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

Under this legislation, large numbers of people would have to be arrested. That is the only way to interpret the provisions.

Furthermore, no conditions are to be placed on the commissioner in relation to when a decision has to be made after a person has given their six days' notice. Then there is the worrying provision that any police officer, of any rank, can change the conditions at will at any time during a demonstration in Parliament square. Those powers are beyond those that the police officers themselves would wish to have. The designated area of 1 km will include vast tracts of traditional demonstrating areas. The Government will be passing power to one part of the state to control demonstrations in a way that we have never known before in the history of this country.

Tonight, we are seeing a small but significant part of our democratic tradition being chiselled away. Why? Because one person out there has the moral authority, the guts, the tenacity and the courage to stand in Parliament square for several years telling us what we did wrong in this House by authorising a war. Part of the motivation behind this legislation is that some people cannot come to terms with the illegality and immorality of their actions in this place. We should be supporting that democratic voice out there, and the right of that individual to voice his concerns in this way—near to us.