courts discretion to impose any prohibitions and requirements necessary to protect the public from protest-related crimes and serious disruption. Depending on the individual circumstances, this may mean that the court will not consider it necessary to stop individuals attending protests.

Amendments 128, 129 and 130 would raise the evidential threshold for SDPOs to the criminal standard. I am sure that many who support these amendments also support the civil courts approving injunctions against protesters. These are made on the civil burden of proof against large numbers of people, including “persons unknown”. SDPOs are made against single known individuals.

A number of noble Lords asked why SDPOs can be granted using a civil standard of proof, including the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Skidelsky, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, among others. The use of the civil standard of proof is not a novel concept for preventive orders. Football banning orders, for example, use the same standard of proof to help prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any regulated football matches. By using a civil standard of proof, courts will be allowed, following due consideration, to place prohibitions or requirements they consider necessary to prevent an individual causing disruption.

Finally, for the avoidance of doubt, the offence of breaching an SDPO must be proven to the criminal burden of proof.

To reassure the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on his internet-related question, it will be for the courts to place necessary, proportionate and enforceable conditions and for the police to enforce the order.

I turn to Amendment 131, which specifies that an SDPO may not be made if the activities were undertaken in furtherance of a trade dispute. Some noble Lords may have read my letter to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, where I detail why such a defence exists for the infrastructure offences but not the others. Legitimate and lawful industrial action, such as going on strike, will inevitably cause such interference or obstruction. This activity would likely fall within the protection provided by the general reasonable excuse. But to provide reassurance and clarity to those who may consider lawful industrial action, this was made explicit on the face of the Bill.

For the sake of clarity, this reasonable excuse does not extend beyond lawful activity. Other offences covering unacceptable behaviour do not contain this excuse and doing so would legitimise such tactics for a single type of protest but not others. As with the infrastructure offences, lawful industrial action should not be a contributing factor to an SDPO, but any behaviour that steps beyond that absolutely must be.

Turning to Amendment 132, which prevents police forces which are subject to special measures by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services from applying for serious disruption prevention orders otherwise than on conviction, I note that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is not in her place. Although I agree that forces in engage should be subject to scrutiny and supported to eradicate causes of concern, I do not believe we should strip them of their powers as that would ultimately result in the public suffering.

I turn to Amendment 133 and related Amendments 135 to 142, which focus on the renewal of SDPOs. Amendment 133 would create more bureaucracy. If it is made part of the Bill, when an SDPO expires, chief police officers could still apply for a new SDPO to be made and courts will approve it if persuaded of its necessity. Why not simply allow for the relevant force to apply for one to be renewed? All this amendment achieves is the creation of the risk for a lapse in an SDPO when it is proven that it continues to be needed. A renewal of an SDPO is not automatic; the courts would need to be satisfied that it continues to be necessary. If a person subject to an SDPO has adhered to their restrictions and requirements and there is no new evidence to suggest they will return to their old ways, I struggle to see how a renewal would be granted.

