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Public Order Bill

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 14 March 2023

Commons Amendments and Reasons

Motion A

Moved by

That this House do not insist on its Amendment 1 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 1A in lieu.

1A: Page 36, line 15, at end insert the following new Clause—

“Meaning of serious disruption

(1) For the purposes of this Act, the cases in which individuals or an organisation may suffer serious disruption include, in particular, where the individuals or the organisation—

(a) are by way of physical obstruction prevented, or hindered to more than a minor degree, from carrying out—

(i) their day-to-day activities (including in particular the making of a journey),

(ii) construction or maintenance works, or

(iii) activities related to such works,

(b) are prevented from making or receiving, or suffer a delay that is more than minor to the making or receiving of, a delivery of a time-sensitive product, or

(c) are prevented from accessing, or suffer a disruption that is more than minor to the accessing of, any essential goods or any essential service.

(2) In this section—

(a) “time-sensitive product” means a product whose value or use to its consumers may be significantly reduced by a delay in the supply of the product to them;

(b) a reference to accessing essential goods or essential services includes in particular a reference to accessing—

(i) the supply of money, food, water, energy or fuel,

(ii) a system of communication,

(iii) a place of worship,

(iv) a transport facility,

(v) an educational institution, or

(vi) a service relating to health.”

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak also to Motion C.

Amendment 1 provides a definition of “serious disruption” which is the trigger for a number of offences and powers contained in the Bill. As I explained when this was first considered on Report, the Government do not believe that the amendment is appropriate. First, it does not read compatibly with the measures in the Bill—a point made by several of your Lordships during that debate. Secondly, it does not set an appropriate threshold for what constitutes serious disruption, which is why, on Report, the Government supported the definition proposed in the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. The Government have brought an amendment in lieu to more closely align the definition with that proposed by the noble and learned Lord and to address these two issues. The new proposed threshold is rooted in case law from both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. It now has the support of the other place.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has tabled Motion A1, which replaces the “more than minor” threshold in this amendment with “significant”. I will paraphrase the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, who, when this was debated on Report, expertly argued why “more than minor” was an appropriate threshold. There is no question that minor disruption is not only acceptable but is a constituent part of the right to protest. However, when disruption exceeds this, the police should intervene. The use of “more than” implements this concept in law, which is why the Government continue to support the formulation of the noble and learned Lord. We encourage your Lordships to support Amendment 1A.

Motion C relates to journalists. This group concerns Amendment 17, which seeks to establish a specific safeguard for journalists and bystanders during protests. It is in response to the unlawful arrest of the LBC journalist, Charlotte Lynch, and others by Hertfordshire Constabulary in October 2022. The Government are clear that the role of members of the press must be respected. They should be able to do their job freely and without restriction. However, we remain of the view that the amendment is unnecessary. The police may exercise their powers of arrest and powers to maintain public order and public safety only in limited circumstances specified in law. Therefore, there is no need whatever for carve-outs of circumstances where these powers cannot be used.

However, we recognise the strength of support for this amendment. Sometimes there is a need to send a signal as to the values and principles we stand for; this is one of those times. That is why the Government brought forward an amendment in lieu in the other place. It accepts the principle of the amendment while also minimising the risk of unintended consequences. We make it explicit that the police may still use their powers on those reporting and observing protests when it is necessary and lawful to do so. The police must still be able to exercise their powers on journalists and observers who break the law or who put public safety at risk.

Amendment 17A was supported by the other place, including by the Opposition Front Bench. I hope that it will now also be accepted by your Lordships’ House. I beg to move.

Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)

Moved by

1B: In subsection (1)(a), leave out “more than a minor” and insert “a significant”

1C: In subsection (1)(b), leave out “delay that is more than minor” and insert “significant delay”

1D: In subsection (1)(c), leave out “disruption that is more than minor” and insert “significant disruption””

My Lords, the Minister said that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, proposed his amendment for “more than minor” and that was why the Government reintroduced it in the Commons and were supporting it again. Of course, that was lost when it was debated in your Lordships’ House and the Government have inserted “more than minor”—admittedly, with some flowers and curtains around it. I keep saying to noble Lords that it goes to the heart of the debate as to the threshold we wish to set where we start to undermine the right to protest. I still contend that the Government’s “more than minor” threshold is too low. Hence my Motion A1 would insert in subsection (1)(a) “significant” instead of “more than a minor”; in subsection (1)(b), it would leave out

“delay that is more than minor”

and insert “significant delay”, and in subsection (1)(d), it would leave out

“disruption that is more than minor”

and insert “significant disruption”. The point of that is, of course, to raise the threshold.

First, because I think it is important for noble Lords to understand, I want an assurance from the Minister that whatever we decide will be respected by the Government. To refer back to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, Sections 73 and 74 define public nuisance and impose conditions on public processions, public assemblies and various sorts of activities, including defining what activity may result in serious disruption. Tucked away in those sections is the power for the Government to change any of that by regulation. I want a categorical assurance from the Minister that, were the Government to lose the amendments before us today, and they may win, and the Bill went back to the other place, or if the amendments that could not be reinserted in the Commons because they had been introduced in the Public Order Bill only in the Lords—namely, what we called the “slow walking” clause and the “reasonable excuse” amendments—were lost, the Government will not seek to overturn the expressed will of this Chamber and, I hope, eventually the will of the other place by using Sections 73 and 74 of that Act, which they could do. I would appreciate that.

The debate today centres on thresholds. At what level should we restrict the right to protest, above the laws that we already have? We already have a number of laws that restrict the right to protest and allow us to deal with protests as they occur. Indeed, many chief constables, including the chief constable of Manchester, have asked why we do not use the existing legislation. Notwithstanding that, the Government have panicked and come forward with the Bill to try to deal with what they perceive as a problem.

To make this real, I spent Sunday afternoon looking at various protests that have taken place around the country that, I contend, with a “more than minor” threshold would under the Bill be something that the police could arrest people for and stop. I ask everybody in this Chamber whether that is what people want, because I contend that it is what the “more than minor” threshold will mean, rather than the “significant” threshold that I am seeking to replace it with.

Let me quickly go through some of these protests that made the headlines, which would be illegal under the Bill. The first is “Protest in Oxford blocks major road in both directions”. I suggest that, before a court, that may not be significant but is more than minor. Next we have a “No HS2” protest. Some people may have more sympathy with that, but lots of protests have taken place with respect to that. “No nuclear power station” protests have taken place in Suffolk. Are they covered by the Bill? They come under “more than minor”, and I contest that offences would be committed under the Bill. East Sussex residents protested outside the housing department at the treatment of a road and blocked access. That is an offence under the Bill, and certainly above the “more than minor” threshold. Next is “Furious parents block road to protest poor enforcement of school street in north London”. I contend that that is an offence under the Bill. In the case of “Wellingborough: Protesters halt tree-felling plans”, they blocked the diggers and the cutters, which is not allowed under the Bill and is certainly more than minor. Two more are angry mothers blocking drivers over school drop-offs and unhappy Trowbridge residents turning out to block tree cutting. Under the Bill, some of these protests would be illegal and the police could potentially have the capacity to arrest.

We also saw the massive protests that took place last July when summer holidays were affected. Thousands of lorry drivers across the country blocked the M4, the M5, the M32 and the A38 in protest at the cost of fuel. My contention is that under the Bill that is more than minor and those protesting against the cost of fuel would be liable to arrest more than they are now. If you are blocking five or six motorways, that is certainly more than minor. What else did I find? Farmers blocked roads in protests; tractors were used in response to falling milk prices. That would not be allowed under the Bill. Blocking a major road is certainly more than minor. There is example after example showing that the Bill puts at risk the rights of people to protest. It puts at risk one of the democratic traditions of our country.

I do not hold with the idea that the Minister seeks to ban protests. That is ridiculous: I have never said that. What I have said is that the Bill unnecessarily restricts the right to protest and unnecessarily causes uncertainty about what is allowed or not. Lowering the threshold would mean that activity that is currently allowable in some of the examples I have given would not be. That is because of the phrase “more than minor”.

