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Politics

Government defeated 14 times as Lords throw out anti-protest laws

The government was defeated on every single vote of the evening during the debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

police crime sentencing and courts bill

Protesters at a Kill the Bill march in April 2021. Image: Extinction Rebellion

The government faced a landmark 14 defeats in the House of Lords last night as peers voted to reject controversial anti-protest measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Measures such as making “locking on” a crime, restricting protests for being too noisy, and giving police the power to stop and search without suspicion, were thrown out by peers who stayed late into the night. It comes after widespread protests over the “draconian” proposals.

The government is, however, able to introduce some of the measures back into the House of Commons at a later date.

Following a weekend where thousands of protesters marched in “Kill the Bill” demonstrations across the country, Lib Dem, Labour, and Green peers voted as a bloc to inflict an embarrassment on the government.

The government – which had inserted a number of amendments into the bill late in its parliamentary journey – was defeated on every single vote of the night.

Key anti-protest measures voted down included “Serious Disruption Prevention Orders”, which would have stopped certain people going to protests, associating with certain people, and using the internet in a certain way.

A breach of the so-called “protest ASBOs” would have carried a maximum penalty of 51 weeks in prison.

The government was also defeated in its bid to make blocking roads an offence punishable by up to 51 weeks in prison.

Targeted at Insulate Britain, the measure was restricted to criminalise those blocking parts of the “Strategic Road Network”, made up of mostly motorways and A-roads.

A number of non-protest measures were also passed, including a repeal of the Vagrancy Act and the establishment of misogyny as a hate crime.

Lord Brian Paddick, a Liberal Democrat peer and former police officer, said in the Lords last night that the government was attempting to rush through the anti-protest measures.

“If the government are determined to bring in these draconian, antidemocratic 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 consider them properly,” he said.

After 14 votes, and a debate which saw one peer bring a sleeping bag, the house was adjourned at 12.45am.

Labour peer Lord Peter Hain, who campaigned against apartheid in the 1970s, said the defeated measures represented the biggest threat to non-violent protest in his lifetime.

“It is deeply reactionary. It is an authoritarian attack on the fundamental liberties of our citizens,” he said in the house last night.

“If enacted in past generations, it would have throttled the suffragettes and blocked their ability to rattle Parliament’s cage to secure votes for women.”

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