I turn finally to Amendment 134, which seeks to reduce the maximum fine for breaching an SDPO. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for specifying that this is a probing amendment. Unlimited fines will allow for fines in excess of £2,500, which is currently the maximum value of a level 4 fine, the next rung down on the standard scale. However, this does not mean that all financial penalties must be above £2,500. Ample guidance is published by the Sentencing Council which details how courts should approach the assessment of fines. An unlimited fine is appropriate; the entire purpose of SDPOs is to prevent and deter people from disrupting the public. Therefore, it makes sense for the maximum sentences available to be in line with the sentences available for those offences.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, very eloquently asked the Government how we can justify SDPOs when they impose tighter restrictions and have less oversight than terrorism prevention and investigation measures. SDPOs would improve the police’s ability to take a proactive approach to policing protest by preventing prolific protesters who are hell-bent on causing chaos time and time again doing so in the first place. Having said that, the Government thank the noble Lord for his comparison of SDPOs with TPIMs. Without wishing to—or committing to—own up to anything, we will reflect on his views. I would also like to reassure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, that that does mean a proper think. For the reasons I have outlined, I ask all noble Lords not to press their amendments.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. As many noble Lords have said, this is about restricting the human rights and civil liberties of unconvicted people on the basis of the balance of probabilities. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, described the “breathtakingly broad” provisions, more draconian than those imposed on terrorists, that the Government propose to impose on peaceful protesters.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood—of course it is the standard of proof, not the burden of proof—and to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, for pointing that these orders will be imposed on activities in relation to a protest. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, described on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, not only would lawful picketing be included but somebody who organised or chipped in to pay for coaches to bus people down to London to take part in a protest would be covered by these provisions.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, hit the nail on the head: quite clearly, there has not been enough thinking. I cannot believe that we have got to Committee in the House of Lords, having gone all the way through the process in the House of Commons, before a Minister agreed to start thinking about the consequences of these provisions. In defence of the Home Office and its officials, we should remember that Home Secretary Priti Patel was facing a potentially hostile Conservative Party conference in the wake of Insulate Britain protests and demanded an immediate, draconian response. That is how we have come to copying and pasting terrorist legislation and applying it to peaceful protesters without a second thought.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, that we should support civil orders to protect victims of domestic violence, for example, but with civil sanctions. That is why anti-social behaviour orders are now anti-social behaviour injunctions, with civil penalties, which can include contempt of court and imprisonment. We are not talking about soft options here.

I could not believe the description of the sort of person on whom the Government think these orders are designed to be imposed. It was the most outrageous and extraordinary description of people going around telling young people all sorts of things. I have never heard or experienced anything like it in my life. If it is true, I am glad that the Government will now think about what has been said as a result of noble Lords in this Committee, whom the House has the utmost respect for and will listen very intently to when we come, as we inevitably will, to vote that these clauses do not stand part of the Bill. The Government need to do some long and hard thinking about these clauses because, with the support that we have seen across the House for these provisions to be taken out of the Bill, we will carry the House if the Government do not see sense on these measures. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 128 withdrawn.

Amendment 129 not moved.

Clause 19 agreed.

Clause 20: Serious disruption prevention order made otherwise than on conviction

Amendments 130 to 132 not moved.

Clause 20 agreed.

Clauses 21 to 24 agreed.

Clause 25: Duration of serious disruption prevention order

Amendment 133 not moved.

Clause 25 agreed.

Clause 26 agreed.

Clause 27: Offences relating to a serious disruption prevention order

Amendment 134 not moved.

Clause 27 agreed.

Clause 28: Variation, renewal or discharge of serious disruption prevention order

Amendments 135 to 141 not moved.

Clause 28 agreed.

Clause 29: Appeal against serious disruption prevention order

Amendment 142 not moved.

Clause 29 agreed.

Clause 30 agreed.

Clause 31: Guidance: Parliamentary procedure

Amendment 142A not moved.

Clause 31 agreed.

Clauses 32 to 34 agreed.

Amendment 143

Moved by

143: After Clause 34, insert the following new Clause—

“Review of sentencing for protest-related offences(1) Within three months of the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must publish a review into sentencing for public order and protest-related offences.(2) “Public order and protest-related offences” include, but are not restricted to, offences for protest-related activity under—(a) the Criminal Damage Act 1971;(b) the Highways Act 1980;(c) the Public Order Act 1986; (d) the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994;(e) the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022; andoffences charged following breach of an injunction against protest-related activity, granted under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.(3) The review must include—(a) the average sentence given where a person commits a public order or protest-related offence, and(b) the proportion of cases in which the maximum available sentence is given for a public order or protest-related offence.(4) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the review before each House of Parliament.”

My Lords, this amendment is in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. It would require the Secretary of State to publish a review into sentencing for protest-related offences within three months of the Act passing. The review must include the average sentence given for any protest-related or public order offence, and the proportion of cases in which the maximum available sentence is given. This will be a quick introduction to the amendment and a series of questions to the Minister.

