Raab suggests Government would bring back measures against noisy protests

·3 min read

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has suggested the Government would bring back controversial measures against noisy protests in the wake of a string of defeats in the Lords.

On Monday, peers backed by 261 votes to 166, majority 95, a Labour-led amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which scraps the power to impose conditions on protest marches judged to be too loud.

It was among a raft of defeats inflicted by the Lords on the Government over its crackdown on demonstrations in the wake of major disruption caused by eco-activists.

A short time later, the upper chamber backed by 238 votes to 171, majority 67, a Liberal Democrat amendment to strip out the power to impose conditions on protests on noise grounds.

Asked if measures against noisy protests would be reintroduced in the Commons, Mr Raab 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.”

The defeats came as drumming outside Parliament by protesters opposed to the Bill could be heard inside the chamber.

Labour frontbencher Lord Coaker said: “The right to protest in this country has never, ever had to have a condition placed upon it which is about noise.

“I believe that making a noise is a fundamental part of the freedom to protest properly in a democracy.”

Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb branded the Government move to impose noise conditions “repressive”.

She said: “They are plain nasty and they really have to go.”

Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: “Noise generated by protesters can have a significant and detrimental impact on the wider public.

“It is unacceptable that certain protests can seriously disrupt the lives of ordinary people and it is absolutely right that the Government gives the police the tools that they require to tackle disruptive protests.

“The policing of protests has always involved balancing the right of protesters with those of the wider public, who may be adversely affected by a protest.

“These measures do not stop noisy protests, far from it. The overwhelming majority of protests will continue as now without any conditions being attached. But it is right that, where a protest crosses the line in terms of causing disproportionate harm or disruption to others, the police must have the necessary powers to take effective action.”

Other measures rejected by the unelected chamber included allowing police officers to stop and search anyone at a protest “without suspicion” for items used to prevent a person being moved, known as “locking-on”.

A move that would allow individuals with a history of causing serious disruption to be banned by the courts from attending certain protests was also dismissed, along with a proposal to make it an offence for a person to disrupt the operation of key national infrastructure, including airports and newspaper printers.

In a separate defeat, peers backed restricting the imposition of tougher sentences for blocking a highway to major routes and motorways rather than all roads.

The mauling of the Tory administration’s plans sets the stage for a protracted parliamentary tussle known as ping-pong, where legislation passes between the Lords and the Commons until agreement can be reached.

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