Protest rights

The Policing Bill – What happens now?

Posted on 29 Mar 2022

The Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill represents a dangerous power-grab, and it’s been the subject of an intense parliamentary battle in recent weeks. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Policing Bill?

The Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a huge and dense piece of legislation with seriously worrying consequences.

It includes a clampdown on protest, sweeping new powers for the police, and would criminalise Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities’ way of life.

The Bill would hit those communities already affected by over-policing hardest, particularly young Black men.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen a huge amount of opposition to the Bill from across society – with over 800,000 signatures on our petition, more than 700 academics calling for the Bill to be dropped, and over 350 charities signing a letter against the Bill.

It has also been opposed by parliamentarians, former senior police officers, and three UN Special Rapporteurs.

What has happened so far?

When the Bill was voted on in the House of Lords previously, Peers voted to remove some of the worst elements of the Bill. Some of these were thrown out for good, including:

  • Serious Disruption Prevention Orders (protest banning orders)
  • The offences of locking on and being equipped to lock on
  • Suspicionless stop and search related to protest.

Some other threats to protest were defeated, but with the option for MPs to vote them back in when the Bill returned to the House of Commons. These included measures to give the police the power to impose noise-based restrictions on protest.

These measures have been widely opposed – including by former senior police officers and parliamentarians across the political spectrum – as they would strike at the very heart of what makes protest effective, literally silencing people trying to make their voices heard on the issues that matter to them.

However, when the Bill returned to the House of Commons, MPs voted to reject the Lords’ amendments, meaning that noise-based restrictions went back into the Bill.

In this part of Parliamentary procedure, known as ‘ping pong,’ the Bill goes back and forth between the House of Lords and the House of Commons until it is approved by both.

Usually, if MPs reject amendments that Peers have made to a Bill, Peers won’t insist on them – meaning they won’t try and pass those amendments again.

But earlier this month, in a rare and historic moment, Peers in the House of Lords insisted on the noise amendment – meaning they voted once again to remove restrictions on noise-based protests from the Bill. They also insisted on removing the police’s ability to impose conditions on static demonstrations.

This gave MPs another chance to reconsider this part of the Bill.

What happened on Monday? 

Sadly, on Monday MPs voted again to reject the Lords’ amendments – and to keep noise-based restrictions on protests as part of the Policing Bill. They also reject the Lords’ amendment regarding static demonstrations.

The Government tried to make concessions around when noise conditions could be triggered on a protest, but these concessions don’t do enough to protect people’s right to protest.

What will happen next?

Now, the Bill will return again to the House of Lords – where Peers will have the opportunity to decide to insist once more on their amendments, and take a principled stand against noise-based restrictions on protest.

This is rare, but it’s clear that Peers rightly feel deeply uneasy about the measures proposed in the Bill, and some have said that they will continue to oppose the measures.

If they do keep up the fight, it’s possible to secure a win, and at Liberty, we’ll be doing everything we can to convince Peers to stand firm.

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