I am sure that many noble Lords will wish to comment on that, but all I ask is for noble Lords to reflect that if a tractor turns up, a mother turns up or a group links arms, before anything has happened it could be illegal under the Bill—this is the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. It does not even have to have caused disruption; it simply has to be capable of causing disruption. You can turn up with five tractors and park in a car park, and if the police think you are going to do something, even if you have not done anything, they could stop it because it is capable of causing disruption.

The Government will say, “Of course, this is ridiculous —an overreaction. Stupid nonsense. Why on earth is that going to happen? Our police will not act in that way. Ridiculous. People will be shaking their heads in disbelief that anybody could posit that anything like this would happen in our country.” All I say is: why would you pass legislation that creates the potential and the risk for it to happen?

It is not the way to legislate. Existing laws are appropriate and satisfactory and could be used. They are not being used as effectively as they could be. The Government’s answer to Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion and all that is to seek to pass a totally disproportionate piece of legislation. Through my Motion I am trying to mitigate the impact and effects of that. I beg to move.

My Lords, since the noble Lord was kind enough to mention my name, I should perhaps briefly explain the thinking behind the form of words the Government have introduced to this debate.

Before I do, I remind your Lordships of what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said at Third Reading—words that are worth listening to again. He said that

“the debates here and the changes made reflect a genuine attempt to address where the line should be drawn between the right to protest and the right of others to go about their daily lives.”—[Official Report, 21/2/23; cols. 1560-61.]

Those are valuable words and were worth saying again because they encapsulate exactly the dispute between us, which has been conducted with a great level of courtesy, certainly on the other side of the House and, I hope, on my side too, in trying to find a solution to the problem.

The words I chose were designed specifically to deal with the two groups of offences in the Bill, locking on and tunnelling. Those offences differ from the other kinds of protest activities. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has reminded us of a lot of examples of these. The whole purpose of those conducting these activities is to disrupt. That is their method of making their views known. That is quite different from people who assemble with flags, shouting, singing and so on, or who walk in a procession as their method of making their views known. If you make your views known by disrupting, the position is that you cross a line.

That line was identified by the Court of Appeal in the Colston case. It used the words “minor or trivial”. If that kind of activity goes beyond what is minor or trivial, you lose the protection of proportionality available under the European Convention on Human Rights—you have moved to something different—because the activity you are conducting is deliberate and the consequences of what you have done in the exercise of that deliberate decision are properly described as more than minor.

I was looking for a definition of the threshold because I took the view, rightly or wrongly, that when you are dealing with those categories of offences, there is a point—at a fairly early stage, as the Court of Appeal is indicating—where it should be available to the police to stop the activity. Tunnelling, for example, is designed to inflict economic harm on the body that is conducting the railway. We are talking about HS2, which has parliamentary backing. To inflict economic harm should not be allowed to continue for any longer than a minor interference.

Locking on is the same thing. Once it reaches a stage of going beyond minor, the sooner the police are free to take the necessary action, the better. It is their judgment, but the point of my amendment was to identify a threshold. The problem with “significant”, which is a perfectly respectable word for describing a state of affairs, is that it does not define a threshold. It defines a state of affairs. The police need a threshold to be clearly identified, which my words were designed to do.

The problem, and it is part of our debate with each other, is that in legislation we cannot use algorithms or numbers. We are driven to use adjectives, which are quite malleable creatures. They have a shade of meaning, and some people have different views as to what words such as “significant” mean. I would say that once you move beyond “minor” you have reached something that is significant.

That is the point: it is a state of affairs that you have reached, whereas my wording is to identify exactly the stage at which the threshold is crossed. As I said last time, “more” is absolutely crucial. I can well understand that “minor” excites fear and alarms but, with great respect, I do not think that is really justified. “Minor” has to be given full weight. In my submission, it achieves the object that I was trying to achieve and which I think that the Government have now accepted. It is the difference between a state of affairs and a threshold. In the end, that is the crucial point.

My Lords, I thank the Government for Motion C—yes, I did say that. In very turbulent and polarised times in our country, it is a real pleasure to be able to welcome it. Noble Lords will notice that there is a fairly minor tweak to the original amendment passed by your Lordships’ House. We said that a constable should not exercise powers for the principal purpose of preventing someone reporting, and the Government have replaced “principal purpose” with “sole purpose”. I for one am convinced that the precious and vital protection for journalists and others reporting on protests, rather than participating in them, is provided. The Minister wrote and said that they do not think that this is necessary but are doing it anyway. That is not ungracious. It is gracious, because I happen to think that this protection is vital. The Government disagree but they are doing it, so I am happy to thank them.

I remind noble Lords, as the Minister did, that the provision is in response to real cases: real journalists were arrested and detained last November, some for many hours, just for doing their job. The offence used when it was suggested that journalists were giving the oxygen of publicity to protesters was the fairly vague conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. While the Government have been consistent in their position that additional protection is unnecessary, no one at any stage of proceedings on the Bill could point to a single legislative provision on the current statute book that gives this protection. Therefore, I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has engaged with this and responded, not least to what I think was the largest defeat that the Government suffered on the Bill last time.

I am particularly grateful to Charlotte Lynch, the LBC reporter who visited us last time, having experienced the really quite traumatic incident of being arrested, handcuffed, put in a police van and detained for seven hours. This causes her some anxiety even to this day. She carried on and reported on that experience, and that has been very important for future journalists in this country, I hope that noble Lords will agree.

I am grateful to the all-party group, Justice, and Tyrone Steele, who worked with us on this amendment. I am especially grateful to the five distinguished Conservative Members of your Lordships’ House, including the former governor of Hong Kong and a former leader of the Conservative Party, who did the very difficult thing of coming through the lobbies with Her Majesty’s Opposition. I give my absolute respect to them.

I am, of course, grateful to my noble friends, the Liberal Democrats and many Cross-Benchers who supported this vital protection. I give especial thanks to the co-signatories of the original journalists’ protection amendment, including the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. It was a great comfort and support to have such a distinguished journalist and former newspaper editor on my side in this.

My enormous thanks also go to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. We disagree about some things, but not about this. In particular, I thank my co-signatory, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, not only for co-signing this amendment and bringing his noble friends with him, but for a lifetime of public service in policing and in your Lordships’ House. He is the most diligent and distinguished face of the police service in this country. When we reform that service, it will better reflect his values. That career of public service could not be better demonstrated than by him being here today, after suffering such unspeakable loss in recent weeks.

I do not want to take your Lordships’ time on the next group, so will say now that I support the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and my noble friend Lord Coaker in the remarks that they will make about suspicionless stop and search. Stop and search is always difficult and challenging for police community relations, but suspicionless stop and search is positively toxic and not something that we should be increasing in these troubled times in our country.

Finally, I come to the difficult question of the meaning of “serious disruption”, not for the purposes of some offences, but for the whole Bill. We have the narrow policy question of what the threshold should be before a number of criminal offences and intrusive police powers impugned what would otherwise be totally peaceful and innocent dissent. That is the narrow question.

We also have a rather deeper and broader—almost philosophical—question of common sense and the English language. Is “serious” significant, as I believe, or simply more than minor? Is it a simple binary, like a child’s 18th birthday that turns them from a minor into someone who has majority; or is there a whole range of disruption that one can face in one’s life from something that is minor to something that is really quite a lot more than minor—that is significant?

This is a serious question and the threshold should be high. I am reminded of George Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language”my favourite writing of his—in which he reminded us that distortion of language can quickly lead to abuses of power. This is a Public Order Bill and this ought to be a very serious threshold. However, if noble Lords prefer their literature to be accompanied by music, I will invoke not George Orwell but Cole Porter:

“There’s no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor”.

I urge all noble Lords who care about these things, who take a bipartisan approach to fundamental rights and freedoms in our country, as those distinguished five Conservatives did last time, to support Motion A1 in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker.

My Lords, I have been reflecting on the speeches which we have just heard. Listening to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and his point about the threshold, I have been thinking about what would be more than minor that was not significant. Looking at the examples that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, gave, it seems to me that if one discovered people tunnelling under an area that was going to be HS2, that is not only more than minor; my goodness me, it seems to me to be significant. I was also thinking about the closing of four or five motorways. So far as I am concerned, that seems to be both more than minor and significant. I just wonder, rather hesitantly, whether we are arguing about a position where the difference between “more than minor” and “significant” is extremely small. I cannot at the moment think of a word that I would use that was more than minor but not significant. That is where I stand—a slightly different position, I confess, from what I said on the last occasion.

