Commons Reasons and Amendments (Continued)
That this House do not insist on its Amendment 73, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 73A, do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 74A, do not insist on its Amendment 87 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 87A, 87B, 87C, 87D, 87E and 87F to the words restored to the Bill by the Commons disagreement to Lords Amendment 87.
73A: Because it is appropriate for the police to be able to attach conditions to a public procession where the noise generated by persons taking part in the procession may result in serious disruption to the activities of an organisation which are carried out in the vicinity of the procession or may have a significant relevant impact on persons in the vicinity of the procession.
74A (as an amendment to Lords Amendment 74): Leave out line 2.
87B: Page 56, line 15, leave out “make” and insert “amend subsection (5A) for the purposes of making”
87C: Page 56, line 19, after “particular” insert “, amend that subsection for the purposes of”
87D: Page 56, line 20, leave out “define” and insert “defining”
87E: Page 56, line 22, leave out “give” and insert “giving”
87F: Page 56, line 29, at end insert “, including provision which makes consequential amendments to this Part.”
My Lords, with the leave of the House I will also speak to Motions F, F1, F2, G, H, H1 and N.
I shall begin with Amendment 143, as I believe that there is a large measure of agreement across the House on the need to better protect schools and vaccination centres from disruptive protests that take place outside such locations. The Government have listened carefully to the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for introducing fast-tracked public spaces protection orders on a case-by-case basis.
Amendments 143A to 143C are similar to Amendment 143. They make provision for expedited PSPOs, which local authorities can apply to public places around schools, and to vaccine and test-and-trace centres, for up to six months. As with the original amendment, an expedited PSPO would need to be made with the consent of the relevant chief officer of police and, as the case may be, the appropriate authority for the school or NHS body in question. The local authority would then be required to consult on the expedited PSPO once it was in place. These amendments in lieu were welcomed by the shadow Policing Minister in the Commons, and I hope they will be similarly accepted by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and others.
It is the Government’s view that we must balance the rights of protesters to exercise their freedom of speech and assembly with the rights of non-protestors who might be adversely affected by a protest. Part 3 of this Bill has always been about a modest resetting of that balance, and it firmly remains our view that the provisions in Clauses 55, 56 and 61, which Amendments 73, 80 and 87 seek wholly or partly to expunge, should remain part of the Bill.
Noble Lords will recall that Amendments 73 and 87 relate to measures that would enable the police to attach conditions to a protest in circumstances relating to the generation of noise. As I have said to the House before, but it is worth saying again, we expect the vast majority of protests to be unaffected by these provisions. It is exceptional for the police to attach any conditions to a protest, and that will not change. Of course, protests are generally by their nature noisy; their purpose is to advance a particular cause. These measures do not prevent noisy protests, but the Government continue to believe that it is completely unacceptable that a small minority of protestors can, through the use of amplification equipment or other means, impose disruption and misery upon the public through the excessive noise they generate. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, put it well in Committee:
“We have to consider its effect on people, where it is either so loud or so persistent that it cannot be ignored.”—[Official Report, 24/11/21; col. 944.]
If we accept that there must be limitations on egregious noise in other contexts—that is why local authorities have noise abatement powers—the same principle should apply in the context of a protest where the level of noise becomes injurious to others.
Amendment 80 would remove Clause 56. This clause would enable the police to attach any type of condition to a public assembly, in the same way that they can attach any type of condition to a public procession. The distinction between processions and assemblies no longer reflects the contemporary realities of policing protests over three and a half decades after the Public Order Act was enacted. This point has forcefully been made both by the national policing lead for public order, Chief Constable Harrington, and by Her Majesty’s inspectors of constabulary. We should recognise their expertise in this regard and accept that the 1986 Act needs to be updated.
Turning to Amendments 81 and 82, I am grateful for the further opportunity I have had to discuss them with the noble Viscount, Lord Colville. The noble Viscount has made a powerful point that the Palace of Westminster is the symbolic representation of our vibrant democracy and that it must be open to those who want to do so to protest in the vicinity of these Houses of Parliament. I want again to reassure the House that Clause 58 will not have the effect that some noble Lords have feared.
Since our last debate, we have discussed this further with the Greater London Authority, which has categorically confirmed that, were Clause 58 in its original form to be enacted, it will continue to authorise rallies and protests, as it currently does, on the GLA-managed area of Parliament Square Garden.
Since I had the opportunity to discuss this further with the noble Viscount last week, my officials have also been in touch with the Metropolitan Police, and it has similarly confirmed that the provisions in Clause 58 do not affect its ability to manage large protests of 5,000 people or more within Parliament Square. I should stress that it is not the function of the Metropolitan Police to authorise or otherwise protests in the vicinity of Parliament but to exercise its powers under the Public Order Act to attach conditions to a protest. The Metropolitan Police has also reassured us that, as with other public order powers, it will use this new power of direction only in a manner that is reasonable, necessary and proportionate to the rights of individuals to engage in peaceful protest.
As we are talking about the Houses of Parliament, I think this might be a good moment to reflect on the death of PC Palmer, five years ago today. I cannot believe it was five years ago, but it is. We pay tribute to him for the way he tried to protect the Palace when he was murdered.
Finally, moving to Amendment 88, this is a watered-down version of the Government’s plan to increase the maximum penalty for the existing offence of obstructing a highway. It is vital that we protect all our roads from the disruptive and damaging actions that we have seen some protestors employ in recent months. Limiting this increase to the strategic road network only, which excludes most A roads, as well as more minor roads, as this amendment seeks to do, would allow individuals to continue to block our roads without facing the appropriate sanction. I should stress that we are increasing the maximum penalty for this offence. It would continue to be for the court to decide the appropriate sentence in any particular case, and I would expect the sentence imposed to reflect the harm caused.
We have listened to and reflected on the concerns raised by noble Lords on Report. As is entirely proper, this House asked the other place to think again. It has now done so. The elected House has now endorsed, not once but twice, the provisions in the Bill enabling the police to attach conditions to a protest relating to the generation of noise. The elected House has also disagreed, following separate Divisions, with the Lords amendments relating to the policing of assemblies and protests in the vicinity of Parliament. We have done our duty as a revising Chamber, but now that the Commons has clearly expressed its view, I put it to the House that it is time to let this Bill pass. I commend the Commons reasons and amendments to the House.
Motion E1 (as an amendment to Motion E)
Leave out from “House” and insert “do insist on its Amendment 73, do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment 74A and propose Amendment 74B to Lords Amendment 74 in lieu and Amendments 74C, 74D, 74E, 74F and 74G as consequential amendments, and do insist on its Amendment 87 and disagree with the Commons in their Amendments 87A, 87B, 87C, 87D, 87E and 87F—
74B: Leave out lines 20 to 26
74C: As an amendment to Lords Amendment 75, leave out “any of subsections (2ZA) to (2ZC)” and insert “subsection (2ZA) or (2ZB)”
74D: As an amendment to Lords Amendment 76, leave out “any” and insert “either”
74E: As an amendment to the Bill, page 47, leave out lines 36 and 37
74F: As an amendment to the Bill, page 47, line 40, leave out “an expression mentioned in subsection 12(a) or (b)” and insert “that expression”
74G: As an amendment to the Bill, page 47, leave out lines 44 and 45
My Lords, first, I join the Minister in her tribute to PC Keith Palmer and in the sentiments she expressed, which will be shared by all of us across this House. As he protected us, he protected our democracy. As ever, we are grateful to PC Palmer for his sacrifice and for the sacrifice of so many others. I am pleased to join the Minister in her tribute.
This is an extremely important group of amendments. I thank the Minister for her thoughtful reply, even though I am going to disagree with some of it. I appreciate the comments she made and the way in which she made them.
This morning, on my walk into Parliament, knowing that we were going to discuss the issue of protests, I went to the gardens next to us and stood next to the tribute to the Pankhursts. I went across into Parliament Square to see Gandhi, Millicent Fawcett and Mandela. I wonder what they would say to us today as we discuss these amendments. I know the Government’s response will be that this is a different time, but that is irrelevant; or that this is an age that has amplifications, as we heard from the Minister, and they were not dealing with that. I suspect that, in their time, the Suffragettes, Mandela, Gandhi and all of those sorts of people were subject to being told that they were too extreme and were going too far.
