The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has passed its second reading in Parliament with a majority of 96 votes.
MPs voted 359-263 in favour of the legislation on 17th March 2021. An amendment by Labour leader Keir Starmer was defeated by 359-225 votes.
The draft legislation aims to afford the police and UK government greater powers to deal with protests such as sit-ins, static protests and situations when protestors refuse to disperse. The legislation also introduces powers to impose start and end times for protests, as well as maximum noise limits. The law will apply in England and Wales only.
The controversial Bill is facing strong opposition following the clash between police and people attending the vigil for Sarah Everard at Clapham Common on 13 March 2021. The events have led to widespread debate about the extent of police powers in restricting the right to protest.
The UK Government says the proposed legislation will allow the police to take a “more proactive approach” to managing “highly disruptive” protests that are deemed to cause a public disturbance.
Ministers insist the Bill does not prevent the right to protest on the grounds of too much noise, but the law will allow conditions to be imposed on a protest when noise is causing a significant impact on those in the vicinity or the running of an organisation.
Civil liberties groups disagree, citing concerns about the bill affording the police and government excessive powers to clamp down on protest, putting fundamental rights at risk. undermining fundamental tenets of a democracy and the ability to hold authorities to account.
The Bill also seeks to:
- Prevent protests taking place around the UK Parliament by ensuring vehicle access is maintained
- Make it easier to convict protesters for ignoring conditions placed on protests.
- Reinstate the offence of creating a public nuisance into common law.
The Bill has yet to pass through multiple stages of the House of Commons and House of Lords before they become law.
Other MPs will then be given the opportunity to suggest amendments, before the bill reaches its final stage in the House of Commons, the third reading, where it receives its final vote before being passed to the House of Lords.