Lords reject government’s anti-protest crackdown plans

Several of the government’s proposed anti-protest laws have been thrown out of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

The House of Lords has voted down many of the UK government’s anti-protest measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, in a significant victory for UK democracy, as well as for the hundreds of thousands of people who have opposed the punitive legislation, whether through petitions, protests, open letters and emails to MPs.

In a lengthy nighttime session on Monday, peers threw out the government’s plans to:

  • create a new offence of locking on, a tactic used by activists to prevent the takeoff of planes deporting people;
  • create a new offence of obstructing the construction or maintenance of major transport works – a tactic used by protesters such as Insulate Britain;
  • make it an offence for a person to interfere with the use or operation of key national infrastructure, including airports, the road network, railways and newspaper printers;
  • allow police officers to stop and search a person or vehicle if it was suspected an offence was planned;
  • allow police to stop and search anyone at a protest without suspicion”;
  • allow individuals with a history of causing serious disruption to be banned by the courts from attending certain protests’

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “This resounding victory for democracy is testament to what’s possible when the public builds power together through mass protest, mobilisation and lobbying.”

“There are a lot of people who should be feeling proud today. When the government tried to introduce these oppressive restrictions on our civil liberties, we fought back, and we won.”

The bill now faces going back and forth between the Commons and Lords, a parliamentary process known as ‘ping pong’, with several amendments expected to be rejected by the former.

However, the defeated amendments will remain defeated and the government will need to seek new legislation altogether if it wants to continue fighting for its proposals.

These include measures to create a ‘buffer zone’ around the Westminster parliament to stop people protesting, to give the police powers to impose noise-based restrictions, to criminalise one-person protests and impose restrictions on public assemblies.

Director of Liberty Martha Spurrier has urged that the fight against the broader bill is also far from over.

She said: “There are still many dangerous new police powers in the bill that will increase discrimination and the danger of police interactions – particularly for Black men – while other measures threaten to criminalise the way of life of gypsy and traveller communities.

“The bill, and the last minute amendments they tried to sneak through, are typical of a government that despises scrutiny and rejects accountability, which thinks the powerful should be above the law, even if it comes at the expense of everybody else’s human rights.”