The PCSC Bill is first and foremost designed to make the UK safer and tackle some of the most pernicious crimes which causes serious harm in every part of the country. From tightening controls and penalties on child sex offenders, to securing better management of high-risk terrorists and doubling the maximum sentence for assaults on emergency workers, the provisions made in this Bill ensure that we are all far safer from crime.
I am, of course, aware of specific concerns surrounding the right to protest and I want to assure you that this Bill does not restrict these rights. The provisions in this Bill which relate to protests stem from proposals made by the Law Commission, an independent group of legal academics, practitioners and members of the judiciary. They recommended in 2015 that the definition of ‘annoyance’ – a word used frequently in English law – be clarified in relation to public nuisances and order and Clause 59 of the PCSC Bill simply reiterates this. In this country we have a long-standing tradition that people can gather together and demonstrate, and the right to protest peacefully is a fundamental part of our democracy.
Events such as Sarah Everard’s vigil and peaceful protests and demonstrations will remain unimpacted by the provisions in this Bill. It establishes a framework to ensure that protests can be managed safely and avoid repeating the scenes of entire public transport networks brought to a standstill and the prevention of ambulances from quickly reaching hospitals and patients seen last year. These powers will allow the police to safely manage protests where they threaten public order and stop people from getting on with their daily lives. It is good news that the Government is taking action to ensure the crucial balance between the fundamental right to peaceful protest and the rights of people to get on with their daily lives is maintained.
I think it is important to note that the bill is now in Report Stage. There will now be the opportunity for MPs to propose amendments and alterations to it.