First, what work has been done to look at current sentencing practice for public order offences before this whole tranche of possible new sentences is introduced? Hundreds, if not thousands, of Just Stop Oil and other protesters have now been arrested and given sentences. Do the Government have any view on the longer-term outcomes of those arrests and sentences? What is the average sentence or fine given for the activity which is already considered unlawful? How often has an existing available maximum sentence been used? What assessment have Ministers made of the impact of the Bill on the number of cases which need court time and how will this be managed, given the extensive backlogs in the existing criminal justice and court system?

The amendment covers a variety of legislation in which relevant powers can already be found, including the Criminal Damage Act 1971, the Highways Act 1980, the Public Order Act 1986, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, and offences charged following breach of an injunction against protest-related activity, granted under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The point is that we have layers and layers of new and old laws on our statute book, and we are yet to be convinced that these additional powers are necessary. It is for the Government to show how much the existing powers are being used and whether there is a real case for adding new powers through this Bill. I beg to move.

My Lords, we support Amendment 143 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, to which I have added my name. We on these Benches believe that the prison service is overwhelmed. As a result, prisoners have no real opportunity for rehabilitation, and this can lead to a revolving door of offending, conviction and imprisonment. Liberal Democrats want to reduce the number of people unnecessarily in prison by introducing a presumption against short prison sentences and including the use of tough community sentences and restorative justice where appropriate. We want to transform prisons into places of rehabilitation and recovery by improving the provision of training, education and work opportunities.

That cannot be done against a background of an ever-increasing prison population. In particular, custodial sentences should be restricted to the most serious types of offending that place public safety at risk. We believe that peacefully exercising basic human rights of freedom of expression and assembly are not included in the types of offending warranting a custodial sentence in most cases. That it is why it is important to review sentencing for public order and protest-related offences to ensure that the right balance is struck between the right to protest and the disruption such protests may cause. If the balance is wrong, it is an indication of a repressive regime that seeks to stifle the democratic right of citizens in a free society to gather and express their concerns about the way the Government and Parliament are operating. We therefore support the proposed review.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Paddick, for tabling this amendment. I empathise with the importance of understanding sentencing for criminal offences. However, the Government do not feel that it is necessary to accept this amendment. There are already adequate mechanisms in place to scrutinise sentencing. The Sentencing Council for England and Wales exists to promote greater transparency and consistency in sentencing. It issues guidance on sentencing and is responsible for monitoring sentencing. Its objectives are to promote a clear, fair and consistent approach to sentencing, to produce analysis and research on sentencing and to work to improve public confidence in sentencing.

As a result of the delegation of these functions, it is felt that the Government are not best placed to undertake such a review. I therefore respectfully ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Well, the Minister did not make any attempt to answer any of the questions I asked. I do not know whether he would undertake to guide me to some government documents that may answer those questions. I think that may be useful, to see whether we might come back to this matter at a later stage.

My Lords, in respect of the specific questions, which are more or less covered by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales, I think we will commit to write to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby.

Amendment 143 withdrawn.

Amendments 144 and 145 not moved.

Clause 35: Extent, commencement and short title

Amendment 146

Moved by

146: Clause 35, page 36, line 25, at end insert—

“(4A) No other provisions of this Act may be brought into force until a report by His Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services on improvements to the vetting, recruitment and discipline of specialist protest police officers is laid before and debated in each House of Parliament.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment, and another in the name of Baroness Chakrabarti, require parliamentary debate of a report by HMCI on improvements to the vetting, recruitment and discipline of specialist protest police officers before most provisions of the legislation may be brought into force. They further prohibit the bringing into force of the provisions in any police area under HMCI special measures.

My Lords, I congratulate those still here. We end, of course, with commencement, because that is the tradition. In moving Amendment 146 I will speak also to my Amendments 147 and 149. I also support Amendment 148 from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and Amendment 150 from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and my noble friend. We are dealing with the tension between ever more police powers on the one hand and the lack of equivalence in resources, training and vetting for policing on the other hand. This tension has been more and more exposed in graphic terms in recent months and years.

