You may be aware that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is going through its report stage in the House of Lords at present. You may also know that this bill contains provisions limiting Civil Liberties, in particular the right to protest peacefully. Once it has been enacted, it would be very difficult for these ancient and vital rights to be restored.
It is not too late to modify it, the House of Lords can still decide to pass amendments to the Bill. If this happens it goes back to the Commons. If not, it will become law.
Many people reading this will have taken part in the massive People’s Vote marches between the referendum and the departure from the EU. The numbers present were up to 1 million people. These were powerful demonstrations of public anger and distress. Others may remember equal numbers protesting against the invasion of Iraq 18 years ago. Under the government’s plans such protests could well become a thing of the past. The Bill would give police more powers to decide which protests can go ahead, where and for how long; it would create a buffer zone around Parliament, and make causing ‘serious annoyance’ punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The government of the day would have the right to declare any protest illegal, a right which is unlikely to be used impartially.
On top of this, the government has added – at the 11th hour – further amendments which will give it powers arbitrarily to ban individuals from taking part in any protests of whatever kind on pain of imprisonment, and which will greatly increase the police’s powers to stop and search without a stated justification – allowing them to act against minority groups who will be left with little or no redress. There are many other provisions of an equally draconian nature, including some which will put an end to the traditional lifestyle of Gypsy and Traveller communities, and others which will make it easier for government to access personal data.
No surprise, then, that the Bill has drawn down condemnation from all sides. Critics include Liberty, Best For Britain, Unlock Democracy, the European Movement, Theresa May, many police chiefs, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, even Richard Tice of the Reform Party – and there are few issues on which those all agree.
The government will claim that this bill is required and that those opposing it are defending the rights of violent criminals. This is of course a travesty of the truth. The Bill is a mixture of uncontoversial modifications of the law and provisions which redolent of Belarus or North Korea.
Most of the offending clauses are in Part 3 of the bill, covering Public Order. These are due for debate in the Lords on Monday 17th January.
If you share our abhorrence at this new attempt to restrict our civil liberties, please help us by writing to as many members of the House of Lords as possible in the next few days urging them to support amendments. You see below a list of those peers who are thought most likely to respond to such representations. You might wish to pick one or two and share your concerns with them.
Template letters are available, and here is a link to the letter recommended by Liberty, from which you may wish to send extracts, but it is best if people feel you are writing personally.
After the Bill returns to the Commons, MPs will have the opportunity to consider Lords amendments, and we would urge you to ask your MP to support any which make the Bill less toxic.
Thank you for your support
This Bill is only part of a raft of legislation going through Parliament which represents a power grab by this government. The Elections Bill which will de facto remove some of the checks and balances in our system, in particular the Electoral Commission; the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, which will weaken the power of the courts to challenge the government of the day; and the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will give the Home Secretary the power to take away, without having to give a reason, the UK citizenship of some 5 million dual nationals.
Who knew that ‘Taking back control’ meant literally ‘Taking back control’?
[I should add that Baroness Jenny Jones, of the Green Party, gives a far more detailed explanation of the complexities of the vote]
LORDS CONTACT LIST
|Conservative||Baroness Stowell of Beestonemail@example.com|
|Conservative||Baroness Williams of Traffordfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Conservative||Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbottsemail@example.com|
|Conservative||Lord Wolfson of Tredegarfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Crossbench||Lord Alton of Liverpoolemail@example.com|
|Crossbench||Lord Carey of Cliftonfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Crossbench||Lord Carlile of Berriewemail@example.com|
|Crossbench||Lord Hannay of Chiswickfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Crossbench||Lord Hope of Craigheademail@example.com|
|Crossbench||Lord Thomas of Cwmgieddfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Crossbench||The Earl of Sandwichemail@example.com|
|Green Party||Baroness Bennett of Manor Castlefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Green Party||Baroness Jones of Moulsecoombemail@example.com|
|Labour||Baroness Massey of Darwenfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Labour||Baroness Kennedy of The Shawsemail@example.com|
|Labour||Baroness Lister of Burtersettfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Labour||Baroness Armstrong of Hill Topemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandevillefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Burt of Solihullemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Hamweefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Beithemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Dholakiafirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Topeemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Smith of Newnhamfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Stunellemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Germanfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Harris of Richmondemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Featherstonefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domeremail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord McNallyfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Taverneemail@example.com|
|Non-affliated||Lord Patel of Bradfordfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Non-affliated||Lord Taylor of Warwickemail@example.com|
|Non-affliated||Baroness Kennedy of Cradleyfirstname.lastname@example.org|
European Movement petition: Let’s move on from Frost: click here to sign.