The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (aka the Policing Bill or the PCSC Bill) is currently halfway through the House of Lords. It’s a controversial piece of legislation for multiple reasons — for example, in Part 4 trespass is made a criminal matter in such a manner that will criminalise the tradition nomadic lifestyles of Gypsy and Traveller communities and confiscate the homes of those who have no where to go. The section of the Bill which has received most media attention so far is Part 3, which places so many restrictions on the right to protest that it has the effect of suppressing dissent.
So, what can you do before Part 3 is debated in the Lords on 17 Jan?
Action: Write to your MP before 17 Jan.
- Your letter should start with something like “I am concerned about this Bill because Part 3 will allow almost any protest, gathering, or assembly of people in public to be severely restricted.” Change the words to your personal tone.
- Write about a protest or march you attended. It’s useful but not essential to mention how noisy (or not) it was, how busy (or not) it was, how much you knew, why you cared so much, what sorts of campaigning you had tried before that, and what change resulted from the protest.
- Say that you are very concerned about the new Serious Disruption Prevention Orders (the protest banning orders) which have been reported in the press.
- End your letter by asking your MP to pass your concerns to members of their party in the House of Lords, and/or to the Minister, Baroness Williams. Conservatives in particular are in a strong position to pass the letter on to the Minister — if they can be persuaded to do so.
Why 17 Jan? The Bill has just started Report stage in the Lords. This is one of the last stages in the legislative process. After this there is Third Reading in the Lords (dots and commas, things they accidentally forgot) and then Ping Pong (the Lords and Commons try to agree).
17 Jan is when Part 3 is due to be voted on. And it’s a crucial vote because the most authoritarian parts of Part 3 are not yet on the face of the Bill. These sections are still in a government amendment. If the House of Lords votes against these amendments on 17 Jan, they cannot be re-inserted by the House of Commons. That’s because Ping Pong does not allow new amendments to be tabled, and these amendments would be new to the Commons.
So, please ask MPs to encourage Peers to vote against the government amendments on 17 Jan. If the House of Lords manages to vote these down (which will be difficult) then it will be a significant win for democracy.
I suggest writing to MPs rather than direct to Peers for three main reasons. Firstly, many Peers don’t have staff and so can be overwhelmed by emails. Secondly, tthe opposition front benches become aware of public concern quicker through MPs. Thirdly, MPs may need to vote these sections of the Bill down at Ping Pong, and so it’s good to have them engaged now.
If you would like to use an online template, I recommend this from Friends of the Earth.
If you’d like to see the suggestions in one place, along with some more helpful context, I recommend this blog post from Quakers in Britain.
If you’d like more information on the Bill, then Liberty have excellent detailed briefings.