New Clause 18 — Demonstrating without authorisation in designated area

Part of Orders of the Day — Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill — [1st Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 7th February 2005.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 9:30 pm, 7th February 2005

No, I shall make progress and describe how we see the provision working in relation to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. When notice of a demonstration is given, the commissioner must authorise the demonstration. I emphasise that, in response to concerns about whether people would be allowed to make their protest and express their point of view. However, the commissioner may attach conditions for the purpose of preventing any of the following, which are listed in new clause 20: hindrance to any person wishing to enter or leave the Palace of Westminster; hindrance to the proper operation of Parliament; serious public disorder; serious damage to property; disruption to the life of the community; a security risk in any part of the designated area; or risk to the safety of members of the public, including those taking part in the demonstration.

Those conditions are more helpful than the original provisions in the Bill. Hon. Members may not know that officers from Charing Cross police station currently make regular visits to the site in Parliament square to check behind paraphernalia for devices left not by the people who are protesting, but by people who might use the protest for their own motives to cause a security problem. Some of my hon. Friends laugh at that, but these issues are taken seriously by the police. There are questions about how much police time should be spent unnecessarily checking behind placards, fixed posters and so on. Conditions attached to authorised demonstrations would make matters much easier for the police.