I say to the Minister that this is a fundamental principle. I say again that I do not believe that the Minister wants to ban protests. I accept that. I am not saying that we have a Government who want to completely ban protests, completely end demonstrations and completely end the right to protest. I do not believe that. What I believe is that the Bill in certain ways undermines certain conditions which have always applied to people’s ability to protest.
The Government have got themselves in a right mess on this, as I will demonstrate, with respect to noise, which is the particular focus of the amendments that I want to point out. Let me quote from the Government’s own website, on thresholds. Our Amendments 73 and 87 would remove the Government’s proposed noise trigger which would allow the police to put conditions on marches or one-person protests that get too noisy. The problem is this: what on earth does too noisy mean? I would not like to debate that. One person’s too noisy is another person’s not noisy enough; some people get irritated by not very much noise and some people get irritated by no noise at all.
I went to the Government’s website for clarification on what too noisy means. When making use of these powers, the website helpfully gives advice for deciding what is too noisy. These are the thresholds that have to be met: who is impacted and how many people, which is fair enough, though it does not define it; who is vulnerable; and the duration of the impact. It very helpfully says that, if it is a short time, it is unlikely to meet the threshold. Presumably even if a protest is too noisy, if it is not for very long it is okay, because it is unlikely to meet the threshold.
The next threshold shows how ridiculous things are. Presumably a Minister has passed this; when I was in the Home Office, a Minister had to sign these things off—somebody has. If a protest is outside a building with double-glazing, it is not likely to have the same impact as if it is outside a building that does not have double-glazing. Double-glazing is a threshold now. If you are organising a demonstration, and if you are going to be noisy, you need to find areas where the buildings have double-glazing—that is what it actually says. I tell you, this will be a good advert for the double-glazing companies. It actually says on the Government’s own website that, if the protest is outside a building with double-glazing, it is not likely to have the same impact.
The serious point I am making is that you can see the problems the Government are having in trying to define what they mean by “too noisy”. As soon as you do that, you disappear down a hole. There is an old phrase, “If you are in a hole stop digging”. The Government are still digging.
The Minister berates the Opposition but the Government have not even convinced their own MPs. I will quote just two. Robert Jenrick, who was a Cabinet Minister until a few months ago, wondered
“whether the Government are going too far in this respect.”
He does not answer his own question but I think it answers itself. Steve Baker MP said:
“Let us say to the Government that actually this is going too far”. —[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/22; cols. 838 and 848.]
Somebody else made the point that Margaret Thatcher introduced the Public Order Act in 1986, which did not say anything about noise. John Major, following the poll tax protests, did not do anything about noise, and neither did David Cameron or Theresa May. But now we have a situation where being too noisy is regarded as something that it is important for the Government to legislate on.
As far as I am aware, the police have not asked for this power. It puts police officers on the front line in the impossible situation of deciding when a protest is too noisy. How will that be done? If I take part in a protest and think I am obeying the conditions, what happens if a police officer says to me, “You are being too noisy”? Will I be criminalised? How will that work? It is unbelievable. That is the emphasis of the amendment that I have tabled regarding noise. It is just too difficult to say what “too noisy” means, and inappropriate.
I am sure that most of us here have been on demonstrations that have been really noisy—I certainly have. How on earth do you define whether that noise has caused severe alarm, distress or anxiety to other people? I have been outside Parliament making a lot of noise; again, I am sure lots of others have. I know that even under these rules, you will be able to do that, but it will be very difficult.
On government Amendment 74, it is pleasing to see that the Government have responded to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which called on them to define the vague term
“serious disruption to the life of the community”
in the Bill rather than through secondary legislation. My Motion E1 accepts Amendment 74, as it focuses on the issue; it is an improvement, however minor, to have a definition of “serious disruption” in the Bill. My Amendment 74B, however, would remove the particularly flawed subsection (2ZC), which provides that noise causes serious disruption.
I am not a drafter of legislation, but the text of the government amendment that I am seeking to get deleted reads as follows:
“For the purposes of subsection (1)(aa), the cases in which the noise generated by persons taking part in a public assembly may result in serious disruption”
good luck with what “may” means—
“to the activities of an organisation which are carried on in the vicinity of the assembly include, in particular, where it may result in persons connected”
we have two “mays” in two lines—
“with the organisation not being reasonably able”
whatever “reasonably able” means—
“for a prolonged”
this is adjective after adjective—
“period of time, to carry on in that vicinity the activities or any one of them.”
I know what the Government are trying to do. Ministers in another place have gone back to the Home Office and said, “We are in real trouble on this noise thing. We will have to define it a bit better” and then disappear into “may”, “perhaps” and “it could be”, in the worst possible circumstances. How on earth does a police officer or a senior police officer decide? That is the focus of what I am saying and why it is so important. This legislation is unworkable as well as simply going too far on the conditions to be imposed on any protest.
I could not believe what I read from the Minister in the other place; I would not have said this as a Minister. When the Government, who are now worried about this, were asked about a review, the Minister, Kit Malthouse MP, said:
“I am happy to commit to reviewing the offence.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/22; col. 827.]
So the Government are going to pass this even though they are already worried about it, and they will review it before, or as soon as, they have passed it. They will say, “It is a normal part of government to keep legislation under review.” That may be true, but you do not normally say when passing primary legislation that you expect to review it, unless you are in trouble; that is a Minister in trouble, trying to appease and buy off his Back Benches—so they do not vote against it—by promising a review. The only thing it lacks is the phrase “as soon as possible”. The provisions on noise are unworkable and ridiculous; whatever else the Government do, they should withdraw that part of the Bill.
We strongly support Motion F2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. It is crucial to opposing the Government’s noise provisions, as it would support my amendments by removing the proposed noise trigger for public assemblies as well as preventing the further extension of police powers in relation to public assemblies. Obviously, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, will want to say more on that.
On government Motion G, providing that vehicle access to Parliament should not be blocked, we recognise that this was a recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, but I have still some concerns about what is proposed. As the Minister said, what is sought is a balance between ensuring that Parliament can function—in particular, so that disabled Members of Parliament, for example, can access the building—and protecting the right to protest. It is crucial that people have the right to protest in front of this building, which is the seat of our democracy. It should ring out from this debate that people will still be able to do that, because it is really important. It is also encouraging, as the Minister outlined, that the GLA has confirmed that the changes will not impact on its ability to authorise protests in Parliament Square as it currently does. In the spirit of reviewing, will the Minister keep that under review, and perhaps review it as soon as possible rather than in due course?
On Motions H and H1, on wilful obstruction of the highway, we supported the Government’s view that an increased sentence was appropriate in cases where people put lives at risk by walking on to motorways and blocking motorway traffic. This House supported an amendment from my noble friend Lord Rosser which would have limited that increased sentence to target motorways, A roads and the strategic roads network. This was to target the higher sentence at what it was designed for, where tactics are downright dangerous, block roads that people cannot easily get off or block the journeys of emergency vehicles. Unfortunately, we did not convince the Government or the House of Commons to accept what we saw as a common-sense change, but we do not believe that a further vote would change that. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has tabled Motion H1 to continue to raise her concerns about this power in general, but our focus is now firmly on the noise provisions. I know that she agrees with us on that.
On a positive note, I thank the Minister sincerely and welcome the Government’s concession in government Motion N, on my amendment to stop intimidatory protests outside schools and vaccine centres. We called on the Government throughout the Bill to focus their attention here, where anti-vax protesters were harassing and intimidating pupils and staff or disrupting the provision of medical care, rather than on peaceful protests being a bit noisy. The government amendment accepts what was asked for in my amendment, that authorities are able to respond quickly with an expedited process to put a buffer zone around schools or vaccine centres. We are grateful to the Minister and her Bill team for their work on this and welcome the fact that the Government have listened to what people have said and acted on it. We are very appreciative of that.
