Notice of Street Processions

Part of Nottinghamshire County Council Bill [Lords] (By Order) – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 13th February 1983.

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Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham 7:45 pm, 13th February 1983

When I come to my detailed criticisms of the west midlands code of practice, it will be apparent that the chief constable there has done precisely that.

Clause 6(4)(b) says that the code of practice must draw attention to the need to agree the route with the police. That is saying that the route is no longer the choice of those who organise or take part in the procession, but that it has to be arranged by agreement with the police. Under the Public Order Act, the police can refuse to allow people to go on a route, or advise against a route, only if they think that the taking of a particular route will cause "serious public disorder". That is right. The police should not be able to determine which streets demonstrators should go down. Demonstrators know where they want to go, and it is right that the Public Order Act should say that the police should be able to reroute marches only if there is a serious threat of public order. Yet in the clause the chief constable is being told to tell demonstrators that they must agree the route with the police. I am sure that the original drawing up under the West Midlands County Council Act was done very hastily, and so, inadvertently and via the back door, a major restriction is being imposed on the right to demonstrate.

8 pm

Nottinghamshire county council has not produced a draft of the code of practice for hon. Members to see. It has not yet asked the chief constable to draw up a specimen draft, which would help us to know what we are talking about and whether we think the chief constable is right. The fact that the council has not produced a draft shows how much outside our control this legislation is. I can only ask hon. Members to consider one code of practice which has been drawn up under an identical section in the West Midlands County Council Act. The code of practice is dated September 1980, but no one looking at it would have any idea whether it is the latest code. A solicitor might have a copy of it in his office and the police might have a copy at the police station. However, because of its peculiar status, no one will know whether it has been superseded.