My Lords, I hope I do not cause offence here, but I disagree strongly with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I shall give the House a few words that would be more than minor but less than significant: it could be “reasonable”, “measured, “limited” or “tolerable”. There are all sorts of stages between “more than minor” and “significant”. As a veteran protester, I have probably passed quite a few red lines in the past, although I have never committed violence—so far.

I turn to Motion A1. Obviously I am upset, along with other noble Lords, I hope, at the fact that the other place immediately whips out all our good work and indeed our hard work. We spend time reading the Bill and thinking about it, which obviously the majority of people in the other place do not; they simply do whatever the Government tell them. I feel that the Government are trying to stop protest of virtually every kind—almost any protest imaginable—and that is so deeply oppressive that I could not possibly support it, so I wholeheartedly support Motion A1.

If the House will indulge me, I will mention the other two Motions as well so that I speak only once. I am horrified by Motion B2. I regret that Labour feels it cannot support Motion B1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Sitting here, I have been thinking that I would vote against Motion B2, but that is probably too difficult. I do not even think I can abstain, so I think I am going to vote for it—but it will be through gritted teeth as it goes against all my libertarian views, and I am really annoyed with Labour for putting it in.

To finish on an upbeat note, there is Motion C. The Government make endless bad decisions. We are wallowing in an ocean of bad decisions nationally because of this Government, and some extremely unpleasant scenarios, with poverty and deprivation, are playing out because of them. But here they have done the right thing. It is incredible that the Government have come back with not just something that we generally asked for but with a slightly improved version of the Lords amendment, which I have to thank them for and say “Well done”—if that does not sound too patronising, or matronising. It is a win for civil liberties and the right of the public to be informed about protest and dissent.

On a final note, I have been saying that I am the mother of a journalist. That is a slight twist of the truth, because actually I am the mother of an editor, and I just know that she will be absolutely delighted with what the Government have done today.

My Lords, I declare an interest: I generally pay my mortgage by debating the difference between “significant” and “more than minor”, so I am on very familiar territory.

The problem with the word “significant” is this: what is the opposite of significant? It is insignificant. There is therefore a constant debate in the courts when something, generally a contract, is said to be significant. Does it mean substantial—that is, quite a lot—or does it mean not insignificant, in other words more than de minimis? That is the problem with a word such as “significant”. For those reasons, I respectfully endorse the approach of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. We need a test here that is easy to apply.

Elsewhere in the law, we have the concept of significant risk. Of course, that is even more difficult, because there you are talking about risk—something that might happen—whereas here, in Motion 1A, we are talking about something that has happened or is happening. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, asked what the difference was between “more than minor” and “significant”. In the Court of Appeal case of R v Lang, Lady Justice Rose, who is now in the Supreme Court, said in her judgment:

“The risk identified must be significant. This is a higher threshold than mere possibility of occurrence”—

that is, a risk case—

“and in our view can be taken to mean … ‘noteworthy, of considerable amount or importance’”.

Even in that definition, there is a difference, I would suggest, between “noteworthy” and “of considerable amount”—and that is in the context of a risk, not something that is actually happening.

I would strongly endorse the approach of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. What we are dealing with here is not a risk; it is something that is actually happening. We do not want a test of “reasonable” or “tolerable”, where it is all in the eye of the beholder. We need a test where you can see it and you know whether it exists or not, and I would suggest that, for those reasons, “more than minor” really hits the nail on the head.

My Lords, I respectfully agree with what the noble Lord has just said. The House may remember that the whole question of the definition of “serious disruption” emanated in part from a recommendation of your Lordships’ Constitution Committee. I supported an amendment put down by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. I think the Opposition then accepted that it would be useful to define “serious disruption”. So, there was a measure of agreement, and what we were concerned with was where the threshold lay.

It is clear that the amendment the Government are seeking to put into the Bill is lawful. There had been some doubt, but various decisions, including the decision on Ziegler and the subsequent decision in the Northern Ireland case, show that this is well within the legality required by the European Court of Human Rights. The question is: how do you balance the undoubted right to demonstrate—I do not think there is any doubt that everybody in this House accepts the fundamental importance of that right—against the rights of others to go about their business, to go to hospital, to go to school and to do all the other important things? They must put up with inconvenience, but whether their lives should be seriously disrupted is a different question.

What worries me about the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is that, for example, it would require there to be a “prolonged disruption” before we get to the stage that an offence has been committed or, more realistically, that the police can do anything about it. Imprecision in adjectives is of course inevitable, but “prolonged” worries me. We have to achieve a difficult balance in this legislation, and it seems to me that that put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is the right one.

My Lords, one thing that is significant is when the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, congratulates the Government. I think that is a significant and not minor moment. But she was right to do so; the importance of journalistic freedom cannot be overestimated, and I would like to thank the noble Lords who put that amendment forward on this Bill and turned something which has been discomfiting into something positive at the end of it all. So that is very positive.

I also want to note that, when I was considering how I was going to intervene today, I actually said to colleagues that it was terrible that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, would not be with us, because I would have been relying on him to give us a steer. Then I walked in and he was in his place, and I would like to pay tribute to his courage for being here and the reassurance it gives many of us. That really takes some courage.

On the substantive point, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, did us a great service when he spent his weekend not demonstrating but looking at everybody else’s demonstrations on an average weekend, as it were, and laying them out for us. They were not particularly big, glamorous or headline-grabbing demonstrations, but all of them undoubtedly caused disruption to the people in the local area, in the way that he explained, and blocked roads quite substantially.

That is important because, throughout the discussions on this Bill, it has always felt as though we have had in our sights the likes of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, explained well that their aim is to disrupt, not even to protest. That is their tactic and their raison d’être. It has caused a lot of problems for me as somebody who supports the right to protest very strongly, and it has certainly aggravated the British public in all sorts of ways.

The reason the intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, was so useful was that it remembered the laws of unintended consequences. I say to the Government that those groups are not the only people who are going to be caught up by this law, which is why I would like us to make the threshold higher. The Government will not always be the Government—if we are talking about things being “prolonged”, it might not be that long. There will be all sorts of different people out on streets protesting. Sometimes it might even involve members of the Government at the moment and their supporters.

All the protests the noble Lord described covered all types of members of the British public who felt the need to take to the streets one way or another. They are voters of all parties and voters of none. They might well be disruptive, but they are certainly not using disruption as a tactic. My concern, straightforwardly, is that they are not criminalised by this law in an unintended way because we had one group of protesters in mind and forgot the wide variety of protesters who support all parties across the board. I anticipate there will be more protesters in turbulent times ahead.

My final point on Motion A1 is, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, said, when you are making laws, you cannot use algorithms or numbers, so you are using words. We are having an argument about words. It is tricky and I cannot pretend that, when I hear the noble and learned Lords speak, I always understand the way language is understood by courts. However, I was thinking about how language might be understood by the police. They are the people who will potentially, as has already been explained, look at a bunch of tractors or what have you and say, “That is capable of causing disruption which is more than minor”. This seems to be a much lower threshold than thinking it will cause “significant” disruption. I would like the word “significant” there so that the police pause and do not just say “It’s more than minor: let’s stop it”. They should pause and think that something has to be quite serious. Is that not the way the language will be understood? As a consequence—maybe I am wrong, and they are all legal scholars—my fear is that they will read those words and see it in a particular way. Therefore, there will be the unintended consequences of sweeping up people who, after all, are democratically demonstrating.

Finally—because I realise that this is what is done and so that I do not speak on Motion D—despite supporting wholeheartedly the Labour amendment, I am disappointed with Motion D1 from the Labour Party. I think I understand what is meant by conduct which is

“frivolous or vexatious, beyond a genuine expression of their right to protest.”

However, it seems to be an unnecessary concession and I will find it very hard to vote for. Beyond that I urge everyone to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in this group.

My Lords, I will be very brief. I want to thank my noble friend on the Front Bench for the way in which he reacted to what I will always refer to as the Charlotte Lynch amendment. It was moved very elegantly by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the Government listened.