However, I go back to what for us is a point of principle; that is, the noise provisions. They are unworkable, will not be used and are simply a step too far for any Government to take. I say again that I do not believe that the Government are against protest; I do not believe that they want to ban that sort of peaceful protest activity. However, as a matter of common sense, to say that a demonstration can be stopped because it will be too noisy is nonsensical in practice and impossible to put into legalese which will work. From the contorted efforts of the Government to appease people like me and many others across this House, we can see the problems they get into with respect to their own definitions in their amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to my two Motions F1 and H1. I am sure it is no surprise that Green Party policy is a bit more radical than that of other parties—there is a lot of grumbling behind me; I hope it is support, not criticism—and is firmly against crackdowns on protest and the oppressive measures in the Bill against the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Personally, I would throw the Bill out; if they were any chance of filibustering it, I would stay here for several days in a row. However, that is not looking likely so, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said, I accept what is happening today but with very bad grace, and I shall probably sit here snarling when we let this through. Incidentally, I am so glad that I am not on the other side of the Chamber with him shouting at me; that must be very distressing. It is great being here behind him.
I think the vast majority of the British public—I would like to think that sometimes I speak for them—agree that a potential ban on noisy protest is ridiculous, and of course we have heard some of the more ridiculous things that the Government have said already. I quite often feel sorry for their Front Bench, who have to come out and speak in favour of some of the stuff that this Government cook up which is clearly ridiculous.
Some of the Bill’s measures will make things more difficult for the police. They already have reputational problems with the general public, and this is going to make it worse for them; if they get tired or annoyed then they are likely to do something that will upset a lot of people, and cases will come to court. That is not good for anyone.
I have noticed a tendency to talk about protesters as if they are not people. My experience of protest, which is probably similar to that of some other noble Lords here, is that protesters are people. You might think they are all hippies and people like that, but they are not; some of them are ratepayers. Some of them earn a living and pay their taxes. People do not approve of crackdowns on protest because there are times when they themselves want to protest. They want to protest about a crossing that is in the wrong place on their own road or to complain about cars idling outside their children’s school. People protest. It is all very well to call them “protesters” but actually they are just people.
On the obstruction of the highway, I do not like the Commons amendment. I am not persuaded by the fact that there was a huge majority in the other place supporting the Government on it, because what else can you expect with an 80-plus majority? I do not like the original Lords amendment either because I think it was an absolute blunder. Obstructing the highway should not land anyone in prison for a year. There is a point here about how you can still be put into prison for a year even if the roads have already been closed by a traffic authority. When roads in Sheffield, sometimes quite minor ones, were closed for trees to be cut down, local people who were furious about that and were doing their best to stop it protested on those closed roads. Under the Bill, they could have faced up to 51 weeks in prison for protesting on their own road to try to protect their own trees. Peaceful protesters should never face jail. The original amendment was bad and the compromise is also bad.
We had the opportunity to throw this out completely but, sadly, the usual channels made it impossible to do so. If I thought I could convince enough people like the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, then I would push the Motion to a vote, but I did not even have enough voices to get a proper vote on Report so I will stick to sulking over here.
Still, the Government have badly misunderstood what the British public think about protest. Protest is something that we accept as part of our democracy. In other Bills, such as the Elections Bill, the Government are suppressing democracy, and here they are suppressing democracy again. I am devastated that we are allowing the Bill through.
My Lords, I will speak to my Motion F2 and the other amendments in this group. I start by joining the Minister in paying tribute to the selfless actions of PC Keith Palmer, who tragically died five years ago today.
I apologise for the length of my remarks, but there are numerous important issues contained in this group. I promise not to spend an average of more than two minutes on each Motion. There are few subjects on which I am an expert, but the policing of public order is one. I was one of a small cadre of advanced trained public order senior officers, and I have extensive experience of policing events. I remind the House that the majority of police forces outside London told HMICFRS that they did not need new public order legislation, and that the limiting factor in policing protests was the number of public-order-trained police officers they had to police protests. A whistleblower who worked for HMICFRS said that the conclusions in its review of public order policing did not reflect the evidence that the inspectorate had gathered. Having read the report in full, I agree. There is no justification for more public order legislation.
In relation to Motion E, the police already have powers to impose any conditions necessary—including an outright ban—on public processions, if a senior police officer reasonably believes that it will result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, or if the purpose is to intimidate others. Adding a noise trigger to those powers will do more harm than good. As I said in Committee, from my experience, the more conditions you impose on a procession, the more likely those conditions are to be resisted and, therefore, the more police officers you will need to enforce them. As I have said, police forces already say that they do not have enough public-order-trained police officers.
A peaceful protest with no anticipated violent infiltrators and an agreed route—however large—can be policed with a minimum number of police officers and a lot of traffic cones and miles of white tape. Imposing conditions which the organisers are resisting is likely to require between double and five times the number of police officers. This is because confrontation must be anticipated, and the conditions may have to be imposed by force—such as a march wanting to take a different route. An outright ban on a protest, as well as being unlikely to be successful—as we saw with the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common—requires about 10 times as many police officers as are required for a compliant, peaceful demonstration. How many police officers would it have taken to police the Sarah Everard vigil, in the middle of a common, if there had been agreement between the police and the organisers? The more conditions which can be imposed, and the more draconian those conditions, the bigger the drain will be on already overstretched police resources.
The second issue is the impact on trust and confidence in the police, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has just said. The impact of the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil was hugely negative, and the government proposals will simply increase the potential for, and frequency of, such scenes. By banning some demonstrations on the basis of anticipated noise, and not others, the police will be subjected to accusations that they are being political rather than practical. They will be accused of being selective about which protests can take place for political reasons—such as banning demonstrations against war, as they are likely to be enormous and noisy, but allowing demonstrations in favour of war to go ahead, as they are not likely to be very well supported, to take a Russian example. Such a change in the law is likely to draw the police reputation into even more disrepute. In addition, I ask how many times the business of this House or the other place has been disrupted because of noise by protestors. I suggest none —and I do not believe that the House has double glazing. In any event, the police can always divert disruptive demonstrations away from sensitive areas. This change—the noise trigger—is unnecessary and damaging, and we will be voting to support the Labour amendments.
Motion F is about maintaining the current position, where the police can impose conditions on those holding an assembly, a static protest or a meeting but cannot ban it altogether. The Government argue that their proposals simply bring assemblies into line with the powers that the police have in relation to processions, but there are very good reasons why the two should be treated differently.
As I said in Committee, on 13 January 1986 in the House of Commons, the then Conservative Home Secretary, later Lord Hurd of Westwell, explained why processions were being treated differently from assemblies:
“We stopped short of a power to ban”
“because we believed that that would be an excessive limit on the right of assembly and freedom of speech. For this reason, clause 14 does not permit the police to impose conditions changing the date and time of an assembly.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/1/1986; col. 797.]
We agree, and the effect of my amendment is to achieve the same result.
Already, if a senior police officer reasonably believes that an assembly may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of a community, or that the purpose of the assembly is to intimidate others, he or she can, under existing legislation, impose conditions on where the assembly takes place; tell an existing assembly to move somewhere else; limit how long it goes on for; and/or limit the numbers attending. The wording of my Amendment 80G in Motion F2 is different from simply insisting on the amendment we made to remove the new provision proposed by the Government on Report —as Motion F1 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, does—but the effect is the same.
The only thing the police cannot do under existing legislation is to ban a static protest altogether. The police already have all the tools they need to deal with unlawful assemblies, but to give the police the power to stop people protesting at all smacks of Putin’s Russia, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I will seek the opinion of the House on Amendment 80G in Motion F2.
On Motion G, we share the concerns of others that all large demonstrations that have the potential to spill over into the road and, either by accident or design, impede vehicular access to Parliament could be banned even when Parliament is not sitting. We believe that this is legislative overreach, relying as it does on the discretion of the police to enforce it or not. However, we do not agree that the police should be able to give permission to allow entrances to Parliament to be blocked when Parliament is in session, so we do not insist on Lords Amendment 82.
On Motion H, we share the concerns of others that those who engage in peaceful sit-down protests, however short the duration, should face the potential penalty of imprisonment for highway obstruction where previously they could have been only fined. As we saw with the Insulate Britain protests, existing legislation, including the application for and enforcement of injunctions, can be successfully used to deal with persistent offenders, including imprisonment for those who breach injunctions. However, with the undertaking given by the Minister at the Dispatch Box that imprisonment is intended to be used only in the most egregious cases, we hope that this increased penalty does not have the chilling effect it may otherwise have done on peaceful protest.
On Motion N, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for raising the issue and for the Government’s response.
