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Climate Protests in Cambridge: Police Response

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:01 pm on 3rd March 2020.

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Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:01 pm, 3rd March 2020

The Government have an extremely proud record on climate change. As I have just said, we have been reducing our CO2 emissions and have virtually eliminated coal-fired power stations. There is scope to do more, though, and the Environment Bill will again be before the House shortly, and it contains further measures, including on clean air, which I am extremely interested in as a London MP.

The country can be proud of its record on climate change and the Government will continue to do more. Moreover, the Government fully recognise, respect and embrace the right to peaceful protest. A free society is built on the foundations of free speech and free protest, and the Government will never do anything to impede the public’s right to express their views. Indeed, we have seen that outside, in Parliament Square, on quite a frequent basis over the past year—sometimes quite noisily.

The Government are also clear that although we fully respect the right to peaceful protest, that does not extend, under any circumstances, to criminal behaviour. Some of the remarks that Daniel Zeichner made during his intervention a little earlier this afternoon seemed to come dangerously close to excusing criminal behaviour just because an issue is important. Let me reiterate: there is no excuse for criminal behaviour. It does not persuade the public of anything. In fact, it has the reverse effect, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire said in his speech. My hon. Friend Mr Bacon said that, in fact, it risks vigilante behaviour by the public, which simply inflames the situation further. There is no excuse, under any circumstances, for this kind of criminal behaviour. The Government have an expectation that the police will always take action where criminal activity is under way. There would need to be an extremely good reason for them not to do so.