The Public Order Bill has returned again to the Commons with Lords amendments after 2 rounds of Ping Pong. The Lords are digging in on suspicion-less stop and search having won on the protection of journalists. Details of the government defeats can be viewed here
My speeches to the House at Ping Pong below
What a pity you do not care about what the Government are doing to the country, because I say that what they are doing is a lot more illegal than what these protesters are doing. You have to understand that disruption is part of protest and that, as we have heard throughout the debate, the police have enough powers to arrest people who do anything that is not peaceful. Disruption on the roads and within our cities does not necessarily stop people going to hospitals or schools; it is the Government who are stopping people going to hospital because they are underfunding the NHS and stripping out our doctors and nurses by not paying them properly. They are responsible for a lot more damage to our society than these protesters are. Thank goodness Lord Coaker, has brought this back so that we can say to the Government that they do not know what they are talking about.
I shall give the House a few words that would be more than minor but less than significant: it could be “reasonable”, “measured, “limited” or “tolerable”. There are all sorts of stages between “more than minor” and “significant”. As a veteran protester, I have probably passed quite a few red lines in the past, although I have never committed violence—so far.
I turn to Motion A1. Obviously I am upset, along with other Lords, I hope, at the fact that the other place immediately whips out all our good work and indeed our hard work. We spend time reading the Bill and thinking about it, which obviously the majority of people in the other place do not; they simply do whatever the Government tell them. I feel that the Government are trying to stop protest of virtually every kind—almost any protest imaginable—and that is so deeply oppressive that I could not possibly support it, so I wholeheartedly support Motion A1.
If the House will indulge me, I will mention the other two Motions as well so that I speak only once. I am horrified by Motion B2. I regret that Labour feels it cannot support Motion B1 in the name of Lord Paddick. Sitting here, I have been thinking that I would vote against Motion B2, but that is probably too difficult. I do not even think I can abstain, so I think I am going to vote for it—but it will be through gritted teeth as it goes against all my libertarian views, and I am really annoyed with Labour for putting it in.
To finish on an upbeat note, there is Motion C. The Government make endless bad decisions. We are wallowing in an ocean of bad decisions nationally because of this Government, and some extremely unpleasant scenarios, with poverty and deprivation, are playing out because of them. But here they have done the right thing. It is incredible that the Government have come back with not just something that we generally asked for but with a slightly improved version of the Lords amendment, which I have to thank them for and say “Well done”—if that does not sound too patronising, or matronising. It is a win for civil liberties and the right of the public to be informed about protest and dissent.
On a final note, I have been saying that I am the mother of a journalist. That is a slight twist of the truth, because actually I am the mother of an editor, and I just know that she will be absolutely delighted with what the Government have done today.