MP attacks restrictions on protest

By Gavin McEwan   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Tuesday 1st March 2022 6:13 pm
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Jesse Norman, MP for Hereford and south Herefordshire
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Government plans to make noisy protests illegal “should not be on the statute book”, Hereford and South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman has said.

Mr Norman was speaking in a Commons debate late last night on a number of House of Lords amendments to the government’s wide-ranging Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, including one to remove proposed tighter restrictions on noisy protests.

“No serious case has been made that noise is a genuine problem,” Mr Norman said.

The police are already “the subject of a degree of public mistrust in some quarters, which may be increased by our adding to their discretionary powers,” he argued. The noise-limiting powers will also “be extremely difficult for the courts to handle and adjudicate”.

He added: “When people in Kyiv are dying for their beliefs and for the rights of freedom of speech and of association, the timing is unfortunate.

“An increase in discretion to qualify rights of protest that have been fundamental to our society and democratic traditions for hundreds of years is highly regrettable.”

Defending the measures, policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “There have been all sorts of wild claims about the Government stopping singing in the street and that sort of rubbish.”

He said protesters can now “use noise as a weapon”, as modern amplifiers “are smaller, easier to move around, and much louder than they were, and we have seen occasions where they have been used offensively”.

He added: “The vast majority of protests in England and Wales will be unaffected by this legislation.

“The power may be used only in the most exceptional circumstances where police assess the noise from protests to be unjustifiable and damaging to others.”

The amendment to reject the noisy protest measures in the bill was defeated by 288 votes to 238.

However Mr Malthouse did agree to Mr Norman’s suggestion to “put in place a review, perhaps a year or two years into the use of this power”.

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