This amendment is an illustration of the value of your Lordships’ House and of the fact that there is no point or purpose to your Lordships’ House unless, from time to time, the Government are indeed defeated, are obliged to take a very serious view of a serious defeat and react accordingly. My noble friend has reacted accordingly and graciously, and, for that reason, I am extremely grateful that a most important amendment is now part of a very important Bill.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, before I start, I thank all noble Lords from all sides of the House, the doorkeepers, the attendants, the security and the police officers, who have shown such kindness towards me following the sudden, unexpected and so far unexplained death of my husband. I am very grateful.

As the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, have explained, the definition of “serious disruption” underpins the entire Public Order Bill. It is an element of many of the new offences and the trigger for the use of new draconian police powers, which we will debate in the next two groups. The police asked for clarity, as there was no definition of “serious disruption” in the Bill that originally came to us from the other place, and we joined forces with His Majesty’s Official Opposition to provide a reasoned and reasonable definition of “serious disruption” that gave clear guidance to the police—Lords Amendment 1—which was agreed by this House. The Commons disagreed with our amendment and substituted Amendment 1A as an amendment in lieu.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, about the problem with ambiguity around the word “significant”, the fact is that the original amendment this House passed had examples clearly explaining to the police what we meant, so that ambiguity was not there in the original amendment passed by this House.

Instead of defining “serious disruption” as causing

“significant harm to persons, organisations or the life of the community”,

which would include, for example, preventing an ambulance taking a patient to a hospital, the Government have substituted, as we have heard,

“more than a minor degree”

for “significant harm”. With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and to address the concerns of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, I will repeat what I said on Report: on a spectrum of seriousness, “minor” is at one end and “serious” is at the other. I say that as a former police officer speaking about how the police might interpret the legislation. For example, a minor injury is a reddening of the skin, and a serious injury is a broken limb or inflicting a fatal injury. My interpretation, as a former police officer, of what is being said in the Bill is that disrupting to

“more than a minor degree”

cannot reasonably be said to be “serious disruption”; it is far too low a threshold. While I understand that the noble and learned Lord wanted to establish a threshold—the exact point at which the law would be broken—our argument is that that point is far too low. We therefore support Motion A1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and we will support him if he decides to divide the House on his Motion A1.

I join the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, in saying that I am grateful to the Minister for Amendment 17A, mentioned in Motion C, which we support. It is right to protect observers of protests from being prevented from carrying out their work by the police.

Finally, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Fox of Buckley, for their kind words about my public service, but I reassure the House that this is not my valedictory speech.

My Lords, again, I thank all noble Lords for participating in this debate and for the scrutiny they continue to bring to bear on these important measures.

Before I get on to the amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about the Government’s intentions for Section 73 of the PCSC Act. For the benefit of the House, Sections 73 and 74 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act contain delegated powers which allow the Secretary of State to amend the definitions of

“serious disruption to the life of the community”


“serious disruption to the activities of an organisation which are carried on in the vicinity of a public procession”

for the purpose of Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986.

The police have the ability to place necessary and proportionate restrictions on public assemblies and processions to prevent these harms from occurring. The Government are always looking to protect the public from harm, including unjustifiable disruption, and we are open to using all the tools available to do so. However, and to be clear, these regulation-making powers do not interfere with the Public Order Bill currently being debated. They do not permit this or any future Government to make changes to the meaning of “serious disruption” in this Bill.

I have set out clearly the arguments in defence of the Government’s Amendment 1A and why I believe this establishes an appropriate threshold for “serious disruption”. I think it is worth pointing out, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, reminded us, that that threshold applies to the offences in the Bill—locking on, tunnelling, and so on.

I will not detain the House for longer than necessary, not least because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, and my noble friend Lord Wolfson have put this much more eloquently than I can. I encourage the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, to withdraw his Motion and hope that your Lordships will support the Government’s Amendment 1A to ensure that both the police and the courts have this appropriate threshold, which strikes the right balance between the rights of protesters and the rights of the public.

I think this debate has highlighted the point that ultimately it will be for the police and the courts to assess whether an individual’s acts are in scope. Any threshold will inherently be somewhat subjective and there is no way around this, as I think my noble friend Lord Wolfson pointed out. This term provides a reference point for the police and courts when determining whether one’s actions exceed the protections of the ECHR, and it is based in case law.

Finally, I will touch on government Amendment 17A. I hope noble Lords are wholly satisfied and I appreciate the indications that they are. The Government have accepted the principle of Amendment 17, while adding a clarification. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti—and, of course, others—for her not insignificant thanks.

My Lords, I join others in thanking the Minister for listening, and my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for the amendment on journalists. The Government are to be congratulated for moving on that and for responding to people’s very real concerns.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for saying that there is a genuine attempt within this Chamber to deal with what is clearly quite a difficult issue, with genuine differences between people. It has been well argued and well debated. That has never been an issue. There is an issue about where the threshold is but there has never been an issue about the genuine nature of that and I welcome his point.

I also thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, and many other noble Lords practised in the law for my speed course in trying to understand what some aspects of it mean. I think the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, and my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, and indeed by the Minister in his response just now, goes to the heart of it. The Minister said—and I have not got this completely right so I hope he will correct me if I am wrong—that in the end there will be an element of subjectivity in the police and the courts.

That is the very point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, and my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti. If there is an element of subjectivity, if a police officer or Vernon Coaker is walking down the street and you said that something is “significant”, I would see that as more serious than something that is “more than minor”. I cannot argue it with all the case law that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, used. I cannot use the legal terminology that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and many others would use. But I absolutely defy anybody to prove to me that 130,000, or however many there are, police officers across our country would not see “more than minor” as a lower threshold than “significant”. I just do not believe it.

The Minister himself said that there would be subjectivity. Of course, there will be subjectivity, which is why I raised the examples that I did. The Government have panicked. It was outrageous what happened with Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion—and none of us supported the disruption caused by that. Many of us in this Chamber asked why the police were not using the powers on obstruction that they had and quickly sorting it out by using those powers. They should have had the confidence to use them and to know that this Chamber and the other place would be behind them, sorting those protesters out and dealing with the issue in the way it should have been done.

The Government’s response through the Public Order Bill and some of these measures will impact on people who should not be impacted on in any way, especially if you have a definition of “more than minor”. A police officer will go to those people who are driving tractors and protesting about milk, they will go to people slowing lorries down on the motorway because of fuel prices, and they will go to parents blocking roads because of school playgrounds—they absolutely will. If people start getting cross, as they inevitably will, the police will say, “Well, this is more than minor”, and do something about it—rather than what they would do if they had a threshold of “significant”. That will be the practical reality of the legislation that this Government are asking this Chamber to pass, supported by the other place. It is simply not tenable, and simply not good legislation; it will have consequences that the Government do not intend for it.

There was one thing on which I disagreed with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, when he talked about disruption. I have not been on many protests that have not caused disruption, and I suspect that not many noble Lords have been on protests that have not caused some sort of disruption. I do not want to be controversial, but sometimes the point is to cause some disruption—that is the absolute point. I am sure that there are many noble Lords, not just behind me but on other Benches, who have been on demonstrations and protests and have caused disruption. The argument is over whether that is serious disruption—and according to the Bill it has to be serious; well, “more than minor” —whereas I am saying that it should be “significant”. At the end of the day, that is the point of difference between us.

All I say in closing is that the police, in policing the Public Order Act, as it will become, will treat “more than minor” at a much lower level in dealing with protests than they would if “significant” was in the Bill. For me, that trumps any arguments of case law or that the courts will have problems defining it. The courts always have problems defining things, and that is why, in the end, you have courts, because they will use their best judgment to define it—but I would rather they had to define “significant” than “more than minor” in dealing with protests. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Motion A agreed.

Before I call Motion B, I draw noble Lords’ attention to the revised version of Motion B2, published today on a supplementary sheet. The difference is that Amendment 6E has been added.

Motion B

Moved by

That this House do not insist on its Amendments 6, 7, 8, 9 and 36 to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reasons 6A, 7A, 8A, 9A and 36A.

6A: Because it is appropriate for the police to be able to exercise the stop and search powers contained in the clause removed by the Lords Amendment.

7A: Because the Amendment is consequential on Lords Amendment 6 to which the Commons disagree.

