Policing Bill Clause 58 - briefing

This briefing on the Policing Bill was produced in advance of the Consideration of Lords amendments on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. You can read a pdf version here

Policing Bill Clause 58 - briefing

BACKGROUND

Lords Amendments 81 and 82 (Clause 58 on page 25) of the Lords Amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill include x-bench, x-party amendments 133A and 133B (on page 21 here). These amendments:

  1. Allow government proposals to expand the controlled area (or ‘buffer zone’) around Parliament, as well as creating a new prohibited activity (the obstruction of vehicular access to Parliament), to pass as per the government’s original wish
  2. Create an application process, modelled on the existing application process for the use of amplified noise equipment, for individuals and organisations to continue to use Parliament Square for peaceful protests - with the permission of the relevant agencies

The amendments therefore protect the right to freedom of speech, expression and assembly in Parliament Square, while minimising the risk of deliberate disruption in Parliament Square.

ORIGINAL GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL: OBSTRUCTION OF VEHICULAR ACCESS TO PARLIAMENT 

  • CLAUSE 59 (2) 

As called before being amended in the House of Lords, Clause 59 (2) expanded the designation of the “controlled area” of Parliament square to include:

  • Canon Row
  • Parliament Street
  • Derby Gate
  • Parliament Square
  • so much of the highway in the postal district SW1 known as Victoria Embankment as lies between the highway in that district known as Bridge Street and the highway in that district known as Richmond Terrace

The current definition of the “controlled area” of Parliament Square, as defined in Section 142 of Part 3 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 is shown in Figure 1 overleaf. The effect of Clause 76 (including amendments 133A and 133B) on the definition of the “controlled area” of Parliament Square is shown in Figure 2 on Page 3.

The significance of Clause 58 of the Lords Amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill is that Section 143 (Prohibited Activities) of Part 3 of the  Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 applies to this expanded geographical area.

Current prohibited activities include “operating any amplified noise equipment” [Section 143 (2), (a) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011] where “amplified noise equipment” is defined as [Section 143 (4), (a) and (b)]:

    • any device that is designed or adapted for amplifying sound, including (but not limited to)—
  • (a) loudspeakers, and
    • (b) loudhailers

However section 147 of Part 3 of the  Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 makes provisions for the authorisation for operation of amplified noise equipment. 

  • CLAUSE 59 (3) 

The unamended Clause 59 (3), (a)  added an additional prohibited activity to Section 143 (Prohibited Activities) of Part 3 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 namely: 

  • “(a) in subsection (2), after paragraph (e) insert—
  • “(f) obstructing, by the use of any item or otherwise, the passage of a vehicle of any description into or out of an entrance into or exit from the Parliamentary Estate, where that entrance or exit is within, or adjoins, the Palace of Westminster controlled area.”

Furthermore, Clause 59 (3), (c) specified:

  • “(c) after subsection (4) insert—
  • “(4A) In subsection (2)(f) the reference to obstructing the passage of a vehicle includes making the passage of a vehicle more difficult.”, 

The significance of Clause 59 (3), (a) and Clause 59 (3), (c) is therefore that a crowd of people as seen during large peaceful demonstrations or rallies with people stood anywhere in the new control area in Figure 2 could be interpreted and treated as a prohibited activity, ending the ability to hold demonstrations and rallies - even if peaceful and not deliberately disruptive - in Parliament Square when combined with the provisions of Clause 59 (2), which expand the controlled area of Parliament Square. 

It is also important to note that Clause 59 did not propose an equivalent application process for the authorisation to obstruct access to the Palace of Westminster in the same way as is made for the authorisation of use of amplified noise equipment in a controlled area (Section 147 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011).

THE BEST FOR BRITAIN AMENDMENTS

X-bench, x-party amendments 133A and 133B, now passed in the House of Lords, create an application process, or legal route, for individuals and organisations to continue to use Parliament Square for peaceful protests.

The amendments are modelled on the already existing application process for the use of amplified noise equipment.

This means that Clause 58 of the Lords Amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill  allow responsible/moderate/peaceful campaigners and individuals to continue to engage with the relevant agencies (Met Police, GLA, Westminster City Council, TfL etc) to agree dates, times and details and ensure a safe and peaceful demonstration.

They do not impede the original intention of the government’s proposals.

  • PROPONENTS

Amendments 133A and 133B (on page 21 here) were tabled and moved by x-bench Peer Lord Colville, and signed by Baroness Ros Altmann as well as supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. 

  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As voted on in the House of Lords, amendments 133A and 133B read as follows:

133A Clause 59, page 54, line 12, at end insert 

“unless permission for such obstruction has been given by the relevant person”

133B Clause 59, page 54, line 32, at end insert – 

“(3A) After section 143 insert – 

143A Authorisation 

  1. The responsible person for any land in the controlled area of the Palace of Westminster controlled area may authorise a person to carry out in accordance with this section an activity that will obstruct the passage of a vehicle of any description into or from the Parliamentary estate while on or adjoining the Palace of Westminster controlled area.
  2. An application for the authorisation must be made by or on behalf of the person (or persons) seeking the authorisation.
  3. The responsible person may-

         determine the form in which and the manner in which an application is to be made; specify the information to be provided             in connection with an application; require a fee to be paid for determining the application.

         If an application is made to a responsible person, the person must – 

  1. determine the application, and 
  2. give notice in writing to the applicant of the person’s decision within the period of 21 days beginning with the day the person receives the application

The notice must specify – 

  1. the person or persons authorised (whether by name or description),
  2. the nature of the activity that is to be permitted,
  3. the period to which the authorisation applies, and
  4. any conditions to which the authorisation is subject.

The responsible person may at any time withdraw an authorisation if the conditions to which it is subject are not being observed by giving notice in writing to the applicant.”

Amendments 133A and 133B were supported by the House of Lords with a majority of 78 and are now included in Clause 58 of the Lords Amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill on page 25.

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