UK Government reject Senedd’s opposition to bill that would ban ‘disruptive’ protests
Opposition by the Senedd to the Police and Crime Bill doesn’t matter according to the UK Government as the controversial legislation made its way through the House of Lords.
The UK Government’s Minister of State for Home Affairs, Baroness Williams, told the House of Lords that she wanted to “put on record” that the UK Government didn’t consider that the bill needed the consent of the Welsh Parliament.
Campaigners say the bill’s anti-protest measures will grant police too much power to ban any marches and demonstrations that they consider to be “seriously disruptive”, including those deemed too noisy.
Police would also be granted expanded stop and search powers and sentences of up to 10 years could be handed down for damage to memorials or statues.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill were debated in the Senedd on 18 January. They voted for half of the bill, but rejected the most controversial provisions, including damage to memorials and imposing restrictions on the right to protest. 14 voted for, with 40 voting against.
Wales’ Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, had said before the vote that “there are parts of the Bill that are within competence that are insidious, and which impact negatively on the rights of people”.
“I’ll continue to make the point to the UK Government that the measures they’re proposing in relation to protest cannot and should not be tolerated. As Members have said today, we must allow people the right to voice their views in peaceful protest in a law-abiding way.
“As also Members have said today, we, so many of us, have seen that as the lifeblood of our politics, of our voices, and the way in which we can enable people to express that is key to the lifeblood of our democracy, as we see on our Senedd steps, as we see in the processions, the protests, the marches, which we know are about the strength of views that we then want to respond to.”
However, in the House of Lords, Susan Williams, Baroness Williams of Trafford, said that the bill did not fall within the Senedd’s competence.
“Turning to the second Motion put forward by the Welsh Government, the Senedd declined to give its legislative consent to certain provisions in the Bill relating to criminal damage to memorials, public order and unauthorised encampments,” she said.
“I therefore want to put on record that, in the view of the UK Government, these measures again relate to reserved matters and therefore did not engage the LCM process, or indeed require legislative consent.”
Baroness Williams however said that the Senedd had given consent to the parts of the bill that required their consent.
“I am pleased to say that the LCM agreed by the Senedd gave legislative consent to all the measures in the Bill which, in the view of the UK Government, engaged the LCM process in the Senedd itself,” she said.
“In addition, the LCM passed by the Senedd also covered the measures in the Bill relating to the increase in the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker and the extraction of information from electronic devices.
“In the view of the UK Government, these measures related strictly to reserved matters and therefore did not engage the LCM process or, indeed, require legislative consent.”
Last week the House of Lords voted to reject some of the controversial changes to the way protests are policed, including plans to give the police new powers to stop protests in England and Wales if they are deemed to be too noisy and disruptive.
The Bill will now go back to the House of Commons so MPs can respond.
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