My Lords, I regret that we heard the Home Secretary and now the Minister accept the principle of the Opposition’s fast-track public space protection orders in relation to Motion H and use that to justify broader anti-protest amendments as a balance in protecting non-protesters. I regret it but I am not surprised. The danger of advocating any measures that strengthen anti-protest measures is that it sets a tone that suggests that some protesters are good and some are bad, which politicises a general and universal right that I think we should defend. Putting that to one side, I want to oppose the Government’s doubling-down on a noise trigger and follow on particularly from the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and others who have expressed their opposition so well.
I want to nod to the democratic dilemma of this ping-pong and whether we are actually blocking democracy. When summing up the rejection of the second tranche of anti-protest amendments on Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, chided all of us who opposed them for ignoring the public’s demand that authorities deal with new forms of protest activities such as those we have seen used by Extinction Rebellion and its offspring, such as Insulate Britain.
I disagreed that those amendments would have dealt with those new forms of protest. I thought they were so broad as to sweep up all and any protests, including anyone who might have wanted to protest against net zero, to take an example of a different political side. The state also already has huge powers, whether the Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Act or the Public Order Act, as we have heard, that could have been used to deal with these forms of protest which are a particular nuisance, as the public would have it. Despite that, I felt the Government were at least responding to a particular form of protest about which there has been some public agitation and concern. Therefore, that chiding was listened to.
But now, here we are with government amendments on protest that bear absolutely no relation to the Home Office’s motivation on new forms of protest. I do not think the Government have a democratic mandate for these amendments. Fundamental and foundational democratic rights, such as the right to assemble or protest or the right to free speech, should be protected by an iron curtain. If there is any attempt to undermine them, the presumption must rest with the Government to justify in absolutely clear terms, with a sense of the absolutely exceptional reasons for the proposed changes, any more draconian measures being brought in.
It just does not add up. As I have noticed before, even these new types of protest that apparently upset the public are often silent, so the noise trigger does not apply to them in any way whatever. The authorities should consider proposing accruing further power when limiting the right to assembly, and ultimately the right to free speech, only ever in exceptional circumstances. In this instance, those exceptional circumstances are just not there.
Even more galling is the smoke and mirrors of posing these proposals as protecting the public from the consequences of protest. The public are described as “non-protesters”; as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, pointed out, this turns the public into two different groups of people, but actually the public are the people who go on protests. They might not go on all of them all the time, but it is their right as the public that we are talking about. There is an Alice in Wonderland approach here that gets the issues upside-down and implies that the Government are far removed from the reality that free protests have been crucial for the public over centuries. The denial of that right, whether in Putin’s Russia or China’s Hong Kong, should be a visceral reminder to us here of why protest —warts and all—matters.
Of course not all protests are popular. Many of the modern protests I have mentioned, such as those by Extinction Rebellion, I do not support and they irritate me but, as with all fundamental democratic rights—free speech, free association and so on—it does not matter whether they are annoying, unpleasant or objectionable, or even if those demonstrations are directed in a hostile way against what you believe to be true.
We cannot pick and choose which speech or which protest we agree with and then endorse only the ones that we like. We have to make sure that we do not let those kinds of political prejudices get in the way. We are bound to feel uncomfortable at times when people protest for things that we disagree with, but that is freedom for you. It has never been claimed that living in a free society is safe and cosy. It is designed to make you, on occasion, feel uncomfortable. But there are principles here. As the Court of Appeal notes:
“The right to protest becomes effectively worthless if the protesters’ choice of ‘when and where’ to protest is not respected as far as possible”,
and I stand by that.
Finally, we should, if anything, be doing something in this House to facilitate civil society having the freedom to stand up to power. We should not only encourage the public to have their right to be heard protected loudly but encourage voters to actively engage in extra-parliamentary activity and to shout as loudly as possible about what concerns them, because that way we will get to actually hear some of that public debate. It is also a safety valve for democracy. If, on occasion, that causes inconvenience or annoyance or is too loud, we will survive, and democracy will be better for it.
I will finish with a quote from a participant from the Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy, because it sums up what is at stake: “When civil society or minority groups or opinions are ignored by politicians, it is the British way to assemble or march with an exuberant voice, carrying placards and symbols of protest. Peaceful protest sheds light on the mood of the nation and informs the elected representatives”—and, dare I say, the unelected representatives—“of the strength of opinion residing outside their bubble or chosen focus group.” I say “hear, hear” to that, and gladly.
My Lords, ever since this Bill began its progress through your Lordships’ House, I have struggled to understand why the source of noise seems to make a difference.
I am lucky to live in a large, busy and somewhat noisy city. Last week one of our local Jewish communities, which I live at the heart of, celebrated Purim, and it celebrated it noisily. I live close to Salford City football ground. I have a season ticket and go to watch matches there. But I would not need to be in the ground to know the score; I could tell from the noise that emerges from it. I am well within earshot of the annual Parklife festival in Heaton Park in north Manchester, which brings countless people from all over the country and beyond to have a fun weekend. I struggle to see why a night of noise from a religious festival or a weekend of noise from a pop concert is somehow acceptable, but noise from a protest for a night or a weekend somehow is not. If noise is a nuisance, it is a nuisance. The fact that it is generated by protests and not by pop music seems entirely irrelevant.
I take great comfort from what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said earlier. I have double glazing, so perhaps nothing at all is a nuisance to me; but not all my neighbours in Salford are quite so lucky. Unless the Minister can give me some clarity as to why the source of the noise make such a substantial difference that we have to legislate against it, I will be supporting the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and others this afternoon.
My Lords, I suggest that noble Lords may want to follow Sheffield Wednesday because, if you lived anywhere near the ground, you would never be disturbed by much noise from the team scoring.
I support the right to protest. What I am about to say may leave people thinking that I do not, but I genuinely do. I say that as somebody who, like the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has been a gold commander for public order events with tens of thousands of people—hundreds of thousands on occasion. Sometimes people in London imagine that the only protests that happen are with the Metropolitan Police leading them, but of course other forces have to deal with similar challenges an awful lot of the time.
There are different types of protest, but we seem to have started to talk about the only types of protest being the ones that happen in Whitehall, which we all regularly see and hear and which we have the most experience of, but they are not the only types of protest that happen around the country. I want to say a few words about those types of protest, and why I broadly support the Government’s idea to look at why noise can be a problem. Noise can be threatening and intimidating, it can be a nuisance and it can damage health. Surely the test of whether or not noise is okay is whether somebody of reasonable firmness—not somebody who is particularly sensitive—can withstand it. In certain circumstances we would all be very prone to being damaged by noise. Imagine a family who had someone who was terminally ill. Some of us who can cope with noise most of the time cannot cope with it all the time. So I think there is a test that can be applied, and the police would be quite able to apply it.
There is another example, I would suggest, of something that is lawful generally but when done too much can be a crime: picketing. That may have been contentious in the past, but people have engaged in it as part of a trade union dispute. However, it was made illegal, some time ago now, to gather in such a large number that it would intimidate people and prevent them working or doing other things that were reasonable. Picketing is therefore lawful, but not if it is done in such numbers and is causing such damage that it would cause normal people to be worried that they could not carry on with their normal lives.
The question that is not really addressed by those who object to the Government’s proposal is: is it always okay for protesters to cause noise nuisance, even if somebody is unreasonably damaged by that noise? If it is outside your home or your business, and it is day after week after month, is that okay? If not, how are you going to deal with it? I have not heard any proposals for doing that. Of course, it is okay in Whitehall, but it is not okay if it is at your home. We have had examples where people have had complaints and protests against them at their home or business repeatedly and frequently. We have to at least consider this when scrutinising this legislation. It is important to them, even if some people do not think it is important in general.
A question was raised as to whether police officers could assess whether noise “may” cause damage. That is a reasonable question, but, of course, police officers do this type of thing every day. They have to decide whether a breach of the peace is likely, and they might make an arrest or make an intervention around threatening behaviour. Whether something may happen is one of the things that they have to decide. They are just normal people who have to make a reasonable assessment. I do not worry about them too much on those grounds: they make that sort of decision every day and I suspect that they can carry on making it even if this was to be made further legislation.
