Injunction to Protect the M25

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:20 pm on 22nd September 2021.

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Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Shadow Minister (Home Office) 1:20 pm, 22nd September 2021

I thank the Minister for his statement and for giving me advance sight of it.

Tackling climate change is the single greatest challenge of our generation, and I trust the Minister agrees with me that it must be at the heart of everything we do. We are at a critical moment. In less than 100 days, COP26 will be over and our chance to keep the planet’s warming below 1.5° will have been either grasped or abandoned.

Climate protests range from blocking roads to shutting down transport networks in London, with protesters gluing themselves to cars and roads. These are often very dangerous tactics that require a very particular police response. The police have been in an incredibly difficult position, and they have at times faced criticism on various fronts. Yesterday, as the Minister said, we saw Surrey police arrive on the scene just minutes after the first call, clearing both carriageways incredibly swiftly.

Labour is clear that the right to protest is a fundamental freedom and a hard-won democratic tradition of which we are deeply proud. The right to protest is precious, but we must always be clear that protests have to be lawful. Where they are unlawful, we back the police on the frontline to make the best operational judgment on how to deal with the issues as they arise on the ground. Our police are not helped by armchair critics of their tactics. We know that the police are having to take dynamic decisions in often dangerous circumstances, and I pay tribute to them in the House today.

Anyone who has seen the footage from over the weekend of officers having to follow protesters who were rushing on to the motorway in an attempt to keep both them and drivers safe will recognise the bravery required. There is clearly an issue when people, who can be held for only 24 hours, then return to our motorways, so action is required to assist our police in that respect.

This injunction has now been granted to National Highways by an independent judge, and people are committing a contempt of court and face possible imprisonment if they breach it. I urge people not to breach the injunction and instead to make their views known lawfully in all the ways outlined by the Minister. That said, I look to him to tell us what resources will be made available to support the police to make additional arrests, if required.

I hope we can agree that insulation must be a focus of this Government’s agenda as we move towards this existential crisis. Although we agree on the need to ensure protesters, motorists and police officers are safe, the Government must do all they can to drive climate change up the agenda, and on that we will hold them to account.