This week in Parliament we debated and voted on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which I fully supported.
You may have heard various claims that this bill will somehow stop people’s right to protest.
I want to assure everybody that this is simply not true. What makes it worse is that some are trying to link it with temporary Covid restrictions, which is a completely separate issue.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of recent events, it is abhorrent and totally wrong for groups to try to use a tragic incident as a smokescreen to oppose legislation they don’t like.
This legislation means tougher sentences for child murderers, sex offenders, killer drivers and those attacking emergency service workers. By campaigning against the bill, I feel they are also campaigning against these measures.
It is also designed to stop the behaviour of groups such as Extinction Rebellion or BLM from causing serious disruption by stopping trains from running or by glueing themselves to buses, for example.
“Serious disruption” is a well-established and defined concept. The changes bring “static” protests in line with equivalent provisions that apply to marches or processions under s12 Public Order Act.
For example, a protest does not cause serious disruption just because it may distract employees in a nearby office. Nor would a peaceful vigil in a park cause serious disruption.
Examples of things that could cause serious disruption might include blocking a bridge or road to stop pedestrians or traffic from getting through, preventing a train from leaving a station or physically preventing a printing press from operating because you disagree with the editorial position of that publication. These people talk of freedoms, yet attacked freedom of speech and the freedom of our press, including titles such as the Sun, the Times, the Telegraph, the Mail and the London Evening Standard. This not just an attack on them, but on all our media.
Our freedoms are precious and we must do everything we can to ensure freedom is enjoyed by all – and not hijacked by some of these groups. This bill, using sensible, fair and proportionate measures, will set us on a course to do that.