There was a question about whether the police could intervene in a particular protest if there were tens of thousands of people involved and they were causing lots of noise. Could the police intervene and do they have enough staff? That is a fair question, but, of course, they do not have to intervene on that day. Perhaps it is impossible to intervene, but they can use that as evidence to decide whether to impose a condition in the future. That is one of the reasons why we have law: to decide whether you are able to impose conditions, what the reasons are for the conditions, and whether you can gather enough evidence to say that your “may” is a reasonable test. Therefore, it may not be on the first occasion that the protest happens, but it may be on the subsequent one, which, if noble Lords accept my argument, is something that at least has to be considered if there are repeated protests causing excessive noise for people, making it difficult for them to enjoy their lives.
I understand why people complain about this government proposal, but I honestly think that the people who oppose it have not yet addressed how they would deal with the problem if it was their home, their parents or their business. How do they intend to stop the noise, which can be so damaging to life? That is the question I would ask but, broadly, I support the Government’s proposal.
My Lords, I commend my noble friend for all the hard work that she has done on this Bill and for accepting a number of the amendments, as well as the Government’s own amendments which she has brought forward, having listened carefully to the debates in this House and in the other place.
I do not believe for a moment that my noble friend or her colleagues on the Front Bench would intend to ban peaceful protest, but Part 3 of the Bill seems to be straying towards authoritarianism. We see at the moment how democracy is fragile and how important it is to protect it. This House is challenging what looks like an attempt to undermine the democratic right to protest, with what could be disproportionate criminalisation of peaceful protest.
Demonstrations must almost always be noisy. The demonstrators want their voices heard—that is the point of the protest. As I understand it, the Joint Committee on Human Rights confirms that the police already have powers to stop extreme and disruptive protests. If there is enough power already, I am not clear how, in practice, as the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Paddick, explained, the police would be able to assess how to implement this legislation. It may well be an unwise hostage to fortune that could be used for repression of unwanted opposition. As we are passing primary legislation which will outlast the current Administration—and who knows what the future holds?—I urge my noble friend to listen carefully to what has been said this afternoon about the vagueness of the word “noisy”.
My Lords, I was not going to add to the argument, but—and I do not want to depress the noble Lord, Lord Coaker—I have never been on a demonstration. At least, I have not been on a demonstration that was protesting against something. I have been on two marches that were very noisy and were accompanied by bands and so on, and which were protests for something. On the definitions of these things, I would love to know whether we are talking about protest, which is assumed to be against something, or a call for something, which is entirely positive. If the phenomenon is the same, what are we faffing around with this for? I just do not understand. I also got arrested for busking, which could be related to noise but I was only 20 and it was on the Paris metro, so it does not count. But being serious, I do not understand why the Government are pushing this when there is no call for it and it is unlikely to achieve anything because the definition is so vague.
My Lords, my objection to the noise provisions, in addition to the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Paddick, is the complete uncertainty of the concepts the Government wish to introduce into legislation. What level of noise is unacceptable, what level of disruption is unacceptable, and how will the organisers of a protest control the noise generated by the people demonstrating? What are they supposed to do in these circumstances? Enacting legislation of this sort will inevitably cause problems for the police, raise expectations that cannot be met and—I declare my interest as a practising barrister—undoubtedly lead to prolonged and expensive litigation that will result in the conditions being overturned.
My Lords, on the first Sunday after the invasion of Ukraine, I joined the protestors in Trafalgar Square. They were peaceful but noisy. It may well be that there were some minor oligarchs—maybe even friends of the Prime Minister—living in those new and very expensive penthouses overlooking the square, and I would like to think that they were annoyed. Unfortunately, I suspect that they have double glazing. However, the right to protest and to cause a degree of annoyance to a few people is surely something that Ukrainians would be amazed we were even thinking of curtailing.
I absolutely believe the Minister when she says that the Government have no intention of curbing that right, but this will be on the statute book if we allow it to go through, and not every Government might be quite as benevolent as the one we are currently living with. For that reason alone, we should absolutely support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. It is extraordinary that we are even contemplating this. It is like the Elections Bill. These are clauses which we are promised will be used in only the most innocuous of fashions. However, they give power to future Administrations to do things that none of us in this Chamber, or indeed at the other end, would like to see happen. For that reason alone, we should just say no—and what is more, we should say no time after time.
My Lords, in addition to the objections to Motion F that have already been made, I have particular one. I made it earlier in the proceedings on the Bill, and it is the one the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, made a moment ago. It concerns the right to picket. Part 3 deals with demonstrations and freedom of expression generally. The provision that is sought to be reintroduced to the Bill will affect all those things, but will also affect the right to picket
“in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute”.
The right to picket is not only protected by Article 10 of the European Convention, concerning freedom of expression, but by Article 11, which protects freedom of association and the right to be a member of a trade union for the purposes of protecting one’s interests. It is a right that has been highly regulated in English and Welsh law for more than 100 years, beginning with the Conspiracy, and Protection of Property Act 1875, which, I point out for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, prohibits pickets picketing domestic houses. The restrictions on the right to picket in English legislation are reiterated in Section 220 of the Trade Unions and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which nevertheless preserves the right to picket in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute, but imposes restrictions on it by way, among other things, of a code of practice which extends over 19 pages. In 2016, Parliament sought to increase the number of restrictions on picketing by way of the Trade Union Act.
My submission is a simple one: the right to picket industrially is already sufficiently protected and should be excluded from any restrictions. I accept the justification for excluding all restrictions on the right to demonstrate as set out in the Bill, but if there are to be restrictions, the right to picket should have some exemption. I recall that in Committee, the Minister thought there was some substance to that argument because she introduced an amendment on, I think, blocking strategic highways which contained a particular protection for those engaged in a trade dispute.
If anybody doubts that this will affect picketing, one has only to look at Amendment 80A. It inserts a new subsection (2ZA), which refers to actions that
“may result in a significant delay to the supply of a time-sensitive product … or … may result in a prolonged disruption of access to any essential goods or any essential service, including, in particular, access to … the supply of money, food, water, energy or fuel … a system of communication … a place of worship … a transport facility … an educational institution, or … a service relating to health.”
I remind noble Lords that “a transport facility” will of course include P&O ships. If this provision is enacted, and if RMT and Nautilus International invite pickets to stand at Dover docks to discourage workers from taking their place, or other workers from refuelling or revictualling vessels or discharging cargo, they will not only be subject to all the existing picketing restrictions under UK legislation, but they will be bound not to be noisy. I therefore support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Coaker.
My Lords, before we vote on this Motion, I invite Members to consider what the history of our country would have been like if the laws that the Government are proposing had been in place at the time. We are very proud of the development of parliamentary democracy in this country, but I can think of major occasions in the past when major change took place which was quite right and very noisy. Do you think that the Chartist demonstration that took place two miles from here at Kennington was noiseless? Were the suffragettes and suffragists who waged the campaign to give women the right to vote somehow noiseless? They were noisy. Do you think that the poll tax demonstrations were noiseless? They were noisy, and the Government of the day finally realised that it was a mistaken policy. I modestly mention to your Lordships that this legislation will unleash terrible trouble in the future. I do not know what kind or when, and I am not a barrister so I will not benefit personally from any of the legal cases that will arise, but it will cause trouble and it should not be passed.
My Lords, I cannot see anyone trying to get up. If they are doing, they are probably behind me; do not encourage them. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, that we always keep all legislation under review. The Minister in the other place, in saying that, was not saying anything unusual.
I am glad that I give the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, the opportunity to vent at every piece of legislation that I bring into this House, because we are friends and I feel that it is some form of therapy for her. I do not know why she was picking out the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for not supporting her, but that is probably a side issue that I do not know anything about. She talked about reading the public mood, and I will get on to that and the facts behind the public mood shortly; I warn her that she will not like it. About Putin’s Russia, or indeed Ukraine, I do not want to make a cheap point but I see the point about democracy. The people of Ukraine or Russia will look at this Parliament and realise how very lucky we are that we can not only argue but shout at each other and the majority wins. Noble Lords will be particularly pleased because there is generally a majority against the Government in this place.
Amendments 143A to 143C provide for the expedited public spaces protection orders. I am glad that they find favour with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. In doing so, clearly he makes the distinction between noise generally, noisy protests and noise that is injurious to others, as evidenced by his amendments.
I welcome the noble Lord’s acceptance of the decision taken by the other place in relation to the increase in the maximum penalty for the offence of obstructing a highway as reflected in Amendment 88A. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, takes a different view, but I hope she will not press Motion H1, given that the courts are able to take into account the level of disruption when sentencing for this offence.
