A parliamentary petition against legislation that has sparked protests across the UK is to be debated by MPs later this month.
Nearly 250,000 people have signed the petition against the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which seeks to give greater powers to police to control protests.
The petition urged parliament not to restrict rights to peaceful protest. It said:
“The right to peaceful assembly and protest are fundamental principles of any democracy and the proposed part of this bill that gives the police new powers to tackle disruptive peaceful protests should be removed from The Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.”
It said protests were a fundamental right and had been through UK history.
“It is how policies have been challenged and changed in the past. Without them, you are effectively saying nobody has the right to peacefully challenge anything. If people feel the need to protest then the government should listen and not be shutting down this legitimate way of people voicing their concerns and opinions. This is a dismantling of our civil liberties.”
The government responded to the petition earlier this month:
“The public order measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill do not erode the public’s right to protest; the Government will not be removing these measures from the Bill.”
On 16 March, Labour failed to prevent the bill getting its second reading in the House of Commons. The legislation is now waiting to go through the committee stage.
Any petition posted on the parliamentary website that gets 100,000 signatures will be considered for debate.
The debate on the protest petition is on Monday 26 April in Westminster Hall at 6.15pm. The petition will be presented by Matt Vickers, the Conservative MP for Stockton South.
Protests and petitions
There were repeated “kill the bill” protests in Bristol and other cities after the bill was published last month. A national weekend of action was held at the start of April.
Several other petitions against the bill have been published.
At the time of writing, more than 212,000 people had signed Netpol’s petition to the National Police Chiefs Council. This petition opposes the legislation and calls for a charter for freedom of assembly rights.
More than 146,000 people have signed Greenpeace’s petition, which described the policing bill as “a threat to democracy, to a safe and equal society, and to a sustainable world”.
There are more than 84,000 signatures on the Friends of the Earth petition, which urges the government to “fundamentally rethink its approach”.
Nearly 39,000 people have signed a petition to the UK government, London Mayor and the metropolitan police against increasing police powers over protests.
A further 12,500 people have signed a parliamentary petition to remove the clause in the bill against single person protests.