We began this evening with the eloquent speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, who spoke powerfully about incidents of abuse of police power in relation to journalists. We were assured, I think sincerely, by the Minister that it was far from the intention of the Government that those things happened. The Government apparently agreed with me that those were wrongful arrests, yet they have happened more than once. There are some in the police community who hold the view that this is a legitimate thing to do to prevent serious disruption, which is undefined in statute. So, with the amendments, we are seeking to ensure that there is some check on the new blank cheque that we are putting on the statute book, in addition to blank cheques that have already been put there by broad concepts such as conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, et cetera. That is what we are trying to get at.

Amendment 146 prevents the commencement of most provisions of the Bill until there has been

“a report by His Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services on improvements to the vetting, recruitment and discipline of specialist protest police officers”.

In another group, the Minister said, “If they’re trained, they’re trained”. So this is about ensuring that that is the case before additional power is granted. Amendment 147 is consequential to that.

Amendment 149 is crucial at a time when more than one police force is in special measures. It provides that provisions should

“not be brought into force for any area in which the police service is under special measures, the engage phase of monitoring, or other unusual scrutiny … by His Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services.”

That seems to be a perfectly reasonably check on the new powers and a perfectly reasonable request to make of Ministers, so I beg to move.

My Lords, I have tabled Amendments 148 and 150 in this group, and will speak also to Amendments 146, 147 and 149.

My amendments would mean that the new offences in the Bill—the delegation of functions and serious disruption prevention order provisions—could not come into force until the Government have laid before Parliament a report assessing the current capability of police services to use the provisions in those sections. Most of the 10 police forces inspected by HMICFRS said that the limiting factor in the effective policing of protests was a lack of properly trained and equipped police officers, not gaps in legislation. If that is already the limiting factor, what assessment have the Government made of the additional strain that the new provisions will have on already-stretched police officer numbers? What is the point of new legislation if the police do not have the resources to use it effectively—or, indeed, to use existing legislation effectively?

I can understand the principle behind Amendments 146, 147 and 149 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti; the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester has added his name to Amendments 146 and 147. Were it to be within the scope of the Bill, I too would support a moratorium on giving the police any further powers unless and until Parliament had a chance to consider a report by HMICFRS into the vetting, recruitment and discipline of all police officers, not just public order officers—particularly in forces that are subject to the “engage phase” of scrutiny by HMICFRS, commonly understood to be “special measures”. With so many forces requiring intensive scrutiny and intervention by HMICFRS, and public confidence in the police being so low, the police should not be given further powers until HMICFRS has reassured the public that they can have confidence in the police use of existing powers, let alone new ones.

My Lords, I add my support to Amendments 146 and 147, to which my right reverend friend the Bishop of Manchester added his name—I know he regrets that he is unable to be here today. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for bringing these important amendments forward. Throughout the debate on the Bill, it has been clear that there are many justified and genuine concerns about provisions and the expansion of police powers laid out in it. I believe that it is therefore appropriate that further reflection should take place, and these amendments would provide for exactly that opportunity, requiring parliamentary debate of an HMCI report concerning improvements to the vetting, recruitment and discipline of protest police officers. In recent years, we have arguably seen an accelerated decrease in trust in the police, and it is critical that any expansion of powers such as those set out in the Bill does not occur without regard for the real implications of such measures.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I will make a couple of brief comments in support of the amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, forcefully made the arguments for Amendment 150, and I will not repeat them. I also support my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti’s amendments —she also made the arguments.

I will add one thing to the amendments of my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester—obviously spoken to by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford. Amendment 147 talks about the “vetting, recruitment and discipline” of specialist officers. It is especially important that these amendments have been tabled. I know that the Government will be as worried, concerned and appalled as the rest of us in the week where we have seen the resignation of Michael Lockwood as the director-general of the Independent Office for Police Conduct due to a criminal inquiry. My noble friend Lady Chakrabarti made a point about vetting. I have no idea what the process or procedure was when Mr Lockwood got the post, but one wonders about the vetting that took place, and this raises the question yet again. We will not have a big debate about all this, but I think that what my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti’s amendments get at is that, if we are to restore public confidence, we have to address some of these issues. Unfortunately, at the moment, we seem to have one thing after another which undermines the valuable work that so many of our officers do.