I know the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, is not in his place, but I want to make the point that we have had a very constructive discussion on Amendments 81 and 82. I hope that he will have heard it remotely. Like him, we want to monitor carefully the impact of Clause 58 to ensure that it does not have the unintended consequences of inhibiting large protests in the vicinity of Parliament. I was particularly struck by our conversation: when I was coming into Parliament on my bike this morning—I know noble Lords are very impressed—there was an ambulance trying to get into Parliament, and it kind of illustrated the point for me.
Amendments 73, 80 and 87 relate to the powers of the police—not the Government or the Secretary of State—to attach conditions to protests, including, in particular, in relation to the generation of noise. I know that noble Lords continue to have concerns about these provisions, and I hear that in the House today. I think they are unfounded, and I say again that the provisions do not ban noisy protests; the overwhelming majority of protests will be unaffected by these provisions. But are noble Lords really saying that any amount of noise, in any situation, at any time and for any length of time, is acceptable if it is generated by protestors? The amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, clearly demonstrate that it is not. The Government do not subscribe to this view and nor does the majority of the British public. Back to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb: we have seen in a recent YouGov poll that 53% of respondents supported giving senior police officers powers to set noise limits on protests, compared to just 33% of respondents opposing the measure.
As I said in my opening remarks, the elected House has now endorsed the noise-related measures on two separate occasions during the passage of this Bill. They have the support of the British public that they should now be allowed to pass. I invite the House to reject Motion E1.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply and all noble Lords who have responded to the debate on my amendment. I do not want to detain the House because there is a lot of other business to pursue. Let me just say that the noise provision is the one we really object to. I think that, if it is passed, in a year or two years, a senior police officer will restrict a demonstration on the basis of noise. The Minister has prayed in aid public opinion in her favour. The public will ask who on earth passed legislation that means they cannot demonstrate in a democracy in their own country—who allowed that to happen? It will be this Parliament, and for that reason I press Motion E1.
That this House do not insist on its Amendment 80 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 80A, 80B, 80C, 80D, 80E and 80F to the words restored to the Bill by the Commons disagreement to Lords Amendment 80.
80A: Page 48, line 40, at end insert—
““(2ZA) For the purposes of subsection (1)(a), the cases in which a public assembly
in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community include, in particular, where—
(a) it may result in a significant delay to the supply of a time-sensitive product to consumers of that product, or
(b) it may result in a prolonged disruption of access to any essential goods or any essential service, including, in particular, access to—
(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.
(2ZB) In subsection (2ZA)(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.
(2ZC) For the purposes of subsection (1)(aa), the cases in which the noise generated by persons taking part in a public assembly may result in serious disruption to the activities of an organisation which are carried on in the vicinity of the assembly include, in particular, where it may result in persons connected with the organisation not being reasonably able, for a prolonged period of time, to carry on in that vicinity the activities or any one of them.”
80B: Page 49, line 13, leave out “make” and insert “amend any of subsections (2ZA) to (2ZC) for the purposes of making”
80C: Page 49, line 18, after “particular” insert “, amend any of those subsections for the purposes of”
80D: Page 49, line 19, leave out “define” and insert “defining”
80E: Page 49, line 21, leave out “give” and insert “giving”
80F: Page 49, line 31, at end insert “, including provision which makes consequential amendments to this Part.”
My Lords, I have already spoken to Motion F and I beg to move.
Motion F1 (as an amendment to Motion F) not moved.
Motion F2 (as an amendment to Motion F)
Leave out from “House” and insert “do insist on its Amendment 80, do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments 80A, 80B, 80C, 80D, 80E and 80F, and do propose Amendment 80G instead of the words so left out of the Bill—
80G: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Imposing conditions on public assemblies
(1) Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 (imposing conditions on public assemblies) is amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) For the purposes of subsection (1)(a), the cases in which a public assembly in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community include, in particular, where—
(a) it may result in a significant delay to the supply of a time-sensitive product to consumers of that product, or
(b) it may result in a prolonged disruption of access to any essential goods or any essential service, including, in particular, access to—
(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.
(2B) In subsection (2A)(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.”
(3) After subsection (10A) (as inserted by section 57(11)) insert—
“(11) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend subsection (2A) or (2B) for the purposes of making provision about the meaning for the purposes of this section of serious disruption to the life of the community.
(12) Regulations under subsection (11) may, in particular, amend either of those subsections for the purposes of—
(a) defining any aspect of that expression for the purposes of this section;
(b) giving examples of cases in which a public assembly is or is not to be treated as resulting in serious disruption to the life of the community.
(13) Regulations under subsection (11)—
(a) are to be made by statutory instrument;
(b) may apply only in relation to public assemblies in England and Wales;
(c) may make incidental, supplementary, consequential, transitional, transitory or saving provision, including provision which makes consequential amendments to this Part.
(14) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (11) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.””
My Lords, because the police will otherwise have the powers to ban assemblies, I beg to move Motion F2.
That this House do not insist on its Amendments 81 and 82, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reasons 81A and 82A.
81A: Because it is not appropriate to enable authorisation to be given for obstruction of access to the Parliamentary Estate.
82A: Because it is not appropriate to enable authorisation to be given for obstruction of access to the Parliamentary Estate.
Motion G agreed.
That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 88A.
88A: Leave out lines 5 to 9 and insert—
“(2) In subsection (1)—
(a) after “liable to” insert “imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or”;
(b) for “not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale” substitute “or both”.”
Motion H1 not moved.
Motion H agreed.
That this House do not insist on its Amendments 89 and 146 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 146A and 146B in lieu.
146A: Page 56, line 32, at end insert the following new Clause—
“Repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824 etc
(1) The Vagrancy Act 1824 is repealed.
(2) Subsections (3) to (7) contain amendments and repeals in consequence of subsection (1).
(3) The following are repealed— (a) the Vagrancy Act 1935;
(b) section 2(3)(c) of the House to House Collections Act 1939 (licences);
(c) section 20 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 (power of magistrates’ court to commit on bail for sentence);
(d) in the Criminal Justice Act 1982—
(i) section 70 and the italic heading immediately before that section (vagrancy offences), and
(ii) paragraph 1 of Schedule 14 and the italic heading immediately before that paragraph (minor and consequential amendments);
(e) section 43(5) of the Mental Health Act 1983 (power of magistrates’ courts to commit for restriction order);
(f) section 26(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (alteration of certain penalties);
(g) in the Criminal Justice Act 2003—
(i) paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 25 and the italic heading immediately before those paragraphs (summary offences no longer punishable with imprisonment), and
(ii) paragraphs 145 and 146 of Schedule 32 and the italic heading immediately before those paragraphs (amendments relating to sentencing);
(h) paragraph 18 of Schedule 8 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (powers of accredited persons).
(4) In section 81 of the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1907 (extending definition of public place and street for certain purposes), omit the words from “shall”, in the first place it occurs, to “public place, and”.
(5) In section 48(2) of the Forestry Act 1967 (powers of entry and enforcement), omit “or against the Vagrancy Act 1824”.
(6) In the Police Reform Act 2002—
(a) in Schedule 3C (powers of community support officers and community support volunteers)—
(i) omit paragraph 3(3)(b), (ii) omit paragraph 7(3), (iii) in paragraph 7(4), omit “or (3)”, and (iv) in paragraph 7(7)(a), omit “or (3)”, and
(b) in Schedule 5 (powers exercisable by accredited persons), omit paragraph 2(3)(aa).
(7) In the Sentencing Code—
(a) in section 20(1) (committal in certain cases where offender committed in respect of another offence)—(i) at the end of paragraph (e), insert “or”, and
(ii) omit paragraph (g) (and the “or” immediately before it), and
(b) omit section 24(1)(f) (further powers to commit offender to the Crown Court to be dealt with).
(8) The amendments and repeals made by this section do not apply in relation to an offence committed before this section comes into force.”
146B: Page 194, line 22, after “61” insert “, (Repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824 etc)”
My Lords, I hope the House will indulge me if I say a few concluding words about Motion J on the repeal of the Vagrancy Act, with my sincere apologies that I failed to speak during the earlier debate. I welcome the Commons Amendments 146A and 146B in lieu of Lords Amendments 89 and 146, which were passed by your Lordships on 17 January. The Commons version covers the same ground as our amendments and will finally repeal the notorious Vagrancy Act 1824. This means that being homeless and sleeping rough will no longer make you a criminal.
