Government could be forced to draw up new bill after ‘draconian’ protest laws defeated by Lords

The government will have to draw up a new bill to bring in “draconian” protest laws backed by Priti Patel, following a series of humiliating defeats in the House of Lords.

Peers stripped some of the most controversial clauses out of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill after the government attempted to add them at a late stage of scrutiny.

Defeated plans to give police the power to stop and search peaceful protesters without suspicion, make “locking on” an offence and create protest banning orders had not been debated by MPs.

A proposed offence of disrupting key national infrastructure, including airports and newspaper printers, was also voted down.

The unprecedented measures were tabled as government amendments to the bill in November, following a wave of disruptive Insulate Britain protests, sparking allegations that ministers were trying to dodge parliamentary scrutiny.

The House of Lords rejected several of the late amendments, meaning they cannot be kept as part of the PCSC Bill and would have to be introduced in a separate law.

Liberal Democrat Lord Paddick, who was a deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, said: “If the government is determined to bring in these draconian, anti-democratic laws, reminiscent of Cold War eastern bloc police states, they should withdraw them now and introduce them as a separate Bill to allow the democratically elected House time to properly consider them.”

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, urged the government to “think again” on its plans, which have sparked nationwide protests.

She said there had been “deep concern” among all parties, including some Conservatives, over “last-minute amendments that were so broad they would even allow people walking past a peaceful protest to be stopped and searched”.

The Tories have a majority in the House of Lords, with 257 peers, but the highest number to back the government’s protest plans on Monday night was 157 and some Tory peers rebelled.

A Labour source in the Lords said the figures showed there were around “100 Tory peers who could not be drawn on” to get the controversial laws through parliament.

“Clearly, whether it was disagreement with the way the clauses had been brought in, concerns about the policy being heavy-handed or a broader political thing about people not being happy about Partygate – or a combination – it reduced the government’s ability to get more peers in,” they added.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the prime minister was “disappointed” by the result but did not commit to bringing forward a new bill to replicate the plans.

‘Kill the bill’ protests take place across the UK

“We will reflect on last night’s votes before the bill returns to the Commons,” he added.

“It is disappointing the Lords did not back the public order measures that will ensure the everyday lives of the overwhelming majority are not disrupted by a selfish minority of protesters whose actions endanger lives and cost the public millions of pounds.”

The home secretary blamed Labour for blocking the measures, saying they aimed to “stop Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion bringing our country to a standstill”.

Ms Patel accused the opposition of “defending vandals and thugs”, although the laws rejected by the House of Lords only related to peaceful protest, rather than violence and criminal damage.

Peers also sent some aspects of the bill, including its original provision allowing protests to be banned over noise levels, to MPs.

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab suggested the government would continue to back the controversial move.

Asked if measures against noisy protests would be reintroduced in the Commons, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ll look very carefully at all of that, but, yes, absolutely.

“In relation to noise, of course we support the right of peaceful and rambunctious protest, but it cannot be allowed to interfere with the lives of the law-abiding majority.”

When asked if the government would introduce a new bill to press ahead with the rejected amendments, Mr Raab replied: “On the outcome and consequences of the votes last night, we haven’t decided the approach we’re taking.”

The Liberty human rights group hailed the “crushing defeats” as a victory for protests for all causes.

Director Martha Spurrier said: “The right to protest is not a gift from the state, and it’s fitting that through months of protest we have protected this right from a dangerous power grab from the government.

“Yesterday’s vote means some of the most dangerous and authoritarian parts of the policing bill will never darken British democracy, but the campaign to stop the PCSC Bill must go on.

“The bill is an all-out assault on the right to protest, and there are still many dangerous new police powers 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.”


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