8A: Because the Amendment is consequential on Lords Amendment 6 to which the Commons disagree.

9A: Because the Amendment is consequential on Lords Amendment 6 to which the Commons disagree.

36A: Because the Amendment is consequential on Lords Amendment 6 to which the Commons disagree.

My Lords, your Lordships’ Amendment 6 and the related consequential amendments remove the power to stop and search without suspicion from the Bill. While I recognise the strength of feeling expressed by noble Lords when considering these amendments during Report, the Government cannot accept the removal of the suspicionless stop and search powers from the Bill. The other place has also disagreed to these amendments for their reasons 6A, 7A, 8A, 9A and 36A. I therefore respectfully encourage the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to reflect on Motion B1, which seeks to overturn this wholly and which I do not think appropriate.

Suspicionless stop and search is a vital tool used to crack down on crime and protect communities, and we see it as entirely appropriate that these measures be extended to tackle highly disruptive protest offences. These are much needed proactive powers. Large protests are fast-paced environments where it is difficult for the police to reach the level of suspicion required for a suspicion-led search. The police should not have so sit by idly where there is a risk that someone will commit a criminal offence, and this is why suspicionless stop and search powers are necessary.

This view is shared HMICFRS, which found that suspicionless search powers would act as a deterrent and help prevent disruption and keep people safe. I want to be clear that the power to conduct a suspicionless search does not mean that anyone at a protest will be at risk of being searched without suspicion. The vast majority of protests in this country are peaceful and non-disruptive. These powers will be used only in the exceptional circumstances where it is likely that people at a protest will go on to commit criminal offences that cause serious disruption to others.

I also want to assure your Lordships, as I have sought to do throughout the passage of this Bill, that the safeguards on existing stop and search powers will apply to these powers, both for suspicion-led and suspicionless stop and search, and that includes body-worn video and PACE codes of practice. The Home Office also publishes extensive data on the use of stop and search to drive transparency. We expect the police to operate in a legitimate, fair and transparent manner, which includes decisions surrounding their use of this power.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has tabled Motion B2. I want to remind the House that the power to conduct a suspicionless stop and search in a public order context will only be used in limited cases where a police officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes that protest-related offences will occur and therefore authorises its use. In such cases, suspicionless stop and searches are limited to a specified locality for a specified period, but no longer than 24 hours. This can be extended for a further 24 hours to a maximum of 48 hours by an officer of or above the rank of superintendent, but it cannot be in place for more than 48 hours.

The reason why we have set out the thresholds and time limitations in this way is that we wanted to keep the legislation as consistent as possible for officers who will be using suspicionless stop and search powers. The amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, would set a higher authorisation threshold for suspicionless searches than if officers are searching for a weapon, and limit the initial window that officers would have to use these powers, which has the potential to confuse officers with the well-established Section 60 legislation that we have discussed previously.

Suspicionless stop and search can be authorised only if specific protest-related offences are likely to be committed. These are the offences in this Bill and the offences of obstructing the highway and public nuisance. As the offence of public nuisance is committed so frequently by those who use disruption as a protest tactic, it is nonsensical to remove it from the list of relevant offences. Doing so would completely undermine this power.

The Government recognise that communication is a fundamental element of building trust and confidence between the force and the community it serves. As good practice, most forces already communicate their Section 60 authorisations, and I know that communities appreciate knowing detail on the geographical area, time limits and the background of the issue. Therefore, although I am sympathetic to the final proposed new subsection in the proposed amendment, which would establish in statute a requirement for the force to communicate when the powers are used, I do not think we want to introduce an inconsistency between the Section 60 legislation framework, which does not carry a communication requirement, and the proposed powers in the Bill. I therefore ask that your Lordships’ House does not insist on these amendments.

I must inform the House that if Motion B1 is agreed to, I cannot call Motion B2 by reason of pre-emption.

Motion B1 (as an amendment to Motion B)

Moved by

Leave out from “House” to end and insert “do insist on its Amendments 6, 7, 8, 9 and 36.”

My Lords, police stop and search is an intrusive power that is used disproportionately against visible minorities. As I said on Report, you are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police if you are black than if you are white if suspicion is required, and 14 times more likely to be stopped and searched if no suspicion is required. The facts show that the police have been targeting black people for stop and search, the overwhelming majority of those stopped and searched having done nothing wrong.

In 2020, 25% of eligible black people in the UK were not registered to vote, compared with 17% of eligible white people. Black people, even more than the population as a whole, have little or no confidence that the political system represents them. Protest is therefore more important to them than the population as a whole. Giving the police powers to stop and search in connection with protests will deter black people from exercising their human rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. We cannot and will not support the inclusion of new stop and search powers for the police in connection with protests for these reasons, whether with or without suspicion.

However, at this stage of the Bill, if this House again insisted on removing stop and search without suspicion from the Bill the other place would have to move. That is something that many noble Lords around the House, for constitutional reasons, would be reluctant to do. I therefore do not intend to test the opinion of the House on my Motion B1.

On the basis that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good, we support Motion B2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which, as he will no doubt explain, would restrict the circumstances in which the police can invoke stop and search without suspicion in relation to protest. We will support the noble Lord should he divide the House. I beg to move.

My Lords, I will speak primarily to my Motion B2, which I will move and seek to test the opinion of the House on. In doing so, I very much agree with some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. We have arrived at a place where I and, I suspect, many in this Chamber would not wish to be. In other words, frankly, suspicionless stop and search should not be in the Bill.

We tried to take Clause 11 out. The Government reinserted it. We have opposed suspicionless stop and search throughout the passage of the Bill—and still do. The practical and pragmatic reality is what to do about it. My Motion B2 tries to restrict the use of suspicionless stop and search and to ensure that there is at least greater proportionality within it. Is that totally where I want to be? No. Is that a brilliantly principled position where I go down to glorious defeat? No. Is it the practical, political reality of where we are? I would argue yes. That is why I am moving Motion B2, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and all Members will know from our previous debates, I fundamentally believe that Clause 11 should not be in the Bill.

I do not want to speak for long, but this point deserves repeating. How has it come to the point where His Majesty’s Government seek to introduce suspicionless stop and search for protest-related offences? Every other debate on suspicionless stop and search has concerned the most serious circumstances—either to try to prevent people shooting, stabbing or murdering one another, or to prevent terrorism. Even in those circumstances, there has been significant debate both in the other place and here about the proportionality of one of the most significant powers that we can give to our police officers.

Each and every noble Lord can only imagine walking down the street to be stopped by a police officer and searched without reason. As relatively mature individuals, we appreciate that in no circumstances would the police do this if there was not good reason, even if we did not realise it, but I suspect that even many of us would object to it. But certainly, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, rightly reminded us, if you are young and black, young and in an ethnic minority, or young in a disadvantaged community where there is already distrust between police and public, one can only imagine the circumstances. Why are we doing it? It is because of protests. It is completely and utterly disproportionate and over the top. It is another of the panicked responses in this Bill to the protests by Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion. On numerous occasions, we have said those were of course unacceptable, but let us not undermine one of the fundamental democratic principles of this country to go about one’s business without interference in order to try to deal with that. How on earth is that proportionate or something the Government would wish to do? It is simply not the case.

Ideally, I would wish to take Clause 11 out of the Bill, by my Motion B2 recognises where we are. There may be disappointment about me or about the position which I think is correct to have arrived at, but I hope that people at least understand why I have arrived at that point. I would do anything to get rid of Clause 11, and I have tried to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and I—and many others—have failed. The Government have not shifted. I have tabled a reasonable amendment. If the Government will not shift on suspicionless stop and search and are keeping it in the Bill, at least let them restrict it, narrow the scope or do something to make it less disproportionate.

The noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, paraded as a great thing the inclusion of the following words in Clause 11:

“This section applies if a police officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes”.

Even if they want Clause 11, an inspector is not a senior enough rank to do that. We can argue whether chief superintendent is a senior enough rank. I am sure there are serving police officers who would say, “No, that is not consistent”—as the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, has done—“It is not consistent with X; it should be an assistant chief constable, a commander or whatever.” I say to the Chamber that the principle I am putting forward in my amendment is that a very senior police officer needs to make that decision.

