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 9:45 pm on 7th February 2005.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 9:45 pm, 7th February 2005

The process that we are going through tonight is absolutely shambolic. We have tabled amendments to what we thought were the proposals in the legislation, only to discover that the Secretary of State has signed our amendments—I thought that we had achieved a revolutionary position at one point—and other amendments have been tabled that are an absolute travesty. This is not just a question of not having time to debate these issues.

The definition in the new clause of a "public place" is

"any highway or any place to which at the material time the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission".

That could include Methodist central hall, Westminster Abbey or Trafalgar square. Spontaneous demonstrations will no longer be possible. Worse, if I get permission to hold a demonstration, having given my six days' notice, and someone sees me demonstrating and thinks, "That's a good idea. I'll go and join him", that person would be committing an offence. As the organiser of the demonstration, I would have a defence, but I might have committed the crime of incitement. So I could go down for 51 weeks or a year, not for organising the demonstration but for incitement. What is the definition of incitement? A phone call to my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn the night before?