Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Victory for protest (perhaps)

Comedian Mark Thomas led an inspired campaign against the UK government’s restrictions on the right to protest. He says good riddance

Free to protest
…And so farewell then to the anti-protest laws, repealed with a musty splutter from Jack Straw in Parliament last week. These laws were hastily brought in an attempt to evict Brian Haw, the peace protestor in Parliament Square, from his vigil. At the time, David Blunkett (then Home Secretary) admitted: “It might be a sledgehammer to crack a nut but he is a nut.” Perhaps inevitably, a law introduced to clear one man from Parliament Square proved to be narrow-minded, ill conceived and in the end more

However the law hasn't been repealed yet as the Hansard shows-
Sir George Young (Con): On part 1 of the Bill, although no one would object to orderly and peaceful demonstrations in Parliament square, many people object to permanent, unsightly encampments in the middle of a great, historic city. Will the Bill put that right?

Mr. Straw: I understand that there are strong feelings about that. Those encampments are unsightly, but they also represent people exercising a right to demonstrate. The changes in the law have not
been conspicuously successful— It is no good pointing at me; I am not the police. The changes in the law have not been conspicuously successful in dealing with the problem, and they have appeared to be pretty heavy handed as well, so better arrangements are needed. Let us see what the House has to say about it.


Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, on the substantive question that the noble Baroness raises on sessional orders, there has clearly been a lot of concern about whether some provisions of the SOCPA are necessary and whether they are an inhibitor to legitimate protests and demonstrations outside Parliament. However, there is also concern that if those provisions are simply repealed and problems arise in the future with regard to open and free access to Parliament and issues around noise there will not be sufficient powers to deal with those problems sensibly and effectively.

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