I am narrowing the scope of Clause 11 by taking out subsection (1)(ii), which deals with intentionally or recklessly causing a public nuisance. That does not prevent the stop and search power of a police officer who has reasonable suspicion. If they reasonably believe something, the police officer can stop anyone. This is trying to narrow the scope by saying, “Do not do it if there is no suspicion. Do not do it if you just think something has happened.” It will not be a load of people who look like me who get stopped and searched. That is why I have done that.

On reducing the time from 24 to 12 hours, someone said to me that it should have been 10 hours. I have not done a scientific survey to come up with 12. My point is that I want to restrict its scope, so I propose reducing 24 to 12. Somebody may say it should be six, it should be four—I do not know—but at least it would restrict the scope, which is what I have done.

Clause 11(5), which is where there is a revised memorandum because of a miscommunication, states:

“If it appears to a police officer of or above the rank of superintendent that it is necessary”

for renewal of the suspicionless stop and search area. The Government are saying that it should be a super- intendent; I am saying it should be a chief superintendent. You can argue that it should be an assistant chief constable. My point is that for renewal, I do not think that superintendent is a significant enough rank; it should be higher. That may indeed be an assistant chief constable, but I have just added the word “chief” to make it a chief superintendent.

To be fair, the Minister has been good enough to say that he sort of agrees with Amendment 6F, which states:

“The chief superintendent must take reasonable steps.”

That is so important. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, gave me the idea by saying that from his policing experience one thing he thought was a problem, whatever you think of suspicionless stop and search, is making sure that the public are aware of what you are doing. That is difficult. I am not saying it is easy or how you do it, but there should be an attempt to do it. The noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, said that some police forces do it and there is some good practice. I say: put it in the Bill and make it a statutory requirement that, if the police are to use one of the most draconian powers we give them, they must take all “reasonable” steps to inform the public of what is going on.

We can only imagine it, when the Public Order Bill becomes an Act and, outside this place, there have been protests and the Government or the police disagree with them because they are more than minor. A “more than minor” disruption occurs and, alongside that, we get suspicionless stop and search, because we have chucked out my amendment to make it “significant” and it is just “more than minor”. The police think, “It is more than minor disruption; we had better have suspicionless stop and search” and introduce it around Parliament. MPs, Peers, members of staff, members of the police coming into work, catering staff and others could all be subject to search without suspicion. How would you feel? How would I feel?

Honestly, it is a completely and utterly disproportionate clause. Really, it should be wiped out of the Bill, but we have failed; the Government will not listen. Perhaps they will listen to Motion B2 and at least we will have some more proportionality in it, but we will see. With that, I beg to move.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has not disappointed me. I am sorry for the Lib Dems and Labour that they have not tested the opinion of the House on Clause 11, although I understand entirely why: constitutionally, it is fairly straightforward. What the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said is exactly correct: stop and search without cause can be useful when there are dangerous conditions. We have had Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to protect certain places, so that rather than going through a great process of “Can I look in your jacket?” and all the rest of it, at Parliament, a nuclear defence establishment or wherever you happen to be, you could search without cause. Now, under Section 60 of the Public Order Act, you can stop and search without cause where there has been serious violence; when a senior officer declares it for a certain period of time, you can stop and search without cause.

There are two reasons for doing it. The principal reason is to deter—to stop the carrying of knives in a certain place—and the other is to detect, if somebody is silly enough to carry on doing it. On the point that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, picked up, for which I am grateful, my view is that communicating to the public, at the point at which they enter an area, that they are liable to be stopped and searched without cause can help the conversation. This is never easy when you are a police officer because you have to say to someone, “I am going to stop and search without cause”, which causes you two problems: “Why did you stop me?” and “Why do you want to search me?”. Your short answer is, “I don’t know. I am trying to deter other people if you have done nothing wrong.” It can be useful at the most dangerous times if it is limited by time and properly monitored.

When people are protesting in a democracy, it is quite often when they are at their most emotional and they can get angry. They do not want the police to interfere in that at all. Usually, they are people who have never had any contact with the police in any way, so it really leaves the police officer in a pretty vulnerable place. These are generally the people you want to keep onside, not the criminals you have to challenge because that is what the law says.

It is a contentious power and we should be really careful before we give them that power, but not because I think the police are waiting to go out and have a go at people. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, there have been times—I acknowledge this—when the power has been disproportionately used against minorities, particularly in this city. That history alone is a reason why I would be very careful, particularly in London; this is the place where this power is most likely to be used, because people will be protesting outside Parliament. Of course, they will be protesting in other places as well, but this place is probably more likely than most to see it used as a power and to be challenged to be able to use it.

I accept that it will not go any further. The changes proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, are reasonable attempts to restrict it. I worry a little about the practicality of 12 hours, as opposed to 24. Quite often people start travelling, particularly to London, at very early hours, usually by coaches or however they travel. That could be at 4 am if you are going to have the stop and search power. They do not usually leave the street until probably 6 pm to 8 pm, so it is getting a bit tight. You may say that we do not want it to be allowed to be used at all, but if you are going to have it, it has to be practical, and 24 hours is probably more sensible.

I say this again about some senior officer colleagues: you cannot always get hold of chief superintendents 24 hours a day. You are supposed to be able to, but they are not quite as available as inspectors, who are always there. I have seen at least one or two people who have had that experience in the past. They are the ones who are always there, 24 hours a day. They are the senior people, particularly around the rest of the country—probably less so in London—whom you would probably be able to get hold of to exercise the power. For that reason, I dispute using the chief superintendent, but I understand why that proposal was made.

My Lords, it would be a great mistake for us to ignore the views that have just been put before us. I was one of those who did not want this clause at all, because I find the definition of stopping people without suspicion an extremely difficult one. There must be few occasions on which a policeman cannot claim that he has some suspicion when he stops a person. The fact that he cannot even claim that seems to be a very curious position to be in.

I have taken seriously what the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said about certain circumstances—not those referred to in the Bill but other circumstances where this has proved to be necessary—but it would be very dangerous for this House to accept, unamended, what the other House has passed back to us. I could also argue about the amendments that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has tabled, but they do begin to bring this into a much more proportionate situation. I say to my Conservative colleagues that we have to be very careful, as what is supposed to be the party of law and order, not to change the law in such a way that sections of the community increasingly find it unacceptable.

I have four law-abiding children—they are not children now—who were brought up in London during the week. They were all treated by the police in a way that no one in this House would like to have known, and they were white, reasonably well dressed and certainly well behaved. I want this House to realise that when you are our age, these things do not affect you. Although it is, very importantly, those of ethnic minorities, it is also young people. This society has to show young people that we recognise and welcome them, and that we do not have laws that disproportionately and unnecessarily affect them.

I beg of this House to support these amendments to make a sign to people that we have taken this Bill seriously and are not prepared to give the police these powers without very clear definitions and a reminder that they should be used only in circumstances where they genuinely need to stop without suspicion. I would also like the Minister to explain a single circumstance when it would be impossible to stop somebody without this, because I do not believe you would stop somebody unless you had some sort of suspicion.

My Lords, I declare an interest because I am going to follow the noble Lord in talking about young people. I am the president of the YMCA. A lot of those young people would have been caught up in the language the noble Lord referred to. I find it extraordinary.

When I was Bishop of Stepney, I was stopped and searched. The police officer who stopped me and searched my car asked me who I was. When I said that I was a bishop, he did not believe me. He then saw my dog collar and said, “Whoops”. The matter was of course taken up by the then leader of the city police. Thankfully, the gentleman acknowledged that it was him.

It is not just young people. It is not just black people. Your Lordships have heard the noble Lord, Lord Deben, telling us about his children. The power to stop and search somebody without a very clear definition gives me a lot of bother. I am a believer, and I love belief. The Bill says that the section of powers

“to stop and search without suspicion … applies if a police officer … reasonably believes”,

but how do you work that out? Was it in your head? Was it in your heart? Was it in the things you had read or seen on television? Friends, the word “belief” is so dangerous. The old “reasonable grounds for suspecting” is in there too. I would rather this section of the Bill did not exist.

I was on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. I am sorry to mention it because the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, is in her place. We went around the country, and people had been stopped and searched so many times when the police did not have reasonable grounds to suspect them yet believed they were about to commit a crime.

