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Opinion

The UK Home Secretary’s Public Order Bill is an anathema to Welsh protest culture

18 Oct 2022 4 minute read
Attorney General Suella Braverman. Picture by Attorney General Suella Braverman / PA Wire. Right, a rally in Llangefni on Saturday 17th September

Liz Saville-Roberts, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd

While the Westminster political class is distracted by the utter chaos around Liz Truss and her zombie cabinet, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman is pushing through yet another draconian piece of legislation.

The Public Order Bill hugely expands stop-and-search powers to cover protesters, and will also launch new orders that ban serial protesters from events. They will be forced to wear electronic tags, with six months’ jail if they refuse. It is utterly disgraceful that the Government is getting away with violating fundamental human rights in this way.

Protest and dissent is strong throughout Wales’s is history, and this Bill, like the Policing Bill before it, is an anathema to our culture.

Take the Welsh language protestors of Cymdeithas yr Iaith who would have likely fallen foul of this Bill for their now historic protest at Trefechan, Aberystwyth in 1963.

Their brave act of peaceful civil disobedience in blocking Pont Trefechan, for which none of them was arrested, was broadcast throughout the media across Wales and the UK.

This gave valuable momentum to the movement which has played a vital role in promoting Welsh language rights and helped Welsh to receive official status in law.

The provisions in the Bill were originally defeated in the House of Lords when the Home Office tried to add them to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. They should never have been brought back.

Democracy is about more than a cross in a box – it is about being able to exercise the right to voice dissent, to stand up for what you believe in, in short, being free to protest.

This Bill violates this basic democratic principle which is valued by people all over Wales. Plaid Cymru oppose it completely.

Intrusive

That’s why we tabled an amendment today requiring the Secretary of State to issue impact assessments for all provisions in the Bill which impact on devolved policy and services in Wales.

This is an attempt at least to mirror existing arrangements under Section 110A of the Government of Wales Act 2006 whereby the Welsh Government is required to produce an assessment of the impact of devolved Welsh legislation on the reserved justice system.

It also includes a requirement for the Secretary of State to co-draft guidance with the Welsh Government on the implementation of the Bill’s provisions in Wales which have been assessed to have an impact on devolved policy and or services.

For example, the Bill allows the Secretary of State to add, vary or amend certain types of infrastructure that fall within scope of the offence of interfering with key national infrastructure.

If this power is used in the future, it may increase the number of people convicted of this public order offence, which may in turn have implications in terms of cost and capacity for those devolved services which are intrinsically linked to the justice system, such as drug and alcohol misuse, mental and physical health and education.

Liz Saville Roberts during the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme debate

To take another example, civil liberties groups such as Liberty note that the Bill’s extension of police stop and search powers will note ‘have disproportionate effects on marginalised communities – in this case, people of colour exercising their right to protest’.

Stop and Search, which is one of the most intrusive interactions that members of the public have with the police, is already widely acknowledged to be used disproportionally against black communities.

In Wales in 2020/21, 8 out of every 1,000 White people living in Wales were stopped and searched. This compares to a rate of 56 per 1,000 Black people, 16 per 1,000 Asian people, and 28 per 1,000 people who identify as being from a Mixed ethnic background.

How does expanding stop-and-search and potential exacerbating this trend align with devolved policy such as the aim ‘to make Wales a more equitable, anti-racist country’ noted in the Welsh Government Race Equality Action Plan?

Plaid Cymru’s amendment would at least allow us to assess questions such as these, and to recognise the simple fact that decisions taken here on policing and justice have a direct impact on Welsh devolved policy. Ultimately this is just a stop gap, and the real solution for Wales is to devolve policing and justice.

It would also ensure that we in Wales would not be subject to these draconian Westminster laws which have no mandate in Wales.

Let’s create a fairer justice system which truly serves the people of Wales.


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Gareth Cemlyn Jones
Gareth Cemlyn Jones
1 month ago

Wait for it! Another Defence of the Realm Act on the horizon.

The original mark
The original mark
1 month ago

Told you braveman was a fascist.
Simple answer to all these issues, stop voting for right wing politicians with fascistic tendencies.

David
David
1 month ago

Is this Mark Drakeford’s Insurance policy of being part of the Union.

Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
1 month ago

Cruella Cowardlyman may just be enacting the final act of spite from a dying party

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

Spot on OUR Liz! The Tory propaganda client journalist TV stations and freak press espouse the virtues of ‘free speech’ FOR THEM while completely closing ours down. That’s what’s going on people. Do you want YOUR free speech or is being bound and gagged the kind of future you want for yourself and your children?

max wallis
max wallis
1 month ago

What’s the use of the working ‘arrangement with Welsh Labour if Liz can’t get them to jointly sponsor this amendment?

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

This is why we need to start other forms of promoting Welsh independence in earnest. Marches are going to be prevented in the near future so we have to increase other ways to spread the message – social media, leaflets, broadcasts, articles in papers and public meetings on the subject. Any other ideas??

Y Tywysog Lloegr a Cymru
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Cymru
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

HIMARS on the “Prince of Wales” bridge?

Ann
Ann
1 month ago

Meanwhile, Foreign Office Minister Jesse Norman says in relation to the protest at the Chinese Consulate in Manchester, where protestors were attacked by staff, “but let me be clear that peaceful protest – as this house has always recognised – is a fundamental part of British society and of our way of life.”. Perhaps he just meant protests against governments we don’t agree with!

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Ann

Oh yes ! Shows the utter duplicity of this rabble of a regime.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

The power of our L.S-R…The Home Sec has gone just like that…bonkers to the end…

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Whoever becomes England’s Home Secretary, and it is England not the UK, will proceed to dismantle our freedom to protest as a Welsh people. Just look at Whitehall who repealed the 2017 Senedd Welsh law to protect striking workers . A democratic outrage. Did the EU forcibly dissolve “UK” law when we we part of the European Union. No they did not. But English Whitehall did Welsh law. And it shows you who the real enemy of Wales is, and it isn’t the EU. We forget. Protests only happen when government force workers to strike for better conditions & pay,… Read more »

John
1 month ago

Everyone has the right to protest. These laws are tyrannical and must be fought against and destroyed. No other solution. Freedom is all.

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