The repeal sends out the message that times have indeed changed, and that we all recognise today that, if you are sleeping on the pavement or in a doorway, you need to be helped and supported, not persecuted and branded a criminal. The old Act has deterred people who are homeless, and likely to be the victims of crime, bullying and vile harassment, from seeking the protection of the law and receiving the assistance which they need. All that will now be consigned to the history books.
As always, however, things are not exactly as we would wish them. There is to be a delay in implementing the repeal, as the Minister explained this morning. This is to allow a review to see if there are any ingredients in the Vagrancy Act that should be retained by incorporating them into other legislation. There will now be some delay while this review proceeds. However, Ministers have put a longstop of 18 months for this section to come into force, and for the repeal to take effect, and I think everyone concerned hopes, and expects, that a much shorter timescale can be achieved.
I am delighted to congratulate the Minister and privy counsellor, the noble Baroness, Lady Trafford, who has worked with Eddie Hughes MP, the Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, to achieve this positive outcome. I also congratulate Matt Downie of Crisis, who led the charities campaigning for this result, as well as the steadfast supporters in the other place. Special thanks are due to the Lords team, the noble Baronesses, Lady Thornhill and Lady Chakrabarti, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, and especially the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham. Last but not least, I sincerely thank all noble Peers who stayed up late to vote for our amendment long past midnight. Their effort has led directly to this milestone in housing history. I support the Commons amendments in lieu.
Motion J agreed.
That this House do not insist on its Amendment 107, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 107A.
107A: Because the amendment is unnecessary as there is no legal barrier to local authorities setting up and running academies.
Motion K agreed.
That this House do not insist on its Amendments 114, 115 and 116 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 116A and 116B in lieu.
116A: Page 137, line 5, at end insert—
“(3A) A report under subsection (3) must in particular include—
(a) information about the number of offenders in respect of whom serious violence reduction orders have been made;
(b) information about the offences that were the basis for applications as a result of which serious violence reduction orders were made;
(c) information about the exercise by constables of the powers in section 342E of the Sentencing Code (serious violence reduction orders: powers of constables);
(d) an assessment of the impact of the operation of Chapter 1A of Part 11 of the Sentencing Code on people with protected characteristics (within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010);
(e) an initial assessment of the impact of serious violence reduction orders on the reoffending rates of offenders in respect of whom such orders have been made;
(f) an assessment of the impact on offenders of being subject to a serious violence reduction order;
(g) information about the number of offences committed under section 342G of the Sentencing Code (offences relating to a serious violence reduction order) and the number of suspected offences under that section that have been investigated.”
116B: Page 137, line 22, after “section” insert—
“serious violence reduction order” has the same meaning as in Chapter 1A of Part 11 of the Sentencing Code (see section 342B of the Sentencing Code);”
Motion L agreed.
That this House do not insist on its Amendments 141 and 142, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reasons 141A and 142A.
141A: Because conduct requiring or arranging sexual relations as a condition of accommodation may already constitute an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Government is committed to undertaking a consultation on whether the law in respect of such conduct needs to be strengthened.
142A: Because conduct requiring or arranging sexual relations as a condition of accommodation may already constitute an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Government is committed to undertaking a consultation on whether the law in respect of such conduct needs to be strengthened.
Motion M agreed.
That this House do not insist on its Amendment 143 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 143A, 143B and 143C in lieu.
143A Page 56, line 32, at end insert—
“Expedited public spaces protection orders
(1) The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is amended as follows.
(2) After section 59 insert—
“59A Power to make expedited public spaces protection orders
(1) A local authority may make an expedited public spaces protection order (an “expedited order”) in relation to a public place within the local authority’s area if satisfied on reasonable grounds that three conditions are met.
(2) The first condition is that the public place is in the vicinity of—
(a) a school in the local authority’s area, or
(b) a site in the local authority’s area where, or from which—
(i) vaccines are provided to members of the public by, or pursuant to arrangements with, an NHS body, or (ii) test and trace services are provided.
The reference in paragraph (b)(i) to arrangements includes arrangements made by the NHS body in the exercise of functions of another person by virtue of any provision of the National Health Service Act 2006.
(3) The second condition is that activities carried on, or likely to be carried on, in the public place by one or more individuals in the course of a protest or demonstration have had, or are likely to have, the effect of—
(a) harassing or intimidating members of staff or volunteers at the school or site,
(b) harassing or intimidating persons using the services of the school or site,
(c) impeding the provision of services by staff or volunteers at the school or site, or
(d) impeding access by persons seeking to use the services of the school or site.
(4) The third condition is that the effect or likely effect mentioned in subsection (3)—
(a) is, or is likely to be, of a persistent or continuing nature,
(b) is, or is likely to be, such as to make the activities unreasonable, and
(c) justifies the restrictions imposed by the order.
(5) An expedited order is an order that identifies the public place referred to in subsection (1) (“the restricted area”) and— (a) prohibits specified things being done in the restricted area,
(b) requires specified things to be done by persons carrying on specified activities in that area, or (c) does both of those things.
(6) The only prohibitions or requirements that may be imposed are ones that are reasonable to impose in order—
(a) to prevent the harassment, intimidation or impediment referred to in subsection (3) from continuing, occurring or recurring, or
(b) to reduce that harassment, intimidation or impediment or to reduce the risk of its continuance, occurrence or recurrence.
(7) A prohibition or requirement may be framed—
(a) so as to apply to all persons, or only to persons in specified categories, or to all persons except those in specified categories;
(b) so as to apply at all times, or only at specified times, or at all times except those specified;
(c) so as to apply in all circumstances, or only in specified circumstances, or in all circumstances except those specified.
(8) An expedited order must—
(a) identify the activities referred to in subsection (3);
(b) explain the effect of section 63 (where it applies) and section 67;
(c) specify the period for which the order has effect.
(9) An expedited order may not be made in relation to a public place if that place (or any part of it) is or has been the subject of an expedited order (“the earlier order”), unless the period specified in subsection (11) has expired.
(10) In subsection (9) the second reference to “an expedited order” is to be read as including a reference to a public spaces protection order (made after the day on which this section comes into force) which neither prohibited nor required anything that could not have been prohibited or required by an expedited order.
(11) The period specified in this subsection is the period of a year beginning with the day on which the earlier order ceased to have effect.
(12) An expedited order must be published in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(13) For the purposes of subsection (2), a public place that is coextensive with, includes, or is wholly or partly within, a school or site is regarded as being “in the vicinity of” that school or site.
(14) In this section references to a “school” are to be read as including a 16 to 19 Academy.
(15) In this section “test and trace services” means—
(a) in relation to England, services of the programme known as NHS Test and Trace;
(b) in relation to Wales, services of the programme known as Test, Trace, Protect.”
(3) After section 60 insert—
“60A Duration of expedited orders
(1) An expedited order may not have effect for a period of more than 6 months.
(2) Subject to subsection (1), the local authority that made an expedited order may, before the time when the order is due to expire, extend the period for which the order has effect if satisfied on reasonable grounds that doing so is necessary to prevent—
(a) occurrence or recurrence after that time of the activities identified in the order, or
(b) an increase in the frequency or seriousness of those activities after that time.
(3) Where a local authority has made an expedited order, the authority may, at any time before the order is due to expire, reduce the period for which the order is to have effect if satisfied on reasonable grounds that the reduced period will be sufficient having regard to the degree of risk of an occurrence, recurrence or increase such as is mentioned in subsection (2)(a) or (b).
(4) An extension or reduction under this section of the period for which an order has effect must be published in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(5) An expedited order may be extended or reduced under this section more than once.”
(4) After section 72 insert—
“72A Expedited orders: Convention rights and consents
(1) A local authority, in deciding—
(a) whether to make an expedited order (under section 59A) and if so what it should include,
(b) whether to extend or reduce the period for which an expedited order has effect (under section 60A) and if so by how much,
(c) whether to vary an expedited order (under section 61) and if so how, or
(d) whether to discharge an expedited order (under section 61), must have particular regard to the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly set out in articles 10 and 11 of the Convention.
(2) In subsection (1) “Convention” has the meaning given by section 21(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998.