I will raise one other point about commencement. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, raised the issue of Section 78 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. Talking about the commencement of the Bill, he was worried about Section 78’s definition of

“Intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”

and how it related to the provisions in Bill. Before the commencement of the Act, as it will be, some clarification of how it relates to Section 78 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 would be helpful for our police forces as they interpret the law.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for tabling their amendments; I absolutely understand the sentiment behind them. It is obviously important that the measures passed in the Bill are continually subject to inspection, reporting and scrutiny by the relevant bodies, such as HMICFRS. However, I remind noble Lords that the use of police powers is already carefully scrutinised by public bodies such as HMICFRS and the Independent Office for Police Conduct. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, will forgive me for not referring to the ongoing case against the departing chief.

In its March 2021 report, HMICFRS recognised the need for the police to be granted more powers. It is therefore not necessary to accept this amendment. We have been working with the NPCC and the college to prepare for these new powers and that has involved ensuring capacity and capability. As noble Lords will be aware—I have referred to it earlier—the Government are well on the way to meeting their commitment to recruit 20,000 new officers. Beyond this, our expectation is that the provisions in this Bill will improve the ability of the police to remove and deter protesters from engaging in criminal acts, thereby alleviating some pressure on the police. As I have said, and as is standard, legislation will be reviewed after implementation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, mentioned that some police forces are in special measures. Obviously, there was an amendment in the previous group that dealt with this to some extent. Something I did not say but could have is that forces engaged by the inspectorate should not be painted with a broad brush and deemed unable to be trusted with the use of certain powers. Some of the reasons why forces are currently engaged include the need to review and monitor call-taking capacity, capability and processes; having an inadequate strategic plan; or the poor recording of crimes. I am not for a moment suggesting that these issues are benign. Like noble Lords and the public, I would expect the best from our police forces, but I do not believe that being engaged is a legitimate reason to withhold powers from forces. As I said before, doing so would be counterproductive, as it would undermine their ability to prevent crime.

The three speakers all mentioned vetting. I have to restate the case that I have put many times from this Dispatch Box: that each police force is responsible for its own vetting decisions but should take them in accordance with guidance from the College of Policing. The Government are disappointed that, despite some progress, previous warnings about vetting have not been acted on. Chiefs must be clear to their vetting units about the high standards they expect from them; there is no excuse for poorly recording the rationale for vetting decisions.

It is our conviction that these measures should come into force as soon as is reasonably practicable. For that reason, I respectfully ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Can the Minister clarify what I thought I heard—noble Lords know what I am like with making mistakes about what a Minister actually said and what I heard. Did he say that the provisions in the legislation are designed to “deter protesters” and therefore relieve pressure on the police? Can he just clarify what he meant by that?

What I hope I said is that our expectation is that the provisions in the Bill will improve the ability of the police to “remove and deter protesters”, thereby alleviating some pressure on the police.

That is very helpful. I agree with the Minister that police officers—we have a fine one in this Committee—and police forces should not be treated with a broad brush, but, and noble Lords will perhaps forgive me if I say it, nor should peaceful protesters. Hence, the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and hence the bulk of criticism of this entire draft legislation in this Committee. It is an unhappy privilege to be perhaps the last speaker in this Committee; I think I was the first. I am grateful to the Minister for his fortitude and courtesy. He wants to rise again.

I am grateful to the Minister but, of course, if the Government are able to keep expanding the definition of criminality, that does not give much cause for comfort about protecting peaceful dissent. I am none the less grateful to the Minister for his fortitude and courtesy throughout this three-session Committee. I hope that he and his colleagues will understand that what he has heard over these days and hours is very serious cross-party concern about these measures, reflected in vast sections of the country. I have no doubt that, after a good break and, I hope, a happy Christmas of reflection, colleagues will be back and some of these matters will definitely be put to the vote. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 146 withdrawn.

Amendments 147 to 150 not moved.

Clause 35 agreed.

House resumed.

Bill reported with amendments.

House adjourned at 9.50 pm.