Politics

5 key takeaways from the Lords votes on the policing bill

Controversial measures in the government's policing bill were defeated as peers voted on proposals around protest, misogyny and homelessness.

Kill the Bill protesters in April 2021. Image: Gareth Morris / Extinction Rebellion

Peers made some key changes to the policing bill on Monday night when the controversial legislation made its way through the House of Lords. 

The bill, titled in full as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, proposes to make major changes to crime and justice in England and Wales. Its opponents say the bill will curtail key freedoms such as the right to protest, and “Kill the Bill” protests have been taking place at regular intervals throughout the last few months. 

Government ministers saw particularly controversial parts of the bill defeated in the House of Lords, including clauses on preventing “noisy” protests. 

Here’s everything you need to know about last night’s votes on the bill – and where the legislation may go from here. 

Peers turned down curbs on ‘noisy’ protests 

The most controversial parts of the policing bill consisted of changes to the way protests can legally be conducted in England and Wales. 

The government had proposed allowing police to break up protests if they’re deemed to be too noisy and disruptive – but peers turned down this measure by 261 votes to 166. 

Other protest measures were defeated too 

Peers rejected a host of measures intended to curtail protest rights, including making it illegal for protesters to “lock on” to objects – a measure introduced in response to Insulate Britain protesters glueing themselves to roads. 

A proposed measure to allow expanded stop and search powers “without suspicion” was rejected by the Lords, with Green peer Baroness Jones describing the government’s measures as “oppressive” and “plain nasty”.

Measures to criminalise interference with national infrastructure and ban those with a history of causing “serious disruption” from protesting were voted down.

Peers voted to make misogyny a hate crime 

The government suffered another defeat in the form of an amendment added to the bill against their wishes.

Former victims’ commissioner Baroness Newlove added a proposal to make misogyny a hate crime in England and Wales – a measure the government had previously rejected.

This proposal would enable judges to levy stronger penalties if motivation for a crime was deemed to be driven by prejudice against women.

Baroness Newlove said: “It is perverse that, despite three million crimes being committed against women in just three years, our legal and policing systems do not routinely recognise what we all know is blindingly obvious: the deep-rooted hostility towards women that motivates many of these crimes.”

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Drink spiking was on the agenda 

Following a spate of reports about drink spiking and spiking via injection, peers added a measure to the policing bill demanding an urgent review into the prevalence of incidents.

Last week, the Home Affairs parliamentary committee held its first evidence session as part of an inquiry into spiking, hearing that reports have doubled in the past year.

Measures to scrap the Vagrancy Act were added

Peers also added a proposal to scrap the Vagrancy Act 1824, which makes it a crime to beg as well as sleep rough.

The law was passed in the summer of 1824 – 197 years ago – and was originally intended to deal with ex-servicemen who became homeless after the Napoleonic Wars. 

What will happen to the bill now?

The policing bill will now pass back to the House of Commons, where MPs will review the amendments made by the Lords.

The bill can’t become law until both houses have agreed on the changes made, and the government is likely to continue fighting for the measures it has proposed.

This could lead to a process often referred to as “ping-pong”: where the bill bounces between both houses until amendments are agreed upon.

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