(3) A local authority must obtain the necessary consents before—
(a) making an expedited order,
(b) extending or reducing the period for which an expedited order has effect, or
(c) varying or discharging an expedited order.
(4) If the order referred to in subsection (3) was made, or is proposed to be made, in reliance on section 59A(2)(a), “the necessary consents” means the consent of—
(a) the chief officer of police for the police area that includes the restricted area, and
(b) a person authorised (whether in specific or general terms) by the appropriate authority for the school or 16 to 19 Academy.
(5) If the order referred to in subsection (3) was made, or is proposed to be made, in reliance on section 59A(2)(b), “the necessary consents” means the consent of—
(a) the chief officer of police for the police area that includes the restricted area, and
(b) a person authorised by the appropriate NHS authority.
(6) In this section—
“appropriate authority” means—
(a) in relation to a school maintained by a local authority, the governing body;
(b) in relation to any other school or a 16 to 19 Academy, the proprietor;
“appropriate NHS authority” means—
(a) if the order was made, or is proposed to be made, in reliance on sub-paragraph (i) of section 59A(2)(b), the NHS body mentioned in that sub-paragraph;
(b) if the order was made, or is proposed to be made, in reliance on sub-paragraph (ii) of section 59A(2)(b) and the site is in England, the UK Health Security Agency;
(c) if the order was made, or is proposed to be made, in reliance on that sub-paragraph and the site is in Wales, the Local Health Board for the area in which the site is located.
(7) In this section “proprietor”, in relation to a school or a 16 to 19 Academy, has the meaning given in section 579(1) of the Education Act 1996.
72B Consultation and notifications after making expedited order
(1) A local authority must carry out the necessary consultation as soon as reasonably practicable after making an expedited order.
(2) In subsection (1) “necessary consultation” means consulting with the following about the terms and effects of the order—
(a) the chief officer of police, and the local policing body, for the police area that includes the restricted area;
(b) whatever community representatives the local authority thinks it appropriate to consult;
(c) the owner or occupier of land within the restricted area.
(3) A local authority must carry out the necessary notification (if any) as soon as reasonably practicable after—
(a) making an expedited order,
(b) extending or reducing the period for which an expedited order has effect, or
(c) varying or discharging an expedited order.
(4) In subsection (3) “necessary notification” means notifying the following of the extension, reduction, variation or discharge—
(a) the parish council or community council (if any) for the area that includes the restricted area;
(b) in the case of an expedited order made by a district council in England, the county council (if any) for the area that includes the restricted area;
(c) the owner or occupier of land within the restricted area.
(5) The requirement to notify the owner or occupier of land within the restricted area—
(a) does not apply to land that is owned or occupied by the local authority;
(b) applies only if, and to the extent that, it is reasonably practicable to notify the owner or occupier of the land.”
(5) Schedule (Expedited public spaces protection orders) contains amendments relating to subsections (1) to (4).”
143B: Page 220, line 15, at end insert the following new Schedule—
EXPEDITED PUBLIC SPACES PROTECTION ORDERS
1 The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is amended as follows.
2 In the heading of Chapter 2 of Part 4, at the end insert “and expedited orders”.
3 In the italic heading before section 59, at the end insert “and expedited orders”.
4 In the heading of section 59 (power to make orders), before “orders” insert “public spaces protection”.
5 In the heading of section 60 (duration of orders), after “of” insert “public spaces protection”.
6 (1) Section 61 (variation and discharge of orders) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a), after “protection order” insert “or expedited order”.
(3) In subsection (2), for “make a variation under subsection (1)(a)” substitute “under subsection (1)(a) make a variation to a public spaces protection order”.
(4) After subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) A local authority may under subsection (1)(a) make a variation to an expedited order that results in the order applying to an area to which it did not previously apply only if the conditions in section
59A(2) to (4) are met as regards that area.”
(5) In subsection (3), after “59(5)” insert “or 59A(6) (as the case may be)”.
(6) In subsection (4), after “order” insert “or expedited order”.
7 (1) Section 62 (premises etc to which alcohol prohibition does not apply) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a), after “order” insert “or expedited order”.
(3) In subsection (2), in the words before paragraph (a), after “order” insert “or an expedited order”.
8 In section 63 (consumption of alcohol in breach of prohibition order), in subsection (1)—
(a) in paragraph (a), after “order” insert “or an expedited order”;
(b) in the words after paragraph (b) omit “public spaces protection”.
9 (1) Section 64 (orders restricting public right of way over highway) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a), after “order” insert “or expedited order”.
(3) After subsection (1) insert—
“(1A) Before making a public spaces protection order that restricts the public right of way over a highway, a local authority must take the prior consultation steps (see subsection (2)).
(1B) A local authority may not make an expedited order that restricts the public right of way over a highway unless it—
(a) takes the prior consultation steps before making the order, or
(b) takes the subsequent consultation steps (see subsection (2A)) as soon as reasonably practicable after making the order.”
(4) In subsection (2), for the words from “Before” to “must” substitute “To take the “prior consultation steps” in relation to an order means to”.
(5) After subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) To take the “subsequent consultation steps” in relation to an expedited order means to—
(a) notify potentially affected persons of the order,
(b) invite those persons to make representations within a specified period about the terms and effects of the order,
(c) inform those persons how they can see a copy of the order, and
(d) consider any representations made.
The definition of “potentially affected persons” in subsection (2) applies to this subsection as if the reference there to “the proposed order” were to “the order”.”
(6) After subsection (3) insert—
“(3B) Where a local authority proposes to make an expedited order restricting the public right of way over a highway that is also within the area of another local authority it must, if it thinks appropriate to do so, consult that other authority before, or as soon as reasonably practicable after, making the order.”
(7) In subsections (4), (5), (6), (7) and (8), after “order” insert “or expedited order”.
10 In section 65 (categories of highway over which public right of way may not be restricted), in subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a), after “order” insert “or an expedited order”.
11 (1) Section 66 (challenging validity of orders) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsections (1) and (6), after “public spaces protection order”, in each place it occurs, insert “or an expedited order”.
(3) In subsection (7), in the words before paragraph (a)—
(a) after “order”, in the first place it occurs, insert “or an expedited order”;
(b) for “a public spaces protection”, in the second place it occurs, substitute “such an”.
12 (1) Section 67 (offence of failing to comply with order) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsections (1) and (4), after “order”, in each place it occurs, insert “or an expedited order”.
(3) In subsection (3), after “order” insert “or expedited order”.
13 (1) Section 68 (fixed penalty notices) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), at the end insert “or an expedited order”.
(3) In subsection (3), at the end insert “or expedited order”.
14 In section 70 (byelaws), after “protection order” insert “or an expedited order”.
15 (1) Section 71 (bodies other than local authorities with statutory functions in relation to land) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsections (3) to (5), after “public spaces protection order”, in each place it occurs, insert “or an expedited order”.
(3) In subsection (6)—
(a) in paragraph (a), after “order” insert “or expedited order”;
(b) in paragraph (b)(i), after “order” insert “, or an expedited order,”.
16 In the heading of section 72 (Convention rights, consultation, publicity and notification), at the beginning insert “Public spaces protection orders:”
17 (1) Section 74 (interpretation of Chapter 2 of Part 4) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1)—
(a) at the appropriate places insert—
““16 to 19 Academy” has the meaning given by section 1B of the Academies Act 2010;”;
““expedited order” has the meaning given by section 59A(1);”;
““Local Health Board” means a Local Health Board established under section 11 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006;”;
““NHS body” has the meaning given in section 275 of the National Health Service Act 2006;”;
““school” has the meaning given by section 4 of the
Education Act 1996.”;
(b) for the definition of “restricted area” substitute—
(a) in relation to a public spaces protection order, has the meaning given by section 59(4);
(b) in relation to an expedited order, has the meaning given by section 59A(5).”
(3) After subsection (2) insert—
“(3) For the purposes of this Chapter, an expedited order “regulates” an activity if the activity is—
(a) prohibited by virtue of section 59A(5)(a), or
(b) subjected to requirements by virtue of section 59A(5)(b), whether or not for all persons and at all times.””
143C: Page 195, line 27, at end insert—
“(ka) section (Expedited public spaces protection orders) for the purposes of making regulations;”
Motions N agreed.
Let us take a moment or two to clear the Chamber before we move onto the next piece of business.