Peers inflict defeats on government anti-protest measures

Key parts of government plans to crack down on protest were blocked in the House of Lords yesterday.

Photo: Laura Carreira for XR Scotland

The government was defeated six times in votes on its controversial Public Order Bill.

Ministers said the bill would prevent disruptive protests. But some senior police officers have said they don’t need any new measures.

Stop and search

Peers heavily opposed plans to give police stop and search powers without suspicion to tackle disruptive protest.

They voted by 284 to 209, a majority of 75, to remove clause 11 of the bill.

This rejected the government’s proposal to allow police officers to search people without suspicion in a designated area to look for items that could be used to commit offences under the legislation.

The Liberal Democrat peer and former senior police officer, Lord Paddick, said the measure could lead to people being arrested for being in possession of commonplace objects.

“If a protest takes place in central London, for example, shoppers in Regent Street and Oxford Street could potentially be stopped, searched and arrested for possessing household objects they had just bought from John Lewis.”

The Labour frontbencher Lord Coaker said:

“It is a totally disproportionate reaction to what is happening, but the consequences are serious and dramatic and potentially catastrophic.

“At a time of fragility of confidence between the police and certain communities it’s like pouring petrol on the flames.

Slow walking and SDPOs

The government was defeated by 240 votes to 254 on its plans to crack down on disruption caused by slow walking by protesters.

Ministers wanted to regard public processions, including slow walking, as potential serious disruption.

This had been added to the bill after it left the House of Commons and cannot now be voted on again by MPs.

The government was also defeated on its plans for Serious Disruption Prevention Orders (SDPOs).

Peers voted by 247 to 192 to defeat clause 20, which could have seen SDPOs used to ban someone from attending a protest even if they had no previous related convictions.

Another vote, by 259-200, supported a cross-party amendment to restrict SDPOs until after a protest-related offence or protest-related injunction.

Journalists and lawful defence

Peers voted by 283-192 in favour of a cross-party amendment led by Baroness Chakrabarti to prohibit police from stopping journalists reporting on protests.

Last year, senior officers in Hertfordshire ordered the arrest of four journalists reporting on climate protests. A review concluded that police powers had not been used appropriately.

The government had also introduced an amendment to prevent disruptive protest on an issue of current debate being used as a reasonable or lawful defence. This was defeated yesterday by 239 votes to 248 and cannot now be added when the bill returns to the commons.

Last month, peers voted by a majority of 22 in favour of a higher threshold before police can intervene in protest. This means a stricter definition of “serious disruption” would be needed to prevent protests.

Many of the provisions in the Public Order Bill were originally introduced as amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the House of Lords. Peers rejected these amendments in January 2022 and they were not part of the Act, which received royal assent three months later.

Hansard report of the House of Lords report stage of the Public Order Bill

8 replies »

  1. A bit of common sense goes a long way, had the government really thought this through? I don’t think so.
    A little victory for the people.

  2. Ping pong continues. No victory either side until it concludes, not even a little one.

    Common sense may be anywhere in Westminster. The power to legislate is in the Commons if a large majority decide, the Lords suggest. Otherwise, somebody gets the chop-check history books.

    • Collyer once again you have not understood anything about the situation . You have not done your homework. And talk what if I were not fearful of moderation I would describe as gibberish. The bill was introduced in the Lords and will not go back to the commons. This incarnation of it is dead.

      Please spend more time investigating rather than pontification from a creaky pulpit.

  3. Your opinion is flawed, Alan, in fact. “This incarnation” was your rider to explain. The Public Order Bill will pass. It will include what parts the Government feel are vital. Arithmetic will decide that. Lords will not dictate significant change, that would require Tory rebels in the Commons.

    Ping pong, Alan. Amendments are suggested along the way, not only from the Lords, some may be agreed to, very few if the majority responsible for legislation disagree. Commons are responsible for legislation, Lords advise. Hence the excuse for all of those years of “experience”. Ultimately, Lords can also be amended if they forget that voters do require their ELECTED representatives to be responsible for legislation rather than advisors. They tread a fine line that they hope those in the Commons see a future in the Lords themselves and will not be too drastic in doing that, so more Lords of a particular persuasion is the the usual outcome, if required. Not a very good system, but what there is.

    For those that have not elected the legislators, tough. They can demonstrate. That is the UK democratic system, as current. UK voters are generally aware of it, they voted in droves to produce a large majority as they were fed up with legislation not happening.

    Sorry Alan, you are grasping at straws. The Public Order Bill will pass, and I suspect it will look remarkably like what was originally proposed. The process will take time and there will be lots of excitement along the way, but arithmetic decides. If it didn’t why would anybody bother to vote to try and elect their representative? That would just mirror what was decided to be unacceptable by UK voters regarding MEPs.

    P.S: I am not sure the process taking a long time is any benefit, either. A new Home Secretary could add her own amendments during the process! There could be advantage in rushing it through before she gets too energized on it. A rapid ping might be a lesser “evil” than a prolonged pong.

  4. As usual, as I have come to expect, misleading, misunderstanding, and obfuscation.

    The amendments defeated in the Lords can not be reintroduced. They can not return to the Commons. Ping-pong is complicated, but does not apply to the defeated amendments which were introduced in the Lords and not in the original bill.

    It is not I grasping at straws, that is a pathetic allegation, but you not having a grasp of political reality. I have not an “opinion” but a knowledge of parliamentary procedure which is seemingly beyond yours. I think only a rudimentary scrutiny of information on this will show you I am right on this.

    • A very silly response, Alan. Additions and amendments can be made to any Bill and any Act. If the Government decide they have a piece of their jigsaw missing that is important to them they simply add it at the same date with a Bill or a later date to an Act.

      So, no you are not right. The Government can return whatever it wants to the Commons. You are still grasping at straws in the hope the Government will not make further legislation. Whether they do, is their choice, and yes, I repeat, they can introduce into the Commons if they are inclined to do so and they feel it is significant enough. Acts are beefed up/amended all the time. It would be surprising if they were not.

      Time will tell if they decide it is important enough to them. There are enough sessions available to them, it will be whether they see it as a priority.

  5. Well done the lords and ladies. Not sure what Starmer’s plan to abolish the second house would do. I personally always feel so delighted when the Lords quash some very obviously undemocratic pioece of legislation. Excellent news.

    • Surely there can be no argument in favour of maintaining an upper house stuffed with hereditary peers, bishops and those appointed by the government of the day? It is a travesty of modern ideas of fair and elected representation. Because on some occasions the Lords sees it fit to obstruct the policies of an extreme government is no argument for the status quo.

      We need an elected second house. Until this happens the UK’s is a totally flawed democracy. And don’t get me started on first past the post voting!

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