The Stephen Lawrence inquiry gives a definition of the grounds on which you can suspect. The Bill is about public order and, therefore, some of the exceptions that the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, was talking about cannot be extended to it. Those are there, but they are not for this Bill. Do noble Lords seriously want a police officer to “reasonably believe” and then do it? How will you question that? They will simply say, “I believed it”. That cannot be good for a country of this kind.

I want noble Lords to read the Stephen Lawrence inquiry again—about the failures of the different ranks. Inspectors did not do too well during our inquiry. They are the de facto junior rank. I hear again that there are not many superintendents about. If the Bill is built on that, you need a much higher rank of police officer, not an inspector. If not many are about and this is what the Government want to do, increase the role of the chief superintendent to deliver this clause, which I think is unnecessary.

My dear friends, it is for those reasons: for the many young people of YMCA, and many like them who would have to think twice before going on a demonstration. For a country that believes that there is a right to protest—not a right to violence—you are really cutting them off. If the Minister really insists that this must go in, then the rank of a chief superintendent is a must. A police officer acting on the grounds of their beliefs, however reasonable they may be, is not a protection for the police officer or for the person being stopped and searched.

My Lords, I lived in Notting Hill for many years, near All Saints Road, on the route of the carnival. During the carnival especially, it was a joy to often see police officers entering into the spirit and dancing. That was absolutely wonderful. We must not paint this one way or the other. But, more often than not, I saw examples, especially not during carnival, where stop and search was used in an incredibly provocative way. Having lived there for many years, I would say that there was no more socially divisive thing about policing than stop and search. I beg noble Lords to think very carefully about inflaming this position.

As I said, I met many police officers who behaved wonderfully, but there were and still are some who stop and search far too often and, as we have heard, it is on black people on the whole. If we want a socially cohesive society, we must not make laws that threaten and may undo that. I would really counsel caution about this. Anything that can help us not go too far, such as the amendments by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, should be supported.

My Lords, I will intervene very briefly to make two points. I spent about eight years overseeing police work on counterterrorism in London and more generally. The use of the Section 44 power, which gives the police the power to stop without suspicion, was one that most people, when they thought about it, would say was acceptable: they understood that they were in an area where there was an obvious terrorist target and heightened concern.

When that power was exercised, was it without controversy? I am afraid that the answer is no. There was enormous resentment towards it, precisely because of the issues about disproportionality that have already been referred to and the complications that ensued from that.

That was in circumstances when most people might understand it, when they had it quietly explained to them—which does not usually happen during the course of a normal stop and search—that, “We’re stopping you, because we’re in this area, you are close to this and we are stopping people at random, just to make sure that they are not carrying explosives or a bomb”. But this is about circumstances where people are engaging in a demonstration or exercising their civil rights. That is of a completely different order and what makes this disproportionate.

My second point may sound trivial by comparison. We have had the point made about what rank of officer should look at this. It was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, that it might be quite difficult to find a chief superintendent at the right moment. All I would say is, if this is a matter of such seriousness that we are being asked to approve these extraordinary, disproportionate powers, then there should be a chief superintendent or people of equivalent rank overseeing and supervising what is happening.

Before the noble Lord sits down, I should say that he refers to the Terrorism Act power of stop and search. Of course, Section 44 is now replaced by Section 47A, which adopts a similar model to Clause 11. Has the noble Lord noticed and does he have any comment on the provision that the power to authorise no-suspicion stop and search under Section 47A, which can be exercised only when there is a reasonable suspicion that an act of terrorism will take place, may be taken only by a senior police officer—in other words, a commander or an assistant chief constable?

The noble Lord interrupted me before I sat down, although I regarded myself as having sat down. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is absolutely correct. The reason Section 44 was changed was because of the concerns that I have expressed. The conditions on that, in circumstances when most sensible people would regard it as appropriate, perhaps, to have in your back pocket the power to stop without suspicion, were tightened in a way which this Bill would not allow.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have partaken in another fruitful debate. It has long been the Government’s view that suspicionless stop and search powers are necessary and much-needed proactive powers for tackling highly disruptive protest offences. This view remains unchanged.

I will endeavour to answer some of the points that were raised. First, on why, in its report into the policing of protests HMICFRS concluded:

“On balance, our view is that, with appropriate guidance and robust and effective safeguards, the proposed stop and search powers would have the potential to improve police efficiency and effectiveness in preventing disruption and making the public safe”.

It is worth reiterating that last point “making the public safe”.

On the disproportionate use of the powers with people of colour, nobody should be stopped and searched because of their race. Extensive safeguards, such as statutory codes of practice and body-worn video exist to ensure that this does not happen. The Home Office publishes extensive data on police use of stop and search in the interests of transparency and will expand this publication to the use of the new powers provided for in this Bill.

On the subject that was just under discussion about the appropriate level of officer who may authorise a suspicionless stop and search, I take the points that noble Lords have made about Section 47A, but this replicates existing powers within Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, as I said in my opening remarks. Wherever possible, to ensure consistency, officers of inspector or higher may give an authorisation for up to 24 hours. Any extension must be made by an officer of superintendent rank or higher and no authorisation can last for more than 48 hours.

With regard to the geographical extent of a no-reasonable-suspicion stop and search order, it is for police forces to determine how and, indeed, whether to communicate the geographical extent of a search order under Section 60. This will also be the case for the new suspicionless powers in the Bill. Forces are no longer required to communicate that a Section 60 order is in place, but many continue to do so, where they judge it operationally feasible. Obviously, that in itself helps to deter criminals and enhance community trust and confidence. It is common for forces to use their social media channels or websites to communicate the extent of a Section 60 order.

I do not think there is a great deal more I can usefully say or add. I therefore invite the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Paddick, not to press their amendments.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his comprehensive and convincing explanation of his Motion B2, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, who, from his personal experience and from the experience of the people he works with and has talked to and whose experiences he has shared, has said that we should listen very carefully. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who feels that Clause 11 should not be part of the Bill but, regrettably, as I said before, probably accepts, as do I, that constitutionally we cannot take it out at this point.

On the issue of giving notice being problematic, the Metropolitan Police gives notice of where and when Section 60 stop and search provisions are in place. It does so via Twitter; I have seen it do so. It might also do it by other means that I do not know about, but it is possible, and what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is suggesting is therefore workable and practical.

We should not forget that Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was designed originally not for the police to impose at short notice by a relatively junior officer when someone got stabbed but to prevent gangs of football supporters arming themselves to beat each other up at a prearranged meeting using weapons. That is what it was originally intended for, but we have had mission creep so that it is now used regularly—although I have to give credit to the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, because during his time as commissioner the use of Section 60 by the Metropolitan Police reduced significantly compared with how it was being used before.

The noble Lords, Lord Hogan-Howe and Lord Harris of Haringey, talked about Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, talked about it being used to protect Parliament or nuclear installations. The reason the Conservative Government repealed Section 44 of the Terrorism Act is that the Metropolitan Police imposed Section 44 on the whole of London for months on end. It abused the power, so the Government withdrew it, and there is a danger that the police could similarly abuse this power.

The Minister talked about HMICFRS, saying that this could potentially make the public safer—but at what cost to people’s human rights to protest, to freedom of assembly and to freedom of expression? He said there are all sorts of measures to prevent disproportionality in stop and search. Well, whatever the provisions are, they do not work.

While urging noble Lords to vote for Motion B2, I beg leave to withdraw Motion B1.

Motion B1 withdrawn.

Motion B2 (as an amendment to Motion B)

Moved by

As an amendment to Motion B, at end insert “and do propose the following amendments to the words so restored to the Bill—

6B: Clause 11, page 12, line 17, leave out “inspector” and insert “chief superintendent”

6C: Clause 11, page 12, line 25, leave out subsection (ii)

6D: Clause 11, page 13, line 8, leave out “24” and insert “12”

6E: Clause 11, page 13, line 17, leave out "superintendent" and insert "chief superintendent”

6F: Clause 11, page 14, line 3, at end insert—

“(12) The chief superintendent must take reasonable steps to inform the public when the powers conferred by this section are in active use.””

Motion C

Moved by

That this House do not insist on its Amendment 17 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 17A in lieu.

17A: Page 19, line 22, at end insert the following new Clause—

“Exercise of police powers in relation to journalists etc

(1) A constable may not exercise a police power for the sole purpose of preventing a person from observing or reporting on a protest.

(2) A constable may not exercise a police power for the sole purpose of preventing a person from observing or reporting on the exercise of a police power in relation to—

(a) a protest-related offence,

(b) a protest-related breach of an injunction, or

(c) activities related to a protest.

(3) This section does not affect the exercise by a constable of a police power for any purpose for which it may be exercised apart from this section.

(4) In this section—

“injunction” means an injunction granted by the High Court, the county court or a youth court;

“police power” means a power which is conferred on a constable by or by virtue of an enactment or by a rule of law;

“protest-related breach”, in relation to an injunction, means a breach which is directly related to a protest;

“protest-related offence” means an offence which is directly related to a protest.”

Motion C agreed.

Motion D

Moved by

That this House do not insist on its Amendments 20, 21, 23, 27, 28, 31, 32 and 33 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 33A and 33B in lieu.

33A: Clause 20, page 24, line 19, leave out sub-paragraphs (iii) to (v)

33B: Clause 20, page 24, line 31, at end insert—

“(c) P’s conduct in relation to each occasion mentioned in paragraph (a) has not been taken into account when making any previous serious disruption prevention order in respect of P.”

My Lords, your Lordships’ Amendment 20 removes Clause 20—“Serious disruption prevention order made otherwise than on conviction”—entirely from the Bill. The Government listened carefully to the concerns expressed by this House regarding the conditions that could be considered when applying an order to an individual. That is why the Government have accepted the Lords amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. Making this change means that an order could be given only on the basis that an individual has been convicted of a protest-related offence or been found in contempt of court for a protest-related breach of an injunction on at least two occasions. I believe that this is the issue with which your Lordships were most concerned, so we listened and we acted.

We still believe it is important that the police have the opportunity to apply for an order at a later point following conviction. Without this measure, it would not be possible to place an order on individuals who have already been found guilty of multiple protest-related offences until they reoffend and are convicted of yet another offence. Removing the ability to impose an SDPO otherwise than on conviction undermines this proactive element. That is why we disagreed with Lords Amendment 20 and tabled amendments in lieu, which reintroduce this clause but tailor the list of conditions, so that upon application an order can be made only where individuals have been convicted of protest-related offences or breaches of injunctions, thereby aligning this with the Lords amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich.

There has been some confusion about the nature of this clause, quite possibly due to its title, which should more accurately be defined as “Serious disruption prevention order made on application”. I assure noble Lords that we will look to make that change following the passage of the Bill.

For the avoidance of doubt, updated Clause 20 will not allow an order to be applied to an individual without a conviction. It will simply allow for an order to be made by a magistrates’ court on application by a relevant chief officer of police at a later point following two or more convictions.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, has tabled Motion D1, which, with respect, I cannot support. To be subject to a SDPO, a person must be convicted of two protest-related offences or found in contempt of court for breaching two protest-related injunctions. Being found guilty by a court for these acts inherently means that their conduct was beyond a genuine expression of their right to protest. Additionally, it creates an inconsistency between this provision and SDPOs made on conviction, which have already been accepted by Parliament. With that in mind, I respectfully ask that the noble Lord does not move his Motion.

Motion D1 (as an amendment to Motion D)

Moved by

33C: Clause 20, page 24, line 31, at end insert—

“(d) P’s conduct was frivolous or vexatious, beyond a genuine expression of their right to protest.””

My Lords, I appreciate the significant concessions the Government have made on serious disruption prevention orders. I believe that the clause is in a better place than when it was introduced, in part thanks to the efforts across this House; in particular, those of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson.

My amendment to the Minister’s Motion D seeks to make it explicit in the Bill that a magistrates’ court may issue an SDPO only if it reasonably believes that a person’s conduct has been frivolous or vexatious, to the extent that it has gone beyond a genuine expression of their inalienable right to protest. This criterion is in addition to, not instead of, that which requires that a person must have been convicted of two or more protest- related offences or contempt of court over breaches of an injunction. We believe that this is an important safeguard to the flawed clause, which we accept that the other place has voted to keep in the Bill. This change will ensure that the courts, when assessing whether someone’s behaviour warrants a prevention order of this kind, will have to rule explicitly that they have gone further than what can reasonably be interpreted as genuine protest. We hope this will protect those exercising their democratic freedoms in good faith.

I have spoken to colleagues across the House, and I will not seek to test the opinion of the House on my Motion, but I will listen with interest to other noble Lords’ contributions to this very short debate. I beg to move.

My Lords, we on these Benches accept that the amendments have been made in the Commons but are still concerned that they do not go far enough. Taking the matter back to the beginning, the bar set on which people can be convicted or the orders can eventually be issued is based on the balance of probabilities. That matter was the source of a great deal of discussion in this House. A bar has been set which is basically non-evidential, because no evidence has to be proven of what has happened. Any amendments which would raise that bar just above a zero threshold are to be commended.

Having made the orders less draconian and brought them in line with the terrorism prevention and investigation measures, the SPDOs are to be imposed on protesters, taking away their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, on the balance of probabilities. His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services reported, in its review of public order policing, that it doubted that these orders are workable, even with a breach of the order occurring. A person attending a protest peacefully, in breach of an SPDO, is unlikely to be treated by the court in the same manner as a potential terrorist. Courts would look at the effect of an order and measure that against the breach of human rights legislation, and, in the end, the effect of an order breaching a person’s human rights could well override the effect of the order.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, pointed out in Committee, these orders would remove people’s rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, but only if a court was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that depriving people of their human rights on the weakest of evidential tests was sufficient. Therefore, there is an expectation that the courts would use a breach of human rights legislation to override the effect of the SPDO.

In seeking to raise the bar from zero—the bar is sitting on the floor, as no evidence is required—these amendments at least provide an evidential activity. They require an officer to have observed the evidence behind the requirement. The requirement in the amendments before us may not be sufficient, but it certainly lifts the bar, in relation to evidence, off the floor. In fact, we need to help police officers. Police officers may be faced with situations without evidence, such as listening to somebody’s hearsay about a protester. Alternatively, they may have it in their mind that possible action will take place if they assume that a protester, who is standing peacefully and undertaking a peaceful activity, could well jump across the road, lie on the ground and stop the traffic. In those cases, they would not have any evidence that the person was about to conduct themselves in a dangerous manner, so it would be effective to introduce provisions for that. This set of amendments could provide for those matters, but, as I have said, in a very limited way.

As the noble Lord will not press his amendment to a vote, it seems to us that the Government have to consider how the courts will deal with these matters when they are placed before them, when we have human rights legislation guaranteeing freedom of speech, freedom to join together with others and freedom of expression. When all those rights are being harmed, what will the courts say and are the Government sufficiently ambitious that they think that their evidence based on these rules will give the human rights opinion any credence whatever?

My Lords, again, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their thoughtful and considered contributions to this debate. As I have already detailed, the Government listened carefully to your Lordships’ concerns regarding the serious disruption prevention order measures. Orders will now be applied only where individuals have been convicted of protest-related offences or breaches of protest-related injunctions on at least two occasions.

The noble Lord, Lord German, argued that serious disruption prevention orders contravene the European Convention on Human Rights. They do not. The right to protest is fundamental and despite sensationalist claims such as that, that will not change. These orders will ensure that individuals who deliberately cause serious disruption more than twice will face justice. Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR set out that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association. However, these rights are not absolute and must be balanced with the rights and freedoms of others.

I hope your Lordships will be satisfied that the Government have responded with a very significant offer that addresses the key concerns expressed throughout the passage of this Bill. The Bill will better balance the rights of protesters with the rights of individuals to go about their daily lives free from disruption and address the ever-evolving protest tactics we have seen employed by a selfish minority of protesters. Blocking motorways and slow walking in roads delays our life-saving emergency services, stops people getting to work and drains police resources. The British people are rightly fed up with it and are demanding action from their lawmakers.

It is time for this Bill to become law. I thank the noble Lord for saying that he will withdraw his Motion.

Motion D1 (as an amendment to Motion D) withdrawn.

Motion D agreed.

Bill returned to the Commons with amendments.